No Accessory Apartments in Clarkstown (UPDATE)

The town board rescinded its public hearing on proposed local law to allow accessory apartments in single-family homes.


Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack said town board members decided to rescind the public hearing on the proposed accessory apartments law after hearing from senior citizens they preferred other options. The original intent of the accessory apartment proposal was to provide affordable rental housing for emergency services volunteers. A Tuesday night public hearing was scheduled on amending the zoning law to allow accessory apartments however the board voted unanimously to rescind the hearing.

Residents had criticized the proposal and described it as downsizing and a measure that could potentially change the character of Clarkstown.  After meeting with senior citizens, Gromack said they expressed more interest in housing similar to the Middlewood Housing Development on North Middletown Road in Nanuet. 

“Moreover while we believe that much of the opposition to this initiative is based on misinformation it does not appear that our residents as a whole do embrace this concept at this time and that our efforts would be better spent focusing on some of the other priority needs being studied by our town planning board and our housing committee,” said Gromack.

He then asked the board for a motion to rescind the public hearing. His statement is attached to this article.

Councilmember Stephanie Hausner, who served on the housing committee, noted senior citizens, New City Ambulance Corps members and New City firefighters were at the meeting. 

“I just want to assure everyone that this does not mean that we are not going to be looking at other opportunities for volunteer housing for our volunteers, “ she said. We want to keep our volunteers in the community and we will continue to look at ways to do that. “

Gromack said the town had been proactive in meeting the housing needs of residents through its housing survey, hamlet center senior housing zone development and other initiatives. 

Tony T October 03, 2012 at 01:42 PM
There are many other avenues to venture down before you go the route of accessory apartments for the young, elderly and volunteers who are vital to a community l But that was that was not the way to go........now the Board must come up with other solutions to the problem. The decision by the Board and Mr. Gromack just saved Clarkstown from turning into another Ramapo /Monsey?? Thank you.
Thomas Leonard October 03, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Anyone that volunteers to be a firefighter should be held in the highest regard. You guys are awesome. However, I don't think people are against making it affordable for you to live in this town, I think they just don't want to change the zoning laws to do it. I think it would be better if the town dramatically reduced your property and school taxes, so that you could not only afford to live here, but own a house and raise a family here as well.
Lynn Teger October 03, 2012 at 02:09 PM
One Small Miracle in the Town of Clarkstown http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs086/1101448807983/archive/1111167570569.html
Joe Ciardullo October 03, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I am very grateful for the service that our volunteers provide. They are the ones that are up in the middle of the night, responding to any emergency. I was against the accessory apartments law because there was not way to enforce that it was just volunteers that would be able to rent. An alternative I would be in favor of would be to supplement volunteers. Either through a reduction in taxes, based on time volunteered, or a stipend to apply towards rent. I personally would not have any problem giving back to our fine volunteers in the form of a tax reduction or rent supplement. I would hope others would feel the same.
Kelly Castel October 03, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I didn't realize the "accessory use law" would of ONLY allowed for two hundred permits. In light of that information I think the town should be commended for trying to find a viable affordable housing solution for our volunteer fire and and ambulance personnel (cancellation of public hearing notice and the inconvenience to the volunteers in attendance not withstanding) . A law which by the way would of benefitted some of our seniors as well. The comments made before mine speak directly about the way our volunteers feel. The annual cost of a "paid" fire and ambulance corp would be astronomical to taxpayers. In an effort to hold our officials feet to the fire regarding tax revenue and land use we may of just shot ourselves in the foot to the tune of millions of dollars each year in additional taxes.
Anthony October 03, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I'm sure most residents are grateful for our service, etc. etc. Here is the issue I see - the writing is on the wall regarding the future of an all volunteer fire service in Rockland County. Considering the fact that several Clarkstown fire departments, most notably Nanuet and New City, consistently are among the top responders in the county annually, and you quickly see the need for ready and willing volunteers that STAY here once they put the initial year or two in. For the TB to outright cancel the meeting with NO notice was despicable. I'm sure, in addition to the volunteers in attendance, there were also tax paying residents - both for and against this issue- there that also made time on their schedule to attend. The discussion on the issue should have continued. More back door shenanigans in Clarkstown. Who was the puppeteer pulling those strings?
Lynn Teger October 03, 2012 at 03:26 PM
One of the problems with the law is that the Town did not restrict the units to volunteers. Several requests were made by citizens at Town Board meetings to clarify the law, but the Town never made the requested changes. Attached is the law: http://www.town.clarkstown.ny.us/PDF/PROP%20LL%20AMEND%20CHAP%20290%20-%20ACCESSORY%20HOUSING.pdf Please see last town board meeting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOrX9jgJsgY
dennis October 03, 2012 at 03:53 PM
I had made the recommendation years ago to the town to reduce the taxes for volunteers and they gave us a pool pass. Out in Long Island in some areas they have reduced the school taxes by 50%. Some towns in Westchester looking to do the same. I can't wait till the next election when all the volunteers vote.
Anthony October 03, 2012 at 04:12 PM
So Tony T and Lynn Teger- what are your suggestions on retaining volunteers in your communities to avoid the oncoming train of paid departments and higher taxes? Will you be presenting an alternative to the accessory housing issue, or just sit back, wait, and then complain about the next idea that may come down the pike? I'm all ears.
Joshua Levitsky October 03, 2012 at 04:15 PM
This would have been a good thing to talk about in the public comments last night if they hadn't cancelled the public comments.
Thomas Leonard October 03, 2012 at 04:16 PM
That's pathetic, they should give fire fighters zero taxes. You deserve that.
Joshua Levitsky October 03, 2012 at 04:18 PM
For renters like me a supplement would help. I wouldn't even care if it was paid directly to the landlord. As it is now I simply can't afford to stay, and if I get another job to be able to stay then I won't be able to have the time to volunteer.
Joe Ciardullo October 03, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Giving you a pool pass is a joke. I fully support giving volunteers tax reductions or rental subsidies. I am curious what other think of this proposal. This is not a handout, it's a thank you and a way for volunteers to be able to afford to live here. I suggested this to both Councilwoman Lasker and Hausner last night. Come up with a proposal and let's here what the public has to say about it. Additionally, I would like to see what can be done to handle all of the false alarms that seem to happen when we have storms with power outages. With the new technology, there should be something available to reduce the false alarms, both fire and burglary.
Mary October 03, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I support our volunteers...they respond to emergencies at all hours...giving their time to helping those in our communities. However, allowing accessory dwelling units to become part of our neighborhoods is not the way to address the cost of living in Clarkstown. The suggestion of reducing the tax bills for volunteers should be considered by the town board as an alternative. I commend the Clarkstown Town Board for listening to the concerns of many of the residents and acting accordingly. The volunteers commenting here shouldn't throw the town board under the bus. While we all appreciate what the volunteers do for us, the volunteers should also appreciate what we do for them.... http://newcity.patch.com/articles/clarkstown-oks-4m-for-new-congers-valley-cottage-ambulance-headquarters http://newcity.patch.com/articles/ambulance-corps-settles-into-new-building
nyackagain October 03, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Mary...I have been a volunteer EMT in Nyack for 25 years. Luckily I don't need the apartment like many do. Thank you for stating your support but something real needs to be done. A new building like you mentioned is nice but does nothing to truly help an individual. Please do something to help us gain and retain membership as going paid will be a very costly endeavor.
Lynn Teger October 03, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I agree that tax reductions and other incentives should be given to volunteers so that they can afford to live in their own homes. Right now the Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving grants to developers to build sustainable communities and compact housing. Instead of giving incentives to Town favored builders and developers on a massive scale, HUD should be giving those incentives to volunteer workers. The first thing the Town of Clarkstown should do is rescind their membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives which costs $1400 per year to implement UN initiatives in our local communities. The Town, State and Federal agencies are using our taxpayer money to fund open space projects (land that we can only look at, walk and bike on, but cannot use). $20 million alone has been spent by the Town of Clarkstown to build infrastructure to support the compact communities that are intended to be built. The zoning laws have been changed to permit four stories of apartments above stores along Main Street, so the infrastructure had to be upgraded to accommodate this new use. Sustainable development is draining our tax dollars. The County, State and Federal government should stop implementing these policies and we would have more money for incentives for volunteers who are desperately needed and who are responsible for doing a tremendous job in our communities.
Lynn Teger October 03, 2012 at 05:37 PM
It would also lower our taxes and make it affordable for everyone to be able to live more comfortably in their own communities. The problem that needs to be addressed are the high taxes. It is not only the volunteers who are having a hard time making ends meet.
Anthony October 03, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Mary- no doubt this is a true partnership between residents and volunteers. What is happening, though, is that some in these volunteer organizations that don't have their heads buried in the sand regarding our continued viability in Rockland are trying to sound an alarm that we are in danger. Maybe not this year, maybe not three years from now, but someday in the near future, we will be forced to pay for these services. As we all see, dealing with government to get anything done "quickly" is of great concern. Something needs to be done NOW, so in two- five years, hopefully, we have all worked together to stabilize the volunteer forces in Clarkstown. Trust me, none of us joined for the money. And I would imagine the time and committment needed to participate would quickly weed out anyone that may do it for tax reasons.
stephany October 03, 2012 at 08:59 PM
insurance companies should pay more than they already do [out of my premium] to those communities with high cost of living. put it into a housing fund + give reduced rates on auto insurance. and let us not forget that although the volunteers are not paid by check they get a whole lot more that a pool pass as was mentioned above, like a pension no sales tax up to $1,000 I believe,discounts all over rockland. Let's not make Clarkstown out to be worse than it is. aside from the new ambulance hdqts in congers there is the "was it $7,000,000.00 or$9.9 mil" firehouse in Nyack with not one but 2 granite kitchens http://www.northcountrygazette.org/2009/12/28/illegal_firehouse/
Anthony October 03, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Stephany, while I don't condone the actions you cite in your post, I will however argue that although the pension is a nice perk, it does nothing to recruit and retain the very types of possible members we need to keep the fire service viable in Rockland. On average, they amount to about $1000. or less per month after a long time of service to their departments. I have almost 30 years in my department, and am barely approaching the $1000. mark. I would imagine most in their early 20's aren't hinging their choice to struggle and stay in town on money they will get in 30 or 40 years. And personally, I refuse to pay the higher prices in "local" stores when I can get the same items much cheaper (even with the discounts) at the larger chain/big box stores. That's the tradeoff for staying in this area. Save a buck where ya can.
Boardwatcher October 04, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Tax breaks for volunteers is the answer. Apartments just further opens the door to pushing the envelope that will end up inevitably with Clarkstown becoming more like Ramapo. That cannot happen......
Joshua Levitsky October 04, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Tax breaks help renters how?
stephany October 04, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Although guaranteed pensions are what is killing this country I do not begrudge any volunteer a pension after x years. If it starts at 55 and you live to 85 which is not a stretch that is $360,000 cash you would not otherwise have and contributed no money to. A lot of people do not collect $1,000 a month [I assume it is per month] from social security-and they can't collect that at 55-youwould have collected nearly 100-120k by the time ss kicks in for everyone else. If volunteer firemen get it all volunteers should get it--meals on wheels included. I totally disagree that the pension is not a pretty big factor.especially when a lot of volunteers come from families that tend to volunteer for any number of reasons not the least of which is the father brother uncle sister is already volunteering and now directing the newest recruit to the facts of life where you need money to survive and free guaranteed money is the best kind. that $1,000 will NOT be $1,000 in 25 yrs and it will most likely if not definitely, be more than SS for the volunteers given they need assistance to live in clarkstown which translates to a low paying job,which leads to small ss check save a buck where you can is not exclusive to volunteers the new city merchants are trying very hard to get everyone to believe NC is the place to shop. NOT really.I don't even want to drive through it.
Joe Ciardullo October 04, 2012 at 04:37 PM
For renters, I propose a stipend to help offset their rent. the stipend would be based on their time volunteered.
LOSAP October 04, 2012 at 07:12 PM
For all of those talking about the "pension", it is called LOSAP. Length of Service Award Program. Most depts. offer it at age 55 or 65 and right now it max's out at $600 a month before taxes. You can earn $20 a month more for every year you make your points thereafter. I don't know where $1000 a month is coming from for a pension but I want to join there!!!!!!
Peter WInterbourne October 04, 2012 at 09:14 PM
As a volunteer myself Ex chief of Nanuet FD and current member of West Nyack FD 23 yrs total, and I am currently sitting on the sub sub committee working on the benifits for the volunteers, I see the need to retain the volunteers ESPECIALLY the newer and younger members because they are the future of the Emergency Services. Take a look at your tax bill. look at the PD budget and look at the FD and Ambulance budget. If the FD and Ambulance go paid, the FD budget will be the same if not more than the PD budget, even with the consolidation of the FD. Payroll will be the same and the cost of equiptment is more than the PD, The vehicle maintence will be more obviously. So look at that and this is why we need to retain our volunteer services. We are working together with the other agencies especialy with the seniors clubs within Clarkstown and from the imput the idea came about. To have a homeowner 60 yrs old + and has lived in thier house 20+ yrs to have an apt built to code to rent to a volunteer. This is a VOLUNTERY program for a homeowner to sign up for, and it doesnt cost the tax payers anything just the homeowner who if they are interested knows whats involved. Yes its our forsite to see and its a burden on all the departments in the County and New York State to retain and recruite new volunteers. we know that we need to retain our volunteers because it is a strain on the current members to volunteer thier time.
Peter WInterbourne October 04, 2012 at 09:23 PM
There is a similar program in Orangetown that has been on the books for about 20 yrs now and has about 200 units. How many illegal apartment are in Clarkstown? I dont know myself but im sure its more than we think! This has been a subject for all the departments in the County and New York State because its a problem for them to recrute more members and keep members because who works 2 or more jobs to make ends meet because they want to stay were they are and dont want to leave. Again the issue is with the future we need to keep the volunteers. Again look at the tax bill and compare and figure what you will pay if we lose the volunteers.
Peter WInterbourne October 04, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Consider join the volunteers yourself. Help yourself and help others. See what its all about and what it takes. from the new member to the chiefs or presidents they ALL volunteer.
Joshua Levitsky October 05, 2012 at 12:59 PM
What I find interesting is people are saying a tax break or stipend is better. This is so weird to me. Because if there is a stipend or tax break that's money Clarkstown is giving up. If an elderly person is able to rent me an accessory apartment then it helps out that person who loves to live in Clarkstown, and maybe lived there all their life, but it also doesn't take any money away from Clarkstown, and unless I'm wrong the homeowner pays taxes on what I would pay them so Clarkstown actually brings in revenue so we all benefit. Folks who are concerned about what people will come to Clarkstown are misguided because the same people will be there for a stipend or tax break. It's a shame really because I wanted to stay in Clarkstown but there's no way I can afford it. Hopefully there aren't many others like me who desperately want to stay, volunteer at multiple Clarkstown agencies, but simply can't afford to.
dennis October 06, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Rockland is the last only all volunteer county in the Hudson Valley for the fire service.


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