As Deadline Approaches, Trustees Examine the Impact of the New Marijuana Laws on Scarsdale
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Category: The Goods
Will the streets and parks of Scarsdale soon smell like we have been skunked? Now that the use of marijuana is legal in New York State, should Scarsdale permit marijuana dispensaries and smoking lounges to open in the Village? That was the topic of a work session of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees on Tuesday October 26, 2021.
Under the new state Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), the Village has until December 31, 2021 to decide. If they fail act or opt out, dispensaries and lounges will be permitted and the decision cannot be reversed. If they opt out for now, they can choose to opt in at a later date.
Much is still up in the air because the state is creating an Office of Cannabis Management governed by a Cannabis Control Board. However, to date, only a few people have been appointed to the Board and no regulations have been developed.
In order to listen to the facts and gather public information, the Scarsdale Board of Trustees held a work session led by Village Trustee Karen Brew.
Village Attorney Daniel Pozin explained that local governments can pass laws regarding the time, place and manner of dispensaries and lounges. But these laws would also regulate the use of tobacco. So if the trustees decide to ban the use of marijuana in public areas, then smoking tobacco will also be banned.
Anticipating that marijuana dispensaries and lounges might cause smokey streets, the Village has drafted proposed code to restrict smoking at all Village owned properties. This new code can be passed independent of the Village's decision on cannabis.
Specifically, smoking (anything) would be banned in the following places:
(1) Smoking within any building or structure, including any main entrance to such facilities, owned, and controlled by the Village of Scarsdale.
(2) Smoking anywhere within the confines of the Village of Scarsdale Swimming Pool Complex or on any playfield, playground, park, or parking lot owned or operated by the Village of Scarsdale.
(3) Smoking within any vehicle owned by the Village of Scarsdale.
(4) Smoking upon any street or sidewalk owned by the Village of Scarsdale and located within the Village Center Area District as defined in section 310-12 of this Code, or upon any street or sidewalk owned by the Village of Scarsdale and located within the Village’s Business A, Business C, and Buffer Parking zones.
B. Smoking indoors in the Village of Scarsdale shall be governed by the Article 13-E of the New York State Public Health Law, which is also known as the Clean Indoor Air.
Pozin explained that local authorities can decide whether they want dispensaries and consumption lounges in their community. They can adopt a local law to opt out. However, if they don’t do it before December 31, 2021, they can never opt out. If they do opt-out they can opt in at a later date.
The cost of opting out is the loss of 3% of the retail tax on marijuana sales. Under the new law, the county will collect the 4% tax, they will keep 25% and give 75% to the local municipality. Discussing potential revenues from dispensaries and lounges Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards presented numbers that showed that the average revenue per store was $6 million. She projected that if Scarsdale opted in, the village could receive $200,000-$500,000 in additional annual revenues. However, later at the meeting Anne Hintermeister challenged those projections saying they were based on sales in vacation communities in the Berkshires that bordered NYS and major highways. She believes that revenues would be far lower.
Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards surveyed all communities in Westchester County to see where they stand on the decision. She found that:
-7% will opt out of both dispensaries and lounges
-42% had made no decision
-42% will opt out of on-site consumption and dispensaries
-9% will opt of on-site consumption only, thus allowing dispensaries
Two of Scarsdale’s closest neighbors, White Plains and New Rochelle have decided not to opt out. Therefore there will presumably be dispensaries and smoking lounges in our closest neighboring towns, making marijuana easily accessible for Scarsdale residents, even if we do opt out. In this case residents could purchase cannabis but Scarsdale would not benefit from the revenue.
Richards also pointed out that those towns who make no decision, which is 42% of the list as of now, are essentially opting in.
Village Planner Greg Cutler showed a map where dispensaries and lounges could potentially be located. They would not be permitted near schools, religious institutions or childcare centers, but could be sited on Garth Road, Scarsdale Avenue, Christie Place, Spencer Place, Boniface Circle, East Parkway, and in the Golden Horseshoe Shopping Center.
Cutler does not know what the impact of the presence of a dispensary would be on sales at other retail shops nearby.
Joshua Glantz of Claremont Road spoke in favor of allowing dispensaries and lounger in the Village. He claimed that research shows that in states with legal cannabis use, teen consumption declined. Why? Because it decreases the sale of illicit drugs. He also said that accessing cannabis at a legal location is more difficult than accessing alcohol. According to Glantz, there are limits on the amount of cannabis that you can purchase. In areas where cannabis is legalized, it has led to an increase in parental awareness and discussion with their children.
Furthermore, the National Association of Realtors found that that there is an increase in demand for commercial properties in areas where cannabis is legal.
However, representatives from Scarsdale’s Drug and Alcohol Taskforce strongly objected to the sale and use of cannabis in the Village of Scarsdale.
Speaking for the Drug and Alcohol Task Force, Coalition Coordinator Lisa Tomeny stated that the age of first use is a critical risk factor for later adult use. She said, “As a community we can affect our attitude and the availability of the product. We do have a say about the location of dispensaries. The higher the density of the outlets, the more severe the impact.”
Discussing the content of marijuana that is sold, she pointed out that there is no regulation of the concentration of THC and that it has been growing over time to make more potent products. In addition, sellers market to children and teens by packaging marijuana to imitate cereal boxes with names like Cap’n Munch, Chronic Toast Crunch and Frosty Loopys. Sometimes these products are consumed by mistake by young children.
She concluded with a warning. “Scarsdale will have no regulation of the products that are sold. We are being asked to make a decision now when we don’t have clear rules from the state. It could be a very costly mistake.”
Also for opting out was Linda Richter of Mt. Joy Avenue who works for a non-profit that monitors research on youth substance abuse, policy and prevention.
In response to the comments from Joshua Glantz, she said, “I would push back on the contention that legalization allows parents to discuss this more with kids. This is not true. The perceived approval makes it worse…. It will be more available. The two main things that drive kids usage is accessibility and exposure. Allowing the dispensaries sends a message that it is okay to use.”
Kaitlin Higgins, a student at SHS said, “There is already an issue of usage on school grounds during school hours. … Vaping used to set off fire alarms -- this affects everyone in school. Vaping is a gateway to harder drugs. Having more dispensaries will make it easier for kids to get their hands on it. The Golden Horseshoe and Chase Park are places where kids hang out – the dispensaries would be too close to that location. There is no harm in opting out. It is not an accident that 50% of communities have opted out.”
Karen Brew read a statement from Trustee Lena Crandall who studied the issue but was not at the meeting. She said, “In my opinion we should opt out of lounges because we live in a community where most people travel by car and I worry about driving under the influence. However I have changed my mind about dispensaries. Our retail community will benefit, we will get additional revenue, we can regulate the sale and it will be convenient for local residents.”
The Mayor then invited public comments.
Marian Green spoke first as the Chair of the Council on People with Disabilities. She said her committee was focused on the medicinal value of cannabis and said, “It would be helpful to some.”
Mitch Kulick of 8 Park Road said he is an attorney who represents cannabis sellers. He said, “New Rochelle is opting in. Does Scarsdale want to benefit from having it in Scarsdale? Maybe we can’t opt in later –the state issues limited licenses. There is a real possibility that this is a one-time thing – it is a bit of a red herring.”
Kulick added, “I was just at an opening. The shop in Hartsdale is not what a dispensary looks like at all. The windows are opaque. It looks like an Apple store.”
Anne Hintermeister said, “We based our revenue estimates on sales and resort towns in the Berkshires at a time when there were no places to purchase in surrounding towns…. Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge… Before we jump to the conclusion that we could expect to receive these revenues we need to sharpen our pencils. We don’t have college students, tourists, billboards, an interstate passing through etc. Look at sales from an average dispensary in an average community.”
Richter said, “Marijuana disorder is the primary reason teens enter into addiction programs. Parents feel abandoned when the government allows the sale of marijuana. It makes it very difficult to enforce rules. This would be a big burden on parents.”
Marian Green, speaking as a resident said, “People are mail ordering marijuana, you can have a courier bring it or get it via Fedex.”
Wendy Gendel of 100 Brookby Road said, “I ask the trustees and mayor to please consider opting out. At this point we don’t have the necessary information. More research needs to be done.
Discussing projected revenues, Lisa Tomeny said, “In Colorado it’s $3 million per dispensary. It would generate $90,000 for the Village of Scarsdale.
Madelaine Eppenstein of 18 Autenreith Road said, “We have a lot of information and research. I applaud the DATF and the teenager who spoke tonight. There will be an impact – no doubt about it. We will change the complexion of Scarsdale in a way we might not be happy about.”
Dr. Darlene LeFrancois-Haber said, “I agree that legalization means normalization. Marijuana is good for neuropathic pain but recreational use is for people to get high. We don’t want to make it easier for our young people to get a hold of this. I vote to opt out for now.”
Following the discussion and a review of the proposed change to smoking code, the trustees voted to hold a public hearing on the cannabis law at the next meeting of the Village Board of Trustees on November 9, 2021.
Residents Request Traffic Study Around Greenacres Elementary School
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Category: The Goods
A Greenacres man is ciruclating a petition to ask Village Trustees to include the streets around Greenacres Elementary School in a traffic study they have commissioned. Upon learning that the Village is studying traffic around Scarsdale Village and Sprague Road, Greenacres residents also wanted to raise awareness about dangerous conditions near the school.
Below find the petition, and the link to sign it if you wish.
Dear Board of Trustees,
Greenacres School brought together a great community with new young families playing outside and getting together in each other’s lawns. It brings great joy watching our children walk themselves to elementary or high school in the mornings and afternoons during the school week or during weekend sports practices.
However, the reality starts hitting right away when cars are getting into the picture as kids and cars don't mix.There are NO side-walks or designated bike/walk paths.
The streets around Greenacres school, particularly Putman and Sage Terrace and Brewster to Fenimore as leading to Greenacres school and High School are very dangerous. Sage and Putnam streets is simply too crowded for people, parked cars and passing traffic and cars zip down Brewster Road straightaways, dodging our children like an autocross.
We implore the Board of Trustees, to include Brewster, Sage and Putnam into the RFP for consultant looking into the traffic in the village and Sprague Street.
One child traffic accident will be too much.
Commenting on the information above, reader Russ Kopp said, "It might be of some interesting for some of relatively newer residents, which I am not, to know about some of history of the signage that exists around the Greenacres school, as well as absence of signage I wish existed.
Around 15 years ago, a women who shall remain nameless, but who now is unaffected by the policies she helped establish (as she now I believe calls California home) organized a petition to have one side of Sage Terrace between Putnam and Brewster Roads closed off to parking during drop off and pickup times at the school.
While she fairly claimed difficulty for vehicles to travel bidirectionally at this location with parking on both sides of the street, I found her claims of pedestrian risk at this location for those with homes South of Sage or West of Brewster (i.e. affected people) a little tougher a pill to swallow as said walkers could alternatively walk up Brewster or Brite to Huntington, where there is a sidewalk. Equally important, my requests for 15 mph signage on Sage, between Huntington and Putnam, which while one way, also has a sharp curve---was turned down at this time by the Village's traffic committee.
I am all about safety, but remind people to approach this as if it was there home affected by any changes. Karma does strange things, and this same person who organized her petition for the common good found herself not so willing to support similar arguments when Police headquarters expanded about a decade ago, and her home was affected."
Simone Kestelman's Warriors On Display at RoCA
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Category: The Goods
The work of Scarsdale artist Simone Kestelman will be featured in an exhibit of sculpture by women at RoCA, the Rockland Center for the Arts in Nyack, starting on October 15, 2021.
The Women in Sculpture exhibit is a part of a tribute to the 20th Century artist and feminist, Dorothy Gillespie. The exhibit will open October 15th in The Catherine Konner Sculpture Park at RoCA. Artists include works by Dorothy M. Gillespie, Leigh Taylor Mickelson, Aurora Robson, Simone Kestelman and Cathrin Hoskinson.
Dorothy Gillespie (1920-2012) pioneered joyful, new directions of metal sculpture and is best known for large-scale, colorfully painted arrangements of cut aluminum strips curling, radiating, or undulating in giant arrangements of ribbons, enchanted towers, or bursting fireworks. She was well known as a painter, sculptor and installation artist whose work incorporated many significant 20th-century trends in art.
An influential force in the women’s movement, Gillespie encouraged more women’s art in museums and art in public spaces through demonstrations of large museums, such as the Whitney, as Founder of Women Artists Historical Archives of the Women’s Interart Center in NY, as co-founder of the NY Professional Women Artists group, taping interviews of the most important women artists of the 20th century, and teaching at colleges and universities.
She was more fortunate than women sculptors in the 19th Century who were mostly hired as studio assistants by established male sculptors with few exhibitions. They did not pursue monumental work as frequently as men did. Today many more women are now entering traditional male dominated sculpture roles in metal, wood and stone, thanks to the pioneering activism of women like Dorothy Gillespie in the 20th century.
Dorothy Gillespie’s career spanned seven decades, always at the forefront of the American Art movement. Her works grace many institutions, museums, colleges, universities and public spaces, including the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the United States Mission to the United Nations.
More women than ever are entering mediums of sculpture that were traditionally occupied by men. They are also securing monumental public sculpture commissions. The accomplished female sculptors of the 21st Century being featured along with Gillespie each have made a contribution to the art world through their mediums.
Among the artists is Scarsdale’s Simone Kestelman’s glass Warriors sculptures representing different types of inner strength. Together they show that individuals are strongest when they accept their vulnerability and stand strong in spite of it. Glass sculptures may appear fragile but are resistant to heat, cold, pressure and chemicals. They can endure heavy rains, snowstorms and heat waves. In stressful times, if we stand still, we realize how strong we are to overcome adversity. The stripes in her pieces represent the DNA that makes us each unique. These sculptures express the diversity of both individuality and
Kestelman’s work reflects on important social issues and comments on them through her work, focusing on injustice, inequality and abuse by stepping beyond traditional imagery and sculpture. Her intention is to drive more people to think and act to promote the protection of women and children in vulnerable situations. She was the Director of SK Gallery in White Plains, NY and has exhibited at the Museum of Art, Morago, CA, the Tucson Contemporary Womens Art Collective, the United Nations, MOCA in Calgary, Canada and A Hebraica Gallery, Novotel Sao Paulo, Brazil.
New Needlepoint Shop Opens In Tuckahoe
- Written by Jessica Bengamin
- Category: The Goods
What is BARGELLO?
Christine Fitzgibbons and Leslie Meyers, two longtime Westchester residents, recently opened Bargello, a new needlepoint shop in Tuckahoe. Named for a distinctive “zigzag” needlepoint stitch, Bargello is colorful, playful and chic.
“For those who already needlepoint, they know what Bargello means and for those who don’t yet: we hope they want to find out,” Leslie said.
Both women have a background in finance, with Christine working most recently in non-profit management and Leslie in wealth management, but this is their first foray into retail. The longtime stitchers, with seven children between them, both learned to needlepoint when they were in elementary school from their mothers and are looking forward to sharing their passion with the community.
“What I love about needlepoint is that it’s both meditative and productive,” Leslie said. “I love working on a project that I can finish into something beautiful.”
Christine added: “I love that you can multi-task while stitching. It also helps me to feel calm while raising teenagers!”
The store, located in Tuckahoe Plaza, is brightly decorated in the shop’s signature mix of orange and purple. The colors, chosen for their respective alma maters (Princeton and Northwestern), reflect the vibrant and bold nature of the canvases the shop will carry.
The co-owners emphasize that Bargello is welcoming to both experienced and novice stitchers. “Pick a canvas with colors and a design that you love and we’ll help you get started,” Leslie said.
Wednesday nights the store is open late and offering “sip and stitch” from 6-7:30 p.m. This is open to everyone from beginners to seasoned stitchers. “We aspire to create a supportive, fun sense of community around the art of needlepoint for all levels,” Christine said. They offer individual instruction and eventually hope to offer classes.
Like any hobby, needlepoint takes some time to master. “You don’t just pick up a tennis racquet and expect to win matches,” Leslie said. “You get better as you go along and that’s part of what makes it rewarding,”
“There’s no ‘should’ in needlepoint,” Christine added. “It’s one stitch at a time.”
Bargello is located at 24 Columbus Avenue in Tuckahoe. The hours are Tuesday 10AM-4PM; Wednesday 2-8PM; Thursday 10AM-4PM; Friday 10AM-4PM; Saturday 10AM-2PM. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.bargello-needlepoint.com
Jessica Benjamin is a resident of Bronxville and a new stitcher.
Scarsdale Forum Recommends a Wait and See Approach on Marijuana Sales in the Village
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
- Category: The Goods
A report from the Scarsdale Forum recommends that the Village Of Scarsdale take steps to leave their options open in regard to new laws regulating the sale and usage of marijuana. A 9-23-21 report from the Scarsdale Forum recommends that Scarsdale should opt out of marijuana sales and lounges before December 31, 2021 in order to give the Village more time to examine the potential effects of marijuana sales and the potential revenues.*
Why? The new state law says that it the Village moves to opt out before the end of the year they can opt in later, but if they fail to opt out by 12/31/21 they cannot do so later.
The report also recommends that the Village prohibit smoking and vaping of tobacco on all Village owned property and outdoor public spaces as well as the oral consumption and open containers of cannabis edibles, capsules and oils.
The Scarsdale Drug and Alcohol Task Force (DATF) issued a similar statement in July 2021 citing concerns for Scarsdale’s underage users. In their statement they say, “Of immediate concern are the impact on our youth and the uncertainty of the regulatory and implementation framework. As a community that attracts families for the outstanding quality of resources and opportunities for youth, allowing marijuana stores/businesses to operate in the Village poses a significant risk for our young people.”
Here are excerpts from the Forum Report:
MRTA permits a local government to opt-out of state-licensed dispensaries and lounges within its borders by passing a law before December 31, 2021. A municipality that opts out can decide to opt in later but if it fails to enact an opt-out law by the deadline, it cannot opt out later. MRTA amended the smoking restrictions in the New York Public Health Law by adding cannabis smoking and vaping. Local governments can enact additional restrictions on smoking and vaping of tobacco and cannabis in public places.
The most prudent approach is for the Village to avail itself of a legal provision that gives it more time and allows the Board and the community to study the regulations that ultimately will be adopted, and also other consequences that may flow from permitting retail dispensaries and/or on-site consumption establishments in the Village. In particular, additional time is needed to assess the potential impact on the use of cannabis by underage residents, to more accurately estimate tax revenue and additional costs – both “hard” costs (such as hiring more police and enforcement agents) and “soft costs” (such as education and training) – from a cannabis establishment in the Village, and to learn from the experience of similar communities that allow dispensaries. The Village should pass an opt- out law by December 31, 2021 and not make a premature, irrevocable decision to allow dispensaries and lounges by failing to act.
There is no downside to taking a “wait-and-see” approach. While MRTA legalizes the possession and use of cannabis immediately and requires municipalities to exercise their option to opt out by December 31, 2021, the actual sale of adult-use cannabis is not expected to begin until late 2022 or early 2023.6 Consequently, the Village would not receive any revenue until 2023 at the earliest. The two state regulatory bodies specified by MRTA – the Cannabis Control Board and the Cannabis Management Office – have not been created. Extensive regulations governing cannabis lounges and dispensaries are expected but will not be in place by the opt-out deadline.
State regulations may or may not address the myriad issues involved in retail sales of cannabis, including: what kinds of products can be sold, the concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),7 types of packaging, permissible ingredients, labeling requirements, security standards, signage, local advertising, marketing strategies and materials, including distribution of “swag” and use of cartoon characters or other product “sponsors,” and whether and under what circumstances underage individuals can enter the dispensary. Despite the New York legislature’s establishment of the Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board to regulate licensing of producers, distributors, and retailers of marijuana products in the state,8 industry observers estimated, as of June 2021, that “it could be over a year before New Yorkers can purchase weed from dispensaries in the state.” New York's legal implementation process also appears to have been delayed, owing to “a political struggle as to who will oversee the industry.”
What is known is that local control will be minimal. Specifically, Cannabis Law section 131(2) preempts county, town, city and village governing bodies “from adopting any law, rule, ordinance, regulation or prohibition pertaining to the operation or licensure of registered organizations, adult-use cannabis licenses or cannabinoid hemp licenses.” 10 The law permits towns, cities and villages only to “pass local laws and regulations governing the time, place and manner of the operation of licensed adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries and/or on-site consumption site, provided such law or regulation does not make the operation of such licensed retail dispensaries or on-site consumption sites unreasonably impracticable as determined by the board.”
MRTA allows the Village to assess the impact of these many unknowns by opting out by December 31, 2021 and then opting in later, even before sales begin or at any time in the future, when a more informed decision is possible. Given the substantial uncertainties about potential tax revenue and costs, yet-to-be-written state regulations governing the operations of these cannabis businesses, as well as the potential impact of a cannabis store or lounge in the community on cannabis use by our young people, the prudent course of action would be to opt out by the deadline to avoid making an irrevocable decision without full information. The overriding factor in favor of Scarsdale opting out of this currently undefined course of action is that there is no penalty for doing so. Scarsdale may opt-in to participate in the program at any time later on, also without penalty. By taking the prudent course, by viewing this moment as an opportunity to chart its own path, and by taking its time to study the ramifications and also await state regulations, the Board will be able to become better informed about how to prepare for its next decision in the exercise of its own discretion.
*Please note, this Report has been approved by the Board of Directors of the Forum and authorized for release to the public, but it has not yet been submitted to the Forum members for their approval.