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scarsdale swimmersBrendan Lee, Justin DiSanto, Michael Disanto (all Scarsdale) and Jason Amato (Eastchester) swam in the 17Y Conference RelayScarsdale swimmers on the Wykagyl Swim Team continued to win medals at the Conference Championships at Westchester Country Club on August 9. See the results and photos below:

Results

Charlotte Lemerond, age 6
4th 6U Freestyle
6th 6U Backstroke

Charles Lemerond, age 8
4th 8U Freestyle
1st 8U Butterfly - set new record
2nd 8U Relay
6th 10U Relay

Patrick Carroll, age 12
10th 12U Freestyle
12th 12U Backstroke
4th 13U Relay

Mia Carroll, age 17
11th 17U Relay

Justin DiSanto, age 15captainsVarsity Captains for the coming season. Riley and Jackson Haffner, Alex Efforo and Michael DiSanto
6th 17U Freestyle
3rd 17U Backstroke
2nd 17U Breaststroke
3rd 17U Relay

Michael DiSanto, age 17
3rd 17U Relay

Kieran Lee, age 10
2nd 10U Freestyle
2nd 10U Backstroke
1st 10U Breaststroke - new record set
6th 10U Relay

Aidan Lee, age 12
1st 12U Backstroke
2nd 12U Breaststroke
1st 12U Butterfly
4th 13U Relay

Megan Lee, age 14
2nd 14U Freestyle
1st 14U Backstroke
1st 14U Butterfly
11th 17U Relay

Brendan Lee, age 15CharlotteandCharlesLemerondCharlotte and Charles Lemerond
5th 17U Freestyle
4th 17U Breaststroke
8th 17U Butterfly
3rd 17U Relay

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proceedingThe Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments is making another attempt to win their Article 78 proceeding asking that the Village of Scarsdale to annul the 2016 revaluation. Attorney Bob Bernstein is appealing the last decision against them, alleging that the presiding judge in the original proceeding was wrong on the facts of his decision:

1) That the Committee lacked standing.
2) That the Scarsdale School district was not named, even though taxes are paid to the district.
3) The committee had no valid claim.

Here is the appeal:

The legal theory presented in their case, and quoted in part here, states "the Petition alleged that Scarsdale’s assessor conducted a town-wide reassessment using a formula that systematically assessed larger properties on average at 90% of market value, while systematically assessing smaller properties on average at 100% of market value, where the assessor did not deny using such a formula without having any empirical data to support it."

Bernstein argues that the 150 petitioners do have standing and that those with smaller properties “suffered injury in-fact.” He also argues that though the Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessment does not itself own property, it is “comprised of taxpayers each of whom alleged that they own taxable real property.”

He contends that the failure to name the school district was not a reason for dismissal, saying, “When taxpayers commence an Article 78 proceeding against municipal officials to raise statutory and constitutional challenges based on uniformity and equality to a tax assessment roll, unless relief is also being sought against the school district and county, they are no necessary parties and do not therefore need to be named.”

About the court’s finding that there was no valid claim, the appeal says, “Here, the trial court appears to have overlooked the requirements on a motion to dismiss to: liberally construe the petition, accept all of its allegations as true, accord petitioners every favorable inference, and decide only whether the alleged facts fit within any recognized legal theory.”

Given the passage time, it is difficult to imagine a fair remedy. In the intervening years, many have grieved their taxes resulting in revised assessments and many homes have been sold to new owners. It would be extraordinarily complex to roll back the assessment roll to 2014 valuations and reimburse those who have overpaid and bill those who underpaid.

Furthermore, returning to 2014 assessment values may in fact be less equitable than leaving the roll as is. An analysis provided on this site last year by Brian Nottage found that despite the questionable provenance and results of John Ryan's model for the 2016 revaluation, the actual outcome of the 2016 assessment was acceptable. The key difference was that Mr. Nottage used post-revaluation sales numbers, rather than the complaint's pre-valuation sales.

More recent sales data shows that the valuation of high end homes has dropped, due to the change in tax laws regarding the deduction of state and local taxes and limits on the deductibility of mortgage interest. So it’s questionable whether a return to 2014 valuations would be more equitable.

Commenting on the appeal, Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Co-Chair of the Committee for Fair Assessment said, “We said months ago when the original ruling came down that the committee was planning to appeal. The cost of the appeal was covered by the committee.”

Lee Fischman said, "This past spring, I analyzed assessments versus sales since 2009, had it reviewed by a sophisticated neutral party and then circulated my work within the Scarsdale Forum's Assessment Committee, which I co-chaired. The analysis was not included in the Committee’s recent report, as we judged it out of scope. Nonetheless, the very small group of people leading this law suit received it. My analysis found that the 2016 revaluation was if anything superior to the 2014 revaluation, probably more equitable according to various measures, and probably more accurate overall. Even I was surprised, but my findings did confirm earlier studies with less data. Rolling back Village assessments to values determined in 2014 will not make them more equitable. This appeal does not serve the interests of residents. I originally contributed to the Article 78 proceeding but based on what I've since learned through exhaustive research, I asked that my name be removed from the suit. Unfortunately it was not possible. With my name removed, there would be 149 petitioners, not 150."

Guyon Knight of Quinn Emmanuel one of the attorneys for the intervenors said, “Justice Tolbert was right to dismiss the committee’s lawsuit and we expect that his decision will be affirmed. It’s unclear why the committee waited so many months to file this appeal but after two years of BAR grievances and tax collection this lawsuit makes even less sense now than when it was first filed. Worse, the relief that the committee is seeking would blow a massive hole in the Village’s budget by forcing it to refund two years of taxes paid to the Village, County and School. We expect the second department will affirm Justice Tolbert so that does not come to pass."

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anne and marcusA lot has changed since my first trip to China 31 years ago. Back then, I was an international banking officer covering Asia. I used a map and my decent Chinese allowed me to get around. Crossing the wide boulevards, I dodged the hundreds of bikers whizzing by.

I recently went back in China for ten days with my eldest son Marcus. We travelled to three cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to develop my Chinese real estate networks. The juxtaposition of my memories of analog China with the sight of my millennial son effortlessly maneuvering through iPhone apps was fascinating.

We began the trip in Beijing where I was an exhibitor at the three-day Luxury Property Showcase event. This is a huge, invitation-only event featuring over 120 international real estate developers and agencies from 35 countries. It was held in a large conference hall at the Wanda Vista Hotel, and exhibitors like me were there to showcase their properties to thousands of wealthy Chinese and international real estate investors.

It was a bit like speed dating as the exhibitors were all seeking to grab the attention of attendees passing by and then pitch GreatWallthem on their market, whether it was Dubai, Australia, or Ireland. I outfitted our Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s booth in beautiful Chinese and English displays with TV video and property brochures in dual languages. We had a Chinese translator but many of the attendees spoke good English.

Our booth by the door was quite popular as all the images of New York grabbed the attention of Chinese investors. By the third day, I had nearly lost my voice from talking so much. Everyone was connecting via Wechat, the social media and messaging site that has over a billion monthly users (including more than 100 million outside of China). Wechat was an integral part of the rapid meet and greet. Investors could quickly scan my Wechat QR code, and we were connected. No more business cards!

After the conference, Marcus and I went to the Badaling section of the Great Wall outside Beijing. We walked for a couple of hours on the wall in the withering heat. Still, it was exciting to see the wall again, and strangely, there were still few Western tourists there. There were however many Chinese tourists, including some very old people putting me to shame as they climbed up the uneven, rocky steps and walked the wall with us.

Beijing looks like a city that sprang up overnight, with big, boxy buildings reminiscent of many authoritarian countries. Yet the Prada and Gucci shops, Tesla and other luxury retailers are all doing brisk business. At night, once the sun goes down, the tall rectangular buildings suddenly light up, like the Vegas strip, with bright dazzling light shows, which give the city a lighter, festive atmosphere from its more serious day scene.

ChinaiphoneThere are cameras everywhere. On every street corner, cameras are scanning faces, and recording images of any jaywalker who crosses before the light changes. I wonder how many times my image showed up on their screen before I realized why we were the only ones crossing.

An initial introduction to this state presence starts at Beijing airport where Waiguoren “foreigners” are directed to stop at special kiosks to be fully finger printed before entering the country. From the outset one senses the tight security surveillance and the sense that big brother is watching. The positive thing about this is that while walking through the streets at night, we felt quite safe, as the cameras were always there.

Hotels can be expensive, but transportation was surprisingly cheap. A 75-minute cab ride from the airport to hotel was only 96CNY (Chinese Yuan) which is about $14. Marcus arrived in Beijing after I did, and he downloaded the DiDi app (China’s version of Uber), and he paid only 76 CNY. From that lesson, we quickly learned to use DiDi throughout our trip as it was so easy and cheap to get around both Beijing and Shanghai using DiDi.

We took the bullet train to Shanghai from Beijing and after a 4 hour 45 minute train ride we exited the train station into the steamy heat of a June evening in Shanghai. As we wound our way through the streets towards the Bund, Shanghai revealed itself as an incredibly intriguing architectural city, with old European style architecture and many Art Deco buildings, interspersed with new ultra modern buildings downtown. Shanghai is breathtakingly beautiful at night, with cityscape views and stunning waterfront scenes.

We were cautioned about the hot temperatures during the day; however, traveling with an adventurous and hungry Millennial ChinaBoatmeant walking for hours in the heat, and patching band aids on my feet as we walked cobble stone streets to find a tiny out of the way place that Marcus found on Michelin. As we sat tightly, side by side, facing an elderly couple happily slurping their soup across from us, we were served up a piping hot, succulent plate of duck. I believe Shanghai is the largest city in the world with 24 million plus people, but it has many little intimate neighborhoods with tree-lined streets reminiscent of New York’s Greenwich Village. Bamboo scaffolding, 10-stories high, wrap new buildings under construction. In the streets, men with pushcarts, bicyclists, mopeds and cars all compete for space on the roads. The restaurants and the atmosphere are bustling in Shanghai, and if you ever see the name Hot Pot, believe it! We both enjoy spicy food, but the boiling soup creation we made at our table ended up nearly searing the flesh from our lips as the noodles and vegetable mixture was infused with the hottest red Chile peppers on the planet.

Sad to leave Shanghai, we flew to Hong Kong, which was as loud and cosmopolitan and fast-paced as I remembered. Most of the cab drivers there had a few smart phones affixed to their windshields, and they would carry on texting conversations with friends as they zoomed along, turning right or left, whatever the map guidance directed. In Hong Kong my limited Chinese was of little help as the locals all speak Cantonese. And Marcus’ Google translate speech wasn’t working too well. So we used a lot of gestures, but found our way to the markets, including the Jade market and then the night markets where we wandered around looking at displays of fake designer bags, jewelry, and all kinds of plastic toys and bric-a-brac. We took the trolley up to the Peak, which offers 360o views of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour and towards the other side, quiet views of the mountains of the New Territories.

China3It was a successful trip. I visited our Sotheby’s offices in Beijing and Hong Kong and spoke with the new Manager of the Shanghai Sotheby’s affiliate opening soon. Check! But, as much as the trip was to make connections for my real estate business, it was quite a special experience to travel through China with my son and to see how it’s modernized in so many ways. The rapid pace of modernization is exemplified by nearly every person holding an iphone, but the fundamental beauty and graciousness of the people and the places remain uniquely Chinese.

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Fenimore 2The Scarsdale Village Board denied an appeal to demolish 6 Fenimore Road, the 1921 French Normandy style house and 1924 cottage that were the home of noted architect Andrew J. Thomas, concluding over six months of deliberations. The decision was read at the July 24, 2018 meeting of the Board of Trustees.

Thomas initially owned and lived on the property, but it was later sold to the Manny family who held it from 1937 through 2017, when it was sold to TAK developers for $3.3mm. They intended to tear down the existing buildings, subdivide the 1.3 acre lot and construct two new houses.

The owners of the home originally filed an application to demolish the property in November, 2017 and it was rejected by the Committee for Historic Preservation. In an unprecedented move, at the conclusion of that meeting, the chairman and five members of the CHP resigned to protest the inadequacies of Scarsdale’s preservation code, saying that it had prevented the preservation of a single home in years. The remaining two committee members resigned later.

The appeal to demolish 6 Fenimore Road was heard before the Scarsdale Board of Trustees on June 5, 2018 when lawyers and expert witnesses were present for both the applicants and the Village of Scarsdale. Andrew Dolkhart, a Professor of Historic Preservation at the Columbia University Gradate School of Architecture provided testimony on the historic significance of the home and the importance of architect Andrew J. Thomas’ work and his place in history.

In a lengthy decision which was read by Mayor Dan Hochvert at the July 24, 2018 meeting of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees, the Board contested the applicants claims and denied permission to demolish the house and cottage, while permitting the demolition of a detached garage constructed in 1950.

The Board found that the home met the Village’s criteria for preservation, calling architect Andrew. J. Thomas “a renowned and prominent architect and a person of historical significance.” The rulings outlines his significant contributions to American architecture, including landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places and numerous awards and important commissions.

They found that the building “embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possesses high artistic values.” The decision says, “The two structures display important French Norman features, including the use of rubblestone, steeply sloping roofs, and picturesque massing. The rubblestone is a feature that occurs on many French Norman houses, providing the illusion that the stones were assembled on the site and used in construction. The contrasting brick is given a burned or vitrified finish, and includes a few modest clinker bricks giving the house an aged quality. The Village Board further finds that the buildings are sophisticated in their use of motifs that present a sense of antiquity, as illustrated in the juxtaposition of the medieval-looking rubblestone wing with brick facades on the rest of the house, in the use of vitrified burned bricks in the design of the front door with its “ancient” iron details, and in the use of seemingly hand-hewn woodwork with pegs. The overall quality of the brickwork is significant and illustrate a method of construction that possess high artistic values.”

The trustees denied claims that the mixture of styles signaled “inferior design,” and said it was speculation to say that the home was the work of an underling in Thomas’ office. The fact that the home was not listed in Dolkhart’s Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey of Scarsdale was also sited by the applicants as a reason to allow demolition, but Dolkhart explained the omission of the home from the survey saying it was originally shown to be in Hartsdale.

The decision is detailed, thorough and clearly demonstrates that the home meets the criteria for preservation under Village code. It also appears to signal a new willingness of the Board of Trustees to defend the historic assets of the Village. The ruling on 6 Fenimore Road comes just weeks after the Committee for Historic Preservation denied an application to demolish a mid-century modern home on Overlook Road.

By retaining outside counsel and calling on the expertise of architectural historians, the Village has been successful at saving two homes, defeating appeals from builders and property owners with top attorneys.

The two decisions may give cause for pause to speculators who purchase older properties and assume they can be torn down.

Read the decision here:

FINDINGS OF THE VILLAGE OF SCARSDALE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

In connection with the Appeal Application of 6 FENIMORE ROAD, SCARSDALE, NEW YORK

WHEREAS, The property known as 6 Fenimore Road, Scarsdale, New York is a two story “French Norman” style house with a cottage and detached garage. This single family home was designed by architect Andrew J. Thomas, constructed in 1921, and used by Mr. Thomas as his personal residence. The cottage, also designed by Andrew J. Thomas, was constructed in 1924. In 1950 the detached garage was constructed; and

WHEREAS, By application dated October 19, 2017, the property owners, YT Resolution Services, LLC and Tak Hawaii Inc. (hereinafter the “applicant”), submitted an application to the Committee on Historic Preservation (CHP) seeking approval to demolish the above described buildings and garage; and

WHEREAS, In a decision dated November 21, 2017, after applying the criteria found under Scarsdale Village Code (SVC) §§182-5 and 182-6, the CHP found that the building was of substantial historical importance to the community and denied the request for a Certificate of Appropriateness requiring the preservation of the building; and

WHEREAS, SVC §182-11 provides that any applicant aggrieved by a determination of the CHP may appeal to the Village Board of Trustees. The SVC also provides that during the appeal, the Board of Trustees shall not be bound by the record adduced by the CHP; and

WHEREAS, By letter dated December 21, 2017, the applicant appealed the denial determination of the CHP to the Village Board of Trustees; and

WHEREAS, By letter dated January 26, 2018, the applicant requested an adjournment of the scheduled January 29, 2018 hearing before the Village Board of Trustees; and

WHEREAS, On June 26, 2018 the Village Board of Trustees held a de novo hearing to determine whether the buildings and garage meets the criteria under SVC §182-5 requiring its preservation; and

WHEREAS, during the hearing, the applicant was represented by Lucia Chiocchio, Esq. of Cuddy & Feder LLP, White Plains, New York and Philip E. Karmel, Esq. of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP, New York, New York, and the CHP was represented by Terry Rice, Esq., Suffern, New York; and

WHEREAS, the record of proceedings relating to the application includes expert reports by Andrew Scott Dolkart, Professor of Historic Preservation at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, retained by the Village; and

WHEREAS, the record also includes reports by George E. Thomas, Ph.D. and Susan Nigra Snyder of the firm CivicVisions and Emily T. Cooperman, Ph.D. of the firm PS&S, retained by the applicant; and

WHEREAS, the Village Board of Trustees is familiar with the facts, has reviewed the record, including such expert reports and has visited the site; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, in considering the level of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture present in the buildings, as well as the integrity of location, design, setting materials and workmanship, in addition to applying the criteria specified under SVC §182-5, the Village Board of Trustees agrees with many of the conclusions of Professor Dolkart and makes the following findings of fact:


  1. That 6 Fenimore Road is a significant architectural structure and is a fine example of a French Norman style house with additional significance in the stylistically compatible original outbuilding, also referred to as the cottage. The two structures display important French Norman features, including the use of rubblestone, steeply sloping roofs, and picturesque massing. The Village Board further finds that the buildings are sophisticated in their use of motifs that present a sense of antiquity, as illustrated in the juxtaposition of the medieval-looking rubblestone wing with brick facades on the rest of the house, in the use of vitrified burned bricks in the design of the front door with its “ancient” iron details, and in the use of seemingly hand-hewn woodwork with pegs.

  2. The Village Board further finds that 6 Fenimore Road has historical significance in location, design and setting. It is located in the Fox Meadow section of Scarsdale that was among the earliest developed with middle-class suburban houses following the electrification of the Harlem Line railroad. From Fenimore Road, the house appears almost exactly as it did when completed in 1921. The cottage or outbuilding remains largely intact. The lot is intact and important features of the planned landscape are still present, including a well and well head, walls and stairs.

  3. That 6 Fenimore Road uses materials in a creative manner that is appropriate to a French Norman house and for a house intended to appear as if it had been standing for centuries and had grown over time. The architect’s design combines vitrified brick, a few clinker bricks, rubblestone walls, wood shingles, and extraordinary woodwork, especially at the main entrance and around the windows. Both the materials and workmanship are significant to the appearance of a French Norman style house.

With regard to the additional criteria enumerated in SVC §182-5, the Village Board makes the following findings of fact:

  1. A. Whether the building is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to broad patterns of Village, regional, state or national history:

The Village Board finds that while 6 Fenimore Road was constructed at a time wherein the suburbanization of Scarsdale was taking place after the electrification of the Harlem Line railroad, the record does not support a finding that 6 Fenimore Road has had an important association with events that have made a significant contribution to the suburbanization of Scarsdale. Accordingly, a sufficient nexus does not exist between the building, 6 Fenimore Road, and the suburbanization of Scarsdale to support a finding to warrant landmarking of the building.

  1. B. That the building is associated with the life of a person or persons of historical significance.

Based upon the record, the Village Board finds that 6 Fenimore Road is associated with the life of architect Andrew J. Thomas and that he is a person of historical significance to warrant landmarking of the property. Andrew Thomas was one of the most prominent architects of the 1920’s. He specialized in the design of housing, particularly apartment buildings for middle-class and working- class families. Mr. Thomas was a self-taught architect who rose to prominence in his profession. He established himself as a practitioner in the field of planned housing with his innovative work for the Queensboro Corporation. Mr. Thomas is credited as the developer of the “garden apartment.” Thomas’ six complexes in Jackson Heights have all been recognized as local New York City landmarks and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, within the Jackson Heights Historic District. In addition to middle-class apartment houses, Thomas designed model tenements for working-class households, many for John D. Rockefeller, including the Dunbar Apartments in Harlem, a complex in Bayonne, New Jersey, and a building on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx that was named after its architect –Thomas Gardens. Both Dunbar Apartments and Thomas Gardens are local landmarks and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thomas also designed a significant number of freestanding houses, including several others in Scarsdale and a large country house for his own use in Montauk, Long Island. He was also responsible for eighty-one houses based upon nine designs, all in the Norman style, for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. All eighty-one houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the early years of the twentieth century, few self-taught architects became members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). However, Thomas became a member of the AIA in 1921, the year that 6 Fenimore Road was constructed. Few self-taught architects were also elected to fellowship status in the AIA, yet Thomas received fellowship status in 1932. Thomas also received a number of prestigious architectural commissions from important clients such as John D. Rockefeller and the Queensboro Corporation. He was the recipient of awards from the New York Chapter of the AIA and was appointed to an important housing commission by New York State. Additionally, a prestigious architecture award is named after Thomas.

Based upon the foregoing and contrary to the applicant’s claim, the Village Board finds that Thomas, although a self-taught architect, was more than a rent collector, cost estimator and builder who exploited a loophole and began calling himself an architect before New York State required a registration exam. (See Transcript pages 16-17 and CivicVisions report page 12). In fact, he referred to himself as an architect three years before New York State required a registration exam for architects. Accordingly, the applicants attempt to denigrate Andrew J. Thomas and his reputation as a prominent architect must be rejected.

Having established that Andrew J. Thomas as an architect and a person of historical significance, the Board finds a sufficient nexus between 6 Fenimore Road and Mr. Thomas’s life. It is undisputed that in 1921 Andrew J. Thomas designed 6 Fenimore Road and used it as his primary residence. In fact, the applicant’s submission supports the fact that Mr. Thomas designed and resided at 6 Fenimore Road and that he was active in the community, and not transient. (See Cuddy & Feder submission dated December 21, 2017, Exhibit I). Thomas resided at 6 Fenimore Road for more than six years before relocating to New York City. (See Cuddy & Feder submission dated December 21, 2017, Exhibit I; and submission dated June 26, 2018, Exhibit #1, page 33). Based upon the foregoing, 6 Fenimore Road is associated with the life Andrew J. Thomas, a renowned architect of historical significance.

The applicant claims that SVC §182-5(A)(1) is modeled after the similarly phrased criteria found in the National Historic Preservation Law and that the National Register Bulletin provides insight on how to apply this criterion. The applicant further claims that that insight should be applicable here. First, the section being addressed herein is SVC §182-5(A)(2), not SVC §182-5(A)(1). Further, while the criteria may appear to be similar, it is not the same and the Village Board has never adopted the National Historic Preservation Law or its guidance. Therefore, the applicant’s presumption that the National Historic Preservation Law’s guidance is applicable herein is misplaced.

Assuming arguendo that the National Historic Preservation Law guidance or insight is applicable, the guidance suggests that to meet the requirements of SVC §182-5(A)(2), the person must be individually significant within a historical context; properties eligible under this criterion are usually those associated with a person’s productive life, reflecting the time period when he or she achieved significance. “In some instances this may be the person’s home; in other cases, a person’s business office.” Further, the guidance provides that each property associated with an important individual should be compared to the other associated properties to identify those that best represent the person’s historic contributions. “The best representatives usually are properties associated with the person’s adult or productive life.” (See Cuddy & Feder submission dated December 21, 2017, Exhibit G).

Here, the guidance suggests that Andrew J. Thomas meets the criterion under SVC §182-5(A)(2). First, the guidance states the person must be significant within a historical context. There is no question, and the record supports the finding, that Andrew J. Thomas, a self-taught architect, was a prominent architect renowned for designing and pioneering “garden apartments.” He was a fellow with the AIA; received numerous awards from the New York AIA chapter; has numerous of his designs on the National Registry, including eighty-one French Norman style single family residences in Cleveland, Ohio; received prestigious commissions from John D. Rockefeller and the Queensboro Corporation; and was appointed to a special housing commission by New York State.

Based upon the above guidance and the record before it, the Village Board finds that Andrew J. Thomas, as an architect, is individually significant within an historical context. The Village Board further finds that 6 Fenimore Road is associated with the productive life of Andrew J. Thomas as 6 Fenimore was designed by Andrew J. Thomas and used as his personal residence or home for more than six years while he served as an architect designing projects within New York State and elsewhere. Further, in comparing 6 Fenimore Road to some of the other single family residences designed by Andrew J. Thomas, including, but not limited to, an English cottage located at 21 Fox Meadow Road and another located at 8 Fenimore Road, 6 Fenimore Road is distinguished from those residences as it is the only French Norman style single family residence designed by Mr. Thomas in Scarsdale, and it served as his primary residence. There is no evidence in the record that he resided in any of the other French Norman or other styled single family residence designed by him in Scarsdale. Since 6 Fenimore Road is associated with Andrew J. Thomas’ adult and/or productive life as an architect, it meets the above guidance and satisfies the requirements under SVC §182-5(A)(2).

Contrary to the applicant’s claim, to meet the requirements under SVC §182- 5(A)(2), the applicable guidance does not suggest that the building must be the architect’s preferred style or must be associated with what the architect is known for, in this case “garden apartments.” Instead, the requirements and guidance simply suggest that the “building” be associated with a person of historical significance. Having established that Andrew J. Thomas is a person of historical significance, 6 Fenimore Road, which was designed by Mr. Thomas and served as his personal residence for more than six (6) years is unequivocally associated with his life during the years that he was a prominent and productive architect and satisfies the requirements under SVC §182-5(A)(2).

The applicant’s reliance on the Village Board’s decision in 270 Fox Meadow Road in 2001 is misplaced. In 2001, the Village Board made a determination, based solely on the record before it at that time, that Andrew J. Thomas’s, architectural contribution was limited to garden style apartments. At the time that determination was made, the record before the board regarding Mr. Thomas’s architectural work was limited. The information available to the Village Board at that time came in the form of a few newspaper articles. Based upon that record, now established to have been incomplete and with limited information, the Village Board concluded Mr. Thomas’ contributions were limited to the design of the “garden apartment.”

The record in this instance includes the testimony of two expert witnesses who research and specialize in historical properties. The information provided by both experts, to varying degrees, proves the prominence and historical significance of Mr. Thomas. Specifically, the record includes testimony that Mr. Thomas, a self- taught architect, established himself as a practitioner in the field of planned housing with his innovative work for the Queensboro Corporation. Mr. Thomas’s six complexes in Jackson Heights have all been recognized as local New York City landmarks and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, within the Jackson Heights Historic District. In addition to middle-class apartment houses, Thomas designed model tenements for working-class households, many for John D. Rockefeller, including the Dunbar Apartments in Harlem, a complex in Bayonne, New Jersey, and a building on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx that was named after its architect –Thomas Gardens. Both Dunbar Apartments and Thomas Gardens are local landmarks and are listed on the National Register. Thomas also designed a significant number of freestanding houses, including several others in Scarsdale and a large country house for his own use in Montauk, Long Island. He was also responsible for eighty-one houses based upon nine designs, all in the French Norman style, for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. These properties are listed on the National Register. He became a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1921 when few self- taught architects became members. Mr. Thomas was also elected to fellowship status in the AIA 1932, another honor that few self-taught architects received.

Mr. Thomas also received a number of prestigious architectural commissions from important clients such as John D. Rockefeller and the Queensboro Corporation. He was the recipient of awards from the New York Chapter of the AIA and was appointed to an important housing commission by New York State. Mr. Thomas was renowned for his design and pioneering of “garden apartments.”

Accordingly, the applicant’s reliance on the Village Board’s determination in 270 Fox Meadow Road, a matter decided based upon limited information almost 18 years ago, is misplaced. In light of the record in this case and including the new credible evidence and information provided by the experts, to rely upon the determination in 270 Fox Meadow would be in derogation of the record before the Village Board in this case which establishes Andrew J. Thomas’s prominence and reputation, and his association with the property in this instance which was his own personal residence.

The applicant also erroneously suggests that the exclusion of 6 Fenimore Road from the 2012 Scarsdale Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey Report is dispositive of its insignificance. Without conferring with the author, the applicant incorrectly articulates reasons as to why 6 Fenimore Road was excluded from the 2012 Scarsdale Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey Report. (See Cuddy & Feder submission dated June 26, 2018, Exhibit #5, page 23.) As the Village Board has articulated in many of its prior historic preservation decisions, the Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey Report was intended to be a “snapshot” of some potential historic properties and structures within the Village of Scarsdale, but not all potential historic properties or structures. The report was not intended to be an all-inclusive detailed report. Rather, the report was intended to be an initial review of buildings and structures in anticipation of a potentially more expansive and inclusive report. (See Village Board Decisions in 3 Claremont Road, dated February 13, 2018; 24 Morris Lane, dated July 11, 2017; and 26 Cooper Road, dated October 10, 2017). Thus, the failure to include 6 Fenimore Road in the Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey Report is not dispositive of its lack of historical or architectural significance.

Moreover, Professor Dolkart, in his hearing testimony before the Village Board explained how and why 6 Fenimore Road was excluded from the 2012 Scarsdale Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey Report. He explained that the 2012 study was a “phase one survey”, and as was stated in it, “there was a lot more to be found.” He further stated, “I had done a lot of research in architectural periodicals looking for buildings in Scarsdale, and this was published but it’s listed in Hartsdale and so that, of course, got missed.” (See Cuddy & Feder submission dated June 26, 2018 Exhibit #5, page 46). Finally, Professor Dolkart stated, “if information that 6 Fenimore Road was a personal design by Andrew J. Thomas, it would have been included as a proposed individual landmark”, in the Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey Report. (See Dolkart Report, dated January 2018, page 3).

For all of the reasons stated above, the Village Board finds that 6 Fenimore Road is associated with the life of Andrew J. Thomas, a renowned and prominent architect and a person of historical significance, as it served as his primary residence in Scarsdale for more than six years. Thus, 6 Fenimore Road warrants preservation based upon the criteria specified in SVC §182-5(A)(2).

  1. C. That the building is the work of a master and embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic values.

Based upon information contained in the record, the Village Board finds that 6 Fenimore Road is the work of a master and embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic values. The first prong requires determining whether Andrew J. Thomas is a master. A master is defined as a person recognized for greatness in their field and is considered a craftsman of consummate skill whose work rises above and is distinguished from others. (See Village Board Decisions in 3 Claremont Road, dated February 13, 2018; 24 Morris Lane, dated July 11, 2017; and 26 Cooper Road, dated October 10, 2017).

In reviewing the record detailing the life of Andrew J. Thomas, the Village Board finds that Mr. Thomas, a self-taught architect, established himself as a practitioner in the field of planned housing with his innovative work for the Queensboro Corporation. Mr. Thomas’s six complexes in Jackson Heights have all been recognized as local New York City landmarks and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, within the Jackson Heights Historic District. In addition to middle-class apartment houses, Thomas designed model tenements for working-class households, many for John D. Rockefeller, including the Dunbar Apartments in Harlem, a complex in Bayonne New Jersey, and a building on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx that was named after its architect –Thomas Gardens. Both Dunbar Apartments and Thomas Gardens are local landmarks and are listed on the National Register. Thomas also designed a significant number of freestanding houses, including several others in Scarsdale and a large country house for his own use in Montauk, Long Island. He was also responsible for eighty-one houses based upon nine designs, all in the French Norman style, for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. These properties are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He became a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1921, wherein few self-taught architects became members. Mr. Thomas was also elected to Fellowship status in the AIA in 1932, another honor that few self-taught architects received. Thomas also received a number of prestigious architectural commissions from important clients such as John D. Rockefeller and the Queensboro Corporation. He was the recipient of awards from the New York Chapter of the AIA and was appointed to an important housing commission by New York State. Mr. Thomas was renowned for his design and pioneering of “garden apartments”. While less known for his single family residences, in designing such he incorporated a diversity of styles, paying attention to the landscape as done in his apartment buildings. The Village Board finds that Andrew J. Thomas is a person recognized for greatness in the field of architecture and is a craftsman of consummate skill that rises above and is distinguished from others. Accordingly, Andrew J. Thomas is a master.

The applicant’s claims intended to denigrate Andrew J. Thomas are unsupported and must be rejected. The applicant suggests that because Mr. Thomas was self- taught that he possessed no talents as a designer. In his testimony before the Village Board, the applicant stated that because Andrew J. Thomas was a self- taught architect he could not have drawn on the breadth of cultural knowledge that his contemporary architects had and concludes that he had a lack of design skills and a general lack of architectural knowledge. This assertion is not supported by any evidence and reflects, at best, the applicant’s opinion. Moreover, the reality of Thomas’s buildings and work belies the accuracy of this statement.

Further, the applicant’s experts in their reports and their counsel dismiss Andrew J. Thomas’s houses as being architecturally and historically significant, including 6 Fenimore Road, because they are not buildings for which he is best known. Using the National Register criteria, it defines a master as a figure of generally greatness in a field (a description that applies to Andrew J. Thomas) and that a property must express a particular phase in the development of the master’s career (evident in the design of the freestanding, suburban French Norman style house at 6 Fenimore Road). Nowhere in the text of the National Register does it state that a building has to be representative of the type of work for which the architect was famous or that Mr. Thomas’s detached houses should be dismissed because they are not representative of his most notable achievements.

Also not supported by any evidence is the applicant’s claim that, “...young kids, graduates from Columbia, who come in and work for a couple of years. And my sense is they’re the ones who are doing these houses as they come through the office. This isn’t Thomas. Thomas tells you that. He tells you with his pride, I’m not an architect, in a sense. I’m not a designer. I am this guy who bootstrapped my way up into money and wealth.” (See Cuddy & Feder submission dated June 26, 2018, Exhibit #5, page 30). The applicant further speculates by stating the following, “And again, my guess is that he’s got somebody in the office doing these designs.” (See Cuddy & Feder submission dated June 26, 2018, Exhibit #5, page 31). These claims are tantamount to speculation and are unsupported by any credible evidence that Andrew J. Thomas was not responsible for the design, and therefore could not be considered a master. Such claims ignore that Mr. Thomas was the architect of record and was ultimately responsible for every design from his office, irrespective of who actually drafted the design. Thus, the Village Board finds that the record establishes that Andrew J. Thomas is a master.

The record establishes that 6 Fenimore Road embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possesses high artistic values. Having reviewed the record and visited the site, the Village Board finds that 6 Fenimore Road is a significant architectural structure and is a fine example of a French Norman style house with additional significance in the stylistically compatible original outbuilding (cottage). The two structures display important French Norman features, including the use of rubblestone, steeply sloping roofs, and picturesque massing. The rubblestone is a feature that occurs on many French Norman houses, providing the illusion that the stones were assembled on the site and used in construction. The contrasting brick is given a burned or vitrified finish, and includes a few modest clinker bricks giving the house an aged quality. The Village Board further finds that the buildings are sophisticated in their use of motifs that present a sense of antiquity, as illustrated in the juxtaposition of the medieval-looking rubblestone wing with brick facades on the rest of the house, in the use of vitrified burned bricks in the design of the front door with its “ancient” iron details, and in the use of seemingly hand-hewn woodwork with pegs. The overall quality of the brickwork is significant and illustrates a method of construction that possess high artistic values.

Further, the alterations to the house and outbuilding (cottage) do not detract from the overall quality of Thomas’s design and 6 Fenimore’s high artistic value. In fact, the building from Fenimore Road visually appears the same and remains intact as it did at the time of construction, in 1921. Additionally, the applicant’s claim that the composition of the house and cottage are “haphazard” and “poorly composed” is without merit.

The applicant’s reliance on the Village Board’s Decision in 24 Morris Lane to suggest that a building containing a mixture of design styles is indicative of an inferior design is also misplaced. In 24 Morris Lane, we held that “the merging of four different styles does not automatically [emphasis added] render a property unfit for meeting the high artistic value requirement. Instead, to determine whether the inclusion of each style rises to the high artistic value threshold, the overall blending must be evaluated on a case by case basis to assess whether high artistic value is achieved.” Here, we find that the inclusion of elements that are not traditional to French Norman do not impact the appearance of the readily identifiable French Norman style, particularly as viewed from Fenimore Road. Unlike some other French Norman houses, 6 Fenimore Road does not have a tower. It should be noted that none of the eighty-one French Norman houses designed by Mr. Thomas in Ohio have a cylindrical tower, but all eighty-one houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Thus, the exclusion of a cylindrical tower does not render the design or the subject property inferior.

Based upon the above, the Village Board finds that 6 Fenimore Road is the work of a master, embodies the distinctive characteristics of the French Norman style or period, and employs a method of construction that possesses high artistic values. Accordingly, 6 Fenimore Road meets the criteria specified in SVC §182-5(A)(3) and warrants preservation under this provision, as well.

  1. D. That the building has yielded or may likely yield information important in prehistory or history.

The Village Board finds nothing in the record that suggest the building yielded or may yield information important in prehistory or history; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Village Board finds that the detached garage built in 1950 and located on the property of 6 Fenimore Road is not architecturally of historically significance; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Applicant’s request to continue the hearing is denied. The Applicant’s claim that it was not given ample time to present its case is unfounded. In fact, during the hearing both of the applicant’s attorneys and their expert witness were given the opportunity to present their case and arguments to the Village Board. It was not until they completed presenting their case did the Village Board ask questions of counsel and their expert. A review of the transcript and audio from the hearing clearly demonstrates that the applicant was given ample opportunity to present its case and respond to questions. In fact, the applicant spent approximately one hour, if not more, presenting its case. The transcript also reveals that counsel for the CHP and its expert were given significantly less time to present their case and arguments.

At the close of the hearing, both sides were given the opportunity to submit post hearing briefs and include any additional arguments.

It should be noted that in January, 2018 the applicant was provided with a copy of the CHP’s expert witness report. Upon receipt of that report, the applicant requested an adjournment of the hearing. On May 1, 2018, during the adjournment period, the applicant retained additional expert reports, which were not shared with their adversary, counsel for the CHP, until June 26, 2018, the afternoon of the hearing date. However, since both sides were given the opportunity to submit post hearing briefs neither side can assert a claim of prejudice. Further, the post hearing briefs do not raise new issues to warrant the continuation of the hearing or additional submittals; and be it further

RESOLVED, based upon the foregoing and having found that 6 Fenimore Road meets the requirements of SVC §§182-5(A)(2) and 182-5(A)(3), the Village Board denies the request for a certificate of appropriateness to demolish the building and cottage. Having found that the garage is not a building of architectural or historical significance, the Village Board grants a certificate of appropriateness permitting the demolition of the garage, subject to all other requirements of the Scarsdale Village Code and the Building Inspector.

Submitted by: Village Board
Submitted for: July 24, 2018

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Library 1The Scarsdale Library Loft is now open for business! July 5th marked the opening of the new library space located at the Supply Field, 244 Heathcote Road. The Loft will be utilized for the next 18 months to two years while the Scarsdale Public Library on Olmstead undergoes renovations. The Loft is located on the second floor of the Supply Field building and is easily accessible by elevator or stairs. Parking is conveniently located in front of the building.

Library 4While the Library Loft is smaller in size and has limited resources, the space is a welcoming substitute while residents await the new, more modern library that will result from these renovations. In the meantime, the Loft is equipped with fiction and nonfiction (both new and old), reference materials, a cozy children’s room, a few computers, a photocopier, scanner, audio books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, and seating. In addition, the space is equipped with free WiFi and cell service.

For residents who have difficulty getting to the library, The Friends of the Library is working on expanding their homebound delivery service in order to make library materials more accessible. They are also redesigning their website to become a virtual library, with many online resources readily available for children and adults. For even more convenience, books may be reserved online, over the phone or in person from other libraries and picked up at the Library Loft.

Library 3The Loft holds roughly 10% of the library’s entire collection while the some of the collection is housed in storage, was sent to other Westchester libraries, or will be donated or sold in an upcoming tag sale.

“People are just happy to have a place to go,” said Library Director Elizabeth Bermel on the Loft’s opening day. While the library staff is still figuring out some logistics and the flow of the building, Bermel added, “the first day went really smoothly; people were here right when we opened. It was great.”

Library card holders can also use neighboring public libraries of the Westchester Library System as an alternative place to borrow and return books. A list of participating libraries is available on the Scarsdale Public Library website. The Scarsdale Inquirer Microfilm and Indexes are still available at the Greenburgh Library.

Library 2An updated list of the Loft’s hours is available on the library’s website. The Library Loft will continue to offer programs for children such as book groups, crafts, and Traditional Tuesday Storytime along with exam nights for high school students and adult programs such as book groups, art programs, and writing classes. A full list of programs available at the Library Loft is available on the library’s website. To learn more visit www.scarsdalelibrary.org or read our previous article regarding the renovations.


library 6Library Loft
244 Heathcote Road, Scarsdale
(914) 722-1300

July & August Hours
Monday-Friday: 8am - 3pm
Saturday: 9am - 1pm
Closed Sunday 

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