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ScarsdaleVillageThe Scarsdale Forum Downtown Revitalization Committee has released a report summarizing its recent survey of Scarsdale Village merchants, who shared their views on the current and future state of Scarsdale Village Center, and provided essential information on business needs and opportunities.

The questionnaire also asked existing downtown Scarsdale business owners about what might help them improve sales and better meet customer needs, and requested recommendations on complementary providers of products and services that might add to the vitality of Downtown Scarsdale.

A majority of respondents indicated that they perceive the village center as a generally desirable and attractive location for their business, and most intend to stay in the area for the foreseeable future. On the economic front, a majority of the merchants surveyed reported that the health of their businesses is accelerating rather than declining. Some businesses even are considering expanding their square footage.

On the other hand, business owners cited the lack of adequate and desirable parking as the overwhelming obstacle to doing business downtown. There appears to be competition among village merchants and their employees, and shoppers for limited metered parking spaces.

When asked about customer service, merchants believe that they are generally open when customers seek their services, and would be willing to add staff and increase hours of operation If there were prospects for additional sales. They also wish to expand the number of “complementary” businesses that may drive business, including restaurants and a greater variety of retail stores.

In addition, respondents cited a number of key factors that they believe would increase traffic downtown, increase sales and services, and lead to expanded hours of operation, including:

Increase the stock of available parking places for consumers, and provide incentives to encourage employees to park in garages instead of metered parking spaces;

Improve meter management to increase the stock of available consumer parking places, particularly during lunchtime and on Saturdays; and
Add a valet parking service option to leverage existing parking supply and improve consumer convenience.

The Downtown Revitalization Committee has made a number of strategic recommendations based on the survey results:

Form a subcommittee of the Downtown Revitalization Committee to review comprehensive solutions to parking issues in Scarsdale Village Center, including the group's consumer survey, 2018 traffic study, 2018 parking meter study and the Freightway redevelopment project;

Improve the number and variety of restaurants and retail establishments, by combining and comparing merchant and consumer survey results;

Improve communication related to Downtown Scarsdale projects, customer feedback and available advertising channels;

Improve infrastructure and landscaping throughout the village center, in areas such as Chase Park, Boniface Circle, and various green spaces and sidewalks, in anticipation of increased pedestrian traffic, extended evening hours and weekend use of downtown services; and

Make recommendations on how relevant portions of the October 1994 Scarsdale Comprehensive Plan should be implemented in 2019.

The committee intends to work with stakeholders and other interested parties to continue studying revitalization issues and assist in implementing its recommendations.

In commenting on the survey and report, Downtown Revitalization Committee Chair Susan Douglass said, " A thriving downtown is evidenced, in part, by the continuity and health of existing businesses. Village merchants have an established relationship with shoppers, know the market, and are committed to the community. When provided with adequate support and resources, these merchants can evolve, offering new goods and services and/or upgrading their facilities to meet the changing demands of the local community." She continued, "The survey was designed to engage the business community in the market analysis process and help us develop market-based, strategic recommendations to support business retention and expansion initiatives."

Read the full report here:

CooperCohenCooper CohenIt seems you can never be too young to launch a business in Scarsdale. Three enterprising high school sophomores recently launched Talenthood to connect families with kids (K through 7th grade) with Scarsdale High School students for quality instruction in various areas. Currently, the platform has over 35 instructors with expertise across several categories including sports, music, technology, creative hobbies and academics. The platform provides Scarsdale parents with access to a talented pool of neighborhood instructors to help their children improve while at the same time providing the high school students a flexible job and an opportunity to teach the next generation of Scarsdale kids.

Talenthood was founded by Cooper Cohen (CEO) with helo from Levi Ring (COO) and Ben Assa (CMO), all sophomores at Scarsdale High School. Cooper had been asked many times over the years to teach and instruct young aspiring soccer players to help improve their game. He realized there were many Scarsdale families looking for similar instruction in various skills and recognized there was a pool of qualified high school students looking for jobs.

How much help did Cohen need from his folks? He says, “I designed and created the Talenthood website myself using wix which is a web development platform. The only things my parents helped me with were getting insurance for both the instructors and clients and and forming an LLC. Other than that, Talenthood is being run by the team and me.

Talenthood launched several weeks ago and has already arranged lessons in dance, drums, basketball, art, LeviLevi Ringhomework help, gymnastics, math/reading and more. Thus far, the feedback has been excellent and many clients have already booked additional lessons. “I’ve had a great experience with Talenthood so far. My son has had several lessons. The instructors are engaged, reliable and relatable. In addition I have been impressed with their service and communication” - Ali S (Scarsdale mom). The high school instructors have found their experiences very rewarding as well.

When asked if he could see expanding Talenthood to other towns, Cooper responded, “It’s definitely something we have discussed, but right now our immediate goal is to provide the best experience to anyone interested in Talenthood Scarsdale” noting that “just a few years ago, we were the same young Scarsdale kids that are coming to us now for instruction”.

To book an instructor, parents can scroll through Talenthood’s website to determine which instructor would be the best fit for their child. After choosing an instructor, parents fill out some contact information on the site and are connected to their instructor so they can coordinate a mutually convenient time, date and location for the lesson. There is no long-standing commitment (it’s lesson to lesson) and parents can choose new instructors if they so choose.

BenAssaBen AssaFor one academic tutoring session, Talenthood charges $30 for 60 minutes. For all non-academic sessions, Talenthood charges $40 for 60 minutes. Parties and group lessons (max 3) are also available. In addition to the business aspect of Talenthood, there is also a philanthropic side to the company. The company donates 25% of their gross profits to charity. Their goal is not only to teach kids how to excel in their activities, but to also teach them about the meaning and importance of giving back. After each lesson, Talenthood allows the child to decide from a list of pre-determined charities where they want to donate a portion of the lessons payment.

Learn more at their website here:

safetyandsecuritypanelIf you were looking for a debate on guns, metal detectors or other security issues, you may have been disappointed after last week’s safety and security forum. What attendees did get, however, was reassurance that Scarsdale officials are thinking about school safety and a case for preventing violence instead of reacting to it.

A joint presentation by the Scarsdale government and school district, the forum featured a number of representatives from Scarsdale schools and Scarsdale-Edgemont Family Counseling Service (SFCS), as well as the chief of police and a few clergy members.

Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert got things started by stating, “The panel will cover just about all the major aspects of Scarsdale that we are concerned about, and we hope… you will be resting more easily about safety and security.” He then stated that the panelists would not provide details on security measures, but invited attendees to write down any questions they wanted answered that evening. This put limits on time and content, but did offer residents some opportunity to be heard.

Scarsdale Schools Superintendent Thomas Hagerman followed and said, “We really want to demonstrate to the Scarsdale community that all of us… are really standing shoulder-to-shoulder around safety, security and emergency management practices… ” He then echoed Hochvert’s comments about the nature of the discussion, “You don’t always have multi agencies coming together around a common topic… so, the kinds of questions we’re looking for are questions that can be answered by anyone on the panel.”

First Line of Defense: Promoting Mental Health
Despite the fact that schools remain as one of the safest places for children, the epidemic in school violence certainly weighs on all our minds. And, although Scarsdale is a relatively safe community, many residents are concerned about protecting our children in worst-case scenarios. But, as residents heard last week, security is part of the issue. To assure safety, experts contend we must address the underlying causes of antisocial and potentially dangerous behavior.

GenovaJay Genova, Executive Director of SFCS, explained that his organization provides critical prevention and intervention services to individuals and families, both in and out of Scarsdale schools. Probably best known via the Scarsdale Community Youth Services Project, SFCS works directly with the district via its team of mental health professionals in the middle and high school. These counselors provide “on the ground” crisis intervention, outreach services, and supportive counseling to individuals and their families.

Genova said, “Not everybody who feels isolated or disenfranchised is going to be a perpetrator of violence. However, many who do perpetrate violence often feel disconnected or disenfranchised… (We) give them an outlet… to express what they might be feeling and to regain some sense of hope… What’s important to us is to make sure that people feel acknowledged, they feel validated, that they feel heard.” He continued, “We want to give people the opportunity to be heard before they have to rely on their behaviors or on any type of extreme situation…”

Lauren Pomerantz, one of SFCS’ youth outreach workers and coordinator of The Safe Coalition, expanded on Genova’s points and discussed the root causes and risk factors of many types of violent behavior – cultural norms that support aggression; harmful norms about masculinity and femininity; social isolation and lack of social support; a history of violent victimization or witnessing violence; and poor parent-child relationships and conflict.

“We feel like these are really relevant and important to talk about, and, if we’re talking about them as root causes or risk factors, we can also turn it around and talk about all of the protective factors that exist. One… is, obviously, the collaboration and coordination of resources like we see tonight; access to mental health (services); family connections and connection to the community.”

The audience then heard from Assistant Superintendent for Business and Facilities Stuart Mattey , who began StuartMatteyby reiterating the school district’s commitment to safety and security. “This commitment takes many forms and has evolved over the years as security-related norms have changed. However, the focus of the district’s efforts is generally concentrated not only on plant upgrades and security-related practices, (but) most importantly, the social and emotional well-being of our students.“

He then mentioned the ability of staff members, along with assistance from community partners such as SFCS and the police department, to support students through a wide range of social/emotional issues, such as peer conflicts, difficult family situations, stress, and challenges in decision-making.

Mattey also discussed current proposals to augment existing security measures and the district’s work with an independent security consultant. “Alteris (Emergency Management Group) has assisted the district in gaining congruence in all buildings in three critical areas: 1) preparedness and prevention; 2) emergency response; and 3) post-incident recovery procedures… To have a ‘go-to’ security professional onsite, the district hired… Mike Spedaliere as its Chief of Safety, Security and Emergency Management this past summer.” He added that, in concert with the Scarsdale Police Department, teachers and students receive ongoing emergency training through various drills that are continually assessed for improvement.

AndyMatturroNext to speak was Scarsdale Chief of Police Andrew Matturro, who described his department’s “continued response and efforts to address the active shooter threat in society today.” Scarsdale police officers have, for years, received training in the latest rapid response techniques; and, for almost two decades, the department has utilized a formal rapid deployment and response program to ensure every member of the force is able immediately respond to any emergency in schools (and other locations throughout the village).

In discussing the Police Department’s work with the district, Matturro explained, “Personnel serve on our department’s school safety tactical response committee… (And,) over six years ago, in cooperation with the district, our department instituted a random school walkthrough program, where officers are assigned to randomly visit and conduct walkthroughs of our (public) senior high school, middle school and elementary schools. This has been expanded to include other schools within our village and houses of worship that wish to participate. Members of our department (also) participate in meetings of the district-wide safety team, and regularly participate in school exercises and drills.”

The Reverend Dr. Kelley Hough Rogers, senior minister at Scarsdale Congregational Church, was the last panel member to speak, and expressed support for various community organizations’ efforts to assure safety. In discussing specific measures at each house of worship, she added, “We invite dialogue… We are going to be more aware of our spot in the community and how we can be better prepared for any type of emergency that may befall us. I think we’re all in agreement that we really feel it is critical to protect people in their most sacred hours and we’re committed to doing so.”

Q’s and A’s in Brief
PT Council President Amber Yusef then read a variety of questions posed by audience members, ranging from the timing of the installation of security vestibules, to addressing students’ special needs during emergencies, to the district’s choice of Altaris as its security consultant. But the questions discussed in greatest detail were whether there should be an armed presence in our schools and how to address the root causes of violence.

To Arm or Not to Arm?
First, the panel was asked if armed security officers were a viable option for improving school security, if there is data showing armed guards make schools safer, and whether armed guards would make a difference if police response was delayed.

Hagerman began by explaining that armed police officers or SROs were present at many of the schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where recent shootings have taken place. “In some cases, it helped to mitigate or shorten the length of time of those tragedies, but we also know there were victims.”

He went on, “You can look back at a number of school shootings and look at the efficacy of… having armed guards. For us, it’s more of a philosophical question… We’ve heard from some… in our community who feel very comfortable having armed guards or armed personnel at our schools, and there is another group, who feel just as strongly… do not want to have their children in environments with armed guards.”

Mattey stated that SROs were among a long list of possible security measures, but were not likely to be put into place over the short-term. “It’s a long discussion for the community and the schools, and that conversation will continue over the next year.”

Director of Special Education and Student Services Eric Rauschenbach then discussed the difference between armed security guards and SROs. “The main purpose of (an SRO) is not to be a security monitor… It is an actual teaching and interaction-with-student position that allows for close connections between the police department and community. “

He added that, unlike armed guards, who are civilians who may or may not have police training, SROs are specially trained police officers who are placed in schools typically in communities that need improved relationships between the public and law enforcement. This, along with the fact that Scarsdale Police already have a presence in the schools, makes SROs less of a fit for Scarsdale.

In addressing police response time in a potential school emergency, Matturro volunteered that his department’s average response time was 4m, 40s on all calls and 4m, 5s on priority calls, with response time on emergencies “much quicker.” He also noted that, at times, an officer in a squad car is be able to respond more quickly than an armed guard on foot. Matturro also reiterated the importance of focusing on preventing violence in the first place by coordinating local services.

The panel then was asked how the community could weigh in on the question of armed guards in the schools. Mattey replied, “The BOE is always receptive to information provided… certainly at board of education meetings – we have a public comment period – and, of course, emails are very powerful (in making) your concerns known. Evenings such as this are other great opportunities...” He went on, “For some of these bigger issues that might need a longer conversation, that might change… how we might think about our buildings, maybe another forum might be appropriate.“

Inclusiveness vs. Isolation
The next question was about the best ways to address the root causes of violence and work with at-risk children and young adults.

Genova responded, “No matter how many counselors you can hire, you are always going to look to the community to be a part of this. Root causes have a lot to do with the cultural and existing conditions that lead people toward violence.”

He continued, “For instance, we want to protect our children. We may see children who our children are associated with, and we may not like their behaviors. We will, more than likely, tell our children, ‘Let’s stay away from that child.’ How does that impact community safety? …Are we making that child more isolated? Are we depriving that child of some valuable, positive connections that they can learn from? If we’re not reaching out to that child – and, I’m not saying this is easy – we are creating some of the circumstances that lead people toward violent behavior.”

Genova then said creating a safe community means creating a better-connected community that includes individuals who “don’t look like us, sound like us, believe in our beliefs, or behave in ways we approve of.”

Rauschenbach concurred with Genova and added, “When we look at students with mental health challenges in the schools, we have… a community that is cognizant of each other, and unafraid to come to school (officials) and report something that they find difficult or disturbing… At the same time, (we) understand that, whenever a child or group of children are making decisions that we find disturbing, the worst thing that can happen is to increase their isolation… When you feel something’s not right… if children are hearing something or seeing something... give us a call, give the police a call…”

He went on to say that voicing concerns to officials allows for a quick response to any problem and prevents the negative social impact related to people just speaking among themselves. Within the schools, students are encouraged to speak up about issues or fellow students they are worried about. And, the district administration now is looking to make the process easier via anonymous tip lines, allowing students to report issues for possible intervention.

To view a recording of the event in its entirety, click here.

paulinState Assemblywoman Amy PaulinIt was back to school for Scarsdale’s representatives on February 1 when the PTC Council hosted a very informative Legislative Breakfast and invited federal, state and local representatives to update locals on how government policy is impacting the Scarsdale Schools. PTC Legislative Advocacy Chairs Elissa Ruback and Lauren Hertzog-Fields assembled an impressive panel to discuss educational funding, teacher evaluations, state testing, the deductibility of local taxes and more.

The panel included Congressman Eliot Engel, State Senator Andrew Stewart-Cousins, State Senator Shelley Mayer, State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Regent Judith Johnson, County Legislator Ben Boykin and Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert. Each panelist was introduced by Scarsdale Superintendent Thomas Hagerman and gave a topline speech about what they are doing in the educational arena.

Engel said he had begun his career as a teacher and that “the bottom line in the federal government is money and the federal tax package is horrific for New York State. We give more money back to the federal government than we get… Under the new SALT law, local tax deductibility is limited to $10,000 and we have less federal money coming in.”

rubackfieldsLauren Hertzog-Fields and Elissa RubackAndrea Stewart Cousins, the newly elected Senate Majority Leader is also a former teacher. She explained, “Up until this moment my party was in the minority for a very long time. After 2016 people woke up and realized the power of their votes…. I am the first woman leader in the history of the state –which is shocking for a progressive state like NY. I CousinsRubackAndrea Stewart-Cousins And Elissa Rubacktook office on the 9th of January and we hit the ground running and we are not going to stop. We passed new legislation on election form, and now have early voting and will allow 16 and 17 year olds to preregister to vote. We have banned conversion therapy, passed the dream act and banned bump stocks.”

State Senator Shelley Mayer Chairs the Education Committee and was excited to report the “Decoupling of state test scores from teacher performance, (APPR).” She said the “APPR tied teacher evaluations to the growth rate on student tests – it was a mistake.” The vote to change this, “passed unanimously and will allow districts the power to evaluate their teachers.” She said, “We are no longer teaching to the test.” She called Governor Cuomo’s proposal for school funding for next year too low, and said it was a “non-starter.” Mayer said, it is a “Most exciting moment in Albany – people are motivated that they can make a difference.”

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a longtime Scarsdale resident said, “I am proud to represent you.” She said the new tax laws that limit the deduction of state and local taxes to $10,000 “impacts our real estate and our school budgets.” She discussed plans to sue the IRS because the rules were improperly adopted and said that the Scarsdale Village Board is contemplating joining the suit. She said for many, “their house is their worth,” and “this will hurt them and their families.”

engelCongressman Eliot EngelDiscussing state funding, she said that Scarsdale gets very little, “5% or about $3.5 million.” She said she is fighting the Governor’s proposal to reduce state aid for school building projects from 19% to 5%.

Regent Judith Johnson, is a former school superintendent from Peekskill and the first African American woman to serve as a NYS Regent. About Scarsdale she said, “You are the model of what all schools should look like…. We shouldn’t take dollars from you to help schools in need.” Providing some information on the work of the regents she discussed funding for the arts, saying, “Every child in NYS should have the opportunity to learn music or pick up a paint brush.” She also said, “We are changing the graduation standards and what it means to have a high school diploma. We are rethinking the five regents exam to earn a high school diploma…. We are working with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to bring joy back to the classroom.”

County Legislator Ben Boykin once served on the White Plains School Board. He said he is now the ”spokesperson for all 17 legislators and also your legislator.” After an inquiry from Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert he said, “we are going to work on the bike path (along the Bronx River Parkway.)dembitzersilberfeinLeah Dembitzer with Scarsdale BOE President Scott Silberfein

BoykinCounty Legislator Ben BoykinWith just a few minutes remaining, Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert said, “We moved here because we heard the education system is great. The proof is that after college none of my kids came home to live – they all had jobs.” He continued, “Cooperation among the people who lead you is now more important than ever. We know everyone is working to improve security – in schools and downtown. We are working together to serve people who live in Scarsdale better.”

johnsonNYS Regent Judith Johnson

bmw2A Fountain Lane driver accidentally drove forward rather than back when he was parked next to Boniface Circle on Saturday January 12 just after noon. The 61 year-old man said that when he shifted his 2011 BMW out of “Park” it accelerated forward and drove directly into Boniface Circle where it hit a memorial bench and a garbage can before stopping in the park. The metal memorial plate was dislodged from the bench. There were no injuries.

bmw1

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