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Archive for December 24th, 2005

The Gloves Are Off At The Times

Let’s see, on the NY Times home page we have this story on the NSA wiretaps which was picked up on Yahoo’s front page, this story of Colin Powell’s former chief of staff criticizing President Bush, and this editorial excoriating Alito in the wake of this story. And that’s just at first glance. And I didn’t get to Maureen Dowd’s latest on TimesSelect, which I won’t pay to join.
Surely there are stories of what else is going on, the progress of the economy perhaps, weapons caches found in Iraq, or what is to come about now that Iraq’s election has been held? Maybe some honest analysis of "dubious" intelligence tactics by previous administrations? No, but there is ample coverage of new Yankee centerfielder Johnny Damon & his hair, the dearth of fashion on New York’s streets due to the transit strike, and of course a sensitive analysis of the goings on at a Manhattan real estate broker’s Christmas holiday party. This is All the News That’s Fit to Print.
I hereby call political shenanigans on the New York Times. I don’t begrudge them their ideological editorial slant, but supressing coverage of events stands as much in the way of a free society as any criticism they are leveling at the president. Regardless of whatever merit criticism of the NSA situation may have, the astonishing intellectual dishonesty in coverage from the "Paper of Record" tells us exactly where the real fascists are.
Update: Michelle Malkin has a ton more from all over on the left’s NSA surveillance feeding frenzy.
Hat tip to Alarming News on the Times fashion/Strike story. Linked to Wizbang!
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This article in last Sunday’s Times would not really attract my attention were it not for two little facts:
  1. This is the neighboring village to my own.
  2. I have watched this drama unfold with my own eyes the past few years.
First, a bit of background. The Town of Ossining, NY is one of those historic places along the Hudson north of New York City with a character of contrasts: down on the river you have Sing Sing Prison (the genesis of the term "up the river" from the old gangster movies) and up on the hill you have the Maryknoll Mission. The is also a socioeconomic dichotomy. Ossining is essentially divided into three parts: the Village of Ossining, the "Town" or unincorporated section (too small to factor into this discussion), and the village of Briarcliff Manor. The Village of Ossining is quite blue collar and ethnically diverse. Briarcliff Manor is quite affluent and not quite what I would describe as diverse. Ossining is where you go to get lumber; Briarcliff is where you’d buy organic gourmet food. There has always been an unspoken irritation between residents of the two villages, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The friction does bubble up every so often. Case in point: Briarcliff has a gigantic swimming pool, which is only open for card carrying village residents. Many resent this, in light of the library issue. Ossining has a sizable public library, which Briarcliff residents routinely use, as their library is like a reading van without the wheels. Not long ago, Briarcliff tried to make their downtown area more pedestrian friendly by placing "Yield to Pedestrian" signs at numerous crosswalks along a 200 yard or so stretch. Not a big deal, except that the pedestrians now step into the street without looking like they are in candyland. If you stop short and come within 10 feet of some jaywalking rube in a fur coat, you get stared down, scolded, or worse. Nice sweet folks.
The fact of the matter is that it is only a small number on both sides that cause any issue at all, and most of the time everyone is too busy going about their life to pay attention anyway. Besides, it is much easier to fight amongst yourselves. Which brings me to the Times article, aptly titled "Of Trophy Homes and Unsporting Battles."
WITH its marble floors and double-height ceilings, the outsize cookie-cutter house known as the McMansion has become perhaps the ultimate symbol of taste-free suburban excess.
Whoa. You get a sense this won’t be flattering.

But now there is a new mayor in this comfortable nook of winding streets and handsome old trees, and something curious is happening. The village seems poised to buck the nationwide trend and ease the "bulk housing" law it so recently put in place.

What exactly is driving the change is a point of dispute. The mayor, William Vescio, says he and his allies are merely tinkering with a well-intentioned law that has had an unfortunate, unintended consequence: making it difficult for the average homeowner to tack on an extra bedroom or deck.

But opponents see a populist screen for something more nefarious: a handout to the developers who have backed Mr. Vescio, an attempt to appease a prominent family intent on building its dream house, even an effort by the mayor to benefit himself. And they say the net effect of the proposed changes – excluding decks and attics from size calculations and reducing the required setbacks for large houses, among others – will be an assault on the village’s small-town character.

Mr. Vescio and his allies dismiss these critiques as the overblown conspiracy theory of a political faction bitter about its recent electoral defeat.

But the debate has done more than roil village hall. It has also provided a rare peek into the social, cultural and political divisions that often go unacknowledged, at least in public, in a small town. Residents now talk, uneasily, of a clash between old-timers and newcomers; developers and environmentalists; the country club set and those who have never held a nine-iron.

People were howling at the 1999 "Bulk Law" the moment it was amended in 2003. There seemed to be merit to the idea that it was excessive.

The debate began to shift three years later, though, when a prominent local couple, Brian and Heather McVeigh, pushed for the permits and variances required for Mrs. McVeigh’s parents, George and Elaine Behling of neighboring Ossining, to build their dream house on an old plot of family land on Ridgecrest Road.

Neighbors complained that the sprawling Georgian colonial planned for the site was out of character with the neighborhood and would block views of the Hudson River. And the fight turned ugly. Words were exchanged at public meetings; anonymous diatribes showed up in mailboxes; the McVeighs and Behlings collected dozens of signatures in support of their project; and both sides spent huge sums on lawyers, engineers and architects, according to residents and documents filed with the village.

The drama took a turn for the worse when, midway through the quest for their dream home, the Behlings were faced with a change in the bulk housing law. The board of trustees, led by Peter Chatzky, then the mayor, altered the method for measuring house size, and also required larger setbacks for larger homes.

Mr. Chatzky explained his rationale recently: "Like every other Westchester community, we saw this trend toward big homes. And with fewer and fewer lots in Briarcliff, there was an urgency to protect a dwindling resource." The McVeighs and the Behlings argued that the house they proposed was compliant under the old law, but not the new. The planning board countered that the proposal complied with neither law. And with that, one family’s grand project became the trophy-home-that-wouldn’t-be.

Daniel Zucchi, a 37-year resident of Briarcliff Manor who owns a media consulting business and was a trustee from 1990 to 1996, has sided with McVeighs. "The truth of the matter is, they were the victims of the passage of this law," he said. "Many of us felt that this law was directed specifically at them."

BUT Mr. Chatzky, his allies and the neighbors who battled the McVeighs over the house and the bulk housing law saw an effort by a powerful family, longtime members of the Sleepy Hollow Country Club, to strong-arm the village.

Well, they’re naming names now. It seems a shame that they have to resort to class warfare instead of the merit of an argument, but that is the MO nowadays. The article goes on the state that the new mayor wants to revise the law back to its old form, but of course he is now accused of his own conflict of interest. If you are from around here, this article is like eavesdropping on gossip. I almost feel dirty reading it.

So where do I stand? Well, I’d like pedestrians on Pleasantville Road to look before they cross. And I am for people being able to have quiet enjoyment of their property with a bare bone minimum of government interference whether they are the mayor or a DPW grunt.

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