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Greenacres Elementary School Task Force Calls for Full SEQRA Review of Proposed Elementary School Construction

craneA group of 400 concerned Scarsdale residents called the Greenacres Elementary Task Force has retained the law firm of Zarin and Steinmetz who notified the Scarsdale Board of Education about their safety concerns in regards to the proposed construction at Greenacres Elementary School.

In a letter dated October 4, 2017 they pose comments on the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in regards to the project. They ask that the district incorporate "all measures necessary to guarantee the health and safety of the School community. This includes evaluating all potential measures to keep students, teachers, staff and parents out of "harm's way" during construction, such as the use of temporary off-site modular classrooms."

The lawyers say the project plans contain minimal details about protective measures and that all experts retained concluded "that there is insufficient information to determine whether the community will be adequately protected from potential dangers associated with the large-scale renovation process."

The letter calls for testing for asbestos and lead prior to construction, as well as details on how the interior work can be completed in two 10-week summer vacation periods. It calls for the district to take measures to limit the infiltration of dust into classrooms by installing air conditioning. It cites concerns about parking, traffic and children's access to the playground across the street during and after the construction. It asks the district how they will address sustained increases in noise during construction.

The lawyers found that based on the information released by the district there is insufficient "Record before your Board to issue a SEQRA determination of significance." It asks the district to undertake the necessary studies, to identify potential impacts and develop a project design that addresses these impacts "through alternative or mitigation measures."

The letter goes on to document the risks of environmental toxins to children and cites cases to support their claims. Among these potential risks are lead, asbestos, mold and harmful dust. It also calls on the district to do a traffic study to analyze the impact of the construction on the neighborhood, to identify the safest and most efficient routes for the construction equipment and to analyze the placement of the staging area. It also calls for the implementation of safety procedures during drop off and pick up.

Construction noise could also have significant impacts on the neighborhood and students inside the school. The letter cites a study that found that increased noise results in delays in reading comprehension for children and provides guidelines for safe noise levels. It also calls for a detailed construction plan for SEQRA designation.

The 13-page letter ends by saying, "We hope that the District will recognize the serious risks identified herein and, as required under SEQRA, diligently study and pursue the proper safety and mitigation measures to address the deficiencies in your Record for the Project to date before moving ahead with the bond referendum on the project."

The Scarsdale Schools administration recently moved the proposed bond referendum vote back from December, 2017 to January, 2018 and announced that asbestos, air quality and mold testing were being done at Greenacres. No results are available as yet. But perhaps this letter was the reason for the delay – as time was needed for a full SEQRA review.

Read the letter and experts' reports here

Target Bond Referendum Date Pushed Back to January

january-24-2018The proposed $66 million bond referendum for the Scarsdale Schools, previously targeted for December 14, 2017 will be pushed back until next year, allowing time for a Greenacres Neighborhood Association Meeting on Thursday October 19, a public forum on November 6, review of SEQRA findings on November 13 leading to a board vote on the resolution on November 27.

At the October 16 meeting of the Board of Education, instead of a Board vote on the proposed referendum, Assistant Superintendent gave an update on recommendations from the Greenacres Building Committee on the proposed project at Greenacres.

He announced some proposed changes to the scope of the project based on the outcome of committee discussions.

Here are the recommendations for additions to the work:

Additional air monitoring during construction: $140K

Noise monitoring during construction: $140 K


Construction of 20 spots for parallel parking in front of the school on Huntington Road: $597K


The renovation of nine small bathrooms in the classrooms and two large hall bathrooms: $530K


Temporary HEPA filtration for air intake: $35K


Temporary air conditioning in the library and old multi-purpose rooms: $169K


Security monitor: $140K

The addition of six temporary or modular classrooms to be built on the field across the street from the school. This would allow two grades to move out of the school if need be. These could be purchased at a cost of $1.92mm or possibly leased for less. Leasing would cost $475,000 for set up (in the bond) and approximately another $400,000 for rent that would come out of the school's annual budget. These costs will be confirmed by Mr. Mattey.

If the district does purchased the modulars, there might be possible uses for these structures after the construction is complete.

A second committee has been meeting about air conditioning and will make a ceilingfanrecommendation to the administration on the installation of air conditioning in district schools soon. They are focusing on whether or not air conditioning should be installed, and if so, to what extent. They are also examining the use of other cooling methods such as ceiling fans.

Mattey also announced that testing for asbestos and lead has been done at Greenacres, and testing for air quality and mold will be done over the next few weeks. No asbestos was found, and out of 509 locations tested for lead, 15 spots were found. This will allow remediation to be done before construction begins.

Board members asked questions about air testing, asbestos abatement and lead. Mattey explained that though five or six areas of the school have been previously tested for mold, the entire building had not been tested so this was being done now as people continue to smell "mustiness." A board member questioned the decision not to replace the water and sanitary pipes in the building but was told that filters were in use for lead and that the sanitary pipes did not need to be replaced.

They debated the necessity for the modular units and discussed the options to purchase or lease them.

They also discussed the proposed energy performance contract which will allow the district to spend an additional $10.8 million on energy saving infrastructure needs such as boilers. The cost savings from these improvements will be guaranteed by an outside company and paid back to the district over the course of the contract.

Here are the most current numbers for the bond proposal:

Infrastructure:                   $29,541,461
Security Vestibules:               $708,246
Greenacres Renovation
and Expansion                  $33,240,430
Temporary Modulars           $1,500,000
Total Proposed Bond        $64,990,137

Energy Performance Contract: $10,862,686

Total Combined: $75,852,823

The Board of Education will meet again on Monday October 23 at 6:30 pm for a comprehensive review of the scope of proposed bond projects.

Nominating Committees Seeks Candidates

volunteerBoth the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee and the Scarsdale Citizens Nominating Committee are seeking candidates:

The School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) is an elected group of 30 members who identify, propose and nominate qualified candidates to run for the Scarsdale Board of Education. The 30 voting members represent each of the five elementary school neighborhoods. Each year, 10 new members are elected (two from each neighborhood) to serve a 3-year term on the SBNC, an additional one year term on the administrative committee and a final one year term on the joint committee.


The SBNC urges all qualified residents to help maintain our excellent Scarsdale schools and serve our community by volunteering to run for the SBNC. To become a candidate, residents should complete a biographical form and submit it with a candidate petition with signatures from 10 residents in their elementary school area by November 20, 2017 to SBNC Administrative Committee Chair Jeannine Palermo (jeannine.palermo.22@gmail.com) or Vice Chair Wendy Gendel (wendykgendel@gmail.com). These forms can be downloaded from www.scarsdalesbnc.com. The forms are also available at the Scarsdale Library and Village Hall.

The election of SBNC members will be held on Tuesday January 9, 2018 in the Scarsdale Middle School auditorium lobby from 7:00am to 10:00 am and from 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Citizens Nominating Committee

There is still time for eligible Scarsdale residents to run for election to the Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC) in all neighborhoods except Heathcote. The extended deadline is Monday, Oct 9. Those who are elected will join 20 current CNC members to choose candidates to run for Village Mayor, Trustee and/or Justice under the banner of the Scarsdale Citizens Non- Partisan Party in the March general election. This year, the CNC will meet 4 or 5 times on Tuesday or Wednesday nights in December and January to select candidates for three Trustee positions.

CNC members are expected to attend all CNC meetings for three years and to serve the following year on the Procedure Committee. The meeting dates for 2017-2018 are: Tuesday, December 5 (organizational meeting); Tuesday December 19; Wednesday, January 10; Wednesday, January 22; and, if necessary, Wednesday, January 24.

A candidate for the CNC must be a qualified voter and a resident of Scarsdale for at least two years. A CNC candidate may not be a member of the Procedure Committee, the School Board Nominating Committee, the School Board Administrative Committee, the Scarsdale School Board or the Village Board. For more details on qualifications, see the Non-Partisan Resolution, which defines the rules for CNC candidacy, on the Procedure Committee website www.scarsdaleprocedurecommittee.org.

Residents in each of the five elementary school districts (Edgewood, Greenacres, Fox Meadow, Heathcote and Quaker Ridge) may run for one of two open positions in their district. Candidates must file with the Procedure Committee a short biographical sketch. After Sept 30, no petition is necessary. Forms and filing instructions for the bio form may be downloaded from the Procedure committee website www.scarsdaleprocedurecommittee.org. Hard copies may be obtained at Village Hall and the Scarsdale Library as well.

The final deadline for filing the bio forms is Monday Oct 9. The CNC election will be held at Village Hall on Wednesday November 15 (Wed).

For help in filing or more information, potential candidates are welcome to contact the Chair of the Procedure Committee Jim Pullman, jpullman@verizon.net, the Vice Chair Robert Schechter, schecter.robert@gmail.com, or one of the current committee members. They are: from Edgewood, Elissa M. Bookner, David Irwin, Eli Mattioli, Ed Morgan, and Elaine Lamb Moreno; from Fox Meadow, Brian Nottage, and Bruce Wells; from Greenacres, John Baer, Mary Blumenthal-Lane, and Neil Kanner; from Heathcote, Leonard Benowich, Lauren Mintzer, B.K. Munguia, and Myra Saul; and from Quaker Ridge, Michael Gorelick, Howard Nadel and Anna Paternoster.

League of Women Voters Highlights Local Issues at Annual Coffee

LWVS1Scarsdale's chapter of the League of Women Voters held their annual membership coffee on Monday October 2nd and drew a good crowd of civic-minded residents. The league seeks to "empower better communities by informed participation in government." To that end, the league selects issues of interest to the local community, studies them, asks questions and writes recommendations based on their conclusions.

On Monday the group heard updates on three topics affecting the Village, presented by an all –female group of trustees and Village officials including Village Trustee Deb Pekarek, Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards, Village Planner Elizabeth Marrinan, Village Trustee Jane Veron as well as former Mayor Jon Mark.

Deb Pekarek explained that changes to the Village code regarding trees are under consideration to safeguard existing trees and require replacement trees or a contribution to a tree fund if replacement trees cannot be planted on the existing property. While the current code calls for replacements for trees larger than 36" (DBH – diameter at breast height), the new code lowers that to 24" DBH and also requires replacements for groups of smaller trees totaling 24" DBH. The new code would expand the list of protected trees that cannot be removed. According to Richards, current Village staff can handle the record keeping and enforcement for the new laws and no additional staff would be required. The proposed law is being studied by the Village Trustees.LWVS2

Former Village Mayor Jon Mark is now chairing the Freightway Steering Committee who is studying the best use for 2.4 acres of land on the west side of the Metro North train tracks in Scarsdale. The site includes the Freightway Parking lot and two open lots. Mark gave a summary of the work of the committee who has retained Planning Consultants to help to define the elements of a mixed use development project to be built in place of the Freightway Garage. Toward that end they have done some surveys, conducted tours and are currently holding a series of public workshops with stakeholders to refine ideas for a transit-oriented development project. Ideally it would include parking, residences, retail and restaurants to increase foot traffic in Scarsdale and help to revitalize the downtown area. They are holding their next workshop on Thursday October 12 at 7 pm, and the public is invited to attend.

Trustee Jane Veron, a former president of the League of Women Voters discussed her work to revitalize downtown Scarsdale. She is working with Village landlords to find tenants for many of the vacant stores downtown and drawing residents to the Village with attractions like the outdoor art exhibit in Chase Park and the farmers market on Thursdays. She announced that progress is being made. Trio Salon has opened on Christie Place, Popojito Mexican will open on metersChristie Place later this month and I Am More, a women's boutique has opened on Spencer Place.

In order to ease parking downtown, the Village is now conducting a test of new parking meters that permit users to pay by credit card. The test is underway with four types of single and multi-space meters. Residents are invited to go downtown and try the meters and give their feedback to the Village at metertest@Scarsdale.com.

Another step to reduce the vacancies downtown is to convert retail and office space to residential. Veron reported that Village property owner Rush Wilson has already converted some of the office space above Zachys Liquor Store to residential and will also convert some of the vacant retail space on Harwood Court into residences as well as there is more demand for living space than stores.

Learn more about the work of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale at www.LWVS.org or email Janice Staff at Janice.starr@gmail.com to find out how you can get involved.

Scarsdale Forum Hosts Community Conversation on Scarsdale Schools

forumaudience(This article was submitted by Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Co-Chair of the Scarsdale Forum's Education Committee.)
On September 7, 2017, the Scarsdale Forum's Education Committee hosted a community discussion, Scarsdale Schools: 2017 and Beyond, in Rutherford Hall at Scarsdale Village Hall. 135 people participated throughout the evening, and we were very pleased with the diversity of attendees who engaged actively in this important dialogue about the state of our schools now and where they'll be in the future. Attendees included professionals from the Scarsdale school administration, teachers, members of the Board of Education, Scarsdale Village officials, empty nesters, students, parents of current students and a few alumni." The event was broadcast live and was recorded, and is available for viewing by clicking here.

ForumParticipants

The objective of the evening was to bring different segments of the Scarsdale community together to have a conversation about our schools. Education Committee Co-Chair Carlos Ramírez explained that "It is important to bring all community stakeholders together, whether in one room or via technology, to discuss our schools and their future. We need to know what the different members of the community are thinking."

The event agenda included a number of different elements: a live online social media component managed by Ramírez; an interactive live poll developed and administered by committee member Brice Kirkendall-Rodríguez; and, a question and answer session moderated by committee members Maggie Favretti, who is also a teacher at Scarsdale High School, and Liz Guggenheimer, a former Scarsdale Board of Education President.

Poll questions were derived from responses to the Scarsdale Forum's "School Topics Survey," distributed in May and June of this year. The poll questions touched upon a variety of topics, including the goals of long-term school financial plan, quality of teachers and school facilities, as well as parental involvement and preferences about curriculum, facilities and related topics.

Responses were recorded both from participants attending the event and those viewing it remotely. Highlights include the following:

forumcurriculum

When asked the main reason for the school district to have a financial plan, respondents listed "providing the school district with sufficient funds to prepare kids with skills to live in the next decade," and "insuring fiscal responsibility and sustainability" as their number one and two priorities, respectively.

forumfacilities


When asked for what projects respondents would be willing to have their property taxes increased, they listed, in order of preference, add air conditioning in schools, expand STEM labs, increase room size, build new elementary schools, and build dining commons in elementary schools. Respondents were not willing to have their taxes rise to enlarge sports fields.

Respondents stated that the top two strengths of Scarsdale schools are English and college preparedness.
When asked if there should be parity in facilities planned for all five elementary schools, 62% responded yes, 22% said no, and 16% needed more information in order to respond.

Respondents stated they spend significant amounts annually on after school instruction in music, foreign languages, sports, test prep, and other subjects for their children during the academic year: 78% spend between $1,000 and $20,000, and 13% spend over $20,000 each year.

forumtutoring



When asked what changes they'd like to see in curriculum, facilities and other areas, if possible, 37% respondents listed adding additional STEAM classes to elementary and middle schools as their top priority; and, 27% want financial literary courses added to the district curriculum.

forumimportant



With regard to facilities, 46% indicated that adding air conditioning would be their top priority. When asked about what else would make them happier with Scarsdale schools, 24% listed lower taxes as their top priority, while 17% listed increased transparency in decision making by the school administration as their top choice.

All live poll slides can be found by clicking here.

Education Committee members Maggie Favretti and Liz Guggenheimer also asked audience members a series of open-ended questions about education: what is the ideal environment for your child, what a world class education might look like, and whether any attendees who had studied at a private school or abroad share would share lessons with Scarsdale residents. Over a dozen participants discussed their perspectives, the consensus of which supported school efforts to teach complex problem-solving, innovation, and important skills such as reiteration, computer science, and thinking through practice and authentic assessment of issues. Engaging students of all levels directly in subject-matter experiences, encouraging them to challenge the status quo, instead of seeking the right answer, supporting them through the college process, and the high school tutorial model were singled out for specific praise.

One participant stated that the term "world class education" did not mean much unless the school district could provide metrics to measure outcomes. That same individual praised what is available at Scarsdale schools in terms of helping students when they apply to college. A female resident, who is a professional in technology, emphasized the need for Scarsdale schools to encourage and teach technology to children, especially to girls.

At the conclusion of the evening, Scarsdale Forum President ML Perlman reminded the audience that, "The Scarsdale Forum is open to all Scarsdale and Mamaroneck strip residents regardless of citizenship, and our committees remain open at all times for additional members to join on a rolling basis. So, please join the Forum and jump right in to the discussions happening right now."

The Forum's Education Committee would like to thank Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman, Mayor Dan Hochvert, members of the Scarsdale Boards of Education and Trustees, teachers, students and all Scarsdale residents for participating in Scarsdale Schools: 2017 and Beyond. The committee also extends its gratitude to Assistant Village Manager Robert Cole and Videographer Kelvin Guevara, who were instrumental in coordinating event logistics, and to Scarsdale Forum leadership and numerous Forum members who assisted with developing and marketing this special event.
forumcommittee

The Scarsdale Forum
The Scarsdale Forum is a 501(c)(3) civic organization dedicated to discussion and analysis of all issues relevant to Scarsdale residents. Since 1904, the Forum has contributed meaningfully to Village affairs through its written reports, public speaker events, and committee discussions. Membership is available to all Scarsdale and Mamaroneck Strip residents regardless of citizenship status.

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