Scarsdale Voters Choice Party Trustee Candidates Robert J. Berg, Sean J. Cohen, and Robert D. Selvaggio would love to meet and hear from you.
The VCP candidates look forward to your questions and comments at:
Meet the VCP Candidates, Sunday, March 1st 4-6pm at the home of Bob Berg and Jill Krutick, please RSVP here and we will send you the address,
the League of Women Voters' Candidate Forum on Thursday, March 5th at Village Hall, 7:30pm, and at
the VCPFreightway and Scarsdale SustainabilityTown Hall, Thursday, March 12th at Village Hall, 7:30-9:30pm.
In order to give you a choice of candidates, we welcome your financial support. No contribution is too small. We need your financial support in order to update our website, to host 'Meet the Candidate' events, and to implement other important VCP campaign initiatives.
Voting will take place March 18th at the Scarsdale Congregational Church at 1 Heathcote Road. 6am-9pm. The candidates respectfully ask for your vote. Please vote Row A!
All the best,
Voters Choice Party
Note: Words throughout this newsletter that are highlighted and underlined have links with relevant information.
Sean has been going door-to-door chatting with voters. Make sure that you say 'hi' to him when you see him. You may also write him to set up a time to meet up.
VCP Campaign Fund Raising
We welcome your financial support in order to update our website and for other necessary campaign initiatives. The SCNP is incredibly well funded and has already been soliciting even more contributions for a couple of weeks.
Kindly contribute to VCP by sending a check addressed to Voters Choice Party c/o Ms. Jill Krutick, VCP Treasurer 32 Tisdale Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583.
You are supporting democracy to flourish in our Village in the Park. Thank you!
Important Scarsdale Trustee Election Information
The order of Village Trustee candidates on the ballot for the March 18th election was decided by a coin toss on Thursday. The Voters Choice Party Trustee Candidates Berg, Cohen, and Selvaggio are Row A.
The Village Trustee Election will be held on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. All Election Districts (Nos. 1 - 19) will vote between the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Scarsdale Congregational Church, 1 Heathcote Road.
If you are not registered to vote, the deadline is March 6th. For voter registration forms, please visit the Westchester County Board of Elections website.
If you will be absent from Scarsdale on election day, March 18, you may request an absentee ballot from Village Clerk Donna Conkling. The last day to request a ballot is March 10th. You may download the necessary form here.
VCP won the coin toss, so we are Row A.
League of Women's Voters Candidate Forum
The Voters Choice Party candidates are pleased to attend the LWV Candidate Forum. According to the Scarsdale League of Women Voters, "Candidates running for the three at large open seats on the Village Board of Trustees will appear to answer questions in a timed format moderated by a trained LWV of Westchester representative." Please attend the event and submit your important questions to all six candidates.
Thursday, March 5, 2020
7:30-9:30 pm at Rutherford Hall, Village Hall
Save the Date: VCP Freightway and Scarsdale Sustainability Town Hall, March 12, 7:30 PM, Village Hall
You are cordially invited to attend the VCP Freightway and Scarsdale Sustainability Town Hall on March 12th at Village Hall, 7:30pm. We believe that all Scarsdale residents should have their voice and opinions heard. The Board of Trustees meeting have a 5 minute restriction to speak, which often does not enable residents enough time to pose all the questions that they need.
We will release more details about this event shortly, but we want to hear from you. We want to know what YOU want in Freightway Redevelopment and what other needs you have in our municipality. Feel free to write us and let us know if you already have questions that you want answered.
Photo by Nicholas Perrone
When Bob Selvaggio started his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, he planned to major in English literature. Then, in his sophomore year he took an economics course and his plans began to shift. Once he enrolled in an advanced economics course, he was hooked.
With a PhD in economics from Brown University and credentials as a founder of Rutter Associates, an economic consulting firm, Selvaggio, 62, wants to put his experience to use on the Scarsdale Board of Trustees, and this week, he filed a petition to run on the Scarsdale Voters’ Choice Party (VCP) ticket for one of the three open seats on the board. The election will take place March 18.
Selvaggio isn’t a stranger to running for a trustee seat. In 2017 Selvaggio ran on the VCP ticket and last year he was considered, but ultimately not selected, for the Citizens Nominating Committee slate.
Selvaggio said his previous inspiration to run on the VCP ticket was due to the revaluation process in Scarsdale. But that, he said, is “water under the bridge” and the redevelopment of Freightway is his new motivation for mounting a challenge to the board of trustees this year.
“We fell down on models when it came to the reval,” he said. “I don’t want to see us falling down on models when it comes to Freightway development.”
A 26-year resident of Fox Meadow, Selvaggio is focused heavily on integrating scientific and economic models and making sure Scarsdale only allows projects that have a “positive fiscal impact.”
“Any project has to have the certainty of positive fiscal impact,” he said, referencing the recently shelved Freightway project. “Seems to me that’s a pretty simple thing to require of such a large-scale project.”
Beyond assuring the revenues Scarsdale might realize from Freightway would exceed any additional costs the project would bring, Selvaggio said he would deny any project that would potentially overcrowd the school district and the already bustling platforms at the Scarsdale train station.
“When you’re looking at fiscal impact, you need to have a model, there has to be some model of revenues and costs over time and that model has to … embed riskiness,” he said. “We want to make sure that even in the most stressful of stress scenarios, we don’t have a negative fiscal impact.”
On the issues facing Scarsdale, Selvaggio is running on a platform of keeping Scarsdale affordable, using scientific approaches for project development and expanding transparency and community involvement.
“So many of our village processes are opaque that we’re not privy to what goes on,” he said. “We need to have more transparency and the way to have transparency is to have more involvement of our residents. We have so much expertise in Scarsdale.”
One area where Selvaggio hopes to invigorate community input is village budgeting. Considering the federal cap on sales and local tax (SALT) deductions, Selvaggio wants to put together a group of informed residents and challenge them to find ways for the village to hold tax rates flat or cut taxes by 2%.
“People of fairly solid means are suffering at the moment,” Selvaggio said, referencing the loss of the SALT deduction. “We have to react in some way to this.”
Selvaggio also suggested integrating fees into trash collection for different levels of service that residents need or want.
“We need to have some sort of creative thinking now,” he said. “We need to get out of our comfort zone and [start] thinking about trying some way to reduce expenditures and to give our residents a tax break.”
Selvaggio has suggested pushing the federal government to allow empty nesters or residents without children in the school system to deduct their school taxes from their federal income taxes as a way to relieve that population of the loss of the SALT deduction.
With empty storefronts plaguing the downtown, Selvaggio said he didn’t fault the board on their efforts to make the downtown livelier.
“The fact is there’s not much we can do about empty storefronts if an owner wants to keep his storefront empty,” he said. “There’s just not much we can do.”
If a project couldn’t be proposed for Freightway with a positive fiscal impact, Selvaggio has suggested the village could float a parking revenue bond to perform all the required repairs and that a committee of residents could sort out what kind of nonresidential commercial development they’d want to put in that area.
“Nothing is going to be a total loss here,” he said. “No matter what happens with Freightway development we still have that option.”
Selvaggio is adamant that the village board needs to tap residents’ talents, rather than rely on hired consultants, and needs to talk through issues with constituents and to use scientific models to justify decision making.
“I’d like to see the board basically exploit that talent,” he said. “Bring our own people in.”
Scarsdale residents value choice in local elections
Although the Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party (SCNP) is extremely well funded and continues to dominate Scarsdale politics, the tradition of a single-party and uncontested elections has been swept into the dustbin of history.
Scarsdale citizens are now generally offered choice at the polls as Voters’ Choice Party candidates and individuals unaffiliated with either party are showing interest in mounting challenges to the entrenched party. And as the Scarsdale Inquirer’s Jan. 24 editorial [“Water the grass roots”] rightly points out, “candidates who want to run independently for village office are free to do so.”
Many residents value choice at the polls and have indeed bristled at the suggestion that they should waste their time voting in an uncontested election (this explains abysmally low voter turnout). Others have been turned off by numerous reports of poor behavior and conflicts of interest behind a leaky shroud of secrecy during the Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC) nominating process. For example, from last year’s selection process we learned that individuals who oppose the Citizens Party’s support for the notorious “Ryan Reval” need not bother seeking CNC nomination because those opposing Ryan’s flawed model in court through an Article 78 proceeding are perceived as being disloyal to Scarsdale.
Indeed, there are many who believe the SCNP candidates tend to be of a particular mindset leading to group-think and behaviors that benefit only their own privileged political class in Scarsdale.
We face important challenges in Scarsdale including how best to mitigate our dramatically increased property tax burdens given the virtual elimination of the SALT deduction and how to develop our downtown area so as to provide property tax relief for single-family homeowners and amenities that make living in Scarsdale more attractive without burdening our schools and our already overcrowded train platforms. I personally hope this coming election will be about selecting the candidates — whether Voters’ Choice, Citizens Party or independent — best qualified to face those challenges.
Two of the three candidates selected by the CNC have already been in office for two years and the extent of their efforts and successes in facing these challenges is a matter of public record; voters will likely take note of lack of progress and look for change. This is why residents value choice.
Voters' Choice Party Candidates Are Pleased To Present Their Platform
You Came To Scarsdale For The Schools;
We Want You To Stay!
The Scarsdale Voters’ Choice Party (VCP) Trustee Candidates are from a broad range of professional and thought perspectives. We love living in Scarsdale and have a strong, unwavering commitment to our schools. We want to establish an inclusive decision-making process at Village Hall with all residents which is quality of life, data- and fact-driven. Scarsdale is a wonderful Village in the Park; we should all be its stewards for current and future generations.
We believe in:
ensuring that the Village does not commit to Freightway Redevelopment or other municipal projects without undertaking thorough due diligence to achieve positive long-term fiscal implications for our tax base and our schools,
having a political process that is transparent, responsive to residents’ needs, accountable to taxpayers, and is a far more congenial and open process where residents feel comfortable and welcomed,
maintaining a prudent eye on Scarsdale’s fiscal sustainability and having tax levels no higher than they are today in order to enhance property values and to enable young and empty-nester residents to stay in Scarsdale,
preserving Scarsdale’s current level of single- and multiple-family dwellings so that our schools, roads, and commuter trains do not get more crowded,
establishing a more vibrant downtown that serves residents’ and merchants’ needs,
utilizing Scarsdale residents’ vast pool of talents in an inclusive manner at Village Hall decision making processes to solve municipal issues,
maintaining a high standard of Village services and supporting our Village personnel, and
continuing to be in the vanguard of environmental and sustainability projects.
I would like to thank the over 850 Scarsdale residents and merchants who signed the petition to “Halt Freightway Redevelopment To Protect Our Schools And Taxpayers.” http://bit.ly/2sDuMGO A group of concerned residents, ‘Scarsdale Residents For The Protection Of Our Schools And Taxpayers,’ designed and distributed the petition requesting that the Scarsdale Village Mayor and Trustees please:
involve the Scarsdale School Administration, the School PTAs and the School Board more proactively and transparently; waiting to get them more involved later in the process is too risky for current residents;
create a Freightway Committee with diverse representation of residents, PTA members, and local merchants from the Village Center and Garth Road to help them with our professional expertise and experience to get significant input from a diversity of Scarsdale residents and merchants as to what type of commercial, cultural, and recreational facilities we want in Freightway;
revise and reopen the Request for Proposal process, so that as many bidders can show us different designs;
ask all bidders to disclose their financials when they show us designs, so that we can evaluate their ability to service their debt until they complete Freightway Redevelopment;
evaluate and disclose to residents the impact of increased residents on our traffic patterns, parking, and train crowding and safety; and
organize a referendum, so that we, the residents, can choose the proposal best suited to our needs.
We want to redevelop the Freightway site, provided that this redevelopment can be accomplished by
not burdening our School District;
bringing desirable, revenue-enhancing facilities to our Village; and
lowering existing residents' property taxes.
An impressive diversity of Scarsdale residents not only signed the petition, but also gave important feedback in comments attached to the petition. Key thematic feedback from the signers of the petition includes that they:
have concerns about the lack of transparency in how the two “finalist” developers for Freightway were chosen;
want to see more than two finalists’ designs;
would like Village officials to ask for designs that reflect the type of cultural, commercial, and recreational facilities Scarsdale resident want;
request information and forecasts on the impact that an increase in population would have on crowding in Scarsdale schools, roads, commuter trains, and property taxes; and
request a referendum so that residents can vote on a design.
Since we launched the petition, the Mayor announced that the Freightway project has been put on “pause.” How and why that decision was made has yet to be fully disclosed to the public. It is important for residents to realize that the existing plan to redevelop Freightway has not been shelved. The Mayor and Trustees are still talking about continuing the Freightway Redevelopment project with these two chosen, unvetted finalist developers, and selecting one of these finalists as the preferred developer with which to engage in exclusive negotiations for a binding contract for the project.
I encourage the Mayor and Trustees to disclose to the public what the new plan for Freightway Redevelopment is and the implementation timeline. They need to have a well-developed communication strategy to reach well beyond the 400-plus residents who responded to the Freightway Survey over a year ago. A redeveloped Freightway could be a tremendous asset to our community if developed with broad community input, transparency and accountability. To date, the process has been anything but that, and immediate change is needed to protect our Village in the Park.
VCP Trustee Candidates Have Decades Of Impressive Professional Expertise and Dedicated Volunteerism
Robert Berg and his wife Jill Krutick have lived in Scarsdale for sixteen years. Their two college aged offspring were students in Scarsdale schools. Jill is an artist who exhibits in New York and Miami; previously she was senior vice president in investor relations at Warner Music Group and a managing director in equity research in Citi
Bob has served as a Director and Vice President, of his neighborhood association, Berkley-in-Scarsdale (“Crane Berkley”), and is currently its President. He has served as a Director, Secretary, Vice President, President, and Executive Committee member of the Scarsdale Forum, and he is presently a Director and Chair of its Assessment Revaluation Committee. He is a member of SNAP (“Scarsdale Neighborhood Associations Presidents). He has served as the Vice Chair and the Chair of the Citizens Nominating Committee. He is a member of the Scarsdale Town Board of Assessment Review, which decides property tax grievances filed by Village property owners.
Bob has been practicing law as a litigator for the past 34 years. He started his career at Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in New York as a member of its Antitrust and Litigation departments. In 1985, he moved to LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & McRae, another international law firm in New York, where he was a litigator and antitrust counselor. In 1990, he became a plaintiffs’ class action litigator, representing investors in shareholder actions and consumers in consumer fraud, false advertising, and unfair trade practices litigation. He is presently a partner at Denlea & Carton LLP, a boutique law firm in White Plains. He has been a key attorney on many landmark consumer fraud and securities fraud class action cases throughout the nation and has achieved class action settlements, which have recovered over one billion dollars for defrauded consumers and shareholders.
His BA is in Economics and Psychology from Amherst College. He holds a MBA and a JD are from the University of Chicago. As a teenager and in college, he traveled the world playing string and electric bass. He is an avid fisherman and has been known to distribute freshly caught fish to lucky Scarsdalians.
Sean Cohen moved to the USA in 1977 and graduated Scarsdale High School in 1982. He has lived with his wife Shelley and their two children in Scarsdale since 2000.
Sean launched Rand Defined Value Diamonds Inc. to offer high quality investment-grade diamonds to consumers at the same price retailers pay for the same diamonds, the Polished Trade Price (PTP). From his extensive experience combating conflict diamonds in 2001, Sean devoted his company Rand Diamond to document a traceable history from polished diamond back to its rough state. Rand Diamond is a primary supplier to high end retailers of ethical diamonds cut to exacting specifications at competitive market prices.
Sean has served in numerous pro bono and volunteer activities in the U.S. and internationally, including:
Being Chairman of the Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training school, a not-for-profit that teaches South African youth diamond polishing skills.
Conceiving and being a founding member of the World Diamond Council (WDC) and The Kimberly Process, a government, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and industry partnership to solve the conflict diamond problem.
Serving as President of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), committed to promoting the highest ideals of honesty and best practice throughout the diamond industry and compliance with all national and international laws. As President, Sean met with Nonprofit Organizations to spearhead industry efforts to combat conflict diamonds.
Sean has a BA in History and Political Science from Tulane University. He holds a JD from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.
Robert Selvaggio and his wife, Lisa Sammaritano, and three children moved to Scarsdale 25 years ago. Lisa is a rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College
Robert is on the board of the Pelham Community Rowing Association where he has been teaching Tae Kwon Do to teenagers and adults in Westchester for over 15 years. He has been a volunteer basketball and little league coach in Scarsdale. He was a board member of the Scarsdale Teen center for two years. In Manhattan, he was head of the Finance Committee of St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church, where he was a key player in successful sale of Rectory and former School property to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center providing the Church a perpetuity that ensures its ongoing viability.
Robert is Co-Owner and Head of Analytics at Rutter Associates. Rutter Associates provides advisory services in the areas of market risk management, credit risk and credit portfolio management, economic capital and risk adjusted performance measurement, valuation and model review of exotic derivatives and hard-to-value assets and liabilities, and litigation support. He has long worked in financial economics and public and housing finance.
Robert has a BA in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and holds a PhD in Economics from Brown University.
Scarsdale Village Taxes Are Projected to Rise
Departmental and non-departmental expenses are expected to increase 2.32%. Presently, there is a budget deficit of $855,548, which means that taxes will go up by $135 for a home assessed at $1.5 million. The largest increase in expenses is coming from the Human Resources department with a rise of 21%.
The Village of Scarsdale Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet in one more work session with the Budget Officer and staff for budget discussions on 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
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 Trusteeswith your comments and questions and please request a response.
Overruns in Scarsdale Library Reconstruction Are Significant
The Scarsdale Library reconstructions and renovation will now cost over 17% more than had been initially forecast by Scarsdale library staff and board. The June 2018 approved project funding was $18.55 million. Unexpectedly, on page 66 of the Village Board Agenda for June 28th appeared the new projected cost of $21.74 million.
The Voters Choice Party and trustee candidates thank the Scarsdale Forum for its Freightway Redevelopment report, which is entirely consistent with the VCP platform and what we have been fighting for the last two years. We agree with all the conclusions therein and will work to ensure that they form an integral part of any Village deliberations. For the record, VCP Trustee Candidate Robert Berg is a former president of the Scarsdale Forum, and in the last few months, he actively participated in developing the content in this report.
While we commend the Forum, we note that the Village Board of Trustees has been deliberating Freighway and other projects for the past 7 years. Now, hopefully Village officials will start to take these recommendations on board in any future deliberations. That they have not done so until now, and to ensure that they do, is exactly why VCP voices need representation on the Village board.
Since last year, members of the Voters Choice Party Executive have been sending questions and recommendations to the current Village Board about Freightway Redevelopment. We included those questions and suggestions multiple times in the VCP Newsletter. Unfortunately, the Scarsdale Citizens Nonpartisan Party Village officials ignored our pleas to be transparent and accountable in the Freightway process. Even after we sent them the Freightway petition signed by over 850 Scarsdale residents and merchants, the Administration is still talking about redeveloping Freightway at some point. Yet, they have not answered our economic and financial forecast due diligence questions. The Voters Choice Party again recommends that the Village more actively engage residents by holding a community wide event to solicit our input on what we want for Freightway.
A few weeks ago, the Scarsdale school district announced that the proposed 2020-21 school budget would increase 3.86 percent over this year’s, which would result in a 3.6% percent increase to the tax levy. Since then, the administration made changes to health insurance cost projections, decreasing the budget slightly. The revised plan still is a significant 3.77 percent over the current year budget; this means a 3.51 percent tax levy increase.
The Scarsdale Schools Administration and School Board are asking for your involvement and feedback during budget season. Here is the remaining date that you can turn up to comment on the budget. Budget documents may be found here.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020:
Listening Session on Community Engagement, 7:30 p.m., Room 170-172, High School
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.
Scarsdaleresidents 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.
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:
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.
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