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Village Board Approves Agreement to Build a Comfort Station at SMS Tennis Courts

comfortstationA long discussed proposal for bathrooms at the Scarsdale Middle School tennis courts overcame a hurdle at the November 10 meeting of the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees when they approved an intermunicipal agreement with the Scarsdale Schools to build the pavilion. Plans call for “a single pavilion-style building containing two ADA compliant restrooms, an office for an attendant, a storage room, and a room to accommodate the existing irrigation equipment. The covered area surrounding the building provides shelter during inclement weather.”

The proposal has undergone exhaustive debate since it was originally put forth by former Trustee and tennis enthusiast Bob Harrison. It took several years for the school district and the village board to agree that this was a priority. And now, with so many infrastructure needs and a $2 million shortfall in the Village budget due to the COVID epidemic, the decision to spend $150,000 on an enhancement was called into question.

Bob Harrison sought to ease passage of the resolution by phoning in during public comments early in the meeting and offering $10,000 from the Scarsdale Youth Tennis Association to reduce the Village’s bill. He questioned why the project would cost $150,000 as it will be built by Village staff. The Mayor explained that it was necessary to pay the architects, conduct a SQRA review and do a formal submission to the New York State Department of Education for approval.

Though the $150,000 had already been earmarked in the 2019-20 budget the comfort station was the subject of considerable debate.
Trustee Jonathan Lewis read the resolved clause of the resolution which said, “the Village Board of Trustees hereby authorizes the Village Manager to execute an Intermunicipal Agreement between the Village of Scarsdale and Scarsdale Union Free School District, in substantially the same form as attached that the Village Manager is herein authorized to undertake all administrative acts required pursuant to the terms of the Agreement. Read the agreement here.

Trustee Arest spoke first. He said, “Is it an important project, yes…. We spent six years negotiating with the school board, only to reach an agreement where we are on the hook for everything. I don’t appreciate that. I can get past that. What I can’t get past, is spending $135,000. How is that essential during a time of austerity and right before budget season. This should be part of the budget discussion. It should be tabled. I shouldn’t have to vote no on this…. We have revenue shortfalls. We are going to have to cut services. Does the community prefer to build fields or a comfort station? That’s a conversation I would like to have during budget discussions. … It says we are on the hook…. if NYS or the district requires an increase in the cost of construction, we don’t have an out. If the costs skyrocket, we don’t have an out. For all those reasons … and I do support Mr. Harrison in his seven-year endeavor, I vote neigh.”

Trustee Lena Crandall was in favor of the plan. She said, “I am all for more comfort in Scarsdale. Once this is approved by NYS we do have a couple of years to complete it. I appreciate Mr. Harrison’s willingness to raise funds. It serves more people than those who are using the courts. People who walk can use it too. This will help us to become a more walkable community.”

Trustee Lewis recognized Mr. Harrison for his advocacy but said, “This conversation would have benefited from discussion during our agenda meetings. My vote is no.”

Trustee Seth Ross voted yes. He said, “It’s been discussed for a long time. It was a pre-pandemic project and I think it’s something that the community wants.”

Rochelle Waldman agreed, saying “it would benefit the community.”

Trustee Whitestone said, “I think this is a question of timing. It was a pre-pandemic project. I am going to vote yes.”

Mayor Samwick said, “This project is already funded. We need the agreement to go to the NYS Education Department. After that we have two to three years to build it.
This is a community project – it benefits all. This is something that the community can use.”

The Board approved the resolution by a vote of 5-2.

Later in the meeting Bob Harrison called back in to comment and thanked the trustees who supported the bathroom project. However, he then turned to the two Trustees who had voted in opposition to the resolution and became unhinged. To Justin he yelled, “The state could require three bathrooms? How can you say that? Every bathroom has a male and female bathroom. … Do you have a daughter? Girls can’t go to the bathroom during the summer – and their mothers have to take them home. Hopefully you get the message. Trustee Lewis – you should have read the resolution. The architectural numbers were $32,000 – we have to be accurate. Let’s get this done with our own people! Let’s manage our projects properly! We wasted $110,000 for one tennis court at Wynmor, ridiculous.”

Mayor Samwick responded to Harrison saying, “I think it is unwarranted to call out individual trustees in that fashion and we will ask you to refrain from that in the future.”

Arest got in the last word. He said, “There is no way I am letting that go without making comments.” He said, “Mr. Harrison when you called me at 9:30 pm last night it was not appreciated. My kids were asleep. I stayed on the phone with you for more than a half hour. One of the only ways that the Village can back out is if the state or the school district asks for something like a third or a fourth bathroom. I was not advocating for anything.

a 4th or 5th bathroom. I don’t appreciate the way you spoke to me. So I will say respectfully, “Bob, lose my number.”

In other Village business, the Mayor discussed the “dramatic uptick” in nationwide COVID cases and said “We are seeing real increases in NYS, where the positivity rate was over 2.5% today. In Westchester County the positivity rate was 4% today. 82 people were hospitalized on November 9 as compared to 48 on November 1, 2020.” He urged residents to remain diligent, wear masks, wash hands, avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing. He also asked returning college students to follow the Governor’s guidelines.

Public Comments

Ann Hintermeister noted that many people are working and studying at home and complained about gas powered leaf blowers. She noted the noise, the dust and the smell. She asked the mayor to limit the hours they could be used and to ban leaf blowers from within 50 feet of the property line and 50 feet from a sidewalk or a road. She asked the Board to confine the noise and dust to the property owner and limit use to one at a time.

Later at the meeting, in response to Ms. Hintermeister, the Board asked the Conservation Advisory Council to investigate alternatives to gas powered leaf blowers.

Claire Hunt alerted trustees to the dangers of trampolines and objected to their appearance. She said, “The AAP strongly discourages the use of trampolines at any age. Backyard trampolines resulted in 103,000 trips to the emergency room in 2017.” She added, “Many are not safely installed. They are supposed to be 8 feet away from any obstacle. They should be properly installed so that they don’t fly away in high winds….. My neighbor has their trampoline in their side yard. It is several feet off the ground and allows kids to stare into their neighbor’s windows…. The noise level is higher than any other play equipment. Most kids scream on them! There are no regulations surrounding them …. They are unsightly out of scale and incredibly dangerous. She asked the Board to consider banning trampolines or regulating them. They should require a permit, a setback, be properly anchored to the ground and be insured. You should need BAR approval and a landscaping plan.

Liaison Reports

Lena Crandall said that residents can now recycle plastic bags and liners as well as cooking oil at the recycling center.

Justin Arest encouraged listeners to buy Scarsdale Business Alliance raffle tickets to win prizes and support neighborhood merchants.

Rochelle Waldman reported that the library received over 1,000 responses to their survey and is now planning to open in a modified fashion at the beginning of December.

On a happy note, the Mayor reported that. marriage license fees for the Village are up 60% this year. He said, “We have become a destination for marriages in the COVID era.”

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