Tuesday, May 23rd

Last updateTue, 23 May 2017 1pm

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Procedure Committee Weighs Changes to Nominating Process

volunteerThis update was submitted to Scarsdale10583 by Max Grudin who chairs the Procedure Committee for the Citizen's Nominating Non-Partisan Party.

Following the much-discussed, contested Village election in March, the 2016 Procedure Committee began its work in early May. The Committee seeks to build on the increased engagement of the election and capture feedback from the Scarsdale community to review what, if any, changes should be made to the Scarsdale electoral process.

The Procedure Committee is an appointed committee of 22 members. It consists of members from each neighborhood in the Village and the ten retiring members of the CNC. It has the responsibilities of setting the schedule for the CNC election, recruiting residents to run for the CNC in each neighborhood, and initiate changes to the Procedures that govern the election. This year's Committee is led by Chairman Max Grudin and Vice Chairman Dan Finger.

Grudin said: "The last election has triggered an active discussion in the community. Our goal is to review and address the issues that have been raised. At the same time, we want to balance that with the long successful tradition of the Non-Partisan system."

At the initial meeting of the Procedure Committee on May 2 the Chairman and Vice Chairman asked each member for their thoughts on the election process and for proposals to improve the Procedures.

During the meeting a number of structural changes to the CNC process were discussed. They include:

  • Respecting the contributions and experience of first term Trustees by giving them either preference in the selection process or ensuring their re-election (barring dereliction) by restoring a long-held policy of the CNC.
  • Having longer interviews with Trustee and Mayoral candidates and allowing questions from individual members of the CNC. Others suggested that candidates be asked questions about issues facing the community, which would be a major change in formal Procedure.
  • Providing stronger guidance to the Chair and Vice Chair of the CNC, which they would communicate to the voting members.
  • Building greater awareness about the Non-Partisan system through publicity and public meetings.
  • Including non-US citizens who are residents of the Village to vote for in the CNC election, although they are not permitted to vote for Trustees and Mayor because the election rules are governed by the State of New York and the U.S. Constitution.
  • Having more than one candidate for each vacant position.

These recommendations will be discussed in more depth at upcoming meetings of the Procedure Committee and must be approved by a majority of the members. Any changes in formal Procedure would then be presented to the entire Forum and members of the public.

By way of background, the contested election in March was not the first in Non-Partisan history, although it was the first in which a write-in candidate prevailed. In 2012, long-time resident Harry Reynolds ran for the Village Board, challenging the CNC process. In 2011, Sharon Lindsay ran a write-in campaign for mayor, challenging the Citizen's Non-Partisan candidate Miriam Flisser, who was elected.

In 1999, Dr. Flisser, Robert Harrison and Jeff Zock ran the first successful challenge to the Citizen's Non-Partisan party, electing Mr. Zock as Trustee. Dr. Flisser and Mr. Harrison were both elected Trustee in subsequent elections.

Members of the community are invited to contact members of the Procedure Committee with feedback and suggestions.

Please contact members of the Procedure Committee with comments.

Edgewood: Elissa Bookner, Charles Chestnut, Linda Killian, Eli Mattioli, Ed Morgan and Matthew Martin. Fox Meadow: Max Grudin, Joan Mazur Kapner, Mary Louise Perlman and Bruce Wells. Greenacres: John Baer, Barry Klayman and Carrie Fishman. Heathcote: Laurent Mintzer, Daniel Finger, David Irwin, Amy Cooper. Quaker Ridge: Diane Chesler, Mary Beth Gose and Michael Gorelick.

Submitted by Max Grudin, mgrudin@gmail.com.

League Addresses The Widening Gap Between Rich And Poor

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The Scarsdale League of Women Voters (LWVS) hosted speaker Felicia Wong at the Scarsdale Golf Club on May 6th. Each year the league invites a speaker to discuss a pressing political issue and this year's topic was income inequality and the widening gap between rich and poor in the United States. League President Deb Morel started the luncheon by recognizing those in attendance including County Legislator Ben Boykin, Village Trustees, past league presidents, current league members and two Scarsdale High School students who were among the 60 attendees.

LWVS8Wong, who is the President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, presented their views on suggested economic and political reforms to decrease inequality and promote shared prosperity, which they believe will improve the overall economy.

The Roosevelt Institute was inspired by the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's policies to reimagine America as "a place where hard work is rewarded, everyone participates, and everyone enjoys a fair share of our collective prosperity." They believe that, "when the rules work against this vision, it's our responsibility to recreate them."

The Roosevelt Institute conducts in depth research in political science, social sciences, and economics to identify how to implement their ideals. Through an active campus network, they bring together multiple generations of intellectual thinkers to empower younger generations to speak up. Recently, Chief Economist of The Roosevelt Institute, Joseph Stiglitz, led the team to publish "Rewrite The Rules", a new book that identifies the roots of inequality and provides a road map to alleviate it. The book calls for a rewrite of the tax code, equal wages for women and minorities, and regulation to ensure equal opportunity.

Wong suggested that the current state of the 2016 election indicates that the country may be ripe for significant social change. She discussed how more radical candidates on both sides of the election, like Trump and Sanders, signify the public's desire for new policies. She argued that "trickle-down" economics has not created shared prosperity and "race-neutral policies" have heightened race and class segregation rather than decreasing barriers for minorities.

Wong argued that excessive and unproductive growth at the top, limited public investment, and lack of specific policies targeted to increase equality cause stagnation at the middle and bottom of the economy. In addition, Ms. Wong debated that now is the best time to act because the presidential election is so different than others in the past.

The Roosevelt Institute's website lists steps our society needs to take in order to reach their goals of equality and shared prosperity in the economy.

  • Reform the tax code
  • Build strong local economies
  • Counter undue influence of financial sector
  • Eradicate child poverty
  • Build worker power and improve working conditions
  • Prepare workers for the new economy


Wong called for the increase of the minimum wage to $15 and addressed the fear that a rise in wages would cause job losses. Instead she said, that "a rising tide raises all boats." She referenced Seattle where a phased-in increase in the minimum wage to $15 has not impacted employment statistics.

Wong also presented the results of recent polls they conducted to assess public opinion about their policies. She reported the following findings:

"84 percent of voters believe that leveling the playing field in favor of working Americans and small businesses will lead to greater economic growth, and raise the incomes and living standards of the middle class and working families. Raising taxes on the CEOs and the wealthy, reforming our financial markets, curbing corporate short-termism, paid leave, and investing in infrastructure all received over 70 percent of public support."

For more information about the Roosevelt Institute and their mission please click here.
and to find out more about the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale click here.

 

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Residents Grill Expert on Second Village-Wide Revaluation

3 Bradford RoadHow will the second village-wide revaluation in Scarsdale differ from the first? That was the question at a three-hour meeting of the Village Board of Trustees on Thursday April 21. Mayor Jon Mark opened the meeting by explaining that John F. Ryan, the man who monitoried the first revaluation and was subsequently hired to conduct the second revaluation, would review his process. Mark said while the first revaluation was done well, the "Second village wide revaluation will smooth some of the rough edges from the first one. We hope this will be an improvement on how things stand. A different modeling approach is going to be used. We will do our utmost to be transparent with this process. The results will be posted on June 1. Mailers will go out on June 2 with property valuations. The mailers will also explain how the number was derived. You won't have to go through the laborious foil process." The meeting was recorded and you can watch it here.

Ryan said, "This process started out almost a year ago. We looked at sales and did an analysis. We focused on updating existing values to market values as of June 2015, but did consider sales that closed up to 3 months after that. We used the latest information possible. We have to set the value as of July 2015."

He continued, "The goals of this revaluation are the same goals of any revaluation:

1) to generate accurate values
2) to generate uniform values

Ryan said, "The Village has the responsibility for uniformity... no one should pay anymore than their fair share.... An assessor went out in the field and reviewed the properties, looking at the characteristics that are most important in assigning values." According to Ryan, "The data from the first evaluation was very good. There was a very high entry rate and it was done very thoroughly."

For this reval, "An assessor rode the entire community and looked at all the properties from the public way. The Village looks at all open permits and the Assessor's Office looked at grievances and also considered new sales data. We will continue to look at the data right up to the June 1 deadline. The letter that you receive will show the data about the property. You will be able to see how your value was derived."

Ryan then displayed the following sales data for the overall number of home sales and for the number of sales of homes priced at $2.9 million and up. He said that they use the median not the mean sale price because it is a better reflection of sales activity in the area. It is evident that the total number of total sales has remained fairly constant.

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Ryan continued, "There is still an active market. We use as many sales as we need to come up with a solid model. The more transparent and understandable the evaluation process is, the wider the acceptance from the public. We don't hide behind statistics – the model should be understandable."

Furthermore, the new model uses fewer factors or variables then the previous one. Ryan said that the previous model had "Too many gradations and too many factors. We minimized the number of gradations. We changed the number of gradations form 43 to 14. We consolidated the neighborhoods significantly. There are no more sub neighborhoods."

He explained, "I know that property owners will be happy that they can use the formula to replicate their value. We value total properties, not land and homes. For vacant lots we need to estimate the value of the built site. Where you do not have an improved property, the assessor has to estimate the value of a built property."

The audience was primarily comprised of people with homes in the Heathcote Association and they were not reassured by Ryan's update. They seemed to be more focussed on the prior revaluation than on the proposed improvements for the upcoming one.

They voiced their unhappiness about a range of issues including:

-The Village's manager's offices failure to do a better job publicizing the meeting.
-Issues with their valuations as determined in the July, 2014 revaluation
-Mistrust of the process
-A perception that the prior revaluation had killed the market for higher priced homes valued at more than $2.9 million in Scarsdale.

Ron Parlato who is both a resident and a builder said, "I learned that the first revaluation was not done properly. I think it was a flawed valuation... There is a bent to come after the wealthy people in this town ... people who give to this town. I am tired of it."

He continued, "I want the board to hire an outside company to tell us what went wrong with our assessment. The market has been destroyed in the upper level."

He continued, "I am on 2.7 acres and I live in 10,000 square foot house with another structure that is 1,200 square feet. I had to hire a lawyer and an appraiser. And I went to court and was dropped from $7.4mm to $6.5mm." He yelled at the Trustees, saying, "The first revaluation was not done properly in this town. Hire an outside expert to do a complete study of the Tyler Assessment... I am really angry – I am a builder and a homeowner. I am not putting up with this anymore."

Parlato's son-in-law Steve Rakoff who is a developer and realtor spoke at length. He repeated many of Parlato's concerns and said, "You have destroyed every persons nest egg in this room." "I want this thing done right. I want the data to be independently analyzed. We have no confidence in $2.9 million and up. The market is limping along. Sales volume is irrelevant. We cannot be in a town that does not want truth and justice."

He continued, "We had a perfect system running for 40 years. We destroyed a billion dollars in equity in this town. On my street there are 7 listings. I say it (the assessment process) was never broken."

About the 2014 revaluation he said, "4,500 homes got a discounted assessment ratio. They got a discount! The ½ acre and smaller lots got a discount."

Peter Katchis of 3 Morris Lane said that he has been here for 48 years. He bought 2.5 acres in 1968. It is a non-conforming lot that is long and narrow. He built his 3,600 square foot home according to zoning regulations, developing an acre and half and leaving the rest as woods. He complained that after the 2014 revaluation his taxes went from $50,000 to $90,000 and he was given an assessed value of $4.1 million. He hired his own assessor who valued the property at $3.1 million but the Village assessor did not reduce his assessment.

Bob Harrison expressed his anger that the meeting was not better publicized and that the new assessed values would not be released until June. He yelled at Ryan, saying "Why can't you spit out the values sooner? You've been working on this since last summer. "What have you been doing for 6-8 months? We have a tax increase. We have elderly people who can't afford an increase in their taxes. People are living on fixed incomes."

Turning to the Trustees he said, "I hope you are going to reduce the tax increase next Tuesday. You are allowed to change that and apply more of the fund balance. You have the money – it should not be in your pocket!"

The Mayor interrupted Harrison, saying "It is not in our pocket. Sit down Bob."

Mary Katchis who has been a broker for over 40 years in Scarsdale/Edgemont said, "There are no sales over $5mm. Something must be done. What should I tell my clients? We can't get a buyer. The taxes are turning many people away."

Watch the entire meeting on the Scarsdale Public Television website here.

A Sweet Treat: Seth Greenberg Shares Baking Secrets

greenbergliveFine baking involves more than simply following a recipe. In a presentation entitled "Just Desserts: Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth," renowned master baker Seth Greenberg demonstrated this point, offering some of the tricks, as well as the treats, of his trade to an eager crowd at the Scarsdale Public Library on Saturday, April 30. The program was the second in a series organized as part of the library's evolving Scarsdale Cookbook Club.

While baking seedless raspberry thumbprint cookies and apricot hamentaschen before an audience of approximately 115 community members, Greenberg revealed various ways in which a combination of top-quality ingredients, the proper tools for each task, and the correct techniques enable one to create an outstanding finished product.

Among other advice, Greenberg recommends greenbergcookiesinvesting in organic sugar and one of the better quality vanilla extracts on the market. Although he is not particularly concerned with the brand of butter used (his only requirement is that it contain a standard fat content, approximately 11 grams per tablespoon), Greenberg does care about the technique employed to cream butter. He suggests that serious cooks invest in an upright, rather than a hand-held mixer, as butter takes up to fifteen minutes to cream properly. Moreover, rather than wait until it has reached room temperature, Greenberg notes that it is best to begin the creaming process while the butter is still somewhat cool.

greenbergsevenlayerFor Greenberg, baking is a family tradition. He is the son of New York City's legendary baker, William Greenberg, Jr. Indeed, Greenberg worked alongside his father for more than 25 years, and their bakery had a devoted following of food critics and customers alike. The New York Times reviewed their apple pie as the best in New York. The Daily News concluded that their cheesecake was the finest in the city. The Greenbergs acquired a reputation for many other products as well, including their schnecken, wedding cakes, brownies, black and white cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and more.

Just as Greenberg learned to bake from his father, Greenberg's older daughter, Stephanie, learned to bake from her father. Stephanie assisted Greenberg with his presentation at the Scarsdale Library, interjecting helpful information (such as the fact that one should use large eggs when baking) and playfully bantering with her father during his talk. Stephanie, moreover, provided the inspiration for Seth Greenberg's Authentic New York Brownie Crunch (www.browniecrunch.com), a product that Greenberg sells on Amazon and in Zabar's, among other venues. Observing his daughter's preference for eating only the crispy outer crust of brownies, a penchant that he too remembered sharing as a child, Greenberg decided to develop this product, which consists of a crunchy brownie edge with none of the middle. Brownie Crunch comes in five flavors.

Although Greenberg enjoys creating new confections --greencbergcheese he created and presented President Clinton with his birthday cake on the then president's 50th birthday--, he also has a passion for teaching others to bake. Greenberg taught Martha Stewart and her viewers to bake his specialty schnecken during a live segment.

At the Scarsdale Public Library presentation, Greenberg showcased both his talent for creating desserts and his gift for teaching students to make them. He assembled an enticing display table, laden with products that comprise a small fraction of the repertoire of treats that he teaches others to make, including chocolate frosted seven-layer cake, lemon bars, vanilla thins, cheese straws, crème brûlée, and pinwheel biscuit-topped cobbler. He invited participants to sample his creations after the presentation, and he also gave each of those who attended an individually packaged goodie bag, containing a brownie, a chocolate chip cookie and, Greenberg's own favorite cookie, a raspberry thumbprint, which students now know how to re-create.

Greenberg offers a variety of baking classes in his West Harrison kitchen. Most of his classes are offered as part of a series, meeting once per week for three weeks. He also teaches a one-session class on wheat-free baking. Greenberg's classes are designed to address the needs of both novices and seasoned bakers. For more information about upcoming classes and private lessons, contact Seth Greenberg at bakingwithseth@gmail.com.

Classic Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

The classic cookie. Seems so simple it could only be a child's favorite yet it remains every adult's first choice.

Ingredients: By weight-

1⁄2 LB. Butter, unsalted

4 oz. Sugar, Granulated

2 Egg Yolks

3/8 Tsp. Salt

1⁄2 Tsp. Vanilla, Pure Extract
11.5oz.* Flour, All Purpose, sifted


By volume:

2 sticks Butter, unsalted

1/2 cup + 11⁄2 TBS Sugar

2 Egg Yolks

3/8 Tsp. Salt

1⁄2 Tsp. Vanilla, Pure Extract
2 1/4 Cups* Flour, sifted
plus Flour for 'bench work'

approx. 12 oz. Jam, Seedless Raspberry
approx. 5/8 of a 20 oz jar


Yield approx: 65 cookies

*Amount of flour will vary depending on heat and humidity. The warmer it is, and the more humid it is, the more flour you will need.

Process:
PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees (convection or traditional). Cover two 18" X 13" baking sheets with baker's parchment.

BEAT together on speed 4 (4 of 10) the butter and sugar until well creamed. Be patient and allow the butter and sugar to truly cream.
ADD vanilla and salt. Continue to beat together.

SCRAPE mixture off sides of bowl and beater and continue mixing.
ADD egg yolks individually to mixture while beating. Allow each to incorporate thoroughly. SCRAPE again. Mix some more until beautifully smooth. STOP.

ADD Flour.

RUN mixer on low speed until batter becomes dough. Dough should pull away from the bottom of the mixing bowl but will not form a traditional ball due to use of the beater instead of a dough hook.


PLACE dough on lightly floured surface.

KNEAD by hand to assure for uniformity.

ROLL out dough to a thickness of 5/8 inch. It is helpful to use dowels or the equivalent as guides for your rolling pin to assure uniform thickness.

CUT cookies of approx. 11⁄2 in. diameter and place on parchment covered baking sheet.

DIVIDE cookies evenly between the two sheets. Collect scraps, knead together, re-roll and continue cutting cookies until all the dough is used.

DEPRESS the center of each cookie using the rounded end of a wooden spoon
handle or equivalent. Dip the end of the handle in flour periodically to prevent it from sticking.
Make your depressions deep and straight, shallow holes do not
hold enough jam. Using a small pastry bag fitted with a No. 4 decorating tip,
FILL generously each depression with raspberry jam.

BAKE cookies for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and the jam bubbles. A convection oven will take less time (16-18 min) and will allow you to bake both sheets at the same time.


REMOVE from oven, let cool on a rack. Enjoy warm.

(Text by Ann Starer, Photos by Beth Greenspan)

Panel Emphasizes the Importance of Community Connectedness in Emergency Reponse

emergency-kitScarsdale was caught off guard in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy took down the power and knocked out Village Hall's communication system. Though Village Managers did manage to send out emails using the school's servers, and used a back-up plan to call residents with daily updates, the situation was far from ideal. Since that time, the Village has taken steps to ensure they will be better prepared in case of another emergency and has also issued recommendations to residents about what they can do to be ready.

This year's Village budget includes funds for a generator for Village Hall and they have also rewired their phone lines so that they have a back-up communication system in case their lines go down.

A group called the Scarsdale Community Support Council was formed to make recommendations on coordinating emergency response efforts and to promote the social and emotional wellness of the community.

The Council joined forced with the Scarsdale Forum on Thursday April 14 to discuss the Village's emergency response plan and increase resident's awareness.

community councilDeputy Village Manager Robert Cole presented the Village's Emergency Management Plan, highlighting the Village's protocols and chain of command. He explained that in times of crisis, local, state and federal authorities can declare a state of emergency that allows for the use of resources to assist local governments and also permits municipalities to recoup their costs following the emergency.

The Village's incident command system provides a framework for communications from the incident commander down to the respondents. He explained that rules for the Unity of Command and Span of Control dictates the command structure, with each supervisor managing only three to five people. The unified command reporting structure requires police, fire and public works commanders to report to one source that assigns priorities.

As a resident, what can you do to ensure your own safety? Cole advises that residents do the following:

Before an emergency: Make plans to be initially self-sufficient

During an emergency: Trust your emergency management official

After an emergency – support your community

robertcoleHe advised all Scarsdale residents to sign up for the Village's Blackboard Management System to receive emergency notifications from the Village of Scarsdale. He recommended that you provide the Village with both your email address and cell phone number, as sometimes texts will go through when email goes down. Here is the link to Blackboard Connect

What else should you do?

Be informed and identify likely local hazards and understand how to access information.
Make a plan with your family on where to meet in case an emergency prevents you from coming home.

Assemble an emergency kit – Click here to see the Red Cross recommendations for what you will need: or visit FEMA for their guidelines.

Keep your important papers in one place so that you can access them in case you need to get out quickly.

Several members of the Community Support Council then held a panel discussion. The panelists included Council Chair Linda Hillman Chayes, Minister Fran Grenley, former President of the Greenacres Association Barry Meiselman and President of the Murray Hill/Middle Heathcote Neighborhood Association, Laura Miller. Chayes explained that the Council was formed five years ago after a cluster of suicides and seeks to develop an interconnected Village support system and promote a greater sense of community in Scarsdale.

They recommended that residents get to know their neighbors, "Not just for emergencies: but because that's what enriches our lives," said Grenley. Meiselman shared how neighbors were able to help one another during the storm, offering shelter to those without heat. He encouraged everyone to get their neighbors contact information so that they can reach out to them in case of an emergency. Laura Miller is working to increase membership in neighborhood associations and encourages everyone to sign up for their own neighborhood association. She said, "We are hoping to hold more events to increase connections, reduce risks and make people feel connected."

Photo Credit: Marjorie Meiman

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