Magnolia Tree Planted in Honor of Arbor Day
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 443
Village Trustees, Village Managers, the Scarsdale Public Works Department, members of the Conservation Advisory Council and Friends of the Scarsdale Parks celebrated Arbor Day on Friday April 29, 2022 in Corell Park.
The National Arbor Day Foundation has named Scarsdale as a Tree City USA for 39 consecutive years. This year, the proclamation was celebrated by planting a Sweetbay Magnolia Virginiana tree in Correll Park. Cynthia Roberts gave a short speech about the qualities of this specimen and remarks were made by Scarsdale Mayor Jane Veron and Assembly member and Scarsdale resident Amy Paulin.
Attendees were invited to grab a shovel and help plant the tree.
Village Has Payroll Tax Issue Too! Plus Trustees Unanimously Support $62.4 mm 2022-23 Village Budget
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1323
It turns out the School district is not the only Scarsdale employer with a payroll tax problem. It turns out that Scarsdale Village had an issue as well, albeit a much smaller one. According to Village Manager Rob Cole, on April 18, 2022 he learned that the Village had self-identified an error in the payment of their payroll taxes during eight weeks, or four pay periods, in early 2021.
In March 2021 the Village paid all of the money owed. Notwithstanding this, the IRS issued $41,000 in penalties and fines for the monies already paid. He said, “We are in the midst of resolving this issue with them.” Furthermore, the Village Treasurer has engaged a financial consultancy firm to do an operational review of the accounts payable, receivable and the payroll functions.” Cole added, “This initiative dovetails with an initiative to maximize interest earnings. Now that interest rates are rising, staff is working to properly invest to enhance interest income from public funds. New efforts will yield meaningful increases in interest income.”
Personnel: Ingrid Richards and Aylone Katzin Resign
At the opening of the April 26, 2022 Village Board meeting, Mayor Veron announced that both Ingrid Richards and Aylone Katzin will be leaving Scarsdale for new positions in neighboring local governments. According to Veron, “Ingrid Richards arrived in Scarsdale as Assistant Village Manager in 2015, and Aylone joined us 2.5 years ago in 2019 as Assistant to the Village Manager. Both have been wonderful partners in Village matters, and I have had the distinct pleasure of working with them directly, particularly on Village revitalization efforts. Both Ingrid and Aylone have devoted significant energies to our local municipality, and their great work was noticed by our neighbors. Both are taking on new challenges with a new role for Ingrid as Senior Advisor to the Mayor of White Plains and a new role for Aylone as Assistant Village Manager in Larchmont. We will miss you both! “
Later in the meeting, trustees approved a resolution to appoint Sara Honig as the Village’s Personnel Administrator. She has 15 years of experience in human resources.
Trustees approved resolutions to hold two large scale village events.
The first is for an Evening Under the Stars on the front lawn of Scarsdale Library on Friday, May 20, 2022. The evening will include musical entertainment, food trucks, alcohol sales, a stage and a tent.
The second is the Scarsdale Music Festival hosted by the Scarsdale Business Alliance in Scarsdale Village on Saturday June 4, 2022.
The trustees unanimously passed the 2022-23 $62.4 million Village budget. Earlier in the meeting they received criticism from Bob Harrison for failing to maximize interest income, calling Village management of public funds, “malfeasance.” Several of the trustees addressed this concern in their statements of support for the budget. See below for their comments.
Trustee Jonathan Lewis said, “I have participated in the planning of budgets both for the Board of Education and the Scarsdale Board of Trustees. I was on the school board during the first year of the tax cap and the first time a school budget was defeated in 44 years.
This year I have been impressed with the dedication of staff, community volunteers and my fellow trustees. I am impressed with the new structure of governance implemented by Mayor Jane Veron…. I believe this work contributes to moving us toward the goal of being innovators and leader in municipal government. Holding ourselves to a high standard means we have to be transparent about what we are doing well and what needs improvement. Specifically I believe we need improvement in how we as a village manage public funds. I would suggest regular reporting on how we manage investment funds, investment activities and investment choices made to manage interest earned. When we earn more interest income we have a cushion. I endorse the best practices as specified by the NY S Comptroller’s Office. I encourage the Village Manager to focus on this important issue. I have confidence we are moving forward in the right direction. I am supporting this budget because of the Village Manager’s commitment to a fiscal review.”
Trustee Karen Brew said, “I have listened to those who said we could earn more interest and lower the tax rate. It is not that simple. You have to look at your opportunities and assess your threats. Yes there is an opportunity to earn more interest income and Village management is committed to looking into investment opportunities. But there are offsetting risks and threats to our budget such as our aging infrastructure, inflation, potential storms, escalating pool maintenance costs and things that happen that we never predicted. I would not feel comfortable booking in additional interest without booking in offsetting costs. Progress is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once. We are investing in our community to make sure we are a strong community today and in the future. I believe we have struck a prudent balance between keeping the tax rate low and investing in things we have put off for far too long.”
Trustee Sameer Ahuja gave his full support for the budget. He said, “Thinking back … we had arcane processes, limited transparency and chronic underinvestment. We have a transformed process. It’s just night and day. We have a revamped strategic planning process and a much better forecasting process and better investment of funds. I am very excited. Congratulations to the Village Treasurer on a well-run process.”
Trustee Randall Whitestone said, “No budget can be perfect but I regard this year’s budget as a sensible balancing act between what we know now and what we think will happen, between short-term needs and long-term responsibilities. While the increase in the tax levy may be higher than we would wish, there are some neglected longer-term needs that we must start to address before playing catch-up becomes a giant leap. I’m thinking, for example, of pressure points such as our water system and the equipment the Department of Public Works uses every day to serve the community. Infrastructure will remain much on our minds going forward.
We’ve had some better than expected and worse than expected revenue and expenditure lines, and I believe we continue to approach forward budgeting on a responsible and cautious basis. And we’ll keep working to refine our budget process for next year and, importantly. how we judiciously better utilize our balances to the benefit of taxpayers. Modernizing longstanding practices doesn’t happen in one budget cycle.
We will continue to need to address longer term needs, fund balance, and, importantly our choices around funding sources, such as debt. Paying for a pool project and assessing how we might improve the village center will both be robust community discussions in the years to come. We cannot take a short-term approach without being cognizant of the impact on future years. And I do think we’ll gain greater clarity as behaviors achieve some equilibrium as Covid hopefully recedes.
So again, while no budget is perfect, I believe this budget achieves a responsible balance amid continued uncertainty and meaningful future long-term needs.”
Trustee Ken Mazer said “As a new board member I come to this process with fresh eyes. I have been impressed with the negotiations and discussions, the mayor’s leadership, the professional staff and the residents’ of this town who make this a better place to live in. Thank you to all. I convey my full support for the budget.”
Trustee Jeremy Gans said, “Though I was not a part of the planning process, I attended every work session at which the budget was discussed …. I was impressed with the thoughtfulness and care with which the budget was created ….. I think the Village has significant infrastructure needs moving forward and I believe that our residents have ever increasing expectations regarding Village services and facilities. I think our budget process will grow even more complex moving forward. I think the 2022-23 fiscal year budget provides the proper balance of meeting the Village’s immediate needs, making necessary improvements for the future while taking an overall conservative approach given continued uncertainty, inflation, interest rates and the supply chain issue.”
Finally Mayor Jane Veron said, “I am in favor of the 2022-2023 proposed budget and will vote for its approval. One year ago, we established an integrated strategic and financial planning framework to guide Scarsdale into the future. We articulated the pillars of government that standing together ensure Scarsdale residents have a safe, secure, and wonderful place to live. With this new approach to planning came the need to reengineer the budget process. We hoped for a more dynamic approach where priorities could be evaluated both within and across departments, anchored in the goals and objectives of the community. The time was now to move Scarsdale toward a model of 21st century government excellence.
In the fall, Board and staff embarked on a new budget process. We asked department heads to build budgets that reflected their operational realities and to make clear what would be required to deliver for residents. We asked staff to move from paper to digital, from hardcoding to dynamic. We increased transparency, dispensing with full day in-person meetings and instead held multiple virtual recorded sessions toward the end of the business day. The Treasurer introduced a new comprehensive financial statement, committed dollars upfront to items such as roads that were traditionally funded out of surplus, initiated the reclassification of expenses to reflect GFOA standards, calculated fully loaded personnel costs, and freed up dollars sitting unclaimed in assigned fund balance accounts. Board and staff also kicked off studies to plan for long term capital expenditures, including the water system and fleet, and started to reexamine our investment strategy. We held countless meetings and public sessions, iterating, digging deeper, and bringing in third party experts. And all of this took place while staff continued to keep the Village running.
After these months and months and months of study, analysis, debate, and public input, we have produced a responsible budget for Scarsdale Village. The 3.7% tax increase strikes the right balance between investment and fiscal prudence. This budget underscores our commitment not only to the Scarsdale of today but also to the Scarsdale of tomorrow.
Over the past many years, we had been underinvesting in our infrastructure and deferring necessary expenditures, causing service disruptions and costly repairs. We had also postponed complex conversations on important policy issues such as fund balance and use of debt. As stewards of this Village, this Board along with our recently retired colleagues, worked to reverse these trends. At the same time, we always keep front and center our residents strong desire to keep taxes as low as reasonably possible.
I am immensely grateful to staff for partnering with us on this journey. A lot was asked of our department heads in a relatively short period of time. They rose to the challenge and will continue to work with us to streamline and improve the process. I also have enormous respect and appreciation for our residents who have deeply engaged in the budget process with special thanks to the League of Women Voters, the Scarsdale Forum and our loyal residents who actively participate in our meetings. We listen, and your feedback informs decision making.
Change is never easy, and we still have more to do. Throughout this budget cycle, we tested new approaches and learned tremendously. We tried to make information more readily available and easily digestible. Yet, there is always room to improve, and we will keep getting better. As we said at the outset, this year would be one of transition as we build toward a best-in-class GFOA-certified budget, the gold standard in budgeting.
The budget we proposed, after careful and extensive thought, feedback, and consideration, reflects our best thinking over a set period of time. It goes without saying, though, that in a rapidly changing, uncertain global economic and political environment, assumptions made today will be tested. I am eager to adopt the new investment policy outlined by our Village Manager to take advantage of the favorable interest rate environment and look forward to regular reporting.
So, the budget process never truly ends. We monitor our revenues and expenses, and if and when circumstances warrant, we will have open conversations about adjustments in approach. We expect nothing less of staff, and the community expects nothing less of us.”
On April 18 Village Manager Rob Cole learned that the village had self-identified an error in the payment of their payroll taxes during eight weeks, or four pay periods in early 2021. In March 2021 the Village paid all of the money owed. Notwithstanding this, the IRS issued $41,000 in penalties and fines for the money already paid. We are in the midst of resolving this issue with them. The Village Treasurer has engaged a financial consultancy firm to do an operational review of the accounts payable, receivable and the payroll functions. This initiative dovetails with maximizing interest earnings. Now that interest rates are rising, staff is working to properly invest to enhance our interest income. New efforts will yield meaningful increases in interest income.
Jeremy Gans, Ken Mazer and Randy Whitestone Elected Village Trustees
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1230
A small gathering of Village Trustees and supporters of the Scarsdale Non-Partisan Party gathered at the Scarsdale Library on Tuesday night March 15 to hear the official results of the election for Village Trustees and congratulate the candidates. Randall Whitestone was elected to serve a second two-year term and Jeremy Gans and Ken Mazer were both elected for the first time. The two newcomers will replace Village Trustees Justin Arest and Lena Crandall who have both completed two terms.
As the election was uncontested, there were less than 200 votes, a departure from years when residents challenged the nominees put forth by the Citizen’s Non-Partisan Party. In fact, in September 202, when a slate from the Scarsdale Voter’s Choice Party ran against the SCNPP slate, 1,921 votes were cast, but the non-partisan party prevailed by a ratio of 2:1.
This year the campaign was chaired by Jared Stern and Omer Wiczyk with help from Dara Gruenberg, Jon Mark and BK Munguia, who brought the customary cake. The Citizens Nominating Committee was led by Chair Jill Spielberg and Vice Chair Jon Krisbergh.
Commenting on the results, Stern and Wiczyk said, “We are beyond delighted that this incredible slate of candidates had been elected. The CNC’s deliberative, thorough, and fair process continues to find the best people to serve our town, and this year was no different. We look forward to watching them do great things for our Village.”
Former Village Clerk Donna Conkling was still in town to preside over the election as her replacement has not yet been found.
She announced that 179 machine votes and 26 absentee ballots had been cast for a total of 205 votes. (2 additional absentee ballots were blank.)
The vote counts were as follows:
Randall Whitestone: 190
Jeremy Gans: 183
Ken Mazer: 184
Following the election, the newly elected trustees sent the following letter:
To The Editor:
We are humbled and gratified by the community’s support for the Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party slate of trustees, as demonstrated with our election on March 15. We are honored to carry forward the nonpartisan tradition that has served the village well for more than a century.
We fully recognize the challenges and responsibilities facing our village and are eager to roll up our sleeves as your public servants. We look forward to engaging in a continuing two-way conversation about the village’s priorities and tackling residents’ future service and infrastructure needs.
But please know that our seven-person village Board of Trustees can’t do it alone. We look forward to working with our talented village staff and with truly strong fabric of community volunteers that helps make Scarsdale such a special place.
To paraphrase Robert F. Kennedy, one person can make a difference, and everyone should try. We thank those who are already volunteering and encourage others to consider becoming involved. The village website, www.scarsdale.com, has recently been redesigned, making it easier to find volunteer opportunities, review information from past public meetings, or find out about upcoming meetings and agendas.
Many thanks to the dedicated Campaign Committee led by Jared Stern, Omer Wiczyk, Dara Gruenberg and Jon Mark for ensuring a respectful and honest campaign. Thank you to all of the campaign volunteers and our families who have supported us.
Finally, thank you to Donna Conkling of the Village Clerk’s office and her team, the poll workers, Scarsdale Police and DPW for holding a flawless election. As Jeremy and Ken assume office, and Randy begins his second term, we recognize the important tasks ahead, and fully appreciate the responsibility with which you have entrusted us.
We are ready to get to work on your behalf.
Village Trustees Sworn In; Mayor Defends Proposed 2022-23 Village Budget
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 652
Two new Scarsdale Village trustees were sworn in at Village Hall on Monday April 4, along with current trustee Randall Whitestone who was elected to serve a second term. See pictures below of the ceremony for Jeremy Gans, Ken Mazer and Randy Whitestone.
This new board is expected to vote to adopt the 2022-23 Village Budget on April 26, 2022. The tentative operating budget is $62.6 million and would mean a 3.70% tax increase, translating to a $216 increase for the average homeowner. The increase is greater than last year as the trustees opted to reinvest in the Village’s aging infrastructure and address needs that have been deferred from year to year. The 3.7% increase falls below the NYS tax cap of 4.7%.
Last week a report from the Fiscal Affairs Committee of the Scarsdale Forum raised concerns about plans to repair the pool and to hire four full time employees and questions about the fund balance.
Here is a response from Mayor Jane Veron to those issues:
The Scarsdale Pool Complex has operated as an Enterprise Fund, meaning that operating costs should be offset by membership and event fees. There is currently no discussion to change the model. Right now, the focus is on reimagining the Pool Complex and understanding the community’s desires and willingness to pay. The facts are that the pool complex has outlived its useful life and is in dire need of replacement. Membership has been declining over the past decade, and we have struggled to be self-sustaining. We cannot ignore the reality. Something must be done.
At minimum, it will cost $13-15MM to restore the Pool Complex to its current form. While we do not expect to run the pool at a deficit this year, it is unrealistic to assume that the Fund could support such a major capital investment, certainly at the onset. We indicated in the budget the possibility that we could issue debt, allowing us to amortize the cost over the lifetime of the asset and enabling current and future residents to share in the cost of the benefit they receive. We will also explore grant opportunities and public private partnerships. However, it is still premature to make any decisions. The community will shape the outcome.
Please take part in the survey that will be administered by our consultant later this month, as well as other planned public engagement efforts to be announced. Your preferences will shape the Pool Complex’s future.
Additional Full Time Employees (FTE’s)
Staff and the Village Board are working collaboratively to maintain and enhance service delivery, including exploring opportunities for process streamlining and operational efficiency gains. Throughout this continuing effort, we have remained cognizant of the long-term implications, both positive and negative, of adding new FTEs. To illustrate our commitment in this regard, it should be noted that eight new FTEs were originally proposed, as staff was given direction at the outset of the budget process to present proposals each felt reflective of the resources required to achieve our organizational and community goals, including investments supportive of our mission: Providing Distinguished Service to a Discerning Community. As we publicly worked through the proposals and initiated our prioritization process, we collectively determined that four of the requested positions would not be funded, while the other four are important to add. Understanding the why of the four FTEs we added is critical as one evaluates the prudence of our decision.
Taking the positions one at a time, I’ll first address the Weinberg Nature Center FTE. As you may be aware, there was an outpouring of public support for transitioning naturalist, Sam Weinstock, to permanent full-time status. Sam has performed exceptionally in his part-time role and his efforts have led to the establishment of very popular new programs and associated revenue enhancements. We anticipate that Sam’s full-time role will continue to build community interest in the Weinberg Nature Center, perhaps also helping to cultivate financial support for needed facility improvements. It should also be noted that Mr. Weinstock’s popularity has been elevating his status in Westchester County, making him a prime candidate to be offered an opportunity to be recruited elsewhere. Finally, it should also be noted that the Weinberg Nature Center was once served by a full-time naturalist.
With regard to the new Maintenance Mechanic – Pool FTE, one must note that there is a single individual – a foreman – presently on-staff with adequate skills and background to handle all pool-related maintenance needs. With only one individual, we are at risk for continuity of service when pool operation problems arise (which happens with regularity given the age of our pool complex), as a single foreman cannot be present every work day of the year, plus weekends. In addition, this one individual is also responsible for other duties as Parks Foreman.
Given the competing demands on this one individual, important foreman tasks have been neglected, including such tasks as field maintenance oversight, tennis court inspections, repairs, and maintenance, and oversight of contractual support. The Scarsdale community has noted deficiencies in each of these areas that the foremen is unable to properly oversee.
From a maintenance and operations perspective, the Scarsdale Pool Complex season runs from March or April to approximately November, so the peak time commitment is significant. Additionally, the Village used to enjoy contractual pool maintenance support for the entire season; however, when the contract was rebid in 2017, we were required to incorporate prevailing wage requirements applicable to the contractor’s laborers. Prevailing wage makes it very difficult for private pool maintenance firms to operate. They site difficulty tracking each task a laborer must perform within a single day and adjusting the hourly rate accordingly, as well as the impact of paying prevailing wage on their worker satisfaction and willingness to perform tasks at pools not paying prevailing wage (substantially less pay for workers on those jobs creates internal conflict and pressure to increase all worker wages). In fact, the firm we had contracted with for such services for approximately 40 years, declined to bid on the contract once the prevailing wage mandate was incorporated. After substantial effort, including outreach to approximately 13 vendors, we awarded a contract to a firm to provide the services, but the firm was unable to perform the work required and we had to terminate the agreement. In view of the foregoing and other supporting rationale, it is both necessary and prudent to add the Maintenance Mechanic – Pool as a new FTE, which will also be of great value to PRC operations during the brief off-season.
Please note that the Tree Trimmer FTE being added is effectively a temporary add. Because of an anticipated vacancy, including a long-term absence, the Tree Trimmer is being added to serve as a bridge solution to ensure operational continuity of services. Once the incumbent has officially separated, that position will not be re-filled, resulting in no net increase in staffing, as one will cancel the other out. As you may have noted, the request for an arborist was not supported in the budget process and was one of the proposed FTEs that did not make our prioritization cut.
Scarsdale is distinguished from other suburbs, in part, by its exceptional quality of life. In recent months and years, we have gradually increased the burden placed upon enforcement officials both by design and in response to increased activity requiring enforcement attention, such as the volume of construction activity we experience as one of the most desirable communities in Westchester County. Local laws, such as our tree protection law, gas-powered leaf blower ban, and others, also require diligent enforcement support, including during weekend hours. The volume of work clearly supports the need for a new FTE, as the work cannot be properly handled by a single part-time employee, and it is not prudent to take building department personnel away from higher-level responsibilities, such as plan reviews and permit inspections, or police personnel away from their critical public safety missions, to perform the duties of a code enforcement officer. Of course, all authorized personnel, including police and building department personnel, will continue to perform code enforcement response duties, but our new FTE will support the need for proactive enforcement that our community expects and has consistently requested.
There were many discussions between staff and the board about appropriate levels of fund balance- particularly the impact of one time sources of revenue to offset recurring expenses. The net unassigned fund balance (reduced by the $430,000 assigned for future debt service) used in the tentative budget is $2.17mm. This is more than double of what had been historically allocated in approved budgets prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The assignment of the $430,000 to offset the subsequent budget’s debt service is smart fiscal planning for the future. It recognizes the implications of decisions made in the current budget and looks to prevent undesirable spikes in the tax levy. The monies allocated come from existing fund balance and are not a result of an increase in taxes. Without additional discussions by the board about a willingness to increase the use of fund balance to offset operational items, removing this $430,000 assignment would only serve to increase our unassigned fund balance in the short term and not have an impact on the tax levy increase nor the residents’ tax rate.
Comment from Anne Hitnermeister from the Scarsdale Forum Fiscal Affairs Committee: "Regarding the claim that “removing this $430,000 assignment would only serve to increase our unassigned fund balance in the short term and not have an impact on the tax levy increase nor the residents’ tax rate,” the unassigned fund balance already exceeds the new 20% upper limit. Given that limit, removing the assignment of $430,000 should narrow the tentative budget gap by that amount, reducing the needed levy increase by around 1%."
Introducing Jeremy Gans, Candidate for Village Trustee
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 766
Resident, attorney, coach and member of the Zoning Board of Appeals Jeremy Gans has been selected by the SCNP to run for Scarsdale Village Trustee. The election will be held on Tuesday March 15 from 6 am to 9 pm at Scarsdale Public Library.
Here is what he shared:
Tell us about yourself – where did you grow up and go to school? We see you were a college athlete what sport did you play and how has that experience shaped who you are today?
I grew up in Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was five, and that’s been something I’ve lived with every minute of every day since then. I was extremely athletic as a child and, at that time in the early 1980s, most doctors didn’t really know how to handle a Type 1 diabetic who wanted to be a competitive athlete. As I entered high school, I set a goal for myself to play college tennis at a Division 1 school. I trained hard and my parents and I found the right doctor who knew how to treat diabetics who were competitive athletes. Achieving my goal, and playing for four years at Cornell was incredible. Playing a sport in college taught me the importance of time management. I had obligations as a student and an athlete and I had to make sure that I fulfilled both roles.
After college, I went to George Washington University Law School, where I received my JD.
Why did you initially choose to move to Scarsdale?
When we decided to move out of the city, we were looking to find a place with great schools and a strong sense of community. We looked in a lot of areas in Westchester County, but Lisa and I both felt strongly that Scarsdale would be a great place to raise a family.
What do you do professionally and how can your professional skills complement your service on the board?
When I moved to New York after law school, I practiced corporate law for seven years. That experience taught me how to identify issues and develop creative solutions to both existing problems and advise clients on how to avoid complications in the future. For the past decade, I’ve been with JDJ Capital Partners, a small investment firm. My responsibilities now extend far beyond providing legal advice. We make investment decisions based on our long-term view and try not to be swayed by daily swings in prices or other short-term moves. But we are disciplined about revisiting our initial decisions and adjusting our positions when the fundamentals have changed.
I think these skills will help me as Trustee. Many of the decisions that the Board makes are for the long-term benefit of the Village. The Board must pay attention to present operations and short-term economic issues, of course, but a large part of the Board’s role is to make decisions that benefit our residents for years.
What was one of your earliest volunteer activities in Scarsdale?
Like many people, my first experience volunteering in Scarsdale came through youth sports. I volunteered to coach little league and rec basketball when my oldest son was in kindergarten. Over the years, my volunteer roles have expanded beyond sports. I’m a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Scarsdale High School PTA Scholarship Fund and I was a member of the Executive Committee of the Scarsdale Forum (I took a leave of absence from that position as soon as I was nominated to run for Trustee).
We see you have served on the Zoning Board of Appeals since 2017. Tell us about some of the more challenging applications you have reviewed and also discuss any issues that you believe might require changes to the Village Code.
The most challenging applications are the ones when neighbors speak in opposition to an applicant’s proposal. When we are asked to consider a variance request, we are required by state law to weigh the benefit to the applicant against the health, safety, and welfare of the community at large. It’s vital to approach these applications with an open mind and that the Zoning Board listens to the applicant and concerned neighbors before voting. I have found that an open-minded approach has resulted in my vote being swayed by comments made by an applicant in some instances, or by comments from the public in other cases.
I think the Village must continue to balance the right of owners to develop their property with the desire of the community at large to prevent drastic changes to their neighborhood. It is worth examining the Code to see if there are any areas that need to be tightened in that regard. I also think that hiring a Code Enforcement Officer is a good step to making sure that developers and property owners are not violating Village Code when doing work on their land.
Board service is not always easy. Why are you willing to step up?
We have a great professional staff at Village Hall. Beyond that, though, Scarsdale’s operations are largely overseen by volunteers. Trustees, school board members, and the people who make up our boards, councils and committees are all volunteers. It is vital that people who care about Scarsdale and are informed on the issues step up to serve our community. I encourage anyone who cares deeply about the future of our Village to volunteer in an area of interest.
I had been asked to run for Trustee a few times in the past. I felt like this year was the right time to step up. I said yes this year because I believe that I am now able to devote the necessary time and energy to the job.
Looking forward, what do you think will be the main issues you address during your term?
The renovation of the Scarsdale Pool Complex will definitely be one of the main issues to address during my term. We are very early in the process, having received the Village consultant’s Existing Conditions Report in late February. The next steps will be broad public engagement, where we will learn what residents want the pool complex to be in the future.
Another big issue is bringing more life to the Village center. I would love to see the Village become more pedestrian and bike friendly, with a vibrant mix of shops and restaurants. Of course, we have to make sure that we have sufficient parking for shoppers and commuters on Metro North.
Given the Village’s aging infrastructure, rising expenses and the tax cap, what do you foresee for Scarsdale’s future?
I think that we all must decide what kind of future we want for Scarsdale. Our infrastructure is aging. Are we okay with a continuation of a patch and pray system for repairs, where we make short-term fixes and hope nothing catastrophic happens? Or are we willing to invest to improve our infrastructure for the long term? Doing the latter will cost more in the short term, but may lead to a greater benefit to Scarsdale in the long term.
Remember to vote at the Scarsdale Library on Olmsted Road on Tuesday March 15, 2022 from 6 am to 9 pm.
(Photo Credit: Mark Jessamy)