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The Presidents of Scarsdale’s Neighborhood Associations (SNAP) met on Monday night 4/5 and covered lots of ground.  School Board members Linda Chayes and Jill Spieler attended to update the group on the status of the proposed school budget for 2010-2011. The School Board will meet with the community on Thursday night April 8th to get feedback on the budget and on April 19 they will present the proposed budget. They encourage everyone to vote for the budget on May 18.

Here are some highlights of the 2010-2011 School Budget:

  • The current proposed budget would require a 2.88% budget increase for Scarsdale residents and a 6.1% increase for residents of the Mamaroneck Strip. However, due to a recently announced decrease in tax assessments, the Board will need to find another $400,000 by dipping into reserves, raising the tax rate or decreasing the budget. They will make their decision before April 19 when the proposed budget is due.
  • Teachers agreed to forego 1% of their salary increase for the next two years and in the third year to accept a 2% increase. Nine teaching positions, open due to attrition, will not be filled. In exchange for the salary concessions the Board agreed that there would be no layoffs for the next two years, though the number of teachers can be adjusted in response to drops in enrollment. The Board will make every effort to preserve class sizes.
  • A revenue committee is being formed to investigate potential sources of funds for the schools. They will look into the formation of a school foundation, changes in regulations for accepting donations, pay for play for sports programs and other options. The Board is seeking committee members and if you are interested in participating, please email the Board of Education.
  • The administration has proposed a full day kindergarten program, adjusting kindergarten from a 24-hour to a 30-hour week program. The Board supports the decision which will save the district $50,000 in transportation costs.
  • The Board agreed to retain the third Assistant Principal at Scarsdale High School, as she has been effective at student intervention, communication with students and parents and the ninth grade orientation program.
  • State aid to the district remains questionable. Governor Paterson recently proposed a cut of $1.4 billion to state schools and the Board is uncertain how much of the promised funds will come our way.

In other neighborhood business, SNAP welcomed David Bunzel representing the Heathcote Association, a group of 20-30 homes surrounding the Duck Pond in Heathcote.

Mayor Carolyn Stevens announced that the two new Village Trustees, Kay Einsenman and Jon Mark had been sworn in. She also announced trustee liaisons to the neighborhood associations.

Mayor Steves updated the group on the storm and discussed village management, Con Edison, village communications, costs and next steps. Though the storm was costly, if President Barak Obama signs, Scarsdale will receive $350,000 in emergency funds to reimburse us for costs incurred during the storm. She explained how she asked our public officials to intervene to get a response from Con Edison, reviewed the breakdown in Village communications and outlined her next steps to assure better service down the line. She also recommended that residents who wanted to install back-up generators file a permit and use a licensed electrician as a faulty generator had recently caused a house fire on Post Road.

Janet Bell of the Heathcote Five Corners Association asked the Mayor to look into the presence of a large “For Rent” sign near Bistro Citron. She thought that it violated Village Code. She also asked the Mayor if there was any new information on development of the Tavern building, and was told that there were no new plans at this time.

The Planning Board approved an 11,000 square foot building at the Five Corners on the site of the gas station. There will be two levels above ground and two levels of parking below. In addition, the village has permitted the developers to include a truck-loading zone on Heathcote Road. Several members of SNAP expressed concern that large trucks would block driver site lines on Heathcote Road and cause a hazard. However, the site plan has already been approved.

Neighborhood Associations were asked to complete an inventory of homes in their area for the Committee on Historic Preservation. The survey includes questions about neighborhood character, age of homes etc. The Committee will use the survey data in their work to establish new criteria for historic preservation in Scarsdale.

Scarsdale’s leaders gathered on March 11th to greet Greenacres residents, review town matters and answer questions. The turn out was terrific, and before the start of the program neighbors had the chance to get acquainted, snack, purchase Girl Scout cookies and renew their Greenacres Association memberships.

Panelists included the Police and Fire Chiefs, Al Gatta and Suzanna Busby from Village Hall, Greenacres Principal Gerry Young, School Board President Barbara Kemp, School Superintendant Mike McGill, Gary Sastow for SVAC, Jim Buck for the Volunteer Fire Company and Deputy Mayor Sharon Lindsay. Each was asked to give a two-minute update, with timing strictly enforced with a bell.

Police Chief John Brogan reported that construction on the new Police Headquarters building is now a few months behind schedule but assured the group that an efficient though temporary command center has been set up and that they can book, fingerprint and even hold suspects in the Police Trailer on Tompkins Road.

Jim Buck Volunteer Firefighter encouraged residents to join, saying that fighting fires “is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” The firefighters work together as a team and the company will train volunteers to fight fires respond in an emergency and promote safety.

The Recreation Department is now enrolling residents for Day Camp, Tennis programs and pool permits, according to Recreation Department Superintendent Suzanne Busby. Enrollment at the Day Camp was up 25% last year and the return rate for staff for this coming summer is at an all time high. This year, they will be offering a film making program and an extended day at Camp Pathunke for children in grades 3 through 8. Sign up for camp by April 1st, to get an early bird discount.

It is increasingly challenging to finance Village government and services as costs are rising and residents are challenging their tax assessments. Village Manager Al Gatta told the group that the Village had received an unprecedented number of appeals to lower property taxes this year. At the same time, residents called for road repairs, tree removal and maintenance and the Village’s ability to self-govern is running into conflict with our ability to fund these activities.

All’s well at Greenacres School, where Principal Gerry Young has started a Haiti Relief Fund. He is calling on students to bring in their loose pennies and is hoping to collect a million pennies for the fund. Also under consideration at the school is the closing of Huntington Avenue during school hours to give children access to the playground and eliminate the need for staff to serve as crossing guards during the school day.

School Board President Barbara Kemp was pleased to report that the proposed tax increase to fund the school budget would be just under 3% and that Scarsdale Teacher’s had reopened their contract and agreed to forgo 1% in contracted salary increases for the next two years. This will mean a savings of $1,900,000 to the Scarsdale Schools. She encouraged everyone to vote for the budget on May 18th and hoped that we could improve on last year’s voter turnout, which was only 7%.

The Scarsdale Schools just celebrated their 225th Anniversary with a concert and lecture by residents Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, according to Superintendant Mike McGill. He told the group that our schools are nationally recognized and reports that the district is now doing exploratory work on what our schools should look like in 2050.

The Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps provides emergency services 24 hours a day using both paid paramedics and volunteers. They begin the life-saving process as soon as they arrive. Sadly, their appeals to the community for funding are not getting the response they need to meet their budget and they will have to dip into their reserve funds. Sastow asked the community to give to ensure that we continue to have this wonderful service available to the community.

Deputy Mayor Sharon Lindsay addressed community concerns about flooding. After the storm in April 2007, consultants were hired to investigate, and Scarsdale applied for grants to ameliorate the situation. The County has given us $1,450,000 and we will issue bonds to raise the balance of the funds needed to build a detention basic at George Field Park that will hold three million gallons of water and to clear the watercourse downstream. In the meantime, our public works department has dredged the watercourse and taken temporary steps to alleviate flooding until the bigger project can be started.

The session was then opened for questions. One resident asked if it would be possible to bury the power lines and Gatta responded that the cost would be millions of dollars and that it was not likely at this time. When discussing recycling, it was revealed that Village solid waste has decreased 30% in the past five years, indicating that residents are cooperating with recycling programs. Another resident complained about “uncivilized dog walkers" who constantly leave waste on her property and the police offered to help.

A Windmill Road homeowner told the group that there was a Village tree down on her property and just one day later we learned it had already been removed.

Strong work by Deborah Pekarek and the Greenacres Association, and thanks so much to all of the panelists for their time.

The Hoff-Barthelson Preschool features a daily program for three and four year-olds with a curriculum that includes a special emphasis on music and art. This winter the children had a delightful time “studying” the artwork of three famous painters – Matisse, Pollack and Van Gogh! The accompanying pictures illustrate the artistic reflections of the students who went on to create their own artwork in the image of the three artists. The Jackson Pollack is a collaborative effort; dribbling paint to create their large canvas was a highlight of the HBMS Preschool year.

The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program for 2010 begins on Sunday, April 25 in Westchester County, at the White Garden, 199 Elmwood Road, Lewisboro, open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional Westchester County Open Days include a total of eighteen private gardens and take place on the following dates: May 2 in Mount Kisco, May 8 in Chappaqua and Mount Kisco, May 23 in Bedford Hills, May 29 in Mount Kisco, June 5 in Briarcliff Manor, Bedford, and Tarrytown, June 6 in North Salem, June 20 in Bedford Hills, Bedford, and Yorktown, July 25 in Cortlandt Manor, Bedford Hills, and New Rochelle, September 12 in Lewisboro and Waccabuc, and October 30 in Mount Kisco. Admission to each private garden is $5, Open Days are rain or shine, and no reservations are required. Call 1-888-842-2442, or visit for more information.

At the White Garden on April 25th, visitors will delight in the woodland plantings of more than 200,000 daffodils. Walking paths throughout the woods weave over a meandering brook and through a shady dell. Several glass houses can be seen, including a new state-of-the-art greenhouse that supports the gardens. Nearest the house the gardens are classically inspired, including a nymphaeum, pergola garden, labyrinth, and theater court, and additional hidden gardens include a perennial ellipse and “annual” garden, a conservatory “jungle” garden, and an Asian-inspired moss garden. Several water features accent the landscape, and native plantings dominate in areas outside the central gardens. Many sculptures enrich this landscape and swans guard the Temple of Apollo on an island in the main pond. The White Garden will also open to the public on Sunday, September 12th.

Additional area gardens open in 2010 include Lulu Farm in Bedford, a hilltop property that contains ten acres of garden and ninety acres of field and woodland intersected by old stone walls. Special features include a dwarf conifer garden, terraces of mixed herbaceous and woody plants, a formal herb garden, a woodland garden walk, a large vegetable garden, orchards, and a diverse selection of mature trees. In Yorktown, the garden of Barbara & John Schumacher boasts a large rose garden below the house with 400 roses. A perennial garden features hostas, tree peonies, and sweeps of Asiatic lilies, and other attractions include beautiful stonework, a fern garden and a generous and varied collection of hydrangeas.

These Open Days gardens are featured in the 2010 Open Days Directory; a soft-cover book that includes detailed driving directions and vivid descriptions written by their owners. The directory includes garden listings in 21 states and costs $21.95 including shipping. Visit or call the Garden Conservancy toll-free at 1-888-842-2442 to order with a Visa, MasterCard or American Express, or send a check or money order to: the Garden Conservancy, P.O. Box 219, Cold Spring, NY 10516. Discount admission tickets are available as well through advanced mail order.

The 2010 Open Days Program is generously sponsored by Garden Design Magazine as its National Media Sponsor.

The Garden Conservancy introduced the Open Days Program in 1995 as a means of introducing the public to gardening, providing easy access to outstanding examples of design and horticultural practice, and proving that exceptional American gardens are still being created. The Open Days Program is America’s only national private garden-visiting program, and is made possible by the work of hundreds of volunteers nationwide. Visit the Garden Conservancy and its Open Days Program online at

Know that calmness and humility are partners.Rabbeinu Avraham ben haRambam.
Over one hundred women gathered at Congregation Kol Ami on Sunday March 7 for the first Spa for the Soul, a day to examine spirituality, to learn, to relax and to reflect. The event featured a keynote address from writer, poet and Jewish feminist Blu Greenberg who did a reading of her work and lead the group through a discussion of finding the divine in their lives.

Her poetry touched on a host of Jewish themes, including the legacy of the Holocaust , the observance of Shabbat and living as an Orthodox Jew in modern day America. She shared her touch points with the divine with the group in an effort to help the audience to ponder their own spirituality. Family, community, Shabbat, the recitation of blessings, the study of Torah, interfaith dialogue, the appreciation of nature and the act of thanking God were some of the ways she experiences the spiritual.

The day progressed with a spa hour featuring wonderful healers for the body, mind, and spirit. There were mini-facials, manicures, messages, skin analyses, and even a chiropractor on hand to examine posture. Vendors of jewelry, scarves and cosmetics were also invited.

Three break-out sessions with Rabbi Shira Milgrom, Rabbi Pamela Wax and Blu Greenberg followed. In a session on attaining equanimity called “Balancing on the Teeter-Totter: Spiritual Strategies for Living,” conducted by Rabbi Pamela Wax, she lead the group through an examination of the meaning of equanimity, what triggers stress and how we can rise above inconsequential events. Her methodology was reminiscent of yoga, Jewish-style, combining deep breathing with Talmudic wisdom.

She distributed some quotes on the topic including this one from Proverbs 16:32, “the calm one is greater than the warrior, and the self-controlled is greater than a conqueror.”

In the other two sessions, Blu Greenberg led a group titled, “What Does the Word Spirituality Mean to You?” focusing on the spiritual in each of us. In “Spirituality for the Mind and Soul”, Rabbi Shira Milgrom discussed constructing a personal spiritual practice that harmonizes contemporary liberal views with traditional wisdom.

As promised, the day was thought provoking, enriching and restful. Thanks to Jill Abraham and Lauri Carey for organizing this wonderful event and to Ruffled Feathers for catering a delicious spa luncheon.

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