Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS


In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.



All inquiries should be addressed to the Larchmont Historical Society.


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How Effective Is Online Map for Reporting Problems?

Back in May, the Larchmont Gazette posted an interactive SeeClickFix map that allows residents to anonymously report quality of life issues in hopes of getting action from public officials. Using a program pioneered by four software engineers in New Haven, Connecticut, the map has had a mixed response with Gazette readers and local officials.

littlemap

Click on the image to access the interactive map for Larchmont.

Anyone from anywhere can access the online map to record a complaint.  A tan flag appears on the map to “open” a “ticket.” A green flag is one “acknowledged” by a map administrator. Anyone – citizen or official – can “close” the ticket and turn the flag blue once the issue is addressed. However, because no one is overseeing the map, the problem in an “open ticket” may have been fixed long ago or may be something not under local control.

“Bone-jarring” potholes, dangerous intersections, and tumbling curbstones are some of the problems identified. Residents have utilized SeeClickFix to present their cases online, hoping officials will pay attention. So have they?

In the Village of Larchmont, a number of complaints relate to  untrimmed bushes encroaching on sidewalks, especially along Larchmont Avenue.  One resident remarked this has been ongoing for years.   Another post said the unkempt bushes force “everyone to walk in the street including kids going to school.”  The commenter concluded, “This is a dangerous situation especially given how fast people drive through the Village area.”

“There is a high level of complaints” about Larchmont Avenue, said Frank Blasi, Larchmont’s building inspector.  One of his responsibilities is enforcing the rule that lawn hedges should not intrude on pedestrian walkways.  He acknowledged the issue, particularly in Larchmont Manor, but he didn’t think out-of-control bushes was the biggest problem.

“There is no number one problem,” he said. “It varies.”

Earlier this year, following the implementation of the Gazette interactive map, Mr. Blasi was asked by the mayor to spend at least one day each week on code enforcement, including  uncut hedges. His way of learning about problems is through several sources: letters, phone calls, tips from village crews, and SeeClickFix.

“[We use] SeeClickFix as a guide,” Mr. Blasi commented.  Once he finds out about a problem through whatever source, he inspects the home, and if there is a violation, he sends out a notice. Depending on the homeowner’s response, he can impose a fine.

In an interview with the Gazette, Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld reviewed issues from the SeeClick Fix map and saw that uncut hedges was the most frequent complaint.

“Frank [Blasi] should be looking at this,” she commented.

However, Mayor Feld had conducted her own review and said most of the Larchmont SeeClickFix “tickets” had been inspected and fixed.   She did not believe overgrown shrubbery was a major issue requiring government intervention. Instead, she said traffic problems are what she considers a major public safety issue.

Traffic concerns have been noted on the interactive map. Five months ago, two complaints called attention to a dangerous intersection at Stuyvesant and Soundview. The Larchmont Traffic Commission, which handles these concerns, noted the problem. Since then, area residents have pursued solutions though meetings with the commission, the Larchmont Village Board and the Pine Brook Neighborhood Association. Various solutions have been proposed and discussions are ongoing. (See: Pine Brook Residents Call for Safety Study and 14-Point Safety Plan Proposed by Pine Brook Assoc.)

Over in the Town of Mamaroneck, the most complaints are over potholes, particularly along Griffen Avenue:  “pothole central”, ” giant strings of potholes”, and “Disasterville” were among the comments posted.

“Due to the severe changes in temperatures over the last several winters potholes have become a bigger problem,” said Mamaroneck Town Administrator Stephen Altieri. “Our complaint volume is up a little.”

Recently, Griffen Avenue was repaved from Weaver Street to Old Mamaroneck Road in a collaboration between the towns of Mamaroneck and Scarsdale, which share responsibility in that sector.

Did SeeClickFix play a role in this?  Not really, according to Mr. Altieri.  Griffen Avenue had been slated for repairs for months before the map was activated.

“ClickFix has not been seen as an alternative for the Town,” said Mr. Altieri.  “Residents here call our Highway Department or send e-mails to our office.  ClickFix appears to be better suited to larger communities.”

Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe is also aware of the interactive map but says it doesn’t play much of a factor when it comes to collecting data and making decisions.  She agreed with Mr. Altieri that SeeClickFix doesn’t work for the town.

“Virtually everyone knows how to get a hold of us directly,” said Ms. O’Keeffe.

How effective the map is at reporting and addressing problems remains to be seen.

gilderblocks

Belgian blocks had been tumbling in the Gilder Street lot.

The first “ticket” posted on the Gazette map in early May was for displaced curbstones in the Gilder Street parking lot. In June, the Village of Larchmont Department of Public Works sent crews to reposition curbstones throughout the lot, which hadn’t seen much renovation since the early 1980s.  Was it a coincidence?  Perhaps.  Rick Vetere, head of the DPW, said his crews were repairing damage from last winter.  Or was the DPW responding to the gentle pressure of having an “open ticket” in a public forum?

 

In June, the Larchmont Village DPW repositioned blocks along the curbs and medians in the Gilder Street lot.

In June, the Larchmont Village DPW repositioned blocks along the curbs and medians in the Gilder Street lot.


Is there an issue you’d like to report? You’ll find a link to the map in the Gazette’s top navigation bar. Click on  “Spot a problem?



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3 comments to How Effective Is Online Map for Reporting Problems?

  • Anon E Mous

    It appears that in the Town, the same answers work as usual. The possibility for improvement is given too little consideration.

    Could the Town save money by having a more automated reporting method rather than having basic problems transcribed and forwarded by administrative staff. Could problems be addressed better if people did not have to know in which municipality the problem was located? Could residents of the area save time if they did not have to identify who was responsible for a solution and how to contact them? Could feedback to residents on problem resolutions status be useful?

    ClickFix might be more useful if the link to it were more obvious on the Larchmont Gazette’s home page and perhaps even more so if it generated an e-mail to the ‘tri-municipalities’ each day with problem reported during the prior 24-hours.

    But, as W. Edwards Deming said, ‘It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.’

  • Marley & Me

    W. Edwards Deming: Meet Charles Darwin.

    Change and survival are absolutely necessary. Evolution and survival are the only two sustainable life forces we have.

    Demings also said among other things, “There is no substitute for knowledge”, a take off on Thomas A. Edison’s famous quote:
    “There is no substitute for hard work”

    I disagree w/ Mr. Deming again in his statements here as well. All the knowledge in the world is useless if it’s not backed up by hard work. On the contrary, hard work can surpass knowledge in terms of getting the job done.

    Ideally, the conbination of the two is most efficient; however, it not always accessible.

  • Anon E Mous

    Marley and Me, a thoughtful challenge is to be appreciated, and profound knowledge gained; certainly by ME, hopefully by All.

    Yes, neither the ideal combination nor the ideal answer is always at hand. However, we must do our best to create and maintain a constancy of purpose toward improvement of products and services. Ironically, a principal from Deming’s Out of Crisis.

    So while Deming may be subject to various interpretations, it may be fair to say that a small amount of knowledge may save much hard work. Or alternatively, the more we know, the more we learn and the more we are open to learning, the more we can achieve.