Scarsdale Residents Weigh In on Solar Panels
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 06 September 2016
- Written by Lee Fischman
In light of repeated refusals by the Scarsdale Board of Architectural Review to grant permits for street-facing solar panels on Scarsdale homes, the Board of Trustees asked the Village's Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) to research the community's attitude toward such placements. The Trustees further requested that the CAC look into ways that the permitting and approval process could be made more efficient.
In addition to researching best practices, the CAC has been surveying residents to gauge their feelings about this topic. The four-question survey is still open and the CAC continues to invite participation. It can be accessed on the home page of Scarsdale.com or by clicking here:
With 139 responses received so far, respondents overwhelmingly support an automatic right of residents to install street-facing solar panels:
Interestingly though, respondents believe that not all roof styles should be permitted to accommodate solar panels -- -the number of responses to this question is fewer than the total number of responses.
Numerous comments were also received. Several residents reflected on aesthetic concerns, one writing: "As much as I want to encourage use of alternate sources of energy, solar panels take away from the character of a neighborhood. If people want to add them, that is fine, but they should be obligated to keep them out of sight" while another resident writes: "I am concerned about large ugly construction being permitted in Scarsdale, changing the nature of the neighborhood and adversely affecting neighbors who must view it every day from their windows. To me, solar panels don't look appealing and in general I am opposed to [making] them visible from the street unless I could be assured they would look nice."
All the same, a majority of respondents do favor street-facing installations without review, except perhaps insuring that the panels do not clash with roof materials. Writes one of these respondents: "I think that every homeowner has the right to install panels to reduce energy costs and preserve the environment. Scarsdale Village should not be involved in this decision... it is an overreach. How any municipality can regulate/ban solar panels due to aesthetics is beyond me and I wonder about the legality of such behavior."
Another said, "In the age of global warming it is scandalous that somebody even thinks of opposing solar panels. How can anybody think that the appearance of a house is more important than bequeathing a healthy environment to our children? In fact, the village should do more. It should at a minimum refund all permit application fees for either new construction or renovation projects that turn to geothermal heating and cooling or solar panels."
Another agreed, saying, "I am not sure that the Board should have the right to determine who gets to use the sun and who doesn't. It should expect to pay for the denial of the right. Why should anyone have to pay to subsidize the same rights we are all supposed to have. The village has no right to take from the people without compensation of some sort. Good luck with that. It should take solace in that the technology of solar power and its preservation is not yet at the point of being worth the cost. Leasing the hardware is not worth it."
One resident offered this logic to make the case for street facing panels: "Given that Scarsdale homes tend to be larger than the average home and likely use more electricity and other natural resources, it is important that residents be given the ability to have a less negative impact on the environment. Others may say that installing solar panels will result in lowered home values, but I disagree. Over time, solar panels and other energy efficient measures, will have a positive impact on home values, just as our great schools do."
Other suggested a conciliatory middle road. For example one said, "I've considered it, but the part of my roof that receives the most sun is on the street side. I knew that would be an automatic 'no' from the BAR. If the BAR had some guidelines instead of a blanket ban, I'd be happy to follow them." In fact, the Conservation Advisory Council is currently formulating just such guidelines, so that solar installations in Scarsdale can be more efficiently permitted and with clearer guidance for expediting BAR approval, if and when required. The CAC page also contains a Solar Central section with a growing list of tools and resources to guide residents on installing solar electric panels.
The residential energy landscape continues to rapidly evolve. While solar equipment costs continue their steep decline, subsidies also are being reduced. Meanwhile, there are increasing concerns over the inability of the grid to accomodate varying amounts of power provided by renewable systems that are dependent on the sun and wind. New technologies such as large batteries hold great promise for storing the episodic energy generated by solar panels, or even soaking up energy from the grid when energy is cheaper.
Energy conservation is the most efficient way to green your home. So you know where you stand, Con Ed has recently been publishing comparisons of homeowners' energy use versus their neighbors. Other technologies such as solar water heating, demand response thermostats and more insulation may all be excellent investments for homeowners wishing to save energy and lessen their environmental impact.
As always, the CAC also appeals for volunteers. Its work lies at the heart of maintaining the Village's quality of life through optimal use of open space, greening and other issues of conservation and sustainability. The CAC meets once per month in Scarsdale Village Hall. Apply here to join the CAC.
There's still time to complete the solar survey – respond today.
Revaluation Forges Unlikely Alliances
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 30 August 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
I must confess that I missed the last 15 minutes of the long evening meeting with J.F. Ryan at Village Hall on August 17th. By 11:40 pm I thought I had heard about all I needed to know. But I was wrong. I later found out that as the meeting drew to a close, one speaker called for Village Assessor Nanette Albanese to be replaced. In a rambling speech that I watched on my computer Albanese was charged with having "a Machiavellian approach to taxes," losing "her objectivity," and destroying "$1 billion in wealth in this community over the next three years." The speaker claimed that "The revals have destroyed the market" and "fractionalized the community," and called for Albanese's resignation and the immediate search for a new assessor.
Those comments brought a loud round of applause from the audience.
But I wondered if the people in the audience knew the full backstory of the accelerated timing of the second revaluation and the role of the group they were cheering in having it done?
At the time of the first revaluation in 2014, several members of the Heathcote Association raised serious concerns about Tyler's methodology and argued that the revaluation had shifted too much of the tax burden onto owners of large homes. Before the 2014 revaluation, many of these homes had not been reassessed for decades and there were residents with expansive homes on more than two acres paying lower taxes than owners of homes on half-acre plots. Some enjoyed advantageous tax rates for years at the expense of newer families moving into Scarsdale. Tyler Technologies was retained to conduct the first revaluation and to inspect each home in the Village. They used a comparable sales approach to identify similar homes that were sold and reassess each existing parcel.
At a meeting in May 2014, after Tyler had released the new assessments, members of the Heathcote Association were angry. Here are excerpts from comments in 2014 that sound very similar to complaints about the 2016 revaluation.
David Bunzel said that the 40 homes in the association have been "hardest hit" by the revaluation and that the revaluation was "promised to be fair and transparent" but "it has been just the opposite." He inferred that these homes had been singled out and wanted to know "what instructions were given by the assessor's office to Tyler in terms of targeting and valuing older homes or homes on larger acreage," stating that "homes on larger lots appear to have been targeted for assessment increases well above village-wide averages." He also said that "outliers" were used as comparables ...mostly teardowns."
Ron Parlato said there was "confusion and misinformation" and that the revaluation was done without "transparency and accountability." He proposed a one-year delay.
"What were the checks and balances?" Steve Rakoff asked? He claimed that overstatements on the data cards were made to coerce inspections from residents who had not permitted the inspectors inside. He said "24 valuations went up and 3 went down." He said, "On Morris Lane there were 30-50% increases. There may have been a mistake and land may have been overvalued. These are irregularities from a model that is not carefully thought out." He then questioned the assessor's role and said, "Was there over-involvement?"
At a subsequent meeting on November 19, 2015, this same group brought large spreadsheets to demonstrate how homeowners on smaller parcels were receiving "discounts", while those on lots over an acre were subsidizing them.
They questioned Tyler's process and said they were "Concerned about how the math model was derived. They claimed, "There was an imbalance in their model." Turning to J.F. Ryan who Rakoff supported to do the second revaluation, he said, "The hope of everyone here is to get a fair shake and get it rebalanced so there is equitable assessment throughout the town."
They presented data of recent sales by lot size, and attempted to show that small lots were severely under assessed. About Edgewood they said, "If you have 3 kids in school you are costing the district $70,000 a year and we're collecting $20,000 in taxes so it's a bargain to live here." They argued that Greenacres was discounted 19%, Fox Meadow 21% and small homes in Heathcote homes were selling at 36% more than their assessed values.
About Tyler Technologies they said, "The model was flawed. There are tremendous inconsistencies with the first reval." They hoped Ryan would "get this straight now.," saying, "Real estate needs to be assessed in an equitable manner."
Rakoff objected to the Village's plan to follow NYS recommendations to do frequent revaluation to keep the tax roll at market value. He asked for a "static" assessor's office and said he objected to periodic revaluations as they upset the market.
These complaints, along with shifts in the real estate market, caused the trustees to consider doing a second revaluation in two years rather than four. Market forces had caused a regional slowdown in the sale of high-end homes, while buyers competed to get lower priced homes in the $1 million range. At the time, realtors and some homeowners argued that the reval was the cause of the slowdown, but sales data later showed that this was a regional phenomenon with luxury homes sitting on the market in Westchester and Connecticut. As the Village had received so much criticism about Tyler, they selected J.F. Ryan to do the job. He had overseen the first revaluation and said he would use a direct market model to derive valuations.
So, two years later, at the meeting on August 17, 2016, I found it ironic that many of the applauding homeowners were those that the Heathcote Association claimed were previously getting "a discount."
To me it looks like many of the high-end homeowners got the reductions they wanted, causing hundreds of others to foot the bill. So why was Rakoff now posing as the leader of the aggrieved small homeowners and asking for the assessor's head? And why were the folks who were now footing his tax bill giving him a hand?
Frequent revaluations appear to be on the horizon for Scarsdale. And no doubt, each time one occurs, some will be pleased and others upset at the results. I guess we're just going to have to get used to it.
Clarification from Dorothy Finger
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 10 August 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Below is a follow-up letter from Dorothy Finger concerning her resignation from the Board of Assessment Review:
To the Editor: Although I thought my letter to the Mayor was clear as to what occurred, in order to put an end to the continued speculation please be advised of the following: At the time that I was asked to recuse myself I was not given a reason. I did not question it because I chose not to contradict the judgment of the Mayor and deferred to his wishes. There had been so much discussion and animosity at the recent Board of Trustees meetings that I saw no reason to add any more angst. I believed that discretion was the better part of valor in dealing with these issues and not making more of it when it would serve no purpose. I was not asked to resign at that time and later when the issue of a quorum was raised I was also informed that there was nobody to take my place with the requisite training. When such an individual was found the Mayor requested my resignation and I immediately gave it in the form of the letter which has been published here. It gave my explanation of the situation but that apparently has not been sufficient. I hope that this addendum clarifies what transpired. When I was asked to serve I did so, but if my services were no longer desired then I had no reason not to comply with the request. I believe it is time to close this chapter in Scarsdale history as there is nothing more to be determined and dwelling on these issues is not productive.
Respectfully submitted, Dorothy M. Finger
J.F. Ryan Attempts and Fails to Explain Valuation Model
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 18 August 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
At a packed and heated meeting at Village Hall on August 17th, John F. Ryan, the man who produced the 2016 revaluation, was reprimanded for failing to "show his work," by a frustrated group of residents who sought to understand the derivation of the direct market value he used to significantly alter the assessments of many homes in Scarsdale.
Some feared he would fail to show up, but he appeared as scheduled and sought to answer questions that had previously been sent his way. Despite a smooth presentation about the theory behind the model, he was unable to satisfy an angry group who made a persuasive case that he did a slipshod job on the 2016 revaluation. Ryan showed new data to demonstrate that his model successfully predicts sale prices, but did not reveal the derivation of the coefficients used to build the model. He also claimed that he no longer had any of the reports that were run after the model was formulated and tested, but defended his work contending that his model was a strong predictor of market values. Saying he "attempted to find the best combination of property components to estimate the value" and that he used "appraisal judgment," Ryan implied that he used his expertise, rather than mathematical formulas, to derive the model coefficients. Because the residents were unable to reproduce the output of Ryan's model, they remained highly suspicious of the new valuations and also claimed that the model was significantly biased, causing smaller properties to be over-assessed, and larger ones to be under-assessed
Ryan opened the meeting with a lengthy presentation of his credentials and history with the Village of Scarsdale. He explained that he was originally retained to do project monitoring services on the 2014 revaluation, including on-site quality and vendor collected data review. At the time, he recommended that implementing the 2014 revaluation would improve fairness.
He defended the timing of this second revaluation on the heels of the first one, saying, "New York State recommends cyclical revaluation. It is best management practice to maintain values at market value. There were changes in market conditions since 2013. The assessment required updating to improve fairness (which brought a big boo and hiss from the audience.)" He added that there were concerns in the 2014 revaluation about the 48 sub-neighborhoods created by Tyler. In Ryan's model for 2016 these were condensed into 16 sub-neighborhoods.
Ryan explained that in 2014 Tyler Technologies employed automated comparable sales using seven value indicators (or combinations thereof). He said, that the 2014 revaluation was "an opaque process that is difficult for the appraiser's office to maintain because the assessor can't get into the head of the field reviewer." He explained, "for the 2016 revaluation, it was made clear to us that we needed a more clear, more transparent process for the assessors office and the residents." This statement also brought boos from the vocal crowd, as they bemoaned the lack of transparency in Ryan's approach.
Critics were keen to find out why so many sales had been thrown out of the model, and both Ryan and Albanese sought to explain the wide variety of reasons that over 100 sales were discarded. They said that out of the 499 sales during that period, 395 were considered valid sales and used to build the model, but only 220 were used to validate it. Some of the reasons sales were thrown out were because properties straddled neighborhoods, no money was transferred, buyers and sellers were related, they were not arms length transactions or the properties were knocked down or changed in condition following the sale.
Though the assessor said that invalidation codes were provided for each sale that was discarded, that data has not been made public. This was also a cause for concern for those who spent many hours trying to understand the model and reproduce the results.
Ryan gave a lengthy defense of his qualifications and those of the others who worked on the revaluation. He explained that the original team included Roland Gosselin, who discovered he had a stage four glioblastoma (brain tumor) in January and was not able to work. In his place, they hired Gerd Semmelroggan, an unlicensed residential appraiser, to do the drive bys for the revaluation.
He explained the factors that went into the model, but did not provide the derivation of the coefficients that were used in it. Particularly troubling to the group, were the neighborhood coefficients that assigned a 1.3 to Fox Meadow, thereby boosting valuations for that neighborhood.
In the week prior to the meeting, the Mayor had said that all questions for Ryan should be submitted on index cards to the Village Staff, who would sort through them and pose questions at the meeting. However, there were loud objections to that procedure by some who wanted to verbally question Ryan at the meeting. The Mayor ultimately relented and it quickly became clear why these residents wanted the opportunity to speak. Their questions, and statements veered away from the statistical model to direct attacks on Ryan, his credentials, his staff, the history of other revaluations he conducted and his relationship with Ms. Albanese. In fact, rather than a Q&A, portions of the meeting felt more like a court martial, with residents cross-examining Albanese, Ryan, the Mayor, Trustees and the Village Attorney.
Josh Frankel who has been a vocal opponent of the 2016 reval said, "42% of the sales are invalid. .... These need to be documented. No one knows where the missing sales went. The law says that no more than 10-20% of outliers should be trimmed. I don't see the explanation."
Albanese explained, "There are no missing sales. There was a misunderstanding about the number of sales that were used to test the model. The numbers are accurate." Her voice cracked as she pleaded with Frankel, saying, "Josh --what other possible explanation could there be?"
Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez who has led the campaign to discredit Ryan and void the revaluation came to the mic to take on Ryan and Albanese. She revealed that Gerd Semmelroggan had been arrested during the time he worked in Scarsdale. Rodriguez sought to make the Village Managers, Albanese and Ryan look irresponsible. She charged, "How could you not know he was arrested? Were you aware that Gerd was driving around after he was arrested?" She implied that he posed a danger to the residents and also worked three less days due to the arrest. Village Attorney Wayne Essanason defended the village, saying, "We can only know he was arrested when we're told! These charges are allegations. There are two sides to every story. It is improper and incorrect for you to imply that the community was threatened. The crime itself is a landlord-tenant dispute. It does not include burglary or dishonesty."
Essanason said a person is presumed innocent until guilty, while Kirkendall-Rodriguez insisted that Semmelroggan must have had a Scarsdale badge with him at the time of his arrest and therefore, the Village should have been advised.
Kai-Hong Teng also sought to demonstrate that Ryan had failed to fulfill his contract. He grilled him on the academic credentials of those he had hired, and brought up several prior assessments conducted by Ryan that were contested. He said, "In 2006 Rockingham Vermont found that your assessments were wrong." In Westport, CT, the reval had to be delayed and postponed." Ryan defended both saying that in Vermont, the department had the wrong timing and in Connecticut there were political issues. Teng then turned to Albanese and said, "Did you interview anyone else for this job?" Inferring that she spent too little time vetting Ryan, he said, "How long do you spend buying a new car?" Referring to FOILED emails, he asked Albanese about a dinner she had with Ryan, and said, "Did you discuss the revaluation? .... Did you receive gifts from Ryan?..... In January 2015 you sent an email to Ryan saying that the second revaluation had passed and that you "were in a tizzy." Why were you excited about this extra workload?" He continued his relentless attack, saying "Why were you spying on residents? At a meeting in June you were in the back of the room ... you remained silent."
Michael Levine, a statistician who has spent many hours analyzing the models used for both revaluations asked Ryan if he ran the reports on Village computers or on his own system. Ryan said they were run on his computer and that he had no reports. Levine responded, "I would think it would be standard practice to save the reports," to which Ryan replied, "The proof is in the pudding." Near the conclusion of the meeting, at around 11:15 pm, Levine returned to the mike to question Ryan further. He said, "What bothers me is you are not disclosing the derivation of every aspect of your model. We expected a soup to nuts explanation of the model. Now you are saying you can't reproduce it. You can't explain where the elements of the model come from and how were they mathematically derived. ... Where is the math beyond the coefficients" (You should have said) "Here is the program, here is the program output. All of that should have been documented."
Jane Curley, another expert in modeling who has recently been appointed to the Board of Assessment Review to rule on grievances also questioned Ryan. She said,
"There is an inconsistency between forcing insignificant variables and saying your model is better than Tyler's. Is this square footage model workable across homes from 1500 to 5000 square feet? Did you do an analysis of contributory value of varying factors?"
Curley said that she used updated sales data to test the model and got a PRD of 1.3, demonstrating that lower value homes are over-assessed. (Note: The relative inequity between appraisals of high-dollar and low-dollar property is measured by the price related differential (PRD)). Ryan repeatedly claimed that using the PRD was not "standard practice," but several of the statisticians who spoke, used this to demonstrate flaws in Ryan's model. She continued, "All the lots on Hamilton are valued at 10% more than Nelson. Is this a "traffic adjustment?" Are the people on Hamilton spending $2,500 too much or too little?"
Several speakers, including Norm Bernstein and Howard Weitz called for the Board of Trustees to invalidate or nullify the 2016 revaluation and revert back to 2014 valuations. They suggested that since Ryan had not fulfilled his contract, the reval could be thrown out. In response, Village Attorney Wayne Essanason read a legal opinion he obtained from the state. He explained that the "Town board has no authority to substitute its judgment for the assessors. You can't say because the contract is bad, the assessment is bad. This board has no authority to substitute their judgment for the assessors." He added that residents can bring their grievances to court for a SCARS proceeding or file an article 7 hearing in Supreme Court.
Other speakers failed to understand New York State law and suggested that Scarsdale use another methodology to value properties. Sparing no words, builder Bobby Ben Simon attacked Ryan, saying, "Hiring you was a major mistake. Your entire business is fraud. You are trying to put the real estate market in a box...The only way you can evaluate the real estate market is by the sales ...There is no other method....you are making all kinds of assumptions and throwing it back on the taxpayer. Scarsdale is unique. There is a reason that a half acre costs different amounts on either side of town. You need to base your model on sales like California and Florida."
Ellen Neidig from Black Birch Lane, said, "This was supposed to be an update to address the outliers. This was just supposed to be a tweak. How is it that such a large number of residences changed? Why was this necessary to completely disassemble Tyler's work? The results were completely outside what we had expected."
As the meeting drew to a close, Ron Parlato of Sherbrooke Road, another developer and homeowner who leads the Heathcote Association, where 40 of some of the most expensive homes in Scarsdale are located, said that in the 2014 reval, these homes were over-assessed. He said, "We showed that the smaller lots got a discount." He said "we brought a lawsuit against the Village of Scarsdale and won." He continued, "The town and the board have been victimized by two revals," which brought a round of applause. It was not clear from him comment whether Parlato personally challenged his own appraisal or brought a lawsuit on behalf of the Heathcote Association, so we checked with the Village and learned that the Heathcote Association as a whole had not challenged the village.
Parlato may have hinted at the real explanation of why this second reval was planned just months after the first one was completed. Vociferous claims from Scarsdale's wealthiest residents, including the Heathcote Association, were cited as justification for the redo. The Heathcote Association presented voluminous data and charts which they claimed demonstrated that those on the high end were bearing too much of the tax burden and supporting those in more modest homes. The only way the Board could address this complaint was to conduct a second revaluation, which the Assessor and Ryan billed as a tweak or fine-tuning. However, because Ryan decided to use a new and untested model, this second revaluation resulted in more than a 10% change in valuation for 49% of Scarsdale's homeowners.
At the end of the meeting, the Mayor indicated that no action would be taken by the Board to nullify or rescind the revaluation, but suggested that this board or a future board might appoint a committee of qualified residents to examine the issues and make recommendations for future revaluations in Scarsdale.
Though it appeared that this meeting might bring the discussion to a close, as I left at 11:40 pm I heard residents in the parking lot organizing a lawsuit against the trustees. If that comes to pass, Scarsdale taxpayers will undoubtedly bear the burden of the defense.
Comments are welcome - but please include your name and address.
Dorothy Finger Explains Her Resignation from the BAR
- Category: Village Voices
- Published on 03 August 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
This letter was sent to the Mayor and the Board of Trustees by Dorothy Finger, a former member of the Board of Assessment Review.
DOROTHY M. FINGER
27 Sheldrake Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
July 20, 2016
Dear Mayor Mark and The Board of Trustees of the Village of Scarsdale,
It is with great sadness that I hereby tender my resignation from the Board of Assessment Review. Although I am personally and professionally qualified and believe I made a significant contribution to that board, the events of the last several months, precipitated by the unprofessional conduct of Robert Berg who also sits on the Board and who should also resign, have forced the Mayor into the position of requesting first my recusal from this year's deliberations and now that a replacement has been found, my resignation. I chose not to answer the various critics before this time because I did not want to embarrass others. However, now that ilie matter is being formally resolved I believe it is important to do so
I have lived in Scarsdale for 47 years (one could say my entire adult life) and I have loved Scarsdale all of that time. I raised three children here and they have all chosen to make their homes here. I have six grandchildren in the Scarsdale school system. I guess I am lucky. I have enjoyed my service on many boards and councils, as Chairman at one time of the Scarsdale Democratic 'Committee, and as Trustee myself. Many of my fellow Trustees have since moved from Scarsdale but while I have dedicated myself in recent years to other causes, I have continued to give of my time to continue to serve the community, most recently on the Board of Assessment Review.
With all of that in mind, I need first to reflect on a few broader issues. The Non-Partisan System has, in general, worked well even though I admittedly criticized various aspects over the years and recall that I was in the forefront of a movement to admit women into the Town Club, the repository of the system. I have known most of the "players" in Scarsdale over the years until recently as younger people moved into the community and I became more of a "grandma" and less active in community affairs. I have known Bob Harrison for 40 years, give or take, and never publicly criticized him even though I offered him advice privately and certainly had many opportunities to offer public statements about his conduct. I mention this so that whatever I say here is not misconstrued with regard to Bob Harrison or Bob Berg whom I only met last year while serving on the BAR. I have no personal animosity but with regard to the present issues they have overstepped many lines.
Thus, it is with some historical and personal perspective that I am qualified to comment on recent events and conduct. It is important to discuss the "reval" and the second "reval" in connection with the issue of my resignation. I obviously had nothing to do with either "reval" and last year's Board of Assessment Review process seemed to proceed in an orderly and fair manner. There were times when it was difficult to get a quorum then because members planned vacations and did not attend every meeting. That was the case again this year when Mr. Berg was on vacation, a fact which escaped mention during his recent public comments about scheduling meetings during which I understand I was disparaged. Similarly, there were other Board Members with scheduling issues. The implication that the only reason a recent meeting was rescheduled was my recusal is simply untrue as it was scheduled after my recusal and it was never anticipated that I would attend. Other Board Members, such as Bob Berg were unavailable and that is why there was no quorum. As long as I am resigning the record should be set straight. I would suggest that. in the. future members do not schedule vacations during the period that they will be needed to review grievances.
While I was serving last year, there was a second "reval" being done the results of which came out in time for this year's grievances to be filed. (Meanwhile, Bob Berg has continued his public attacks on the second reval and on me despite never even contacting me to discuss the matter.) I believe that he is entitled to his opinions on this matter but he should not then sit on the BAR which is sitting in judgment on those very cases assessed by the method he has repeatedly impugned. He has an obvious and blatant bias about the whole process and cannot look at individual cases on their merits. In fact, the presumption that BAR members are suppose4 to be guided by is that the assessment is valid until a grievance has been filed in an individual case and a determination made on the appropriate evidence. While we all harbor personal views, Bob Berg's views demonstrate the antithesis of what his perspective should be as a member of the BAR. Admittedly the job of the BAR is more difficult this year given all of the various reviews of the "revaluation" and the analysis by some very bright individuals in the community. However, a BAR member should not be prejudging based on his or her view of the matter which is clearly what has happened.
I harbored no such predisposition about the reval but just as Grievance Day was about to begin the Mayor and Village attorney asked me to recuse myself from this year's proceedings. I believe that this was a result of the pressure being brought by Bob Berg and Bob Harrison. I agreed to do so even though I did not believe it was necessary or required. There was no reason to question my judgment and I had made no comments about the "revaluation" either way. I was impartial. However, since I was asked I agreed to as they asked. I did think they should have asked the same of Bob Berg but as far as I know they did not. When thereafter the BAR did not have a quorum due to Bob Berg's vacation and/or other personal commitments, I was unavailable to serve as I could not undo the recusal which had been requested of me. It was suggested that I "unrecuse" myself so that I could appear and there could be a quorum but not vote on the cases. This was simply untenable if not impossible and would only lead to more confusion and issues. Nonetheless I have observed that Bob Harrison has seen fit to publicly criticize me evidently without knowing the facts and without so much as calling me to ask. A simple phone call after 40 years would have certainly provided him sufficient information to assess the situation accurately. I leave it to others to determine his motivations. The same is true of Bob Berg whose vacation plans were just as responsible for the lack of a quorum.
While I certainly regret the inconvenience caused to residents by these events, I understand that there was nobody to fill my seat on the Board of Assessment Review until now. I suppose it should not be a surprise that no prior member of the Board of Assessment Review was interested in being reappointed, given the tenor of the events and the recent public meetings. In my many years in Scarsdale I have seen most people conduct themselves in a direct yet polite and respectful manner, understanding that we all want what is best for Scarsdale. It is with disappointment that I see recent events and conduct to be substantially less civil at best and with little regard for the consequences or impact on our volunteers who have always been the backbone of Scarsdale. Volunteerism in Scarsdale has been a hallmark of our community but I cannot help but wonder if we continue to treat our neighbors in this way whether we will be able to rely on that spirit in the future. I also must comment that I am most disturbed by our present tendency to respond to those who "scream the loudest" rather than on substance which, I submit, may have changed the entire course of these events.
Dorothy M. Finger