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Tales from the 'Dale: Scarsdale Storytellers Tell All

SandiMarxI love listening to The Moth Radio Hour on NPR and sometimes find myself sitting outside in the car waiting to hear the end of these funny and often heart wrenching stories. Moth storytellers bare their most intimate secrets and share their embarrassing moments with thousands of listeners who they've never met. It's highly entertaining and often mind blowing.

That's why I was so excited when I found out that Scarsdale would have its own version of the story slam. Presented by the Scarsdale Adult School and hosted by former Scarsdale resident and StorySLAM champ Sandi Marx, "Tales From the "Dale And Beyond" promised to be a lot more fun than the usual gatherings I cover on weeknights, and the performance did not disappoint.

Each of the performers for the April 5th event at the Heathcote Auditorium was selected by Sandi Marx with Ann Sacher and Leesa Suzman, co-chairs of the Scarsdale Adult School Board of Trustees. They managed to attract some first rate talent, not surprising since most of the performers either grew up in Scarsdale or work or live here now.

Sandi Marx, served as host and storyteller and opened the night with a tale called "Race to Nowhere" about her early days in Scarsdale when she found herself outside her comfort zone in the pool of a local country club. Though she was trying to impress her small twins by participating in a race, it ultimately became evident that she didn't know how to swim!

Marx was followed by SHS English teacher Denise Del Balzo. suzmanIt was easy to see why she's a favorite among students and parents. In a story called, "When a Stranger Calls," she recounted her experience during a kidnapping that rocked New York in 1993. At the time, she was dating her future husband  whose mother's boyfriend went missing. It was later determined that he had been kidnapped and buried alive next to the West Side Highway. The New York Times called it a "bizarre case with flashes of Edgar Allan Poe," and Del Balzo's expertly delivered rendition of the family's wait for his return was one of the highlights of the night.

handelmanHigh school buddies Lori Weitzner and David Handelman made the return trip to Scarsdale to let us in on what happened way back when. It turns out that Lori was an associate editor of the yearbook when David was the editor. When it came time for the end of year dinner, rather than inviting Weitzner to the celebration, he told her that she had to cook the dinner. Outraged, Weitzner and her friend came up with a plan to set things right. In this riotous tale of revenge, the girls cooked up a special lasagna laced with dog food for Handelman ... but in a strange turn of events, Handelman's two younger brothers became the unknowing victims and eat the purloined pasta.

Somehow Weitzner and Handelman survived that scuffle and to become lifelong friends. In his performance, "You Can Go Home Again," Handelman described the summer after his graduation from Harvard. Unable to figure out how to pursue his dream to be a writer, he retreated to his room at home in Scarsdale, and much to his parents dismay, took a job at Ramsey's Farm. Now a successful television producer and writer, he looked back to the time when he had to explain to his parent's friends why he was bagging tomatoes at a farm stand.

I was instantly won over by Victoria Assa, who wasassa born in the Soviet Union and immigrated to Rego Park, Queens at the age of six. Anxious to appear American like her classmates, she was mortified by the appearance and customs of her parents and grandmother, who would pick her up at school with a chicken cutlet in her hand. Assa was determined to learn to speak English and dress like a New Yorker. Though she tried to escape her past, when she met the man who was to become her husband, it turned out that he had emigrated from Cuba. Victoria and her beau worried what their two sets of parents would have in common. But lo and behold, the in-laws met and realized they all knew the same communist song, but in different languages. Assa ended by saying, "We are all immigrants. Our unique stories don't tear us apart – they bring us together."

finksThe performers also included a father-daughter team – radio personality Jimmy Fink from the Peak with his daughter Lucie Fink, a video producer at Refinery29. Together they shared a story of what can happen when social media goes wrong. While appearing as a guest on the Today Show at NBC Lucie met Matt Lauer, and when he offered to take her to lunch to offer some career advice, Lucie was so excited that she tweeted out the news to her followers. Her tweet was picked up by the National Inquirer, who gave it a salacious spin. After Lucie ended up on the cover of the tabloid her story spiraled out of control. The brave duo explained what happened and how they repaired the damage.

Another member of the SHS faculty, Rashid Silvera took the stage, rashidsaying he "was raised by a fellowship of raconteurs." He told a story of his own evolutions saying, "You do not find the right people until you become the right person." He took us back to wild times at Studio 54 when Silvera was moonlighting as a GQ model. Only in his first year of teaching at SHS, he wasn't quite sure what the parents would think of his second career. He decided to test the waters when he was given a handful of VIP tickets to Studio 54 – which he called the "Tabernacle of Temptation." On open school night, while other teachers were conferring with parents about student's performance, he scoped out the crowd and distributed the free tickets to parents he thought might venture downtown. When the big night arrived, he was thrilled to find the parents "partying their heads off" on the dance floor. He was so happy to find the right people in Scarsdale, where he has stayed for three decades.

There were more great stories from Fran Scheffler-Siegel, June C. Sambol and Polish emigree, actress, writer and Moth GrandSLAM winner Danusia Trevino. The show was recorded and can be viewed on Scarsdale Public Television (Cablevision Channel 76 and Verizon Fios 42.

Hats off to Sacher, Suzman, Marx and the Scarsdale Adult School for producing great entertainment in the 'Dale. Let's hope it becomes an annual event.


Starbucks Opens in the Golden Horseshoe

starbucks1Big news at the Golden Horseshoe: The spacious Starbucks has opened in an all-new building that will also include Chopt – which is set to open in just a few weeks.

The new Starbucks is large and offers their signature coffees, tea and iced drinks along with pastries, sandwiches in bistro boxes, snacks and smoothies. The large location has indoor and outdoor tables as well as counter seating. Probably most appreciated is the drive-through window so that customers can order without getting out of the car.

The Starbucks will be the only location in the area serving Nitro Cold Brew Iced Coffee which is cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen to create a smooth, naturally sweet beverage. Also available will be Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew.starbucks3

Starbucks Store Manager Sabryna Gerdon says, "So far we are very happy with the business and the community has been great! We are very excited to be here and we have received a warm welcome from the area. This location is one of the only drive-throughs in the area, and we are very proud of that. We will also be serving the new Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew Iced Coffee next week.

The store opens early – 5:30 am Monday – Friday, and 6 am on the weekend. It stays open late too .... 'til 10 pm on weekdays and 11 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

starbucks2Make new friends but keep the old. If you're in the area don't forget Bagel Power for fresh bagels, flavored cream cheese and great iced coffee with frozen coffee ice cubes too.

Watch for the opening of Chopt on April 28 and the big new CVS in June.

Fire Strikes on Stonewall Lane

stonewall1The Scarsdale Fire Department responded to a residential fire alarm at 34 Stonewall Lane on Friday afternoon, March 24 at 2:28 pm. They found heavy fire in the attic and additional pockets of fire in the walls of the basement, the first and second floors. The fire was burning in space in the walls for ductwork for air conditioning. Smoke was visible on the roof near the chimney. At the time of the fire, work was being done on the house.

The Scarsdale Fire Department called for mutual aid and trucks from Hartsdale and Greenville arrived to assist with units from White Plains and Fairview stationed at Scarsdale Fire Headquarters in case there was another emergency at the same time. Con Edison and SVAC were also on the scene.


The main body of fire was knocked out within the first 45 minutes of the incident, Afterwards, units continued an extensive overhaul of the fire areas. Volunteer members were directed to the first floor for salvage operations and water removal. Salvage and overhaul operations continued under the direction of the Westchester County Cause and Origin Team who investigated the cause of the fire. The Scarsdale Building Department responded to perform a check of the structure and to touch base with the homeowner.

Firefighters remained on the scene until just after six pm.

This was the fourth major house fire in the area in just four months.

Photos by Jon Thaler – see more here.


Village Election Highlights the Need for a 21st Century Election System in New York

votingmachineDo you know what you're missing when it comes to your right to vote under the current NYS election laws – or what do about it? Most of us don't, and now is the time to get educated and let your state representatives know what changes you want them to make, like early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, electronic voter rolls, Election Day registration and automatic voter registration, to name a few.

Fortunately, there's an upcoming local opportunity to get informed and to engage directly with a panel of experts on NYS voting and elections, as members of the public are invited to the League of Women Voters of White Plains forum on "Voting Issues and Reform in New York" on Wednesday, April 19th at 7 pm. For the event flier, click here.

Following the last month's Scarsdale village elections, the Mayor justly praised our Village staff for their efficiency and professionalism in handling the historic voter turnout. But how much more quickly and efficiently could staff have processed the lines of Scarsdale voters at the Library using electronic voter rolls? And how many more Scarsdalians might have participated in this and other elections had New York State allowed early in-person voting on multiple days, including weekends, Election Day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and "no excuse" absentee voting?

"New York has long been a bastion of democracy," says New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, "but our state's current system of registration and voting is an affront to that legacy." For example, when it comes to efficient, fair and accessible voting, New York currently lags well behind the District of Columbia and many other states, including:
• 37 states that already allow early in-person voting; and
• 27 states that already allow "no-excuse" absentee voting.

When it comes to voter registration modernization, according to state data compiled by NYU Law School's Brennan Center, New York trails the District of Columbia and many other states, including:
• 34 states that use electronic voter rolls to process voters at the polls;
• 14 states that allow 16-17 year-olds to pre-register to vote before turning 18;
• 14 states that allow Election Day voter registration; and
• 6 states with automatic voter registration of eligible citizens thru interaction with government agencies, unless they "opt out."

New York voter turnout also ranks among the lowest in the nation, with only 57.3% of eligible New Yorkers reportedly casting ballots in the 2016 general election – the tenth-lowest voter turnout among all states.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the New York Votes Act, a comprehensive reform bill, drafted to simplify the voting process and increase New York voter registration and turnout. Governor Cuomo also indicated support for reforms such as early voting and same-day voter registration; however, he has since postponed addressing New York's outdated voting laws until the April-June legislative session, after the state budget has been adopted.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization working to promote civic responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government.
The right of every citizen to vote has been a basic principle of the League since its origin in 1920, and the League has been fighting for equal access to the polls ever since. Nationwide, we register voters, provide nonpartisan election information, and fight for elections systems that are fair and accessible.

On Wednesday, April 19th at 7:00 pm the League of Women Voters of White Plains welcomes the public to learn about "Voting Issues and Reform in New York" and what can be done to bring the election process in New York into the 21st century.

Sally Robinson, Vice President of the League of Women Voters of New York State will moderate the discussion with three expert panelists: Tomas Lopez, Counsel for NYU's Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program; Jennifer Wilson, League of Women Voters of New York State Director of Program and Policy; and New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald, Chair of the Assembly Subcommittee on Election Day Operations and Voter Disenfranchisement.

The event is free and takes place at the Church Street School Auditorium, 295 Church Street, White Plains. For the event flier, click here. For more information, email:

Mary Beth Evans, Advocacy Chair
Deb Morel, President
League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

City 2.0 Classes Confront Superstorm Godzilla

godzillamaggieA March snowstorm that closed schools on Tuesday March 14 and caused a late start the following day, didn't undermine the simulation of a much bigger storm for the City 2.0 classes at Scarsdale High School on Wednesday March 15.

With a major storm, Godzilla, bearing down on New York City in only 48 hours, students divided into five groups for pre-storm planning, to define an action plan during the storm and to clean up following the big event. The five committees were formed to figure out how to confront a life-threatening event – and to consider many variables critical to saving lives, maintaining public order and allocating resources.

City 2.0 teachers Maggie Favretti and Fallon Plunkettgodaillaplunkett assigned students to one of the following groups:

Untied Command
Safety and Security
Shelter and Recovery

Representatives from real-life public organizations such as the Coast Guard, Fire Department and Port Authority assisted the groups with their planning and analysis. Students were told to define priorities, identify obstacles, consider how to best use and distribute resources, manage transportation, communications and more.

In their first briefing, the committee managing utilities announced that power lines in low-lying areas would be disconnected. The shelter group discussed plans to evacuate 300,000 people to schools where they would need to be fed during the storm. How could they force people to leave who wanted to stay in their homes? If people chose to stay, would emergency personnel save them if they were at risk? How would they get medicine to those who needed it? What would happen to those who were too sick to be removed from hospitals in the storm target? Who would take the pets?

godzillabriefingThese were just a few of the many difficult decisions the students were asked to confront.

An hour into the simulation, SHS Social Studies Department Chair John Harris appeared to act as the mayor. After receiving a briefing from team representatives he conducted a press conference in order to provide the public with vital information. He put the students on the spot with some thorny questions – about evacuation routes, the 911 system and the capacity of the city's shelter system.

It was clear that the exercise caused the students to realize the complexity of the problems and the challenges of coordinating between agencies.

The teachers and professionals helped the students to recognize the myriad issues confronted by public officials during public emergencies.

Commenting on the success of the day, Margaret Favretti said, "Storm Godzilla was better than ever this year...strong student outcomes, positive response, and the Coast Guard guys totally enjoyed themselves."