Sleepy Hollow – A Look Through Trustee Eyes

Q: Let’s start with the basics. Who is Tommy Capossela?

Capossela: I’m a life-long resident [of Sleepy Hollow]. My parents and grandparents are all from North Tarrytown, so I’ve set down roots. I’ve worked for the Rockefeller family for thirty-plus years, starting in 1978, and worked my way up the proverbial corporate ladder. I’m Director of Grounds for the Rockefeller Estate.

Q: And how did you become a Trustee?

Capossela: I was appointed by [Mayor] Phil [Zegarelli] in October of ’04.

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Trustee Capossela in Kingland Point Park, which he is considering returning to Westchester County’s control.

I was elected to the Trustee seat as a Republican in March of ’05. I ran against Phil for Mayor in March of ’07, as a Democrat. And I won my Trustee seat back as a Democrat in March of ’08.

Q: What prompted the party switch?

Capossela: The Democrats, when I challenged Phil in ’07, asked me to switch my party, and I obliged them.

Q: When Phil appointed you to the Board of Trustees, was it an automatic “Yes” or did you have to think about it first?

Capossela: I was honored that he thought of me. To this day I thank him. A lot of people think Phil and I are enemies. Quite the contrary. We agree, we disagree. As much as I love Sleepy Hollow, I know the Mayor does too. We want what’s best for the Village, sometimes we just don’t agree on the way to get there.

Q: Do you plan to run for Mayor again?

Capossela: No. I don’t. Once was enough.

Q: Alright, let’s get to some issues. What’s going on with GM?

Capossela: We’ve hired Proskauer Rose to work with us and try to expedite the situation. The taxes we’re getting for those hundred acres are $125,000, which is basically two Cadillac Escalades. It’s no secret, with the economy and how things are going, GM can afford two escalades for as long as they choose. I want to get together with Proskauer, and General Motors, get a project going that gives our Village the greatest tax relief, for both the Village and the Schools.

Q: Why did you turn to Proskauer Rose? What was wrong with Joel Sachs’ company?

Capossela: Basically, the three newly elected trustees and Ken Wray were not happy with the Roseland Project. We would like to see a project that would yield more tax benefits to the Village and the schools. So we decided to hire Proskauer to help us see that through.

Q: Is it true that Proskauer is being paid over twice as much as Sachs was paid and that this could cost the village a couple hundred thousand dollars?

Capossela: We did a "do-not-exceed" amount on it of $75,000. That’s what was voted on. And also note that the vote was unanimous amongst the six trustees with only the Mayor not voting for it. The vote was 6-1.

Q: So when do you think you’ll meet with GM to move forward?

Capossela: Hopefully very soon.

Q: Let’s move on to the issue of giving Kingsland Point Park back to the County. Some people think the benefits of keeping it outweigh the $20,000 or so that the Village will save. You feel otherwise?

Capossela: To say that the total net savings is only $20,700 is kind of false. The labor we’re putting into Kingsland Point Park includes 5 full-time Teamsters, 3 part- time laborers, seasonal security… you’re basically talking $240,000 in personnel. I would like to see the County reimburse us for some, if not all, of the maintenance of the Park. I don’t think that the Village should have to pay to have this many workers in Kingsland Point Park. Also, I’m not saying the other parks are neglected, but we need people in the other parks. The Parks section of the DPW is being used predominantly in Kingsland Point Park. … If we could do something that would be more financially favorable to the people of Sleepy Hollow, I’m for keeping it. But if not… there’s a reason the County wants us to keep the Park, we’re maintaining it. And it’s not $20,000 like people are saying, it’s 8 people working there with a cost of $240,000.

Q: But you’re saying that one of the benefits is that we could use this manpower elsewhere. So we wouldn’t necessarily be saving this money, because these people would still be utilized.

Capossela: Yes, that’s right. They would be utilized in other areas. I think we need to spend more time on our ball fields and in our parks.

Q: When you ran for Trustees, the three of you, one of the things you talked about was a 0% tax increase.

Capossela: Correct.

Q: Which you have held to this year.

Capossela: Correct.

Q: The question is, are you going to be able to hold to that next year?

Capossela: (laughing) That’s a loaded question.

Q: But fair.

Capossela: We are asking [Village Treasurer] Diane [Jacobson] continually where we’re at with this year’s budget. We spend, yes, but we also spend within our means. We have spoken about next year’s budget already. I can’t sit here and guarantee [a 0% increase], I don’t know if three nor’easters are going to blow through here in the next seven months or if we’re going have twelve snowstorms on the weekends through the winter, which has happened in the past. But we are going to watch the budget as closely as we can.

Q: At a recent public Board meeting, a resident said something like “you guys have been together for four months and you’re not doing anything, it’s all been partisan bickering.” How does that make you guys feel?

Capossela: We’ve done a lot. What we’ve done is taken a real strong look at contracts and lack of contracts. Don’t forget, we did our first three and a half months without an administrator, which was a very difficult position for the Trustees to be in. I’ve spent more time on Village issues in the last four months than I ever did in my two-and-a-half year term from ’04 to ’07. The efforts are there and the results will be seen. We’re going to get a Senior Center off the ground and for a Hell of a lot less than $3 1/2 million. I cannot guarantee you that General Motors will be done, but we’re trying. And when I say we, that’s seven people, I don’t mean four of us. That’s seven people trying.

Q: Where do you see the Village of Sleepy Hollow headed?

Capossela: I honestly feel that when the Village starts seeing the tax relief that the General Motors redevelopment is going to get us, it’s going to be like rain after a drought. The past ten years have been tough. I feel that once a development is underway, the Village is going to rebound. I grew up here, I was educated here. My kids grew up here. I’d like to see Sleepy Hollow prosper and head in the right direction.

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