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Letters to the Editors:

(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, 2008

Support Bond As LongTerm Investment

As a resident with children who have graduated and moved on, I see this upcoming school bond as a necessary investment in our community - one that will have a direct link to my greatest personal investment, my home. By attending many Mamaroneck School Board meetings during the time the bond projects have been discussed, I have learned some compelling facts.

Like everyone, I am concerned about the current economic crisis. Yet, the tax impact of this bond will not be felt for 2 years and in the first year of impact it will be about $80 over what we pay today. This will average under $150 per year over the next 10 years (relative to an average $20,000 assessed home).

As the second largest school district in Westchester (after cities), and after 8 years of bond relief, there is critical work needed in this bond. This is work that cannot wait any longer - work that will become more expensive with bigger problems if left to further decay (including items that were left off the last bond and as such have become bigger, more urgent, and more expensive). Most of the proposed work in this bond addresses safety issues for our children. The fields and playgrounds fall into this category as well.

The Mamaroneck School District has been planning and waiting for safer and greater capacity fields for over 8 years. The Kemper plan was abandoned (despite winning the right to proceed) in favor of a better, less divisive solution. The district fields are used not only by the athletic program, but the complete physical education program and for the community youth sports and under-the-lights community gatherings. The current fields are now extremely unsafe and are often closed to our community members and for hosting intercommunity games. Our playground surfaces have also become unsafe.

The long term investment in our schools must be seen as an investment in our community. There will be great value and tangible benefits from the work proposed. Our home values will be affected – positively if the work is done – negatively if the bond fails.

Regarding costs and this economic time: As with any public school district projects, NY State Education Department guidelines apply, which makes for a very lengthy process. The vote happens in February, followed by a 6 month or so review in Albany, then drawings, bids and finally borrowing and construction -- in phases – several months later. Our economy is unpredictable, but will improve at some point. This bond vote is an authorization to borrow as needed in the future over time, not a vote to spend today.

We must keep up with the work and maintain our excellent program, facility and reputation. This bond has already been cut back several times, and it would be irresponsible not to continue moving forward. I encourage my neighbors to support this effort and take the long term view.

Lori Brandon
Larchmont, NY


 

December 10, 2008

School Bond Deserves Full Support of Community

Our family would like to thank the Mamaroneck School Board for the support that it has provided for new turf playing fields at our local schools. Now the field improvement plan is part of a school bond that will provide critical structural improvements, repairs and renovations at all of the district's aging buildings. The bond is scheduled for a public vote on February 10 and it deserves the community's full support.

We witnessed the extraordinary transformation in youth athletics that took place with the new turf field at Flint Park, where we watched our daughter play as a member of the Mamaroneck High School varsity field hockey team. Last year, the worn-out grass field created dangerous playing conditions, with uneven footing and balls that suddenly bounced up in the girls' faces. This year, the smooth turf resulted in safer conditions, improved play -- and no doubt helped to lead the high school team to a sectional championship!

Yet the improvements go well beyond sports titles. In these tight economic times, it's vitally important that the community make sound investments that will secure our home values and protect our tax base. To cut back on these necessary improvements would be a step toward economizing ourselves into a downward financial cycle.

In particular, we hope the improvements planned for the high school’s Memorial Field will move ahead as quickly as possible. This is a highly visible, centralized facility that reflects upon the status and condition of our community. Currently, the field is a dangerous liability and the overall facility is an outdated relic that reflects poorly on our community.

The capital improvement bond itself is past due and so are the field improvements. The board’s analysis shows that the $38 million bond will cover all of the necessary school repairs and field work, yet it will not add to our local tax payments for at least two years, and even then the effect will be minimal.

In the face of today's strong temptations to slash spending, we hope that the community will recognize all of the proposed improvements as a necessary, short-term investment that will yield lasting economic benefits. We think we will all look back and view this as a positive step for all of our community and, most of all, our children.

Craig & Margaret Leddy
Mamaroneck, NY


December 10, 2008

Remember Children's Library In Year-End Giving

Certainly we all recognize that the economy at this moment is in perilous condition.

And yet, there is still a need for many people to have charitable deductions in 2007 in preparation for their tax returns. And, of course, many people just want to make charitable contributions because it is their way of life.

I would like to commend to everyone’s attention as an organization and project worthy of financial support the Larchmont Public Library’s Children’s Room Renovation project.

The modern, energy efficient and welcoming new room with up-to-date collections and computers we are creating will be a legacy to the children of Larchmont for decades.

We have been planning and fundraising for over a year now, and are less than $100,000 short of our original goal of $1,500,000.

It is our strong hope that we will reach and even surpass that goal with our clients’ end-of-year giving, and we hope all the people we serve will find us a worthy beneficiary of their generosity.

Miriam Curnin
Chair, Library Board of Trustees

December 4, 2008

Missing Odetta

Yesterday, I heard the sad news that Odetta passed away on Tuesday. She was an extraordinary woman as well as a legendary musician. From 1974-1978, I worked at AmazinGrace, a hippie collective coffeehouse at Northwestern University as the "house photographer". For two dollars, people could see a wide variety of incredible nationally known musicians play jazz, folk, blues and bluegrass. One of the "perks" was that I got to see as many shows as I wanted to, and I made sure to see all of Odetta's sets.

She was amazing. Here was a woman who had sung at the March on Washington at Dr. King's request, who Bob Dylan says was one of his major influences. Her powerful, deep voice filled the small Quonset hut coffeehouse with little need for the sound system.



Once I moved back to Larchmont and joined the "real world," I left my career as a concert photographer behind, but got a chance to see Odetta several more times. Something about the way she carried herself made her seem to me like a queen.

Many, including me, will really miss this great woman.

Charlie Seton
Mamaroneck, NY

November 20, 2008

Please, No Reassessment!

The Larchmont Gazette, the New York Times and the Sound and Town all report that the Town of Mamaroneck is considering a property tax reassessment. (See: Town Board Leaning Toward Property Revaluation.)

I think this is a very bad idea.

When people move to this community and buy a house they know exactly what the tax burden is at that point in time. (We all are aware that it can only go up from there, but at least this happens gradually!) If somebody wants to add an extension to their house, or decides to tear it down and replace it with a bigger house, they can ask the Town assessor’s office in advance what the likely increase in taxes will be, so as to avoid nasty surprises.

However, if there is a reevaluation of all properties in the Town, many of those who have lived here for some time may be in for shock – nobody knows for sure, but it is a possibility. I believe this creates unnecessary stress and anxiety for too many people, particularly older members of the community.

Some who live here and would have to pay higher taxes after a reassessment might not be able to do so anymore. At a time of heightened anxiety about the state of the economy in general – do we really need this on top of it all?

Barbara Gessler
Town of Mamaroneck

November 19, 2008

Vets Thank the Girl Scouts

On Veterans Day, Girl Scout Troop 1825 and a scout from Troop 1840 stopped in to American Legion Post 90 in Mamaroneck to sing God Bless America and hand out appreciation cards to all the veterans. The members were overwhelmed with their presentation and the fact that they took time to say thank you to each and every one of us. (See: Over 630 Local Vets Get Visits from Girl Scouts.)

We would like to say thank you to them for a job well done. We are very proud of the Girl Scouts and all they do for the veterans and the community.

Edward T Murray
Commander American Legion Post 90
Mamaroneck, NY

November 12, 2008

Proper Home Appraisals Require Attention to Local Factors

(Editor's Note: A version of this letter was sent to the Mamaroneck Town and Larchmont Village Boards.)

I am writing in my capacity as vice president of and counsel to the Pine Brook Property Owners' Association which, since 1946, has acted on behalf of the 625 families in our area. This message has been approved by the Association co-presidents.

The Association is not opposed to reassessment as a concept, but we are opposed if it is not done properly.

We are very well aware that the same house may have a very different value depending upon where in our Town it is located. In Larchmont Village, is it in Pine Brook or in the Manor? In Mamaroneck Village, is it in Washingtonville, in Harbor Heights or in Orienta? Which of our four local elementary school districts is it in? Does it have a beautiful view of Long Island Sound, or a beautiful view of the Duck Pond, where the noise from I-95 is loud and constant? Some beautiful houses regularly flood, something that may be difficult to detect but can dramatically affect value. The value of a house cannot be determined primarily by its square footage, its age or its condition.

Most of these factors also apply to the property on which a house sits; it matters whether the land is flat or slopes steeply, whether it is full of stone outcroppings or can support a lawn and play equipment, for example.

The difficulties of comparing one square foot of land to another applies to one square foot of house, too -- a legal square foot on the first or second floor above ground is typically worth far more than a legal square foot in an attic or basement. Thus any appraisal based on square footage, whether of the land or of the house on it, is likely to be highly inaccurate.

Without going into every house one cannot assess conditions on the inside, and whether rooms have been remodeled or added without permits. It is totally unfair to enter only houses whose owners permit it; the rest of the owners may or may not have something to hide.

Any drive-by (or fly-over) appraisal will assuredly have all of the above-described problems, and may have others as well.

Any out-of-town company brought in to appraise our properties will not know what is what, and the results of its work will no doubt be inaccurate and totally unfair to many of our residents.

The Pine Brook Association believes that all of these problems (and, no doubt, others) must be resolved before the Town proceeds with the reappraisal which is being discussed.

Officers or directors of the Association will be pleased to discuss these and other reassessment issues with you if you are interested in listening to and working with us.

Ralph M. Engel
Larchmont, NY

November 6, 2008

School Capital Improvements Are Indispensable

Our Mamaroneck School Board has worked diligently over the last several years to identify, scrutinize, vet and pare down the critical capital improvement needs of the district. They invited the public to many meetings to discuss these updates and improvements. I took them up on their invitation, even though it was hard for a mother of four to get out at night. I viewed power point presentations, financial charts, and photo slides of many things in disrepair around the district. I asked tough questions. And I listened as the board asked tougher questions of architects and engineers. Over several months, I watched the board painstakingly whittle the recommended improvements from $90 million to $75 million to $60 million to $41 million. What remained were critical projects for the health and safety of our kids. Not glamorous, but necessary. Not inexpensive, but indispensable.

Now, because of the economy, the school board is nervous that the community won’t support a 30 or 40 million dollar school bond.

When I moved here 16 years ago, there was a capital improvement bond every few years. (There were bond votes in 1986, 1988, 1993; 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2001.)

We understood that a community must invest regularly in its schools to maintain and update the infrastructure, accommodate population growth, keep kids safe, and keep up with neighboring districts in modernization.

But recently, we have gotten out of the habit of investing in our schools. There hasn’t been a bond in 8 years! Many families don’t even know what a bond is.

The solution isn’t to put off this bond, or nickel and dime it to death. The solution is to educate ourselves about the ongoing, significant realities of maintaining 6 large schools—the crown jewels of our community and the prime determinants of our property values.

Be grateful for the 8 year respite. It’s time to catch up.

And it’s time for parents of young kids to start paying attention and get engaged in the process, because it is your kids who will benefit from the proposed improvements. If you don’t support a bond, it is your kids who will suffer in cold buildings; on rock-hard, unsafe playing fields; in decrepit bathrooms; in classrooms without enough electricity to handle technology; in buildings with leaky roofs and loose bricks.

Let the school board know (board@mamkschools.org) that they should not make a short-sighted decision. Especially since we recently learned that there will be no tax impact from a new bond for two years.

Yes, the economic picture has changed dramatically in recent months. But the needs of our children haven’t. Most of us moved here for the schools. Let’s not lose our sense of priorities now.

Jennifer Conley
Larchmont, NY

November 6, 2008

Board Should Support Full 41M Bond

I would be extremely concerned if the board were to put forth a bond of only $22 million.

The board has made the cuts necessary (from $92M) to come up with a bond of $41M. This is not just a wish list, but a bare bone version!

• Suddenly you are willing to jeopardize the safety of our kids and take out overdue fire safety items. The public should make this decision.


• We hope not to have any lost school days during this winter due to a boiler system breakdown. Poor planning led us to this position. Now we are considering moving forward in the same old fashion, let the next team worry about it!


• The $21 million bond has no fields and playgrounds included, therefore it is at big risk of losing support. You are totally neglecting the safety of our kids in the buildings, on the playgrounds and the fields. If it is voted down then what’s next? No possible reduction of the bond, no heat? Are you willing to take that risk?


• People have already been sending kids to private schools due to the poor condition of the sports fields in our district. These families will definitely not be supporting the heat-only bond and will encourage many more families to follow in their steps, rightly so.


• As of right now, the public is very nervous about the economy. It is critical to inform the public that even the $42 million bond will not increase any taxes for at least two years because of the bonds that will be retired.


• I understand that the board can present a second, adjusted bond if the first is voted down. Why not ask for what you really want and need, and at the same time prepare a fall-back position? At least then it is clearly the community that decided, and it is not the short-term vision of the board that will be seen as lack in vision and stewardship for our kids. After all, it should be the right of the residents to make this important decision!

• . If we are not able to get any fields included in this current bond, no additional turf field will be installed within the next 10 years, requiring the district to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to maintain the current mediocre fields. An additional $100 in annual tax per average household (above the $92) will make it possible to have a reduced bond including Memorial Field and playgrounds. What parent could refuse that?


• How can you forgo the resurfacing of the playgrounds at Murray and Chatsworth. These playing surfaces are unsafe – our kids have had bandaged faces and knees due to falls during phys ed class.

Spending money is a very difficult topic right now, but if you talk to parents, kids still come first. This bond is for the future of our children.

Rudolf and Alix Laager
Larchmont, NY

October 28, 2008

Join the Emergency Response Team

New CERT Program Being Started

Community volunteers are needed to start a new Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

The Town of Mamaroneck, Village of Larchmont and Village of Mamaroneck are implementing the nationally recognized program to organize community volunteers and train them to aid in emergency disaster response and recovery.

The kick-off meeting is being held on November 5, 2008 at the Weaver St. Fire House (Larchmont, NY), 7:00 pm.
The program trains volunteers over 7 weeks. Each week a 2 ½ hour course is taught. The courses cover topics including disaster preparedness, disaster medical operations, disaster fire suppression, light search and rescue operations, and disaster psychology and team organization. The goal of the program is to provide the volunteers with sufficient information to be helpful to not only themselves but their family and their neighbors.

We are inviting you to register and join us in founding a new CERT program here in Westchester County.

WHAT: CERT program kick-off meeting
WHERE: Weaver St. Fire House
WHEN: November 5, 2008, 7:00 PM

To register please call 914-381-7838 or
e-mail mamaroneckCERT@gmail.com

Michael Liverzani, Director
Mamaroneck Town Ambulance District

October 23, 2008

Disturbed By Highest Taxes, Lowest School Aid

I just learned two disturbing facts. Westchester County residents now pay the highest property taxes in America, and children in my state senate district get less state school funding than kids in any state in America.

Our property taxes are so high because we get such little school funding. The average student in New York State gets almost $8,000 a year in state education aid, but children here are getting less than $2,300.

Our state senator, Suzi Oppenheimer, has been in office for 25 years. What on earth has she been doing?

Rob Porucznik
Larchmont, NY

 

October 22, 2008

Feld Lacked Concern for Environment

Though Liz Feld and Suzi Oppenheimer both have the support of the League of Conservation Voters, I do not believe they offer the same protection to our environment.

I witnessed Liz Feld’s lack of concern for the environment this year as she pushed through a questionable and expensive “rubber crumb” artificial turf project in an environmentally sensitive wetland estuary at the opposition of concerned residents and experts.

Feld planted 200 trees and plantings as her record states, but more than half of these were a replacement for trees (including 24” diameter maples) to make room for the synthetic field.

When the field wears out in 8-12 years, it will be removed and replaced with another. The synthetic “carpet” (weighing 120 tons) will be dumped in a regulated landfill in someone else’s back yard. For me, this is not an acceptable contribution to our environment.

On the other hand, incumbent Democratic State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer has had positive influence on environment policy for over 20 years. She saved Westchester County $250 million on sewage treatment plant upgrades. She helped secure state money for flood relief. In addition to being endorsed by the Sierra Club of Lower Hudson Group, in 2008, the nonpartisan EPL/Environmental Advocates awarded Senator Oppenheimer the highest marks of any State senator in the Hudson Valley for her vigorous support of environmental legislation.

Their records are clear. Senator Oppenheimer will better protect our environment.

Michelle Lewis
Larchmont, NY

October 15, 2008

Westchester Probation Officer Doesn't Care

After reading the article Mamaroneck Runaway Returned from England by Judy Silberstein (June 27, 2006), I was dumbfounded by the statements that were made to Ms. Silberstein by Mary Martin, supervisory probation officer for the Department of probation in Westchester. This is just one of Mary Martin's statements made to Judy Siberstein: “We approach the situation as a family unit – not just focusing on the child exhibiting problematic behavior,” said Ms. Martin.

My son was brought to probation for being truant. My ex-wife never included me in the process. Better yet the question is: Why didn't probation ask where the father was?

Upon learning that my son was going to probation, I called to be involved in the process, being a concerned parent, only to be treated very rudely. I asked what the procedure was when a divorced parent comes to probation only to get a response of: I am not allowed to tell you anything.

Again, I questioned why probation never asked my ex-wife to submit a copy of the divorce decree only to get the same response: I am not allowed to tell you anything.

Mary Martin, supervisory probation officer, is very unprofessional. Does this sound like a person who cares what is in the best interest of the child? I have still to be asked to come in and meet with any probation officer.

I wrote this because Mary Martin lied to Judy Silberstein when Mary Martin claimed to care when in fact she really doesn't.

Gennaro Zingone
Larchmont, NY

October 10, 2008

Oppenheimer Has It Over Feld on Integrity, Accomplishment

Suzi Oppenheimer is an honest and devoted public servant who has brought numerous years of positive benefits to Westchester residents.As a person who has taught school in our County for more than 30 years, I am proud of Suzi's record of aid to Westchester's schools. As an environmental artist, I am proud of Suzi's record of sponsoring legislation on global warming since 1999. And as a senior, I am grateful for Suzi's help where seniors benefit from the STAR program.

It is regrettable that Liz Feld, a first-time campaigner for State Senator, chooses to malign, by innuendo, the good work Senator Oppenheimer has done. The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee (WCFCPC) ruled that the Feld campaign's "Postcard from Alaska" which Suzi never sent was intentionally misleading.

Liz Feld was quoted in the Sound & Town newspaper as saying, "I find it all irrelevant." Misleading voters is not irrelevant.

I want an elected official of proven integrity and accomplishment, not a person who demonstrates an absence of integrity.

Hilda Demsky
Larchmont, NY

October 8, 2008

Should Be Walk to School Year!

Walk To School Day? (See: After Accidents, Walk to School Day Will Highlight Safety.)

It should be Walk To School Year!

Richard Williams
Larchmont, NY

October 3, 2008

Kudos to Nancy Seligson for Greenway

Re your article on the Pain to Paine Classic, I think real kudos go to the Hon. Nancy Seligson, Councilwoman in the Town of Mamaroneck. (See: Fifty Runners Complete 13.1 Miles of Paine to Pain Classic.)

Nancy has been the engine that has driven the Greenway project which has resulted in a 15-mile loop for runners and hikers - no small accomplishment in our heavily populated area.

So, Nancy, we salute you.

Marlene Kolbert
Trustee, Village of Larchmont
Liaison to the Greenway

September 30, 2008

Don't Add More Sidewalk on Palmer

I am very pleased that the plans to upgrade the Palmer Avenue "streetscape" are finally progressing and that the Village Board is considering extending the renovation work toward New Rochelle, which means along the Pine Brook neighborhood which stretches from Larchmont Avenue to the New Rochelle line. (See: Palmer Avenue Streetscape Project Starting Up at Long Last?)

I understand, however, that there is a potential plan to build an additional sidewalk along Palmer Avenue on the south side of the street, from Pine Brook Drive to Parkway.

I question why we need more impervious surfaces in this area, and why one needs such a sidewalk at all when there is one directly across the street.

I, for one, would strongly favor not building that new sidewalk and, instead, extending the improved streetscape along the Pine Brook neighborhood to the New Rochelle end of our village.

Ralph M. Engel
Larchmont, NY

September 11, 2008

Oppenheimer vs Feld

To paraphrase a line from another political campaign the citizens of Westchester need change.

Complacency among our representatives in Albany has resulted in government stagnation; a refusal to resolve issues that have been around for decades; and an ever increasing tax burden. Senator Suzi Oppenheimer is a prime example of an entrenched politician, with over twenty years on the job, who has little to show in the way of accomplishments and has truly forgotten about her constituents. The ineffectiveness of Senator Oppenheimer is vividly demonstrated by the tax burden on the citizens of Westchester who for decades have subsidized the rest of the state.

Westchester County has the highest property tax burden in the state and one of the highest in the nation. Westchester County, for example, receives $1.2 million in high tax school aid compared to Long Island receiving $70 million. Why such a huge imbalance when both areas contain similar demographics?

Another example of Westchester being short changed by Albany concerns thruway tolls. Approximately $33.5 million is collected annually in tolls at the New Rochelle Toll Plaza of the New England Thruway, yet these funds are being used to operate the Erie Canal. Why is this money not being escrowed as part of the funding stream to finance the replacement bridge for the aging Tappan Zee Bridge?

For the first time in many years Senator Oppenheimer is facing a real election challenge. She is running against Liz Feld who while serving as mayor of Larchmont has established a reputation as a feisty and forceful personality. Mayor Feld offers a clear alternative for the citizens of Westchester County. Unlike her opponent, Liz Feld offers a practical and effective solution to the property tax burden, and it is just one example of her resolve to fix the inadequacy of funding Westchester receives from Albany.

The citizens of Westchester can no longer afford to have Senator Oppenheimer serve as our representative. We deserve better!

John Komar
Larchmont, NY

September 2, 2008

Keep Dedicated Walk Light at Myrtle

Today I timed the interval for the traffic signal at Chatsworth/Myrtle which cycles for a total of 2 minutes and 10 seconds. For 5 seconds there was a 4-way WALK sign; for 20 seconds there was a blinking DON’T WALK sign; and for the remainder of the time, 105 seconds, there was a steady DON’T WALK while motorists had the right of way and were free to, and did, ignore pedestrian safety.

For five or six years, the Chatsworth Neighborhood Association talked with Mamaroneck Town officials about providing safety at this intersection. We finally got 25 seconds of safety. Now, after a few months, there is a proposal to eliminate that safety zone by permitting right turns on red during the pedestrian walk cycle. Instead of dedicated walk time, there will be a sign: “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk”. This is absurd! A sign will never protect pedestrians. Without aggressive enforcement of the state law the aggressive motorists will try to jump the light and/or continue to turn even after their signals have expired. They do it now. Without a traffic signal prohibiting right turns on red they will do it even more.

A good solution would be to provide for right turn on red only with a green arrow on the traffic signal and only after the 25 second, 4-way walk period.

With more and more people opting to become pedestrians and cyclists to protect our environment it is not helpful to pander to motorists and encourage their aggressive behavior while they contribute to air and noise pollution and global warming. The Town should be doing much more to encourage walking and biking and other environmentally friendly activities. The people in this neighborhood make it a point to walk rather than ride. Our meager reward of 25 seconds of safety as pedestrians is now threatened with extinction.

Please, take a walk in my shoes and become a pedestrian at this intersection for 20 minutes or so to experience the risk. We should not sacrifice pedestrian safety because motorists cannot wait 25 seconds for us to hustle across this busy and dangerous intersection.

Peg Cozzi
Larchmont, NY

August 26, 2008

Professional Fire Chief Worth the Costs

While none of us on the Village Board wants to continue to argue with the former volunteer firefighters who resigned from the Larchmont Fire Department in reaction to the Board’s unanimous decision to appoint a professional chief, it seems that for many of our former volunteers no topic pertaining to the Village government is more than one step removed from that fateful decision. Former Volunteer Chief Jim Sweeney’s recent letter criticizing Mayor Liz Feld (and by extension the entire Village Board) for failing to bring in a budget increase below the 4% cap which recent NY Senate legislation seeks to impose on the State’s school districts is a perfect example of this. (See: Feld's Budgets Exceed 4% Cap.) In a budget with thousands of line items, Sweeney focuses solely on the costs of the professional chief as the chief reason that the annual increase exceeded 4%. Yes, the salary and benefits associated with a professional chief account for about 1% of the increase.

Of course, there are a couple of other items that former Volunteer Chief Sweeney failed to draw your readers’ attention to. For example, he fails to mention the unanticipated defense costs the Village incurred in connection with the two frivolous lawsuits which he and Ned Benton (husband of the editor of the Gazette) filed against the Village. Sweeney also fails to tell the Gazette’s readers about the lavish restaurant dinners that volunteers treated themselves to on a fire company’s dime after they publicly resigned from active duty in the department and while they were still prosecuting their lawsuits against the Village. Or, even better, perhaps former Volunteer Chief Sweeney would explain to your readers how a check for $25,000 was drawn against a fire company’s funds (funds which would otherwise be available for the benefit of new volunteers as well as those volunteers who did not resign and continue to serve the department) as a donation to the Larchmont Historical Society on whose board Benton sits.

And they wonder why we wanted a professional chief to run the department?

No, Sweeney didn’t want to get into any of that, preferring just to throw stones at the mayor for having had the political courage to clean up a fire department badly in need of change and for having been willing to incur the costs (fiscal and political) for doing so. Yes, having professional management costs money, but there are tangible benefits to the residents from that investment, not least among which are a new accountability for how the department is run, transparency as to how its monies are spent and the vastly improved morale among the paid staff and the new and continuing volunteers.

Jim Millstein
Larchmont, NY

August 21, 2008

Feld Responds: Tax Cap Vote Most Important in Decades

[In response to Deep Disappointment With Feld on Misleading Postcard and Shame on Feld for "Swift Boat Tactics"]

One of the most important votes for Westchester County residents in decades was held on Friday, August 8th in Albany. It was to pass a bill to create a 4% cap on local tax increases as a first step toward slowing the growth of property taxes in New York State. Governor David Paterson and Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Chairman of the New York State Property Tax Commission, advocated the bi-partisan bill, and I have been one its strongest proponents in New York State, vocally challenging elected leaders in both parties to support it.

I support the tax cap and spending reform in Albany because Westchester County families, senior citizens and small businesses are getting squeezed by runaway property taxes with no end in sight. They include many people I know and care about. Westchester County pays the highest property taxes in New York State and the third highest property taxes in America. We need relief.

Seventy-four percent of New Yorkers agree that the tax cap is a good idea, but special interest organizations have done everything they can to block the cap. They have spent well over a million dollars on television and radio threatening legislators to vote against it. One union withdrew its support from every member of the New York State Senate who agreed with Governor Paterson and supported the tax cap.

State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer not only went along with the special interests in fighting the cap, she missed the vote entirely because she was vacationing in Alaska. She also missed a vote that day to provide $3 billion in mandate relief to local districts, something we've been asking for for decades. Every other senator from Westchester County was in Albany on August 8th for the special summer session. Where Senator Oppenheimer was is not the issue though. What matters most is that she has been directly working against the interests of her Westchester constituents. They need Governor Paterson's tax relief plan, and Senator Oppenheimer worked to kill it. As the Journal News reported last week, Senator Oppenheimer was rewarded for her opposition to the tax cap with an endorsement from one of the major special interest groups. Equally outrageous was her support for Governor Spitzer's 2007 budget which rewarded $70 million in high tax aid to Long Island and only $1.2 million to Westchester. It begs the question: Who's sticking up for Westchester?

New York State is in dire fiscal condition from years of irresponsible taxing and spending practices by legislators from both political parties. New York has been badly mismanaged and long-term incumbents must be held responsible for it.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot keep sending the same people to Albany and expect different results.

Liz Feld
Candidate for NY Senate, 37th District

August 21, 2008

Shame on Feld for "Swift Boat Tactics"

As a lifelong Republican and supporter of Liz Noyer Feld when she ran for mayor on the Coalition ticket, I'm sorry to say that I cannot support her for State senator because of the recent postcard that the Republicans mailed on her behalf.

I'm very upset that Liz would use the "Swift Boat" tactics that were so deceptive and destructive in the last presidential election. While the Republicans had their name on the "postcard from Suzi Oppenheimer" I would guess that most people overlooked, as I did at first, the Republican credit line at the top of the postcard.

Shame on you Liz for allowing our party to be so deceitful on your behalf. What has happened to the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower?

DIck Mumma
Larchmont, NY

August 21, 2008

Tax Assessment Completely Broken

The current system of tax assessment is completely broken and in need of desperate repair. A mass revaluation has not occurred since 1968 or more than 40 years ago. This time span and delay between valuations has allowed great disparities in assessments to occur between homes of similar market values. The homes that have been adversely affected by over-assessments are those homes that have legally undergone renovations and new construction.

In case you do not know, the assessor only re-assesses those homes where a building permit is filed. The method of re-assessment is different for work classified as a renovation versus new construction, with assessments on renovation limited to the market value of new improvements and assessments on new construction applying a market value to the entire property. The assessor does not re-assess (i) homes upon a sale, (ii) homes remaining unimproved, nor (iii) homes illegally improved (without permits).

It is evident that this process is discriminatory and punitive to homeowners that invest in the community by investing in their homes. The current system fosters resentment in our community and needless tax certiorari litigation as numerous homes are being assessed at a higher portion of their true values than others. The present system has created a large disincentive to invest in the community, via the quality of its housing stock, out of fear of being re-assessed.

The issue of revaluation is an issue of "equitableness", "right versus wrong", "discrimination versus non-discrimination". Re-valuation should regularly be performed to help minimize the large disparities that presently exist. Upon the occurrence of a revaluation, the tax assessment roll increases and the mill rate decreases creating a revenue neutral situation for the Town. The current situation in the Town of Mamaroneck is not dissimilar to the recent mass revaluation performed in Nassau County. In a 2003 suit filed by Coleman versus The County of Nassau, it was determined that The County of Nassau's tax roll was discriminatory. Nassau County was required to adopt a tax assessment roll that was fair, nondiscriminating, scientific, and equitable. The entire county underwent revaluation.

Bronxville, Pelham and Rye are examples of Towns that have recently undergone revaluations; it is now time for Larchmont / Mamaroneck to do the same.

Gregory Sposito
Larchmont, NY

August 21, 2008

Librarian's Treatment Was Cruel

Having lived in the community many years and having used the library for my children and myself, I was upset to read about the children’s librarian having her position demeaned as she reached retirement age. It appears to be a mean and cruel thing to do and very disrespectful of a person’s value to the community.

Paula Ungar
Larchmont, NY

August 14, 2008

Senator Oppenheimer Responds: Cuts Better Than Caps

[In response to Why Wasn't Our Senator There to Vote on Tax Relief?] I was upset to learn after I was already in Alaska that a one-house session had been called. The governor had already called the real two-house special session for August 19th. The wasteful extra Senate meeting, paid for by the taxpayers, was held to pass one-house bills with no Assembly presence to participate or negotiate. More of the dysfunctional Albany we need to change.

My Republican/Conservative opponent has misrepresented the facts by stating I “chose to go on vacation” knowing there was a session. I was already in Alaska with my family.

The real issue is straight thinking on property tax relief. I support cutting property taxes, not maintaining the status quo by capping increases.
In my view, the tax cap proposal is a meaningless solution because it fails to cut taxes and retains the unacceptable levels of property taxation we have today. If you are choking on high property taxes now, casting them in stone, with annual increases, does not bring relief.

In addition, parents should be very concerned about the tax cap approach because of the harm it will do to class size and educational quality, big issues for Westchester parents.

The solution for property taxes is cuts rather than caps. I have introduced legislation that will cut property taxes now by having the state takeover pension retirement system payments by school districts and requiring that districts cut their tax levy by the amount assumed by the state.

We have high property taxes because the state and federal governments have shifted costs down to the local level. Reversing that shift, combined with cost cutting and shared services, is the road to property tax reductions.

I have worked intensively on the property tax issues for a number of years. Through STAR, now a $5 billion shift reducing property taxes, and other programs, the state has assumed some costs back. My proposal, for the first time, will require school districts to cut their tax levy.

Isn’t a cut better than the status quo of a cap?

Senator Suzi Oppenheimer
Mamaroneck, NY

July 17, 2008

Feld's Budgets Exceed 4% Cap

When New York Senate candidate Liz Feld advocates for legislation to cap annual local school tax increases, she should also honestly disclose that she flunked her own test in two of her three budgets as Larchmont mayor.

Ms. Feld argues for capping school tax increases at 4% or 120% of the consumer price index (CPI). What she doesn't disclose is her own village tax increase for FY 2006-2007 of 4.5%, and this year's increase of 5%. In those years - two of her three years as mayor - she exceeded both the 4% limit and the CPI cap. Candidate Feld is saying to the school boards: "Do as I say not as I do."

Furthermore, in those years, the rate increases for nearby Village of Mamaroneck were about a half-percent lower. Mayor Feld claims to be a fiscal reformer, but she governs like a tax-and-spender.

And before she offers the "Albany made me do it" excuse for her tax increases, let's study the numbers. For the most recent Larchmont budget approved in May, the typical "Albany mandate" target - employee benefits - actually declined. The big increase – accounting for about 2% of the tax increase - was in the "Contingency Account" which tripled from $119,000 to $369,000.

One reason for this huge increase is the mayor's program to reorganize the fire department in the midst of labor negotiations with the firefighters' union. She replaced a volunteer fire chief with a paid fire chief costing $152,000 in salary and benefits – costs that will further increase once the new contract is finalized. Albany didn't mandate this expensive plan. The mayor hatched this plan on her own.

Liz Feld flunks two tests for an Albany reformer. She's not a fiscal reformer and she's not candid with the voters about her own record.


Jim Sweeney, LFD Chief in 1990, 1991, 2000
Larchmont, NY

 

June 5, 2008

Connie Dimond: Advocate for Disabled

Connie Dimond, we sing her praises. On May 24, 2008 we lost a long time friend, and our community lost an active, thoughtful and unassuming contributor to our communal well being. (See: Obituaries.)

Throughout her life Connie supported many endeavors that made our community a better place in which to live. We wish to particularly note her efforts on behalf of the developmentally disabled. Connie, and her husband Leigh, who predeceased her, were strong supporters of GROW, a Westchester parental advocacy organization. They were among those responsible for the initial development within our school system of an educational program for special needs children. They were also firm supporters of the Palmer Avenue Group Home and worked tirelessly for its smooth inclusion into our community. Later in life Connie worked as a volunteer placing senior citizens in local jobs.


Connie Dimond

People were important to Connie. She was a member of the Coalition for Mutual Respect, an organization established many years ago by Rabbi Emeritus Amiel Wohl of Temple Israel of New Rochelle and Reverend Vernon Shannon formerly of Saint Catherine AME Zion Church of New Rochelle. In her relationships, by quiet example, Connie encouraged us all to reach beyond our religions, ethnicities, and cultures to share in our humanity.

Mary MacDonald and Cora Rust
Larchmont, NY

June 5, 2008

Appalled at Reassignment of Children's Librarian

When I heard that Ray Messing, head children’s librarian at the Larchmont Library, who nourished and shaped my children's love of books, had been reassigned to the basement of the library to work on a project involving obituaries, I thought it was a sick joke.

But, appallingly, it is not a joke. That is indeed where Ray, whose vast experience and knowledge of children's literature have enhanced the lives of so many children in our community, is being wasted.

I have three children whom I brought regularly to the Children's Room of the Larchmont Library, and whose reading lives, respect for books, and understanding of how to behave appropriately in public places were shaped by Ray. My oldest, in particular, has always been a voracious reader and when she exhausted the standard children's repertoire, Ray guided her to books that she may not have found herself. Ray's knowledge of children's literature and her understanding of my daughter's tastes and sensibilities were remarkable. This daughter now works at Random House, editing and designing children's books. A coincidence? I think not.

Unbelievably, the demeaning reassignment of Ray comes at a time when our community is being asked for money to expand the Children's Library. I am a longtime supporter and almost daily user of the Larchmont Public Library, a member of Friends of Larchmont Library and a contributor to the last fundraising campaign, but I refuse to contribute further funds to an organization that so devalues a human being and resource such as Ray.

The board's actions regarding Ray reflect poorly on the library's priorities and values, on what we are teaching our children about respect for others, and on our community itself.

Amy Ralston Seife
Larchmont, NY

May 23, 2008

Parking Woes at Murray? Walk!

I have a great suggestion that would ease the parking congestion at Murray Avenue. School during pickup and dropoff: walking!

Catherine Wachs

May 15, 2008

School Budget Math Raises Questions

Hopefully our schools are educating their students to question intelligently and to understand that the value of information is in how it is used and presented. The Mamaroneck School District newsletter was recently distributed. It answers some questions. It raises more.

The newsletter says that the differences between a contingency budget and the proposed budget, passage of which it encourages, would cost the average assessed household approximately 70 cents per day. Is a new video game costing only 10 cents per day the reason a child should use to justify a request for one?

The newsletter says the difference between the proposed budget and the contingency budget is 1.63%. But the proposed budget increase of 5.89% is 40% more than the 4.17% contingency budget increase.

The newsletter shows expenditures by pupil of five school districts in Westchester. It “‘appears”’ to rank them in descending order, with Mamaroneck shown, in bolder letters and numbers, in last place. But, the dollar amounts show Mamaroneck as spending the fourth highest amount per pupil.

Statistics are funny things. Ironically, none are reported in the newsletter showing that additional expenditures resulted in better-educated students. Washington Post reporter, Jay Mathews, as reported in the Journal News, said, “We should stop measuring schools by how many wealthy parents they have … and instead measure schools by how much value they are adding to those kids’ educations.”

A ‘leaflet’ came in the postal mail recently. It appeals to fear saying: “Not passing the revised budget sends a message that this community no longer considers education a high priority which would hurt property values.” Where is the evidence that high taxes correlate with high quality education? Good school systems often contribute to higher property values; an expensive one may not. Lower taxes also often contribute to higher property values.

Any vote for increased spending should be based on real evidence of effectiveness. An election should involve a choice between candidates. And we need to stop wasting money by holding many expensive small elections. Let’s teach the value of voting and hold real elections in November on Election Day.

So vote to save the seventy cents a day until you have real evidence that it will make a valuable difference. And teach our students with your action – vote, as too few of us do!

“With a pencil and a pad I figured it out!
Seven & a half cents doesn't buy a hell of a lot,
Seven & a half cents doesn't mean a thing!
But give it to me every hour,
Forty hours every week,
And that's enough for me to be living like a king!"

"I Figured it Out” From “The Pajama Game”
Music & lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross

Brian Lobel
Town of Mamaroneck

May 7, 2008

Today's Children Deserve Opportunites to Excel & Learn

Another year has whipped by and the school budget voting date of May 20 is once again upon us. As an educator and community organizer I constantly find myself addressing how educational missions in our school districts and communities influence a young person’s moral, social and academic life in the present and for the future. To protect the intellectual critical thinking capacity of all of our young people, we must support our public schools. For this reason, I urge us all to vote YES for the proposed 2008-09 Mamaroneck School budget

A recent and passionate quote from Robert Carter, one of the lawyers who argued the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case, is now worth reflecting upon: “…the preservation of the person has nothing to do with physical life expectancy and everything to do with intellectual expectancy.” As a community, we support “intellectual expectancy” by providing our schools with the resources to offer opportunities to all our youth.

There is a lot going on in our society affecting our young people that requires the omnipresence of educators. That’s a good enough reason to support the Mamaroneck school budget.

It is not by accident that I selected the Mamaroneck school district to educate my children and I feel they were well prepared for the challenges that faced them after graduation. My eldest child is completing her doctorate. My second child will be attending graduate school. My third child is in the middle school and deserves the same opportunities to excel and learn.

Luis Quiros
Mamaroneck, NY



May 7, 2008

School Budget Improves Services & Reduces Costs for Special Ed

I am writing as a parent of four children in the Mamaroneck school district. You may know my name as the president of Mamaroneck SEPTA but I want to make clear it is not in that capacity that I am writing.

First, I would like to commend the school board and the administration for offering the public many well-publicized opportunities to review the budget in detail and ask questions, make comments and offer suggestions, both at public meetings and in private via email.
Now is the time to vote... YES, please.
I have reviewed the budget and have attended (and watched) many hours of school board meetings discussing in great detail what is in the budget. I have also compared it to last year's budget.

Thanks to the leadership of the assistant superintendent for student support services, Dr. Anthony Minotti, this budget addresses the growing costs for the delivery of special education services, which are mandated by law, and it also presents plans for some major changes in order to achieve significant savings in the area of special education, some in the near term and more over time.

Specifically and very briefly:

1. This budget supports efforts to reduce the number of students referred to and classified as needing special education services. This is the sort of thinking that parents in SEPTA have been advocating for years.

2. Over the years, the dollar aggregate cost for children placed out of district for special education has been high. By law, children are placed out of district because the school district cannot provide the appropriate services in-district. By establishing new special education programs and services, which replicate what other public school districts offer, the district will be able to return students with disabilities to the district and reduce future student placements in private schools, reducing costs. I must add that while it is ultimately about the money it is also about our community embracing our children.

Please read the budget, understand how monies have been reallocated, and think past simply next year.

These days, many are in no position to bear further tax burdens but I do believe that the budget adopted by the school board is worthy of the community’s support.

Amy Lieberman
Larchmont, NY

May 1, 2008

Vote For School Budget Supports Home Values

The school budget vote is fast approaching and will be held Tuesday, May 20. I want to applaud the significant amount of work that our school board, administration, teachers and volunteers have dedicated to improving our schools and tax situation. Although the ongoing problem of state and union mandated costs has not been resolved, progress is being made on these issues and awareness of their impact is growing.

Please vote “yes” for the school budget and then continue to make your opinions known by emailing superintendent@mamkschools.org.

This year’s school tax increase of 5.41% - one of the lowest in the past ten years—consists almost entirely of these mandated costs. Voting down the budget for the second year in a row will not fix anything and could significantly hurt our community’s reputation and real estate values. A 5% increase on a $15,000 school tax bill is $750; a 5% drop in a $1.5M home’s value is $75,000! Families relocating to our county will steer clear of a community that does not support its schools.

Our community is desirable because of its intellectual and engaged population and its excellent schools. Let’s continue to live up to our reputation.

Cathy DeVore
Larchmont, NY

April 17, 2008

Encourage Community Service Via Sneakers & Bikes

The time has come for the Mamaroneck School Board to offer community service credit for those students who walk or bike to school. What better way is there to reduce traffic and improve the health and awareness of our students?

The students could document their walk or ride to school in a simple notebook that simply records the day and weather. The parents or one teacher at the specific school could sign the notebooks.

This simple option will give so many students the incentive to do what is natural and right for our environment. If implemented, this will cost zero money and will foster caring students who can make a difference easily.

David Litzky
Larchmont, NY

April 10, 2008

Consultants Overlook Harm of Artificial Turf

Your article (Schools Are Delaying Capital Bond Vote to the Fall) missed important details from the school board discussion of proposed artificial turf fields.

I was there to comment on the SEQRA application, which analyzes potential environmental impacts. Syrette Dym, a SEQRA consultant from Saccardi & Schiff, answered questions and noted concerns.

Ms. Dym registered the fields as shedding only water. But water passing through the fields is contaminated by the 27,000 ground up tires used for each field. For 3 fields, that's about 360 tons of plastic and tire waste at our high school . Discharged water filtered through the turf is contaminated with low levels of heavy metals and carcinogens. Since we don't know the makeup of the tires to be used, which varies, I questioned how the application could accurately reflect pollutant levels.

When Anthony Catalano, a Woodard & Curran engineering consultant, commented on numerous studies showing no harm, I became incensed and rudely interrupted. Why? I’m tired of "scientific" studies trotted out in defense of this heinous material -- crumb rubber. It's an insult to the public.

Crumb rubber is relatively new. Science hasn’t kept up with commerce. The many studies finding no harmful effects come mostly from stakeholders, the tire and turf industry or environmental departments happy to be rid of responsibilities for landfilling tires (one tire for every New Yorker every year).

No study has investigated what kind of tires are being used for crumb rubber. Should we allow our children and environment to be guinea pigs before we determine complete safety? Our country has a rich history of marketing products whose safety is questioned: lead paint, cigarettes, arsenic-treated lumber, pesticides and asbestos. They were fought for years by dueling studies -and ultimately banned. I predict crumb rubber will also be banned from turf fields.

I believe Mr. Catalano believes crumb rubber to be safe. Most crumb rubber safety studies depend on dilution of the offending chemicals – i.e. toxins and heavy metals which leach out and are diluted by groundwater. That is like saying, “Why bother controlling pollution since there's so much already there?” Multiply by the thousands of fields being built (850 in Westchester alone) and it does matter. Why make it worse when there are viable alternatives to make it better?

Another undisputed fact not addressed in the SEQRA is: these fields heat up – even creating "heat islands." Temperatures of 150 to 170 degrees have been recorded on synthetic turf. Mr. Catalano joked, "No one's going to burn up when they walk onto the field," but how will our children hold up in those temperatures during soccer or football game?

heat island
Blue area 62 degrees. Red area, 117
degrees, circled area is artificial turf field.

Given global warming, building heat islands is exactly the opposite action to take (see: heat effects.) Other communities are resisting the siren's call of extended play: (see: synturf.org/moratoriums.html).

Two recent independent studies see potential problems, suggesting, at least, that the "precautionary principle" should prevail. (See: EHH and RAMP.)

(For more, see video of Dr. David Brown, a nationally recognized toxicologist kept from making a full presentation on the Flint Park field.)

Catherine Wachs
Larchmont, NY

March 27, 2008

Nanny Has Positive Tale to Tell

In these days of nanny "tell all" articles, I'd like to contribute an article of my own. From 1991 to 1993, I worked as nanny to Spencer and Taylor, sons of Leslie Holleran and Andrew Mondshein. If you expect this to be full of gossip and put-downs, I'm afraid you'll be sadly disappointed. I have nothing but happy memories of the time I was privileged to spend with this special family.

I remember that my friends at the time were madly jealous of my working conditions, and I'm not just talking about my salary, which was more than generous. What my friends envied most was the respect and kindness that Leslie and Andy always showed me. Leslie used to introduce me as her friend who helped take care of her kids, while my friends would be referred to as "the nanny."

Their two boys were a joy to be with. Spencer was very funny, always making up jokes with strange punchlines! Taylor was so affectionate, it broke my heart when they moved away from New York City. I've read [in the Gazette] with joy and pride how Spencer seems to be following in his parents' footsteps and Taylor is excelling on the basketball court.

I've since returned to Ireland and have four kids of my own. I've been blessed with the caregivers my children have had.

I don't know if Leslie, Andy, Spencer and Taylor will ever get to see this, but I'd love them to know that the two and a half years I spent with them were among the happiest of my life.

[Editor's Note: The Gazette put Ms. Clooney in touch with the Holleran/Mondshein family, who now lives in Larchmont.]

Yvonne Clooney
Waterford, Ireland

March 26, 2008

School Budget is Out Of Touch

There is something finally very insulting or very out-of-touch with the initial 2009 Mamaroneck School budget with a 9.8% school tax increase. To describe it, too, as a sort of talking points budget, subject to change, is irresponsible.

We are now in a recession or depression; people are losing jobs left and right; basic food and energy costs are taking their tolls - and the "talking points" budget is presented as if nothing is happening.

Something, many things, are terribly wrong with our school administrators and the board people who are supposed to represent us.

Nathaniel Siegel
Larchmont, NY

March 19, 2008

Community Came Together To Face Bomb Threat

The threatening graffiti written by some very misguided individual(s) resulting in the lockdown of Mamaroneck High School last week demonstrated one abiding fact: in times of crisis, this community really knows how to come together to provide assistance and support. (See: MHS Re-Opens Campus After A Week With No Bomb Threat.)

In spite of increased concern, fear and frustration, the police, faculty and administration promptly secured the school and ably provided a safe environment for our children. Assisting them in this difficult process were the PTSA and the 100 plus parent volunteers who gave tirelessly of their time and patience. We all owe them a hearty thank you.

Noel Dennis
Larchmont, NY

March 13, 2008

Prom Brings Magic to MHS

On Wednesday March 5th the Student Council and the Coast Board at Mamaroneck High School hosted a prom for the senior citizens living in the Town of Mamaroneck, Village of Larchmont and Village of Mamaroneck. The best description of the entire evening was “magical.” The students, under the direction of Carol Scheffler, coordinator of student activities, raised money and decided to spend the funds by treating local senior citizens to a prom. (See: Senior (Citizens) Prom Rocks the MHS Gym.)

From start to finish, these students set forth a goal of making the evening a very special and memorable event. The high school gym was transformed into a prom-like setting with table decorations adorned with balloons and pictures of the past. The seniors enjoyed dinner catered by Carlyn’s Cove in Larchmont, D.J. tunes that brought back memories, and an array of door prizes donated by parents and local merchants. The high school rhythmic dance team, Steppers and the a capella group, Sound, performed for the seniors.

The real magic was the interaction between the students and the senior citizens. The students danced with the seniors, from waltz, to cha-cha, to conga lines. They took the time to sit and talk about families, school, and just about anything that came up. The highlight of the evening was the crowning of a queen and king. As the couple danced, the smiles that lit up the gym from the students and the seniors were enchanting.

On behalf of the seniors citizens, I want to thank Carol Scheffler and all the students who participated in this event. The seniors are still talking about their prom and how special the students made them feel. The wonderful impression these students left with the senior citizens will stay with them forever.

Maria Gallagher
Coordinator, Larchmont-Mamaroneck Senior Citizen Center

March 5, 2008

It Truly Takes a Village

I have lived in Larchmont my whole life and have always loved the village that we all grew up in. Not till the passing of my mother, Sally McGuire, did I realize how lucky we all are to have each other in this little town. To feel the love and warmth of community, church and friends is overwhelming.

Thank you does not seem to be enough to tell you all how much you mean to my family. To all of our friends and neighbors near and far who helped celebrate my mother's life: Thank you Larchmont old and new.

The McGuire Family
Larchmont, NY

February 28, 2008

Have Kids Rate Teachers

I have lived in Larchmont for 20 years and I have three children in the school district. In my opinion, the elementary schools are strong, Hommocks is good, and the high school is a decidedly mixed bag with apparently no mechanism for upping the bar.

There is no good, objective measure for rating our high school. Test scores are as much a reflection of who lives in our community as the quality of teaching. In almost every other realm, we vote with our pocketbooks on what to buy. Not so with teaching. Our kids are placed with teachers the program churns out and, at a time when the rest of the world is emphasizing pay for performance, we have no way to get an accurate read on performance and to reward accordingly. When a teacher gets up in front of the classroom, he is the undisputed leader. He can educate, entertain, bully, berate and bore. Only the kids know.

Who should evaluate our teachers? The people in the best position to know-the kids.

A simple suggestion for the school board: Create a one-page evaluation with a scale of 1 to 10 on key metrics to help teachers improve their teaching, e.g., quality of handouts, homework, class atmosphere, availability for help, etc., and leave room for written comments. Ask students to give specific constructive feedback. Factor out the top and bottom 5% to dispense with outliers, then collate the data. Each teacher gets only his evaluation, which hopefully he will use to improve his teaching. The school board gets only the combined data for the department so individual teachers aren’t singled out before they’ve gotten a chance to respond. For example, we only see that on a scale of 1 to 10, the physics department received an 8 and the Spanish department a 4, but each teacher sees where they need to improve in the eyes of their key customers. Trending the data over time demonstrates progress. I am not suggesting anything as radical as tying scores to teachers’ pay, but in this world, what we care about, we measure. By measuring, we improve.

This is hardly a revolutionary suggestion. College students rate professors because students have a choice of teachers. In high school, students don’t have a choice, but they should have a voice. And if you think students’ opinions shouldn’t count, consider this -by the time they graduate, our kids will be voting. If we care about their evaluation of who should govern - a subject on which most of them have woefully little data - then we should at least care about their evaluation of teaching- a subject in which they are in the very best position to know.

Teachers want to improve and to do so they need honest, constructive feedback. If the school board can’t implement this, then each teacher certainly can and could even devote one session to an open discussion about what worked well and what didn’t. That’s how we improve. We ask.

Jeri Finard
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2007

Water District Would Not Add Government Layer

Re: VOL Supports Water District Law, Despite Concerns, which appeared January 31 in the Larchmont Gazette.

I believe the Larchmont Village Board misunderstood two key aspects of the Regional Stormwater Management District, as currently proposed by the Long Island Sound Watershed Intermunicipal Council (LISWIC).

LISWIC currently consists of 12 governments in the lower Long Island Sound area. The proposed district would not have the power to tax property owners. Funds would be raised on a fee basis to be determined. For example, the fee might be $5 per month for single- and two-family houses; commercial properties would pay based on their amount of impervious surface, etc. The ability to tax lies with the local government not the district.

Secondly, the district would not be another "layer of government." The district is conceived as an intermunicipal, service-sharing body. Its governing board would be made up of the chief elected official (or his or her designee as approved by the municipal board) from each of the participating communities. The district would be patterned after the Westchester Joint Water Works, which is certainly not "another layer of government."

Phyllis Wittner, LISWIC Chair
& Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman

 

January 31, 2008

Passing of a Larchmont Institution

I felt a kind of nostalgia this week when I saw the change along Palmer Avenue.

The Larchmont Store is no longer, and with its demise comes the end of an era and a chapter in my life in this community. Other stores have also come and gone: The Seed Store, The Larchmont Pharmacy and Merry-go-Round. Perhaps their closings have touched others this way. But for me, The Larchmont Store represented a way of life with its convenient location and seemingly endless inventory of items.

The Larchmont Store was an incredible establishment of just about everything you might need: drains for the dishes, white gloves for ballroom dancing, toys for birthday gifts, sewing notions for replacing zippers and buttons, lampshades for odd lamps and supplies for just about every school project assigned through high school. It offered moderately priced merchandise (of course, ‘moderate’ is a relative term) and sometimes helpful employees (that added to its eclectic qualities).

The toys along the side wall were on perfect eye-hand level for a little one in a stroller. And through the years the store provided my children with many of their needs- notebooks, rulers, paints, warm gloves, pajamas, underwear and duffle bags for camp.

I will miss this community institution. It served us very well.

Gerry Goldberg
Larchmont, NY

January 24, 2008

Improve Safety & Service, Merge With TMFD

If the Larchmont Village Board wanted a paid chief, it should have dissolved the volunteer fire department and then appointed a paid chief. So now, rather then admit it, the board, like Nero, continues to fiddle while Larchmont burns.

After the recent Fire Council meeting (see: Volunteers & Chief Battle Over Leadership & Fire Safety) and as evidenced by a one room garage fire requiring mutual aid (see: New Year's Day Fire Smokes Mayor Feld's Home), it is very clear that the department is not only dysfunctional but now is hardly functioning.

Give the taxpayers a break, improve service and provide for the safety of Larchmont's residents and its firefighters. Merge with the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department now!

James Sweeney
Former Chief, Larchmont Fire Dept.

January 10, 2008

Attend Fire Council Jan. 14 to Discuss Recent & Future Fires

I was not at the fire at the mayor’s residence; however, I was paged by 60 Control [Westchester County's dispatch] at 6:55 am to respond to the scene with the Village of Mamaroneck Fire Department. Fifteen or so personnel responded, and I was not needed and stayed behind.

I believe Fire Council should be the next proper forum to discuss the matter of that fire and future fires in Larchmont.
Fire Council meetings are open to the public. There ae a lot of issues to be worked out, and although I am not welcome at Village Hall, I strongly urge concerned residents and press to attend.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 14, 2008 at 8 pm in the company room at Larchmont Village Hall.

PJ Abrahamsen
Former 1st Deputy Chief, LFD

January 4, 2008

Consider Alternatives to Crumb Rubber

The residents of Larchmont are being misled regarding their choices for artificial turf fields. The company FieldTurf Targett that they have been speaking to offers no viable alternative to crumb rubber. They present the choice to Larchmont as artificial turf with crumb rubber or natural grass. This choice forces there to be only two sides – either you have to accept the crumb rubber because you want the fields or you oppose the artificial turf.

The truth is that other companies offer choices for the infill material for artificial turf and all Larchmont needs to do to satisfy both the concerns surrounding crumb rubber and the need for artificial turf fields is to contact other companies and ask about alternatives.
Don't be satisfied to just take what FieldTurf tells you. They are looking out for their own interests - not yours. Safe alternatives exist that also perform better, do not stick to your shoes and your face, and do not absorb heat to the degree crumb rubber does. Plus since they are manufactured you know exactly what you are sprinkling on your field. This is not the case with crumb rubber made from recycled tires. Tires comes in all sorts of sizes shapes and chemical compositions. Why not chose the known over the unknown and make everyone happy?

Sportexe BladeMaster X uses TerraSport XPS infill. Mondo Ecofill has 300 installations worldwide including 6 fields in the US , one of which is at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn. Go see it for yourselves. The largest manufacturer of artificial turf in the world is TenCate. This year they increased their production of Thiolon Infill Pro to respond to an increasing worldwide demand for a “safe” (their words!) infill material.

Susanne Krivet
Redding, CT

See: LETTERS ARCHIVE: 2007 for more on this topic.

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 10, 2008

ASK If There is a Gun in The Home Your Child is Visiting

As the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (www.nyagv.org) I work through advocacy and education to inform New Yorkers about the dangers of gun violence. Although I read every day about unintentional shootings ending tragically for people in this country, I was surprised to read about the shooting by the ten year old in my home town.(See: Child Injures Himself With Handgun.)

Far too often a story like this about a child who shots himself, ends with even more horrific results. This Larchmont boy was fortunate, as were the other children and family members in that household, that no one was killed or more seriously injured. The owner of the gun may incorrectly believe that he or she is somehow safer, since that is the myth perpetuated by the National Rifle Association, but this case - like many others - confirms the real results you are likely to experience.

Statistically, if you have a gun in your home you are much more likely to kill or injure a family member or neighbor, than you are to ever use the gun against an intruder. (See Harvard School of Public Health studies and statistics.)

We are not immune here in Larchmont/Mamaroneck to neighbors who own guns. More than ten years ago when I was testifying at the County Center in White Plains in favor of the safe storage law now enacted in Westchester, I noticed a neighbor standing just in front of me. He asked why I was there and when I told him I supported the proposed law, he informed me he was testifying against it, was a life long member of the NRA and had many guns in his home that he stored safely. I was surprised but later realized that with 200 million guns in circulation in this country, some of them were bound to be here in town.

With that many guns in our country, improperly stored weapons remains an important problem for all parents to address. PAX is an advocacy organization founded in 1997 by Daniel Gross when his brother was the victim of a random shooting on the top of the Empire State Building. PAX (www.paxusa.org) developed a very successful program called "ASK" which encourages parents to ask their neighbors, friends and family members if there is a gun where my children play.

As responsible parents we often ask how our children will be supervised when visiting another house, what kind of foods are served, and what kind of television is permitted. It is even more important to ask if there is a gun in the home - so that you can judge for yourself the safety measures you accept as reasonable for your child and whether you want your child playing in a home where there is a gun.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence provides speakers for community events and materials and information are available from PAX for any PTA wishing to present a program.

Jackie Hilly
Mamaroneck, NY

November 25, 2008

Dismayed at School Board Bond Plan

As a resident who has consistently and enthusiastically supported every school budget and bond over the last twenty years, I find myself dismayed by the recent decision by the Mamaroneck School Board to proceed with a plan that is both economically and environmentally devastating to our community. My real dismay is the cynical joining of necessary improvements to extensive field enhancements in this economic climate. When we would very well see necessary village services cut, not to mention crucial school aid cut from Albany, the idea that sports fields trump all is particularly offensive.

The severity of the economic downturn and the impact that it is likely to have on our community and neighbors and the message we are sending to our children about sacrifice during bad times and the goals of a green America is at best, mixed. Thankfully my children, who played on Larchmont fields for many many years, are grown now, and those lessons learned.

Susan Leon
Larchmont, NY

November 19, 2008

Senator Oppenheimer: Thanks; Now Challenge Begins

I would like to thank the voters of the 37th Senate District for giving me the opportunity to continue to serve Westchester in the New York State Senate.

Now the challenge of governing begins. Albany is in serious need of repair and reform. We must rebuild confidence in our state government and our economy. This is an exciting time, bringing the hope for more openness, responsibility, and responsiveness.

Our state and nation face serious challenges. As a result of the failing economy, New York State now faces serious deficits which we, in the legislature, must address. This past week I called an emergency meeting of all superintendents of school districts in the Senate District to discuss proposed cuts in State aid. While we must make painful cuts in the state's expenditures, I am going to do my best to find savings in other areas while protecting the vital needs including education and health care. Ultimately no area will be exempt.

At the same time, many families are facing extraordinary hardships including threatened or lost jobs, significant loss of savings, the high burden of property taxes in New York State, unmanageable mortgage costs, and the increased cost of living. I am dedicated to continuing to work in a bipartisan way to overcome these challenges. I am confident we will restore stability, the quality of life, and economic health we have enjoyed in the past.

Regardless of how you voted in the last election, I welcome your input, suggestions, and ideas. Please contact me at my office at 914-934-5250, 222 Grace Church Street, Port Chester, NY 10573, or by e-mail at oppenhei@senate.state.ny.us.

I wish everyone a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

Suzi Oppenheimer
State Senator

November 7, 2008

Smaller School Bond Lauded

I was moved to write after reading two somewhat misleading letters in the Gazette this week.

The Mamaroneck School Board, in light of the disastrous financial situation we find ourselves in, took a responsible look at the huge $40,000,000 bond and made cuts by splitting the bond in two: necessary repairs and less necessary renovations. The necessary repairs cost $22 million. Every responsible government and household across our nation will be cutting costs, and I applaud the school board for doing the same.

What we NEED is not the same as what we WANT. The whole reason to split the bond is so the voting public will not throw out the needed repairs with the wanted repairs. Boilers and roof repairs are a necessity. $8 million dollars for fake grass and 90-foot lights are not.

The athletic fields are in terrible shape-- because they have been ignored for four years, as Fields For Kids and sports groups have pushed for environmentally unfriendly, artificial turf fields, ignoring simple renovations while holding out for the big payoff. Renovating them with natural grass, better drainage and soil is the more cost-effective way to go. And certainly better for our kids' health and the environment. (See http://synturf.org)

As far as people sending their kids to private schools because of the fields - I say wonderful! Those wealthy enough to do that can support our public schools through their property taxes and not use the school services. That is something the older residents, when they could afford to live here, used to do.

Catherine Wachs
Mamaroneck Town

 

November 6, 2008

Latimer: After Election, We're All United

I'd like to thank all those who came to the polls this past Tuesday; I deeply appreciate those who came out to support my candidacy for re-election, and I offer a hand of friendship to those who did not support me.

Once an election is over, we are all Democrats and we are all Republicans. In short, we are united as Americans.

I look forward to the next two years, despite the troubles of the moment, with confidence and optimism.

Again, thank you.

George Latimer
NY Assembly, 91st A.D.

November 6, 2008

Sts. J&P Grad Thanks Gracious Larchmonters

As an email subscriber across the country in Arizona who grew up in Larchmont as the youngest of 10 children, I have been pleased to receive the Gazette and enjoy the stories. When I asked for a posting of a notice before our Sts. John and Paul 50th graduating class celebration, I did not expect that there would be an article on it. While there were people taking pictures, I wasn't sure who one gracious lady was, who kept jotting down notes. But it must have been Grace Pineda, who did a marvelous story for the Gazette. (See: Sts. John & Paul's First Graduates Return for A 50th Reunion.)

Our classmates were also surprised on the extent that current schoolchildren wrote posted notes and made artwork to welcome us, now older folk. It is good to know that the great community spirit that we grew up with, years ago, still dwells among the residents of Larchmont. It is a special place with very special people.

Thanks to all the Larchmonters, who are always gracious and beautiful hosts and hostesses to others.

David Gironda, Sr.
Phoenix, Arizona
(Also M.H.S. Class of 1962)

October 28, 2008

Vote for A Statesman - George Latimer

A politician puts his party before the needs of the community. A statesman puts the community first. The world is full of politicians, but there are few statesmen (or women). I consider George Latimer one of those few and far between statesmen.

George has worked hard doing the right thing for whatever community for which he had responsibility, and done it openly with regular communication with his constituents. As such, he has gained the respect and cooperation of people from all parties, and was able to accomplish what many others found hard to do.

It would be a sad mistake not to keep him in office. Vote for him.

Martin Kantor
Mamaroneck, NY

October 27, 2008

Vote for Leadership & Energy - Liz Feld

From the numerous times I have had the privilege of meeting Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld, I have noticed two things: she has a plethora of energy and she is a person that delivers results. Other than seeing her cheering on Harrison and Rye football players at the annual “Rye-Harrison Game” or seeing her dance with her fellow residents at the Village of Mamaroneck Hispanic Festival, I was quick to find out that she is a real “go-getter.” I started to think to myself that this is the kind of energetic leader we need in Albany.

As a proud United States Air Force veteran, I have seen some of the best leadership this nation has to offer, from colonels down to sergeants. Liz has shown the kind of leadership I saw when I was in the World’s Greatest Air Force. Albany and Westchester are in need of this type of leader. Her record is quite impressive as well. She has been a “go-getter” on delivering a private-public partnership in delivering a new turf field at Flint Park, working with the Town of Mamaroneck for shared resources to best service her community, and implementing a waterfront environmental trail on the Sound.

To achieve what she has achieved in her term as mayor you need to have leadership as well as energy. I am confident that she will have the leadership and energy in Albany that she has shown in Larchmont.

Mayor Feld will free up the gridlock that is Albany politics and be a clutch deliverer for the 37th Senatorial district. I urge you all to vote for leadership and energy. Vote Liz Feld for State Senate on the 4th of November.

Brett Moeller
Mamaroneck, NY

October 23, 2008

Schools Look at Scaled-Down Bond: Oct 30 Meeting

As you may recall, the Mamaroneck School Board voted last June to support a $40 million bond for structural improvements, repairs and renovations at all of our aging school buildings, in addition to improving the safety and capacity of our athletic fields. (See: Mam'k School Board Okays $40.6 Million Bond for Fall.) We were waiting for necessary environmental reviews prior to finalizing the date that the community could vote. But when these reviews were completed just a few weeks ago, our world had been horribly shaken by the dramatic downturn in the economic climate, and today, as we all are keenly aware, economic uncertainties are greater than ever.

While this change in events has caused us to reconsider the scope of the bond, doing nothing is not an option. Our school district is faced with an enormous challenge: much of the proposed work is necessary for the structural soundness and safety of our buildings, and a good portion of that work (including most significantly, new boilers) is not only necessary, but if not done, may threaten to close our schools down and cost Mamaroneck taxpayers exponentially more money if costly emergency tactics are necessary. It would be irresponsible for the board to hold off on planning for these crucial expenditures.

We invite you to attend a special board meeting that we have scheduled for October 30, where we’ll be discussing scaled-down options that the board is considering and hearing feedback from the community. Your feedback is very important to us, and this meeting will be one of several ways in which you can participate in this bond process over the coming weeks.

Please keep in mind that once a bond is approved through a public vote, it will take one or more years before you will see any difference in your tax bill. In fact, as other debt is retired, you may not see any difference at all.

Again, we hope to see you on October 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Tiered Classroom at Mamaroneck High School. If you are unable to join us, you can tune in to LMC-TV, where the evening will be televised live. In the meantime, you are always welcome to e-mail us at board@mamkschools.org.

Mamaroneck Board of Education
Linnet Tse, President
Harriet Barish
Janet Buchbinder
Michael R. Jacobson
Rick Marsico
Robin Nichinsky
Nancy Pierson

October 15, 2008

See For Yourself: Site Compares Oppenhiemer, Feld

I am increasingly concerned about the tone and facts Republican Liz Feld uses against incumbent Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer in the state Senate election.

Feld says fair campaign practices are “irrelevant,” Feld wants a “cap” on tax increases but pushes through Larchmont Village budgets way above her artificial cap number, Feld continues to display her angry temperament and impulsiveness.

Voters really need to compare the records of the two candidates. They can do that by going to:

larchmontcoalitionforsuzi.com

John Boudreaux
Larchmont, NY

 

October 10, 2008

Tax Caps Are A Bad Idea

Candidates are talking about capping school taxes in New York State. School tax caps are a bad idea.

Just ask parents in California and Massachusetts where Prop 13 and Prop 2-1/2 are destroying public schools.

Those of us living in Westchester County know how important our public schools are to the quality of life in our communities.

As a former president of the Mamaroneck Board of Education, I know that reforms are necessary. State mandates which are passed down with no added state aid and which burden local school budgets have to stop. Special education, important to all students with special needs, is a federally mandated program and local property taxes support most of these costs.

Rising pensions and health care costs often raise the cost of a school budget beyond what would be allowed under a cap. The only alternative then is to cut staff and cut programs. If we truly want an educated workforce, cutting programs is a terrible idea.

There are ways to manage these problems at the state level. They require creative solutions and legislators, teachers, administrators, school boards and citizens working together.

Tax caps are definitely not the answer

Marlene Kolbert
Trustee, Village of Larchmont

October 9, 2008

Liz Feld Doing Nothing to Cut Costs

I am retired, and the endless increases in property taxes are really hurting me.

Now, our country is in a financial crisis. New York Governor David Paterson is making huge budget cuts, but I have not heard that Mayor Liz Feld is doing anything to reduce costs to the Village of Larchmont.

I am voting to re-elect the Democrat, Senator Suzi Oppenheimer. There's a good chance the Senate will change to a Democratic majority. Then our senator will be a powerful voice against higher taxes. She'll be the chair of the Education Committee, a position with the power to transfer state-mandated costs, like those for teachers' pension, from the local school budgets back to the state.

I urge voters to visit the site, Larchmont Coalition For Suzi to compare the candidates. Mayor Feld increased taxes for the Village of Larchmont by 4.5% and 5%. As a village trustee, she voted for 6.5%, 7.7% and 8.5% increases! And the NY Senate Republicans, who have been in power since before World War II, haven't done very much either.

Jackie Cooperman
Larchmont

October 8, 2008

Time for New Leadership in Albany

In 1960, my uncle Joe Nowicki was elected to the New York State legislature. His comment after attending his first legislative session was “the best thing we could do for the citizens of New York would be to all go home.” He was discouraged with the mismanagement and corruption in Albany.

Not much seems to have changed in Albany in the last half century. The lack of leadership and fiscal discipline now means that Westchester County has the highest rate of property tax in the country, according to data from the Washington, DC based Tax Foundation. Add in State taxes and the result is that Westchester County residents face the highest overall tax burden in the US.

When I left Larchmont to go to college in 1979, local property taxes were one-seventh of what they are today. Returning to Larchmont with my family in 2002, property taxes in Larchmont had risen to 70% of average US median household income.

As a resident and business owner in Westchester, I can’t help but feel that our leaders have let us down. Albany can’t seem to prioritize spending needs and Westchester isn’t receiving its fair share of revenue. Suzi Oppenheimer, our NY State senator for the past 24 years, has not served Westchester well. For example, in 2008, Suzi missed both a vote to pass Governor Paterson's property tax cap proposal and also a vote to provide billions in mandated relief to local governments. Unfunded mandates are part of the reason why property taxes are so high in Westchester County.

It’s time for new leadership in Albany. Liz Feld, our mayor in Larchmont, has done an outstanding job of building a coalition of both local parties and together they have made sensible budget judgments for the Village of Larchmont. I am confident that she will work well with other legislators in Albany to both lower taxes and provide great services to our county. Let’s send a representative to Albany who will represent us well.

Ed Colloton
Larchmont, NY

October 2, 2008

Feel Better: Give to Red Cross & Try Chicken Soup

These are difficult and unsettling times, so I want to offer you two things to make you feel better. The first tidbit is about the American Red Cross in Westchester County and the other is my Grandma Blum's recipe for chicken soup. (See: Grandma Blum's Chicken Soup.)

The turnaround at the American Red Cross in Westchester County is complete. The new CEO, John Ravitz, has been in place for a year as have all the directors of critical departments. Our director of disaster services, Dan Irade, is currently on deployment in Texas. He's running one of the largest shelters in the hurricane relief effort. That's the caliber of people we've been able to attract to our community. I know because I was just elected the interim chairman of the board and have been a director for one year.

We're now returning 91 cents of every dollar to the community through our response to 91 fire disasters in Westchester in 2007. I don't think we can do better than that, but we're trying.
Since July 1, 2008 we’ve already responded to 21 fire disasters. We're training thousands in CPR and in the use of automated defibrillators. We’re stationing a 100 bed shelter trailer in the Town of Mamaroneck to ensure we’re prepared in the event of another flood. We have among the safest blood supplies in the world and we're getting better and learning more.

The horrible effects of two hurricanes have been pushed off the front page by the carnage on Wall Street. The similarities between the three disasters are stark reminders of how quickly lives can be ruined, changed and lost. In Texas, there are over 22,000 people still in shelters and many may be there through the end of the year. Closer to home we’re concerned about stress and depression.

Our American Red Cross chapter is stronger than ever. We need your support to continue our work to ensure our readiness. We continue to be prepared to respond to local disasters as well as pitching in to support national relief efforts. All that takes your hard earned money donated through your generosity and understanding that there must always be a Red Cross in Westchester County. Our Red Cross chapter has 110 years of continuous service through a depression, two world wars, hurricanes, floods and assorted horrors. We’re among the oldest charities in America. We make victims into survivors, restore dignity and impose humanity on disorder. We care for people and we give them hope.

With this in mind, please take a moment to write a check to The American Red Cross in Westchester County or donate online at Westchester Red Cross by clicking on the Donate Now button in the left menu bar.

These are unprecedented times and the American Red Cross needs us now. The Red Cross in Westchester needs to prepared and ready. Please send your donation today so that this will be accomplished.

Edward J Merians
Larchmont, NY

September 30, 2008

Police Friends Remember Michael Garcia

It is with great sadness that I read your news about the death of a beloved friend of mine, Michael Garcia. (See: Obituaries: Michael David Garcia.) Our relationship was mostly through the post, but this only separated us geographically.

All my fellow workers and I are really sad for his loss. I personally awaited the day that he and his lovely wife would came again to Spain so I could show them a little more of my country, now that I am also retired from the police force.

I was looking to send him a message when I found your newspaper.

Well such is life.

I would be very grateful if somehow you could print in your Gazette that his police friends from Spain will never forget him.

Jaime Picallo López

September 4, 2008

Trustee Doesn't Want to Discuss Fire Department Mess

It took me several readings to decode Trustee Jim Millstein’s reply (See: Professional Fire Chief Worth the Costs) to former Fire Chief Jim Sweeney’s letter which pointed out that Liz Feld advocates a 4% tax cap on school districts, while two of her three Village of Larchmont budgets busted the cap. (See: Feld's Budgets Exceed 4% Cap.)

Millstein starts by admitting that he and the mayor don’t want to talk about the fire department reorganization any more. That’s understandable since it is an embarrassing mess for the mayor.

Millstein then goes on to agree that Sweeney is correct on the main points of his letter:

• Sweeney is right that Feld and the entire board failed to bring in two of the last three budgets below the 4% cap that Feld now advocates for the schools.

• Sweeney is right that the cost of the paid fire chief accounts for at least one-fifth of this year’s 5% tax increase.

Having conceded the main points of Sweeney’s letter, Millstein changes the subject and slings some mud.

• He complains about the Village spending a lot of money on lawyers to assure that the voters could not vote on the $152,000 fire chief. Every penny the board spent on their lawyers would have been have saved by holding the vote that more than 800 voters petitioned for.

• He complains about whether fire companies should spend non-village funds on a few dinners to honor the service of volunteer firefighters, as the fire companies have done for more than a century. Millstein complains about a dinner following a major storm where most of the volunteers had spent dozens of hours assisting and rescuing residents.

• He complains about the volunteers making a donation of fire company (not Village) funds to the Historical Society to maintain and restore Engine One. Considering that Larchmont Village hasn’t spent a dime on Engine One since 1948, maybe a donation is not such a bad idea!

Then he closes by touting so-called “tangible benefits” of the paid chief plan.

• Have the taxpayers really benefited from the replacement of a no-cost volunteer fire chief with a paid fire chief? The paid chief now costs the taxpayers more than $175,000 because of the new firefighter union agreement which was negotiated with the participation of the paid chief, who also benefits from whatever he negotiates.

• Will the taxpayers really benefit from the mayor’s budget that spends $400,000 more on firefighter salaries than the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District which protects 70% more property and twice as much land?

Trustee Millstein should devote more attention to explaining his ideas than throwing mud at those who disagree with him and his favorite Senate candidate.

Paul J. Abrahamsen
Former LFD Deputy Chief

August 26, 2008

VOL Dem Chairs Lack Humor, Leadership

As a member of the Coalition Party ticket, a current trustee of the Village of Larchmont serving with Mayor Liz Feld, and a long suffering Democrat, I am deeply disappointed in the two co-chairs of the Larchmont Democratic Party for putting party first in the current State Senate election. (See: Deep Disappointment With Feld on Misleading Postcard.) To decry the end of the Coalition Party over a pretty amusing (albeit pointed) piece of campaign literature not only evinces the loss of their sense of humor, but more importantly, a lack of leadership.

One of the great failings of the two party system in the United States today is that local leaders in both parties have been unwilling to scrutinize, criticize and work to replace their own elected officials long after those officials have demonstrably lost the energy and willingness to lead, seniority rather than performance being viewed as its own entitlement. The result: we get a twelve term Democratic State senator who can afford to think that her Alaskan vacation is more important than having her allegedly strong views heard, and her vote recorded, on one of the most controversial policy initiatives of our time: the “property tax cap”. The bottom line: you can’t govern, if you don’t post. Local party leaders who decide to fall in behind that kind of incumbency are leading us nowhere; we can’t expect Albany to change if we keep putting the same ineffective people up for re-election.

I am supporting Mayor Feld in her candidacy for the State Senate because she will bring to Albany the kind of energy, intelligence, commitment and humor that she has brought to the governing of Larchmont and I urge every Democrat, Republican and Independent to do so as well.

Viva la Coalition!

Jim Millstein
Larchmont, NY

August 21, 2008

Deep Disappointment With Feld on Misleading Postcard

Some voters in our State Senate district recently received a misleading and factually inaccurate postcard from the New York Republican State Committee on behalf of Liz Feld, who is challenging Senator Suzi Oppenheimer in the November election for the 37th District State Senate seat. The postcard purports to be from Senator Oppenheimer although, in fact, it is Republican campaign propaganda. We are deeply disappointed in Liz for resorting to, or otherwise allowing her campaign to be associated with, such a deceptive and disingenuous tactic, and for attacking Senator Oppenheimer personally - by means of impersonation - instead of taking the opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion of the substantive issues facing voters.

Liz Feld was elected mayor of Larchmont in the last two local elections as part of a coalition slate comprised of Democratic and Republican candidates. We supported her candidacy, believing that the non-partisan climate that she pledged to bring to Village politics would be beneficial to Larchmont. We regret that she has decided to abandon this platform to further her own political ambitions at the expense of the Village and its electorate. Her apparent willingness to employ the kind of deceitful and unethical ruse mentioned above will make it next to impossible to garner bipartisan support in the Village for a coalition candidate in the future.

Liz does not have our support in this State Senate race, and we fully endorse incumbent Senator Suzi Oppenheimer.

Moreover, we would like to remind local Democrats who may be deciding whom to support that, while the differences in national party platforms on key issues such as a woman's right to choose, gun control and the death penalty may have little bearing on who governs in Larchmont, they can have tremendous significance in Albany.

We urge local Democrats to vote for Suzi Oppenheimer in November.

Carol Miller & Dorothea Constas
Co-Chairs, Larchmont Democratic Committee

August 19, 2008

Oppenheimer Missed Vote on Tax Relief

Looking at the Senate’s recent vote on property tax I’m reminded of the saying, “Times Change.” Times certainly do change as is evidenced by the Senate and Governor finally taking action and helping address the oppressive property tax burden faced by New York State and Westchester County residents. The vote afforded the representatives of Westchester the opportunity to make their voices heard; however, only 4 of the 5 senators showed up.

Suzi Oppenheimer failed to attend the vote despite the crushing tax burden faced by District 37 and our voices were not heard. She was too busy on vacation in Alaska. (See: Senator Oppenheimer Responds: Cuts Better Than Caps.)

Twenty years ago Senator Oppenheimer was our voice in the Senate but not anymore, we the residents were left mute at the very time we needed a strong voice to fight for property tax relief. Unfortunately, times have changed, and so has Senator Oppenheimer’s commitment to her constituents.

Lori W. Godwin
New Rochelle, NY

August 15, 2008

Re-val Would Fix Broken System

The current system of tax assessment is completely broken and in need of desperate repair. A mass revaluation has not occurred since 1968 or more than 40 years ago. This time span and delay between valuations has allowed great disparities in assessments to occur between homes of similar market values. The homes that have been adversely affected by over-assessments are those homes that have legally undergone renovations and new construction.

In case you do not know, the assessor only re-assesses those homes where a building permit is filed. The method of re-assessment is different for work classified as a renovation versus new construction, with assessments on renovation limited to the market value of new improvements and assessments on new construction applying a market value to the entire property. The assessor does not re-assess (i) homes upon a sale, (ii) homes remaining unimproved, nor (iii) homes illegally improved (without permits).

It is evident that this process is discriminatory and punitive to homeowners that invest in the community by investing in their homes. The current system fosters resentment in our community and needless tax certiorari litigation as numerous homes are being assessed at a higher portion of their true values than others. The present system has created a large disincentive to invest in the community, via the quality of its housing stock, out of fear of being re-assessed.

The issue of revaluation is an issue of "equitableness", "right versus wrong", "discrimination versus non-discrimination". Re-valuation should regularly be performed to help minimize the large disparities that presently exist. Upon the occurrence of a revaluation, the tax assessment roll increases and the mill rate decreases creating a revenue neutral situation for the Town.

The current situation in the Town of Mamaroneck is not dissimilar to the recent mass revaluation performed in Nassau County. In a 2003 suit filed by Coleman versus The County of Nassau, it was determined that The County of Nassau's tax roll was discriminatory. Nassau County was required to adopt a tax assessment roll that was fair, nondiscriminating, scientific, and equitable. The entire county underwent revaluation. Bronxville, Pelham and Rye are examples of Towns that have recently undergone revaluations; it is now time for Larchmont / Mamaroneck to do the same.

Gregory Sposito
Larchmont, NY

August 12, 2008

Why Wasn’t Our Senator There to Vote on Tax Relief?

The New York State Senate approved Governor Paterson’s four percent property tax cap today. Thirty-one Republicans and seven Democrats voted in favor in this special legislative session.

This was no Proposition 13. The statute allows school districts to opt out with a vote to override the cap when necessary to preserve education quality. For Westchester residents, this was a “no brainer.”

People in our community on fixed incomes are struggling to stay in their homes. As far as I can tell, the only Westchester Senator who was absent from the vote was Suzi Oppenheimer. While I admire some of the things Ms Oppenheimer has done during her twelve terms, too often she has taken her constituents for granted. This was too important an issue to miss.

Joshua Friedman
Larchmont, NY

June 7, 2008

What is Toll Booths' True Cost?

I read Assembly Votes to End I-95 Toll on Larchmont Border with cautious anticipation that Larchmont may indeed be liberated soon from the scourge of the tollbooth station on I-95.

The financial discussion of the price of eliminating the toll presented in the article fails to give us the net revenue. While “somewhere near $30M per year" is taken in, how much does it cost to run the tolls in terms of salaries, benefits, physical maintenance, etc.?

This is important information to have in order to fully assess the wisdom of removing the toll.

Frances Snedeker
Larchmont, NY

June 5, 2008

Well-Drained Grass Better Than Artificial Field

Last week’s article about the rainstorm made a point that the new synthetic field at Flint Park did not stay wet long after the storm and the grass field below had pools of water.

Why? The grass field is at on the lowest ground in the park. This area was not chosen as the site for the synthetic field because of this. The synthetic field also has roughly $400,000 of elaborate drainage under every inch of the field to direct the storm water into the Long Island Sound.

Know that a grass field in the elevated location would not flood as the one below either. With well-planned drainage, native plantings to absorb storm water, good maintenance and enthusiasm (for saving money), well-drained grass fields would be a better solution.

They will never be as perfect as “synthetic.” Nothing real is, though real is often preferred.

While the synthetic field looks dry and innocent, the negative environmental impact and the potential health risks to the children playing on these fields are substantial. Be very careful with your crawling children, pregnant mothers and pets.

The Larchmont Gazette would do a service to its readership if it explained both sides of the issue of installing synthetic fields including the negative impact on the environment and potential health risks.

For information on the pros and cons of synthetic fields, a helpful site is www.grassfields.org.

Please get involved.

Michele Lewis
Larchmont, NY

May 15, 2008

Open AP Courses to More Students

(Editor's note: This letter was originally read at the Mamaroneck School Board meeting on May 13.)

I will be a junior next year at Mamaroneck High School. I wish to explain that access to Advanced Placement at MHS is a serious problem for students, like myself, who possess a B to A-minus average, are non-honors and who are considered “average.” MHS AP is geared to honors kids who will go to top schools that require a 4 or 5 performance level, not to the many kids, like me, who are headed for less competitive colleges for which a score of 3 is accepted and valued. According to the College Board Report which documents the relationship between PSAT and AP scores, I can indeed achieve a 3 and succeed in passing the AP exam in numerous subjects.

MHS’ elitist gatekeeping policy is not on par with many other schools in Westchester and across the country. For example, at Rye High, with my history and English average, I would automatically qualify for AP U.S. History and AP Literature without taking placement exams or achieving a minimum 92 GPA, as I have to do at MHS.

In a press release, the College Board explains how the U.S government supports greater access to AP courses and that schools should encourage any student who wishes to accept the challenge of AP. Jay Mathews’ high school Newsweek index may be imperfect, but numerous studies show that students who take AP courses are better prepared for college. Why shouldn’t I have the same opportunity and options to prepare myself for college and save time and money by gaining AP credit?

Is MHS reluctant to let more students enter APs because we might lower our school profile or put a strain on teaching resources? Don’t we have faculty who can teach AP to anybody but the cream of the crop?

We “average” students are made to feel inadequate. Imagine how discouraged I felt when teachers responded to my appeals by asking how I would cope if I got a C or D in AP! How do you think I felt when I asked my mother to meet with an administrator, who then flatly told her that she was doing me a disservice?

I urge the School Board to expand AP courses to include non-honors AP classes across the board so that we are on par with the national agenda and so that many more students can have access. MHS is a public school, and yet AP courses are treated like the finest sterling silver reserved for a limited group of students who can pass the highly restrictive selection process. I can’t gain access to the silver spoons because I’m a B to A-minus student who doesn’t perform well on placement exams. I am assigned to the everyday flatware even though I am just as worthy of trying the finer educational silver.

I value my teachers, classes, and classmates. I wish for them what I want for myself: the opportunity to learn and grow in a vigorous, but fair and equal academic environment.

Elizabeth Lieber
Larchmont, NY

May 8, 2008

Old Timers Should Vote Yes on Budget

Just a reminder from an “old timer “ that even those of us whose kids have been out of school for a long time should go to our elementary school , reminisce and vote yes for the school budget.

It is important that we keep the schools in good shape the way others did when our children were going through the system. Strong vibrant schools help to make this community a good place for all of us to live.

Please remember to vote next Tuesday, May 20th from 7am to 9 pm at your local elementary school.

If you want a button, I still have some nice orange ones that say “I Still Vote Yes!“

Jane Orans
Larchmont, NY

May 7, 2008

Don't Use Fear to Sell School Budget

It is unfortunate that fear has replaced logic as the key point of arguments these days:

"If the U.S. doesn't invade Iraq, we will face another terrorist attack!!!"

“If we don’t stop Iran, it will get a nuclear warhead.”

"If you don't pass the school budget, the value of your house will plummet."

Is it any wonder that we now lock our doors tight at night, we are wary of talking to our neighbors, and we don't let our children walk five feet away from us. We are paralyzed by fear.

I have seen many school budgets fail and it has done very little to home values. I don't have an opinion one way or another on the school budget. However, the budget should stand on its own merits. If it is a good budget, it should pass. If it is not, it should fail. It should be that simple. We shouldn't settle for a subpar budget just because someone is selling fear.

People steer clear of communities for a number of reasons. In fact, one big reason is high property taxes.

I implore people to stop using fear to sell your arguments. We get quite enough of it from the government and 24-hour news media.

Brian Morris
Larchmont, NY

May 7, 2008

Impressed With Hommocks & MHS - Voting Yes on Budget

I am the parent of a son entering Hommocks next year and a son in third grade at Murray Avenue. Each year, as the school budget has come up for a vote, I’ve looked skeptically at spending directed toward our high school and middle school. I’ve asked myself, how do those resources benefit the children in our elementary school?

Finally, it was our turn to tour Hommocks as the parents of a member of next year’s incoming sixth grade class. I was impressed! I saw current technology, innovative programs, pleasant facilities, and a great learning atmosphere.

I wish it were possible for the parent of every elementary school student – and for every taxpayer – to visit Hommocks and Mamaroneck High School to see how our tax money is put to work to benefit all the children in our community. Then, like me, you would more fully understand and appreciate the quality education our community supports through the school budget.

I encourage all voters – especially parents whose children are in elementary school – to vote “yes” on May 20 to support the ongoing strength of our community’s middle and high schools.

Debra Schwartz
Larchmont, NY

May 6, 2008

Children's Librarian Reassigned to Obits

I would like to share some information of which you may not be aware.

Ray Messing, who has been head children's librarian at the Larchmont library for as long as I have lived here, has recently been “reassigned" and is now working in a nearly windowless basement room on a project having to do with obituaries from the early 1900s. Ray is most unhappy with the situation but does not have the authority to change the assignment.

Because I have a long-standing relationship with Ray, as a parent of two children who often used the children's library as an after-school study spot, as a volunteer who leads toddler singing sessions in the children's library, and as a fellow Community Unitarian Church member who sees Ray's tireless volunteer work on CUC's Actions for Social Concern committee, I did not want to sit silently while she was treated this way.

I called the library director, Diane Courtney, to ask her about this, and she responded that she was unable to discuss a personnel issue. However, she did listen while I expressed my thoughts on the matter.

If you, too, are appalled at this treatment of a respected librarian who has served the community for many years, perhaps you would like to make those feelings known to the director, the board, or the Friends of the Library. Apparently, families who do not like Ray have been very vocal at planning meetings. It would be good for the board to hear from people who appreciate Ray as the wonderful
librarian that she is.

Many people I know are serving as volunteers on the committees for the current fundraising and planning efforts toward a major expansion of the children's library. They were not aware of Ray's situation when I spoke with them, but they each expressed dismay upon learning about it.

Whatever the reasoning behind the decision to "reassign" Ray, it is clearly an affront to Ray and to her professional capabilities. To offend the head children's librarian like this, when a major effort to raise funds for the renovation of that portion of the library is underway, seem ill advised as well as unkind.

Please feel free to forward this message to anyone else who might be concerned for the future of the children's library and of Ray Messing. It is my hope that if the director is made aware of the many families who are grateful to Ray for her service in the children's library, she will reconsider this "reassignment."

Jean Young
Larchmont, NY

May 1, 2008

Mandates Driving School Budget

It seems that every year the Mamaroneck school budget increases and our taxes go up. Faced with a slowing economy, surely this year we will get a reprieve?

The answer is “no” – but voters must still vote “yes” to support our schools. The budget is responsible and fair, and it reflects the reality that the district’s hands are tied when it comes to reducing expenses and that school enrollment has continued to increase.

The majority of the district’s budget in any year consists of “mandated expenses” and contractually required salaries and benefits. Mandated expenses are dictated by a multitude of federal and state laws and court decisions, and seldom come with a revenue stream attached (that’s why they are called “unfunded mandates”). Mandated expenses have increased enormously over the last 20 years. The district can do little or nothing to reduce these costs.

Mamaroneck school enrollment has gone up. Over the past 12 years, our school population has increased over 20%. Currently, the district educates approximately 5,000 students in pre-K through grade 12.

Other local districts are in the same boat. Compared with the other Westchester school districts over the past three or four years, Mamaroneck’s budget increases are about average. In fact, this year we spent $753 less per pupil annually than the median for Westchester, placing us 31st out of 46 Westchester/Putnam school districts in per pupil expenditures.

If the budget is voted down, and the district chooses to adopt a contingency budget, education in this community will suffer, but the savings to the taxpayer will be minimal. In fact, the cost difference between the proposed budget and the contingency budget for the average assessed home at $20,000 is only $0.66 per day – less than the price of a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Education has become increasingly important to compete in our global economy, and we as a community need to support education even as we tighten our belts a notch. Our children deserve the advantages provided by a great public education, and we have a duty to vote ‘yes’ to the school budget and give them the best we as a community can afford.

Ann LoBue
Larchmont, NY

April 28, 2008

Artificial Turf: Bad News Surfaces

Our village, town and school board officials don't want to talk anymore about the safety of artificial turf, but the bad news just keeps on coming. Natural turf has no surprises. Fake turf, it turns out, does.

The following is an excerpt from a discussion at Synturf.org entitled Federal Consumer Agency to Investigate Lead in Artificial Turf:

"The decision by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate lead in artificial turf fields is a departure from the agency’s decades’ old policy of turning a blind eye to lead issues associated with artificial turf. Specifically, in September 1979, CPSC denied a request to establish mandatory safety standard for synthetic turf. The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) had petitioned CPSC in May 1976 to reexamine the risk of injury presented by synthetic turf and 'to develop appropriate product safety rules.' CPSC 'determined that based on the evidence presently available, the use of artificial turf as a surface cover for athletic playing fields does not present an unreasonable risk of injury. NFPLA petitioned CPSC previously on the synthetic turf question; that petition had similarly been denied.'

Catherine Wachs
Larchmont NY

April 10, 2008

Consultant Also Passionate About Turf Safety

The following is a response to comments by Catherine Wachs made in emails and at the April 1st Mamaroneck School Board study session:

Regarding suggestions that I only gave one side of the story on turf fields, I am a professional who is paid to consult. I do not have any special interest, which is what you imply. Whether it is grass or synthetic turf, it is up to the client to set the vision. For your information, we are involved in multiple grass field/park redevelopment projects. In fact, for these and all of our projects, we incorporate sustainable, innovative and environmentally friendly designs, and we are extremely proud of that. As mentioned at the meeting, our role is to assist with the SEQR process, not to design.

Also, it is frustrating when others make totally false statements, such as saying at the public meeting that synthetic turf is not mentioned by Saccardi & Schiff [the schools’ consultant] in the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF). They had to go through the exercise to pull out the EAF to point out that it is in fact mentioned, and there were no apologies provided to Saccardi and Schiff. We have seen this misrepresentation of information at public meetings regarding this subject time and time again, and that is frustrating to me as a professional.

It is worth noting that I am the father of two teenage daughters who have been playing on synthetic turf fields for a number of years. I share a similar passion to you, and that is be sure my children are safe from negative environmental impacts. Speaking for myself, as a loving parent, I have never had any reservations based on my knowledge of synthetic turf fields.

I trust that you can understand that we are not the enemy. I take a lot of pride in my hard work and knowledge accumulated over the years. I have a BS and MS, both in civil/environmental engineering, am certified as a professional engineer (PE) in NY and CT, and am a Diplomate of Environmental Engineering with 20 years of experience. Please show a little more respect. Thank you.

Anthony C. Catalano, P.E., DEE
Senior VP, Woodard & Curran
White Plains, NY

March 27, 2008

Upset At Lack of Teacher Contract

I cannot begin to express how disappointed and upset I am that the Mamaroneck school district has not yet come to an agreement with our teachers and that our community appears to have accepted this. It is now the end of March and there is still no agreement.

We are very fortunate to live in an area where education is a priority and where our schools attract great teachers. Contrary to what many believe, a teacher’s day does not begin when the children arrive and end when they leave. Hours of preparation are required beyond the school day in order to be a good teacher. Planning, grading, meeting with other teachers, meeting with students to provide extra help, being life long learners, communicating with parents—much of this is done outside the prescribed school hours. I would be willing to bet that many of our teachers work through at least part of their lunch on a regular basis. That the district doesn’t seem to acknowledge or value this is unacceptable.

There is no other profession that I can think of where one is “on” all day and trying to meet the individual needs of upwards of 20 children at a time. Our teachers are dedicated and devoted to our children and their jobs and strive to give the students the best education they can provide. It is time that we as a community recognize the hard work that our teachers do and make it clear that we expect an agreement that does the same thing.

Amy Merians
Larchmont, NY

March 26, 2008

Calling Volunteers to June 22 Mam'k Historic Harbor Street Fair

It is with great enthusiasm that I announce the return of the Historic Harbor Street Fair!

On Sunday, June 22, Mamaroneck Avenue will once again transform into a historic walkway lined with memorable photos depicting our past. There will be an international food court with delectable fare, hundreds of art, antique and business vendors, as well as riveting musical performances that will echo through the streets.

The Historic Harbor Street Fair is indeed the most spectacular event that takes place in our area, and there are some exciting changes we have in store this year. First, our picturesque Harbor Island Park will serve as the home of the main stage, the showmobile. Opening ceremonies and a string of musical performances will take center stage with the masts of the tall ships and the beauty of the Long Island Sound serving as a backdrop. Also featured this year will be the “Eco Village”, an entire area dedicated to environmental and ecological awareness as well as hands-on participation for both children and adults to enjoy. As in the past, Norwalk Maritime Aquarium will be on hand bringing along a touch-tank that is always a big hit with the kids.

The Street Fair is also pleased to welcome Mystic Seaport to this year’s festivities. A series of marine educators, historic role players and sea shanty singers will stroll through out Harbor Island Park adding to the spirit of the day.

Many of the old favorites will return to the Harbor such as the snack court, children’s game area, the Coast Guard Auxiliary booth and so much more.
Entertainment will abound on Mamaroneck Avenue, as well. The music tent will entertain diners as they sit and enjoy a meal from the variety of global cuisines offered in the food court. Clearview Cinemas will again feature silent movies, a true tribute to a classic form of film with historic ties to Mamaroneck. Also, Café Mozart has again graciously donated an incredible series of musical talent that will perform on a stage throughout the day. And as always, as you stroll the avenue, you’ll be greeted by mimes, clowns and other entertainers.

As you can see, the preparations are fast underway and a team of dedicated volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure this year’s fair will rival the success of fairs past. As much as we’ve accomplished, the road ahead remains long and we need your help. The street fair can only be as great as the community that rallies behind to ensure its success. Volunteers are always welcome. Consider becoming a part of history by getting involved. We welcome new faces and new ideas.

And with that….time for me to get back to work in planning this event! To all those who have helped coordinate this year’s efforts in any way, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I look forward to working with a united and spirited community as we approach our 5th Annual Historic Harbor Street Fair.

Jennifer Graziano
Historic Harbor Street Fair Chairwoman

March 19, 2008

VOL Police Lauded for Quick Response to Prowler

(Editor’s Note: This letter was originally sent to Larchmont Police Chief Steve Rubeo.)

I am writing to tell you about some terrific work by several of your officers.

Yesterday evening at 7:30 I called the police department to report a prowler I spotted coming out of our garage. Within minutes officer Michael Doucette arrived at our house. After giving him a description of the prowler, the officer told me that he and other policemen would search the neighborhood. Officer Doucette returned 30 minutes later, saying that they had spotted a man fitting the description, and while he took my written report, other officers were continuing the search.

In the middle of completing the report, Officer Doucette suddenly dashed off to join other officers who apparently were in pursuit of the suspect.

The next thing I knew, after leaping over several backyard fences, the officers had cornered the suspect in our next-door neighbors' yard and were putting handcuffs on the guy. Frankly, the scene seemed like something from the movies or TV. It was amazing to me that within an hour of my original phone call, your men were making an arrest!

I want to tell you how impressed I was by the work of the policemen responsible for apprehending the suspect: Detective James Cristiano, Officer Michael Doucette, Officer Michael Pizzo, and Lieutenant John Poleway. My wife and I are grateful to these men for their quick action. Fortunately, our family has never before had an experience like this since moving to Larchmont 15 years ago. But seeing first-hand our policemen in action is very reassuring. Please express our thanks to the officers involved.

It's comforting to know that men like these are protecting our community,

Malcolm Frouman
Larchmont, NY

March 13, 2008

Restaurant Owner's Complaint is Off-Base

At a meeting of Larchmont restaurant owners held at Village Hall on March 13 to discuss late night noise outside their establishments, I heard one owner say that the complaints of occupants of subsidized apartments should not be considered because the restaurant owners pay more in taxes than “those people” do. I thought we could all expect our opinions to be heard and considered regardless of the amount of taxes we pay.

As disappointing as this comment was, it was more disturbing to me to observe that none of the dozen or so other owners said anything in opposition to this argument. I’m hoping that was because they were as surprised as I was by the remark and rendered temporarily speechless.

Tom Curnin
Larchmont, NY

February 28, 2008

Nothing Changes in Special Ed

Regarding Board Considers Special Ed Ideas - But Won't Merge Schools: Nothing has changed in all the years I have been reading about Mamaroneck School District special education reports. More money is spent on reports, and little will be done to change anything.

I am a parent of a previous special education student who needed to bring a federal law suit against this district because Dr. Mark Orfinger [Mamaroneck High School’s principal] allowed my son to bring in a calculator model (approved by New York State) to class, but wrote a letter refusing to allow him to turn it on. Was this ignorance by the district in not understanding the outcome? I don’t think so.

In my opinion, there is a “dirty little secret going on.” It is no accident that so many students are placed out of the district. The reason is in my opinion is that the district doesn’t want to lower its published standardized test averages (including SAT scores) in which these students will be included.

We had been offered a “blank check for private school” for my son to leave the district, instead of allowing him to use a graphing calculator. My son, who has since graduated college, refused to leave because all he needed was a minor modification. He asked me to take the district to court because he felt that it was “discrimination” and hardly inclusion.

Dr. Sherry King, who was superintendent at the time, told me that the regular education teachers did not want to comply with his IEP [individualized education program], and did not want to learn the technology, and that she was not going to order them to comply.
Yes, there were some teachers that were wonderful, but the district policy allowed those who didn’t want to be bothered to grossly ignore special education regulations.

It saddens me to read that nothing really has changed. These same suggestions have been written about before. I doubt anything will be done by the district to implement them.

I do recommend that parents of special education students legally fight the district when there is lack of inclusion so that their children will understand that “you believe they can succeed if given a chance.” If you don’t advocate, the children will develop poor self esteem and the outcome is grim.

Action, and only action will change things for these students. No more reports are needed. These children can succeed and do succeed if given a chance. Most do not need out of district placement.

Eleanor Sherman
Larchmont, NY

February 5, 2008

Webcast All Public Meetings

You made an excellent point in "Tech Talk" about the importance of "broadcasts" of government meetings and the value of LMC-TV for televising government meetings. The value of the Gazette in informing the public should also be highlighted. However, it should be mentioned that LMC-TV does not currently televise all of our municipal government meetings. Further, as a cable service, LMC-TV is not available to those who receive their TV signals from either of the two national satellite-TV services or to those who receive their TV signals "over-the-air.'"

A 2007 Executive Order by Governor Eliot Spitzer directed state agencies to make their meetings available on the Internet. Perhaps, until our municipal governments see the importance of, and take the responsibility for providing full access to public meetings via the Internet, the Gazette or a similar source will consider recording public government meetings and making these available on-line. Hopefully, we'll also see government providing for "universal access" and "net neutrality" of the Internet. Such would be consistent with the efforts of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Assemblyman George Latimer, among others, as discussed in the Gazette recently (see: Project Sunlight) regarding the "people's right to know" and the concept of 'universal service' as applicable in the 21st century.

Brian Lobel
Town of Mamaroneck, NY

February 1, 2008

Clean Up the Streetscape

I, too, feel nostalgic as the Larchmont Store takes down its sign and makes its way into local history. However, it is great to see Active Sports expand and continue to serve our town. We all have to change or die, and I, too, adored the Larchmont Store, but it had slowly gone downhill, and the proprietors seemed to lack the energy and imagination a business needs to keep a place something more than just a souvenir of the past.

So here's to the Active Sports guys; I am glad you are still there on Palmer Avenue, and I'll bet most of Larchmont is, too.

However, you and your fellow merchants can generate lots of good will and even more loyalty from your customers if you'll join together to keep your sidewalks cleaner. Some individual merchants do this, but far too few. A dirty streetscape sends a message not only of indifference, but downright hostility.

The Village of Larchmont itself can do more by figuring out a way to get those trashcans along Palmer, Chatsworth and the Post Road emptied more often. When they sit there, overflowing and disgusting, they do more damage to the downtown than any parking shortage can.

What we need here is some basic, inexpensive and low-tech housekeeping. Individual merchants and citizens, the Chamber of Congress (just what is their mission?) and the Village itself can pitch in more to keep our town pleasant and vital.

Monica Casey
Larchmont, NY

January 31, 2008

Grateful to Larchmont's Finest & Bravest

Early last Saturday morning, my elderly father fell and broke his hip in our home. We called 911 after realizing he was seriously injured, and within a couple of minutes, a Larchmont police officer was at our door. He assessed the situation and did a great job calming us down. Almost immediately after that, a Larchmont Fire Department engine arrived, with two firefighters. They examined my father and got things ready for the Volunteer Ambulance Corps, who showed up a few moments later.

We all count on our community's emergency response crews to be there when we need them. But until we really do need them, we don't fully understand how dedicated, skilled and professional these folks are. Everyone who helped my father that day has earned my family's sincere and awed thanks. In the emotion of the moment, we neglected to get their names, so I hope all of Larchmont's finest and bravest will know how grateful we are.

David Eisenberg
Paula Eisenberg, Publisher of Larchmont Gazette

January 24, 2008

Missing Cat: Have You Seen Tigre?

Our cat, Tigre (pronounced “T-gray”), has been missing since Thursday January 17th. He has a bit of wanderlust and he loves to roam the neighborhood hunting. He usually returns home after a day or two. Hopefully, a kind person has taken him in to keep him safe and warm. He is very friendly.

We ask anyone who lives near Pryer Lane to please check your garage, basement or outbuildings. He is a Ragdoll, with long white fur with grayish brown stripes on his face, legs and tail. He has blue eyes.

A cat’s sense of smell does not work as well in the cold weather, and we think he has wandered farther and can’t find his way home.

We are very worried; please help us bring him home to our children. Please call us at (914) 834-1601.

Maria Stanton
Larchmont, NY

January 10, 2008

Dutch Reader Reports Fun Coincidence

As I lived in the USA years ago, where my children were born, [Rye, NY] I visited your newspaper and there I found the name Karin Cofino, who received a special education award for "learning about my teeth." The article dates from March 15, 2007.

The name of my daughter happens to be Karin Cofino, also, born on March 15 1958, what a coincidence!

I just had to write you about this.

Sophia Teijmant van Leeuwen
The Netherlands

January 4, 2008

Palmer Needs "Stop for Pedestrian" Signs at Central School

Again, it is so nice to see Mamaroneck Town officials and residents talking together about pedestrian safety with regards to inattentive drivers and poorly timed traffic lights. It reminds me of conversations that I had with a Town traffic committee some 4 or 5 years ago regarding the very unsafe crosswalk in front of Central Elementary School, where there are only some insignificant blinking lights during approximately 2 1/2-3 hours per day. There was exactly nothing done, even after having had a separate phone conversation with then-Town Board member Judy Myers, (you can probably figure out who did not vote for her for her County position).

After begging for almost a year, the Town deigned to paint perpendicular lines within the crosswalk. And then, nothing else. So children and adults alike must continue to play dodge the traffic when crossing during all hours of the day and evening because no one sees fit to place the very popular and, I might add, effective, "Stop for Pedestrians" signs on the poles below the pedestrian crosswalk signs on either side of the road as they do in many communities across the country, especially in front of a school.

I'm sure this will be the status quo for years to come and I have, frankly, given up. I just hold my breath every time I see kids crossing that street on a Saturday afternoon to play in the playground.

Meg McConney Mirabella
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