Sales Data Shows That 2016 Valuations are in Line with Market Values
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 26 October 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
An analysis of 75 home sales that occurred between mid-July and mid-October in Scarsdale shows that despite the objection of critics, the assessments were in line with actual sales prices. These 75 homes, which changed hands between July and October, were sold after the 2016 revaluation and represent about a third of the 225 homes that are sold in Scarsdale each year.
Calculations show that the average sale price of the 75 homes was $1,590,910 with an average assessed value of $1,450,553, meaning that on average, homes were assessed at 91.9% of the sale price, or sold for about 9% more than their assessed value.
The total value of the 75 sales was $120.909mm, with assessed value at $110.242mm or 91.18%.
Furthermore, a breakdown of the sales into three groups, shows that the lower priced home, priced under $1 million were the most accurately assessed, at 98.64% of their sale prices.
Homes in the $1-$2 million range we assessed at 88.73% of their sale prices, with those above $2 million assessed at 91.14% of their sales value.
The data was drawn from MLS sales reports and assessed values shown on the Scarsdale Village website. We cannot ascertain if assessments were grieved and lowered - but this chart shows the current assessed values (AV) for the homes that were sold.
Surprisingly it appears that almost all of the homes on the list were under-assessed, with only 5 homes on the list assessed at more than 105% of their sale price, and of those, only 2 were assessed at more than 110% of their sale price (one at 115% and another at 119%).
Village Trustees, the Village Manager and the Village Assessor have been fiercely criticized for the 2016 revaluation, and though residents may be angry about the process and the timing, it appears that the overall results are in-line with market values. The claim that taxes on lower priced homes, valued at less than $1 million, had been unfairly increased is not borne out by the data which shows that sales prices for these homes has nearly matched the assessed valuations.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Draws a Crowd in Scarsdale
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 18 October 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The top federal law enforcement officer for the Southern District of New York, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filled the room at Scarsdale Golf Club when he came to address the Scarsdale League of Women Voters on Friday October 14. Bharara was invited and introduced by Scarsdale Acting Village Justice Cindy Dunne who served with and under Bharara in the U.S. Attorney's Office. She credited him with fighting terrorism and corruption and said he was committed to justness and fairness.
Bharara explained that though most people thinking his jurisdiction is only Manhattan, his office also covers several northern counties and the effects of his work extend around the globe to countries like Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, India and Switzerland.
He said, "We make cases against corrupt public officials and we try to bring justice
to broken correctional institutions. We protect the homeland and brought both the Times Square and Chelsea bombers to court." He added, "We are fearless, independent, and were proud of it. We believe no one is above the law, no matter how rich."
He referenced corruption charges brought against members of both houses of the NYS Legislature including Speaker of the NYS Assembly Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos from the NYS Senate for extorting no show jobs for his son Adam in exchange for official conduct. Bharara credited local Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who was in attendance at the luncheon, with testifying against Silver, in spite of the fact that she was dependent on him and Silver was known to be vindictive.
Bharara said, "There is a "show me the money" culture in Albany, " which he called a "bipartisan problem." He quoted a recent poll that found that 87% of people believe that corruption is a serious problem in New York State and only 4% thought the prosecutor has gone too far.
In addition to his focus on public corruption, Bharara's office is also working to stem opioid abuse, a growing problem in the U.S. where 78 Americans a day die from opioid overdoses. Citing trafficking of prescription drugs as one of the causes, Bharara said, "we are shutting down distribution channels including doctors, pill mills and peddlers and getting significant sentences." In addition to fighting drug abuse through prosecutions, his office will host educational forums on the issue, with one scheduled for December 1 at Pace University.
Saying his office remains optimistic in the face of some very tough challenges he said,
"We have a choice. We can imagine ourselves as Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back down the hill. Or we can look at Archimedes who said,
'Give me a long enough lever and a place to stand and I shall move the earth itself.""
Asked during the question and answer period if he would continue to serve if appointed by the next president, he said, "I love my job and I am not tired of it and I will continue to serve."
Don't Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 28 September 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
(This is an editorial written by Scarsdale10583 site founder Joanne Wallenstein) Watching the presidential debate on Monday night and reflecting on recent rumblings in Scarsdale, I couldn't help but draw some parallels between the national and local political scenes.
In the first debate, Donald Trump called our country a "disaster" and made sweeping and damning generalizations about complex issues and historical events. He repeatedly blamed his opponent Hillary Clinton for failing to defeat ISIS, for sending U.S. jobs overseas, for poor race relations and for a host of other global issues.
Here in Scarsdale, we have a similar debate going on, with a few despondent residents calling our Village a disaster and blaming Scarsdale's past and present mayors and trustees for failing to manage the professional staff at Village Hall.
One member of our community, who led the opposition to the 2016 tax revaluation, posted the following as a comment on Scarsdale10583.... "The damage that two sets of mayors, Boards of Trustees, and village managers have inflicted on residents is incalculable and will have lasting negative effects on any capital plans that the village or school district have."
Like candidate Trump, she and a former president of the Scarsdale Forum are suggesting that flaws with the 2016 property revaluation indicate that Scarsdale not only needs new leadership, but that the entire system of governance, Scarsdale's Non-Partisan system, should be overturned as well. In the September 23rd issue of the Scarsdale Inquirer, Bob Berg says, "The system is not working. It's a disaster here." Opponents appear to be advocating for contested elections for Mayor and Trustees, which would put Scarsdale into full campaign mode for a good part of every year.
Let's take a step back and consider whether Scarsdale is indeed a "disaster." From my window, things look pretty good. I live on a beautiful tree-lined street. It's free of trash, garbage cans and cars, since overnight street parking is not allowed. Our police and fire departments are respected and quick to respond. If I want to go to the city, I can walk to the train. My children benefited from first-rate schools and I use the public tennis courts and lovely town pool. It's easy to access the Village for food, coffee, and other necessities and I often run into people I know in town, fostering a sense of belonging and community.
One might ask what does governance have to do with any of this? In fact, it has everything to do with our experience here. Our Board of Trustees and our Mayor carefully consider how everything from the sanitation to the recreation departments are run. They pass resolutions to manage parking, paving, parks and events. In fact, there is little that you use or enjoy here that is not managed by the Village staff and overseen by our elected officials.
Yes, there have been issues. The second revaluation was not conducted in the way it should have been done, and sometimes people at Village Hall can appear high handed and dismissive to residents' concerns. But if you watched or attended any of the well-publicized meetings at Village Hall on the revaluation, you could see that both the managers and the board have accepted full responsibility for the flawed process and are seeking ways to ameliorate its effects and improve future revaluations. For those who were unfairly assessed, the Board of Assessment Review considered over 1,103 grievances and granted reductions to 373 property owners out of a total of 5,900 property owners, or about 6%.
Is that a reason to disrupt the non-partisan process that has served the Village well since 1930? According to the Non-Partisan Resolution, the system was put into place to, "Obtain the services in public office of many men and women who would not have been available merely as the candidates of a political party in contested elections for village and town office." The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale studied the Non-Partisan system and found that, "The intention of Scarsdale's nonpartisan system is to attract the best possible people to run for school board, village trustee and mayor while minimizing electioneering, money, partisan politics and agenda-driven candidates. Scarsdale's nonpartisan system allows the focus to be on bettering our community, rather than on running costly campaigns."
Though to some, the Non-Partisan system appears to squash public debate, what it does do is to allow qualified and thoughtful residents with the best interest of Scarsdale in mind to serve as Village leaders, without conducting political campaigns. A democratically elected committee of nominators seeks qualified candidates who take an objective approach to the issues at hand and seek solutions that work best for the village. If the Board needs expertise in engineering, sustainability, the law or finance, the committee seeks out candidates who fit the bill. Anyone, with any view, is invited to run for the nominating committee or to put in their name for consideration for Village Trustee or even Mayor.
As a 26-year homeowner in Scarsdale, I take comfort in the fact that we have a truly representative government that considers the rights of all residents. I am wary of ceding our leadership to neighbors who come to their positions with a focus on a single issue or a wrong to right.
Let's not permit a few loud and angry residents to claim to represent us... or to say that the system is broken when it's not.
We received the following responses to the opinion piece above from Robert Berg, Bill Stern and Bob Selvaggio of Scarsdale:
I just read your article recommending against changes to our CNC-run system for electing Village officials. I think you sugarcoat the Non-Partisan System. It works fine when we don't have to address significant issues and are just concerned with the day to day operation of our Village. It really fails badly when it comes to anything substantial or meaningful. To wit, for 45 years, successive Village Boards and Mayors failed to do a property revaluation. That's incredibly poor governance. And the Ryan reval debacle? What more needs to be said?
Then take a look at the Christie Place situation. That building site came super close to becoming another Freightway monstrosity before last-minute community opposition stopped the madness. And while the Christie Place condos are a great project, they were fraudulently marketed as a permanently low tax opportunity for seniors. Now the rest of Village taxpayers has to perpetually subsidize their taxes because two Boards and Mayors want to protect these unfortunate luxury condo dwellers forever -- even after the units transfer hands -- and they are unwilling to do what is fair to everyone.
Take a look at One Palmer, a hideous structure that failed to comply with the Board of Architectural Review requirements. How in the world was that disgusting building allowed to be completed by our Building Department? Why wasn't a stop work order issued and enforced until the building was reconstructed to plan? Something is real fishy there. What did the Mayor and Village Board do about that building while there was still time. Absolutely nothing!
Check out 2-4 Weaver. The Village Board and Mayor facilitated the construction, with the sale of Village land, of another tax-favored, yet non-age restricted super luxury apartment complex, without extracting from the developer any agreement to ensure that residents pay property taxes based on the fair market value of the apartments. Instead, the units will now be sold as co-ops so that even the Homestead Tax option can't tax them on a fair market value basis. All this to protect the "historic" Heathcote Tavern which now will be dwarfed by the office building-like structure rising on the site.
Look at Superstorm Sandy where the Village was largely without power for 2 weeks and was one of the last municipalities to regain power. None of our elected officials nor Village administrators was capable of putting enough pressure on Con Edison to give us a break and get the power back on. I would have picketed the CEO of Con Ed's house in Rye and held a press conference there until he was embarrassed enough to correct the situation.
Look at historic preservation. The Village Board has been studying this issue for about 10 years straight with no results.
Look at the gutless and unprincipled response of the Mayor and Village Board to the Monte Nido proposal. To assuage a bunch of wealthy neighbors, the Mayor and Village Board unanimously voted to object to the facility, even when they knew that the law was completely against their position. They lack moral courage.
The simple truth is that the Non-Partisan System attracts people who oftentimes lack leadership skills and common sense and who fail to act on principles. Instead, they seem to respond to the wealthiest squeaky wheels. Yet the CNC process forbids anyone from vetting these nominees on their positions or putting them to the test of public debate. This is an absurd vestige of the past. Instead, the CNC listens to a 10 minute rah-rah speech by the candidate, conducts a couple of reference checks, and votes to pick the candidate who gave the best speech. I know. I've been there.
In my view, we need contested elections for Village office so that residents can learn how the candidates approach the important issues. We don't need to have partisan contested elections, but a healthy and vigorous debate among candidates will inform the electorate, and might even get them to come out and vote.
Response to Bob Berg from Village Trustee William Stern:
Dear Mr .Berg:
Your comments about Sandy and the response of the Village need some more information. First during Sandy the Village staff and many of the elected officials literally camped out in the public safety building to manage the crisis. Con Ed was not very responsive claiming they were overwhelmed. In my case my neighborhood was cutoff by a neighbor's tree which the neighbor neglected to take care of- no fault of the Village. The Village identified one issue which was that if a local tree took wires down ConEd would cutoff the whole neighborhood miles around. The Village manager and Trustees subsequently had several public meetings with ConEd and their technical high level management on how to move forward .We got them to install equipment on the poles segregating the electric supply into many small subdivisions so that the next time there is a power failure due to lines taken down only a small number of houses will be affected. I believe Mr. Harrison was present at these meetings as they were publicly announced. As a result of Sandy the generator law was drastically changed allowing residents on small lots to have generators. Picketing is not an acceptable form of governance. To say the Village did nothing is far from correct.
The reval issue and its consequences is a source of great pain and angst to both the Village Board and the Village management. Legal issues prevent elected and appointed officials from saying no more until everything is resolved We are subject to the slings and arrows of innuendo, attack, and insults because we are not able to comment officially, unofficially or as individuals. I was hoping that residents would understand this. Silence from the elected officials and management does not mean inaction.
The Village has been criticized for sending one of it's employees to a professional meeting. The Village does this frequently for its key staff and these are planned way in advance. I am sure that the critics of this practice attend professional meetings in their fields. My own experience in my professional life is that these are no vacations but hard work and for me exhausting.
I want to compliment you again for your difficult work at the BAR and the sacrifice of summer work that you and your members made.
From Bob Selvaggio:
Simply put, voting in an uncontested election in which the positions of the "candidates" on issues of importance to the Village is fully obscured (at least to the voter) is as irresponsible as it is irrational. Those in JoAnne's basket of "despondents", notably Bob and Mayra in their rebuttals, make an excellent case for the sub-optimal outcomes that have been associated with allowing the CNC party to run unopposed in recent years. And even those of us of lesser talents understand that our time is too valuable to waste in voting when we have no choice among alternatives. As much as we all might abhor Clinton's corruption and Trump's brutishness, I cannot imagine any of us would prefer not to have the opportunity to choose between the two.
My hope is that good Scarsdale citizens will step forward as Mayoral and Board candidates to provide robust challenges to the CNC party's slate of candidates, not out of partisanship, but rather out of civic virtue. I have personally implored Mayra to throw her hat in the ring, and I do hope Bob Berg will do so.
I want the ability to vote for candidates who assure me that they are committed to fair real estate taxation based on a universally applied percentage of market value that is equal for all homeowners. It boggles my mind to think that the current CNC-appointed Board voted UNANIMOUSLY to continue our citizens' forced subsidy of a group of millionaires living in Christie Place. I want to vote for candidates who will clean house in the office of the Village Assessor and for one or two who have the expertise in housing finance and statistical analysis to assure that the next reval is done correctly, and by the best firm among a number who respond to an RFP in a competitive bidding process. I want to know that the candidates I support are committed to fiscal prudence and zero-based budgeting. I also want to know, for example, their stances on forced mulching, their positions on library expansion, and on solar panels.
We can do much better for Scarsdale by encouraging our residents to run for office in competitive races and to provide full disclosure of their positions on key issues. I have observed that the citizens who fill Village Hall hoping to catch the attention of the group sitting on the dais far above and removed from the crowd know their stuff and come prepared. Many among them would serve the Village well.
Scarsdale Concours Winners List
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 05 October 2016
- Written by Adam Regenstreif
Scarsdale's passion for cars was driven home last Sunday when dozens of vintage and modern cars participating in the annual Concours d'Elegance lined the streets of the Village and attracted automobile aficionados and novices alike.
It was the thirteenth anniversary of the showcase that began with an idea from Scarsdale High School students Evan Cygler and Dennis O'Leary. Their passion for cars gave birth to an automobile show designed to both share great cars with the community and to raise funds for charities. With the help of the Scarsdale Police Department and village officials, the idea took off. Half of Scarsdale Village was closed to make room for impressive Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins, Bentleys, and many more.
"It was supposed to be a one to two or even three year project," Cygler said near the end of the show. "And here we are today, at show number 13, which just concluded. It's amazing how over time, the show is staying alive and there are people volunteering themselves throughout the year."
Since 2004, more than $350,000 have been raised for local charities. These have included Habitat for Humanity of Westchester, the White Plains Hospital, and the Kellner Family Pediatric Liver Disease Foundation. This year, the Concours is donating to The Warrior and Family Assistance Fund, the Scarsdale & Edgemont Family Counseling Service, and The Paulie Strong Foundation, a pediatric cancer fund.
Scarsdale's Concours isn't limited to locals but most participants hail from the community. There are usually about 120 cars on display, but the threat of rain scared some car owners away.
"As a high school student, there's definitely not as many kids interested in cars today. It's also just a nice way to give back to the community," says Daniel Patrizio, one of the younger members on the board of directors. Cygler agrees. "My greatest awareness is seeing younger people getting into cars, asking to sit in a car, seeing a smile on their face, and that's where the passion begins... I guess we're kind of constantly promoting the next generation. We're promoting cars, we're promoting a hobby. And even though it's motor transportation, it's a piece of art. And that's quite special."
People enjoyed the food stand and the live band, and even sitting in some of the cars. John Vasta, a Greenwich Concours award winner and his 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Splitwood Coupe, offered one of the motivations for the car show. "It's not an investment, it's just a nice venue. People seem to appreciate it." John later won the award of 'Best Corvette.'
"I always just loved cars. It's my hobby," reflects Cygler. "It's what makes me feel good, what makes me happy to see other people enjoying the cars. I meet people through cars. It's a social thing. It's my dedication to life, the automobile."
Here is the list of the 2016 Concours Award Winners:
Best Italian Car
1954 Lancia Aurelia B20S
Best English Car
1966 Austin Healy 3000 MK III BJ8
He has owned this car for 47 years, second owner.
Best German Car
1987 Porsche 930 Turbo
Best American Car
1931 DeSoto SA-Series Roadster
Formerly from the William (Bill) Harrah Collection. Bill Harrah paid $675 for it in 1965.
1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Berlinetta B4 Pininfarina
Dr. Riina is from Scarsdale, NY.
2015 Porsche 918 RS Spyder
1963 Corvette Split-Window coupe
1959 Ford Skyliner Retractable Top
Best Muscle Car
1968 American Motors AMX Fastback
Best Competition Car
1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 Yenko
Most Exciting Car
1968 Ford Shelby Mustang KR500 Convertible
Most Outstanding Coachwork
1947 Lincoln Continental Coupe
Originally owned by radio and TV host, Arthur Godfrey. Ed is a Scarsdale local and long-time Concours supporter.
1978 Citroen Deux Chevaux
Only 66,932 KM, original Michelin, imported from France.
1948 Pontiac Silver Streak Woody Wagon
Features a "straight-8" cylinder engine.
Maroon & White Award
1965 Buick Skylark Gran Sport Hardtop
Chubb Collector Car Award
1958 Alfa Romeo Giuletta Sprint Race Car #555
Miller Motorcars Award
1967 Chevrolet Corvette
All original car, only 19,000 miles.
Pepe Motors Award
1964 Cadillac Fleetwood 60 special
All original car, only 39,924 miles. Still has original plastic covers on the seats. Leif is also a Scarsdale local.
Founder's Choice Award
1973 Ferrari 246 GTS Dino
Best in Show
1952 Cunningham Competition-Spec Coupe
The only Cunningham exported new, to a Brazilian owner, factory
speced for competition with leather hood hold-down straps, ducted braking system and 40 gallon fuel tank.
Trash Talk: Scarsdale Sanitation
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 19 September 2016
- Written by Jill Fisher
After finding a pile of crushed glass and plastic bits in front of my house last week (very colorful, but not what you want on your street) -- I took a photo and went down to the Sanitation office on Secor Road to lodge my complaint.
Nancy at reception was not happy. She called the supervisor, Steve, who came right out to say that he was glad I had reported it, and that he would send someone out immediately to clean it up.
In 20 years living in this community, I have been annoyed to see bits of trash on the streets, paper flying out of the Cushmans (those little carts sanitation uses have a name), and occasionally messy spills near the train station. I never really thought about the job done by the Sanitation Department, so I decided to talk to Benedict Salanitro, who has been the Superintendent of Public Works for the past 18 years.
It turns out garbage collection is more complicated than I realized.
Why does stuff full out of the truck, I wanted to know. He explained that the older trucks have turn- buckles that require a perfect seal. If not tightened enough (yes, human error and/or aging equipment) the result can be liquid or trash (like my little pieces of glass) dropping off the truck. The foreman is responsible for noticing this, and is instructed to send a cleanup crew if he cannot resolve the problem on his own. The Department is working on having hydrolic closers, which would be more effective.
In addition, the Sanitation Department is looking at replacing the Cushmans that we see zipping around town. Parts for these vehicles are no longer available, and the idea under consideration is to use pick-up trucks ("satellite vehicles") that report to the "mother ship" (the big vehicle that we all call a "garbage truck"). The Cushman have been very useful because Scarsdale has always had "white glove" collection, which means that trash is still collected in the rear of the home, with the exception of yard waste, bulk trash and paper recycling. In most towns residents are required to bring all their trash to the street for pick-up. Interestingly, White Plains requires curbside collection, and is using trucks with a robotic arm. (21st century trash collection!). The post-Cushman era in Scarsdale will require more walking, and the expectation is that crews will be working more as teams instead of individually as they work now.
I also found out that Scarsdale Sanitation does not service the commercial establishments, as the restaurants around the train station. Private carters are hired, so any messes (like the five gallons of coffee spilled onto the street that was recently given a violation notice) is as much of a problem for the Sanitation Department as it is for residents.
What struck me was the high level of accountability that Mr. Salanitro expects from his staff. All complaints are logged, and new hires are told that their two priorities are to keep the village clean and to be safe. Hauling trash takes a toll on the body, and probably half of the staff has worked in the village for less than five years.
The conclusion I draw from all of this is that our village is pretty clean, our Sanitation Department works pretty hard and we should not expect the sanitation workers to be responsible for every piece of trash on the road. I would even propose a radical idea: it wouldn't kill us to pick up a bit of litter ourselves, especially if it's around our own property.