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Downtown library unveils new design

Mayor Ron Belmont addresses the audience at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly renovated Harrison Public Library on Sept. 12.

Mayor Ron Belmont addresses the audience at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly renovated Harrison Public Library on Sept. 12.

By JOHN BRANDI
Patrons can once again visit the Harrison Public Library, as the space has reopened with a new layout and improved technology to better meet the needs of the 21st century.

After having been closed for more than a year for internal renovations, the 2 Bruce Lane space was unveiled on Saturday, Sept. 12 with a ceremony which included talks from elected officials, Japanese dancers, storytelling and calligraphy
demonstrations.

“The library has been totally rebuilt from the inside out and we are excited to show you what it now has to offer,” said Galina Chernykh, library director. “It’s welcoming, spacious and now has a lot of light.”

Renovations included an updated look to the children’s section, which now has a giant iPad in the middle of the room that can be simultaneously used by six kids, according to Chernykh. A new addition for teens was carved out, which includes space for group and private study with improved lighting and an enhanced wireless network. New furniture and charging stations for handheld devices were also incorporated into the design.

H3 Hardy Collaboration, a Manhattan-based architecture firm, was responsible for the re-design, and Nathan Rittgarn, an architect from the company who worked on the project, previously told the Review that it was a “gut renovation.”

Residents were encouraged to check out the newly-renovated space.

Residents were encouraged to check out the newly-renovated space.

The renovations also introduced more than 30 new computer stations throughout the building, and the library’s extensive Japanese-language book collection, the largest collection of both youth and adult Japanese-language books in Westchester County, has been relocated within the Harrison facility.

“The collection is important for making newcomers feel welcomed, to remember forever the atmosphere that they were a part of the community,” Chernykh said of the collection and how those on a work visa in Harrison, who then move away, have commented on the library’s Facebook page detailing their positive experiences.

The library also entered into an agreement with Cablevision to now have an in-house television broadcast studio for the institution to videotape their programs and eventually, for the library to have their own broadcast channel, possibly on YouTube, according to the director.

The $3.6 million project was part of a roughly 50/50 public-private partnership between the town, the library and its foundation and the Richard E. Halperin Memorial Fund, which was formed in November 2010, two years after Halperin, a West Harrison resident and past zoning board member, died.

The renovated Children’s Discovery Center was unveiled as part of the updated and grand reopening of the Harrison Public Library.  Photos/Bobby Begun

The renovated Children’s Discovery Center was unveiled as part of the updated and grand reopening of the Harrison Public Library. Photos/Bobby Begun

The Halperin Foundation contributed $1.3 million. Other donations came from the Javitch Foundation, in honor of the late Harrison resident Lee Javitch, the Jarden Corporation and Morgan Stanley. In addition, more than 500 private donors contributed to the project as well.

While the main library was closed since August 2014, a legal dispute was settled between the Purchase Free Library and its landlord, Purchase Community, Inc., when residents voted to save the institution from eviction back in April 2015 and allowed it to remain in its current space on Purchase Street. At last count, 11,700 patrons visited the Purchase library in 2013, according to the Westchester Library System.

In the meantime, while the downtown library was closed, patrons were encouraged to visit the West Harrison branch for their library needs. With more staff rerouted there, the library was free to expand and redirect resources to their own pet projects, like Harrison Remembers, a digital collection of the history of some areas throughout the town.

Chernykh said staff returned to the downtown library six weeks ago ahead of the unveiling. She said events will commence immediately at the space, such as its fall series, in conjunction with SUNY Purchase.

A new reading area for “story time” or various activities was introduced to the public during a Sept. 12 unveiling of the renovated library space. Photo/Bobby Begun

A new reading area for “story time” or various activities was introduced to the public during a Sept. 12 unveiling of the renovated library space. Photo/Bobby Begun

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont conducts an interview after his clear GOP primary win over his Republican challenger Philip Marraccini. Contributed photo

Belmont decisive in GOP primary win

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont conducts an interview after his clear GOP primary win over his Republican challenger Philip Marraccini. Contributed photo

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont conducts an interview after his clear GOP primary win over his Republican challenger Philip Marraccini. Contributed photo

By JOHN BRANDI
Republican Mayor Ron Belmont has thwarted any attempts from his challenger by securing his place on the Republican ticket ahead of the general election. 

Belmont, 62, defeated his opponent, former Mayor Philip Marraccini, in last week’s primary by a 3 to 1 margin, obtaining 1,104 votes to Marraccini’s 281, according to unofficial results from the Westchester County Board of Elections. Marraccini served two terms as the town’s mayor in the mid-90s.

“I’d rather be on this side than the other,” Belmont told the Review after the primary.

Belmont will now face off against Democratic mayoral candidate Elizabeth Schaper in the general election.

Schaper said she didn’t expect Marraccini to win, and said voters weren’t comfortable giving one family too much power, citing how the Harrison police chief is also the former mayor’s brother. Though, no matter who secured the nomination wouldn’t faze Schaper.

“I’m comfortable challenging anybody,” Schaper said of either candidate.

Though of the process, Belmont said the primary has better prepared elected officials for what to do if they face similar challenges in the future.

In defeat, Marraccini said he was disappointed but not deterred and will enter the general election race as a third party candidate, assuming he holds onto the Independence line following the primary.

“I’m going full blast on the Independence line,” Marraccini said, regarding his endorsement from Westchester County Independence Party leaders. “Nothing is getting better, and it’s just a self-promotion machine in town. Nobody with a business sense is running this town.”

Incumbent Mayor Ron Belmont posted on his Facebook page encouraging voters to fill out his name, and the names of his running mates, on a mock ballot. Photo courtesy Facebook Contributed photo

Incumbent Mayor Ron Belmont posted on his Facebook page encouraging voters to fill out his name, and the names of his running mates, on a mock ballot. Photo courtesy Facebook Contributed photo

If Marraccini were to run on the Independence line in the November election, the decision could pull some potential voters away from supporting Belmont.

Still, Marraccini said the attack ads from his opponent turned “very negative, very personal” in the five days leading up to the Sept. 10 primary. Marraccini said residents were polled on what would work best in bringing down the former mayor, and what was returned was his close relationship with the police chief, Anthony Marraccini, also the challenger’s brother.

Belmont said Marraccini’s criticism of the town and its state of decay has caused too much damage and now “it has to be corrected.” Belmont said he is now tasked with the cleanup moving toward the general election and beyond.

However, Marraccini responded and still maintains that the downtown “is a mess” and there is no plan to fix the parking headaches.

“It’s in a spiral,” Marraccini said. “It’s not an accusation, it’s a fact.”

Meanwhile, it’s unclear if Belmont, and his Republican-backed slate consisting of councilmen Stephen Malfitano and Fred Sciliano, also up for re-election, were able to take the Independence line through a write-in campaign, as of press time. According to a representative from the county Board of Elections, the names of the
assumed winners won’t be released until all of the voting machines are collected sometime later this month.

Similarly, Marraccini also challenged Belmont on the Conservative line by a write-in campaign. But that winner also remains unclear, as of press time. Belmont, the only candidate to appear on the Conservative line ballot, finished with 105 votes.

Harrison Town Attorney Frank Allegretti released to the Review write-in numbers for the mayoral and council race on the Independence line, and although Marraccini, the only name to appear on the Independence Party line, has received 49 votes, write-ins account for 95 votes. Who those votes account for is still unclear, as that information hasn’t been released.

The same situation goes for the two other spots on the Independence line ahead of the general election. Democratic candidates for Town Council, Mark Jaffe and Michael Daher, appeared on the ballot and received 41 and 34 votes in total, respectively. The Republicans encouraged voters to write in their endorsed candidates to challenge those two, and numbers released by the town attorney account for 157 write-in votes, though, again, which candidate voters wrote in is unclear as the names haven’t yet been released, as of press time.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Contact: johnb@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Cannella, Gizo win judicial primary

On Sept. 10, Harrison Councilman Joseph Cannella won one of two spots in the Republican primary for town justice. Contributed photo

On Sept. 10, Harrison Councilman Joseph Cannella won one of two spots in the Republican primary for town justice. Contributed photo

By JOHN BRANDI
In a rare, if not unprecedented, event for Harrison politics, a primary was triggered by four candidates seeking the Republican spot for town justice. Results show that Councilman Joseph Cannella and Pasquale Gizzo, both candidates backed by the town Republican Party, will appear on the general election ballot, according to unofficial results by the Westchester County Board of Elections. 

The two challengers ousted both incumbent town justices Marc Lust and Nelson Canter, who were also seeking the GOP endorsement. Cannella was the top choice for voters, garnering 782 votes. The councilman previously told the Review that if elected, he would resign his council seat beyond November.

“I’m grateful and honored of the support I received from Harrison voters,” Cannella said.

He said the primary put the election machine in gear much earlier this year. In his experience, he said the cycle would have normally started after Labor Day, but this two-step process with the primary sparked things in June. Cannella said he will be taking a “deep breath” before campaigning again ahead of the November election.

Cannella’s running mate Gizzo secured 622 votes, and said that he was humbled by the response from Republican voters. But unlike Cannella, he added that now is the time to switch focus toward the general election where both will face off against the Democratic candidates Lust and Ron Bianchi, a former town justice and mayor.

Though the results are not finalized, Canter, who finished in third with 537 votes as of press time, has withdrawn himself from the race leaving the incumbent without a ballot line to run on in the general election. The one-term justice was passed over by Republican district leaders in their formal nominating caucus back in June.

Canter, having been endorsed four years ago, is still unclear as to why he wasn’t re-endorsed, but wished his opponents the best.

“I would like to thank the Harrison voters for giving me the opportunity to serve as Harrison town justice,” the incumbent said. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve our community. I also want to congratulate…Cannella and Gizzo and wish them the best of luck in the general election in November.”

Long term, he told the Review that he’d be focusing on the affairs in his own private practice law firm, his family and his hobbies.

Meanwhile, Lust, who is still running on three lines ahead of the general election—Democratic, Working Families and Independence—remained unfazed by the loss. Lust, in the same vein as Canter, was also passed over by Republicans for the first time in 16 years of him serving as town justice.

The Democrat incumbent said he is hopeful that the 458 votes he received in the primary weren’t in vain and those voters will still support him in the general election.

“I feel good about my chances,” Lust told the Review after last week’s primary. “I’ve been a judge for 16 years, an experienced trial attorney, [and] the experience I have to offer is invaluable. I trust in November that residents will recognize that and put me on the bench.”

Still, it’s assumed Cannella and Gizzo will also appear on the Conservative line on Tuesday, Nov. 3 by beating out Canter for the two spots on the ticket, with their 74 and 75 votes to his 57, respectively.

Cannella will also appear on the Independence line against Lust, and Bianchi on the Working Family line as another choice against the incumbent.

Contact: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The Stillmeadow Gourmet location at 65 Pondfield Road is now open, hoping for success amid a Bronxville business climate that has struggled in recent years. Photo/John Brandi

Culinary corner store challenges status quo

The Stillmeadow Gourmet location at 65 Pondfield Road is now open, hoping for success amid a Bronxville business climate that has struggled in recent years. Photo/John Brandi

The Stillmeadow Gourmet location at 65 Pondfield Road is now open, hoping for success amid a Bronxville business climate that has struggled in recent years. Photo/John Brandi

By JOHN BRANDI
The chef responsible for Bronxville’s latest food stop, Stillmeadow Gourmet, has worked in marketing, in a butcher shop and even in France, but her latest endeavor is perhaps her favorite because Kate Brewster-Duffy can finally say Stillmeadow is her own. 

She signed the lease back in December for the 65 Pondfield Road corner location and is now open for business, serving customers good eats. Brewster-Duffy said she grew up in Stonington, Conn., a town similar to Bronxville, where there was a food store called Culinary Capers which served as a sort of inspiration for Stillmeadow Gourmet.

“I remember you’d go and get a sandwich, you get a soup, it had everything you needed for the day-to-day,” Brewster-Duffy said. “And I wanted [Stillmeadow] to become a go-to, healthy alternative to takeout.”

Brewster-Duffy, a Manhattan resident now, said after exhausting the city’s five boroughs to set up shop, her real estate agent suggested exploring beyond the city limits, and Bronxville just happened to fall within that parameter. It also happened to be the first location outside the city that Brewster-Duffy saw, which she described as fate.

“I knew the sense of community was going to be right,” she said. “I want [customers] to feel like [they’re] at home here, without being kitschy.”

She added that she’d like to see Stillmeadow Gourmet be a place that’s easy, where customers can meet each other for lunch or have their morning coffee.

Since the previous shop used to be Gourmet 2 Go, known for high-end comfort food, the location was already outfitted for a service-oriented business. Brewster-Duffy said the store’s main room is similar to what it previously looked like, but the kitchen needed work.

“When the previous tenant had taken out their equipment, it caused a big disruption,” Brewster-Duffy said. “New ceilings, floors and equipment got put in to make the kitchen the way I wanted it.”

The shop’s meats are sourced locally from the tri-state area and are “hormone and antibiotic free,” but aren’t certified organic. Brewster-Duffy said to become a certified organic farmer is expensive, and would mean a heftier tab for her customers. However, she said she uses the best practices to ensure that the food is at a certain quality.

“[The farmers] can’t become that, but they practice organic farming techniques,” she said.

As for the fruits and vegetables, they can be traced back from all over. “Lemons are not really an option in the Northeast, but [we’re] as local and as seasonal as possible.”

Customers can expect consistency in the menu for the time being, but Brewster-Duffy hopes to move toward incorporating “pop-up” items like a sandwich of the day, or in-style, seasonal favorites. She isn’t afraid to even pull some items that may not be right for that time of year, but she “won’t serve tomato mozzarella in the winter.”

So far, the community response has been positive.

In the three weeks since opening, Brewster-Duffy said she has charted about 1,500 transactions. The chef said that she slowly wants the food and service to meet her expectations, which means quality over quantity.

Brewster-Duffy has always been cooking, first with her father and grandmother, describing the latter’s style as an ode to 1950s housewife cooking, flipping through the pages of “The Joy of Cooking” and reading recipes from collected clippings. Her culinary journey took a detour when she went to school for art history and economics, but her passion persevered and she took off to Paris to explore different cooking styles.

“It’s not all cream sauces and heavy,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot when I was there about the different regions, how they pull from what is locally there.”

She said she pulls a lot of culinary techniques from Northern Italy and Southern France, and stylizes each dish with an American twist.

“My worst day cooking is better than my worst day in corporate America,” Brewster-Duffy said.

As the business district in Bronxville still recovers from the 2008 recession, Brewster-Duffy said she has a specific approach to beating the odds faced by business owners.

Having fresh, prepared products shaves off competition from big names like Amazon, but Brewster-Duffy said even the in-house, shelf products are cheaper.

As for parking, she said she’s prepared to make change in quarters for meters.

“Someone once told me ‘a quarter anywhere else is worth a dollar in Bronxville,’” she said.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
Picture-1

14 years gone, but still not forgotten

THEMBy JOHN BRANDI
Fourteen years have flown by, but the pain is still very real for the families that lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. 

That morning saw attacks on the Twin Towers in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a thwarted attempt when a fourth plane crashed in the fields of Shanksville, Penn. Many in Westchester County lost their lives by simply going to work that day at the World Trade Center site, or with first responders rushing into the buildings—on the verge of collapse—to rescue those still inside.

Harrison Councilman Stephen Malfitano, a Republican, recalls standing in his kitchen when the second plane hit the South Tower. He said he knew right away that the United States was under attack and always speculated that something bad was going to happen in the area, eventually.

“Prior to the attacks, I used to work in lower Manhattan and would have a number of financial service syndicate meetings in the Twin Towers,” he said. “I had dear friends, [some] from Harrison, who worked in the financial industry, who worked there.”

Malfitano, then in the midst of a mayoral election which he would win, said since all air traffic was grounded following the attacks, including nearby Westchester Airport, all you could hear was silence followed by intermittent sounds of cars passing by on Harrison’s roads.

And the pain may be more homegrown here, where four families lost their patriarchs.

Thomas Warren Hohlweck was working in the South Tower as AON Risk Services’ senior vice president when, at 9:03 a.m., Flight 175 struck the southwest face—creating a large gap from floors 78 to 84—virtually trapping Hohlweck above, who was based on the 102nd floor. Hohlweck, a Vietnam veteran, was remembered fondly by his alma maters, Westchester Community College and Kentucky Wesleyan College, the latter of which has since dedicated the Center for Business Studies in his honor.

Hohlweck left behind a wife, Edith, and three kids. His only son, Todd, now works at his father’s old company as vice president.

That same morning, Maureen Koecheler lost her husband in the attack. More than 10 floors below Hohlweck worked Gary Edward Koecheler, also in the South Tower, for a financial services company called Euro Brokers. Maureen previously shared that it does get better, but it’s more painful when family milestones occur, such as births and weddings, and a chair remains empty.

Maureen, a Rye realtor, said she manages her grief by meeting with other widows from the attacks that act as a support group.

Former Purchase-area resident Richard Hall had concerns like most parents; one of them was finding ways to pay for his stepdaughter’s college expenses. Shortly after the attack, his wife, Donna, shared with the New York Times in 2001 that he told her not to worry, he’d find a way and that the “sky was the limit” for Katie and her education. Hall also worked as a senior vice president at AON in the South Tower.

In nearby West Harrison, Marc Scott Zeplin had just moved his family from Manhattan to a recently-built home in the area in the summer of 2001. He was just starting out, with his wife, Debra, and their two kids. Zeplin was the only known Harrison resident to have died in the North Tower, having worked on the 104th floor as a sales equity trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, when Flight 11, a Boeing 767, punctured the northeast face of the building at 8:46 a.m. which caused the tower to collapse from its sustained damage more than two hours later.

In the aftermath of the attack, his wife created the Marc S. Zeplin Foundation, based in Manhattan, which supports special events for children who lost a parent or loved one in the attack on the World Trade Center. It also gives out scholarships and funds programs that aid families that have been financially affected by their loss.

This year, Henesis Vega and Alyssa Hernandez, both Oceanside High School seniors on Long Island, were awarded scholarships in the foundation’s name. These students received financial contributions, funded directly to their chosen university, Nassau Community College.

However, the foundation’s events page is blank ahead of 9/11, as of press time.

In Harrison, there’s a planned memorial service on Sept. 11, after press time, at Saint Anthony of Padua Church at 5 p.m. to mark 14 years gone, but not forgotten.

Representatives for the foundation and Maureen Koecheler could not be reached for further comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
Samuel J. Preston Elementary School has hired a new principal, Dennis Kortright, who is attempting to create a collaborative environment with his staff to enhance the academic experience for his students. 
Photo courtesy harrisoncsd.org

New principal at Preston Elementary fosters team building

By JOHN BRANDI
Dennis Kortright wants to create a collaborative academic environment from the start, incorporating teachers, parents and the community at large to enhance the learning experience at Samuel J. Preston Elementary. Though, the newly-minted principal also feels like it can work in reverse and there’s still much the staff can learn from its own students. 

“As a staff, we’re learning from the kids, and it’s my vision to be questioning are these the best practices for a unit of study,” Kortright said. “To always be questioning ourselves.”

In line with that, Kortright has been holding faculty meetings regularly, prior to the start of school and is planning upcoming ones in the month ahead, to gauge specialists and their expertise on how to improve reading and math for the school’s kindergarten through fifth grade microcosm. The principal said the elementary school has a leadership team which Kortright hopes to repurpose.

“It’s a group of teachers who would talk about the needs of the school and inform the faculty and lead discussions,” he said. “The answer is usually in the room.”

Though he admitted a concern moving forward may be those that see longstanding tradition as the best course, and are maybe unwilling to try a different approach.

But Kortright isn’t a stranger to Preston. He has been on board since at least 2008, first as the supervisor of elementary math and science, then, prior to his appointment, as director of mathematics. Here, he was tasked with setting students up early for a strong base curriculum to later succeed in Regents and advanced placement math courses when they got to high school.

The first week in September saw students return to school where Kortright had the opportunity to connect with parents at drop-off and pick-up in front of the campus. Expanding on that, he is using PTA events and back-to-school night as additional chances to re-acquaint with a larger segment that may have had only limited exposure with him prior to his appointment as principal.

He is also making the rounds with students, visiting them at recess and in the cafeteria, and making appearances in the classrooms to connect with them using a picture book referencing a return to school, a theme that is still fresh in their minds.

Kortright didn’t think twice when he was tapped for the position, as he remembers from the very first time entering the halls that Preston was full of “warmness” from all.

“The staff and the kids made that decision easy for me,” he said. “It was more important about the fit than it was about being principal.”

Ultimately, Kortright has set his sights on some legacy work and, after he moves on, he wants teachers to have felt supported and that they grew. On the other end, he said he wants students to say that they had a great experience emotionally, socially and academically, but that they did those things with joy.

“You never just lead on your own, you need the community to rally with you,” he said.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The school year has begun for students in Harrison, with administrators such as Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool sharing their hopes and concerns for the 2015-2016 academic year. File photo

Harrison schools prepare for changes amid concerns

The school year has begun for students in Harrison, with administrators such as Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool sharing their hopes and concerns for the 2015-2016 academic year. File photo

The school year has begun for students in Harrison, with administrators such as Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool sharing their hopes and concerns for the 2015-2016 academic year. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
School administrators have begun to share their hopes and what parents can expect for the upcoming academic year, as students begin to flood the halls of Harrison’s six school campuses. 

School officially began on Wednesday, Sept. 2, after press time, for those entering kindergarten through twelfth grade, where once again students will encounter test taking, navigating the social scene and learning the skills they will need to advance academically. At Harrison High School, a new group of Huskies are already prepared to handle the academic pressures of advanced placement, according to Principal Steven Siciliano.

“Our students availed themselves to AP/IB academies over the summer to get off to a great start in 2015,” he said.

With its faculty matching that effort, according to Siciliano they are taking advantage of many professional development courses to better prepare for a curriculum that isn’t even three years old. Although the district only has approximately 340 teachers, the number of those who registered for these types of courses over the summer was in excess of about 500, with some enrolling in duplicate courses, according to numbers released by the school district.

However, the challenges remain with Common Core and changes made to the curriculum introduced to students in September 2012 as part of the national Race to the Top Initiative, results of which are tied to teacher evaluations, also known as Annual Professional Performance Reviews.

To gauge if Common Core is working and to figure out how well teachers are conveying the material to their students, test taking has also increased. According to recently-released data from the New York State Education Department, students scoring in the top percentile, either a 3 or 4, in Harrison have jumped, but it is not without complications. Nearly 20 percent of students were absent on test day when their parents chose for them to “opt out.”

Harrison Schools Superintendent Louis Wool previously told the Review that there is still room for improvement for testing students’ aptitude, though any substantive changes would have to come from Albany.

“They are currently of limited value in determining whether or not students are making appropriate academic progress,” Wool said. “Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future, New York state will invest the appropriate time, energy and resources to develop tests that are carefully constructed and based on meaningful and data-valid research.”

In the meantime, the superintendent said the district will use the exams to determine students’ growth.

Helping with that growth, students can expect to see some new faces around campus, including two new principals for both the Samuel J. Preston and Purchase schools. In addition, 50 new teachers have been hired across the board to advance the district’s mission.

Along with new faculty, Wool said the school district has also moved forward with new infrastructure upgrades to promote security, health and safety.

Three elementary schools had their playgrounds replaced to “make them safe and to support vigorous physical activity during play,” according to the superintendent. Meanwhile, classroom upgrades and renovations occurred at all six campuses and external bathrooms were installed at McGillicuddy Stadium at the high school.

Still, the high school principal hopes that the 2015-2016 academic year is a chance to improve upon the district’s mission statement.

“We’re excited to begin a new school year and [continue] to practice our district’s core values of rigor, equity, access and adaptability for all students,” Siciliano said.

Members of the Harrison PTA could not be reached for comment as of press time.

 

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The parking permit can be affixed to a resident’s car and must be displayed at all times for those living within the set boundary to avoid being ticketed.

Parking restrictions to go into effect

The parking permit can be affixed to a resident’s car and must be displayed at all times for those living within the set boundary to avoid being ticketed.

The parking permit can be affixed to a resident’s car and must be displayed at all times for those living within the set boundary to avoid being ticketed.

By JOHN BRANDI
As a new parking law goes into effect, certain residents are expected to obtain a permit from town hall or risk getting ticketed.

A residential parking permit system, approved by the Harrison Town Council back in March, is about to go into effect post-Labor Day for a certain area of the town. Town Clerk Jacqueline Greer, who is running for a second term in November, said that the response from the community has been positive and the filing rate at the municipal building for one of the permits has been busy “as expected.”

The positive forecast of the community is a break from months ago when the law was hotly contested during a series of public hearings. The law, known formally as Chapter 193, was met with heavy criticism from residents for fee language worded in an initial draft, though the draft has been revised and the permits are now free of charge, as of press time. Once that was stricken, residents still took issue that there was no concern for visitors of the community in the set boundary. In response, the Town Council told the community that it was their responsibility to alert the police that additional cars would be in front of their property to avoid a ticket.

The law asks residents to obtain parking permits for residential streets that bisect both sides of Harrison’s Metro-North train station. The streets within the boundary were previously determined by the state in the mid-1990s, and, according to the town board, cannot be changed unless the town receives state approval.

According to the law, the residential streets identified have been inundated with non-resident vehicles. Town officials claim the influx of vehicles have led to an increase in traffic, congestion and noise. The law was designed to prevent non-residents from parking in the boundary or from obtaining a permit themselves.

Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini said he still believes the law will be beneficial to residents and will make their lives “easier.” Now, homeowners will no longer be tasked with moving their vehicles every two-to-four hours, Marraccini said, to avoid the restrictions already in place to deter commuters from trying to catch the train.

“All residents in this district are well informed of the law, and really it’s important to know the spirit of the law, too,” the chief said. “We’re going to try and reach out to homeowners and if they have a permit, they have nothing to worry about.”

The chief said enforcement will be conducted by both a parking enforcement officer—who is already “out there five days a week” patrolling downtown Harrison and areas in Silver Lake—and by police officers as well. Ticketing will operate similarly to the way people are currently cited within the two-to-four hour parking zones and under the continuous 24-hour parking ban that is already in place.

The Town/Village of Harrison is about to enact its residential parking permit system, passed in March, to residents living in a certain boundary of the town, an area that bisects both sides of the train station. The parking boundary is outlined in red.  Photos courtesy harrison-ny.gov

The Town/Village of Harrison is about to enact its residential parking permit system, passed in March, to residents living in a certain boundary of the town, an area that bisects both sides of the train station. The parking boundary is outlined in red.
Photos courtesy harrison-ny.gov

Though moving forward, the chief said there would be some leeway in enforcement as the permit law gains standing.

Meanwhile, Marraccini said it is the town’s job to enact the law; the police department is just there to enforce it.

Councilman Stephen Malfitano, a Republican running for re-election this year, said the cost to make the permits are minimal and come from the town clerk’s operating budget, as with all mass-produced commuter parking permits. However, the exact costs of manufacturing the permits have not been disclosed.

The Town Council previously said that the law would be monitored closely to gauge whether residents were receptive to the idea, and Malfitano said that this still holds true.

“The hope is this turns into something that is a benefit to the residents who live in the boundary, and this will be under continuous review until such time as we’re satisfied with the outcome,” he said.

There would be a number of ways residents could express dissatisfaction with the law, including town board meetings, letters to the council or complaints through the clerk’s office, according to the councilman.

“Residents should understand that there’s no set time frame that we will shut down any thought that this should be altered in any way,” Malfitano said.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The Bronxville School is looking at ways to spruce up its campus grounds, as a master landscaping plan is in the works and should be finalized by October, according to the district’s superintendent for business. File photo

Bronxville School considers master landscape plan

The Bronxville School is looking at ways to spruce up its campus grounds, as a master landscaping plan is in the works and should be finalized by October, according to the district’s superintendent for business. File photo

The Bronxville School is looking at ways to spruce up its campus grounds, as a master landscaping plan is in the works and should be finalized by October, according to the district’s superintendent for business. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
The grass just may get a little greener at the Bronxville School, as the school district moves forward to develop a master landscape plan for its campus. 

On the heels of the auditorium project, anticipated to be completed when students start their first day on Sept. 9, the Bronxville Board of Education was prompted to start taking a closer look at what was outside as well, according to Superintendent for Business Dan Carlin. Leftover funding from the auditorium operations allowed the district to move forward with securing an architect to draft a landscape master plan.

The auditorium project, first proposed in 2012, was part of a $10 million capital plan to improve the space, with enhancements to both the façade, seating and indoor acoustics.

“We are coming to the completion with the end of the auditorium, and [we had] money in that project for landscaping,” Carlin said. “Instead of throwing bushes and trees up, why don’t we look at planning for how it [will] sit in with the whole site?

The Facilities Advisory Committee, tasked with considering infrastructure upgrades and tracking items in the school budget, recommended Wesley Stout Associates, based out of New Canaan, Conn., to the school board as the landscape architecture firm, which it approved to begin to devise the plan, that Carlin said could be unveiled as early as October.

Wesley Stout has worked on projects at other similar facilities, including the Stanwich School in Greenwich, Conn., and more locally, the school grounds within the Mamaroneck School District.

Still, Carlin wants the landscape master plan to follow the same review process mandated  for the school buildings by New York state, which sees them inspected every five years. Carlin said he would like the grounds to be inspected within that same timespan, where currently inspections are not required for state review, and only occur
when the committee deems them necessary.

One of those project necessities involved a feasibility study back in 2013 that explored changing the lights, and for how long they would illuminate Chambers Field to extend playing time for the school’s sports teams. The board decided not to move forward with this plan to avoid upsetting neighboring residents, some of whom were vocal in their opposition to the light pollution and how out-of-character stadium lighting would be in the small village, according to Carlin.

The advisory committee has about 25 members, and includes representation from the school, PTA and community.

One outstanding issue in the landscape project is figuring out how it will be paid for. That has yet to be sorted out, but the superintendent said the idea right now is to have a plan in place so the district can identify and embark on opportunities to enhance the campus.

Meanwhile, the school board is also considering proposals for an architect to “design and manage the installation of turf” associated with the reconfiguration of Hayes Field, a public referendum that was approved during the May budget vote. Though in order for the $1.79 million turf field project—to improve the athletic field to create regulation-sized turf field space for football, field hockey and lacrosse—to move forward, the village first needs to install a series of pipes under the school’s playing field—known as the flood mitigation project—packaged to voters and approved in a January referendum.

The flood mitigation project is a joint venture between FEMA, the school and the village, where the federal agency will provide 75 percent of the cost. Although the grant was supposed to be used by Sept. 15, the project has stalled while the village attempts to find additional funding for the $6.9 million project, as the received bids were nearly $4 million above that.

Carlin said he has a meeting with village officials on this matter the first week in September, after press time.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The school year has begun for students in Harrison, with administrators such as Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool sharing their hopes and concerns for the 2015-2016 academic year. File photo

Harrison schools prepare for changes amid concerns

The school year has begun for students in Harrison, with administrators such as Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool sharing their hopes and concerns for the 2015-2016 academic year. File photo

The school year has begun for students in Harrison, with administrators such as Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool sharing their hopes and concerns for the 2015-2016 academic year. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
School administrators have begun to share their hopes and what parents can expect for the upcoming academic year, as students begin to flood the halls of Harrison’s six school campuses. 

School officially began on Wednesday, Sept. 2, after press time, for those entering kindergarten through twelfth grade, where once again students will encounter test taking, navigating the social scene and learning the skills they will need to advance academically. At Harrison High School, a new group of Huskies are already prepared to handle the academic pressures of advanced placement, according to Principal Steven Siciliano.

“Our students availed themselves to AP/IB academies over the summer to get off to a great start in 2015,” he said.

With its faculty matching that effort, according to Siciliano they are taking advantage of many professional development courses to better prepare for a curriculum that isn’t even three years old. Although the district only has approximately 340 teachers, the number of those who registered for these types of courses over the summer was in excess of about 500, with some enrolling in duplicate courses, according to numbers released by the school district.

However, the challenges remain with Common Core and changes made to the curriculum introduced to students in September 2012 as part of the national Race to the Top Initiative, results of which are tied to teacher evaluations, also known as Annual Professional Performance Reviews.

To gauge if Common Core is working and to figure out how well teachers are conveying the material to their students, test taking has also increased. According to recently-released data from the New York State Education Department, students scoring in the top percentile, either a 3 or 4, in Harrison have jumped, but it is not without complications. Nearly 20 percent of students were absent on test day when their parents chose for them to “opt out.”

Harrison Schools Superintendent Louis Wool previously told the Review that there is still room for improvement for testing students’ aptitude, though any substantive changes would have to come from Albany.

“They are currently of limited value in determining whether or not students are making appropriate academic progress,” Wool said. “Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future, New York state will invest the appropriate time, energy and resources to develop tests that are carefully constructed and based on meaningful and data-valid research.”

In the meantime, the superintendent said the district will use the exams to determine students’ growth.

Helping with that growth, students can expect to see some new faces around campus, including two new principals for both the Samuel J. Preston and Purchase schools. In addition, 50 new teachers have been hired across the board to advance the district’s mission.

Along with new faculty, Wool said the school district has also moved forward with new infrastructure upgrades to promote security, health and safety.

Three elementary schools had their playgrounds replaced to “make them safe and to support vigorous physical activity during play,” according to the superintendent. Meanwhile, classroom upgrades and renovations occurred at all six campuses and external bathrooms were installed at McGillicuddy Stadium at the high school.

Still, the high school principal hopes that the 2015-2016 academic year is a chance to improve upon the district’s mission statement.

“We’re excited to begin a new school year and [continue] to practice our district’s core values of rigor, equity, access and adaptability for all students,” Siciliano said.

Members of the Harrison PTA could not be reached for comment as of press time.

 

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com