Village Board Extends Outdoor Dining, Calls for Volunteers and Announces New Library Website

LibraryWebsiteEven during a tumultuous pandemic, local government must continue to do the work of every-day management and governance of the community. On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees met to discuss a variety of issues and policy action items affecting the town. Mayor Samwick began the meeting by talking about the tragic car crash that occurred in Fox Meadow this past week and wishing a safe and quick recovery for all five of the teenagers who were in the hospital. He went on to send a message of healing for all of those in the community who are suffering and ill during this difficult time in the pandemic. Mayor Samwick closed by thanking all of the village staff members and people throughout the community who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep Scarsdale running as smoothly as possible and who navigated this chaotic period gracefully.

The Covid-19 Vaccine:

Village Manager Pappalardo summarized the status of the Covid-19 vaccine in New York State. New York is receiving 300,000 doses of vaccine every week from the federal government. As of January 11, 2021, everyone who falls into category 1A and 1B, which includes healthcare workers, government workers, first responders, public transit workers, and school district faculty, are eligible to receive the vaccine. New York is hoping to vaccinate everyone in groups 1A and 1B over the next 14 weeks. In Scarsdale, this includes the Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Core, the Scarsdale Police Department, the Scarsdale Fire Department, and all staff that work for the school district.

Extending Outdoor Dining:

The first action item on the agenda was introduced by Trustee Arest, who presented two amendments. The first is a local law amending Chapter 245 of the Scarsdale Village Code entitled Sidewalk Cafes. This change would allow Scarsdale to extend the period that sidewalk dining is permitted until January 1, 2022. The second amendment is to local law Chapter 256 entitled Streets, Sidewalks, and Public Places. This amendment would also be valid for 1 year and would allow businesses located above street level to advertise their establishment on windows with the permission of their landlord. Marcy Berman Goldstein, a Scarsdale resident and the President of the Scarsdale Business Alliance, voiced her support for both of these pieces of legislation, and both were adopted unanimously by the Board of Trustees.diningtent

The Village Reopening Taskforce:

Next, Trustee Arest reviewed his work with the Village Reopening Taskforce (VRTF) and read some of the recommendations that the committee developed. The VRTF supported many of the successful initiatives the village enacted thus far such as sidewalk dining for restaurants, the village food tent, and the creation of additional outdoor seating. The VRTF hopes that permit holders continue to work with the Village Manager's office to make even more efficient use of outdoor tents and to create more outdoor events for community groups. The committee also feels that Chase Park is an underutilized resource and should be involved when developing safe programming options for the community. They recommend that portions of the park be available to service providers for outdoor Covid-safe events.

The Scarsdale Library:

Trustee Waldman provided an update on the Scarsdale Library, which just launched its new website. Ms. Waldman highlighted the user-friendly aspects of the new website and emphasized that residents can now search and reserve books, sign up for virtual programming events, and much more on the site. Ms. Waldman also noted that the library’s Apiary Café is available for curbside pickup and that the contactless book pickup and drop-off system continues to run smoothly.

Scarsdale Village Board and Council Elections:

Trustee Waldman also announced that appointments for Scarsdale Village boards and councils are opening for next year. There are 17 total boards and councils, including the Technology, Library, Youth, Senior, and Parks and Recreation boards. Various Board of Trustee members echoed Ms. Waldman’s sentiment and encouraged all interested residents to apply, and you can learn more about how to get involved HERE.

This year’s Village Election for Mayor and the Board of Trustees will be held on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Residents can vote at the Scarsdale Congregational Church. Trustee Whitestone made the following remarks to encourage residents to participate in the important work of local government and community management:

“I’d like to second Trustee Waldman’s remarks. Our Boards and Councils are an important part of the wiring of the Village, and one foundational way many of our residents see local government in action, as we saw earlier this evening with the CAC report on leaf blowers. They’re on the front lines of what matters to our residents. Our neighbors who volunteer their time by serving on these bodies deserve our thanks for the needed roles they play. I hope going forward we can have the broadest possible representation on our Boards and Councils, and encourage everyone to think about it and consider applying. Against the backdrop of a pandemic and, nationally, social and political turmoil, that sense of connectedness really matters these days. We should all feel ownership of how OUR Village – the most local form of government -- is run.

Also briefly, speaking of important work in challenging times, the Scarsdale Drug & Alcohol Task Force, a community coalition dedicated to reducing underage use of drugs and alcohol, lists a number of events scheduled for this month, including programs for parents and teens. Examples include “Helping Your Teen Overcome Anxiety and Depression,” “Building Resilience,” and “Maybe It’s Not Just Experimentation” on spotting the signs and symptoms of substance misuse and mental health disorders. For details, go to and click on the “Events” tab.”

United Westchester Working Group:

Next, Trustee Lewis informed the community about his work with the United Westchester Working Group. The group recently testified before the New York State Public Service Commission and released a 96-page report on the utility and telecom failings that occurred after last summer’s tropical storm. The group enumerated the various ways that Con Edison, Verizon, and other companies did not meet the needs of the community during this time. The United Westchester Working Group voiced several recommendations for improvements that must be made to this crisis management process such as implementing smart meters to track which customers do not have power, updating the list of all critical facilities, updating that map of the Con Edison grid, improving the distribution of dry ice, and creating a utility reserve corp. The group also recommends an audit of the Con Edison weather map, which did not match the National Weather Service map at the time of the storm. Overall, the group highlighted the need to create a more united and regulated response to these types of emergencies.

Highway Snow and Ice Removal:

Trustee Lewis then brought an action item to the Board – highway snow and ice removal. While New York State manages the snow and ice removal on state highways, for efficiency and expediency, Scarsdale Village has historically handled this removal for the 15.7 miles of state highway located in Scarsdale. The Board of Trustees re-authorized this agreement for 2021.

Charitable Gifts:

The Board then reviewed two gifts from the Fenway Golf Club Charitable Fund Committee. All gifts to the town over $500 must be approved by the Board of Trustees, and the Board approved the generous $5,000 gift to the Police Department and the $5,000 gift to the Fire Department from the Fenway Golf Club Charitable Fund Committee. The Board also approved a generous $2,000 gift from the Bauman Family Foundation to the Police Department.

The Zoning Board of Appeals:

Next, the Board addressed the current vacancy on the Scarsdale Zoning Board of Appeals. The Board of Appeals consists of five volunteer members and two alternate members that are appointed by the Mayor and subject to approval by the Board of Trustees. Each member serves for five years, with one member’s term expiring each year. Member Steve Pass resigned in 2020 and the Board of Trustees approved alternate member Meredith Millen to fill his role until April 5, 2021.

Town Finances:

After this piece of business, the meeting transitioned to a Town Board Meeting and Village Treasurer Scaglione reviewed the town’s finances. As of January, 99% of the tax levy for 2020 has been received. The school tax collection is currently at 78.3%, which is down from the 94% that is typically seen at this time of year. This is primarily because of the current school tax installment system. This year the town clerk fees increased from $2,800 in 2019 to $5,000 in 2020. The town’s interest earnings decreased in 2020 and currently stands at $13,000, and the cash balance increased and is currently $14,000,000.

Condominiums and the Tax Code:

The final action item on the agenda was to review the Resolution Calling for a Public Hearing on a Local Law Amending Chapter 269 of the Scarsdale Village Code Entitled “Taxation” by the Addition of a New Article XIV to be Entitled “Real Property Assessment of Converted Condominiums.” As explained by Town Assessor Sirota, this amendment was developed as a response to the taxation issues that arise when residents convert single-family homes into condominiums. Currently, single-family homes are assessed and taxed based on their market value, whereas condominiums are assessed based on their income-producing capabilities. This difference in methodology can create a tax exception of greater than 50% for the converted condominiums. This proposed amendment would protect the village from the strategic move residents might make to take advantage of this tax system. Each member of the Board of Trustees voted to hold a public hearing on this matter on February 9, 2021, via Zoom to consider the amendment to this law. Members of the public are encouraged to attend this meeting and voice their opinions and concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting.