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County Executive Rob Astorino Vows to Veto Legislation to Protect Undocumented Immigrants

astorinoA bipartisan bill to protect immigrants in Westchester County was passed by a vote of 10-5 by the Westchester County Board of Legislators on Monday August 7.

The new law would protect the confidential information of all residents, regardless of their immigration status and ensure that the county does not work as immigration agents. The bill would prevent the county from providing federal immigration authorities with money or equipment when trying to round people up solely because of their immigration status.

The bill would bar county police from communicating with federal authorities solely on civil immigration matters. Immigration authorities would need a judicial warrant to question people in the county jail and it allows targeted immigrants to get legal counsel.

The bill was the first of its kind to be passed by a county in New York State.

Though immigrants and immigrants' rights advocates cheered the passage of the bill, County Executive Rob Astorino has vowed to veto it and he has ten days to do so.

In a press release issued by his office on Monday, Astorino said he objected to the bill because, "it would jeopardize public safety, particularly those in our immigrant communities, would cost taxpayers millions of dollars and would be nearly impossible to enforce." He feared that the county would lose up to $13 million in federal funds as it would become a "sanctuary county" ... at odds with the federal government."

Astorino was joined by Hector Lopez, President of the Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association who said the new law would endanger law abiding residents and provide safe haven for undocumented immigrants who have broken the law. He said, "The passing of this Act opens the doors for undocumented immigrants involved in criminal activity, such as the ruthless MS-13 gang, to migrate to Westchester and prey on other immigrants, many of whom will not report crimes committed against them for fear of retribution... This act is placing handcuffs on our law enforcement officers, not the criminals."

County Legislator Ben Boykin who represents Scarsdale co-sponsored the bill. He urged residents to support the legislation, saying, "The fact is, no matter how much fear mongering those opposed say and no matter how loudly they say it, this legislation simply ensures county law enforcement focuses their attention and resources on protecting public safety in Westchester - while complying fully with federal law. The federal government has plenty of resources to use on federal issues, our County coffers are already stretched far too thin. It is now time for the County Executive to do the right thing for all of those who call our community home instead of cozying up to the anti-immigrant agenda coming from Washington. Now we need YOUR help again - call the County Executive's office and tell him you support this common sense resource allocation and public safety measure."

7-Eleven to Move to BodyFit Location at 858 Scarsdale Avenue

7-ElevenDespite objections from residents and the potential for a perennial traffic jam on Scarsdale Avenue, the Scarsdale Planning Board has approved the opening of a 24-hour 7-Eleven store in the former site of BodyFit at 858 Scarsdale Avenue. 7-Eleven will move from their current site on Garth Road site to Scarsdale Avenue.

Neighbors who live above the location on Overhill Road are worried about noise and commotion from a 24-hour location which could bring the sound of horns, slamming car doors and commotion to the area, throughout the night. Deliveries from large trucks also pose a potential problem at the already busy intersection.

At an April 19 meeting of the Planning Board, Richard Pinto, Vice President of the Overhill Neighborhood Association voiced these concerns and also cited fear of the potential for an increase in crime. He said, "There is a legitimate fear for the potential for increased incidences of crime in our neighborhood. It is important to note that the residences along this stretch of Overhill Road and Circle Lane are 100% occupied by families with either elementary school-aged children or senior residents. While we laud the Scarsdale Police for their recent excellent work, we understand that they will be operating in a reactive mode. We are not concerned whether the Police will respond to any and all complaints – we trust 100% that they will; however, the nature of these complaints will be such that by the time officers arrive on the scene, the issue will have gone away – but the residents will have been disturbed already. Again – we are talking about a dozen elementary school-aged children along Overhill Rd and Circle Rd, as well as senior homeowners – these are demographics that do not typically keep late hours and will be most affected immediately."bodyfit

The intersection of Scarsdale Avenue and Popham Road is often congested as it is a major traffic hub and is one prong of a 4-way intersection that takes drivers across the Popham Road Bridge, into Scarsdale Village and east onto Popham Road. It is lined with parking spaces on both sides of the street and is often backed up, especially at peak pick-up and drop-off times for the train.

The Planning Board considered the 7-Eleven application at their meeting on April 19, 2017 and again on June 28, 2017. Following the June meeting, the application was approved and parking waiver was granted to allow for fewer parking spots than required by Village code.

Here is a statement from Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez that was read at the June 28, 2017 meeting:

briceGood evening, I am Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez of 19 Fox Meadow Road and I am speaking tonight as President of the Old Scarsdale Neighborhood Association which includes the village center.

According to a 7-Eleven press release from last fall, the average location generates about $5,000 per day in sales. They are one of the largest retailers of lottery tickets and beverages in the United States and rank 15th in the U.S. for foot traffic. In short, it is a high traffic, low margin business. It probably takes several hundred to 1,000 customers per day to generate $5,000 in sales.

At present, 7-Eleven enjoys a huge flow of morning pedestrians from Garth Road on their way to the train station and many return the same way in the evening. It's a great location for 7-Eleven and the majority of their customers probably arrive on foot. I lived on Garth Road for 13 years and I was an occasional customer particularly if I needed a quick quart of milk on a late night return home. I just can't imagine why 7-Eleven would consider leaving Garth Road even if they feel they must leave their ideal corner location because of an uncertain future with their landlord.

We all know that brick and mortar retail is experiencing major upheaval at present and I don't wish to see the demise of our local 7-Eleven. However, I really question the wisdom of their desire to move to Scarsdale Avenue in the old Body Fit location. While I think the new location would fall significantly short of their current volume, let's imagine what success would look like. Instead of several hundred pedestrian visitors each day, the new location would have to see this volume in vehicular traffic.

Old Scarsdale Neighborhood is bordered to the south by Popham Road and to the west by East Parkway. This is already the most congested area for motor vehicle traffic in all of Scarsdale and the intersection of these roads presents some of the most challenging conditions for pedestrians.

Last Year, TRC Engineers, Inc. released a traffic study commissioned by the Village of Scarsdale and found that southbound drivers from East Parkway and northbound drivers from Scarsdale Avenue could expect to encounter a Level of Service rating for the intersection with Popham Road graded as a "D" on a national scale. In fact, northbound traffic out of Scarsdale Avenue is already considered to be near capacity during peak hours in the morning and afternoon.

According to TRC's measurements, 210 vehicles entered and 234 departed Scarsdale Avenue in the morning through this intersection during the peak 8am hour and slightly fewer vehicles traveled during the afternoon peak hour of 5pm. A 7-Eleven shopper would use this intersection twice for each visit if arriving from north of the store and I would argue that more customers would arrive from the Scarsdale end of Scarsdale Avenue than from the Eastchester end. Thus, it is not unreasonable to assume that perhaps we would see 1,000 additional vehicles per day either coming or going through that intersection with spikes in volume that would coincide with existing traffic patterns. Even if we generously allowed for an even distribution of these trips across 20 hours, it would still mean an additional 50 vehicles or a minimum of an 11% increase of traffic during our already strained peak hours.

The only way for this not to be the case is if 7-Eleven fails. We don't need to see another empty storefront in this area and I am sure 7-Eleven is not proposing to move to this new location in the hopes that they will fail. Therefore, either way Scarsdale can expect to be hurt by 7-Eleven's move to Scarsdale Ave. Success would bring increased traffic or failure would result in further erosion of our retail base. I urge the Planning Board to reject this proposal in the hope that the operators of 7-Eleven will remain committed to staying on Garth Road where their well-established customer base will arrive on foot and not strain our over-trafficked intersections.

Thank you for your time, attention and service.

Restaurant Popojito Opening in Scarsdale

popojito storefrontStart getting hungry, because tequila lime salmon and fried mahi tacos are coming to Scarsdale Village later this summer. 251 Lex, a popular eatery in Mount Kisco, is closing, but its owners are opening a new restaurant called Popojito at 46 Christie Place, which previously housed the Scarsdale Art and Frame Shop. Popjito is Med-Mex restaurant serving a variety of tacos -- including seared tuna and lamb gyro barbaroca -- and entres like fresh masa quesidillas. Everything on the menu is gluten-free and locally sourced.

The opening is being cheered by Scarsdale residents who have been bemoaning the vacant storefronts and dearth of eating options downtown. Everyone we spoke to is excited at the prospect of another restaurant on Christie Place. Check out their website for more information and the article on lohud about the new restuarant. 

Scarsdale Democratic Town Committee to Host Summer Fundraiser Before Pivotal County Races This Fall

democratsIn anticipation of a busy fall election season, the Scarsdale Democratic Town Committee is holding its annual summer fundraiser on Thursday, August 10. The funds raised will go directly to supporting local Democratic candidates and to generating voter interest in upcoming Westchester County elections.

The event will take place Thursday, August 10, from 7 to 9 pm at the home of B.K. Munguia, currently serving as Second Vice Chair for the Committee, and Jon Mark at 58 Brookby Road in Scarsdale. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served.

As always, the fundraising event is expected to draw a tremendous number of distinguished elected officials and up-and-coming Democratic candidates. Already expected to attend are:
• Congressman Eliot Engel
• State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
• State Senate Minority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
• Assemblymember Amy Paulin
• Current State Senator and candidate for Westchester County Executive George Latimer
• Westchester County Clerk Tim Idoni, who is running for re-election this year
• Westchester County Legislator Ben Boykin, who is also running for re-election
• Westchester County Court Judge candidate George Fufidio
• Supreme Court Judge candidate Christi Acker
• Family Court Judge candidate Arlene Gordon-Oliver

Suggested donation levels vary from $150 to $500. This year, there will be a special rate for students, who will be able to attend for only $25. (You do not need to be a registered Democrat to attend or make a donation.)

Those looking for more information, to volunteer with set-up for the event, or to inquire about making a donation to the Scarsdale Democratic Town Committee in advance of the event are encouraged to send a check to Mark Lewis at 98 Brewster Road, Scarsdale, N.Y. or contact him at markannlewis@msn.com or by phone at 914-723-3766.

LWVS Poses Questions On Facilities Planning

questionmarkThe following statement from the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale was read by Mary Beth Evans and Linda Doucette Ashman at the July 6 meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Education.

The LWVS Committee studying the District Facilities Bond appreciates the Board of Education's June 27th invitation to community groups to comment on facilities issues; however, we will instead take the opportunity today to share with the Board and the public background on the League's study process and what we need from the District in order for our League membership to be in position to evaluate a bond proposal.

The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale is a nonpartisan political organization that promotes political responsibility through informed and active participation of citizens in government, and we only take a stand on issues after careful member study, discussion and consensus.

In order to educate members of the League and the public on the school facilities bond, our eight-member study committee is committed to an open-minded approach to fact-gathering based on a framework of multiple, objective lines of inquiry broken into three main areas: (1) decision making process, (2) educational value, and (3) cost benefit analysis.
Despite all the information that the District has provided to date, we struggle to conduct our study due to numerous factors, including the:

(1) Rapid pace of the process;
(2) Overwhelming volume of data being presented at each public meeting;
(3) Constant shifts in narrative following real–time District decision-making;
(4) Substantial number of remaining unknowns pending future results from Board requested professional analyses;
(5) Growing list of yet to be answered League and community member questions; and
(6) Most importantly, the absence of a clear statement of the Board's overall objective as it relates to the quality of our schools and Scarsdale's educational values.

Without adequate time to process consistent information, clear, research-based criteria for assessment, and a coherent picture of what our buildings need to provide in order to preserve and enhance a high quality Scarsdale education, members of the League and the community lack the tools needed to evaluate a facilities bond proposal. Both the League and the public's informed perspective depends on answers to such key questions as:

• What is the School Board's decision-making process for building community-wide support? And what has the School Board done or plan to do to actively engage and inform District residents, parents, students, and educators so that we may realize a shared educational vision and achieve broad community support for the proposed work in the Bond?

• What educational needs and community values are met by the proposed facilities projects? And what is the objective standard and reference point for measuring whether the recommended work will achieve optimal learning environments for all Scarsdale students now and into the future?

• What are the benefits and cost justifications of the proposed projects?
A successful District bond proposal that makes sense for our community requires us to work together. To this end, it would be helpful if we all start from the same place and proceed forward together in a methodical manner, with a shared understanding of the basic underlying assumptions and overall District goals and educational values driving the process that a proposed facilities bond will address.
Sincerely,

Mary Beth Evans, Chair School Facilities Bond Study Committee
Linda Doucette-Ashman, President League of Women Voters of Scarsdale

LWVS District Facilities Bond Study Committee Questions to School Board & Administration at July 6th Board of Education Meeting

1) When will you make public the corrected financial analysis comparing the long-range costs of a Greenacres renovation vs. a new building?

2) When can we see a side-by-side comparative analysis of the benefits of a Greenacres renovation vs. a new building? It is our understanding that the question of whether a particular investment is worth it to the community is cost-value equation.

3) While it's clear that the quality of our teachers is the most important factor in our children's education, we are surprised to learn that the "model program" that was a meaningful benchmark in prior Greenacres building committee work involving our faculty is now being disparaged. Can you please clarify?

4) In your decision to move forward today, what methods, information and criteria did you use to evaluate the level of community buy-in and support for the current proposal and scope of the bond that we learned about at today's meeting? What challenges do you see in achieving community buy-in for your decision between now and mid-December and what is your process for meeting those challenges to ensure community support?

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