Community Bulletin Board
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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Community Bulletin Board:
See notes below from the library, the PTA Scholarship Fund and the Scouts
Participate in the Friends of the Scarsdale Library Read-a-Thon to benefit the library.
Scan the QR code below to get started.
Give to the SHS PTA Scholarship Fund for College
The Scarsdale High School PTA Scholarship Fund for College helps to defray freshman-year tuition costs for students in need of financial assistance by providing grants to graduating Scarsdale seniors for their freshman year of college.
Every Scarsdale household recently received an appeal to support the Scarsdale High School PTA Scholarship Fund for College. While our community is generally one of means, there are families here affected by hardship, such as illness, divorce, and business collapse, which can have devastating effects on a family’s ability to pay for college education. We expect student needs to be significant again this year.
The Fund is administered under strict rules of confidence, and all money raised directly benefits qualified students. Scholarship funding comes solely from donations by Scarsdale residents, businesses, PTC, PTA’s and other local organizations.
You can learn more about and donate to the SHS PTA Scholarship Fund for College by visiting https://www.scarsdaleschools.k12.ny.us/scholarshipfund. Donations, which are tax-deductible, may also be mailed to Scarsdale High School PTA Scholarship Fund for College, 1057 Post Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583. Please contact Beth Cukier at email@example.com with any questions. Thank you in advance for your support!
Scout Uniforms Needed
Do you have Scout uniforms or camping gear gathering dust? Troop 4 has recently experienced a growth spurt - we now have over 35 members, many of whom are new to Scouting. If you have uniforms or gear (sleeping bags, sleeping pads, backpacks, etc..) you want to donate, please contact Heather Kolb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CNC Invites Public to Organization Meeting Tuesday Night November 28
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 339
The Citizens Nominating Committee welcomes 12 newly elected members and invites the public to observe its first meeting Tuesday, November 28, 2023, at 8:00 PM. The meeting will be held in the Scott Room at the Scarsdale Public Library. Members of the public wishing to attend the public portion of the organization meeting are more than welcome to attend.
Come to the meeting to learn more about Scarsdale's non-partisan system for selecting candidates to run for Village office on the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party slate. We will also record the meeting for air on Scarsdale Public Television.
The CNC consists of 30 elected Scarsdale residents who represent their neighborhood election units (Edgewood, Fox Meadow, Greenacres, Heathcote and Quaker Ridge). New members are elected to the CNC each November to serve staggered three-year terms. The volunteer group will meet over 5-6 meetings from November through January to seek, interview, and evaluate potential candidates to run for Village office. This year the CNC will nominate individuals to run for three openings on the Scarsdale Village Board, and for Village Justice. Trustee Randall Whitestone will be finishing his second two-year term, and Trustees Jeremy Gans and Kenneth Mazer will each be completing their first two-year term. The General Village Election will be held on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.
Scarsdale's non-partisan system has been operating successfully for over 100 years, following a contentious election in 1909. The goal of the non-partisan system is to attract qualified citizens who would otherwise avoid campaigning but would be willing to run for office. The CNC's deliberations and due diligence on all potential nominees is kept confidential to further encourage well-qualified volunteers to apply for a spot on the non-partisan slate. Typically, there are four non-elected and non-voting administrative members of the CNC present to ensure adherence to the procedural requirements of the Non-Partisan Resolution. Potential candidates also have the option to run for office outside of the Non-Partisan System under provisions of New York State law.
Are you interested in running for the position of Trustee on the Village Board? Do you know someone who would serve the Village of Scarsdale well? Contact any elected member of the CNC, or inform the CNC Chair, Jared Stern at 914-874-3660 or email@example.com; or CNC Vice Chair, Mary Pat Jones at 724-822-5267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BAR Heeds Neighbors Pleas to Turn Down Development Plans on Autenreith Road
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1437
A campaign by neighbors to preserve a special street in Scarsdale Village was effective at swaying the Board of Architectural Review to deny development plans on Autenreith Road.
On Monday November 6, the BAR considered additions to two neighboring homes on the street. In both cases, applicants had filed plans to build 2 car garages in front of the homes, impinging on the sight line and uniformity of the street.
At the BAR’s October 2 meeting, the owners of 23 Autenreith Road had presented plans to build a garage in front of the house to preserve more of the backyard. The current garage is a freestanding one at the back of the property. After objections from neighbors, the BAR turned down the plan. Subsequently the owner submitted an application to the Committee for Historic Preservation to knock down the house if he was unable to build what he liked. But on Monday, he returned to the BAR meeting with plans to build the garage in line with the footprint of the home and that plan was approved.
Next door, at 21 Autenreith, an architect for a developer presented a similar plan. In this case there is an existing 2 car garage in the back of the property along with another 2-car garage underneath the house. The architect proposed to build a 2-car garage in front of the house instead, so that the space used by the driveway and existing garage in the rear could be repurposed.
His plans were met by an organized campaign by neighbors to reject them as they would have again destroyed the uniformity of the setbacks in the neighborhood, altered the façade of an historic 1910 brick Colonial, caused the removal of two trees and risked the roots of a 200 year-old oak tree who’s canopy is 72 inches in diameter.
Presenting his plans, architect Bill Witt said, “There’s a need for an attached 2-car garage as the current one is in the back. They also want a pool house so we are going to convert the existing garage to a pool house. The garage doors will be on the side so they will not be visible from the street. We will remove the gravel driveway as well as the underground garage.”
Neighbor Cynthia Roberts explained, “The existing house was built in 1910 with a freestanding garage in the back – big enough for two cars. There is another 2-car garage below. This home is the center of our neighborhood. There is a magnificent red oak in the front yard.”
Holding up her arms she said, “Look at the drip line for this tree. The root system will be disrupted by this garage. With the exception of the white oak tree, red oaks do more for our environment than any other tree. This plan will threaten it and cause an early demise of this tree. They take up hundreds of gallons of water. Where would you put the storm water retention basins? It’s a non-starter to build the garage in the front lawn. They also want to take down a magnolia and a weeping cherry. “
She added, “15 of the 18 homes on our street have free standing garages. Protect our trees. It is part of our neighborhood character.”
Eric Oja, from Oakwood Place said, “Scarsdale is a special place to live because of its aesthetics. I see orange tape around the magnolia tree, This is one of the largest and most beautiful magnolias in Scarsdale. Help us protect these trees with renovations that respect our trees. This would be an irreplaceable loss.”
Marcia Morton from Church Lane said, “I am appalled we are going to lose an oak tree. There is a lot of room in the back. The garage in the back could be moved. There is plenty of room for something in the back.”
Linda Eichen of 20 Autenreith Road said, “This is a beautiful house – why not just fix the drainage in the garage that is already there?”
Deborah Russel of 17 Autenreith Road said, we moved here in 1997 to a new house. The house was pushed back from the street. At the time the BAR did not allow homes close to the street.
Great care has been taken to see that the setbacks are maintained. The road is narrow. It would meaningfully alter our street. The tree is over 200 years old. Trees like these are to be valued.
The construction will have an adverse effect on the tree.”
Carolyn Mehta read a letter from neighbor Michelle Kaplan that said, “It’s a dancing tree that looks like it is about to take a twirl.”
Marty Blaustein of 20 Autenreith Road said, “Scarsdale is a tree city. It’s what attracts people here. I had to wait until a tree was dead, dead, dead before I took it down. I am concerned about the setback, the footprint and the escalation.”
Bill Roberts said he has lived on Autenreith Road for 24 years. He said, “Our street and neighborhood have some of the oldest homes in Scarsdale. In fact, during a prior discussion in 2007 of the house at 10 Autenreith Road, the BAR stated that our neighborhood is as close to an historic district as exists in Scarsdale. … Our house was built and lived in by George Harwood, a distinguished construction engineer who was one of the key designers of Grand Central Station. The Harwood Building is in the Village Center is named for him.”
About the former owner of 21 Autenreith Road he said, “Lucas Meyer was a history buff particularly about Scarsdale. The house as built in 1910 and there was substantial rancor between Republicans and Democrats. At the time, two prominent members of the community met at this very home and conceived of the Non-Partisan System.”
About the plans, he said, “The garage would extend well into the front yard, markedly altering the home’s appearance from the street and endangering a large, truly beautiful oak tree…. Beautiful, old things- like many of us- are worth preserving.
Madelaine Eppenstein of 18 Autenrieth Road said, “We are losing our tree canopy. Trees take care of runoff. Trees provide an enormous service to mitigate climate change. They must be preserved and protected.”
Anne Hintermeister said “These are very large, irreplaceable trees. Any project that would harm these trees should be rejected by the board.”
A realtor came to the podium and said, “I am speaking on behalf of realtors. Buyers today do not want a detached garage. Especially in this price point – or garages in the basement. The developer is not asking for the house to be taken down. The tree will remain. This sounds like a lot of bullying by neighbors. The house is going to be preserved.”
Marcia Morton defended the neighbors. She said, “Nobody is bullying. There is plenty of room in the side and the back. It’s not a problem and I am not a bully.”
Mr. Eichen said, “To put this plan up is a disrespect of the people who live there.”
Landscape architect Steve Lopez claimed, “The magnolia is seriously diseased and rotten. The cherry is 50 years old and is at or near its expected life. It could come down in a storm. The oak has a 15-foot radius. We will do our best to save it.” Roberts distributed color photos of the red oak and magnolia in full bloom.
BAR Chair Brad Cetron told the applicants that the plan was “visually discordant” and said, “The neighbors offer valuable feedback.” Turning to the board members he said, “I don’t think this will get approved.”
The application was held over.
2 Cooper Road
Later at the meeting, the BAR reviewed plans for a 9,400 square foot house at 2 Cooper Road with a 4-car garage and a pool at 2 Cooper Road. The house will sit on a subdivided lot on what was originally the front lawn of a historic mansion that remains. There are plans to build another house on the other side of the property.
The developer already clear cut many large trees from the property. The previous developer who appears to have sold or transferred the property, received a permit to cut down 32 trees.
The application comes at a time when the Village is experiencing considerable flooding and receiving pressure from the state to build affordable housing along the Metro North corridor.
Residents Sign Petition to Permit Hostage Flyers to be Posted in the Public Right of Way
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1892
(Updated November 15, 2023) The conflict in Israel has sparked a new controversy here in Scarsdale about the posting of flyers in the Village right of way.
In response to displays of posters featuring the Israeli hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas, the Village of Scarsdale issued a press release on November 6, 2023 barring these signs from public property.
The press release from the Village Manager’s office says:
Reminder: Signs in the Public Right-of-Way Prohibited
As a reminder, all signs, except for traffic control, government signs and a limited number of specially permitted signs are prohibited in the public right of way, which includes poles, posts or structures on or adjacent to sidewalks, streets, or roadways per Chapter 247 of Scarsdale Village Code.
In 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with the Southern District Court’s review of Scarsdale’s sign laws that included the warning, “[a]ny enforcement that considers the type of sign or the viewpoint expressed would violate the First Amendment.” Therefore, the Village of Scarsdale has no choice but to continue to remove all signs, regardless of content or viewpoint, placed within the public right of way.
If you have placed or authorized a non-exempt sign of any type to be placed in the public right- of-way, please relocate it to be wholly on your private property, where it must comply with any other applicable local laws. If you are unsure of where your property line is, as it may often be 13 feet or more from the curb, be sure to consult your land survey.
However some residents believe the code barring the signage should be changed. Joshua Mitts, a Sprague Road resident and a professor of law at Columbia Law School argues that “The crisis of antisemitic hate crimes against Jewish people is certainly a threat to public safety. Because the Board can even change the Code if necessary, tearing down these signs is ultimately a political decision—and a deeply misguided one at that.” He said, “I did not post the original signs that were torn down. But I am a law professor at Columbia and I found the Village's explanation -- which claimed that it was legally obligated to remove these signs -- to be unconvincing. I spoke with other lawyers who similarly thought it was unpersuasive."
He has circulated a petition asking for the Board to permit the signage and it has garnered over 400 signatures.
Here is what the petition says:
Dear Mayor and Trustees:
Instead of tearing down images of Israelis and Americans taken hostage by Hamas, the Board of Trustees should immediately authorize these signs until the hostages are released. Section 247-3(B) of the Village Code permits the Board of Trustees to authorize signs necessary for public safety and convenience. The crisis of antisemitic hate crimes against Jewish people is certainly a threat to public safety. Because the Board can even change the Code if necessary, tearing down these signs is ultimately a political decision—and a deeply misguided one at that.
This is not the first time the law has been challenged. In December 2021, there was a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In a case brought against the Village by Robert Berg the court ruled in favor of the Village. The original case involved the post of signs for public office in the public right of way. Read about it here:
Response from the Village Board
At the Village Board meeting on Tuesday November 14, 2023, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees announced a response to the petition, explaining why permitting the posting of these flyers is unconstitutional. The memo explains, "Our law does not permit this Board to make exceptions that would allow for signs on public property based on the content of the sign. The Supreme Court has been consistent and clear on this point: “Government regulation of expressive activity is content neutral so long as it is justified without reference to the content of the speech.”
Trustee Jeremy Gans read the statement which says that "any law that we adopt along those lines would have to allow for the display of all signs, regardless of content on public property."
Though the Board condemns the attack by Hamas and anti-Semitism, they contend that permitting the posters of the hostages while barring the posting of other messaging is against the law. See their statement here:
Over the weekend, the Village Board received an open letter asking the Village to create an exception to our sign law to authorize the display of signs with the pictures of hostages to be displayed on public property. The letter claims that because “the Village Code permits the Board of Trustees to authorize signs necessary for public safety and convenience,” we can allow these signs under the guise of public safety. The letter goes on to say that “tearing down these signs is ultimately a political decision—and a deeply misguided one at that.”
This letter is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law and makes accusations against this Board that deserve a response.
The Village of Scarsdale has a “content neutral” sign law. That means, we prohibit all signs on public property, with very limited exceptions, mostly related to traffic safety. The Supreme Court has recognized that municipalities like Scarsdale have a compelling government interest in traffic safety, and has said that allowing those signs, while prohibiting all others, is permissible under the First Amendment. But for good reason, our law does not permit this Board to make exceptions that would allow for signs on public property based on the content of the sign. The Supreme Court has been consistent and clear on this point: “Government regulation of expressive activity is content neutral so long as it is justified without reference to the content of the speech.” Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989).
The petition being circulated is directly asking this Board to authorize the display of certain signs specifically because of the content on those signs. That request is facially unconstitutional based on numerous Supreme Court decisions and the First Amendment.
When I was sworn in as a Trustee, I took an oath that required me to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States. The open letter that has been circulated to the community is asking the Trustees to knowingly violate the Constitution and therefore our oath of office. I simply cannot do that, despite my personal concern about the rising tide of anti-semitism in the country and my support of the underlying message of the posters, which is the return of the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7th.
The rise of anti-Semitism is serious. The attack by Hamas on October 7th was horrific and tragic. This open letter is, however, not serious. It asks the Board to make a mockery of our law and of the Constitution and implies that our refusal to do so is harming the Jewish community.
If the community wants to have a serious discussion about revising our existing law to allow signs on public property, that is a conversation that we can have as a Village. However, any law that we adopt along those lines would have to allow for the display of all signs, regardless of content on public property. That includes the obligation to allow advertising signs, political signs and signs that may run counter to the views of the overwhelming majority of our residents. To date, our residents have strongly opposed this type of law.
Over the past month, the Village has made numerous public statements supporting the Jewish people, condemning anti-Semitism and expressing our outrage over the attack by Hamas. Two days ago Village unveiled the moving installation in Chase Park, honoring the hostages that were taken by Hamas. No one should have any doubt about what this Village and this Board stand for and where our loyalties lie. But we have a fundamental obligation to uphold Village Code, the laws of the State of NY and the Constitution of the United States and the request contained in the letter asks us to violate that obligation. That is something we simply cannot do.
Responding to the Village Board, Joshua Mitts said, "The petition calls on the Village to speak up, not to censor. The Village is mischaracterizing our request as impermissible viewpoint discrimination rather than constitutionally permitted government speech. The First Amendment does not bar government officials from expressing a viewpoint. “The Free Speech Clause restricts government regulation of private speech; it does not regulate government speech.” Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum, 555 U.S. 460 (2009). Just like the art installation in Chase Park is constitutional, so also it is constitutional for the Village to display hostage signs in public areas. The Supreme Court has held that the Village may receive “assistance from private sources for the purpose of delivering a government-controlled message” and is entitled to be “selectively receptive” to private donations when expressing its views. For these reasons, the Village is constitutionally permitted to display hostage signs in public spaces that it controls, as an expression of its viewpoint concerning antisemitism and the threat to the Jewish people posed by the hostage crisis."
State Supreme Court Denies Milstein's Appeal to Tear Down Historic Midcentury Modern Home
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 2649
Here’s some more interesting news for those advocating for preservation in Scarsdale. Last week, the Committee for Historic Preservation denied an application to demolish a treasured home in “The Woods” section of Scarsdale, following an organized campaign from neighbors.
This week we learned that another home will be spared. In a ruling from the Westchester County Supreme Court, Judge Robert A. Neary upheld a decision by the Scarsdale Board of Trustees to deny an application to take down a mid-century modern home at 76 Birchall Drive. The homeowner, Howard Milstien planned to demolish the home, subdivide the property and build two new homes on the site.
After both the Committee for Historic Preservation and the Scarsdale Board of Trustees found that the home met the criteria for preservation, the owner, Howard Milstein of PIM Holding Company filed an Article 78 in State Supreme Court to appeal the ruling “on the grounds that the administrative decision was made in violation of lawful procedure; affected by an error of law; or arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.”
Milstein’s attorney, Troy D. Lipp of Cuddy and Feder contended that the Village's Historic Preservation Law “is unconstitutionally vague and overboard under the federal and state constitutions.” The Village of Scarsdale was represented by Nicholas M. Ward-Willis and Carina P. Zupa of Kean & Beane.
The decision says, “The Scarsdale Board of Trustees determined that the Petitioner- Plaintiff’s residence is "uniquely" historically significant in that it is a classic example of the mid-century modern movement and has retained its integrity despite the substantial record evidence confirming the significant changes and alterations to the residence and conclusions of the Village's own expert that the residence no longer possess integrity of its original design and, therefore, does not satisfy the Village's criteria for historic preservation.”
“The Board of Trustees additionally found that the residence is worthy of preservation because (architect) Zelnik was a master, and the residence is the work of a master, citing Zelnik's achievements and the letter in support of preservation from the President of the Bronx Chapter of AlA.”
Furthermore “The Board of Trustees engaged in the required balancing test and considered the relevant statutory factors, and their determination is supported by evidence in the record.”
The court said, “In the instant case, the Court finds that the BOT's determination to deny the appeal of the CHP's decision to deny a COA had a rational basis and was not illegal, arbitrary, and capricious or an abuse of discretion.”
“The Court finds that in the present case contrary to the Petitioner-Plaintiff s contention, the HPL (historic preservation law) is not unconstitutionally vague. The fact that different parties may disagree on the significance of certain statutory language does not indicate that the statute is unconstitutionally vague.”
“Therefore, based on the foregoing, the Petition is denied, and the matter is dismissed.”
The application was the subject of many meetings and neighbors amassed significant evidence to support a denial of the application. The architect’s grandson, Bryan Zelnik played a role in defending his grandfather’s legacy.
Bryan Zelnik, who is also an architect said, “I was happy to hear the news that the Supreme Court Judge decided to agree with the Trustees and the judge denied the petition and dismissed the case. This decision allows 76 Birchall Drive by Simon B. Zelnik FAIA to remain in Scarsdale's architectural history. The Dolkart report should be amended to include Simon B. Zelnik FAIA and his 76 Birchall Drive house as the first modern architect and the second Midcentury house in Scarsdale's modern history. The modern first house in Scarsdale was the 1948 Barricini House that Zelnik also designed and placed on the national stage where it belonged in the 1948 Architectural Forum article i uncovered in my research online.”
He continued, “I had several thoughts about the Supreme Court case decided by Justice Robert A. Avery. The judge acknowledged and cited my grandfather's achievements including his earned fellowships from the AIA in Design and Education along with importance of the 1948 Arch Forum Article I presented as documentary evidence to the CHP. The 1948 article the Judge highlights as one of Zelnik's achievements is "the feature of Simon Zelnik in the 1948 Architectural Forum issue that highlighted his forward thinking "modern luxury" architectural designs." It can be argued that Zelnik's Barricini house led to the future of modern residential luxury architecture and one of the first in the country.”
“I also wanted to note the recent article "Residents to Present Petition Calling for a Moratorium on Tear Downs and Subdivisions to Village Trustees" as a positive direction for the village. I hope that the preservation of 76 Birchall inspired this group to create a "mandate for change" and wish them luck in achieving their resolution. As an architect, I am a strong advocate for preserving the past if it satisfies the village code's criteria and documentary evidence is provided and not just consulting opinions against it.”
The issue was even covered in the Wall Street Journal in an article that sought to cast doubt on the status of Zelnik in the world of architecture. The piece, said, “You’d be forgiven for not knowing the name of Simon B. Zelnik, a respected-but-not-celebrity New York architect who died in 1980.” However, the article did not sway Judge Neary.
The ruling comes at a pivotal time for Scarsdale. After many homes have been torn down, properties subdivided and two oversized homes replacing one, some neighbors have had enough. A group has amassed over 300 signatures on a petition calling for a six-month moratorium on tear downs and subdivisions.
However, aggressive developers and homeowners continue to tear apart neighborhoods.
At the next meeting of the Committee for Historic Preservation on Tuesday November 14 at 7 pm, applications will be considered to tear down four more homes.
1) 46 Lincoln Road – Demo house built in 1954
2) 20 Carthage Lane – Demo house built in 1954
3) 23 Autenrieth Road – Demo house and detached garage built in 1911
4) 9 Ogden Rd – Demo house and detached garage built in 1952
Will the Scarsdale Board of Trustees act quickly enough to save these homes and bar the subdivisions which are often the next step?