Supervisor’s Contest is Olive’s Only Race
Olive Town has only one election day contest as Mitchell Langbert, who runs on the Republican and Conservative lines, challenges supervisor Jim Sofranko, a Democrat, who is running for his second term. Democrats Victoria Read and Scott Kelder are running unopposed to retain their city council seats. Brian Burns will remain superintendent of highways, Dawn Giuditta will remain municipal clerk and Timothy Cox will retain his position as municipal judge.
Mitchell Langbert’s business experience includes an MBA from UCLA, a doctorate in industrial and labor relations, and studies at the former College of Insurance. He has worked in corporate insurance, human resources at Johnson and Johnson, and as a senior budget analyst for the New York State assembly. He has also taught business at Brooklyn College and the NYU business school. “The supervisor takes care of the budget, labor and insurance issues,” Langbert said, “things that I have mastered over the years. I love working with people and have managerial experience.
He believes that the main problems Olive faces are the need for “better land management in cities and a watershed policy”. He said the flooded property in Boiceville was taken over by the city after the New York City buyout [see sidebar box] has not only been removed from the tax roll, but can no longer generate income from new businesses. “The city must be more judicious in its negotiations with the city to use the land in an optimal way. We have too quickly abandoned the healthy development of restaurants and tourist attractions. The failure of the construction of a berm along the Esopus [to reduce the impact of flooding] was a mistake. It was a long time ago, but it could still be done.
Regarding the plan to transform the Boiceville properties into a park, Langbert said: “We need more vigor in our thinking. We could talk about improving our relationship with the arts, in particular outdoor sculpture which could attract tourism. We have statues at the Indian Trading Post, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It can be a lever. We could add arts around that and turn this vacant area into an arts hub. We could do more with this land. You can eventually find things that work. Decommissioning land, as the city wants, is unfair to the city. We need to negotiate smarter with the city.
With the influx of people since the pandemic, the affordable housing crisis has become even more acute than before. To address this problem, Langbert would consider instituting differential tax rates, giving a tax credit to homeowners who have lived in the area for a long time. “The city must retain its character and allow the elderly to stay here. I have no problem with the elites moving in, but if it imposes higher costs on the city, they should pay those costs.
Among other issues, Langbert believes the city needs better cell service. “We can better negotiate with Verizon,” he noted. “We also need to further support our emergency services. I would like to get better funding for the volunteer fire service so that it can function well. We must treat city workers with respect. The people who do the job know how to do the job best. The manager is there to support and provide resources, to ensure there is no abuse and to resolve systemic failures. I wish to improve the professionalism of the management of the municipality.
He also believes that the planned treatment plant for Shokan needs more discussion. This may be a positive development, but he sees that it is being done without people knowing what the real costs will be in terms of sewer charges.
Regarding the election, Langbert added: “I hope everyone gets to vote, and we all stay on good terms.”
Jim Sofranko served on the Olive Town Board of Directors for six years and has been a Supervisor for the past two years. “I see a lot of challenges in the city,” he said. “Through my experience on the board and as a supervisor, I can recognize these challenges, bring them to people’s attention and manage them fairly. ”
Sofranko defended the DEP buyback program (see box), which kicked in at Olive after an owner lost his business to the bank, largely due to his inability to pay the rising l flood insurance after Hurricane Irene. “People were begging us to get out of the financial constraint by participating in the buyback program.”
Since the sale, Sofranko explained, the city has worked with a grant-funded planner to review the properties purchased and contact the community to decide on the use of the land. Students at Onteora High School are participating in the process of finding a vision for what Boiceville will look like when a new bridge is opened on Highway 28A. Construction of the bridge by New York State will begin next year. A trail starting from the Ashokan Rail Trail will take hikers across the bridge and into town. As for the land that will be turned into a park, he said, “We are consulting with businesses to find community uses for these plots to bring people into the hamlet.
Despite the loss of some businesses following the buyouts, Sofranko pointed out that new businesses have opened across from the high school and that there is a new guitar maker in Boiceville. Just down the highway, Bread Alone is renovating its bakery, which will become fully solar powered and will have more employees than before.
Sofranko believes that the berm problem should be solved because it is impractical. “Taxes in Olive would probably skyrocket. A berm just doesn’t make economic sense. In addition to the cost of building and maintaining a berm, the existing treatment plant is expected to be renovated, a burden on the more than 130 landowners in the Boiceville sewer district.
To address the lack of affordable housing, the city last year launched a committee to assess the zoning code drafted in 1975 and consider changes to reflect current conditions, possibly recognizing secondary suites that many people have on their properties that have never been legalized. Combined with the regulation of short-term rental in the works, which can limit STRs in the municipality, the newly recognized secondary housing could be used as long-term rental if they meet the conditions of the code. In Shokan, where houses cannot be enlarged without, in many cases, increasing the size of the septic tank and field, Sofranko expects the next sewage treatment plant to open up more rental possibilities. affordable.
Among the accomplishments during his tenure as supervisor, Sofranko noted that Olive had approved participation in the Ulster County Sheriff’s Program to increase resources to combat opioid abuse. The city has conducted a natural resource inventory to assist the planning council, and the region has seen an increase in broadband development, with dozens of households in rural areas having internet access after years of persistent lobbying.
“Earlier this year, when there was a proposal for a hydroelectric power plant that would radically change the landscape of the city of Olive,” said Sofranko, “I led the opposition, along with a few other people. We have seen people of all kinds come together, old, young, Democrats, Republicans, newcomers, longtime residents, all concentrating to successfully oppose this plant, in no time. It gave me hope that the issues we face can be resolved with the contribution of the community, recognizing everyone.
The controversy over the acquisition of Boiceville
While the two candidate supervisors spoke in detail about the disposition of the flood-ravaged properties in the hamlet of Boiceville, here we present a brief summary of the situation, which has sparked controversy in Olive over the past few years.
In 2011, Hurricane Irene flooded a number of residential and commercial plots, prompting FEMA and, more recently, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to offer to repurchase the properties. In a buyout, the money passes from the DEP to the owner of the property, with the approval of the city, and the city then has the option of repossessing the ownership (at no cost to the city) or letting the city take over. charge the property. In any case, the city stipulates that taking a buyout means that no buildings can now be built on the land. If homeowners turn down a buyout and maintain a building or construct a new building, they will face rapidly rising flood insurance rates due to the expectation of more frequent flooding.
The City of Olive has chosen to appropriate several plots and make them into a public park. These properties include the sites of the former log home business and a florist, as well as land with creek access behind the Boiceville Market.
A dike or berm for flood prevention in Boiceville has been under discussion since 1995, when a US Army Corps of Engineers concluded that a berm would be too expensive to build. In 2014, an engineering firm for a local flood analysis reported that a berm would cost millions of dollars to build and maintain, and the cost-benefit analysis was not worth it. A report from the Association of American Engineers recommended that professional engineers do not certify a berm for floodplain control because it is not seen as a reliable way to prevent flooding. A group of city residents, however, believe that such challenges are surmountable and that a berm should be investigated further.