Committee for Historic Preservation Votes to Save 11 Dolma Road
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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An unexpected report from the architect’s granddaughter may have been instrumental in saving a 1928 Scarsdale manse from the wrecking ball. During a hearing to consider an application to raze a French Normandy style farmhouse at 11 Dolma Road on September 29, Ann Gregory Cefola joined the ZOOM hearing to offer information on her grandfather architect Julius Gregory’s resume, his accomplishments and impact on the development of homes in New York, the Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut. She said, “My family came to Scarsdale in 1927. My father grew up here, I grew up here and I have a sense of this town and its character.” Cefola was so incensed when she learned that the home at 11 Dolma Road might be demolished that she drafted a 47-page history of his work, with citations of his myriad publications and corrections to many of the claims in the applicant’s documents.
Her testimony as well as a letter from architectural historian Andrew Dolkhart provided persuasive evidence that 11 Dolma Road met two of the Village’s criteria for preservation, proving that Gregory was “a master” and that the home “embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic value.”
After two hearings, the Committee for Historic Preservation voted 5-2 to deny the application to take it down. They considered the background of Julius Gregory, the architect of the home as well as the design of the home and its contribution to neighborhood character in Scarsdale.
At a hearing held just before the first Presidential debate on September 29, 2020, the committee heard appeals from attorney Lawrence Graham of Cuddy and Feder and architectural historian Emily Cooperman as to why architect Julius Gregory was not a master along with evidence that renovations made to the 1928 home were not “sympathetic” to the original design.
The Committee first heard the case in June but held it over to give committee members the opportunity to study the documents and walk the property. The case was brought on behalf of homeowner Sarah Binetter, who with her husband Steven, wished to demolish the home. They are not currently living there and the property has been neglected since the sale, leaving the house overrun with vegetation.
The Village of Scarsdale sought an opinion on the home from Andrew Dolkhart the author of the 2012 Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey of homes and landmarks in the Village. In that report Dolkhart said, “The talented architect Julius Gregory, whose work can be seen in other areas of Scarsdale (including his own house), designed a huge French farmhouse at No. 11, one of the finest houses of the type in Scarsdale (Figure 7-10-11). The L-shaped brick house has a polygonal corner tower and an entrance set beneath a shed hood, a sophisticated rendition of vernacular rural French design.”
The report says Gregory was a “specialist in suburban homes, and among the most talented architects in the United States, designing this type of house for the upper middle class.”
Describing 11 Dolma the report says, “In their picturesque massing, with steep roof slopes, gables, and dormers, and in their use of such features and slate roofs, casement windows, and tall chimneys, English Cottages resemble their Tudor Revival cousins; some even have small amounts of half timbering. But these buildings tend to have less decorated facades, relying for effect largely on the use of wide expanses of stucco. Architect Julius Gregory, a resident of Scarsdale and major proponent of the English Cottage style, noted in the magazine Architectural Forum that these houses constitute “one of the most interesting and picturesque forms of our domestic architecture. When carried out in the spirit of the old work and placed amid a proper setting, no other type of architecture can equal it in its quality of charm and what we may call ‘livableness.’
The applicants questioned whether or not Gregory was indeed a master, and contended that if he was a master he was a master of the small house, not the large home found on Dolma Road. They showed his work in Fieldston in Riverdale and Shore Acres in Mamaroneck, saying Gregory was best known for his design of smaller suburban dwellings.
About the house as it now stands, they claimed that extensive renovations in the 30,’s, 40’s and early 2000’s by different architects had altered the homes facades, adding and removing dormers, changing a shed roof to a gabled roof and the appearance of the rear of the homes.
Commenting on the design of the house, Cooperman, who was retained by Cuddy and Feder said, “There is a flatness and awkwardness to 11 Dolma – the service wing with gabled end… walled dormers, almost as if they decided to reflect the corner. It doesn’t have the interest, flair and high aesthetics.”
Committee member Lauren Bender defended the alterations made to the home, calling them “sensitive and sympathetic accommodations to the original structure.” Referring to changes made to the servants’ quarters, she said, “We live differently now.’ Calling on her background in art history she said, “When we consider the provenance of a painting we look for where it was exhibited, documented and reproduced.” She pointed out that there was a lengthy record of publications in which Gregory’s homes appeared and said the home was the work of a master and had “high artistic value.”
Cooperman repeatedly referred to the criteria for historic designation for the National Register used by the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Committee. However CHP board member and architect Mark Behr pointed out that , “The criteria for designation is different than the criteria we use for the CHP. It would not meet the criteria for the National Register.”
the Committee voted to save a home at 53 Old Orchard Lane, also designed by Gregory. Details on the exterior include herringbone brickwork and ornamentation and a steeply-pitched slate roof. The Committee for Historic Preservation found the home to be an excellent example of a stone and stucco Tudor style home.Among the homes Gregory designed in Scarsdale were his own house at 3 Church Lane, the Bannerman house on Elmdorf. the Stritzinger House, “a remarkable English Cottage” on Brewster Road; and four “exceptionally fine” English Tudors on Heathcote Road that display “the originality and variety that [Gregory] brought to Tudor design.” In January 2017,
Defending her grandfather’s legacy, Ann Gregory Cefola said, “Dr. Cooperman limits my grandfather’s work to small houses but he did a wide range of work for the cultural tastemakers of the time including the publisher Alfred Knopf, and Ruth and Harry Bakwin for whom he designed a 10,000 square foot house in Ossining where they welcomed distinguished guests like Alexander Calder and Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Beyond residences he was one of the original designers of Scarsdale Village. Cefola’s report says, “In 1926, Gregory put his stamp on the village center by designing its southeast corner— one of four dramatic entryways into the downtown area. The challenge: to create a corner building for the Scarsdale Supply Company with upper-floor offices and storage. The design had to integrate “architectural character” that would be “a distinct credit to the community.”
Cefola called Gregory’s work “majestic” and said the preservation criteria were being manipulated by the Binetter’s attorneys.
Also during public comments Scarsdale realtor Angela Retelny made a passionate plea to save the home. She called Dolma Road “exquisite, elegant and breathtaking,” noting it’s “character, elegance and unique homes.” She said, “It’s what makes Scarsdale beautiful. It is in great condition. I am familiar with Gregory’s work. I do believe he is a master, an admired architect. As a realtor and resident I believe this home needs to be preserved.”
Committee Chair Adam Lindenbaum noted that an aerial view of the home was shown in a NY Times article on living in Scarsdale.
Committee member and architect Mark Behr said, “The style, construction and materials are the embodiment of a Norman style farmhouse. “It was designed by a master – a master in Scarsdale.”
About the claim that Gregory was only a master of small homes, Behr said, “We don’t need to specify architects as masters of one style.” Lindenbaum agreed, saying, “He had a broad pallet and that may make him masterful.” Jonathan Lerner said, “Picasso is a master and he had many styles. Was he only the master of his blue period?”
After some discussion it appeared that several board members agreed that the homes met two of the criteria for preservation:
-That the building is the work of a master; or
-That the building embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction that possess high artistic value;
The Chair put the application to demolish the home to a vote and it was denied by a vote of 5-2.
Commenting on the decision, Chair Lindenbaum said, “11 Dolma was a well-prepared and thorough application, and all points of view were heard over approximately five hours that spanned two hearing dates. In the end, I personally agreed with the opinions of Professor Dolkart that the home is historically important within the meaning of the Village Code.”
Ann Gregory Cefola, cheered the decision saying, "It's incredibly rewarding to see the Committee on Historic Preservation, in a majority decision, affirm my grandfather's role as a master architect in creating what we know as modern Scarsdale--from setting the distinctive Tudor style of our village center to generating a diversity of gorgeous homes that form much of our town's character."
Sign Up Today for Youth Tennis Tournament - Deadline September 30
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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With a registration Deadline of Wednesday, September 30th, we urge all youth and parents to sign up for the Scarsdale OPEN Youth Tennis Tournaments for boys and girls , ages 6 to 18 for all skill levels - beginner, novice, intermediate and advanced to be held at the Middle School Tennis Courts during the next week at convenient times for players after school and on the weekends . The Village has sold over 593 Junior Tennis Permits up over 50 % this year. We urge all youth to sign up and participate.
All players will get participation trophies and winners will get championship trophies in each skill level. Social distancing will be practiced and masks will be required to enter the courts. Players must have a valid Scarsdale Junior Tennis Permit . Every player will get to play at least two matches. The tournament fee is $ 50 per player payable to the Scarsdale Summer Youth Tennis League .
Contact Bob Harrison , volunteer tournament director, to sign up for the tournament draws and any additional information at email@example.com or 914 725-0962 or 914 646-4054 (cell) by text .
Mayor Seeks to Amend FOIL Law to Exempt Email Lists
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
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After Scarsdale Village was forced to comply with a FOIL request to release a list of 4,318 resident email addresses to a candidate running for office, Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick is appealing to state legislators to amend the FOIL law. Below find a letter dated September 14, 2020 that Samwick sent to Scarsdale's Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Scardale's State Senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousin that urges the legislators to introduce legislation to "exempt from release under FOIL any personally identifiable information, such as an email address, contained in a governmental listserve used to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making."
Dear Assemblywoman Paulin:
This letter is being written to request your support in advancing an amendment to the NYS Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) such that email addresses contained in official governmental subscription-based listserves are no longer required to be released upon public request.
Public education and engagement are keystones of democratic governance, helping to shape laws, inform public policy, and plan for the future. Within the structure of democracy, effective communications between governmental entities and those governed constitute the mortar, holding the building blocks of democracy in-place. Most importantly, public trust constitutes the foundation, without which the otherwise strong and resilient structure is subject to decline.
To facilitate public education and engagement in an increasingly digital world, governmental entities often develop subscription-based listserves to disseminate official news and information. Such communication tools serve a vital public purpose in educating, informing, and engaging the public, helping to cultivate public trust and maintain faith in government as a partner in supporting public safety, maintaining quality of life, and planning for our shared future.
In subscribing to such official governmental electronic communication lists, community members have a reasonable expectation of privacy; unlike subscribers to commercial email lists, government listserve subscribers expect and trust that their contact information will only be used for the specific official purpose authorized. To make the personal contact information contained in a governmental subscription list available to third parties through FOIL violates public trust and significantly jeopardizes the ability of government to disseminate important information to the public, as potential subscribers may object to their personal contact information being shared with third parties and therefore choose not to subscribe, or to unsubscribe once it becomes known that their personally identifiable information is not appropriately held in confidence.
The decline in public trust arising from breach of one’s expectation of privacy in connection with granting public access to a subscriber’s private contact information through FOIL has very real implications for government; arguably, for democracy itself.
The NYS Committee on Open Government and associated case law, as guided by the existing FOIL regulatory framework, direct and require governmental entities to release subscriber email addresses contained on a subscription-based governmental listserve to a requestor, but for an exception where solicitation is the intended use of the list. The Village of Scarsdale asserts that this mandate cultivates an unintended outcome, one that effectively forces an egregious error in weighing the public interest in gaining access to private contact information against the governmental interests embedded in the ability to cultivate an engaged and informed populace.
To be clear, the Village of Scarsdale firmly supports open and transparent government. That is precisely why we chose to implement a subscription-based listserve – to provide the public with opportunity to learn about and understand governmental affairs, all the while enabling and encouraging public participation in both formal and informal decision-making. We agree with and fully support the legislative intent undergirding FOIL.
The FOIL legislative declaration is concise and on-point.
The declaration opens powerfully, “The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions.” Yes, government is most accountable when the public is aware of governmental actions and, in our view, has the opportunity to learn about issues and influence decisions before they are made, as well as to examine all government records in accordance with the intent of FOIL.
When an interpretation of FOIL leads to the perverse outcome of chilling governmental efforts to inform, educate, and engage the public in decision-making, the underlying cause for the unintended outcome must be remedied.
Importantly, a simple list of subscriber email addresses, as such, has absolutely no influence on governmental actions or decisions of any kind. Furthermore, providing public access to the email addresses of governmental listserve subscribers has no discernible linkage to FOIL’s stated purpose. However, when combined with content, subscription-based listserves enable governments to inform, educate, and engage the public, i.e., to advance the critical legislative intent of FOIL. It should also be noted that all content thus distributed is publicly accessible, by design.
Any perceived governmental transparency and accountability benefit associated with mandatory public release of an email address subscription list, and it should be noted that we struggle to identify any such benefit, is clearly – and significantly – outweighed by the government’s need to use every tool available to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making.
By forcing disclosure of a subscription-based contact list, FOIL is undermining the fabric of free society. If community members refuse to subscribe, or withdraw their subscriptions to such lists out of concern for their privacy, cybersecurity exposure, unsolicited messaging, or any other personal data concern, the laudable public purposes fully embraced by the Village and mandated through FOIL are severely undermined.
Regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which strictly prohibits the release of one’s email address, demonstrate that individuals, organizations, and governments are deeply concerned about protection of personally identifiable information, particularly electronic information. At this time, the State of New York lags behind other entities in forward-thinking personal data privacy protections. Mandating release of governmental subscription-based email address lists, which have no public transparency value in the context of FOIL, exhibits a sharp departure from best practices in the data privacy arena.
The State of New York is a global leader. Our data privacy protections should be at the forefront of information technology and security. Not only are we compromising public trust in government, the foundation of democracy, but we are also potentially placing residents and businesses at elevated risk of harm in connection with potential cybercrimes by disclosing their private email addresses and providing an otherwise trusted electronic relationship that may be exploited.
Please develop and introduce legislation to exempt from release under FOIL any personally identifiable information, such as an email address, contained in a governmental listserve used to inform, educate, and engage the public in governmental actions and decision-making. It may also be a worthwhile endeavor to examine New York’s overall approach to data privacy protections for purposes of their appropriate and necessary modernization.
With High Regard,
Mayor Marc Samwick
Parents and Students Confront Challenges of Hybrid Learning
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1764
How’s the reopening going at the Scarsdale Schools? According to some parents, it’s been a frustrating experience. After prolonged negotiations between the district, the teachers and parents this summer, it appeared that a balance had been struck between the parent’s wish for some in-person learning and teachers’ desire to limit exposure to students and the virus. In order to mitigate risk, it was agreed that high school students would attend school two mornings per week, middle school students two days per week and elementary school students for two hour sessions, either mornings or afternoons, four days a week with alternating Wednesdays. For high school and middle school students, Wednesdays were set aside for professional development, tutorials and special help.
Though the agreement seemed reasonable to many, once implemented, the plan’s shortcomings are irking many parents and students.
First we have heard from many that in-person teaching is limited. Even when the high school students are in school for their two mornings, their schedules are peppered with free periods and study halls. Parents are wondering why students can’t have a full morning of academics for the limited time they are in class. Who needs to go to school to have a free period?
Another bone of contention is the decision to have no synchronous learning on Wednesdays, which leave students unaccountable on Tuesday nights and Wednesdays. Though there should be asynchronous learning going on, some parents have suggested that their kids can complete their assignments too quickly. They have dubbed Wednesdays, “Netflix Wednesdays” and are asking if Wednesday is the new Sunday. Other parents are asking why teachers are working fewer hours than they would work if students were in school, either in school or virtually.
Compounding the problem is that students are reporting frequent “no-shows” from their high school teachers. Without any prior announcement the teacher failed to appear.
Both parents and students are concerned that at this pace they will not learn the entire curriculum and be ill prepared for regents, SAT’s, ACT’s and advanced placement tests. Some teachers have set the bar low, telling the students that they plan to cover only 54% of the usual material this year. As one mom said, “When I asked for time in school for my son rather than a full virtual program, I was not told that it would mean a tradeoff of 50% of the curriculum. Had I known, we may have opted for a fully virtual program.”
At a recent Board of Education meeting, multiple parents asked why the district could not livestream classes, so that students in one cohort could attend class virtually while the other cohort was in school. This would bar the need for teachers to repeat the same material twice and allow them to cover more ground. Dr. Hagerman responded to the request for livestreaming, saying that “conversations about live streaming are ongoing but that the district is mindful of the student’s amount of screen time.”
Parents of middle school students are finding it hard to have their children unsupervised three days a week. They say that’s a long time for an eleven year-old to engage in asynchronous work and activities. Some are turning to structured programs at the Y or other private schools to keep kids occupied and learning during these long weekdays.
Another mother wondered if the real reason the district wasn’t addressing these issues is that they expected a case or two of COVID to break out soon and force the entire district into a virtual program.
Meanwhile parents and students are betwixt and between, trying to find their stride in this new learning environment.
Candidates Pledge to Do What is Best for Scarsdale
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Hits: 1643
This letter was written by Justin Arest, Lena Crandall and Randy Whitestone, SCNP Candidates for Vilage Trustee
To the Editor: At the root of the word “trustee” is the word “trust.” Village trustees are entrusted with faithfully representing the people they serve, namely, village residents. The three of us were honored to be nominated by the Citizens Nominating Committee for the office of Village Trustee last January. We pledge to never take that trust for granted and to work hard to deserve it. We pledge to be faithful to our duty to fight for what we believe is best for Scarsdale, even if at times we disagree with one another. We pledge to debate each other respectfully in a fact-based manner with the goal of getting things done for you, our neighbors.
We’ve had a record length of time as nominees because the pandemic postponed the March election. However, during these eight months we have demonstrated our dedication to serving you – Lena and Justin, as trustees, patiently grappled with tough fiscal, service, small business, and public health issues, and Randy, as an attendee at every village board meeting and work session, spoke as an engaged and thoughtful observer. Each of us has volunteered our time on a variety of boards and committees over the years, and shown, as others have attested in numerous letters, that we can work well with others, build consensus, and achieve results.
The world has changed since March in an eventful, uncertain and tragic year the likes of which we hope never to see again. But we’re not through this crisis yet, and more hard work is needed in these uncharted waters. We seek your vote for village trustee because we love this community and we believe we offer the kinds of skills, experience, knowledge and temperament to merit your vote.
Each of us was subject to a careful vetting process by 30 elected neighbors from every neighborhood in Scarsdale. We chose to run because we believe strongly in the Scarsdale schools’ motto of non sibi, serving not for ourselves. For us, public service is not about drawing attention, it’s about the dedication of time and hard work necessary to achieve the best outcome.
We are a village filled with smart residents, who represent a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds and who value innovation in service to our beautiful, stable village. This cognitive diversity makes Scarsdale a wonderful place to live and build community. We pledge to listen to all voices and engage in caring, civil discourse and be open to new ideas on what kind of village we together want to be in the future. We will do everything we can to make it comfortable and easy for residents to voice their ideas to ensure a process-driven government of openness and transparency.
We respectfully ask for your vote September 15. But most importantly, we ask you to vote, period, and engage with us on the many important issues facing our village.
Fox Meadow Road