How Can We Prevent the Next Flood in Scarsdale?
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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What can be done to prevent another catastrophic flood like the one experienced after Tropical Storm Ida on September 1, 2022? That was the subject of an extensive report presented by Jeff Coleman, the Scarsdale Superintendent of Public Works, to Village Trustees at a work session on January 11, 2022.
The storm dropped over eight inches of rain on Scarsdale during a 24 hour period. As a point of reference, FEMA defines a 100-year storm as one that drops nine inches of rain in 24 hours, so Ida was just shy of that magnitude.
The report documents the rainfall, the Village’s response, damage to Village infrastructure, necessary repairs and even highlights proposed changes to the Village code regarding stormwater runoff, flooding and land use that could impact flooding in the future.
In addition to the damage to Village owned facilities such as the Crossway Firehouse, the Central Garage and the Facilities Maintenance building, many areas of the Village flooded as storm drains were overwhelmed, watercourses spilled over and sanitary sewers backed up. Culverts were damaged, clogged storm drains could not handle the inundation and in some places sinkholes developed.
Even the seven acre retention pond at George Field park filled and inundated Oxford Road, creating a temporary lake in Greenacres.
The report outlines all the areas where flooding occurred and documents significant repairs, some of which have already been completed.
One of the most visible signs of the storm’s aftermath was massive piles of debris lining the streets of Scarsdale. The Village sent out crews to haul away the wet refuse at no additional expense to homeowners. A report from the Village shows that in September, the DPW disposed of 1,088,96 tons of solid waste, as compared to 646 tons in August.
In terms of next steps, the report recommends that the Village continue to inspect, clean and repair the storm drain system. In addition, they suggest that the Village revisit a list of proposed larger infrastructure projects outlined by engineering firm Dvirka and Bartilucci in 2009. Some of these projects have been completed, some are underway and others have proven to be “infeasible or not cost effective.” DPW recommends a $27,810 study from STV Incorporated to “identify and advance the next series of improvements and form the basis for future grant applications.”
Also in the report is a memo from Village Engineer David Goessel outlining changes to the Village Code on stormwater runoff, flooding and land use disturbance.
The memo recommends the following:
-Encouraging compliance with FEMA’s Community Rating System for floodplain practices
-Regulating inflow into the sewers from sewer laterals, illicit connections and unlawful discharges
-More restrictive code to regulating grade changes and retaining walls for new construction projects that adversely affect neighbors and impact tree roots and topography.
-Amending Village code to redefine impervious and pervious surfaces to align with the NYSDEC Stormwater Design Manual.
SHS Quiz Bowl Team Greets 2022 Following An Impressive Finish to 2021
- Written by Adam Katcher
- Hits: 1787
Question 1: Name the three superstates in George Orwell’s novel 1984.
Question 2: What is the name of the 77th element on the periodic table, named after the Greek word for “rainbow.”
Question 3: Which William Shakespeare character said, “Frailty, thy name is woman?”
These are just a few of the questions the SHS Quiz Bowl answered correctly in their journey to the national tournament. (You can find the answers at the bottom of this article)
When many high schoolers think of “competitive matches,” sports are the first thing that comes to mind. However, the jubilation of a last-second winner or monumental comeback is just as strong – if not stronger – in a Quiz Bowl contest.
Quiz Bowl is not simply “glorified Jeopardy” as some make it out to be. It is not a place to go and answer easy questions about what the fourth planet from the sun is or what the capital of France is. Quiz Bowl is a true battle of the wits: teams of four (with two additional substitutes) partake in four unique rounds – the warm-up round, the bonus round, the 70 second round, and the stump the experts round. Even in the first round, the questions are of a difficulty most would not expect the average high schooler to know.
The limitations imposed by COVID have not prevented the SHS Quiz Bowl team from being as strong as ever despite needing to undergo a rebuilding phase due to the graduation of most participants over the past two seasons. There is a strong senior crop of talent soon to graduate from the team, but the team is being left in good hands with the current juniors and underclassmen.
Club president Ned Kronenberg has been a member of the team for the past four years and is rightfully proud of the team’s evolution, describing, “When I joined as a freshman, the club was mostly comprised of upperclassmen, and the team was usually very successful at tournaments. As those upperclassmen graduated, the club began to shrink and we lost much of our former success. Then, the pandemic hit, which hindered our ability to meet, compete, and recruit new members.
“I think Quiz Bowl has grown immensely in learning how to deal with these hardships and persevering to create a better club for all of its members. Additionally, the club’s membership has slowly been rebuilt, which now features a healthy number of members from every grade level.”
Kronenberg is enthusiastic about the 2021/22 Quiz Bowl team’s performance thus far, stating the team has been off to a “strong start.” If his statement is not accurate, it is because it is an understatement: having performed well in all competitions so far this season, they also emerged victorious in the prestigious Westchester Academic Challenge and Knowledge Organization (WACKO) Regional Tournament (WACKO administers all the tournaments the SHS team partakes in besides National Tournaments).
There is plenty of excitement about what the second half of the season will bring in a team which Kronenberg says that there is “a healthy membership of both talented and enthusiastic students.”
Tournaments are still taking place virtually, but there is hope that in-person competition can resume by the year’s end. However, the SHS team still competes together, though their oppositions and proctors are on Zoom. Weekly after-school practices are also in-person, with a meeting consisting of an entire Quiz Bowl question packet being reviewed and answered in a no-stress, fun environment. The tight-knit bond maintained in the team is pivotal in performing well when cooperation is needed most, a characteristic of the team that will only further help them as the season progresses.
Kronenberg’s goal for the second half of the season is “to put up strong performances in our tournaments while preserving integrity and sportsmanship and of course, having fun. We’re also looking forward to participating in a national tournament in the spring.”
There is much to look forward to in the second half of this season, including the national tournament for which qualification has already been achieved. The tournaments can last up to five hours, but time flies when the mind is challenged in this unique, competitive nature. For current and future high schoolers alike, keep an eye on the Quiz Bowl team, for if you have an eye for trivia or just want to show off some knowledge, joining the team – the community – is perfect for you.
Stumped by the questions above: Here are the answers:
Answer 1: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia
Answer 2: Iridium
Answer 3: Hamlet
(Pictured at top: SHS Quiz Bowl members listen intently to a question in a tight match (Photo credit: Ned Kronenberg. From left to right: Kevin Daniel, Cameron Brody, Kyle Pidedijan, Max Trager).
Omicron Variant Found in Westchester, COVID Counts Up In Scarsdale
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 3581
In light of rising COVID counts, County Executive George Latimer declared a state of emergency in Westchester on Monday December 6 and announced the first Omicron case in the county on Tuesday December 7. His statement says, ““Earlier this afternoon we were informed that there is a confirmed case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Westchester County. The positive case is in a 13-year-old Westchester County resident. We are concerned about this discovery and are closely monitoring the situation. With the new variant circulating, the best way we can protect our families and ourselves is by being vaccinated, and by getting a booster shot if you are eligible.
“Additionally, I have officially signed the State of Emergency Executive Order for Westchester County. I am taking this action to combat the Delta and Omicron COVID variants. There is currently a public health threat, I know it has been many months, I know you are tired but we – together - must take action to be better prepared to fight COVID and the new variants.”
In local news, COVID counts are on the rise in the Scarsdale Schools as well, but so far, no serious illness has been reported. In the period from Friday December 3 to Monday December 6, 11 new cases were reported in the Scarsdale School District, 4 staff members and 7 students. Since the beginning of the school year in September there have been 62 cases reported, half of those in the past 4 to 5 weeks.
According to Assistant Superintendent Eric Rauschenbach here are the latest COVID stats:
-Over the past week the numbers have increased to 26.6 cases per 1,000 daily, which puts Scarsdale into the highest CDC rate for transmission.
-Scarsdale is at a 1.32% infection rate which has not been seen since our last major spike last winter.
-The positivity rate in Scarsdale is 3.7%.
Asked about the latest cases, Rauschenbach said, “There are a mixture of symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, none of which have been severe and no one has been hospitalized.” The new cases occurred with 50% in the unvaccinated and 50% as breakthroughs in vaccinated people.
Asked to explain quarantine rules, Rauschenbach referred listeners to an FAQ page on the district's student services web page.
Rauschenbach said that the district would reinstitute snack after the winter break on January 3, 2022 and that more details will be sent to parents.
He also shared the fact that the gym at Heathcote Elementary School is not in use because it was built without mechanical fresh air exchange. Physical education classes are now being held outside, in a multipurpose room in pods and non-traditional spaces. Funding for the ventilation work were part of the 2018 bond and bids for the work will be presented at the next board meeting. The work is expected to be done this summer.
Commenting on this information, Diana Cohen of 1 Heathcote Road and the mother of a six year old said, “About the pandemic –it is getting better not worse…. The death rate in the county is zero. It’s much, much better than where we were last year. “ Cohen asked for more information about PE classes at Heathcote. She said, “Why can’t they crack a window in the gym? What else can we be doing? Why are we planning for this now? Why didn’t we take care of this in the summer? If we can’t have a PE program, maybe we should have a different special.”
Also in COVID news, Rauschenbach shared that there will be eleven performances including band and choral concerts in the schools between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Without clear guidance from the Department of Health and the state, the district has set a policy to allow 50% capacity in the auditoriums, filling every other seat. He said there was a miscommunication to middle school parents that said that two parents per student could attend each performance.
There was considerable discussion about increasing capacity by allowing more density from vaccinated parents.
Dr. Hagerman said that the district will reach out to parents again in January to ask for vaccination counts. Once they have that data they can reconsider district policies.
Scarsdale Opts Out of Cannabis Dispensaries and Lounges and Enacts No-Smoking Laws
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 4911
After extensive study and many lengthy discussions, Scarsdale’s Trustees voted to opt out of the licensing of retail marijuana dispensaries and cannabis smoking lounges within the Village. In addition to banning the sale and consumption sites, they also voted unanimously to enact laws to ban all smoking at Village owned properties including Village buildings, parks, playgrounds, the Scarsdale Pool Complex, parking lot and even inside Village owned vehicles.
Furthermore, smoking is prohibited on streets and sidewalks owned by the Village and in Village business districts.
NYS passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) that legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana in New York in March 2021. It gave municipalities the choice of opting out of dispensaries and consumption lounges before December 31, 2021. Those who opt out before the deadline can choose to opt in at a later date. However, those who fail to opt out by the end of the year, would permit marijuana stores and lounges by default. The Board of the Town of Greenburgh voted to allow dispensaries but not lounges.
Trustees Karen Brew and Lena Crandall piloted the Scarsdale Village Board through the process of gathering information, investigating the actions of neighboring towns and Village and holding public hearings to get feedback.
At several work sessions and a public hearing, the Trustees heard from members of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force, representatives from Scarsdale Family Counseling Service, doctors, health professionals, parents and students who expressed their views on the possible impact of marijuana stores and smoking lounges within the Village.
Though most were concerned about the potential negative impacts on youth and neighborhood character others saw this as a source of additional village revenue and an enhancement for resident smokers.
At the meeting on December 14, Trustees Brew and Crandall , the two who had done the research, spoke in favor of licensing marijuana sales in the Village.
Trustee Brew made this statement:
"My charge as a Trustee is to consider information and make a determination; to avail myself of data and use logic, not preconceived opinions, to make a decision. And I have done that now with this very emotional issue of MRTA. The Board has spent a lot of time listening to the community and debating the issue. Here are some of the key considerations that influence me:
There is much research that shows that prohibition in the 20’s and early 30’s did not limit the amount of alcohol consumed; it only changed the locations of procurement and consumption.
New York State conducted a thorough Cannabis Impact Assessment that considered the health, public safety, criminal justice, economic, and educational impacts of a regulated marijuana program in NYS. This impact assessment involved a public health approach to examining the benefits and risks associated with legalizing marijuana in NYS as compared to maintaining the status quo. They found that Marijuana is easily accessible in the unregulated market and that the status quo has not curbed marijuana use, including among the 12-17 year old population.
The Scarsdale High School Pride Survey proves that out - 17.9% of our high school students have consumed marijuana in the past 30 days. That is almost 1 in 5. That’s a big number; And the data is from pre-legalization! If they want it they will get it. And what they get illegally from drug dealers or on the internet is far more concerning as it can be laced with anything including deadly fentanyl.
People talk about not wanting to increase access by having a dispensary in town. But whether or not their is a dispensary in Scarsdale will not meaningfully impact acess.
As our kids get older, we do not necessarily know the parents of their friends. When your child goes to a friend’s house do we know if they have a secured liquor cabinet or is it free access? Do they have a stash of weed or edibles that the kids can get into? Raiding a home supply is a much easier access than trying to get into a state licensed dispensary in town where they will be seen and will have to have real ids proving they are 21.
The NY State Impact Assessment recognized that Marijuana is easily accessible in the unregulated market. Regulation of marijuana at least benefits public health by enabling government oversight of the production, testing, labeling, distribution, and sale of marijuana.
If a dispensary in town does not impact accessibility, then we are really only talking about messaging. I believe there are much stronger, more direct ways to message the dangers of underage marijuana use to our youth. We need proactive education and some tough conversations to really guide our children on the dangers of alcohol and marijuana on the developing brain; on the fact that substances that are OK for adults and that they see adults buying and consuming are not OK for the underaged. 38% of our high schoolers reported using alcohol in the past 30 days and I doubt they are getting it in Zachy’s. Almost 20% have used marijuana. We have not been able to stop this age group from experimenting with illicit substances. But, we have been able to educate them on dangers. Through in-school programs and guest speakers they are required to attend to get a senior parking pass, they are taught about the dangers of drinking and driving. We need the DATF, the schools and all of us as parents to put this same effort behind the dangers of underaged marijuana use.
Trustee Crandall and I, as co-chairs of the Law Enabler, dug deep into research and data around marijuana legalization and are both leaning towards voting against opting out. Opting out of a cannabis dispensary is like trying to put a bandaid on a gunshot wound. You might feel better that you’ve done something but you’re not solving the problem at all. Let’s look at the data and make unemotional determinations and put our time, energy and resources behind making a real impact where we better can."
Trustee Crandall explained the reasoning behind her vote to permit cannabis sales in the Village. She said, “Education about the risks of drug use is necessary – not prohibiting dispensaries.” She asked “reporters to get the word out that marijuana isn’t safe for kids,” and advised the community to take advantage of the courses available from Scarsdale Family Counseling Service.
She said, “The fact remains that our state has legalized it – the illicit market is inherently dangerous. Adults will appreciate a dispensary – and Scarsdale has the right to impose restrictions….We have the right to control this legal business. We could use the additional tax revenue. If we opt out, we lose out. I will vote no to opting out.”
Trustee Whitestone said, “We went through a valuable process. My decision is to opt out.”
Mayor Veron thanked the community for their input and said she supported the decision to opt out of dispensaries and lounges.
The vote to opt out of marijuana sales passed with yes votes from Trustees Arest, Ahuja, Lewis, Whitestone and Mayor Veron, and no votes from Trustees Brew and Crandall.
On the vote to opt out of cannabis consumption lounges, Trustee Brew explained that she favored the opt out because, “I feel very differently because people are consuming and driving.”
The vote was unanimous to opt out of consumption lounges as well.
New Investment Policy
Trustees passed a new investment policy that requires regular reporting and review of Village investments. The process to revise this policy was led by Trustee Jonathan Lewis who explained that the new policy will “modernize how we conduct our business in the 21st century.” It will require the Village Treasurer to submit quarterly reports of returns and interest rates and to report non-compliance to the Village Manager with a recommended remediation plan. Trustees will meet regularly to discuss investment decisions.”
Trustees agreed to hold a public hearing on an amended law on “Wireless Telecommunications Facilities” on January 11, 2022. You can review the draft of the new law here.
In other business, a drainage easement was passed for 72 Mamaroneck Road where excavation during construction revealed a series of storm drainage pipes traversing the property that serve Mamaroneck and Murray Hill Roads. The easement will allow the Village to service the pipes.
Trustees accepted a $5,000 gift from Experian PLC for the fire department for the purchase of equipment and training for the safety of firefighters.
Trustees approved $28,000 for upgrading of AV equipment to accommodate broadcasting of hybrid remote and in person meetings at Village Hall.
Comments from the Mayor
Mayor Jane Veron made the following comments at the opening of the meeting:
The end of the year is a time for reflection, to take stock of what we accomplished together through resilience, dedication and grit. We simultaneously look backward, acknowledging where we started, and peer into the future, imagining where we hope to be. This year more than most has been one of tremendous transformation in Village government. In a matter of months, there has been swift adoption of a strategic and innovative culture that rewards forward thinking and questions the status quo. Under the leadership of our visionary Village Manager, we’ve experienced a whirlwind of change, embracing new policies and practices, adopting new technologies, and welcoming new personnel.
Tonight, our agenda is packed with signs of these advances. Resolutions on our agenda speak to institutionalizing improved processes for internal controls and investment policy, upgrading technology to facilitate public engagement, and refining code to enable Scarsdale to advance with the times. We’re readying Scarsdale to embrace the new model of 21st century government.
As we close out the year, we also bid farewell to our dedicated public servant Chief James Seymour who has valiantly served our community for 17 years. Chief Seymour has been at the helm of the fire department since 2016. He has seen us through exceedingly difficult times with confidence, calm, and determination. With a deep and abiding commitment to the safety and welfare of our community, Chief Seymour has provided strong leadership to the department, and I know he will be sorely missed. Chief Seymour, thank you for all you have done for our residents.
Thanks also goes to our wonderfully informed and engaged community. You have provided essential feedback to the board on a wide range of matters including marijuana dispensaries and lounges, the no smoking law, telecom code, a dog park, stormwater issues, historical preservation, infrastructure needs, quality of life and recreational desires and so much more. I hope you know how essential your input is to good decision making. We tremendously value hearing from you. With the help of our Advisory Council on Communications, we continue the drive to make updates more accessible and information sharing seamless. Given your engagement, it seems we’re heading in the right direction.
We must also offer gratitude to our public safety and health professionals who continue to lead us through the battle against COVID. SVAC has stepped up in ways we couldn’t have imagined to become a trusted provider of vaccines, boosters, and tests. They have been on the cutting edge, mobilizing to support Scarsdale and the greater community, and we are grateful.
This has been a tumultuous year marked by advances and setbacks, struggles and loss, hope and optimism. I am amazed at how our community has rallied together. We have seen the very best of humanity organizing to support those in need. It is this strength of character and good will that propels us forward and leaves us hopeful for the future.
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season.
Holiday Crime Prevention Tips from the Scarsdale Police
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1348
The Scarsdale Police Department, in partnership with the community, want you to help make the Village a safe place to live, work and visit. The Scarsdale Police Department makes the following recommendations to residents to assist in preventing home burglaries and other crimes during the upcoming holiday season:
• Make your home appear occupied. Leave lights or televisions on timers when you are out.
• Use motion sensing exterior lighting and keep the perimeter of your home well lighted. The smallest light may be a deterrent to prowlers.
• Consider investing in a camera surveillance system – and advertise that your home is protected by video surveillance.
• Make your home more difficult to enter by increasing exterior security.
• Always turn your alarm system on when you are away. This includes second-story alarm sensors.
• Keep all exterior doors locked, using deadbolt locks. Keep your garage door closed and locked.
• Always lock your vehicle whether it is parked on the street or in your driveway. Do not leave valuables or your keys in the vehicle when it’s unattended.
• Don't allow daily deliveries of mail, packages or other items to build up while you are away. Arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail, or arrange for a friend or neighbor to collect them regularly.
• Be an observant neighbor. Immediately notify the police of any suspicious activity in your neighborhood. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.