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Volunteers Needed to Plant Village Field

Secor Palmer photorama3The Village of Scarsdale, its Conservation Advisory Council and the Friends of Scarsdale Parks are working to transform an unused grass field at Palmer and Secor into a beautiful native landscape. The field will be planted as a meadow next spring, which will support butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Plans also call for a path along the meadow to appreciate the resulting natural wonderland.

This fall they will restore the area next to the field into a healthy native woodland with trees, shrubs and perennials, which will also provide important habitat to many creatures including birds. This is an important environmental project that will benefit the community for many years to come. Volunteer just a few hours of your time and take pride in having helped accomplish this important natural project.

They need your help with planting on Saturday October 8th and Sunday October 9th. Bring your own gloves, trowels and shovels, or we will provide them. Volunteers are needed for these time slots:

Saturday, October 8
10 am - 1:30 pm
1:30 pm - 5 pm

Sunday, October 9
10 am - 1:30 pm
1:30 pm - 5 pm

To get this community project accomplished we need your help! Sign up here or email VillageOfScarsdaleCAC@gmail.com.

This is a wonderful parent and child activity. Please share this information with anyone else who you think might be interested. Volunteers under 16 years old should be accompanied by an adult who's ready to dig! Please bring your own trowel if you own one.

Swim for My Sisters' Place

sternOn Friday, September 23, 2016, local resident Amy Stern will embark on a 5K swim challenge to raise money for the Westchester-based not-for-profit, My Sisters' Place.
My Sisters' Place supports victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and human trafficking, in seeking safety, self-determination, and justice. The organization provides direct support services such as temporary housing, counseling, and legal support to victims and their children. My Sisters' Place also promotes prevention with a special emphasis on youth.

Ms. Stern, who is a semi-retired telecommunications consultant, has done 5K swim challenges 5 other times, including three times across the Hudson River. This year's 5K swim challenge will take place in the pool of the JCC Mid-Westchester.

To donate, please click here:

For more information please see www.mspny.org.

Police Arrest Four for Unlicensed Massage

massageGreenburgh Police made more arrests at "Day Spas" on Central Avenue just prior to the Labor Day Weekend on Friday September 2. After a short-term investigation by the Greenburgh Police Drug and Alcohol Task Force, Detective Division and Street Crime Unit , four people were arrested at two spas for failing to have licenses to work as massage therapists. No licensed masseuse was on the premises at either location at the time of the arrests. The arrests were made at Jade Spa at 698 South Central Avenue, Scarsdale and Charming Spa, 390 South Central Avenue Scarsdale. The four subjects were taken to police headquarters where they were booked, processed and released on bail.

Arrested were:

  • Meihua Tai of Flushing, N.Y.
  • Hong-Jin Jong of Flushing, N.Y.
  • Jung Ae Kim of Flushing, NY
  • In Sim Hwang of Palisade Park, NJ

Police make these arrests periodically, with similar incidents occurring in August 2013, March 2015, and August 2015. A new law was adopted by the Greenburgh Town Board in November 2015 that will allso the town to close unlicensed massage parlors.

Letter to the Editor: Legislators Should Rollback the Reval

letter-to-the-editorWakefield Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
September 8, 2016

To the Editor of Scarsdale 10583:

Scarsdale residents have just lived through a long and frustrating summer of outrage, challenge, exploration, and learning with regard to the Village's 2016 property tax revaluation. Through many public meetings, FOIL requests, news articles, and social media, we have learned a lot about the poor quality of preparation and execution of the reassessment process. Now it is September, final property evaluation numbers are due to New York State authorities, and we still have no remedy in sight.

Many of us have urged Village leaders to roll back the assessment to that used for the 2015 assessments, which would undo the disastrous 2016 revaluation. As far as I can tell, while New York State laws do not specifically provide for rollback of evaluations, they also do not forbid it. The immediate problem is one of time—to agree on a remedy and for the Assessor's office to correct the tax records—before filing completed reports with the New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services.

Accordingly, I ask Scarsdale Village tax payers to join me in asking our State legislators—Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Representative Amy Paulin—to very quickly introduce and pursue emergency legislation authorizing the rollback and authorizing Scarsdale Village to provide final assessment numbers 90 or 120 days after the typical September date such data are due to NYS Office of Taxation and Finance. This would give the breathing room for the action that is needed: the rollback.

Sincerely,

Michele Braun

Residents Continue to Press Trustees To Void the 2016 Revaluation

FairnessThough the Mayor and Trustees sought to assure angry residents that they were doing all they could to ameliorate the effects of the 2016 revaluation, attendants at the 8-9 meeting of the Board of Trustees continued to grill the Board about the details of the revaluation and press for it to be voided or invalidated.

The Mayor opened the meeting by citing the reaction to the 2014 revaluation, and echoed comments that were similar to those received after the 2016 reval, including "The substance of the model formula is goofy!." He also said that the Town of Greenburgh is receiving lots of criticism about a reval recently completed there by Tyler Technologies. He said that residents can seek redress through the grievance process and suggested that the board could appoint a committee of knowledgeable residents to offer input on a future revaluation.

The Mayor also noted that if this revaluation was voided and assessments were rolled back to the 2015 valuations, any new construction and renovations since that time would not be included in the new valuation.

He said that J.F. Ryan will be at Village Hall on Wednesday August 17 and that questions have already been submitted to him. Any further questions will need to be submitted on notecards to prevent repeating the same questions. Attendees will not have the opportunity to question Ryan or Albanese at the microphone. The meeting will be recorded and streamed online.

Turning to the recusal of Dorothy Finger from the Board of Assessment Review, he thanked her for "years of dedicated service to the Village." He explained that as a result of Bob Berg's call for Finger's son Carl to recuse himself from the vote on the Homestead Act, the Board of Trustees saw a potential for a conflict of interest in having Dorothy Finger rule on grievance applications. Though they did not believe there was a conflict of interest, the Board of Trustees believed that her recusal "would be consistent with the Village's code of ethics." He said, "It was solely an appearance issue."

Trustee Jane Veron read a prepared statement about the revaluation, saying, "I strongly believe you have the right to seek answers to your questions....we value your collective wisdom....we are listening attentively....We have been working diligently throughout the summer."

She reminded the group, that the "...decision to do the second revaluation was in response to vehement complaints from a different group of residents who felt they had been unfairly assessed." She said they also had many questions for Ryan about why sales were eliminated, on how he came up with the neighborhood coefficients and questions about his contract, however they had to address the grievance process first. She said, "Our board does not have the authority to discard an assessment role....We all desire a fair outcome and a stable assessment roll."

Trustee Matt Callaghan spoke in defense of Dorothy Finger, saying, "I have known Dorothy Finger for most of her adult life in Scarsdale. It makes me mad when I see a person of estimable character having to step aside." She got "all in. ... Due to the shenanigans surrounding the revaluation she chose to step aside – that took a lot of courage."

Bill Stern concurred: "Dorothy Finger is an unusual woman who gave selflessly. There is dedication to public service in the whole family. It is very unfortunate – we lost a dedicated public servant. We should honor her for her service. We shouldn't rush to judgment. We shouldn't make assumptions. It's a tragedy."

Turning to the reval, Stern said, "I addressed the angst of this board and I was attacked for that. No one has the right to tell you how you feel. This board feels the anger and frustration – and we ourselves are residents. And we have the same issues. We have been working hard to try to get some answers. We are investigating this thing to the ends of the earth and hope to come to some conclusions about it. We welcome criticisms, constructive contributions. We know where we stand, what we can do legally and what we can do and cannot do. I encourage you all to come when Ryan addresses the Board."

Trustee Deb Pekarek assured the audience that "We listen to all of our citizens. But just because you have said something does not mean we decide in your suggested way... We thought the Ryan reval would tweak the Tyler reval which was good but not perfect....There were no nefarious thoughts or actions....Your comments and concerns weigh heavily on us....When we do this again we will do it differently....We appreciate your time, energy and knowledge.. We have also invested time and energy and we all have had sleepless nights...Contrary to many of the comments, this is not political...There was no hidden agenda nor bias toward anyone in this exercise."

Pekarek continued, "Based on several comments and the attitude of some, I am personally appalled. We love Scarsdale, this is our home. None of us are happy about the current undertones. But to make derogatory innuendos and a negative comments should be beneath us as individuals.. If character is destiny shouldn't we be more civil to each other? There is so much to learn from this."

Trustee Marc Samwick agreed with the Mayor, and said, "After the 2014 revaluation, we were in a very similar position. We attempted to remedy it. What seemed like the natural approach to fixing it, turned out not to be. I think a committee of residents is critical to the next one."

The public comments section of the meeting lasted more than two hours, and you can watch it in its entirety here. However here are excerpts from some of the statements:

Robert Berg reported that the Board of Assessment Review (BAR) has already reviewed 650 of the 1050 grievances submitted. He chided Mayor Mark for "interfering with the BAR's process," criticizing him for asking Dorothy Finger to recuse herself and ultimately resign and for stating that the deadline for the submission of grievance materials was September 1." The Mayor defended himself, saying he was "not meddling," and Trustee Stern said he "found it curious" that Berg invited the Mayor and Trustee Veron to attend a grievance hearing.

Phillip Mailer, a 45 year resident of Scarsdale was highly critical of the revaluation and Village management. He claimed that "the market is destroyed, homes are not moving and his taxes have gone up 30%." He asked the Village to use reserve funds, questioned the need for a triple bond AAA rating and said Scarsdale has "the worst roads in Westchester," citing the condition of Weaver Street which Mayor Mark pointed out is a state road. He believes there are too many people on the payroll at Village Hall, questioned the need for a staff of four in the assessor's office and said "The assessor has caused so many problems." Village Manager Pappalardo invited Mailer to sit down him for a review of the Village budget at a later time.

Josh Frankel called the assessment "sloppy work" and pointed to the fact that there is a dramatic assessment increase for homes that are on over 1 acre. He questioned the invalidated sales and the lack of documentation to support it. He said, "It is no longer possible to accept this revaluation as tenable. The board should rescind this immediately."

Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez provided a lengthy account of what she learned when she reviewed Ryan's contract and FOILED emails between Ryan and Albanese dating back to 2012. She argued that Ryan had failed to live up to his contract and that Albanese had failed to provide oversight of his work. She also brought to light conversations with John Wolham of the NYS Real Property Office where Ryan and Albanese argued for use of the direct market model that was not used in New York State, and advocated for this second reval in just two years, when the office recommends a wait of four years.

Saying that "Nanette has been allowed to run her office as if she were an omnipotent khan in some far flung corner of the Mongol empire," she criticized Village managers for failing to supervise her, and also believed that Ryan and his workers had been permitted access to Village systems and posed a security risk. She ended by saying, "You are going to need a lot of detergent to clean up the mess in the assessor's office." You can read her comments in their entirety here.

Michael Kerr of 15 Fox Meadow Road took on the Trustees, saying, "I have heard a lot about the tone. I wish you could see all of your faces and understand the tone that you are projecting..... Mr. Callaghan is upset that people stamp their feet – that's gall .. I have the right to stamp my feet!...I wonder if you will write a check for the money I now owe the assessor. ...The appearance of impropriety is important.
I think the tone would be different if you had not circled your wagons....This is a tweak like an iceberg tweaked the Titanic....These emails make me sick....From where I stand, none of you have done anything. Honestly you got spanked. You should be proud of the people who did the work. The results you got were so off – why do we have the assessor's department?"

Barbara Wabback of 11 Windmill Lane said,, "I came here to bring up old business.
I bought house in 1972 and it was valued at $15,000...we discovered we were in a flood zone. Thereafter we had floods coming up from the toilet" She explained that she had hired a lawyer to grieve her assessment after the first revaluation and it was revised to $925,000, but under the 2016 revaluation it was raised to $1,125,000. She explained that due to the illness and death of her husband she missed the deadline to grieve her new assessment.

High School student Alex Mazer from Church Lane said "I am unnerved by the way the reval was handled from the start..... At this point, the board is a puppet to the wealthy elite and developers.... The Tyler reval was not perfect – but no model is perfect for everyone. There will always be people who are upset. This reval does not include many sales and there is a huge void in the information. This model needs to be proven and tested before it wreaks havoc.. We cannot wait for this to get worse and we cannot let this become the status quo."

Howard Weitz of Lawrence Road called for the trustees to void Ryan's contract and throw out the 2016 revaluation. He criticized the Board for not acting because they feared potential lawsuits.

Bob Harrison said, "Mr. Ryan has put us through hell. I think you should tell him to come here in early September when we're all back. Mayor Mark replied, "It's the summer for us too – we live in the same hemisphere as you do. We will record it and play it – we need to seize the opportunity to get him here at all." Harrsion then reviewed numbers for the sales that were invalidated and said, "Based on the facts and the emails you should be suing JF Ryan for the $245,000 contract – for breach of contract and malfeasance."

Michael Levine sought to explain the missing sales, saying that about 68 of these were homes where the sale was made but the building character subsequently changed due to construction. He criticized Ryan for failing to use the data on these 68 homes in their condition at the time of sale, rather than discarding them from the model.

Ned Baturin of 23 Fox Meadow Road said he did his own analysis of the 220 homes in the model and found that there was "fundamental unfairness in the model" as small homes are overvalued and larger homes were undervalued. He called this "vertical inequity" that could have been caught and removed.

Ron Parlato, who called for this second revaluation, believing that the larger homes had been unfairly assessed in the 2014 revaluation, called on the trustees to hire an outside attorney to evaluate this revaluation as well as the 2014 valuation. Steve Rakoff, who was also a proponent for the second revaluation said, "We are losing our value as a premiere community in Westchester," and called for new leadership in the assessor's office.

At the conclusion of the public comments section, both Brice and Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez complained that the format of next week's meeting with J.F. Ryan was "restrictive" and said the trustees were treating them like children. They asked to be able to question Ryan and Albanese directly.

The meeting with J.F. .Ryan and Village Assessor Nanette Albanese will be held at 6:55 pm on Wednesday August 17th at Scarsdale Village Hall.

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