Susan MacFarlane          

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1. Please tell us a little bit about you: What's your day job? Where did you grow up? Where did you go to college? How long have you been a Sleepy Hollow resident? What attracted you to the village? (Please also note the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood(s) that you have lived/live in)

I have been a securities litigator for a large investment bank, working in Purchase since 2006, and a practicing litigator for 15 years.  Because of my efforts to improve my department in various ways, within a few years I became the right-hand person to the head of my department, and eventually given the title of Operations Officer.  In that role, I help to set the budget for our 125-person department, as well as ensure that we operate within that budget over the course of the year.  I also negotiate vendor contracts, draft and maintain our procedures manual and work on human resources issues to make sure our department is as efficient as possible.  During my tenure, our department has significantly lowered its internal and external expenses each year, to the benefit of the company’s bottom line. 

 

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs.  I earned a degree in economics from Purdue University in 1993, and a law degree from the University of Illinois in 1996.  After working at a Chicago law firm for four years, my husband and I decided to move to New York for better career opportunities.  We married in 2000 and had our wedding reception at the James House, on the grounds of Phelps Hospital.  My husband, Alex MacFarlane, now works on the border of Sleepy Hollow at New York Life Insurance.

 

We moved to Sleepy Hollow from Pelham Manor in 2006, so that Alex would be closer to work and because we have always liked this area.  We were attracted to the development where we live, Ichabod’s Landing, because of its location on the river.  We are also happy to be only a short walk to the restaurants and businesses in the inner village.  We often walk in Rockefeller Park on the weekends and enjoy kayaking on the river.       

 

2. What qualifications make you the best candidate for village trustee?

I have been described as a “can do” person.  I have a long list of objectives for the Village already, and I can work well within a team to accomplish goals both big and small.  I find that the best ideas for fixing problems and making improvements come from listening to others, seeking broad input, and coming to a consensus.  All of these skills and practices are why I was put in charge of a wide range of duties for a large department, in addition to continuing my day job, handling securities litigation matters.  I believe that my drive and my business experience, especially with managing ever-tightening budgets, will be an asset to the Village.    

 

3. What committees and organizations are you involved with in the village and area?

Within a few years of moving here, I formed a Gardening Committee for Ichabod’s Landing, which then morphed into its current form:  Friends of Horan’s Landing and Sleepy Hollow RiverWalk Park.  Co-founder Stella Garlick and I organize community clean ups in the park to supplement the work of Sleepy Hollow’s DPW.  Last year, we expanded our volunteer base with the help of Village Trustee Barbara Carr, and residents from nearby Hudson Street began attending volunteer days at Horan’s Landing park. 

 

After three or so years of clean ups, last year we decided to organize a Movie In the Park Night at Horan’s Landing.  We asked local businesses to sponsor the event and involved Warner Library as well.  In late August, we screened Raiders of the Lost Ark just after the sun set over the Hudson.  When someone asked me why I took it upon myself to organize the event, I said that I wanted to live in the kind of village that showed movies in the park, and now we do.  As you can tell, I am proud of the event.  It is the little things like this that make a village special.

 

4. How would you address the tax cap and residents' concerns about higher taxes?

I believe that Albany’s two percent tax cap was a good policy decision, even for municipalities that ultimately conclude that they cannot adhere to it this year. It brings much-needed attention to the fact that property and school taxes, especially in Westchester County, are going up faster than many people can afford, particularly retirees.  Here in Sleepy Hollow, in recent years due to significant belt tightening and in line with inflation, we have had more reasonable Village tax increases.  What may make adherence to the tax cap more difficult is that the Village has several long-term projects that we should not put off, such as building a new water tank.  We have had increasing water shortages over the years as the Village's aging water tank has less than half of the capacity that is necessary.  The tax cap law is unclear as to how such necessary capital improvements will be taken into account.  The tax cap question deserves very careful analysis, and it would be imprudent of me to make promises without studying our Village’s revenues and necessary expenditures in careful detail.  That being said, I respect the intention of the tax cap and, if elected, will endeavor to continue to keep our taxes as low as possible while still providing the essential services that our Village needs.  Maintaining a prudent budget is one of the most important jobs for a Village Trustee, and, if elected, I would take that responsibility very seriously.

 

5. What would you do to help revitalize the downtown business district?

The business district in Sleepy Hollow has improved significantly in the six years that I have lived here.  I have seen more restaurants open, a new bakery, and shops that provide high quality services.  However, vital, attractive businesses require parking for their customers.  Now that the Village is on the upswing, it is becoming more and more difficult to find parking on the weekends and evenings in order to patronize those businesses.  It is time to study where and how we can acquire additional municipal parking.  A new master plan, which would regulate growth, is also something that should be considered.

 

6. What are your opinions on environmental concerns such as the Duracell clean up and the former General Motors site?

I live very close to both of those sites, and on a “brown field” redevelopment myself.  I am very concerned that both properties are cleaned up as necessary to protect the health of all current and future residents.  The GM site sits on landfill, so restoring the land to its “natural state” is not practical.  However, I support the restoration of the Pocantico River and making the most of our current and future riverfront parks. 

 

The clean up plan for both sites will require input from expert environmental consultants, and I understand that the Village is undertaking that important analysis now.  There is a public forum on the issue of the GM site clean up scheduled for March 22, and I would encourage all interested residents to attend in order to get more information and provide input.  I plan to be there.   

 

7. What are your opinions on the General Motors redevelopment project and the issues that surround it, such as Tarrytown's lawsuit over traffic concerns?

Many people believe that the density planned for the GM site is too high, even though it has been significantly reduced from the density that the former developer had intended.  I tend to agree.  However, I understand that the current plan has been approved, and I am excited about turning what has been a field of rubble into useful and attractive parks and housing.  The developer will pay for building a riverfront park, provide a substantial cash payment to the Village, as well as provide the Village with two valuable parcels of land and maintain responsibility for the required environmental clean up.  While it is easy to claim that a better deal could have been reached, the Village retained a top New York law firm to negotiate with GM.  I believe that it was fairly negotiated and will be of tremendous benefit to the Village. 

 

Concerning Tarrytown, our neighbor to the South gets very little out of this deal, yet will undoubtedly have increased traffic flow.  I understand why they are unhappy.  However, they have already litigated this issue in a prior lawsuit and were unsuccessful.  This continued litigation is costing both villages needless legal expenses.  However, it should soon be decided.  Regarding the increase in traffic, I understand that several proposals are under consideration to address that issue.  It is my hope, regardless of the outcome of the litigation, that we can work cooperatively with Tarrytown to address traffic concerns.     

 

8. What are your thoughts on working with other municipalities and government agencies to share services?

I am generally in favor of sharing services in order to gain economies of scale, provided that it does not result in a reduction in the quality of our services.  In order to analyze where combining services might be beneficial, I am in favor of regular meetings with Tarrytown, Briarcliff, and Rockefeller State Park’s governing bodies.  Having an open dialog with our neighbors is an important first step in finding more ways to work together for the benefit of all. 

 

9. What other issues need to be addressed within the village?

In addition to the GM and Castle Oil developments, the Duracell site clean up, and working on the Village’s water supply and parking issues, the issues we face are less controversial but no less important.  Housing conditions and combating crime in the Village needs to continue to be a priority.  The current administration has made great strides in combating housing violations, and staying focused on those efforts is very important so that we can protect both residents and emergency personnel from hazardous conditions.  The Police Advisory Committee, headed by Jennifer Lobato-Church, has done important work since its formation in the last couple of years in identifying patterns in criminal activities.  That work should continue and the Village Police force should undertake more targeted efforts in problem areas.  Coordinating with police resources available through the County is also important.        

 

10. Why are you running for the position of village trustee?

I was recruited to run by the current Trustees, especially the Parks Committee members, because of my work in recent years with the Village parks.  I have no personal agenda beyond seeking to improve the Village for all residents.  I do, however, have a long and growing list of ideas as to how our Village can be improved.  I very much enjoy living in Sleepy Hollow and am excited for the opportunity to make a positive impact.
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