Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Our Opinion...

Community Loses A Great Friend

We first met Barrett Hickman in February of 1970. We were having a zoning problem with the Town of Southeast, and he was recommended by our lawyer who was unable to represent us due to a conflict of interest. I was immediately impressed with Barrett’s gentle, soft-spoken manner, and his genuine interest in our problem with the town regarding our home for disabled veterans.

Barrett was a town justice in Carmel at the time, and practicing law with the firm of Kent, Hazzard in White Plains. He was a local fellow, whose dad, Sam Hickman, had been Carmel Town Supervisor many years earlier and was now operating a well-known general store on the shores of Lake Gleneida. Barrett loved to sing and,
in fact, had performed with the popular Sixties group Up With People.

As an attorney, Barrett was not a particularly aggressive sort. He preferred to give everyone the opportunity to have their say; then appealing to reason and decency, softly stated his position. As a town justice, and particularly as a Family Court Judge, he enjoyed a reputation for fairness and compassion.

Barrett served briefly as Putnam County District Attorney, elected in 1976. But, his real calling was the bench. He had the true judicial temperament, and stood successfully for election to County Court in 1979. Those who appeared before him had nothing but fine things to say about him. He was a caring jurist and people responded to it.

In 1986 he was elected to State Supreme Court, where he served until his retirement four years ago at age 74. Perhaps the trial he is best remembered for occurred in 1997 when he was appointed to preside over the defamation action brought against Al Sharpton and attorneys C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox, by Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Steven Pagones. The civil action grew out of charges levelled against the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office by a 15-year-old Black girl named Tawana Brawley.

The case was tried in Poughkeepsie. One evening, while it continued over several weeks, We had the occasion to meet attorney Maddox at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore. Having just entered law school, We were keenly interested in the trial. Speaking with Maddox for about 15 minutes, We told him that no matter what the outcome of the trial might be, We were confident that neither he nor his co-defendants would have any appealable issues because Judge Hickman was just so decent and so fair. As it turned out, the trial had many difficult moments; outbursts and actions that might have frustrated another judge. But Barrett Hickman, polite, soft-spoken, but firm as he had always been, saw the trial through to a peaceful and reasonable conclusion. And, as We predicted,
there were no appeals.

Barrett Hickman, a true son of Putnam County, equally well-known in Westchester, will be missed by many who knew and loved him - his quick wit, his ready smile, and his willingness to lend an ear, and a hand, when needed.

The last time We spoke with Barrett was two years ago, at a function in Northern Westchester. He was retired from the Bench and enjoying a Sunday afternoon at the flea market, sporting a big smile, and as affable as ever.

Thanks For Your Sentiments

Dear Editor:

I have a great deal of respect for your paper even if I sometimes think you might be stretching a point or two beyond where it should go. However, the point is that you are willing to take a stand and you do it courageously.

I also respect the fact that your correspondents represent a broad spectrum of the Westchester landscape: Black, Hispanic, White, Christian, Jew, and I find that rare and noteworthy.

Now to Ms.Camacho. I think she is onto something and I would ask her to get Ms. Calderon and others to go into the Hispanic Communities and provide the support and representation these fine people need and deserve. I am a 71-year-old White male who has pretty much been through it all: military, academic, business leader, non-profit and currently, a volunteer for the good Ursuline Sisters at the Adult Learning Center in New Rochelle. My students are all from the Hispanic community; simple hardworking men and women from Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, etc. who work hard, raise families and still find the time to try to learn a language and culture.

They remind me of my Celtic and Gallic forefathers; hard-working and willing to live the American dream. Yet, according to some yahoos in Port Chester, they have to “wait their turn.” Bull! They are contributors and don’t need and shouldn’t have a Black or White man or woman known or seen as their “representative.” I am sick of hearing and reading about the passivity of Latino leaders and clergy as well --- happy that at least African Americans got a seat at the table. Yes, that’s fine, but not at the expense of the burgeoning and hard working Latino adults who deserve to shape their destiny a little more.

The Black community is the new “White community” in many ways. They are more institutionalized and in the past 50 or so years they have not been afraid to make noise to be heard. Ms. Camacho alleges that perhaps something wasn’t quite right in the Board of Elections Certification. She probably is right. I know she is right about St. Paul, he is a tool of the McLaughlin/Spady faction and is simply interested in advancing a specific agenda. The limousine liberals in the city will not confront on this so you can expect the latino community
to slip even further back. If you scratch enough backs you will find a rationale that Ms. Camacho has not touched upon yet --- the fear or allocation by segments of the community who see Latinos as undocumented
and possibly even a risk to more than employment.

Come on, Ms. Camacho, get a hold of Ms. Calderon, Mr. Lopez, Ms. Hernandez and others and demand to be heard. Let this paper begin by printing out the names of the Port Chester Board of Trustees and others who made the decision to appoint Adams and Kenner. Put pressure on Lafayette and Sutherland to state unequivocally the process they followed in certifying the results and find out whether any citizen, perhaps Lopez himself can examine the ballot boxes, etc. to satisfy himself.

Before most, probably all, of you were born, an American President, John F. Kennedy, went to Berlin and told the citizens that, on that day, “Ich Bin Ein Berliner.” His German lacked focus, but his heart and soul did not. Today, focus or not, “Yo Soy Latino” Keep up the good work Westchester Guardian. We are fortunate
to have your voice in our community.

Warren D. Gross

Reader’s Strong Indictment of Mayor Noam Bramson

Dear Editor:

It seems to me after hearing Mayor Noam Bramson of New Rochelle discuss Echo Bay on WVOX last Tuesday, that he has his head in the sand. The once-Queen City’s grandiose plans of development has cost it its soul. How dare the mayor talk of developing Echo Bay without first confirming for his constituents that the area is perfectly safe? How dare he continue promoting the twenty-fiveyear-old Renewal Plan directly on a “State Superfund Site”? How dare he move the city yard, pay consultants, or tempt citizens with a vision of a viable waterfront when, in reality, he has not even once considered the ramifications of his actions.

A man serving in such a high position is ultimately responsible to the people he serves. Until he takes his head from the sand he is only a “water boy” for the lying purveyors of the pollution. Only when he allows his own children to play and fish there as mine and others’ did in PCB’s and dioxins (AGENT ORANGE) can he promote his plan. May God have mercy on his soul. We can all see what has happened to the Queen.

Frank Mancuso

Feiner Reviews Innovative Approach to High Property Taxes

To the Editor

During the past year taxes at every level of government has gone up. The County Executive just announced a tax hike. Town, village school & fire districts have also been increasing taxes annually. These tax hikes are forcing people to vote with their feet --they are moving out of Westchester.

I suggest that the NYS Legislature authorize local governments, school districts to provide residents with the opportunity to work off part of their property taxes. In Boston there is a program called the Senior Citizen Property Tax Work Off program.

Seniors are able to reduce their taxes by up to $750 in property tax relief in exchange for volunteer service to the community. This is helpful to seniors who are house rich and cash poor. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said. Seniors benefit by a reduction in their annual tax payment. The city benefits by the help of experienced

Property taxes are a major problem for senior citizens. This concept also helps seniors who don’t meet requirements for existing elder property tax exemptions. Departments (such as the library) with a need for additional volunteers would be able to benefit from program. Retirees could teach classes at schools.

Boston is not the only Massachusetts community that has this program. Townsend lets its qualifying seniors earn $500, while Newton seniors can erase up to $750.

Other major cities have sponsored similar programs in the past. In 1976, Hartford enacted a property tax work-off measure that extended beyond senior citizens. In Connecticut’s capital, any resident who was unemployed or with a property tax bill greater than 10 percent of their annual income could work off up to the entire property tax burden, according to a 1981 report in The New York Times.

While the Hartford program did not set age requirements, within five years, 70 percent of participants were age 50 or older. When I was a student in the late 1970s I urged the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees to adopt such a program. The Scarsdale Village Board approved the plan but the NY State Legislature never authorized such a program.

I will be organizing a county-wide lobbying effort so that this program can be offered to residents at the county, municipal and school levels. If you are interested in being part of a lobbying initiative, please contact me at

Paul Feiner, Greenburgh Town Supervisor

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