Scouts Plead with Village to Reopen the Girl Scout House
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 715
Some of the community’s youngest citizens sat patiently at Village Hall on Tuesday night June 28, well after their bedtimes, waiting to address the Mayor and Board of Trustees at the podium. Wearing their uniforms, Brownies and Girl Scouts assembled at the Village Board meeting to plead with the Village to reopen the Betty Taubert Girl Scout House that has been shuttered since March 2020.
Despite the appearance that callous bureaucrats had simply locked the doors to the Scout House on Wayside Lane, the story turned out to be far more complex. Remarks from Scarsdale Mayor Jane Veron, a former scout and troop leader, Village Manager Rob Cole, Helen Wronski, who is serving as the Interim CEO of the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, Scarsdale/Edgemont Service Unit Manager Donna Caro, BK Munguia and a long list of others involved in scouting, revealed the real reason the house is no longer in service.
Though there was no signal to the public that the issue would be addressed, local scouts organized and asked the girls and the leaders to attend and “show the trustees how our troops have been negatively affected because we have not had access to the house since March of 2020. We want them to see the many faces of the girls in SEGS who are depending on them to re-open the house. Our remarks should only be about re-opening the house as soon as possible.”
Someone alerted News 12 of the upcoming meeting, and cameramen were posted inside Rutherford Hall taping the proceedings.
The Mayor was also expecting to see representatives and in her opening remarks she offered her support to the scouts. She said, “We want to underscore, our commitment to our Girl Scouts community. Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Girl Scouts Silver and Gold Award ceremony and shared that the Girl Scouts are very near and dear to my heart. I was once a Brownie and a Girl Scout myself; I was a troop leader in college at a local under-resourced elementary school, and I am the mom of three girls who each participated in the Scarsdale program. I have seen first-hand the formative power of the Girl Scouts."
"We as a board are fervent believers in the catalytic role our Girl Scouts play in solving societal problems. Girl Scouts lead with a deep commitment to community and a roll up your sleeves ethos to tackle challenges to make the world a better place. In a moment, our Village Manager will share the Village’s journey to ensure our essential community asset remains open and accessible for our Girl Scouts as well as for our Seniors and the myriad other community groups who value this central space. We work directly with the Seniors Council, seeking to deliver on their needs. For as long as I’ve been on the Board, the Village has been seeking to address the critically needed upgrades to the space and tonight the Village Board is poised to allocate ARPA funds to repave the driveway. The Girl Scout House plays a vital role in enabling our broader community to convene and gather.”
She then turned the mic over to Village Manager Rob Cole who explained why the Scouts and the Village had come to this impasse. He said, “the Betty Taubert House has deteriorated and the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson have not met their financial obligations. The building needs $550,000 of work. The Girl Scouts asked the Village if they were interested in purchasing the building so that it could be repaired and put back in use. But we have received no response to our calls and letters.
With mounting repair costs and the building in disrepair, we sent them a notice of default. The Village intends to return it to use for scouts, seniors, recreation programs and more. Now the Girl Scouts have requested a meeting. We would like to compensate them for the property and expedite the sale so we can restore it to usage.”
However that was not the response the scouts wished to hear.
Helen Wronski, who is the newly installed interim CEO of the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson objected, saying “I do not appreciate Mr. Cole’s comments. The first Girl Scout troop in Scarsdale was established in 1917 and the first Girl Scout house was established in 1941. We have been in partnership with the Village for over 80 years. Both houses were built with Girl Scout funds. For a greater part of this 80 years we have had a collaborative and effective partnership in providing a safe and welcoming facility. The Village wants to buy it but we want to maintain it for the use of scouts. I can tell you this will eventually result in the loss of the building for the scouts. We are afraid we will be regulated back instead of forward. The Girl Scouts Heart of Hudson is committed to the house.
Returning to speak later in the meeting Wronski said, “Three days into my appointment here (as interim CEO) I received the default notice. I called Mr. Cole and he refused to talk to me or meet with me. I had to go there myself. We asked you for the numbers but you wouldn’t tell me the numbers. You only said, “I am going to send you a check.” I want to make this right. We were willing to come to the table and we have yet to hear a response. We came and offered to begin to work and were not given any communication back. I found that stunning for a municipality. You would have communication from me.”
Donna Caro of Harvest Drive said, “I have been a scout since 1981. Betty Taubert was my mentor. I ask you to renew our agreement and reopen the house. The Girl Scouts have been a fixture in the community. Right now our existence is threatened as we have nowhere to meet.
The house closed in March 2020 and our leadership has not had an in-person meeting in over two years. We have not recruited since 2020. Our annual fundraising drive has been cancelled. Our award ceremony has been cancelled. We should have been celebrating at the Girl Scout House not at Hitchcock.”
Caro continued, “We need to be accessible to our girls. We do not meet as a whole community anymore. Having younger and older girls meet is essential. Closing the Girl Scout house has affected every aspect of the program. I urge you to continue to partner with GS Heart of the Hudson.”
Former Mayor David Kronlein asked the Village to continue their partnership with the scouts. He remembered fighting the fire that burnt down the first Girl Scout House. He said, “My wife and daughter were very involved in the funding for the reconstruction of the house only 2 years later. I am the husband of a scout and father of three daughters who were scouts, a former mayor and I urge you to renew your agreement with the scouts.”
Stacey Green of Overlook Road said she is the co-leader of a troop of 16 third grade girls. She said, “I have a background in finance. How much is needed for the upgrades?”
Cole responded, “The reason the house is closed is because we need to fix the ventilation to meet post covid rules. We were trying to work with the scouts to get matching funding. That’s why we would be happy to buy it as we can’t continue to fund it. It is our understanding that they don’t have the funds for investment in the property. They haven’t paid since 2015 and the building and grounds are not in good condition. We are willing to buy it and make the upgrades but they don’t get back to us. We are trying to do the right thing here.” He also mentioned that the Village has allocated $70,000 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to repair the driveway and parking lot at the Scout House.
BK Munguia of Brookby Road said, “I am here to ask you to reopen the house for scouts and the council. I have a document to show the history of the scouts in Scarsdale since 1917. I have served as the liaison to the Village for the scouts for 17 years. Betty Taubert was committed to the idea of sharing resources. All the stakeholders should be engaged to clear up misunderstandings. Good decisions are never made in haste or anger. There are so many people who are interested in keeping this partnership going.”
Many scouts from Scarsdale and Edgemont came forward explaining why they wanted the Girl Scout House back, for sleepovers, ceremonies, charitable projects, planting and practicing to march in the Memorial Day Parade. One said, “We had to meet on yoga mats in Davis Park. We sat on the sidewalk and painted bird houses and gave them out to people.” Another said, “We learn interesting and exciting things,” and “Girl Scouts has brought our grade together.” Another said, “I love girl scouts and being a girl scout. I really want the house to be open. It teaches me how to interact with my friends and make new friends.”
The Mayor thanked the girls for bringing their local voice to the government. She said, “Remember it and use it – you can make change throughout your entire life. We are passionate about reopening the house. This has been going on since 2015. We want you to have access to the house.”
Following the meeting we asked Village Manager Rob Cole for clarification on a few of the issues and here is what he shared:
(Q) You said the Girl Scout house requires $550,000 in work. What are the short term vs. the long term needs?
(A) The $550K includes such items as a new roof, exterior windows and doors, parking lot paving, kitchen renovation, baseboard radiator repairs/replacement, and others. There are also non-capital needs that require remedy, which are not included in the estimated $550K. We’ll need to work through project prioritization and timing with the Girl Scouts.
(Q) If the ventilation was upgraded, could the house be used?
(A) The most immediate need at the Girl Scout House is addressing the ventilation improvements. An older estimate pegged the cost at $17,347 (50/50 split was the $8,673 mentioned last night). We’ll have to get a new proposal reflecting current pricing, though, and we’re hopefully costs haven’t sharply escalated. That written, and assuming a walkthrough does not reveal additional needs requiring remedy prior to reopening, upgrading the ventilation is the only item I am aware of that would preclude reopening. Any life safety issue identified would need to be remedied prior to reopening, of course.
(Q) How much in arrears are the scouts in their payments to Scarsdale Village?
(A) But for limited work already completed by the Village, which is subject to Girl Scouts 50% reimbursement, capital expenses are paid as projects are undertaken. As a result, the Girl Scouts are not in arrears, as such. Rather, there is an infrastructure repair/renovation backlog of work needing to be completed and an associated funding deficit needing to be addressed.
(Q) What is the agreed upon annual payment?
(A) There is no agreed upon annual payment to fund infrastructure needs. Maintenance, renovation, and repair needs drive the amount of money needed each year. Thus, the Village identifies infrastructure needs and seeks to confirm Scout financial participation at the 50% level. If the Girls Scouts come through with their required contribution, the project moves forward. If they do not, the project is deferred.
(Q) How much was the Village offering the Scouts for the purchase of the house?
(A) No specific price had been offered – that would have been the next step had the Village chosen pursue termination of the agreement.
(Q) Is there any documentation of the Village’s efforts to communicate with the Girl Scouts available to see? On the Village website?
(A) The Village’s efforts to communicate with the Girl Scouts have included a variety of methods, including on-site meetings, written, and phone calls. The process has been time consuming and labor intensive, though we are hopeful their new leadership will work to improve communications, responsiveness, and follow-up, as we all share the same goal of opening the Girl Scout House as soon as possible and maintaining it such that it is a safe, comfortable location for Girl Scouts and other users to visit and enjoy.
I sent the Girl Scouts a default notice on May 31, spoke with Ms. Wronski by phone on 5/31 after she read the letter, and sent her a copy of the March 2022 letter that she requested during our phone conversation (also on 5/31). The next day (6/1), I directed my assistant, Christine, to schedule the requested meeting, which she did for 6/9 (seven business days later, based on mutual availabilities). The meeting was held as scheduled.
Consultants Reimagine Scarsdale Village
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 4844
(Updated June 16, 2022) Consultants from FHI Studio made an initial presentation of their preliminary ideas to improve Scarsdale Village, enhance safety on Sprague, Popham and Crane Roads and improve pedestrian and cyclist safety on Fox Meadow Road. The presentation was made via Zoom on Tuesday evening June 14, 2022.
Mike Ahillen from FHI Studio explained that they have set up a separate website at Scarsdalemobility.com where residents can give input and comments.
The group was retained by the Village to improve “Placemaking,” in the Village which they define as creating spaces for gathering and events and passive spaces that people can enjoy on their own.
In addition, they were charged with improving mobility, on Sprague, Crane and Popham Roads where residents complained of unsafe conditions from vehicular traffic, along with Fox Meadow Road where some would like to see traffic calming and safer routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
In order to gather information for their study, FHI conducted a walking tour and audit, met with Village Trustees, and use drone imaging to analyze traffic patterns.
They identified the following as their top priorities:
-Activated spaces for gathering for all ages
-Emphasis on sustainability – in design as well as transportation
-Improving multi-modal connectivity to parks and neighborhoods
-Improving safety and traffic circulation
-Parking considerations and other community needs
They identified needs for vibrancy, outdoor dining, car free spaces, pedestrian and bike lanes, friendly gathering spaces, improved landscaping and lighting.
They also referred to previous traffic studies, crash history, traffic volume data and drone studies to understand vehicular and pedestrian traffic at peak times as well as driving speeds.
Among their key findings were:
Gathering spaces are a critical need to increase vibrancy in the Village Center.
Spencer Place, Boniface Circle and Harwood Court offer opportunities for placemaking.
Popham Road needs to be redesigned and can be used for multimodal connectivity
Improved pedestrian and bicycle access to the Village Center is a goal.
Adam Tecza from FHI presented initial concepts in order to get feedback.
He prefaced the presentation by stating their goals for the Village which are:
Connect the east and west village center
Reinforce the Village Venter east core
Identify new and different community spaces
Explore road closures and pedestrian priority streets
Make the Village Center more attractive
In order to accomplish these goals the consultants considered circulation, access to businesses and for deliveries, costs and implementation.
Tecza then took participants on a virtual “walking tour” of a redesigned village and presented several schemes for the redesign of downtown.
In the opening design, the Village clock would be moved, a prominent sign identifying Scarsdale would be installed, streets and sidewalks would be the same height (eliminating curbing) and there would be more seating, and plantings. The dining tent would become a permanent glass covered structure that could be opened and closed depending on the weather and locked at night to allow for storage. They envisioned colorful seating in a central gathering place.
For special events and functions, the parking spaces on the left side of the street could be tented for booths, tables and activities.
Further down the street, they envisioned a fountain and raise crosswalk leading into Chase Park. There would be space for food trucks, possibly a farmers market and benches. They recommended relocating the war memorial to Chase Park.
Their vision is to create a continuous pedestrian space from the train station all the way through to Chase Park where they suggested the installation of a splash pad, which has interactive fountains for kids.
In order to accommodate the street closures and the pedestrian walkway, they suggested a new circulation path for traffic.
See below. In this concept those leaving the Village on Chase Road – heading south – would only be able to make a right – no left. A traffic circle would be added on Chase Road at the intersection of Harwood Court, and from there only right turns would be permitted. East Parkway would be one way from south to north.
In terms of parking, the consultants said that the Village has already lost 12 parking spaces due to the dining tent. Their plans would cause the additional loss of three more, for a total of 15 spaces. They plan to add some more spaces by using straight rather than angled parking spots.
Though there was limited time for public comment, some residents were able to participate. Cynthia Roberts from Autenreith Road was concerned about the trees and green space in Chase Park, which she said, “is the green oasis that make Scarsdale a Village in a Park.” She said it was “ impractical to put a splash park there due to the shade and the trees.” She said, “Any actions that would compromise the trees should be thought about carefully.” Instead she said, “Add more trees and greenscape to any streetscape.”
Ken Rilander questioned the assumptions on traffic and circulation. He said, “View the village as a snapshot at various points in time. You should look at the Village during peak drop off and pick up times for the train. It is like no other time of day. Between 8 and 9 am Popham Road is heavily congested.”
A called identified as David said, “If you close off Chase Road, you cut off access to two parking lots on Overlook Road.”
Trustee Karen Brew expressed concern about the proposed traffic pattern and also said “I am not sure merchants would support eliminating parking spaces as it will limit their customers access. We need more rather than less parking.”
Mayor Jane Veron asked for improved access to the Freightway Garage. She said, “We need to provide alternative parking because people are uncomfortable walking to Freightway.” She also said, “When we do have events in the park, we have to call them off when it rains. It would be good to have a covered space in Chase Park.”
Trustee Gans added, “Traffic data is important. People have to have a way to get to the train. Shopper parking is tougher for me to analyze. Making the Village pedestrian friendly eliminates parking which is critical for local businesses. How do you evaluate the central tension between being pedestrian friendly vs. having available parking.?”
Trustee Lewis thanked the consultants for a “thought provoking analysis which has generated great conversation.” He said, “if we want to attract the kind of retailers we would like we need more activity.” He asked the consultants to address Freightway and also asked, “How do people reinvent parking? How do you repurpose Freightway? Should we consider a skating rink in the winter? And other fun activities?”
Trustee Ahuja inquired about the method used for the traffic study.
Responding for FHI Parker Sorenson said, ““A lot of it is done by hand – you observe and count. We did collect data in the afternoon. This is a conceptual presentation. The Village might want to model this further.”
Sorenson then turned to a conversation about proposed traffic calming measures for Sprague Road. He said the challenges are vehicle speed, rolling stops, the width of the roadway, topography, and visibility.
In order to slow down the traffic and reduce the volume the consultants have a range of measures in their tool kit.
Among these are:
-All-way or four-way stop signs
-Neighborhood traffic circles
-Chokers (A choker is an isolated narrowing of one or several traffic lanes created by the installation of horizontal deflections in the center or on the sides of the road.)
-Chicanes (A chicane is a series of alternating mid-block curb extensions or islands that narrow the roadway and require vehicles to follow a curving,
-Traffic diversion – half closure – create one way at certain juncture
-Traffic diversion – full closure
The consultants then presented an array of schemes utilizing some of the above at various intersections of Sprague Road to slow traffic. Ideally, they explained, a speed management measure will be installed every 300-400 feet or every block and a half to two blocks. Another technique is to reduce the radii of the curb to cause drivers to slow down when turning.
During comments, Jeanine said, “There are lots of accidents – a car even hit our house once.
Sprague is already very narrow. What about all the cars that park in the street – making it even narrower?
The consultants then discussed Popham and Crane Roads. On Popham they noted that the right turn lane into the CVS parking lot was not heavily used and might be repurposed. They also suggested that some of the same measures suggested for Sprague Road could be employed. They said Crane Road was a challenging thoroughfare to manage and said speeding signs, a roundabout or turning it into a one way street might help reduce driver speed and safety.
Last, the consultants offered suggestions for safe pedestrian and bike traffic on Fox Meadow Road. They noted that the two lanes of traffic are now 15 feet wide each, and that they might be reduced to allow space for bike and pedestrian lanes separated by a planting strip on both sides of the road.
Comments on social media did not favor the update. Readers expressed concern about drop off and pick up at the Scarsdale Train Station, the concept of an outdoor mall, preservation of Scarsdale's historic Tudor style architecture, the additional loss of parking spaces and "fixing what is not broken."
SHS Students Stage Walk-Out to Protest Gun Violence
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1304
Students at SHS registered their feelings about school shootings and gun violence on Wednesday June 1, 2022. The Amnesty International Club organized a student walk-out and rally at 9 am to protest gun violence and according to reports, there were about 300 students in attendance.
Here is the text of the speech given by the student organizers, who made a banner, a petition, signs and buttons to raise funds.
Thank you all for joining us today as we take the time to remember the 21 innocent lives lost in the school shooting last Tuesday at Robb Elementary School. As a part of Amnesty International, we felt it was necessary that our club did something to stand up against what happened, as Amnesty’s overall purpose is to help those who cannot help themselves.
What happened in Uvalde Texas was absolutely unacceptable. Unfortunately, school shootings are not as uncommon as one would hope. Prior to Tuesday, there had been at least 77 incidents of gunfire on school grounds within this past year alone, resulting in 14 deaths and 45 injuries. We’ve been here before. This isn’t the first time Scarsdale students have taken a stand against gun violence in a walkout. Just a few years ago, students held a walkout for the shooting at Sandy Hook as well as one for the shooting at Parkland right on these very school grounds. When is enough, enough?
While shootings that take place in schools are especially concerning, any gun-related incident creates more hate and less safety in our society. On May 14th, an 18 year-old man, barely older than most of us here, brought an AR-15 into a grocery store, killing 10 people and injuring 3 more. What’s even more disturbing is that he live-streamed the whole event, proud of the horrific damage he caused. Because of this event, the New York History Regents Exam was canceled, due to parts of the test that may have caused trauma following the shooting. The Regents Exam was supposed to be today for the Juniors here. The shooter’s intent wasn’t to affect students and schools, yet he did. Any shooting or violent incident like this affects so many aspects of society, making people feel unsafe in their day to day life. “In a number of other countries—notably New Zealand and Norway—a single mass shooting has been enough to force widespread change.” Look at New Zealand for instance. Only a week after a mass shooting occurred in New Zealand in March 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced sweeping gun control reforms. After that point, gun owners were required to sell their weapons back to the government and over 60,000 firearms were sold back to the government. About a year later in June 2020, the nation introduced additional gun laws meant to track the buying and selling of weapons and ban certain guns.
One aspect that is most upsetting about the way that gun violence issues are handled in America is that, in America, any adult is able to access arms/weaponry that have been used during wartime, often without any thorough background check. In the most recent incident in Uvalde, two AR-15 style rifles and 1,600 rounds of ammunition were acquired on one occasion. And no suspicion was raised. Even after the horrific incident, Marty Daniel, the store owner of ‘Daniel’s Defense Guns’, the store where the attacker in the incident acquired these weapons, continues to stand firmly in his opinion that “all firearms laws that limit the rights of law-abiding citizens are unconstitutional.” Marty, along with many other Americans throughout the nation, believe that any legislation, even legislation that would require thorough background checks for anyone purchasing firearms, should not be implemented. This is the problem. In our world, everything is so split. However, if we want to ensure the safety of students in learning environments, we need compromise. We need to take safety measures to ensure that anyone purchasing firearms does not have mal intent.
Currently there are three pieces of legislation in Congress that have yet to be passed that would address gun violence and create stricter regulations for the purchasing of guns:
1. Universal Background Checks
2. Ethan’s Law, which promotes the safe storage of guns, and
3. Break the Cycle of Violence Act which would provide federal grants to communities for evidence-informed community violence intervention and prevention programs designed to interrupt cycles of violence.
Members of Amnesty International have written up a petition that we will send to government officials urging them to pass these three pieces of legislation. We have printed out copies for you all to read, as well as pieces of paper for you to sign your name if you are in support of this petition. We additionally are selling pins and the proceeds will go towards supporting the families in Buffalo and Uvalde. Furthermore, the sheet you were given while you were walking out contains QR codes with verified links to donate to the families in both Buffalo and Uvalde and a link to a petition to urge Congress to implement more background check regulations.
Alexandra Simon (president)
Sophia Garcia (vice president)
Ally Scheffler (secretary)
Eva Gibney (treasurer
Madelaine Eppenstein Honored by the Audobon Society
- Written by Adam Katcher
- Hits: 273
The Bronx River-Sound Shore (BRSS) Audubon Society selected Madelaine Eppenstein as their honoree in March of 2020, but the official granting of the honor had to wait more than two years. On June 2, 2022 the time finally came to celebrate Eppenstein for what she worked so hard to deserve.
The 37-year Westchester resident has been a local conservationist pioneer, described as a “go-to” person for any conservatory endeavors. Her work to procure and plant over 1000 trees and shrubs in Scarsdale is just one of many of her notable accomplishments in this field. The BRSS newsletter added, “Now every spring she applies for a grant for trees, and the Friends of Scarsdale Parks holds a Scarsdale Community Planting Day involving hundreds of volunteer children and adults.”
The event took place via zoom and friends and admirers popped on to praise Eppenstein. Assemblywoman Amy Paulin was present for the celebration, and was delighted to give Eppenstein a citation. She said, “From snow removal to gas leaf blower regulations, she has been vocal in the community about how Scarsdale can become greener and more sustainable in an efficient, meaningful way.”
Scarsdale Mayor Jane Veron added her accolades. She called Eppenstein “Thoughtful , determined and kind.” She said, “She carries stature in Scarsdale – she is the stamp of approval for everything in Scarsdale. She is industrious, develops proposals that are well researched and documented,” and “is the person who makes things happen.” She said, “What you have done is priceless for us.”
Mike Burger, the executive director of the New York and Connecticut Audubon Society said “It is our honor to share with this event our congratulations for your work. You improve everyone’s life: not just the birds or young people, but everyone. This is what we need to see more of. The way you bring in lots of people to help and helping them see they can be part of the solution going forward is an amazing thing to do.
A representative for Westchester County Executive George Latimer was present to show his respects, offering thanks on behalf of Latimer and apologizing that he was not able to make it even though he most certainly would have if he could.
Eppenstein described her successes with the area between the Scarsdale Library and Scarsdale High School, which used to be used as a sort of “dumping ground,” but it is now a well-protected green area, and she thanked the Westchester Executives for their recognition on this work. She expressed her sincere gratitude for the Audubon Society’s “precious relationship with each other and shared goals” and for putting on the festive event.
Volunteer for the Procedure Committee
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 272
The Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC) is a non-partisan group of Scarsdale residents who select a slate of non-partisan candidates for the offices of mayor, trustee and village justice. In a CNC member’s 4th year they serve on the CNC’s Procedure Committee (PC). The PC is responsible for administering the procedures governing Scarsdale's non-partisan election system, doing things such as publicizing and recruiting nominees for the CNC, providing election information and administering elections, and recommending any changes to the guidelines of the CNC if necessary.
Membership on the CNC is elected, however residents may serve on the PC by appointment. The PC is therefore inviting any Scarsdale residents to join them on the PC! We would welcome new members and it is a terrific way to get to know and be involved in Scarsdale’s non-partisan system of government.
The PC will have several online meetings through November of this year. If you are interested in joining please contact Michelle Sterling (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Peri Zelig (email@example.com) for more information.