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A Matter of Trust: Concerns with Credibility and Competency of District Architect, BBS

letter-to-the-editor(This letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Jon Krisbergh) To the Editor and the Scarsdale Community:
It was clear at the Board of Education's, May 22, 2017 meeting that both the Board and many of the community members in attendance were surprised by the presentation of the newly hired district architect, BBS. In a 2.5-hour presentation outlining its proposal for all 7 District school buildings, including Greenacres, the architect called his credibility into question and minimized the needs of the Greenacres School to justify an inadequate solution that does not have the student's best interests in mind.

The Scarsdale community must not allow the Administration and Board to pursue the plan as presented and community members must voice their opposition to this poorly thought-out proposal.

It has been raised before in Scarsdale10583 and at previous Board meetings that parents and residents have serious safety concerns with any major renovation that is to be carried out with the children in the school. It will put children in harm's way and subject them to dangerous environmental hazards such as asbestos, lead paint and harmful noise levels. BBB's proposed renovation leaves the children in the school during the project and does not provide for trailers. BBS provided no environmental impact analysis and dismissively suggested that such renovations could be done with children in the building without providing any detail about how that would be accomplished.

The architect gave no comfort to the Board or the community that it would take these safety concerns seriously or that it would prioritize children's safety. Unfortunately, the regulations the architect relies on to justify his dismissal of these concerns are rooted in reporting by the architects, engineers and contractors that perform the work, not in actual oversight or monitoring.

Even with the best intentions to abide by the regulations, too many instances of accidental exposure during school renovations have occurred to allow a renovation to take place while the children are in the school. But there are other red flags in BBS's proposal that should give us pause.

Cost Analysis Missing
As has been raised many times before, including by the Education Committee of the Scarsdale Forum's November 3, 2016 Report, the School Board and the community need to have a solid understanding of the costs associated with the proposed project.
BBS did not provide any cost estimates or show any level of analysis into the costs of its proposal. Further, there was no option for a new school building for Greenacres even though Dr. Hagerman stated that the architect was tasked with considering such an option. The architect simply said a new school would cost twice as much as the renovation. With no numbers or analysis presented, the community is left with taking the architect's word.
Can we believe that a renovation – one that's claimed to be "better" or at least more substantial than the previous renovation proposal – will cost significantly less than a new school? In addition, there was no analysis of cost-savings over time with new and more efficient infrastructure in a new school or consideration of the limited useful life of the renovated building.

Understating the Needs of Current Greenacres Building
We should also be concerned about how the architect is addressing the problems with the current Greenacres building – a 100-year-old building that previous architects and engineers determined needed significant infrastructure improvements to keep it viable.
They understate the costs of what needs to be done to the school to make it an acceptable building for our students. Take a look at the example of the roof's continued use. The previous engineer reported it would need replacing in 7 years; however, BBS did not include an update of the roof in its proposal since his scope was 5 years, ignoring a major capital need that will be emergent in the very near-term.

Worse, the previous engineer and architect stated a new HVAC systems was required for the school; BBS says that the HVAC system is in acceptable condition, acknowledging that, at a minimum, a new boiler will be necessary in the near-term (no boiler is included in their proposal). However, they admit they never viewed the previous air quality studies and did not conduct their own – they merely walked through the classrooms and did a "smell-test." If they are going to contradict a previous engineering study, we must demand that, at a minimum, they should review the previous study and do their own analysis.

The proposed renovation does nothing to address the "old bones" and aging infrastructure of the 100-year-old school. In the long-run, the renovation will be more expensive and require additional spending to fix the aging infrastructure. We should not be asked to approve a plan based on their estimates of "immediate" needs if additional spending is hidden from view.

Lack of Detail
In addition to obfuscating about the actual needs of Greenacres Elementary and the cost of its proposed project, the presentation itself lacked the professionalism and detail we would expect for the size and scope of this project.greenacresschool

Last summer the previous concerns were raised about the efficacy of the previous architect when it was discovered that their square-footage measurements grossly over-stated how big the core classrooms would be after their proposed renovation was completed. BBS did not even include square-footage measurements in its drawings. The District laid out criteria for classroom size based on square footage requirements in the Model Program which allow the District and the community to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed project. By omitting square footage measurements in the drawings, the architect has prevented any ability to conduct such an evaluation or understanding of compliance with the Model Program. In fact, as with the last proposal for a renovation, it appears that many of the core classrooms will remain inadequately small after the renovation – but we can't be sure because the architect did not provide us with the data necessary to understand their proposal.

Us versus Them
One of the more concerning aspects of BBS's presentation was their attempt to distract from its inadequate proposal by attempting to turn Scarsdale residents against one another.
Specifically, the architect provided a misleading representation of the previous spending that each of the District's schools have received through previous bonds. Recognizing that they could present an image that Greenacres had received a similar amount of funding as other schools by limiting how far they looked back, the architect stated that Greenacres received 6.5% of bond funding over the last 10 years. This omits the fact that major projects funded by bonds occurred just prior to the 10-year cut-off. The architect should have presented spending over the past 20 years to more accurately capture the inequitable attention Greenacres has received. You can read more about historical spending in the following article-.

In addition, the equitable spending argument is fundamentally flawed – spending should be justified and responsible based on the needs of the facilities, not on whether one school received more than the other. If Greenacres needs a major project, all of Scarsdale should support it, regardless of whether we could spend the money on projects at the other schools that aren't necessary. Greenacres residents supported the previous bonds that did not benefit their school and we have confidence the other neighborhoods would respond in kind at this stage. To argue that bonds will not be supported by members of the community whose schools are not receiving any money in that bond is not only contrary to precedent, but an irresponsible way to choose which projects are needed and justified.

Unfortunately, at the meeting on May 22, BBS did not provide us with the necessary information to make an informed decision about their proposal. Given these initial stumbles, Scarsdale must demand that the architect go back and present a more thorough, thought-out proposal for renovation and, as they were tasked with doing, present a proposal for a new school. Greenacres and Scarsdale deserve an architect that they can trust and rely upon to propose and implement sound facilities strategy and plans. At this stage, we are far from having such confidence.

Jon Krisbergh
Member of the Greenacres Elementary Task Force
Facebook: @greenacrestaskforce

Arts Council Hosts Events in Chase Park

chaseparkIn an effort to build community engagement and revitalize Scarsdale Village the Scarsdale Arts Council is hosting several events in Chase Park. On Friday night May 19, after a leanproctorsudden thunderstorm, the first event, called Rock the Dale was held. Scarsdale senior Lena Proctor sang, backed up by "DJ Rold" Harol Sherr and Walter's Hot Dog Truck came to town to provide dinner. Thanks also to Dyana Mughal for helping to coordinate the event.

Mayor Dan Hochvert was on hand along with At Large Director of the Arts Council ML Perlman who arranged the event with support of the Village and other local community groups including TAP, CAC, Friends of Scarsdale Parks, and Scarsdale Forum's Downtown Revitalization Committee.

Pending the approval of the Village Board, The Scarsdale Arts Council has planned two art installation for the park, to be up for the summer months from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Both are works created by Scarsdale artist Simone Kestelman.

The first installation is a series of boulders. Children of the community will be invited to help paint the boulders and can climb on them as a "natural playground". Special care will be taken that the boulders do not compact soil too close to trees. "Scars" means rocks and "Dale" means meadow, so this piece helps connect Scarsdale to its history.

waltersFor the second installation, Simone will be installing one of her famous "Pearl Necklace" statues on the south side of Chase Park. The installation will not hurt the tree and the portion of the necklace that is on the ground will be anchored to ensure the piece will not move. There will be a plaque explaining the work as a "call to artist" to engage with the Scarsdale Arts Council. The council is working with local merchants to host a series of "Evenings with the Artist" at which Simone will appear to explain her work.peralnecklace2rockinstallation2

Change the Statistics Around Relationship Violence

OneLoveFlyerThe Center @ 862 invites you to a screening of the eye-opening film, "Escalation" on May 31, at 7:30 PM at the Scarsdale Public Library. A panel discussion with Sharon Robinson, founder of OneLove Organization, Lauren Pomerantz of Scarsdale-Edgemont Family Counseling Service, NYS Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, and Youth Officer Sherri Albano of Scarsdale Police Department will follow. This provocative film provides thoughtful conversation and suggestions on how to talk about unhealthy and healthy relationships with their loved ones. Awareness of the issue is the first step in turning around these alarming statistics.

OneLove Foundation, was founded in 2010 when Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia senior from Bronxville, NY, was killed by her ex-boyfriend. OneLove's mission is to ensure that everyone has information about unhealthy and abusive relationships and understands the danger in these types of relationships and empowers them to leave an unhealthy situation—or help a friend to leave—before it escalates to abuse.

The Center@862 will be working with OneLove to build Scarsdale's own Team OneLove, a community of over 15,000 people nationwide. High school students will be trained to become OneLove facilitators at the Center, 862 Scarsdale Avenue, Scarsdale, NY in early June. These students will organize future screenings of "Escalation" for their peers and moderate discussion groups following these screenings.

It's time to educate ourselves and our children about healthy relationships.

Scarsdale Leads the Way in Food Scrap Recycling

Westchester County Earth Day  Food Scraps Recycling Award 2017On May 13, 2017, at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla, Westchester County recognized the Village of Scarsdale with a 2017 Earth Day Award for introducing a food scrap recycling program for Scarsdale residents. The award was presented by Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett during a County Earth Day 2017 celebration event. On hand to receive the award were Mayor Dan Hochvert, Trustees Deb Pekarek and Jane Veron, and members of the Village Ad Hoc Committee on Food Scraps Recycling, residents Ron Schulhof and Michelle Sterling.

Trustee Deb Pekarek used the occasion to urge Deputy County Executive Plunkett to consider having the County re-start its food scraps recycling program. The County's program, which included the operation of County-owned food recycling machinery, has been suspended due in part to the lack of volume of collected food scraps. As residents' voluntary participation in food scraps recycling increases, it may eventually be possible to prompt the County to re-activate its program. Having a food scraps re-cycling facility in the County would increase the efficiency of the program by reducing the distance the contractor that picks up the food scraps from the Recycling Center has to travel to get to a composting facility.

Michelle Ron and Jon MScarsdale's lead in food scrap recycling has been generating interest in other Westchester communities and a number of them have sent representatives to the Village Secor Road Recycling Center to observe the Village's program. In at least one case, the positive impact of such a visit has resulted in a prompt response. A week ago, Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and members of his staff visited the Secor Road Recycling Center and observed the Scarsdale food scraps program in operation. Yesterday Supervisor Feiner announced that the Town of Greenburgh "will be working with the Greenburgh Nature Center trying to come up with a plan to implement a similar program."

Village residents dropped off over four tons of food scraps at the Recycling Center last week. In the previous week, residents were able to pick up compost generated by the program for free. For information about the Village's program and future compost pick up days, go to this page on the Village web site.

Volunteers Needed for Community Planting Day on Saturday

egretCelebrate Arbor Day and help protect and enhance Scarsdale's natural environment by lending a hand to plant 320 native trees and shrubs along Fox Meadow Brook in the Brewster Road- Harwood Wetland on Saturday, April 29, 2017, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pre-registration is required, either in-person at Village Hall in the Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Department, or online. The rain date is Sunday, April 30, 2017.

Individuals, families, youth groups, civic groups, and businesses are welcome to take part in our 3rd Annual Community Planting Day event. Everyone should dress for outdoor planting, including a pair of gardening gloves.

The 3rd Annual Community Planting Day is jointly sponsored by the Village of Scarsdale's Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Department and Friends of Scarsdale Parks with support from New York Department of Environmental Conservation's "Trees for Tribs" program.

South Fox Meadow Brook is part of the Bronx River watershed system that feeds into the East River and the Long Island Sound. The Scarsdale Community Planting Day is part of a comprehensive watershed restoration project designed to preserve and protect and enhance sensitive watershed ecosystems, water quality, tree canopy, and wildlife.

Please join us for a worthwhile day of fun -- make a difference by lending a hand!
For further information, please contact the Village of Scarsdale Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Department at 914-722-1166, or simply pre-register either in-person, or online.
community planting day