Tuesday, Feb 19th

Last updateTue, 19 Feb 2019 2pm

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flowers1During a relatively short meeting this Tuesday, the mayor and trustees made note of completed projects, such as the opening of he Library Loft, and looked ahead to others, most notably, the redevelopment of Freightway.

Mayor’s Comments
Mayor Dan Hochvert mentioned July 4 festivities held in Arthur Manor and Greenacres, and thanked organizers for their efforts in arranging the celebrations for their neighbors. He also mentioned that some residents expressed concern about individuals unexpectedly coming to their homes and claiming to be from ConEd. “The ConEd folks are installing smart meters,” Hochvert explained. “One of the advantages of that is ConEd will be able to tell if the power is out at a particular house…they had some difficulty doing that after the storms at the beginning of March.” Con Ed is expected to complete the installations at the end of 2019; the utility is supposed to send notification to those households affected prior to installation. For more information, visit coned.com/smartmeters.

Manager’s Comments
Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards discussed the visioning study for the Freightway redevelopment site, submitted by the Freightway Steering Committee. After reviewing the study, which highlights what residents would like to see at the site, the village administration will begin the process for selecting a developer. “The first step is the distribution of a “request for expression of interest” (which) will garner information from the development community on suggested conceptual development plans, zoning paradigms and creative financial methods,” according to Richards. It also will assist and identify qualified developers that have experience in constructing and financing complex, mixed-use transit-oriented projects. Once feedback is obtained and evaluated, a short list of possible developers will be created, and those firms will be asked to respond to RFPs. The request for expression of interest will be issued on Monday, July 16; developers will have until October 2018 to respond.

Trustee Reports
In following up on Richard’s report, Trustee Jane Veron mentioned that she, along with the Village Planner, attended a seminar on autonomous vehicles and smart parking solutions, which provided additional insights which may be applied to the Freightway project.

Veron also reported that the village’s Communications Committee produced and distributed postcards to encourage residents to subscribe to the village’s “Notify Me” service. Members of the committee also recently met with village board and council leaders to discuss ways to make the application process more informative and efficient.

Veron then discussed the library’s recent transition to the Library Loft. “The library board is so appreciative of the village staff’s incredible hard work in moving the library to its temporary location… DPW... did an amazing job, and were so committed to this move. In addition, our library staff worked around the clock.” Additionally, she expressed thanks to residents for their support during the process. Hochvert added, “It’s amazing how efficiently they have organized a much smaller space… The staff there seemed very happy because they are functioning in a way (that) a professional library should.”

Veron concluded by announcing that the new Scarsdale Business Alliance will host a sidewalk sale in Downtown Scarsdale from Thursday, July 26 through Saturday, July 28. “There is huge interest among merchants; we have new merchants that have opened, and merchants that are coming from within the greater village center area to share their merchandise…”

Trustee Matt Callaghan reported on recent Scarsdale Fire Department activities, including participation in the Arthur Manor July 4 parade and fundraising efforts for the Westchester Band. He also noted that the Scarsdale Pool will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year and acknowledged the work of pool staff behind the scenes who keep the facility running.

Trustee Lena Crandall began her comments by thanking village staff who were involved in organizing the annual fireworks display at the pool complex. She then discussed the meeting on additional tree code amendments that was held just hours before. Specifically, the size requirement for replacement trees has been changed from three inches in diameter to two, as smaller trees are more likely to thrive and are less costly for the homeowner.

Trustee Carl Finger discussed the most recent Law Committee meeting, also held earlier in the evening, to examine the possibility of limiting the presence of gun and vape shops in and around Scarsdale. He encouraged residents to review the proposal, which is available at scarsdale.com, and submit their opinions on the subject.

Public Comment
In the public comment portion of the meeting, residents voiced concerns about issues that have been discussed before, including the village’s appointment process, the administration’s priorities and the installation of distributed antenna systems (DAS).

Jacob Frishberg (Montrose Road) opened by stating, “The Voters’ Choice Party is compelled to point out… the inability of our mayor and village trustees to follow…best practices in important village appointments. This time it is a critical village position – the replacement of the village attorney.” He explained that a leader of the party, Robert Berg, upon hearing of Wayne Esannason’s pending retirement, contacted village hall to stress the importance of appointing a highly skilled replacement and later suggested a search process guided by a group of talented lawyers who live in Scarsdale. However, Angela Martin, the village’s director of human resources and deputy village attorney, soon was promoted to replace Esannason. “No one else was considered for the job. The village manager recommended Ms. Martin and the mayor appointed her with the approval of the trustees, except for one,” said Frishberg. “The job was not advertised; no search was made for any more-qualified candidates… We residents are entitled to have the best-qualified village attorney work for us… Had the position been advertised, doubtless, dozens or scores of excellent municipal attorneys with decades of relevant experience would have applied.”

Bob Selvaggio (Rochambeau Road) followed and began his comments by thanking the village board for the hours they put in to “do a good job for Scarsdale.” He then went on to discuss the need for the village to develop “data-driven action points,” and criticized the administration’s focus on issues such as the tree code, and gun and vape shops. “I have to ask… do you have any data… that show widespread community support for enhanced penalties on homeowners who… take down their own trees? Do you have any reason to think that the likelihood of a gun shop or vape shop seeing sufficient profit potential in Scarsdale market is significant...Do you have any data to indicate that these issues make the list of our residents’ top 50 concerns?” To illustrate his point, Salvaggio referenced a recent traffic survey of Scarsdale residents analyzed by Brice Kirkendall-Rodriquez and Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, which provided insights into residents’ concerns about walking, driving and cycling in the village. Data collected from survey respondents led to specific recommendations to improve traffic safety. “These are the types of data that should be used to establish government priorities,” he said. “I suggest that the village should address actual issues that residents face, such as the impact of tax reform on housing costs and property values, lack of transparency in hiring and appointment practices, and traffic and road conditions.”

Zoe Berg (Tisdale Road) concluded the public comment session by addressing the need for village officials to respect residents and cautioning the village about the installation of DAS throughout Scarsdale. “A few days after… I stood before you to express my science-based concerns regarding the potential installation of (DAS) near schools and residential homes, Wayne Esannason… spoke ill of me…among other senior village representatives…This completely inappropriate and unprofessional behavior… made us all wonder, if the village attorney is besmirching one concerned resident, is he besmirching other residents in public settings?” She continued, “Speaking ill of the people you represent is corrosive to community good will and community engagement.” Berg then discussed the DAS issue, stating that the systems will expose residents to a classified carcinogen day-in and day-out, and that wireless radiation exposure is associated to numerous ill health effects. She has asked the mayor to meet with her to discuss the issue prior to negotiating with Crown Castle, the telecommunications vendor that would install the systems, to no avail. “Mayor Hochvert… you need to educate yourself beforehand… Crown Castle will make claims that wireless radiation is not dangerous… You need to be fully equipped with the work of honest scientists who don’t have a financial stake in the telecommunications industry… All I’m asking for here is that our mayor, and even members of the board meet with a wireless radiation expert before starting negotiations.”

In response, Hochvert said, “We are meeting with another municipality that has a court case on radiation. And, as you have indicated, we cannot (say no) on the basis of radiation, but we are going to work with another municipality to see what they have had success with, and why they are in court. We have to go through the right process; we don’t just arbitrarily say ‘radiation is a problem, so therefore…’ We have to find another way to deal with the concerns you’ve expressed.”

questionmarkThough no one knows if the IRS will allow tax deductions for charitable contributions in lieu of local property tax payments, Scarsdale officials have enacted new Village code to establish a Charitable Gift Fund Tax Credit which will entitle taxpayers to a deduction of up to 95% of local tax payments as a charitable donation.

The new code will apply to the tax bill Scarsdale residents will receive in July and the Village has published the following on how to make these charitable contributions. Here’s an FAQ with information that is published on the Scarsdale Village website:

What is the Charitable Gift Reserve Fund Tax Credit?

In response to the federal government’s recent tax code changes limiting future federal income tax deductibility of State and Local Taxes (SALT) to $10,000, the FY 2018-19 New York State Budget authorizes local governments and school districts to create a “Charitable Gift Reserve Fund” (Fund) to offer real property tax credits to incentivize contributions. Click here for a summary of NYS FY 2019 enacted budget tax reforms.

Under the law, such Funds may receive unrestricted charitable contributions for the purposes of addressing education, health care and other charitable purposes. Contributions to the Fund may entitle taxpayers a deduction of up to 95% of those payments as a charitable donation write-off, rather than a property tax deduction, which would not be subject to the $10,000 limitation established for SALT. This is an optional program.

Accordingly, the Village of Scarsdale approved establishment of a Charitable Gift Reserve Fund in May 2018 and adopted a local law in June 2018 authorizing a Charitable Gift Reserve Fund Tax Credit pursuant to Real Property Tax Law Section 980-a.

Importantly, the Village’s creation of the fund neither constitutes a program endorsement nor implies taxpayer benefit. Taxpayers are strongly urged to consult with a tax professional to understand the benefits and drawbacks associated with program participation.

Which taxes appearing on my property tax bill are eligible?

Only the Village, County, and School levies are eligible. Special District taxes including Sewer and Water Districts and Refuse Disposal Districts are examples of ineligible taxes. If in doubt about tax eligibility, please call the Village Treasurer’s Office at 914-722-1170 before determining the amount of your charitable gift, as amounts paid the Village as charitable contributions are not refundable.

Taxpayers are strongly urged to consult with a tax professional before remitting a charitable gift pursuant to the Charitable Gift Reserve Fund Tax Credit program. Amounts paid the Village as charitable contributions are not refundable.

Is this program voluntary?

Yes, this program is 100% voluntary.

What is the likelihood that my payment will be deductible for Federal Tax purposes?

There is no way to currently determine if it will be allowed as a deduction by the federal government. Taxpayers should be mindful that federal law controls the proper characterization for federal income tax purposes. The Treasury Department and the IRS have advised caution and have issued statements that indicate they intend to propose regulations addressing the federal tax treatment of programs like the charitable gift reserve fund adopted by New York State.
What is the downside/risk?

When a Federal deduction is disallowed, taxpayers are potentially subject to interest, penalties, and additional review. In addition, the residual 5% of the charitable contribution would not be returned or refunded if the deduction is disallowed after the payment is made to the Tax Receiver.

What if I pre-paid my property taxes in 2017?

Village taxes pre-paid in 2017 are not eligible for this new program. Review your tax bill for any unpaid balance(s) to determine whether program participation is advisable.

What if my mortgage company pays my property taxes or the mortgage company already paid my property taxes?

The process is more complicated and we are awaiting direction and guidance from New York State on how this will be addressed. Taxpayers should contact their mortgage company to make any payment or reimbursement arrangements. It may be possible that if your mortgage company already paid the taxes, the taxpayer could still make the charitable payment and request a refund. Please note that if this is allowed by your mortgage company, this would mean a double payment until a method is determined to have the bank pay the Fund directly.

Can I make a charitable contribution in an amount less than the full amount due for property taxes?

Yes, taxpayer may make a partial payment of their taxes through the Fund with the tax balance paid by separate check.

Can I earmark the municipal program area that my charitable contribution goes to?


How do I participate?

Consult with a tax professional tax to determine the advisability of your participation in this program. If the program is right for you, follow the steps below.

Once your Village tax bill has been received in July 2018, visit scarsdale.com/gift to complete three fill-in forms:

Village of Scarsdale Computation Form.

NYS Acknowledgement of Charitable Contribution Form RP-980-a-ACC (print 2 copies)

NYS Claim for Property Tax Credit for a Charitable Contribution RP-980-a-CCF

Complete all three forms and submit a hard copy of each in-person at the Village Treasurer’s Office at Village Hall, 1001 Post Road, during standard business hours (9am-5pm); payment in the form of a check(s) is required at time of submittal. You may provide the tax receiver with up to the full amount of your property taxes. If you choose to take advantage of the charitable contribution program, you will also pay an additional 5%. The Village of Scarsdale on-line Computation Form (above) will calculate this amount. Tax payments are due no later than August 1, 2018 by 5:00pm.

Important information

Taxpayers are strongly urged to consult with a tax professional before remitting a charitable gift pursuant to the Charitable Gift Reserve Fund Tax Credit program.

Amounts paid the Village as charitable contributions are not refundable, regardless of the income tax deductibility of such contributions. Program participants should be aware of media reports suggesting the Internal Revenue Service of federal government may take action to disallow income tax credit for charitable contributions made through this program.

JonathanLewisThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Jyoti Ruta.

Jonathan Lewis, a neighbor and friend whom I have known for 10 years, is running for the 16th Congressional District seat. The District includes Northern Bronx and Southern Westchester County.

Jonathan was born in Mount Vernon and lived his early years in Eastchester where his father, a WWII veteran, was a Town Democratic Party Chairman. He obtained his BA in history from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and returned to New York to obtain his MBA from Columbia University. He settled in Queens, where he met his wife, Laura, whose mother was the sole support of her two daughters.

Jonathan developed a career in fixed income investing and ultimately started a firm with colleagues. His work experience provides him with the expertise to understand the economy and what it is means to be an entrepreneur.

After the birth of their son, he supported his wife in her desire to go to law school and he helped make it a reality with financial support and rearranging his schedule to help care for their infant son.

After Laura graduated law school, the family moved to the District in 2001, where Laura worked for the Pace Women’s Justice Center, representing victims of domestic violence for several years. In 2006, their daughter Hannah was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was six years old. Devastated, the family became educated on how to manage Type I diabetes and became active with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Westchester, where Jonathan served as a board member and Chapter President.

I was working alongside Jonathan on a committee in 2010 when I was saddened to learn that their older child had just recently been diagnosed with Type I diabetes as well. Jonathan and Laura work hard to help their children stay strong and focused on life.

In addition to JDRF, Jonathan has been an engaged community volunteer, working in numerous local organizations. I came to know Jonathan through his work on the Scarsdale Board of Education, where he focused on fiscal responsibility while maximizing resources to enhance professional development, among other initiatives. I was impressed by his ability to gain consensus to achieve the results our schools needed. These skills will enable him to be an effective Congressperson.

Jonathan is dedicated to improving education for all. He currently serves on the board of Yonkers Partners in Education, having started as a mentor to students, helping them complete their college applications. His involvement with Yonkers’ students provides him with insight as to the challenges and needs of the District’s other neighborhoods.

As an educator, I am well aware of the serious issues facing our schools, including school safety, students’ mental health, testing, strict mandates from state and federal governments, faculty performance evaluation standards, and declining school budgets. I believe that Jonathan will bring to bear his knowledge and experience to fight for our children and education for all.

Jonathan is also experienced in matters of foreign affairs, having served for 25 years with a non-profit organization called Business Executives for National Security (“BENS”) whose main purpose is to bring best business practices into the realm of national security. Further, he has written two books on foreign affairs. His volunteer work with BENS has afforded him the unique perspective of first-hand knowledge of the workings of national security as a civilian and he was awarded the CIA’s Agency Seal Medal.

Jonathan’s life has prepared him for this Congressional seat.

As a child listening to his grandmother talk about the horrific state of czarist Russia, he knows the plight of immigrants. Jonathan understands that immigrants come to this country to improve their lives and the lives of their families and contribute to their communities. He will work hard to protect immigrant families and ensure that immigrant families stay together.

Jonathan knows the importance of quality health care and believes health care is a right and not a privilege. It’s time to put the interests of our citizens ahead of the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Jonathan will fight for a single payer health care system and controls on the costs of prescription medication.

Jonathan is committed to women’s rights and will fight for laws that protect a woman’s right to reproductive health care, equality in the workplace and protections against sexual assault and prosecution of those who commit sexual assault.

We live under the constant threat of terrorism, and I believe that Jonathan will bring his knowledge of national security issues and be an important stabilizing influence in the current, chaotic administration.

Jonathan is for real campaign finance reform. Jonathan has vowed to not take a penny of special interest money to reduce the influence of special interest groups on our democracy.

Jonathan Lewis possesses the willingness to reach across the aisle and work in a non-partisan way to achieve results, a lacking characteristic in Washington these days. We need a Congressperson with the intellect to solve complex problems and who is energetic, ready, willing, and able to serve the diverse citizenry of the 16th Congressional District, in order to bring about the solutions we need.

Please learn more on his website jonathanlewisforcongress.com.

I urge all my friends, neighbors, and registered Democrats of the 16th Congressional District to vote in the Democratic Primary on Tuesday June 26 for Jonathan Lewis.

AngelaMartinAngela Martin has been named Scarsdale Village AttorneyAfter 19 years in Scarsdale, Village Attorney Wayne Esannason announced his decision to retire, setting off a debate about the process for the selection of a new attorney and ultimately the promotion of a current member of the Village Staff to that post.

Wayne Essanason has served as Village Attorney for as long as many can remember. All of the Trustees and the Mayor expressed their gratitude for Esannason’s work on behalf of Scarsdale. Mayor Hochvert said that “The work [Wayne] has done has always been a conservative one that protects the village from his perspective, and I think without it we would’ve probably been way behind the eight ball on a number of cases.” Village Manager Steve Pappalardo said “I’ve always appreciated Wayne’s thoughtful and research advice and legal judgment, but more importantly, his affinity for Scarsdale and for protecting the village’s best interests.” Trustee Finger referred to Wayne as “accessible" and Trustee Ross said, “Wayne is a Scarsdale fixture.”

After considerable discussion and a vote, the Trustees chose to promote the current Village Director of Human Resources and Risk Management Angela Sapienza-Martin to the position of Village Attorney. Martin graduated from Pace Law School in 2009, and served as the Assistant and then Deputy Village Attorney between 2009 and 2012. In December of 2012, she was appointed to her current position as Director of Human Resources and Risk Management. Village Manager Steve Pappalardo has referred to Ms. Martin as ”factual and dependable” and said she “possesses a unique skill set that will benefit the Village.” Since she understands the inner workings of the village, Pappalardo believes her promotion will allow for a more seamless transition from the Village staff perspective. She will also be able to provide the new HR director with assistance as he/she transitions into that position.

During the public comments period, however, some citizens demonstrated concern over Ms. Martin’s appointment. Gregory Kirchoff, spoke on behalf of Bob Berg, who wanted the Village to form an advisory committee before the board voted on a new Village Attorney. He expressed concern over her appointment due to “lack of litigation, criminal justice, constitutional law, and reevaluation experience,” and believes there may be a more qualified attorney outside of the current village government. He also attacked her effectiveness at her current position as Director of Human Resources because he claimed that the labor contracts which she negotiated “seemed to hit [Scarsdale residents] pretty hard”.

Bob Selvaggio mirrored Berg’s comments. He stated that when he hires attorneys for his financial consultant firm, he always makes sure to interview at least five candidates. He believes that perhaps some attorneys from Scarsdale would like to be considered for the position, and a panel should be assembled to “assure Scarsdale gets the best for their money”.

Before voting on Ms. Martin’s appointment, each trustee gave a brief statement on why they chose to vote they way they did. Trustee Arest stated that he was impressed by Martin and believes she will grow into a superb Village Attorney, but expressed concern over process. He believes the most important consideration in voting is how the decision is made, and not just the decision itself. Since he believes a standard requirement was not met, he voted Nay. Trustee Callaghan said that the Village Code is based on successive management, and voted Aye. Trustee Crandall expressed some similar concerns to Trustee Arest, but noted that Ms. Martin has the right temperament for the job, and that hiring from within will allow the Village government to operate efficiently, which is important during times when many people are concerned about future tax bills, and voted Aye. Trustee Finger, Ross, and Veron also voted Aye, and Trustee Veron stated that this decision had been deliberated extensively by the Board. Mayor Hochvert voted Aye and previously expressed his support for Ms. Martin saying she is “an individual thinker” and did an excellent job negotiating with very aggressive labor unions in her current position.

Besides Ms. Martin’s appointment, the issue of potential DAS antenna installations in Scarsdale was addressed in public comments. Zoe Berg, Robert Berg's daughter, stated that three times this week she tried to schedule a meeting with Mayor Hochvert and a wireless radiation expert to discuss the dangers of installing DAS antennas. She wants the antennas to be installed far away from schools/homes due to potential health hazards. Following her comment, Mayor Hochvert addressed her concerns, stating that potential health detriments will not be discussed until Crown Castle (the maker of the antennas) comes back to the Village with a full proposal. Once the proposal is submitted, the village will look to experts on both sides. Trustee Finger also stepped in and read aloud a portion of federal law that states, “No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions.” He concluded that the Village will not be able to choose to install the antennas far away from schools and homes solely on the basis of environmental impact.

Bob Harrison used the public comments to promote registration for the Scarsdale Youth Tennis League, where he serves as the Volunteer Director. Kids aged 6 to 18 of any skill level are allowed to participate. The matches will take place from 6-8PM on the Middle School Tennis Courts for four weeks beginning July 10th, and the cost is $50.

The contracts for the library construction project were also discussed. The board voted to approve four contracts for general construction, plumbing and heating, electrical work, and mechanical work at the library. Niram, Inc. of Cedar Knolls NJ was selected from six bidders and awarded the $10,307,00 contract for general construction at the library. Also selected were S & L Plumbing and Heating Corp., Healy Electric Contracting, Inc. and ABM A/C & Heating Inc. Trustee Veron expressed gratitude to the library for informing citizens about the upcoming construction via post cards, and noted that the book and media drop at Olmsted will remain open through July 4th. The new Library Loft at Supply Field is expected to open on July 5th. Trustee Crandall also thanked Bartlett Tree Service and the Scarsdale Public Library for moving two previously donated trees away from the construction zone to sites near the adjacent pond. One tree was a flowering dogwood, and the other was a Japanese maple.

During the public hearings, the board approved two Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) for improvements to 2 Drake Road and Wayside Cottage. The estimated cost for the improvements at 2 Drake Rd is $52,000, and the estimated is $524,000 for Wayside Cottage. The Village covers half of the cost. The President of the Junior League of Central Westchester, who has leased Wayside Cottage since 1953, expressed gratitude for the grant. The Junior League trains and promotes volunteers and serves the community by helping low and moderate income women and children by providing immunizations, shelter, foster care and more.

1040formFollowing a public hearing this past Tuesday, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees approved the establishment of a charitable gift reserve fund tax credit to allow residents the option of offsetting the $10,000 cap on state and local property tax (SALT) deductions.

Any Scarsdale property owner who makes an unrestricted monetary contribution to the fund will be permitted to claim a credit against their village property tax equal to 95 percent of the donation. Residents are not permitted to claim a credit that exceeds their current year village tax.

One significant caveat, however, is that the IRS has yet to officially rule on whether such contributions are tax deductible. However, village staff are proceeding quickly to provide Scarsdale residents access to such a program in time for the 2018-19 tax year, should it be deemed acceptable.

The BOT established the fund last month; creating the tax credit was the second step in making the program possible. The public had an opportunity to discuss the issue and pose questions at the hearing, which was held during the BOT’s regularly scheduled board meeting.

Trustee Seth Ross opened the discussion by stating…”Because the 2018-19 village tax bill comes due in July, a decision… must be rendered in June in order for the benefit to be available to property owners. As a result of the short timeline, staff have already begun planning, pending the board decision… “ He continued, “The IRS may rule that the contributions are not permissible deductions for income tax purposes and recent reports in the media suggest that the IRS may be considering moving in that direction. In that regard, it is recommended… that taxpayers seek the advice of tax professionals before making any decision relating to how they will handle their tax payments, including the possibility of paying into a charitable gift fund.”

He then solicited comments from his fellow trustees, staff and SWC Country FairMembers of the Scarsdale Woman's Club turned out in force to help with the Country Fair June 10, the club's centennial gift to the community. Photo credit Lisa Van Gundymembers of the public. Trustee Justin Arest began by stating, “Firstly, we are not tax experts… we are not telling anyone how to file their taxes nor how to pay them. Governor Cuomo signed legislation creating the idea of charitable funds as a way to potentially restore deductibility for certain local taxes. Our action today does not necessarily endorse that policy, nor does it provide any assurances that it will be successful. We are merely working hard to ensure that… any resident that believes this scheme might be advantageous…and is aware of, and willing to accept… risks involved, may opt in. For anyone who chooses the charitable gift fund is not for them… may continue to pay taxes in the same manner as they always have.”

Arest went on, “Secondly, this is not a sure thing for residents… Opinions range from this being a foolish attempt that will not succeed, mainly because it was created… to avoid taxes; to ‘it has to work,’ because disallowing this program would jeopardize similar programs that…. are allowed in 22 states set up in response to the Tax Reform act of 1986… The bottom line is that would be doing this to benefit those residents who want to use it and hope to benefit from it. “

Arest then assured residents about the board’s intentions in adopting the program. “…fiscal prudence… and setting up this option for our residents are not competing interests. Because I have read some critique of the state in regard to the possibility that passing this law is … a substitute for tightening its belt, I feel the need to mention it. We all take our fiduciary duty very seriously and are sensitive to the economic pressures that our decisions can have… Please do not misunderstand our desire to help our residents tonight with an idea that we have less to worry about when it comes to optimizing our budget.”

He concluded by stating, “Lastly, speak to a tax expert… please. Speak to an advisor… someone who understands your specific situation and can discuss the potential risks and benefits with you.”

Bob Harrison (Fox Meadow Road) began the public comment portion of the hearing by stating, “I’ve been in touch with several accountants… the IRS has issued… a bulletin (stating) that they won’t honor a tax credit for this type of charitable gift reserve fund…comments that each person should be in touch with their own tax advisor are certainly appropriate. I guess it’s worthwhile approving it; each resident will have to make (his or her) own decision. “ He also asked for clarification on whether a resident would have to pay $105.26 for every $100 in tax due, or a 5 percent premium as opposed to simply paying the tax due. Village Treasurer Mary Lou McClure responded by saying, “It’s just a matter of arithmetic. If only 95 percent of the contribution would be eligible for…the credit claim, you have to work backwards from the tax amount due… You take your tax amount due, you divide by .95, and it’s more than just 105 percent.” Trustee Arest added, “She’s giving the illustration that, if you have a $100 tax bill, you have to pay $105.26 because only 95 percent can be credited toward your taxes.”

Bob Berg (Tisdale Road) followed, saying, “I would just urge residents to be very, very cautious in taking advantage of this law. It’s going to be challenged by the IRS; it’s not going to pass… It’s a tax scam; it’s a political ploy by the governor and it’s really a dangerous thing.” He then went on to say, “I understand why you’re going to pass this, I probably would agree with you in passing it in the very, very slight chance it will be upheld.”

With no additional comments, Ross closed the hearing, and members of the BOT and mayor voted unanimously to adopt the measure.

Aside from the public hearing on the charitable gift fund tax credit, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees meeting was rather routine, but lengthy due to review of a large number of finance, land use, legal and municipal services resolutions. The board also endorsed several police commendations for meritorious service and approved appointees to a variety of village boards and councils.

The general public comment session, perhaps generating more interest than usual after the last BOT meeting, covered a variety of topics, ranging from recycling and library renovation updates, to distributed antenna systems, preservation issues and the pending retirement of Scarsdale Village Attorney Wayne Esannason.

Public Comments

Progress and Kudos
Ron Schulhof (Springdale Road), chair of the Conservation Advisory Council, began microphoneby announcing that curbside pick up of food scraps began on June 4. “We’re in the second week of pickup, which happens on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s always the first day of your trash (pickup); if you’re Monday-Thursday, you get a pick up on Monday; if you’re Tuesday-Friday, you get a pick up Tuesday.” He continued, “It’s been going fantastic for the residents; it’s been going fantastic for the village. In the first two weeks, we’ve picked up almost eight tons of food scraps. Those eight tons are out of the trash, which would normally be burned… (and) will be turned into soil in about three months.” He then encouraged residents to register for the program. Schulfhof also announced that a Furniture Sharehouse donation bin has been placed at the Scarsdale Recycling Center for resident donations “if you have any small furniture or household items… that would fit in an apartment, that’s where most (of those) who are receiving this furniture (live).” He concluded his comments by thanking the village government and staff, and residents for participating in these conservation programs and “being willing to lead.”

Diane Greenwald (Oak Lane), representing the Scarsdale Public Library Board of Trustees, provided a timeline for the library’s transition into its temporary home at Scarsdale Supply Field. “The children’s room will close for packing starting on Monday, June 18 and, then, the entire Olmstead Road building will close to patrons on Sunday, June 24.” She went on, “Library Loft, which is at supply field, 244 Heathcote Road, will open on Thursday, July 5… (It) will have the following services: a children’s room; a reference section; wifi; three public computers, a scanner and a copy machine; a new book section; audio books and DVDs; and magazines and newspapers. Seating will be limited; hours are reduced to accommodate shared parking with field users. Some popular programs will be held at other sites so stay tuned and check frequently for upcoming notifications… on our website.” She also reminded the public that cardholders are able to use other libraries in the Westchester Library System and urged residents to visit scarsdalelibrary.org for more information.

Greenwald concluded her remarks by saying, “This move and closure is necessary while the current library undergoes a major transformation, made possible by funding from the Village of Scarsdale and generous donations from so many Scarsdale residents. We are proud of our public-private partnership resulting in robust support across our community, and cannot thank our campaign committee and donors enough for their generosity of time and resources… We have reached nearly $8 million in donations, which is extraordinary.”

countryfair1Girls line up to get their arms and faces painted by Liliana Benitez at the Scarsdale Woman's Club Country Fair June 10. Photo Credit Lisa Van GundyDAS Questions
Wendy Lee (Boulevard) followed up on her email correspondence with Mayor Dan Hochvert, stating her concerns about the installation of distributed antenna system (DAS) technology throughout the village. She thanked the mayor and village attorney for their responses, and then voiced her point of view. “Based on the articles I’ve read, it seems that the safety of DAS nodes is still a very controversial issue. I don’t believe that, because the RF (radio frequency) emissions are within FCC statutory limits, we should give automatic approval for installation of DAS nodes throughout… Scarsdale. A lot of these laws were enacted many, many years ago and did not contemplate the proliferation of 5G technology or installation of DAS nodes, especially in front of our homes.” Lee continued, “In addition, these DAS nodes have not been tested for long-term safety. I don’t think we can just say that (they are) harmless and go ahead… we should, perhaps, consider alternative technology. She then asked for clarification regarding the placement of nodes throughout the village, and is concerned about how close they can be positioned to homes. She asked the board and administration to consider a minimum distance requirement and also encouraged additional review of the matter, which would include public input.

Zoe Berg (Tisdale Road) echoed Lee’s sentiments by saying, “Wireless technologies are proliferating rapidly, in every aspect of our lives. And, while they may be convenient, emerging research suggests that they are also impacting our health, even at levels far below FCC standards.” She went on, “Small, but powerful, transmitters used to facilitate two-way communication, such as DAS, increase our exposure to wireless radiation… Long considered to be harmless, peer-reviewed research has demonstrated a myriad of adverse biological effects…(In) 2011, it was classified as a Group 2B carcinogen by the World Health Organization… The installation of DAS around our town would substantially increase our chronic low-level exposure to wireless radiation.” Berg then urged the board to consider health and safety issues if and when the technology is installed. “DAS antennas must be placed very far from residences and schools. Let’s operate via the precautionary principle… be smart about this and protect the health of our community,“ she concluded.

Now the Critics’ Turn
Jonathan Gruen (Brewster Road) followed by voicing his opinion about the exchange between Bob Harrison and Hochvert that took place at the last BOT meeting. “While most speakers were treated with dignity and respect, Bob Harrison was not…Throughout Bob’s speech, Mayor Hochvert routinely interrupted him… During this interaction, Mayor Hochvert’s tone and word choice clearly demonstrated that the board had no interest in what Bob had to say.” He went on, “…I would have never expected (that) one of our most outstanding residents would be treated with such little respect. Many residents believe, given what happened in (the last) board meeting, Mr. Harrison should receive a public apology… I expect that all Scarsdale residents should have their voices heard and respected. Mayor Hochvert, your job is to lead this town while respecting its laws and citizenry. Despite your personal grievances with any member of the public, you must treat them with respect and dignity… As mayor… you must do everything in your ability to inquire about their opinions and priorities… one way you can accomplish this is creating a survey of all residents… asking (them) for their opinions on important issues… (and to) rank their priorities, so that you’re spending your time and our tax dollars most efficiently.“

Bob Berg (Tisdale Road) then discussed the upcoming retirement of Village Attorney Esannason, effective June 30, and the search for his replacement. “Congratulations, Wayne, on your retirement. I wish you well in your new endeavors.” he began. “As has become abundantly clear over the past several years, the village’s legal issues are increasingly complex and controversial… I have, personally, completely disagreed with Village Attorney Esannason’s legal analysis on key issues over the last several years… Because the village has relied on the village attorney’s legal advice, the result has been extremely costly, disruptive and disturbing to many residents… A permanent replacement…should not be selected by the village manager and/or the village board alone. This position is too critical to be filled without the informed input of village residents…I respectfully insist that you solicit and then select seek a group of qualified residents, particularly…practicing attorneys to advise you in choosing the next Scarsdale Village Attorney.”

Berg also criticized the public comment period at the last BOT meeting. “I was very upset by how the public comment period was handled. It was pushed back way back past 9:00 pm…(it) is the most important part of the meeting (and) should be held right after the village manager presents, as it has been done for many, many years… (Further) most members of the public do not come here lightly. Most are intimidated to speak publicly, on television, and what they have to say is important…and should be important to you… Before Bob Harrison even spoke, the mayor was chiding him to stick strictly to a five-minute deadline; throughout his presentation, the mayor continuously interrupted him, distracted him… I was even more appalled by the rest of you, the trustees, (who) just sat there and said nothing… I hope I never see a resident… treated that way again.”

Tennis Anyone?
Bob Harrison (Fox Meadow Road) came next, representing the Scarsdale Summer Youth Tennis League, and took the opportunity to promote youth tennis in the village. He thanked the mayor for the village’s work with the school district to move along construction of a new comfort station at Scarsdale Middle School. He also discussed the 34th season of the summer youth tennis league, which begins on July 10. “This is the best bargain in Scarsdale youth sports… It’s for… boys and girls, ages 6 to 18; we play… four weekday evenings, Monday through Thursday, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The players can come every night or pick nights… The great value of this program is that the youth player can get 32 hours of play over four weeks for the grand sum of $50.” He invited the public to contact him for more information at proscars@aol.com. Applications can be obtained via the Scarsdale Parks and Recreation Department or at tennis courts throughout the village.

Plea for Preservation
Lika Levi (Lockwood Road) concluded the public comment session by raising questions about a variety of issues, including conservation and historic preservation. Specifically, she touched upon the large number of trees that are cut down each year in Scarsdale and pleaded with the board to do more to preserve Scarsdale’s older homes. She said, “We were all here last Tuesday to observe the hearing about 6 Fenimore Road… I hope we can circumvent loopholes (in historic preservation guidelines), and make our preservation laws much stronger.” She recently described the house as “a perfect example of what makes Scarsdale, Scarsdale.” Levi also stated that she hoped some portion of the newly established charitable gift fund would be allocated for parks and historic preservation purposes, and supported the idea of a resident survey to determine residents’ ideas and preferences in shaping public policy.

Mayor’s Responses
With regard to the village’s position on the public comment portion of public meetings, Hochvert had already referenced the issue in his opening remarks at the start of the board meeting, and provided some insight into his previous exchange with Harrison. “I think two of the primary things the public comment mic is used for are statements that somebody wants to share with the public (and) questions that a person believes should be of interest to the public. If you have prepared questions or statements, as most people do, usually that will fit into our time limit.” He further explained, “What’s not a part of the normal use of that microphone is conversation with the board. However, as Mr. Harrison will attest, if he calls me on the phone, there is no time limit.”

Hochvert then mentioned that he did some research on the issue and cited the Citizen Advocacy Center’s best practices for public commentary. “They suggest that the time limit should be three minutes at the microphone… (and) the total time period should be limited to 30 minutes. Of course, we have five minutes, not three minutes, and we have no limit on the time that the entire audience might want to take. I think it’s important that we go back to the long-established practice… of five minutes. At the end of all (comments), if there are answers (we can offer), or… ask the staff the answer, we’ll do that. If we have to look for the answer, we will make sure whoever asked the question gets the information.” He concluded by saying “I believe our practice is a good one; it has benefits for the trustees and the audience… Certainly, if there’s a difficulty, like there was with reval, I understand that the board is more lenient with the timing of the speaker at the microphone. But, I’d like people to, please, fit your comments into the five-minute interval.”

In response to Lee and Zoe Berg’s concerns about DAS technology, Hochvert stated that DAS technology is currently in place just on state roads. “We do not have the authority to regulate based on the RF energy that is transmitted. But we have questioned whether the pole locations could be placed a certain distance from the nearest house and the answer is yes. We are still working with folks on DAS, so there has not been any decision yet.” He also followed up on Bob Berg’s question about the process to hire a new village attorney by stating that no decision has been made as of yet.

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