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solar panel houseAfter considerable discussion and lengthy public comments the Scarsdale Board of Trustees passed a change to building code that allows property owners to install solar panels that meet a list of criteria without review by the Board of Architectural Review. This will allow property owners to install panels on front, side and back facing roofs without review by the BAR, as is now required.

Though the board was in general agreement about the installation of solar panels, the matter that was up for debate was whether or not street or front facing solar panels would still need to go before the BAR.

Part of the approval procedure for property owners will be to complete a checklist of criteria on the installation of the solar panels to be submitted to the building department. These requirements specify that residents would need to submit detailed plans for the solar panels, including a site plan, elevation and roof drawings showing the presence of the solar panels. The checklist includes requirements such as a maximum height that the solar array can be off of the roof, a requirement that the edges of the panels need to be flush, a requirement that the edges of the panel installation need to be parallel to the roofline and a requirement for anti-reflective coating on the panels. The application checklist is a combination of aesthetic and safety parameters.

The change to the code is underlined below:

“Matters exempted from review. Upon vote of the majority of the whole Board, the following additions or alterations or fences are designated as exempt from review by the Board: A. On any elevation:

(1) Repair or replacement in kind of any preexisting structure or architectural element thereof.

(2) Solar panels, except when referred to the Board by the Building Inspector."

At the public hearing, many residents and children spoke in favor of the change.

Jen Premisler said she went through the BAR process and installed panels on the street and side facing roofs of her home and offset her energy usage by 130%. She favored exempting solar panels from BAR review, calling the process “onerous.”

She gave three reasons she supports this change:

-It attracts environmentally conscious homebuyers
-Considers the needs of generations to come
-If the Village limits the installation of front facing surfaces, some sections of homes could be at an economic disadvantage.

Jeanne-Marie Castiello 280 Mamaroneck Road agreed that solar panels should be permitted on any side without review of the BAR. Otherwise she said, “We discriminate against homeowners who don’t have south facing back-sides for the installation of solar panels.” She called solar energy clean and inexpensive.

Many high school students spoke in favor of the resolution to permit people to put solar panels on their house.

Richard Kantor of Innes Road spoke in support of the resolution and urged Scarsdale to place solar panels on Village buildings.

Renu Lalwani said solar panels take advantage of nature’s most powerful and free resource. She said, ”It is our duty to allow anyone to make this change without discrimination. It is unfair to restrict its use. I understand that solar panels may be an eyesore for some people. Charity and change begins at home. Change should begin with small measures in our homes.”

Lana Deharveng of Hampton Road spoke in favor of permitting solar panels on all rooftops. She said in California, solar panels are everywhere.

Seema Jaggi of Hampton Road spoke in favor of front and rear facing solar panels. She said we have seen terrible storms here and climate change is already here. Since the government is not embracing change, the burden is on state and local governments who need to be bold. She said, “We should encourage the use of solar panels.”

Darlene LeFrancois Haber spoke in favor of removing solar panels from BAR review. She said, “We are in the middle of a global crisis” and “We must reduce our fossil fuel consumption.” For those with aesthetic hang ups, she said, “Solar panels can be our badge of honor.”

Sabine Bochner, a member of the Board of Architectural Review. She said, “It’s not either, or. We can come up with parameters that add to the aesthetics. Though the BAR members don’t agree on this resolution, they agree on the aesthetics parameters they are giving to the community.”

Adie Shore of Oakstwain Road said, “I appreciate the checklist but believe that limiting this to rear facing panels should be removed from the list.”

Kathleen Dunlop from Lockwood Road said, “We have a leadership opportunity here in Scarsdale to show our children what we can do for the future.” “Our actions have symbolic power for our children.”

Ylva Cavali Bjorkman of Heathcote Road spoke in favor of the proposal. She said, “I had my solar panel application denied. We have geothermal heating. “

Michael Levine agreed, saying, “I think solar panels should be encouraged and there should be no reason to impede or obstruct it.”

Ron Schulhof said, ”I believe this will make it clearer and easier and support residential solar in Scarsdale.” He called the proposed approval process “stringent,” and said only those projects that meet these “narrow guidelines” could install solar panels without review by the BAR. He said the proposal “was the result of extensive research and compromise.” He suggested that the checklist should be changed so that only solar panels on front facing asphalt roofs be permitted without BAR review – not slate or tile, a change that was ultimately adopted by the board. He said that Tesla tiles are not available and we don’t know when they will be. He said, “that’s years out.”

Michelle Sterling read a letter from architect Bart Hamlin that said, “I am in favor of solar panels - even if they are visible from the street. This is basically a matter of priorities. Either you believe the Village aesthetic is more important than the environment or vice versa.

A letter from the CAC years ago basically stated that in the short term solar cells will look like applied appliances (like the current solar panels) but eventually solar cells will be fully integrated into building materials and therefore the impact on aesthetics will be greatly reduced. Solar roof shingle for example will improve solar's aesthetic characteristics rapidly (just see how Tesla is developing their solar roof tiles).

I believe it is only about 10-15 years during which these visible "appliances" will be replaced by an integrated type of solar cells. The next 10-15 years however happens to be the most critical time period for us to reduce the causes of climate change in order to mitigate severe climate related crisis.

This seems like a very small period of time for the aesthetics of Scarsdale to be compromised in order for Scarsdale to contribute to improving our climate and thus helping to avoid a climate crisis. Fortunately, at the end of the life cycle of anything installed today, I believe the replacement products will be compatible with the Scarsdale aesthetic. Therefore, the compromise to Scarsdale aesthetics will be short-lived but very worthwhile.”

The Board debated the proposed change to the law and the building department checklist of requirements for solar panels. They agreed to modify the building department checklist to require any front facing solar panels on slate or tile roofs to require BAR approval.

Trustee Justin Arest feared that this checklist of provisions for solar panels could be changed in the future without any input from the Board of Trustees. Lena Crandall spoke in favor of keeping this checklist separate from Village code and the Village Manager said the Building Department would not change the checklist without approval from the Board of Trustees. Others objected to changing the checklist to require BAR review for front facing panels on non-asphalt roofs without another public hearing.

Ultimately the Board voted to approve the code change, permitting front facing solar panels on asphalt roofs, and installation on all other roofs that meet checklist criteria without approval by the Board of Architectural Review.

All voted aye except Justin Arest who said he is a supporter of solar energy but objected to the process whereby the Board voted on a new version of the law and agreed to a change in the checklist of criteria without an additional public hearing. He said, “This is a vote about bypassing the BAR.”

Commenting on the change, Michelle Sterling said,"The application checklist is a conservative one - many towns in Westchester have fewer aesthetic requirements and have an even more streamlined approach than us. That being said, ours is an excellent and necessary first step. It will allow homeowners to obtain solar panels in what will be a much more streamlined process. I am happy to say that with this code change and this historic vote in favor, Scarsdale has landed on the right side of history and should be very proud."

safestorageAssemblymember Amy Paulin announced that her bill (A. 2686A) to require the safe and secure storage of rifles, shotguns, and handguns to prevent access by children and other prohibited persons has passed the New York State Assembly and the State Senate. The bill is designed to curb accidental injuries and deaths, particularly of children, and will also help prevent incidents of suicide and theft.

“New York state law already requires the safe storage of rifles, shotguns, and handguns in households when a person who lives there has been convicted of a crime, is subject to an order of protection, or other factors,” said Assemblymember Paulin. “This bill adds households where a child under the age of 16 lives, or times when a child of that age could reasonably be expected to be visiting a house. Given everything we know about the effect a gun in the home can have on our children’s health and safety, and the many tragic stories when a firearm was left unattended by an adult, this bill is absolutely necessary for keeping our kids safe.”

A priority for advocates for reducing gun violence for many years, the bill gained statewide prominence in response to the story of 12 year-old Nicholas Naumkin of Wilton, New York, who was fatally shot at a classmate’s house in 2010 when his friend was playing with his father’s unsecured gun. Guns that are not safely stored have continued to be a persistent danger to children, including in 2017, when a 15 year-old in Glen Cove accidentally and fatally shot himself with a legally permitted handgun that he had found at a friend’s house.

Safe storage options, including locked cabinets, safes, gun vaults, or storage cases, are in widespread use among responsible gun owners and have been recommended for years by sporting associations and pediatricians alike. Nevertheless, a 2018 report from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that more than half of U.S. gun owners still do not voluntarily store their guns safely.

In addition to accidents, adolescents also face increased risk of suicides in households where guns are not secure. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the mere presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of suicidal thoughts. Also according to AFSP’s most recent annual report, 51% of all suicides in the United States are by a firearm, and 60% of gun-related deaths are suicides.

The bill requires that any gun owner who lives with a child under 16 must safely store their firearm when it is not in their direct control in an appropriate safe storage depository and/or by using a gun locking device to prevent the weapon from being fired. The same requirement would apply to a household where one of the persons living there is currently prohibited from possessing a firearm, or when a gun owner would reasonably expect a child under the age of 16 to be present – for example, a visit from a relative, a friend’s child, or a neighbor. The only exception to this requirement is for children under 16 who have been granted a hunting license or permit.

Should the bill be signed into law by the Governor, the failure of a gun owner to safely store his or her weapon properly would now be a criminal offense and could result in fines.

“Despite all our progress, it is still simply too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “Preventing children from obtaining access to firearms by requiring safe storage will enable us to prevent accidents, suicides and school incidents that put our children in harm’s way. It is an important step that will keep our families safe without impinging on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

JudyShemtobIn June 2015, I retired. Teaching third and fourth grades for 28 years in Scarsdale comprised my persona. I loved my work, never took sick days without raging sore throats requiring antibiotics. Mental health days - out of the question! I sought a new identity, something fun. What would I do in the days ahead?

While I stood at the Scarsdale Public Library’s circulation desk to return a book, a wall monitor flashed highlighted programs. “Writing Critique Groups A and B starting.” The slide changed. I awaited its return. “Deadline Aug.15.” How had I missed this?

The reference room librarian checked her list. “I’m sorry. The deadline’s passed.”

“Please. I know Barbara Josselsohn from the gym. When she’s on the treadmill, I’m on the arc. I’d love to be in her group. Such an opportunity!”

“Leave your phone and library card numbers. I’ll get back to you.”

Months later my cellphone rang. “There’s room in a January group. Still interested?”

That sought after spot summoned me to sit at a long oval table in the library’s northwest corner. From swivel chairs, I observed adult faces share narratives, felt emotion in voices sensing the real story behind the words. From 9:30-11:30 a.m. on alternate Fridays, I gave my opinions on selected articles related to our lives, learned about craft in a multitude of genres. I watched leaves in the expansive windows turn colors and wave in the wind with traffic headed past the duck pond’s fountain while critiquing. Everyone hung around tables along the entrance way or on the sidewalks. I was happy being a writer in our critique group.

One week I brought in a children’s manuscript, then another. Although I wrote to class prompts, I read picture books while others shared adult pieces. I had long dreamed about reading a book that I had written at the children’s room story time. Its librarians helped me find comps for stories I submitted to editors, agents, and publishing houses. I started to think my dream might become a reality. It felt as though I was in the middle of a life-changing experience.

Barbara announced a June Celebration of Writing in the same room where I had seen town meetings, art showings, lectures. Each of us would read 5-minute pieces commemorating the semester with food, drinks, and an intermission. Being a ham, I signed up immediately. Used to reading aloud to children, but not to adults, I practiced in front of the bathroom mirror.

Chairs in long rows and paintings on walls filled the Scott Room that Sunday. I read Our Giant Tree, a story about my beautiful but struggling deciduous. An audience of forty relatives, friends, and published authors locked eyes with mine while they listened to unfolding details, laughed at the humorous parts, felt the suspense, and enjoyed the satisfying ending. They respected the determination and effort required to bring pieces through the writing process and acknowledged the many hours spent revising and revising until the piece felt right.

Opportunities to publish came next in the Library’s Writing Center. “Anyone interested in writing up our festival and submitting it to the GoodBookCorner.com?” My hand shot up. “I’ll do it.” I revised, edited, submitted, and proofread like it really mattered. After seeing my article posted online, I became hooked on publishing adult pieces.

From the library prompts, the critique groups, and the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence classes immerged an adult novel about a young girl immigrating from eastern Europe in 1904, based on the teeniest snippet of my grandmother’s romantic journey. I felt as though I had experienced a life changing experience!

Who could have predicted the events that occurred as result of a visit to the local library to return a book? Thank you to the Friends of the Scarsdale Library for providing funding for this program, and thank you, Scarsdale Public Library, for including me in your Writers Center.

librarychessThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583 from Anne George, Wendy Kleinman, and Gabrielle Wise

Dear Scarsdale Community and Library Patrons,

Did you know that funds provided by the Friends of the Scarsdale Library (“the Friends”) support the most popular programs at the Scarsdale Public Library? The Friends-sponsored programs include the SPL Writers Center, Film Screenings, Chess, Mad Science, Petite Concerts, Speaker Series, Museum Passes, Homebound Services, and many other special engagements.

The Petite Concert
This series introduces Scarsdale’s youngest residents to the joys of listening to live music.Librarystory

“I just wanted to share with you, that the concerts are AMAZING! My kids (twins) are 22 months and I can see how the attendance has been helping them loosen up and engage into the world of music and dance. Thanks so much for organizing them for our community!”
-- Karen Babba

The SPL Writers Center
The SPL Writers Center has been a favorite service, providing a stimulating and motivating environment for community scribes.

“I’ve been a very grateful participant in the Scarsdale Library writing groups, as well as the ‘Festival of Writing’ events. Both activities have supported my development to the point that I am currently getting acceptances for submissions to a NYC neighborhood news paper.”
-- Jacqueline Beville

Museum Passes
The Scarsdale Public Library encourages cultural exposure outside of our village by offering free passes to explore the vast number of surrounding museums through our Museum Pass Program.

"The Museum Pass Program is a hidden gem available through the Scarsdale Public Library. We have recently been to the latest exhibits at the Frick Museum, the Stamford Museum, The Museum of the City of New York and The New York Historical Society. There was no charge at any museum using the Museum Pass.”
-- Merle Brenner & Dr. Stephen Brenner

LibrarywritersThese testimonials represent just a fraction of residents who benefit from and enjoy the library’s programs throughout the year. The Friends remains committed to supplementing the innovative, diverse and popular programs for all library patrons that would otherwise not be funded. Traditionally, the FOSL book sale has been a major source of support for the Friends; however, since the library building is under renovation and is unable to hold a book sale this year, the Friends welcomes you to our gala instead.

Please join us in support of lifelong learning in Scarsdale at our Casino Night fundraiser on FOSLFriday, March 8th at 7:30 p.m. at Fenway Golf Club. The evening will feature a full open bar, passed hors d'oeuvres, buffet stations, dancing, a silent auction and casino fun. We hope to see you at this festive event to support the Friends and celebrate the future of our Library together! Casino Night tickets can be purchased here.

Can’t attend Casino Night? Please consider becoming a Friend of the Library by clicking here

With gratitude,

Anne George, Wendy Kleinman, and Gabrielle Wise
Casino Night Event Chairs and FOSL Board Members

cuomo3Westchester leaders have asked the Governor to intervene in the energy crisis.Westchester government leaders and school superintendents are making a plea to Governor Cuomo to help find solutions to the moratorium on new gas service that Con Edison suddenly imposed on Westchester to go into affect on March 15. The moratorium affects both residential and commercial properties and would prevent developers of new construction and expansion of existing properties from access to gas service.

The letter says, “We do not need to tell you that the news has sent a chill throughout the development community. Given the number of projects already advancing in our cities, towns, and villages, from major redevelopment in cities like New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains, and Yonkers, to the smaller residential, commercial, mixed-use, and school construction projects taking place throughout the county, we are deeply concerned about the potential economic headwinds coming from such a resource crunch.”

The leaders ask the Governor to expedite Public Service Commission approval of a proposal from Con Edison called “Smart Solutions for Natural Gas” and to create incentives for the use of clean energy sources. They also ask for the Governor to intervene in clearing the way for a new gas pipeline to bring more natural gas to Westchester. The complete letter is shown below.

We spoke to Assemblywoman Amy Paulin about the moratorium and here are her comments:

“Con Edison surprised all of us with a very short window – two months – before they expect to impose the moratorium. They say that even a year ago they did not anticipate this moratorium. The reason they are imposing this moratorium is to ensure that you, their customer, has heat on the coldest day of the year. They have created this moratorium to preserve your supply.”

She explained that the pipelines that convey the gas are privately built and those companies have the right to sell the gas to whatever utility companies they choose.

When we asked why more pipelines had not been built, Paulin said, “Con Ed says they were encouraged to create a smart solution for use of geothermal, heat pumps and other renewables rather than build a pipeline … and the Public Service Commission says Con Edison AmyPaulin2013AAssemblywoman Amy Paulinnever came to them with a pipeline solution.”

She continued, “There is no need to assess blame now. This is going to be our situation and we are going to have to make the best of it.” However if people decide to return to the use of oil and propane because there are not enough incentives for green solutions, they we have a problem.”

Here is a copy of the letter:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo,
As representatives of the New Yorkers who live and work in Westchester County, we are writing to ask for your assistance, your leadership, and your outside-the-box creative thinking in dealing with the newly-announced temporary moratorium for new natural gas services in our area.

As you know, on January 17, Con Edison formally announced to the Public Service Commission and to the general public that it would be instituting a temporary moratorium in most of its Westchester County service area for new natural gas services, including residential, commercial, or mixed-use buildings currently in development that will increase peak winter demand. The moratorium is scheduled to begin on March 15 – less than two months after it was announced – and would last for an indeterminate period of time. The only stated exceptions to the moratorium would be for new customers applying for interruptible service, gas service for emergency generators that only activate in the case of an electric outage, or other service patterns that would not be likely to impact gas delivery during peak winter usage.

We do not need to tell you that the news has sent a chill throughout the development community. Given the number of projects already advancing in our cities, towns, and villages, from major redevelopment in cities like New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains, and Yonkers, to the smaller residential, commercial, mixed-use, and school construction projects taking place throughout the county, we are deeply concerned about the potential economic headwinds coming from such a resource crunch. Those headwinds, on top of several other factors, could prove painful for our constituents and for the local economy. That could in turn have a ripple effect in terms of home prices and property values that further depress local economic development.

We were gratified to see the Public Service Commission take this issue so seriously and schedule public hearings in our region during the week of February 11. However, we believe that more creative and pro- active management is required to provide assurance that our region can effectively weather the major impact that this may have on our overall economy.

Specifically, we would appreciate the executive agencies of the state engaging in the following areas:

1.) Expedited Approval of “Smart Solutions” proposed by Con Edison

All of us support the state’s transition to sustainable, renewable, and green energy sources as critical to reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, bending the dangerous trend lines of increased carbon emissions, and racing against the clock to fight the threats posed by climate change. Part of that effort has to include the successful promotion of clean energy alternatives that will have the added benefit of avoiding the negative impact natural gas moratorium on specific projects. We understand that Con Edison has submitted a number of proposals under the name “Smart Solutions for Natural Gas Customers.” These proposals for increasing the use of geothermal heating and air source heating pump solutions are pending review by the Public Service Commission. We urge that those proposals be placed on an expedited schedule so that they may be available to both new development and existing oil customers who are looking to convert to natural gas or some other method as soon as is practical.

2.) Additional Incentives to Make Green Energy Solutions More Attractive
Both the “Smart Solutions” proposals submitted by Con Edison and the programs of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority create incentives to increase usage of clean energy sources. However, we understand that the cost differential between traditional natural gas and these new cleaner sources of energy is still too steep in many cases. We would urge the executive agencies to proactively and creatively establish new incentive programs to decrease this gap and make it more economically viable for new development and those converting from oil heat to choose smarter, cleaner, and greener options, and that Westchester County be given first priority for any pilot projects stemming from these efforts.

3.) Spearhead new, creative solutions to the question of natural gas transmission

Clearly the underlying conditions involve an increased demand for natural gas, and the constraints of the current infrastructure are insufficient to supply that demand. The main conveyance for natural gas is through interstate or intrastate pipelines, but we live in a challenging regulatory and political environment for the construction of new pipelines for fossil fuels. There are often many legitimate objections raised by local communities and environmental advocates. Although a traditional response to the basic economics of supply and demand would focus on the quick approval of a new pipeline, new construction can take four or five years from the beginning of the approval process by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state agencies to the time when gas flows to the region, even when these objections from local communities and environmentalists can be accommodated. This raises the specter that the proposed moratorium could last for years before the underlying conditions improve.

Over the years of your service as Governor, you have time and again shown a unique ability to overcome obstacles to the major, critical infrastructure projects that New York relies upon for its economic wellbeing. Your leadership has helped surmount obstacles including outdated regulatory requirements, a lack of creativity in the engineering of a project, or an overreliance on conventional thinking when it comes to risk and financing.

For the sake of our county’s economic well-being and the residents and communities that rely upon ongoing development projects put at risk by this sudden and potentially long-lasting natural gas moratorium, we ask you to provide that same leadership, ingenuity, and outside-the-box thinking to our current problem. We are prepared to do what we can to work with you in this effort.

Sincerely,

Sandra R. Galef Member of the Assembly
Amy R. Paulin, Member of the Assembly
Steve Otis
 Member of the Assembly
Terry Clements
 Westchester County Legislator
Damon R. Maher
Westchester County Legislator
Josh Cohn
 Mayor, City of Rye
Thomas Roach
 Mayor, City of White Plains
Warren Lucas
 Supervisor, Town of North Salem
Michael Volpe
 Mayor, Village of Pelham
Dan Hochvert
 Mayor, Village of Scarsdale
Roy R. Montesano Ed.D., Superintendent Bronxville Union Free School District
Dr. Cheryl Champ, Superintendent Pelham Union Free School District
Eric Byrne, Ed.D, Superintendent of Schools Rye City School District
Pietro Fasolino, Board of Education President Rye Neck School District
Benjamin Boykin II
 Chairman, Westchester County Board of Legislators
Margaret Cunzio
 Westchester County Legislator
Noam Bramson
 Mayor, City of New Rochelle
Michael Spano
 Mayor, City of Yonkers
Nancy Seligson
 Supervisor, Town of Mamaroneck
Victoria Gearity
 Mayor, Village of Ossining
Gary Zuckerman Supervisor, Town of Rye
Jennifer Rosen, Board President Briarcliff Manor Board of Education
Dr. Walter Moran, Superintendent of Schools Eastchester Union Free School District
Carol Conklin-Spillane, Superintendent Pocantico Hills School District
Dr. Barbara Ferraro, Superintendent of Schools Rye Neck School District

cc: John B. Rhodes, Chair of the Public Service Commission and Chief Executive Officer, Department of Public Service

Alicia Barton, President and Chief Executive Officer, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

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