Monday, Jan 30th

HeatherHarrisonHeather HarrisonPrices for Scarsdale homes have skyrocketed. With limited inventory on the market, some empty nesters are tempted to sell while the market is hot, but at the same time, they’re not sure where to go. If you’re pondering a move from your Scarsdale home and want some options for relocating, realtors Heather and Zachary Harrison want to offer you some help. On Friday February 10 from 11 am to 1 pm, they’re inviting you to tour some prospective next moves in their “Upside to Downsizing Tour.”

We asked the two some questions about the market and the tour and here is what they shared:

Tell us about the upcoming tour: What’s involved?

Heather: This is a complimentary tour with a free catered lunch for people who are considering a next chapter in their lives, but don't know where to move. Many of the people on the tour have raised their families in their single family home for years and are now empty nesters looking to downsize. We will see a number of different townhouse communites during the tour and give a flavor of the communities and their amenties in a no-pressure environment. Zach and I started these tours about 7 years ago and the turnout and enthusiam has been really great each year. We did them virtually during the height of Covid, so it's nice to get back to doing them in person again this year!

What inspired the tour? What have you been hearing from empty nesters about their options for moving within Westchester?

Heather: Our empty nester clients tell us they want lower taxes and less maintenance responsibilities while also being able to remain close to their friends and family in Scarsdale and the surrounding areas. The amenties that many local townhouse communities have such as pools, clubhouses, and tennis are also a real draw. Clients who have winter homes in warmer climates love the ability to enjoy great amenties locally while no longer having to manage a house. Most of the local townhouse communities take care of things like exterior maintenance, lawn care and snow removal as part of a fixed monthly fee so it's an easier lifetstyle.

What are the trends behind the shortage of inventory for those wishing to buy in Scarsdale?

Zach: There continues to be very low inventory in Scarsdale because we had a massive sell through of homes during the Covid era with many young families moving out of the city, and today's first time home buyer generation - the millenial generation - is the largest generation in history. Many are looking to buy single family homes at the same time. At the same time we have high demand, supply has not been replenished because all of the land in high-end suburban areas like Scarsdale has been fully developed. It's still a good time to be a seller!

Running some sample numbers, if the buyer of a home of average value in Scarsdale ($2.23 mm) wants to move into a 3 bedroom apartment or townhouse in Westchester, what are the estimated economics of a move?

Zach: The average selling price in Scarsdale was $2,236,980 this past year. The taxes on a home valued at that amount would be around $54,000. That homeowner could move to an amenity rich townhouse community like the Cobblefield in White Plains and buy a 3 bedroom where selling price may be $1.6 or $1.7M, with taxes in the low $20K range. This move would generate about a half million dollars of cash while saving the seller over $30K per year in taxes, all while they live just minutes away from Scarsdale in a beautiful gated community with pool and tennis. It's really a great move for Scarsdale empty nesters.

For those thinking of selling, what’s your advice on pricing in a market where homes have recently sold at numbers far above their estimated value?

Heather: The good news for sellers is inventory remains very low and demand remains strong even with the increase in mortgage rates. We are seeing strong showing activity and multiple offers on early listings this year which is really exciting. At the start of this year, we can price in line with the heightened selling prices of last year and feel really confident bringing the home on the market.

Sign up for the tour here:

JohnBunnJohn Bunn: Photo by Joseph DiMartinoAt the age of only fourteen, John Bunn was convicted for a murder that he did not commit. On Friday, January 13th at the Scarsdale Public Library, he shared his emotional story with an attentive audience of students, parents and educators.

Raised by a single mother battling addiction in an impoverished Brooklyn community, John learned to cope with adversity by keeping himself busy and out of his house at all hours. Hanging out on the streets with older kids ultimately led to involvement in petty crimes and robberies. Then, in 1992 at the age of fourteen, he was convicted of murdering a corrections officer. This conviction was based largely upon his personal associations and, as he later learned, the fraudulent accusations of a corrupt NYPD detective. Asleep in his house at the time of the crime, John was unaware that the murder even took place. Nonetheless, given the lack of resources and inferior legal defense provided to him, he was convicted of the charges and served seventeen years in prison.

In his presentation, John shared details of his experiences in prison followed by his release in 2006, and eventual exoneration in 2018 when new evidence emerged that fully cleared his conviction. He spoke about the brutality of surviving behind bars and how he transformed from being ‘incarcerated’ to ‘institutionalized.’ As an under-schooled teen, he said his reading and writing were substandard and he took in whatever education and literature that he could obtain, eventually earning his GED. “They can lock my body but they can't trap my mind.” He explained the difficulties he and other former prisoners face upon re-entering society, including his own emotional barriers to forming close relationships.

Since his release, John Bunn founded the nonprofit organization, A Voice 4 the Unheard, which strives to “properly resource students with motivational and academic content” by refurbishing community and prison libraries and providing books where they are most needed. John stated that “without proper education and communication skills, people resort to using their fists to communicate.” He shared that the two books that have impacted him the most include The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. It is the mission to help educate and inspire under-resourced youth to invest in themselves that gives his life meaning.

John Bunn’s story and aid from The Exoneration Initiative inspired officers and members of The Innocence Club, the SHS club who invited him to speak. The club, led by President Isabelle Goldban, seeks to raise awareness about the criminal justice system and its injustices. In the following weeks, the club plans to start a book drive to gather books to donate to Bunn’s organization. For further information on the clubs future events, follow them @theinnocenceclub on instagram or visit theinnocenceclub.com. For more information about John Bunn and how to get involved in his cause, visit avoice4theunheard.org.

Amelia Fader is a sophomore at Scarsdale High School.

Cameron(Updated 12-19-22)
Author Kirk Cameron has filed an application to reserve the Scott Room at the Scarsdale Public Library to hold a story hour for his new book, As You Grow, on Friday December 30 at 3:00 pm.

The Scarsdale Public Library issued the following FAQ on Monday December 19, 2022 to respond to questions about the event:

The Scarsdale Public Library would like to address comments received about an upcoming event booked by Brave Publishing. The event is not a library-sponsored program, but rather a meeting room rental, that cannot be rejected based upon political or religious content under the First Amendment.

The Scarsdale Public Library is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion for all community members. Granting permission to use a room does not constitute an approval or endorsement of any program.

What’s the difference between a library-sponsored program and a meeting room rental?
A library-initiated or sponsored event is organized and promoted by library staff. External parties may submit requests for the Library to host programming. Per Article V of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, libraries create programs based on educational suitability and audience interest. Libraries are often pitched programs or events by members of the public, publicists, and authors, and a public library is not required or able to put on every program requested.

A meeting room rental is when a group or individual submits an application and pays a fee to reserve a meeting room for their own purposes. First Amendment jurisprudence requires libraries to rent facilities equitably regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of those who seek to use them. Granting permission to use a room does not constitute an approval or endorsement of any individual or group by the Library, the Library Board of Trustees, or the Village of Scarsdale.

Is the library sponsoring a book reading of Kirk Cameron's As You Grow?
No. The Scarsdale Public Library is not sponsoring an event by Brave Publishing.

What type of event has Brave Publishing recently requested?
On Friday, December 16, 2022, Brave Publishing submitted a request for a meeting room rental. Because libraries’ meeting rooms are legally designated as "designated public forums" under the First Amendment, libraries may not exclude any group based on the subject matter to be discussed or the ideas for which the group advocates. If the Scarsdale Public Library restricts potentially controversial groups’ access to meeting rooms, it may face legal and financial consequences.

Libraries may not deny meeting room access even to individuals or groups that are considered offensive or controversial. Libraries have been successfully sued by groups that have been denied access to library meeting rooms based on the group’s beliefs, the content of their speech, or the fear that the group’s meeting will cause controversy. The Scarsdale Public Library is likewise not permitted to regulate the message of any parties who rent a room.

(posted Friday December 16, 2022)

A publicity stunt by an actor and evangelist hit close to home this week, when Kirk Cameron, best known for his role on the television show “Growing Pains,” targeted the Scarsdale Library as a venue to spread the word about As You Grow, his new evangelical book for children. According to the publisher’s website, “This fun story with brilliant art teaches the Biblical truths of the Fruit of the Spirit.”

The book is published by Brave Books, a conservative book publisher who offers a monthly book club, that according to their website covers “difficult topics like gender identity, dangers of communism, cancel culture, critical race theory through family-friendly stories.”

Cameron used the Brave Book website to publish a copy of a letter he wrote to Scarsdale Librarian Elizabeth Bermel requesting the use of the library’s Scott Room on December 30 at 3 pm for a story hour. In his letter he says, “So many of our communities, perhaps like yours, are facing rates of crime, abortion, and murder well above the national average. I believe children in your community would benefit from hearing a message teaching Biblical wisdom as I explain my new book.

Commenting on the request, which has made national news, here is the response from the Scarsdale Public Library dated December 16, 2022:

On Friday, December 2, the Scarsdale Public Library received a message from a book publisher via the Library’s website requesting to schedule a story hour at the Scarsdale Public Library for a book by actor Kirk Cameron, “where we read As You Grow and speak to families about following the wisdom of the Bible, as well as discussing the harmful effects of woke ideologies.”

As with any request to present a Library-sponsored program, we sent a link to our online application for presenting a library program. The publisher did not submit an application.

On Tuesday, December 6, the Library’s Assistant Director received an email from the public relations company, Amplifi Agency, which stated, “We would love to schedule a story hour for Mr. Cameron's book where we read As You Grow and speak to families about following the wisdom of the Bible, as well as discussing the harmful effects of woke ideologies, specifically CRT and the transgender agenda.” The Library replied, “Thank you for thinking of us, but we are not interested in this program.”

One week later, on Tuesday, December 13, Library Director Elizabeth Bermel received a letter via USPS from Mr. Cameron requesting to rent the Scott Room. She sent an email to the contact mentioned in the letter with links to the Library’s Meeting Room Policy and the online form for room reservations. As of December 14, neither Mr. Cameron nor his representatives have completed the form to reserve the room.

It is the mission of the Scarsdale Public Library to encourage the joy of reading, the exploration of ideas, and the pursuit of lifelong learning for the children and adults of our community. Per the Library’s Meeting Room Policy:

The Library has several spaces available for members of the public to reserve and/or rent. These are to be used to further the Library’s informational, educational, cultural and recreational goals. It is the policy of the Library Board of Trustees to provide all members of the community with equal access to Library resources and facilities. Such resources and facilities are available equitably regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of those who seek to use them. Granting permission to use these rooms does not constitute an approval or endorsement of any individual or group by the Library, the Library Board of Trustees, or the Village of Scarsdale.

The full Meeting Room Policy can be found here:

schollcalendargraphicShould Scarsdale reduce the number of half school days? Almost 500 citizens signed a petition to say yes! Community members turned out in person and via zoom at the first meeting of the school board to lend their support to two big proposed changes to the school calendar: decreasing the number of early dismissal days and adding holidays to the existing calendar. The conversation was a follow-up to an earlier discussion at a December meeting of the Board of Education.

Helene Gray of Secor Road kicked things off by speaking in support of moving graduation day to a more favorable date. She noted that holding graduation a week earlier is preferable for siblings and students who attend or work in camps and other summer programs that may start before graduation. In addition, scheduling graduation on a Thursday or Friday would be easier for out of town relatives who wish to attend and there is evidence from many neighboring districts that earlier graduations are possible, citing Rye, Bronxville and others as examples.

Chelsea Wang, a working parent of two girls voiced her support of the petition to reduce the number of early dismissal days. She said that neighboring districts have fewer half days. Scarsdale has 13 on the calendar, which are a hardship for parents, especially those with two parents working outside the home. Finding childcare on these days is burdensome, and children are also miss out on instruction. Her sentiments were echoed by a number of other parents, including Reed Miller, a full-time at home father and part-time lawyer and Dianna Cohen, a Heathcote parent. Ms. Cohen emphasized the need for consistency for children and pointed out that Scarsdale is unique in considering adding additional holidays while continuing to maintain the 13 half-days. Via Zoom, Maryanne Lee reiterated that these early dismissal days are a hardship for parents, a concern shared by other Zoom attendees. Molly Tu of Putnam Road also expressed a hope that the inclusion of Lunar New Year, Diwali and Eid in the calendar would not be an either/or proposition with reducing the early dismissals. Tian Dong, a fifth grader at Greenacres school spoke eloquently on his support for adding Lunar New Year to the school calendar. As the child of Chinese immigrants, Tian would like to be able to celebrate the way his parents did growing up, without worrying about missing school assignments.

Dr. Drew Patrick supported moving graduation to a more favorable date. Later in the meeting he gave an update on the calendar proposals. He noted that based on the many communications he has received via surveys, emails, and petitions, there are certain themes: reducing the number of early dismissal days, making the December break two weeks (popular with international families) or shorter (popular with those who can’t take two weeks off for vacation and prefer their kids to be in school), closing school for Passover and starting school after Labor Day.

As next steps, the administration will continue to have dialogue with the STA and other unions. Dr. Patrick reminded those attending that the school board has no authority to propose a calendar. The school board’s job is to respond to the administration’s calendar. He expected to bring a calendar proposal to the Board that includes the parent teacher conference dates to the January 30th meeting.

Board member Jessica Resnick-Ault asked for the rationale for the positioning of the April break. Patrick answered that it is traditionally the week leading up to Easter Sunday with Good Friday as a Civil Service holiday. Resnick-Ault suggested that scheduling the break during the Passover week that includes Good Friday would save a vacation day. Dr. Patrick commented that the half days for Parent-Teacher Conferences are contractual.

Resnick-Ault mentioned that for some students, the half-days can be an opportunity for socializing that they may not have with their schedules, and that perhaps the schools and PTA could work together to create group activities that would also help working parents.

Take a look at five calendar scenarios for the 2023-24 school year here.

existingauditoriumAt the December 5 meeting of the Board of Education the discussion continued about a proposed $4.7 million renovation of the 800 seat SHS auditorium, that has been in disrepair for years. Though a million dollars was provided for upgrades in the 2014 bond, cost overruns on other projects prevented much of the work from being done. Among the issues are the acoustics, the wood paneling, the carpeting, the seating, the stage flooring, the lighting, the dressing rooms and water intrusion. The issues are outlined in a report here.

The Interim Superintendent Drew Patrick and board members followed up on a more detailed discussion on the matter at the November 14, 2022 meeting and looked for a plan to move forward.

First Patrick corrected a statement that was made at the prior meeting. It turns out that the auditorium was built to be a performance space – not a multi-purpose “gymnatorium” as previously stated.

Second, in response to a question of whether or not the acoustics of the existing space could be sufficiently improved, Patrick proposed that the district spend $4,600 for an acoustical analysis. For that fee, the acoustical consultants can provide an analysis of the acoustics of the current space vs. the space outfitted with proposed acoustic enhancements. Later at the meeting, the board agreed to do this analysis.

Board members, who had toured the facility, were then asked to provide their thoughts on whether or not the district should move forward with the long overdue renovation.

Board President Amber Yusuf said that she noted that the entire floor of the stage looked worn and asked why the front portion of the stage would not be replaced with the rest --– and asked what the additional cost would be to replace the entire stage floor.

Board member and architect Bob Klein said he looked at the 2017 master plan. He said about the auditorium, “There was no discussion in a shift of its location. Turning to the current proposal, he said, “We are talking about a big price tag. We can value engineer it. We are going to have a new superintendent shortly. This may be a good time for the architects to revisit this question by looking at the whole building and seeing if there is any shifting to see if we can come up with a better solution. There was no “big idea.” Mamaroneck has a performing arts program. An idea of that caliber would have an impact on this decision. This might be a time to layer on a version B of the master plan that incorporates some big ideas that may be an outgrowth of the new leadership.”

Ron Schulhof asked if Bob was talking about a master plan for the high school or just the auditorium space? Ron said, “I think the auditorium is a discreet space. I am not aware of anywhere to move an 800 person auditorium.”

Bob replied, “I don’t know that this is the only place for an auditorium. If there are any big ideas we want to think through, I don’t want to jump ahead and do the auditorium. There could be some organizational ideas that might suggest building a new auditorium. This is the moment in time to consider it. … I am an architect. Trust me. There are lots of way of doing these things.”

Jim Dugan objected, He said, “I am troubled by your suggestion on a number of levels. I am troubled by your notion that it is appropriate for the Board to grab the district by the collar and demand a reallocation of resources, both its intellectual and pedagogical resources, in a far reaching and expensive project. Is this what the Board should be doing? Allocating its financial resources and intellectual capital and energies? This is more of a top down situation where no one is saying there needs to be this drastic solution. You are within your right to voice your opinion about what should be done.”

Klein replied, “I take my fiscal responsibility seriously to solve the problem the best way possible. Scarsdale is known for innovation. I think it is important to engage our leadership. I am raising it as a perspective. I am not trying to yank anyone’s collar. I don’t see the harm in doing the due diligence.”

Suzie Hahn said, “Though I appreciate the call to think big, I am concerned there may be too many other competing capital projects. Many were reviewed by Drew and Stuart. In touring the schools we saw the challenges of space for storage, lunch services and providing collaborative spaces to support student learning. I think the auditorium is a long overdue priority but it isn’t the only one.”

Jessica Resnick-Ault said, “I appreciate that we should think big – but also that we have a capable auditorium study committee that has considered this for this past year. I feel like we have an imperative to repair the auditorium. Right now the space is not meeting student needs. There is a need for structural improvement. I don’t know that it makes sense to delay this for another year or two. It needs to be updated promptly.”

Colleen Brown agreed. She said, “I toured the auditorium and was surprised and how much the renovation is needed. I think this is the best return on our investment. The fee is not as high as other auditorium renovations. It is a need for students and the community. Our theater is anything but innovative now. This is a good use for the money. I believe this project should move forward.”

Ron Schulhof concurred. He said, “I saw the repairs that need to happen to this space. It has not seen major repairs. The work was deferred. It is not a question of should we, but when are we doing this. This is a space that is used a lot. I think it makes sense to do this and we should do it right. I support us doing the work and putting this in the budget.

Patrick added, “We can find out if there is any viable space on this campus to add space. The architects can tell us that.”

Amber Yusuf said, “Considering the practicalities of the way the theater looks now and the work of the team studying this problem and the other district needs, I think this is the way forward for us now. It is overdue. I can’t imagine any space where we could relocate the auditorium. I can’t envision that. I think most Board members are in agreement with this.”

Klein said, “I think the architects need to show us that the renovation will solve the problems. Will we see noticeable improvements in the acoustics? Will the changing rooms be adequate?”

When asked about the project timeline, Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey said there were multiple ways to fund this and that would affect the project timeline. The funding decisions will be a part of the discussions for the 2023-24 school budget.

Watch the discussion here.

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