Thursday, Mar 23rd

Last updateWed, 22 Mar 2017 12pm

You are here: Home Scarsale Gardens

Comments from Mayor Jon Mark on the Revaluation and the Village Budget

JonMarkMayorMayor Jon Mark offered the following explanation of the procedure for the 2016 tax revaluation at the April 26 meeting of the Village Board. He provided information about the new evaluation model, pertinent dates and how those who wish to file grievances can do so.

Also, the Mayor commented on the Village Budget and answered questions about fund balances. The Village Trustees adopted the 2016-17 Village Budget at the meeting on April 26. You can watch the meeting in its entirety and listen to comments from the Village Trustees on the budget and appropriate level of fund balances here.

(from Mayor Jon Mark)

2016 Revaluation: I would like to start by providing highlights of the timeline for the 2016 Village-wide reassessment over the coming two months. The tentative assessment roll will be filed on June 1st, as required, and notices of the 2016 assessments are expected to be mailed on June 2nd.

As is the case every year, residents are entitled to grieve their assessments. Pursuant to New York State law, grievances can be filed with the Village Assessor's office between June 1st and the third Tuesday in June, or June 21st for this year's statutory grievance deadline. The Village Board does not have the authority to modify the dates established in accordance with NYS law.

Some general notes about the revaluation process. Unlike what occurred in connection with the 2014 revaluation, this year more detailed information will be made available to residents directly and on the Village website soon after the filing of the 2016 tentative assessment roll. Among other things, I understand that the notices residents will receive will be approximately two pages in length and will contain sufficiently detailed information to allow residents to understand how the value of their property was calculated. For example, I am advised that the notice will set forth the physical attributes of the property that were taken into account in the modeling process and the corresponding coefficients applied to calculate the total property value estimated as of the revaluation assessment date which is July 1, 2015. That estimated value will become the 2016 total assessed value. In addition, the model used by the Village's project consultant, J.F. Ryan Associates, will be made available on the Village web site within a few days of the posting of the 2016 tentative assessment roll. Therefore, it should not be necessary to file numerous FOIL requests to obtain an understanding of how the 2016 revaluation was accomplished. This level of transparency should be an improvement over 2014.

Second, without getting into details of the technical or logistical aspects of the revaluation as to which I am not qualified to speak, it is noted that the process being utilized in 2016 has been simplified in a number of respects. For example, the neighborhood map that was used two years ago was simplified from 14 sub-neighborhoods to five neighborhoods that correspond to our five elementary school districts. Site adjustments, referred to as influence factors, will be made to specific parcels for the various factors that impact value (i.e., traffic, flood zones, etc.). The comparable sales data that transacted during the new sales base period in each of the respective five consolidated neighborhoods for the 2016 revaluation will similarly undergo a process of modeling; however, the 2016 modeling process will take into consideration all sales within each of the respective five neighborhoods. It is intended that the new neighborhood designations will ameliorate concerns that previously existed regarding the perceived inaccurate or inappropriate delineation of sub-neighborhoods. Similarly, the possible grades of construction quality assignable to each house were also simplified. The 43 grades that were used in 2014 have been mathematically consolidated into a more manageable grouping of 16 grade categories. These changes in approach, among others being employed, should result in a more robust valuation model relative to two years ago.

One other timing point: A comment has been made that the possible high demand for appraisers triggered by the revaluation will make it difficult for residents who wish to file grievances to find a suitable appraiser that is available to assist them. It is understood that while an appraisal is usually part of the preferred and recommended documentation submitted to support a grievance, the practice before the Board of Assessment Review ("BOAR") is to permit filers to supplement their grievance filing with additional supporting evidence of overvaluation, including an appraisal, after the initial filing of the grievance. It is not unusual for appraisals to be remitted for the BOAR's consideration after the grievance day deadline through the last week of August each year. I am advised that based on the schedule this year, the BOAR would accept additional documentation through September 1, 2016 -- provided that the additional documentation is supplemental to a grievance that was filed no later than June 21, 2016. Note that the statutory date for the Village Assessor to file the final assessment roll is September 15, 2016. Therefore, residents should have substantially more than three weeks to engage a suitable appraiser to prepare an analysis that they believe would support their grievance filings.

The 2016-2017 Proposed Budget: On the agenda tonight is a vote on the proposed 2016-2017 budget. It is not my intention to review the proposed budget again this evening as an overview was provided at the prior Board meeting. However, since we continue to receive comments from some urging us to use more of the General Fund to provide some measure of tax relief, I will reiterate some of the prior comments Board members have made on this point.

The purpose of the General Fund is to provide the Village with a funding source to address unplanned or emergency situations such as unbudgeted infrastructure repairs or severe storm related activity and to provide an overall cushion for the Village's finances.

The financial management policy of the Village is to maintain a strong General Fund balance. This policy is central to maintaining the Village's Aaa bond rating, a policy that is at the core of Scarsdale's fiscal strategy. When Moody's last reaffirmed the Village's Aaa bond rating, it specifically referenced the "Village's formal policy of maintaining this balance at 10-15% of budgeted expenditures for the ensuing fiscal year." Scarsdale's fund balance target is below Moody's standard 15-20% target as a result of our regular funding of capital items using cash within our annual budget. We understand that the General Fund balance is currently approximately $8.7 million, or 15% of budgeted 2016-2017 expenditures. However, the General Fund balance level fluctuates relative to budgeted expenditures. We expect the fund balance at the time of the Village's fiscal year-end audit to be about $800,000 below current levels, thereby placing the fund balance at approximately 14.25% of the proposed 2016-17 operating budget expenditures. It is fiscal year-end audited numbers that the rating agencies use when determining the Village's credit rating. We do not expect to have audited numbers from which a relevant determination of fund balance can be made until August or September.
The question that has been put to us repeatedly this season is: where should the General Fund balance be relative to the targeted range of 10-15%? This is a matter of judgment over which people may – and in this case do – reasonably disagree. It is the view of the Board that now is a time that we should be very prudent with our management of the General Fund balance. As an illustrative example prompting this approach, the fairly recent completion of the Popham Road bridge contained a nearly $2 million cost overrun. The General Fund balance is maintained exactly for a capital project cost overrun of this nature and magnitude.

When looking forward a few years, we see a number of major capital improvement projects. In the 2016-17 budget, the Village plans to repair the Heathcote Road Bridge, perform storm water management with the Sheldrake River Basin Improvement Project and undertake the Hutchison River Flood Mitigation Project. The Village also plans to start work on Fire Station #1. Looking forward a little further we plan to perform a comprehensive analysis of, and rehabilitation work on, the Village storm and sanitary sewer systems, pipe lining and valve replacement associated with our potable water distribution system, among other things. In addition, material work on the Library is also anticipated although the scope of the work that may be performed is yet to be determined.

These capital projects are in keeping with the Village's long term capital planning and represent one of the critical functions performed by the Village to invest, maintain and improve on critical and aging infrastructure. With these specific major capital projects anticipated over the next five years or so, now is not the time to draw down the General Fund balance for a relatively small amount of one-time tax relief. Not only is the potential benefit relatively insignificant, 0.67% of the aggregate anticipated tax bill (municipal, school district, county) for 2016-2017, but engaging in such a practice has proved to be the first step on a slippery slope for other municipalities which have imprudently depleted their General Fund balances through multiple drawdowns in successive years.

One other note. In addition to the criticism of the approach being taken in the proposed Budget, there has also been some support for it as well. For example, in the League of Women Voters April 12, 2016 letter commenting on the 2016-2017 proposed budget, the League wrote:

"The League commends the Village for their prudent and strategic use of some surplus as a tax relief measure, while leaving fund balance at appropriate levels. The League understands that the proposed application of $1,023,000 is deliberately somewhat lower than in the past. Last year's budget increased the use of fund balance in order to stay under the tax cap and then be eligible to obtain a one-time $2.2M tax rebate to many homeowners from the Governor's Tax Freeze Program. This fund balance, restored to historical levels, should be adequate to maintain the Village's Aaa bond rating and to address any unplanned or emergency situations arising from storms, infrastructure failures, etc. The League recommends that the Village continue to employ this responsible strategy and to regularly communicate this information with the community at-large."

The Nicest Guy in Scarsdale

poporaApparently I am one of the only people who had never heard of the great Al Porpora of Scarsdale. A couple of people had thrown his name my way as a person who should be recognized as a valuable member of our community and many went so far as to say he should be the recipient of a community service award. So I placed a post on the Scarsdale Moms Facebook Page asking about this Al guy; 80 "likes" and 35 messages later, all applauding his character both professionally and personally, this article was born.

Al Popora is the Co-owner of the Heathcote Gulf Gas Station in the five corners area of Scarsdale and his family has a long history there. He was born and raised in Eastchester. His father and his father's brother opened the gas station in 1948. Al started working there in 1973 while attending Eastchester High School. He spent every free minute he had working there 7 days a week. In fact, he took over management of the gas station when he was only 19 years old. "I could never do what I do without my brother Frank who is my partner," Al said. But Al isn't just a guy who pumps gas and changes oil for a living. He's an integral part of the Scarsdale community living here, working here, raising children here, and now watching grandchildren being raised here.

In the mid 1980s, Al moved to Scarsdale from Eastchester when he met his wife, Jane, who works in the Scarsdale school district. They raised all five of their kids in Fox Meadow and their youngest will graduate from high school this year. "I've been on sports fields, ice rinks, basketball courts, and I even danced in my daughter's ballet." That's a memory that many Scarsdale residents have of Al. One person quirked, "How many dads would volunteer to be in their kid's ballet performance? My dad certainly didn't." Al's daughter, Liz DeRobertis, told me a bit more about his guest appearances as a dancer on stage at her sister Tori's performance. "They needed a dad to take part in the performance so he agreed to do so. He went to all of the rehearsals before going up on stage in front of a whole audience of people who knew him. It was very touching."

Known as "Ally" by his family and friends, he is very well respected in the community. Comments on the Facebook post included: "Such a great guy," "THE BEST!" "Nicest guy in town," "Most sincere gentleman you'll ever meet," "Always looking to help both individuals and the community," "He needs an award," "He's always happy and so nice to my kids," "Most honest guy," "Trustworthy and caring," "Always has a smile and an encouraging comment," "I love him, too," "Amazing," "the best," "really the best," "the absolute best." You get the idea.

Many people commented about Al's positive and Porporahelpful attitude after Super Storm Sandy hit the area. Gas was in short supply but Al made sure everyone in the long line left happy. He tried his best to make thing fair and efficient, and many people noticed and appreciated this. Anne-Marie Kearns said, "During Sandy he managed to keep everyone ticking over with gas for their car and generator and kept a smile on his face even faced with irate customers. He is a legend and a true gentleman." Debbie Wolf agreed, saying, "During Sandy and the resulting power outages, he worked tirelessly to help everyone." Maria Cardillo echoed the sentiment saying, "After Sandy, when he got fuel, he was funning up and down Weaver Street to make sure that everyone in line would at least get some gas!"

When I read these to Al, he listened but then shrugged them off as just doing his job and being a person who appreciates his customers and his community. "It's difficult to refer to my customers as only that," he said, "because they are friends and neighbors as well. I am very lucky to have such a loyal customer base. I appreciate their loyalty and trust and because of that I will go above and beyond to show them that." As far as the community recognizing how hard he worked during and after Super Storm Sandy, he responded, "During trying times, like Sandy, my response to the community need was a natural one for me. I am here for my customers in good times and bad."

Al's daughter, Liz, isn't surprised to hear any of this. "My sister Kathryn and I always feel so lucky and grateful that our mom married Ally," she began. "He started dating our mom when we were in the early grades of elementary school, and has been there for us unwaveringly ever since. He has been part of our everyday lives and while we still call him Ally, not dad, just because we still have a very good relationship with our biological father, we should call him dad because Ally was the everyday dad for us from the time we were very young."

"Our family is a mix up full siblings" Liz continued. "I've got half siblings, adopted siblings, and a full sibling and nobody would every know because we are all so close. I attribute that to the way my mom and Ally raised us. He fit right in with our family. We spent weekends at our house in upstate NY and now that my sister and I both have houses up there, we still go there and spend time together. My sister and I both married men that are similar to Ally and he has a very close relationship with our husbands. My kids call him 'papa gas station' and we love that we can drive by and always find him there. We have Sunday family dinners together regularly and Ally is there for us 24/7. We are very lucky to have him in our lives."

Liz wasn't just born and raised in Scarsdale, she lives here with her family and works here as well as a nutritionist at Scarsdale Medical Group. "This happens to me at work all the time. People somehow realize I'm Ally's daughter and then I start hearing stories like 'he drove me to the bank during a snowstorm' or 'he came to the rescue when my child was locked in the car' or 'he helped me when my husband was sick' or 'he helped me when my teenage daughter had a car accident.' It's so nice to be the daughter of someone who is loved so much by the community." She added, "Ally goes out of his way to care for people in the community as if they were also part of his family. People admire and respect that. Every time I tell someone that Al from the gas station is my dad they know immediately who he is and they say something like 'he's such a great guy.' I am confident enough to know it's true to the point of actually being able to say 'I know!'"

Family and community are of supreme importance to Al. He loves being able to take part in the day to day lives of his children as well as his grandchildren who live in Scarsdale and in White Plains. "I am blessed to be able to interact with men and women that I have known as children, riding in car seats, in the back of their parents' cars, who years later have become parents themselves and moved back to Scarsdale," he said. "It has been a most enjoyable journey."

Do you have anything you want to share about Al? Please do so in the comments section below.

A Family Haggadah Links the Exodus with the Holocaust

hagcoverWhy will this Passover be different from all other Passovers for three generations of the Wolloch family? This year, Michael Wolloch, the son of Holocaust survivors Helene and Zygfryd Wolloch, will share a unique family treasure in an exhibit at Temple Israel Center in White Plains. The Wolloch Haggadah, originally published in 1984, will be the subject of a show at the temple from April 17 – May 5, to commemorate Passover, the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and the parallel story of the emergence of the Wolloch family from war-torn Poland, concentration camps and the Nazis.

Growing up in Fox Meadow, Michael Wolloch knew that he and his three brothers were very fortunate to be living in Scarsdale. Three of his four grandparents had perished in the Holocaust, and his parents only narrowly escaped the same fate. Wolloch's parents, Helene and Zygfryd, met in Vienna where they were both trying to leave Europe and married quickly when they were reunited in New York City in 1947. From there, Zygfryd prospered in the real estate business and moved his family from NYC, to New Rochelle and ultimately to Scarsdale.

They were a family cupofelijahof art lovers and Wolloch built a formidable private collection over his lifetime, some of which has been donated to institutions like Montefiore and the Tel Aviv Museum. However, the Wolloch's wished to create their own legacy to honor their family members who died in the Holocaust. In 1981 they commissioned a Haggadah, and asked their cousin David Wander to do the illustrations and calligrapher Yonah Weinrib to inscribe it.

The result was a beautiful limited edition portfolio that includes 56 hand drawn silkscreens and photo lithographic images that bridge the traditional Passover story with the events of the Holocaust. The illustrations juxtapose the Star of David against the yellow stars that the Nazis required Jews to wear. The Red Sea is swimming with drowning Egyptians and swastikas and another page with text about the ten plagues is illustrated with the burning smokestack at a concentration camp.

Only 290 of the oversized portfolios with numbered color prints were produced. Nine were given to the artists, 31 distributed to the family and others were donated to major libraries and religious institutions. A copy now sits in the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collection Library at Duke University and another at the White House. Some are still available for sale, and the proceeds from those sales will go to Temple Israel.

redseaThe Wolloch Haggadah was also printed in book form in English and in German, so that families can use them to lead their own Seders.

Michael Wolloch and his mother Helene Wolloch, who both live in Scarsdale today, say that the exhibit is their way of passing this Haggadah on to the next generation with the message that we should never forget. Speaking about the Haggadah and the upcoming exhibit, Wolloch says, "L'dor Vador," which means from generation to generation.

The public is invited to view the exhibit of the Haggadah at the opening on Sunday April 17, 2016 from 1-3:00 pm or see them during temple hours from April 17 – May 5.

Temple Israel Center

280 Old Mamaroneck Road
White Plains, NY 10605
(914) 948-2800 ext. 143




Marital Therapists Offer Advice on Tuning Up Your Marriage

marriage counselingnaacLast week, marital therapists and educators Phil Lee MD and Diane Rudolph MD led a well-attended workshop at the Scarsdale Adult School on "What Makes Marriage Work". We followed up with this interview with Phil and Diane to share some of their insights with you.

Scarsdale 10583: What are the biggest misconceptions about marital therapy?

Diane: "There is a common misconception that marital therapy is only for marriages in distress. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that that marital therapy can make failing marriages into successful ones, it is equally true that C+ marriages can quickly become B+ marriages, and A- marriages can become A+ marriages.

Phil: Another misconception is that marital therapy has to take a long time. Many marriages benefit from 4-6 sessions of an empirically derived focused therapy. The better the marriage the quicker it can markedly improve.

Scarsdale10583: You mentioned in your talk that 80% of the time the man is the one who is reluctant to engage in any kind of therapy. Why is that?

Phil: The 80% figure is true for marriages in significant distress, and it is true for high functioning marriages. Many men anticipate marital therapy will be touchy-feely, overly emotional, and lead to further argument. Our therapy is more like taking a golf or tennis lesson if you want to get better. But marriage is a game we are thrown into without instruction and often without having had the opportunity to see the best players perform.

Diane: Research by Dr. John Gottman, author of the best selling book, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," has shown the behaviors that are associated with success, and has revealed the behaviors that are associated with failure. The higher the percentage of good behaviors the happier and more satisfying the marriage.

Phil: Many of the keys to success are not intuitive, but the research is impeccable, and adopting some behaviors while abandoning others can lead to sudden and dramatic increase in marital satisfaction, for men as well as women. I mentioned that 80% of men are reluctant to try to improve marriage, but men are just as satisfied with the results as are women.

Scarsdale 10583: What is one tip you can share with our readers that will help their marriages?

Diane: We can minimize the cycle of criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling that characterize many marital arguments. But even the best marriages sometimes have arguments. It is very important to be able to end the argument.

Phil: Arguments end when both partners take some responsibility for the argument. Suppose Diane says "I'm sorry I yelled at you about taking out the trash. I've been really irritable." If I say "yeah, you sure have been in a mood," then the whole thing starts up again. If I instead say, "Well, I really overreacted to your yelling," – then the argument ends. Everybody has to take some responsibility.

Scarsdale 10583: In the workshop you gave some practical advice on how to communicate productively to resolve conflicts.

Phil: Yes – we suggest beginning the discussion with what Gottman calls a "soft start-up." What does that mean? For starters, don't blame your spouse for the problem. Just say that you're upset, or that you feel that it could be handled better. For example rather than saying, "You are careless with money," say, "I want us to save more."

Scarsdale 10583: That is really helpful – obvious after you see it but like you said, not intuitively obvious.

Diane Rudolph MD and Phil Lee MD are the Co-heads of Marital Therapy at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, where they teach marital therapy to the psychiatry residents. They have offices in Greenwich and on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They can be reached at 212-734-3424 or by email at or

They are married in real life and reside in White Plains, N.Y.

Tickets On Sale for the Scarsdale Bowl Through April 3rd

rushTickets to the 2016 Scarsdale Bowl Dinner honoring Susie Rush will be available through April 3rd. The entire community is invited to attend this uplifting and inspirational event celebrating the spirit of volunteerism in our Village. The dinner takes place on Wednesday evening, April 13, at The Fountainhead in New Rochelle beginning at 6:30 pm. Reservations can be made online here. For additional information, please e-mail

(Here is the original announcement)
Susie Rush, an extraordinary citizen with over 18 years of dedicated volunteerism to Scarsdale, will be the 2016 recipient of the Scarsdale Bowl, the community's highest award.

The Scarsdale Bowl was initiated in 1943 to recognize an individual's outstanding contributions to the civic life of Scarsdale. "We are fortunate to have so many community members give their time to our town and we have so many stars, but Susie is the supernova of volunteers," said Michelle Lichtenberg, the Chairman of the Scarsdale Bowl Committee. Rush has served on dozens of organizations and committees in Scarsdale and beyond. "Her selfless contribution of time and energy to our community, and her ability to welcome and cultivate new volunteers, epitomizes the principles symbolized by the Bowl. We are delighted to recognize her as this year's honoree," said Lichtenberg.

Rush will be honored at the Scarsdale Bowl dinner on Wednesday evening, April 13 at The Fountainhead in New Rochelle. Lichtenberg encourages all members of the community to attend and notes that the event is both uplifting and inspirational celebrating the spirit of volunteerism in our Village. Reservations can be made online at Scarsdale residents may also receive a written invitation by e-mailing

The Bowl Committee, a diverse group of 15 community volunteers, selects the recipient after reviewing many worthy candidates who are nominated by the community.

Last Sunday evening, the Committee voted to honorRushSurprised21 Rush. Delegates from the Bowl Committee, including Chairman Michelle Lichtenberg, Scarsdale Foundation President Evelyn Stock, Foundation Liaison Jane Veron, Foundation Secretary/Treasurer Robert Jeremiah and Committee Members Anne Lyons and Felicia Block, went to Rush's Quaker Ridge home to break the good news. It appeared that no one was home when the group arrived, so they approached the dark house, with cameras and cell phones in hand, hopeful that she was in another section of the home. As luck would have it, Rush came down stairs from watching the final minutes of the Packers vs. Redskins game. She did not seem as if she wanted to open the door, in case they were a group soliciting at such as odd hour, and when she finally recognized the group, she was too overcome to let the group in. Within a few moments, the representatives filled her entryway, but Rush momentarily hid in the shadow to recover from the shock. The always-eloquent Rush was just about able to say, "Make up a good quote!" With her hands covering most of her face she added, "I am so overwhelmed and honored. I don't even know what to say."

Rush has a long distinguished record of volunteer service to Scarsdale and the outside community. Currently she is the Treasurer and Trustee of the Scarsdale Foundation, and a member of the Scarsdale Coalition on Family Violence, the board of the Scarsdale Task Force on Drugs and Alcohol, and the Advisory Board of Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service.

She also currently serves as a moderator of the League of Women Voters of Westchester. From 2013 to 2015, Rush was President of the League of Women of Scarsdale, and an active part of their board for eleven years. One LWVS member told a Bowl Committee member, "...even though she is no longer President of the LWVS, she is still the bright light behind the scenes that makes our community the special place it is."

Among her long list of past civic activities, Rush was Quaker Ridge PTA President and President of the Scarsdale PT Council. She was an active member of the Scarsdale High School PTA Scholarship Fund for College, chairing the group. Her commitment to the Scarsdale school system continued as part of the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee, where she also acted as chair.

In her work with Scarsdale schools, as with all her volunteer posts, Rush is described as intelligent, creative, hard working, and courageous. During her term as PT Council President, Anne Lyons recalled, "...she advocated for the Quaker Ridge bond when it was discovered that there was beach sand in the foundation. This was controversial...[but] Susie did her research and, many feel, acted in the best interest of the community."

Rush has served on numerous boards and committees throughout Scarsdale and beyond including, but not limited to Kids' B.A.S.E. and The Little School, Scarsdale Teen Center Adult Board, STEP Board, the Scarsdale Forum, the League of Women Voters of Westchester, and the Scarsdale Teachers Institute Policy Board. As Jane Veron noted, "Susie does it all. She sets the highest standards for herself and takes on the most challenging, important, and demanding jobs. She pours every ounce of herself into her community work... Susie is the gold standard in both analytics and the written world. She works tirelessly and cares deeply about Scarsdale."

Rush received her B.A. cum laude from Smith College and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was the recipient of the David Werner Amram Prize. She is currently a Legislative Analyst in the office of New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. Previously, she was a partner with Lowenthal, Landau, Fischer & Ziegler, P.C., where she practiced corporate and securities law in New York City, and served as General Counsel to Datalogix, Inc. in Valhalla, New York.

Rush's greatest joy is her family. She lives with her husband of 27 years, Andy, and has two sons, David, in his third year of a Ph.D. program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Jonathan, a junior at Yale University.

Please join the Bowl Committee on April 13th at The Fountainhead to honor Scarsdale's spirit of volunteerism and Susie Rush.