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23  January 2020



Dear Scarsdale Friends and Neighbors,



The Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC) of the over 100-year old Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party has reselected Justin Arest and Lena Crandall to serve as trustees and has also selected Randy Whitestone.  As it has for decades, the CNC selected all candidates without asking them one single question about their ethics or expertise or without actually verifying their Scarsdale volunteer experience.  We urge you to keep an eye on Village matters for the sake of the quality of municipal services and in the hopes of achieving good governance.


Best regards,
Voters Choice Party





Note: Words throughout this newsletter that are highlighted and underlined have links with relevant information. 
 
Behind Closed Doors,
The Citizens Nominating Committee Has Selected A Slate Of Unvetted Trustees

 


The Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC) of the over 100-year old Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party (SCNP) has reselected Justin Arest and Lena Crandall to serve as trustees, despite the fact that they supported the opaque Freightway process, strongly opposed by the overwhelming majority of Scarsdale residents. The CNC also selected Randy Whitestone, a man from Edgewood. 

The SCNP, Scarsdale’s establishment party, likes to tell the story that after a bitter 1909 Democrats vs. Republicans local election, Scarsdale residents of the time decided to create a genteel non-partisan system. However, history matters. The SCNP was created by Caucasian Protestant men at a time when women were not even allowed to vote and ethnic, racial and religious minorities were all too often disenfranchised. It took until 1939 for the SCNPP to have its first Roman Catholic mayor, Arthur Driscoll; it would take yet another three decades before Saul Horowtiz would become Scarsdale’s first Jewish mayor.  Finally, in 1981, Jean Stone, become Scarsdale’s first female mayor.
 
In its entire history, the CNC has never selected a single person of color to be on the trustee and/or mayoral slate. Because the proceedings are closed, I cannot confirm whether the CNC has ever even invited a person of color to go through the presentation process. Since I have lived here for eight years, my CNC sources tell me that they have never seen a person of color present during the proceedings.  In a town where 20% of us are people of color, why can’t the CNC be bothered to be inclusive and pick at least one person of color to give us a voice and to have cognizant diversity on the Village Board?

Unlike the Village's CNC, at least the Scarsdale School Board Nominating Committee managed to nominate the very intelligent, charming, and kind Sunil Subbakrishna to be on the school board about a decade ago. To date, he remains the only person of color to have been chosen to serve on the school board.

As it has for decades, the CNC this year selected Village trustee candidates without asking them one single question about their ethics or expertise or without actually verifying their Scarsdale volunteer experience.  Last year, I volunteered in the Non-Partisan Procedure Committee where I, like numerous other residents before me, recommended that CNC members ask the trustee and mayoral candidates questions about their expertise and political views. My suggestions were turned down because the view was that Scarsdale residents 'would then be too afraid to come before the CNC' to deliver their 10-minute speech. 

Having served in several Scarsdale Forum committees, I know for a fact the current trustee candidates and current trustees generously list the Forum on their volunteer resumes but have never once produced a single research report on education or municipal matters, which is the main purpose of the Forum.  If CNC members were allowed to at least ask questions to verify candidates' resumes, they might discover how inflated people's volunteerism resumes are.

My sources within the CNC told me yesterday that a few of the CNC members this year were thorough when checking references, and fortunately, they reported the references' comments accurately. Congratulations to those few CNC members fighting the uphill battle to improve the CNC.

As in the last few years, however, three CNC female members again lied about at least one of the candidates. One of them, who never misses an opportunity to tell anyone willing to listen that all her family has been in Scarsdale for generations, is particularly egregious in her lying. I know for a fact that she has never worked with one of the candidates, who got passed over this year, in a single Scarsdale committee or volunteer organization. She stated that he made her feel 'uncomfortable' and that he 'mansplained.'  They have never even spoken. She is entitled to her feelings, but shouldn't she substantiate them when talking about a highly qualified candidate?  Another CNC member did her usual cheerleading for a candidate without disclosing that he ran the library capital campaign while she led the library board. Two years ago, the aforementioned CNC mmber called another CNC member 'dirty' when that member tried to reveal important due diligence about that trustee candidate. Without that information, the unvetted candidate became a trustee and has been renominated this year.

Shamefully, Marc Greenwald, who is supposed to be running the CNC proceedings so that they are fair, did not once request that any of the lying ladies provide one stitch of support for their mudslinging. I guess I expected too much that he might actually run honest proceedings. In the past couple of CNC proceedings, Greenwald has done his own mudslinging against candidates who spoke out or participated against the botched and corrupt Ryan property revaluation. Yet, even though he is a lawyer, he did not bother to disclose to his own CNC peers, his significant conflict of interest--he is working pro bono to support very wealthy and underassessed Scarsdale residents fight against the over assessed owners of smaller homes who are participating in an Article 78 against the Village due to the botched reval.

Last year, a couple of the female CNC members stated that they could never choose a particular candidate, because he practices martial arts. Never mind that the candidate was a PhD in a quantitative field and who has a long record of volunteerism in Scarsdale. 

What is the point of the CNC asking candidates to provide references from Scarsdale residents who have actually worked with the candidates in volunteer organizations, if the unsubstantiated mean girl or conflict ridden comments of CNC members, who have not worked with candidates, carry more weight?

What has this closed door political system given Scarsdale residents? In the last six years, SCNP mayors and trustees have wasted our taxes on the incompetent Ryan property revaluation which is impacting the current slowing housing market, disallowed a home for teens with eating disorders, have not adopted a strategic plan to revitalize downtown retail and Freightway, ran an opaque Freightway process where unvetted finalist bidders were chosen, halted the Freightway process behind closed doors unexpectedly, and have not created a long-term financial plan so that Scarsdale can withstand adverse economic conditions. What has the SCNP party spent its time on? It has made sure that wives and a brother of trustees get appointed to Village boards and that other important posts at boards are filled disproportionately by SCNP members irrespective of whether they have relevant expertise or not. SCNP officials refuse to run surveys or focus groups to determine what services we the taxpayers want. Hence, they have no data to back their agendas. 

As I always do, I urge Scarsdale residents to stay vigilant. More than ever, you need to keep a watch on governance at Scarsdale Village Hall. The safety of your purse depends on your attention to and involvement in municipal matters.

 
 
Scarsdale School Budget Season is Underway


At Monday's Board of Education meeting, Assistant Superintendent Stuart Mattey stated that the early draft of the 2020-2021 budget is a total of $167.1 million. This is a 3.92% increase from 2019-20. Presently, this represents a projected tax increase of 3.66%, or $268,118 above the projected tax levy limit.  Here is the preliminary budget presentation.

The Scarsdale Schools Administration and School Board are asking for your involvement and feedback during budget season. Here are all the dates and times that you can turn up to comment on the budget.

 

Monday, January 27, 2020:

  • Budget/Staffing Affirmation, 6:30 p.m., Room 170-172 and/or Board Conference Room
  • Strategic Plan Updates, 7:30 p.m., Room 170-172, High School
  • Education Report, 8:00 p.m., Room 170-172, High School

Wednesday, January 29, 2020:

  • Listening Session on Community Engagement, 9:00 a.m., Room 170-172, High School

Monday, February 3, 2020:

  • Budget Study Session #1, 6:30 p.m., Room 170-172 
  • Executive Session, if needed, 8:30 p.m., Board Conference Room

Monday, February 10, 2020:

  • Budget Study Session #2, 6:30 p.m., Room 170-172 
  • Business Meeting, 7:30 p.m., Room 170-172
  • Executive Session, if needed, Board Conference Room

Tuesday, February 25, 2020:

  • Listening Session on Community Engagement, 7:30 p.m., Room 170-172, High School


You may write to Dr. Thomas Hagerman, School Board President Pam Fuehrer, and the School Board with your comments and questions.

 
Scarsdale Village Board Budget Meetings


The Village of Scarsdale Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet in work sessions with the Budget Officer and staff for budget discussions on the following dates:

Monday, January 27, 2020 10:30 A.M. Trustees Room
Wednesday, January 29, 2020 – 6:00 P.M. Trustees Room
Monday, February 10, 2020 - 6:00 P.M. Trustees Room
Tuesday, March 10, 2020 – 6:30 P.M. Trustees Room * * * * * * * *

Briefing sessions on the preliminary operating and capital budgets will be held in the Third Floor Meeting Room and have been scheduled for:
Thursday, February 27, 2020 – 7:00 P.M. – Operating Budget Wednesday, March 4, 2020– 7:00 P.M. – Capital Budget

Thursday January 16's agenda and proposed changes in recreation fees are here.  The Village budget is NOT put to a public vote, so this is your chance to give feedback.  Write the Mayor and Board of Trustees with your comments and questions and request a response.
Freightway Process Is Halted Without Much Explanation


After last week's surprise announcement that the Mayor and Board were halting the Freightway timeline, we wrote the Mayor and the Board to ask them to explain how having a closed door meeting complies with the Open Meetings Law, but they have refused to answer.  We also asked why they decided to halt the process now before the feedback deadline or whether they had new information about the bidders that led to this decision, but they also did not answer those questions.

At this Tuesday's board meeting, the Mayor reiterated that the Freightway deadline is still February 9th, so this is your chance to tell the Board what you would like in Freightway.  The mayor also stated that they have no plan for next steps in Freightway Redevelopment.
Halt Freightway Redevelopment Petition Has Reached Almost 800 Signatures, Most in 48 Hours


A group of concerned Scarsdale residents and merchants launched a petition to halt the Freightway Redevelopment process until the Scarsdale Mayor and Board of Trustees study and answer residents' qualitative and quantitative questions about the project's impact on:
 
  • all of Scarsdale schools' teacher-student ratio,
  • health and financial stability of residents, Cornerstone Children's Center, and merchants in the surrounding area of Freightway during project construction,
  • crowded commuter trains, 
  • Village traffic congestion,
  • parking availability during the years of feasibility studies and construction, and
  • Scarsdale residents' property values and taxes.

Importantly, the petition calls for a public referendum on this important project.  Please sign the petition, which may be found herePlease include your street address in the comment section and any feedback you would like to send the Mayor and Board of Trustees by the February 9 deadline. In less than 48 hours, the petition garnered 500 signatures.  Even during the holiday break, residents signed the petition.

The residents also created a Facebook page to encourage discussions about Freightway; merchants and residents have been exchanging articles, comments and questions on that site.

 

Information About Freightway Redevelopment


If you missed the December 11 Freightway Redevelopment meeting, the video is here. East End Capital LLC's and  LCOR LLC's proposed designs are here, and Avalon Bay Community's presentation is hereThe Village updated its Frequently Asked Questions about Freightway yesterday, but unfortunately, none of the questions, that we have been sending to the Mayor and Trustees and have published in this newsletter several times, have been answered.

The deadline to comment on the Freightway Redevelopment process and proposals is February 9. Please write to mayor@Scarsdale.com, DConkling@Scarsdale.com, and Freightway@Scarsdale.com and submit your views and questions.


 

Grassroots group petitions to halt Freightway process

 

A petition to halt the process that’s edging toward a redevelopment of Freightway garage on Garth Road began circulating Dec. 18 and garnered 500 signatures by press time Thursday.


Freightway serves as the primary parking facility for village merchants, commuters and others using Scarsdale’s Metro-North train station. In 2017 an engineering study determined the 50-year-old structure would require extensive repairs and maintenance that could cost up to $2.5 million in the next few years, and would need even greater attention in the following 15 to 20 years, including a possible total replacement for more than $25 million.


Village officials are considering a mixed-use Transit-oriented Development as an alternative, but the community seems to disagree.


Signers on the petition were from “quite a diversity of residents from all of Scarsdale’s neighborhoods,” according to Mayra Kirkendall-Rodriguez who helped distribute the petition by email and on local social media.


“Many people who are receiving it are then forwarding it to their friends and neighbors,” Kirkendall-Rodriguez told the Inquirer. “The response has been incredible, and many people are having the courage to comment using their names.”


The petition at http://bit.ly/2sDuMGO began to circulate a week after a standing room-only meeting Dec. 11 at which the community heard from two finalists among six firms that had responded to a Request for Proposals.


The RFPs were based on prior expressions of interest and a visioning study for what might be built on the 2.5-acre site. The visioning study was created in 2017 to build ideas for alternative uses for the site beyond just a parking facility. At the community meeting, residents expressed concerns on specific issues, such as a lack of transparency about the financial condition of the two firms vying to work with the village on the redevelopment project and concerns about the firms’ ability to cover the debt involved in any such project. They also voiced concerns about the impact of mixed-use developments on the school population and on local taxes.


Some residents who asked questions in public forums and in emails to village officials have said they feel the response has been inadequate.


Thus the petition, which seeks a pause in the process and more indepth study.


The petition calls for the mayor and the Scarsdale Board of Trustees to “study and answer residents’ qualitative and quantitative questions about the project’s impact on local schools’ teacher-student ratio, the health and financial stability of residents, the Cornerstone Children’s Center on Garth Road, and merchants in the surrounding area of Freightway during project construction.”


They also are asking officials to provide more information on how the proposed project might affect the already crowded commuter trains and platforms, traffic congestion in the village, parking availability, and what the effect on residents’ property values and taxes might be.


At an informal meeting Dec. 17 with dozens of community members who came to the Starbucks on E. Parkway for a “coffee with the mayor” gathering, Mayor Marc Samwick, Deputy Mayor Jane Veron and Trustee Justin Arest explained the Freightway process and answered questions.


Samwick said the process is iterative and any plans are still in formation. He said the board of trustees is committed to listening to the community and has opened a 60-day comment period through Feb. 9. The village website has a full archive of documents related to the project, and community members can use a portal on the website to submit comments or they can send emails to freightway@scarsdale.com.


The mayor said the village plans to aggregate all comments received and then select a preferred developer from among the two finalists. Those firms’ preliminary design concepts are on display at village hall and online at scarsdale.com.


Samwick said the chosen developer would be required to look at all environmental and economic effects of any project, and then refine plans and go back to the public for review. The SEQRA process for any such project mandates a full evaluation of traffic, parking, school and environmental impact.


He also said the village would jeopardize its negotiating position if it shared many of the data points residents are requesting in regard to the developers’ financials.


The mayor pointed out that members of the board of trustees, the planning board and the board of architectural review are all residents of Scarsdale with similar concerns about the quality of life, the schools, taxes and economic health of the community, and they are prepared to work with the selected developer to scale back and reduce the scope and scale of the project if necessary.


“If we deem it will not work, we will not proceed,” he added, saying there is an option still to simply repair or replace the garage, rather than embark on a redevelopment project.


But, Samwick said, the board felt it was their obligation to explore opportunities for improving the village and creating “connectivity” between the Garth Road area and the village center, as well as a possible development that would provide an on-ramp for young families to gain a foothold in the community and a place for older residents to remain in the community.


At the public meeting Dec. 11, many residents brought up concerns about the potential burden to the schools if the site were to include rental units. One of the potential developer groups, LCOR/East End Capital, presented a design concept that would include more than 200 condos or apartments, including studio up to 3- bedroom units. AvalonBay developers presented a similar vision with approximately 200 units of various sizes.


A representative for LCOR/East End Capital said the smaller units would be less likely to attract families with children than the larger spaces. But residents who spoke at the meeting were skeptical, speculating that upward of 100 students might be added to the Fox Meadow School district, which they said has already reached maximum capacity.

Fox Meadow School currently has 475 students in 23 sections for grades K through 5.


The petitioners also want to know how much a mixed-use residential development at Freightway might impact the local student population.


At the Dec. 17 discussion with residents, the trustees said an independent engineer is preparing an analysis to supplement data in the previous visioning study, which some residents said is flawed.


At a board of education meeting Dec. 16, President Scott Silberfein said the school board is “keenly aware” that a potential residential development on the site of Scarsdale’s Freightway parking garage on Garth Road “could impact — and maybe impact significantly — the schools.”


“The [school] board and district have been kept abreast of timelines and developments and have been in communication with village leaders in the Freightway development process, including the exchange of data concerning our enrollments, including the enrollment from specific areas and also from specific buildings in town that may be relevant to this development,” Silberfein said in his opening remarks Dec. 16. “Before last week’s public forum and following it, we are intent on continuing to work with the village board to ensure full and accurate consideration of any potential impacts on the schools from any Freightway development. Whenever the village considers residential developments, there are potential impacts on the schools.”


Silberfein said the district and board will look at all impacts, including capacity, whether that be the total enrollment, the number and size of class sections, or support services and the impact on taxes, zoning and transportation.


“We are committed to continue our dialogue with the village board and the community on this very important topic,” said Silberfein.


During the 60-day public comment period and during future discussions with developers, the board has indicated it’s willing to share any data the village board might need to move the process along.


“Assuming a residential development project remains on the table, this board and the district will deepen their engagement and study of things like capacity issues, impacts and the like,” Silberfein said.


Silberfein said Mayor Samwick, Deputy Mayor Veron and Trustee Arest will attend the school board meeting Jan. 13, to “answer questions from the board and administration and potentially discuss with us what additional data and other information we need to be sharing between our two entities while we consider this work.”



This article was originally published in The Scarsdale Inquirer, December 20, 2019.

 

AvalonBay and LCOR picked as finalists for Scarsdale’s Freightway project

 

AvalonBay Communities and a combined venture of LCOR, East End Capital and 3D Properties LLC have been selected by the village of Scarsdale as the two finalists in the effort to pick a developer for the downtown Freightway area near the Metro-North Railroad station.


Freightway is a site of about 2.43 acres principally occupied by a five-story parking garage and at-grade parking, an additional one-tenth acre in the town of Eastchester, a 0.51-acre parcel along Scarsdale Avenue and an 0.84-acre of air rights over the Metro-North tracks.


The finalists were selected from the six developers that responded to the village’s request for proposals covering “a redevelopment project that creates a mixed-use transit-oriented development, including at a minimum: residential uses, commercial uses, commuter parking, community uses/open space and connectivity to Scarsdale Avenue and the Village Center.”


A motivating factor for the village in exploring development possibilities has been the need for the Freightway parking structure to be repaired or replaced.


AvalonBay and LCOR were invited to each give a 40-minute presentation of their ideas at a public work session of the Scarsdale Board of Trustees on Dec. 11. A timeline calls for selection of a developer in the next few months, to be followed by a period of fine-tuning development details. The timeline also mentions a possibility that the village will decide not to proceed with redevelopment.


John Vogel, senior vice president of development for AvalonBay Communities, said, “I have been in a lot of crowded rooms but this is one of the most well-attended events. I recognize this is a very important project for your town. It’s also very important to my mom because she lives with my father a half-mile from the site.”
 

Stuart Lachs, principal and board director of AvalonBay’s architect Perkins Eastman, reviewed the plan submitted in response to the RFP, which outlined a project with 220 dwelling units in six buildings. There would be 27 studios, 89 one-bedroom units, 75 two-bedroom units, 19 three-bedroom units and 10 three-bedroom condominiums.

There would be 720 public parking spaces, 2,300 square feet of retail space, 68,500 square feet of public open space and 16,000 square feet of private open space. Townhouses would be in two structures on the southwest section of the site, the condominiums would be in two buildings across the railroad tracks on the east side along Scarsdale Avenue and the rest of the dwelling units would be in two buildings on the west side of the tracks.

After meetings with village officials, AvalonBay prepared two other layouts.

Option A cut back the number of dwelling units to 197 with 24 studios, 79 one-bedrooms, 67 two-bedrooms, 17 three-bedrooms and 10 three-bedroom condos, 520 public parking spaces, 200 public valet spaces, 7,247 square feet of retail, a 7,454-square-foot community theater space and no change in the amount of open space.

Option B offered 4,050 square feet of retail and eliminated the theater while still offering 7,500 square feet of public amenity space in the project.

Christoper Reynolds, director of development for AvalonBay Communities, said, “We came up with a couple of options based on the sort of minimal initial feedback that we got, but every bit of feedback that the chosen developer gets in this process will allow for more options, more scenarios to be discovered and analyzed from both an economic standpoint and the standpoint of the preferences.”


VILLAGE MEWS

David Peretz, founder and managing principal of East End Capital, was a speaker on behalf of the East End, 3D Properties and LCOR team. Their project has been dubbed VillageMews. Peretz told the meeting that he’s also a Scarsdale resident.


“I’m also speaking in front of you as a neighbor,” he said. “I also live here in Scarsdale so I’d like everyone to know that while there have been a bunch of concerns and things you guys are concerned about, I also am concerned about the same things and your interests are similar to my interests in that I want to see an amazing project for our community.”


He served on the village’s downtown revitalization committee.


Peretz said his company, along with its partners, bought two properties that they could incorporate into the project, 2-20 Garth Road and 54-56 Garth Road, to significantly improve ingress and egress options in a site plan.


Their project includes three buildings.

Building A would have 68 residential units in 144,000 square feet, 3,500 square feet of retail space and 25,0000 square feet of community-use space.

Building B would have 217 residential units in 231,000 square feet.

Building C would have 2,500 square feet of retail space with five parking spaces.

Freightway Scarsdale LCOR AvalonBay
A rendering of the LCOR project.

The below-grade parking podium would have 900 spaces, 720 of them public. The residential units would be a mix of studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three or more bedrooms. Less than 10% would be three bedrooms or larger.


The developer would like to see the 25,000 square feet of community-use space anchored by the Hoff Barthelson Music School. It would include a black box theater.


“In our early discussions with Hoff, we believe that most weekend nights it (the theater) would be available for the public so this would be a great amenity for … Scarsdale,” Peretz said. Perkins Eastman also is the architect for VillageMews.


The meeting lasted three hours and 46 minutes and included comments from the public. Some residents expressed concern that the proposals would attract families with children who would overburden the local school system and village services.


Robert Berg, an 18-year resident who is on the Scarsdale Board of Assessment Review, said, “Freightway is an undeniable eyesore, but the two proposals we’ve seen for the first time tonight are nonstarters for existing Scarsdale residents. We are a fully built-out community. We’re not in the hinterlands of Montana looking for another 500-plus new residents to move into non-age-restricted apartments. The only reason to go forward with this project is to lower our crazy property tax burden. If you can’t guarantee that the project will substantially lower our existing residents’ property tax burden, stop now and let’s figure out another plan.”


Resident Deborah McCarthy said, “I have a great number of concerns about what’s being proposed and how it may even detract rather than enhance the village center. Both these proposals failed to show ability to access the site and to depart the site in ways that would enhance the traffic flow.”


Resident Kenneth Clay said, “It feels like a remedy for an illness I’m not sure we have. We have a parking lot that’s in decay. It can be repaired.”


Scarsdale Mayor Mark Samwick, who presided at the session, said, “We’ve already approached both of the finalist groups to figure out how we can potentially bring size and scale back and we’re going to continue to do that.”

This article was originally published in Westfair Online.


Residents Wary of Freightway Development Plans

 


As you’ve likely heard, at the December 11 meeting about Freightway, the majority of residents present expressed opposition to converting the site into a transit-oriented development (TOD). In particular, they cited concerns about the proposed 200-plus rental/condo units that would serve as a cornerstone of such a design plan. How would the influx of hundreds of new residents impact the school district, the Metro North train station, and daily life in Scarsdale?


Over 30 members of the public lined up to voice their reservations and concerns about preliminary Freightway plans presented by the two finalist development groups. Taken together, the comments provided the village board with much food for thought as they continue to explore whether a TOD is the best choice the village. Here’s what some residents had to say:


Two Hours of Comments

Bob Berg (Tisdale Road) opened the public comment session, stating, “Freightway is an undeniable eyesore but the two proposals we’ve seen… are nonstarters… We’re not… looking for another 500-plus new residents to move into non-age-restricted apartments.” He continued, “If you can’t guarantee that the project will substantially lower our existing residents’ property taxes, stop now and let’s figure out another plan. I have grave concerns that 220 to 285 apartment units… can ever generate sufficient property taxes to even come close to covering the incremental cost the project will impose on our schools and village services, let alone lower our existing residents’ property taxes… Under New York property tax law, apartments receive incredibly favorable tax treatment as compared to single-family homes… This project will substantially raise existing homeowners’ property taxes to subsidize 500-plus new residents who will clog our schools and our already jammed Metro North train platform.”


Max Grudin (Overhill Road) followed, saying, “It’s all well if everyone pays their fair share of taxes. In 2016, the village board rejected the Homestead Act. It isn’t fair to discriminate against one family; it’s also unfair to discriminate against 99 percent of families... We’ve created two different classes of homeowners (single family homeowners and apartment dwellers)… it is important to reconsider the Homestead Act.”


Mayor Marc Samwick replied, “Homestead is not able to be acted on right now. Right now… the taxes that are assessed in Scarsdale are consistent with New York State law. New York State provides that you can override a piece of that, known as “homestead.” The village board, over the past five years, has twice evaluated whether to enact the homestead tax option… and on both occasions has unanimously voted against that. Next time it comes up, we’ll be happy to talk about it some more.”


Boning Lu (Jefferson Road) expressed concern about how new rental units would impact Scarsdale schools, and the assumption that only larger, specifically three-bedroom, apartments would house families with school-aged children. “(In New York City) people who live in two-bedroom, even one-bedroom (apartments) can raise school-aged kids… if you don’t have restrictions… you cannot prevent (these children) from (going) the schools. I don’t think 200 units will only generate 20 kids (as previously projected).” She went on, “We have to learn from other school districts… In Larchmont, they had a large residential unit constructed recently, and their school is overcrowded because they have too many kids… They had to build temporary classrooms… we spend so much, we don’t want our kids in temporary classrooms.”

Samwick responded, “We all are here for the schools as well... If we believe, at any time, that this development would yield something that is detrimental to our schools and changes the foundation of our community, we don’t need to proceed.” He added, “What I also want people to understand is these are things that absolutely will be and, by law, have to be studied and assessed.”


Bert Cohen (Chesterfield Road) followed, “I’m hearing about paid professionals and consultants, and it really reminds me of the reval. Whatever the arguments were (about) the logic, clearly, in many ways, the village didn’t understand the impact on the residents.” He continued, “270 apartments might lead you to 500 new students. I don’t care what study you have; it’s not going to work out... This whole thing is out of proportion to the village and… a parking lot. If we need a different parking lot, let’s come up with something else instead.”


Bram Levin (Overhill Road) “I think there are so many intersecting issues, which is why we hear such a diversity of comments… One of the things we keep repeating… is that we don’t have policy papers… published papers on our economic development… We should have an environmental plan… we don’t have an economic plan… we don’t have a future plan… We’re really working in the dark here… These (proposals) are very limited ideas. They don’t solve our traffic problems; they don’t protect or show concern for the school issues. The (Bronx River) parkway zone, which is a sensitive environmental area, has really suffered a great loss of trees… there are a lot of people living in this area… We should be dealing with this in a comprehensive, multi-community way. “

Samwick replied, “There is a village comprehensive plan that goes back. There have been other studies that have been done of our village center since. We’re standing on the shoulders of that. So, this is not coming out of left field by any stretch… Frankly, the discussion about redeveloping Freightway is decades old.”


A bit later, Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez (Fox Meadow Road) said, “There has been discussion about the expected demographics for 200-plus new rental units at Freightway but we need to also think about the future demographics for… empty nests that are increasingly under pressure… We can make our community friendlier to our longest-tenure residents by minimizing tax burdens and increasing amenities. Freightway offers help in this regard and more.”

He continued, “While retail is suffering nationally, it is possible that our woes are amplified by a near monopoly in the village center… Perhaps Freightway offers an alternative to this monopoly and a way to fulfill consumer demand… non-residential, experiential retail opportunities abound, and the market already exists as evidenced by what Scarsdalians spend elsewhere… To see them realized means using the full scope of land available to us. Scarsdale already owns the air rights over Metro North’s tracks. It adds about 40 percent to the acreage for the site and more cohesively integrates Garth Road with Scarsdale Avenue and the village center… If our air rights are not part of this project, that value will never be captured… the project scope for Freightway remains smaller and has largely concentrated on rental apartments and parking.”

Samwick replied, “Amenities… we want to hear what your priorities and preferences are so we can try to incorporate that, as much as possible, into the development. Air rights: we’ve had preliminary discussions with everyone about how to best utilize them. Keep in mind the difficulties we had constructing the Popham Road Bridge, which is just 80 feet wide.“ He went on, “There’s only so much value in that land right now; there are a couple of ways you can get that value. You can put it on the tax rolls, you can sell it and develop it – you can get something up front and tax dollars at the back end. If you increase the tax dollars at the back end, you’re going to get less up front. We have certain needs up-front, primarily… parking. We also have a number of wants, in terms of amenities and things we can bring to the community. “


Deborah McCarthy (Bradley Road), “I don’t think that the path… to address fiscal concerns is the path we should be on… I have a great number of concerns about what is being proposed and how it may detract from rather than enhance the village center. In addition… I have a question with respect to the parking… how much parking is going to be allocated for the residences? When they’re talking about 720 spaces, is that for the commuters and residents?” Samwick quickly responded, “That’s for the community. Residents would have separate parking.”

McCarthy added, “One of the things… these two proposals fail to show is the ability to access the site and to depart the site in ways that would enhance traffic flow… The other thing is… the village should be asking for affidavits from these developers as to their litigation history. Have they been sued; have they settled those suits; what have the suits been about, so we have a better understanding of what their track record is. I can understand the desire of the village to want to develop that site… (but) there is vacant (retail) space in the village and working with the individuals who own that space is probably the most productive step the village can take in that regard.”

Samwick answered, “That is something that is already happening; the village manager and I met with (an) owner… two days ago. With regard to other things… We are not supporting or sponsoring the development proposals... These are designed to engage a conversation… we’re going through extra steps to involve the community, and involve the community at a much earlier stage than would normally be the case… By having early discussions, we’re not having refined plans to dive into.”


Marshall Kitain (Butler Road) “A vibrant downtown is a worthwhile goal. The proposed development here is too risky, is too big, and it offers no guarantee of creating the vibrant downtown we would like. Creating this much new housing supply does not serve current village residents... It will pressure the school system infrastructure, particularly if zoned for a single elementary school… Adding significant new housing supply at a low price point depresses existing property values, and the development itself is risky… The potential for unintended consequences here is very large… while transit-oriented developments may be great for some towns, that does not mean it’s right for Scarsdale… Listen to your constituents here tonight.”

Samwick replied, “We haven’t addressed school zones; that’s something the school district and board of education determines… I agree with you; just because transit-oriented developments have worked in other communities doesn’t mean this is right for 10583. But we want to look at it and make an educated determination.”

Kitain followed, “I wholly agree that it’s worth exploring. What’s being presented here are two, by and large, similar kind of developments. They’re not real out-of-the-box thinking… Amenities like squash courts and a pool… a park, a playground… those are real creative ideas and should be presented… once you continue going down one path, it almost becomes a fait accompli.”


Zangzhou Hu (Brite Avenue) then discussed the desirable Short Hills school district becoming overcrowded after a new apartment complex was built. She also expressed concerns about Scarsdale’s timeline in selecting a preferred developer, as well as the quality of the project analysis to date. Samwick explained that the reason a preferred developer would be “selected prior to having all the information is so that (it will) have enough comfort to spend money to do site due diligence. They will determine what the environmental condition of the site is; they will see where the bedrock is, where the water table is, and what can be built there. That enables the developer with the village to refine the program… in the meantime, we are doing analysis; we are looking at the experience of comparable communities; we’re looking at what the experience is with school generation…we’re looking at what it is in Scarsdale… We’ve heard about what is happening in Short Hills… we have not yet been able to confirm that… but it’s critically important (to take into account).”


Claudine Gessel (Kent Road) said, “This is just more kids, no matter how you look at it… and, of course, we don’t know how many kids there are, we just know they’re more. What we also know, from the Greenacres thing that just happened, is that we’re pretty maxed out… in every room, with every teacher, in every seat. We are maxed out and people don’t want to raise the tax bill… (for more square footage, and more teachers)… what kind of taxes is this generating?” Samwick followed, “Fiscal impact: if it doesn’t work, it’s not happening… with respect to schools, if we have to build more schools, it’s not happening.”


Alex Wolf (Harvest Drive) stated, “It seems to me that this project is offering us very marginal benefits in terms of the public amenities in return for huge profits for developers, who come in here, build, and, yes, Avalon will manage their asset. That’s wonderful for us… This garage (will cost) $2.5 million to repair. That’s less than one-tenth of a percent over a 10-year period during which those repairs are supposed to have a useful life… That’s $500 a family over 10 years. So why are we getting nothing for this (development)? We have to accept this residential component to get marginal benefit to the community? …We could have a bond issue and make the improvements that the community wants.”

Samwick followed up, “If we think we’re getting nothing (with this project), we’re done; we’ll fix the garage. With respect to the future of the garage, the garage is almost 50 years old. This $2.5 million is just the beginning. There is a lot of money, probably tens of millions of dollars, that needs to be spent over a longer period of time, albeit, but, unquestionably, we are at the beginning of a downward spiral with respect to that garage… That’s why it’s so important to do the evaluations that we’re doing right now.”


Fernando Gueler (Taunton Road) stated that he and other residents would like to see a spectrum of options for the Freightway site. He explained the frustration of having to choose just between repairing the garage and a large scale, multi-use project. He also felt that the two finalists’ designs were very similar, and presented residents with too few ideas/choices. Samwick explained that all developers were asked to provide designs that reflected existing village center architecture; the two designs presented include features that currently work in these types of developments and are market-driven


Kenneth Clay (Tompkins Road) commented, “It feels like a remedy for an illness I’m not sure we have. We have a parking lot that’s in decay; it can be repaired. We may have an opportunity to do some other things… We ought to do a little more to define the needs… I would hope this isn’t fully baked; this is illustrative, and that we will give further consideration with community input.” Samwick then said, “The way you’ve said it is exactly right; it isn’t fully baked.”


Michael Levine (Walworth Avenue) then said, “What is the impact on the public school population and what’s the sustainable or acceptable impact? …The visioning study… estimates at most 20 new public school students; that’s not consistent with the RFEI from East End, which says it’s targeting mature adults and seniors, and young families seeking starter homes in a walkable, suburban location with great schools. LCOR, similarly, (states)
‘The intent is to provide a wide variety of residential unit sizes… from families to millennials to mature adults, we’re committed to reaching as many groups as possible. Well, families and millennials, millennials become families. People who will have school kids… You really ought to look at this carefully now because it may avoid doing a whole lot of other work if you can’t find a way to keep the school population down to the 20 or so you said in the visioning study.” Samwick replied, “If there’s one threshold issue, it’s school impact. We are on top of it.”


Soon after, Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez (Fox Meadow Road) stated, “I think it’s fantastic to have this kind of a session; I think it’s really great to see so many residents wanting to be actively involved in our municipality and it’s essential to have cognizant diversity. It can be hard, it can be ugly, because everybody has a different background, everybody has a different culture, (and) everybody has a different way of speaking. But it’s when you really deal with the differences in opinion… that the result is far better. If we surround ourselves with just the people who agree with us, that results in a higher probability of failure… I want this to be a smashing success... The sun is setting on America’s longest economic expansion in history… 25 huge retailers went into bankruptcy this year; 30 more are predicted to go into bankruptcy next year… I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade… we have to be very careful in our due diligence – the financials of the bidders, the economics of the project, and hopefully, that’s coming at some point soon… and any reputations risks to Scarsdale. “


Residents raised a number of other issues and urged that any development feature sustainable design; asked the village to improve communications efforts related to the project and engage more residents; questioned if the developers could drastically reduce the number of proposed residential units; reinforced the need for the village to serve current residents rather than future residents; and asked their neighbors to debate the issues respectfully, while raising other issues.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you may view the developers’ presentations and provide feedback via Scarsdale.com.


Following the meeting, John Gliedman sent this letter to Scarsdale10583:

Meetings like the one publicized by the mayor and held on December 11, 2019 are so important because they help focus and foster advance planning. I fear there was no such meeting in the town to our east, Mamaroneck, when it learned in 2014 that 300 new families had been added as residents due to various trends, including new construction.

The signs of overcrowding began the following year, but they erupted in 2017 with news that rezoning of school assignments was on the table. A map had been prepared showing the new assignments, as the Chatsworth and Murray Avenue schools had become overcrowded. This triggered petitions and public meetings in early 2018, when parents who had moved to be walking distance from their school suddenly faced long trips to their proposed assigned school.

There is nothing inevitable about Scarsdale to say that this could not happen here. Take the Freightway out of the equation for the moment. Demographic pendulums have a way of swinging back and forth. Overcrowding is an ever-present risk. Now, add Freightway apartment development plans into the equation. Why risk a self-inflicted problem of overcrowding into our community? Surely our local store profits and the cost of sustaining Freightway are problems that we can isolate and solve without triggering new, worse issues?






The original article was published by Scarsdale resident Laura Bagnioni Halligan in Scarsdale 10583.com.

 

Scarsdale residents balk at housing development proposals around the village train station area


Developers pitched more housing around the village train station Wednesday night. And Scarsdale residents balked.

Robert Berg, a Scarsdale resident and a volunteer member of the Scarsdale Board of Assessment, said the village is a fully built-out community and that any adopted plan must guarantee a decrease in property taxes.


“Because of the recent imposition of the federal $10,000-per-year cap on SALT deductions and our very high property taxes, our real estate values have dropped precipitously in our price category, and especially at the high end,” Berg said.


“I have grave concerns that 220 to 280 apartment units, mostly rentals, can generate sufficiently enough property taxes to even come close to cover the incremental cost the project will impose on our schools and village services, let alone lower our existing residents’ property taxes,” he added. Another resident suggested that the chosen developer agree to cover a bond for additional expenses incurred by the school district.



You may find the complete Journal News article here.

Scarsdale residents react to possible Freightway plans

 


Rutherford Hall was standing room only Wednesday night, with every extra folding chair in the building moved into the courtroom to accommodate overflow. About 150 residents filled all the seats, and dozens more lined the perimeter of the room waiting for the community meeting with the board of trustees to begin.


The hot button topic was the potential redevelopment of Scarsdale’s Freightway parking garage on Garth Road. The garage serves as the primary parking facility for village merchants, commuters and others using the Metro-North Railroad station. In 2017 a conditions survey by Desmond Association determined the garage would require extensive repairs and maintenance that could cost up to $2.5 million by 2022. The board has also pointed out that the facility will need even greater repairs in the following 15 to 20 years, including a possible total replacement that could cost more than $25 million.



The complete article was published in The Scarsdale Inquirer.

 
"Over 30 residents lined up to express concerns about a number of issues, primarily how the increased number of apartment dwellers (specifically children) will impact the school district and stress existing resources.


Among other issues raised were:

1) Does Scarsdale need an influx of new residents in the village center, leading to more traffic congestion and crowding at the train stations;

2) Should the village build more residential units that will taxed less than single family homes;

3) Do the financial benefits of such a project outweigh potential risks;

4) Are there other options for the site besides a multi-use project with residential space;

5) What are the tax benefits that the village can expect; and

6) What is the financial condition of the two development groups?"


The complete article was published in Scarsdale10583.

We Welcome Your Letters
 
 
Do you have anything that you want to say to the Scarsdale Mayor and Trustees? Please send us your letter, and we will publish it in our newsletter insuring that it gets to Village Hall and our thousands of newsletter readers.
Recent Voters Choice Party Speeches and Articles


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Out and About

Museum Passes

Scarsdale residents are entitled to borrow passes from the Scarsdale Public Library to visit an incredible select list of museums in New York City and Westchester County . Please visit the library site to see the list and to learn about the library's rules for borrowing passes.

Music Events


Scarsdale has numerous classical musical concerts throughout the year including Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's Ninth, and Verdi's Requiem. Here are the 2018-2019 calendars for:

Hoff-Barthelson Music School
The Scarsdale Congregational Church

If you know of other venues in Scarsdale with cultural events, please email them to us and we will post them here.



Family Activities in the Area

Visit  NY Metro Parents Westchester for a wide array of cultural and sports activities.
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About The Voters Choice Party


The Voters Choice Party was created in 2017 to increase transparency and accountability at Scarsdale Village Hall, to discuss issues relevant to residents, to give voters a choice of different candidates, and to increase voter turnout.

www.VotersChoiceParty.com 


 

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