Gov. George Pataki came to Tarrytown Friday to praise Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s environmental record, which includes $25 million in park improvements, a public-private partnership to clean up the Bronx River, and inclusion of bus rapid-transit on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Pataki also lauded Astorino for his commitment to cleaning up Long Island Sound, noting Westchester County’s effort to expand the capacity of its New Rochelle sewage treatment plant.
“You don’t get a whole lot of credit, you don’t get a whole lot of headlines, you don’t do a massive ribbon-cutting when you upgrade the capacity of sewer plants on Long Sound or along the Hudson River,” said Pataki. “People don’t notice it, but it’s the right thing for a leader, who cares about the people and not the headlines, to do, and that is another thing that Rob Astorino has done.”
What Pataki might not have known was that Astorino has disavowed any involvement in the New Rochelle sewer plant upgrade, which resulted in hikes in New Rochelle sewer taxes by 66 percent since Astorino took office in 2010.
In fact, Astorino’s campaign has slammed his November opponent, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, for supporting the upgrade, which emerged from a consent decree with the federal government over excessive discharges from the New Rochelle plant. It was signed under the administration of Astorino’s predecessor, Andy Spano.
Bramson’s support for the settlement served as the basis for the Astorino’s campaign’s statement in a campaign commercial, which criticized the New Rochelle mayor for raising the county sewer tax paid by New Rochelle residents. It’s part of the Astorino campaign’s line about Bramson’s tax record. The Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee found that statement to be untrue, along with several others regarding Bramson’s tax record. But the Astorino campaign has continued to run the ad.
Pataki’s mention of the New Rochelle sewer project brought a response from the Bramson campaign.
“Rob can’t have it both ways,” said Bramson campaign spokesman Barry Caro. “He can’t accept credit for a project he didn’t support and actively criticized.”
The Astorino campaign, meanwhile, continued to push the unsupportable argument that Bramson raised the county sewer tax while serving as New Rochelle mayor. The New Rochelle mayor has no power over county sewer rates, which are set by the county government, headed since 2010 by Astorino.
When asked for a comment, Astorino campaign spokesman Bill O’Reilly issued the following statement:
“We were thrilled to have such a strong endorsement from the Governor based on the County’s Executive’s environmental record,” he wrote. “If Noam Bramson hadn’t raised his salary so quite so much and taken healthcare for life as a thirty-something-year-old-part-timer, maybe he wouldn’t have had to raise the sewer tax as much as he did.”
In an email exchange with O’Reilly, I explained that Bramson had no power to raise the sewer tax because it was a tax levied by Westchester County, headed by his candidate, Rob Astorino.
According to county tax records, the county sewer tax has gone up 66 percent for New Rochelle residents since Astorino took office in 2010, with the rate rising from $25.07 to $41.65 per $1,000 valuation.
O’Reilly finally got it, but continued to say that Astorino bears no responsibility for New Rochelle sewer taxes rising during his administration. He says it was the fault of Andy Spano, who signed the consent decree, and Bramson as well, because he supported investment to clean up Long Island Sound. That, by the way, was what Pataki had lauded Astorino for doing.
“I misspoke about Noam raising a sewer tax,” Reilly wrote. “Noam supported the consent decree which caused the Spano tax increase.”