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BKVaccineBK Munguia got her shot at the NY Presbyterian Armory on Sunday January 18.With the government’s decision to make everyone 65 and up eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the scramble is on to secure an appointment. Though it’s only been 10 days since the vaccine became available, for the most part, those who are determined have been successful at receiving their first dose and getting an appointment for their second.

We’ve heard myriad tales of how and where people are getting appointments.

Closest to home is the Westchester County Center where 6,400 vaccines have already been administered but there are currently no more appointments. The Javits Center in New York City was also giving vaccines, but there are no more appointments there either.

Andrew Sereysky, President of the Greenacres Association and his wife Joan felt lucky to secure appointments at the Westchester County Department of Health facility at 134 Court Street in White Plains. He reports that they were in and out within 45 minutes and the process was smooth and professional. They were given the Moderna vaccine and so far they feel fine.

Scarsdale Bowl winner BK Munguia was thrilled to receive her first dose at the NY Presbyterian Fort Washington Armory in Washington Heights. The 65,000 square foot indoor track and field complex at 216 Fort Washington Avenue and 169th street has 70 vaccine stations. After an initial appointment in Huntington was cancelled, former Scarsdale Village Trustee Stacey Brodsky and her husband David also got appointments at the Armory on Inauguration Day, which gave them much to celebrate. Those who are eligible can sign up here.

One friend was able to get an appointment for a vaccine at the Rite Aid in Peekskill. However, when he arrived, he learned that the staff had neglected to take the supply out of the freezer and he was instructed to return later in the day.

GeralynsDadAugustine F. Trapasso, age 96, and his aide Donah got their vaccines at the Westchester County Center.Geralyn Della Cava was able to get appointments for her 96 year-old father Augustine F. Trapasso and his aid Donah to get the vaccine at the Westchester County Center on Sunday January 18. She says, "The process went very smoothly ... very pleasant people working there and very kind. We only waited 15 minutes. We set up the next appt immediately after he received the shot for three weeks later."

Scarsdale’s Frank Lichtenberg got an appointment at Metropolitan Hospital on the Upper East Side. His wife Michelle, another Scarsdale Bowl winner, went along and they gave her one too! Here is the site to sign up for vaccines through New York City Health and Hospitals.

In the first few days some received appointments from Mt. Sinai and received their vaccines. But those with later appointments found that they were BrodskysFormer Village Trustee Stacey Brodsky and her husband David, got their first dose on Inauguration Day.cancelled due to a shortage in the supply. Their website says, “Because of sudden changes in the allocations of COVID-19 vaccine that we are receiving, we unfortunately had to temporarily pause scheduling of non-employees and cancel patient appointments scheduled from Friday, January 15, through Tuesday, January 19. Vaccine appointments for Wednesday, January 20, and beyond remain on the calendar. We will confirm those appointments 24 to 48 hours in advance, and we will contact those whose appointments were canceled as soon as vaccine supplies are available to reschedule.” Here is the link to their website.

Frustrated with the slow flow of the vaccines, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to Pfizer asking to buy the vaccines directly from the company but that request was denied. The state received just 250,000 vaccines this week, down from 300,000 last week, so it could take months to vaccinate all the eligible people in the first two groups.

Where else might you find a vaccine? Here are some sites to check:

NYC Vaccine Finder

Another resident reports success on Essen Health Care however they have now paused on scheduling appointments as they have no more vaccines. They suggest you check their site daily to see if more appointments become available.

Please share any information you have about getting a vaccine in the comments section below or email it to scarsdalecomments@gmail.com.

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 www.scarsdaledatf.org 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.

COVID19What happened to the COVID counts by Village and why are there no more COVID maps from the County?

After a week of wondering where the COVID counts were going, County Executive George Latimer held a COVID briefing at 2 pm on Monday December 21 and explained why he had made the decision to stop sending out the maps.

Latimer explained that the counts on the maps were based on individual records of positive COVID counts by name and address from the state. The county had been taking this data, aggregating it by zip code and producing the map that was then published on the county’s Facebook page.

However, Latimer said that often the data was 3 or 4 days old by the time the map was issued and that zip codes are not unique to one Village, so some of the counts may have crossed Village lines. He used Scarsdale as an example, saying that the 10583 zip code also includes parts of Yonkers, Eastchester and New Rochelle, so that map might not reflect what is actually going on in the Scarsdale School district.

He said that the county was working on a better analysis and said he hoped to issue new information by the end of this week…. December 25.

In the meantime he reported on the numbers for Westchester County overall where, as of Sunday December 20, the positive rate was 5.3% with a 7-day average of 5.9%. You can check the daily counts for the county on the NYS website here.

Latimer reported that there were a total of 8,269 active cases on Monday, almost double the 4,344 active cases on November 20, just before Thanksgiving. However, in the last five days, cases have decreased somewhat, hitting a high of 8,771 on December 15 and falling to 8,269 on Sunday December 20. Latimer said it was too early to tell if this was a trend. The county is still seeing about 500 new positive cases a day, a 5% ratio to the number tested. (As of Tuesday, December 22, cases had climbed back up to 8,910 with a 6% positive rate.)

About the numbers in the hospital, as of Saturday December 19, 353 were in County hospitals with COVID. This has risen steadily from 348 one week ago, 321 two weeks ago, 244 three weeks ago and 168 a month ago. As there are 2,400 beds in Westchester County hospitals, he reported that we are not reaching capacity.

A total of 1,606 people have died from COVID in Westchester since the beginning of the crisis. This week 44 people passed away and two weeks ago we lost 35 people.

The NYS School tracker as of 12/18 reported 29 positive cases among students in the Scarsdale Schools and 21 staff/teachers.

So if you’re wondering how many people in Scarsdale are positive, stay tuned. Latimer is promising new information by the end of the week. In the meantime, click here for statewide statistics.

covidJanuary5(Updated January 7, 2021) County Executive George Latimer delivered what he called “sobering statistics” at his COVID briefing on January 4, 2021. Though he had hoped that the spread was decreasing in Westchester the numbers are going the wrong way. Latimer said that active cases in the county had climbed 1,400 in just one week, from 7,957 to 9,389. As a point of comparison, before Thanksgiving there were 6,000 active cases in the county.

Latimer said this surge was thought to be due to Christmas and New Year’s get-togethers and feared that Dr. Fauci’s prediction that January could be the worst month of the pandemic might turn out to be true.

Since almost all public celebrations were cancelled, Latimer surmised that the surge was due to gatherings in private homes where people are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. He reported that on Friday, January 1, 1,000 new cases were reported.

To date, 1,683 people in Westchester County have died, 31 people in the past seven days and 41 the previous week. In the six-week period from Thanksgiving to New Years, 165 people died, the same number who died in total in the five months from May to October.

In terms of hospitalization, 455 were in the hospital as of January 2, 2021. This count grew by 63 from the prior week when 392 were hospitalized.

Latimer reported that New York State is now following the new CDC protocol for quarantines which allows people who were exposed to COVID but have no symptoms to return to normal life after ten days.

The county COVID dashboard shows 71 active cases in Scarsdale as of January 7, down from over 80 cases at Christmas time but up from 59 on January 4, 2021. See the county COVID dashboard here.

The Scarsdale Schools also sent an email on January 4 outlining the number of positive cases reported during the school vacation. According to the email:

“During the latter part of break and today, we learned of eight new positive cases of Covid-19. One of the cases involved a staff member in the Facilities Department and the others were students from Quaker Ridge School, Edgewood School, Scarsdale Middle School and Scarsdale High School.

The staff member was last in school on December 30 and placed on quarantine due to symptoms. The staff member had no contact with students and the staff who had contact with the individual were instructed to quarantine.

The positive students were last in the building prior to break and the timing of their tests precludes the need for in school contact tracing.”

covidmap12 7It was another big week for the spread of COVID in Westchester and statewide, according to briefings from both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

As of December 7, Latimer reported 7,830 active cases in the county, up from 5,764 a week ago and more than double the count of 3,480 three weeks ago. He said the active case count had not been this high since April 28 when there were 8,000 active cases.

The Governor is keeping his eye on hospitalizations and Latimer estimated that about 300 are in the hospital with COVID at this time. With 3,000 hospital beds in the county, there is currently available capacity. He reported that hospitalizations are growing at 15-20 per day and we are losing about two people per night.

Latimer noted that since all civic activities have stopped but the virus is still spreading it is an indication that it is spreading in private settings. Governor Cuomo said, “We’re closely monitoring hospital capacity and have implemented triggers to ensure hospitals have what they need. The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccine, and one is coming, but until then we must be disciplined. Public health experts agree households and private gatherings are a major driver of transmission right now, demonstrating once again that it is our actions that determine the infection rate. We know what works: wear a mask, avoid indoor gatherings, and socially distance, and the local governments must do enforcement. We will win this war but it will take vigilance and everyone working together.”

The Governor has directed all hospitals to increase their bed capacity by 25% and called on retired doctors and nurses to return to service.

As of now, Cuomo has not declared any new yellow or orange zones in Westchester. They remain as they were last week with the following areas zoned due to their positivity rates:

Peekskill – yellow – 10.59% rolling average
Ossining – yellow – 8.68%
Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow – yellow – 5.7%
Yonkers – yellow – 5.76%
New Rochelle – yellow – 5.94%

Port Chester – orange – 11.42%

See more data here

Also note as of December 7, the number of active cases in Scarsdale has climbed to 67, up 24 cases from December 1, 2020.

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