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NYSRedisgtrictingAssemblywoman Amy Paulin joined a Village Board work session on January 11, 2022 to alert voters that Southern Westchester’s voice in the U.S. Congress stands to be diminished in new redistricting maps proposed by an Independent Redistricting Commission.

Following the 2020 Census, an Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) was charged with redrawing district maps to reflect population numbers. The commission was comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one member each from the Working Families party and the Conservative party.

However the commission failed to come to consensus on the new maps and instead of proposing one set they proposed two sets for approval to the NYS Senate and Assembly. A two thirds majority was required to pass the vote in the state legislature who rejected the first set of maps on Monday January 9, 2022. Now the IRC has fifteen days to come up with a new plan and resubmit it for approval.

If they fail to come up with a plan to which they all agree, the NYS Legislature will be charged with doing the redistricting.

What is upsetting to many in Westchester is that in both plans Southern Westchester is split into three rather than two Congressional districts, diluting the voice of the community in Washington. One of the scenarios takes 100,000 voters from New Rochelle and places them in a district represented by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that includes Queens and the Bronx.

Critics say, “This decision divides communities throughout the region and would especially dilute the voice of the community of southern Westchester centered around Scarsdale and northern New Rochelle. This area has shared infrastructure and institutions, and both proposals would split this community into not two but three different Congressional Districts. … During last year’s public hearings, when residents of New Rochelle testified before the Independent Redistricting Commission, several were asked by Commissioners whether they would want a district connecting New Rochelle to Queens. None said yes, yet the Commission still drew a Queens to New Rochelle district in both of its proposals. Rather than having District 14 be contained entirely in New York City and District 16 be the only district to cross the Westchester/Bronx border, as was proposed in the earlier Names and Letters draft plans, the Commission inexplicably decided to cross the county border twice.”

Both Scarsdale Mayor Jane Veron and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin urged voters to send letters objecting to the new maps to decision makers.

Scarsdale residents can write to:

1) Amy Paulin at PaulinA@nyassembly.gov and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (https://www.nysenate.gov/registration/nojs/form/start/message-senator?senator=451855

2) The Commission (https://www.nyirc.gov/contact);

3) LATFOR, the agency that aids the legislature in apportioning districts (info@latfor.state.ny.us)

no smoking design template 4fbd3088a360e2d8021e81ae33f193da screenAt the same time that Scarsdale Village Trustees voted to ban the sale of cannabis and smoking lounges in the Village, they also enacted a new law that bans smoking – of any substance – on public property in Scarsdale. The new smoking ban goes into effect on January 1, 2022, and if you light up in a public place you can be fined up to $100. However in order to adjust to the new law, for the first 60 days of the new year, violators will only be given a warning.

Here is an announcement of the new law from the Village of Scarsdale:

Smoking Law Enforcement Takes Effect January 01, 2022

Starting January 01, 2022, enforcement of the new local law regarding Chapter 252 of the Village Code prohibiting the smoking of tobacco and cannabis on public property will commence (final draft of the law available here). This new law prohibits the burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or vape system containing tobacco or cannabis at Village facilities, recreation spaces including fields, parks and playgrounds, and municipal parking lots, as well as on public streets and sidewalks within the Village Center and any business districts or buffer parking zones.

To help the public adjust to this new law, the Village is providing a sixty (60) day transition period, during which time the Scarsdale Police Department will only issue warnings for violations of this local law. Thereafter, violations will be subject to the issuance of fines.

Thank you for your cooperation in implementation of this legislation.

PaulinGunControlNo one is immune from gun violence in our schools, synagogues, spas and communities, said Assemblymember Amy Paulin at a press conference at Scarsdale Library on December 14, 2021. Telling the group, “We have a right to live without fear,” she highlighted several gun control bills she authored for which she will seek passage in the upcoming New York State legislative session.

Also at the meeting were representatives from the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action, Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, County Legislator Ruth Walter and Dr. Jason Thoms, who shared the story of his wife Treva Thoms who was sold a gun immediately after her release from a mental health facility and used it to commit suicide.

That incident and the fatal shootings of four students at Oxford High School in Michigan were grim reminders of why New York needs to do everything possible to strengthen restrictions on guns.

Paulin said, “When a country with less than five percent of the world's population has nearly half of the world's privately owned guns and makes up nearly a third of the world's mass shootings, it's time to stop saying guns make us safer,” said Paulin. “We need to both work on changing the gun culture in our country and simultaneously pass legislation, such as these bills, which effectuate that change. And that’s what I’m here to do.”

“New York continues to be a leader in passing common-sense gun laws to protect our communities, but there is no question that there is more work to be done to prevent the gun violence crisis,” said Katherine Schowalter, a volunteer with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We are grateful for Assemblymember Paulin's continued focus on keeping families safe and will continue to fight alongside our leaders until every New Yorker is protected from gun violence.”

“The bills highlighted today will help to reduce gun violence in all of its forms and keep New Yorkers safe,” said Brady United President Kris Brown. “These policies take a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence, including the essential step of properly regulating gun dealers to stop the flow of illegal firearms into communities. This supply side approach to reducing gun violence will help stem the tide of shootings that have spiked in New York and across the country, and especially help to reduce the number of firearms trafficked into communities most impacted by gun violence, including Black and Brown communities.”

“With gun violence continuing to spike in New York and the NRA pushing for more guns in public, our New York State lawmakers must take action to strengthen our gun safety laws," said Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “Easy access to guns leads to more violence and tragedy. Assemblymember Paulin’s bills help keep guns away from individuals in crisis and ensure that gun dealers employ responsible practices and are held accountable. We urge the legislature and the Governor to support these life-saving bills to make all New York communities safer.”

Restrictions on Gun Dealers

A837, sponsored by Paulin in the Assembly and Brian Kavanagh in the New York State Senate, imposes stringent restrictions and practices on gun dealers with respect to record keeping and reporting of gun sales.

Firearms, rifles and shotguns are used to kill almost 40,000 individuals in the United States every year, including 800 individuals in New York State alone. Additionally, there are 115,000 nonfatal injuries across the country. There is a thriving underground market for illegal firearms, largely driven by demand from drug gangs and other criminals. A highly efficient and continuous business practice exists in which firearms are moved from legal manufacture and sale to prohibited purchasers, making them illegal firearms.

“A substantial portion of illegal firearms are diverted to the illegal market through licensed gun dealers,” said Assemblymember Paulin. “Rogue gun dealers must be prevented from funneling guns to the illegal market through their current channels - one of the most common of which is straw purchases." A straw purchase occurs when a person purchases a gun or ammunition on behalf of a prohibited person.

Specifically, this bill: (1) requires gun dealers to display and store weapons in a secure manner; (2) provides that guns may be sold only at the location listed on the dealer's federal firearms license or at gun shows; (3) requires that all dealer employees making retail gun sales must be at least 21 years of age and must receive adequate training; (4) provides that children may not enter premises where guns are sold unless accompanied by a parent or guardian; (5) requires gun dealers to maintain sales records and periodically submit them to the state police; and (6) requires gun dealers to establish internal compliance procedures, and to certify compliance an annual basis. The additional requirements set forth in this bill will help to reduce the diversion of firearms to the illegal market, and will also assist police departments, prosecutors and other law enforcement officials in their efforts to trace and recover illegal weapons.

“As we approach the 2022 legislative session we need to continue to focus on making every effort to prevent gun violence, especially by preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh. “A key part of that is ensuring that gun dealers store and sell guns in a responsible manner. I look forward to working with my colleague and friend Assemblymember Paulin to enact legislation that will accomplish that, and I thank her for her leadership on these issues for so many years, and for bringing this bill to the forefront in the new session.”

10-day Waiting Period on Gun DeliveriesAPPressConference

A449, sponsored by Paulin in the Assembly and Jeremy Cooney in the New York State Senate, establishes a mandatory10-day waiting period before a licensed gun dealer may deliver a firearm to a purchaser.

This bill would create a "cooling off period" to prevent impulsive actions, including suicide. Studies confirm that most suicide survivors considered their actions for only a short period of time-often less than 24 hours-before making a suicide attempt. Research also shows that states with waiting period laws had 51% fewer firearm suicides than states without such laws.

“Waiting-period laws have been shown to reduce suicide, violent crime, and mass shootings, said Paulin. “They disrupt impulsive acts of violence and self-harm, giving angry or distraught buyers time to "cool off" or gain perspective. Imposing a longer waiting period is a common-sense measure that will prevent more tragedy at the other end of a gun.”

“We see it over and over again: horrific mass shootings, street shootings, domestic violence killings and suicides,” continued Paulin. “Too many families have been torn apart by the scourge of gun violence. The ripple effect of every incident is far-reaching and devastating. Sadly, these tragedies often have a familiar cause: A person had access to a weapon when they shouldn’t have.”

“Suicide is a form of gun violence. Since the start of COVID, we have seen mental health needs dramatically increase,” said New York State Senator Jeremy Cooney. “Correspondingly, we have seen attempts and completed suicide events increase. Establishing a short waiting period for firearms is a commonsense approach to community safety by reducing impulsive acts of gun use while also helping us address the increase in gun violence in Rochester and across the state. Public health research shows that states that require waiting periods have 51% fewer firearm suicides and 27% lower overall suicide rates than states without these laws. I am proud to carry this legislation in the Senate that will help protect New Yorkers and their families from the impact of violence and address gun safety.”

Removing Guns from Homes with Family Violence

A5455/S5026, sponsored by Paulin in the Assembly and Peter Harckham in the New York State Senate, requires the removal of guns from homes where there has been reports of domestic violence.

The Safe Homes Act of 2020 provides police officers answering a domestic violence call the option to remove firearms in plain sight or discovered pursuant to a consensual or other lawful search. This legislation seeks to provide further protections to the victims by mandating police officers seize firearms in plain sight during a domestic violence call and any license to carry, possess, repair, and dispose of such weapon that is in the possession of any person arrested on the suspicion of such family offense. Additionally, this legislation calls for the return of such firearms and licenses not less than one hundred twenty hours after effecting such seizure. Such legislation is necessary to ensure that firearms do not return to dangerous hands before the courts have had sufficient time to file any necessary charges to protect such victims.

“As the former executive director of an agency serving domestic violence victims in Westchester County, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of guns on women,” said Paulin. “Guns are the number one weapon in domestic violence killings in the US – just owning a firearm makes an abuser 5x more likely to take a partner’s life. Inaction on this front is unacceptable. We must act to do everything we can to stop the gun violence that has claimed the lives of far too many of our family members, friends and fellow New Yorkers. That’s why I’m determined to pass this bill which removes guns from the homes of reported family violence.”

Red Flag Extreme Risk Legislation

Paulin also announced today that Governor Hochul has signed into law critical, life-saving legislation that she sponsored in the New York State Legislature with Senator Pete Harckham, that requires mental health facilities to provide information about New York’s Red Flag Law and obtaining extreme risk protection orders for patients upon their discharge or conditional release.

Now enacted, the legislation, Chapter 586 Amd §29.15 Mental Hygiene Law, is effective immediately.

“Gun violence and their ensuing tragedies cannot continue to be par for the course in this country. New York’s Red Flag Law was a necessary action to allow courts to order the temporary seizure of firearms from people believed to pose a danger to themselves or others,” Paulin said. “Now that Governor Hochul has signed this bill into law, patients and their representatives will automatically receive materials informing them of New York’s Red Flag Law prior to their discharge from a mental health facility. This logical requirement will help minimize risks and ensure the safety of our loved ones and neighbors.”

“I would like to thank Assemblymember Paulin for her effective and persistent advocacy on behalf of gun violence victims and their families,” said County Legislator Ruth Walter. “When our shared constituent, Dr. Jason Thoms reached out to me almost two years ago in January 2020, he was looking for answers to the tragedy that befell his family. Why was his wife Treva, who had just been discharged from a mental health facility, able to legally purchase the gun that she used to complete suicide? Both Dr. Thoms and I were shocked to learn of this legal loophole. I knew that Assemblymember Paulin was the legislator in Albany to reach out to for a solution. In response to this story, she was able to advocate for the passage and signing of the Red Flag Notification bill (A.1005A / S.5434A). Over many months in 2021, she worked with her colleagues to make this the most effective bill and another tool in New York State’s gun safety and suicide prevention toolkit. This law mandates notification that an extreme risk protection order can be sought for those who have just been released from mental health care. Its passage will prevent other families from experiencing the same pain as Dr. Thoms and his three children. Thank you to Dr. Thoms and his children, Wilyem, Alekz and Izaak, for their willingness to share Treva’s story and honor their mother’s legacy through advocating for this important legislation, I would also like to commend Assemblymember Paulin on her three other gun violence prevention bills with Senator Harckham (A.5455/S.5026), Senator Kavanagh (A.837), Senator Cooney (A.449).”

Enacted two years ago in New York State, the Red Flag Law, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order law, prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. This law was put into effect with the hope of preventing mass shootings, domestic incidents, suicides and other tragedies, all of which continue to afflict our country.

Right after the Red Flag Law was put in place, a Westchester woman, Treva Foss Thoms, voluntarily checked herself into a mental health facility, and after being discharged purchased a gun and committed suicide. After her death, Treva’s husband contacted County Legislator Ruth Walter, unable to understand why his wife was able to purchase a firearm in the first place, being that she’d been recently hospitalized.

Sadly, Treva’s family had no previous knowledge of the Red Flag Law. Her husband, Dr. Jason Thoms, said, “I assumed that there was no way that my wife, given that she had just been released from a mental services facility where she resided for several months, would have the ability to purchase a gun. If I had known about the existence of the Red Flag Law and the ability to obtain an extreme risk protection order,” continued Thoms, “I would have secured one for my wife, and she might still be here with us today.”

“Providing such notice will help prevent future tragedies and ensure that patients and their families are made aware of the options that are available if they have concerns about the safety of their loved ones,” Paulin added. “Guns must be kept away from those who are a threat to themselves or others.”

SamMeltzA young Scarsdale man decided to pay it forward after the Scarsdale Fire Department took heroic efforts to save his Heathcote home after a tragic fire. Earlier this year, the family had undertaken a major renovation of the house and the last step was the refinishing of the wood floors. But before the job could be completed, fire broke out in the garage where the contractors had been storing equipment and supplies. It spread quickly throughout the house, causing severe fire, smoke and water damage. Fortunately no one was home at the time. However, the house was uninhabitable due to the damage, so the family has been living nearby in a rental since July and likely won’t be able to move back in until the end of next year.

At the time, 13 year-old Sam Meltz was studying and preparing for his Bar Mitzvah to be held on September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of 9/11. As part of Sam's Mitzvah project, he decided to do something to recognize the dedication and contributions of the Scarsdale Fire Department. He visited the Fire Department and spent time with Chief Seymour to learn more about the work that firemen do and their personal experiences on 9/11. He then made a GoFundMe page in support of the SFD and raised $10,000 for the Scarsdale Fire Department. The funds are intended to be used for the purchase of equipment and training to assist in the safety of the firefighters and the Scarsdale community.

According to his parents, Sam is a very active and social 13-year-old who is in 7th grader at the King School in Stamford. He enjoys playing soccer, football, basketball, tennis and watching professional sports as well. His favorite team is the New England Patriots.

yessignThe saga over the placement of political signs in the Village right of way continues this week with a new ruling on an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Now more than three and a half years after police removed signs supporting a controversial bond referendum from the Village right of way, which is the first 13 feet from the curb, on December 3, 2021 the Court of Appeals issued their judgment in the appeal of Robert Berg vs. the Village of Scarsdale and the Village of Scarsdale Police Department.

In November 2020, the US District Court for the Southern District came out with a mixed decision on Berg’s case, finding that the Scarsdale Police Department violated the First Amendment by selectively enforcing signposting laws but denied the remainder of Berg’s motion that the Village’s signposting laws violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and the First Amendment. The 14th amendment states “no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

Berg appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit who evaluated Berg’s claim that the Village’s signposting violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and the First Amendment.

The relevant code “bans any person from “post[ing], attach[ing] or display[ing] any sign, notice, placard, poster, or other advertising medium to or upon or over any sidewalk, tree, stone, fence, wall, pole, railing or other object in, along, upon, or over any street, park or other public place in the village.” Special App’x at 35. Section 281-2 defines “right-of- way” as “[g]enerally, the space owned by the Village extending approximately 13 feet from each curbline.”
The court determined that the code was not vague in that a person of ordinary intelligence could be able to understand it.

Berg also argued that Village Code Section 256-1 is unconstitutional because it lacks sufficient enforcement standards. However, the court found that the Village code does not authorize or encourage arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement.

Additionally the court denied the claim that the Village code violated Berg’s right of free speech, finding “The Village Code is a content-neutral regulation because it prohibits “any” and “all” signposting on public property. “Content-neutral regulations may limit the time, place, or manner of expression—whether oral, written, or symbolized by conduct—even in a public forum, so long as the restrictions are reasonable, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.”

The district court found that the provisions are “narrowly tailored” to advance the substantial government interests identified above.
Lastly, the court found that the Village’s regulations leave ample opportunity for protected speech because signs can be posted on private property. In this case, signs posted on the Village right-of-way could simply be moved further back from the curb line until they were on private land. Therefore, the Village’s sign ordinances are permissible content-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions and do not violate the First Amendment.

Finally, Berg argued that the provision was selectively enforced as it barred the placement of political signs at the same time it was permitting commercial lawn signs. The court determined a plaintiff must show a “pattern of unlawful favoritism.” Thomas v. Chi. Park Dist., 534 U.S. 316, 325 (2002). Berg’s claim that the Village unlawfully favored commercial signs, while enforcing the Code against political signs, cannot survive summary judgment.
The ruling says, “Although Berg has submitted photographs of commercial signs that were not removed from the public right-of-way in that later timeframe, there is no evidence that there were complaints about the location of those signs that were brought to the attention of the police, and that any such complaints were ignored. In short, based upon the uncontroverted evidence, no rational juror could find that the Village was engaged in a “pattern of unlawful favoritism” towards commercial signs based upon its enforcement of the Village Code. Thomas, 534 U.S. at 325.1.

Therefore the court found Berg’s arguments to be without merit , reversed the district court judgment and found in favor of the Village.

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