Candlelight Vigil for Michelle Hirsh
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 23 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
A candlelight vigil was held in Sherbrooke Park on Tuesday night March 21 to memorialize wife, mother, friend and community volunteer Michelle Hirsh. Friends gathered at her home on Pinecrest Road to share memories and offer condolences and respect to her family; husband Scott and children Madison and Jack.
Michelle fought a valiant battle against pancreatic cancer and survived 30 months before she passed away on Monday March 20 at the age of 50, just a month shy of her next birthday on April 22. She was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer in September 23, 2014 and underwent many rounds of chemotherapy and ultimately had surgery in April 2016 to remove the tumor. She vowed to never give up and became an ardent support of the Lustgarten Foundation. Her goal was to raise $150,000 and a walk for her team will be held at Rye Playland Park on April 23. Watch a video of Michelle speaking here.
On Tuesday, hundreds gathered down the front path and along the driveway of her home which stands high on a hill above the neighborhood. The flickering candlelight created a beautiful tableau for a woman who requested that no funeral be held for her as she didn't want anyone to be sad.
Remembering her friend, Denise Koslowsky said:
"Today the world is a little smaller and there is a little less light as we honor and remember a true Superstar Michelle Snayd Hirsh. Michelle did not want a funeral, because she did not want any of us to be sad. So I am going to try to not be sad while I say a few words about my friend, Michelle.
I adored Michelle from the minute I met her, and felt lucky that the Hirsh family blessed Scarsdale. Michelle quietly did for others and never ever asked for anything in return. She always had a big smile on her face, and whenever I was in her presence I felt special and valued. I suspect that everyone who knows Michelle felt exactly the same way. Michelle never wanted to be the center of attention. She flew under the radar and did not get caught up in the politics of Scarsdale. And, if you ask me she made the BEST jalepeno margaritas and guacamole on the East Coast!
Michelle loved her wine, and loved to break bread whenever possible. Nothing made me happier than walking by and seeing Scott Hirsh and Michelle in their Adirondack chairs in their driveway drinking a beer or a glass of wine, always with an invitation to share with a friend.
I learned from my friend - the importance of staying positive, the need to stay connected, and the meaning of commitment.
When that dreaded diagnosis of pancreatic cancer became a reality 2 1/2 years ago, Michelle stepped up to the plate and became a role model to us all. She reminded us of the importance of living life to its fullest and the power of positive thinking. Michelle reminded us that community matters, and why we need to rally around each other. I know her life was cut short, but I also know that it is a miracle that she lived with pancreatic cancer for 2 1/2 years. She never quit. While Michelle did not ask for much, she did ask for us all to support The Lustgarten Foundation and help to find a cure so that other lives are not cut short like hers.
To Madison Hirsh and Jack, the memory of your amazing, beautiful, strong, smart, organized, dedicated mother will live with you forever. To Scott Hirsh, you were the love of her life, and we all know she was the yin to your yang. You balanced each other perfectly.
In her memory, and to make her wishes come true, we light our candles and hold them high. I will miss our talks, and I will miss her smile, but I know you are smiling down on all of us."
Neighbor and friend Anne Moretti added:
"Denise's comments were really beautiful and captured the essence of Michelle's passion for life and for her determination to help others, especially in their fight against pancreatic cancer. Michelle was one of the truly wonderful human beings who represented the best in all of us."
Meredith Alin also spoke at the vigil, saying:
"I had a special relationship with Michelle Hirsh. But most of you did as well. She had a way of making every individual feel like she had a special connection with him or her. No matter her own struggles, even cancer, she always asked, listened and took an earnest interest in the issues that her friends were grappling with.
I met Michelle through the Junior League. My first years as an active member, I served on the JLCW Board with her. We became fast friends but friends based on substance. We would spend hours together at the cottage, talking about things that mattered while sharing many laughs. At the end of that year, a fellow board member and close friend of Michelle, Meggy Wagner, gave Michelle and I each a gift of a personalized notebook. My notebook proclaimed me the brains of the JLCW, a dubious honor. Michelle's proclaimed her the heart of the JLCW.
How accurate that was. Michelle really was the heart of her community. But in some ways she was the brains too. Michelle in reality was my advisor on matters concerning my kids, my marriage, my job and the JLCW. I am sure that she shared her wisdom with many of you. She always understood the human aspect of any situation. She stopped to consider what motivated people,, how decisions would impact other and how others would react to certain situations. She taught me stop and think about the ramifications of my decisions. She made me a better person and she made her community a better place.
I love her and will miss her."
A walk for pancreatic cancer research will be held on April 23rd at Rye Playland Park. Donations will go to the Lustgarten Foundation Sign up for Michelle's team and make your donation here.
Thoughts on the Longer School Days
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 16 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
It's official! The Scarsdale Schools schedule will be longer for the 2017-18 school year with 80 minutes more per week at the elementary and middle schools and an additional 75 minutes per week at the high school.
At the elementary school, 16 minutes will be added per day. At the middle school, morning homeroom will be eliminated, each period will be longer and six minutes will be added to the end of the day. School will start at 8:10 am.
At the High School, the first bell will ring at 7:55 am with class beginning at 8 am. The new schedule will add two minutes each to periods 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 and period 5 will have three additional minutes. Homeroom will occur two days per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays between periods 2 and 3.
SHS PTA President Amy Song had asked that parents and students be included in the conversation about how the extra time would be used but they were not invited to the table this year.
Here are her comments on the new schedule:
The SHS PTA Executive Committee has been very vocal about this issue and feels that the new schedule reflects a lost opportunity for students where writing labs, themed classes or supervised study sessions would have been a more meaningful use of 75 minutes than the accepted plan of adding two minutes to each period. Parents and students feel shut out of a process that immediately and directly affect them, so we will continue to urge the BOE and STA for more collaboration going forward.
More importantly and less mentioned, we must preserve the unique culture at Scarsdale High School where teaching and learning are not only quantified by total classroom minutes, but also through immeasurable acts of instruction that take place outside of class or school. Students are constantly meeting with teachers throughout the school day (including entire lunch periods) and appreciate the free email exchanges at any hour (including weekends which some districts disallow). Some students have even disclosed attending group review sessions in the evenings with teachers willing to accommodate their busy after school schedules. These are just a few examples of how one-on-one, non classroom experiences add instructional value and also allow teachers to get to know students more effectively.
This process also enables our high school teachers to spend inordinate amounts of time writing quality student recommendations for college or summer programs as opposed to some districts authorizing generic form letters (gasp!) to help reduce teachers' personal time commitments.
Scarsdale High School prides itself on boundless, professional education that prioritizes student learning both inside and outside of the classroom resulting in an experience that is closer to that of a private institution. We should be very careful about chipping away this culture because once it is gone, it will unlikely return, and we will end up being very much like any ordinary public high school.
I am hearing that in addition to feeling like this is not a good use of their time, students are disappointed with the inconsistent end times, lack of homeroom for three days (students use homeroom to meet with other study groups, teachers, or deans, get a much needed break and receive important school announcements), and no provision for extended lunch. Parents have similar concerns including the earlier start time. One parent sent me a great link about how studies show that earlier starts correlate to poor productivity and performance for our teenagers.
Student wellness is also very affected by this new schedule which by the way is this year's compact initiative school and district wide!
SHS sophomore and athlete Emmeline Berridge offered the following comment on the revised schedule for next year.
"I think the new schedule is similar to any change in that it will take a while to adjust to it. One of the biggest adjustments being the starting time. Although 5 minutes doesn't seem to make a big difference, 5 minutes to a sleep deprived teenager means a lot. Also, the differing end times based on the day will take getting used to. Being in the school for the past year and a half I have memorized when each period ends, which helps me plan my time during a free or while meeting a teacher. The more complicated schedule is going to be difficult to memorize and I will definitely struggle with that for a while. Another aspect that I'm not fond of is the removal of homeroom on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. For someone who has limited frees like myself, homeroom has always been a quick break in the day where I can rest my brain. Without this time, my productivity and focus will most definitely decrease during the day. With regards to sports, the schedule doesn't really affect much. However, on Fridays, coaches usually make practice at 2pm instead of 3pm because everyone has 7th period free on Friday. Because students lose this free, coaches will not be able to have the earlier practices and sports will get out later on Fridays. Overall, I definitely think this new schedule will do more harm than good with regards to the well being of SHS students. In a community that seems hyper focused on wellness, I'm not sure this is the right move for Scarsdale High School.
In response to the article above, Dr. Thomas Hagerman, Superintendent of the Scarsdale Schools sent us the following:
(1) Amy Song did not raise this issue with the District until late Fall, when this work was well-underway and an established Committee in place, even though the contract with the STA was ratified at the end of the last school year, and instructional time was a known outcome at that time. Moreover, the PTA was not closed out of the process. Amy met with Ken several times on this subject, and I met with the entire PTA Exec Board for several hours to hear/address their concerns. Although the MOU (memorandum of understanding) from collective bargaining stipulated the make-up of the instructional time committees, I have told Amy that I am very open to parent and student participation moving forward.
(2) You claim that: "students use homeroom to meet with other study groups, teachers, or deans, get a much needed break and receive important school announcements"....As a reminder, homeroom is five minutes long, fairly early in the day, from 9:53-9:58. This is not enough productive time for study groups or conferencing. Roll call and announcements, yes.
(3) In terms of inconsistent dismissals, that already happens for our students, depending on their schedules and "frees". All students days begin and end differently, depending on their schedules. This is not a change in practice.
(4) 7th period on Friday is unchanged, so I am unclear why it is characterized as a loss of a free.
Do you have thoughts on the new schedule? Share them in the comments section below.
Mayor Explains Village's Defense Against Article 78 and Laws Regarding Financing Road Repair
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 02 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
It's a curious situation: Those who filed the Article 78 against Scarsdale Village are now grousing about the cost to the Village – and therefore residents - for the defense. The Article 78 called for two remedies – one to void the 2016 revaluation and reinstate the 2015 tax roll – or if not, to reimburse the 155 petitioners for the difference between their taxes on the two rolls.
When the Mayor and Village Attorney explained why neither option was practical or legal, the petitioners then urged the Village to settle the suit. At the February 28 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Scarsdale Mayor Jon Mark offered the following explanation as to why the Village filed a motion to dismiss the Article 78:
1. This Board represents all of the Village residents. The petition ignores the fact that the vast majority of those residents have not formally complained about the revaluation for a variety of reasons.
2. Reinstating the 2015 roll, even if legally possible, would deprive those who did not grieve in 2015, but who might wish to do so, the inability to pursue
that remedy. We have made this point before and it was also part of an observation made by a resident during the public comment portion of a prior Board of Trustees' meeting.
3. The central element of the relief sought -- an order directing this Board to void the 2016 reassessment roll is not an action the Board is legally authorized to take on its own.
4. Even if the 2015 assessment roll was reinstated, the administrative chaos it would create is potentially enormous. It would require not only the Village, but the School District and the County to re-set their tax rolls. For the County, that process would implicate not just Scarsdale, but would involve recalculating the allocation of County taxes among all 43 other municipalities in the County. It would also involve refunds and re-billings to virtually all residents at the Village, School District and County levels. The administrative complexity would likely be costly for all taxpayers including those already claiming hardship. The fiscal chaos that such a process could create is a factor to be considered in light of the alternatives already provided by the law.
5. Specifically, there is a clear, well-outlined statutory remedy available to property owners who believe they have been over-assessed -- that is, the grievance process. For those who do not presently have unresolved grievances pending, a 20-day period during which grievances can be filed will open on June 1, 2017.
6. The Board understands that the grievance process does not address a sense of unfairness in the case of properties that may be perceived as being under assessed.
7. However, there is a straightforward means for addressing that issue and the other issues raised by the 2016 revaluation. Do another Village-wide revaluation, even if some may still be unhappy with the result. I have no doubt that that will occur and be executed in a thoughtful and transparent manner. However, until some organizational assessment of the functioning of the Assessor's Department is done, it is likely that community confidence in another revaluation would be undermined. This Board met earlier this evening to hear a presentation of such an assessment and has taken under advisement whether and how to proceed with such a project.
There is a belief among some that not defending against the Article 78 would somehow bring closure to the issues raised by the 2016 revaluation. We disagree. To the contrary, since this Board lacks the legal authority to do what the petition seeks, the pendency of the petition will simply prolong a period of uncertainty in
the real estate market in Scarsdale and for residents trying to make financial plans. There is simply no legal authority for what the petitioner seeks in the way of relief.
These matters have cost us all an inordinate amount of time, effort and money. Time that might have been spent focusing on other Village issues – such as land use and sustainability to name two. To date, the Village has incurred $12,350 in legal expenses with respect to the Article 78 matter. It goes without saying, but I will say it: this is not what I would have wished for us all when I started my term as Mayor. But here we are and it is still my hope that we can work through this difficult issue together.
In the Public Comments section following Mark's statement, Robert Berg, a candidate for Mayor who is sympathetic to the opponents of the 2014 revaluation questioned the Village's decision to defend themselves rather than settle. He said, "I am not involved in the Article 78 but now I am saddled with paying the village's defense. Why has the village hired two separate law firms? How much has the Village budgeted for the defense of the action and how much has it spent defending the action?"
Mayor Mark responded, "We have spent $12,350 per date.. that's roughly $2.12 per property owner."
Berg then pressed for the hourly rate for each of the attorneys and was first told to file a FOIL request, but then Village Attorney Wayne Essanason volunteered that the fee was about $225 per hour and that billing is done on an hourly basis.
Berg then wanted to know, "Is that fee capped? Most firms agree to cap fees. How much will this cost?" Village Attorney Wayne Essanason then explained that it was difficult to predict how much the defense would cost because it would depend on the judge's decision. Essanason said, "My budget each year is $200,000 and we usually don't spend that. We do a lot of the defense in house. In instances where there is a specialized skill involved we hire outside counsel."
Later in the meeting Trustee Bill Stern defended the Board's actions, saying, "The court should decide on the lawsuit. It would be irresponsible and reckless if we did not respond to the lawsuit." Referring to the 35,000 FOIL requests for emails filed by opponents to the 2016 revaluation, Stern said, "The sheer number of FOILS cost us south of $100,000. While we support the idea of FOILS, people should bear in mind that they come at a cost. We tried to do what we could about the reval under the law."
A discussion about the repair of Scarsdale roads, brought more confrontation.
Mark answered critics who had asked the Village to post bonds to do a full repair of all of Scarsdale roads. He contended that NYS local finance law limits the term of the bond to the useful life of the project. Therefore, since roads last only ten years, the term of the bonds cannot exceed ten years and the debt service would be steep.
".....First, let me be clear. None of us are satisfied with the condition of some of our roads, including the ones we hear about from residents. In considering what to do about the situation, the principal issue to be addressed is a budgetary one. Secondarily, there are logistical issues as to how much – how many miles – of the roads can be re-surfaced in one season.
Turning to budgetary matters first. There are approximately 79 miles of Village- owned roads. Note that certain roads that run through Village such as the Post Road, Weaver Street, the Heathcote By-pass and Palmer Road are state and county roads and so the Village does not have control over repairs on them. Note also that most of our roads are not in horrible condition. Sweeping statements that imply all 79 miles of Village roads are presently in need of re-paving tend to overstate the problem. Therefore, for hypothetical purposes, let us assume we wish to re-surface 10 miles of the roads most in need of attention.
The estimated cost of repaving a mile of road ranges from approximately $350,000 to $500,000. Among the variables affecting the cost include the condition of the underlying road bed – whether due to its age it has to be re-built or not – and whether the road has curbing that needs to be re-set, or have new curbing installed. For purposes of example, using the lowest average cost mentioned above, it would cost $3,500,000 to resurface 10 miles of roads. Assume then, that funding would be provided by a $3,500,000 Village bond. Under the New York State Local Finance Law Section 11.00, the term of the bond would be limited to the probable useful life of the project being financed. In the case of the Village roads, the applicable period is a maximum ten years. Thus the term of any such bond could not exceed ten years. What would be the impact of the bond issue on the Village budget? Municipal debt is required to be amortized on a straight-line basis. For ease of calculation in this discussion, let's ignore the interest portion of the debt which would otherwise have to be factored in. Amortizing the ten-year bond would therefore add approximately $350,000 per year of debt service cost to our Village budget – actually, somewhat more than that when interest is included. That amount equates to approximately 1% of tax rate to put it into context.
For those who remind us of the importance of long-term financial planning, it is noted that it is not considered good planning to borrow long to solve a currently recurring problem. Pot holes, road restoration after utility service repairs and more general road deterioration are on-going annual maintenance issues. While the degree of deterioration varies year-to-year, road repair can be counted on as a hardy perennial."
Berg is running for Mayor on the Scarsdale Voters Choice slate and has made road repair a campaign promise. On the party's website it says, "Repaving a road to last thirty years is a capital project. The only way we will ever make headway to improve our roads is to issue municipal bonds to pay for this fundamental Village service." Berg has also promised to keep the tax increase below the tax cap, which would make it difficult to take out bonds to finance road repair.
After listening to the Mayor's remarks, Berg challenged Village Manager Steve Pappalardo to produce a report on the condition of all Village roads. Berg said that the NY Thruway Authority issues bonds for road repair and said he thought we should embark on a strategic program for road repair using low cost municipal bonds to make headway.
The Mayor responded to Berg repeating the fact that NY State law differs from the laws governing municipalities.
It was clear from the Mayor's remarks, that issuing bonds for road repair would cause the Village budget to far exceed the tax cap or necessitate the elimination of other services.
Watch the entire meeting here.
Challenge to the Non-Partisan System Increases Civic Engagement at Candidates' Forum
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 08 March 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
At the end of the League of Women Voters of Scardale Candidates' Forum on Tuesday, moderator Karen Schatzel paid Scarsdale a big compliment, saying, "The level of civility tonight has restored my faith in the American system."
This year, a test of Scarsdale's Non-Partisan system has increased voter awareness and engagement. A new political party dubbed "The Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party" is running a full slate of candidates for Mayor and Village Trustees to challenge the four candidates vetted and selected by the Citizens Nominating Committee. There was fear that rancor would result from a full-blown political campaign in a Village election that usually only draws about 300 voters.
But on Tuesday night March 7, everyone behaved.
The LWVS Candidates' Forum is not a traditional debate. Participants make opening statements, respond to questions and end with closing statements. There are no direct attacks or rebuttals. The format worked well this year and allowed all eight candidates to present their credentials and their views.
The Citizens Non-Partisan Party ticket is led by Dan Hochvert for Mayor, with Matt Callaghan, Carl Finger and Seth Ross for Village Trustees. Hochvert is a former Village Trustee who remained active in Village affairs since his 4-year term ended in 2010. Callaghan and Finger are both currently serving as Village Trustees and running for second terms in office. Seth Ross served and chaired on both the Zoning and Planning Boards for ten years and has many other volunteer activities on his resume. All were vetted and selected by the 36 members of the Citizens Nominating Committee who themselves were elected in a general election in Scarsdale Village.
The newly formed Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party was created in the wake of Scarsdale's 2016 tax revaluation when a group of residents questioned the validity of the revaluation, the competency of the vendor who conducted it and the oversight by the Village Assessor, Village Managers and Trustees. These residents called for the Village to void the revaluation and return to a prior tax roll. When the Village failed to do so - for a host of reasons – 151 petitioners named the Scarsdale Committee for Fair Assessments sued the Village. Two people who signed the petition for the Article 78 are among the four candidates running on the Voters' Choice Party ticket. That ticket includes Robert Berg for Mayor, with Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez, Carlos Ramirez and Robert Selvaggio for Village Trustees. Both Kirkendall-Rodriguez and Selvaggio signed the suit that contends that the Village bungled the revaluation and is poorly managed.
Among the themes that emerged from Tuesday night's forum were the value of experience, the fiscal health of the Village, government transparency, the merits of partisan and non-partisan systems, the role of the mayor and trustees in Village management, sustainability, roads and taxes.
During the trustee candidate's discussion, the Non-Partisan Party candidates emphasized their experience in Village management and their ability to make the best decisions for Scarsdale based on input from residents and qualitative and quantitative information. Trustee Finger said, "If I had made campaign promises I would not have had the freedom to make the best decision based on the information I received."
The three trustees from the Scarsdale Voters' Choice Party had less experience with volunteerism in Scarsdale so they emphasized their professional credentials and willingness to serve. Selvaggio touted his skills in finance and modeling and credited Mayoral candidate Robert Berg with bringing 'fiscal discipline" to the school budget by organizing a successful campaign to vote down the first school budget in Scarsdale in 49 years.
In terms of the current state of the Village, the candidates differed. Trustee Callaghan credited the Village with a triple AAA rating from Moody's, low debt, a wealthy tax base and healthy reserves. However Brice Kirkendall Rodriguez pointed out, "It's important to understand economic issues. 40% of Scarsdale residents have a household income of under $200,000. There has been a 4% decline in household income over the last two years. Budgets exceed the rate of inflation. I have served on community boards in other locales. My understanding and compassion will help." Selvaggio added, "Village taxes have risen 69% over the last 12 years. Our residents' earnings have not kept pace with inflation. We must reduce the rate of tax increases."
According to Village Manager Steve Pappalardo, the projected Village budget for 2017-18 calls for a tax levy increase of 2.19%, all of which is due to a 12% increase in health care costs for Village employees. He says that if health care costs had not risen, the Village budget would be flat. This budget will mean, on average, a $223 increase per household.
In discussions about the 2016 revaluation. Selvaggio called it the Ryan-gate affair and said, "It was recognized to be faulty." He continued, "I joined the Article 78 and this issue of a conflict is going to come up. I will consult with my fellow trustees about recusal from that issue." He later said, "We're going to undue that damage and get it right." Answering a question about the revaluation, Finger said, "The 2016 revaluation has been statistically confirmed to being close to actual sales. We need to look at the true situation. We are governed by what we can legally do. We can look at the process and look at how we got to a point where people felt disenfranchised. We want a community that is satisfied with the process and understands that we did the right thing."
The Voters' Choice Party has complained that the Village government lacks transparency and that it is undemocratic in that residents have no choice on candidates for trustee and cannot vote on the Village budget. Seth Ross answered those claims, saying, "I would like to see more people take advantage of the opportunities to engage. The Village Staff and trustees are happy to engage... Meetings are open and televised. If you're frustrated – get your voice out there and it will be heard." Kirkendall Rodriguez said, "I don't want to do away with the system....I prefer a system where the voters can determine who has merit. ... More people will come to the polls. When you see your school taxes and county taxes you will see the increase. The civic mindedness of the Voters Choice Party will have a place as well as the opportunity for choice.
The two candidates for Mayor, Robert Berg and Dan Hochvert were asked similar questions.. Berg credited his party with the large audience, saying, "We have accomplished a lot. There's lots of interest and people who want to hear our views."
Hochvert introduced himself as "a doer," who changed Village code, walked the watercourses and made decisions that benefitted Scarsdale.
Both candidates agreed that the Mayor's role was to lead and keep an eye on Village staff – without meddling in the day-to-day work.
When asked for priorities, Berg said "Roads, roads, roads. The state of the roads is atrocious!" He advocated the purchase of 10-year bonds at low interest rates to repair all of Scarsdale's roadways. To that, Hochvert responded, "We have plans to bond the library, and a bridge over the Heathcote Bypass. Bonding roads would make it "interesting" to stay under the cap. Our debt service rises from all the projects that we will bond. We can't just focus on bonding for roads. We can't ruin our rating by exceeding debt service targets by spending $28 million on road repair."
In response to a question about the trade-off between tax rates and Village services, Berg said, "Taxes in the village are going up twice as fast as inflation. It is morally wrong that people can't afford to stay here. We have to get our tax rate under control. If not, we'll go into a death spiral. Too many empty nesters will move out and we have to build more schools. We have to stop hiring consultants. We have to cut programs like the Teen Center." (Note – school district enrollment in the Scarsdale Schools has been almost flat for the last ten years. Demographers do not anticipate a surge in the school population.)
Hochvert explained the use of consultants, saying "The Village has decreased its staff since I left a few years ago. You hire consultants because it's more economical for a temporary study. You don't have to pay benefits."
Both candidates appreciated the way public comments are handled at Village meetings. Though the official time limit is 5 minutes, the Mayor often lets residents speak at length and answers their concerns. Hochvert said, "When I was on the board, the 3 minute limit was observed. Now the mayor and board has some dialogue with the speaker. It builds trust! I would not limit speakers' time – I think the dialogue is good."
Berg who is a frequent speaker at Village Hall meetings, agreed, saying, "I am a veteran of public comments. I usually cannot restrain myself. I get cut off after 3 minutes at the school board. At the village, they listen and don't limit speech. It's the right policy. People want to vent and you need to hear your comments."
Concerning the Village in a Park, preservation of trees and homes, Berg said, "There is a certain character that needs to be preserved. I used to like trees before two fell on my house. Now I am concerned with trees that are close to houses. We need to preserve the trees to the extent that we can. We need to make sure that the developers preserve trees. We need to look at the FAR (floor area ratio code) and eliminate FAR loopholes that allow big houses on small lots."
Hochvert added, "When I was on the planning board we convinced developers to save trees. I am not sure that FAR is the best way to limit development. We should also look at lot coverage to prevent homes from covering almost the entire lot." At another point in the discussion, Hochvert said, "We need to maintain the tree canopy that absorbs much of the water. I made code changes that have been effective in preventing flooding and planted hundreds of trees in Harwood Park."
Summing up, Hochvert said, "I believe that working with the board and staff cooperatively is the best way to ensure the best decisions. Experience and knowledge counts."
Berg told the audience, "Your attendance here shows that you want choice. You can have a choice and make your village your village. If you're happy with the status quo, vote for the CNC candidates. My slate is skilled in finance, technology and law. We recognize the problems. I have the leadership skills – I know this village intimately and we would love to serve you."
You can watch the Candidates' Forum on Scarsdale Public Television here.
The Village election will be held on Tuesday March 21st at Scarsdale Library from 6 am to 9 am and from 12 noon to 9 pm. The last day to register to vote in the election is Friday March 10.
In order to register with the Westchester County Board of Elections to vote you must:
- Be a U.S. Citizen
- Be 18 years of age by the date of the election
- Live at your present address for at least 30 days before the election
- Not be in jail or on parole for a felony conviction; and
- Not claim the right to vote elsewhere.
For more information, click here:
CNC Taps Hochvert for Mayor and Callaghan, Finger and Ross for Village Trustee
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 23 January 2017
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Dan Hochvert, a long-time Scarsdale resident, former Village Trustee and dedicated volunteer has been tapped by the Citizen's Nominating Committee as their candidate for Mayor of Scarsdale. On Sunday night January 22, 2017 the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party, announced the slate of candidates selected by its publicly elected caucus, The Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC).
Here are the nominees:
- Dan Hochvert, Mayor
- Matthew J. Callaghan, Trustee
- Carl L. Finger, Trustee
- Seth Ross, Trustee
In addition to Hochvert, two standing trustees were re-nominated; Trustees Matt Callaghan and Carl Finger, and Seth Ross was nominated to fill the seat that will be vacated by William Stern who will complete two terms as Village Trustee. This is Ross's second nomination. He was first nominated in 2016, but a glitch with his paperwork prevented his name from appearing on the ballot. A write-in campaign ensued in which Trustee Deb Pekarek won the election and was seated for a second term.
Here is some preliminary information on the candidates. More information will follow when it is available:
Dan Hochvert has lived in Scarsdale for 37 years and served as Scarsdale Village Trustee from 2006-2010. He has remained very active in Village affairs since that time. Dan was appointed to the Scarsdale Planning Board in 2012 and ultimately chaired the board in 2015/16 when it deliberated on issues such as the moratorium on the use of gravel surfaces to meet lot coverage requirements, the new condominium project at 2-4 Weaver Street and many subdivisions. He has promoted conservation and sustainability and worked with the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks on an ambitious project to reclaim several acres of land in Harwood Park, between the library and the high school. In conjunction with the Village, the group mobilized volunteers to pull out invasive plants and plant 250 native trees. He also served as a volunteer at the Scarsdale Teen Center, where he helped to build the outdoor deck, co-chairs the Scarsdale Forum Education Committee and previously served twice as the chair of the Citizen's Nominating Committee, (2012 and 2013) the group that nominated him for Mayor. He is a former President (2012) and Vice President of the Scarsdale Forum.
Trustee Matt Callaghan has been nominated to serve a second term as Village Trustee. Callaghan is a semi -retired- safety management consultant for the hospital and hotel industry and a trustee of the Fire Safety Directors Association of greater New York and a trustee of the International Code Council's New York chapter. He has been a volunteer firefight in Company #1 since 1982 and had 33 years of active duty as of March 2015. HE served on the Scarsdale Zoning Board of Appeals, the Scarsdale Bowl Committee, the Scarsdale Forum and on a screening committee to select Village Manager Al Gatta. In the past two years, Callaghan has been present at many Village events and has been an advocate for firefighters. He was recently the lone vote against plans to renovate the Popham Road Fire Station as he felt the renovation did not go far enough to meet current requirements and address the needs of the firefighters. He also voted against the plans to renovate and expand the Scarsdale Library, due to reservations about securing the pledges from private donors. Callaghan feared construction cost overruns would be paid for by the Village. Instead, he favored funds going to the renovation of Fire Station #1, calling it a "life and death matter."
Carl Finger, a lifelong Scarsdale resident and real estate attorney has also been nominated to serve a second term. Coincidentally, Trustee Callaghan lives in the house where Finger grew up. Previous to his term as Trustee, Finger served on the Conservation Advisory Council and the Board of Architectural Review. Finger has been an engaged and vocal member of the board on issues including the revaluation and the library. His mother, Dorothy Finger, is a former Village Trustee. In an interview in March 2015, Finger was asked why he would recommend a move to Scarsdale and said, "I can't think of a better place to live. In additional to the obvious draws, the schools and proximity to NYC, the small town feel that we have where the local merchants know the customers, the elementary schools and parks provide walking distance resources, the recreation department, the Scarsdale Pool, the library, and the welcoming nature of the community are without comparison."
Seth Ross is an attorney with years of legal experience and an impressive resume of volunteerism in Scarsdale. He has worked as a partner at Jaspan Schlesinger in Garden City since 2002 and was previously a partner at Ross & Ross LLP. In his second career as Scarsdale community volunteer he has served in a variety of capacities. He was the Chair of the Planning Board, Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, as a Trustee of the Scarsdale Foundation, Chair of the Scarsdale Bowl, Chair of the Procedure Committee and on the CNC as well as the Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Department. He is a graduate of Boston University School of Law and Duke University. In January 2016 Ross said,, "In the course of my community service I have become familiar with the workings of various aspects of community government and with many of the people whose work, whether volunteer or professional, enable the Village of Scarsdale to function as it does." Ross expressed a "desire to see (Scarsdale) retain its special character while evolving to meet the changing needs of its residents."
About the selection of the candidates, Lena Crandall who chaired the CNC said, "The CNC searched for potential candidates and deliberated over the course of two months diligently following up with hundreds of references from throughout the Village. While deliberations and reference conversations are not shared publicly, the thirty-member CNC considered and researched carefully the background, experience, and qualifications of each candidate."
"It is the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party's privilege to support a candidate that has the experience, temperament, judgment, and character to lead. Mr. Hochvert possesses a level head and a steady hand with exceptional community and leadership experience. It is a mark of Scarsdale's excellence when volunteers of Mr. Hochvert's caliber will serve," stated ML Perlman Chair of the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party.
Though the CNC's slate of candidates often runs unopposed, other candidates can run if they submit an independent nominating petition with the signatures of at least 100 registered voters to the Village Clerk by the deadline of Tuesday February 14, 2017 at 5pm.
The general Village election will take place Tuesday March 21st 2017 at the Scarsdale Public Library, 54 Olmsted Road.
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