Commentary: Guest Columns 2002-2003

12/05/03 I-itis -- or-- But I Just Have to...by Cynthia Parthemos

9/16/03 Traversing the New Energy Landscape by Peter Beshar

5/21/03 Assaulted by Noise by Susan Lavi

4/28/03 Keeping Informed by Supervisor Valerie O'Keeffe

4/28/03 Reach Out and Touch Someone's House by Jim Fleming

4/07/03 Terror: Freedom's Enemy by Maj. Joseph Lanzetta

1/20/03 Property Revaluation – It’s Way Past Time by Jim Millstein

1/2/03 Mother Power, an Antidote to Anxiety by Jacqueline Hornor Plumez

12/18/02 Mail-order versus Us by The Larchmonter Times, 1922

12/12/02 Con Ed "Where are you?" by Julie Gilligan

12/6/02 Life is Fragile: Reflections of a Mini-Van Driver by Maria Stanton

11/13/02 Davids Island: Penny-Wise vs Pound-Wise by George Latimer

11/12/02 McMansions: Size Isn't Always That Important by Jim Fleming

10/31/02 What does SafeRides Really Do? by Julia Lyons and Chloe Sauer - in response to the October 27 New York Times portrayal

8/26/02 Your Support Needed for Davids Island and for Hiking Trails by Nancy Seligson

7/1/02 Parking on Chatsworth: Pressure Even Before CVS Opens by Seth Goldstein

6/28/02 Working to Preserve the Manor Inn by Mary Lee Berridge

 


I-ITIS - - OR -- BUT I JUST HAVE TO

by Cynthia Parthemos

The other day I was driving on I-95 and saw a pick up truck with a banner attached across the back. It read “Kindness is contagious… Let’s start an epidemic.” I loved it!

Unfortunately, it has to fight the current epidemic of “I-itis.” I-itis is spreading at a rapid and furious pace. For a very short time after September 11 it went into remission but then it came back and is stronger and more prevalent than ever.

When did they change the law to not requiring blinkers when changing lanes? I was under the impression that using your blinker was a) required and b) a courtesy to let other drivers know of your intentions and ask permission. When did it become a God given right to cut people off?

Didn’t they pass a law that says driving and speaking on a cell phone without a hands free device is against the law? What part of that do you not understand?

The same goes for stop signs; what part of stop needs to be translated? It doesn’t say "stop unless you’re in a hurry" or "stop unless you're making a right hand turn" or "slow down and keep going." It says STOP!

Do you not know how to parallel park? Or is there some reason you have to stop right in front of the coffee shop or the post office? Is that why when there are tons of empty places you double park?

And what’s the common response to all of the above?

  • Well, I’m in a hurry!

  • I don’t have time to pull into a space.

  • I just have to run in for 1 second. So of course I can double park and inconvenience others.

  • I missed the turn or I’m not waiting for that light to change, so of course I can make a U-turn.

  • But I need to get out of this parking space so of course I can just pull out and cut off oncoming traffic.

  • The sign says no standing but I’m just picking someone up, they’ll be here any minute.

  • I need to talk to my girlfriend and I can drive with only one hand on the wheel while drinking my coffee or smoking my cigarette, no biggie!

How did they ever get along before cell phones!

I was trying to get out of my driveway once and a car pulled up blocking the entrance even though there wasn’t another car anywhere else on the street. I asked the driver if they could move so I could get out and was informed that they just had to run across the street and would be back in a minute.

I know one person who not only ran a stop sign but went around a school bus with its red flashers on and told the police officer, “But I had to get my husband to the train.”

"I-itis" means I’m more important, my time is more important, so I’m entitled!

Get over yourselves; it’s not all about you! What happened to being compassionate, considerate or just down right neighborly! It makes for a much better place to be in. Let’s start an epidemic – KINDNESS!

Cynthia Parthemos lives in Larchmont

TRAVERSING THE NEW ENERGY LANDSCAPE

by Peter Beshar

The fallout from Iraq and the blackout of 2003 have created a rare political opportunity for our country to develop a forward-looking energy policy.

BesharIn the past month, the public has been buffeted by a perfect storm -- gas prices that top $2 a gallon for the first time in decades, the President's announcement that another $87 billion will be needed in Iraq and a stunning, and largely unexplained, collapse of our electrical grid.

With federal and state legislatures returning from their summer recesses, our political leaders should act now to pass several concrete measures that would reduce our dependence on foreign oil, protect our environment and enhance our national security.

First, Congress should immediately mandate higher gas mileage standards for all cars and trucks sold in America. The concept of a corporate average fuel efficiency standard, or CAFE, was first introduced in the late 1970s. In the ensuing decade, the US automotive industry developed enhanced technologies that raised the average fuel efficiency of American cars by over 7.5 miles a gallon. Over the past decade, however, the CAFE standards have not changed and the average fuel efficiency of cars and trucks has actually declined.
Over this same twenty-five year period, the percentage of oil that our country has imported to meet our energy needs has climbed from roughly 35% to over 55%.

Though a number of senior Senators and Congressional representatives, including John McCain and John Kerry, pressed earlier this year to increase the CAFE standards, Congress decided to table the issue for "further study." The time for study, and further dithering, has ended. Before Thanksgiving, Congress should pass, and President Bush should sign, new legislation increasing these standards.

Closer to home, New York has lost its position as the national leader in investing in energy efficiency initiatives and renewable sources of energy. A decade ago, utility companies located in New York were required by law to invest substantial sums in developing energy-efficient technologies. As part of deregulation, however, utilities were largely relieved of this responsibility.

Unfortunately, no one, including the New York State Power Authority, has filled this void. By the late 1990s, funding for efficiency initiatives had fallen by almost 75 percent. While funding levels have since increased slightly, New York currently spends less than half as much as Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey on a per capita basis. Even in difficult budget times, the state should be using targeted tax incentives to promote efficiency initiatives and alternative, and renewable, sources of energy, including fuel cells, wind power and solar energy.

Utilities and energy suppliers should also empower consumers to help in this effort. In a deregulated market, the cost of electricity spikes during peak usage periods. Unfortunately, residential consumers in New York currently pay a higher rate for their electricity than any state other than Hawaii.

To avoid these price spikes, energy companies in other states have begun to provide "smart" meters and "real-time" pricing information so that consumers can adjust their use of dishwashers, washing machines and other appliances. Utilities should be encouraged to make these tools available to consumers. Indeed, it is an anachronism that, every month, a Con Edison representative still manually inspects electricity and gas meters throughout Westchester.

Two years after the events of September 11, all of us are keenly aware of the changed world in which we live. As patriotic Americans, each of us wants to do what we can to help. Let's hope that our political leaders tap this energy and reduce not only our dependence on foreign oil but also the risk that we need to send our troops to another hotspot in the future.

Reprinted with permission of the Journal News

Peter Beshar has lived in the Village of Larchmont since 1992.

 

 

ASSAULTED BY NOISE

by Susan Lavi

As I sat on my porch today, lap-top on lap, trying to concentrate on work related issues, I realized that I had reread the same paragraph 3 times. Why, you might ask? Distraction and exasperation.

Those of us who have lived in a major city know that peace and quiet can be a precious and infrequent experience. Well, during the past two years, the noise level in Larchmont has reached a crescendo that rivals any city high-rise construction site. I'm not even speaking of noise from air-traffic or I-95. I'm speaking predominantly of ill-maintained landscape equipment and Flint Park SSO construction equipment.

Regarding landscape equipment: We could go the route of Beverly Hills, California and totally outlaw leaf blowers, or we could simply demand that our landscape companies install mufflers on the blowers and regularly service their equipment. In addition, I would encourage Larchmont citizens to forbid their landscapers from servicing properties on Saturdays and holidays. If we spend hundreds and thousands of dollars a year to beautify our properties, hence our community, shouldn't we at least be able to count on weekends and holidays to enjoy them in peace and quiet?

MachinesRegarding SSO related construction noise: If you have had the misfortune of living near Flint Park and in the Manor lately, you undoubtedly know what I'm speaking of. I can't figure out the logic in construction equipment commencing daily operations between 7:30 and 7:45 AM. The access and traffic issues are the same at 7:30AM as they are at 8:00AM, and in any case, the work generally continues into the dinner hour. The half hour difference translates to a quiet breakfast or a rattled one.

I am aware that there is a noise ordinance that prohibits excessive noise and specifies that all construction related equipment shall commence operations after 8:00am, with the vague exception "unless it's for the benefit of the community" Could we please define "benefit of the community"? Doesn't hearing the natural sounds of Larchmont waking up and quiet Saturday bar-b-ques with friends and family, qualify as a "benefits"?

 

HOW THE TOWN KEEPS RESIDENTS INFORMED: RESIDENTS SHOULD CHECK THE WEBSITE & LMC-TV

by Valerie Moore O'Keeffe, Supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck

After having read your editorial on keeping the community notified of governmental meetings and issues I thought you and your subscribers would be interested in knowing the measures now taken by the Town to keep the community informed. The Town's website www.townofmamaroneck.org includes a calendar of all meetings of the Town Boards and Commissions. Depending on the publication date of the calendar, one can click onto the selected meeting and see the agenda for that meeting. Also on our website is a calendar of all Recreation Department activities and programs.

Residents can learn of the actions of the Town Board by logging onto Town Board Highlights in the New and Notices section of the website. After every regular Town Board meeting, the Town prepares a biweekly newsletter that is posted on the website and provides a summary of all Town Board decisions. The News and Notices section of the site carries all important notices regarding changes in Town service schedules, emergency notices and general information. Our Town newsletter "On the Town" is mailed three times a year to every resident of the Town and provides regular information on the goings on the government.

For the future, we are in the midst of redesigning our website and looking at how to use this technology better to inform the community. In addition, we are looking at the installation of bulletin boards in key locations that will provide current information. While the Town wants every resident to stay informed, we must also be conscious of the cost benefit of new communication methods.

This is where residents can be helpful. Many of our residents use the internet every day whether at the workplace or at home. If each resident takes just a few minutes to access our website regularly they will learn virtually everything there is to know about the Town government and the issues under review. If you don't use the internet make certain you read the newsletter. Also, every Town Board meeting is televised live every first and third Wednesday of the month. If you don't want to watch the entire meeting include channel 76 on your channel surfing list. Keeping the community informed is important and we will endeavor to find practical solutions to keeping the community up to date. The residents however have to be an active part of the program.

 

 

REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE'S HOUSE

by Jim Fleming

The Village of Larchmont is in the process of revising the zoning parameters within which property owners can build or expand a home. It is an odd process, in which fear of changing the neighborhood character has become the bogeyman lurking, literally around every corner.

Officials and residents alike quake at the thought of a "tear down" or "bulky house," whatever that is.

I’ve wondered, throughout the lengthy discussions in Larchmont (and earlier in the Town of Mamaroneck) about “neighborhood character.” What does this mean? The term is used as if there were a preconceived design idea for any one district, ward or block. It is offered as if architecture were the only factor determining character.

This was never the design for any neighborhood, nor for Larchmont, as a whole. What the Larchmonter experiences here is a unique mix of both high property values and high density. There are actual mansions, not "McMansions," and there are more modest homes, many altered to suit today’s living style. We choose to live close to each other.

Neighborhood character, to me, means neighborliness between people. Is the street safe? Do we watch out for each other, without being intrusive? Do we care for our homes? Do we celebrate together? Do we come to the aid of our neighbors when tragedy strikes?

Aren’t these questions more important than asking whether a neighbor’s dormer cuts off one’s kitchen light for fifteen minutes on a winter morning? Let’s not reduce a neighborhood’s character to such a materialistic concept.

The sky isn’t falling when it comes to building out Larchmont.

Our homes have only improved in the past two decades. We haven’t turned into Queens. I offer that: Larchmont Village is more beautiful than ever, pride in its deportment has never been higher, and people volunteer to care for it like never before.

Despite small lots, property owners want to remain in Larchmont. When their families grow and a larger house is out of financial range, they stay put and look for ways to expand and live their lives with a bit more ease and comfort. Rarely is there a mad grab for space.

Most of us in the local building design professions start with the concept to "make it look like it was always there." It is this thoughtfulness of design, coupled with consideration of and communication with neighbors, that make for a neighborhood character of great homes and happy neighbors.

Let’s revise the zoning ordinance to enhance thoughtfulness, but let’s not create neighborhood havoc in doing so. And while we’re at it, let’s amend the definition of "neighborhood character."

 

 

TERROR: FREEDOM'S ENEMY

Maj. Lanzetta and VP Cheney
Maj. Lanzetta with Vice President Dick Cheney

Are folks forgetting their hierarchy of needs and those of their fellow man? I'm going out on a limb here, because I have not studied Maslow's theory in over twenty years. What I do know is that two of my high school soccer buds were lost in the Twin Towers. I also lived in the D.C. area when a cowardly sniper took innocence away from my community.

Those tragedies were different, but both shared a common thread…terror. Terror is hatred nurtured in uncertainty. It is filling up your gas tank while ducking behind the pump. Terror is not cutting your grass on a beautiful warm autumn day, fearing that you just may be the target of some radical ideologue.

For an Iraqi citizen, terror is being thrust into a Coalition convoy or military checkpoint with a gun pointed at your back. Terror is having no water or food because your views do not match those of your captor, or using innocence for a shield because of deep-rooted cowardice. Terror is not being able to say "no" or even worse... having no voice at all.

That terror erodes freedom and robs men and women of their most important need...security. It amazes me that so many American citizens draped in the liberty of Maj. Lanzetta and Colin Powell, Air Force IIthis great nation do not heed the last word in…"Operation Iraqi Freedom."

The nay-sayers would rather fault their government, and their fearless troops, rather than placing blame where it belongs. The blame belongs to those who rule with horror and prevent their citizens from rising to greatness. The blame is for those who do not share their nation's wealth with its citizens.

Terror does not only live in the Middle East and does not belong to one religion or sect. It lives in the darkest reaches of fear...a place where paranoia erases leadership and evil erases grace.

Terror is simply the face of hatred and truly the foremost enemy of freedom.

Major Joseph Lanzetta, USAF
Special Missions Pilot, Air Force II
former Larchmont resident


 

PROPERTY REVALUATION-IT'S WAY PAST TIME

by Jim Millstein

And see 1922: Property Assessment "Colossal Failure"

Property taxes are the primary source of funding for local schools and local and county governments. So, in order to ensure fairness in the property tax system, States are constitutionally obligated to develop procedures to ensure that municipalities, in making property tax assessments, achieve “rough equality in the tax treatment of similarly situated property owners.” In Larchmont and Mamaroneck , we are well past the point of “rough equality”. Why? Because there hasn’t been a town-wide or county-wide property revaluation since 1968. That is, thirty-four years of real property appreciation have been systematically ignored in setting the assessments for the vast majority of homes in the Town and Village. As a result, the aggregate assessed value of the residential properties in Town represents a mere 2.67% of their fair market value according to the state government.

All of this would be fine if each individual parcel in the Town were assessed at a uniform percentage of its true market value: the assessed values might have no bearing on reality but at least we’d all be suffering from the same delusion. But they are not. Here's why: Every year since 1968, the Town Assessor’s Office has selectively revalued a dozen or so properties as part of the publication of the annual tax roll, while the balance of the property assessments have been carried over without change from the prior year. Who are the homeowners so lucky to have been revalued? Anyone who applied for a building permit.

So, if you have had the courage to build or renovate a house AND the honesty to comply with the law and take out a building permit for the changes, you bought yourself not only a better home, but a new assessment and bigger tax bill to boot. Over thirty-four years, this selective reassessment process has resulted in a crazy quilted tax map, where one homeowner may have a tax bill twice as large as that of his neighbor living in a nearly identical home next door.

There is more than a lack of uniformity in the tax treatment of similarly situated properties going on here. There is wholesale unfairness. A recent study conducted by the Town found that 80 percent of the homes sold for more than $500,000 in 1999 were underassessed and 80 percent of the homes sold for less than $400,000 in 1999 were overassessed. That is, those who paid under $400,000 for their homes are subsidizing those who paid $500,000 or more for theirs, and everyone in Town who hasn’t been revalued since 1968 is being subsidized by the couple of hundred homes that have had the misfortune to be revalued over the last 34 years.

So what do our local elected officials intend to do about this? Well, I’ve asked and here’s the answer: they’re waiting for leadership from Albany and White Plains. First, they note that this long deferred state-mandated revaluation will be expensive and want to wait until they get the State to foot the bill. Putting aside the likelihood of getting funding from the State in this new era of austerity, the reality is that revaluation is supposed to be done annually, not once every forty years. So, like the homeowner who deferred maintenance too long and now has an expensive capital repair to perform, it’s time for the Town and Villages to repair the shaky foundation of their tax assessments and stop waiting for someone else to solve their problem.

Second, they argue that, if we go it alone without the rest of the county, we will end up paying a greater percentage of the county’s burgeoning tax bill. For support on this second point, they cite the case of Pelham. Being the only municipality to do a reassessment in the county since 1968, Pelham ended up paying immediately thereafter a larger share of county taxes than they had before. However, since then, Pelham’s relative share of the county tax burden appears to have evened out, because the State adjusted Pelham's equalization ratio to reflect its better, more up to date assessments. So, this too is a red herring.

The real reason no local politician is willing to tackle the issue is that, since we haven’t done a town-wide revaluation in 34 years, many residents are likely to see their tax bills increase as their assessments are realigned with the market value of their homes. Fair but not a popular result with voters.

So, here’s the question: Is there anyone in the Town and Village Halls who is ready to fulfill our obligations under state and federal law and fix this mess, or do we have to follow the path of Nassau County and rely upon the court system to force us to fulfill our constitutional obligations?

Jim Millstein has lived in Larchmont for ten years and has done three renovations on two houses.


 


MOTHER POWER, AN ANTIDOTE TO ANXIETY

by Jacqueline Hornor Plumez, Ph.D.

Have you been feeling tense and anxious lately? Does a vague sense of unease make it difficult to concentrate or stick to a healthy diet? If so, you are not alone.

I've been a practicing psychologist for over twenty-five years, and I have never seen so many people feeling so much anxiety as in the last few months. The cause is not mysterious: we are constantly bombarded by bad news. Everyday there are warnings about possible terrorist attacks, waves of corporate firings, and some new scandal involving a religious, political or corporate leader. Consumer confidence is at its lowest point in nine years. No wonder public health officials are planning conferences to study "worry."

This anxiety is not an equal opportunity emotion. Women seem to be feeling it more than men, because many men can displace their worries by watching sports, concentrating on work or rooting for a war against Iraq.

Women, however, are likely to add the war to their list of worries. War becomes one more problem they feel powerless to control. But here's some good news: my research shows that the average woman has far more power to control not just her worries, but her destiny and even world events than she would ever guess. That's because the average woman has a whole range of maternal instincts that can be used to her advantage.

I first became aware of these maternal strengths – what I eventually came to call Mother Power -- when I was in Argentina and interviewed some of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Those mothers were the only group brave and effective enough to consistently demonstrate against a repressive military dictatorship that took over Argentina from 1976- 1983.

People who opposed the Argentine dictatorship were often kidnaped, tortured and killed. The free press, opposition politicians, lawyers and even religious leaders were silenced. I wondered how a group of homemakers could begin a movement that succeeded when more conventionally powerful groups were squashed.

Then I realized that maternal women have enormous, yet rarely recognized, reserves of natural strength and power. Like mother lions, they can be fearless when children are in danger. Additionally, they have a full range of skills everything from their ability to nurture to nag (in the outside world we call it being tenacious) that can be used outside the home to achieve their goals.

I asked the Argentine mothers how they turned fear and anxiety into brave action. I also asked why they, instead of the fathers, lead the protests. Here's what they told me: Their husbands concentrated on going to work and trying to pretend that everything was going to be all right. But the mothers couldn't stop worrying. They realized they could either make themselves sick with worry, or use their anxiety to spur them into action. The mothers claim that by taking action and supporting each other, they suffered far less stress than their husbands. The husbands’ attempts to ignore the problems eventually resulted in a variety of stress-related illnesses.

Once I understood the concept of Mother Power, I saw it everywhere. I remembered how a few women from California had formed Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I recalled how four mothers had started the movement in Israel that ended the war with Lebanon. And when I interviewed Maureen Kanka, the woman behind Megan's Law, I learned that she had been afraid to drive alone before her daughter was killed by a paroled sex offender. After vowing that she would do anything to keep this from happening to another child, she tapped into her Mother Power and drove her old, battered car all over the country until Megan's Law became federal law. It became clear that women using their natural maternal instincts could overcome not just their own fears and problems, but overwhelming odds.

All around the world, Mother Power has been used to start movements to stop wars, change laws and better society. In the United States, for example, it's mothers who started grass roots organizations that forced corporations and government to clean up toxic waste, forced scientists to investigate environmental causes of cancer, and started most of the soup kitchens that feed the hungry.

Women are also using Mother Power to address their own economic worries, not just by succeeding in the workplace, but by starting their own businesses. Research shows that most women start businesses to earn money while being in control of the time they spend with their families. Then they use maternal skills to grow their businesses by making employees and customers feel like a valued part of the "family." Maternal management is successful: These days women now own 1/3 of all U.S. businesses and employ 1/4 of all American workers -- that's more than all the Fortune 500 companies combined!

So, if you are one of the many people who are feeling anxious and tense, worrying about personal and societal problems, be assured that you probably have more internal strength and skills to combat these problems than you ever guessed. I found hundreds of examples of women able to accomplish impressive personal and civic goals even though they had no other source of power – no wealth, impressive position or well-connected friends – other than their own Mother Power. (Lately, I have been researching Father Power and find the same thing to be true.)

They tapped into their internal power, by facing their fears and naming their greatest worry. Then they began to take small steps to alleviate or attack the problem, often getting friends involved along the way. If they can do it, maybe you can too. Regardless of whether or not you achieve your goals, action usually feels better than helpless worry.

Jacqueline Hornor Plumez, Ph.D. is a Larchmont psychologist and the author of Mother Power: Discover the Difference Women Have Made All Over the World (Sourcebooks, 2002)



 

Mail-order versus Us: A 1922 Larchmonter Times Editorial and Cartoon

(What would they think of e-business?)

The fight between the mail-order houses and the local businessman never lets up. The latter are more than holding their own. In spite of what some people in Larchmont think, only about 5 percent of the total volume of business done in the country over is done through mail-order houses. The local merchant remains counselor and friend of the buying public. He can give more sound and reasonable advice about goods in 10 minutes than can be obtained in a catalog in ten months.

An element that is in favor of local buying is the respective values of various articles and why it would be advisable to buy one kind in preference to another. There is practically no "talking into buying something you don't want to" left in local merchandise, but there is much of this in catalog through suggestion. Indeed money is often wasted by sending for stuff seen in catalogs that is not what actually is needed. But there is no advice, no guiding hand, and the worthless catalog article is sent for and turns out to be unsuited for the purpose intended.

The service that the local dealer is able to render is worth money, and this point is often overlooked. This service hinges on a guaranteed satisfaction. There is not a dealer in town who will not insist that a customer is satisfied in every respect, and who will not do everything possible to create satisfaction.

And as for price, the local merchants lose nothing by comparison, all things considered. It is, of course, true that all things are not always considered by buyers. The mail-order people, it is certain, bank on quantity sales, the purchase of a dollar's worth of goods at a time is not encouraged. It is too little to bother with. Yet some thoughtless people expect the merchant to sell as cheaply when disposing of a small purchase as the mail-order people do when disposing of sales from $10 and up. It is unfair to expect this.

Go to any merchant in Larchmont, and tell him how much goods you intend to buy, as much at a time as you would if buying from a mail-order house. The chances are ten to one that he would sell just as cheaply as the mail-order house, and probably estimate on a line of goods too high-class for the mail-order house to handle, and give instant service to boot.

This item of quality goods is important. Very few resale merchants can afford to handle goods that might not give satisfaction. The buyer is "close to home" and can be heard from - personally - too easily.

(Editorial reprinted from: The Larchmonter-Times, January 12, 1922)


 

 

CON ED "Where are you?"

by Julie Gilligan

Neighbors in the vicinity of Turtle Park heard the famous boom go off three times in the past month. Next, comes a power failure for the block on Palmer Avenue that happens to house Larchmont's two largest office buildings, numerous doctor's offices and two major banks. You will be surprised to hear that when this occurs, the Larchmont Police may still have electricity, but their computers go down. That could be dangerous in an emergency. The traffic light at Palmer and Railroad Way goes off - a bad corner used by taxis and commuters at train times. I know because I reported the power failure to the police and was told they had already received seventy calls from residents, restaurants and retail stores on this block of Palmer Avenue.

Con Ed crews evidently cannot find the problem's source in the particular power box next to Turtle Park Playground. Failure occurs in nice weather - it is not attributable to any one seasonal change. There are over 90 families in the Brompton Apartments at 1880 Palmer where I have lived for about 30 years and we are sick and tired of temporary "band aide" solutions. The elevators cannot work and senior citizens and young mothers with babies must handle six flights of stairs in the dark. One retailer told me her shop lost three days of revenue from loss of electricity this year alone. That did it - after consulting the editor I decided to publish this concern in Larchmont Gazette.

There is another "bone to pick" with you, Con Ed. When residents of the Brompton go away for the holidays for two or three weeks, our electric bills remain as large as ever. The next month's bills are not lowered, as your Community Relations Office assured me they would be. Even after I got in touch with Elaine Price, the Westchester County Consumer Advocate, and even after she had me appear on a televised forum on the topic, there has been no change. However, one prominent legislator at the forum did mention, "I am certainly going to check my own Con Ed bills much closer - glad you brought this to my attention."

Allow me to return to the response of the Con Ed Community Relations Office in regard to the numerous power failures, which I also mentioned at the forum. When I phoned, I was told very smoothly "no power outages had been reported according to Con Ed records on the dates mentioned." Meanwhile, Palmer Avenue is flooded with police cars and Con Ed repair trucks at Turtle Park and at Railroad Way each time our now familiar boom goes off!


LIFE IS FRAGILE: Reflections of a Mini-Van Driver

by Maria Stanton

In October there were two tragic accidents in the N.Y. area, which have caused me to reflect on the fragility of our lives and the depth of responsibility we bear as drivers. On October 1st, a mother in Greenwich accidentally struck and killed her 8-year-old son. She was picking him up at a play date when her mini-van hit him in the driveway. On October 21st, a doctor in Woodbury L.I. backed over his 2-year-old son in their driveway. Unbeknownst to the father, the boy darted from the house to say goodbye and ran behind his father’s car. This child also died. I am haunted by the images of these parents cradling their sons as the EMT’s arrived.

These incidents were simply, horrible accidents – tragic collisions of the natural impetuousness of children and the daily coming and going of adults. Neither speed nor negligence was a factor in either death. Empathy for these families is particularly deep, in part, because tragedies like these can happen anytime to any one of us. Let’s learn from these accidents; we all need to be personally responsible behind the wheel, in our driveways and on the road. Speeding and bad driving habits endanger children.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, children under the age of 10 are developmentally unable to deal with traffic safely. Children ages 5-9 are at greatest risk of traffic related pedestrian death and injury. Most children are struck in streets or driveways near their homes, when darting out between parked cars, walking along the edge of the road, crossing in the middle of the block or in front of a turning car. Childhood pedestrian injuries occur most often in residential areas and on local roads that are straight, paved and dry. High traffic volumes, a high number of parked cars on the streets, larger cars and higher posted speed limits are all factors that increase the likelihood of pedestrian injury.

Re-assess your driving habits. And please:
· Plan your schedule so you won’t need to rush. There will be another train, someone will stay with your waiting soccer player, and your appointment can be rescheduled.
· Be extremely conscientious and vigilant; anticipate the impulsive toddler around every corner.
· In Larchmont, do not go over 30! “School Zone” speed limit is 20, slow down!
· Obey traffic signals. Make complete stops at Stop Signs.
· Always use crosswalks and never cross in the middle of the block.
· Children should not play in driveways, streets, parking lots or unfenced yards by the street.
· And for heaven’s sake, hang up the cell phone!

Because our lives are hectic and over-scheduled, we buzz around multi-tasking, forgetting that our vehicles can be 3,000-pound weapons. We can’t prevent every accident, but there is room to be more responsible and cautious. I now think of these families when I get into my mini-van and I hope others will too.

Maria Stanton lives in Larchmont with her husband and three children, ages 8, 6, and 4. She is Co-Chair of the Traffic and Safety Committee at Chatsworth Avenue School.


DAVIDS ISLAND: PENNY WISE VS POUND-WISE

by George Latimer, Westchester County Legislator

We often face the option of spending today in order to “save” money in the future. (My wife often mentions this when we're at Costco.) Or we can buy something now that, over time, will appreciate in value. Turning our back on these opportunities may be “penny-wise and pound foolish.” Westchester County has such an opportunity now, as we consider whether to invest $6.5 million to buy Davids Island. Here is an excellent example where we should be “pound wise” by purchasing this land that will be a valuable asset for years to come.

The 80-acre Davids Island is the last undeveloped parcel in our area of Long Island Sound. The impact of significant development there has been charted by the legally-required environmental reviews of the Xanadu, Trump I, Trump II and other proposals. Traffic congestion, visual pollution, sewage treatment and effluent from a large complex are all possibilities. The environmental impact statements make it clear. Saving David’s Island from development is the only way to protect the environment of the Sound and the quality of life in Larchmont and surrounding communities.

Further, providing public park access to the waterfront, in an area where most of the waterfront land is held in private hands, offers real benefits to those of us who have few such options.

Yet, in a time of tight budgets and constant concern over taxes, some voices argue we can't afford this land. Similar arguments were raised in the 1920s when Westchester County bought the land that became the Bronx River Reservation, the land that became Playland, and the land for other County parks and facilities. The burdens on Westchester’s 1926 property taxpayers would have been eased somewhat if those parcels had not been bought. But what an opportunity their wise investment has yielded for future generations. If they had been "penny-wise and pound-foolish" the land would have been lost to development.

There is much to sort out regarding Davids Island: environmental remediation of the decaying facilities on the island; the specific type of recreation and ancillary services to be created there; means of water access; mainland infrastructure to accommodate that water access. The final vision for Davids Island may take years to fulfill.

But it is wise - "pound-wise" - to place this parcel under County parks control now, to protect it from future commercial development that would change the face of our area dramatically, and to deliberately consider the specifics for its future. Remember, like with the Bronx River and Playland, we are not only deciding what is in the best interests for those of us here today, but also what is best for those who will come after us in decades to come.


 

MCMANSIONS: SIZE ISN'T ALWAYS THAT IMPORTANT

by Jim Fleming


McMansion

Municipal officials all over Westchester County express terror and disgust at the thought of McMansions invading their turf. Neighbors cry out angrily, ”It’s a McMansion!” It’s a McMansion!” The Mamaroneck Town and Village of Larchmont are pondering ways to rein in McMansions. But do they really understand the term or the problem they are addressing?

“Would you like an apple pie with that?”

“Mc” is a prefix commonly used to denote an item quickly produced for mass production and consumption, like the ubiquitous McDonalds hamburger. (This is a far cry from its Gaelic roots indicating clan membership.) When applied to mansions, the Mc originally connoted a grasping desire by an owner to make his new, impressive dwelling appear to have been in the family for years. The McMansion conveyed instant (if ersatz) family and architectural history. Super-size or lack of proportion to lot or neighborhood only exacerbated the situation.

These McMansions intertwined building design, fake history and social stature like never before. Think of the Gatsby ideal made available to the many “dot.com millionaires” by the phenomenal economy of the last 10 years. What does one do when everyone is a Gatsby, and no more estate-sized land is available? You end up with a large house on a small lot.

Eastern Philosophy

Of course, not every new, grand home gets the label McMansion. Out in the “Hamptons,” for example, 20,000 square feet of living space is routine as new houses go, and most of the building lots accommodate that. Some of these new dwellings are surely magnificent. Some are showcases for the latest in residential architectural design. Others marry design and setting to create an unpretentious yet beautiful retreat that is a thing of beauty in itself. These houses are easily mansions.

However, the East End of Long Island yields a number of examples where the attempt to provide large new construction with a lived-in, old money look has yielded a McMansion effect despite the generous size of lots.

Local Struggles

Here in Westchester, the meaning of McMansion has shifted, as each municipality struggles in its own way to address issues of size and neighborhood character in their older, established towns and villages. The Town of Mamaroneck refers to McMansions in new regulations attempting to control the relation of house to lot size, which may vary within a zoning district or neighborhood. Rye is currently dealing with size problems by considering regulations of roof ridge and wall heights to prevent towering new structures and additions. The Village of Mamaroneck created a regulation several years ago that limits the massing of a house on a lot. New Rochelle has had a “Floor Area Ratio” requirement for some time and has recently overhauled its zoning again to change certain building parameters. Here, the McMansion threat refers more to a large home on small lot, and less to overall effect.

It Can Be Done

But over in Larchmont Village, there is a specific and peculiar collection of large houses on small lots, built with a completely different sentiment and on purpose. Larchmont Manor developed as a resort area for wealthy turn-of-the-century city dwellers escaping the city’s heat for the summer. An entire household would move up from the city for the hot months to enjoy the shore and each other in close proximity.

Today, an enjoyable walk around the Manor reveals the proximity of beautiful homes, sometimes three or four to a small block. The many covered porches, porte-cocheres, and ornamented details meld into the neighborhood character that is so sought after. Closeness is part of it. And, it works.

Throughout lower Westchester County, the common thread is small lots. The “Fifty by One Hundred” is a real estate cliché. But gracious, spacious homes can coexist with small lots, as they do in Larchmont’s Manor. It’s bad taste, and not merely size that people really mean when they cry, “McMansion!”

Less Lawmaking, More Common Sense

Preventing awkward new development out of keeping in size or character with the community is the ultimate goal being sought by municipalities via complicated new zoning ordinances and “McMansion” regulations. Perhaps, though, public education can go further than complicated laws when trying to get homeowners to consider tasteful moderation. Conquering McMansionism is less a question of rigid legislation and more an issue of educated aesthetics.

James Fleming, RA, AIA, is an architect residing in Larchmont Village, with projects throughout the Sound Shore and Metropolitan areas.



WHAT DOES SAFERIDES REALLY DO?

by Julia Lyons and Chloe Sauer

Safe Rides Logo( October 31, 2002) As Mamaroneck High School SafeRides board members, we were very enthusiastic to hear that the club was going to be publicized in the New York Times. Sure enough, on Sunday, October 27, we raced to get our hands on the article. However, after reading and analyzing the article, we were very disappointed at how SafeRides was portrayed. Besides failing to address some of the most important aspects of SafeRides, there were numerous inaccuracies about the organization.

SafeRides is a program created by the Boy Scouts of America, “to provide a free and confidential safe ride home to any young adult who is not in a condition to drive safely, or to any young adult who wants to avoid being a passenger in such a situation.” The objectives of the club are to reduce the number of drunk drivers behind the wheel and prevent kids from getting in a car with a drunk driver. In addition SafeRides will provide a ride home to those, within the community, who may not have been drinking, but simply have no other safe means of transportation.

It is a policy of SafeRides not to act as a free taxi service taking kids from party to party, as the article claims. The members are trained to enforce this rule, and kids who take a "saferide" receive only one ride per night, either to their home or to the home of another passenger where they are spending the night - which cannot be a party.

It is important for the community to understand what SafeRides actually does and how it operates. SafeRides strictly follows the rules and regulations described above. The club by no means facilitates teenage drinking. We hope that the community continues to put its trust into our organization and is not misled by false information. If questions or concerns about the club arise at any time, the board members are always willing to discuss the issues brought to their attention.


 

YOUR SUPPORT NEEDED:
FOR DAVIDS ISLAND AND FOR HIKING TRAILS

by Nancy Seligson

1. Support A Park For Davids Island

(August 26, 2002) Davids Island is the island you see from sea or shore in Larchmont or Mamaroneck. You see it from Manor Park, Dog Beach, and any house on Long Island Sound and from a boat the minute you get on the Sound. You know it as the closest island to Larchmont and the one with the water tower on its north end.

Since the military left Davids Island in the 1960’s, it has been off limits: no trespassing. It is a 78-acre intercoastal island in the most densely populated metropolitan region of Long Island Sound. It’s time Davids Island became a public park.

A park on the island would help maintain water quality in Long Island Sound, provide desperately needed waterfront access, preserve the historical and cultural significance of the island, and most importantly, provide badly needed open space for the densely developed area in which it lies.

Davids Island would be more than another tract of protected open space. As an open island it would offer a unique chance to get away from the “mainland”. It is quiet, slower, and allows you to see and feel open space on a grand and spectacular scale. Its horizons are larger, its sky is bigger; from it you get views of Westchester, Long Island, the New York City skyline, and the grand bridges – the Throgs Neck, Whitestone, and Triborough. From Davids Island you can see the entire region, not just the fields, woods, or path before you.

This island has been the subject of controversy over the past two decades. The City of New Rochelle currently owns it and has entertained various development ideas including high-rise apartment buildings, and a Donald Trump subdivision. In 2002, Westchester County and the City of New Rochelle struck a deal for the County to buy the island and develop it as a park. Now we have the chance to open Davids Island to the public and keep our beautiful vistas of Long Islands Sound forever.

Although County Executive Andy Spano supports the concept, the County Legislature is required to vote on the purchase. Several members of the legislature from outside of our area are shying away from the proposal due to the price of purchasing and cleaning up the island. They don’t realize the significance of an island park in western Long Island Sound.

Many of you joined the effort to save Davids Island from Xanadu, Trump and other development schemes. David Island again needs support: please contact the Chair of the County Legislators, Lois Bronz and let her know how important it is to make Davids Island a park now, before the opportunity is lost. Ask her to distribute your letter of support to all of the County legislators.

Letter to the Editors re: Davids Island

..... 

2. You Can Help Make a 16-Mile Trail Loop for the Town

Dog on the Sheldrake boardwalk
A dalmatian takes a long walk at the Sheldrake. Photo courtesy of Mamaroneck photographer
Sid Hecker

Tucked in behind some of Mamaroneck Town’s beautiful homes and beside the Larchmont Reservoir are 6.1 miles of wonderful walking and hiking trails. That’s not bad for our small community, but now we an opportunity to expand that even further at very little cost to our taxpayers. With a bit of effort and a bit of help, we have the chance to create a 16-mile continuous trail.

The Town of Mamaroneck, along with, the Village of Mamaroneck, Town/Village of Scarsdale, and the City of New Rochelle recently joined with the Hudson River Greenway Council, a New York State agency, to enhance our natural environment, specifically our walking trails. This part of the process was simple and cost-free.

By becoming “Greenway Communities,” our municipalities are now eligible to tap into a wealth of expertise and financial assistance. As a next step, the Town of Mamaroneck is working with New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Eastchester, Village of Mamaroneck and Westchester County leaders to apply for an intermunicipal grant to improve our existing trail system. The application focuses on the 6.1-mile trail network connecting the Pinebrook Ball fields, Weinberg Nature Center, Ward Acres Park, Larchmont Reservoir, Leatherstocking Trail, and Saxon Woods Park. But, it is possible to extend and link our trails with other existing trails to create the entire 16-mile loop.

To connect the loop, we need volunteers to help make the Leatherstocking Trail link-up with other nearby trails. We’re looking for individuals or groups to help map, maintain and appreciate the trail system in order to make this intermunicipal 16-mile loop dream a reality.

Thr grant would provide funds for consistent signs so hikers would know which direction to choose, how far they had walked and in what municipality they were traversing. The trails would be blazed with small signs depicting different routes. We are working to establish guidelines for each municipality to follow in developing and maintaining its share of the trails. Also, the grant would help us establish new trail links to bridge the gaps in the existing trail network. If you’ve tried walking the loop, you know it is difficult to walk the entire trail system due to inconsistent trail standards, lack of signage, and obstructions. This grant money would help us fix these problems.

Another important benefit of joining the Greenway is our communities will be given additional consideration when we seek state grants to undertake other community improvements, such as park master planning.

To learn more: please email Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Nancy Seligson at Nancy18B@aol.com

Tucked in behind some of Mamaroneck Town’s beautiful homes and beside the Larchmont Reservoir are 6.1 miles of wonderful walking and hiking trails. That’s not bad for our small community, but now we an opportunity to expand that even further at very little cost to our taxpayers. With a bit of effort and a bit of help, we have the chance to create a 16-mile continuous trail.

The Town of Mamaroneck, along with, the Village of Mamaroneck, Town/Village of Scarsdale, and the City of New Rochelle recently joined with the Hudson River Greenway Council, a New York State agency, to enhance our natural environment, specifically our walking trails. This part of the process was simple and cost-free.

By becoming “Greenway Communities,” our municipalities are now eligible to tap into a wealth of expertise and financial assistance. As a next step, the Town of Mamaroneck is working with New Rochelle, Scarsdale, Eastchester, Village of Mamaroneck and Westchester County leaders to apply for an intermunicipal grant to improve our existing trail system. The application focuses on the 6.1-mile trail network connecting the Pinebrook Ball fields, Weinberg Nature Center, Ward Acres Park, Larchmont Reservoir, Leatherstocking Trail, and Saxon Woods Park. But, it is possible to extend and link our trails with other existing trails to create the entire 16-mile loop.

To connect the loop, we need volunteers to help make the Leatherstocking Trail link-up with other nearby trails. We’re looking for individuals or groups to help map, maintain and appreciate the trail system in order to make this intermunicipal 16-mile loop dream a reality.

Thr grant would provide funds for consistent signs so hikers would know which direction to choose, how far they had walked and in what municipality they were traversing. The trails would be blazed with small signs depicting different routes. We are working to establish guidelines for each municipality to follow in developing and maintaining its share of the trails. Also, the grant would help us establish new trail links to bridge the gaps in the existing trail network. If you’ve tried walking the loop, you know it is difficult to walk the entire trail system due to inconsistent trail standards, lack of signage, and obstructions. This grant money would help us fix these problems.

Another important benefit of joining the Greenway is our communities will be given additional consideration when we seek state grants to undertake other community improvements, such as park master planning.

To learn more: please email Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Nancy Seligson at Nancy18B@aol.com


PARKING ON CHATSWORTH:PRESSURE EVEN BEFORE CVS OPENS

by Seth Goldstein

(July 1, 2002) Stan'z is expanding, and that's going to compound the difficulties for the CVS expcted to occupy the Grand Union site on Chatsworth Avenue.

Steve Weishaus will more than double the size of his popular Stan'z Cafe and Caterers when he fills the space recently vacated by the next-door dry cleaners. The expansion should be completed later this summer, in time for the start of school.

Stanz Stan'z is a local favorite among teachers and parents, and a bigger cafe has to increase the pressure on the scarcest commodity at that end of Chatsworth -- parking. Consider the crowded state of the Grand Union lot (partly owned by the village). Its 60-plus spaces are prize possessions in late morning and early afternoon when the neighboring eateries, shops, and Post Office are busiest.

Locals suggest Chatsworth Elementary, across the street from the Grand Union lot, contributes most of the traffic. It's true, school staff take up many of the spaces. But on a summer Wednesday, with Chatsworth deep into summer recess, only a half-dozen spaces were free at 1 p.m.--and several drivers were scrambling for those.

So the question becomes: How does the CVS manage if and when it does open? The chain faces a problem that doesn't exist for its outlets in the Ferndale and Staples shopping centers on the Boston Post Road where transients make up most of the parkers. The Chatsworth lot draws cars that may not budge for several hours at a stretch.

parking

The village could impose the same one-hour limit enforced on occupants of the 40 or so street spaces between the Post Road and the lot. But that kind of surveillance, while promising a steady source of revenue, won't win CVS the friends it's sought since the chain took over the Grand Union lease.

If anything, ticketing drivers who have never had to keep an eye on the clock could be the last straw for I-told-you-so skeptics. After all, parking is unrestricted at Ferndale and Staples.

CVS management might wonder why the supermarket didn't have the same concern. Grand Union probably would have run into this problem had it remained in business: food and coffee are relatively recent additions on Chatsworth Avenue. CVS can console itself with the knowledge that nothing in the location now can escape competing for parking space.

One empty lot, by the way, isn't being readied to heighten the parking squeeze. Carpet Fair, on the corner of Addison Street and Larchmont Avenue, a block from the proposed CVS, says it currently has no plans to build on the property it owns across from the Chatsworth Elementary playground.

 

Seth Goldstein is a veteran trade journalist (including Billboard) and a long-time Larchmont resident.


 


Working to Preserve the Manor Inn

by Mary Lee Berridge

See also Editorials:" June 26 Getting it right on Manor Inn"

(June 28, 2002) As a member of the Steering Committee for the Preservation of the Manor Inn, I wish to thank the weekly papers for support of our goals. I also wish to thank the Larchmont Village Board for offering its "working session" on Saturday, June 8, to the exploration of both sides of this very important community issue.

Several points appear to bring these opposing sides closer than I had realized.
In fact, as some of us are friends and neighbors of the Inn, it becomes all the more important, I believe, to try to recognize our common goals, and then seek further dialogue and for compromise where we differ.

Many Inn neighbors gave their time and expertise to the pre-committee group as did other more indirectly affected neighbors when we first gathered at St. John's Church last fall, thanks to the courtesy of Tom Nicoll, rector, and the efforts of Janet Beal, a village resident who organized the first meeting. The Q&A we published in March contained our attempt to answer these concerned neighbors' very valid questions. This was entitled a "work in progress" (by no means a final plan). Clearly we did not satisfy all their concerns, but our efforts were extensive and remain ongoing.

The Steering Committee developed from a call for volunteers as the workload was considerable. Here I want to emphasize the makeup of the committee - we represent the Village of Larchmont equally with the town, four of us live within four blocks of the Inn and two more are presidents - past and present - of the Larchmont Historical Society. Another member lives in the village, two more in the town. At least one close neighbor of the Inn has attended almost every meeting. At no time did we plan for exclusivity (expediency, yes due to time constraints).

Therefore, the first point of agreement: residents of the village and neighbors of the Inn should have a strong voice in this matter, as they have had. The "town voice" has been invaluable (but never dominant, nor have they wished to be).

Second, all concerned wish to preserve the quality of life in the Manor. At no time was the "Bethel project" either described or envisioned as a housing project or an apartment complex. It is offered as a not-for-profit residence for senior citizens of 31 suites or studios, reduced from the present 36. The communal dining room remains, as do the public rooms. In other words, it is to continue the present use of the building a 109- year-old structure that is uniquely situated between a beautiful church and a small yacht club, both of which have undergone significant renovation in the last 15 years and continue their present use.

Third, all concerned wish to keep the Inn's present footprint as it is. Here is the problem: how to enhance the space for the 31 residents so that all can have private bathrooms and reasonably sized suites or studios? The initial plans provide for an additional 18 feet on the Cedar side and a partial increase in height for this reason only. They do offer an important 6-foot setback from the street, as compared to no setback at present. Why 31 residents? For financial viability. It was hoped the considerable improvement in appearance on the Cedar side would compensate for the increase in size. The Cedar side is not now historically significant and would be reconstructed in a manner to conform with State preservation guidelines.

At present, this plan remains a work in progress, and the input from the community will be welcome as it has been. At no time was the additional footage intended for "enhanced usage." Less usage (fewer residents) is integral to this plan. If any way can be found to reduce the additional footage and still offer 31 senior citizens minimally acceptable living space we would be delighted. At no time were plans made to alter the historic Manor Inn appearance. The historical preservation guidelines are specific on this point.

So our fourth point of agreement is clear, at least to me -- we all want the appearance of the Inn to remain as historically accurate as possible.

As a fifth and final point, all concerned want the owners to receive a fair price for their property and their forty-plus years of effort in operating the Inn. Their genuine concern for the residents and guests and their willingness to make the Inn available to the community have been exemplary.

Many other issues exist and will be addressed in small neighborhood meetings before larger public ones.

Again I thank the press and the Village board for helping facilitate this all-important dialogue for those of us who are so concerned about the future of the Manor Inn.

Mary Lee Berridge
Larchmont

 

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