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GruenbergDara GruenbergThis letter was sent to us from Dara Gruenberg, Campaign Co-Chair for the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party:

During these daunting times, some may overlook the excellent management of our Village. It is easy to take for granted that while in lockdown all Village services continued seamlessly: garbage was collected; water infrastructure maintained; first responders arrived quickly when called. The only service change impacted was food-scrap pick up which has already resumed. It’s a tribute to our Village management that this was all accomplished operating with a governor-mandated significantly reduced staff. The Mayor and Village Board consistently updated the community with important information and with inspiring messages of togetherness. The Village Board and staff worked tirelessly to care for us, Scarsdale’s residents.

In April, the Board passed the Village budget (19% of total property taxes) under precarious circumstances. They considered significant revenue shortfalls and devised effective solutions to ensure preparedness. With rigorous deliberation, they preserved our short-term fiscal health while maintaining important services. Due to years of careful fiscal management, the Village remains financially strong with continued Board oversight. They also worked with state and county representatives to find tax relief and, with community input, devised a split-payment option and delayed penalties.

In June, when parking permits are normally sold, the Village decided to delay renewals until September recognizing the hardship presently faced by residents and that many were not parking downtown.

As our country grapples with a crisis of conscience and systemic racial injustice, the Village was there to ensure a peaceful vigil in Chase Park. The Board then moved expeditiously to create an ad hoc council to Combat Racism and Bias finding new volunteers and new voices to help Scarsdale confront its own shortcomings and to create a more inclusive and anti-racist community.

When Westchester moved into Phase 3, the Village Board, staff and SBA collaborated to erect a dining tent and modified zoning laws so merchants could sell on the sidewalks to bring life to our Village Center.

The Village opened the pool safely as a place of respite for all. They also onboarded and hired an Assessor and a Village Planner.

Confronted with the most recent storm, the Village provided constant communication to residents and is strenuously advocating on our behalf to rectify ConEdison’s and the cable companies’ gross negligence.

These are scary times. The upcoming contested Village election provides a stark choice. It requires little effort to criticize; actual governing is hard work. The opposition claims we need change, ignoring all proven competence, saying this Board and Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party slate is “the Establishment.” If that means our government is led by smart, collaborative volunteers who ensure that the Village is well-run and responsive, a group that represents the shared vision of our community, then Scarsdale is fortunate to have an established record of excellent governance.

Support the SCNPP candidates, each vetted and nominated by a dynamic group of your neighbors, on September 15th (or before by absentee ballot). We need strong and effective volunteers to lead. Vote Row B – Trustee Justin Arest, Trustee Lena Crandall, and Randall Whitestone.

Dara Gruenberg
SCNPP Campaign Co-Chair

KestelmanKioskChase Park Kiosk by Artist Simone Kestelman of Fox MeadowLibrary kiosks have arrived in Scarsdale! Four book kiosks were installed in parks throughout Scarsdale this week, with the simple mission of encouraging residents to “take a book, leave a book.” Located in Brite Avenue Park, Crossway Field, Hyatt Park, and Chase Park, these community bookshelves are intended to encourage sharing books, interacting with neighbors, and lingering in the parks. A fifth kiosk will be installed at the Library Pond in September. At that time, there will be a ribbon cutting to recognize these new additions to our community, and thank everyone who contributed to this initiative.

The project was conceived of by Danielle Kohn, a senior at Scarsdale High School, as a way to promote reading and a sense of community in Scarsdale. The Scarsdale Library Board of Trustees, the Scarsdale Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, and the Scarsdale Village Trustees approved the idea, a process that took almost two years to complete. Kohn secured the generous support of three local organizations, the Friends of the Scarsdale Public Library, the Friends of Scarsdale Parks, and the Scarsdale Foundation, which provided 100% of the funding for the kiosks. “So many volunteers and organizations came together to make this happen,” Kohn said, “I hope this collaboration reflects what the kiosks can do for our community by bringing us together over a shared love of books.” Scarsdale Library Director Beth Bermel and Superintendent of Scarsdale Parks, Recreation and Conservation Brian Gray were instrumental in supporting the project and bringing it to fruition. “This project is an excellent example of Scarsdale at its finest. Brian and I are so impressed by Danielle’s dedication and perseverance, as well as her ability to garner support throughout the community,” said Ms. Bermel.

FolignoKioskKiosk at Brite Ave Tennis Courts by aAtist Michelle Foligno - SHS Visual Arts TeacherFour Scarsdale artists, Simone Kestelman, Michelle Foligno, Amanda Arbeter, and Lydia Hassan, donated their time and talent to transform the kiosks from wooden sheds into works of art. The result is that the kiosks are not only a medium for neighbors to exchange books, but they also serve as public art installations in parks throughout the community.HassanKioskKiosk at Hyatt Field Playground by Artist Lydia Hassan

The library kiosks are part of the Little Free Library movement, which began in 2009 when Todd H. Bol created the first neighborhood book exchange in his front yard as a tribute to his mother, a teacher. There are now over 100,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide, which have shared nearly 165 million books.

Artist Biographies:
Simone Kestelman is a sculptor and multi-media artist working in glass, ceramics, and photography. Kestelman has exhibited her art in solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world, and has been included in museum shows at Museu Brasileiro da Escultura e Ecologia in Brazil, the Thessaloniki Contemporary Museum, in Greece, the Katonah Museum of Art in Westchester, and Edward Hopper House Museum in Nyack. Her work can also be found in the permanent collection of the Newark Museum of Art, as well as private collections in Brazil, the United States and Europe.

Michelle Foligno is a visual arts educator at Scarsdale High School where she teaches 3D mediums of pottery, sculpture, and architecture. She is an accomplished artist, having displayed her work in many galleries in NY and NJ over the past 20 years. Before becoming an arts educator, Michelle worked in the fashion industry as a textile designer for 15 years.

Amanda Arbeter, a Quaker Ridge resident, was an Art History major at The University of Michigan, where she created a series of oversized, abstract, acrylic pieces. Inspired by two of the pieces, which hang in her home today, she started a business painting commissioned bespoke artwork. Her art is large in scale, primarily focusing on color and the relationship between each vibrant layer of paint on the canvas.

Arbete KioskKiosk at Crossway Tennis Courts by Artist Amanda Arbeter.Lydia Hassan has been teaching art to all age groups from preschoolers through adulthood. She has been an art teacher for many years in the preschool program at the JCC of Mid-Westchester, the Scarsdale elementary school after school clubs, and the Scarsdale Adult School.

shs2This letter was sent to the Superintendent and the Restart Committee by the Scarsdale High School PTA Executive Committee:

Dear Dr. Hagerman and Members of the Restart Steering Committee:
The SHS PTA Executive Committee appreciates the efforts of all of the Scarsdale Restart Committees and the tremendous undertaking involved in reopening Scarsdale schools in a safe and timely manner. It is a monumental task to manage competing priorities while satisfying the numerous requirements of both the Department of Health and the NYS Education Department guidelines.

In light of recent discussions within the Scarsdale community regarding a possible scenario that does not adequately address the broad educational and developmental needs of high school students, we feel it necessary to communicate our grave concerns. Specifically, we are troubled by the possibility that all high school students might be moved to fully remote learning while plans for all other students include some element of in-person learning. Every student in the community equally deserves to benefit from going to school if deemed safe to do so. Beyond the delivery of instructional time, in-person learning is critical to our high schoolers because it facilitates connection with peers, mentor relationships with faculty and community building, none of which can easily be replicated in a remote learning environment.

The Scarsdale High School PTA Committee acknowledges how difficult the task is for the District to develop a plan for high school students which delivers the Scarsdale model of choice in course selection while adhering to the new health and safety measures required by the state. An innovative solution, however, could both preserve student course choice while still allowing for some component of in-person engagement. We urge the District to think deeply and creatively about how to bring high school students back on campus as they formulate plans for September and beyond.

While high school students may be capable of remote learning in a way that younger students are not, that does not mean a fully remote learning model is in the best interests of high school students. In that regard we feel it necessary to highlight the following needs of high school students that will go unmet with a fully remote learning model:

Social and Emotional Wellbeing
Social connections are paramount to healthy adolescent development and emotional wellbeing. The ability to maintain relationships and social connections is not only critical for our students’ overall mental health but also impacts their ability to learn. Providing high school students with some opportunity for in-person learning and engagement with peer groups and teachers will protect students against the negative effects of social isolation such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. In June 2020 the SHS PTA administered a survey to parents in order to assess student wellness and needs. The results overwhelmingly reinforced our understanding that parents are concerned about the impact of social isolation due to remote learning conditions and that our community places great value on the social connections which school typically provides for our teens.

Student and Teacher Transition to a New School Year
Every new school year presents teachers with the opportunity to forge a new classroom community and to develop relationships with new students. Similarly, students must transition to learning from new teachers and with new groups of classmates. It is commonly understood that these relationships are essential to creating a robust and effective learning environment. Starting the school year under a fully remote scenario would significantly hamper the ability of both teachers and students to meet these learning conditions. Consistent with the Scarsdale Schools Restart’s commitment to, “establishing nurturing connections” and “fostering meaningful learning opportunities for each student,” every effort must be made to bring students and teachers at all levels including the high school together in-person, particularly at the start of the year, to establish a foundation for optimal teaching and optimal learning.

Diversity of Learning Modalities
Lectures on a computer do not work for all learners. Reading textbooks and answering rote questions do not equate with higher level learning for all students. Students requiring educational services need to have access to specialists to reinforce their educational progress. At the high school level, parents are not adequate replacements for educational support from teachers and specialists when students struggle. Furthermore, some classes, such as design & fabrication, ceramics or science labs, simply do not translate into a remote learning model. Creative solutions should be considered which address these different learning needs with in-person learning options wherever possible.

Bridge for Further Learning
The transition from middle school to high school is challenging for most students. A failure to provide appropriate in-person support and the opportunity to establish a new school community would create undue hardship for our Freshmen. Additionally, upperclassmen in grades 10-12 are working to build the connections with their teachers, deans and peer learning groups that are necessary not only to master the curriculum at this level, but to prepare them for college and beyond.

The SHS PTA Executive Committee is also disappointed by the lack of early transparency and missteps in the restart planning process:

1. The District did not seek widespread community input early enough in the restart process. Engaging in feedback through community forums would have been a way in which the entire school community could have followed the process and development of the plans.

2. The survey to parents, while welcomed and utilized by the majority of families in our community, was implemented too late to be integrated fully into the planning process. The results of the survey to parents have not yet been shared with the community.

3. Furthermore, the District has not yet sought feedback on the full range of scenarios under consideration, including a scenario whereby some students receive in-person learning and others do not.

We hope for better and more timely communication from the District to the community going forward, particularly since the metrics, and therefore the educational programming, may change throughout the school year.

The Scarsdale Executive PTA Committee respects the magnitude of the task before the District to develop a plan for September, and the tight time frame under which this work is being done. However, before plans are finalized and submitted to the state for approval, we ask that every effort be made to deliver some component of in-person experience at the high school while maintaining course choice; we believe that both are vital to the total success of students and teachers during these challenging times.

Sincerely,
Leanne Freda on behalf of
SHS PTA Executive Committee*
*Joey Silberfein recused herself as a member of the Restart Steering Committee
Cc: Ken Bonamo

garage2At a well-attended virtual meeting of the Planning Board on Monday evening July 29, Scarsdale Improvement Corp. and their attorney from Zarin and Steinmetz presented their case to combine four building lots into a one-acre site to construct a 135 space parking lot on three levels at 30 Popham Road with the entrance and egress onto Overloook Road. The proposed lot would be on the site of the current parking lot behind Moscato and the Metro Diner.

According to the applicants the lot would be built to serve Scarsdale Improvement’s tenants, employees and customers and would help them to lease many vacant storefronts and offices in the Village. They claimed that this proposal was not a precursor to another plan to erect 15 residential units on Popham Road, which was presented in a larger scale plan in October 2019.

However, the Overhill Neighborhood Association, who opposes the project, questioned their intentions. They said that the current tenants require only 94 spots and that there is always room in the current lot of customers. They feared that the additional spots were actually being built to accommodate tenants of an upcoming development.

In response, DJ Petta from Scarsdale Improvement explained that due to the configuration of the current parking lot, they have to staff it with two employees to move the cars around to fit in everyone who wants a spot. Cars are often stacked two or three deep, and customers have to leave their keys in the car to allow them to be moved. He said, “The current lot is not practical and is inefficient. We often have a larger demand than the number of spots. We stack the cars using valets. People get blocked in. We have to have two valets working that lot. We want to have enough spaces without two guys running it. If we have excess parking spaces we would like to have some of our tenants use those. Prospective tenants need parking spaces for themselves and their employees. I can tell prospective tenants that there will be parking for their customers.”

Brad Schwartz the attorney for SIC explained that the plan also includes a 6,000 square foot health club on the basement level and that 18 of the extra parking spots would be used for the club.

Diego Villareale, a civil engineer retained by the applicant explained, “The property is 1.0 acres large. Access to the parking lot is from Overhill Road. There are currently 69 spaces. The new structure will be built over the existing parking lot There will be an elevator. There will be 135 parking spaces over three levels. There are a lot of green areas incorporated into this plan. We have a decrease in impervious area but we have built the green roof to compensate.” About next steps he said, “A traffic analysis is in process. We are at the beginning – we want to get your feedback and address those concerns.”

Architect Len Brandes explained his design, saying, “We will use antique brick, wood beams and stucco finishes to go with the Village.” He added, “We will have bicycle storage and charging stations for electric bikes and electric cars. There will be solar collectors and a green roof to soften the look from the ground.” About access to Scarsdale Avenue he said, “We are going to create a covered entry in front of the barber shop and a walkway next to Metro.”

The members of the Planning Board questioned the applicants. Chair John Clapp said, “You mentioned your meeting last October about residential development. Can you confirm this is a standalone project with no expectation that more development will occur on this site?”

The applicants responded that “Yes this is a standalone garage application.”

Clapp followed up, “The lot merger is so that the garage can be an ancillary addition to the site. If you did build residences – would these spaces be used for that?”

The replied, “The only way is if we can show there is sufficient space in the garage to support it.”

Board member Harold Porosoff said, “Perhaps a smaller garage would suffice?”

Porosoff said, “I am concerned – do we need a three story garage – would a two story unit satisfy the needs? If that storage unit was not needed. If you decided to do the residential, 18 spaces you have secured for the gym could be used.”

The applicants responded, “No we want a gym. Right now Zachys has a lot of employees – we would like to take those people off the street. Scarsdale Improvement needs more spaces to make their properties viable. “

Planning Board member Deb Pekarek said, “I am concerned about the visual from people who live on Overhill Road – especially 9 Overhill Road. My overall bigger concern is the traffic on Overhill. There is only one egress there – and the Village has received many complaints about that area. The site lines are not great and there are many pedestrians.”

Harold Porosoff asked the applicants to “Say a few words about impact on neighbors during construction.” Brandes responded, “Tenants can use the Freightway lot temporarily. 90% of the work will be on the lot – and not on the street. There will be noise but we’ll try to control the timing of noise and dust.”

Tim Foley asked questions about the calculation of the number of parking spaces and also asked if they could get an accurate read on traffic now, given that many are not commuting to the city due to the pandemic. The engineer replied, “Every traffic study we’re working on has the same problem. Were looking at prior traffic study and we do counts but we prefer them to record data.”

Overhill Neighborhood Association co-President Paul Diamond spoke on behalf of the 73 families in the association. He said, “I don’t believe that the full scope of the project is here” and he quoted from an article in the Scarsdale Inquirer which said that residential is under consideration.

He demonstrated why the proposed parking garage was not in conformity with the Village’s Comprehensive Plan. He said, “If you take a look at the plans you won’t be able to eat outside at Metro Diner or Moscato – it is an alleyway , not a pedestrian friendly arcade as required by the Comprehensive Plan.” He said the “135parking spots far exceeds current tenant needs. Current tenants only need 69 spots… Our contention is that the zoning code does not permit construction of a parking lot in order to create parking for another lot…. The principal use for this zone is retail and personal services. The plan also says a building cannot exceed the height of the principal buildings on the lot and they are all one story.”

Furthermore Diamond said, the plans prescribes, “avoidance of more than one level of parking located at or above the ground floor level along the building frontage. This is the case at Christie Place and at the CVS lot. Why does the application need to create more than the required spaces needed?”

“Our contention is that this is prohibited under the definition for an accessory building. It is incongruent with the Comprehensive Plan and requires more density than the code for this district provides.”

He continued, “Does the community want to urbanize this area with a high density private garage and condos? ….We have more questions than answers….We think this might be a $3-$4 million project. Who is going to pay for that? Current zoning does not support a three tier garage – it looks like it is part of a redevelopment plan…. They already can fit 75 cars there now. …. We feel this structure is not part of the Comprehensive Plan. It is not an auxiliary building.”

During public comments Roberg Berg of Tisdale Road said, “These are well reasoned concerns. Rush Wilson’s proposal cannot be taken at face value…I have never had an issue finding a spot in the existing lot….The stores and restaurants don’t need 135 spaces. I believe he wants to build residential as there is demand for it. I don’t see demand for stores or offices downtown. I think you should be skeptical of the proposal.”

Gary Friedman, co-president of the neighborhood association and a 25-year resident said, “It is out of place and does not belong there.”

Susan Douglas said she is the Chair of the Downtown Revitalization Committee of the Scarsdale Forum and they are studying the issues and will take opinions from all the stakeholders.

Max Grudin said, “We have looked at aerial views and the lot is never full.” He said, “I spoke to the attendant and people want to park there because it’s free.” He expressed concern about the traffic for people who are visiting the medical offices at 5 Overhill Road, saying, “they are sick and disabled.”

Anita Mann, who lives at 28 Overhill Road called the proposed parking structure “obnoxious and oversized.” She said, “We are concerned for the children of our neighborhood and seniors who enjoy walking. Overhill Road is narrow with a few blind spots. This will only make it more dangerous.”

Dorothy Levin of 11 Overhill Road said, “We came here 40 years ago. We found the most convenient neighborhood where we could walk to the train, the bank, two small supermarkets, shoes and clothing stores. Things change every year – including the traffic. This garage is contrary to the public good.”

The conversation was adjourned until the next meeting of the Planning Board on September 23, 2020.

CountyTrailIn his first weekly COVID update on Monday July 20, County Executive George Latimer continued to have good news about the diminution of COVID infections in Westchester County. The number of active cases in the county now stands at 467, and this number continues to drop steading. A total of 35,551 people in the county have tested positive and the county has lost 1,440 people. Latimer says the death rate among those who tested positive is about 4%.

He reported that 347,000 people in Westchester have been tested, which is close to 35% of the population. Another 3,000-4,000 people are being tested each day.

It has been three weeks since an outbreak in Chappaqua caused concern and two weeks since July 4th weekend. There have been no new cases as a result of the infections in Chappaqua, and no spikes following July 4th weekend.

He cautioned, “We are doing well but we are not through the woods. We have no vaccine, we have antiviral drugs to lessen the impact but nothing to kill the virus.

The Hudson Valley Region, which includes Westchester County entered into phase 4 two weeks ago when indoor dining, barbershops, beauty parlors and nail salons reopened. Since that time there has been no increase in the infection rate.

He asked residents to wear masks, avoid large crowds, practice social distancing and refrain from activities that can put people in harms way.

In other news, Latimer reported that a portion of the North County Bike Trail had been repaired and is now open. The North County Trailway was constructed along the Putnam Division rail bed of the former New York Central Railroad.

A section of the trail at Birdsall Road in Yorktown was damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and has now been repaired and resurfaced. The 22.1-mile long rail trail stretches from Eastview in the Town of Mount Pleasant north to Putnam County.

The trail has been resurfaced, new fencing and railings are in place and landscape plantings have been installed to screen and further stabilize the slope. The County will receive a reimbursement of $800,000 from FEMA for the repair work.

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