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PekarekMarch 27 marked the last Village Board meeting for Deb Pekarek and Marc Samwick who both completed two terms of service for Scarsdale Village Trustee. In the March 20 election, two new trustees, Justin Arest and Lena Crandall were elected to take their places at the dais and Jane Veron was re-elected for a second term.

After a celebratory dinner the trustees assembled for their final meeting. Pekarek and Samwick made remarks about their years on the board and thanked many who they worked with. In turn, the Mayor and remaining Board members lauded the two departing trustees. Samwick was thanked for his diligence in the area of finance and budgeting while Pekarek was noted for her commitment to sustainability and her ability to listen and compromise. Here are excerpts from their remarks; you can listen to them in their entirety here:

Scarsdale’s newest sitting Trustee, Seth Ross, spoke first and said he originally met Samwick when Samwick was coaching and “got to know (him) as an involved parent and a little league coach who was there not only for his own child but also for the others who were there to have fun and to learn and grow. Turning to now, he said, “Your strong background in finance, land use, and a number of other substantive areas has been a great resource for the village, but what most impresses me is the same natural tendency you showed when I first met you to devote yourself and your time and energy and expertise to the common good. You have been a shining example for me as a new village trustee.”

About Deb Pekarek he said, “I’m not sure that anyone else has upheld the values and standards of conduct of this community, and modeled the qualities that make Scarsdale special, the way that you have. Your grace under pressure, your unflappable nature, and your readiness to take on sometimes contentious issues and situations and to foster dialog rather than confrontation not only make you who you are but play a really significant role in making Scarsdale what it is.”

To both departing trustees Ross said, “You will both be missed on this board, but the good you have done will benefit us all well into the future and, of course, in hope to see you both continue as active and involved members of the community. “

Jane Veron said, “Deputy Mayor Samwick, it is hard to imagine a Village Board without you. Your service has been a priceless gift to our Village. For four years, you have shared with us your quick mind, your keen insight and your strong leadership. Your ability to synthesize vast amounts of information, consider competing interests, and get to the heart of an issue, in mere nano seconds, was truly awe inspiring. …You made your mark in so many different ways, but perhaps most significantly was the way you shepherded the Village budget. No one knew the numbers better than you. You examined the intricacies of each line item, department by department, and extrapolated forward, feeling the enormous responsibility of setting taxes for the residents.”

She continued, “ You showcased your extraordinary capabilities as Finance Chair although I saw them at work in every area you touched. As Land Use Chair, you set in motion a project that will have a lasting positive impact. With you and former Mayor Jon Mark at the helm, the community listening effort to imagine the future for the Freightway site produced exciting possibilities. Your role in engaging diversity of perspective and extensive outreach cannot be overstated. You showed a deep sensitivity to all views, and our town will be better off for it. Similarly, you listened and responded to the challenges faced by Land Use boards and kicked off the discussions to articulate priorities for fixing. You care deeply about our heritage, preservation and character.”Steve and Marc1

Turning to Deb Pekarek, Veron said, “Trustee Pekarek, you have brought to our board a very special combination of energy, passion, intelligence, and commitment. Nothing is ever too much for you, and from your first day until your last, you have served with unwavering dedication and drive. You care deeply about our Village, and it shows in everything you do. No matter the issue, you research, consider, question, and integrate vastly divergent community input. Always prepared, you provide meaningful, insightful perspective that benefits all of us. “

…”Deb, I have been so impressed by your leadership as Chair of Sustainability, liaison to the CAC, advocate for our parks and trees, and general supporter of healthy living. In such short order, you have helped Scarsdale make huge leaps forward. What began as aspirational is now going to be common practice in our town, be it food scrap recycling, knotweed control, or biking path linkages. You have educated us on invasive species, raised our awareness on grass and leaf mulching, and supported LED lights. “

Telling the board that he left his written remarks at dinner, Carl Finger spoke without notes and thanked Pekarek for keeping him in check during his first two years as trustee. He called her “dedicated, prepared and thoughtful,” and noted her advocacy for sustainability, willingness to compromise and ability to get things done.

To Samwick Finger said, “You go through everything with a fine toothed comb. Your comments are always well taken and you are not afraid to ask the difficult questions.”

Finger continued, “Between the two of you, you always have our goals as a board and a community in mind. You allow us to work together as a team. You resolve positions and allow us to reach consensus. I hope we can continue in this vein. I appreciate your service, everything you have taught me and your involvement in the future.”

Mayor Dan Hochvert said he has “known Deb for ten years and met her when she led the Greenacres Neighborhood Association.” He said she was “organized and had an agenda. The results were improved.” He said, “I worked with you on the Harwood Project where you dug up the big knotweed. It has blossomed because of the work you have done. I hope you will continue to call me to talk about things that are going on in Scarsdale.”

He complimented Samwick on noticing the details about Village Finance and “money well spent.” He said, “You did more than your share.” He called him an active participant on the Freightway Steering Committee.”

He asked both Pekarek and Samwick to remain active in Village affairs.

In her farewell remarks, Deb Pekarek said it was a bittersweet goodbye and thanked everyone she has worked with saying, “It has been a real treat to get to know you all better and to work with an impressive group of community and staff folks.” She thanked her husband Jon who “generously supported and applauded me these past four years. And faithfully turned in to cable every Tuesday evening!”

She thanked Seth Ross for “lending your deep, thoughtful, deliberative style and provided the Board wise council….Your contemplative style will continue to assist the board and I look forward to your thoughtful voice.”

She called Matt Callaghan “the consummate gentleman, always jovial, and kind. You look dapper in your uniform.”

She said Jane Veron was “awesome” and handled tasks with “verve, intelligence, a can do spirit and a generosity and enthusiasm that is to be emulated. …The Farmers Market, a personal favorite, has been a wonderful addition to our community. And the Communications Committee has provided great suggestions on more effective platforms to use to inform our community of current initiatives and to provide more timely information that answers questions with accurate information.”

Pekarek thanked Carl Finger for his work on the Tree Code, saying “Your guidance and thoughtful consideration of this code, modifications, debating the pros and cons, has been helpful, serious and wise… as Chair of Finance you have navigated the budget process with skill, depth and focus on short term and long-term expenses, revenues, capitol improvements, and operating budgets”

Turning to Mayor Dan Hochvert she said, “You are a made in America original! Down to earth, practical and a boots on the ground guy. You are the heart and soul of all who live here and you believe that all of us have things to share and can make a contribution to the community. And because you are ever-present, generous with your time no matter what the event - a dinner, a walk in the neighborhood, or digging up weeds and irrigating an 11-acre newly planted wetland plot – you are a visible presence in our community and a splendid” mayor."

She complimented fellow trustee Marc Samwick on his “deep knowledge of financial statements, budgeting processes, and facility with numbers, (that allow him) to challenge the underlying nuanced details of the Villages operating and capitol budgets, bonding philosophy, fund balance application during budget season and the glee you derive when talking about BANS with The Village Treasurer is almost infectious! It's a different language but one you speak fluently! She thanked him for his work on Freightway Development and employee compensation saying, “I look forward to your future involvement and leadership in Scarsdale.”

She called her service “A postgraduate degree in municipal government,” and commenting on Scarsdale she said, “It seems to me that we are by and large a community who gives back, Non Sibi, all the time, in so many ways. I have been only one volunteer, in a huge sea of volunteers, committed members of this community who are determined to make this place, this neighborhood, just that, a neighborhood. And many, many of us add to the fabric of our Village in a Park…. I am happy to call Scarsdale home, happy to call you neighbors and happy to have served this truly grand and dynamic place called Scarsdale. “

Pekarek finished with a quote from the Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield…“ The beginning is never where you think it is. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole. Our lives are the continuation of someone else’s story.”

In his final remarks, Marc Samwick said, “The past four years have been very rewarding on many levels…. we are very fortunate to have such a wealth of volunteers and professionals working tirelessly on behalf of our village.” He thanked the professional staff, the police and fire department, SVAC and Village Manager Steve Pappalardo.

He highlighted the work of the volunteers to raise funds and plan the library renovation, the Communications Committee to increase notifications and create “Scarsdale Official,” and the Freightway Steering Committee to make plans for the development of the Freightway site.

Samwick said, “On a personal level, I have learned and benefited greatly from my time serving as your representative. I have grown – even through difficult times and issues – and met so many people that I now call friends. … I would also like to acknowledge the support of my family. I could not have undertaken being a Trustee without the full-fledged support of my wife, Cynthia. Thank you Cynthia for being endlessly patient with countless meetings, phones calls and village events.”

He made comments for his fellow Trustees:

About Seth Ross he said, “You have consistently handled yourself with poise and your thoughtful, active listening skills are an example that future Trustees and village residents can learn from – I know I have. Our community has also benefitted from your legal and logical intellect.”

About Jane Veron he said, “You have established yourself as a tireless advocate for our Village – from encouraging more open communication using a wide array of tools to communicate with residents, to seemingly single-handedly breathing new life into our Village Center, to filling every vacancy on every board and council, to walking door to door to meet with every merchant in the village center to discuss parking to so much more. … I would also like to personally thank you for your instrumental work in getting the farmer’s market off the ground. Cynthia and I thoroughly enjoy the eggs we get from Marty at Kiernan Farms and the sourdough bread we get from Orwashers each week. I admire and appreciate all that you do for our village and it has been a privilege to work with you.”

About Trustee Callaghan he said, “You bring passion and independent thought to all that you do as a Trustee. The dedication you bring to the Fire Department is above and beyond…You bring the same passion to all that you do - from Parks and Recreation to SCAV to the Advisory Council on Senior Citizens.”

Turning to Carl Finger he said, “You are passionate about Scarsdale, the town you grew up in and have lived in for most of your life. …Your legal background and logical thought process has benefitted the village. Though understated, particularly during your 1st term, you have quite a sense of humor – which is always present and probably not fully appreciated by those who are not sitting next to you.”

He told Mayor Dan Hochvert that he “dove right into being Mayor,” and said, “You are incredibly hardworking and diligent. I can’t recall the last time I was in village hall when I didn’t bump into you…. our community is a better place for your effort, inclusive spirit and consensus-building approach.”

And to Deb Pekarek he said, “You are a genuine and caring person who deeply considers what’s best for others and the community. You also showed real grace and dignity during your reelection process. You spent part of your career as a teacher and you have certainly taught me many things – from handling difficult situations to balancing the needs of different segments of our community to being humane when managing the issues we faced as a Board.”

Also giving thanks to the Trustees were Diane Greenwald on behalf of the Library Board of Trustees, personal appreciation from Michelle Lichtenberg, Andrew Sereysky, who presented certificates of thanks on behalf of President of the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, Janice Starr on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, newly elected trustee Justin Arest and Matt Miller

Both departing trustees were presented with engraved silver plates and posed for photos.

Summing up, Diane Greenwald said, “Volunteers get paid in appreciation so the pay is low– but today I hope you feel well paid.”

Photo Credit: Village of Scarsdale
Pictured at top: Village Manager Steve Pappalardo and Deb Pekarek
Pictured right: Village Manager Steve Pappalardo and Marc Samwick

talesfromthedalePlans are in the works for the Second Annual Tales from the ‘Dale and Beyond: An Evening of Live Storytelling, on Thursday, April 12th at 7:30pm at Heathcote Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased via the following link (students 18 and under are free): 

The evening will be hosted by Sandi Marx, a former talent agent and Scarsdale resident; sought-after storyteller/host. Here is the line-up:
• Justin Heifer, international peace activist featured in the upcoming book and movie The Fox Hunt
• Rev. Pete Jones, pastor at Hitchcock Church in Scarsdale
• Howard Rodstein, retired SHS teacher and former dean of the A-School.
• Justine Gelfman, playwright living in Brooklyn; SHS grad
• Mary Wasacz, nurse and family therapist; Scarsdale resident
• Denise DelBalzo, SMS English teacher
• Joe Vaughan, SHS Physics teacher/ Speech and Debate coach
• Lori Weitzner, internationally renowned textile designer and author; SHS grad
• Howie Nadel, unofficial Mayor of the Scarsdale Pool/ Scarsdale resident
• Julia Brody, storyteller; Edgemont High School grad
• Rebecca Gabin‚ Fox Meadow mom of three
• Nabiha Qadir, a junior at SHS

Save the date and purchase tickets here:

BOTLatimer3The March 13 meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees began with kudos to Scarsdale Village staff for their post-storm clean up efforts, and a visit from Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

Mayor Dan Hochvert opened by acknowledging the hard work of village employees in getting Scarsdale back to normal after the back-to-back nor'easters that pummeled the region. "I think most of us know, through the announcements sent by the Village Manager, that they were working pretty close to 24 hours a day," he said. "If only Con Ed could have been half as good as our staff, they would have finished in half the time." Hochvert then invited Latimer to the podium to address the board and residents present.

Latimer began with a nod to Scarsdale's food scrap recycling initiative. He said, "It was a real pleasure to meet with you at your garbage facility... It sounds like an oxymoron, but it really showed the innovation that you have already undertaken." Since the meeting, Latimer has been looking at efforts to expand food scrap recycling throughout the county. "If we actually get (it) off the ground, I will trace it back to that day (when) I stood there with you all at the Secor Road facility."

The primary reason for Latimer's visit, however, was to discuss one of his first executive orders, which reframes the relationship between the county government and local municipalities. This new "Good Neighbor Policy" applies throughout Westchester County, and requires all county departments to present plans for any county development or initiative to affected local municipalities for public review. He said, "This restrains the county from acting until a presentation can be made to you, in public, at a scheduled meeting. Then, a 60-day review process begins to allow your board to consider what the impacts of this decision might be." If a municipality objects to a particular project, the county will be required to assess and respond to any issues raised. Latimer stated, "Historically, (the county has) moved forward regardless of what the local community thinks, but this changes that whole relationship and connection."
Following his announcement, Latimer invited any questions the board may have about the new executive order and other issues of interest. Trustee Carl Finger asked if Latimer was able to discuss ways that Westchester County can assist with sanitary sewer issues currently facing the village. Latimer responded, "There (are) some elements that have to be (addressed) by local municipalities, such as illegal hookups and things like that. The intent is for the county to solve the immediate problem – the pollution that comes out of the sewer treatment plant – if we can do that, we can solve what the state and feds are worried about."

Trustee Marc Samwick followed by asking if Latimer could expand efforts to improve utilities' performance beyond Con Ed, to providers such as Verizon. He also asked if the county would assist in getting Con Ed to focus on tree maintenance in a more proactive way. Latimer stated, "The expectation is that every community will have an assessment (of storm-related issues). I am expecting to give (Governor Cuomo)... a list of things that happened from North Salem to Pelham... as examples of things he can focus on (when dealing with the utilities). We're going to see issues of communications that failed -- there's no excuse for robocalls that were flat-out inaccurate... and the inability for them to just respond to calls. You ramp up staffing so you can have enough people on the phones."

Trustee Jane Veron then mentioned that the village had been advising residents to reach out directly to the Public Service Commission with complaints about Con Ed, and wondered how Scarsdale should collect and present relevant information. Latimer said that all comments and observations should be consolidated in order to create a more powerful and accurate sense of how Scarsdale was affected by the nor'easters and utility problems. He then said he hoped to collect all information by the end of the month, although the deadline was not set in stone.
Trustee Deborah Pekarek followed by asking about whether the county was able to consider conducting property valuations and reassessments, rather than local municipalities. Latimer stated, "About 20 years ago, it was proposed that the county do a one-time, county-wide assessment to get everyone up to speed... Ultimately, it was not done because the state would have had to pass legislation to allow the county to do something it didn't have the authority to do. But, we're certainly discussing it again." He then went on to mention that he envisions the county developing a "menu" of consolidated services that the county might provide to local municipalities, along with related costs. In turn, local governments would select those services that made sense for them, financially.

Latimer then finished the impromptu Q&A by stating, " I think I'm going to self edit myself, otherwise I'm going to add an hour to your meeting... but I'm happy to come back and formally meet with the board or others in any other setting."

* * *

Mayor's Comments

Hochvert began his comments by reviewing a recent meeting with the Scarsdale Cable TV Commission about upcoming negotiations with cable franchises and pending creation of a committee to look at expanding local content to be aired. He also mentioned his recent meeting with Rich Clark, who teaches biology at the high school, to discuss his students' plans to plant along Harcourt Woods. Hochvert explained that the meeting is a good example of the village and school staff working together, and expressed his desire to strengthen the relationship between the village board and school board. He mentioned a joint effort to solve parking and traffic problems that was discussed at a joint meeting last week. "I think of the two boards as two divisions in a company and each of us is working for our stockholders. We should find ways to work together and serve you better." Hochvert finished his comments by praising the Scarsdale Chinese Association's New Year celebration and congratulating members of the association for their volunteer efforts throughout the community. He urged residents to view the recent League of Women Voters' candidate forum, which is available via Scarsdale Public Television, and reminded all about the upcoming vote on March 20 to fill three trustee positions.

Manager's Comments

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo followed by thanking his staff for their efforts during storm cleanup and power restoration. To illustrate the true impact of the recent nor'easters, he provided residents with some storm statistics, such as:

• 126 public/private trees fell in the village right of way.
• 49 trees took down electric lines;
• 70 roads were closed immediately after the first storm
• Con Ed reported 1,865 outages on March 5.

Pappalardo said, "We've still got a long way to go, in terms of dealing with the impact of these storms. We've got to make improvements and it's got to start with Con Edison. We can do a lot, but we can't turn your power back on." He also advised residents that the village is collecting storm debris free of charge at recycling center through March 30. Residents who wish to drop off debris need to have a voucher form to prove residency; the form may be downloaded via scarsdale.com.

Trustee Comments

Trustee Veron reported that the Ad Hoc Committee on Communications discussed emergency communication efforts during the storm and recovery process. "From a communications perspective, we're trying to think of ways to best communicate with you; we want to bring information to you where you want to receive it. " She also invited the public to share their ideas and input on how to do better. In addition, Veron mentioned that the library renovation project is moving forward and construction plans are complete, and residents will receive information about library services in light of the transition to the supply field.
Trustee Matt Callaghan reported on the Teen Center's continuing work to finding new financial resources and the fire department's new technical response and rescue training program to be conducted at the village's training center on Secor Road.

Trustee Seth Ross announced that village board and committee volunteer applications are being reviewed and the personnel committee will soon finalize its recommendations on candidates to fill vacancies.

Trustee Finger, in referencing County Executive Latimer's request for information on storm- and utility-related issues, suggested that a form for resident input be created ad posted to the village website. He then reported on the proposed village budget, which includes a modest 0.25 percent increase in expenses over current year. The increases are driven by benefits and related contractual obligations that are out of Scarsdale's control. "What is proposed is a tax levy increase of 1.92 percent... The increase in expense of $149,907 is far overshadowed by the increase in health insurance expense, which is over $400,000," Finger stated.

Members of the public were then invited to comment on general issues prior to the public hearing on changes to the village tree code.

Bob Berg (Tisdale Road) began the public comment session by addressing the village response to recent storms. "Benny and his team did a fabulous job as they always do... I do have a problem with the lack of emergency facilities for our residents... A third of the village was out of power for seven to ten days, and there was no place for these people to go... The village should have worked with the school system to have the high school available... We have to provide for our residents and we need to push the school system to (help). Hochvert responded, " I have asked the same question of the schools and we get the same resistance. It is something I support you on. We'll see if we can work with them in the future on that (issue)."
Bob Harrison (Fox Meadow Road) expressed his thanks to village staff for their work during the storm aftermath. He also mentioned his support of the modified resolution for improved sanitation services, which preserves rear yard pick up of recyclables. Berg then discussed the proposed comfort station at the middle school, which was discussed at the joint BOE-BOT meeting on March 5. He suggested that the village purchase a parcel of middle school property and build the comfort station, without the complication of state department of education requirements.

After the public hearing, the trustees continued their review of various business and administrative matters. Notably, as part of her Municipal Services Committee report, Trustee Veron presented a resolution to establish modified and expanded sanitation service standards on a 12-month pilot basis. These include weekly, village wide food scrap recycling, a furniture donation partnership and holiday week pick up schedule changes. There will be no change to rear yard recycling pick up.

PamPam Fuehrer will run independently for a second term on the Scarsdale School BoardThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Pam Fuehrer, a current member of the Scarsdale School Board who will run for a second term:
To the Editor,
I recently learned that the School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) did not recommend me for election to a second term on the Scarsdale Board of Education. I appreciate the time and effort of the SBNC members, but considering the diligence, thoughtfulness and sensitivity with which I've met the important responsibilities of a school board member these past three years, I am deeply disappointed with the decision not to nominate me for re-election. Given my 13 year commitment and experience listening to, reporting on, and helping to resolve the needs of students, parents and faculty across our District, I know that I continue to have valuable contributions to make.

Over the years, my top priorities have been the educational experiences, concerns, and safety of our children, families and staff. Prior to Board work, I led the Edgewood PTA effort as PTA president to replenish our savings and to budget more accurately to ensure continued financial support for programmatic opportunities. As PT Council Vice President, I led an ad hoc PT Council curriculum committee, which represented and discussed parents’ requests with Assistant Superintendent Lynne Shain throughout her first year, resulting in a detailed presentation of all curriculum on the District’s website. During a second term as PT Council Vice President and as PT Council President, I was an integral part of the collaboration between the Scarsdale Teachers’ Association and PT Council to craft the Parent-Educator Partnership Guide. This document, also currently on the District’s website, provides counsel on how, when and where to appropriately raise issues and provides answers to frequently asked questions.

As a Board member, I have supported District efforts to establish a STEAM curriculum, a new program at the high school for emotionally challenged children, and an improved writing curriculum at the elementary schools. I’ve participated in the negotiations of 5 labor contracts and in all 2018 Bond presentations, discussions and deliberations. This Bond includes a number of projects improving the security and safety of our children. I was a member of the Greenacres Building Committee which recommended a safety monitor, air quality and noise monitoring, temporary HEPA filtration during all phases of construction, and the installation of air conditioning in the old multi-purpose room and library.

We are at a pivotal time for Scarsdale schools. We have been engaged in long-term planning of all types. I believe my institutional knowledge and thorough, multi-year understanding of ongoing critical issues, such as community participation, communication, contract negotiations, budgeting, facilities discussions and projects, superintendent evaluations and fiscal planning, have provided and should continue to provide valuable leadership and input to the District and Board as a whole. I am planning to run as an independent candidate along with those nominated by the SBNC so that I might continue the important work I enjoy so immensely and which is so essential to our community. I appreciate the support and encouragement that I have already received by so many.

generatorsnowThe Officers and Members of the Scarsdale Fire Department would like to remind our residents of some vital portable generator safety tips, as you continue to battle through the recent winter storms and face continued power outages.

• Never run a generator inside of a building. This includes the garage or basement. Within minutes Carbon Monoxide can build up - this colorless, odorless, gas kills occupants with no warning every year.

• Always place generators at least 10 feet from any structure. The exhaust must face away from any openings. Fans will not prevent Carbon Monoxide buildup.

• Never place generators on or near combustibles. This includes decks, porches and tool sheds. The heat generated by the motor or improper refueling can start a fire.

• Never modify, construct, or connect a generator to a dryer, range, or other household receptacle.

• Always follow your manufacturer's generator instructions to avoid electrocution.

• Never store fuel for your generator in your house. Flammable liquids should always be stored outside living areas in properly labeled, and ventilated containers.

• Always make sure you have working carbon monoxide and fire detectors installed.

Should you need any assistance or require any additional safety information, please contact the Scarsdale Fire Department at 722-1215.

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