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Scarsdale Village Mayor and Trustees Need to Act to Meet "Fairness" Test in 2016 Revaluation

FairnessThis is a letter to Scarsdale10583 from Scarsdale resident Michele Braun:
I attended the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, June 14, and was appalled by the lack of consideration given to the substantive input provided by members of the Scarsdale community on the 2016 property tax revaluation performed by J.F. Ryan Associates, Inc. Mayor Jonathan Mark invited comments from the public and asked speakers to address policy and community-wide issues and not to grieve individual properties.

Many members of the community did exactly as requested: Scarsdale residents shared extensive, rigorous analyses of the revaluation model. They identified qualitative, quantitative, and governance problems with the revaluation, including, for instance that the model provided is not a good fit for the data, its results do not conform with evidence from the marketplace, it has not been validated despite the availability of widely accepted techniques, and adjusting "multipliers" were incorporated without revealing their source or rationale.

Residents asked Village leaders to correct the many problems in J. F. Ryan's work before implementing the reassessment. I heard this request from speakers disquieted by the quality of the revaluation and the governance process, whether or not they planned to challenge the revaluation of their properties.

Unfortunately, I also heard Mayor Mark dismiss Scarsdalians' requests to pause and address substantive concerns by repeating that they could file individual grievances. This response hardly met the community-wide value standard he himself had established in opening remarks. Similarly, I heard the Village Attorney, Wayne D. Esannason, opine that while this revaluation might have made some people unhappy, any changes would make other people unhappy. I can only conclude that he does not understand good analysis or logical reasoning. Neither Mayor Mark nor Mr. Esannanson addressed important community-wide or policy concerns about the J.F. Ryan revaluation or to raise the level of government and governance in Scarsdale.

I cannot assess whether J.F. Ryan met the provisions of his contract. His work, however, does not meet the "fairness of taxation" goal stated on page 6 of his June 1 report. The Scarsdale Trustees and mayor now need to meet the provisions of their social contract with the electorate: To assess the revaluation and the substantive comments from the public and decisively act to rescind the reassessment based on a flawed process and reinstate the assessments in place before this failed reevaluation.

A Call to Action on Gun Control

ammunitionLocal residents were shaken this week after the murder of 49 innocent people on June 12th at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Many expressed a desire to do more than mourn these victims of gun violence and are looking for ways to advocate for a change in our country's gun laws.

Following the tragedy community leaders expressed their sorrow and outrage at the continuing gun violence in the country. The Interfaith Coalition Against Gun Violence (ICAGV), a group that was formed after the shootings in Newtown, CT, announced that they will hold a community-wide vigil at the Scarsdale Congregational Church, at 1 Heathcote Road on Monday, June 20, at 7 p.m.,, in memory of the victims of the Orlando shooting. They invite all Westchester residents, whether religious or not, to an ecumenical service of prayer, song, and words of hope and love. For more information, call (914) 723-2111.

Congressmen Eliot Engel, Scarsdale Synagogue's Rabbi Jeffrey Brown and Cantor Chanin Becker, and Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Leah Gunn Barret all shared their thoughts in emails to the community.

Congressman Engel advocated for sweeping changes to our country's gun laws and urged Congress to pass legislation to require background checks and limit gun trafficking. "It is long past time for the House Republicans to join Democrats and pass commonsense gun safety rules. We can have universal background checks that prevent domestic abusers and suspected terrorists from buying guns. We can stop the trafficking of weapons into our communities. And we can put an end to the free and easy availability of weapons of war designed only for one thing—killing people—without losing sight of the intent of the Second Amendment."

Engel encouraged his constituents to do more than keep the victims in their thoughts and prayers. He said, "As a nation, we must recognize that this terrible tragedy reflects three things: the worst mass shooting in American history, the deadliest terror attack on American soil since 9/11, and the most horrific single hate crime ever committed against the American LGBT community. It reminds us that the fight for LGBT equality is far from over. It reminds us that there are still those in this world fueled by hate and intolerance. And it reminds us that as Americans it is our duty to stand together in the face of that hatred, united as one nation, one people. We as Americans mourn any horrific loss of life, regardless creed, color, or sexual orientation. It's what makes us who we are".

Leah Gunn Barret, the Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV), called for restrictions on gun sales. Barrett said the shooting was a hate crime committed by an American-born male who was armed legally with a AR-15, which is an assault rifle designed by the military for the military. "We make it far too easy for angry, hate-filled individuals to legally obtain these highly lethal weapons that were designed to kill as many humans as quickly and efficiently as possible on the battlefield. Yet they have been used time after time to slaughter Americans in our schools, houses of worship, movie theaters, malls and nightclubs. Any shooting, whether it is deemed a mass shooting or not, is an act of terrorism to the person being shot, to their friends and family, and to their communities. When will we learn that motive is moot? It's the means that we need to restrict". Barret expressed her dismay about the country's failure to pass laws banning the sale of guns and ammunition and asked the public to act now. "We are sick and tired of writing these statements. This time, let's channel our anger to demand that our leaders immediately renew and strengthen the 1994 ban on military-style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines that expired in 2004, and impose background checks on all firearms purchasers, including those on the Terrorist Watch List. Contact your legislators today."

In an email with the subject line, "Our Hearts Are Broken," Rabbi Jeffrey Brown and Cantor Chanin Becker of Scarsdale Synagogue noted that at the time of the shooting, the synagogue was studying torah for Shavout. "While some in our world might be consumed by hate, discrimination, and violence - Judaism propels us toward study, diversity, and peace". The Rabbis also commented on the timing of the attack on the gay community which occurred during Gay Pride month. "The fact that such devastation targeted a club popular with the gay community and occurred during Gay Pride month reminds us that despite the strides made toward equality, there is much to be done to address ongoing homophobia that was for too long acceptable in this nation. The attack is also further proof, as if any were needed, of the imperative to end the culture of gun violence that grips the nation." The synagogue offered their sincerest condolences and support to the grieving community.

Beyond offering condolences many are searching for a way to help the victims and prevent the occurrence of more tragedies from gun violence. One way to act is to sign a petition that encourages Congress to reinstitute the federal ban on assault weapons from MoveOn.org. The preamble to the petition says, "While it is true that people kill people, and that guns do not shoot themselves, it is also true that mass execution would not be possible without such high capacity weapons. How many people have to die before we ban those weapons?" To add your name to the petition please click here. 

New Tappan Zee Bridge Rises Over the Hudson

NewBridgeWe ran into Andrew O'Rourke, the Public Outreach Administrator for the new Tappan Zee Bridge at the Heathcote STEAM fair on Saturday. He was filled with fascinating facts about the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, which is now 65% complete. Though for a while it didn't look like much was happening at the site, O'Rourke explained that 22% of the project was built below the water. But now that the foundation piles are in place, work on the two side-by-side bridges is moving swiftly.

Belvedere 02-1200x500To date, over 5,000 people have been involved in the work which is a design/build project comprised of modular units, most delivered via water on the river beneath the bridge. Another interesting fact to note is that all of the materials used on the bridge are from American sources, with the stone used for the concrete coming right from Rockland County. The total cost for the bridge will be $3.9 billion for a bridge that is scheduled to last 100 years. The original bridge opened in 1956 and was built at a cost of $80 million. It only lasted 60 years because, at the time, the Korean War put a strain on resources and light steel was used. The brackish water surrounding the water caused it to weather and age.

The new twin bridges will each haveBelvedere 06-1200x500-1 four full 12-foot wide travel lanes, which are wider than the existing traffic lanes. One side will include a 25-foot shoulder for express bus service and the other will have a 12-foot shoulder that will include four lanes for bikers, joggers and walkers. Though the new bridge will not transport trains at the outset, it can accommodate a rail bridge in the 40-foot gap between the two bridges when the time is right.

Belvedere 03-1200x500Most intriguing are six scenic overlooks, or belvederes that are each 60 feet long and 24 feet wide. This will allow bikers and walkers to enjoy the view along the 3.1 mile span. Each overlook is themed to relate to the history and culture of Westchester and Rockland. The belvedere overlooking Nyack is called "Fish and Ship," relating to Nyack's history as a fishing and ship building town.

Another lookout will include a parabolic, stainless steel mirror which will be tilted to give viewers a look at the New York City skyline. "Painters Point" includes a 14 by 20 foot copper frame, framing the view of the shoreline and Hook Mountain. The project includes a translucent glass greeting area with a café and amphitheater to shelter visitors and provide a venue for information and lectures.

Plans call for the completion of the northern roadway by the summer of 2017. At that point, all traffic will be diverted to temporary eight-lane configuration while the old bridge is taken down and the southern bridge is completed. The entire project is expected to be completed by the summer of 2018.

Learn more about the new bridge at www.newnybridge.com.

Sherry Saturno's Human Investment: A Short Film with a Huge Message

SaturnoThere are lots of people in our community who have made careers out of investing money, but what drives some people towards a career focused on investing in other people? Human investment jobs are challenging, often require a higher degree, and sometimes lack the gratification we all seek in a job and a career. All of us depend on people who chose a profession that centers around helping others- social workers, educators, nurses and doctors for example. Local social worker and now award-winning film maker Sherry Saturno created and produced a short, educational film about what motivates these professionals to dedicate themselves to the humanity of care, including working with the elderly and the sick.

Sherry Saturno, LCSW, DCSW is the Director of Social Services at Sprain Brook Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Scarsdale. She is a Diplomate in Clinical Social Work and holds Master's degrees from Columbia and Long Island Universities. She completed a national Palliative and End of Life Care Fellowship at New York University Silver School of Social Work, a certification in Aging Studies at Boston University's Center for Aging, Disability Education, and Research, and is a Stanford Certified Project Manager. "Human Investment" won the 2016 national award for Best Documentary Film via the National Association of Social Workers.

I had a chance to speak with Ms. Saturno and learn more about human investment, her experiences as a social worker with the elderly and the sick, and her important film.

What motivated you to create this film?
I was inspired to create this film to explore what motivates professionals to invest themselves in the humanity of care. Human Investment tells a unique story. Social workers, nurses, physicians, and educators are all heroes in a million different ways, and the work they do often goes unnoticed. I wanted to highlight how caring and supportive these professionals are, and why their work speaks volumes about the humanity of care. Working with an elderly population has shown me what courage really is and helped me recognize that all any of us have is the present moment.

As people continue to live longer, the burden on the younger generations to help the older will continue to increase. Tell me more about this and the type of discussion your film is generating because of this.

Physician David Horning touches upon that concept in the film when he questions the value society places on a life at age eighty as opposed to age twenty. Adults are caught between caring for their children and their elderly parents, and making difficult decisions about allocating financial resources for both. This issue will only increase exponentially as the senior population in the United States dramatically surges in our lifetime and we need to keep the discussion in progress.

Please talk a bit about "elder hood" and this little talked about stage of life. Why is it important to acknowledge?
I think it is important to acknowledge elder hood and redefine aging. Our ability to live longer, healthier lives is a great achievement but there is so much fear around aging. What if we were to change that perspective and view each year as a gift? Elders can lead a life of connection, engagement, possibility and expansion. We can accomplish this by spending time with people of different generations who have divergent points of view. Having friends of all ages connects us in an empathetic manner. We don't stop growing and learning just because we are getting older. There is so much valuable wisdom that elders can impart on a younger generation, just as seniors can benefit from being open to new ideas from people younger than them.

Why do people choose careers in human investment? Why SHOULD people consider careers in human investment?
People choose careers in human investment usually because they have an affinity for helping others and want to make a difference in others' lives. People should consider these careers if they feel strongly about connecting with others in a meaningful way. These bonds may form in difficult times such as family crises or serious illnesses and can have a lasting impact. This type of work brings comfort and support to people who have outlived their families, are alone, and have no one to advocate for them. It is an indescribably important role for a humane and just society.

I was intrigued to see your interview with Michael Cohen, the "Must Have Play" founder who builds playgrounds and community spaces. He talked about the benefit that certain playground designs can have for older adults to help combat social isolation. Do you see this trend happening around Westchester at all?


Westchester County has abundant services geared towards elders, including physical activities, arts and continuing education. I think the trend for outdoor community spaces targeting seniors will continue to grow. Meanwhile, there are many ways for seniors to remain engaged in the local community. Terrific Tuesdays, for example, is a program in Scarsdale that includes trips, lectures, and social gatherings during the week for seniors ages 60 and up.

The Scarsdale Public Library is hosting a community screening of Human Investment on Sunday, December 18, 2016, from 2pm-4pm.

Or, catch the film on your own time using this link:

Lacrosse Team Begins Playoffs With Two Dominating Wins

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All eyes are on the Scarsdale Boy's Lacrosse team who have high hopes for success in the playoffs. After an up and down regular season where the Raiders won their first 7 games, lost their next 4, and then won their final 5 games of the regular season. On Monday 5/16 the Scarsdale Boy's Lacrosse team played Clarkstown North at home in their first playoff game. They were coming off a five game winning streak in which they dominated theiropponents and felt confident about their ability to win.

The game opened with 6 goals in the early minutes, 2 for Clarkstown and 4 for Scarsdale; 2 goals from Junior William Cabrera 1 for Junior Captain Cooper Schneider, and 1 from Freshman Andrew Bernstein. Cabrera persevered and scored another 2 goals in the first quarter. With 5 minutes left in the first quarter to go, Clarkstown was able to score ending the quarter 6-3 with a three goal lead for the Raiders.

lax2Senior Captain, Elliot Graham, set the tone for the second quarter by scoring 2 goals early on, followed by another 2 goals by Cabrera. Another goal came for the Raiders scored by Sophomore David Love to make it 11-3. Clarkstown struggled to come back but Cabrera and Elliot Graham countered their attempts to make it 13-5 at the end of the half. Schneider added his second with 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Graham and Sophomore Robert Rolfe followed to make it 16-5 and Cabrera added another to end the quarter.

In the final quarter Love scored again with under 5 minutes. The game ended with a last second goal by junior, Adman Schwall scoring his first Varsity goal of the season ending the game 19-5.

Speaking about the game Senior Captain Andre Cutrim stated, "Coming into playoffs with such strong momentum was very helpful, we put the game away early as we were up by 8 at the half. Now we have to focus on staying consistent, and not getting complacent after a few good performances. " The Raiders aim to make a deep playoff run, citing their exceptional talent and strong record in the regular season as indications of their ability to succeed in their upcoming games.

After lifting themselves out of their mid-season losing streak, the Raiders have been consistent and ambitious. Junior William Cabrera added to Cutrim's statements by stating, "after our first round playoff game, we now know what we are capable of doing when we work as a team, no matter what the competition, we can run with any team in our section". The Raiders hope that their hard work and passion will translate to wins on the field. "The competition is only going to get harder from here so we are excited to see how far we can get in the playoffs," elaborated Cabrera. Cabrera also hopes that the underclassmen on the team will contribute to successes.
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"Having some more young guys really makes the team more of a family while also pushing some of the older guys to work harder."

The Raiders continued their winning streak in a playoff game against Suffern 17 to 9 on Wednesday 5/18 away at Suffern giving them the confidence they need ito make a strong run in the play-offs this season.

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