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Five Questions for Supervisor Candidate Kirkwood

After nearly two decades removed from his last run as New Castle Town Supervisor, Bob Kirkwood has once again thrown his hat in the ring. He is running for the position on the Republican ticket as part of Team New Castle with Town Board candidate Rich Diefenbach and Town Justice candidate Kevin Moore.

The former planning board member recently sat down with The Daily Chappaqua to discuss his candidacy.

What prompted you to run again?

I last ran in ’93, and I’ve joked and said it’s consistent with the cicada and locust cycle. We come out of the soil every 17 or 18 years.

I was very involved in town affairs and goings-on for many, many years up until about 2005 between the Environmental Review Board and Planning Board. I had to retire for personal reasons.

Over the years I was contacted and I just said it’s not the right time. And, by the way, I know some of our Democrat friends may not believe it, but I was actually even contacted years ago from the other side to run. It just wasn’t right for me. I had other issues and matters.

This time around, though, I just, personally, started to generate my own concerns over the direction in which the town seems to be moving. The town is in wonderful shape financially, so that was not the concern. I was very concerned with Chappaqua Crossing, and the town’s getting involved in a process and ultimately an ugly lawsuit. An expensive situation.

What, in your opinion, is the number one issue facing Chappaqua?

Oh, I don’t know if there’s a number one issue. There is no single issue, they’re all inter-related. That was one of the lessons I learned early on from my planning board experience.

So when you talk about Chappaqua Crossing, it’s all inter-related. When you have a fiasco like that, and you have a lawsuit, you’re dealing with expenses to the town but you’re also dealing not having paid the fees reimbursed to the town for the review. They’re holding back on tax payments. They’ve applied for tax certiorari relief over and over and now they’re arguing that there’s been a taking. So that deals with everything. It deals with finance and even projects past town government and starts to deal with our tax base for the schools and what happens if we don’t get these moneys in.

The other issue that is ultimately happening in the Chappaqua hamlet is with traffic. I go to these meetings, I listen to merchants complain about the same things that we’ve had for years and that is inadequate parking and traffic congestion to the point that it suppresses business. That’s a problem.

What do you believe is the solution?

I don’t pretend for a second to say ‘something could have been done to save D’Agostino’s.’ It makes great political fodder, but ultimately it was a symptom of the overall problem. That’s what that was. The overall hamlet is not functioning at a way it could or should, and we all suffer as a result.

I still believe that the recommendation to have a traditional T-intersection with two traffic signals, one at the base of King and one at the base of Greeley. That weird intersection where you make a left-hand turn and you have the right-of-way, even I stop and say ‘really? Seriously?’ Out-of-town people always stop. They have no idea.

The triangle was designed back in the ‘30s when the bridge was first built. Look what the traffic was then. It’s 1935 technology. The conflicts you have created by that triangle are avoidable, and, in my opinion, need to be avoided for vehicular and pedestrian safety.

We should have appropriate calming pedestrian crossways with the lights and all that kind of stuff. You can put the crosswalks down, but with some of these people racing around it means nothing.

What are some of your goals once elected?

The goals would be several. I don’t think it’s something you really do as one step, two step, three step. First of all, there’s not enough time, so you really have to tackle these all at once. I think reversing our image in terms of being business-friendly. I’m not really sure what the right term is. Some people have turned this around on us and said ‘you’re just a bunch of capitalists, industrialists.’ Not at all. What we’re really talking about is revitalizing the current zoned areas. Getting more mass in the hamlet during the course of the day so that there’s more commerce.

Working with the so-called campuses, like the Reader’s Digest, like those that are really not living up to their potential along Schuman Road and Hunts Lane. So promoting those, and frankly, amending the zoning there for business research opportunities.

On the optional side, but terribly important, and again tying it back into sustainability, tying it back into the commercial tax base health of the town and therefore the school districts because it’s all inter-related, is hooking up the Millwood hamlet to sewage. It’s not in the current petition, but this is the time we should be doing it. We have the interest of the County. They’re interested in the affordable housing opportunities at Chappaqua Crossing. We’ve got their attention, hold the 2x4. We got the DEP’s attention. They’re finally on board. They’re finally ready to commit the $10 million. They want to move forward. Now is when we leverage that and say ‘yeah, that’s great guys, but you dropped off Kisco Park.’ You need to include Kisco Park, you need to include Stanwood, you need to include Pheasant Run somehow, some way.

What do you bring to the position that you feel somebody else might not?

I don’t really like comparing people, all I can do is talk about my past and what I’ve done. I’m the type of person who’s reluctant to really attend my own funeral, but you have to be there.

I think we’re at a time when forward-looking planning is very important. I have extensive experience in that area. Not because I’m a professional, but because I did it for so long. During those times there was so much going on, I was there for eight and a half years, and in Planning Board dog years it might have been 20 years. I can’t tell you how many major projects were coming through town at that point, during the ballyhoo high construction years.

With my brother, we’ve run this business [Robert T. Kirkwood Insurance] for decades. Good times, bad times, we know how to run a business. We know how to budget. From a legal standpoint, I’m a lawyer. I understand the ins-and-outs of the law. I’ve taught economics and know what it is, in terms of trying to get people on board to understand what you’re talking about and not just have a glazed look all the time.

All those types of disciplines are necessary and would be useful to the town at this point and trying to bring together some loose ends and bring us in the right direction.

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