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Scarsdale History: From Hardscrabble Farms to Gracious Estates

Barbara Shay Macdonald

One of Scarsdale's first residents, Thomas Hadden was the father of not one, but two families at the same time -- a white family consisting of an English wife, two sons and a daughter who lived in Wayside Cottage, and a family of slaves he fathered with "the Wench Rose" who lived across the road in what is now the Underhill House at 1020 Post Road.

That's just one of the many interesting stories revealed in a new documentary, "Scarsdale in the 18th & 19th Centuries: From Hardscrabble Farms to Gracious Estates," hosted by the Scarsdale Historical Society and narrated by historian Barbara Shay McDonald. You can watch it online here.

It's hard to imagine Scarsdale as the home of large farms, slaves, revolutionaries and even a gun powder factory: but those were just a few of the surprising elements of Scarsdale's history that are chronicled in the video which traces Scarsdale's history from 1701.

The documentary was professionally produced and directed by Scarsdale native Lesley Topping, an independent filmmaker, producer and film editor whose work includes dramatic films, documentaries, and television programs. She partnered with her cousin Richard Westlein, a 12-time Emmy Award winning cinematographer and ABC cameraman whose credits include "One Life to Live", "All My Children", and is currently the cameraman for "The View."


Barbara Shay MacDonald says she first became interested in Scarsdale's history when she was in contract to purchase the Underhill House in 1967 where her family lived for over 30 years. She did some research at Wayside Cottage but found that there was no mention of the family of slaves that were the original residents of Underhill House. In fact, MacDonald only figured this out when she came upon Hadden's will that stipulated that, upon his death, his slave children should "larnt to read," taught a trade and be freed.

Another early resident of Wayside Cottage was James Varian, a butcher from New York City who bought the house after Hadden's death. The Varian family lived there from 1763 to 1853. He and his sons were patriots in the Revolutionary War. In 1853 the property was sold to Charles Butler who built a mansion on the land and farmed much of the property that is now Fox Meadow.

fenimore cooper and heathcoteOne of this country's earliest authors, James Fenimore Cooper was also a renowned resident. He married Susan Delancey, a great granddaughter of Caleb Heathcote. Best known for "Last of the Mohicans," he used another historic Scarsdale home, "The Locusts" as the scene for "The Spy," which was the first American novel, and written while Fenimore Cooper lived in Scarsdale. The Locusts still stands today.

powdermillhouseGreenacres was home to a gunpowder factory powered by the water from the Bronx River. There were three fatalities there before it was eventually torn down. Another famous home that remains on Brook Lane today, is the Powder Mill House, which at one time was a tea house with a sunken Italian garden overlooking the river.

There are many more historic buildings in Scarsdale and Edgemont to discover in this 30-minute film that is a gift to the community from the Scarsdale Historical Society. Watch it here:

Road Repaving, Water Main Breaks, Tax Prepayments and More from Village Hall

PaulieStrongThe Scarsdale Board of Trustees opened their January 9 meeting with a moment of silence for the five members of the Steinberg family who died in a plane crash in Costa Rica on December 31, 2017. Mayor Dan Hochvert noted that the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was played at the memorial service for the family at Westchester Reform Temple, and said, "For our moment of silence, we don't have music, but let's think of the Steinberg's being over the rainbow but their spirit never leaving our Village."

Both the Mayor and the Trustees praised Village Treasurer Mary Lou McClure and the staff for their efforts to interpret the new tax law and allow prepayment of Village taxes in the week between Christmas and New Years. The Mayor said he was "dazzled" by the staff's efforts as they went above and beyond to make this possible.


The Mayor also announced the NYS Department of Transportation has allocated $2.8 mm to repave the White Plains Post Road that runs through Scarsdale. He praised State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin who "went to bat for us" and were influential in securing the funds for our roads.

Tax Prepayments:

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo announced that the Village had collected roughly1,800 checks for prepayment of village, school and county taxes. He said that those who provided a single check for all three taxes should come to Village Hall and rewrite a check for their Village taxes only. For those who submitted three checks, the Village will return school and county checks via the mail. He said the Treasurers office is calling residents to ask them to come down and swap checks.

Study of the Assessor's Office:

Pappalardo said a study of the Assessor's Department done by consultants "Management Partners" is being finalized and will be completed in early February. A meeting will be scheduled for late February to review the report.

Water Main Breaks:

Pappalardo said due to the cold weather and age of the water distribution lines, there were nine water main breaks over the past six weeks. This past weekend there was a large water main break on Crossway and the water department and public works department were on site from Saturday to Monday replacing valves in the leaking system. Crews worked overnight in very cold, difficult conditions. Pappalardo said that many residents had no water all weekend but "showed some love," delivering food, coffee and even pizza to the men who were outside fixing the pipes. He thanked David Raizen and SVAC for bringing hot coffee and food to the crews throughout the long weekend, saying "Morale was bolstered by these acts of kindness."

Library Campaign:

Library Director Beth Bermel announced that the Campaign Committee who is raising money for the renovation and expansion of Scarsdale Library has reached 88.9% of their goal of $7.5 million and has now raised $6,669,415.56. The casino night at Fenway Golf Club in December brought in $56,000 for the campaign.

Donations from the Scarsdale Concours:

Ken Schneider and members of the Board of Directors of the Scarsdale Concours were on hand to deliver contribution checks to three local charities. The funds were raised at the automotive show in October which brought more than 140 classic, collector, exotic and special interest vehicles to the Village. The event raised $22,500.00 that was shared among three local charities; Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling, Warrior & Family Assistance Fund created by the Scarsdale PBA and PaulieStrong Foundation created by a local family to raise awareness and funding for pediatric cancer research at the Scarsdale Village Board Meeting on January 9, 2018.

The Scarsdale Concours d'Elegance Board of Directors includes; Andy Albert, Alex Forschner, Kevin Higgins, Richard Hubell, Peter and Stefan Malinchoc, Sandy and Ethan Miller, David and Jonah Rosett, Lawrence Sachs, Ken and Jonah Schneider, Leif and Sidney Waller. Learn more here

Cable Service:

Trustee Seth Ross announced that the Village will soon be negotiating their service contracts with cable providers and asked residents to complete a survey about cable service here:

During public comments, Lena Crandall invited residents to attend Scarsdale Forum's Winterfest party to be held on February 3 at from 7- 11 pm at the Scarsdale Woman's Club. Click here to sign up

Lynne Clarke spoke about a proposed change to sanitation pickup that was originally scheduled to be voted on at the January 9 meeting, but was deferred to allow time for a public hearing on January 30 at 7 pm. The proposal calls for weekly curbside pick-up of recyclables, including paper and bottles and cans. The village would also pick-up furniture left at the curb and donate it to Furniture Sharehouse. There would be no change in back of driveway trash pick-up. Currently, paper recyclables are only picked up once every two weeks.

Clarke said she had concerns about carrying her bottles and cans to curb for pickup. She said, "This is not the time to cut back on services to residents and seniors. Everyone is worried about the value of their homes .... these are unsettling times. Backyard pick-up is valued and appreciated and it's a nice perk of living here. Having big garbage cans on front yards is not a pretty sight for our Village in a Park. I collect food scraps and take fun trips to the recycling center."

Michelle Sterling came to the mic and said that the study does not recommend the elimination of back of driveway pick (for trash.) She said, "there will be no change." But bottles and cans would need to be brought to the curb. The CAC sees this as a net benefit to residents and an increase in services. Over 120 letters in support of this change have been received by Village Hall."

Bob Harrison objected to a resolution to renovate the tennis court at Wynmor Park. After calling for bids, the Village selected Sport Tech to renovate the court at a cost of $110,361. He said the bid was 36% above the $75,000 budget and urged the rejection of the bid. He asked the Village to consider an all weather court rather than a Har-Tru court and said this was too much to spend on one court when there are 26 other courts in the Village.

Bob Berg added, "I don't think it makes sense to renovate that tennis court. Build a playground instead."

The trustees voted unanimously in favor of the referendum, saying they had discussed this at length with the East Heathcote Neighborhood Association and that "the facility is valued, used and needs to be maintained."

Village Election:

The Village election will be held on Tuesday March 20 from 6 am to 9 am and 12 noon to 9 pm at Scarsdale Library.

Candidates for Acting Village Justice:

The Judicial Qualifications Advisory Committee (Committee) is seeking candidates for Scarsdale's Acting Village Justice. The Acting Village Justice serves in the absence or incapacity of the Village Justice. Scarsdale's nonpartisan system provides for screening of candidates for this position by the Committee, which then reports their assessment of the candidates' qualifications to the Mayor. The Mayor makes this appointment with conformation by the Village Board of Trustees. The Acting Village Justice serves a one-year term which commences in April 2018.

The Committee welcomes all qualified applicants who live in the Village and are members in good standing of the New York State Bar with courtroom experience. Interested persons should send a letter of interest and resume to Angela Martin by email to or by United States Postal Mail to 1001 Post Road, Scarsdale, New York 10583. The deadline for receipt of materials is Friday, January 19, 2017 at 5 p.m. If the Committee wishes to interview a candidate, they will contact the candidate directly after the deadline for submissions has passed.

The Elephant in the Basement

GreeancresPlan(This is the opinion of Scarsdale10583 site founder Joanne Wallenstein.) As we prepare to scrape off decades of paint from the walls of Greenacres Elementary School, lift up cracked linoleum flooring and remove asbestos ceiling tiles, no one knows what will be unearthed underneath. And then what? On Monday December 11 the Board of Education is poised to approve a community-wide bond referendum for an expansive addition to the Greenacres Elementary School, though many questions remain about the viability of the existing building, constructed on a high water table in 1916, 1920 and 1929.

We've tried to get answers to these questions...

Parents have asked the faculty for their thoughts about the school:

• What are the working conditions in the school?
• Have they had health issues due to air quality?
• Can the current structure facilitate 21st Century learning?

The teachers meet our questions with averted eyes and it's evident they are not permitted to speak candidly about their experiences inside the building. What are they hiding and why?

Then there's the environmental testing. After we smelled the mildew in the basement and heard rumors about mold in the building, we asked repeatedly for air quality testing. With the decision for a bond referendum just weeks away and the building committee disbanded, the district finally went ahead with the tests. Lo and behold, at the eleventh hour, they did find mold. In fact after months of delay, the response to Scarsdale10583's FOIL request revealed a long history of moisture and mold in the building. Certainly the district is now doing everything possible to clean it up, but as Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey admitted, "We are installing dehumidifiers in the basement to keep it as dry as possible."

Discussing the results of the environmental testing, Superintendent Hagerman said the district had tested 400 sites in the "occupied portions" of the building. What about the unoccupied portions? Has anyone tested those to see if mold is growing there? Don't we need to find the source of the mold? Is it in the dirt crawlspaces underneath the building and behind the classroom walls? How can we otherwise know what the real cost of a building renovation will be? And how can we know whether or not the infrastructure problems can truly be remediated?

The air quality tests also measured the humidity level in the building. The report on the district website says, "The chief problem with high indoor humidity from a health standpoint is the potential for mold growth. Humidity levels greater than 30% increase the potential for mold growth and high humidity, 60% or greater can cause biological contamination." The humidity levels in on the lower level of the school ranged from 63% to 71% and the humidity in the gym was measured at 65%. What are they proposing to do about it?

Another unresolved health concern is the lead pipes. We've been told that for the most part these pipes will remain within the walls and that the district will continue to do periodic testing and use lead filters to make the water safe to drink. Are lead filters a permanent solution? As the pipes age, do they leach more lead into the water? What if the thresholds for safe drinking water are changed in the future? What is the useful life of these lead pipes? What is the cost to do this testing and purchase filters for the next 50 years?

Without this vital information, we can't assess whether it makes sense to add onto the building. If we give the plan the go ahead and the construction crews open the walls and find mold, what will we do?

We need to slow down and get answers. Give the faculty the permission to speak frankly about their views on the building and any health and safety issues they may have. Permit a thorough and independent environmental assessment of the building, and appoint a committee of parents to oversee the work. Lift the veil of fear about open discussion and let's find the right solution together. All of this secrecy makes us skeptical.

The district is rushing to put the referendum to a vote without providing the community with the facts. Stop hiding what you do know and stop preventing the investigation of what we need to know. Let's confront the elephant in the room, or should I say the elephant in the basement. Find out what's down there and then we can discuss what to do next.

Inclusion Classes: What is the Maximum Class Size?

desksWe heard that some classrooms were being shuffled at Greenacres Elementary School to make room for a larger inclusion class, which mixes general and special education students together with two teachers. We were curious about maximum class enrollments and wrote to Andrew Patrick, the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Leadership Development in Scarsdale. Here are his responses to our questions:

Q: I heard that the fourth grade inclusion class at Greenacres has been expanded to 28 students- is this true?

A: No. The class is at 26 presently.

Q: Can you clarify the district policy on maximum class size? Where is this policy detailed?

A: The Board does not have a formal class size policy, but has guidelines that are adhered to as closely as possible. The guideline is for 22 students in grades K-3, and 24 in grades 4-5. These guidelines were established by a district committee in 2001 (down from 24 and 26, respectively). This can, and has, been exceeded in two types of instances: 1) enrollment increases after the August 15 cutoff date for adding new sections; 2) special education classes operating in the integrated co-teach model (2 full time teachers assigned to the class) . The Greenacres 4th grade enrollment happens to meet both exceptions.

Q: For inclusion classes, does the ratio between general education and special needs students need to be 50/50?

A: The State guidelines for the special education integrated co-teach model cap the number of special education students at 12. We, however, try to stay at or above 60% general education students, and at or below 40% special education students (this class has been, and continues to be, well within that.)

Q: Were general education students added to the class to maintain the balance?

A: There were no special adjustments necessary.

Q: How large is the classroom?

A: I don't know the square footage off hand, but we are moving the group to a larger room for comfort.

Q: What is the staffing?

A: 1 general education teacher, 1 special education teacher, 2 teacher aides

Q: Do we have other elementary school classes in the district that exceed the recommended maximum number of students?

A: We have a Kindergarten section at Edgewood that is at 23 (also integrated co-teach).

The district sent out these two notices about enrollment and transportation for the 2018-19 school year:

Online Registration for Kindergarten:

The Scarsdale School District offers a registration system which allows parents/guardians to enter student information online. The registration window for incoming kindergarten students for the 2018-2019 school year will open on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, and will remain open through Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Children whose fifth birthday falls on or before December 31, 2018, may be registered for the 2018-2019 school year.

Before you begin the online registration process, please gather all documents for uploading. For further information about the documents that you will need and for access to the system, click here:

Enrollment in one of the five elementary schools (Edgewood, Fox Meadow, Greenacres, Heathcote and Quaker Ridge) is determined by the neighborhood in which you reside. If you do not know which elementary school serves your neighborhood, please call the District Registrar, Maria Miraglia, at (914) 721-2444, or send an email to


Transportation is provided to all students in the District to the District schools, and to schools outside the District, provided that the student resides within the Scarsdale School District and resides more than 1.5 miles from the school s/he attends, up to a distance of 15 miles. The distances in each case are measured using the nearest available publicly maintained route from home to school.

Applications for transportation to private and parochial schools for the following school year can be submitted online between February 1 and by April 1; new residents must apply within 30 days of establishing residency in the District. To request transportation, click here.

Documentary Review: Destination Unknown

Destination-UnknownAs the years march on, the voices of Holocaust survivors continue to dwindle and fade. Destination Unknown offers a resounding rebuke to the growing silence, by sharing the stories of those still able to tell them. The narrators' faces may be aged, but their anguish is still fresh, adding an extra dimension of poignancy to humanity's greatest horror.

In this documentary, produced in association with the USC Shoah Foundation, we meet a dozen survivors. A few you may have heard of, such as Helen Sternlicht, the concentration camp housemaid whose rescue was famously recounted in the movie Schindler's List. Most of the people profiled, however, are unfamiliar, which doesn't make their tales any less gripping.

There's Eli Zborowski, who gasped for air in a cellar hideout, and Frank Blaichman, who left his family to their deaths and became a partisan fighter. ("Did I do the right thing or not?" he asks the camera—and himself.) Eddie Weinstein slipped out of Treblinka on a train, hiding under a pile of plundered clothing. He is one of only a handful known to have escaped the camp, where some 870,000 people perished.

'Escaped,' however, is a relative term here. Many of the survivors admit to being haunted, if not tortured, by the horrors they witnessed and the losses they endured. "I could forget what I had for breakfast this morning," admits former Mathausen internee Marsha Kreuzman, now in her 90s, "but I will never forget what happened for the five and a half years [I spent] in the concentration camp." Ed Mosberg, a fellow Mathausen survivor, resignedly shares that "the pain is wherever I am, because I feel the pain every single day."

Yet there are uplifting moments too, such as when Helen Sterlicht remembers Oscar Schindler's heroism and reminds us that "we have a choice." Eli Zborowski, recalling those who risked their lives to hide him, marvels, "These people were really angels and not human beings." Eddie Weinstein offers up his own answer to Hitler—the smiling face of a beautiful granddaughter.

The film had its theatrical debut in New York on November 10th.