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Appeal to Demolish 12 Dolma Road Tests Scarsdale's Preservation Law

12DolmaRoadA test case of Scarsdale's Historical Preservation laws regarding an English Cottage style home at 12 Dolma Road has been going on for months at Village Hall. The Committee For Historic Preservation (CHP) denied the owner's application to demolish it in November and they then filed an appeal which was heard by the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees on December 13, 2016.

At the opening of the meeting, when local architect Bana Choura was present to offer testimony on behalf of the homeowner's application to demolish the house, Trustee Carl Finger recused himself, saying that Choura had recently done work on his own house and therefore his participation at the meeting could be a conflict of interest.

The CHP came to their decision to deny the application on the grounds that the home was associated with events that have made a significant contribution to broad patterns of Village, regional, state or national history and that the building is the work of a master and embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic values.

Homeowner Dr. Ed Crane, who wishes to demolish the house, retained Joshua Grauer of Cuddy and Feder who argued vehemently against the CHP's reason's for denying the application and questioned the definitions of the wording in the historic preservation law, claiming that since a "master" could not be defined, it should be thrown out as a criteria for preservation.

Grauer quoted emails between the Chair of the CHP and Architectural Historian Andrew Dolkhart that discussed what the term a "master" might be. He said the meaning of the term "master" is not evident. Furthermore he said no significant event had occurred at the house and also argued that renovations had substantially obliterated its historic design. He said there was nothing artistic about the design or the stucco façade.

He called the CHP decision "arbitrary and capricious," and said the home did not meet the criteria for high artistic value or rise above other homes of this period. He called the decision a "taking" of private property rights. Local architect Bana Choura, a former member of the Committee for Historic Preservation, also presented her opinion that the house was not the work of a master and did not display "high artistic value." She said there were no designated historic districts in Scarsdale and that the house made no more of a contribution to history than any other home in Scarsdale. She also said that the home was badly cited on the rear of the property – though that is not a factor in a preservation decision.

Terry Rice, an attorney retained by the Village to represent the position of the CHP said that Grauer's comments denigrated the work of the committee who he said "Operated in good faith to interpret a difficult law." He said that just because "master" was not defined in the code, it did not mean it should be thrown out as a criteria. He cited several other definitions of master as well. He also argued that even if there waalone should not be a res precedent to permit a demolition, precedents could be overturned and were not a reason to approve the application.

Professor Andrew Dolkhart from Columbia University was invited to speak on behalf of the committee's decision. He wrote Scarsdale's Cultural Resources Survey in 2012 which identified potential homes for landmark status and areas to be designated as historic districts. The report found that 12 Dolma Road was inside a potential study area for historic preservation and was therefore was not called out individually in that report. In fact, the home is pictured in the report twice, in the section recommending that Dolma Road receive further study.

About Dolma Road, the report says, "Dolma Road, running from Murray Hill Road to Birchall Road, is a short street lined with exclusive houses on large lots, most erected between 1926 and 1929 (one dates from 1935), primarily for wealthy businessmen and their families. Dolma Road was largely a project of Walter J. Collet, the Scarsdale builder who w as responsible for the construction of many substantial houses in the village. Collet claimed that he chose the name Dolma in reference to a mountain range in Bengal, India, but just why he made this choice remains a mystery. Along Dolma Road, Collet appears to have been not only the builder, but also the developer. Collet worked closely with the architect Eugene J. Lang who designed nine of the fifteen houses in the study area. Collet remained the builder of the houses designed by other architects. The Dolma Road houses are large buildings in the American, English, French, and Spanish styles so popular throughout Scarsdale in the 1920s. "

It concludes, "Considering the size and scale of the houses along Dolma Road, it is remarkable that they survive with such integrity. A few entrances have been altered and additions have been sensitively made, but the street retains the ambiance of a prime suburban locale of the early twentieth century."

At the meeting, Dolkhart said that home is associated with events that have been associated with broad patterns of Village history, calling it an excellent example of the development of Scarsdale as an upper middle class community in the 1920-1930's. The house was part of that pattern and it was commissioned by Lewis Bowman, a key player in development at that time.

While Grauer and Choura argued that the home was not an excellent example of a Tudor home, Dolkhart pointed out that it was English Cottage style, not a Tudor, with an English Cottage stucco façade and a Tudor revival back. He cited large massing, leaded windows, simplicity of line, illusion of an aged or antique dwelling, the stucco and the pegged half timbers.

Dolkhart read several definitions of a master, including one from the National Register of Historic Preservation that defined a master as "one who had attained great skill." He said Lewis Bowman had a successful career as an architect and found 30 examples of Bowman's work in architectural journals of the day. He said he was "well respected" and called him a regional master.

Refuting Grauer's claim that the home had been bastardized over time, Dolkhart said that it "Maintains its integrity to a high degree," including the stucco façade, tile roof, and massing." He said that only a small addition with an enclosed porch was out of keeping with the home.

The Board of Trustees did not have enough time to deliberate on December 13 and will meet again in executive session on January 10 at 6:15 pm in executive session to consider the appeal.

The trustees had intended to address Scarsdale's preservation laws this year but were unable to do so due to the conflict about the revaluation. The outcome of this case will be significant for both the owners of 12 Dolma Road and the Village of Scarsdale, which is clearly struggling to preserve its history.

Letter to the Editor: Board Process Lacks Transparency

letterAs a longtime resident of Greenacres and what is fondly referred to as an "empty nester", I have remained interested in the fate of our elementary school. With the understanding that the School Board based upon a careful investigation, would move forward with the passage of a bond in May of 2017 to finance the construction of a new school at Greenacres, I attended the Monday night meeting of the Scarsdale School Board.

I was troubled at the meeting by the lack of process transparency, predetermined thinking, and double talk. My eyes were opened once again this year to a clear need for greater community oversite/involvement and accountability.

Here are my 4 key takeaways:

1. There was no clear articulation of why the existing architect who was vetted by the Board and had extensive school design experience was terminated. Furthermore, what would be the fate of the engineering company that was brought on board?

2. The Board informed us after much discussion that there was to be a new RFP process. Despite the fact that the RFP has not been issued yet, it appears that the Board has short listed and communicated with certain firms. Which firms has the Board talked to? How were these firms identified? And, most critically, what it the program or scope of work with respect to the Greenacres Elementary School that the new firms will submit design proposals against. Will it be a renovation? New school? Both?

3. It appears that there was a predetermined agenda and meeting outcome. When the cumulative impact of the Greenacres deficiencies were presented (e.g., classrooms too small, poor air quality, mechanical systems well beyond their useful life, waste of energy, a shortage of usable public/collaborative learning space) the response was to underscore examples of isolated issues in other schools. However, it is undisputed that none of these schools have the total impact of the problems that face Greenacres.

4. From the discussion, it appears that the Board wants to limit renovation in the Greenacres School to avoid having to bring the entire school up to current code and safety standard compliance. Net, the fixes could simply be a band aid and Greenacres students will ultimately be subjected to buildings with outdated safely codes and live through a potentially hazardous renovation process.

Despite what seems to be two years of investigation and, now a restart, one of the Board members stated that she liked direction of this process. I do not share her enthusiasm. There should be greater transparency on these issues and the direction that the Board intends to take. It appears that the Board already had a preordained agenda, as opposed to being straight with community members.

I am tired of officials not doing what they say, and not saying what they do -- without clear evidence for acting to the contrary. It is critical that we do what is in the best interest of our community's young students and begin to work in an open and honest manner.

Andrea Seiden
72 Greenacres Avenue
Scarsdale, NY 10583

A Bookstore is Back in Town!

bn2Barnes and Noble has debuted a beautiful new store at the Vernon Hills Shopping Center in the space formerly occupied by Borders Books. The site has undergone a stunning renovation and is light, bright and spacious. It includes a coffee and wine bar, a full service restaurant and an outdoor seating area with a fire pit. Customers are even permitted to buy a coffee or a glass of beer or wine and browse the store with drink in hand.

The entry wall features a huge 600 square foot, 432-letter grid including the names of 80 authors which you can search for as you descend the escalator. There's an inviting children'ssection, a roomy central seating area, a wall of cookbooks and a curated selection of titles, hand-picked for this location by the store's staff. If you're looking for something specific there are iPad kiosks around the store which map out where you'll find what you need.

The menu at "Kitchen," Barnes and Noble signature restaurant, includes appetizers to share – like guacamole and meatballs, salads, a soup of the day and some nice comfort food entrees. My friend loved the grilled cheese and tomato soup and there are also burgers, short ribs and salmon. The restaurant is open from 9 am to 10 pm, making it a great place to meet a friend, do business or enjoy a late night bite.bn3

This weekend, the store has planned an ambitious schedule of events to celebrate their opening. There's face painting and balloon art all day on Friday December 2, as well as story time at 11 am with Alyssa Capucilli, the author of Biscuit and at 4 pm, Helen Perlman author of Candy Fairies will lead a candy fest and reading. Hear Jazz sung by Alexis Cole at 6 pm and bring kids in their pajamas at 7 pm for a Polar Express story time and activities. There's lots more in store – see the entire lineup here

The new addition is just what the neighborhood needs and it's sure to be flooded with locals soon.

Barnes and Noble
680 White Plains Road
Scarsdale, NY
914-472-0689

bn1

 

Family Doctor Missing After Boulevard Home is Engulfed in Flames in Scarsdale

fireboulevardDr. John Salimbene, a beloved family practitioner is missing after a raging afternoon fire destroyed his split level home at 174 Boulevard in Scarsdale on Sunday. His wife, Marie Salimbene, age 80, was taken out of the split-level house alive. The fire was reported at 3:22 pm on Sunday December 4th, and it took six fire departments and 70 responders to douse the flames.

Scarsdale Fire Chief Jim Seymour the house was full of clutter that may have fed the fire. News 12 reports that the fire re-ignited at 5:30 pm after firefighters thought it was out. Seymour said that the intense heat of the fire drove firefighters out and prevented them from checking the home for victims.174boulevard

According to a press release from the Scarsdale Fire Department, "The Scarsdale Fire Department mounted an aggressive interior attack, and encountered heavy smoke, fire and heat, as well as a considerable amount of belongings and debris within the residence. One of the residents was treated at the scene and transported to the hospital by Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps. One other occupant of the residence remains missing."

The fire, at the corner of Boulevard and Post Road closed Post Road between Carman and Sprague Roads for hours on Sunday afternoon.

As of Monday morning, firefighters, police and Con Edision workers were still at the scene, checking for hot spots and conducting an investigation. Con Ed had also detected a gas link in the sewage line and was conducting an independent investigation.

Family members were on the scene, salvaging what they could from the home. One Con Edison worker said that the home is so heavily damaged that firefighters will need to take it apart, piece by piece, to search for the missing resident.

(see more here)

boulevardbelongins

Police Chief Urges Residents to Take Measures to Protect their Homes

Full-MailboxChief of Police Andrew Matturo sought to allay the fears of Fox Meadow residents who are worried about recent burglaries in their area, especially a Halloween incident where a masked man entered an occupied home on Kensington Road and surprised the sleeping homeowners in their bedroom.

He reported that there have been 26 burglaries to date this year, with most taking place in the first quarter of 2016. He assured residents that marked and unmarked patrolmen were monitoring targeted areas and that the police are using an optical license plate reader that instantaneously captures plate numbers and matches them to plate number associated with outstanding warrants and crimes.

Matturo said that police work closely with neighboring towns and the Westchester County District Attorney to investigate crimes and analyze evidence. They also monitor property transaction records to link the sale of goods to stolen property. These measures have led to two arrests this year.

He also noted that the number of burglaries has significantly declined from the 1980's and 1990's when there were often 100 burglaries per year.

Matturo urged residents to help to protect themselves by doing the following:

  • Notify the police of any suspicious activity in your neighborhood.
  • Keep your home and garage locked.
  • Use timers to activate lights so that it looks like someone is home.
  • Leave the radio on.
  • Activate your alarm.
  • Install lighting and motion detectors around the perimeter of the house.
  • Keep valuables in a home safe or safe deposit box.
  • Don't leave mail or newspapers lying around.
  • Consider the use of video surveillance.
  • Consider getting a dog as they have been shown to deter burglars.
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