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athleticlightsThe Scarsdale Planning Board weighed in on the Butler Field light project during a public hearing held last night. In short, after listening to Ray Pappalardi, Director of Physical Education/Athletics for the school district, and several members of the community, the board found that the proposal adhered to existing village code and offered benefits for the community at large – with one caveat – it assumed Butler Field activity will remain at current levels, and nighttime use won’t increase.

It’s an important catch. The district’s proposal is based on current levels of use at Butler and doesn’t predict whether the improved lighting and sound system will attract other events at the field. This begs the question – if you build it, will they come? Since the project is a significant investment, wouldn’t the district want to make the most of it and entertain more use? Could the field become a new hub of village activity? Should it?

While these questions were raised at the meeting, ultimately, the planning board was able only to keep to the specific questions posed by the village trustees with regard to village code. In short, the proposal satisfied those questions.

Just the Facts
Specifically, the group ruled that 1) the proposed location for the lights was “valid and appropriate;” 2) the type of lighting recommended was “valid and appropriate” and an improvement over what is currently in use; 3) the direction of the lighting was deemed valid and in compliance with “dark sky” recommendations; 4) the 80-foot elevation of the lights was an aesthetic concern, but a modest one, compared to the benefits of newer LED-lighting that would be better focused on field activity with less spread to surrounding areas; 5) the landscaping facing Wayside Lane could be added to hide a transformer or screen any light that bounces off the field; 6) the potential negative effects for neighboring properties were minimal, provided the same level of use at the field (noting that additional use, which is possible, could present significant negatives); and 7) the anticipated noise of the new system would be an improvement over what’s currently in use. The board also questioned whether specific regulations for use should be established, and agreed that while this was not a planning issue, would ask the trustees to address the matter.

To someone new to the debate, with no skin in the game, the proposal is simple: the district wants to upgrade existing lighting and sound systems. Surely, new technology will offer many benefits. The rub is the field’s proximity to neighboring homes. Butler Field activity has been the same for decades and neighbors have grown to expect noise and traffic during the day, with things settling down at night, save a few events here and there. But, by upgrading the facility, the district expands its options for field use. It hasn’t provided any assurances for limiting the scope of future use, and it‘s this uncertainty that has neighbors rattled.

Proponents of the light project insist that it’s needed to enhance the high school’s sports program as well as the village rec programs. They believe it could build a greater sense of community, as families and friends bond over nighttime games. The district has worked extensively with residents to develop a plan to minimize light and sound pollution to neighboring homes. In our recent poll, 78.5 percent of residents approved of the plan. But we cannot ignore the fact that facility upgrades present new possibilities… and possible hardships for Butler Field’s neighbors.

Speaking Their Minds
After the school district’s presentation and review of specific aspects of the plan, the planning board invited residents to speak.

Charles Hellman (Wayside Lane) stated, “This is a difficult issue; there’s a lot of competing interests… Butler Field sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood that opens up in several different directions… there’s a fair number of houses in the area that are impacted… There aren’t a lot of specifics of noise but, in general, you’re talking about expanding from what has been an understood time of usage to a new area.” He continued, “Then you’ve got concerns about the installation of poles themselves… this would be four 80-foot poles, the largest (structure)… in a residential community in Scarsdale, if not in… all of Scarsdale. And then you’ve got the noise concerns, traffic, trash, etc., and light pollution. We’ve been told that the… light spillage is minimal… but 80-foot lights, you’re going to be seeing them from a distance… There are a lot of different concerns that the neighbors have expressed; and, then there’s the concern of usage ‘creep.’ This really is a situation where, if you build it, they will come…. What can be put into place to ensure (use) isn’t different five years from now? …There is an expectation in this community about how this field has been used over time and what will be consistent with this usage.”

Claudine Gecel (Kent Road) said, “ I live half a mile away from the high school and I have just tolerated the noise... It’s fine, if it’s once in a while… I think this issue brought up a bigger issue… people are enthusiastic about outdoor activities… and there aren’t enough places for kids to have these organized outdoor activities… The golf course said… it doesn’t have enough people… if (the number of) people using the golf course is declining, and people (involved in) kids’ sports is increasing… you might want to think about finding some other properties that aren’t being used… and have a lot more fields.” She went on, “Everyone wouldn’t be focusing on Butler Field so much because there’d be so many other options.”

Dan Ornstein (Carstensen Road) followed, “First of all, I think that Ray’s done an outstanding job of trying to hear the concerns of the community and trying to address them as best he can. But, I think, to be fair, there’s a larger contingent of residents who do not live… anywhere close to the high school… who, frankly, aren’t as concerned with limits and regulations.” He went on, “The very first meeting (about the lights) was solely focused on a few night events… and we were talking about a half a dozen to a couple more games. And… by the next meeting, that turned into ‘if we’re going to spend this much money to build the infrastructure, we should get more use out of it…’ There’s a desire to use the field as much as possible and that is the concern of the local residents. Secondly… the biggest concern is… even if we set rules (for field use)… the problem is that we’ve come up with no real way of enforcing those rules… Thirdly… one of the discussions has been about how bad the lights we have been using are… We’re seeing this as an alternative to that. I don’t believe I’ve heard any discussion about looking into portable LED lights, which are quiet… they certainly would be better from an (aesthetic) perspective… I’m told that six to eight lights wouldn’t be as tall… and could be installed at a fraction of the cost and could be moved. It would be great to have more study done on that… As a neighbor, I wish we could slow down just a bit and… make sure we’re making the right decisions… there shouldn’t be a race to this.“

Mark Michael (Carstensen Road) echoed Ornstein’s comments and added, “This topic was brought up 10-plus years ago. The initial reason was… to provide lights for football games at night. There was no talk about anything else (and) I thought it was a dubious claim then… One other thing that was mentioned at a board of education meeting was (possibly) having concerts there. The scope and use of the field is likely to change over time.” He continued, “I’m extremely concerned that… whatever the maximum number of days we come up with… we’re going to use every single opportunity to use the lighted space… If we’re going to have the lights as originally intended, we have no issue.”

Dan Steinberg, Chair of the Planning Board, then asked Pappalardi whether the district had discussed any uses other than sports. Pappalardi responded, “There’s been no discussion to plan any other type of events on Butler Field. I think, the board… in open, public meetings, looked at some of the other uses – as with Dean Field, where graduation is currently held – and didn’t want to tie their hands with how the lights might be used in the future. There have been no other considerations about this, or plans made or real discussions about it.”

However, Pappalardi later confirmed the district was not committing itself to limit use of Butler to only sports activities. He further explained that any guidelines or regulations would be set by the school district and self-enforced, with no third-party oversight. The district will remain open to community feedback, and residents will be able to report concerns and complaints directly to Pappalardi, or via a general email and phone number.

Kate Conlan (Madison Road), Co-President of Maroon and White, closed out the public comments by expressing support for the project, saying, “Scarsdale prides itself on being cutting-edge… and, of all our peer communities… we are the last community… to have lights… The Board of Education has done a thorough review of this; they have received hundreds of letters in support of permanent LED lights. The BOE unanimously voted to (install) the lights… (and) has worked very hard with the community to look into guidelines… to (address) concerns and considerations regarding trash, regarding noise, regarding light spillage, and regarding the number of sporting events.” She went on, “One of the things that lights can begin to bring to Scarsdale is community spirit… All the students would be able to see other students play their sports... When you walk into one of these games… it is a wonderful community-building experience. It’s fantastic to see. We just want to bring that… a few times a year.” She added, “One neighbor said… the highlight of his son’s youth football career was playing under the lights at White Plains. ‘I don’t want them here, but his highlight was playing under the lights.’ Come on.”

Next Steps
Even though the Butler light proposal passes muster with village code, is it necessary or even possible for the village board of trustees to set guidelines or limitations on future use? The Planning Board was careful to point out that their recommendations are based on what the school district has proposed and the supporting documentation it has provided; there is no independent verification of the material, nor are there any guidelines outlining the scope of future use. So, the matter remains open as the village and school district move forward.

swimacrossamericaEldad Blaustein, John Needham,, Miles Rubin, Joe Kaufman, Chip Rich, Doug Rachlin, Joel Talish, Josh Glantz, Cheryl Blenk, Carol Wolfe, Peter Doyle, Trisanne Berger, Diane, Calderon, Michael Zeller, Patrick Bates, Kevin Hebner, Noah Glantz, Max Bunzel. Saturday July 27 marks the 27th annual Long Island Sound Swim. More than 20 Scarsdale residents will be swimming 1.2, 3, or 6 mile distances or serving as support kayakers as part of Team Bruce. Bruce Dunbar, a lifelong Westchester County resident, lives in New Rochelle but swims year-round with many of these Scarsdale Swimmers. Bruce was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2017 but, through an innovative immunotherapy treatment, he is swimming on Saturday and is a living testament to the critical importance of cancer research funding.

The Long Island Sound Swim has raised more than $15 million since it was founded in 1992. The goal for this year's event is to raise more than $1,000,000. Team Bruce has already raised more than $225,000!!! That is an incredible sum after this group of swimmers raised $140,000 last year swimming as Team Valerie for Scarsdale Resident Valerie Malsch who continues to live with Multiple Myeloma. If you are interested in supporting Team Bruce or any of it's swimmers, please click here.

School’s out, the heat is on and hopefully you have a few minutes to relax.

Local puzzler Midori Im contributed the Spelling Bee challenge below.

Grab a pencil and papers and see how many words you can find. When you’re done, scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answer key.

Are you a genius? If so, congrats. If not, keep trying!


How many common words of 5 or more letters can you spell using the letters in the hive? Every answer must use the center letter at least once. Letters may be reused in a word. At least one word will use all 7 letters.
Proper names and hyphenated words are not allowed.


Score 1 point for each answer, and 3 points for each word that contains all 7 letters.

Rating: 18= Good, 25 = Excellent, 33 = Genius


















Answers to this week’s spelling bee:

Alert, altar, alter, eater, elevate, larva, larvae, letter, lover, orator, rarer, realer, relate, reveal, re- volt, retell, revel, reveler, revolve, revolver, revote, rotate, rotator, rover, taller, tartar, tartare, tartlet, tolerate, travel, traveler, troll, trove, valor, voter.

3-Pointer: elevator

If you found other legitimate dictionary words in the beehive, feel free to include them in your score.

Also share any additional words you find in the comments section below or email us at


In attics and storage units across the country, you'll find the ubiquitous x-long twin sheet set and comforter -- bought especially for the extra-long college beds and never to be used again by graduates. That's where Liz Gruber and Tara Tyberg, the co-founders of Grad Bag and two Scarsdale, NY mothers, and their team of volunteers come in.

On college move out days at Columbia, Barnard, Princeton, NYU and many other campuses, Grad Bag volunteers load up U-Haul trucks with linens and other dorm room items that have been donated or discarded by students and collected by sustainability groups. Grad Bag’s work ensures that these items won’t end up in storage, or worse, in landfills. Then, Grad Bag closes the loop by cleaning, repackaging, and redistributing the goods.

On Friday, July 19, over 125 incoming college freshmen, who are participating in Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE), a non-profit organization that helps low-income Yonkers Public School students prepare for college, will go to Grad Bag’s one-day pop up “shop” filled with dorm room items – all without price tags. The event will take place beginning at 10 a.m. at YPIE’s College Zone located at 92 Main Street in Yonkers (next to the Yonkers train station. )

In addition, students who work with Let’s Get Ready will also receive free dorm supplies at the event. Let’s Get Ready (LGR) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that provides low-income high school students from Philadelphia, PA to Lewiston, ME with free SAT preparation, admissions counseling and other support services needed to gain admission to and graduate from college.

This summer, Grad Bag plans to outfit over 1,300 low-income college students with dorm supplies. In addition to bedding, students will receive lamps, towels, decorative pillows, hangers and rugs. To these families, having a child go to college is a bewildering and expensive process. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Back to College Study, students spend an average of $114.21 outfitting their dorm room. Not having to shop for dorm supplies is an enormous help.

Grad Bag was founded in 2012 by two Westchester County moms, Liz Gruber and Tara Tyberg, who realized there were so many dorm room items that graduating seniors no longer needed, but were still in great condition. Instead of having the sets of XL sheets and twin comforters thrown away or gathering dust in attics, Grad Bag addresses two social issues: insuring that low-income students won’t have to stress about equipping their dorm rooms while recycling objects that would otherwise not be used.

SAS Cover PhotoThe Scarsdale Alternative School held its annual senior graduation on Friday, June 21, celebrating the class of 2019. Reflective of the program’s unique nature, the non-traditional ceremony featured personal speeches given by SAS teachers to each of the graduates, and all students in the program were present. Although the graduation was held in SHS’ auditorium on account of inclement weather, the space was completely transformed to suit the vibrant personality of the program with floral wreaths, bouquets, and colorful signs. Exemplifying the close-knit spirit of the class was emcee Sam Hoffman, whose intermittent, comedic addresses greatly contributed to the sense of unity and familiarity in the room. Following Sam’s opening remarks, as well as those given by SAS Director Jennifer Maxwell, Principal Kenneth Bonamo addressed the class and recognized the students for not only their accomplishment of graduation, but also their commitment to the unconventional program. Mr. Bonamo referenced the SAS culture of learning through disagreement and discourse, highlighting the democratic and experiential values that the program maintains, and he challenged the class to retain its, “spirit of inquiry, advocacy, [and] intellectual wrestling” and give back to society in a way that combines skill and passion. Looking forward, Mr. Bonamo described the graduates as, “our best hope,” and expressed great confidence in their capacity for success in college and beyond.

Students gain admission into the A-School through a lottery system, but it takes much more than good fortune to build the strong community that the class of 2019 helped create. Intimate meetings in core groups, weekly community meetings with everyone in the program, and bonding events such as “Outing” all strengthen the bonds between students and contribute to the experiential learning that is the foundation of SAS. There are many opportunities for student leadership positions, and classmates work together on committees to plan events. In this way, students are encouraged to take control of their education in both their democratic community as well as in their co-curricular pursuits. The Internship Program—which all SAS students participate in each January—is perhaps the hallmark of the Alternative School. The program urges students to take initiative and secure internship positions, thus gaining work experience, developing a greater sense of independence, and delving deeply into one’s interests. The internships also serve as a method for teachers to get to know their students better as they watch them struggle and triumph in real-world scenarios. The close faculty-student bond was apparent in the many speeches given by teachers that recalled students’ internship endeavors through their multiple years in SAS.

The first of the five SAS teachers to address his core group was Mike Giordano, whose personal speeches articulated students’ character and interests. His presentations celebrated the personal growth of the graduates, and he shared his perspective of having watched them enter the Alternative School as quiet and reserved only to emerge as strong and confident leaders and role models. Mr. Giordano also touched on the talents and values of the group, noting Julia Loten’s, “gift for gracefully weaving words together,” and how Isabella Stewart, “exemplifies the A-School value of learning for learning’s sake.” Mr. Giordano presented Margaret Brew, Ian Lerner, Julia Loten, Isabella Stewart, and Sophie Weingrad with their diplomas following each of their individualized speeches.

Jennifer Maxwell emphasized the diversity of the class when speaking to her group of seniors. Citing interests ranging from legal studies to music production, Ms. Maxwell shed light on how each of the graduates learned from each other, and how the students’ experiences in SAS were enhanced by their individuality. Her speeches presented the Alternative School as anything but homogenous: an environment where an array of mindsets can find common ground. Ms. Maxwell referenced the students’ self reflections, where Ella Ansell wrote, “I welcome mistakes, as these are essential for improvement” and Simon Bradlow considered how he had become, “a more welcoming, accepting, and understanding person.” She presented Anshu Ajmera, Ella Ansell, Simon Bradlow, Sam Hoffman, Kate Nova, and Hayden Seidman with their diplomas.

One of the most unique and thoughtful moments of the ceremony was Senior Speaker Isabella Stewart’s address to the class. Like many other positions in the A-School, Isabella was voted into giving the speech by her fellow seniors. She described SAS as a “big, beautiful mess”—a community that finds opportunities for learning and growth in patches of chaos. Isabella noted some of the most important lessons she had gained throughout her years in the A-School as being trust, respect, and passion, but she also centered on the importance of disagreement as a catalyst for personal and community improvement and togetherness. Perfectly summarizing the micro-society that is the A-School, Isabella told her class: “we are a colorful mosaic of human life.”

Instead of traditional speeches, Fallon Plunkett presented the seniors in her core group with spoken letters. In them, she opened up about the graduates’ best qualities, notably mentioning Paige Barlow’s sincere empathy, Ross Forman’s admirable humility, and Fletcher Faden’s “thirst for social justice.” Ms. Plunkett spoke to the impressive efforts the seniors have made to improve SAS after they leave, specifically a mentor program ideated by Avery Rubin that will be implemented next year. She also designated a book for each student that encompassed their personalities and whose messages would serve them well in the next phase of their lives. Ms. Plunkett then presented diplomas to Paige Barlow, Nathan Bookvar, Fletcher Faden, Ross Forman, Kimberly Markowitz, and Avery Rubin. Before leaving the podium, she presented teacher Sheilah Chason with a letter of her own, commemorating the occasion of her last year as an educator in the A-School. Ms. Plunkett expressed gratitude on behalf of the entire A-School for her deep care of the program and meaningful relationships with students, and Sam Hoffman affectionately commented, “Sheila is the mother of the A-School.”

Ms. Plunkett’s address to Ms. Chason underlined the significance of impactful teaching. While SAS does put students in the driver’s seat, student academic and civic engagement wouldn’t be nearly as strong without the guidance of truly caring teachers. The five advisors particularly honored four students as recipients of unique awards. Ian Lerner and Anshu Ajmera were presented with the Senior Project Award for the dedication, creativity, and passion they poured into their senior projects—SAS’ version of Senior Options. The advisors selected Kate Nova and Grace Vericker as the recipients of the Tony Award—the A-School’s highest honor that recognizes those who most embody the principles of the program. They applauded Kate for having always stood strong in her principles of fairness and equality, and celebrated Grace for her empathy and deep relationships with others.

Having made over fifty A-School graduation speeches over the past nine years, Ms. Chason presented her final round of recognition to Lindsay Donat, Aidan Londa, Kodai Morikuni, Dan Silk, and Grace Vericker. Like the other advisors, Ms. Chason did not hold back in her praise for the graduates, occasionally pausing her speeches to collect her emotions. She shared a particularly meaningful internship experience had by Dan, who played guitar for patients at Northern Westchester Hospital. Dan would always engage with those he played for, and would leave their rooms graciously offering to one day return. His constant smiling did not go unnoticed, she added, as well as his ability to light up any room.

Jeanne Cooper addressed Morgan Costello, Natalie Gee, Liana Givner, Zachary Reyman, Jonah Schneider, and Alexandra Wilson. Ms. Cooper shared with the room some of the deep wisdom that had been imparted upon her by the members of her core group. She noted one of Zachary’s reflections that states, “a life can change drastically, potentially forever, in the lifespan of a single doctor’s appointment,” and a research paper written by Alexandra that addressed how, “becoming more mature means accepting that the world is more morally ambiguous than we thought when we were younger.” These students exemplify the SAS principle of growth outside the classroom walls, and Ms. Cooper expressed her appreciation for all that they have taught her.

It has been said that graduation ceremonies are one of the most purely happy events one can attend, and the Scarsdale Alternative School graduation was no exception. Beautifully unconventional and profoundly moving, the ceremony gave well-deserved recognition to the best and brightest that Scarsdale has to offer: both the program itself, and, of course, the SAS class of 2019.

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