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(Note: Letters are posted in the order we receive and verify them, not necessarily the date on which they were written. Letters may be edited for clarity; please keep letter under 500 words. We are not in a position to check all facts; please attempt to verify factual data presented in your letters.)

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December 13, 2007

Latimer Lauds NY Project Sunlight

As a member of the New York State Assembly - one of the 212 individuals whose member items, campaign donations, and legislation are being tracked by a new website, Project Sunlight - I say bravo!

The effort by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, led by Blair Horner, is exactly the kind of transparency needed in Albany, giving citizens the chance to evaluate what elected representatives are doing - or not doing - in a comprehensive way. As a fighter for governmental openness as a former city councilman, county legislator and chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, I can say that no one legislator, however well-meaning, could create such a complete effort. I've released my own member item lists for public scrutiny in the past, but unless it is done in an easy way, accessible for all of us, such individual openness gains little attention. (See: Latimer Releases Data on Member Items, Capital Projects.)

Project Sunlight is a big step in the right direction in the reform of Albany.

George Latimer
Assemblyman, 91st A.D.

December 5, 2007

VOL & Schools Right to Move Ahead on Turf

As the manager of a travel soccer team I know the difficulty of finding field time and the frustration of having many of our fields closed for days after a heavy rain. Our limited number of natural turf fields cannot sustain the heavy use dictated by the growing numbers of kids involved in sports in our district.

I appreciate the concerns that members of our community have raised about the safety of synthetic turf fields for our children and our environment. Though I am a firm believer that we have a pressing need for more fields, I also would not want to go forward blindly with a plan that was unsafe. But after spending many hours reviewing studies regarding the safety of these fields, I am confident that we can proceed with plans to install synthetic turf fields without jeopardizing the safety of our children or our environment.

The rubber pellets used in the turf fields are relatively inert solid material. Under harsh laboratory testing conditions, which are not representative of actual field conditions, these materials release detectable levels of some chemicals of concern. Air sampling studies on actual synthetic turf fields under real weather conditions turn up no detectable levels of these chemicals. In addition, even were conditions ever extreme enough for chemicals to be “off gassed” from the rubber pellets, this would not occur in the small, enclosed area of a test tube, but in an outdoor, open field environment and diluted immediately with the ambient air.

And while any possible risk of exposure to certain chemicals might seem alarming, it must be measured against the exposure we already face daily, as these compounds are ubiquitous to our environment, in the plastic and polyester products that we use and wear, the pavement of our roads, and in many of the foods we eat.

We need to weigh the slight possibility of increased health risk from these synthetic fields against the many known and well-documented health benefits to our children of regular physical activity. We have been struggling for more than seven years to try to find solutions to our community’s lack of adequate playing fields. We know that installing synthetic turf fields, which can withstand more intensive usage than natural grass, will make a big difference in enabling more kids to participate in outdoor sports at all levels.

I applaud both the Larchmont Village Board and the Mamaroneck School board for making the right decision to move forward with plans for installing artificial turf fields at Flint Park and at the High School.

Philippa Wharton,
Larchmont, NY

 

November 29, 2007

Kemper Fund Thanks Schools for Vet Day Ceremony

On behalf of the Kemper Memorial Park Preservation Fund, I would like to thank the Mamaroneck School District for hosting what turned out to be a very special Veterans Day Ceremony on Tuesday, November 13th. The program included featured speakers, Dr. Paul Fried, superintendent of schools for the Mamaroneck School District, and Amy Levere, president of the Mamaroneck School Board; poignant readings by  teachers, Melissa Katz and Don Keene, and patriotic songs sung by World War II veteran Tony Marsella and the Mamaroneck Swing Choir (under the direction of Music Director Dina Madden).

At the end of the ceremony, all the veterans in attendance, including those who had visited high school classrooms that afternoon, were invited to come forward to a resounding applause from the audience. It was a memorable moment when the community gave veterans the honor and recognition that they so rightfully deserved.

It is a tribute to the current School Board and administration that a World War II Memorial Park is being used as its donors intended so many years ago. In the words of Tony Marsella, tranquility and peace certainly surround the park now. Thank you again, Mamaroneck School District.

Jan Northrup, President
Kemper Memorial Park Preservation Fund

November 26, 2007

Firefighters Concerned With Safety Should Not Have Resigned

The approach of the now-resigned Larchmont volunteer firefighters to their disagreement with the Village Board over the addition of a paid fire chief is baffling.

They continually point out that the safety of our Village is in jeopardy because of the reduction in the forces available to provide protection. If they are so concerned with our protection, why did they resign? If they really were concerned they would have remained in the department while pursuing their differences with their fellow Village residents.

If they really believe that our community is in jeopardy, they should rejoin the department. As a concerned resident I'd like to see these individuals who are inspired to put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens try and keep life's priorities in order.

Steven Morvay
Larchmont, NY

November 21, 2007

Build Really Green Fields

As we struggle with the decision to build or not to build synthetic turf fields, I suggest we think about two concepts - The Precautionary Principle and what Really Green Fields could accomplish.

The Precautionary Principle is a standard environmental principle that suggests we should err on the side of both caution and green.

If products or processes are suspect of being foul to the environment they should be evaluated and tested to prove they are safe. In this case, there is evidence that turf fields are - at least in part - harmful to both children and the environment.

Really Green Fields: The second concept is to reevaluate our fields and see if they can fill a role as both heavily used fields for our children and environmental benefactors.

Runoff in the County is problematic and both synthetic turf fields and conventional grass fields do not have much permeability. Could we design fields that are significantly more permeable, non-toxic and have high use potential?

I think so.

Big Win for Westchester: I think the County executive could put together a task force that could turn this problem into a real win/win for the residents of Westchester. The task force could have environmentalists, architects, engineers and business people who could develop a solution that the world could use.

As most of us know, Westchester is an influential county. As goes Westchester, so goes New York State, and the world.

I am looking forward to Westchester leading the green revolution.

Tony Gelber, Executive Director
Alliance of Green Schools & Communities

November 15, 2007

More Tests Needed on Tire Crumb Field Safety

Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI), a Connecticut-based, 10-member, nonprofit organization composed of physicians, public health professionals and policy experts dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms,  is concerned about the potential health effects from the new synthetic turf fields being installed throughout the country.

These fields consist of synthetic grass-like materials with 100 tons of recycled ground-up rubber tires as "in-fill." Our concern is with the chemicals released from these ground-up rubber tire "crumbs" and crumb dust

The "synthetic turf" fields are in no way turf. They are surfaces the size of football fields covered with particles of used rubber tires ground to the size of course sand. They cost up to $1M each.

The rubber crumbs are unstable and get into the shoes, stockings, clothing and even the hair and ears of those who play on the fields. Crumb dust particles are easily inhaled.

Numerous past studies are cited to justify the safety of the tire crumbs; however, our review of the research found results consistently showing there would indeed be exposures to the components of the tire crumbs. Many studies found carcinogens in the crumb dust that could be inhaled into the deepest portions of the lung. Most studies indicated serious limitations to their research due to insufficient safety testing of some of the components released from the tire crumbs.

In Norway, Sweden and now Italy there have been recommendations to cease constructing fields with rubber tire crumbs. Norwegian concern was allergic reactions to latex, a component of rubber tires. In Sweden, rubber tires are considered a hazardous substance, and in Italy, the tire crumbs are considered carcinogenic.

EHHI initiated a study with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to examine whether the "crumbs" out-gassed harmful chemicals or were capable of leaching into ground water.

Although many chemicals were found, the four compounds conclusively identified were: benzothiazole (a skin and eye irritant);   butylated hydroxyanisole (recognized carcinogen); n-hexadecane (severe irritant); and 4-(t-octyl) phenol (destructive to mucous membranes).  

The synthetic turf manufacturers ask us to assume that exposures to rubber crumbs and dust are insufficient to produce health effects, irrespective of a player’s age and duration of exposure. Yet there are no measurements to support these assumptions. 

Clearly, children will be exposed to tire crumbs, dusts and vapors - the smaller the child the closer the crumbs.

Children will be exposed to recognized hazardous substances on synthetic turf fields. Until additional testing shows how exposed each child will be, no new fields containing used rubber tires should be installed.

Nancy Alderman
New Haven, CT

November 8, 2007

Trustee: Too Soon to Draw Conclusions on Turf

Having failed to persuade the Westport Weston Health District to ban play on Westport's four artificial turf fields, Patricia Taylor has decided to give it another try here in Larchmont. (See: Inaccuracies on Turf at VOL Board Meeting and also RTM Committee Looks at Turf Issue) While I admire her energy, her "facts" leave much to be desired.

Earlier this week, as part of our ongoing diligence on the issues that have been raised regarding the safety of artificial turf fields, I spoke with the lead researcher at the Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station (whose experiments have been used by opponents of these fields as "proof" that play on the fields pose a risk to human health). (See: CAES Study.) In "fact," the CAES experiments demonstrated something relatively unexceptional: 1. at the upper end of the temperatures that could be reached in the heat of summer on an artificial turf field, certain volatile and semi-volatile organic chemicals long known to be present in recycled rubber tire crumbs "out gas" from the crumbs; and 2. after being agitated for 18 hours in a water solvent in a test tube, trace elements of certain heavy metals long known to be present in recycled rubber tire crumbs "leach" out of the crumbs.

What CAES did not do, and what the lead researcher was very careful to caution me against inferring from what they did, is to reach any conclusion about the risks to human health or to the environment from the phenomena she observed in the lab. To do that, the lead researcher said, would require air and water sampling over an extended period of time at different temperatures and at different heights and at different locations on and around a given artificial turf field so as to determine whether any of the out gassing she captured in a test tube heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and whether any of the leaching she observed after agitation for hours in a water solvent in a test tube occur in the real world in concentrations that could affect human health or water quality.

In short, the CAES experiments may suggest the need for real world air and water sampling, but they do not support the conclusion Mrs. Taylor urges us to reach that an artificial turf field with recycled rubber tire infill will create a significant risk to human health or water quality. We may only be from Larchmont, but we can still distinguish advocacy from fact.

Jim Millstein
Trustee, Village of Larchmont

November 6, 2007

Pedestrians, Pay Attention - Isn't Your Life Worth It?

Early this morning (around 6:15 am) I drove my husband, as usual, to the train station. It was pouring rain and dark outside. On my way back home, driving along Palmer Avenue, a man dressed all in black with a black hat suddenly stepped off the curb and started crossing the road in front of me. He was walking at a slow but steady pace and looking at the ground, not me. I braked to allow him to pass, and he stopped in front of my car, glared at me for a moment, and proceeded to cross to the other side of the street. What a fright!

I'm sure this has happened to some of you out there. In fact, I know it has, because I see it happen almost every morning. I've seen it enough to inspire me to write this letter.

But enough of my ranting - my plea is to all of you pedestrians out there who walk to the train station in the morning. Please, please, make yourselves visible. And pay attention!

Drivers cannot be on the alert for you every second, we also have lights to watch out for and other drivers to consider. Please, it only takes a little effort to make yourselves visible (and this goes for bicyclists as well). Isn't your life worth it?

Brenda Duell
Larchmont, NY

November 6, 2007

Benefit for MHS Grad Hurt in I-95 Wreck: Nov 10

On October 4th, 2007 Kevin Thomas, who grew up in Larchmont and graduated MHS in 1985, was involved in a life-threatening accident on I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut. Kevin's most serious challenge is recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered in the accident. Kevin faces a long rehabilitation, and the communities he was involved in are all reaching out to help. I kindly ask that Larchmont join in this effort.

Kevin is a master ceramicist and sculptor; he is on the faculty of the Silvermine Guild Art Center in New Canaan and is an adjunct at NYU in Manhattan. He is a past president of the Loft Artist Association in Stamford and is a true artisan with his mold work for himself and other artists. Passionate about his art, his students, and certainly his friendships, Kevin has remained close to many of us who grew up together in Larchmont.

Almost immediately after the accident, there was a groundswell of artists and friends who were determined to help Kevin and his wife through this crisis. The singular reaction was awesome to be a part of - and it was “but that is exactly what Kevin would stop at nothing to do.” We are attempting to rival his enthusiasm for his causes and use it to his benefit.

On November 10, 2007 the Silvermine Guild Arts Center is holding a benefit to help raise funds for medical expenses that Kevin will incur during his rehabilitation. The fundraiser will run from 6 to 10 pm. There will be a live auction of 12 of Kevin’s clay and ceramic pieces, as well as a silent auction of artwork from more than 30 local artists who have donated their work for this cause.

For further information on the benefit, please contact the Silvermine Guild directly at www.silvermineart.org or 203-966-9700.

Donations to the Kevin Thomas fund can be sent to the Silvermine Guild Arts Center at 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan, CT 06840. Checks should be made payable to SGAC-Kevin Thomas Fund. Donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Please take a moment from your busy schedules and consider this opportunity to help one of our own during a time of need. You never know, you might even get a nice piece of art from your act of kindness! Hope to see you there.

Andy Colloton, MHS 1985
Essex, CT

November 5, 2007

Shocked at Slandering of Public Officials

It is nothing short of shocking to open the Journal News to the headline “Larchmont mayor denounces predecessor's comments, denies rumors.” What has public discussion come to that we are now slandering our elected officials in order to make a point? It makes us look like we’re gearing up for a schoolyard brawl. Here’s a suggestion to bring the tone of the debate back to the place where mature adults reside: if you don’t like the decisions made by this mayor and Board of Trustees, there is a fantastic opportunity to effect a change coming in March of 2008.

Don’t want a paid fire chief? Withdraw your lawsuits and run a slate of candidates for mayor and trustee on that platform. There’s your public referendum and it won’t cost the village taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Don’t want a turf field? Run for public office and engage in debates outlining your position in a balanced public forum, with a moderator and a live audience.

Whatever you beef, take it to the public and let the voters decide. The decision rendered by the Village residents must then be final – until the next election. That’s how a democracy works, and that’s how civilized adults conduct themselves.

Mayor Feld and Board of Trustees were elected by the residents of Larchmont. The relentless attacks in the gossip chain and in the courtroom are damaging to the Village and embarrassing to the residents. Let’s give the vitriol a rest. Take your case to the voters.

Kinnan O’Connell
Larchmont, NY

 

 

November 2, 2007

Trifiletti Faulted; Vote Savolt, Robinowitz

This has been a very peculiar campaign season. I have been amazed to watch Mayor Phil Trifiletti campaign on a platform of controlling development. Unfortunately the record of controlling development that he expounds belongs to John Hoffstetter, Toni Ryan and me. When the Republicans controlled the board, the mayor never missed an opportunity to vote with the developers and against the residents. One need only look at the mayor’s vote in favor of the Blood Brothers project, which threatens to dwarf Washingtonville, to realize that this is true. The mayor also twice voted against televising Zoning and Planning Board meetings. What did he not want the residents to see?

Even if you were to forgive the mayor his pro-development positions and his disastrous pursuit of unending litigation, his obvious inability to control Board of Trustee meetings is alone reason enough to disqualify him from holding his office. Every resident who watches meetings on LMC-TV has seen many meetings where the mayor has allowed a lack of decorum and respect to poison any hope of rational discourse that is so essential in a democracy. As chair of the meeting and the person who holds the gavel, it is the mayor's duty to maintain order. This lack of order and civility has damaged Mamaroneck's reputation just as much as 7 million dollars in settlement and legal settlement and expenses have damaged our financial future.

Please come out and vote on November 6 for Kathy Savolt, for mayor, and Randi Robinowitz, for trustee. These two candidates have the intelligence, dignity and honesty to help heal the Village and set us back on the right course.

Tom Murphy
Trustee, Village of Mamaroneck

November 1, 2007

Judy Myers for County Legislator

Residents of Larchmont and Mamaroneck have a strong advocate at the county level in Judy Myers.  Judy represents all residents of the district and has worked tirelessly to improve our recreational fields, protect the environment, enhance flood prevention efforts and focus on child and family issues.

Larchmont is fortunate to be represented in the County Legislature by Judy Myers and I encourage all residents to be sure to vote for her on November 6.
 
Emily Saltzman Hoffner
Larchmont, NY

October 31, 2007

Don't Let MHS Video Program Die

I am writing in response to Eric Goodman's letter regarding the Mamaroneck High video program. (See: End of MHS Video Program?)

I am currently a senior at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut where I am finishing my studies in broadcast journalism with the hopes of becoming a full time producer or play-by-play voice. I got my start in broadcasting thanks to the tutelage of Michael Witsch and the video program at MHS.

It is appalling, disgusting, and repulsive to get rid of the Mamaroneck High video program. I urge Principal Mark Orfinger, Superintendent Paul Fried and the Mamaroneck School Board to keep the program alive. It has been a tremendous program, and with the right leadership, can become great once again.

Many may remember our public access show, "MHS Sports," that gave the athletes of Mamaroneck High a chance to strut their stuff for the cameras and the community. That show was made possible by the video program. It's not the only one.

MHS Info is now the only class being offered under the video production curriculum. Ironically, that is how Mr. Witsch started the video program; MHS Info was a club at its inception. It quickly turned into a popular elective.

If it happened in the 70s, it can happen again.

Many students have prospered due to this wonderful program. Many more may not have that chance. Don't let that happen.

Seth Rothman
Mamaroneck High School Class of 2004

 

October 31, 2007

Ernie Odierna Is Right Choice for Supervisor

On Tuesday, November 6th, the Town of Mamaroneck will be extraordinarily lucky. Please allow me a few moments of your reading time to explain why.

For the last few years the office of the supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck has been filled in an uncontested election. That is not democracy. That is not choice and that has been bad politics. It has not been success or progress. We’ve paid an expensive price for that.

This year we can vote ‘No’ to our Town’s government as usual. We will be able to say ‘No’ to our Town’s method that has consistently been reactionary rather than forward thinking and ‘No’ to our Town’s approach that it can’t be done rather than thinking about how we can accomplish more.

Ernie Odierna will follow in the tradition of great earlier Democratic supervisors of our Town, those with the foresight to build the Hommocks Parks Apartments to provide affordable housing and those with the foresight to acquire the land for the Mamaroneck Environmental Resource Center.

Even before the recent flooding, Ernie demonstrated the foresight to ask about alternative paving materials that could allow the ground to absorb more water. Ernie has encouraged informed citizen participation by encouraging the Town to use e-mail and the Internet, technology that is an integral part of the daily lives of residents, while he has also facilitated activities for senior citizens and youth.

Ernie says that we can do better. I believe him. We owe it to our Town to do better for now and for those who will live here in the future. Please go to your local polling place and vote on Nov. 6th.

When experience, integrity, and competence are more than words, and when they really count, there is one right choice to make on Nov. 6th. For Town of Mamaroneck supervisor please join me in voting for Ernie Odierna.

Brian Lobel
Town of Mamaroneck, NY

October 31, 2007

Rethink Chatsworth-Myrtle-Murray Intersection

For the past few months I have been distressed by the reworking of the Chatsworth-Myrtle-Murray intersection. I have expressed these concerns to the Town of Mamaroneck Board on two occasions. After being informed at the last meeting that the mail received by the town was in favor of these changes, I feel compelled to express my views in a more public forum. Based on my daily conversations with various residents, I find it hard to believe that the majority of the public is satisfied with the changes implemented at this intersection. Everyone I speak with complains about the traffic tie-ups and delays caused by these changes.

The majority of the changes were to provide for a safer pedestrian crossing. I do not feel that this result has been achieved. Drivers coming down Chatsworth toward Myrtle are now speeding up for yellow lights knowing they will need to wait 2-3 minutes at peak times for the next green light. Walkers hitting the walk button don’t see any result and after waiting 2-3 minutes will often venture into the crosswalk against the light. Often, walkers have to wait for cars to stop turning and then don’t have enough “legal” time to cross in both directions (across Myrtle and Chatsworth). Friends who live at 17 N. Chatsworth state that they see no improvement and only delays in crossing.

The recent implementation of the no right turn on red from Chatsworth onto Myrtle causes traffic to often backup across the bridge to Palmer Avenue. At rush hour, cars are now cutting through the upper deck of the Larchmont train station parking lot. These frustrated drivers are now posing a danger to commuters exiting the train.

The no left turn onto Chatsworth from Myrtle has made it difficult for some residents to be dropped off in front of their own building if they live on the east side of Chatsworth.

While the specifics of the new traffic pattern were submitted to the necessary boards several years ago and corresponding approval was made, these items were never discussed at any public hearings. Traffic volume also appears to have increased subsequent to the consultant's report and this could require alterations to the original plan. We need to work together to balance the obvious need for pedestrian safety while maintaining the small town feel that we all expect.

Sitting in traffic jams every day within our town borders is not an ideal solution. I feel that by opening up the discussion again we can all work together toward a safe solution for this intersection.

Abby Katz
Larchmont, NY

 

 October 30, 2007

Why I Am Voting for Valerie O’Keeffe (and Hope You Will Too!)

In Tuesday’s election for Mamaroneck Town supervisor, I am voting to re-elect our current supervisor, Valerie O’Keeffe. I have had the pleasure of working with Valerie during my six years of service as a member of, and more recently as the president of, the Mamaroneck Board of Education, from which I retired in June. I am, of course, speaking for myself, not for the Board.

Why am I voting for Valerie? Valerie has 8 years of invaluable experience as Town supervisor. She demonstrates strong leadership and makes decisions through building consensus. She listens carefully and considers a range of perspectives on issues. Her straight-forward, common-sense approach enables compromises to be reached when needed. Being both responsive to the needs of the community while balancing interests of different constituencies, Valerie exudes fairness and reasonableness. Valerie is that rare combination of down-home relaxed style and wise practicality. She is candid, solutions-oriented and gets the job done. In short, she’s a community treasure!

In the end, it’s not about politics, it’s about leadership and effectiveness. I am confident Valerie is the best person for the job.

Cecilia Absher
Larchmont, NY

 

October 25, 2007

Prof. Bovard: Fought for Pine Brook

Many in Larchmont may be unaware that Professor Everett Bovard, who died on October 22 at the age of 90, was responsible for the rebirth, in 1974, of Larchmont’s Pine Brook Property Owners' Association. The Association, despite having been formed in 1946, had been moribund for years. 

Professor Bovard led the fight that prevented the construction of a massive tennis center and, later, 100 condominium units on the seven acres along the Boston Post Road now known as Pine Ridge.  He also brought about the expansion of the Association so that it now encompasses 625 families, or almost 30% of the population of Larchmont.

Ralph M. Engel, Vice President,
Pine Brook District Property Owners' Assoc.

October 24, 2007

Retired Firefighter Sad At Loss of Good Men

I retired from the Larchmont Fire department and was also a volunteer. The current Larchmont situation was coming for years We old-timers liked the setup and got along.

When I retired and then left the area, I was able to keep up with the news through the Larchmont Gazette.

I am sad that a lot of good men have left who I have seen grow up in the department and as kids were gung ho 

Russ Muir
Denver , NY

 

October 24, 2007

Leaf-Blower Use is "Simply Crazy"

It is 4 pm on Friday, October 19. It has been raining hard for two hours. The ground is waterlogged.

And despite this, the neighborhood resounds with the din of leaf-blowers.

Wet, soggy leaves take three times longer to blow away. That is all the more time for the incredible air-pollution of leaf-blowers to stink up the neighborhood and to make breathing uncomfortable. And when it rains, the air pressure keeps the exhaust fumes near the ground, where humans get the full dose.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proven that the toxic emissions from 30 minutes of one leaf-blower are the same as the emissions of one car driving 2000 miles. (See: Westchestergov.com.)

Even when it is dry, lawn maintenance crews often spend vast amounts of time blowing just a few leaves off of an already almost-spotless lawn. One at a time the leaves are blasted away with an air jet twice the force of Hurricane Katrina. And the air stinks. And the noise is like the fire station siren on hold. One would think that with such a light leaf-cover it would be faster to remove the few leaves with a rake. But no, every resident within a half-mile radius must be compelled to hear the roar of a primitive two-stroke gas engine as it slowly blasts away:

o n e   l e a f  a t  a  t i m e.

This is simply crazy. Residents should not have to endure such deplorable pollution and noise, especially when it is being created for such absurd purposes as the examples above.

Of course we know the excuse: landscapers want to "do their weekly duty" at the appointed hour, come rain or come shine.

Does this mean that we residents paying astronomical property taxes are supposed to give up our quality of life in order not to inconvenience landscapers?

When we adults were growing up, fall was a time of fresh air, sports, yard work, and appreciation of the changing season. But in our town fall is the filthiest, noisiest time of the year. When we take our children to/from the Murray Avenue School we and the other kids and parents are surrounded by leaf-blowers blasting pesticide and chemical  residues, fertilizers, dust, animal feces, dirt, and - yes - leaves into the air. Just imagine what we are coating our lungs and our clothes with.  And think of what we’re doing to the little kids!

This situation is unacceptable. Concerned citizens should contact their representatives. 

Paul Schwendener
Larchmont, NY

Postscript: This year I asked our landscaper of nine years to use rakes, not leaf-blowers, on our lawn, and I made it clear that I did not expect his crew to spend more time or manpower than usual. I said: "Whatever you can't finish in time, I will do." And guess what: our landscaper is able to clean the leaves from our yard with the same crew, in the same amount of time. No problem. 

October 18, 2007

Re Esposito: Where has Our Little Village Gone?

I write as someone who has lived in Larchmont for over 70 years and am beginning to wonder where our nice little village went. There is such a thing as progress, but I would hope it doesn't come at a cost so dear we will all rue the day Mr. Esposito got his hands on Larchmont. (See: Zoning Board Supports Variances for Esposito Apartments.)

I do wonder whether the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals live near enough to the proposed project to be hurt by it. It would seem to me that we are just covering more of our village with blacktop, bricks and mortar. Don't we have enough trouble with run off water as it is? When one thinks of the flooding situation that has just occurred, it would seem advisable to give this proposition a lot more thought.

Have they considered what this could do to our schools, or does the board just relish the thought of more tax money rolling in? I can appreciate the time spent by these volunteers on the ZBA but question what has swayed them to vote for these new apartments.

Sally McGuire
Larchmont, NY

October 11, 2007

Mamk Fire Chief Dispels Misconceptions

(Editor's Note: the following is based on a letter sent to Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld.)

In response to statements made at the October 1 Larchmont Village Board meeting in the ongoing discussion of Larchmont’s Fire Department (LFD):

The Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department (TMFD) chiefs and Fire Council were surprised and concerned about disparaging comments made about the TMFD operations. I am compelled to respond and dispel misconceptions that may have been created. Please know that this letter is not intended to weigh in on the merits of any merger between the Town of Mamaroneck and Larchmont fire departments; its sole purpose is to respond to inaccurate statements made regarding TMFD’s operations and procedures.

At the meeting, in an effort to distinguish the operations of LFD from TMFD, Brian Doherty, the president of the Larchmont local firefighters’ union, and Richard Ward, a Larchmont trustee, incorrectly suggested that TMFD career firefighters were somehow hamstrung and unable to perform basic firefighting operations in the absence of a volunteer officer. Mr. Doherty and Trustee Ward illustrated a potential scene where a TMFD career firefighter would arrive before other firefighters and stand idly by, glued to apparatus, unable to take life-saving, decisive action. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The primary responsibility for a firefighter who drives apparatus to a fire scene is to position the vehicle correctly and always be ready to stretch hose, operate the pump to get water on the fire, operate the aerial device or re-position the vehicle – all critical tasks in a firefighting operation. Therefore, TMFD firefighters who drive apparatus to an emergency are not permitted to leave the vehicle unattended except in specific situations. These include: (a) to rescue a victim, (b) if it has been determined the vehicle is not necessary and the firefighter is assigned elsewhere, or (c) when no other firefighters have arrived, the firefighter driving the apparatus may, at his discretion, go where necessary to “size-up” the situation, relay a report to incoming units and take necessary actions to control the incident.

This rule applies equally to all TMFD firefighters who drive apparatus – career and volunteer alike. This is standard procedure in most fire departments. To ignore this basic tenet invites confusion and jeopardizes safety. Therefore, contrary to impressions given by Mr. Doherty and Mr. Ward, TMFD career firefighters driving apparatus are not under orders to stay with the rig at all costs. They simply follow well-accepted, basic fire service procedure. TMFD’s career firefighters remain highly trained, prepared and empowered to take all action necessary to protect residents of this community.

Mr. Doherty made other comments concerning TMFD’s EMS policy and career staffing levels. It is unnecessary to defend here our well-functioning and well-established policies. Suffice it to say, great care is taken to insure that our procedures and staffing provide quick, effective and efficient fire protection and medical services to Mamaroneck Town residents.

In the future, if you or any other official or Town resident has any questions about how TMFD operates, I invite you to contact me for an objective and accurate explanation.

Matthew T. Peloso
Chief of Department, TMFD

September 27, 2007

Today A Gentleman Was Laid To Rest

Today a gentleman was laid to rest. His name is Vincent Paniccia.

He was very active in this community and served as an auxiliary police officer both in Mamaroneck and Harrison. He was the owner of Vincent Towing Service on Fenimore Road in Mamaroneck Village, an auto repair and towing service.

 This gentleman  was a help to the community and a help to the Village of Mamaroneck Police Department. In the past, he painted this department’s DARE car. His most recent gift to the community and the Police Department was his support in the initiation of our  K-9 Program.

In gratitude, Mamaroneck’s chief of police assigned the honor guard to be present at Mr. Paniccia’s wake and funeral. A police escort of motorcycles, police units and our K-9 unit led a procession to the Corpus Christi Church in Port Chester, NY at 10:00 am. When the procession left Port Chester via I-95 on the way to the Greenwood Cemetery, they were joined by 35 to 40 tow trucks from various agencies.

Today a gentleman was laid to rest.

Lt. James Gaffney
Village of Mamaroneck Police

 

 

September 27, 2007

APPLE Thanks Community

The entire APPLE (A Place People Learn Excellence) Program of Mamaroneck High School, would like to thank the 100+ community participants who generously supported our recent car wash at Mamaroneck High School's Post Road parking lot.  The proceeds of the day will further support our scholarship fund for the class of 2008. 

The APPLE program is a progressive school-within-a- school that strives to provide a more structured, supportive environment for students who choose a different approach to learning.  If you would like more information about our program or would like to further support our students please contact us at apple@mamkschools.org

Nick Cucchiarella .
APPLE Program Director

 

September 20, 2007

Get Involved With Flint Improvements

I have written in the past to highlight important aspects of the improvement plans for Flint Park. I am pleased to write now as the plans are nearly final and work has begun in the park.

Many years of effort and input by elected officials and volunteers have resulted in a plan that addresses the critical needs of our residents. The plans are not perfect but reflect a collective effort to create vast improvements to Flint Park that will be a true legacy. The infrastructure of Flint Park will be upgraded with new roads and pedestrian friendly walkways. We will benefit from refurbished tennis courts and new and greatly improved sporting fields for lacrosse, soccer and baseball. After years of neglect, the waterfront will be made accessible and properly landscaped with native plantings.

Many members in the community have donated their time and money to make these improvements a reality. Yet, I am sure these changes will prove to be just the beginning of realizing the great potential of Flint Park. As the plans are built, we will find areas for further improvement to achieve our ideal. Most importantly, we will also find interest from well-organized community groups and from our officials necessary to build on the success and pride Flint Park is sure to engender.

Now is the most important time to get involved and help make the Flint Park improvement plans a reality.

Mike Zupon
Larchmont , NY

September 20, 2007

School District Supports Technology

A significant portion of our school taxes has gone into creating and supporting a technology infrastructure over the past 10 years. It has been an enormous undertaking, In many ways, it has improved communication and educational opportunities for our faculty, staff, parents and, especially our students.

Everything has not been as transparent and efficient as we would have liked, but I disagree that our district shunned anything that was part of technology or never hired the right people.

Ten years ago, many of us on the faculty were in the dark about using computer technology. The Teacher's Institute started offering technology workshops during the school year and over the summer. New courses are offered every semester and are always well attended. Additionally, training presented by the Innovative Designs in Education Corporation was helpful for many teachers. This training taught us how to integrate computer technology into a learner based classroom. It has helped many of us survive the increases in class size and create solutions for differentiated instruction.

The demands on our technology support staff are especially high this time of year, but they are doing their best to meet the needs of the district.

Lastly, many of us are indebted to Ed Cofino, technology guru par excellence, who has been a valuable resource for the district for many years. He has tirelessly offered technology support, advice and encouragement. We could not have done it without him.

Diane Nelson
Mamaroneck , NY

 

September 12, 2007

Were Schools Best Served by Network Administrator in Greece?

I recall when Bill Koulouris [the network administrator] left Mamaroneck School District he was getting married and moving to Greece with his new bride.  We had direct contact with him and his staff during this time because my son was doing an original research project in computer science.  The question is: “Was it in the best interest of the district to have someone maintain our network in Greece, or hire a skilled network administrator that was living in New York?”  If the network went down, who repaired it physically?  Certainly, Mr. Koulouris was not able to do this. How much did we spend on phone calls to Greece?  What actually were Mr. Koulouris’s responsibilities from Greece, and how much time did he spend a day to maintain our network? 

My impression was that the district was run by inept and technology-not-savvy administrators and school board members who didn’t have a clue about what was going on.  Technology was feared, and they didn’t want to learn about it either.  I recall that they hired a "calculator consultant" for an assistive technology evaluation, and flew him in from upstate NY, and placed him in the Crowne Plaza.  When I questioned this consultant, he told me that he knew nothing about calculators and had an English background.  This made no sense, since there were qualified people with proper knowledge at the Westchester Medical Center.

During this administration, under the Freedom of Information Law, I tried to determine what they were paying their special education attorneys, since I could not find it on our budget.  This was public information, but the district denied and ignored my FOI request, which was a violation of the law.

The district was also denying my son access to advanced scientific calculators approved by NYS, and nothing the district did made sense to me.  It was as if they were running their own country with their own rules.  Dr. Mark Orfinger [ Mamaroneck High School principal] even went so far as to tell my son in writing that “he may bring a specific calculator that was approved by NYS into the classroom, but not turn it on."  Dr. Orfinger said he wasn't denying him “access” if he allowed him to bring the calculator to class.  However, he denied my son from “turning it on.” It seemed that anything that was part of technology was being shunned by the district.  They didn’t even know where to start to get the right staff.

 In my opinion, the district was out of control, and the School Board members don't seem any brighter today than they were then if they can justify spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Mr. Koulouris.  At least the new superintendent stopped the hemorrhage of our money being wasted. 

I am very happy that the district attorney's office will be investigating this apparent misallocation of funds.  Perhaps, had they not denied use of higher level calculators we would have been able to figure out that our budget wasn't adding up

Eleanor Sherman
Larchmont, NY

September 6, 2007

More Peace Vigils Planned

Some 40 local residents gathered for a candlelight vigil August 28 in Memorial Park to call on Congress to vote in September to end U.S. participation in the Iraq war/occupation. One of almost 700 observances held nationwide, the vigil attracted participants from Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye and elsewhere to the intersection of Murray Avenue at Myrtle Boulevard.

Participants read from a “War Toll Calendar” to honor and remember the American soldiers who have died in the past year, as well as those of all faiths and nations who have died, been injured, or lost their homes in the on-going violence.


photo by Burt Rozner

The vigil was part of national Take a Stand Day—a day of action initiated by the Americans Against Escalation in Iraq coalition, including MoveOn.org Political Action, VoteVets.org, the Service Employees International Union, True Majority, and others.

Other peace actions both local and regional are being planned for September and October and will be announced.

Judith Spikes
Larchmont, NY

August 15, 2007

Important Advice From Dr. Engelland

Brava to Dr. Ann Engelland! Her article in the Larchmont Gazette, August 10, 2007 about emergency contraception called Plan B was informative, specific and accurate. There is a lot of misinformation out there and this article offers the gift of knowledge which we all know is power.

Peg Cozzi, Ed.D.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Larchmont, NY

August 10, 2007

Dogs & People Gone From Ward Acres

It has been over four months since the City of New Rochelle enacted a ban of unleashed dogs in Ward Acres after 10 am. Dog owners must now purchase dog walking permits to use the park with their dogs. For New Rochelle residents the fee is $50 per year; for non-residents, $250. The purpose of the new law was to allow people without dogs a time to use the park.

So I have been visiting Ward Acres after 10 am to see who exactly was using the park at those times. Before the April 1st ban, Ward Acres was alive with people all the time. Ward Acres was the most utilized park in lower Westchester. The nature trails were used by hundreds of people, people who happened to own a dog. Now there is no one walking in the park after 10 am. The trails that were once so alive with friendly people are silent. There is an eerie ghost-like atmosphere that permeates the air.

For nine years I visited Ward Acres several times a week. It was a magical and enchanting place. The people who used the park cared for it, keeping it clean, grooming the trails, picking up any debris; we were a community. We formed a bond between ourselves. We celebrated together, holiday dinners, luncheons, showers. We mourned together, funerals, illnesses, heartaches. Whenever we met outside the park we would always end our encounters with “see you at the park.” Ward Acres connected us.

Dogs in Park
Before: Only some of the dogs & owners in the park.

Since school ended it is easy to see how many people are actually using the park from the number of cars parked by Ward School. From dawn to 10am there are usually 8 to 12 cars parked outside. People are coming and going constantly. After 10am when I arrive there are usually no cars parked outside. As I walk inside, the park is so quiet that I feel frightened by the stillness and I leave quickly. I am told by one of the park’s constant users that someone with a dog attempted to use the park in the afternoon but was confronted, fined and made to leave by the New Rochelle police. Word of the encounter spreads fast and now no one goes there in the afternoon.

Ward Acres
After the New Law: Empty Park

It is unfortunate that Mayor Noam Bramson and the City of New Rochelle Council imposed these restrictions on the very people who used the park and contributed to its well being. What if a community had a soccer field that was used all day by youth soccer leagues and the local government declared that children could only play until 10 because adults wanted to use the field. Then the adults only used the field once a month and the rest of the time the field stood empty. That is exactly what is happening at Ward Acres. For the people who formerly used the park all the time it is heartbreaking to know it sits empty for most of the day, every day. It is tragic that this will be Mayor Bramson’s legacy.

Christine Webler
Larchmont, NY

August 9, 2007

Esposito Variances are "Monumental"

Though the consultant report on the proposed Esposito development was prepared for the Planning Board, its conclusions were shared, as a courtesy to the attendees, at the Zoning Board meeting on July 18th. The consultant reported there would be “no significant environmental impact” from the proposed apartments at North and Palmer Avenues.  As an experienced investment banker, president of several corporations and director of eighteen companies, one of which is among the largest residential developers in the country, I am extremely skeptical of the validity of the consultant report’s findings.

Also, it must be recognized that there are highly significant zoning variances proposed, the magnitude of which individually are very substantial and collectively monumental.  These are in the purview of the Zoning Board and should be denied.

Here they are set forth with the magnitude of each zoning variance requested enumerated:

Rear Yard – proposed 8 feet when 40 feet are required.  That represents an 80% decrease from the zoning requirement.

Building Height
– proposed 40 and 42 feet when thirty feet are permitted.  They represent, respectively, a 33 1/3% and 40% increase over the zoning requirement.

Building Height – proposed four stories when two-and-a-half stories are permitted. That represents a 60% increase over the zoning requirement.

Enclosed Recreation Space
– proposed 4160 square feet when 5100 square feet are required. That represents an 18% decrease from the zoning requirement.  The space proposed is configured in a fashion to make the various parcels allocated for this requirement to be practically unusable so that the recreation space will have no actual utility.  Instead of an 18% decrease, I judge it to be closer to a 100% decrease.

Minimum Street Frontage – proposed 13.03 feet when 20 feet are required.  That represents a 35% decrease from the zoning requirement.  Even using the minimum lot width of 14 feet, the proposal represents a 7% decrease from the absolute minimum requirement.

Supplemental Standards for Principal Uses- Multi-Family Dwellings – proposed 23 and 28 units in the two buildings for a total of 51 units.  Those represent a fifteen percent 15% and 40% increase over the zoning requirement for each of the buildings and an overall 27.5% increase over the zoning requirement.

Off Street Parking – using the 51 units proposed, 102 spaces are required of which 50% are to be fully enclosed.  No enclosed spaces are contemplated so the proposal meets none of the parking requirements.  The proposal, at best, represents a 100% violation of the zoning requirement.

Again, these zoning variances requested are significant individually and even substantially more so collectively.  Zoning requirements were established for a purpose and should not be blatantly violated as proposed by the developer.

I strongly urge the Zoning Board not to grant the variances requested but, rather, to insist that the developer adhere to the zoning requirements set forth for that property.

Similarly, by copy of this letter to the Planning Board, I urge that body to reverse its decision to permit construction of this non-conforming project.

Mel Gardner
Larchmont, NY

July 29, 2007

Zoning Board Urged to Deny Esposito Variances

I attended last week's Zoning Board meeting where many Larchmont residents spoke out against the proposed Esposito project. (See: Zoning Decision Delayed on Esposito Apartments.) The turnout was large and the response was passionate. Without exception, residents universally opposed the project.

At the meeting, Richard Esposito’s lawyer noted that there are already taller buildings in Larchmont - including several buildings of over 4 stories – and indeed there are:

  • 1815 Palmer - built in 1940
  • 1825-1833 Palmer - 1940-1950
  • 1880 Palmer - 1930
  • 3-7 East Ave - 1928-30
  • 6 West Ave - 1928
  • 96 Chatsworth - 1930
  • 132 Chatsworth - 1930

But these lie in areas designated for retail center commercial use (RC) or multi-family (MF) use - as opposed to areas designated for residential housing (RB).

Additionally they were built before 1955 when the zoning code was amended to help maintain the character of this charming village, and when a maximum height of 30 feet was established for all zones.

The only building built after 1955 of over 4 stories is the professional building at 1890 Palmer, which was built in 1978, is in the center of the village and was built next to a pre-existing 7-story apartment building.

The Zoning Board must look at 5 points in order to determine whether to grant a variance.

  1. whether the difficulty for the variance sought is self created
  2. whether the requested variance is substantial
  3. whether the requested benefit is obtainable by anything other than a variance
  4. whether the variance would adversely affect or impact the surrounding physical neighborhood
  5. whether the variance would create an undesirable change to the character of the neighborhood or would be a detriment to the properties surrounding the project

Point-by-point response:

  1. the difficulty is self created. The applicant was aware of the Village zoning laws prior to purchasing the property in February 2007. The Village residents should not have to bear any hardships due to a poor business decision.
  2. the requested variances are substantial and will set a precedent for future development in Larchmont - including areas along the Boston Post Road.
  3. the requested benefit (i.e., project) is obtainable without a variance. The applicant can build according to Village zoning laws.
  4. and 5. the variance will create an undesirable change in the surrounding community (over 570 Village residents have signed the on-line petition stating they believe this to be true) and adversely impact the surrounding area.

I urge the Zoning Board not to approve the variances requested by Esposito Builders at their next meeting on Sept 5.

Katherine Holzman
Larchmont, NY

 

 

 

July 18, 2007

VOL Trustee: Give New Fire Dept Structure A Chance

I am writing to clarify your reporting on the first attempted Fire Council meeting following the Court's refusal to grant the resigning volunteers' request for a preliminary injunction against the Village Board's appointment of Rich Heine as chief. ( Now Both Sides Agree: 17 of 28 Active VOL Firefighters Resign.) Specifically, you noted, but failed to explain, the substance of the "dispute over the resignation of particular individuals and the roles the different members may play."

The Fire Council is the governing body of the combined (paid and volunteer) Fire Department. Under the by-laws of the four fire companies (which comprise the volunteer side of the department) in effect at the time of Chief Heine's appointment only "active" volunteers could become members of the Fire Council, with the result that if a volunteer had resigned, he would no longer be eligible to serve on the Council.

However, during the time between the May announcement of their resignations and the June date on which those resignations would become effective, the companies, on the initiative of the resigning members, amended their by-laws, appointing everyone "Lifetime Members," thereby rendering the resigning volunteers forever eligible for Council membership despite their no longer being "active" members of the department.

As a result of this maneuver, last week's Fire Council meeting centered, not surprisingly, on a dispute over the validity of these amendments to the fire companies' by-laws. Ray Maldonado and Ned Benton asserted that, under the "new" by-laws, they were still entitled to sit on the Council despite their having resigned from "active" service. Chief Heine and I asserted that, consistent with the principles embodied in the earlier by-laws, volunteers who have chosen to resign should not be entitled to a role in the management of the department.

There is a time and a place for dissent, but it is not inside the governing body of a vital emergency service in which our paid and still "active" volunteer firemen are putting their lives on the line potentially at every alarm.

The Court having ruled in the Village Board's favor, the new structure now has to be given a fair chance to succeed and that is impossible with individuals who are unwilling to work within it. If volunteers who have resigned still want to fight the appointment of a paid chief, they should do so at the Village elections next March. By then, the new structure will have been tested in practice, and the voters can decide whether the current Board of Trustees was ill- or well- advised to have pursued it.

Chief Heine and I implored the representatives of the fire companies to return with Council nominees who are currently "active" volunteer firefighters, prepared to give the new structure a chance. to work. After $100,000 of needless litigation expense, it's time to put the litigation and further procedural maneuvering behind us and give the new chief a chance to run and rebuild the department without further interference from formerly active, now resigned volunteers who are unwilling to work with him.

Jim Millstein
Village of Larchmont Trustee

July 12, 2007

Confounded By Planning Vote on Esposito Apartments

The VOL Planning Board members unanimously voted to accept a report stating that the Esposito Building project on Palmer Avenue would have no significant adverse environmental impact on the Village. (See: VOL Planning Board Vote Supports Palmer Apartment Project.) The report was broad in scope, including considerations of traffic, noise, drainage, costs of new residents for village services and schooling. Having closely followed these proceedings, I am confounded that six Village residents could accept every point in the report and deem none to have significant negative effects.

I write to express frustration at a process that reaches a conclusion while seemingly ignoring facts that support the opposite decision. Numerous sound objections were raised, many remain and I mention two specifically here.

The traffic consultant’s report stated that only an additional 2 cars per hour would travel through the Pinebrook neighborhood from the Esposito project. The consultant suggested that most of the residents would travel via I-95 or train to their destinations and stated that only “local traffic” would use the popular cut through routes. Anyone living in the apartments would immediately become “local” by definition. If 51 apartments and 100 cars are perched at the intersection of Palmer and Pinebrook, it defies logic to believe that only 2 cars per hour would avoid the typical traffic jam at the center of town to go about their daily business. Instead, scads more cars will be flying down our neighborhood streets. Yet the members of the Planning Board believe this is not significant.

The report estimated that 5-12 additional students would attend our district schools. The school tax paid by the development would cover the marginal cost of only 7 students. Each additional student would cost the families of the district $14,000 per year to educate. If there are over 20 apartments with 2 or 3 bedrooms, it is tremendously risky to believe that only 5-12 school children will live in these rental apartments. There could be many, many more, each with a meaningful price tag. In May, most members of the Planning Board expressed concern at the number of large units and their likely school-aged tenants. Resolution of this concern and its associated financial risk were never mentioned before the vote. Yet the members of the Planning Board believe this is not significant.

There were other areas considered in reaching the decision that the Esposito project would have no significant negative environmental impact on our village. The height and bulk of the structures caused some concerned conversation among the members of the board before the vote, yet they accepted the report anyway. It confounds me.

Where are the gains for the Village in this project? Five units of affordable housing are promised. Good. A tempting vacant lot will be replaced. OK. But are these worth the costs? Couldn’t the benefits be accomplished with a building built to code? It is my fervent hope that the Zoning Board can keep this project under control. Let’s not make a significant mistake.

Eileen Gerspach
Larchmont, NY

 

June 28, 2007

Tung Hoy Towing Mars MHS Graduation

D&J Recovery, on Halstead Avenue in Harrison, and the owners of the Tung Hoy property took advantage of the MHS graduation crowds by having cars towed from the lot on the Post Road during the ceremonies. While other Post Road establishments allowed graduation participants to use their lots during the two hour ceremony, D&J Recovery, allegedly at the request of the property owners, swept in to tow away over ten cars. Then as time ran out, they put boots on another 20.

As families poured out of the graduations with their flowers and balloons, they were met by the D & J tow operator, who had asked the Mamaroneck Village Police to protect him as he asked each car owner for cash before releasing the boots on their car. The police encouraged D&J to forego the cash payments.

Together with my 85-year-old parents, we arrived to discover that their car had been towed to Harrison. After driving to their station to recover the car, D&J demanded more than $125, in cash, before they would return the car. We along with others had to delay graduation celebrations to deal with these greedy people.

D & J’s coming from Harrison to take advantage of the MHS graduation in order to score some cash fees violates every ounce of decency and regard for the values of our community and the families and graduates.

The owners of the Tung Hoy property and D&J Recovery of Harrison should be ashamed of their behavior and owe all of us at least an apology for spoiling an important celebration. They certainly don’t deserve our support or business.

Marsha and David Edell
Larchmont, NY

 

June 14, 2007

All Should Vote on June 19th

All Larchmont/Mamaroneck eligible voters should make sure they vote on June 19. The Mamaroneck schools are a very important part of our community and our tax burden. The Mamaroneck School District has provided an excellent education and creative environment for the children of this community for many years.

Whether we have children in the system or through the system, it is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves on the budget, and in this case, the revised budget. The school district has a link on its web site (www.mamkschools.org) that has detail voter information including a printable absentee ballot online. The site offers a Summary of the Revised Budget, a completely Revised Budget with a condensed version, Contingency Considerations and a Revenue Page.

We owe it to all of the children in the system and to those going through it in the future to take the time to read the budget information. The school district has done an excellent job making all of this information available to the public. If you are here on June 19th, please vote; if not, vote with an absentee ballot.

Rosita Fichtel
Larchmont, NY

June 11, 2007

Voting No Will Hurt Our Children

I have spent a good portion of my time since May 15 trying to assess why there was such a loud and clear outcry against passing the budget. Clearly, our community was awakened and our voices have been heard. The superintendent and school board revised the budget for a second vote on June 19.

If we do not vote “yes” this time, we will not be reinforcing our point or helping to resolve our concerns. What we will do, without question, is add a brand new, bigger and more difficult problem to resolve. We will have to go to a contingency budget that will undoubtedly punish many of our students. While we may not know what and who will be directly affected, how can we possibly take the chance? Whether it is my child or yours, this would be a horrible thing to do deliberately. If we have a gripe with the way things are going within our district, voting “no” again is not the way toward resolution. We will be hurting our children and nothing more.

Both of my children will be in the high school next year. They both have enjoyed the arts: PACE, Shakespeare, band, art and orchestra. I never had any doubt this would continue. Why in the world would I? I cannot imagine the impact if any or all these areas were to be cut.

Is voting “no” a reasonable option? Is this a solution? Please stop and think before you vote.

The bottom line is the system is far from perfect. However, we have a school board made up of parent volunteers contributing incalculable hours working toward optimizing our children’s education. There is not some ulterior motive going on here. The school board’s decisions may not have been agreeable to many, but it is our responsibility to become fully informed, and present our cases clearly and carefully well before we are up against voting day.

Let’s breathe, slow down and carefully restart the dialogue. Let’s first do the right thing for our children and vote “yes” on June 19. Let’s not deny our children the programs they have known and loved for years to make a point.

Once the revised budget is passed, we will need to start over on June 20 and address any new proposals carefully over the next year. We should expect the administration to be forthcoming with all information in a clear and timely manner. However, parents are obligated to attend school board meetings, talk among community members and communicate their concerns in an equally timely and thoughtful manner.

This is the way toward a more amicable resolution and a district in which we are proud. This is the way to do the right thing for our children. Please vote “yes” on June 19. It would be a huge and costly mistake to do otherwise.

MaryAnn De Feis
Larchmont , NY

June 8, 2007

Stark Choice on Budget: Look at the Numbers

The community spoke loudly and clearly in rejecting the original school budget. Whether due to increased taxes, teacher opposition to the administrative restructuring plan, the anonymous mailing, lingering resentment over the Kemper Memorial or frustration with the lack of information with the Rodriguez case is not important now.

While they remain important issues, it will take time to resolve them. However, given state deadlines, we are faced with a stark choice on June 19th – vote for the budget or go on an austerity budget. If there is a silver lining in this process it is that it has engaged the community into looking closely at the budget.

What they see is a budget that out of 39 districts in Westchester ranks 17th in year over year increase (6.3%), and 29th in average annual increase (7.3%) over the last four years. Our spending per pupil ranks 26th. After state aid, this budget will result in a 4.9% tax increase. Relative to other districts, our spending is not out of line.

While our district ranks well, the increases county-wide are above current inflation mainly because public education is more labor intensive than the overall economy and there are contractual expenses that have gone up over time that do not benefit from economies found in other sectors. Salaries and benefits account for over 80%, with healthcare costs at mid teen increases over the last three years. Combine this with state mandates and I can understand why the consumer price index is a poor benchmark for school budgets.

There are two additional factors that are beyond the board’s control. State aid has fallen from 12% of the budget 20 years ago to 6.7% today. It was surprising to me that in allocating state aid, Governor Spitzer changed Westchester’s peer group from Nassau and Suffolk to Orange and Rockland, hurting our state aid. I am encouraged that Representative Latimer will help on this for the future.

Lastly, I was shocked to learn that the assessed valuation of property in Mamaroneck is down 10% since 1990, and has been flat since 1997, predominantly due to tax certiorari appeals by commercial property owners. I am surprised that our commercial tax base continues to win appeals. This is worthy of investigation by your paper and others, but is not under control of the school board.

We are left with a stark choice. Vote yes for the budget with its 4.9% tax increase, or vote no and accept the state imposed contingency budget. For the average home assessed at $20,000, the difference is $342/yr. With the proposed budget, we maintain the quality of education and key programs for our children. With an austerity budget, we face increased class sizes, and/or program cuts that will hurt the quality of education - our property values are sure to suffer.

I commend Superintendent Fried and the Board for the revised budget, and for their outreach efforts. I hope that my fellow voters will join me in voting yes on June 19.

John Risner
Larchmont, NY

 

 

June 7, 2007

Firefighter Responds to Mayor's Claims

The mayor made some ugly comments about Larchmont's volunteer firefighters at the end of Monday’s Village Board meeting. As a long-time LFD volunteer present at the meeting, I asked to reply. The mayor flatly refused and abruptly ended the meeting. She and Trustee Millstein walked out, leaving me standing at the microphone and Trustees McAndrews, Kolbert and Ward staring at one another, perhaps in shock.

Unbelievable? See the LMC-TV video.

Larchmonters are bewildered about the board's plans to radically restructure the fire department and hire a $152,000 paid fire chief to replace the volunteer chief. At this point, most of the active volunteers are monitoring calls and responding only to actual emergencies. Most have announced they will cease firefighting by mid-June.

This is a serious situation, and board meetings are the traditional forum for civil exchanges on important matters; they are not just for the mayor and trustees to express their opinions. The Village Hall courtroom, the "heart of the village," has been violated.

What were the ugly comments? The mayor claimed volunteers don’t maintain an accountable inventory of gear, like pagers and helmets. She speculated that volunteers might walk off with equipment. These charges are inaccurate and absurd. We maintain detailed inventories of equipment issued; annually our gear is reinventoried and checked. Volunteers who will cease firefighting have no use for the gear. Those who are joining nearby departments will be welcomed with open arms and issued new gear. All gear will be returned and accounted for.

The mayor also accused firefighters, who are petitioning door-to-door to place the department issues on the ballot for voters to decide, of spreading fear about Larchmont’s ability to continue protecting lives and property. The volunteers, unlike the mayor, are merely telling the truth about the risks we all face. While the mayor and her chief are spinning “all is well and nothing has changed,” the volunteers are facing facts.

In truth, the number of volunteers responding to alarms has declined sharply under the paid chief. Of volunteers who have not announced resignations, the average response is only 2 per alarm. If the mayor knows this, she's not admitting it. If she doesn't know, why isn't her chief telling her?

After mid-June, can Larchmont fight fires with three paid firefighters (per shift)and two volunteers? In truth, it takes about 12 to start fighting a house fire - to command and coordinate, deploy hose, search for people, position ladders, ventilate smoke, prepare for emergency rescue, etc. An understaffed incident is dangerous for everyone.

Mutual aid from nearby departments is essential, but arrives critical minutes later, and is intended to supplement our own forces.

If we intend to rely on Mamaroneck Town firefighters, the board should immediately begin genuine discussions about merger - as the volunteers have recommended for months. If the board believes Larchmont should go it alone, even after most volunteers are gone, they should begin hiring the dozens of additional paid firefighters that will be required.

Ned Benton
Larchmont Volunteer Firefighter, Former Village Trustee

June 7, 2007

Pass Budget; Find Positive Ways to Make Changes

I am the parent of a 16-year old, a 12-year old and a 6-year old who are in three different schools in the Mamaroneck School District (MHS, Hommocks and Central). We have lived in the district for eleven years.

On Friday, June 1, the school board voted to revise the recently defeated budget. This revised budget cuts spending by nearly $1.6 million from the budget defeated on May 15th. The additional administrators were eliminated but I believe that educational needs will still be a priority.

I urge everyone eligible to vote to support the revised school budget. If the budget does not pass in the second vote on June 19th, the district will be forced to go to a contingency budget which will affect many extra-curricular activities, clubs, art, music, sports, field trips and other programs and services we value at all the schools in the district. Class sizes will, in all likelihood, increase across all grades as well.

It is important to realize that if the district is forced to implement a contingency budget, it could be several years before these cherished programs can be added back into future budgets.

I urge voters to think about what they are really doing when they decide to reject a budget to reflect their negative feelings about elements of the school system. Voting against the budget will not solve problems in the schools and it will create many new ones. There are many positive ways to get involved to affect change. Voting no will not affect change in any way other than one which will prove to be much more damaging to our children’s education than one can envision in the short term.

Jayne Lipman
Mamaroneck, NY

 

June 6, 2007

Not Too Late for VOL Board to Correct Error on Paid Chief

It is with great sadness that I have been following the events surrounding the decision of the Village Board to hire a paid fire chief for the Larchmont Volunteer Fire Department. I am a former captain of Hose Company No. 2 and was a member of the LFD for over 13 years, before being transferred out of the Larchmont area by my employer.

For over 100 years, the tradition of volunteerism was magnificently manifested by those residents who chose to put their lives on the line for their fellow Larchmonters by becoming Fire Department volunteers. During those 100 plus years, the members, pursuant to New York State law, chose their chief officers. The department functioned efficiently and the Village of Larchmont was well served. Now the Village Board has chosen to turn away from a system that was proven and effective. In my view, this is a great mistake that will haunt the Village for years to come.

Additionally, it appears that the legality of the process adopted by the board is open to question. I’ll await the decision of the State Supreme Court for a final ruling. In any event, it's not too late for the board to correct its mistake. The mark of great statesmen is to recognize their errors, correct them and then move forward.

I grew up in Larchmont, was educated in local schools, married there and spent a fair number of years serving in the LFD. Despite the miles between Burke, Virginia and Larchmont, I remain one proud former volunteer fireman who cares about the department.

Edward H. Beck
Burke, Virginia

June 6, 2007

Education is Important for All of Our Children

Many parents voted “no” on May 15th because of isolated budget items that wouldn’t affect their own children directly. This reflects a short-sighted view of how a public school system is funded, and ultimately short-changes everyone’s kids. Each year budgetary items are added that affect different areas of the school district. One year the focus may be on class size at the elementary schools due to changes in enrollment. Another year may require changes at the secondary schools because of retiring faculty or due to new interests or needs of the students. Wear and tear on our buildings and facilities creates a continuous need for capital improvements. Staying competitive and having educational initiatives that move us forward are what make a school district strong in preparing the leaders of tomorrow – our kids.

We are asked to vote on the school budget each year as a community. I urge that we not simply look for items that affect only our children for the coming year but rather look at our school system as a whole. Are we serving the needs of all children? We should be proud that we live in a place that can serve so many children with varying needs. Further, what interests our children today might change tomorrow -- from arts to sports or computers, or from math and science to the humanities — so we need to make sure the options are strong and available to everyone. Your kids will be at the next grade level before you know it, and decisions you vote on this year will affect your kids when they get there. So I suggest that we stop looking at the new items in the budget each year with a “what’s in it for me this year?“ approach, and start looking at the big picture, for the long haul.

All school districts have room for improvement, but the Mamaroneck Schools have overall been doing a great job for our children for decades. We need to be advocates for education and strong schools. We need to get involved and push for changes when necessary. Voting “no” on the revised budget will not solve problems in the district --and a contingency budget will create new, long-lasting ones.

This community is facing a very important decision on June 19th. While it is complicated, it is also important to take the time to get the information and make an informed decision. Please take a few extra minutes in these next two weeks and read the material that is available on the district website (www.mamkschools.org). What could be more important than our children’s education?

Please vote “yes” on June 19th. Our children, our community and our property values will be affected by this Vote.

Lori Brandon
Larchmont , NY

June 6, 2007

Less State Aid, More Mandates Put Pressure on School Budget

Once again, an unsigned flyer filled with false and misleading statements about the Mamaroneck School Board has been distributed in our community. The latest was handed out at the train station last week. Such tactics are what one would expect in a nasty political campaign, not in a community-wide discussion regarding the challenges of funding and educating students in a large and diverse school district.

The School Board, district administrators and a large group of parent volunteers have been working tirelessly to address the concerns raised since the budget was voted down. As a result, the board passed a revised budget that eliminated the new administrative positions and made further reductions to lower the tax rate. It should be recognized, however, that a significant amount of the pressure on the school budget is the result of a reduction in state aid, increases in county and town taxes and numerous unfunded mandates from the state and federal government that are costly to implement.

There is still a great deal of work to do. But the first challenge is to ensure that the revised budget is passed on June 19.

Emily S. Hoffner
Larchmont, NY

May 31, 2007

Support Revised School Budget June 19

This is a letter of appreciation for the tireless work of the Mamaroneck School Board and our superintendent, Dr. Paul Fried. Voters defeated the board’s proposed budget in May. In response the board has spent countless hours reaching out to our community in an effort to re-craft the budget to better serve our students, teachers and residents. Dr. Fried has proposed a revised budget that responds to the community’s concerns.

On June 5 the board will present their final budget to the community, and on June 19 the budget will be the subject of a re-vote. It is extremely important for our community to recognize the efforts of our dedicated board and school district administration. The only way to do this is to vote “Yes” on Tuesday, June 19.

A defeated budget in June will mean a contingency budget for Mamaroneck, the harmful consequences of which will be felt immediately and for years to come. Details of both the new and contingency budgets are available on the District website www.mamkschools.org. It is imperative that the voters understand the options and cast an informed “Yes” vote on June 19.

Tom & Eileen Gerspach
Larchmont, NY

May 24, 2007

Vote Yes For Next School Budget

I write to urge voters in the Mamaroneck School District to vote “yes” for our school budget, as it will be presented on Tuesday, June 19th.

I remember too well the austerity budgets under which many districts in Rockland and Westchester Counties struggled in the 1970s when voters rejected substantial budget increases caused by high inflation. We do not want to find ourselves facing that outcome.

Austerity budgets do not provide the minimums necessary for a quality education — they provide far less and leave children, parents and community members frustrated, angry and under-served. For example, austerity budgets often include no funds for meaningful art or music programs, and no money to replace worn-out textbooks and lab equipment or money for athletic coaching. Similarly, maintenance will be deferred, leading to more expensive problems in later years.

I sincerely believe that the school administration has heard the message implicit in the rejection of the previous budget and is intent on working with the entire voting community to improve our schools in an educationally and fiscally sound way.

While the needed dialogue continues on how to improve our schools without hurting our extraordinary teachers or our pocketbooks, we must give our schools the resources sufficient to accomplish the goals that inspired us to live in Larchmont/Mamaroneck in the first place. The next budget will do this, and we must support it by voting “yes” for our children currently in the schools and for the benefit of our entire community.

Steven Fasman
Larchmont, NY

 

May 22, 2007

The Larchmont Village Board – What are they Smokin’?

Wow, it was eerie Wednesday (5/16) night to watch the Larchmont Village Board, in a trance-like state, unanimously approve their ill-conceived paid fire chief plan to a full room of disbelievers. Unanimous? After weeks of Fire Council, volunteer and taxpayer backlash, not one board member voted against this insult? What are the trustees smokin’?

Trustee Jim Millstein, in less heady days, ran on slick campaign literature which acknowledged “…our greatest resource: the volunteers on whom the unique quality of our Village life depends.” Apparently that didn’t include volunteer firefighters, who used to make up over 60% of the Village firefighter force before 30% of them resigned on the spot Wednesday in protest (with more to follow).

This new policy, if it survives legal challenges, taxpayer revolt, more volunteer resignations and small pet attacks, will likely make Larchmont Village the laughingstock of all New York municipalities for reckless fiscal mismanagement. Folks, this could cost this square mile millions of dollars as volunteers resign and are replaced by union members. Affordable taxes? Now a pipe dream.

With board plans for a paid full-time Village engineer and a paid Village Administrator (and maybe a Village chimney sweep?), taxpayers can assume that they’ll continue to get smoked by this free-spending board, compromised by a curious desire to turn Larchmont into a – exhale – union town. Remember, it was municipal unions that brought New York City to the brink of bankruptcy in the 1970s. Seems $152,500 (salary plus benefits for the new chief) is better spent hiring an 8th-grade remedial civics tutor for each trustee…

Given Mayor Feld’s cozy relationship with the firefighters’ union, can taxpayers expect anything but a fiscal train wreck when the union contract is renegotiated in a few months? Rest easy knowing that when the boxcars are gnarled and in flames, there will be at least ten fewer volunteers to extinguish the mess.

Fill up those squirt guns, kids – you may be the last line of defense we can afford.

Kevin Cadden
Larchmont, NY

 

May 21, 2007

Why I'm Resigning After 25 Years As A Volunteer Firefighter

(Editor's Note: This letter was addressed to Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld and copied to the Gazette.)

This is to let you know that on June 16th 2007, after almost a quarter century of service to Larchmont Village as an active volunteer, I will no longer be able to serve as an active member.  Your board stated that the relationship between the career guys and the volunteers was so bad something had to be done.  You said this has been going on for years.  Well, for 25 years I have been through a lot with the career guys and yet never felt it warranted my leaving the department.  I found ways to get along and we worked through the difficult times.  You and your board, though, are people I cannot work for.  You have been reckless in this action and I believe you have brought about the demise of the volunteer Larchmont Fire Department.  It might not happen today, but it will happen. 

I got up and left my family at restaurants, parties and in the middle of the night.  I left them in storms, floods and hurricanes.  I have burned my hand and hurt my back.  I left my job and hopped on engine 34 to ride to the city on 9/11 with my mother screaming not to go.  I go into burning buildings for free.  You should be ashamed of yourselves for taking me and my fellow volunteers for granted. 

You “negotiated” based on thinking we would not leave. We volunteered for many reasons.  Some wanted to be chief some day.  Some wanted to make friends and some wanted to help others.  There are many reasons, but we were a group that took care of each other, the Village and, yes, even the career staff. 

You cannot come in and tell us we no longer govern ourselves.  I want to be able to choose who is responsible for my life when I go into a burning building - not someone who has been watching quietly from the sidelines for 5 years. 

You and your board still know very little about the life of this department.  You came at this with good intentions and when it became clear your plan had big problems, you did not change course.  To say you negotiated is insulting.  You never left your one idea.  We brought you other options but you could only see what seemed right for you.

My brother brought me into this department 25 years ago, and I was so proud.  He asked me to leave and join the TMFD with him a few years ago.  He wanted to start fighting fires again and lived closer to the Town.  He told the guys in the town he would not join without his brother.  I did not leave the LFD because it was my home.   Had I switched we would have spent more time together before he died.  So, you see I do not leave lightly.  I loved what I did but you have done what the union could not do:  make a place I called home unlivable.

Sam Orans
Larchmont, NY

 

May 18, 2007

It is a Sad Day for Larchmont

I have watched this battle of appointing a paid fire chief from afar hoping and praying the Village leaders would come to a different vote. A vote that would assure being a volunteer firefighter meant something to the Village of Larchmont.

There is a long history of tradition and pride that goes along with being a volunteer firefighter. Please do not be fooled into thinking that everyone in time will work together and this issue will work itself out. The decision to appoint a paid chief will devastate the Larchmont Volunteer Fire Department for years to come.

I was a Larchmont resident and a volunteer firefighter in Hook and Ladder Company from 1966 to 1970. I look back and remember those times with pride in serving my community.

My heart breaks for the volunteers that are leaving because of this vote. Many have spent over 30 years serving the residents of Larchmont, answering the call at all times of the day and night.

I know that if I were a volunteer today, I would submit my resignation rather than risk my life or bodily injury for a Village Board that has so little regard for the lives of those who serve their community.

Sanford McClelland
Orlando, Florida

May 17, 2007

VOL Action on Fire Chief Shamefully Disregards Volunteers

Last night I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing a truly historic tragedy. The Larchmont Village Board, through a combination of arrogance and ignorance, managed to expedite the painful process of the erosion of the Larchmont Volunteer Fire Department. The department predates the village itself, and to witness the shameful disregard of the volunteers, their feelings and experienced opinions was physically painful.

The fire chief issue was never about safety; it was about control, and will end up costing the residents of this mile-by-a-mile village millions.

We need to demand that the merger option be fully explored, not only for financial reasons but for our safety and welfare.

In spite of the Village Board, I believe I speak for the vast majority of Larchmont residents in conveying our great respect, admiration and appreciation for our volunteer firefighters.

Francis FitzPatrick
Larchmont, NY

 

May 17, 2007

School Vote Lesson: Always Vote

On my daughter’s 18th birthday, I was very excited to give her her present: a voter registration form. Clearly, she thought I was nuts, but in giving her this present I was trying to convey to her that now she had the opportunity/privilege/obligation to vote. Though there was not an important election coming up in January, this way I was taking no chances; she would be eligible to vote in the very next election.

Her first opportunity to vote turned out to be the Mamaroneck School District election on Tuesday, May 15. For 24 hours I nagged her – “Don’t forget to vote!” She came home sick from school and did not feel like going out again. I told her she and I had to go vote – it wouldn’t take very long to exercise our civic responsibility. The school board members were uncontested and the budget vote seemed like a sure thing. “Why,” she asked, “is it so important to vote in this election?” I explained that we vote because we can, not just because we think it will make a difference. In this country voting is both a privilege and an obligation.

Imagine our surprise when we opened the paper this morning and learned the budget failed to pass. There were only 1,061 “yes” votes (1,663 “no” votes).

I do not believe this vote is representative of everyone in our school district. Many people simply did not vote. And I believe that many people who voted “no” may have been misinformed about some of the issues – perhaps the school district needs to explore a better way of getting information out to the public. But why didn’t every eligible voter vote? And why didn’t newly turned 18-year olds and MHS alumni get out and vote? My daughter told me that many of her friends did not vote – why weren’t they excited to vote for the first time? Was everyone complacent? Did everyone just believe this was another routine vote? We have lived in this community for 14 years and there have been many contentious budget votes in the past – but the budget always passed, usually by a lot.

So now the lesson is not just that we vote because we can. We vote because we should NEVER take any vote for granted. It is the one way to make sure your voice is heard. We should all teach our children the importance of voting when they’re young, so that when they turn 18, they are excited to go out and vote and voting becomes a life-long habit.

Judy Baumgarten
Larchmont, NY

 

May 1, 2007

Volunteers Needed for Harbor Island Playground Installation May 5, 6

The installation of the new playground at Harbor Island Park is still scheduled to take place this coming Thursday through Sunday, May 3-6, with community volunteers working throughout each day from 7 am to 5 pm. (See: Ahoy, Volunteers! Help Build Harbor Island Playground May 3-6.)

More volunteers are needed on Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6. Please contact John Farris at atfarris@aol.com or phone at 649-0103. Volunteers can show up anytime between 7 am and 5 pm at Harbor Island. You will have the opportunity to witness and participate in the construction stage of the playground project. All are welcome.

The Harbor Island Conservancy would like to thank all the volunteers who have signed up to help with the playground installation and also the Village of Mamaroneck for all of its assistance. Our thanks go to the Department of Public Works, our mayor, trustees and Village manager, all of whom will be there this weekend to help complete this great project for the kids of our community. We are truly grateful to all our volunteers during this time of great need in our Village.

John Farris
Harbor Island Conservancy

April 26, 2007

Thanks for Locks of Love Success

As part of my Bat Mitzvah preparation at Larchmont Temple, I invited the community to join me in a Locks of Love event at Everything’s Hair on April 14. I am writing to thank all who participated in this great cause. The event was really successful but it couldn’t have been without so many who joined us and helped out.

About the event:

  • 219" of hair was collected - more than 18 feet!
  • 22 people donated their hair.
  • The youngest donor was Sophie Leighton of Larchmont – age 6. She came with her sister Samantha, who also donated her hair.
  • A young man, 12-year-old Lorenzo Cosentino of Port Chester, donated a 10" ponytail.
  • The longest hair donated was a 23" braid from Emma Parsons of Larchmont.
  • We received a 51-year-old braid from Anne Chatfield of Harrison, who saved her 16" childhood braid for all these years.

Locks of Love uses the donated hair to provide hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who have lost their hair.

A big thank you goes to Ginger and Dina at Everything’s Hair for allowing me to do this event at their salon, and on a Saturday, the busiest day for them. And, an even bigger thank you to the stylists and Everything’s Hair team who offered their time and free haircuts to anyone who had their hair cut for this cause.

Locks of Love

I want to also thank Trader Joes and Village Square Bagels for our delicious refreshments for the day and the many merchants who allowed me to put flyers in their windows to announce this event.

Finally, a thank you goes to everyone who donated money because they could not donate their hair. We collected more than $300 that day (this is in addition to the $950 from my family and friends who donated from letters I sent to them about this cause).

We want to keep this good deed going. If you missed the event, you can still donate your hair at Everything’s Hair since it is now a Locks of Love participating salon. You can contact them at (914) 833-9522.

Thank you to everyone!

Elana Lamster
Larchmont , NY

April 19, 2007

Unions Shouldn't Dictate VOL Fire Chief Decision

Unions shouldn't dictate to the Larchmont Village Board on the fire chief issue--or any other village issue. Let's respect our volunteer firefighters' opinions, not the union's.

I can't help but remember union members standing outside the Republican caucus meeting, supporting Liz Feld when she was opposing Ken Bialo for the party's nomination. I don't have to tell you what this looks like. (See: Bialo Wins GOP, Ind. Nod; Feld Will Challenge for Mayor.)

I hope the board will be more considerate of our village and realize the ramifications that will occur should the board push through with the union's wishes.

Carey Federspiel
Larchmont, NY

April 19, 2007

Murray Kids Seek Senior Citizens to Interview

Do most of your stories start with, “Well, when I was your age…?” Do you remember life before cell phones, 24-hour cable TV and the Internet? The Murray Avenue PTA is looking for senior citizens for its annual Oral History Day program on May 8.

Volunteers will be interviewed by small groups of fifth graders at Murray Avenue School from 1:15 to 3:00 pm. You don’t have to be a top-notch storyteller, just someone who is willing to share some aspects of your life with children who were born just 10 or 11 years ago.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Mary Beth Jordan at 914-834-5660 or by email at mbj27@aol.com.

Ann LoBue
Larchmont, NY

 

April 18, 2007

Boaters Beware Storm Aftermath

The storm that rampaged through our community may be a danger to recreational boaters this spring and summer. Please be alert to floating debris during the early spring regattas and outings. Sailboat racing and recreational boating is only fun when we all arrive back in port ship shape.

Ed Merians
Larchmont, NY

April 15, 2007

What Happened to Tung Hoy?

Can anyone please enlighten us as to the reasons one of our favorite local restaurants, Tung Hoy on the Post Road, closed? We can't seem to get a straight answer anywhere.

Many thanks from loyal fans.

Adam Stoler & Barbara Kail
Riverdale, NY

April 12, 2007

New Deputy Mayor Responds to VOM Dem Chair on Day Labor Issue

In response to Elsa Puerta-Rubin (see:VOM Dem Reacts to Appointment of Tony Fava as Deputy Mayor): I appreciate your concerns and thoughts in regard to the judge’s decision. (See: Judge Extends Talks on Day Labor Suit: No Site In Sight.)

As I said many times, I think the judge was lacking information on my position in the Village of Mamaroneck. I was never in a decision making position with the Village and had no input as to how the police acted or conducted their daily activities. My concerns with the neighborhood were broad-scoped, and that was clearly stated in my testimony. The [day labor] site at Columbus Park was not appropriate for this type of activity. Calls were made by residents to Village officials, a petition was signed by hundreds of area residents and business owners, and the Board of Trustees closed the site.

I was called as a witness, same as Trustee Tom Murphy.

Tony Fava
Deputy Mayor, Village of Mamaroneck

April 5, 2007

Camelot Lost? Attend Planning, Zoning Meeting

Nineteen years ago, I moved to Larchmont. I had found my “Camelot”. I had the place I could grow with and grow old in. I have always been an active participant in our community, striving to make a difference and not afraid to take on a challenge and fight the good fight. After all, Larchmont deserves nothing less.

Again, we face a challenge. The proposed Esposito project, the 51 unit, 4 story apartment complex, threatens to add to the building surge we are seeing in our community. Right now multiple projects are under way in the Village of Mamaroneck and the Town of Mamaroneck. While growth is inevitable, it must be monitored and be made to comply with current zoning laws. That is why I am opposed to Esposito project in its current forms. I urge everyone to make their views known and express them at the upcoming Planning and Zoning meetings April 9th and April 11th respectively.

We look to our mayor and elected trustees to protect our interests and preserve the character of our village. This is not the first time we have been faced with the question on how our village should look in the future. The Larchmont 2020 report gave us a small glimpse into this vision. When the report came out, the question was raised to our elected representatives, “ How do you propose we preserve the character of the Village of Larchmont while respecting the rights of property owners?” The answer came back, “update our zoning code and enforce it consistently.”

The courts also support this view. When put the question of zoning determinations, they too demand consistency. They specifically state in recent decisions that zoning variances cannot be “arbitrary or capricious.” Since our village updated the zoning code after WW II to restrict residential structures to 2 ½ stories, this variance has not been granted. All we ask our current zoning board is to enforce the code consistently. We both expect and insist that our elected officials and appointed boards protect our interests and preserve our village. While we cannot always dictate where and what will be built, we can make sure it adheres to our codes.

Whether you grew up here in Larchmont or settled here later to live and raise a family, we all choose this village for a reason. Larchmont is our “ Camelot”; let’s make sure we protect it.

Bob Meglio
Concerned Citizens for Larchmont

March 31, 2007

Why No FiOS & No Competition for CableVision?

Why can we not get Verizon FiOS (fiber optic service) throughout the Village? It's available on the east end, but not on the west end. There's a new Verizon FiOS box (less ugly than the old one) in Pine Brook Park, but two blocks away, where I live, I'm stuck with overpriced CableVision. Why is Verizon standing still?

Moreover, why are we still stuck with CableVision as Larchmont's only cable TV provider? I hear it's because CableVision is delaying negotiations. Of course they will delay them as long as they can, to keep their monopoly and because they know that they will lose many of us as customers, at least if they don't cut their prices. Why does our Village not make a deal with Verizon, so that we can get a choice of providers--unless CableVision pulls out (fat chance)? Every day of delay by our Village is at our expense, literally.

How about it, Trustees?

Ralph Engel
Larchmont, NY

March 30, 2007

Volunteers Might Leave LFD Over Paid Chief Plan

I have been the Larchmont Fire Department’s recruitment chair for nearly two years and a me mber for four years.  During my time as a volunteer I’ve responded to nearly 800 alarms, in one of which I nearly lost my life.  I also set a department record for training in a single year. During my time as recruitment chair our department set another record - we brought in nearly 20 new applicants.  I am obviously very dedicated to both the department and our village – but I am only one of many who are not too different from me.

I have no desire to leave the department.  But hiring a paid chief and doing so without consulting the Fire Council or informing the residents of Larchmont is the wrong approach.  Many good volunteers feel unappreciated and disrespected, and seriously disagree with the decision.  Many may choose to either retire from service or switch to the Town of Mamaroneck’s department.

What could this mean? You can't have a volunteer fire department without volunteers. If the Board wants to switch to an all-paid fire department, taxpayers should be told the full truth about what this will cost. In addition to the financial costs involved, there are other benefits of a volunteer fire department - such as support for community events like the Ragamuffin Parade, and the ability to deliver large numbers of firefighters during large events like the 2006 Labor Day weekend storm when this village got pounded.  Nearly 20 volunteers, I included, worked 14 hours away from their families – for free.

The mayor says that the problem is not with the volunteers and not with the quality of firefighting and emergency response. So what exactly is the problem, and how is hiring a paid chief the answer? 

Let us take the time to consider all options, and give the residents a voice.

Angelo Mancino
Volunteer Lt., 2005 Firefighter of the Year
Larchmont, NY

 

March 28, 2007

Chef Heartbroken as Restaurant Closes

To my loyal customers, vendors, staff, and friends, it is with great sadness that I must announce the closure of my restaurant, Lanterna Tuscan Bistro of Larchmont.

I wish to thank everyone for their dedication and patronage over the last eight months. This restaurant has been my pride and joy. The staff has been a family to me, and the patrons have become my friends. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond my control I can no longer continue to operate.

Please forgive me as I have exhausted every avenue to keep my dream alive but to no avail.

Anyone still holding a gift certificate is welcome to use it at my other restaurant in Nyack, which remains open.

My heart has broken with the closure of my restaurant.

Rossano Giannini
Nyack, NY

 

March 27, 2007

Plea for Non-Partisan VOM Collaboration on Fields

On March 12, the Mamaroneck Village Board voted down a feasibility study to consider installing synthetic turf at Lanza Softball Field and Lanza Soccer Field. This recently proposed study focused on one small area of Harbor Island Park, rather than following the guidelines of a more comprehensive Harbor Island Master Plan.

Over many years, there have been various plans and ideas suggested for Harbor Island. The most recent plan was assembled by the very dedicated and capable Harbor Island Planning Committee in 2003-2004. To arrive at that plan several user groups and interested residents met over the course of many months and shared ideas. The plan received a unanimous vote of support from our Village Trustees in November 2004. Since that vote, however, no money has been allocated for surveys, feasibility studies or further implementation of that plan.

There are many organizations that support the park and they would like to continue to have a voice in planning park improvements: The Village Board of Trustees, the Harbor Island Planning and Implementation Committee, the Harbor Island Conservancy, the Mamaroneck Recreation Commission, the three Mamaroneck youth sports leagues (Mamaroneck Junior Soccer, Larchmont-Mamaroneck Little League and Mamaroneck Pewee and Midget Football League), and Sportime (who is the prime tenant of Harbor Island), …all with differing views, concerns, ideas and abilities to get something done. There is new leadership in many of these organizations; now is the time to find a way to mobilize these groups, gain consensus and make some headway.

We ask the Mamaroneck Village Trustees to please join together, in a non-partisan effort, and work collaboratively to find a solution. Doing nothing is like moving backwards. Harbor Island is the largest open space in our community and it should be filled with residents of all ages using it effectively, sharing it amongst many groups in various ways that support all our lifestyles. There can be a way to make this jewel shine and meet the needs of our entire community.

While I write about Harbor Island - the jewel of Mamaroneck - I would be remiss not to mention an undiscovered gem in our community - Taylors Lane.

Upon speaking with the Department of Environmental Control and the County Health Department, we at Fields for Kids have found that there is a clear path to converting this site to recreational playing fields. Whether the focus is on improving an existing park or creating a new park - or perhaps both - Fields for Kids will support a plan that is developed by gaining consensus and community cooperation.

We have a unique situation with a Town, two Villages and two School Districts, which drives a need to have a transparent, thorough effort with a clear spirit of cooperation, which drives good will, trust and a coming together of a community, which drives a consensus of taxpayer support and private donors.

Fields for Kids is happy to help in whatever way we can to arrive at this kind of collaboration.

Jim Hanley, President
Larchmont – Mamaroneck Fields for Kids

 

March 23, 2007

Parents Urged to Attend 2 Meetings on School Plan & Budget

We want to thank the editors of the Larchmont Gazette for their very thorough reporting of the Board of Education meeting held on February 27, 2007 at which Dr. Paul Fried presented his administrative restructuring plan for the Mamaroneck School District.  (See: Administrative Plan Draws Parent Support, Teacher Opposition.) We also wish to thank the Larchmont Gazette for issuing a correction to the original article as well as an editorial note that PTSA, PTA and SEPTA leadership spoke for either their executive committees or for themselves at that meeting, not for any of our general memberships.

As was stated on February 27, the executive committee of the Mamaroneck High School PTSA voted at our regular monthly meeting held on February 7th to issue a statement at the Board of Education meeting indicating our support for Dr. Fried’s plan and highlighting the three main reasons therefore:  improved transition from the Hommocks to the high school, greater consistency in curriculum from grade to grade and within grades, and better opportunities for professional development for all of our educators, tenured and non-tenured.

Since the Board of Education meeting of February 27, representatives of our board and at times, the entire board, has met with teachers, administrators and John Esposito, president of the teachers’ union, in an effort to discuss the proposal and seek consensus wherever possible.  As members of the PTSA executive board, and as parents, we have been very impressed with the thought, effort, and sincerity of all whom we have met. Members of the high school student council have similarly met with both Dr. Fried and Mr. Esposito and asked insightful questions that evidenced both their interest in the proposal and in the process itself.  From our point of view, members of the PTSA, including parents, teachers and students have all engaged in a dialogue about important issues and we expect that this will continue throughout the entire budget process.

On March 27, the PTSA will host a meeting at 7:30 pm in the MHS library at which Dr. Fried, Dr. Christine Grucci and a member of the Mamaroneck School Board will be present to answer questions about this year’s school budget.   We invite, and strongly encourage, all members of the community, parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers to attend. 

At our PTSA meeting on April 23 to be held at 7:30 pm, also in the MHS library, the general membership will be asked to vote to either support or reject the school budget proposed by the district.  We invite and encourage all PTSA members to attend that meeting as well and voice their opinion by voting.

This community has the benefit of having many dedicated volunteers who offer their time and best efforts in working with members of the Mamaroneck School District.  We look forward to continuing this important work, and invite input from all who wish to join us.

Elizabeth Liscio & Margaret Corbett
MHSPTSA Co-Presidents

 

March 8, 2007

Care Boxes Being Collected for US Troops in Iraq

When my husband was serving in Iraq with the US Marine Corps last year, in conjunction with my CCD class and St. Augustine’s Church, we started a care package drive for our troops in Iraq.  It was such a success (over 160 boxes sent!) we did it again this past Christmas (over 260 boxes sent).  (See: Last Minute Blitz Mounted To Send Care Boxes to Iraq Troops.)

They were both incredibly heartwarming and outstanding efforts, and we received many touching thank you notes from Iraq showing how much our service men and women sincerely appreciated our support. (See: After Holiday Care Package Blitz for the Troops, Thank Yous Pour In.)

As an Easter project, we will be collecting items and packing boxes on Saturday, March 24 between 10 am and 2 pm in the St. Augustine’s cafeteria.

We are asking for any items from the wish list. (Click for Wish List.) Please note, chocolate does not travel well since it may melt in the heat.   Also, be aware that the last two sections of the list contain many items which can be ‘gently used’ and simply taken from your homes.   We also are grateful for those who ‘sponsor a box’ by donating funds to help pay for the shipping (the boxes cost $8.10 each).

You and your families and friends are very welcome to come to help us collect and pack items on March 24. If you have any questions, please email me:
jennie.mcfarland@verizon.net

 

Jennie McFarland 
New Rochelle, NY

 

March 6, 2007

Some Parents Question New School Administrative Plan

We very much appreciate the Gazette’s thorough report on the School Board meeting of February 27. (See: Administrative Plan Draws Parent Support, Teacher Opposition.) We are puzzled, however, by the reference to an official approval of Dr. Fried’s plan by the District PTAs. We are long-standing members of the Murray Avenue, Hommocks and Mamaroneck High School PTAs and are unaware of any discussion of the Superintendent’s plan at any of our meetings. While the article’s report of approval may relate to that of the Executive Committees of the various PTAs, it is premature to attribute those sentiments to parents in general. It would behoove the PTA leaders to include the general membership in considering an issue of this importance before making a declaration on the opinion of all parents.

It is clear from the article that the majority of teachers have serious reservations about the plan. It is odd that the “T” in PTA does not seem to be reflected in the PTA leaderships’ official position.

We hope that Dr. Fried’s closing statement about being flexible means that there is still room for research, dialogue and input from the various stakeholders. We have questions and concerns about this significant change and feel that parents and teachers should have a meaningful opportunity to help shape this plan prior to it being put into effect.

Louise E. Cohen & Donald J. Kravet
Larchmont, NY

 

February 28, 2007

Esposito Project Will Enrich Larchmont

I would like to express a contrary view on the Esposito proposal. As a professional planner and as one who has never shied away from a fight to preserve this community I find myself on the opposite side of this controversy from many of my neighbors.

I favor the development because I see it as a positive in terms of the people it will bring to our community. It will provide a supply of lower cost units that are suitable for young couples and retirees who want to maintain a tie to us.

The negatives of this development have been overstated. Height is not an issue. We already have apartment units of more than four stories. I would suggest that they add to the character and distinctiveness of our railroad based village. More importantly, four stories abutting I-95 and the Metro North line will scarcely be visible from the Village. The structures will absorb a great deal of noise that would otherwise reach the Pinebrook neighborhood.

Given the size and number of these units, the number of children they will add to our school system will likely be in the single digits. On the other side of the ledger, these units will pay more in total school taxes then they will generate in terms of school costs.

A development of this size will add marginally to our traffic. It is important to remember that these units will be in walking distance of the Palmer shopping area and the railroad station. These residents will add much less in the way of traffic than those of us who drive to the train and to shop in town.

Most importantly, we live in Southern Westchester where land values are rising and every developable piece of land is probably spoken for by different developers. If we do not get this 4-story development, the next developer will come along and propose 15 stories. Many people think that the zoning code will protect us. They are wrong. The reality of land use law in the US is that it is more like a piece of Swiss cheese than a solid barrier. A smart lawyer will take us to court, as has happened once or twice in Mamaroneck Village, and we will find that our land use determinations will be made by judges and not our neighbors. We will end up with much taller and larger development than we bargained for.

In closing, it is not a question of preserving Larchmont as it is. That is going to be impossible; the real question before us is to plan and control the ways in which it will change. Just saying no is a formula for losing any decision making role. This is really a small scale development that will enrich us in terms of neighbors and friends and it will be at a scale we can live with.

Elliott Sclar
Larchmont, NY

February 18, 2007

LWV: Mamk Moratorium Appropriate

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees took appropriate action when they  voted unanimously to enact a moratorium on multifamily housing of 6 or more units.  In the Village of Mamaroneck alone it is reported that nearly 300 new residential units are expected to go up this year. Clearly the board has responded to the concerns raised by the community at large and the League of Women Voters.

In May 2006 the Larchmont-Mamaroneck League hosted a live panel discussion at the Emelin theater entitled Your Home, Your Community: How Are We Building For The Future?  (See: “Low Impact Development” Urged for Tri-Municipalities.) This discussion was prompted by the obvious development taking place and focused on how to build responsibly in the waterfront Larchmont/Mamaroneck area without sacrificing our quality of life or detrimentally impacting our services and infrastructures. The discussion also advised citizens on how to participate effectively in the planning process.

It is the job of good government to respond to citizen’s concerns and to safeguard the health and development of our community.

Christie McEvoy-Derrico
President, League of Women Voters
Larchmont/Mamaroneck

 

February 18, 2007

Esposito Project Is Problematic

As a commercial real estate investor and developer throughout most of my professional life, I am not anti-development or someone who opposes new development in our community regardless of its merits.  However, I believe the Esposito project as it is currently proposed is problematic on several fronts. 

First, the size of the development is well in excess of what current zoning allows, especially with regard to building height and setbacks.  The zoning variances required are so extreme as to completely obliterate current zoning laws and what they are intended to protect us against.  Consequently, the project will be enormous in size, completely out of scale relative to surrounding buildings, and will dramatically alter the landscape and character of our community for years to come.  Furthermore, approving a project with variances of this magnitude will surely set a precedent for other developers who propose projects exceeding our zoning laws, and who will expect the same type of treatment.

Another concern is the resulting financial strain on both the Village and Town due to the project’s extremely high population density.  With 51 units proposed, the majority being two bedrooms or larger, I think the project will attract many families.  Unfortunately, high density multi-family rental apartment projects usually create a tremendous burden on local services, especially on the public schools.  The large number of new residents typically consume far more in services than the project developer contributes in real estate taxes.  In my opinion, our public schools, especially Chatsworth Elementary, do not have the capacity to handle the potential large influx of children.  If the project is developed, the residents of our community will have to essentially subsidize the project, due to its insufficient tax revenue, and suffer the consequences of an overburdened public school system. 

A third problem I see with the project is the insufficient ingress and egress, and the negative impact on traffic on both Palmer Avenue and neighboring streets.  The project’s main access point is not a public street, but a private narrow drive that is the only exit for the adjacent shopping center.  This drive aisle is barely sufficient to serve in its current capacity without adding the burden of being the main access to a 51-unit residential community accommodating 102 vehicles.  Approving a project of this size with such poor access seems extremely ill conceived and will likely create both safety and traffic problems for vehicles exiting onto and driving along Palmer Avenue.  In addition, new residents of the project looking for a short cut to the Boston Post Road will undoubtedly travel through neighboring residential areas.  Vehicles speeding through these neighborhoods in route to the Post Road are already a problem that does not need to be amplified.

I strongly urge Larchmont residents to consider the impact the Esposito project as currently proposed will have on our community.  Please voice any concerns you may have with Village officials, specifically members of the Zoning and Planning Boards.  Let’s all act now, before it’s too late.

Jonathan Cappo
Larchmont, NY

 

February 15, 2007

Online Petition Expresses Deep Concern Over Esposito Apartments

I am a member of Concerned Citizens for Larchmont, a grass-roots group of neighbors who have come together to express our deep concern about the potential approval of the Esposito apartment construction project in Larchmont.

We believe Larchmont Village Planning and Zoning Board officials need to thoroughly consider all of the ramifications of such a project on our schools, our traffic, our village infrastructure, and the character of our village.

We need to understand how this project, which would require precedent-setting variances, would be beneficial to our community.

As such, we have set up an online petition to inform residents about the Esposito project and allow them to register their concern about the project as it now stands. Click here to see the petition: web petition.

We have had an immediate and strong response from the community. In less than 1 day our petition has received over 170 signatures and the numbers are growing by the minute.

We wanted to let you know about the website and encourage you to look at some of the comments residents are making on the project.

Thanks for your interest.

Katherine Holzman
Member, Concerned Citizens for Larchmont

 

February 15, 2007

Hommocks Principal Showed Poor Judgment on Rodriguez

This is in response to the letter from Dr. Seth Weitzman of February 6th 2007. (See: Principal Rejects Insinuations Of Lawyer In Suit Against District.)

I am a father in the community with children in the school district, the same as Dr. Weitzman, and a daughter who had Omar Rodriguez as a teacher for 3 years. Fortunately for me, my daughter is not one of the abused students.

I believe that Dr. Weitzman is missing the entire point here: no one has accused him of harboring or tolerating a pedophile. What he has been accused of is complete incompetence.

Facts are facts. It was Dr. Weitzman who hired this man. OK, so anyone can make a hiring mistake. Unfortunately the mistakes don’t end there; Dr. Weitzman had several years to evaluate and make a tenure determination which was enough time for Mr. Rodriguez’s mentor, Michael Kollmer, to clearly form an impression that he should not be granted tenure. Yet Dr. Weitzman seems to have ignored this among other warning signs and granted tenure to Mr. Rodriguez anyway.

Besides Dr. Weitzman’s poor judgment of Mr. Rodriguez as an appropriate teacher for the MUFSD there are other errors in judgment that we should not ignore. The district conducted a formal investigation of Mr. Rodriguez’s behavior in December of 2005, coming to the conclusion that Mr. Rodriguez was behaving inappropriately with students but allowing him to continue in his teaching position. It is hard to understand, how trained professionals did not see the truth at this time. However, what is harder to comprehend is why just a few weeks later in March 2006 Mr. Rodriguez was cleared to chaperone an out-of-school overnight trip to Washington D.C. with 8th grade students.

Regardless of anything else that was going on at the time, which clearly there was, the decision on which teachers are allowed to go on out-of-school overnight trips is completely under the direction and control of the principal. It is this last mistake, above all of the others, which I find the most egregious and needlessly put our kids at risk.

Ted Stevens
Mamaroneck, NY

 

February 6, 2007

Teachers Raise Questions On Superintendent's Restructuring Plan

As the President of the Mamaroneck Teachers' Association, I first became aware of Superintendent Paul Fried’s administrative restructuring plan just one week ago, on January 30. My initial reaction was that some of it made sense in terms of reassigning certain administrative responsibilities. At that time, the piece regarding subject-specific directors appeared to be more about staff development than about supervision. Now the focus is mainly on supervision.

Supervision confirms whether or not good teaching is taking place. Staff development should concentrate on improving instruction. Closer supervision doesn’t necessarily result in better teaching. In fact, it can have the exact opposite effect if it’s handled poorly. Teachers are supervised now. Actually, since 2000, it has been a State mandate that both tenured and non-tenured teachers be evaluated annually. So, most teachers don’t see a crying need for more supervision.

Staff development is something that should always be important, but we must be sure that it’s quality staff development. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case, which is why teachers are inclined to be skeptical. The main question teachers are asking is:

How will this plan help to improve the quality of education?

Right now, a major justification for this restructuring seems to be that other districts have similar models. Teachers would like to know more about how well those models are working in other places and by what means their success is being measured. These are legitimate questions. Both the community and the School Board should want answers to them too. Throughout this week, teachers will be meeting at Hommocks and Mamaroneck High School to formulate more specific questions. Since we have so many good teachers, I anticipate that many good questions will be posed. I hope that they will be well received and that the answers will lead us to the best decisions.

John P. Esposito, President
Mamaroneck Teachers’ Association

February 3, 2007

Help Wanted on County Global Warming Task Force

An opportunity has opened for citizens interested in helping Westchester County identify practical steps to reduce global warming. On December 29, 2006, County Executive Andy Spano appointed the Climate Protection:  Westchester County Global Warming Task Force. Its mission is to recommend specific ways to reduce global warming and foster sustainable development. It has 6 months to produce a report that lays out implementation strategies appropriate for all sectors of the community. 

There is a steering committee and sector  committees for Government, of which I am a member, Business, Education, and Environmentalists. Sector committee members also serve on subject committees, including ones on: Green building, alternative energy, and energy efficiency; Recycling/waste reduction and green purchasing; Transportation and fuel alternatives; and Land Use.

As you can imagine this is a big job, and the Task Force is seeking associate members for the subject area committees.  If you are concerned about the problem of global warming and sustainable development  and would like to be involved, please leave your name with the Village Clerk at 834-6230 or contact Robert Funicello, Westchester County Environmental Project Director, at Rff3@westchestergov.com.

Marlene Kolbert
Larchmont Village Trustee

 

January 30, 2007

Great Service at Watercolor Cafe

I am usually the first to complain, but when someone is deserving of praise, I love to dish it out. It is true that you can ask for something off the menu in a restaurant.

The Watercolor Cafe proves the point: After telling me that they only serve diet Pepsi, not diet Coke, my server, Rob, magically reappeared at my table with a diet Coke, exactly to my liking. He actually went to the CVS down the street to get it for me.

Now that's service!

Abbe Kirsch
Larchmont, NY

January 24, 2007

Join Local Peace Rally: Jan 27

There are a number of us who can't be in Washington, DC on Saturday to protest the escalation of the war in Iraq, but feel we could – and should – make a statement locally.

Years from now, your children may ask you what steps you took to help end the Iraq War – what will you tell them? 

A peace rally has been organized at a convenient location in our community.  Come for your children, your children’s children, your neighbor’s children and for the world’s children who are suffering in Iraq right now. 

Bring signs, friends, family, the dog  – even if just for a half an hour – come!

WHEN:  Saturday, January 27, 2007 11 am – 1 pm

WHERE:  Corner of Weaver Street and Palmer Avenue in Larchmont

Please join us – don’t underestimate the power of showing up – support the troops and their right to live in peace. 

Andraya Dolbee
Larchmont, NY

January 18, 2007

Getting the Field Facts Straight

This week, hundreds of residents received a letter and survey from the Flint Park Conservancy asking for input on the Village of Larchmont’s proposal to put a new turf field at Flint Park. While Fields for Kids supports the idea of a survey to solicit community input, this particular letter and survey contained numerous factual errors and omissions which are misleading and could potentially bias the survey results.

In addition to factual misstatements, the Conservancy letter excluded mention of the benefits of the new field, which renders it ineffective in giving respondents a means to weigh the pros and cons of the project. A balanced understanding of all aspects of the new plan for Flint Park is necessary to make a sound judgment.

Just a few examples of erroneous information in the letter include a mistaken understanding of the “quid pro quo” necessary for the Village to obtain funding for the project from the Westchester County Legacy program, the assertion that the picnic ground would be removed when instead the plan calls for relocation and revitalization of the picnic area, and the statement that the number of baseball and soccer fields would be reduced, when in fact they stay the same.

An example of information omitted from the Conservancy letter is the fact that fencing for the new field would replace the existing fencing for the tennis courts. The existing tennis court fencing, at 10 feet tall and without any landscaping, would be replaced by field fencing which would be approximately four feet tall and extensively landscaped. Also omitted from the Conservancy letter is mention of the enhanced pedestrian and bike paths included in the proposal.

Please see our website, www.fieldsforkidsmamk.org/News.html for a complete press release.

Most importantly, please take the time to become knowledgeable about the Village’s proposal for a new field. In addition to the two public work sessions held since December, two more are planned on January 20 and January 24. In those sessions, the Village will continue to gather input from key user groups and community organizations so that the final proposal is responsive to feedback. Through open dialogue and consensus-building, we can enhance Flint Park for both active and passive recreation.

Jim Hanley
Mamaroneck , NY

January 4, 2007

Balance Priorites For Fields, Children & Others at Flint Park

Re the proposed field in Flint Park to be funded partially by the County’s Legacy program: (See: Residents Weigh In on Adding "Legacy" Field at Flint Park.)

As the mother of three young children who participate in recreational and travel sports -- soccer, hockey and lacrosse – I, like others, have been frustrated by cancelled games due to flooded fields. However, I am also a founding member of the Flint Park Conservancy, dedicated to preserving the park’s beauty for all residents, not just those involved in organized sports.

I worry about involving children in more and more competitive sports at increasingly younger ages. Given our community’s limited park space, why must we dedicate more of it to fields? What happened to free play? What about the handicapped or those not involved in town sports? What about those who come to the park to read, to fly a kite or model airplane, and to throw a Frisbee? Dare I ask about skateboarders?

At the recent Village Board meeting, I was horrified to hear the County Parks representative compare Flint Park’s possibilities to Saxon Woods and its new turf fields. Flint Park is accessible via quiet residential streets only and, as such, is almost hidden and unknown to non-locals. This is part of its charm – the incidental way you run into acquaintances not only at soccer games, but at the tennis courts, flagpole or playground.

Even the most advanced lighting and progressive landscape design won’t change the “soccer park” feel created with fenced-in fields in a relatively flat park. Do we want that look in the park? And, while I sympathize with parents who cannot get home before dark to coach and appreciate lighting the fields to allow for later practices/games, have we completely acquiesced to night practices for young children? Is the problem insufficient daylight or fields or too many children --starting at age 6 – in too many programs vying for the limited fields we have?

“Shot gun” planning for Flint Park is faulty. We cannot balance all the park priorities -- identified by residents in an early Conservancy survey -- if we rush the approval of a turf field without a master plan which considers parking, perimeter screening, open space, the waterside walkway along, wildlife, trees and drainage. More importantly, we cannot balance all the priorities we have for our children if we rush to improve the conditions for competitive sports at the expense of other activities.

Yes, Larchmont children are disappointed when games get cancelled, but they will live and prosper nevertheless. While adding another field in Flint Park may result in more games and practices, I doubt it will yield more Olympic stars or college scholarships. Instead of moaning about the infrequency of family dinners, tournaments scheduled during school holidays, and the need to keep up with other communities, Larchmont needs to join the national debate on competitive sports, sports injuries and what is good for our youth. Yes, address the field issue, but not at the expense of raising balanced children or sacrificing other priorities for Flint Park.

Lisa Argrette Ahmad
Larchmont, NY

December 29, 2006

More Time Needed Before Vote on New Field for Flint Park

The Village of Larchmont held a meeting of its Board of Trustees on December 11th to discuss new plans for an artificial turf field in Flint Park. (See: Residents Weigh In on Adding "Legacy" Field at Flint Park.) I spoke on behalf of the Flint Park Conservancy at the meeting. I requested that the board allocate more time to considering options before voting on the Legacy program to build an artificial turf field in an environmentally sensitive area of Flint Park. The Flint Park Conservancy has yet to form a position on the newly introduced plans and is seeking to obtain full information to provide input on behalf of its members to the Village trustees. Mayor Liz Feld was quoted as countering that "we've been talking about this issue since July; we held meetings [where] no one spoke up." I want to set the record straight.

The Conservancy has been advising the Village on issues related to the park for many years, and was only advised several weeks ago of the new proposal. The Conservancy raised the money and led the building of the new playground and attended regular meetings over several years on the redevelopment plans for Flint Park previously approved by the Village trustees. The mayor and trustees stated during the election last spring that they were proceeding with these plans without change and denied reports published over the summer that they were considering alternatives.

The mayor and trustees did not notify the Flint Park Conservancy or provide public notice in its published agenda for the Village Board of Trustees meetings of the new plans until November. Since this time, the mayor and trustees have been very helpful in answering questions regarding the plans, but the public deserves more information and time to consider opinions and alternatives before proceeding. The proposed plans for the artificial turf field have yet to be made available to Conservancy or the public.

The proposed artificial turf field will have a major impact on the users of Flint Park, its neighbors and the environment. The community needs to have the plans and other information and ample time to provide feedback before making a decision on proceeding. Voting to proceed without development plans and a brief public discussion over the holidays is not wise or considerate.

We are all aware of the ill will, time and money that has been wasted on other local projects where legitimate concerns were not properly considered prior to rushing to judgment. We live in a small community with a diversity of need. The Village trustees should be sensitive to these needs and concerns and maintain an open mind to compromise and discussion.

Michael Zupon
Larchmont, NY

December 24, 2006

Warm Water Species Found in Sound

I recently read your article about the giant sunfish spotted in Larchmont Harbor. (See: Giant Ocean Sunfish Sighted in Larchmont Harbor.) About 10 years ago a friend of mine was out fishing with his daughter by the Larchmont Breakwater (the rock jetty by Larchmont Harbor) and spotted a giant sunfish at least 10 feet long. Many species of fish normally found in warmer waters find their way into Long Island Sound through the Gulf Stream. From time to time there have been sightings in the Long Island Sound of pilot whales, manatees, and bottlenose dolphins, so I am not surprised to hear about this latest sighting. I myself, and several others, saw a bottlenose dolphin at Hudson Park in New Rochelle about 15 years ago.  And we all know about the harbor seals that visit here in the late fall. My son came face-to-face with one while swimming off Echo Bay Yacht Club in New Rochelle.

My best fishing is done in Larchmont:

This 40 pound bass was caught in 2005 from my boat near the Larchmont Breakwaters.

Bob DeLeno
New Rochelle, NY

December 21, 2006

Design for All of Flint Park

With regard to Flint Park, I designed a new plan over 3 years ago based on conversations I had with Monroe Eberlin, [Larchmont's park consultant] who has since passed away.

He suggested looking at the park as a whole, not just one piece as he was instructed to do by former Mayor Ken Bialo.

Then only right way to design for the future - a 20 year plan - is to design the whole park and implement in stages. Also, as Mr. Eberlin asked me to do when I designed for new ballfields, is to look at other areas. I read about parks and the desire for green space, limiting vehicular traffic, creating longer walking areas, adding to nature by removing roads. These were trends I took into account.

So, my design broke a given Mr. Eberlin was not given permission to do. I moved the Babe Ruth League field back towards the new building and added a soccer field. I also removed some road.

The mayor has my plans, and I have requested she show them to others so that ideas might flow about might be possible to do.

David Levine
Larchmont, NY

 

 

 

 

 

December 20, 2007

Myers For Denial of County Pay Raise

I applaud the action taken by the Westchester County Legislature today [on December 17] to deny the legislative pay raise as proposed.

I did not support the pay raise proposal because I did not believe that the issue was afforded the same due diligence given to the 2008 County budget as a whole. Until this due diligence is complete, including the establishment of a Legislative Compensation Committee and the issuance of an advisory opinion, I cannot in good faith vote for a stipend increase.

I look forward to a timely recommendation for fair and equitable pay levels, from this committee. I thank the League of Women Voters, the Westchester County Association and other concerned taxpayers in this County for their input and I look forward to working together with my colleagues to serve the needs of the people of my district and the County as a whole.

Judy Myers
County Legislator, District 7

December 13, 2007

Give Children Gift of Your Time

The best gift you can give your child this holiday season is the Gift of Time.

Parents remain the most important influence in their children’s lives, particularly when it comes to decisions about drugs and alcohol.

Go to a movie, ice skate, go shopping, have family dinners… share your time with your kids – it’s worth the investment.

Be a good role model for your child – if you drink, drink responsibly.

If your child is going out - call the parents of the home your child is going to. Find out if adults will be home and supervising and most importantly if there will be alcohol. Not all parents share the same values as you when it comes to underage drinking. Don’t allow someone else to make the decision that it’s okay for your child to drink.

If you know of an unsupervised holiday party or are aware of stores that are selling alcohol to underage kids, contact your local police department or call our Tri-Municipal Alcohol Tip Hotline 914-381-6103 to anonymously report the incident.

On behalf of R.A.D.A.R. (Responsible Action: A Drug and Alcohol Resource), best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.

Janet Buchbinder
Coordinator of R.A.D.A.R.

December 3, 2007

Kudos to VOL Board for Moving Forward on Turf Field

I want to applaud the outcome of last week’s special meeting of the Village of Larchmont trustees in moving forward to award a contract for the installation of a synthetic turf field in Flint Park. (See: Larchmont Village Board Approves Turf Field.) More importantly, I want to commend the Village for the process it followed and the positive tone it set amidst what had, unfortunately, become a polarized debate on environmental and health issues. The Village mayor and trustees thoroughly evaluated an overwhelming amount of information in weighing the risks and benefits of proceeding with the long-planned addition of a new turf field. With the additional filtration and ongoing monitoring included in the plan, the decision should be one which all residents can support, even those who have questioned or opposed turf fields in recent months. The outcome appears to help meet our community’s needs for more and better fields while providing assurance that the health of our environment and children will not be compromised.

The Village of Larchmont decision is an important first step toward bringing up the standards of our community’s athletic facilities to what our children deserve. But it is only a first step. The Mamaroneck School Board is in the process of deciding the fate of plans for additional turf fields which are still critical to both school and community athletic programs. I hope the School Board will follow the example set by the Village of Larchmont and move forward with its proposal for Plan C, replacing current grass fields at Manchester and Memorial with turf facilities. That plan represents the culmination of several years of collaborative effort among local, county, and volunteer groups.

I hope our community can be united in moving forward on the basis of a shared commitment to the health and vitality of our most precious asset - our children.

Linda M. Spock
Larchmont, NY

November 26, 2007

Instead of Plastic, Upgrade Organic Field

I think that some members of the community are confusing two issues regarding new artificial fields. The fact that we need more fields with more playing time on each field is, I believe, what most everyone agrees on. I have not heard anyone say they are opposed to more and better playing fields.

What they are confusing is what the composition of these fields should be. Old tires are considered toxic enough to be disposed of in a specially capped, toxic landfill. The most comprehensive study to date was a public/private venture in France. The tire field manufacturer helped underwrite the study. It figures prominently in the manufacturer's literature. The motives of the company's regarding safety claims are questionable at best.

The more I read, the more I am reminded of the movie, Erin Brockovich. Here is a quote from Wikipedia about the real Erin's dilemma: "Some experts argue that the exposures [to carcinogenic Chromium] at Hinkley were too low to cause health effects, while others respond that there were too many gaps in the data on chromium to dismiss the Hinkley residents' case." The report warned that the negative effect on lab animals couldn't be extrapolated to humans. It was eventually decided, rightly, that the company (PG&E) was perpetuating - and covering up - a major health threat of their own making.

This parallels the crumb rubber studies. The company trots out its studies; independent scientists conduct theirs. Each study is called into question by the other group. (FieldTurf calls any disparaging studies "junk science.") The two new studies (EHHI and RAMP) find troublesome evidence that the tires leach neurotoxins and carcinogens, while cautioning that further studies should be performed to asses human health risks.

Another writer called for the precautionary principle. That is a good filter. Why take the chance if there is so much doubt? There are good alternatives out there. For the cost of just one plastic field (up to $750,000), I'm sure we could perfect the drainage for two organically-maintained fields. Then everyone could have fields that are playable, healthy and safe for our children, good flood control for our region and a healthy, useful home for the fauna that surrounds them.

Catherine Wachs
Larchmont, NY

November 15, 2007

Support Student Athletes By Upgrading Fields

At the Mamaroneck School Board meeting on Tuesday night, November 13, I spoke in support of the field improvement plan they presented. I did so because this is important. Sports are the only connection some kids have to what is a large and sometimes overwhelming school. Being on a team is what gets some kids to come to class, to do their best. Kids need to feel connected, and being part of a sports team is what does that for some.

But the adults in this community need to show our student athletes that we think this is important and that we are proud them. We have not done that, we have not provided the resources and facilities that tell them we believe in them and we believe in their commitment to their teams.

We as a community have shown our musicians that we value what they do by providing state of the art practice rooms and performance auditoriums. We have shown our science researchers that we value what they love by building top notch science labs. We have shown our performing artists that we think their interests are important by having the PACE program and theatre, a jewel by the standards of any school district. We show we care, we show we support them and their efforts, and that should continue. We need to show this to our athletes as well. If we don’t show them that it is important, pretty soon the athletes themselves will start believing it’s not important. They will stop trying, stop participating. Then all the good things they do at school, if for no other reasons than to be allowed to be a part of the team, will go away as well.

We owe this to this group of kids. Giving kids things to be part of and be proud of is our responsibility as a district and as parents. Providing adequate resources and facilities is part of that responsibility. The time is now. The kids need to know we care.

Joan Clark
Larchmont, NY

Join Drive to Send Care Package for Troops: Dec 2

I am writing to let you know about our next care package drive for our troops in Iraq on Sunday, December 2 from 10am – 1pm at St. Augustine’s Church in Larchmont. 

With my third grade CCD class, we started sending care packages to our troops over 2 ½ years ago when my husband was serving in Baghdad with the US Marine Corps. Since his return in May of 2006, with the help of many generous members of this community, we have held 2 more package drives and sent at total of over 700 well-stocked care packages to grateful marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen.

Please bring care items from list below and/or cash donations (to help pay shipping costs) to the church cafeteria and/or email me at Jennie.McFarland@verizon.net to make other arrangements. We also welcome you and your families to come and help collect and pack items on December 2nd.

Troop Wish List

TOILETRIES:

Foot Powder
Razors
Q-Tips
Chap Stick
Shaving Cream (tubes)
Nail Clippers
Wet Wipes
Eye Drops

READING MATERIAL

Sports Cars
Fitness
Outdoors
Crossword Puzzles
Comic Books
Recent Sports

FOOD

Microwaveable Meals
Cheese/Cracker Packs
Beef Jerky
Store bought cookies
Slim Jims
Tuna Fish in Packets
Dry Cereal
Cup-a-Soup
Granola Bars
Sunflower, Pumpkin Seeds
Gatorade
Gum
Hard Candy
Whey Protein Bars & Powder

MISC ITEMS

Black Socks
Knit Skull Caps
Under Armor T-shirts Hand Warmers
AA, AAA batteries
Crayons
Blank Discs
DVDs
AT&T Calling Cards
Small Flashlights
Mini Travel Games
Flip Flops (for showers)
Disposable Cameras
Frisbees

Jennie McFarland
New Rochelle, NY

November 8, 2007

No Clear Evidence Of Turf's Harm

In the wake of the recent article in the NY Times, it is important to keep in mind that there is no clear evidence proving that synthetic playing surfaces are harmful to those who play on them. While there is a recent study that raises questions about the products used to construct synthetic fields, this study is inconclusive as to how they may, or may not, affect the health of those who play on them. There are numerous studies over the past 10-12 years that indicate these surfaces and their integral products are safe. In fact the Westchester County Department of Health, the New York State Education Department and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have all approved the installation of synthetic playing fields for our children.

Further, if we are to question the safety of these new surfaces we should also question the alternative – natural grass fields. Although there have not been challenges to grass safety over the years, there may in fact be similar hazards due to unsafe field conditions, chemicals used in maintaining grass fields and bacteria/germs found in organic material.

Fields For Kids is not in a position to draw any conclusions. We are not scientists. And like everyone else we will be open to hearing the scientific facts as they become available. It is important, however, to stay measured and understand how these kinds of challenges sometimes (sometimes, not always) come with unclear agendas or biased funding behind them and can take on a life of their own if not tempered by neutral, solid investigation on both sides of the issue.

Fields For Kids will continue to gather and review all pertinent information, and learn and take the lead from our government’s health departments, who have been advocating for the use of synthetic turf. We will stay true to our mission, which includes the development of healthy individuals.

Fields for Kids is a community-based organization whose mission is to advocate and raise money for the adequate number of safe and up-to-date playing fields for students participating in school-related and community-run sports programs in our area.

We Support:

  • The positive impact of active sports participation on academic performance and the development of healthy individuals.
  • Municipal and community efforts to find prompt solutions to the current shortage of fields, including investigation of new fields, turf, and/or lighting.
  • Partial private funding for the upgrade of existing fields and creation of new outdoor fields.

Jim Hanley
President, Fields for Kids

November 7, 2007

Inaccuracies on Turf at VOL Board Meeting

I am one of the Westport mothers who brought concerns about crumb rubber infill to an environmental education and advocacy group, Environment and Human Health Inc. EHHI), last spring.  EHHI then funded a study of crumb rubber by a state agency, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES). (See: press release and study from EHHI.)

Neither EHHI nor CAES receives corporate money for their work. I don't believe the "natural grass industry" exists. The synthetic turf industry, however, does.

After reading your article, I was stunned at the false and inaccurate information at your October 29 Village Board meeting. (See: Larchmont Board Addresses Turf Safety Concerns.) These include:

False: “… this is not a risk to our children,’ said Trustee Anne McAndrews, who pointed to the many years that artificial turf has been in use."

Fact: CAES found chemicals of concern being released under typical field conditions. Crumb rubber infill has only been in use for the last decade and is unregulated by the EPA or by state agencies.

False: Trustee Jim Millstein criticized the small CAES study, saying the rubber was subjected to extreme conditions, and compared it to the larger body of research, mostly from Europe, “which uniformly concluded that there is no concern for health.”

Fact: CAES found “under relatively mild conditions of temperature and leaching solvent, components of crumb rubber produced from tires (i) volatilize into the vapor phase and (ii) are leached into water in contact with the crumbs.”

A comprehensive research review by Dr. David Brown found no uniformity of results. Several European countries and Korea have raised concerns for human health and the environment and have put limitations on installation and use of synthetic turf.

False: Mr. Millstein said if future research shows turf to be harmful, it would be simple to remove the rubber layer.

Fact: Crumb rubber is a loose component and would be difficult to remove. With fields costing up to $750K, towns and schools won’t want to remove them. If the infill is proved hazardous, Larchmont will incur great cost dumping it elsewhere. Who will pay? Further, does Larchmont want its children exposed to substances that have raised health concerns?

Finally, there is Lori Brandon of Fields for Kids, who compared the turf debate to “those we have seen surrounding cell phone use" and other products where there may be “unclear agendas or biased funding behind research." Turf fields are an expensive, new choice and not, as Ms. Brandon implied, ubiquitous and necessary, like cell phones, coffee, or carpeting. 

I agree that Larchmont officials should check sources of information carefully. Why rely upon manufacturers' claims of safety, especially over those of independent scientists and a Connecticut state agency?

We must use common sense, act with caution and think carefully before exposing children to unnecessary health risks. We face enough unavoidable environmental contamination - this is something we can avoid, if we act cautiously before installing more fields.

The information that raises concerns about crumb rubber is new – that doesn’t means it is bad or that we can ignore it.

Why the rush?

Patricia Taylor
Westport, CT

November 6, 2007

Walker Safety Outweighs Motorist Inconvenience

My family includes four children (ages 3-20)and a visually-challenged senior citizen. We all use the Chatsworth-Myrtle-Murray intersection as pedestrians, multiple times per week. I also drive through the intersection daily.

As someone who heavily utilizes the intersection as both a pedestrian and as a motorist, I can tell you that the enhanced pedestrian safety far outweighs motorists' inconvenience. Valerie O'Keeffe and the local police should be commended for greatly improving pedestrian safety at this dangerous intersection.

Leslie Lange
Larchmont, NY

November 5, 2007

Odierna: Intersection Unmitigated Disaster

The Chatsworth-Myrtle-Murray intersection is an unmitigated disaster. While it was re-designed primarily - supposedly - for pedestrian safety, in reality it does not accomplish this goal and, in many ways, has made a bad situation even worse.

Every time the Town decides to put up a stop sign, there is a hearing before our Town Traffic Committee, then they
present their findings to the Town Board and we hold a public hearing before deciding to put up the sign or not.

While the Town Board agreed to contract with a company to design and install a new "traffic sensing signal" at the intersection, no proposal was ever presented to, or discussed by, the Traffic Committee and or the Town Board. [No one] except for our Town administrator, who has been meeting regularly with the contractor and the consultant, and possibly our Town supervisor, Valerie O'Keeffe, specifically addressed the installation of "No Right on Red"  or "No Left Turn" signage at this intersection.

To have three police officers standing around on the corners assigned to "crime prevention" while traffic is backed up for blocks in every direction seems ill-advised, to put it kindly. Not only are the police officers not even trying to unscramble the mess, they ignore cars turning right at the red light on the corner of Chatsworth and Myrtle, giving the few pedestrians using the crosswalk between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm a false sense of security. Drivers, impatient because of the long delay in finally getting to the intersection, speed up and race down Murray and Myrtle to make up for "lost time."

While the ConEd gas leak repair certainly adds to the delays and frustration surrounding the intersection, it was bad even before ConEd came on the scene.

It's good that the Town put up signage on the corners, under the "No Turn" signs asking motorists to be patient, and that the lights will be "Re-timed" after ConEd is finished, but why should the Town bother to have a Traffic Committee if they are not given an opportunity to "opine" on such important issues as the redesign of the most heavily trafficked intersection in Town?

We are all concerned about pedestrian safety but when a pedestrian or a motorist is required to wait an inordinate amount of time for a green signal, everyone gets impatient and people are liable to make dangerous decisions.

I don't profess to be a traffic engineer and I feel certain the firm we have hired to help us make the intersection is capable of doing a good job but, at some point in the process, those of us that live here and walk or drive through the intersection every day should be given an opportunity to be heard on the subject. It shouldn't be left to just the supervisor and the Town administrator.

Ernie Odierna,
Town of Mamaroneck Councilman

November 2, 2007

Pols Must Resist Tech Temptations

Although I'm not a resident of your zip code area, I, too, have been plagued by robo calls from Andy Spano and wish to thank you for your absolutely right-on editorial of October 30. (See: Save Robo Calls for Emergencies.) The specific call you mentioned, that endorsing a judicial candidate in next week's election, really took the cake.

Advancing technology is putting all sorts of temptations into the hands of those running for or in office. They should be resisted by all, but particularly by the County executive. Calls from him should be a signal to pay attention because of some emergency, not a signal to hang up immediately in order to avoid further unwelcome invasion of our privacy.

Even reminders about Household Chemical Cleanup Days can be done by others and in other ways; Mr. Spano should restrict himself to messages absolutely necessary for public safety.

Betsy Shaw Wiener
Croton-on-Hudson, NY

October 31, 2007

Stop "Crazy" Use of Leaf Blowers

Paul Schwendener's timely and well reasoned letter (See: Leaf-Blower Use is "Simply Crazy) deserves the careful attention of every local official, property manager and homeowner in our community. Thank you Paul for reminding us there is a better way to deal with leaves.

Let's change the 'crazy' use of polluting leaf blowers. Let's stop the madness.

Robert Funicello
Village of Mamaroneck, NY

October 31, 2007

Hire Enough Lifeguards to Keep Pool Open

What is going on? I find it very disheartening that the pool leadership can't hire enough lifeguards so that the pool can open on time and stay open. Last night (10-30-07), the pool was in fact open, but it needed to be vacated because there was only one lifeguard on duty. I have a few questions for the Recreation Department: How come your lifeguards aren't showing up? Are you managing them correctly? Are they being disciplined or docked pay if they don't show up for their time slot?

This community has spent a lot of money on the pool. There are many residents who enjoy the pool and use it on a daily basis. Now that the pool is in good mechanical order, the Town can't seem to run it properly. This is a disgrace.

Susan Cohen
Larchmont, NY

October 30, 2007

Supv O'Keeffe: Safety of Pedestrians Paramount at Myrtle

My office and that of the Town administrator have received many comments about the new traffic light phasing at the Chatsworth/Myrtle intersection.  Since the new lights have been installed with an exclusive pedestrian phase, we have heard from many of our residents.  Slightly more than half of you find the new arrangement to your liking, primarily because it allows safe passage from one corner to another by pedestrians, especially elderly and frail people and the many people pushing baby carriages across the intersection.  Slightly less than half of you have expressed annoyance, irritation, and impatience in varying degrees.  Our traffic engineers will revisit the intersection to analyze how to balance the needs of the pedestrians and the needs of vehicular traffic. 

Please keep in mind that the changes in the intersection were brought about primarily by complaints over a 15-year period by people who found it very dangerous to cross the intersection, which is unique in the sense that it has 5 roads leading into it - not 4 roads like most intersections.  In addition, the number of non-locals using the intersection has increased substantially since we took our last traffic count two years ago.  More and more traffic seems to be exiting and entering I-95 than ever before.  It appears that a substantial amount of traffic exiting I-95 in Larchmont now uses the intersection as a means to drive to the western part of the County; e.g., Scarsdale and White Plains. 

Also, the current configuration at this intersection is basically the same as the Village of Larchmont's intersection at Palmer Avenue and Chatsworth Avenue.  There is an exclusive pedestrian phase and no right turn on red on every corner.  The Town of Mamaroneck intersection does prevent a left turn from Myrtle to North Chatsworth to prevent the queuing up of traffic on Myrtle.  This does not pertain to the Village of Larchmont situation.

As soon as Con Edison finishes repairing the gas line at Vine Place, Murray Avenue, and Myrtle Blvd., the traffic engineers will revisit the intersection at rush hour to determine what action may be taken. We have discovered that having two intersections with same features in close proximity to one another has increased the waiting time for motorists.  To ease this problem we are meeting with the Village of Larchmont to determine whether the traffic signals at both intersections can be coordinated to ease the wait for motorists while maintaining pedestrian safety.

Please be patient and remember the purpose of the change, though frustrating, is safety of pedestrians.  There have been several pedestrian mishaps in the last years.

This intersection change was the result of a State Department of Transportation grant which was voted in the affirmative by every Town Board member.

Valerie M. O'Keeffe
Supervisor, Town of Mamaroneck

 

October 26, 2007

Government Not Serving Residents on Esposito

Larchmont Village government is not serving its residents with the latest zoning board vote. This time around, the zoning board approved the design for an apartment building on Palmer Avenue. The project is 4 stories whereas 2 ½ stores are permitted, and otherwise violates our zoning code in nearly every measurable way. Several residents have eloquently summarized the monumental variances in letters written back in June and July. Apparently these letters, a petition signed by 578 village residents, and standing room only attendance by residents at planning and zoning meetings weren’t enough to convince board members that the residents desire them to apply the regulations more closely and the variances requested are just too great.

A few years ago Larchmont residents expressed outrage over a proposed Ikea project in neighboring New Rochelle. At that time, New Rochelle’s mayor listened to the valid concerns from Larchmont residents and the project was ultimately scrapped. When it comes to this project however, the majority on our board aren’t giving the same respect to fellow citizens. Rather, they referenced the residents’ concerns as “anecdotal” and even suggested residents should have hired their own consultants to counter existing data. Who are the members representing any way? Such comments are insulting to the residents who expect government to work on our behalf.

A small developer from Peekskill complained he couldn’t make a large enough profit unless he could build his building much larger than what village laws allow. Now, a tract of land approved for 51 units would surely be worth more than the same tract zoned and approved for 40 units. The land value is based on the best use as permitted by current laws. If the developer can’t make a profit by building within the requirements of existing land use regulations, perhaps he paid too much for the land. Alternatively, if market rental rates (taking into account the inclusion of 5 affordable units) are too low to provide a fair return on the cost to build, well then the project just shouldn’t be built.

The zoning board can support controlled development in our Village. The zoning regulations though, are in place for a reason, and it is unfortunate that the majority would support such substantial variances from code, in the face of so much Village opposition. The residents’ important voice should not be ignored or marginalized on this issue.

I fail to understand what the benefits of this project are to the Village. I do understand the costs, however, in terms of negative neighborhood effect, greater congestion and density. The project will almost surely become a precedent for other sites in the Village where developers will expect their own 4 story zoning variance for future proposed buildings. I urge the zoning board to stick more closely to the regulations, particularly with respect to height and density. If Esposito Builders cannot make enough profit by building in accordance with our codes, someone else will when it makes economic sense to do so.

Bruce Habig
Larchmont, NY

 

October 24, 2007

Join March to End War Now: Oct 27

Thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, many more have been maimed, and  the future of our children and grandchildren has been mortgaged to repay the (as of October 3) $457 billion dollars borrowed and spent on a hopeless war of occupation. Meanwhile our domestic health, education, and welfare programs are further cut or eliminated.  On Saturday, October 27, opponents of this agenda will gather in New York  and 10 other cities to demand an end now to the occupation of Iraq.

To travel to the rally with likeminded neighbors, get on the “Peace Train” at 10:26 am in Mamaroneck, 10:29 in Larchmont, or 10:33 in New Rochelle. Look for passengers on the platform wearing No War buttons or other identifiers. Upon arrival at Grand Central, if you’d like to march with No War Westchester, look for its banner in the Main Hall. If you prefer to proceed on your own, walk south on Park or Madison to E. 23rd Street, then west to Broadway to begin the march at 1 pm.

Organized by United for Peace and Justice, the march will end at a Peace and Justice Fair in Foley Square, where there will be opportunities for people to find out how they can become more involved in the ongoing work of many organizations.

Visit www.oct27.org for more information, and turn out on October 27 to let Congress know that we want this war to end, and we want it to end now!

Judy Doolin Spikes
Larchmont, NY

October 24, 2007

UK Way: Responsible Teen Drinking

I read with interest your report on the recent Local Summit meeting (see: Teens & Alcohol: Permissive Parents or Nothing to Do?) at which discussion concerning teen drinking figured prominently. As a Scotsman born and raised, who has lived in the USA for nearly ten years, I think I can bring a slightly different perspective to this topic. The gist of the commentary seemed to be "parental responsibility,", with which I would agree wholeheartedly, but there was the implication that "responsibility" equaled "responsibility to prohibit." I think this is the wrong approach.

In the UK, children over the age of five may consume alcohol in the home, and young people over the age of 15 may be served beer and wine (but not spirits) in bars and restaurants, if in the company of someone over 18.

I think this kind of responsible drinking under parental supervision is far preferable to strict parental prohibition, which vastly increases the attraction of the "forbidden fruit," and inevitably leads to the kind of irresponsible, excessive, and illicit experimentation in the woods that was discussed.

Teen drinking isn't a problem per se; it's a matter of when, where, with whom, and how much. I'd have been better pleased if the Summit had also discussed the best ways to promote "responsible" teen drinking. I fully intend to raise my own kids using the UK model!

Michael Ross
Mamaroneck, NY

October 24, 2007

 

End of MHS Video Program?

I graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 2007 as a four-year member of the video production program. I was proud of my achievements, which included my work in video. But future MHS students are unlikely to have the luxury of taking such an elective.

The program, as of this school year, has been effectively terminated.

A brief history of the program for those unfamiliar with it: The past four years have seen three different teachers in charge. My freshman year teacher laid a good foundation for the program before unexpectedly leaving MHS before the 2004-2005 school year. Her replacement had a precarious two years before he was let go. His successor, who by all accounts had a great year, shockingly was let go at the end of the school year.

A teacher hired for this school year resigned immediately before school started. This left the administration scrambling to search for a teacher. In the end, after no teacher was found, it was decided to cancel the program for the 2007-2008 school year.

While it is hard to blame the school for this latest debacle, the school has shown a total disregard for the video program. In each of the past four years the curriculum has been different with respect to the types of courses offered. Last year, a course designed as an independent study for advanced seniors ended up becoming a class with sophomores, juniors and seniors, including some who had never taken video before. Because the program had only one video teacher, when that teacher was replaced, the curriculum was completely modified as well. The program has also been laden with what seem to be unfair/untimely assessments and teacher evaluations.

In the past, the video program has fostered some incredible talent. David Haug, now a freshman at Ithaca College's media studies program, was inspired by MHS video. He has created many 3D animations which rival those of professional television networks. Current senior Grannel Knox has created several films and documentaries using techniques he learned through the program. It seems that every year, for the past few years, there have been one or two students in each grade who have become enthralled by video and excel at it. If the school brings consistency to the program, certainly more students could fall into this category.

Unfortunately, it looks as though this is the end of the MHS video program. While not as big as P.A.C.E or art, it should command comparable respect to the other departments at MHS. The school also has excellent resources in the LMC-TV studio attached to the high school and an editing room.

Last year, I published an editorial in the MHS newspaper, The Globe, concluding that if change did not happen soon, the video program would no longer exist and the TV studio and thousands of dollars worth of equipment would be for naught, along with the creative power of artistically hungry and devoted students.

It's scary that this prediction is now coming into focus.

Eric D. Goodman

 

October 18, 2007

Turtle Brings Out The Neighbors

Late one afternoon, three young boys bounded up my steps yelling, “Come out Mrs. McDonald. Come out!” Thinking the house was on fire, I hurried down my steps. To my amazement, there was a cluster of my neighbors – babies in mother’s arms; toddlers in strollers; daddy’s still in business suits with sons in tow.

All were tuned into some dark movements. What could that be on the edge of the brook?

It was a turtle! [A very large turtle – with a shell perhaps two feet across, reported the letter-writer’s son.] Alive and moving. Where did it come from? The ocean? The Sound? Our brook?

To the delight of the children, this turtle stuck its neck out and moved it slowly back and forth as we all watched. Finally, one daddy said, “Come on children, we’ve got to get supper. It is getting dark.”

What a wonderful neighborhood sharing. We have a nature museum right in our front yard.

Mary P. McDonald
Brookside Drive, Larchmont

 

October 12, 2007

Zoning Board "Outrageous" on Esposito Apartments

It is outrageous that the Zoning Board has voted in favor of the Esposito project moving forward. (See: Zoning Board Supports Variances for Esposito Apartments.) What is the point of building codes if they are completely ignored? Why should a builder be able to buy a property and then completely disregard the rules and have the project approved? If the building can't be built to code, then sell the property to someone who will comply with the village code.

It is my hope that this fight is not over. As a resident of the Pine Brook neighborhood I believe our needs and our children's safety have been completely overlooked in favor of a ridiculous project that is clearly out of bounds.

This decision is a total cave-in to a developer over the residents of the neighborhood. There is no justification or excuse for this decision.

Barry Silverstein
Larchmont

October 2, 2007

Mourning MHS Grads Killed in Viet Nam

Many thanks to Ned Benton and the Gazette for the extremely touching and moving article on the price Larchmont and Mamaroneck paid during wartime. (See: "The War" Hits Home - Yesterday and Today.)

As a 1965 graduate of Mamaroneck High School, I played freshman football with Dick Western, shared a short time on the swim team with David Porterfield, and dated John Batterson's little sister.

All three brave men died in Vietnam, and I still think of them and mourn their loss. I cannot imagine the grief their families share.

I salute those fine young men.

Joel Sanoff
Sherman Oaks, California

September 27, 2007

Retired Schools Supervisor Reacts to Audit "Scandal"

I retired from the position of supervisor of building and grounds in 1997 after many years of service with the Mamaroneck Union Free School District. I recall Dr. Otty Norwood, superintendent of schools, and Mr. Paul McDevitt, assistant superintendent for business and finance, were two wonderful, outstanding people to work for. These two men were dedicated to the district and all the people they were responsible for. It was a pleasure to come to work each day, with never a hint of scandal.

Now we read about scandal. Its ugly tentacle has reached all the way to Florida with the issue being the board’s careless record keeping and engaging Bill Koulouris to manage and direct the district’s computer system, while he was living and working from Greece, and spending $650,000 over a period of years on his contracts. What search was made to find a qualified person in this area to do the same job? Certainly there were hundreds of talented people that could do the same job that would live within driving distance of the office so on-site conversations could be had on a daily basis. If people are angry, their anger should not be misdirected at Bill Koulouris. It should be with the board of education  and the administrator who allowed the situation to occur in the first place. 

Why were the board’s minutes inadequate, not all encompassing?  What role did the assistant superintendent for personnel play? That office should sign all consulting agreements.

I would urge readers to go on line and read the New York State Comptroller’s report dealing with MUFSD from July 1, 2004 through May 31, 2006. The Westchester County district attorney, I am sure, has read it, because that office is now involved in it.

Richard Gardner
Bradenton , Florida  

 

September 20, 2007

Time to Set Fire Merger in Motion

I write in response to letters from Mayor Liz Feld (Chatsworth Fire Safety Unchanged ) and Larchmont Fire Chief Rich Heine (No More Fire Danger Now Than Last Year).

Larchmont’s $152,000 Fire Chief has now admitted that, on average, fewer than three volunteer firefighters are responding to the typical alarm – hardly enough (combined with the 3 career firefighters typically on duty) to safely initiate firefighting. And his figures include members who are not certified for interior firefighting. Yet he and the mayor claim that Larchmont is in “no greater danger than yesterday, last month or last year.”

He should back up his claims about current fire safety with proof – a comparison of fire alarm attendance records from before and after the reorganization. I have copies of the attendance records for all of last April and for May until the Village Board appointed the paid chief. An average of 7.6 interior-qualified volunteers responded to alarms (not parades and meetings) and, when it mattered most, 17 interior-qualified firefighters responded to the fire on Mayhew Avenue and 25 responded for duty during the nor’easter.

Is there any doubt that the Larchmont Fire Department's firefighting capacity has collapsed? Can LFD produce more than a handful of qualified volunteers in response to a fire or major storm?

Is there any doubt that consolidation with the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District (TMFD) would save money and reduce response times for certain neighborhoods?

Is there any doubt that TMFD’s more than 50 active volunteers (including 13 volunteers who recently switched from LFD in the wake of the reorganization) could provide better fire protection at a lower cost?

The mayor and her chief don’t offer facts to dispute concerns raised about the shortage of qualified firefighters. Rather, they attack the motives and impugn the character of those, like former Chief Mike Wiener and me, who state the obvious: Larchmont’s fire department is dangerously deficient.

The mayor and trustees are the only reason we are not progressing toward consolidation right now. They claim to be interested in “studying” consolidation, but what have they actually accomplished other than delay? Larchmont needs demonstrable leadership – a public declaration that the mayor and trustees favor consolidation, and a public meeting with the Mamaroneck Town Council to set in motion the next steps.

Ned Benton
Former Village Trustee and Former Active LFD Volunteer Firefighter

September 20, 2007

Village Residents Less Safe

In response to a letter written by Chief Heine (LFD Chief: No More Fire Danger Now Than Last Year), I feel obligated to weigh in with some pertinent comments. I am a lifelong resident with a wife and three kids in addition to eight immediate family members that all live within the confines of the Village. I am also an active volunteer firefighter with the TMFD with fifteen years of experience, but I am writing this letter solely as a Village resident and not on behalf of the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department.

To have Chief Heine claim that Village residents are as safe as they have ever have been with regards to fire protection after 18+ active volunteers have resigned is an insult.

There are fewer people responding to calls. The math speaks for itself, full stop.

Fire scenes are dangerous places where people can get hurt. There are a series of events that need to unfold that require manpower. LFD does not have that valuable resource anymore. I fear for the career staff that may become over-stretched at the scene of an active structure fire.

Who will back them up? Who will fill the gap? At what cost? It is my opinion that Village residents are less safe than they once were.

Now that Chief Heine has some wind in his sails, he should be focusing on a plan to rebuild the department and outlining that plan to the public, not insulting those of us who care.

Andres F de Lasa
Larchmont, NY

 

September 14, 2007

LFD Chief: No More Fire Danger Now Than Last Year

In response to the recent comments made by Michael Wiener and Ned Benton at the September 10th Village Board meeting (see: Former Trustee Warns of Fire Dept Peril; Merger Under Study), I would like to assure the residents of the Village of Larchmont that they are in no greater danger from fire today than yesterday, last month or last year. I have been a member of the Larchmont Fire Department for more than twenty years, eighteen as a professional, and our Department continues to stand ready to respond to any and all calls for service.

Our schools and businesses are inspected on a regular basis for Fire Code compliance as required by New York State law. To further ensure the safety of our students, schools are required by law to conduct fire drills and practice evacuations in case of emergency. The Larchmont Fire Department also offers, upon request, free home fire safety inspections.

In protest over the Village Board’s appointment of a career professional fire chief, Messrs. Benton, Wiener, and others continue to try to dismantle the Larchmont Fire Department. For the past four months they have encouraged our members to resign; they have boycotted alarms for service; they have discouraged prospective new members from joining; and they have tried to maintain control of the financial capabilities of the individual fire companies. I do not know of any organization that allows personnel who have resigned to hold positions of leadership, financial control or active participation at any level.

The Fire Service is larger than any individual or group of individuals. While Mr. Benton may wish to destroy the Village of Larchmont Fire Department and try to blame others for his own actions, he will not succeed. The Larchmont Fire Department will continue to be a combination volunteer/career Fire Department. We will continue to recruit new membership; and we will continue to train and work together as one department in order to provide the best possible fire/EMS service to our community. We will continue to work with our neighboring departments to explore cost savings, equipment sharing and mutual aid, as no single department can staff or equip for all major catastrophes.

I am proud to lead a Fire Department that will carry on the tradition of selfless service to our community as the men and women did who came before us, and we will instill these traditions and ideals in those who follow.

One team, one fight.

Richard Heine
Larchmont Fire Chief

September 11, 2007

Mayor Feld: Chatsworth Fire Safety Unchanged

At the September 10th meeting of the Village Board of Trustees, former Trustee Mike Wiener, in urging the Board to pursue a merger of the Village’s Fire Department into the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department, made a series of inflammatory and baseless assertions regarding the public safety of students who attend Chatsworth School.

As a member of the fire department, Mr. Wiener should know the current fire protection policies and procedures for alarms at Chatsworth School. These policies and procedures have been in place since 1995 and have remained unchanged since the Village Board’s appointment of Rich Heine as chief of the Larchmont Fire Department in May of this year. Any alarm at Chatsworth School is automatically responded to by both the Village of Larchmont Fire Department and the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department, just as any alarm at the Town of Mamaroneck’s elementary schools, Murray Avenue and Central, are automatically responded to by both departments. A merger may or may not have other benefits, but residents can be assured that it would not change the coverage of alarms at Chatsworth School today, given that both departments already respond automatically to any alarm there.

Mr. Wiener is entitled to his own opinions but not his own facts. His statements that the children at Chatsworth School are currently at risk displayed either ignorance of the Village’s fire protection policies and procedures or a level of partisanship that should have no place in this Village.

Mr. Wiener is not only a former Village trustee and ex-fire chief, but a plaintiff in the volunteers’ lawsuit against the Village. To try and scare Chatsworth School parents and children in order to advance a particular argument in the ongoing battle with the Village Board over the appointment of a professional fire chief was grossly irresponsible and crossed the line of decency. Most importantly, Mr. Wiener’s claims were untrue: Chatsworth School receives the finest fire protection and emergency services available, and merger with the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department would not change those services in any respect.

Mayor Liz Feld
Village of Larchmont

September 6, 2007

Consolidate Fire Service, Use Savings for Infrastructure

Larchmont faces a local version of the national infrastructure crisis - $5 million or more of streetscaping, fields, parks and flood control along with maintenance and improvements to water and sewer systems. Mayor Feld recently pronounced a $4 million remedy to Pine Brook flooding as "doable." Financing all these projects could double or even triple the debt that the Village has financed in recent decades.

Infrastructure investments are needed, and they would bring Larchmont more in line with other New York State villages. According to comptroller's statistics, in FY 2005 the average New York village invested 10.1% of its annual budget in debt amortization, while Larchmont invested only 3.3%. Larchmont’s decades of comparative underinvestment may be part of the reason we face an infrastructure crisis today.

Repaying $5 million in new project bonding could cost roughly $500,000 per year over the 15 to 20-year life of the bonds. To avoid a tax spike, we’ll need to find $500,000 in annual savings to offset costs of needed infrastructure projects.

Significant cost savings can be found in the Fire Department. Even before the Village Board hired a $152,000 paid fire chief in May, the Larchmont Fire Department budgeted approximately $400,000 more in firefighter salaries than the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District, even though LFD is responsible for 40% less property than TMFD.

The two departments are operationally similar. TMFD normally schedules three career firefighters who respond to alarms with apparatus. They are met at the fire scene by volunteer firefighters for a combined response. But Larchmont adds a 4th paid firefighter on some day shifts, and TMFD sometimes reduces paid staffing at night to two, when a volunteer can operate one of the engines.

However, Larchmont’s labor contract prohibits volunteers from operating fire engines. More importantly, we’ve recently lost most of our volunteers, many switching membership to the TMFD after the board installed their paid chief.

Fortunately, there is another way. An LFD Fire Council study has recommended that Larchmont become part of an expanded Town of Mamaroneck Fire District that would include both fire stations. Larchmont Village taxpayers would pay for fire protection in their Town tax instead of their Village tax.

By bringing personnel costs in the Larchmont firehouse in line with TMFD, Larchmont taxpayers would reap a net $400,000 savings. That’s enough to offset a major chunk of infrastructure improvement and the cost of related debt.

Even more savings could be achieved by reducing duplication in equipment and coverage. Most importantly, some neighborhoods would get faster emergency response.

Why pay extra for a department that has lost its essential firefighting force? Through consolidation we can save money, offset infrastructure costs, and improve fire protection.

Ned Benton
Former Village Trustee and Former Active LFD Volunteer Firefighter

August 9, 2007

Firefighter of 33 Years Resigns

(Editor's Note: This is a shortened version of a letter sent to the Larchmont Village Board.

I have belonged to Volunteer Hook & Ladder Company since 1984.  Since then I have put my life in harms way to defend this village. My training is equal to that of professional firefighters.  I have served my company as lieutenant for 6 years, captain for 6 years, president for the past 8 years, and I have sat on Fire Council for the last 11 years.

Since the mayor and board hired Rich Heine as paid chief, I have been
confused about what this department would become.  The union president,
Brian Doherty, continuously asks, "What are we afraid of?" Here are a few
reasons:

On May 26th, out of frustration I e-mailed my resignation to the board.
After Trustee Jim Millstein e-mailed my company asking me to defer my
resignation, I replied on June 18 that I would defer.

Since then, the mayor implied we were thieves and Mr. Heine locked us out of our rooms. He has also suspended the only deputy chief that was willing
to stay and has harassed other members of the Hook and Ladder Company.

On July 9th, I went to the Fire Council meeting as a warden voted by my
company, and to my surprise Mr. Heine and Mr. Millstein decided to accept my
original e-mailed resignation, ignoring my deferral and telling me to reapply if I wanted to return.  This is a 3-month process and I refused. As a department member for 33 years, I find that insulting and unwarranted.

After the meeting, I was confronted by several members of the paid staff on
the apron floor with disrespectful comments and names.  I moved away to speak to Mr. Millstein, who said any member who had sued the Village would not be welcome.

Next, Steve Forrest, a paid firefighter, came charging towards me yelling
profanities, and Mr. Heine and Mr. Millstein had to restrain him back into
the firehouse.  Later, Mr. Heine and Mr. Millstein denied this happened. The next day, when I went to file a report, Police Chief Steve Rubeo refused
to write one and said if I was dissatisfied I could file with the
Westchester district attorney, which I have done.

So to Mr. Doherty's question, this is what I was afraid of.   Once again Mr.
Heine refused to accept my active membership, so effective Monday, August 6, 2007, I am officially resigning from active membership. I will move to
associate membership and will remain as president of my company. I hope
this board will respect and recognize me, as they have in the past 33 years.

As to Mr. Heine's order to resigning members, I have returned my turnout
gear, boots, helmet and pager. But as a lifetime member, I am not only
entitled to a departmental funeral, but to be buried in my uniform, which I
am proud of and was paid for by my company.  So if Mr. Heine really wants
it, he could exhume my body after my death and take it.

Ray Maldonado
Mamaroneck, NY

July 26, 2007

Assess Fire Dept Before Making Changes Permanent

The Village Board's experiment with Larchmont's fire protection has begun. If excuses and finger-pointing could put out fires, the Larchmont Fire Department would be in great shape. But Larchmont's fires have to be extinguished the old-fashioned way - with experienced firefighters.

The initial effects of the restructuring are awful: many experienced volunteer firefighters have quit and most of the departmental leadership positions are vacant. But the board went ahead in the face of ample warning and opposition, and it's now their job to make their plan work - or admit that it can’t work.

This plan is not permanent - yet. Early next year, the board will reach another turning point, when they decide whether to make the provisional chief permanent, and when they may hire some new paid firefighters. Between now and then, the Village deserves candid and objective information about Larchmont’s fire protection.

I suggest the following objective measures of fire protection performance, comparing before and after the restructuring.

  • Number of Qualified Active Interior Volunteer Firefighters: This is a basic measure of volunteer personnel strength. Last year - from April 2006 through March 2007 - LFD had a total of 30 such volunteers. These were members who had completed training for interior firefighting, had gear, and who responded to at least 15% of events.
  • Average Volunteer Firefighter Attendance Per Event: This is a broad measure of actual volunteer firefighter availability. Last year the average for all volunteer firefighters was 10.2 participants per event, of which 8.9 were active interior volunteers.
  • Number of Volunteer Training Hours: This is the total number of hours that volunteers have committed to county, state or department training.
  • Average Qualified Interior Volunteer Firefighter Attendance at Working Fires: This is one of the measures used by the insurance industry to rate fire departments in determining certain fire insurance rates.
  • Average Volunteer Firefighter Attendance During Major Storms: This is important because during storms, aid from nearby departments may be unavailable.
  • Paid Firefighter Salaries: Larchmont budgets $400,000 more for paid firefighter salaries than the Town of Mamaroneck for the Weaver Street firehouse - to accomplish basically the same objectives. Will the board’s plan lead to long-term savings or additional costs?

If LFD can’t perform better than it did before the board pronounced it as “broken,” then the Board should a) not permanently appoint the paid chief; b) not hire any new paid firefighters; and c) ask the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District (TMFD) to take over our firefighting.

This choice would, according to a Fire Council study conducted last fall, save money, shorten response times and improve firefighting – achieving improved performance on all of the measures set out above. Furthermore, since many of Larchmont’s volunteer firefighters are in the process of joining the TMFD, Larchmont would get back many of our volunteer firefighters.

Ned Benton
Former Village Trustee and Former Active LFD Volunteer Firefighter

 

July 18, 2007

Coyote Seen in Larchmont

I thought I would share with my neighbors a sign that perhaps Robert Service was right when he said that "the Wild must win in the end."

On July 17, 2007, at 11:25 pm, I saw a coyote on North Chatsworth Avenue, just down from the foot of Mountain Avenue. I was standing on the sidewalk in front of my house, and he came from across the street to about ten feet from me. I made some noise to make sure he was aware that I was there, and he stopped, looked at me, and then turned and ran back into the hedge across the street. He did not appear to be rabid as he was behaving normally, but he was not overly alarmed by my presence.

 I am an experienced outdoorsmen and this was definitely a coyote, not a dog. As proof that I was not like some hick in a swamp seeing a UFO landing, my wife Judy, who most people in town would say is the sane one in the family, also saw the coyote through our window.

As animals such as coyotes become more accustomed to humans and there is greater contact, we should take precautions so that they do not become too familiar. For example, people should not keep small pets chained in their yards, especially at night, and we should always watch our toddlers (hopefully they will not be out at 11:25 at night). Also, we should try not to make things too attractive for our Wile E. friends, such as by limiting the accessibility of food sources such as garbage.

Beep beep.

Robert S. Herbst
Larchmont, NY

July 18, 2007

Resigning Volunteers Pressuring Remaining Firefighters

I have been a volunteer firefighter in the Larchmont Fire Department for the last seven years as a member of the Hook and Ladder company. The recent promotion of a career chief has created considerable controversy among the volunteers of the department, some have decided to resign, while others like myself have chosen to continue to serve the community.

In the last few months there have been many positive things that have happened. The relations with the career members have improved, morale is a little better and we have started to train with the career staff. I personally think that things are going to continue to improve and I look forward to what the future of the department will bring.

The one disappointing and frustrating thing I have seen is that certain volunteer members that have resigned from the department but have chosen to remain as associate members of the companies have been discouraging me and others from participating in functions and drills. They say just show up for fire calls and that’s it. I didn’t think that was what volunteering was about. While I may not agree with those that have resigned, I respect their decision, why can’t they do the same?

Mike Williams
New Rochelle, NY

 

July 5, 2007

School Board Values Community's Input & Support

We would like to thank you for the overwhelming support of the revised school budget for the 2007-2008 school year. While we were disappointed that the first budget did not pass in May, we believe that the experience of listening to and working with the community to adopt and pass a revised budget was very valuable and will benefit all of us going forward.

As a board we are committed to finding new ways to communicate with both parents and the broader community about the challenges we face educationally and fiscally. We are committed to working with community members and our legislative representatives to address funding issues that we, like many others, face as a diverse community with rising mandated costs and limited community resources. And we are committed to ensuring accountability while seeking to find ways to improve the educational experience of all of our students.

But we also hope that you learned something from this experience. The community needs to be more informed about budgetary issues and to get involved earlier in the decision making process and to be engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the board about district priorities and solutions. And the community must help us work with our legislative leaders to get a fairer share of state funding for our schools.

Many people volunteered their time and effort to educate and energize the community about the importance of passing the revised school budget and we are tremendously grateful for all their hard work and dedication. It is that kind of effort in support of all of our children and our schools that makes Larchmont and Mamaroneck a great place to live.

We thank all of you for your support of our schools.

Have a wonderful summer.

The Mamaroneck School Board

June 18, 2007

Latimer Seeks Input on Congestion Pricing

One of the most impactful proposals to reach Albany this year has been Mayor Bloomberg's plan to establish a congestion pricing program that would charge drivers a fee of $8.00 for entering Midtown Manhattan - described as Manhattan south of 86th Street - on weekdays from 6 am. to 6 pm (higher charge for trucks).  This plan, part of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC2030 recently announced to deal with expected growth in New York City over the next two decades, may come up for a vote this week as we close the 2007 legislative session.

Normally, I would hold a community forum to invite speakers pro and con to debate the issue, and solicit your feedback over a longer time frame. While the concept has been discussed in smaller circles for years, it has hit the general public just recently.

I invite you to look at two web pages that describe the pros and the cons of this issue......

    PRO Congestion Pricing

    CON Congestion Pricing

...and then share with me by e-mail your opinions on the idea. I have not yet decided how I will vote on the matter, so I welcome your input in case it does come to fruition this week. I cannot answer questions on its implementation or exact modifications that may have been discussed over the weekend by leadership, since I have yet to review a bill with the final specifics at hand. We'll all have to do the best we can with the information we have at hand.

As always, I value your thoughtful input. please e-mail your friends along the Sound Shore and invite their input as well.

George Latimer
NY Assemblyman, 91st A.D.
latimeg@assembly.state.ny.us

June 11, 2007

Budget Defeat Would Threaten Arts

We have lived in this community for nearly 14 years. Our family moved from New York City for many reasons, but the primary reason was for the educational opportunities provided by the Mamaroneck School District. We were so impressed by the wealth of educational options available to our children in Mamaroneck that we decided to make it our home.

Last week I attended the Mamaroneck High School spring concert. I wish the entire community could have attended this concert … the orchestra, band and choir were so incredible. As I watched the performance, I started to think about what both of my daughters (ages 15 and 18) have received over the years from this district.

Yes, they have learned to think. They have had good teachers, they have had bad teachers. They have learned to write and they have taken high level physics and calculus courses. However, when I start to think about what they have really received from their Mamaroneck School District education, I realize it’s the “extras” that have made the difference. As a college freshman, my daughter continues to play in an orchestra, chamber orchestra and ensemble group. I am sure her exposure to music in our district is directly related to her love of music. It has changed her life. There is so much to be had from these experiences. Although my children do not participate in PACE, a performing arts program that is unique to our district, I have seen some of their work, and it is so impressive. The art program is also very strong -- if only there was enough time to try everything the district has to offer.

Many of us moved to this district because of the educational and enrichment opportunities. We cannot let these wonderful programs be threatened, as I believe they will be under a contingency plan.

As a member of the community and a parent of two children, I strongly urge members of the Larchmont/Mamaroneck School District vote “yes” to the revised budget on June 19. School enrichment opportunities are not available to every community; let’s make sure they stay in ours.

Barbara Staffaroni
Larchmont, NY

June 8, 2007

Do Students Have Right to Privacy on Social Network Sites?

Regarding your story on MHS students and their pot smoking plans for prom night. The issue of teens and drug use can be debated on many different levels, and there is no doubt that the issue is a critical one for parents, educators, law enforcement and the students themselves. However, in light of the details regarding this story, perhaps there are other issues that could benefit from an open and honest debate. One of them is the right to privacy. Do students have less of a right to privacy than adults when it comes to private conversations or e-mails in social networking websites?

Should school administrators or law enforcement officials have access to or take advantage of anonymous tips regarding the contents of such private conversations in order to harass, embarrass, or cast false suspicion on those who may have no intent to commit a crime or engage in any illegal activity? That the Larchmont Gazette chose to publish a story based on an anonymous tip from someone who decided to interpret and divulge the contents of a conversation that appeared on a student-only network raises even more issues than invasion of privacy. Yes, we want our children to be safe, healthy, and responsible citizens, but it's worth considering that to accomplish that, we also need to respect their rights as citizens.

Richard Cohn
Mamaroneck, NY

June 8, 2007

Change Was Needed in Fire Department

After several lengthy public meetings, the Larchmont Village Board voted unanimously on May 16, 2007 to appoint Richard Heine, a professional member of the Larchmont Fire Department, chief of the department, ending the practice of appointing as chief the individual elected by the volunteer firefighters.

Many residents spoke with great sincerity and emotion about the skill and dedication of the Larchmont volunteer firemen and argued against the proposed change.  One of those was Jane Orans who recounted a mother’s pride and concern watching her sons, Jake and Sam, exit a burning building as they ably and bravely performed their duties as volunteers.  She and we are justifiably proud of their work.

Although I have lived with my family in Larchmont for 46 years, with some knowledge of village operations, I was not prepared to witness what I saw at the public meetings about the relationship between paid and volunteer firemen: animosity, disrespect and inability to work together.  The firemen openly acknowledged that the volunteer and professional firefighters do not trust one another, do not speak to one another or speak rudely, and, most regrettably, do not train together.  This absence of cooperation is alarming and potentially dangerous, yet no one who spoke against the proposed change offered any steps to restructure what is obviously a non-functioning system.

The opposition to a change in command in the Fire Department was the argument that we should not alter “history and tradition.”  But you cannot justify a dysfunctional system especially in such a key, vital service agency.  Many practices in this country which were rooted in “history and tradition” were changed when they were recognized as impediments to the country’s health and welfare, such as women’s right to vote, minorities’ rights to equal education, and women’s rights in sports.  I recognize that this analogy is imperfect in this instance, but relying on “history and tradition” without examining what the main impacts of that reliance may be is shortsighted.

The decision of some volunteer firemen to resign in the wake of the board’s decision to hire a paid chief causes one to examine the important issue of dedication and consideration of what is best for the village and its residents.  The volunteers have served the Village of Larchmont well for decades.  I would like to think that they would consider volunteering to be a fine opportunity of service to our and their community even in the face of significant change.

 It is at best premature for them to abandon their longstanding role of service to the village before knowing the outcome of a change most citizens at these public meetings indicated they support.

Tom Curnin
Larchmont, NY

June 7, 2007

Rejecting Budget Will Strain Real Estate Market

I am writing to encourage Larchmont and Mamaroneck residents to vote for the school budget on June 19. Although the temporary budget defeat is disheartening, I think we must appreciate this moment in time to grow and share as a community.

I believe there is a misconception that rejecting the school budget will fix the tax problem. Unfortunately, it is not so simple. To defeat the newly proposed budget would impact many areas of our lives

Rejecting the school budget will strain our real estate market. Rejecting the school budget could become a tipping point for the buyers. A homeowner could pay a 6% school tax increase for 92 years before they would break even with the depreciation caused by a 5% drop in the value of their home. Voting “no” puts home values at risk but changes very little. The tax differential for the average household is 94 cents a day. Rather than just saying “no,” we need to ask “why”?

76% of the budget is comprised of salaries, benefits and pensions which are mandated either by the state or union contract. That is approximately $85,109,749 of a $111,986,512 budget. These costs are rising at 6 to15% per year. If we assume an annual 8% increase in these costs (which is realistic), the salary/benefit/pension portion of our budget will have consumed 100% of the current budget in 3 1/2 years. Our school district has been cutting things to attempt to contain these costs and offset tax increases for years. There is nothing left to cut - we already send in paper towels!

I believe many of the teachers and administrators are as unaware as taxpayers when it comes to the true nature of our budget issues. The teachers’ union contracts are being negotiated right now. It is time as a community we ask our teachers to sit with us and face the changing landscape. We must begin to implement change - not for lack of good will but rather for lack of infinite resources.

I urge you to vote “yes” on June 19 and give the school district and teachers what they need to operate. Then, I urge you to go home and think about how you can help facilitate the change that is needed. This is not a local issue, the entire county is facing these challenges. Let’s open a dialogue in which we can work together so we do not find ourselves in this same position again next year.

Cathy DeVore
Larchmont, NY

 

June 6, 2007

New Budget Responds to Community Concerns

In a school district that educates more than 4,900 students with a $100,000,000 plus budget it’s easy for every resident to find expenditures they disagree with. The program that benefits one or both of our sons may or may not add value to your family. If you don’t have children in the schools your overriding preference may be to control expenses and eliminate or at least minimize tax increases.

The Board of Education responded to community concerns and developed a revision that cut more than $1.5 million from the defeated budget. The revised budget supports high quality education that all students in the district deserve.

A no vote on June 19th will force the board to adopt a contingency budget that requires deep cuts affecting both academic and extra-curricular programs. A contingency budget will have a negative impact on students, families and ultimately the entire community.

Many of the increases in this budget are no different than the unavoidable costs faced by families and business such as a projected 13% increase in health care benefits. The 4.79% tax increase, well below the 6.51% average Westchester increase, is the lowest in more than a decade while enrollment has gone up more than 20% during the same period.

In an increasingly competitive world education is not the place to cut corners. In support of our family and our community we are voting yes for the budget on June 19th and ask you to do the same.

Rebecca and Scott Mazin
Larchmont , NY

 

June 6, 2007

Revised Budget is Lowest Increase in Many Years

The Mamaroneck School District and the Board of Education have come forth with a new budget recommendation that will increase taxes by 4.79%, the lowest increase in many years and well below the average for the county. I think this budget deserves our careful consideration and affirmative vote on June 19th.

The voter turn out for the original budget was very light and hopefully this time residents have more information and can make an educated decision about supporting our schools. Passing this budget is very important to the district as we do not want a state mandated contingency budget that would adversely affect the many terrific programs in place in our district. Please come out and support the new budget initiative on June 19th.

John Farris
Mamaroneck

June 6, 2007

Voting No Again Won’t Help

Voting “no” on May 15th sent a message to the Mamaroneck School Board. Voting “no” a second time would be counter-productive and would hurt our children and our property values.

The School Board has listened to the people and dramatically revised the ’07-08 school budget.

A defeated budget this time around will force a contingency budget that will save the average taxpayer less than $350 per year, and yet will cause our schools to cut major programs and increase class size – eliminating things that we have taken for granted and that are cherished by parents and students alike. Once imposed, these cuts might last for many years, because reinstituting them together with the many contractual or mandated annual increases would cause an even greater tax increase than the one recently rejected.

At meetings following the May 15th vote, people expressed many specific frustrations, but none of them will be resolved by a “no” vote now. A ‘no’ vote won’t give us smaller classes or better teachers and principals; won’t fix the Hommocks pool; won’t improve curriculum and transition; won’t make our schools safer. Voting “no” won’t reduce staff salaries and benefits or eliminate state-mandated expenses. Many of these items are important to address at School Board meetings or by lobbying at the state level. Voting “no” now is not the way to affect such changes.

Our democratic process is designed so that we can have a say. We have ample opportunity to contribute to the budget process, to challenge the decisions, to question numbers and to expect the board and administration to be fiscally accountable. But we should be doing that in the months that lead up to a budget vote, not after voting down a budget while facing a contingency plan that would seriously affect the quality of education for our children. The board and administration provide many avenues all year for residents to have input, get copies of the budget book, come to meetings and call or write decision makers.

Please vote “yes” on June 19 th - and get involved beginning June 20th. Our children are depending on us.

Patty Horing
Larchmont

June 6, 2007

Budget Defeat Would Harm Children, Property Owners

We live in a wonderful community filled with diversity as well as smart, hard working, and talented individuals. At this present time we are all faced with two major concerns: increasing property taxes and an annually rising school budget.

It is essential that we recognize the value of education in our community. The children in the Mamaroneck School District will go on to make positive changes in our world and have an important role in the future. We are challenged on a daily basis to deal with and manage the increasing costs of living from all corners, not just education.

The Board of Education recently approved a revised budget. Although not perfect, this revised budget is a much better solution than the alternative - being forced to a contingency budget which will drastically impact our school system. This would have an extremely negative impact on our children and all property owners.

This is serious and everyone must get out and vote and vote “yes” for the revised budget. Every vote counts. A state mandated contingency budget would adversely affect our wonderful schools and potentially eliminate so many of the quality programs we are fortunate to have.

I urge the community to get out there and vote “yes” for the revised budget on Tuesday June 19 th at our neighborhood elementary schools.

Jenny Moskowitz
Mamaroneck , NY

May 31, 2007

Volunteers Provide Protection, Save Money

If someone calls the Larchmont Fire Department for a fire emergency, the response is not: “you [paid firefighter] go first and I [volunteer firefighter] will come later if you need me.” Instead, the response is immediate and concurrent on the part of the volunteers and the 3 to 4 paid firefighters on duty. A paid firefighter radios the volunteers the call; the volunteers respond immediately with their own vehicles, day or night, from home or workplace. The only difference in the response is that the paid firefighters drive the apparatus to the scene.

Because of their work shifts, the paid firefighters end up responding to fewer fire calls (approximately 23-30% of fire-related calls) than many of the volunteers. A chart circulated by the volunteers showed each department member’s rate of attendance: the first seventeen on the list are volunteers. Each has answered more calls than any of the paid firefighters.

Sadly, all of those seventeen, and five more volunteers - including myself - have resigned from the department effective by the second half of June.

We keep hearing that the LFD has a “full complement” of 15 paid firefighters. Let’s not forget that only 3 or 4 members of that “full complement” are responding to calls at any point in time. (If indeed all the other eleven were to respond, they would have to be called back on overtime.) At the last fire on Mayhew Avenue, seventeen Larchmont volunteer responded to the call, plus 15 from the Town and Village of Mamaroneck departments, for a total of 32 volunteers. Since the call came at the time of the shift change, there were 6 Larchmont paid firefighters, where normally only 3 or 4 would have been available. All of this is not to dismiss the valuable contribution of the paid firefighters, but to explain why they cannot provide a “full complement” for fire protection in the village.

It has also been claimed that “mutual aid” can solve the problem of having fewer volunteers. Such a system allows us to receive help from the neighboring communities. However, your community must also be able to provide help to others. What kind of help can our Village give without our volunteer firefighters? What kind of mutual aid can we get during a major storm involving several bordering communities? Think about it: which neighboring communities would have been able to provide mutual aid to Larchmont during the last devastating flood?

Let us also not forget the amount of money that the Village has saved over the years thanks to our volunteer firefighting force. One has only to look at what 15 paid staff (of whom only 3 to 4 are available 24/7) cost the Village to figure out how much 20 or so active volunteer fire fighters have saved the Village over the last 20 years. A conservative estimate would put the dollar number in the millions.

Ettore Viazzo,
Former First Deputy Chief , LFD

 

May 25, 2007

Budget Defeat Opens Conversation

We must develop a school funding methodology that allows our community to function as a community. A community is a place where one can grow up, raise a family and retire. We are in danger of becoming a breeding ground for investment bankers and corporate titans to raise their children and then beat a hasty retreat back to Manhattan or the wilds of Connecticut.

For decades Mamaroneck schools have been a source of pride for our community. I went to Murray, Hommocks and graduated MHS in 1976. The system is not as successful as in the past. We have a group of wonderful caring people on our school board, we have the best teachers in America yet we lack focus and resolve. We're on the right track with the discussion that the defeat of the school budget has generated. It take courage to say no! I am proud of my neighbors.

Our district is operating under many failed paradigms that we must address. Some are the result of unfunded state and federal mandates. Others are the result of the best intentions. We are wasting significant sums of taxpayers' money on unnecessary building programs, software and computer hardware, administrators and a variety of unnecessary programs and services.

We must improve public policy decisions and financial transparency. As parents we must accept our responsibilities and not abrogate them to the schools. We should not subscribe to educational fads but focus on a core curriculum that prepares our children and teaches them how to study. We must focus on the process of education through the core curriculum rather that the consumer driven orientation that our district has adopted.

Carpe Diem!

Ed Merians
Larchmont, NY

 

May 24, 2007

Volunteers Should Work With Board

"Tragedy,” "disrespected," "leadership crisis," "shameful" -- these are some of the printable sentiments directed at the Village Board by volunteer firefighters over the issue of a paid fire chief. While I can appreciate the volunteers' opposition to the plan, even their anger, I cannot fathom the hateful vitriol levied at the mayor and board members - five good people who, like the volunteers, give tirelessly of their time and commitment to make Larchmont a better place to live.

What became clear during the heated debate is the fire department does not function the way it should primarily because the career staff and volunteers are irretrievably divided. For too many years, neither side has been able to talk to the other, let alone offer the other respect. This schism has severely impeded effective management within the department. Information doesn’t flow from one side to the other, the elected chief is powerless to get information he needs for a $2.4 million department and each side blames the other. A part-time chief has not been able to remedy the dysfunction and apparently cannot unify the department’s disparate elements and provide full accountability to the board.

One resident succinctly stated the problem: "the fire chief issue was never about safety; it was about control..." Last Wednesday, the board, after repeated refusals of past administrations to confront this politically unpopular issue, decided to take control. Over the last year, the board has tried to implement a program of responsive government, getting more from already high tax dollars, and increasing administrative accountability. They promised no sacred cows. The fire department is the remaining agency lacking accountability and a clear chain of command. It is not a question of union (14 members) versus volunteers (30 members), or service delivery or benefits or funding or even the vaulted history of the volunteers. It is ultimately a question of good government. The board took a principled position to hire a paid chief to expunge years of institutional acrimony that has fostered intransigence and divisiveness.

Clearly the volunteer members deserve our respect and appreciation for their substantial contributions to this village. But the volunteers' recent tactics- lawsuits, resignations and fear mongering - do a disservice to their past dedication. Instead of promoting mass resignations to cripple the department, I would hope the volunteers could join the new chief – someone they have worked with for years - and collectively seek ways to restore the department they claim to cherish. Rather than seek a frivolous injunction to maintain the “status quo.” all efforts should be redirected to promote cooperation and mutual respect with the career staff.

President Kennedy once said, "Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." The board should be commended for its courage to do what it believed was right. Hopefully, the career and volunteer firefighters will take the board’s lead and begin to shape a new future for the department together.

Noel Dennis
Larchmont, NY

May 22, 2007

Tap Expertise of Teachers to Reach Goals, Save Money

The Mamaroneck School District has an excellent faculty. Our teachers are well educated, bright and creative. They go the extra mile to reach our children and turn them on to learning.

Curriculum continuity and teacher support are very important goals. However, we should look at alternatives to the administrative restructuring plan to reach these goals.

I propose that we retain the academic department heads at the high school and middle school and give them release time to coordinate the curriculum between the two schools. New teachers should observe master teachers. The department heads can collaborate with the district's mentor coordinator to schedule these activities.

New teachers need support in the areas of classroom management, lesson design and district policy and procedures. The district's mentor coordinator needs release time to visit the schools and plan activities that will provide new teachers with the support they need. New teachers and their mentors need release time for coaching and observation activities.

I say tap into the expertise of teachers to improve the curriculum and to support new teachers. It makes sense and it will save money.

(Parent of two Mamaroneck School District graduates; Mamaroneck School District teacher for the past 13 years; Mentor Coordinator for the Mamaroneck School District; resident and taxpayer in the district for the past 20 years; active in PTA and especially SEPTA for the past 17 years.)

Diane Nelson
Mamaroneck, NY

May 21, 2007

Problems with School Budget

(Editor's Note: This letter was addressed to the Mamaroneck School Board and copied to the Gazette.)

Although I voted for the budget, the flyer which arrived in my mail last weekend gave me many moments of pause. I think happy teachers are good teachers and am opposed to the proposed additional administrative level the superintendent seeks to impose upon the teachers. I think department chairmen are well qualified to do the job themselves (I would certainly resent an administrative stranger brought in over my head were I a department chair), and concur with their vote for more teachers and smaller classrooms.

I thought seriously about voting "no" on the budget for this reason, but ultimately was not sure that this vote would send the message I intended.

In addition, my eighth grader tells me that the expensive Hommocks pool "improvement" does not permit the roof on the pool to retract, making it forever an indoor pool. The pool lockers, he tells me, are made of plastic and are already in disrepair. The pool deck has slippery puddles on it. At recess, the kids are forced to play basketball in an active parking lot, instead of a dedicated playground. Money has been spent on sofas in the Hommocks Commons, yet there is never any time during which a student can sit there. This is not to mention the new Hommocks auditorium, in which one has to sit on either side (but not in the middle)in order to hear the speakers on stage (the acoustics are so bad).

Perhaps our hard-earned dollars can be spent in better ways than they have in the past and than we are currently spending them.

Has anyone asked the kids (even the young ones) for their input?

Debra S. Kling
Larchmont, NY

 

May 18, 2007

School Budget: Administrative Positions Must Go

(Editor's Note: This letter was addressed to the Mamaroneck School Board and copied to the Gazette.)

My daughter is a teacher, although not in Mamaroneck. My three children all went through the Mamaroneck schools from K-12. The new administrative positions must go. 

The Mamaroneck School Board already wasted  far too much of our money trying to destroy the Kemper Memorial.  If they want to spend our money on something make it teachers, not more administrators.

In the 35 years I've lived here I never voted against a school budget, not even the one that was just trounced, but if the board proposes substantially the same budget again, I will.

The budget increase must be reduced.  The administrative positions must go. It's that simple.

Ralph Engel
Larchmont, NY

 

 

May 18, 2007

Fire Volunteers Missing the Big Picture

Larchmont has a paid, full-time professional chief running our Police Department, and now, we have a paid, full-time professional chief running our Fire Department. Doesn’t this make sense? We have two departments, police and fire, that constitute our emergency services, and I, for one, am pleased we will have full-time management of both.

I congratulate the Village of Larchmont Board for having the courage to address what we have seen for the last several months is clearly a dysfunctional relationship between our professional and volunteer firefighters. But was the change the board made really as dramatic and tragic as some have called it? Prior to this change, the LFD was run by a chief who oversaw both the professional and volunteer staffs, and was supported by two deputy chiefs. Under the new structure, there continues to be a chief and two deputy chiefs. Only now, there will be a full-time chief, and running our Fire Department will be his only vocation. We have a seasoned Larchmont veteran, Rich Heine, who is being charged with managing the department with the interests of both professionals and volunteers alike.

So, why are the volunteers up in arms, with several of them resigning? Has the board cut back on resources and its commitment to the Fire Department? To the contrary, they have recently approved the purchase of a new Engine at a cost in excess of $500,000 fully loaded, and have increased financial support for individual equipment in the budget that was just passed.

Larchmont has thrived on its residents' willingness to volunteer across a multitude of activities; school, sports leagues, religious activities, social groups, and yes, our Fire Department. Up until now, I believed people gave willingly of their time to serve their community and for the self-satisfaction that comes from helping others. I respect and admire my friends and neighbors who do volunteer with the Fire Department, but for those who would resign over this, I believe you are doing a disservice to both the community and yourselves. Next time the call goes out, see if your first instinct is to throw on your gear and go, or will you truly be at ease with your decision to walk away? Only then will you really know in your heart what your volunteering was about all along.

Philip A. Johanson
Larchmont, NY

 

May 17, 2007

Dear Residents: Volunteer Resigns

I just wanted to take a moment to say that the fight is over: Larchmont has a paid fire chief, for the first time in over 70 years – and this a sad thing. Last night was a particularly sad one for me because I also resigned as volunteer captain, Engine Company treasurer and recruitment chair, effective June 15.

It was impossible for me to stay because, in my heart, I believe that the mayor and trustees simply did as the union asked.  Don’t be fooled into thinking it was anything else.  And don’t be surprised when the union asks (again) for a fully paid department as it’ll be here sooner than you might think.

I am unwilling to serve a board that chose an 18-year member of a union dedicated to eliminating volunteers from our village rather than Tom Broderick, a volunteer member for 20 years, 6 of which were as a deputy chief.  I am not willing to serve a board who ignored the knowledge that the union made it difficult for residents to become volunteers, uncomfortable for new members to become acclimated, and impossible for volunteers to remain with the Larchmont Fire Department if they joined city departments, such as New York or New Rochelle. I know this as fact.  This union is bad for our village and, at best, our elected officials have been fooled.

I’m grateful and proud to have been a member of the Larchmont Fire Department; particularly for serving with a dedicated group of people, whether it was a 2 am fire, 12-hour storm, another recruitment effort, or serving one of over 1,000 hot dogs during the Memorial Day Parade – please know I gave it my all and I will never forget it.

Thank you for the support and gratitude that you’ve extended me as well as the entire volunteer department; it’s been a pleasure to serve you. 

Angelo Mancino
Larchmont, New York

 

May 17, 2007

Budget Vote Reflects No Confidence

The resounding no-confidence vote delivered to the school board Tuesday can be explained by six words: “Kemper Memorial – Hommocks Pool – Administrative Plan.” The handling of these three boondoggles has the same characteristic – political hamhandedness. And the public has finally run out of patience, including those, like me, who have children in the schools here, and take an active interest in school performance.

Take the last issue: With what arrogance does the board’s agent, only recently a part of the community, come with plans for a vast reorganization, contrary to the prevailing academic culture of the institution, calling for large additional expenses, only weeks before a budget vote, and advise that he has already advertised for the positions without approval? The answer: the kind of arrogance that comes from the belief that there is no accountability. How did the superintendent reckon so wrongly? Because budgets keep getting approved, no effective opposition is made to the house nominees to the board, and the board itself exercises no oversight, preferring to walk in lock-step, despite the blunders. After all, if there was a functioning political system, would any of those behind the Kemper Memorial litigation have any further say in the running of the district?

Let’s face it. The board rubber stamps everything the executive proposes as readily as the board of Enron rubber stamped its executive plans. And the reason is that the system for composing the board is weighed so heavily in favor of house candidates – and conformity – that the members have no incentive to represent the community and have no constituency in any real sense. The self-selected nominating committee designates the house candidates, and the insiders vilify anyone who runs outside their system. Candidates don’t have to make promises to the public, don’t have to take positions, and don’t even have to have the political skill to deal with anyone other than the insiders who nominated them.

The long-term solution is to have real, contested elections, where candidates explain their positions, their qualifications and their visions. This of course would mean disbanding the nominating committee, which has no legitimacy in any event. Anyone who has seen the “voting” for that committee is impressed by one fact: it's unsupervised – no one really cares if you vote once, twice or not at all. T he committee selects its own members regardless of what the public thinks. There's no write-in ballot after all.

Contested elections, though the ultimate solution, won’t solve the board’s immediate problem, however. The first step is to defer the reorganization. Drop for now the portion of the budget slated for new administrative hires. Have real public discussion over the more controversial aspects. Maybe the plan is good for the district – but shouldn’t the public at least expect the courtesy of having a reasoned debate on the changes on their merits?

Darrell K. Fennell
Larchmont, NY

May 16, 2007

Larchmonters Should Note Strength of New Rochelle Schools

Thanks for an interesting take on the development in downtown New Rochelle. (See: Moving On Up: Trump Tower Draws Local Tenants.) )I lived in Larchmont for five years before moving to New Rochelle in 1992, and I feel I am part of both communities, as a member of the Larchmont Shore Club and a parishioner of St. Augustine.

I thought the [Larchmont] resident who was interviewed {about moving to Trump Tower]made some great points, but I wanted to add a note about New Rochelle schools. He stated that he would not have made the move to New Rochelle while his children were in school, and I can certainly understand and sympathize with the decision not to uproot kids from their schools. However, I want to assure your readers that New Rochelle's schools are outstanding: New Rochelle High School offers 26 AP courses, and 96% of its graduates go on to college. (NRHS seniors are accepted at all the top schools -- this year's class had acceptances at Harvard, Yale, etc.) In fact, Newsweek ranked NRHS among the top 2% of high schools in the nation.

In addition, New Rochelle's commitment to the arts is unequaled: The school district received an award from the Westchester Arts Council in April in recognition of its extraordinary programs, including PAVE (Performing Arts and Visual Arts Education). Students audition to be accepted into the PAVE program, where they receive in-depth arts education in their chosen specialty (visual arts, theater, dance and music, vocal, orchestra or band). The high school's 2005 addition houses the arts classrooms, which include separate facilities for orchestra and band, a dance studio with sprung floor, a ceramics studio with five kilns, a state-of-the-art 200-seat theater with hydraulic and an orchestra pit.

Moreover, the high school has its own on-site museum, the Museum of Arts & Culture, of which I am the director; it features traveling exhibits from major institutions (like the Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts) alternating with exhibits of student art. Working in the high school has given me a new appreciation for the talents our young people possess, and new insight into the rich opportunities there for students from all backgrounds to get to know each other, work together and excel.

Suffice it to say that both of my children have been educated in the New Rochelle school system and my husband and I couldn't have been happier with the result!

Theresa Kump Leghorn
New Rochelle, NY

 

April 30. 2007

Consider LWV Recs Before Hiring Paid Chief

Before voting on the question of a paid fire chief for Larchmont Village, I think it would be wise to re-visit the old League of Women Voters recommendations on merging town and village departments. It seems to me that this small village would best serve its inhabitants by conserving its money and consolidating resources, rather than hurrying to hire yet another village employee.

I am very disappointed that two members of the Larchmont Village Board were active League participants when these positions were determined and yet I have heard little discussion of this issue.

Sue Hertz
Larchmont, NY

 

 

April 19, 2007

Duck Inn Ducked in With Help

The day after the flood, while my son Jim and his neighbors on Howard Avenue in Mamaroneck Village were starting to dig out from the damage, people from the Duck Inn Bar & Grill on the corner of Post Road and Mamaroneck Avenue just plain showed up with delicious food and beverages for everyone they could find. It was a wonderful shaft of light amidst all the darkness.

It was so nice and so unexpected. We also want to thank Habitat for Humanity and all the others who came to help. The Whittemore family and all their neighbors join in a big round of appreciation.

Carolyn Whittemore
Larchmont, NY

April 19, 2007

Residents Urged To Ask Tough Questions on Paid Chief

The Village of Larchmont is in the middle of a firestorm of controversy over proposed changes to the hierarchy of the 115-year-old Larchmont Fire Department. At stake is the safety of 6,500 residents who may or may not be aware of the potential consequences of the radical change that is being advocated.

At the heart of the controversy is the Village Board’s apparent commitment to hiring a paid fire chief for the department over the objections of the volunteer firefighters who are depended upon to put out the fires. The volunteers, by a vote of 24 to 2, elected a volunteer chief, as they have every two years for most of the past 100, over the proposed paid chief.

Without an adequate volunteer contingent, all sides agree, the Village will be rendered incapable of defending itself against a major fire. The mayor has indicated that she will call for aid from surrounding communities in that eventuality. This is, at best, a short-term solution that comes with inherently longer response times in emergencies. The only long-term solution available to the board, aside from somehow recruiting adequate replacement volunteers, would be to hire enough paid firefighters to provide 24-hour staffing capable of fighting a fire the size of which we would likely see very infrequently, if ever. The additional expense would be monumental for a small village.

It seems to me that the board has a responsibility to ensure that it has done its due diligence to avoid exposing ourselves to a significantly greater risk of loss of precious life and property prior to tampering with a system that has worked more than adequately for longer than the trustees have been alive. Has the board reviewed the proposed change with the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department to determine its views and preparedness as it is the closest department and would, presumably, bear the greatest added responsibility and workload? Oh, by the way, it has the same structural hierarchy with a volunteer chief that Larchmont wants to abolish.

If you reside in Larchmont, do you want to take the risk that the board is wrong about the volunteers continuing to serve if it institutes a change rejected by 92% of them? Are you concerned that the board is exposing itself and the Village to potentially huge legal liability should its actions ultimately lead to an otherwise avoidable tragedy?

I urge all Village residents to ask tough questions of their elected trustees until they are satisfied that this is a wise move. Go to the meetings and have input. Decide for yourself whether the purported inadequacies of the tried and tested system, as elaborated by the board, really necessitate immediate and radical change. Make sure we are not causing a much bigger problem than the one we are trying to cure. Get involved before we make a decision that would be very hard to reverse.

Roger Holden (volunteer firefighter)
Larchmont, NY

April 18, 2007

Paid Fire Chief Plan: VOL's Own Hillary Care Debacle

Anyone who witnessed the tar-and-feathering of the Larchmont Village Board Wednesday night over its scheme to hire a paid fire chief got the message. The mayor and board are playing with fire, and local fire volunteers and taxpayers are going to get burned.

On the thirteenth anniversary of “Hillary Care,” Larchmont has its own unlucky version of secretive, lousy policymaking. As we watch the board party like it’s 1994 and bust the budget piñata, consider the creepy similarities between these two bombshells:

The players: smart politicians and “anonymous” sycophants, none of whom appear to have any firsthand knowledge of the subject matter. What’s the Fire Council for, anyway?
Roasting marshmallows?

The process: behind-closed-doors mutual flattery among the players, to reinforce their self-importance. Real experts and the public are shut out to maintain control.

The plan: hatched in secrecy and presented as a fait accompli, it’s always a more expensive policy sausage.

The promises: that the scheme will add “efficiency.” Last I checked, something that costs more is less efficient.

The patronizing: the shock, the eye-rolling, the self-centered hurt and anger that anyone could criticize a plan handed down from Mount Olympus. Opponents are “uncivil,” “rancorous.”

In its charming naiveté, the Village Board misses the whole point here, which even a firehouse Dalmatian could understand: volunteer firefighters will quit if the plan is enacted because they think it would give insubordinate union firefighters the upper hand. If even some of the volunteers quit, the extra cost to the Village budget could end up in the millions, and Larchmont will likely suffer the indignity of having the costliest fire department in New York State.

There’s a lesson here: bad processes make bad policy.

The Village Board is on a crash course, screaming at 120 miles per hour into the back of the slow-moving semi of a weary taxpayer base. Staring back at the board on the truck’s mud flaps is Yosemite Sam, with two pistols and a warning: Back off.

Hey, if you can’t listen to reason, at least listen to Sam.

Kevin Cadden
Larchmont, NY

 

April 13, 2007

Take Notice & Time on VOL Fire Chief Issue

I strongly encourage all the residents of the Village of Larchmont to take notice and action on the fire chief issue that is currently in front of the Village Board. It will have a profound and permanent effect on the future of the Larchmont Fire Department, which in turn will affect both our safety and the finances of our Village for now and years to come.

We must demand that the board be open to the public with the rationale behind their desired actions and proceed at a measured pace. As was echoed so many times the other night at the village meeting on April 11, there needs to be more effort and time spent on this critical issue. (See: VOL Opts for 11th Hour Postponement on Hiring Paid Chief.)

I believe strongly that there are many factors which are not being fully considered in this debate.

Please e-mail the board villageclerk@villageoflarchmont.org

I would also ask for you to forward this to any other concerned Village of Larchmont resident.

Francis FitzPatrick
Larchmont, NY

 

April 3, 2007

Stunned at VOL Board's Move to Hire Paid Fire Chief

(Editor's Note: the following letter was sent to Mayor Liz Feld and to the Gazette.)

There is not a lot that my husband could tell me that would surprise me but when he called me from work today to tell me that it was likely that he would be resigning from the Larchmont Fire Department, I was brought to tears.

I am truly sorry that I ever voted for you and other members of the board, Anne McAndrews, Marlene Kolbert and Jim Millstein, and would certainly never do so again. I am stunned that you and members of the Village Board would so hastily hire a paid fire chief and jeopardize the future of the fire department.

The highly qualified and dedicated volunteer members of the Larchmont Fire Department deserve your respect and most importantly your support. These volunteers save the Village and taxpayers millions as well as efficiently run or help run multiple Village activities that are just plain fun, such as the July 4th hot dog distribution and water spraying activities at Flint Park, directing traffic for the 5K run, Rag-a-muffin parade activities and the Memorial Day Parade, to name just a few.

I am only one taxpayer and alone my opinion is most insignificant, but I am sure there are others that are out there that share my views.

Susan Girardi-Sweeney (wife of former LFD Chief Jim Sweeney)

March 31, 2007

Switch to Paid Chief in Indiana Caused Volunteers to Go

As a new member of the Larchmont Fire Department, I am continuously impressed with the dedication of and the friendship among the members.  I personally have 12-13 years in public safety communications  with three of those years as a certified emergency medical technician (EMT-B) before joining the department.

I was previously a firefighter/first responder in a department in Indiana where we averaged 4,000+ fire or emergency medical service calls a year. We were all state EMS certified and ran our own ambulances out of four stations.  The members responded for fire and EMS calls during the day subject to availability and we took turns on duty rosters for EMS duty at night.

We had always had a volunteer chief and suddenly the mayor decided to hire a full-time paid chief at the urging of the paid firefighters, who had recently joined the union.  This certainly upset the 125 strong force of volunteers that we had.  The action eventually caused all the volunteers to retire or resign because we no longer had a voice in the department operations and had no say in how the funds we raised were spent. 

This had a serious lasting impact on the community.

Joe Clifton
Larchmont, NY

March 29, 2007

Former Fire Chiefs Oppose VOL Plan for Paid Chief

As two former chiefs of the Larchmont Fire Department, we have serious concerns about the mayor’s plan to hire a fire chief. (See: (Mayor, Fire Council Offer Competing Proposals for Change.)

Consider the following:

Cost: The Village spends 43% more on firefighter salaries than the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District, to protect 43% less property, based on assessed valuation. The annual cost of a paid fire chief, including fringe benefits, will add more than $100,000 to the Village budget. Is this a wise expenditure on top of what is already being spent?

Legality: New York State law does not permit a village board to appoint a fire chief not nominated to the board by the fire department membership. Shouldn’t the Village Board follow state law?

Public Information: The mayor has no written plan and has never fully explained her ideas. How about a hearing so that the public has a voice in what is being voted on?

Personnel Management: The board proposes to appoint a candidate who has not yet passed the state civil service test to qualify as a paid fire chief. No job announcement has been posted nor any interviews conducted. Is it good practice to choose a candidate first, and then see if the candidate qualifies for the job? If this plan does not work out, will the Village be stuck with the costs of a fire chief it does not need?

Leadership Crisis: If the board tries to appoint a chief in a way that violates the law while the department nominates a chief who the board refuses to recognize, we have a serious leadership crisis. Is this a prudent way to run Village government?

What do we recommend instead?

In the short run, we recommend that we proceed as we have for more than a century. The Fire Department will nominate to the Village Board a chief who is fully qualified, highly trained, and who also has six years of experience as a deputy chief of the Fire Department. This fire chief, like those before him, will serve as a volunteer.

The Fire Council and the Village Board can jointly and publicly study the mayor’s plan. If the mayor has some good ideas, we can proceed to implement them in the future - in a deliberate and planned way. While we’re planning, we can avoid spending more than $100,000 on a position that we may not need.

In the longer run, we recommend a thorough and open examination involving both municipalities, of consolidation of Larchmont’s fire services with those of the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District. Unlike the mayor, whose proposal is not written and is only partially figured out, the Fire Council has completed a thorough study, which is available on our website: lfdny.org.

The proposal would continue to position firefighters and fire apparatus in Village Hall. Consolidation will improve services, improve response times, and save money.

Jim Sweeney, LFD Chief 1990-91, 2000
Brian Payne, LFD Chief 2001-03

March 27, 2007

Looking for Photos of Boat On Rocks After Ernesto

I recently purchased a sailboat named Westerleigh from an insurance salvage company and I'm slowly trying to piece together her history. I found your pictures of Westerleigh on the rocks from "Ernesto" September 2007.

Do you or your readers have other pictures, videoclips, or any information of Westerleigh? I would love to know more about her former life, how she ended up on the rocks, and the recovery work. My wife and I are looking forward to getting her back to sailing this summer.

(She went up on the rocks on my birthday. Is that a good or bad omen?)

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Jamie Alcock
alcockj@hotmail.com
Centerville, MA



alcockj@hotmail.com

 

March 27, 2007

Granting Height Variance for Apt. Would Set a Precedent

We are writing to express our opposition to the Esposito building project that is under consideration by the Village of Larchmont Planning and Zoning Boards. We are opposed to the project on many grounds and write today to highlight our grave concerns about the height variance being sought by the builder.

From a legal perspective, perhaps the single most important ramification of granting the height variance requested by the Esposito project is the precedent it will establish for future development projects in the Village of Larchmont.

The strength of a Village zoning code lies in its consistent enforcement.

The Zoning Code relevant to the Esposito project was established in 1955.

Since that time no height variances of the type now being sought have been awarded.

Once a Zoning Board has granted a particular kind of variance, its subsequent denial of a similar variance subjects it and the Village to litigation on the grounds that its code is being enforced arbitrarily and capriciously.

To grant Mr. Esposito the height variance (4 stories in a 2 ½ story zoned area) he is requesting will allow other developers and Village property owners to demand equal treatment. If they feel they have not been treated as a prior applicant was, they will perceive that they have grounds to take the Village to court.

The threat to the Village of such costly litigation is a significant reason for the Zoning Board to tread carefully.

Tom and Eileen Gerspach
Concerned Citizens for Larchmont

March 15, 2007

Uphold Larchmont Zoning Law

We would like to express our concern and opposition to the Esposito project as it is currently proposed. We are not against development of the site. We want to be assured that any development has a positive, or at least neutral, impact on Larchmont in all aspects. We are particularly concerned about the multiple variances the project would require to go forward in its present form.

Larchmont Village was among the earliest Westchester communities to adopt zoning laws in 1921. Our predecessors in government recognized the need to establish and strictly adhere to zoning codes to protect our community from over-development. We are requesting that our current boards do the same - uphold Larchmont’s zoning laws.

The Zoning Board has five points it must look at when deciding whether to grant a variance. These are:

  • Whether the variance would create an undesirable change to the character of the neighborhood or would be a detriment to the properties surrounding the project.

  • Whether the requested benefit is obtainable by anything other than a variance

  • Whether the requested variance is substantial

  • Whether the variance would adversely affect or impact the surrounding physical neighborhood

  • Whether the difficulty for which the variance sought was self-created

When one looks at the Esposito project with respect to each of these points, it is clear that the variances requested should be denied.

The multiple variances requested by this developer are substantial. They include:

  • The current height restriction for the proposed area is 2 ½ stories. The Esposito project is requesting a variance for 4 stories.

  • The rear yard set back, according to code, requires 40 feet. The Esposito project is requesting 8 feet.

  • The maximum height of a building in that zone, according to code, is 30 feet. The Esposito project is requesting two 40-feet high structures.

  • The benefit (i.e., the construction of two multi-family dwellings) is obtainable by other means. The builder can build these structures according to Larchmont zoning laws.

  • The difficulty is self-created. Mr. Esposito created his own difficulty when he made a business decision to purchase the property, knowing it would require multiple large variances from the Village of Larchmont – which are not guaranteed – in order to build as planned.

Our committee is not against sensible development or multi-family units that include work force housing. We are, however, strongly opposed to development that if not carefully studied and examined could have a major and lasting impact on the quality of life for all the residents of Larchmont, not just those living in the adjacent Pinebrook neighborhood.

The Esposito project as currently proposed will impact all Larchmont Village residents -- whether it is from the potential increase in the number of children in Chatsworth School, the increased traffic and congestion in the Village or the cost of Village services.

The true cost of this project to Village residents has not yet been analyzed. We are asking that this be done before this or any similar project is allowed to proceed.

Sue Romagnoli, Member of
Concerned Citizens of Larchmont

 

March 6, 2007

Only Speaking for Herself on Administrative Plan

Thank you for your excellent and informative piece on the administrative restructuring proposal presented by Superintendent Fried at the School Board meeting on Tuesday night.  I also appreciate your correcting the article from its original version to clarify that at the meeting, I was speaking for myself as a parent, not for the Hommocks PTA.   

Although most Hommocks parents I have spoken to have expressed support for the plan, it has not been put to a vote before either our executive committee or our general membership.  It is for that reason that I did not identify myself as a Hommocks PTA co-president or state that I was speaking on behalf of the PTA.

I hope this clears up any confusion.

Melany Gray
Larchmont, NY

February 18, 2007

Keep Up Good Work, Eliot & George

Thank you for printing the letter from George Latimer regarding his dispute with Governor Spitzer. (See: Latimer Lashed by Governor Spitzer Over Comptroller Vote.) I admire both these elected officials and wanted a vehicle to understand George's side of the story.

Keep up the good work in improving the functioning of the NY State government Elliot and George.

Bob Immerman
Larchmont, NY

February 15, 2007

Gazette Article Helps With Search for Family

My family has been doing research into our background. Both sides of the family were in Mamaroneck, and I grew up there. When I put information into an Internet search regarding the Johns family (my cousins), I got your 1942 history article on Woodrow Wilson Johns. It was great - we have been looking for the general information for years.

I hope to contact the daughter (who is my approximate age) soon.

Thank you. I have been going back ever since to the Larchmont Gazette site.

Great article!

Ron Crisp
Glendale, Arizona

 

February 6, 2007

Principal Rejects Insinuations Of Lawyer In Suit Against District

During the last month I have read in this newspaper troubling insinuations from a lawyer bringing suit against the Mamaroneck school district and several administrators, including me. I have lived in Larchmont for the last 14 years, and in that time I have established bonds with children from the Larchmont/Mamaroneck community as an educator, a neighbor and a coach. My own son and daughter attended Hommocks for the last four years, together with lifelong friends and classmates.

Given the history and relationships described above, the implication that I somehow tolerated or harbored a pedophile at Hommocks is inconceivable; and, as a father, community member and school leader who has dedicated a long and accomplished career to serving the welfare of children, such accusations are repugnant.

These malicious claims are made all the more difficult because I am advised to maintain silence. A courthouse, not the media, is the proper forum to present the facts. When the facts are aired, when the truth is told, it will be evident that I acted immediately and diligently to protect all the children of Hommocks Middle School.

Seth Weitzman
Principal, Hommocks Middle School
Larchmont, NY

February 1, 2007

Larchmonters Will Pay More to Walk Dogs in NR Park

New Rochelle is about to do something very un-neighborly to many residents of Larchmont. Effective April 1, 2007, a fee of $250 per year will be required of any Larchmont resident (any non-resident of New Rochelle) who wishes to walk his or her dog in Ward Acres on or off-leash.

Notwithstanding the fact that Ward Acres was purchased with NY State Conservation Funds in 1962 and is presently a section of the county-wide Colonial Greenway, Mayor Bramson and his Council have seen fit to impose this exorbitant fee.

As a resident of New Rochelle, I am embarrassed by this treatment of our neighbors and fear this draconian measure could lead to a loss of goodwill in our community and a possible "protectionist park war" in lower Westchester County.

Jeff Wiegand
New Rochelle, NY

January 25, 2007

Conservancy: Flint Park Plan is "Step Forward"

I write on behalf of Flint Park Conservancy, Ltd. Since its founding in 2000, Flint Park Conservancy has been a significant organizational and financial contributor to the improvement of Flint Park. The Conservancy has raised almost $200,000 to enhance the park, and its members have devoted many hours to improvements, including leadership on the design and implementation of the new play area. We are the only private organization with such a longstanding commitment to improving Flint Park. As part of its mission, the Conservancy also promotes community involvement in ongoing planning for the Park.

We are pleased at the progress on the plan for Flint Park which the Village Board has developed. Currently, the plan calls for the addition of an artificial turf field suitable for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and baseball with seating for one hundred. In addition, the drainage of existing sports fields in the south of the park will be significantly improved, and those fields will be positioned to permit an expanded nature area. Landscaping will be included, and while many existing trees will be removed, many new ones will be planted. Enjoyment and traffic safety will also be improved with sorely needed pedestrian paths. Other enhancements are also included. We commend the Larchmont Village Board for seizing this opportunity to consider and to enhance the park as a whole.

We want to thank our members who so quickly and generously provided the feedback we needed to participate in the park planning process. This quick response has been essential to the Conservancy’s participation in plan development. Unfortunately, the planning process was at times rancorous. Ultimately, democracy was served in that all voices were heard and adjustments and compromises were made.

The Conservancy is proud to have promoted community involvement and to have worked with the Village Board and other community groups on the plan. We remain dedicated to the long term mission of advocating for the improvement and ongoing care of Flint Park so that it stays a beautiful place for recreation, leisure and the appreciation of nature.

The current plan represents not only a step forward for the park but, if completed, a legacy for our children. We look forward to polishing the gem that is Flint Park. 

Catherine E.M. Kortlandt
President. Flint Park Conservancy

January 24, 2007

Larchmont GOP Chair Resigns

I am resigning my office as Chairperson of the Republican Party in the Village of Larchmont effective as of January 30, 2007 at 7:30 pm.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this capacity since 1995.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many talented people, and am particularly grateful for the kindness I received from our wonderful Village staff. 

I became involved in Village politics in 1991 because I believed that Larchmont would be a better place for having differing points of view represented and heard.  I continue to believe in this fundamental tenet of our democracy and hope that you will as well.

I have, however, reached a point where I must devote more time to other parts of my life. 

Thank you to the many people in Larchmont who have helped me and offered their friendship over my twelve years of service.

Marian White
Larchmont, NY

January 18, 2007

Turf Field Desperately Needed

As a resident of the Village of Larchmont, member of the Flint Park Conservancy and officer of Fields for Kids, I was surprised to receive the letter and survey from the Conservancy this week. While I understand that the Conservancy wants to have its members weigh in on the proposed plans, the letter and the survey used some inaccurate information. I truly hope that residents of this community will receive the correct information  before passing judgment.

The Village has had two standing-room only public working sessions since December where the Flint Park field proposal was presented and citizens were encouraged to give input. Since September, the Village of Larchmont, as well as the other two municipalities and Mamaroneck School District, have had significant public discussions about fields at just about all of their meetings. The local press has carried stories about the proposed fields since September.

I was dismayed to see that the letter and survey neglected to mention any of the benefits of the plan including better drainage in all the fields, and better pedestrian and bicycle safety through enhanced pathways. It failed to even mention the main benefit—that this is a new varsity-sized, multi-sport turf field that is desperately needed to accommodate the growing number of participants in field sports. This field will be largely funded by the Westchester County Legacy program, a program which many of our neighboring communities have taken advantage of.

The Village is continuing an open dialog on this project in two upcoming work sessions and I hope that in these discussions we can resolve the concerns and find consensus in the community and move forward with the plan to build this much needed turf field. The opportunity to have the County fund a facility like this is unique and timely…I wholeheartedly support the Village of Larchmont in this endeavor.

Nancy Gardiner
Larchmont, NY

January 4, 2007

No Exceptions for Palmer Apts.

As a resident living near Palmer Avenue, I am concerned about Esposito Builders' plans to construct two apartment buildings at 77 North Avenue and 2101 Palmer. This area is already congested with traffic and noise.

Further, it seems aesthetically unwise to allow the construction of huge buildings which would tower over their tiny little lots.

We should uphold our zoning codes and no exceptions should be made for this project.

Rosemarie Magazino
Larchmont, NY

December 29, 2006

Moved by Larchmont WWII Survivor

Everything interesting happens to me in Larchmont. From fire engines (British Visitor Gets Rescue & Lift from LFD) to French toast (Brit Appreciates Local Visit, Local French Toast) on this occasion it was Rachel Kriegler. My wife and I walked into her store ( Ira Kriegler Designs on the Boston Post Road) to browse, Rachel introduced herself and for the next one and a half hours we were kept enthralled by her amazing experiences of survival in eight labor camps during the last years of World War II.

What an incredible person she is, and what we found so gratifying was that although her experiences required tremendous effort and cleverness from herself she was constant in her thanks to others. Whilst she told us of some of the horrors that some people were responsible for, she found many good people of all nationalities who showed kindness along the way. Without that help she may not have survived. Her story of being in a living hell, the battle to keep going, the relatives and friends she lost was told with a mixture of tears and interest.

All in all, meeting Rachel was one of my most motivating human stories that I've ever listened to and gave me an extra insight into both the good and evil that exists in this world. Rachel deservedly triumphed in the end and it was fantastic to recognize her appreciation for being in Larchmont and having built a wonderful family around her.

I think Larchmont is lucky to have Rachel as well.

Raymond Rudaizky
London, England

December 21, 2006

Asking Zoning Board to Reject Palmer Ave Project

My wife and I want to state that we are categorically against the proposed zoning changes sought for the building project envisioned on the non-conforming property located at 77 North Avenue/2101 Palmer Avenue. The scope and nature of this design is not at all in the best interest of the community as it would drastically change the character of my neighborhood in appearance, congestion and safety. Presently, there is a “heavy” flow of traffic from the shopping center adjacent to this proposed project. Adding more cars and congestion will be hazardous and unduly tax the capacity of the adjacent roadways where we reside. The proposed height of the buildings envisioned is also troubling as it will obstruct/pollute the skyline and erode our Village features.

The Zoning Board must jealously guard against this type of encroachment to over-building when it seeks to change the character of our Village and safety of local streets. It will be impossible to put that genie back in the bottle, and will only lead to further requests to add height to existing or new buildings throughout the Village. We ask the Zoning Board to reject this project in its present shape and form.

Richard & Mary Mannix
Larchmont, NY