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District Building Priorities: Put Greenacres on Top of the List

priorities.jpgIf you've been following the discussion about the future of Greenacres School, the long wait for a recommendation from the administration and the architects is in sight. At the next Board of Education meeting on May 22, the architects will give a two and half hour presentation on the state of the district's facilities and their plan for future capitol projects.

A year ago on May 16, 2017, at one of her final meetings as a school board member, during a discussion about the future of Greenacres School, retiring board member Suzanne Seiden said, "I think we need to discuss the principles behind our decision. For me, Greenacres is the priority. The decision should be tax neutral. There is a fairness issue. Other schools have gotten a lot. We must check historical context within which to view this." At another meeting toward the end of the year, Seiden reiterated. "I would hate to see this moment pass. Greenacres has waited to get its turn."

I had Seiden's words in mind on May 8, 2017 when I listened to Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey and Superintendent Thomas Hagerman discuss their work with architects BBS on the next round of district capital improvements, to be voted on by Scarsdale taxpayers in December, 2017.

Both Mattey and Hagerman continuously emphasized overall district needs and the consideration of Greenacres within the context of a long list of Scarsdale schools facilities needs over the next decades. They said the architects had analyzed and compared the space in the five elementary schools, doing a space utilization analysis. They talked about assembling a district wide building committee to consider a list of district priorities. For instance, Dr. Hagerman said, "Ventilation? We heard that was a need at Greenacres .. well it's needed in several district buildings."

Perhaps since both Mattey and Hagerman are relatively new on the job, they may not be aware that facilities needs at Greenacres have been put aside for decades. Mattey's predecessor, Linda Purvis, repeatedly promised that the administration was waiting for the expiration of $60 million in district debt in 2016 to post a large bond to fund a major overhaul of the school. While Greenacres waited, $14 million was raised in a 2005 bond offering to replace a portion of Quaker Ridge school and renovations and additions were made to all the other schools. While Greenacres leaked and kids were crammed into classrooms that were too small and overheated, plans were made for maker spaces, flexible learning environments, libraries and playgrounds at virtually all the other schools. Greeenacres residents were asked to wait.

Finally in 2016 after building committees and community groups met, architects KG&D presented several rounds of plans to renovate or build a new school. Either way, this would be a major undertaking, utilizing much of the funds available for the next bond offering – assuming it had to be tax neutral.GreenacresAerialVies

Unfortunately there was discord about what should be built, and Superintendent Hagerman declared a stop to all discussion, fired the architects and ultimately retained a new team in February.

We're told that this new team has again undertaken a district wide master plan of priorities – which sounds very similar to what architect's KG&D were retained to do upon their arrival in Scarsdale in 2013. At that time, after full consideration of their district wide feasibility study, improvements were planned at the high school, middle school, Heathcote, Edgewood and Quaker Ridge which were all deemed to be priorities at the time. Major renovations funded by an $18 million bond passed in 2014 are now underway.

About Greenacres, a June 2014 report from the District Facilities Steering Committee says, "After touring Greenacres and meeting with that building-level committee, the architects advised the committee that the issues presented by the facility were significant and complex. Addressing them appropriately would require funds far in excess of the amount contemplated for this bond referendum. Further, the building could not be expanded on its current site because its footprint already exceeded the state's guidelines."

In 2014 Greenacres, residents were asked to support that bond and again asked to wait for anything to be done at their school. They were promised they would be the top priority for the next bond offering in 2016.

So here we are, days away from a May 22 meeting where we'll again be presented with a list of district priorities. I am hopeful that all this talk of a district-wide spatial analysis and a space utilization study are not the prelude for another defense of why classrooms in Greenacres are not smaller than the smallest rooms at other schools, or why the air quality at Greenacres – which we are told "is as good as you can expect for a building of that age," is acceptable.

Why should Greenacres facilities be compared to the least adequate facilities at others schools? I can't bear to hear any more excuses about leaks in the foundation and the roof, tight classrooms and inadequate spaces for lunch, recreation, performances and technology.

Please. We have waited long enough. Give Greenacres the school it deserves. We've all paid in to the system for many years and now it's time to return some of those tax dollars to a very patient and neglected neighborhood school. Rest assured that whatever is built now will need to last us another 100 years. So don't make Greenacres just as good as the most antiquated spaces in the district. Think ahead and build a state of the art school that will set the standard for all other district facilities for the next century. The time has come.

This is the opinion of site founder Joanne Wallenstein.

Girls Lax Team Is League Champions After 5-Game Winning Streak

lax2The Scarsdale Girl's Lacrosse team could not have picked a better time to peak. Starting the season with a string of tough losses, no one could have guessed that the Raiders would emerge League Champions, continuing a 5 game winning streak. The turning point came after something clicked after a 15-16 loss against John Jay Cross River on April 24th. Since this loss, Scarsdale has earned close victories against White Plains, Ursuline, Rye, Yorktown, a powerhouse lacrosse program, and Mamaroneck, securing the league victory. Junior Lily Steckel, a pivotal member of the offensive line, attributes the recent success to a change in energy on and off the field. "After that loss to John Jay, we knew we needed to change something. The captains got us together and we all talked about what we could do better to change the team dynamic. We weren't ready to give up on the season yet." Steckel also noted how each win has helped the team's camaraderie and motivation. "After each win, the energy keeps getting better and better. Every day, every practice, every game, we are all ready to give it our all".

The Raiders were confident facing rival lax1Mamaroneck for the second time this season. They had just dominated Ursuline 17-4 two days before. In their first meeting, Scarsdale had lost to Mamaroneck 15-9. With their newfound confidence, the Raiders went into the game looking to win the league. Since Mamaroneck had lost to Ursuline previously this season, a win over Mamaroneck would secure the title for the Raiders. Scarsdale had a slow start to the game, going into the second half down by 2 goals. The team's play in the second half of the game proved they were the better team on the field. With an impressive distribution of goals, Seniors Jilly Mehlman and Erin Nicholas netted 3 each, Junior Lily Steckel scored 2, and Sophomores Lizey Mehlman and Chessy Greenwald each had a goal. Greenwald's goal came at a pivotal moment in the second half, when the Raiders led by 1 goal with 2 minutes to go. This goal put Scarsdale up by 2. Seconds later, Mamaroneck scored a goal to bring the game back within 1. The Raiders won the game by a 1 goal margin, the final score being 9-10. Erin Nicholas led the team in ground balls, with an impressive 8. Goalie Angie Burns commented on the importance of this win. "It was huge for us, because Mamo is our biggest rival. Going into the game, we knew we could win, we just needed to perform."

lax3Another crucial win came this Monday, May 9th when the Raiders dominated Yorktown. As Yorktown is one of the most respected lacrosse programs in the Hudson Valley, Scarsdale went into the game as underdogs. This Raider victory over the Huskers was the first time in program history that Scarsdale has beat Yorktown. Burns reiterated the magnitude of this win for the girls. "We are the first Scarsdale team to ever beat Yorktown in Girl's Lacrosse. This is huge for us. We really did shock the section." This surprising victory is a testament to the Raider's potential for the rest of the season. Sophomore Chessy Greenwald, who netted another crucial goal, noted, "we wanted this win. I can't describe how great it feels to finally be clicking as a team." Sophomore Lizey Mehlman had 4 goals in the game, Greenwald netted two, and Sophomore Emma Schwartz scored a goal, showing the depth of the offensive starting lineup. Goalie Angie Burns had 15 saves.

Looking forward to the rest of the season, the Raiders are hoping to capitalize on their momentum. Scarsdale will play at Somers for their final game of the regular season on Saturday, May 13th at 11:00 am.

Photos by Jon Thaler.
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Bob and Kathy Steves Honored at the Scarsdale Bowl Dinner

bobandkathyIt all started with a peanut hunt. Shortly after Bob and Kathy Steves moved to Greenacres with their young family they were asked to help organize the annual July fourth celebration. They began by scattering peanuts on the field and three decades later ended up running the town. Bob is one of a select group of recipients who served on both the school and village boards. In addition to serving as President of the Scarsdale School Board Steves remained on the board for a seventh year to fill a vacancy. Following that stint he was selected to serve as a Village Trustee for four years and then was Scarsdale's Mayor from 2013-15.

bowlsamwickKathy too has an impressive resume of volunteer activities – and perhaps is best known for spear heading the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale, an ambitious undertaking that involves the collection and sorting of thousands of books each year. This past year it brought in over $70,000 for the library. Kathy is also President of the Board of Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service. Though they both hold very full time jobs, the couple welcomed a STEP student to share their home from 1996 to 1998.

Kathy and Bob's volunteerism was honored at a joyous celebration at the Fountainhead in New Rochelle on Wednesday night April 26, 2017 when David Lee, Chair of the Scarsdale Bowl presented the couple with the coveted silver bowl.

In the audience were many notable Scarsdale volunteers, including fifteen past recipients of the Scarsdale Bowl, some who had flown in for the evening. Among these recipients were Robert and Eleanor November, the last couple to be awarded the Bowl in 2001 and Carol Stix, the 1981 recipient. Among the 273 attendees were five of Bob Steve's siblings.

Scarsdale Foundation President and the 2011 recipient of the Scarsdale Bowlsherwood Emily Sherwood gave some background on the workings of the organization, saying, "Despite our best efforts to publicize our work, we seem to remain shrouded in mystery. Let me take just a few minutes to tell you that we are also steeped in tradition, having been founded in 1923 with a mission of promoting civic welfare in the community and currently operating with an endowment of over $2 million." She explained that the Foundation will grant $118,000 in college scholarships this year, give funds for community service and donations to send children to the Scarsdale Rec Camp. An interesting fact noted in the evening's program is that the first Scarsdale Bowl awards were made in 1944. Women were not invited to serve on the Bowl committee until 1973 and not welcomed to attend the dinner until 1975.

Daughter Karen Steves shared some memories of what it was like to grow up in a home of uber volunteers. She noted her parents amazing work ethic and her mother's high standards and drive for perfection. She called Kathy an "optimistic tough cookie who sees problems and tries to fix them," and laughed about her Dad's ability to find common ground with anyone, anywhere. Together she said her parents have "championed countless endeavors," and showed their children what it meant to be part of a community. Though they have accomplished so much she said they are "humble" and "don't take themselves too seriously."

bowldeenaNeighbor and long time friend Deena Rosenthal remembered coming upon Kathy in the library. She said, "One August day I wandered into the Scott Room. From the far end, she greeted me enthusiastically. "What's going on, " I asked. "Oh," she said, "We are getting ready for the book sale. Doesn't it look great?" I was flummoxed, speechless; I didn't know what to say or how to say it if I had. I saw a room chock-a-block full of tables, milk crates, boards, boxes, books, and books in boxes. I thought the Scott Room looked like it had exploded. And she thought it looked great. I couldn't begin to imagine how his chaos could be translated into a functioning, organized, book sale, let alone one that would raise a meaningful sum."

She remember another day when she needed to figure out how to get a friend of a friend in a wheelchair up a step -- and without a word, Bob crafted her a wheelchair ramp out of wood in his basement and showed up unannounced to present it.

Friend, colleague and former Mayor Jon Mark had this bowlmarkto say about the Steves: "It is not an overstatement to say that their combined efforts as volunteers in the Village are unmatched in the community." He credited Bob with "laser focus on budget line items and valuable guidance to other Board members," and his "ability and willingness to listen." He remembered building a deck at the teen center by hand with Bob and current Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert and said, "It was also a great lesson for me to see a community leader of Bob's stature work as a member of a team." He continued, "Bob's community service sets a high, virtually impossible bar to exceed. As has been noted, he is the only resident to have served as both Mayor and President of the School Board – though not at the same time.... He has done so with grace, fairness and always with a desire to do best for the Village."

Mark said, "St. Ignatius prayed: "Teach us to give and not to count the cost." Kathy and Bob, your volunteer work over the years surely reflects this prayer. You have given generously of your time and energy – and counting the personal cost of that effort has never been a factor for you."

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David Lee shared a congratulatory note to the Steves from Malissa Mackay, the STEP student they hosted in 1996-98. She thanked them for:

  • Schlepping me from drama club rehearsals, to cheerleading practices to orchestra recitals.
  • For introducing me to perogies and kielbasa.
  • For calling me out like my own parents would have if I decided homework just wasn't that important.
  • For helping me recognize and cultivate a love affair with books.
  • For standing next to me during Catholic mass, when this Southern Baptist girl didn't know what to do with her hands.
  • For getting up waaay too early on Saturday mornings, taking me to my SAT prep course.
  • For taking a side trip to West Point one day, and having the best conversation in the car, all the way there.
  • For buying those little lemon italian ices that me and the boys used to eat after school in the downstairs den.
  • For being as excited and proud as my bio-family was on the day of my graduation.

After receiving the Bowl it was finally time for the honored couple to take the podium. Kathy thanked her children, saying, "There are three people that in many ways are our unsung champions of Scarsdale volunteerism. Bob and I choose to become active members of our community. Our children did not. Those of us who know us well ... know that that Karen. Matt (here with us tonight) and Mike who is working in China have often been drafted to help lift and care, pick up forgotten items or just take the brunt of my nervousness."

bowljeremiahBob called the evening "The best party in town," and thanked everyone for their efforts. Commenting on their recognition as a couple, he said, "I could not be more pleased than to have Kathy's name next to mine on the bowl. She is in every respect (and more so than I) the volunteer the Foundation envisioned when they created the bowl. I'm the noisy volunteer, for better or worse much of my service has been public. She has served quietly, without notoriety. Kathy not only does her thing extraordinarily well, but she has been so very supportive in what I have done."

Steves noted the "selfish side" to volunteering, calling it an "unequaled opportunity to grow as a person," and to meet and learn from wonderful people. He said, "Being a volunteer gives you a better understanding, more meaningful insight into those with whom you serve... an insight that allows for mutual growth."

He urged everyone in the room to reach out and invite others to help, saying "Don't be afraid to ask someone to help, they just might be waiting for a chance to serve."

The well-orchestrated evening was a credit to the Bowl Committee, notably Chair David Lee and Robert Jeremiah who served as both the organization's secretary and treasurer. Committee members include Norman Alterman, Diane Baylor, Beth Ehrich Berkeley, Jonathan Bradlow, Kate Conlan, Lee Fischman, FranGalloway, Gary Katz, Janet Korins, Mona Longman, Eli Mattioli, Jyoti Ruta, Suzanne Seiden, Margaret Smith and Evelyn Stock.

Lee also thanked many of the supporters in the audience who returned to Scarsdale to honor the Steves, including former Village Manager Al Gatta, former School Superintendent Mike McGill, David and Stacey Brodsky and former Police Chief John Brogan.

Lee said, "Kathy and Bob, you now occupy a coveted space on the continuum... of extraordinary Scarsdale volunteers, and we trust that each-year hence another outstanding individual will join you."

Baseball Team Rebounds After Rough Start

b-ballKojiThe Scarsdale Boys Raiders Baseball Team had a rough start to their season, losing their first 5 games. But now they appear to be rebounding, and are 4-1 in the last 5 games including an Ardsley Tournament championship win this past weekend. (April 28-29). Their record is now 4-6.b-ballMandel


Here are photos from the season shot by Jon Thaler with text by Tim Callahan. See more photos here:

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What Became of the Hotels of the Borscht Belt??

borshctbeltIf you have fond memories of Grossingers, Kutshers and the Concord, you'll be intrigued by this upcoming talk in Scarsdale.  Author Marisa Scheinfeld will discuss her book about the abandoned hotels and bungalow colonies of the Catskills Broscht Belt on Sunday April 23 at 2 pm at the Scarsdale Library. The book, titled, "The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America's Jewish Vacationland," was published by Cornell University Press and the talk is being sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.

pineshoteldiningroomThis photography and text based book presents a contemporary view of the many abandoned hotels and bungalow colonies of the Catskills Borscht Belt. Once an internationally known vacation destination, Borscht Belt hotels offered visitors leisure and entertainment at over 500 hotels and 50,000 bungalow colonies. The Borscht Belt was a place that brought together many people, and forged families, friendships, collective and personal memories and histories with many extending to the present day. The era had a tremendous impact on American history, American Jewish history, Catskill history and the history of NY State. The Borscht Belt has also been made known in popular culture with movies such as Dirty Dancing, A Walk on the Moon, and the era earned a place in history as being the birthplace of stand up comedy with names such as Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and Joan Rivers getting their starts in the regions many theaters and showrooms.

Marisa Scheinfeld grew up in the Borscht Belt and has many connections to this project. She says, "It is a personal project - depicting the landscape of my childhood and the childhood of hundreds of thousands of people who vacationed, celebrated and worked at its resorts and bungalow colonies."

grossingerscoffeeshopAt its root, the book's topic is about the Borscht Belt and its place in history, however the photographic series examines history though a contemporary lens. Comprised of color photographs (made on film) the images capture the physical spaces of Borscht Belt architecture and locales such hotel and bungalow colony exteriors and interiors, including both public and private spaces - lobbies, pools, dining rooms, guest rooms, showrooms, stages, etc. In many ways, the work is an elegy to this once prominent and highly traversed place but is also celebration, albeit bittersweet, of its former glory — while evoking discussion about loss, memory, and the process of time and change on the built environment.

borschtbelt poolBesides 129 color photographs, the book contains essays by Scheinfeld, author Stephan Kanfer and Jewish American historian Jenna Weissman Joselit. In addition, it contains writings from Mel Brooks, Larry King, Maya Benton (Curator of the Roman Vishniac Collection/Exhibition) artist Laurie Simmons, photographer Mark Klett, and author Alan Weisman.

The book (and traveling exhibition) has garnered positive press in publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Post, Newsweek, Village Voice, Tablet Magazine, Jewish Daily Forward and photography publications like Photograph Magazine, Pop Photo and American Photography.

Details about the talk can be found at the link here:

Learn more at the Scarsdale Library, Sunday April 23rd at 2 pm.

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