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framedCalls for changes to the zoning code to limit home size, height and the appearance of bulk were addressed at a work session of the Board of Trustees on Tuesday November 10, 2020. A Bulk Committee was formed in October 2018 and they presented their recommendations in July 2019. In October 2019, the BOT asked Village staff to study the potential impact of several proposed recommendations from the committee, but after the COVID crisis hit in March, the issue was put aside again.

Now, two years later, Village staff presented their findings to the Board, and the Board voted to send these five recommendations, targeted to achieve modest reductions in home size, to the Planning Board for review. The recommendations address maximum allowable height, reduce the size of a bonus that allows for increased FAR, require that bonus floor area is built only on the first floor and dictates that any homes that are 15,000 square feet and more receive a special use permit from the Board of Appeals.

Study by Village staff determined that these recommendations would not yield dramatic reductions in home size. In fact, they estimated that the floor area ratio of maximum sized homes would only be reduced by 5%. However, after studying the issue for years, the Board agreed to move forward on these recommendations as an initial step. As with all code changes, they will review the impacts in a few years to see if these have the desired affect or need additional tweaking.

The five recommendations are as follows:

-Reduce the maximum permitted height to 32 feet from 35 feet, measured to the midpoint of the roof.

-Reduce the Floor Area Ratio, (FAR) side yard setback bonus by 30%

-Eliminate the FAR requirement that in order to qualify for the side yard setback bonus, additions to existing homes must be built at the rear of the house.

-Clarify the code to specify that the FAR garage credit applies to the square footage of the floor level of the garage where cars are parked, but not to space on the upper floors.

-Require Planning Board site plan approval for single family residential projects involving more than 15,000 square feet of gross floor area rather than a special use permit from the Board of Appeals

Jeff Watiker, the long- time chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals explained that this worked started in October 2018. Village staff was asked to compare Scarsdale’s zoning tools with other municipalities. A Bulk Review Committee, including the Chairs of the Planning Board, Zoning Board and Board of Architectural Review was formed and they presented their findings to the Village Board in October 2019. At that point, the trustees asked Village staff to study the potential affects of the first two recommendations … height reduction and elimination of 30% of the side yard setback bonus.

They considered 33 new homes and 32 additions that were considered by the BAR from 2014 - 2017 to see how these changes would have affected the outcomes. Read the full report here.

Topline, they determined that the height reduction from 35 to 32 feet would not result in many non-conforming properties as 90% of the new homes and 87% of the additions were built at a height of 32 feet.

However, the reduction in the side yard setback bonus would have an impact as only 47% of the new homes and 92% of the additions would meet these new guidelines. Tables and charts showing the impacts can be reviewed here: For example, on a home that was permitted to be 700 square feet larger due to the side yard setback bonus, under the new law that bonus would be reduced to 490 square feet. While not dramatic, the 210 square foot reduction in allowable square footage could have an impact on the overall perception of home bulk.

Commenting on the recommendations, Village Planner Greg Cutler said, “I think these strikes a balance… There are not too many non-conformities and they will move the needle in a certain direction.”

Trustee Justin Arest asked to see some hypothetical examples of how these code changes might affect the design of new homes. He said, “What is bulk? ....There is no definition. Can we show this on some hypothetical homes? Non-conformities should not be a priority from my perspective.”

Trustee Lena Crandall said, “This is an incremental proposal. I believe it is reasonable. The community has been waiting a long time to address the bulk of homes being built.”

Mayor Marc Samwick favored sending these recommendations to the Planning Board for review. He said, “A lot of work went into this. An incremental step has real benefit. Whatever we do will be subject to review in the years to come. This is an admittedly gradual step to respond to the community and what we heard from prior boards. We can study this until the cows come home. It’s important to get this in front of the community. It would have to go to the planning board first. After we get their comments we can draft a change to local law.”

The board voted 6-1 to refer the recommendations to the Planning Board.

PlaguedoctorThe Plague Doctor at Scarsdale High SchoolThough it wasn’t your usual Halloween, Scarsdalians found safe ways to celebrate the holiday. The devised ingenuous costumes, many with themes involving the strange happenings this year including a Purell bottle, the Grim Reaper and several plague doctors, dressed up in Medieval gear.

You might ask, what is a Plague Doctor? According to Scarsdale Art Historian Linda Wolk Simon, these harken back to the outbreak of the bubonic plague in the 6th century when doctors visited the afflicted wearing pointy, beak-like nose masks. The “beak” was filled with rose petals or other pungent flowers to act as a kind of filter and, it was wrongly believed, protect or shield the wearer from the pestilence. By the late 17thc, “the doctor” became a stock character in Italian Commedia Dell’Arte, improv traveling theater. The character always wears that mask and a large flat hat.

At Scarsdale High School, in addition to plague doctors, weillustration saw a troupe of medical doctors (today’s superheroes), a school of sharks, bears, flying squirrels, astronauts, cowgirls, kangaroos, traffic cones and more.

The deans and principals wore black and orange Halloween t-shirts that read, “Halloween Seriously? 2020 is Scary Enough,” on the front, and on the back said, “Trick or Teach,
Be Afraid-ers,” and did their best to drum up the holiday spirit as Cohorts A and B left school on rainy weather on Thursday and Friday October 29 and 30.

Take a look at the high school students below:

 

 

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The younger kids also had some fun. At Greenacres, students posed for Halloween photos in front of the newly-installed school sign and enjoyed spooky treats. Winners of the Greenacres costume contest were Lois Levy (Zombie Ballerina Jewelry Box - 1st prize), Lola van Santen (Zombie Cheerleader - 2nd prize), Nicola Dechiario (Butterfly Fairy - 3rd prize) and Finn Pearson (Slenderman).

ballerinaLois Levy as Zombie Ballerina

We also received some terrific photos of kids in costume and trick or treating around town. To add yours to our Halloween photo gallery, please email photos to scarsdalecomments@gmail.com.

On Halloween, since guidelines discouraged door to door trick or treating, residents set out tables with individual Halloween treats for kids to take. See photos below of a Pandemic Pumpkin Patch in Davis Park and of treats set out along a popular stretch of Brewster Road in Greenacres.

Whatever your experience, it was a Halloween that no one will ever forget.

 

 

 

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BrewsterRoadTrickorTreatBrewster Road Trick or TreatpumpkinpatchA Pandemic Pumpkin Patch in Davis Park

Mulch Mowing Leaves BeforeMowing leaves into tiny pieces on your lawn--also known as mulch mowing-- is healthier for your lawn and soil than piling or bagging them to be removed. Leaf-mulched lawns often need less fertilizer and water. It is also better for our environment because the pollutants from leaf blowers and trucks that must haul away the leaves are avoided. And, leaves piled in the streets can be a thing of the past! Homeowners around Scarsdale have been mulch mowing leaves for many years with great results.

Here are the facts:

Mulch mowing does not harm your lawn—it makes your lawn healthier. Decomposing mulched leaves nestle between the individual blades of grass where weeds might otherwise germinate. Once the small bits of leaves settle-in, microbes and worms start breaking them down. The nutrients from the decomposed leaves enhance the soil while also inhibiting weed growth.

Done correctly, mulch mowing should not make your lawn look messy.
As long as the mulch mowing creates pieces about the size of a dime or smaller, the shredded leaves quickly settle into the lawn without making it look messy. It is important that the leaves left on a lawn without shredding them can smother grass—be sure to mulch mow them!.

It’s easy.
Mulch mowing can be done with any standard homeowner or commercial lawn mower. Simply mow over the fallen leaves. All types of leaves can be mulch mowed. However, pine needles, which are acidic, may change the ph balance of your lawn if mulch mowed in large quantities; consider using pine needles as a mulch around the base of pine trees.

All landscapers have the equipment to mulch mow.
If you have a landscaper, ask them to mulch mow your leaves. Many, but not all, landscapers have experience mulch mowing. If your landscaper is new to mulch mowing, the following are key points for them to know:

Equipment:
To help shred the leaves into small pieces, it’s recommended that a mulching blade be used. This type of blade, which has grooves to shred the leaves, is inexpensive and available for any type of mower. Mulching kits, which include additional attachments beyond just a mulching blade, are also available at any mower distributor and can be fitted to commercial mowers.

Mulching Technique:
Mowing the leaves in a circular pattern, rather than back and forth in lines, will result in smaller pieces of leaves which decompose more quickly and will avoid “striping lines.”

Time: It should take your landscaper no additional time to mulch mow leaves rather than blowing them to the curb. In fact, if done correctly, it actually saves time. It’s just as easy (or easier) to mulch mow than it is to blow leaves curbside.

Cost:
Mulch mowing leaves should not cost more than having leaves blown to the curb or bagged. There are many landscapers in Scarsdale that have been mulch mowing properties for years at no additional cost. If your landscaper claims it will be more time-consuming, ask them to try it for a few weeks. They will see it takes no extra time.

If you mow your own lawn, just keep mowing!
You can continue using your mower without installing a mulching blade, but sometimes you may have to go over certain areas of your lawn twice to make sure the leaves have been cut into small pieces. Better yet, you can install a mulching blade yourself or bring it to any local mower shop to install. Try to mulch leaves once a week so the piles don’t build up too high for your mower, especially during the heavy drop of leaves. Remember to keep the blade sharpened and the deck height adjusted as needed.

Large piles of leaves will become markedly smaller when mulch mowed.
Shredding piles of leaves significantly reduces the volume of leaves. What looks like a huge leaf pile will shred into tiny pieces and quickly settle into your lawn. Even if you need to put some leaves to the curb during the heavy leaf drop, any reduction in leaves put curbside benefits our environment.

Excess mulched leaves can be placed in your garden beds.
Leaf mulch can be placed into garden beds to help prevent weed growth, to conserve moisture and reduce sprinkler usage, and to provide a protective layer in winter. Shredded leaves look great, are a healthy addition to your yard, and will save you the cost of buying wood mulch. Remember, to avoid damaging trees and plants, never place mulch directly against a tree trunk or shrub and never pile mulch more than 2”- 3” high in a garden bed.

Leaf mulch mowing benefits our local landscape, reduces the number of truck trips in our community, and gets large piles of leaves off our streets.

If you have any questions or comments, email Scarsdale’s Conservation Advisory Council

Leaf Mulch Mowing Resources

Scarsdale Leaf Mulch mowing tutorial: Link https://www.scarsdale.com/424/Leaf-Mulch-Mowing

Educational panel with landscapers and representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension.

 

 

JoshBroomIf anyone is wondering what's on the minds of Scarsdale kids, take a look at the display of Halloween window paintings this year. For the first time this year, many of the kids painted wearing masks and it seems to have influenced their work. What are the themes of their work? The pandemic, Zoom, masks and social distancing are depicted in many of the paintings.There are goblins, ghosts and witches on Zoom, quarantine scenes and the COVID 19 virus shown as the new worldwide terror. 

The paintings are a window into the psyches of Scardsale's kids. Sad to say, but this is the scariest year ever! Thanks to Joshua Im for these timely photos.

 

 

 

 

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PaulinMetro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin joined labor leaders and advocates on Wednesday to demand that any federal emergency funding bill cover all transportation sectors, not just one, and to urgently call on the United States Congress and White House to authorize $12 billion in desperately needed COVID-19-related relief for the MTA to avert draconian railroad service reductions of up to 50%, fare increases, layoffs and the gutting the MTA’s historic capital plan. The coalition also insisted the bill include at least $32 billion in total emergency aid for public transportation across the country, which is critical to the nation’s economic recovery.

Because of the once-in-a-hundred-year COVID-19 pandemic, the MTA’s 2020-2024 Capital Plan is already on hold – a direct hit to Metro-North and MTA customers, employees, suppliers and the region as a whole. The Authority’s capital expenditures generate nearly $50 billion in infrastructure investments and more than 100,000 jobs nationwide – making it one of the nation’s largest drivers of economic activity. Without needed federal funding, the MTA could be forced to severely scale back the historic $51.5 billion capital construction plan desperately needed to modernize the railroad and expand the New Haven Line to Penn Station via four new stations in the Bronx.MTARally

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York in March, Metro-North Railroad has played a critical role in helping riders get to their location safely, ensuring doctors, nurses and so many other essential employees get to their jobs on the front lines. While customers have been returning to the system as the region has reopened, ridership on Metro-North is still no more than a quarter of pre-pandemic levels. Currently, Metro-North is operating at 63% of its pre-pandemic schedule.

“As we stand alongside our fierce advocates and community leaders in this fight for federal funding, we want the government to truly understand how critical this is for our riders and employees,” said Catherine Rinaldi, President of MTA Metro-North Railroad. “For months we have been calling on the federal government because the magnitude of the COVID-19 financial crisis only gets worse every day. We can only begin the imagine the long-lasting impacts potential service cuts could have on our region and that’s why we look to leaders in both red and blue states and urge them to come together to save transit.”

“Public transportation is our lifeline,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “New York wouldn’t be New York without it. Residents in Westchester County and right here in Bronxville depend on the Metro-North Railroad every single day. Until we have a vaccine, ridership and revenue are diminished and we cannot let our residents suffer as a result. Please federal government, keep us riding, don’t just sit and watch the closing doors.”

Mayor Mary Marvin said, “Reliable train service is critically important for Bronxville residents, and for our entire region. In this time of economic recovery, it is more important than ever that people can get back into New York City to work, go to school, and visit the many cultural institutions that make our area special. This is impossible without an investment in transit. We must get federal funding to prevent these catastrophic service cuts, and make sure New York remains one of the greatest cities in the world.”

Scarsdale Mayor Mark Samwick said, “Part of what makes Scarsdale such a wonderful community is quick and reliable train service to New York City. Our residents and businesses depend on it. If federal funding does not come through to save the MTA, it could take decades to repair the damage to our suburbs and the downstate region as a whole.”

bronxvilleRandy Glucksman, MTA Board member and Chair of the Metro-North Commuter Council said, “The MTA desperately needs federal funding so it can continue to serve riders. Without $12 billion, we’re facing a doomsday scenario of service cuts, fare hikes and layoffs. We won’t see the new train cars, station improvements, accessibility projects and signal upgrades that Metro-North Railroad needs and that riders deserve. In the worst-case scenario, West-of-Hudson service could be eliminated, stranding tens of thousands of riders. We'll also be faced with Carmageddon as more people drive instead of taking transit. The Hudson Valley's economy – and recovery – will suffer. It’s that simple. Metro-North continued to run during the height of the pandemic, getting front line and essential workers where they needed to go, and now the Railroad needs a lifeline. We urge a bipartisan agreement that will provide much-needed funding for our vital transit network.”

Lisa Daglian, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC) said, “The MTA’s transit system drives the economy of the tri-state region and is essential to our way of life. Without an infusion of $12 billion in emergency federal funding relief, riders will be faced with deep service cuts, reduced cleaning, fare increases, layoffs, and a significant reduction in the MTA’s capital program. All of that has the potential to begin a downside into a transit death spiral from which it would take years – even decades – to come back. Supporting transit isn’t a New York issue, it’s a national issue: the metropolitan area supplies 10% of the nations’ economy. Securing additional federal funding that includes relief for transit and cities and states is crucial, or every worst-case scenario will come true and the entire region’s economy and recovery will suffer.”

"The collapse of public transit will ruin suburbs like Bronxville across the nation," said Riders Alliance Policy and Communications Director Danny Pearlstein. "COVID didn't destroy America's trains and buses but federal inaction is a mortal threat. Transit riders need federal aid now. The House of Representatives has voted repeatedly to save the transit service that millions rely on and the nation's recovery hinges on. Now the Senate and White House must take up the charge and pass a relief bill that carries the nation's public transit systems through the next year."

Patrick McClellan, Policy Director for the New York League of Conservation Voters said, “Metro-North Railroad serves hundreds of thousands of commuters, avoiding countless car trips and keeping the New York metropolitan area’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially lower than they otherwise would be. If we are to successfully fight climate change we need more frequent Metro-North service, not the devastating cuts that the MTA will have to make if the federal government lets us down. It’s past time for Congress and President Trump to act.”

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