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Letter to the Editor: Greenacres: Unrealistic Plans Ignore Need to Relocate Students Off-Site

Construction-Hard-HatsThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Chris and Lynn Marvin: The Scarsdale School District has recently attempted to address widespread safety concerns with the massive $35 million renovation of Greenacres Elementary, Scarsdale's oldest school, by proposing to limit interior construction to two summers. As the parents of three Greenacres students, we agree that interior construction should only be done when the school building is unoccupied, however, we believe that the District's current proposal offers false hope that the Greenacres project can be accomplished safely without the need to relocate students off-site for a longer period of time. Worse yet, it may even exacerbate safety issues.

The current District proposal hinges on the feasibility of completing an extensive interior renovation of half of the school building in just ten weeks, the length of a typical summer break. Those ten weeks must necessarily include sufficient time for, among other things, removal of classroom furniture and supplies, extensive asbestos abatement, removal of flooring in classrooms and corridors, interior demolition, framing of new walls, doors and windows, installation of new electrical wiring and plumbing, installation of flooring, finishing of new walls, painting of classrooms and corridors, replacement of classroom unit ventilators and the reinstallation of all furniture and supplies (with time for teachers to set up their classrooms for the new school year). Of course, the school would also have to be thoroughly cleaned and new flooring and other materials given time to completely off-gas before it would be safe for students to be admitted back into the building.

Can the District really accomplish all of that in just ten weeks? Their recent track record suggests otherwise. The District experienced construction delays this year with summer projects at the High School and Edgewood that left them scrambling to finish before the start of the school year. Reasons for those delays included the discovery of asbestos in areas where none had been anticipated, a significant risk in a school like Greenacres, Scarsdale's oldest, and errors made by the District's contractors, a risk with any construction project, particularly one as extensive and complex as what's been proposed for Greenacres. Even just a few years ago, a planned move of the Greenacres office was postponed from one summer to the next due to delays involving asbestos abatement. That work involved only the renovation of two rooms; the proposed project would involve half of the school building at a time!

As the District may argue, despite their ultimate responsibility for these projects, some reasons for recent construction delays may have been out of their immediate control. But that's precisely the point. The District cannot always anticipate or control the causes of construction delays. Accordingly, the School Board should not attempt to address significant safety concerns by focusing solely on a scenario in which interior construction must begin and be completed in the summer when recent experience suggests that scenario is unlikely to be realistic.

What would happen to Greenacres' students in the event of a construction delay? In that case, as the District scrambled to react, it might try to continue construction with the children back in the school building, putting them in harm's way. Or the District might pressure its contractors to finish the work before the end of the summer by any means necessary, thereby incentivizing them to cut corners wherever possible just to get the job done. The resulting punch list of unsatisfactory work would likely require school-year construction to resolve. Either way, Greenacres' students would lose.

The solution is to relocate Greenacres' students off-site for the duration of the construction project, an idea supported by a majority of the Kindergarten and First Grade parents at Greenacres during the last school year (i.e. parents of children likely to be affected by the renovation).

We urge the School Board to find a way to move Greenacres' students out of the school building and harm's way for as long as it will take to complete the entire Greenacres construction project. We also encourage all concerned Scarsdale residents, whether Greenacres parents or not, to let the School Board hear your concerns. Their e-mail address is:

Local Leaders Respond to Violence In Charlottesville

KlanIt's difficult to believe that white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan would stage a violent protest in an enlightened college town and that the U.S. President would fail to condemn them. But that's exactly what happened this week in Charlottesville, VA, and many I spoke to in Scarsdale are shocked, offended and even more worried about the fate of our nation than they have been in previous weeks.

Here are comments from local leaders:

Representative Eliot Engel: "The white supremacists and eliotengelnationalists who lined the streets of Charlottesville inciting violence the past few days are domestic terrorists. Calling them anything other than that is not just an affront to our values; it's dangerous. These men and women are filled with hate and have displayed a willingness to use violence as a means to push their racist, anti-Semitic beliefs. They represent the very worst of our country and every good citizen should stand against them in this critical moment.

"Today, I mourn the loss of life in this despicable display and pray no more innocent people are harmed or worse. The President condemned the violence 'on all sides' of this conflict, but there is only one side that deserves his condemnation. There is only one side spreading hatred and that side, the side of David Duke and the white supremacists, must be denounced in the strongest possible terms. The President should have done that yesterday in his remarks. He did not."

jeffreybrownRabbi Jeffrey Brown from Scarsdale Synagogue: "Like you, I am still reeling from the news of this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. The senseless death of Heather Heyer, who was present to protest the "Unite the Right" rally and its message of white supremacy, is only our most recent reminder that our society continues to suffer from racism and anti-Semitism (to name just two symptoms of the disease).

Tweets from Senator Chuck Schumer

"By saying he is not taking sides, Donald Trump clearly is. When David Duke and white supremacists cheer, you're doing it very, very wrong."

"Great and good American presidents seek to unite not divide. Donald Trump's remarks clearly show he is not one of them."

Tweets from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

"Wow, what a disgrace. There is only one side. No one, especially not the leader of the free world, should ever tolerate violent racists."

Gillibrand"We must not remain silent or accept the hate and bigotry brought to Charlottesville, VA—or anywhere in this country."

"The images out of Charlottesville are some of the worst I've seen in America in my adult life. White supremacy and neo-Nazism have no place in America. Domestic terrorism like this cannot be tolerated."

"I know we are better than this, but we must all speak out against this hate. Silence is not an option."

What do you think? Share your views in the comments section below.

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.

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."

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 or by phone at 914-723-3766.