Sunday, Apr 14th

Candidate and Current Village Trustee Ken Mazer Looks for the Best and Highest Use of Village Funds

MazerFeb24Current Village Trustee Ken Mazer is running for a second term on the Village Board. In advance of the election on March 19, 2024 we asked him about his accomplishments during his first term, for his views on the issues that face Scarsdale and what he thinks about pickleball courts, the pool and the building moratorium. Read below and remember to vote in the general election on Tuesday, March 19 in the Scott Room at Scarsdale Public Library at 54 Olmsted Road. Voting hours will be from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Introduce yourself to those who may not know you. What do you like about living in Scarsdale? How were your first two years as trustee and why did you decide to run again?

I have lived in Scarsdale for 27 years. In addition to completing my first term as Scarsdale Village Trustee, for the past 24 years I have been a member of the Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Department.

I grew up nearby in Harrison and received my BA from the University of Vermont and MBA from NYU. I live in Fox Meadow with my wife Melissa and have three children, ages 12, 14 and 24. Professionally, I run a business I started 20 years ago producing and importing textile products from Asia.

What impresses me most about Scarsdale is the high level of volunteerism throughout our community. Hundreds of residents commit countless hours to improve our schools, recreational activities, public safety and village government. And it shows. Scarsdale is a great place to live and raise a family.

It’s been an honor and a joy to serve on the Village Board. Addressing village-related problems, crafting sensible solutions and balancing the needs of conflicting constituents has been enormously satisfying.

Tell us what developments/accomplishments from your first term you are most proud of?

As Chair of the Personnel Committee, I was responsible for staffing our almost 20 Boards and Councils that oversee so many key functions of our village, from land-use, to sporting activities to cultural engagements, to quality-of-life initiatives. We cast a wide net to attract a deep pool of qualified candidates and ultimately filled 85 vacancies with impressive volunteers.

As Vice-Chair of the Infrastructure Committee, I supported the passage of the Sewer Lateral Law, which mandates homeowners, before selling their home, cure any leaks and dismantle any illegal sump-pumps that can collectively overwhelm and cause back-ups to the sanitary sewer system during powerful storms. While I recognized the inconvenience this would cause to all homeowners – and some complained about the hassle and cost, I appreciated the benefits it would have on sewer management, a critical challenge for our village. In the end it was clear to me that all residents needed to roll up their sleeves and do their part to help manage our stormwater problems.

Similarly, I was pleased when the board agreed to increase capital expenditures to make up for low spending in prior years, even if it meant slightly higher taxes. For example, we accelerated the paving schedule to finish resurfacing all of Scarsdale’s 80 miles of roads within 3 years. In another example, we just renovated 4 ballfields with updated infields that will result in better drainage and overall play starting this spring.

In your view, what are some of the major issues and decisions facing the Village Board this year?

The Pool: Our pool complex has outlived its expected service life and needs to be replaced. We’ve polled the community for input, consulted engineers on cost, and have determined the most practical upgrade is to replace it with another seasonal facility. An independent ad-hoc committee of community volunteers representing all constituencies of the village has been formed to oversee the design and redevelopment process. A key component of their work will be to seek feedback from the public for each step of the design process. Since I am not a part of the ad-hoc committee, I cannot comment on the forthcoming designs. But what I can say, is that, designs aside, the Board is committed to a financially sensible complex that will serve all of Scarsdale, from our very youngest to our most senior.

Land-Use Regulations: There is an overwhelming sentiment throughout the village that our land-use regulations have not kept up to date with the trends in real estate development and the impact of climate change. Accordingly, the board has hired a consulting firm with the necessary expertise to recommend enhancements to our regulations that will help our land-use boards work more closely together, enhance our greenery, better manage our stormwater runoff, and improve our new housing stock so it blends in better with our community. To give breathing room for the consultant’s work and the implementation of the revised codes, the Board has initiated a temporary 6-month moratorium on certain development activities.

Downtown Revitalization: The Board continues its work to make our downtown more of a focus in people’s lives. At the same time, we are addressing traffic flows downtown, and on Sprague Road, to make these thoroughfares safer and more welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrians. We hired a consulting firm experienced in these types of community revitalization projects. Our goal is to make the village more central in our daily activities, with appealing retailers and restaurants, parkland space, community programs and special events, all safely assessable by car, bike or foot. Trial traffic calming initiatives are scheduled for installation later this year for public comment.

New Village Manager: An active search is underway for a permanent Village Manager. The Board hired a search firm led by a women with extensive knowledge of municipal governments throughout Westchester county and who knows the industry players well. The Board will keep the community updated with important developments throughout the process.

In your first term Scarsdale lost its Village Manager. Did the absence of a Village Manager prevent the Board from moving forward on any initiatives? When do you think a new one will be installed and how do you envision his/her role?

The village is in extraordinarily capable hands. Our department superintendents and managers have decades of experience in the village and their work continues unimpeded. Our Acting Village Manager has shown an organizational oversight, dedication and wisdom of a seasoned pro. Until a permanent Village Manager is installed, the business of Scarsdale is “business as usual.”

I cannot predict when the permanent Village Manager will be selected, but I expect we will make substantial progress in the coming months. I envision her / his role will be to lead the village’s professional staff in implementing the strategic objectives established by the Board of Trustees, whose judgment is informed by our residents, our Boards & Councils, the Scarsdale Forum, and, of course, our professional village staff.

Stormwater management and flooding have been on the agenda of many meetings. Please discuss what the Village government can do and what else can be done to safeguard residents’ homes and public property.

Stormwater flooding has been an ongoing problem that the village has been addressing for many years. Exacerbated by more frequent and severe storms, our aging infrastructure is not up to the task.

The village has been undergoing a process of inspecting and repairing our existing pipeline network to make our sanitary and storm water drainage systems as efficient as possible. Partially complete, this effort will continue for several years. In addition, the newly enacted sewer lateral law, that I discussed previously, will help mitigate the impact of increased storm water on our sanitary sewer system.

Depending on the success of these measures, more aggressive plans prepared by the Department of Public Works could be considered. These call for adding upstream storage ponds that release captured storm water slowly, over many days, so that our drainage network is not over-taxed. Examples of such ponds already installed include the ones at George Field Park and across from the Public Safety Building. In addition, the proposals include upsizing the village’s culvert capacity to accommodate more storm water runoff. These plans, however, could potentially cost over $10 million. Funding at this level has not yet been considered by the Village Board.

The Board of Trustees ran a pilot program to provide pickleball courts on the Crossway Tennis Courts. How was the response? Do you think the Village will convert the tennis courts or build pickleball courts?

Recognizing the runaway popularity of pickleball, the Village Board is committed to making this sport available to our residents. In an effort to introduce pickleball, the Board identified Crossway Field as the most logical site for permanent courts, given the demands of space and parking, and considering the distance to adjacent homes. But to be sure the impact on the surrounding community was minimal, the Board first established trial courts by temporarily taping over tennis courts this past fall. With the trial up and running, the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department carefully measured the participation rates, the impact on traffic & parking, and the noise emanating from the courts. Using decibel measuring devices, the sounds of the game were measured courtside, in back behind the noise-mitigating fencing and foliage, and further up by the little league field, where homes are nearby.

While the Board awaits a formal report and recommendations from the PRC, it seems Crossway, near the existing tennis courts, remains a promising location to install Scarsdale’s first permanent pickleball facilities.

This year the Board was faced with challenges to our land use code and preservation code from residents, realtors and developers. We currently have a six-month building moratorium in place. Share your views on these issues and what you expect the Village Board to do as an outcome of this pause.

As I mentioned previously, there is an overwhelming sentiment throughout the village that our land-use regulations have not kept up to date with the trends in real estate development and the impact of climate change. Accordingly, the Board has hired a consulting firm with the necessary expertise to recommend enhancements to our regulations that will help our land-use boards work more closely together, enhance our greenery, better manage our stormwater runoff, and improve our new housing stock so it blends in better with our community. To give breathing room for the consultant’s work and the implementation of the revised codes, the Board has initiated a temporary 6-month moratorium on certain development activities.

It is my hope and expectation that after considering the consultant’s report and receiving input from the community, the Board will make practical adjustments to our land-use and preservation codes that will prepare Scarsdale for the years ahead in way we can all support.

The Village is currently considering a proposal from the Scarsdale Business Alliance for $75,000 to fund an Executive Director. What are your views on public funding of private groups? What precedents might this decision set for future boards?

The Scarsdale Business Alliance is a compelling organization as its mission closely aligns with village objectives and our downtown revitalization initiative. That organization’s short-term grant request, however, needs to be evaluated in the context of other village priorities competing for our limited discretionary funds.

For me, the question of public funding of private groups revolves around what’s best for Scarsdale, and needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The best and highest uses of our funds will vary over time depending on our community’s needs, spending opportunities and the funds on-hand. Whatever is decided about the Scarsdale Business Alliance should have no bearing on the potential future funding of private groups that benefit the residents of Scarsdale.

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