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Saturday, December 4, 2021
Home Government Q&A: Council Candidate Josh Nathan - Special Election

Q&A: Council Candidate Josh Nathan – Special Election

(PHOTO: Josh Nathan is the Democratic candidate for the Rye City Council special election on November 2, 2021.)
(PHOTO: Josh Nathan is the Democratic candidate for the Rye City Council special election on November 2, 2021.)

Meet Rye Council candidate Josh Nathan, up for election this fall on Tuesday, November 2nd. Nathan is running in the special election versus candidate Jana Seitz to fill the remaining two years of Pam Tarlow’s council seat. There are also four candidates – Bill Henderson, Julie Souza, Ben Stacks and Lisa Tannenbaum running in the election to fill full terms in three available council seats.

Your Name: Josh Nathan

Running for: Rye City Council (special election for vacated seat)

MyRye.com: Why are you running for Rye City Council?

Nathan: Rye is a fantastic place to call home. We need to take care of what we have and make sure it endures. Rye City government should be a welcome partner for all the organizations in our community and a responsive advocate for our residents. I’d like us to set priorities and address key infrastructure and environmental matters in a way that enables the many good facets of Rye to flourish. I am keenly aware of these issues both as a longtime resident and from my work on the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program Rye Planning Committee. I was asked to run for Council because of the good governance and listening skills I will bring to the Council. I’m known for having served Rye well on the Board of Education; supporting our vibrant community and meeting challenges in a fiscally responsible manner. I look forward to having the opportunity to do so on the Council.

Why are you running for Rye City Council now?

Nathan: I was asked to run because of the experience and knowledge that I bring having served our community for nine years on the Rye City School District Board of Education, three terms as president. My service was distinguished by good governance, tax cap compliant budgets before there even was a tax cap, and addressing program and infrastructure needs necessary for today’s students. Like the School Board, the City Council is not like any single-issue community group.  The Council must always be prepared to listen to multiple interest groups when deliberating policy and consider multiple points of view. I understand that this is why the various sides of the Rye City Democratic Committee, which had been divided because of the recent primary, came together to recruit and support me; they know I will listen to the community and do so with respect. At my core, this is who I am, and have always been. I look forward to having the opportunity to work with the Mayor and the Council and the community at large.

What are the three biggest opportunities / challenges facing the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years?

Nathan:

  1. Infrastructure needs. We need to repair roads and sewers, maintain parkland and trees. We need to do so in a manner that supports and enhances the quality of life we enjoy in Rye. This means prioritizing the projects that yield the greatest positive impact.
  2. Environmental challenges. We regularly face severe weather, leading to flooding, downed trees, and power outages. We need to continue to prioritize this. This goes hand in hand with addressing our infrastructure and capital needs and opportunities. This needs to be a key factor in prioritization.
  3. Planning/Good Governance. We need to engage in thoughtful and engaged planning. Through community participation (we have a lot of talent and smarts in Rye), we need to set strategic priorities and also update our master plan. When I led the Rye City School Board, we actively did this. I look forward to the opportunity to join the Council and serving in an open and collaborative manner.

What are the three biggest areas for cost containment with the City of Rye over the next 3-5 years? 

Nathan:

Here are three areas to which I’d give attention:

  1. Maintaining fiscal prudence and solid oversight of all the City’s activities is essential. This requires constant transparency and openness for the community to see. Good governance means actively asking questions, getting reports, and seeking accountability, while allowing the professionals to do their work. This discipline is how, when I was leading the Rye City School Board, we headed off issues before they became problems and controlled taxes at below tax-cap levels before there was a tax cap.
  2. When planning infrastructure, environmental and other capital improvements, planning the financing goes hand in hand with prioritizing the projects. Whether through grants, bonds, or reserves, there always has to be a sharp focus how the financing could impact the taxpayer both presently and in the future and in the context of other needs from the City and other entities. This approach is how, when I was leading the Rye City School Board (’08-’11), we steered the School District through the great recession financial crisis, controlling taxes while continuing to meet the competitive needs of our community’s students.
  3. Shared resources, shared services, and partnerships. We need to keep I mind that the Rye City taxpayer funds our city, our schools, our county, and multiple nonprofit organizations. When we allocate our resources, we should be doing so in a manner that offers the biggest the bang for the buck, avoids overlapping spends, leverages our taxpayers’ funds in coordination with the County, the two school districts, and the many nonprofits. When I led the Rye City School Board, we took great care to do this. It was that care, and the relationships I forged, that helped us settle a decade long litigation between the Rye City School District the City and the Osborne Home.

Please Answer the following questions Yes or No

Question Nathan: Yes or No Nathan:
Do you believe the City has done a responsible and an effective job of navigating the Coronavirus pandemic? Yes Positives include useful communications to the public, transitioning functions online, assisting seniors, and helping enable local businesses to operate.
Have you been fully vaccinated against COVID-19? Yes My family is fully vaccinated. We need to be mindful that families with children under 12 remain at greater risk, and of the need for boosters, as we continue to navigate the Pandemic.
Were you supportive of the various stages of Purchase Plaza during the pandemic? Yes I enjoyed the plaza. The City and the Purchase Street merchants hit the ground running to keep our downtown vibrant.
Would you be supportive of Purchase Plaza after the pandemic? It looked more successful for some restaurants and shops than others. I want to understand what worked and what didn’t. There is an opportunity for feedback and public discussion now.
Do you support the raising of the Pride flag on City flagpoles this past June and every June? Yes Rye’s LGBTQ+ community should feel the same sense of home and belonging so many here enjoy, particularly given the adversity they continue to encounter beyond Rye. We support inclusiveness in our schools, we should do so in our community at large.
Do you believe there is an issue with racial bias and equality in our community and that the City has a role to play in addressing it? Yes We know that bias doesn’t have to be intentional to still be impactful. The City should be doing its part to actively support Rye as an inclusive and welcoming place to live, work, and visit. It’s a national and local issue, we should be on the correct side of history. The City, in conducting its activities, should reflect and act on our values.
Rye City should have additional restrictions on residential development We need to take care to avoid Rye becoming too dense with development, but we don’t want regulations that prevent positive improvement. We need to look at what works and what doesn’t in our code. We need more public engagement on this.
Are you supportive of the Wainwright House working with Row America Rye? Yes Wainwright House and Row America Rye are important local institutions. I am supportive of efforts that enable them to endure. I appreciate that there are concerns about impact on the residential area and hope these can be fairly addressed.
Do you agree the loss of Wainwright House and its property as a public resource would be a significant detriment to the City? Yes Wainwright House is a Rye gem. It provides the only public access to the beauty of that part of Milton Harbor.
Do you agree the closure of the Durland Scout Center on Milton Point in 2007, and its subsequent sale to a developer for private homes, was a real loss for the City? I would have preferred we kept that property as a public space either as a City park or under the auspices of a nonprofit that would have made it available to the public. Unfortunately, despite many efforts, there was not a workable opportunity at that time.
Rye City is prepared for the next “100 year” flood No We are not and we need to be. Progress has been made but as I know from my work on the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery NYRCR Planning Committee for Rye, mitigating flood and storm damage requires a synthesis of planning and responses. The damage we suffer from weather and power outages and the risks to life and property are unacceptable. This needs to be a continuing priority.
Leaf blowers are a health and quality of life nuisance and should be banned entirely from the City We need to look at our policy and enforcement and consider alternatives to gas-powered blowers. An outright ban without satisfactory alternatives not appropriate.
Curbside food scrap recycling should be expanded across the City. Yes We should be supporting programs that improve sustainability. Recycling programs often begin imperfectly, but in time they work. We should of course publicly discuss any costs of expansion in relation to other needs. When I led the Rye City School Board we looked at allocation of resources as a whole, not as isolated spends. This kept us on budget and serving the community’s priorities.
Rye City property taxes are too high It’s relative. Westchester property taxes are high. Rye’s tax rate is one of the lowest among its peer communities. We should always be managing our tax revenue in a fiscally prudent manner, as I saw to on the Board of Ed. We also should be coordinating with the other taxing authorities (our two school districts and the County) to make sure Rye taxpayers are getting good value. When I led the Rye City School Board, we worked closely with the City to do this.
Rye Playland will be in good hands with Standard Amusements We don’t know yet. When it comes to Playland, we need to have a seat at the table with the County in so much as we need to hold Standard Amusements accountable to be a good neighbor. When I led the Rye City School Board, we made sure to have a seat at the table of discussions that could impact us, and we invited others to do the same with regard to our activities.
Rye Town Park should be controlled (or owned) by Rye City No The Park is shared with the Town of Rye. Let’s maintain a good relationship there. Shared resources and services are a terrific way to control taxes.
Rye City needs to reduce its deer population by active management including sharp shooters or bow hunting I have not reviewed an assessment of the situation. Managing our relationship with deer and other wildlife requires due care. I’d like to better understand the real needs and then options.
Rye City parking downtown is a serious mess and has a negative impact on local business and residents enjoying downtown No My perception is that the mix of free street parking and metered lot parking works right now. If there is data that shows a need for change, I’m certainly open to considering it. We should take care to see if parking needs and pressures change post pandemic.
Rye City paid meter parking downtown has a negative impact on local business and on residents enjoying downtown No No one likes to pay for parking, but the parking app makes metered parking much easier and the time limits on free spaces ensure that spaces open up for quicker visits. If there is data that shows the situation to be unreasonable, I’m certainly open to considering it.
Rye City should be more pedestrian and bike friendly Yes The City has done a lot to improve pedestrian safety over the last 20 years. I see people enjoying our walking, running, and biking areas daily. This should continue to be a priority in our planning.

 

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests last year concerning stories about bias in our schools and community came out. Do you acknowledge these stories and believe we should actively address issues of bias? Yes, or No? If Yes, what role should the City have?

Nathan: It is incumbent on all leaders in our local government, schools, businesses, and nonprofits to be aware of the impact of bias and address it. This is a national and local issue. We should all be on the same side when it comes to this in Rye. The way in which our City government acts reflects our values. It takes active empathy and consideration to support a welcoming and inclusive community. Raising of the Pride Flag and the official recognition of Pride month were good actions. Supporting our City staff in addressing matters of bias and inclusiveness and the Council keeping them in focus as policies and decisions are made will serve our community well.

Land use and the control of development has been raised as an issue in Rye, fueled by a variety of concerns including flood control and the development of flag lots. Should more be done to bring transparency and control to land use decisions in Rye? If so, what are three of the top recommendations you would make?

Nathan: Fuller community engagement is essential here. This will inform how we are applying our masterplan and how it might need updating. This will lead to better decision making. A lot of the discussion on these matters is siloed, the heavy lifting is spread among committees and citizen feedback is often taken in the limited context of a particular project. I recommend we hold a series of forums on (i) the key issues including flag lots, steep slopes, tree management, aesthetics, density, etc., (ii) how our code and processes including zoning and BAR work collectively, many folks are surprised by outcomes not realizing how different types of approvals work, and (iii) using this engagement to inform our review of our building Code and our masterplan. This is somewhat analogous to the workshops on key issues we held when I was on the Rye City School Board.

Further on land use, what benchmarks could the City publish annually or semi-annually that could help residents understand the state of land use in the City?

Nathan: This would come out of the above engagement. Having a clear picture of our demographics, the numbers of flag lots, variances applied for and granted, and the number of homes at max FAR would be useful.

What are the current plans for the former United Hospital site just over the Rye City line in Port Chester? And what should the City be doing to represent its interests?

Nathan: I need to learn more about the developers plans for the former United Hospital site. We should have open communications with Portchester to protect our interests.

The City’s Master Plan was written in 1985, over 35 years ago. Should the City update its Master Plan? If yes, describe the process, timeline, stakeholders, and a few of the issues and policies that might be addressed in this work.

Nathan: Yes. We should be looking at our master plan seeing to what extent it still works and to want extent it needs adjustment. A lot has changed in 30 years, weather, demographics, socioeconomics. We need to be sure we have a plan that is serving our vision for the community knowing what we now know.

Tell us about you:

What is your day job?

Nathan: I am a lawyer. My law practice serves nonprofits, and media and e-commerce businesses, and professionals working in those fields. Previously I served as general counsel to WNET New York Public Media (Channel 13).

My professional volunteer work includes:

  • Pro bono work through the State Bar Association
  • Serving on the advisory board of the Society of American Graphic Artists
  • Providing seminars to directors and executives of nonprofits via Mission Control NY
  • Serving on the USA 500 Clubs diversity committee to improve diversity in professional networking

If you could travel anywhere in the world (post pandemic!), where would you go and why, and who would you take with you?

Nathan: I’m looking forward to taking my mom, 84, together with my wife and son, to visit my aunt, 88, and cousins in San Francisco.

What are you watching these days?

Nathan: Ted Laso – Apple TV

Where do you live in Rye and how many years have you been in the City?

Nathan: Hillside Place (Rye Beach area). I have lived in Rye for over 20 years with my wife and our son.

What are three of your favorite food takeout / delivery restaurants in or around Rye?

Nathan: 

  1. Piazza Pizza, this is our local
  2. Cornerstone
  3. Aurora, we’ve enjoyed great take out during the Pandemic
  4. Patisserie Salzburg
  5. Playland market

Thanks Josh!

Please provide links to:

Nathan: 

Your LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joshuacnathan

Your Twitter: n/a

Your Facebook: Josh Nathan for Rye

Website: JoshNathan.com

Bio:

Josh Nathan is a graduate of Cornell Law School and Vassar College. His law practice serves nonprofits, media and arts organizations, e-commerce businesses, and professionals working in these fields. Previously he served as general counsel to WNET New York Public Media. He has lived in Rye with his wife and son since 2000. They are members of the American Yacht Club.

Josh Served on the Rye City Board of Education for nine years. He served three terms as president and two terms as vice president and served as chaired of the  following: Audit Committee, Collective Bargaining Negotiating Team, Management Team, Policy Committee, Architect Search Committee, Senior Administrator Search Committee. During his terms as president (’08-’11), Josh Nathan:

  • Steered Rye schools through the great recession, supporting educational excellence while controlling taxes at below tax-cap levels before there even was a tax cap
  • Successfully settled a three-year contract negotiation with the teacher’s union
  • Retained architects for the Rye High School science wing who respected the beauty of Milton Road
  • Resolved a more than decade-long multimillion dollar tax litigation between the City, Rye Schools, and the Osborn Home
  • Designed and implemented a new strategic planning process for the Board
  • Implemented new reporting, including: the semi-annual college placement report to the community, and the monthly Superintendent’s report to the Board and community on teaching and learning in Rye, and a new audit tracking system
  • Exercised fiscal prudence in enhancing the educational program through careful allocation of resources to meet the needs of the community

In addition to his School Board service, Josh Nathan:

  • Served on the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program – Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery – Rye Planning Committee
  • Coached Rye Youth Soccer and Rye Little League
  • Volunteered as a practice interviewer for Rye High School students and as a career panelist for the Rye Youth Council

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