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freightwaysiteWhat is the status of an initiative to build a transit-oriented development on the west side of the Metro North tracks in Scarsdale Village? In order to keep the public informed about the process, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees scheduled a public forum on Wednesday May 15 with Village Managers and recently-hired planning consultants AKRF, to review what’s been done to date – and what’s in store for the next few years.

The site under consideration is 2.5 acres of Village owned property at Freightway, plus another 1.33 acres and the air rights over the railroad tracks. The deteriorating indoor lot, outdoor spaces and open lots accommodates 720 commuter cars, and one of the biggest concerns about the development project is where all these commuters will park during the construction project.

Over the past several years the Village has already done outreach to residents to identify priorities for the new development, assigned a steering committee to establish goals and objectives, held public workshops, fielded an online survey and done a visioning study.

Last year the Village received responses from seven firms to an RFI, and has rough concepts from these seven developers to consider. The plans included residences, retail locations and parking as well as public spaces including EastEndCapitalA rendering from the response to the RFI from East End Capitalparks, walkways, parks and open air plazas.

Since that time, the Village has retained McCullough, Goldberger and Staudt LLP as legal counsel and AKRF as planning consultants to help the Village evaluate the proposals.

Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards explained that the Village is “almost halfway through the process of developing an RFP that reflects the values of this community.”

Some of the key goals to improve the Village Center include:

-Aesthetics
-Place-making
-Connectivity
-Sustainability

Residents want a vibrant village center with green energy and green infrastructure.

Their next step is to finalize the RFP and circulate it to selected developers. It has not yet been decided whether it will go only to the seven applicants who submitted an RFI or to other bidders as well.

The proposals will be evaluated on the basis of:

-Extent to which the proposal meet Village criteria and aligns with vision and principles
-Prioritizes connectivity, open space, placemaking, sustainability, fiscal benefit and contextual design.
-Developer has demonstrated experience and competency
-Proposal offers best value in terms of finances and community benefit
-Developer experience with creating long lasting projects.

Once the SEQRA or environmental study is reviewed, there will be a public hearing on the zoning change. The developer will then file a site plan for approval.

Mayor Marc Samwick emphasized, “There is a long process in front of us – we are at the top of the second inning. We have an enormous opportunity to evaluate what is to be done”…. He added, “The Christie Place project was almost a parking garage paid for by us. Instead we have residences, retail, parking and real estate tax revenue of more than $1 million a year. (Referring to Freightway he said,) “Do we want to just get parking – or get the parking plus more additional benefits? That’s why we are here today.”

During the public comments portion of the meeting, residents expressed concerns about the project and hopes about what might be included.

Bob Berg said, “My big fear is that we give a developer free rein to do what is most profitable for them – and they make many multi family houses. Coops and rentals get a big tax break. Condominiums would not be a problem if we pass the Homestead Act.” He asked, “Are you going to restrict the housing in the RFP to condominiums to avoid this problem?”

Ed Morgan, President of the Scarsdale Arts Council asked the Board to “bring back a modern movie theater with a performance space in it. Freightway is one of the sites that should be looked at for a facility like the Jacob Burns Film Center

Bob Harrison suggested that the Board consider an indoor aquatic facility aka an indoor pool for the community. He said, “Can this be worked in?”

Andrew Sereysky said, “One of the proposals mentioned a dog run – this has been a pet peeve of mine. Scarsdale needs a dog park! Include a dog park during the process.”

Carol Silverman said, “What about a senior center or a community center?”

Zoltan Szilagyi of Chesterfield Road said, “I appreciate the transparency. Consider the importance of school enrollment –-- it is such an overriding concern. Have realistic enrollment projections in advance for informed decision making.”

Berg then returned to the mic to discuss the Homestead Act. He said, “At Christie Place, the units were sold on the premise that their property taxes would be very reasonable. That’s the same scam you want to pull off here.”

Trustee Justin Arest responded saying,

Commenting on the Homestead Act, Trustee Justin Arest said he believed it was “premature to have this discussion,” first because Homestead can only be considered following a municipal wide revaluation, and Scarsdale is not currently planning another reval. Second, “the probability for a Westchester municipality adopting it is relatively small.”

Furthermore, he said, “Whether it be in the form of public amenities and/or a potential up front payment, it behooves us as a community to balance our aesthetic and density concerns with maximizing revenue- in other words, making the pie and our piece of the pie larger. If homestead was implemented today, it would lead to an increase in the tax liabilities faced by any proposed condo units and therefore cause significant reductions in their value.”

Therefore he concluded, “Just the conversation of automatically opting for Homestead and giving the false impression that there is wide community support for it could lead developers to amend their base case that they will use to underwrite the project and materially change the proposals we receive.”

Addressing Berg he said, “I don’t appreciate your statement that we are trying to pull off a scam or cheat anyone. Bait and switch is not our intent.”

Mayor Marc Samwick explained, “There is a certain amount of value to the land the village owns. That value can be achieved in parking fees or real estate taxes. We are not going to get both – how are we going to maximize the value? We are putting the cart before the horse with a discussion of Homestead. We have to look at this in a responsible fashion based on the tax structure we have today. Let’s stay focused on what we know, quantify it and evaluate it and move forward. All options will be compared to a “no build” option so it will be clear how much the development is costing the Village.”

Tama Seife of Circle Road said, “What about the dislocation for people who park there? Is that part of the impact study?”

She was assured that, “Yes that is part of the environmental review – and mitigations need to be designed to minimize those impacts. How can we make this better? What are the tradeoffs?”

Tom Giordano of Montgomery Road asked if civic groups can provide input for the RFP.

David Buchen of Circle Road asked, “Are any of the private owners interested in contributing? What will the Village own at the end of the process? What is the capacity of the train station? We are the second most frequented train station on the Harlem Line after White Plains. How much more traffic can be brought to that station?”

Anne Zink of Beechwood Lane said, “Newer residents may not have the opportunity to supply feedback. When does the window close for the public to submit their wish list?

She was told, “The window does not necessarily close on identifying impacts. The Village hasn’t set forth a specific program – i.e. a dog park or a pool – instead we are asking the development community of their ideas of a good use of this land.”

See the full presentation on the Village website here.

Birdie1L to R: Danielle Lemisch as Deborah Sue, Becca Skar as Kim, Amanda Ruzumna as Margie, Julia McMurray as Helen, Amanda Glik as Suzie, Emily Lattman as Alice, Talia Schulhof as Nancy, Ben Schwartz as ConradThe SHS senior class musical is a tradition that Scarsdale kids look forward to every year. It’s a chance for students who aren’t involved in drama at the high school to have their moment onstage to shine, and it’s also a chance for kids who are involved with the drama club to step into production and leadership roles. This year, the show picked was the 1960 classic musical Bye Bye Birdie. The show will open on Friday, May 17th, at 7:30pm. There will also be performances on Saturday, May 18th at 7:30pm and Sunday, May 19th at 2:00pm. The production is directed by senior Katie Nova in her directorial debut, with technical supervision and mentorship throughout the process from Mr. Steve Bogardus.

Birdie2Christina Coco as Mae Peterson, Noam Cherki as Albert PetersonThe plot of the show follows Albert Peterson, a songwriter for the pop star Conrad Birdie, his girlfriend and secretary Rosie Alvarez, and Conrad himself, as they put together one last publicity stunt before Conrad goes to war. Their big idea is for Conrad to have one last “goodbye kiss” with a fan, Kim MacAfee, which stirs things up with Kim’s family and newly-steady boyfriend, Hugo. The production stars Noam Cherki as Albert, Lindsay Gelles as Rosie, and Ben Schwartz as Conrad, featuring Becca Sklar as Kim and Joey Lane as Hugo, with Simon Krohn and Izzy Riback as Kim’s parents and Zach Reyman as Kim’s brother. While some members of the cast have outside theatre experience, for many it’s their first show.

The senior class has been working hard to put this all together. The whole family will enjoy it! To see the show, buy tickets here or at the door on May 17th, 18th, or 19th.

Planting1Rick Reuter, Todd Wolleman and Kay Eisenman on Planting DayThe Friends of Scarsdale Parks held their fifth annual planting day at Scarsdale High School on Saturday April 27. The Friends have been reclaiming a waste site adjacent to Dean Field and the Scarsdale Library, clearing it of knotweed and replacing invasive plants with native trees and shrubs. It is now a beautiful meadow. This year, with the help of the Village naturalist, they planted native Sycamores, Northern Arrowwood (viburnum), Cranberries, red twig dogwoods and plum rose bushes along the watercourse. Scarsdale’s first couple, Mayor Marc Samwick and his wife Cynthia stopped by to see the progress of this communal effort. Over the course of the day, 50 people lent a hand and a shovel to the planting effort.Planting2Village Naturalist Sam Weinstock and Dan Girardiwoods

 

CynthiaThe League of Woman Voters of Scarsdale cordially invites you to its Annual Meeting and Luncheon on Friday, May 10, 2019, 11:45 AM - 2:00 PM at Scarsdale Golf Club in Hartsdale.

FEATURED SPEAKER: Cynthia Deitle, Speaking about Protecting the Victims of Hate Crimes: A Career in Seeking Justice

Cynthia M. Deitle supervises the national hate crime programs and outreach as the Programs and Operations Director for the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Prior to joining the Matthew Shepard Foundation in 2017, for 22 years Cynthia was a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where she specialized in civil rights enforcement, community outreach, and victims’ assistance.

At the FBI, Cynthia served as the lead investigative agent for many high-profile police brutality investigations and investigated hate crimes cases. In 2007, she assumed a Supervisory Special Agent position in the Civil Rights Unit in FBI Headquarters.

In 2008 Deitle was promoted to Civil Rights Unit Chief, where she managed the FBI’s national cases and investigation of Hate Crimes, Color of Law, Human Trafficking and Abortion Extremism Programs. As Civil Rights Unit Chief, she also worked the FBI’s Cold Case Initiative which seeks to reexamine unsolved racially-motivated homicides from the Civil Rights Era.

Following passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009, Deitle collaborated with Dennis and Judy Shepard, The Department of Justice, the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP and other non-governmental agency stakeholders, to train state, local, and federal law enforcement officials to enforce this law. In 2011, Deitle transferred to the Boston Division to supervise the Public Corruption and Civil Rights investigations in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

Deitle received her Bachelor of Arts degree from The Ohio State University and her Juris Doctor degree from New England Law Boston. She earned a Master of Laws degree in Criminal Law from New York University School of Law and a Master of Laws degree in Constitutional Law from the George Washington University National Law Center.

Deitle has published several law review articles on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment and the use of excessive force by police in the context of the civil rights laws.

Tickets are $40.00 per person; $45 after May 7; Student Price $20.00. Click here to register online or download the form and mail it in with a check.

ScarsdaleSealBelow find the consensus statement on the proposed '19-'20 Village budget from the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, submitted by League Budget Chair Dara Gruenberg and League Co-Presidents Linda Doucette-Ashman and Janice Starr:

The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale (“the League”) held a membership meeting on Monday, April 8th, 2019 to evaluate the FY 2019-2020 Tentative Village Budget. We thank Village Manager Steve Pappalardo, Village Treasurer Mary Lou McClure, Mayor Marc Samwick, and Trustee Justin Arest for attending the meeting and addressing our questions related to the proposed budget, Board process, code amendments, as well as other issues going forward.

The League supports the proposed FY 2019-2020 budget and commends Village staff, former Mayor Dan Hochvert, and the Board of Trustees (the “Board”) for conducting a well-managed and thoughtful process and proposing a budget that evidences careful planning and balancing shrewd fiscal management with resident expectations of a high level of services provided (see financial overview pg. 6-7).

During his presentation, the Village Manager addressed the issue of the changes in tax laws regarding the cap on SALT deductions. He stated that the Board and Village administration’s approach to the budget has been one of caution since the market collapse in 2008-2009 and that this has continued to be the attitude of the Village for the past decade. The Village allowed homeowners to prepay their taxes in December 2017 and created a charitable gift reserve fund where allowed by law. The impact of this tax law change on the housing market is still unknown. Mr. Pappalardo also mentioned the significant loss in “Aid and Incentives for Municipalities” (AIM) funding to local municipalities for the last two decades and that the Village has sought ways to make up for this loss of funding.

Regarding debt service, as per Treasurer McClure, the FY 2018-2019 budget benefitted from a reduction in debt service of $484,000 with the final payment on a Bank Anticipation Note (BAN) ($330,000) and the scheduled retirement of the 2002 bonds ($148,000). The Library Bond resolution was amended in February 2018 to permit pledges to be included in the Library Capital Campaign Committee’s commitment to raise $7.5 million towards the cost of the Library addition and improvements. Based on this, the construction contracts for the Library were awarded in June of 2018. The May 31, 2018 Financial Statements were presented to the Board in September. Based on those events and the amendment to the bond resolution in February 2018, the Village borrowed $9.9 million for the project in the bond market in October 2018. The budget for 2019-2020 includes the initial payments of principal and interest on the Library bond issue partially offset by the receipt of a premium in excess of $447,000 on the issue. The net impact in 2019-2020 was an increase in the debt service of $452,000. The 2019-2020 budget also includes the final payment on the Popham Road Bridge BAN, which will further soften the impact of the Library Debt issue in 2020-2021.

The main topics of discussion during the League’s consensus meeting were as follows:

• Deferral of Capital Maintenance Projects
• Investments in Technology
• Water Rates and Infrastructure
• Evaluation of the Food Scrap Program
• Increase in Staffing: Part-Time Code Enforcer
• Board Process and Communication
• Board of Trustees’ Conflicts of Interest

Deferral of Capital Maintenance ProjectsLWVSLogo

We thank the Village for its capital planning to maintain debt service as level as possible and appreciate how Village administration has prioritized projects to ensure that critical Village services come first, such as water infrastructure, sewers, and emergency services. The League encourages the Board of Trustees and Village administration to begin a community conversation about long-range planning for capital projects to address the Village’s aging infrastructure and future needs. As an example, electrical, HVAC, and security maintenance and upgrades to Village Hall have been deferred continually over the years and are not being addressed in this budget either. As suggested by Village Manager Pappalardo during the League’s information session, the scope of work required at Village Hall is significant enough to consider the possibility of building a new Village Hall in the existing parking lot while keeping the old building open during construction; this would avoid the expense of relocating Village staff and government services, which occurred during the Popham firehouse renovation. The League recommends the Board and Village administration begin to engage in a thoughtful and comprehensive public dialogue about this work and other capital infrastructure needs, as well as to discuss the plan for financing such improvements and to publicize these long range plans.

Investments in Technology

Water
The League supports the installation of new water meters with remote reads and the steps taken to move towards a paperless billing system. With regard to the decision to change from a quarterly to a monthly billing cycle, the League appreciates the benefits of real-time reads and the fact that more frequent billing will alert residents earlier to unusually high water usage and potential leaks, thereby helping residents to save money and conserve water. Because of the environmental and monetary expenses associated with printing and mailing water bills, the League recommends that the Village wait to implement the monthly billing program until it is able to employ online billing. The League encourages the Village administration to utilize multiple avenues to ensure effective communication of these plans to all Village residents.

Parking
The League understands that the Village will be purchasing another License Plate Reader (LPR) to police merchants feeding the meters and parking in consumer spots in order to encourage merchants to park their cars in the allocated parking areas. The League recommends that proper policies and procedures be established to ensure that any personal information gathered with these devices will be used responsibly for the purpose for which it is collected, will be stored securely, and will be handled in a manner that safeguards individual privacy rights.

Sanitation
For over a decade, Village staff has been trying to locate suitable replacements for the now obsolete Cushmans, the small vehicles that enable the sanitation department to provide side and rear property waste pick-up service. After scavenging for parts to maintain the existing Cushman fleet and supplementing with less efficient small pick-up trucks, the Department of Public Works (DPW) believes it has found a suitable replacement model similar to the Cushmans, made in Canada, and has budgeted for purchasing two more this coming year. The League commends staff members on their tenacity and persistence in identifying a means to preserve this level of sanitation service for Village residents.

Water Rates and Infrastructure
The League appreciates the Village’s explanation and communication regarding the rise in water rates due to a long history of underfunding Scarsdale’s water infrastructure. Now, the Village’s rates are more in line with other nearby communities. Additionally, the League recognizes that in order to generate sufficient revenue to maintain infrastructure, water rates also need to increase to compensate for conservation efforts that have succeeded in reducing water consumption, particularly among users who are billed at the higher excess rate. The League commends our Village Manager and staff for continuing to advocate and negotiate with New York City on our fee structure, recognizing that suburban water usage differs significantly from urban usage.

Evaluation of the Food Scrap Program

The League looks forward to the assessment of the food scrap initiative started this past year and the presentation to the public of all relevant data collected by Village staff and all additional metrics by which the community may understand both the environmental and financial impact of this program.

Increase in Staffing: Part-Time Code Enforcer

The League appreciates the increase in staff dedicated to code enforcement and looks forward to updates on the efficacy of the newly added part-time code enforcement position, which will include Saturday hours.

Board Process and Communication

Village Board Working Sessions and Informal Opportunities for Public Input:
The League commends the Board of Trustees for its plan, as Mayor Samwick explained at the information session, to move to a new structure that employs working sessions of the full Board with published agendas and minutes or notes in place of the former committee structure that limits participation and voting rights to only the two or three trustees assigned to each committee. The League also commends the Mayor for his plan to provide more opportunities for informal input from the community, such as holding coffees with the Mayor and Board members, recognizing that speaking at public meetings can be intimidating for many residents. Furthermore, the League commends the Board for moving the opportunity for public comment to earlier in the Village Board meeting agenda, prior to liaison reports, as to emphasize that the key purpose of the trustees, as Mayor Samwick stated, “is to listen to the public.”

The League values voter education and recommends that all meetings of the Village Board, including the new working sessions structure, be recorded and, whenever feasible, live-streamed for greater resident participation and accessibility to Board discussions. To improve communication and transparency, the League also suggests that the public agendas contain more detail and be written in a more user-friendly and clear format.

Code Amendment Process, Public Hearings, and Hot Button Issues

The League recommends the Board strive to be more consistent and transparent in how it approaches changes to the Village code and gathers community feedback, particularly on issues known to be of import to residents. The League encourages the Board to codify a process that would:

1. educate the public;
2. give residents and relevant boards, councils, and advisory committees sufficient opportunities and avenues for providing feedback on said changes;
3. allot time for the Village Board to process and reflect on community input and discuss the matter in an open session;
4. schedule voting on substantive changes for a subsequent meeting after all previously-discussed code changes have been incorporated into a properly noticed public hearing.

The League acknowledges that certain pro forma matters, such as taxi license renewals, do not require extensive outreach. However, the League observed that the process by which modifications were adopted to the tree code and to the law regarding solar panels did not provide sufficient informed and active participation by the public. Additionally, there was insufficient time allowed to understand and evaluate the newly suggested changes and their potential impact prior to their inclusion into the proposed code language before it was voted on at the same meeting in which the changes were suggested. The League agrees with the sentiment expressed by Mayor Samwick at the information session to the effect that “incrementalism is a very valid approach” to governance. Additionally, the League urges the Board and staff to focus on more proactive and creative outreach to the public by utilizing local media and other platforms, such as social media.

In regard to ongoing and persistent “hot button” issues, such as parking in the Village center, the League encourages better communication and allowing for public input when changes are being considered, even though such decisions ordinarily fall under the purview of administrative operations of Village staff. Because of the nature of balancing parking needs between merchants, commuters and shoppers, the League recommends that the Village employ a more methodical, thoughtful and open process that includes benchmarking, reviewing what has or has not worked in Scarsdale in the past, and looking at other communities’ practices when setting permit fees and re-allocating spots among the different users.

Board of Trustees’ Conflicts of Interest

The League encourages local volunteerism and appreciates the fact that trustees often have a history of active involvement in community-based organizations before they are elected to office. In keeping with the spirit of fostering the community engagement of all residents, and in accord with Trustee Arest’s comments at the information session that “the trustees are elected to represent the entire community,” the League commends the Board for self-regulating and adhering to the practice of discretionary recusal in the face of potential, real, or perceived conflicts of interest stemming from the activities of Board members’ spouses and immediate family members who engage in local advocacy and have volunteer roles in local organizations, boards, and councils.

The League likewise encourages members of the Board of Trustees to be more cognizant of the Board members’ own current activities and affiliations, volunteer and otherwise, with regard to Board action and Board liaison assignments. The change from the Board’s committee structure to full Board working groups may diffuse the impact of any single member’s potential conflict of interest, real or perceived; however, just as the Board has addressed spousal or family issues by means of discretionary recusal, the League urges the trustees to consider whether their own current activities present a potential, real, or perceived conflict that should trigger recusal from particular issues that come before the Board.

Conclusion

We thank you for your invaluable assistance and cooperation that was extended to the League in our study of the proposed budget and Board of Trustees process. We commend the Board and Village management on the timeliness, quality of data, analysis, and transparency with which the Village

Manager, Village Treasurer, Mayor and Trustees developed the 2019-2020 Village Budget. We applaud you for your professionalism and dedication to our Village. Thank you for taking our comments into consideration.

Sincerely,

Dara Gruenberg, LWVS Village Budget Chair
Linda Doucette-Ashman and Janice Starr, LWVS Co-Presidents

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