Two term County Executive Rob Astorino’s big message is that he
has not raised taxes in Westchester County. But what is questionable
about this message is the method. Last November, Astorino announced a proposal to develop and privatize Westchester County Airport with Oaktree Capital Management LP, a company who specializes in distressed properties.
This proposal was announced without seeking out bids from other
companies, without a master plan published, and without a public
hearing. This proposal was done with no input from the public,
particularly the residents around the airport who may have concerns
about what an expanded airport would do to their property values and
their quality of life with increased road traffic, flight patterns and
What kind of shape is Westchester County in financially that
Astorino would even consider doing this? The only other privatized
airport in the country is in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Stewart Airport in
Newburgh got out of the privatized business. The only reason that
Astorino pursued such a proposal is to be able to factor the money from the deal into the county budget. This money from Oaktree Capital Management LP would be offered over the course of a 40 year lease.
This attempted deal seems to have been Astorino’s attempt to move
forward on required airport restorations after other attempts have
failed. He may be trying to garner funds for the county in this manner
because other county properties such as Sprain Ridge pool, Playland
Amusement Park and other county parks have their much needed repairs deferred or the property closed altogether.
Is this how Astorino keeps from raising Westchester taxes? By
trying to privately broker deals with companies who will then assume
control of a county property and then be at liberty to expand and use
the airport in ways that benefit their bottom line but not the needs and
interests of Westchester residents? What is happening in Astorino’s
budget that he is resorting to attempting such deals to bring in cash?
What will he try to sell next year to make up for any budget shortfalls?
These are questions you should ask next time you hear “he has never
raised taxes.” The answer to that question is that Astorino is relying
on one-off schemes to make up for a lack of sound prudent financial
management over the past two terms.
Member of Croton in Action, Croton on Hudson