Village Board Reviews Priorities: The Human Report and the ChatGPT Version
- Written by Vivian Zweig and Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 484
What are the priorities for Mayor Justin Arest and the newly election Scarsdale Board of Trustees? On Tuesday, May 31 the board held a work session to discuss what they hope to tackle during the current term. It turns out they have a lot on their plate. The meeting extended for three hours.
Among the topics discussed were:
- Public Safety.
- Noise Ordinance.
- Technology & Cyber Security.
- Public Works & Infrastructure.
- Public Pool Renovations.
- Parks, Recreation, and Conservation.
- Government & Administration.
- Finance & Budget.
- Village Center Project.
As an experiment, we tried recording the meeting on Otter.ai and submitting the text to ChatGPT to write an article. See our article first – and CHAT’s version of the first 45 minutes of the meeting at the bottom. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Here’s our version covering some of what was discussed over the three hours:
The new Board spent a considerable amount of time discussing Public Safety, specifically the organization of active shooter drills over summer break and the development of a communication decision tree for emergency situations. Over the summer, the Scarsdale Police, Fire Department, and Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be participating in active shooter drills at Scarsdale schools. Additionally, the Board recognized the necessity of creating clear and well-established avenues of communication in case of emergency events.
Village Manager Robert Cole has been tasked with establishing these routes of communication and will be collaborating with the Scarsdale School District to share this information at a later date. Finally, the Board discussed sending quarterly communications to the community containing relevant information about recommended safety precautions. These quarterly updates would ensure that each Scarsdale resident is aware of any current or changing safety precautions. Further discussion on
The Board continued deliberations on the proposed Noise Ordinance, which would place new restrictions on unwanted or unnatural noise in Scarsdale. A works session to discuss further changes to the proposed law will be held on June 13th, and the Board hopes this meeting will allow them to schedule a public hearing. Additionally, the Board acknowledged the importance of meeting with Village Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis, to get an expert opinion on the law.
Public Works and Infrastructure
The Board has identified a list of capital projects, which will improve stormwater protection. The comprehensive list of projects will be listed and discussed in greater detail to determine potential benefits and impacts. Through these discussions, the Board hopes to create a prioritized list of the planned capital projects. Additionally, the Board discussed what additional regulations they might implement to make an additional impact on stormwater, such as subdivision regulations. Mayor Arest acknowledged that regulating private properties raises questions concerning potential impacts on the property owners. Finally, the Board also planned to improve the Fire Code at a later date.
Scarsdale Pool Complex Renovations
While discussing the proposed pool renovations, the newly elected trustees decided that more research and information gathering is necessary. The Board felt that despite the research done last year, there was not yet enough information to determine what renovations the community want and would be willing to pay for. Additional research to guide the project will conclude in June and will enable the Board to make a more informed decision on the proposed renovations. One priority was timing to hopefully avoid the closing of the pool during the summer months.
Another item on the Board’s agenda was land use. Last year the Board voted to revise some of the Village’s building code to adjust requirements for Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and side yard setbacks in hope of reducing home bulk. Trustees are now asking whether or not these revisions were successful in achieving the desired result? Village Manager Rob Cole suggested asking the Village Planner to analyze the data from last year and the prior year to see what could be deduced.
Another item that is top of mind for the baseball teams is the condition of the Village’s seven baseball and softball fields. According to a memo from Brian Gray, Superintendent of the Parks and Recreation Department, the fields need work.
His memo says, “Through years of continuously adding clay and drying agent to maximize field usage, our infield elevations are substantially higher than the grass outfields. Additionally, a lip has formed along the arch between the clay infield and grass outfield, creating a fishbowl effect not suitable for sheeting of water into the outfields during rain events. Furthermore, the subsurface has been compacted to a point that impedes drainage.
He recently submitted a memo to Village Manager Rob Cole analyzing the cost to repair Crossway Fields 1, 2 and 3. Merrone Sports Fields submitted an estimate of $140,000 for the labor, new clay and new sod.
However, the 2023-24 Village and School budgets include funding for a formal field study, of all fields, including Village and School fields. A professional firm will be retained to provide a “good, better and best solution to field renovations, as well as a study of allocation and prioritization of fields based on user participation numbers from all user groups within Scarsdale on both Village and School District fields.”
Therefore, the question for this Village Board is whether or not they should proceed with the work on the fields at Crossway, while this larger study is being planned and done. Or whether they should wait for the outcome of that study to proceed.
Yet another infrastructure challenge is the Village-owned Freightway Garage. In 2020, the Village Board, under the direction of Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick, entertained proposals to develop the site into a mixed use development with residential units, parking, retailing and public amenities. However after considerable pushback from residents who feared a surge in the school enrollment, plans were scrapped. Now, though safe, the garage remains an expensive property to maintain. As Rob Cole explained, “the structure has passed it’s useful life,” and requires annual repairs for the structure, paint, elevator, decking, drainage and more.
Discussing the project, Mayor Arest mentioned that the 2020 plans did not go through, partially because there was little cooperation between the school district and the village board on estimating potential increases in school enrollment and planning where these students would go to school. Undoubtedly an unpopular subject, the Village Board will need to decide whether or not to reopen the discussion. In her original state budget proposal, Governor Kathy Hochul called for more housing along transit lines, and a transit-oriented development along Scarsdale Avenue may be timely.
As an experiment, we tried recording the first portion of this three hour meeting and asking ChatGPT to synthesize the material and produce an article. Let us know what you think! We value your comments!
Here is what emerged:
ChatGPT AI Article
Title: Strengthening Community Initiatives: A Comprehensive Approach for Future Enhancements
Community leaders in Scarsdale recently held a meeting to address public safety concerns and discuss strategies for improvement. This article combines the key points from the meeting with another update on future enhancements in the community. The shared goal is to enhance coordination, communication, and collaboration, while ensuring that new initiatives align with community values and priorities.
Collaborative Efforts and Priorities:
The meeting highlighted shared priorities in public safety, including emergency communication, coordination, noise ordinance, public safety fleet EV transition, cybersecurity, and fire department volunteerism awareness. Recognizing the importance of collaboration, community leaders stressed the need to work with stakeholders such as the school district to effectively address these priorities.
Coordination, Training, and Communication Strategies:
Efforts to ensure school safety have been ongoing, with the Scarsdale Police Department actively participating in training, drills, and collaborations with the school district. Communication strategies were also discussed, focusing on the development of a decision tree communication process and leveraging specialized vendors for text messaging, geofencing, and emergency notifications. Timely and accurate information dissemination during critical situations is crucial for enhancing public safety.
Quarterly Updates and Engaging the Community:
To maintain transparency and accountability, it was proposed to provide quarterly updates on public safety collaboration efforts to the board. These updates would cover discussions, decisions, joint exercises, and future plans made in various collaborative settings. Additionally, engaging the community through routine public safety updates, balanced with relevant and fresh information, would help residents take necessary precautions.
Expanding Reach and Building Resilience:
The community recognized the challenge of reaching all residents and identified board meetings as an opportunity for public engagement and media involvement. Sharing vital information, such as hurricane preparedness, was emphasized to create a more resilient community. By repeating essential information and suggestions, the goal is to prioritize public safety and ensure preparedness in emergencies.
Future Enhancements and Evaluation:
Apart from public safety, the community has been focusing on other initiatives as well. Evaluating existing services, exploring stormwater management projects, and considering tighter regulations for bushfire control are some of the priorities. Historic preservation, planning-related matters, and evaluating recent code changes are also on the agenda. Community engagement remains crucial throughout this process to gather feedback and ensure accurate information reaches residents.
The Scarsdale community is committed to enhancing coordination, communication, and collaboration to prioritize public safety. By providing regular updates, engaging the community, and focusing on future enhancements that align with community values, Scarsdale aims to build a prosperous and sustainable future. Efforts to evaluate existing services and explore new initiatives demonstrate the community's dedication to continuous improvement while involving residents in decision-making.
Trustees Hold Hearing on Building Code and Make Two Appointments
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 365
Mayor Justin Arest opened the meeting of the Scarsdale Village Board on May 23, 2023 by highlighting the following events:
- Memorial Day Parade on Monday (5/29/23) at 10:00 am at Chase Park
- National Gun Violence Awareness Day on Friday, June 2 at 2:00 pm at the Village Hall
- Scarsdale Music Festival on Saturday, June 3 from 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Scarsdale Village Center.
- A new Farmers Market opening on Sunday, June 4 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm in the Village
- Pool opening on Saturday (5/27/23) from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm at the Scarsdale Pool Complex
The main business of the meeting was to discuss changes to Scarsdale code regarding unsafe buildings.
In May of 2020, the State of New York amended the Uniform Code and Energy Code, requiring local governments to update their code enforcement programs via local law by December 30, 2020. Scarsdale was quick to make the required changes, but the existing Unsafe Building Law is not comparable to those of other municipalities. The Village Board of Trustees recognized the importance of implementing additional procedures and definitions to identify and address unsafe structures, buildings, and equipment that create conditions of imminent danger.
The Board held a public hearing to consider the proposed law that would replace Chapter 132, Article 7 of the Scarsdale Village code of unsafe buildings and structures.
The proposed law:
- Includes more definitions of what constitutes an unsafe building or structure.
- Addresses unsafe equipment in the same manner as unsafe buildings and structures.
- Increases reporting requirements when an unsafe building, structure, or equipment is discovered.
- Authorizes for the Building Department to demolish unsafe buildings, structures, and/or remove unsafe equipment from a property when the owner fails to respond within the time given in the notice to correct.
- Decreases taxpayer burden by providing the Village with increased options to recover the cost of remediation or demolition.
*The full law can be found here
New Village Planner
Kellan Cantrell, a planning professional with nearly seven years of experience in municipal planning, and a Master of Science in City and Regional Planning was appointed as Village Planner, replacing Greg Cutler.
Assistant Village Clerk
The Board of Trustees appointed Charles Hessler, Assistant Village Manager to be appointed as Deputy Clerk. Hessler’s primary role will continue to be Assistant Village Manager, but this additional appointment will enable the Village to have coverage in the event that Village Clerk Emanuel is not available to perform one of those statutorily required functions.
During Public Comments Marybeth Sullivan who lives in White Plains and represents a group called New York Audit spoke about the integrity of the elections in NY State. NY Audit claims that the state elections cannot be validated.
She said, “There are 21 million voter registration entries on the roll and there are:
- Records and registrations with empty addresses.
- Voters with registrations after the registration cutoff date that still voted.
- Voter records that have been purged and are still voting. “
Sullivan then claimed that she will return and when “…you hear the numbers we have discovered, you will be alarmed.” As a preview, she stated that there are 900,000 voter records on our roll, which were never active. These records entered the role and were then purged.
Mayor Says More Information Will be Gathered on the Pool, Plus News from Village Hall
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 679
Here are comments made by Mayor Justin Arest at the Village Board meeting on May 9, 2023.
I would like to start my Mayor’s comments by inviting our Police Chief to address the board and community on the organized car theft rings that are impacting our region.
The Village has issued a press release with safety tips and will continue to look for ways to reach the community. We also need the help of the press and our neighborhood associations. We must be vigilant. Our PD is doing everything it can and we are fortunate to have them protecting us. We live in a very safe community but can’t take that for granted. We need to share the important safety tips from our PD including locking our car and house doors, bringing keys inside, setting our alarms and when possible, using installing exterior camera systems.
One of the priorities that we have discussed is making an even greater effort to ensure all that we do is considered through the lens of inclusivity. The Village’s Human Relation Council, under the leadership of Purnima Srivastava and Aubrey Phillibert have been working closely with Governance and Administration Chair Trustee Gruenberg and Vice Chair Trustee Ahuja who is also Board Liaison to the council. There will be more to discuss about the Council in coming weeks and the work they hope to accomplish over the coming year but tonight I want to express my appreciation for their work assembling a list of May celebrations that I will read tonight and the first board meeting of every month going forward.
Asian Pacific Heritage Month
May is Asian Pacific Heritage month in the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. AAPIHM originated in 1978 when it was passed as a singular week by Congress, designating it as the first week of May 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. President George H.W. Bush later issued Presidential Proclamation 6130 on May 7, 1990, making May 1990 the first Asian American Heritage Month, now known as AAPIHM. In 2021, a record 20 million Asian Americans were able to trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Village of Scarsdale celebrates this month with our fellow AAPI residents.
Older Americans Month
May is Older Americans Month, established in 1963 to honor the legacies and contributions of older Americans and to support them as they enter their next stage of life. On this 60th anniversary of Older Americans Month, we honor our community’s senior citizens, whose lifetimes of hard work, devotion to family, and commitment to community have laid the foundation for the community we are today.
Jewish American Heritage Month
May is Jewish American Heritage Month, which recognizes the diverse contributions of the Jewish people to American culture. Jewish American Heritage Month originated in 1980 when Congress passed a resolution, which authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating April 21-28, 1980 as Jewish Heritage Week. Following a series of annual presidential proclamations designating a week in April or May of each year as Jewish Heritage Week, President George W. Bush proclaimed May as Jewish American Heritage Month on April 20, 2006. Village of Scarsdale is enriched by the contributions Jewish Americans make to this community
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month (or Mental Health Month), which aims to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses. Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949 to increase awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in Americans’ lives and to celebrate recovery from mental illness. I want to add here that I met with Jay Genova, director of SFCS, earlier today and he asked that I let the community know there is no waiting list to see a mental health professionals. They are available to meet with you and if you need any help, please do not hesitate to reach out to them right away.
Cinco de Mayo
May 5: Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday commemorating the Mexican Army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867). This day celebrates Mexican culture and heritage with a variety of festivities, including parades and mariachi music performances. More popular in the United States than Mexico, Cinco de Mayo has become associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. Celebrations began in California, where they have been observed annually since 1863.
Lastly, I am happy to recognize Food Allergy Awareness week. I have a proclamation to read… This is not the first year that we have recognized this issue, in fact it has been a number of years now and I want to thank Deputy Manager Marshall for her support in putting this together.
Before I turn it over to the Manager for his comments, I also want to update the community on a work session schedule going forward. Of course, there are many important projects that are being evaluated and much more work on community priorities to come. We have met twice as a Board to discuss community priorities and the ball is now in the Manager’s court. Staff’s input is vital to how we move forward. They will help us understand the required resources for each goal and help us ensure we are moving forward in the most effective and efficient ways. The expectation is for at least some of that information to return to the board in the next week or two and to have more information on scheduling of Board work sessions on specific topics at our next board meeting.
As for the Pool Project and our current facility:
• The Scarsdale Pool Complex is scheduled to open Saturday, May 27. We can’t wait to welcome everyone Memorial Day Weekend!
• We are very fortunate to have an experienced and dedicated team assigned to pool operations who will work all summer to give our residents the best experience
The Immediate Next Step for the Pool Project is additional research.
• Based on the results of the May 2022 survey, it’s clear there is significant interest among many residents in pursuing enhancements to the Scarsdale Pool Complex.
• In the near term, we have determined that additional information gathering is merited, given the estimated costs of a project of this potential scale.
• In-depth interviews will begin soon with municipal staff at pool complexes in several comparable communities throughout the country to analyze best practices,
design plans and sustainable models, as well as other financial and operational considerations.
• The findings from this phase will complement the consultant work completed to date and will help to inform our next steps for the project.
We Want to Hear From You!
• As always, community input and engagement remain a top priority.
• We encourage residents to continue to engage with us at Village meetings, ask questions, share opinions and offer ideas throughout the process.
• There will be more opportunities for residents to learn about the plans for the Pool Complex and provide feedback as the project gets underway.
I would like to emphasize that just because we are doing this additional work before moving forward into the schematic design phase, where we will work with the community to design the complex, does not mean that the time sensitivities previously explained do not exist. As I believe the community is aware, serious equipment issues would require improvements and substantial improvements would bring the complex under newer code. But, it still is not prudent to rush any part of this project. This is a generational opportunity and must be done the right way. This Board and I know the community appreciates our Parks and Rec team and their efforts to make the Summer of 2023 a great time to spend at our pool.
Appointments to Boards and Councils
Jennifer Fischman was appointed to the Library Board to fill the term vacated by Gary Katz. Her term will end on April 1, 2024.
Janice Starr and Eli Mattioli were appointed to an. expanded Board of Ethics.
Elizabeth Hoexter was appointed as an alternate to the Board of Appeals ending April 6, 2026.
Lynne Clark was appointed to serve on the Town Board of Assessment Review until September 20, 2024.
The Board will hold a Public Hearing to revise law concerning unsafe building structures and equipment on May 23, 2023.
Road Trip: A New Photography Museum in Yorktown Heights
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 571
Attention history and photography buffs: A new exhibition space has opened in northern Westchester to showcase photography exhibits and serve as a place where people gather to create, view and learn about photography. Their mission is to “inspire visitors to participate in the creative process by illustrating the power of photography as a catalyst for social action.”
Named The Capa Space, after famed war photographer Robert Capa, the museum stands on the grounds of a Quaker Meeting house adjacent to a bucolic cemetery in Yorktown Heights. Members of the Capa family including Robert, Cornell Capa and family members are buried on the grounds, giving context to the presence of a photo exhibition space named for Robert Capa.
On display now are over 50 photographs taken by Capa whose stunning works captures the SpanishSoldierSoldier Saluting at Farewell Ceremony for the International Brigade Photo by Robert Capa from the Robert and Cornell Capa Archive ICP/Magnum Civil War, World War II photos of the landing on D-Day, and WWII in Sicily and France. Also on view are Capa’s final photographs of Vietnam where Life Magazine sent him to document the war in Indochina. Informative signage under each photo offers a chronicle of world history and a look at the art of photography before the birth of digital imagery and the iPhone.
Also included are photos of Capa’s glamourous friends including Ingrid Bergman, to whom he was engaged for a brief time.
The Capa Space is the brainchild of Yorktown resident and artist Elise Graham. She sought to share her mission to use art to inspire change by opening the exhibition space and bringing world class photography to a local setting.
The gallery will host several exhibits each year, along with special events, dramatic performances, films and lectures. It is open to the public and welcomes visitors. Click here to learn more about the space and to plan your visit.
Stop the English Ivy Invasion
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 617
This article was submitted by Madelaine Eppenstein President of the Friends of Scarsdale Parks
English ivy, an aggressively invasive, non-native evergreen vine, is literally engulfing and destroying Scarsdale’s majestic shade trees and evergreen conifers. While some consider an evergreen cover on tree trunks to be attractive, allowing vines to grow on trees is dangerous and potentially fatal to even the largest mature tree. English ivy is considered an “invasive species” in New York State, defined as “non-native to the ecosystem under consideration. . . whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” Ivy blocks sunlight from reaching a tree’s own leaves, which weakens the tree by impeding photosynthesis. Ivy usurps nutrients and water from soil, depleting a tree’s resources. Adding significant weight to tree branches, ivy makes them more susceptible to damage from high winds, heavy ice, and snow.
We urge Scarsdale’s homeowners, landscapers, and government to take action to protect village trees from English ivy vine damage. Besides the enormous cost of removing dead or dying trees, losing trees means losing the significant environmental services that trees provide to filter air by capturing carbon and releasing oxygen, slow and absorb runoff and flooding, cool homes in summer, and provide food and shelter for songbirds and other wildlife.
To save our trees residents can help remove destructive ivy and other invasive vines and prevent further injury. This is the technique favored by Friends of Scarsdale Parks, Inc. (FOSP), the environmental nonprofit active in Scarsdale since 1957, and practiced by other local groups including the Bronx River Parkway Reservation Conservancy.
Using pruners, loppers, and hand saws to cut the vines, remove and discard a section approximately 12-24 inches long on the lower part of the trunk, taking care not to damage the tree’s bark. Do not pull the remaining ivy off the trunk, as this may damage the tree or cause upper tree branches to fall. While some experts have recommended painting the cut ends of ivy with pesticide, this should be done only by professionals and avoided due to the health and safety dangers of pesticides as acknowledged in the recently codified Village policy banning most uses of pesticides on public property.
Before tackling the ivy, make sure you can distinguish English ivy and avoid contact with poison ivy. Wear long sleeves, pants, socks, and gloves to protect yourself from poison ivy and ticks. Or instruct your landscaper to emancipate your trees now as part of spring clean-up, or any time after the tree leaves have fallen in fall or winter.
We invite the community to participate in the effort to save Scarsdale’s trees beginning with the trees on your own residential properties. Please contact us at email@example.com or 914-262-6656 if you have any questions, or would like to join in an organized community effort to save our trees from harmful vines. Learn more about English ivy and other invasive species, and find useful how-to information here and here. Join Pollinator Pathway by removing invasives, planting natives, and avoiding pesticides at https://www.pollinator-pathway.org/.
Madelaine Eppenstein, FOSP President
Cynthia Roberts, FOSP Vice President
Dr. Darlene LeFrancois Haber, Scarsdale Forum Inc. Sustainability Committee Chair