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A few countywide organizations are coming together to ease the cost burden of school supplies for parents with school-age children.

Back-to-school supply costs continue to rise

A few countywide organizations are coming together to ease the cost burden of school supplies for parents with school-age children.

A few countywide organizations are coming together to ease the cost burden of school supplies for parents with school-age children.

By JOHN BRANDI
School supply lists have continued to grow for cash-strapped parents across Westchester County, but a few organizations are 

trying to provide relief to help ease that burden and give kids the tools to succeed in school.

As summer comes to a close, parents with school-age children now have to shift their focus to the ever-increasing cost of school supplies. Item needs, usually in the form of a list provided by the child’s school, detail what should be bought for the school year ahead. The 2015-2016 digital school item lists from Harrison’s Louis M. Klein Middle School, which describes what a child entering kindergarten through grade 12 needs, feature 10 items or more, with the quantity of some items requested several times over.

For example, a child entering third grade will need eight broad-tip markers, two spiral notebooks and 12 No. 2 pencils.

According to the Huntington Bank Backpack Index, an analysis for exploring the costs related to school supplies, there has been a jump in price in each respective grade level for basic supplies since 2007. This year alone, parents can expect to spend an average increase of 1, 2.5 and 9 percent for kids in elementary, middle and high school, respectively.

“With the ongoing slow growth in wages, it is difficult for many families to meet the rising costs of sending children to school,” George Mokrzan, director of economics for Huntington Bank, said in a released statement. “For a family of five living at the poverty level guideline of $28,410, the cost of sending three children to school would consume as much as 10 percent of their income.”

Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of Education, one in every five school-age child was living below the federal poverty line in 2013, totaling 10.9 million children.

In an effort to help low-income families combat the growing costs of school supplies, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, launched Operation Backpack in 2012. The county began teaming up with The Sharing Shelf of Family Services, a Port Chester nonprofit, and other similar agencies and businesses to collect and distribute school supplies for children in need.

“It’s wonderful to see the community step forward to make such a positive difference in the lives of local children,” said Deborah Blatt, coordinator of The Sharing Shelf.

Meanwhile, Hazel Alexander-Campbell, a Tuckahoe resident, is working to provide backpacks and other school supplies to lower-income children living in the Tuckahoe Housing Authority, THA, on Union Avenue, totaling around 67 children, up from 61 just two years ago. The demand for school supplies is still high, but luckily, Alexander-Campbell said, the donor list has grown and remains strong.

Some 30 donors on her list include elected officials from Tuckahoe and neighboring Eastchester, businesses in the area, emergency, first-responder organizations and even people whom Alexander-Campbell has met from as far away as Englewood, N.J.

“The feedback from the community at large has been positive so far, and there’s been such a big response from everyone who has donated and continues to donate,” Alexander-Campbell said.

Though she’s received nearly 100 backpacks, she said her committee, The Children Working for All Children, has collected other school supplies as well. The committee was started by her church, Shiloh Baptist in Tuckahoe, in 2008, but fizzled out when her pastor left the state. She reignited the effort in 2011 as the committee’s new president, and set her sights on initiatives that would assist children. For the past three years, she has been pushing to provide kids in the THA with the opportunity to have the same experiences as their higher-income peers.

“There’s an importance in children having supplies which make them have a better education,” Alexander-Campbell said. “[I want] for the children in my area to be just as successful, so they can go to school feeling positive.”

Jeanne Canon, a teacher in the Eastchester School District, said there’s a school budget in place for supplies, but oftentimes the parents will provide any additional item needs. She said, however, there is a certain degree where teachers are supplementing school supplies in the interim.

“What am I going to do? Wait six months to buy markers?” Canon said.

Pastor Ramaul Morgan, from West Harrison’s Memorial Community Church and organizer of an annual backpack giveaway which serves 150 local children, could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 

Belmont handles Marraccini

By JOHN BRANDI

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont soundly defeated his opponent Phil Marraccini, a former town mayor, in the Republican mayoral primary. Contributed photo

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont soundly defeated his opponent Phil Marraccini, a former town mayor, in the Republican mayoral primary. Contributed photo

It appears that incumbent 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 Thursday’s primary by a three-to-one 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.

Belmont said the primary has better prepared elected officials on what to do if they face similar challenges in the future.

In defeat, Marraccini said he was disappointed but not deterred.

“I’m going full blast on the Independence line,” Marraccini said, assuming he was able to hold on in that primary. “Nothing is getting better, and it’s just a self-promotion machine in town. Nobody with a business sense is running this town.”

However, as of press time, 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. According to a representative from the county Board of Elections, those numbers won’t be released until all of the voting machines are collected sometime later this month.

Marraccini, the only name to appear on the Independence Party line, has received 49 votes on this line.

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.

 

Contact: johnb@hometwn.com

Endorsed Republicans win judicial primary

By JOHN BRANDI

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

In a rare, if 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, according to unofficial results by the Westchester County Board of Elections.

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

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

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

Though the results are not finalized, Canter, who had 537 votes as of press time, has withdrawn himself from the race. 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, 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.”

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, though the incumbent is a registered Democrat.

He 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.

 

Contact: johnb@hometwn.com

bronxville-chamber-

Bronxville chamber urges local shopping

By JOHN BRANDI
The Bronxville Chamber of Commerce is making a concerted effort to spur growth and attract residents to a business district that has struggled in recent years. 

The chamber is embarking on coordinating with The Bronxville Schools’ parent-teacher association, PTA, to encourage new residents to the village with school-age children to shop locally for all of their back-to-school needs. The cost of school supplies has risen since 2007, and parents can expect to dole out nearly 10 percent of their income to such purchases, according to the Huntington Bank Backpack Index, an organization that analyzes the costs of sending children to school each academic year.

The Bronxville business district is divided into two sections, bisected by the Bronxville Metro-North train station. The west side of the business district, defined as Parkway Road and Palmer Avenue, is in the vicinity of Lawrence Hospital, and offers more service-oriented businesses such as recreation and eateries.

The east end of Bronxville, including Kraft Avenue and Pondfield Road, has struggled to make a sales profit because their business merchandise consists more of retail items that residents have been increasingly turning to the internet to shop for in an effort to avoid sales tax. This has left several storefront vacancies, which litter the streetscape on this end of the village.

To combat the vacancies and keep dollars flowing locally, the Bronxville PTA has agreed to allow the chamber to include a handout with materials the group distributes to families new to the school district, according to Susan Miele, the chamber’s director. The handout will be designed to encourage parents to shop locally and will also include information about how to connect with the chamber in
the future.

Mayor Mary Marvin, a Republican, has always advocated the benefits of shopping local. She said chamber initatives will ultimately help the village turnaround.

“We need to be helping our small, home-grown businesses and make lasting, productive partnerships,” Marvin said. “We will all reap the benefits in our home values, tax bills and [in] a vibrant downtown shopping community.”

Local businesses also can use the chamber materials to extend special offers to these new families, such as 20 percent off a first purchase.

The chamber will also re-launch its sidewalk sales in October, designed to give merchants and other companies valuable exposure in the community to residents walking along the business district. However, a business must register through the chamber to become a sponsor of these sale events, according to Miele.

“These events are valued by both businesses and the residential community alike, and attract people from well beyond Bronxville,” the director said in a released statement.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
23

Harrison candidates mum on finances

 

As Election Day nears, the deadline to file campaign disclosure forms with the New York State Board of Elections has passed with some candidates in Harrison failing to file, as of press time. A new division in the Board of Elections is now charged with monitoring campaign financials with Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, pictured, leading the charge. Photo courtesy criminaljustice.ny.gov

As Election Day nears, the deadline to file campaign disclosure forms with the New York State Board of Elections has passed with some candidates in Harrison failing to file, as of press time. A new division in the Board of Elections is now charged with monitoring campaign financials with Chief Enforcement Counsel Risa Sugarman, pictured, leading the charge. Photo courtesy criminaljustice.ny.gov

By JOHN BRANDI
Candidates from both parties in Harrison have failed to file campaign disclosure forms before the July 15 deadline, according to the New York State Board of Elections.

Elizabeth Schaper, the Democratic mayoral candidate, has not yet submitted anything to the database, but has told the Review she plans to before the month’s end. This is Schaper’s first foray for political office, and the Purchase-area resident said she was confused by the Board of Election stipulations which contradict what her accountant told her.

“I have the papers now, I have them notarized,” Schaper said.

As for raising capital ahead of Election Day, Schaper said the Democratic slate has been independently fundraising, to date. Though the candidate said her situation mirrors her running mate, Michael Daher, who is running for a town board seat. Daher, a private practice attorney, has also surpassed the filing deadline.

Like Schaper, this is Daher’s first time in politics. His reason for not filing is unknown, as he could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Although consequences for not filing vary—depending on circumstances including the type of race and how much money is raised—candidates who periodically miss deadlines are usually the people cited by the Board of Elections. More specifically, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, created a new bureau with the BOE to monitor campaign finances, known as the Division of Election Law Enforcement, last year. The agency is more focused on getting local, state and federal candidates to file on time rather than taking them to court, according to Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement council. Sugarman said, however, that some penalties include court-ordered fines and protracted investigations into a candidate’s affairs. The division has already referred seven cases to prosecutorial agencies and there are “many more ongoing cases at this time,” according to Sugarman.

Finance disclosure happens intermittently throughout the year, with the major filing months being January and July, encompassing six-month cycles. Ahead of elections, where the candidate is running for office, there are more frequent filing dates—32 and then 11 days before Election Day and 27 days post-election.

On the Republican side—the focal point of the town election talk thus far due to a mayoral and judicial primary—some candidates have also failed to file in a timely fashion, such as Pasquale Gizzo, the Republican-backed town justice candidate. The state’s database indicates Gizzo has filed nothing for 2015 and lists him as inactive since as early as 2012, as of press time.

Still, some candidates have filed, but have expressed no dollar amounts, simply listing “no activity statement.” Councilman Fred Sciliano, a Republican seeking his third term on the town board, is one of those candidates.

Listing “no activity statement” is a viable option if the candidate hasn’t collected any contributions thus far, according to Sciliano. The councilman said, in his own circumstance, he started a business-type account with the bank for contribution purposes during his 2011 run, but since it was acquiring fees, he consulted with the institution and he decided to let it go dormant for a time.

“I plan to reopen my account in September and start [seeking] contributions then,” Sciliano said.

In the meantime, Sciliano said his efforts thus far have included supporting candidates on the ticket who are vulnerable to
primary challengers.

“I don’t have to worry about a primary, so I’m using my energies to support [incumbent] Mayor Ron Belmont,” he said referring to the heated mayoral primary between Belmont and former Mayor Philip Marraccini, which is set to take place on Sept. 10.

Joining Sciliano in filing “no activity statement[s]” are Councilman Joseph Cannella, who is running for town justice, and Jacqueline Greer, who is seeking her second term as town clerk.

The next filing deadline is 32 days before the general election.

Gizzo and Democratic Chairwoman Elizabeth Pritchard could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Republican judicial primary candidates: Nelson Canter

 

 

Judge-CanterAge: 53
Family: Wife, two children

Status: Incumbent
Political Affiliation: Registered Republican
Political Experience: Appointed by Gov. George Pataki in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Office of Inspector General Community Affiliations: Purchase Fire Department, life member, served as lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and sat on the Board of Directors; sat on Executive Board of Westchester County Arson Task Force
Years in Harrison: Lifelong resident

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: Been doing karate for 32 years, third degree and instructor

Q: It is extremely unusual for a sitting judge to face a primary challenge on the local level. How surprising was it to hear that you were passed over for the Republican ticket and that there’d be this type of challenge?

 

A: I want to address my initial statement regarding “back-room, party politics” playing a role. I’ve known Bob Amelio and he’s treated me with dignity and respect and I don’t think he did anything underhanded to subvert the process. The committee members are doing a valuable public service and I respect them for their time and commitment. I felt their minds were made up before I walked into the room.

I was surprised and deeply disappointed, given the hard work I put in four years ago with the team and making history and beating the incumbent for the first time in 26 years, and having the slate win. The primary is [forcing] me to reaffirm my commitment to the committee and the community that I am committed to work hard again.

 

Q: What is the most unusual case you have ever presided over?

 

A: I think the first day that I took the bench, I presided over a sexual abuse case, and it involved a 24-year-old nanny and a 12-year-old victim. [The nanny] was convicted, and the victim was in court for sentencing and it was absolutely heart breaking to see that poor girl suffer.

 

Q: Why are you interested in being re-elected to the town justice position?

 

A: I’ve devoted a large part of my life to public service, first as a prosecutor from 1987 to 1993 and in the fire department since I was 16. I truly treasure the opportunity to positively impact people’s lives and make a difference, and that’s the reason I’m running again.

 

Q: What is the most difficult part of the job?

 A: The most difficult part is making sure I get it right, and making sure that justice is done and I’m fair and impartial every single time.

 

Q: What is the most important piece of advice you have for attorneys concerning how they can improve their performance at oral argument?

 

A: To have a full understanding of every fact in the case because oftentimes if one or two facts are omitted, it changes the dynamics of the argument. Have a comprehensive understanding of the factual chronology of the events and understand applicable case law and statutes that apply. To not embellish or [overstate] facts because that strains their credibility.

 

Q: Should the town justice role expand to a full-time position? 

 

A: The tremendous case load could justify having a full-time position because of our geographic location. Harrison sits in the funnel of traffic flow through [Manhattan] and Long Island. There’s tremendous amount of criminal charges and vehicle traffic crimes, as well as the robust nature of the building enforcement that takes place in Harrison.

 

Q: What should those judges be paid or, perhaps less controversially, how would one determine what the proper salary should be? 

 

A: It would have to compare to neighboring jurisdictions to get a better understanding of what the full-time justices are getting paid.

 

Q: Town justices’ are allowed to keep other employment unlike full-time justices. Why is that? 

 

A: That is more a question that is directed to legislators who make the law rather than me.

 

Q: What qualifications or background make for an effective justice, in your opinion?

 

A: I think having criminal and civil litigation experience is critical to being an effective town justice. The criminal case load is heavy and it would be difficult to preside over a heavy criminal calendar without any understanding of criminal procedure law, penal law, vehicle and traffic law, corrections law as well as a wide array of applicable civil codes, rules and regulations, including town ordinances.

Very often the first contact anyone has with the civil and criminal justice system is through town court, and if the town justice understands what it’s like to be a prosecutor and defense attorney, and being in the trenches of civil litigation, then they are more able to understand each of those perspectives in rendering an objective and fair ruling on each case.

Additionally, it’s very important for town justices to have extensive trial experience because there are many bench trial felony hearings and adversarial proceedings because it’s an active court. Having a litigation background really helps in that regard and I respectfully submit my experience as a prosecutor, presiding over thousands of cases over those five years, and subsequently as a defense attorney, where I defended hundreds of cases, coupled with my civil litigation background, that my experiences are truly tailored toward local court justice. I give it 100 percent of my effort, but that’s what the job requires and [what I’m] willing to do if I’m re-elected.

-Reporting by John Brandi

A retaining wall on Parkview Avenue could soon be repaired, as the Town Council unanimously approved putting the project out to bid. File photo

Town council considers repair to retaining wall

A retaining wall on Parkview Avenue could soon be repaired, as the Town Council unanimously approved putting the project out to bid. File photo

A retaining wall on Parkview Avenue could soon be repaired, as the Town Council unanimously approved putting the project out to bid. File photo

By John Brandi
Careful consideration has to be given to the upcoming repair efforts of a retaining wall at the end of Parkview Avenue, which has been suffering from water-related damages since at least last summer.

The Harrison Town Council, at its Aug. 6 meeting, unanimously approved sending the project out to bid so construction can begin. The retaining wall, located at the dead end of Parkview Avenue, stands as a reinforcement to support the street, which is 8 feet higher than adjacent Westchester Avenue and forms a 90 degree drop against the private property located on the other side.

The wall has been plagued with water that trickles down the steep incline from the top of Parkview.

The town was notified of the problem last year when the owner of the home that is adjacent to the wall started to notice bulges on the wall’s surface. The town responded by hiring Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc., out of White Plains, in September 2014 to inspect the wall and survey the area for $51,000.

Town Engineer Michael Amodeo told the Review that after that initial survey, the town moved forward with removing some of the wall and putting up a “temporary holding pattern,” to halt the wall’s declining structural integrity over the winter months.

The plan has evolved from fully replacing the wall to now lowering its height to 5 feet and cutting back the road on Westchester Avenue from the wall to ensure that water doesn’t damage it in the future and that its lifespan is extended “another 60 years.”

Now whichever construction company is hired to follow through on Langan’s recommendations, bids are due back by mid-September, will have to proceed with caution, as the wall is surrounded on all sides by utilities and other obstacles, according to Amodeo. Both a sanitary sewer line and a storm drain line run behind the wall. The sanitary sewer line reaches out to Anderson Hill Road and the storm drain flows into the Mamaroneck River, the town engineer said

One or two of the manholes associated with the sanitary line will have to be re-routed in anticipation of the work, while the town engineer said the main line will go untouched. In addition, some power lines to nearby houses will also be re-routed during the construction effort, and the town will coordinate with Con-Edison on the technical aspect there.

“I’ve not seen this type of project since I’ve been here,” Amodeo said. “It’s kind of a unique situation. Now we don’t have the associated risks with [keeping a] high retaining wall which is less maintenance concern, so it seems to have worked out.”

Amodeo estimates the completion of the project by the end of the year at a cost of $100,000.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
vote-2015

Republican judicial primary candidates: Marc Lust

LustAge: 63

Family: Wife, Lois; three children, Alyssa, Daniel, Ben

Status: Incumbent
Political Affiliation: Registered Democrat
Political Experience: 16 years as Harrison’s part-time town justice
Community Affiliations: Former Harrison coed little league coach from 1992 to 2006; former member of the Board of Directors of the Harrison Jewish Community Center; former president of Westchester County Magistrates Association
Years in Harrison: 29

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: Big San Francisco Giants fan

Q: It is extremely unusual for a sitting judge to face a primary challenge on the local level. How surprising was it to hear that you were passed over for the Republican ticket and that there’d be this type of challenge? 

 

A: I’m causing a primary challenge, and it’s very rare in this town. I can’t ever recall [that with] a Democrat. I’ve been previously cross-endorsed [by the Republicans] three times, which is quite an accomplishment. I have a lot of support throughout the community within the Republican Party and they encouraged me to run. I feel very good about my chances.

 

Q: What is the most unusual case you have ever presided over? 

 

A: Not really supposed to talk about cases, to some degree, but one unfortunate case was with a Manhattanville student who was murdered by her mother. I presided over two home invasion cases and both went up to the county court; a weapons case with rapper DMX. I’ve seen high-profile cases.

 

Q: Why are you interested in running for re-election to the town justice position?

 

A: I’m running for re-election as a way of continuing to give back to the community [where] I’ve raised my kids. I have the experiences and qualities to help ensure our judicial system is administered properly with integrity and professionalism. I was a practicing trial attorney for 38 years, and I’ve tried many cases myself which is invaluable [experience] to someone sitting on the bench.

 

Q: What is the most difficult part of the job? 

 

A: I don’t really find any part difficult, it comes naturally to me and I enjoy every day I get to sit on the bench. I actually try to make the whole experience interesting and I try to make it an educational experience and have people come away with a positive experience. I have enjoyed over the years students from our local schools at court, from kindergarten through high school, stopping now and again and explaining to the kids about the pitfalls to avoid, like underage drinking and using false IDs. It’s a good thing to do when the kids are young enough and to influence them in a positive manner. They write me letters and draw pictures with the judge and gavel, it’s very rewarding.

 

Q: What are the most important pieces of advice you have for attorneys concerning how they can improve their performance at oral argument? 

 

A: Most important thing is to be prepared, [as] I run my court in a professional manner. I established that standard soon after I took the bench. Once you’re prepared and know what you’re talking about, you’re going to be successful in getting your case across.

 

Q: Should the town justice role expand to a full-time position? 

 

A: No, I don’t think it needs to be expanded and it can be handled on a part-time basis. As a matter of fact, the Town of Harrison is a busy court and it’s a testament to our efficiency. A lot of credit goes out to our tremendous court staff, especially Jackie Ricciardi, our chief court clerk. We can more than handle it.

 

Q: What should the town judges be paid or, perhaps less controversially, how would one determine what the proper salary should be? 

 

A: Not sure how to answer that; it’s how good a job they do and how big the court is.

 

Q: Town justices are allowed to keep other employment unlike full-time justices. Why is that? 

 

A: Well, because it’s a part-time job, many judges would have a hard time making ends meet only working part time, so you’re allowed to do other things. 

 

Q: What qualifications or background make for an effective justice, in your opinion? 

 

A: Well first of all, it’s important to know the law, and as a local judge, not only criminal, but the penal code, criminal procedure, landlord-tenant law, municipal codes and rules of evidence. A good judge has to understand people and human nature. You have to come in with an impartial viewpoint and come into it fairly and let the parties verbalize their point. Be patient and know you’re there to be the judge. It’s important to treat people respectfully and sometimes you see these programs on television that sensationalize the judges and they scream, and that’s how they think judges act, but they should treat others in a respectable manner.

-Reporting by John Brandi

BiddleF

Harrison Shopping Center has new identity

The Harrison Shopping Center on the corner of Halstead and Oakland avenues has officially come under new management, as Urstadt Biddle Properties, Inc. recently acquired the property which had been under continuous ownership for nearly 60 years. Photo courtesy Urstadt Biddle

The Harrison Shopping Center on the corner of Halstead and Oakland avenues has officially come under new management, as Urstadt Biddle Properties, Inc. recently acquired the property which had been under continuous ownership for nearly 60 years. Photo courtesy Urstadt Biddle

By JOHN BRANDI
With a new property owner at the helm, the Harrison Shopping Center is about to undergo some changes, perhaps bringing new clients and clientele to the nearly 60-year-old complex. 

Urstadt Biddle Properties, Inc, a Greenwich, Conn.-based real estate investment trust, sealed the deal on the property earlier this month after managing the 25,000-square-foot shopping center for three years.

James Aries, director of acquistions at Urstadt Biddle, said the purchase was the natural, next step after the company’s close relationship with the selling family over the years, though the selling price has not yet been disclosed.

The complex was also on the company’s radar, as it is located 10 miles from their main headquarters and because, as bankruptcy proceedings are finalized and are forcing the failing A&P chain out, it would give Urstadt Biddle a chance to sort of reset the image of the property with their own vision, according to the company’s senior management.

Willing Biddle, president of the trust, said the most important step in moving forward is to stabilize a new anchor tenant to ensure a smooth transition from outgoing A&P into a new supermarket chain. According to court papers released in July that detailed the closing of 31 A&P locations in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties, Key Food Co-Operative has placed a sole bid on this location, at 341-385 Halstead Ave, for an undisclosed amount of money.

“Our goal is to work with [Key Foods] in a way that’s appropriate and nice for the neighborhood,” Biddle said. “They’ll be improvements to the store and much better operation than the A&P ever did and we’re encouraged by that.”

Though the deadline runs until Oct. 15 of when the court will finalize the buyout of the locations, Biddle said, in the meantime, three more supermarket chains have expressed interest in the Harrison A&P location. However, he declined to release their names, as he said the proceedings have a competitive nature to them, since companies attempt to buy up these old locations before the deadline.

The A&P had about nine years left on its lease with the shopping center with an option to renew, according to Aries.

“It’s a great location for a successful supermarket, and we think [that] is the best use for that space,” Aries said.

Biddle echoed this sentiment and felt a successful anchor would make its neighboring tenants better in the process, something the A&P was failing to do in recent years.

“[We’re looking for a] better anchor supermarket to feed off one other and the problem with A&P was that it was not maintained,” Biddle said. “They’ve had financial troubles and trouble maintaining staff and its stores.”

The financial stress of the A&P didn’t deter Urstadt Biddle with the all-cash purchase, as Biddle called the transition from supermarket chains “a plus.”

Meanwhile, Biddle and Aries both see big plans for the complex beyond the A&P vacancy. The attention, once a food-item store is secured, is going to turn to filling the two vacancies in the plaza—out of 11 storefronts—that will complement its anchor’s appeal. There’s already a plan to work with the existing tenants on drafting new leases and talks are taking place to bring a new client in soon to fill one of the vacancies, though Biddle declined to name the possible tenant as the negotiations are ongoing.

Other plans include cosmetic work to the property’s façade and changes in the parking model.

The property had been through undisturbed ownership for 58 years, and has seen two owners now, as it was built in 1957 and has been a “mainstay in downtown Harrison for generations,” according to Urstadt Biddle. Other tenants in the complex include a bakery, hair salon, a florist, restaurants and an AT&T satellite store.

Urstadt Biddle operates 74 locations throughout Westchester and Putnam counties and some locations in New Jersey in some capacity with the general atmosphere being “dominant, grocery-anchored centers in wealthy neighborhoods.”

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The A&P on Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, will be closing as part of the supermarket chain’s recent bankruptcy filing.

A&P prepares to auction off remaining Westchester stores

 

The A&P on Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, will be closing as part of the supermarket chain’s recent bankruptcy filing.

The A&P on Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, will be closing as part of the supermarket chain’s recent bankruptcy filing.

By JOHN BRANDI
The wheels have come off the cart for the A&P supermarket chain, as it begins to sell off its remaining store locations in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties. 

A&P is now working out the final details to auction off its 31 remaining locations spread across the three counties, according to documents lawyers filed with the bankruptcy court in White Plains last month.

This is A&P’s second bankruptcy in five years. High pension costs, as well as labor provisions, such as collective bargaining agreements that require A&P to layoff workers by seniority—allowing laid-off employees with more seniority to take jobs from more junior workers at another store—have contributed to high costs, company officials said. The flagship A&P brand is not the only one to close; joining the brand of failing stores are its affiliates Pathmark and Waldbaums.

Within the first six months of the 2012 fiscal year, A&P was losing about $28 million a month, according to court filings. From February 2014 to February of this year, A&P lost more than $300 million.

One of the locations being sold off is in Bronxville on 12-14 Cedar St., the only supermarket in the village. Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin, a Republican, said it was important to preserve the location as a food item store because of Bronxville’s increasing senior population. The A&P has been a village staple since 1977.

“I [do] want it to stay a market as our seniors rely on it, and the many folks in the village without cars do as well,” Marvin said. “It is convenience for everyone.”

The mayor just may get her wish, as Acme Markets, a Philadelphia, Penn.-based market, has expressed interest in the space and placed a bid to acquire the 27,699-square-foot location. Though Acme was revealed as one of the bidders, other chain supermarkets have until a Sept. 11 filing deadline to bid higher, according to an Acme spokesperson.

The supermarket chain A&P, which has dominated the market for years, is announcing plans to transition nearly all of its store locations in Westchester County, including the markets in Bronxville, Eastchester and Harrison. File photos

The supermarket chain A&P, which has dominated the market for years, is announcing plans to transition nearly all of its store locations in Westchester County, including the markets in Bronxville, Eastchester and Harrison. File photos

Meanwhile, the Bronxville A&P building on Cedar Street was recently sold in November 2014 after continuous ownership for nearly 40 years.

The old owner, HLC Equities, cited a move from selling off its older retail buildings to the residential model market. However, Lawrence Porter, managing director of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Capital Markets, who represented the $8.5 million deal, previously told the Review that the A&P had about a dozen years left on its lease agreement.

How that lease agreement will affect the upcoming store closure is unclear, as a call to the store’s new owner, Manhattan-based Gerard Alexander Realty Holdings  LLC, was not returned, as of press time.

Still, Acme also has its sights set on the A&P in neighboring Eastchester as well, though shoppers there have more grocery store options such as Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s. Eastchester Supervisor Anthony Colavita, a Republican, said, as a shopper of the A&P himself, he would like the 777 White Plains Road location to remain a food retailer, as it’s a convenient location and has provided tax revenue for the town.

“I can tell you though up to a few months ago, the volume of items has gone down and I’ve been disappointed with the inventory,” Colavita said.

This drop in shelf items could suggest that the chain is about ready to close its doors.

Though Acme has overlooked the store location at the Harrison Shopping Center, that A&P, which occupies 341-385 Halstead Ave., is still on the chopping block. That supermarket serves as an anchor point for the nearly 25,000-square-foot shopping complex, meaning shoppers frequent that store the most and then sprinkle out to the other adjacent retailers. Bankruptcy court papers revealed that Key Food Stores Co-Operative has submitted a bid for that location, as the company’s sole bid, as of press time.

However, Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said that Urstadt Biddle, the complex’s property owner, may have other plans for the location but didn’t disclose any further details.

Joseph Allegretti, senior leasing representative for Urstadt Biddle, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Democratic mayoral candidate Elizabeth Schaper said she was very upset to learn that the location on Halstead Avenue would be closing. Schaper said she’s been going to the big name store since she was a child.

“It’s important to keep it a market so residents of Harrison would not be [burdened] with a void,” she said.

A&P was founded in 1859 and operates under the following names: A&P, Waldbaums, Pathmark, Best Cellars, The Food Emporium, Super Fresh and Food Basics.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com