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MoorjaniOn Tuesday March 10, Scarsdale Village officials hosted a special work session to update residents on their work to address COVID-19 and to provide commentary from an infectious disease expert – all in an effort to inform and reassure the community.

Well, you know what they say about “best-laid plans.” While the village’s plan was commendable, its invited speaker, Dr. Harish Moorjani, made a number of remarks that offended Scarsdale residents – in particular, members of the Chinese community – and undermined much of what he had to say.

The meeting started well, with Mayor Marc Samwick stating, “While the village relies on the state and county health departments for assistance with widespread health issues, we have also enacted measures to ensure that our first responders have the resources and training required to protect themselves and our community.” He then explained that village staff have implemented a variety of steps to ensure continued delivery of essential government services while maintaining public health and containing the spread of COVID-19.

As part of its efforts, the village has implemented “social distancing” procedures in its interactions among staff and with residents. Social distancing, essentially, is a coordinated effort to keep people away from each other by limiting close contact. For instance, at Tuesday’s meeting, all participants were seated considerable distances from each other. The village will work to record/live stream all future meetings to reach those who feel uncomfortable attending public sessions. (Recordings generally are available via the village website the following day.)

Who are you, man?
Samwick then introduced Dr. Moorjani, a Westchester-based infectious disease specialist, to discuss his take on the coronavirus, including its genesis, global spread, and future outlook. In beginning his presentation – reassuring to some and insulting to others – the doctor said, “The more infectious disease doctors who get involved in this rapidly evolving epidemiological situation… the better off the community is.” He continued, “It’s all evidence-based medicine…and how we can implement lessons learned into our communities… Knowledge is going to keep us functioning without any major hinderance.”

Moorjani, who recently spoke to residents in New Castle, stated that it was important to address fear and misinformation among members of the public. He also called out other doctors who have appeared in the media, sounding doomsday warnings about what lies ahead. Asking, ‘Who are you, man?” he claimed that some are “falling prey to panic because they have no knowledge” and urged people to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

Some takeaways from his presentation include:

• Coronaviruses are common among animals; COVID-19, like the coronaviruses SARS and MERS, has spread to humans.

• The virus attacks the respiratory system by attaching to receptors in the throat and lungs. It is spread person-to-person, between people who are in close contact (about six feet), through coughing and sneezing.

• People with underlying diseases – cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, and compromised immune systems – are at risk. Smoking or vaping can also increase your risk of  contracting the virus.

• Approximately 81% of reported cases are mild; 14% are severe and require some medical assistance; and 5% are critical, marked by respiratory failure/septic shock/organ failure.

• Moorjani believes that flying is very safe as airplanes re-circulate and filter air, preventing the spread of the virus between passengers. He had advice about avoiding infection while going through security and boarding the plane, but believes, in general, that it is safe to fly.

• Total fatality rate is about 2.3% and dropping; by comparison, MERS had a 34% mortality rate and SARS had a 9.7% mortality rate.

• One treatment - Remdesivir - is in clinical trials, with results due in three months. Compassionate use of the drug is now available for those with severe disease.

Unintended uproar
However, some residents who were present and/or saw Moorjani's presentation also asked, “Who are YOU, man?” and took exception to the doctor’s commentary that was critical of the Chinese government and culture. Specifically, he referred to the disease as the "Wuhan virus,” blamed conditions in Chinese meat markets for fostering the evolution of COVID-19 and other outbreaks, and asserted that the Chinese government has refused to share medical information/research with other countries, and routinely steals research from U.S. companies working on treatments.

Some felt that his comments fed into existing suspicions and stereotypes faced by the Chinese community, rather than promoting unity in the face of the current crisis. Others accused him of spreading his own brand of misinformation and bad advice. Unfortunately, rather than focusing on potentially useful data in Moorjani’s talk, much of the following discussion focused on his insensitive comments, discrimination in Scarsdale, and what would be done to disavow his statements.

Of course, no one expected the Medical Director of the Infectious Disease Clinic at Westchester Medical Center to delve into stereotypes, prejudice, and political incorrectness. Samwick immediately disavowed Moorjani’s comments at the regular BOT meeting a bit later in the evening. He said, “I, personally, spoke with the doctor on more than one occasion, was very clear… for everything to be scientific, fact-based, and consistent with the CDC, and the state and county departments of health.” He went on, “What we witnessed this evening was outside of those bounds and I apologize from the bottom of my heart. It was not acceptable; it is not who this community is. We are better than that; we are inclusive; we are welcoming, and we are very happy that you are part of this community.”

Samwick’s comments clearly were heartfelt, appreciated by residents, and shared by his fellow trustees. The question is whether people will glean useful information from Moorjani’s talk or discard it altogether.

Getting back on track
On the flip side, Scarsdale residents can be assured that the village is doing everything it can to protect the public and staff from the spread of COVID-19. The Village Manager, Police and Fire chiefs, village department heads, and the head of Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps detailed their efforts to address and contain the virus, while maintaining a consistent, high level of service to the community.

Village Manager Steve Pappalardo said, “The coronavirus has been a 24/7 operation for the village (and) the emergency management team and public works have been working around the clock. The situation evolves on a daily basis, it changes frequently, and we need to be on top of that and pivot as necessary while we’re trying to get other things done.” He continued, "There are lots of government, health, and other agencies and elected officials involved in this."

Village staff are continually meeting to assess preventative measures at village hall and other facilities, while keeping Scarsdale online. Staff are cleaning and sanitizing high contact areas, and have made contingency plans should village hall close. Specifically, village officials have set up remote access systems, made provisions for payroll and bill payments, and will curtail justice court and other activities as needed/practical.

In addition to enacting similar sanitation precautions and contingency plans, the police and fire departments are operating at 100% and have emergency response procedures in place to ensure continuity of operations. The Police Department also has reached out to older residents who may be vulnerable to coronavirus and is in communication with The Ambassador assisted living facility on Saxon Woods Road. Should one or members of the department fall ill, causing a reduction in staffing, the village would rely on its mutual aid agreements with neighboring areas that would ensure no disruption in safety and security.

Of particular importance is the preparedness of the public works department, responsible for the village’s sanitation and water operations. Officials assured residents that staff actively are working to prevent the spread of the virus with increased cleaning and sanitizing of public areas in downtown Scarsdale, including the parking garage; are cleaning sanitation trucks and carts more frequently; and practicing social distancing. Residents also have no need to worry about the water supply – the village’s water comes from the Kensico Reservoir and is treated with ultraviolet light to kill all viruses. In addition, the village has additional pump station workers on standby should any staff members become sick or quarantined.

Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps also is well prepared with supplies, sanitation equipment, and up-to-date training on how to deal with patients who may be infected. Noting that the corps is staffed with both career, paid paramedics and volunteers, David Raizen, SVAC president, said, “We are well staffed, in good shape, and have everything we need at this time.”

What about the election?
In light of the new social distancing policy, village officials are concerned about next Wednesday’s village election, during which many residents will be expected to come to small space to cast votes. Distribution of absentee ballots appears to be a viable solution but, by law, the ballots cannot be used by healthy voters who are in the village on election day. So, staff are asking for advice from the state board of elections and the county health department on how best to proceed while keeping residents safe.

Should the election proceed as planned, village staff will continually sanitize the area during the 15 hours that the polls will be open.

For more information, Scarsdale residents are urged to continually check scarsdale.com for important updates.

arborday1Cynthia Roberts, Deb Pekarek, Jon Leslie and Madelaine Eppenstein in 2017Attorney, conservationist, gardener and VP of the Scarsdale Forum Madelaine Eppenstein has taken on so many important volunteer jobs that it’s difficult to know what to crow about first. You can see the result of some of her efforts when you drive around Scarsdale and feel the impact of her words in changes to the way we are governed.

Here are a just two of her most impressive efforts:

As a member of the Friends of Scarsdale Parks she worked on a grant to secure funding from the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation that ultimately resulted in the planting of 1,000 native trees and shrubs in Scarsdale, all funded by the DEC.

Another big one: As the Chair of the Procedure Committee for the Citizens’ Nominating Committee, she worked with the group to amend the Non-Partisan Resolution for the forty-second time since 1930. It resulted in a series of far reaching amendments governing the leadership of the CNC, how candidates are vetted and election procedures. All were passed by voters in November 2018.

But these are just two of Eppenstein’s many accomplishments in her tenure as a Scarsdale volunteer.

As a part of our series highlighting outstanding community volunteers, we invite you to meet your neighbor, Madelaine Eppenstein:

How long have you lived in Scarsdale and what brought you here originally? advocatesponsorship
Nearly 27 years in Scarsdale has been the longest time my extended family and I have settled into the rhythm of any one place. We’ve gone far, just not geographically. I was born in the Bronx, grew up in a Nassau County suburb adjacent to Queens, and attended local public schools throughout. We came to Westchester in 1985 with our two children when rents suddenly exploded in Brooklyn Heights. We then moved from Edgemont to the village in the summer of 1993 when our son was ready for Scarsdale Middle School and his live-in grandmother could no longer manage stairs. To add to the drama of yet another move, our Scarsdale adventure began just in time for walking our new puppy outdoors on ice during more than a dozen Nor’easters that first winter.

What motivated you to get involved?
For me the question is always why not become involved, a lifelong pattern that has led me in interesting directions. In high school it was not one but two musical instruments and a senior yearbook editorship. In law school it was an international moot court competition that won me and two of my peers national and international awards and free tuition – and a journal editorship. Later on, taking over another firm’s intermediate appeal unexpectedly led to representing our new clients in a landmark U.S. Supreme court case. In a village of so many volunteers who often extend invitations to join them, it is profoundly difficult not to get immersed in Scarsdale’s culture of civic engagement. The opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the community is also hard to resist and provided my entry point to serve actively on nonprofit boards and committees like the historic Scarsdale Forum and Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, the nonpartisan village election system’s Citizens Nominating Committee and Procedure Committee, and other organizations.

What do you do in your professional life?
I’m a newly retired lawyer, fortunate to have been able to enjoy a dual family and professional trajectory after a brief stint after law school at a mega law firm. I met my husband Ted as an undergraduate and we went on from there, taking turns putting each other through law school and eventually working together for almost 40 years in our own boutique law firm. We focused on commercial and consumer litigation, and arbitration for public investors, handling matters for clients in state and federal courts and in one instance that memorable U.S. Supreme Court appearance. We were invited to testify several times before U.S. Congressional committees on issues related to that case. Our two children took part in conversation about the law around our kitchen table, had the opportunity to see us in action in a couple of seminal cases, and worked with us from time to time as legal assistants before finding their own paths.

How did you first become interested in conservation and protecting trees?20161029 Harwood Park TFT Wetland Restoration Project Fall 2016
I was born in the Bronx near Crotona Park not far from the Botanical Garden, as the proverbial crow flies. By the time my twin sister and I could walk we had moved to the suburbs. We had a beautiful apple tree in the backyard that our nature loving younger brother used to climb, a crabapple in the front yard – my grandmother made preserves with the fruit – and a heritage linden on the sidewalk that appears to be the same tree visible decades later on Google Earth. Us kids were the gardeners who did the yard work and planted vegetables from seed. My family and neighborhood friends spent a few winter-break vacations on a farm in Ulster County, hiking and skating on bumpy frozen ponds. The beautiful oaks and elms in that pastoral Hudson Valley setting inspired me to make drawings of trees as a teenager. Then there were the elective environmental courses in law school that I wanted to attend if only they hadn’t been offered in the evenings when I was preoccupied with a pre-teen at home and a husband working long hours in Manhattan. I’ve made up for lost time in local environmental pursuits now. It all makes sense in retrospect.

As a volunteer here in Scarsdale, tell us about your work on parks, conservation and trees.
My small blooming garden in May and June was included a couple of times in garden-walk events. I participated occasionally with neighbors and the village on greening the traffic island on our street, before it became a matter of urgency to address the decline in pollinators caused by the pervasive use of toxic pesticides, which landscapers apply liberally on residential property throughout the village. The evolution of my environmental interests accelerated once we moved our office operation to Scarsdale in 2009, and when I was invited to become active in the work of Friends of the Scarsdale Parks in 2010. Volunteering with FOSP, Scarsdale’s environmental nonprofit active since 1957, was the logical way to begin working on park conservation and related projects with the village and its parks and public works superintendents and staff.

The blizzard of 2014 literally inaugurated a “watershed” volunteer moment. For the first time I became aware of the use of the Harwood Park wetland between the High School campus and the Library as a snow stockpile. The plowed snow from the village center was routinely piled high in the parkland along the South Fox Meadow Brook banks and against the trees along Brewster Road. Much of it hadn’t melted by March 2015.

Harwood Snow Stockpile along Brook Winter 2015 3 9 IMAG1727Harwood Snow Stockpile along Brook Winter 2015 Nearly thirty years earlier in 1987, FOSP’s board had proposed focusing on “Harwood Park along Brewster Road behind the high school where snow and street sweepings have been dumped by the Village: A number of trees have been killed, the stream running from the pond behind the High School and next to Dean Field has become clogged and the area has become a general eyesore. It was the belief of the Friends that we should join with other groups in objecting to the ‘dumping and environmental and visual degradation’ of the area.” The board’s minutes noted that several prominent members of the community at that time were involved in addressing the issue.

Fast forward to 2014, around the same time that Deborah Pekarek, former village trustee, alerted FOSP to the existence of a New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation grant program. I worked with the rest of the FOSP board to obtain that DEC grant on behalf of the village. Since 2015, over 1,000 native trees and shrubs obtained at no cost from the DEC’s Saratoga Nursery have been planted at Harwood Park by hundreds of community volunteers. FOSP initially supported this ongoing restoration program at Harwood Park by submitting to the village a 15-page annotated report with 17 exhibits, including some of these images. Scarsdale’s Community Planting Day event in late April or early May has become an annual collaboration of FOSP with the Parks, Recreation and Conservation department. The snow is now stockpiled in a more appropriate location.Community Planting Day 2015Friends of the Scarsdale Parks first Community Planting Day at Harwood Park, May 7, 2015 with DEC regional coordinator and volunteers, in a collaboration with Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department.

In spring 2019, FOSP brought the Cornell University, Urban Horticulture Institute’s oak tree hybridization research trial to the attention of the village. Of the hundreds of hybrid white oak trees transported in April from upstate growing fields to municipalities statewide, five were randomly selected for delivery to Scarsdale. The trees, FOSP’s gift to the Village, were hybridized with a variety of different oak genotypes native to North America, Europe, Asia, and Mexico. They were planted by Scarsdale’s skilled DPW staff in April 2019 at 10-acre George Field Park in the Greenacres neighborhood.

These are just some of FOSP’s environmental initiatives that I’ve participated in with my esteemed colleagues on the FOSP board, past and present:

• Advocated for best management practices for village parks, recreation fields and open green spaces, including a no-pesticide policy.2019 04 27 Community Planting Day WNC NaturalistStudents2019 fifth annual Community Planting Day, student volunteers and Sam Weinstock, PT Director and Village Naturalist/Educator at Scarsdale’s Weinberg Nature Center.
• Advised the village about the environmental and climate benefits of native plants and trees and certain non-native species, strategies to save our tree canopy while addressing public safety, and best methods to mitigate invasive plants.
• Invite SHS student liaisons to work with FOSP, to learn about our nonprofit-municipal partnership, and to encourage the next generation to appreciate the outdoors and environmental protection.
• Recommended a long-range improvement and maintenance plan for the Library Pond and gardens.
• Submitted proposals to the Village to ensure creation of a greener, more sustainable, and more walkable bikeable Village.
• Funded “Little Free Library” book sharing kiosks to enhance Chase, Hyatt Field and other parks.
• Trained and coordinated volunteers to plant thousands of native trees and shrubs to restore Harwood Park between the Scarsdale Library and High School, enriching the ecology of the South Fox Meadow Brook, a Bronx River tributary, and mitigating local flooding.
• Secured a NYSDEC conservation grant 6 consecutive years for free native trees and shrubs for the Community Planting Day collaboration with the village and purchased additional plants for restoration planting at Harwood and other parks.
• Sustained the blooming pollinator garden FOSP designed, built and planted with the help of the village at Hyatt Field Park to educate youth at the playgrounds and playing fields.
• Supported the revitalization of Chase park and the Boniface Circle pocket park in the village center.ForumElection4Scarsdale Forum President Tim Foley with VP Madelaine Eppenstein in May, 2019

We know you have taken on many additional volunteer responsibilities. Tell us about your other activities.
Traffic calming has been a personal concern ever since a young child was the victim of a fatal traffic incident on the street where I grew up. After the conclusion of one of our law firm’s major litigations, it seemed there would be time to work on a set of recommendations to the village about traffic calming and safety. The finished product was a report of the Scarsdale Forum’s Municipal Services Committee, which I chair. I am currently Vice President of the Forum and co-chair of its Climate Resilience committee, serving with co-chair and Forum president Tim Foley and co-chair Darlene LeFrancois-Haber, who is also chair of the Forum Sustainability committee. I also work with so many other sensational Scarsdale Forum committee chairs and members who are committed to civic engagement. They are all friends with whom I’m so fortunate to collaborate on these and many other issues of concern to the community.

It wasn’t until I began serving my first 3-year term on the Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC) that I became familiar with the principles and procedures of the nonpartisan village election system in its governing Resolution. The CNC’s thirty members, elected as representatives of their neighborhoods, nominate candidates annually for open village offices through an established and thoughtful deliberative process. When I graduated from the CNC to become a member of the Procedure Committee, the administrative arm of the system, I took that opportunity to work with a wonderful group of volunteers to amend the Resolution for the forty-second time since 1930. I also helped create the first operations manual for the Procedure Committee, whose primary responsibilities are to recruit community volunteers from each of the five elementary school neighborhoods who wish to seek a seat on the CNC, and to run the CNC neighborhood elections of a new class of ten CNC volunteers each November.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your volunteering work?
There isn’t any one project that that I would rank above others. All involved collaborative work with our community of volunteers and often the village staff. Thinking about this question, it occurred to me that each of the projects I’m proud of was motivated by longstanding personal interests, required a written set of recommendations to be effective, and involved a desire to not only identify but also help solve a problem and change current practices for the better. The top ten list would have to include, among others, ongoing restoration and reforestation of the Harwood Park wetland and other village parks; public ratification of amendments to the nonpartisan village election system’s administrative procedures; drafting that system’s administrative operations manual; introducing the village to the Cornell hybrid oak program; and advocating through committees of the Scarsdale Forum for: village participation in the NYS Climate Smart Communities program and many other environmental initiatives, traffic safety improvements, discontinuation of non-organic pesticide use in the village, revitalization of the village center, and last but not least, establishment of a dog park in the village. None of this would be possible without collaboration with other volunteers.

Do you ever find it frustrating? If so, why?
That word doesn’t compute. The camaraderie and sense of accomplishment from volunteering with friends and colleagues leaves little time or inclination to allow occasional blips to interfere with team goals and meaningful personal relationships.


How have you used your professional skills in your volunteer work?
My training and professional life in the law informs just about everything I do. It has become instinctive to apply those skills and knowledge to the many goal oriented, issue advocacy projects that interest me.

Why do you like living in Scarsdale?
With the commute to our office in mind we chose Scarsdale for the reputation for excellence in its public schools and its proximity to New York City. Happiness is a function of the joyfulness in living purposefully, not necessarily a function of the place itself. Becoming more engaged in various aspects of civic life in Scarsdale has made it a meaningful place, where it seems possible to make a difference on the issues that are important to me and other residents. That reality adds enormously to the fun of living here.

What would you say to a newcomer about volunteering?
I don’t recall a conversation with new residents that didn’t include a rundown of some of my affiliations and the volunteer opportunities Scarsdale has to offer to newcomers. I’d tell them that, besides religious and school communities, there are seventeen neighborhood associations, nonprofits, village advisory boards and councils, nonpartisan system nominating committees, the Board of Education, PT Council, and village elected offices that are available to most residents – and that’s just a partial list. I agree with my colleagues on several of these groups who have suggested on this website that newcomers should follow their passions and dreams and get involved. Like me, they are sure to find many new friends and a sense of purpose and accomplishment in their civic engagement.

My thanks go to Joanne Wallenstein, founder and editor of Scarsdale10583, for creating this feature and inviting Scarsdale residents to share publicly their personal volunteering stories. Because my experience is far from unique, the collective narrative in these entries will hopefully encourage others to take the leap and participate in Scarsdale’s welcoming circle of community volunteers. Working together as a team on the issues that are important to our community is the gift that keeps giving in volunteerism. It’s the reason I’m grateful to all my wonderful Scarsdale friends and colleagues who I’ve had the privilege to join on this journey. I just hope I’m forgiven for not acknowledging each of my friends and fellow Scarsdale volunteers by name.

Club2Jeff Deskovic addresses the Innocence ClubA visit to the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery Alabama spurred SHS student Scott Goldban to do more than feel badly about the many who are wrongfully convicted and spend years behind bars. The experience spurred Goldban’s interest in criminal justice reform and the creation of The Innocence Club at Scarsdale High School in 2018.

The mission of the club is to educate other students by bringing speakers to the school. The group invites both exonerees and legal experts and has hosted sessions with Glen Garber, founder of The Exoneration Initiative and a Skype session with Professor Sarah Sommervold who discussed her work with the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. The club recently completed a book drive, collecting approximately 6,000 books for the Voice 4 The Unheard, an organization that distributes used books to prisons to help promote literacy. Most of these books are going to Rikers Island. The club has now grown to 100 members and includes Levi Ring (VP), Carrie Ortner (Communications), Ben Hoexter (Secretary) and Ryan Silberfein (Treasurer). Faculty advisors are Andrew Morgan and Beth Colleary.

On February 5, 2020 The Innocence Club hosted Jeffrey Deskovic, a man who was falsely convicted for rape and murder and spent 17 years in prison, to speak about his experience and how he turned his life around after exoneration. In addition, Mimi Rocah, candidate for Westchester County DA, spoke about the integrity in the criminal justice system.

Deskovic shared the story of his wrongful conviction. When he was 16 years-old, he was targeted by police in Peekskill for the rape and murder of a 15 year-old classmate. Deskovic explained that because he was shy and didn’t fit in with his classmates, he fit a psychological profile that led police detectives to target him. He said that he was naive and wanted to be a police officer when he grew up, so that when they police told him that they wanted him to help them in their investigation and lead them to the killer, he obliged. He skipped school one day to assist them and described how they drove him to an undisclosed location approximately 40 minutes away and hooked him up to a polygraph machine and proceeded to forcibly interrogate him for six hours.

No one knew where he was or how to find him. His mother was not informed of his whereabouts and he feared for his life. He was not provided with a lawyer. When police told him that he would never be found unless he confessed to the crime, he did. He was thinking only about how to get himself home safely -- not the long-term consequences of a confession.

Using this confession, the district attorney was able to get a conviction even though the DNA evidence collected from semen found in the body of the victim did not match Deskovic’s DNA. The medical examiner falsely testified that the mismatch in DNA was explained by the victim’s prior sexual contact even though they had no evidence of a prior contact. Deskovic spent 17 years in prison trying secure a reversal on appeal or a new trial. It was only after the real killer killed someone else and his DNA was recorded in a database and found to match that obtained in the Deskovic case, that Deskovic was able to be freed.

InnocenceClubThe Innocence Club
Deskovic is thankful to the lawyers at the Innocence Project who took his case. Deskovic noted that his is not an isolated case. While he was in jail, he personally knew 17 other inmates who were eventually exonerated. Deskovic had a horrific experience in a maximum security adult prison, was attacked, and had to battle depression and thoughts of suicide. While in prison, Deskovic got his GED, and after his exoneration, he was given a scholarship to attend Mercy College, and then put himself through law school at Pace, where Mimi Rocah was one of his law professors. He now has his own Foundation (Deskovic Foundation) which works to help exonerate others. Deskovic offered thoughts on criminal justice reforms that could help decrease wrongful convictions including his advocacy of mandatory continuous video camera recordings during interrogations to deter police misconduct, and an oversight body to review prosecutor conduct.

Mimi Rocah, current Democratic candidate for Westchester County DA, agreed that certain reforms should be made in the criminal justice system. As a former prosecutor, she recognizes that there are cases where there are bad actors on the prosecution’s side. She said, believes here is no bad intent but professionals get “tunnel vision” where they are so focused on a suspect that they fail to recognize red flags that could suggest innocence. Rocah favors an open door policy for defense attorneys to discuss their evidence with prosecutors and noted that prosecutors should pay attention when defense attorneys say that their client is innocent. If elected DA, Rocah plans to create an Independent Conviction Integrity Unit to review cases where convicted inmates allege their innocence. This is especially crucial in cases that involve a bad actor identified in a case where a defendant was falsely convicted.


Over the Presidents’ Day break, the Scarsdale Speech and Debate team traveled to the 46th Annual Harvard National Forensics Tournament, the largest invitational competition in the country.

Scarsdale had not had a competitor advance to the final round of any category since 2016, but this year Scarsdale had two entries (three team members) advance to finals! Seniors Annie Radin and Rachel Meiselman finished in second place out of 157 competing entries in Duo Interpretation, a dramatic category in which two people perform a ten minute excerpt of a movie, play, or written work. Radin and Meiselman selected the piece “Dance Nation”, a serio-comedic play by Clare Barron that explores the lives of young girls on a competitive dance team.

Fellow senior Jack Silvers won in Extemporaneous Speaking, or “extemp,” a limited-preparation category in which competitors speak on a prompt they receive 30 minutes in advance. Silvers beat out 267 competitors from high schools across the country to win the championship, speaking on issues as varied as cryptocurrency to Chinese investment in South Sudan en route to the title.

In addition to the three finalists, other Scarsdale students also made deep runs at the tournament, with senior Abhinav Vittal reaching the semifinal round in extemp, junior Genie Enders reaching the quarterfinal round in extemp, sophomore Rowan Haffner reaching the octafinal round in extemp, and senior Craig Caroll making the octafinal round in Oral Interpretation, another dramatic category.

All of the students would have been unable to achieve their impressive accomplishments without the help of coach Joe Vaughan, who accompanied the team to the tournament and is in his 21st year as team coach and 18th as head coach. The three seniors are all four-year team veterans, and will surely be missed next year.

HoneyBowlScarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl: Janice Starr, Randy Guggenheimer, Frank Lichtenberg.The 2020 Spelling Bee at SHS on Friday night January 31 was a challenge for the 57 contestants on stage as well as all of us in the audience, striving to spell some puzzling words. The event attracted 19 teams, with clever names like the BEEtles, Killer Bees, We Spell Trouble, Don’t Stop Bee-lievin, Ladies of the Loft (from the library) and a group of library trustees, called the TrustBees. Also on stage were two teams of realtors, four teams of high schools students and previous winners who not surprisingly won again!

The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Scarsdale Library, to raise funds for the large-scale renovation of the library now underway. Introducing the fun were Library Friends President Dara Gruenberg and Scarsdale Library Director Beth Bermel.

Ed Coleman, a community member and Voice of the Mets, returned as MC, and clearly articulated some very obscure words. Expert judges included Library Director Beth Bermel, NYS Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick.

The opening rounds included a few giveaways like NECESSARY and SCISSORS, but it wasn’t long before teams were dropping like flies – after tripping up on LIAISON, BOURGEOIS and INOCULATE (In fact, it doesn’t have two “N’s”)

Another stumper, DUMBBELL, was misspelled by all four teams in one of the swarms. And in that case, with no one spelling it correctly, all four teams remained.

In the first swarm, Killer Bees Jenn Love, Sharon Hoffman and Chris Riback successfully spelled ONOMATOPOEIA, and won their swarm.

We Spell Gud with Judy McEvoy, Kevin McEvoy and Simon Landless emerged the winner of the second swarm after correctly spelling EMBARRASS, NONPAREIL and MERETRICIOUS.

Swarm C proceeded quickly, when DACQUIRI proved easier to drink than to spell. The second H in the word DACHSHUND tripped up another team and a third team was eliminated when they spelled CAMARADERIE – with an O rather than an A as the second letter.

That left Bee Bee Kings and Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl to spar for the swarm. They successfully spelling DILETTANTE and wespellgudWe Spell Gud: Judy and Kevin McEvoy, Simon LandlessFLUORESCENT, before the Bee Bee Kings lost their ARRYTHMIA, and the Foundation Honey Bees, including Randy Guggenheimer, Janice Starr and Frank Lichtenberg dominated their swarm.

The last swarm consisted of four high school teams, who all successfully spelled PALINDROME and JEWELRY before all the teams misspelled CAPPUCCINO. The round ended in an instant, when three teams misspelled CALIOPE leaving the Bee Gees to go to the final round.

After intermission and refreshments, the competition heated up, with the four winning teams from Swarms A through D competing in the championship round. In this round, teams took turns spelling, and the teens survived the spelling of ADOLESCENT. Randy Guggenheimer spelled BIVOUAC, “We Spell Gud” outlived the GUILLOTINE (who knew it had two L’s?) and the teams traded words until the teens missed CURMUDGEON.

The contest continued with DOPPELGANGER and CREPUSCULAR. Sharon Hoffman of the Killer Bees spelled MAELSTROM, QUESTIONNAIRE and CARDAMOM and appeared to be the queen of the hive but was ultimately knocked out by QUOTIDIAN – using an E for the A – a mistake anyway could make.

That left We Spell Gud and the Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl to duke it out.

The words got tougher by the minute – from ANODYNE and BADINAGE to REVEILLE and DIPHTHONG. This round featured words from all over the world, laced with extra vowels. Simon Landless and Randy Guggenheimer, backed by their teams, wowed the crowd spelling FRANKINCENSE and DAGUERREOTYPE.

When Guggenheimer missed BOUILLIABAISSE, it looked like “We Spell Gud” would take home first prize. But lo and behold they were given a middle English word dating back to Shakespeare, “GUERDON,” and got that wrong, so the contest went on. The suspense continued as both HASANPFEFFER (German Stew) and FAIENCE (French China) were also misspelled. Finally the Foundation Honey Bowl spelled PHAETON, We Spell Gud missed URCEOLATE and the night ended with a victory for Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl team members Randy Guggenheimer, Janice Starr and Frank Lichtenberg. 

Janice Staff said, "It was a pleasure to participate in one of my favorite activities, the Scarsdale Spelling Bee, and to contribute to the success of the fundraiser benefiting the Scarsdale Library. Whether I win or lose, it is so much fun to compete (and I have experienced both winning and losing!), but it was a delight to be a part of the winning team along with Randy Guggenheimer and Frank Lichtenberg, both amazing spellers! I cherish these community moments and encourage others to give the spelling bee a try."

Commenting on the event, Simon Landless from "We Spell Gud," said, "This was the second time we came second at the Bee! We all had a great time. I guess I’m pretty good with spelling obscure words because I took Latin at high school. Also, this was truly a team effort. Both Judy and Kevin McEvoy are terrific spellers in their own right. Judy excels with all food-related words. And Kevin was our tie-breaker when we couldn’t agree."

KillerBeesKiller Bees: Jenn Love, Sharon Hoffman, Chris RibackIt was an impressive performance by everyone who had the courage to take to the stage.

Dara Gruenberg, President of the Friends of the Scarsdale Library commented on the event, “The Friends of the Scarsdale Library was thrilled to see such an enthusiastic turnout for the Bee! It was truly a special community event, and Scarsdale was clearly excited to come out to watch the competition and support the library. With 300 people in attendance, both adults and kids, and $40,000 raised, we could not have asked for a better outcome. Thank you to all who participated, donated, sponsored the event, and attended! Congratulations to the Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl team on their victory!”

(Author’s note: Following the Bee we relieved our SCIATICA from the auditorium seats and ARRYTHMIA due to the excitement, by enjoying BOUILLIABAISSE and HASANPFEFFER on our grandmother’s FAIENCE.)
BeeGeesBee Gees: Eve Mainster, Craig Carroll and Gabe LesserBeeJudgesBee Judges: Marc Samwick, Beth Bermel and Amy Paulin

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