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Victoria Gearity and Liz Fried working with studentsVictoria Gearity and Councilwoman Liz Fried spoke with the students.On April 19, 43 high school girls from across Westchester County met with 16 female elected officials to learn about running for political office. The seventh annual Running and Winning workshop was funded by the Westchester Community Foundation and sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westchester, the American Association of University Women, and the YWCA of White Plains & Central Westchester.


The junior and senior girls listened closely to the female elected officials who included members of the State Senate and Assembly, and officials at the county, city, town and village levels. State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins reflected on high school students’ growing political activism, “You are already speaking truth to power. Your biggest decision is how far you want to go, and how high you want to run.”

Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg continued the encouragement, “Young women think they need to know everything before doing anything. But there is a lot of support for you out there.”

There was no sugarcoating of the challenges. “I’m labeled as divisive when I’m outspoken,” said Mount Vernon Councilwoman Farquharson. She offered practical advice: do not make decisions based on wanting to be re-elected. “I freed myself from that limitation. I will make decisions based on what is good for the community.” Briarcliff Manor High School Senior Jane Tilles commented, “I loved when she [Farquharson] quoted Shirley Chisholm, ‘If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.’” Cynthia Constantinou, Briarcliff Manor Senior, agreed. “We need to have more active and assertive women making space for themselves. The role models here today cemented a new awareness of women in politics.”Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins addressing studentsSenator Andrea Stewart Cousins also addressed the girls.

The officials shared their personal stories and motivation for running. They encouraged girls to follow their passions. Virginia Perez, County Board of Legislators, told them that “women run for office because something happened in their lives.” After her brother was murdered by gang members, she ran to enact policies that could “save two people: the person who won’t make the mistake in the first place, and the person who would have been their victim.” Perez told the students that while she was proud of her work in politics, “I’ll be a lot more proud when I vote for you.”

Liz Fried, New Rochelle City Council, addressed one of the biggest challenges identified by the officials – raising campaign funds – while echoing Perez’s encouragement. “When you ask for money to run, remember that they are not giving to you as an individual, but as a pathway to community.”

Janes Tilles and Cynthia ConstantinouJanes Tilles and Cynthia ConstantinouConstantinou acknowledged that her generation faces challenges in addition to fund-raising, “Sometimes there is a stigma that teens can be lazy or have short attention spans. Underestimate us all you want, but we are changing things. Our generation will have an impact on politics.” Fried invited that impact, “Don’t feel guilty. Don’t be shy. Put on your sneakers and run.”

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mapnodeThe proposed installation sites are indicated by the diamonds.In its shortest meeting since February, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees reviewed a variety of issues of public interest, and addressed a number of finance, legal, personnel and municipal services matters. Although the session was relatively routine in nature, it yielded some notable highlights.

Antenna Installation

Dropped calls may be a thing of the past in Scarsdale if the Village opts to permit the installation of ten new antenna nodes around town. Prior to the Village Board meeting on May 8, the law and land use committee reviewed a proposal from Crown Castle. They are an independent contractor that builds the structure as a neutral provider so cell phone carriers can transmit their service over fiber optic lines. As they are neutral, no single carrier gets priority over another. In order to build these antennas, however, Crown Castle will need to get a franchise agreement with the village.

The installation of a node consists of two parts: the antenna and the corresponding box. The antenna comes in two designs: a poll top which is 48” high and 8” in diameter, and a commercial zone design, which is 24” high and 14” in diameter. The box, which will be attached to the poll containing the antenna, will be 42” high, 24” long, and 12” deep. The box will be made of fiberglass with rounded corners. The height of antenna is necessary to maximize coverage.

20180509144511820 0001A rendering of what the antenna would look like at one of the proposed sites on 81 Brookby Road.Currently, Crown Castle is proposing to build the antennas on ten new sites in the village that were identified through a thorough gap analysis to maximize coverage. The areas identified in the map were found to have had the weakest cell service. Additionally, each node is designed for collocation, meaning multiple carriers will be able to transmit service on a single node. Current infrastructure allows for the support of two carriers, but support for three or four carriers could be made possible in the future but would require more equipment to cover more ranges to support the antenna. The two carriers who would currently collocate on the new nodes would be Verizon and T-Mobile.

Prior to installation, Crown Castle tests each site by installing temporary antennas to ensure the node would cover a wide service area. Once the site is cleared, it only takes two days to build a node, but the carrier (i.e Verizon) would need to get the fiber optic lines to support the structure. Luckily, 99% of Scarsdale’s fiber optic lines are above ground, so installation shouldn’t be prolonged.

Besides improving existing service, the installation of these new nodes could be necessary for the future. Although not existent yet, 5G technology is coming soon, and these new nodes will make the eventual transition easier for Scarsdale residents. When invented, 5G will use the same frequencies that are currently occupied by 4G, so unless new frequencies are made, getting 4G reception may become even more difficult for Scarsdale residents who will not have 5G phones. Installing these nodes can help ensure the 4G residents receive adequate coverage.

communityplantingApril 28 was the 4th annual Community Planting Day sponsored by the Village with native trees and shrubs provided by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Trees for Tribs program, through a grant obtained for the Village by the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks.                                                                                                       

Mayor Comments
Mayor Dan Hochvert opened the session by discussing quite a few local events that he attended since the last BOT meeting. These included a City 2.0 student presentation on planning on conservation, the Scarsdale Bowl Dinner, the annual Arbor Day ceremony and community planting, a countywide meeting to discuss watershed issues, the recent school safety forum and the “Blue and Gold Award” Boy Scouts ceremony. He also mentioned a discussion with Central Taxi management to explore off-peak pricing and other incentives for village residents.

Hochvert then provided an update on local municipalities’ work on making ConEd accountable for its dismal post-storm performance this past winter. The New York State Public Service Commission thanked Scarsdale for input on commitments made by the utility after Superstorm Sandy that have not yet been satisfied. “While ConEd had delivered on some commitments, it failed to do so regarding staffing during recent storms… I think that the public service commission is probably going to come down hard on ConEd,” he said.

Turning to a more positive issue, Hochvert announced that the Westchester Municipal Planning Federation has named the Freightway Site Redevelopment Study (completed this past February) as an outstanding Planning Achievement Award winner for this year. Past award winning projects include the Boyce Thompson Center in Yonkers, Tarrytown Connected, and the Aqua Tots Development/Adaptive Reuse Legislation in Mamaroneck.

In summarizing his comments, the mayor reminded the public that no leaf blowers may be used in the village between June 1 and September 1; first violations will be subject to fine, while second (and subsequent) violations will require court appearances.

Charitable Gift Fund Approved
Village Manager Steve Pappalardo began his comments with a discussion of the pending resolution to establish a charitable gift reserve fund to offset the $10,000 cap on state and local property tax (SALT) deductions. New York has enacted a charitable contribution program under which property owners may contribute to locally established funds and receive a tax credit against their New York State income taxes or property taxes. The credit may total up to 95 percent of the contribution. Pappalardo said, that while staff is still working through the details, “It is the village’s intent to (allow) property owners to take advantage of the charitable gift reserve funds in time for the village tax, which will be billed by June 30.” He also reminded residents that this tax workaround is still up for review by federal officials. “The IRS has not ruled on the establishment (of such funds) and the credits are not guaranteed at this point. The village, however, does believe that moving forward with the fund to potentially assist our residents is certainly worth our effort.”

Later in the meeting, the trustees unanimously approved the resolution to authorize creation of the fund.

Pappalardo then provided an update on road resurfacing efforts, which have begun sooner this year than in the past, when most work was done during the summer months. This week, a number of residential roads will be prepped for paving, which will take place over seven to eight business days. Depot Place, Freightway and Garth Road also will be resurfaced, beginning on or around May 14, weather permitting. Work in these commercial areas will be completed between 7:00 pm and 5:00 am to minimize disruption to merchants, residents and visitors.

Last, the village manager noted that a number of state grant applications were submitted in April to assist with pending infrastructure projects, including work on the Heathcote Bridge, culverts under Catherine Road, improvement to the village fluoridation system and installation of two electrical vehicle chargers at the Freighway. In some cases, a grant will cover all costs related to the project. New York State Assemblymember Amy Paulin and New York State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins have pledged to assist in moving the applications forward.

ArborDayScarsdale Village received their 35th Tree City USA designation. In honor of Arbor Day, a replacement tree was planted in Davis Park.

Public Comments on Clarity
After brief reports by a number of trustees, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez (Fox Meadow Road) opened the public comment portion of the meeting. Citing the school district’s focus on “math and empathy,” she said, “I am concerned that there may be a deficit of math and empathy at village hall.”

Reiterating her objections to the Ryan revaluation, recent amendments to the tree code and water rate changes, Kirkendall-Rodriguez believes these matters illustrate a lack of empathy toward Scarsdale property owners. She then emphasized the importance of considering the public’s opinion and financial planning in driving policy. “Over a year into your administration, you still have no numbers showing what residents’ priorities are. And, this is dangerous because Scarsdale really needs a long- term financial model and plan… Unfortunately, a lack of long-term financial planning leaves Scarsdale vulnerable to being more reactive than proactive.”

She finished her remarks by referencing her continued support for Jane Curley, who was not reappointed to the Scarsdale Board of Assessment Review. “Lastly, where is the importance of math and empathy when it comes to you not reappointing a talented volunteer for the board of assessment review… I urge you to… tell us the truth… The more opaque you are, the bigger flashlight I’m going to have to get.”

Bob Berg (Tisdale Road) continued the discussion by expressing his view on “the opacity in how our village government is run.” He explained, “This is, perhaps, best exemplified by the board’s unexplained refusal to reappoint… Jane Curley to the board of assessment review. And, your sequel to that is your refusal to explain to the public how residents are selected for various important… boards, councils and committees.” Stating that the board’s refusal to discuss such appointments may erode residents’ confidence, Berg then asked if the process might be tainted by politics or patronage.

He went on, “That brings me to another point. Important decisions are frequently made at these village board meetings without substantial public discussion… The business of government (must) be conducted in front of the public… For instance, tonight the village board will consider and vote on a resolution regarding wage increases for department heads and nonunion personnel. If the process transpires as I expect… did the trustees discuss the resolution amongst themselves before tonight’s meeting?” Berg then brought up slow real estate sales in Scarsdale and the rising financial burden for village property owners. “I feel the government is not reacting to this new reality... tonight’s resolution is more of the ‘same old, same old...’ This seems to me to be a gratuitous 2 percent increase… Show the public evidence that the staff is underpaid, that there’s a reason to give the increase… We’re entitled to a more detailed explanation… in this new environment.”

Shortly after the public comment portion of the meeting, the trustees unanimously approved the salary increase that Berg questioned. In explaining his support, Trustee Carl Finger said that cost of living increases have been traditionally approved for personnel not covered by collective bargaining agreements. “This resolution is similar to what we’ve done in the past several years and, given the performance of staff in a number of situations, and I include the December 24 tax situation among them, as well as what we’ve seen in terms of storms and other things… the department heads lead the staff. I’m very satisfied in what I’ve seen in my three years (as trustee), and I am very happy and satisfied to vote in favor of this resolution.”

 

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DenimDayThe Scarsdale Coalition on Family Violence and Healthy Relationships is again encouraging community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing denim on April 25th. Denim Day is a as a visible means of raising awareness about the prevalence of sexual assault and protesting the misconceptions that surround sexual violence. Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service has already signed on to the campaign and encourages others to do the same.

Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault and stems from an infamous ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim in the case was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The organization Peace Over Violence developed the Denim Day campaign in response to this case. SFCS has purchased stickers for distribution that read, “Why Denim? Ask me About Denim Day.”

Nearly one in five women and one in 71 men are victims of sexual assault (Black et al., 2011). Everyone has a role in preventing sexual violence in our community. Changing beliefs which contribute to sexual assault begins first with believing survivors of sexual violence when they share their stories, but also by challenging cultural misconceptions and stereotypes. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.

The Scarsdale Coalition will continue its efforts to raise awareness by hosting a morning program the following day on April 26th entitled “Title IX and Sexual Assault. What Parent Needs to Know.” The program will be facilitated by Cynthia Dunne, Esq and will be held at 9:00 am in Room 170-172 of the Scarsdale Board of Education. The meeting is open to the public.

Remember, our actions, big and small, have a ripple effect on those we teach, guide, and influence. Please consider “wearing jeans with a purpose” on April 25th and encourage others to do the same.

To learn more about Denim Day or other initiatives, contact Lauren Pomerantz, Coordinator of the Scarsdale Coalition on Family Violence and Healthy Relationships at 914-721-2468 or lpomerantz@sfcsinc.org.

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GruenbergThere could not have been a more opportune time for Scarsdale Family Counseling Service (SFCS) to come up with the idea of honoring a rising star at their annual gala. Why? Because they didn’t have to look far to find the ideal recipient for this first annual award. … a young resident who has already made significant contributions to the community that will impact Scarsdale for generations to come.

Honoree Dara Gruenberg has done more than build a lengthy resume of volunteer posts. In just seven years in Scarsdale she joined and took leadership positions in organizations customarily lead by people twice her age and befriended and worked collaboratively with many of Scarsdale’s most seasoned and senior volunteers. What’s more, she attracted a new generation of residents to get involved in Village Government, the Scarsdale Forum and the Scarsdale Library.

It turns out that Dara, age 36, has been volunteering and organizing for as long as she can remember. She grew up in Long Island, and when I asked her what she liked to do in high school, she laughed and told me that she enjoyed community service. She was president of her high school and while there, she set up a day of community service that continues as an annual tradition at the school today. The oldest of three children, her father passed away from brain cancer when she was only 15 years old. The support the family received from their community was transformative for her. She said, “The outpouring of love helped to motivate me and shape how I wanted to live my life. I think that my father had such a short life, but, as a social worker, he spent so much of it helping others that I want to make the most of mine and find ways to make a difference. My mother, also a social worker, has been a guiding light in her strength found from her service to others.”

After majoring in Classics at Barnard, Dara taught Latin at the Hewitt School in Manhattan and also became Director of Community Service at the school, arranging trips to soup kitchens and other service opportunities for the students at the school.

When her daughter was 18 months old, the family moved to Scarsdale, and Dara started to volunteer at Westchester Reform Temple’s Nursery School’s Parent Association. She now serves as a member of the Board of the synagogue.

A frequent user of the Scarsdale Library, she learned about emerging opportunities to get involved and volunteered to help with the Capital Campaign which at the time was in its infancy. Dara ultimately became one of the co-chairs of the campaign to renovate and overhaul the library. In the past 4 years, she has been integral to the success of the largest fundraising campaign in the history of Scarsdale, and the campaign committee has just surpassed their goal of raising $7.5 million that will be supplemented by public funds to realize plans for the new library. Commenting on the campaign Dara said, “We have such a phenomenal team working on this project, under the exceptional leadership in our Library Director. Library lovers from all generations and all neighborhoods in Scarsdale are inspired to give. We have become a big fundraising family. I feel very lucky to be a part of this project and to work with such incredible and talented residents.”

In the past few years she has been a member of the Village’s ad hoc Communications Committee and a board member of the Scarsdale Forum. She was also elected to the Citizen’s Nominating Committee and participated in deliberations for Village Trustees. But she didn’t stop there. Dara also served as a co-chair of the Scarsdale Citizen’s Non-Partisan Party Campaign Committee and helped to ensure the CNC nominees election. She felt she was a part of “two generations coming together to preserve the non-partisan system in Scarsdale.”

And she clearly has a soft spot for older friends. While we were sitting at Patisserie Salzburg for the interview, DaraChristiePlaceGruenberg spotted a man struggling to cross Christie Place. Before I could blink, she was outside leading the tottering and grateful man to the safety of a café table.

Gruenberg is surprised when she hears there is a lack of volunteerism in Scarsdale. She says volunteering is like matchmaking …. “If you find the right place for people, they step up and want to get involved. You just need to listen to find what inspires them.” About her more senior friends, Gruenberg says, “It makes for a richer life when you build a community of all generations. So many of my closest friendships have come from volunteering.”

When she’s not volunteering, Gruenberg can be found spinning at Soul Cycle or practicing her dance moves with her kids, who are poised to lead the next generation of volunteers. Her kids, now six and eight, see many lively meetings taking place in the house. Their eight year-old daughter recently brought her piggybank to the kitchen and asked, “When is it my turn to bring my piggy bank to the library?” Gruenberg added, “I am so grateful for this acknowledgement by the SFCS, even if a little embarrassed, but if my children see my service to the community as a model, then I feel proud to participate. SFCS is an invaluable organization that broadly supports all residents. I hope the community comes out to support their worthwhile mission!”

Toast Dara and the next generation of volunteers at the annual benefit gala for the Scarsdale-Edgemont Family Counseling Service’s Magic and the Mind: An Evening of Enchantment and Mystery, Thursday, May 10 at the Scarsdale Golf Club. Tickets can be purchased here.

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26CooperPathScarsdale Trustee Carl Finger announced two proposed changes to the Scarsdale Historic Preservation code at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting, and invited feedback from the public at the meeting and in writing.

The amendments are 1) to allow a non-resident to sit on the Scarsdale Committee for Historic Preservation, provided he or she is an architect with an interest in historical preservation; and, 2) to make a change in language regarding preservation standards, specifically, revising one requirement by separating it into two different requirements: “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” will be changed to read “That the building is the work of a master” or “Embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic values”.

Finger further explained that reason behind inviting nonresidents to apply for the committee was to expand the pool of qualified individuals who could serve Scarsdale in this capacity.

Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez (Fox Meadow Road) stated that, after recent resignation of committee members, he looked at historic preservation activities in neighboring towns. He found that “there is lot more rigor… They actually set forth a provision for identifying properties, in advance, that are worthy of preservation, rather than identifying properties on an ad hoc basis when the property is considered for destruction. The advantage of that, of course, is planning… both in the case of the homeowner and (the community).” He went on, “Given the current village standards for how (preservation is) determined, it’s very difficult for someone without a great degree a knowledge to make a decision about whether a property is worth preserving. I would urge you, rather than looking at the wording… but they way the whole statute is constructed.”

Finger responded that this approach was very much under consideration and that until a significant change is made, it is hoped that the proposed changes would clarify the existing code in the shorter term. The village will be accepting public comment on the amendments through Public comments will be accepted until Tuesday, April 24.

Mayor’s Comments
The mayor and board addressed a number of other issues worth mentioning, beginning with the Mayor’s commentary at the start of the session. Mayor Dan Hochvert mentioned that a red light has been installed at the corner of Popham and Chase Road. This is in response to resident complaints about drivers ignoring the “No Turn on Red” sign on Chase as they make their way onto Chase. “This should be a big improvement in moving traffic along safely and more effectively, and warn drivers that a right turn on red at that location is not permissible,” he said.

Hochvert also announced that the Scarsdale Citizen Police Academy for middle school students would be held at the village’s public safety building on Tuesdays, from April 10 through May 8. Class time is 4:00 to 5:00 pm; for more information or to register, visit thecenter862.com.

The mayor also addressed residents’ concerns about proposed increases in water rates. “(First), try to save water. There were a lot of suggestions in a notice from water department… Just by being aware that water is flowing when you don’t know it can save you money,” he said. “Because we have to pay NYC for all water running through our system, including whatever leaks, by correcting these issues , it has helped keep our base rate one of the lowest in the county, after the recently proposed increase.” Addressing recent questions about why the excess water rate was decreased from 3.5 percent to 3 percent, Hochvert explained, “The excess water users have to pay the increased base rate before they get to the excess rate, and they also have to pay three times the increased rate. We are charged by New York City at 2.94 times the base rate for excess usage… (these) form the rationale that we’ve provided. We have some control on how much we use. Those who use a lot still pay three times the base rate.”

Village Manager
Village Manager Steve Pappalardo announced completion of the village’s sanitary sewer evaluation study, which assessed the integrity of the sewer system and examined water inflows through video and smoke testing. The results identified 12 private sources of sewer inflows, such as driveway drains and roof leaders. Another 40 residential properties were identified as having plumbing defects or improper connections to the sanitary sewer system. Pappalardo advised that letters will be sent to affected homeowners shortly, explaining that the connections are are violations of village and county code. Village engineering staff will follow up on the letters to schedule secondary inspections and verify findings; the village also will provide access to professional assistance in determining best methods of remediation.

Trustee Reports
Trustee Jane Veron reminded the public about the upcoming Healthy Teen Brain Day, scheduled for April 19, from 2:45 to 6:00pm, at Scarsdale Middle School. The event will be presented by the Scarsdale Drug and Alcohol Task Force, and students from grades five through 12 are invited to participate, along with parents. Veron also mentioned that she will participate in a meeting with Scarsdale business owners next week to discuss creation of a new merchant group to further revitalization efforts in downtown Scarsdale.

Trustee Finger announced that the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Westchester County Executive’s office are sponsoring a gun buy-back program on Friday, April 13, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, at Mt. Hope Zion Church in White Plains.

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