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Harrison Central School District has seen an increase of those scoring in the highest percentiles on statewide, standardized testing, according to state data released this month. File photo

School district’s state test scores jump

Harrison Central School District has seen an increase of those scoring in the highest percentiles on statewide, standardized testing, according to state data released this month. File photo

Harrison Central School District has seen an increase of those scoring in the highest percentiles on statewide, standardized testing, according to state data released this month. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
As statewide standardized testing remains marred in controversy, results have shown that a percentage of students in the Harrison Central School District have made progress in a year’s time and results have ticked up in both English and mathematics. 

Though fewer kids tested this year, as 19 percent of the student body in grades three through eight opted out of the state tests in Harrison, the results remained strong, according to data released by New York State’s Education Department. A range between 1,121 and 1,302 students were still tested on their skills in mathematics and English Language Arts, ELA, respectively.

Students scoring in the top three and four percentile in ELA testing have gone up five and three percentage points, respectively, from 2014 to 2015. Over that same timespan, math scores also jumped, and the students scoring in the high percentiles increased three and 11 percentage points, the latter marking the biggest jump in the results.

Harrison Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool questioned the validity of the results and felt that they weren’t good indicators of students’ progress.

“[They are] limited in value in determining whether or not students are making appropriate academic progress,” Wool told the Review.

Furthermore, the superintendent said it’s unclear if those opting out in Harrison on exam day affected test scores.

Either way, the overall message of that resistance is clear.

“We would hope that the state would take note that the opt out movement is a vote of no-confidence in its approach to assessing student growth,” Wool said.

Opting out of test-taking is still a fairly new phenomenon, with some parents pulling their kids from the classroom on test day in response to over testing and burn out. Statewide numbers of those students, in grades three through eight, who’ve opted out hovers at 20 percent, according to the same Education Department data.

Opting out is used as a civil disobedience tool to protest teacher evaluation models and Common Core curriculum standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a national, educational initiative that details what students in kindergarten through grade 12 should know in English and mathematics at the end of each grade. New York, along with 43 other states, agreed to adopt Common Core in 2010 to be eligible for grant money under President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speculated on what effect opting out could have on how teachers are evaluated moving forward.

“This assessment is part of a bigger plan to let us know how we’re doing and where we’re going, and without that data we’re certainly at a disadvantage in knowing how those schools and those districts performed,” she said.

Under the current teacher evaluation system, students’ state scores make up 20 percent of the evaluation for a teacher; another 20 percent is based on local tests, while the bulk—60 percent—is based on observations. Teachers are then scored on a scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective,” and teachers who score “ineffective” twice in a row could be fired under state law.

That evaluation system is set to change however, due to education initiatives introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, through the 2015-2016 Executive Budget, which was passed in March.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
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 just last year. 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

 
Another character from the series is Adventure Bug who is featured inside the shop, painted on the back wall.

Comic shop claws its way downtown

Marc Hammond, co-owner of Aw Yeah Comics, which has recently opened up shop in Harrison.

Marc Hammond, co-owner of Aw Yeah Comics, which has recently opened up shop in Harrison.

By JOHN BRANDI
Two masked crusaders have come to Harrison to try and change its streetscape for the better. 

Along with their personalized mascots, Action Cat and Adventure Bug, Aw Yeah Comics has sprung up in a business district that has struggled in recent years.

And the comic book shop just may be what Harrison needs to reverse this trend.

The comic shop opened earlier this month and is carving a niche for itself in both the adult and teen demographic for those craving some action and adventure.

Co-owner Marc Hammond—one of three owners—said that Aw Yeah’s two other locations, one in Skokie, Ill., and the other in Muncie, Ind., have managed to spruce up and bring business back from the edge, much like a modern-day superhero.

“In Skokie, the street was half dead and now two-thirds of the shops are filled,” Hammond said. “Aw Yeah Games [a branch of Aw Yeah Comics] has increased the sales of the record store right next door.”

That’s the mission.

Hammond wants Aw Yeah to hitch its wagon to the recent revitalization efforts of Halstead Avenue in downtown Harrison and become a part of the “community’s ID.”

In April, the Harrison Chamber of Commerce was rebooted by Holly Sharpe, its president, who has already visited the comic shop and has given the owners her well wishes. Sharpe is currently involved in some business initiatives to make Harrison a destination shopping experience.

Another character from the series is Adventure Bug who is featured inside the shop, painted on the back wall.

Another character from the series is Adventure Bug who is featured inside the shop, painted on the back wall.

Hammond said certain in-store events—including cartoon classes, gaming card tournaments and monthly comic book discussion groups—are designed to bring people from Harrison and beyond to their store. Once traffic has picked up, Hammond said, it will spill over to other shops like neighboring Pizza 2000.

“Being a part of the community is good business and good citizenship,” Hammond said. “At the end of the day, comic book stores are the bandstand of Main Street, U.S.A. where people can escape for a bit and congregate.”

Hammond said he sees his role like that of a local bartender: to listen to and connect with the community at large. Apart from that, the co-owner said connecting with other businesses is just fun. The anticipated grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 3 will see the comic store collaborate with other local businesses, based on Halstead Avenue, to cater the event. From Pizza 2000 to the Butler Brothers deli, the food will be sourced locally. The real sweet treat will be a cake in the shape of Action Cat, from Harrison Bake Shop, just up the road.

Meanwhile, the shop’s owners have displayed some of the heroic qualities that characters in the graphic novels and comics they sell possess. Aw Yeah has taken part in different charity events including a project called the Hero Initiative—a fundraising drive which assists comic creators in need—Toys for Tots and donations to local food pantries. Hammond said that the shop would like to continue contributing to these efforts in Harrison once their feet are planted.

Action Cat, a superhero feline created by co-owners Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, is Aw Yeah Comics’ mascot and part of a fictional series that will feature Harrison in upcoming issues. Photos/John Brandi

Action Cat, a superhero feline created by co-owners Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, is Aw Yeah Comics’ mascot and part of a fictional series that will feature Harrison in upcoming issues. Photos/John Brandi

Still, the shop seems to be in good hands with the other two award-winning, co-owners Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani. Both are responsible for the out-of-state locations and bringing the shop to Harrison, its first New York destination. Baltazar and Aureliani have been comic-creating partners for nearly 20 years. Hammond said that there are very few people who own comic book stores, who are also creators.

The store soon hopes to expand its merchandise to include T-shirts, gaming cards and more graphic novels and comic books. The plan to incorporate the Harrison landscape into its own brand of comics, featuring Action Cat,
is also in the works, and perhaps the superhero feline, much like the comic shop, will also be fixing Harrison one block at
a time.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

Aw Yeah Comics, at 313 Halstead Ave., will have its grand opening in downtown Harrison on Saturday, Oct. 3.

Aw Yeah Comics, at 313 Halstead Ave., will have its grand opening in downtown Harrison on Saturday, Oct. 3.

 
Petitionssf

Judge dismisses petition challenges

Harrison mayoral candidate Philip Marraccini’s efforts to challenge voter petitions gathered by the town’s Republican slate have been dismissed in state Supreme Court. Photo/John Brandi

Harrison mayoral candidate Philip Marraccini’s efforts to challenge voter petitions gathered by the town’s Republican slate have been dismissed in state Supreme Court. Photo/John Brandi

By JOHN BRANDI
Republican mayoral candidate Philip Marraccini’s efforts to knock off candidates on the Republican and Conservative lines ahead of the GOP mayoral primary has proved unsuccessful, as a judge in New York’s Supreme Court dismissed the case earlier this month. 

Marraccini, a former Harrison mayor, and his wife, Jayne, each filed objections against several Republican-backed candidates including Mayor Ron Belmont ahead of a September showdown for the right to carry certain lines in the general election. Marraccini contested their voter petition efforts to invalidate their chances of appearing on the Conservative and Republican ballot line ahead of the primary.

The mayoral candidate said Judge Robert Dibella dismissed the case on the grounds that his physical paperwork didn’t reach those candidates named in the case in time, as the paperwork was shipped overnight on July 23. According to election law, there is a 14-day statute of limitations from the first filing to initial proceedings.

In this case, Marraccini’s original objection filings were submitted on July 9. The deadline would have been 14 days from that, July 23, for those being challenged to receive the notice.

Marraccini said passing the deadline represented a service issue and a “fatal defect” preventing Dibella from ruling in his favor.

Meanwhile, those named in the case—Belmont, councilmen Fred Sciliano and Stephen Malfitano, Town Clerk Jacqueline Greer, town justice candidates, Councilman Joseph Cannella and Pasquale Gizzo and incumbent Town Justice Nelson Canter—claimed there was no reasonable time given to start the proceedings.

Though Dibella dismissed the case, he still addressed Marraccini’s charges levied against the Republican slate.

According to court papers, both Marraccini and his wife accused some candidates of being implicit in fraud during the procurement of signatures, including failing to administer an oath to residents and altering certain dates. Another charge claimed that Republican district leaders of the nominating caucus failed to follow proper procedures in nominating candidates for their slate back
in April.

The mayoral hopeful targeted Belmont, who is a notary, for failing to read an oath to voters he was seeking signatures from. According to the court documents, Dibella found that although the mayor “did not act in a manner consistent with election law…there was no clear and convincing evidence of any fraudulent intent sufficient to warrant [an] invalidation of the entire designating petition.”

A notary doesn’t specifically have to administer a specific oath, but does have to state one that would “awaken the conscience and impress the mind” of the registered voter, according to election law.

Another charge was that the Republican leadership botched their nominating process in April when candidates came in to present their cases and district leaders cast their votes on whom to endorse.

Marraccini previously told the Review he had some trouble during the nominating caucus, but declined to discuss the matter further.

Though the judge said the leadership—specifically Republican Committee Chairman Bob Amelio—erred in “the appropriate course of conduct in the formalities of the meeting and taking the vote,” the judge found that it did not escalate to be considered fraudulent.

With all of the charges dismissed by Dibella, Marraccini said he was shocked by the decision, but ultimately he has decided not to file an appeal.

“The next step is to not do anything that would take up more time and energy,” Marraccini said. “Now [it’s time] to get ready for the primary, which is four weeks away.”

The next step is to set up a campaign website and engage more on social media, according to Marraccini, but those details have yet to be sorted out, as of press time.

Belmont could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
Kensington

Kensington project lawsuit nears resolution

Kensington project lawsuit nears resolution

The lawsuit against the Kensington Road project and the Village of Bronxville is effectively settled, as both parties have been in talks for weeks ahead of a Sept. 15 discovery deadline. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
The lawsuit against the Kensington Road condominium project is nearing its end, as the parties to the more than six-month-old case—filed in regard to how the project targets potential renters of a certain age group—have almost reached a settlement. 

Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc., a fair housing nonprofit, filed a lawsuit against the Village of Bronxville and the project, currently in the early stages of construction, claiming that the development limits potential tenants with school-age children from moving in due to the lack of child-friendly amenities incorporated into its design.

The lawsuit, filed back in January in U.S. District Court in White Plains, alleges that the zoning code was “deliberately discriminatory” to allow the village to collect additional tax dollars from the new living complex, while discouraging families with school-age children from moving into the new building. The lawsuit contends that this discriminatory practice—which WRO, Inc., feels violates fair housing practice—is illustrated by the facility’s lack of additional bedrooms, spaced out bathrooms and dens without closets. And of those units, the layout will be limited to one-to-two bedrooms.

Deputy Mayor Bob Underhill, a Republican, previously confirmed the condominiums will be built with an eye toward empty nesters, young professionals or older people without children living in the home.

A pre-motion conference was scheduled between the nonprofit and the developer, Gateway Kensington, LLC, along with the Village of Bronxville on Aug. 11, but that meeting was adjourned because the parties are working on drafting a settlement by Sept. 15. Over the course of three weeks, from a previously adjourned meeting on July 17, the attorney representing the developer, Alan Singer, said the two “continued settlement discussions and were
making progress.”

Diane Houk, the attorney representing the nonprofit, said discussions were ongoing but would not disclose the atmosphere of the meetings between the two organizations. Houk declined to comment further on what she said was ongoing litigation.

Gateway plans to build a 54-unit, 110,000-square-foot development with a 300-space underground parking garage. Two hundred of the parking spaces in the underground garage will be exclusively for village use. They will replace the 180 spaces lost when the Kensington Road parking lot was closed. The remaining 100 parking spaces will be reserved for residents of the condominium.

Geoff Thompson, a spokesman for the project, previously told the Review that permits were submitted to begin to place footings for the underground garage. Thompson estimates the completion of the garage to take between six to nine months.

Meanwhile, the idea to build this type of development began in the 1990s, and the village amended its zoning code in 2006 to accommodate age-targeted, multiple-residence facilities.

Village Administrator Jim Palmer declined to comment on the settlement and its terms.

Mayor Mary Marvin and Geoffrey Anderson, executive director of WRO, Inc., could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
The Harrison Chamber of Commerce has once again come alive after an extended dormant period, with new initiatives to spur local business growth on Halstead and Harrison avenues. Pictured are Holly Sharpe, chamber president, right, and Brenda Maeda, the chamber’s vice president and owner of Hair Creations. Photo courtesy Holly Sharpe

Harrison Chamber of Commerce back in play

The Harrison Chamber of Commerce has once again come alive after an extended dormant period, with new initiatives to spur local business growth on Halstead and Harrison avenues. Pictured are Holly Sharpe, chamber president, right, and Brenda Maeda, the chamber’s vice president and owner of Hair Creations. Photo courtesy Holly Sharpe

The Harrison Chamber of Commerce has once again come alive after an extended dormant period, with new initiatives to spur local business growth on Halstead and Harrison avenues. Pictured are Holly Sharpe, chamber president, right, and Brenda Maeda, the chamber’s vice president and owner of Hair Creations. Photo courtesy Holly Sharpe

By JOHN BRANDI
With a renewed sense of purpose and some fresh faces, the Harrison Chamber of Commerce is back in a big way with some pro-business initiatives. 

Holly Sharpe, the new president of the chamber, is taking over the reigns of an organization that has lain dormant and has fallen from view for residents and merchants alike. The organization is starting from square one, and although it doesn’t have a physical location yet, it has already mapped out the next two years to spruce up the downtown business district.

“With the many events we have planned over the next two years, we are hoping that we can succeed in making Harrison a destination shopping experience,” Sharpe said.

The chamber has been around since 1964 and has seen several incarnations depending on who was leading the charge, according to Sharpe. The organization morphed from a place that planned special events and community promotions to a more civic-minded pulpit. The president speculated that since the organization’s executive board is volunteer-based, the organization lost dedicated members and ran out of steam.

“Over the years, there was a lack of interest, no one [was] at the helm and [there was] no membership base,” Sharpe said. “Today we have approximately three-fourths of our total member base who have already joined and we are hoping to reach 100 percent by the end of 2016.”

The chamber, Sharpe said, fizzled about two years ago when it was going through a transition period between presidents.

Sharpe said the chamber’s intended goal is to “help the town’s businesses prosper.” She said this will be a multi-prong approach to push for more parking, diversify the district’s shops and increase the restaurant
options so there isn’t an exodus from Harrison for goods and services.

“Revitalizing the chamber has given [local merchants and business owners] the opportunity to spearhead their thoughts and contributions with the backing of one organized group who will fight for their needs,” Sharpe said.

To the affect of diversifying the streetscape, the chamber has launched an outreach campaign, which includes a letter-writing effort, to notify and attract different types of businesses not found in the town’s boundary of vacant storefronts. Sharpe said there are criteria for the type and size of the business, to make sure it could provide much-needed services while not stepping on the toes of well-established niche businesses that already call
the town home.

The idea is to also raise visibility of the organization and the 20 participating businesses. Sharpe said the chamber has two possible upcoming events in the months ahead. Those include events to draw residents out onto the main thoroughfare where merchants can sell their crafts, food and display their services to drum up a base of support. The first of these events is called “Marketplace” and is set to run sometime in September. Another event, coinciding with “It’s Great to Live in Harrison,” is a restaurant pub crawl in the midst of Columbus Day weekend.

Other long-term events include a farmers market set to begin in spring 2016, business networking opportunities and a “first Fridays” campaign, the details of which have yet to be sorted out, according to Sharpe.

Meanwhile, Sharpe has been keeping an eye on the upcoming election cycle and said she hopes whoever holds the title of mayor next focus on pro-business approaches, including “easier documentation and systems for businesses filling vacant storefronts, less red tape and more simplified upstart.”

“Breaking down the roadblocks and barriers to business should be the first order of business regardless of who is in office,” Sharpe said.

The chamber president said the current administration has been supportive of the chamber’s resurgence. Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said although the chamber operates on its own, his administration is there for whatever assistance the organization may need in terms of signage, parking or sanitation.

However, the success of small businesses may not hinge upon the chamber, as NerdWallet, a consumer-driven and financial analysis website, analyzed U.S. Census data and recently released a list ranking Harrison—out of 83 communities in New York—as a top contender to set up shop. Harrison was ahead of its neighbor, White Plains, with both claiming the fifth and sixth spots, respectively.

“We’re always looking for things to help development; you don’t get [the distinction] of top [five] places to do business
in the state for nothing,” Belmont, who is up for re-election this year, said.

Philip Marraccini, Belmont’s opponent in the upcoming September Republican primary, disagreed with the incumbent mayor’s efforts and said the town currently lacks any comprehensive business plan.

“There’s nothing to encourage growth,” Marraccini, a former mayor, said.

However, Marraccini said he was supportive of an active chamber and thought collaboration among businesses is an important step to building a healthy business district. He previously told the Review that one of his campaign priorities would be to establish a chamber for the businesses in the Silver Lake area.

Elizabeth Schaper, the Democratic mayoral candidate, said it’s important for an organization like the chamber to exist where businesses can address their concerns and needs.

“Having a strong chamber can foster growth, while attracting news businesses and reinforcing the businesses that are already here,” she said.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
FRONT-A&P

A&P prepares to close Harrison store

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.

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.

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

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

 
Harrison Town Justice Marc Lust had his DWI case in Manhattan postponed until Nov. 17. Lust is running for re-election to his justice seat this year. File photo

Field grows in justice primary

Town Justice Marc Lust is joining three other candidates who are vying for the Republican ballot line in a September primary. File photo

Town Justice Marc Lust is joining three other candidates who are vying for the Republican ballot line in a September primary. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
Registered Republicans in the Town of Harrison have an array of candidates to choose from for the two part-time justice positions, as four legal professionals are seeking the ballot line ahead of the general election. 

Incumbent Town Justice Marc Lust, a registered Democrat who will already appear on the Independence, Democratic and Conservative lines in the general election, has recently joined the GOP primary race gathering enough signatures—nearly 430—to appear on that ballot line come Sept. 10. He is joining the other incumbent town justice, Nelson Canter, a registered Republican, who was passed over when the Republican leadership chose to endorse Councilman Joseph Cannella and Pasquale Gizzo instead.

Lust, 63, secured his spot as the only justice candidate on the Independence line by knocking off Canter by nine votes. Canter said he filed petitions with Westchester County’s Board of Elections, but Lust then filed his own specific objections against his efforts and was successful.

Lust has been cross endorsed by the Republicans since his first bid for town justice back in 1999, and then in each successive re-election campaign since.

This year marks the first time in 16 years that the Republican leadership decided to go in a different direction. It’s unclear why both incumbent justices were booted from the GOP slate, as Republican Committee Chairman Bob Amelio declined comment on the matter.

Canter, 53, who was also nominated by Republicans in his first justice run in 2011, thinks “back room, party politics” played a role.

However, Lust defended his record during his last four terms, saying he’s “proud of the fact that people walk away feeling that they’ve been treated fairly” while in his courtroom.

Lust said during his tenure, he’s earned the support from across party lines. By seeking the Republican endorsement this time around, he said he is able to reach out to a wider swath of Harrison voters and give them a choice of who they’d like to see sit on the bench.

Still, a factor for the lost endorsement could have been Lust’s own legal troubles stemming from a DWI incident back in December 2014. Ever since, Lust has been recusing himself from those types of cases “for ethical reasons.” Those cases, the ones dealing with DWIs and license suspensions, make up around 30 to 40 percent of the total case load for the town court, though Lust said those types of cases go quickly.

In the meantime, Lust said he makes up his share by covering all of the Thursday session cases, where before he and his colleague Canter would alternate that day. Lust said this was a deal proposed by Canter.

“I’m more than covering my portion of the calendar,” Lust said.

Those cases that don’t deal with DWI matters, which Lust said equal about 30 to 50, instead focus on violations to the town’s building code and are more substantive.

Lust said he imagines that he would return to cover all case matters when his own legal affair is sorted out, which is currently awaiting trial in Manhattan Criminal Court where parties are supposed to meet again after the primary on Sept. 24.

Even if Lust and Canter were to lose the primary they will still appear on the general election ballot on other party lines.

A Harrison town justice makes $62,072 annually and serves a four-year term. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 
Candidates vying for top spots on major party lines are doing whatever they can to be visible among Harrison voters. The efforts are being challenged in White Plains court, pictured. Photo courtesy flickr

GOP mayoral candidates challenge petitions

Candidates vying for top spots on major party lines are doing whatever they can to be visible among Harrison voters. The efforts are being challenged in White Plains court, pictured. Photo courtesy flickr

Candidates vying for top spots on major party lines are doing whatever they can to be visible among Harrison voters. The efforts are being challenged in White Plains court, pictured. Photo courtesy flickr

By JOHN BRANDI
Now that the task to collect voter petitions is over, the efforts are now being challenged in White Plains court. 

As a primary fight edges closer in the Town of Harrison, some candidates are being slammed with challenges to their petition efforts to appear on the ballot. Each candidate, ahead of the general election, needed to gather 264 signatures to be considered by the town’s registered voters.

After mayoral candidate Philip Marraccini, 64, was passed over by the Republicans at their nominating caucus in June, he launched his own independent effort to appear on the ballot by challenging their slate. Having been endorsed by the Independence Party, Marraccini then gathered enough signatures—around 530—to trigger a mayoral primary on the Republican party ballot line come Sept. 10.

This didn’t sit well with the slate, Marraccini said, and they filed general objections against his petitions in an attempt to kick him off the Independence line.

Though those efforts may have stopped short of becoming a legal battle, as Republican Party Chairman Bob Amelio said, he has yet to review Marraccini’s signatures.

Meanwhile, in a sort of retaliatory move, Marraccini then filed objections against the Republican slate on their signatures—in excess of 800—to appear on the Conservative and Republican line. The slate includes Mayor Ron Belmont, Councilmen Stephen Malfitano and Fred Sciliano, Town Clerk Jacqueline Greer and Councilman Joseph Cannella and Pasquale Gizzo for the two part-time justice positions. All but Gizzo have been endorsed by the Conservative Party as well.

This challenge is currently in court, and Marraccini said he doesn’t expect an outcome until Thursday, Aug. 6, after press time. However, Dorothy DiPalo, a Westchester County Board of Elections representative, confirmed that the objections have been filed and are currently on the docket in White Plains.

Marraccini declined to comment further until the matter played out in court.

Meanwhile, amid the petition challenges, some candidates have also been filing their campaign disclosure forms by the July deadline. Belmont, 62, has raised $11,976 so far. On the other hand, Marraccini has yet to file anything to this affect, according to New York state’s Board of Elections.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com 

 
Seniorf

Brightview plan faces renewed criticism

As the plans for a senior living facility, at the Old Lake Street quarry in West Harrison, expand, residents of the adjacent neighborhood have expressed concern with some of the building’s features. File photo

As the plans for a senior living facility, at the Old Lake Street quarry in West Harrison, expand, residents of the adjacent neighborhood have expressed concern with some of the building’s features. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
Neighbors of a proposed senior living facility in West Harrison have intensified their criticism of the project, saying above all else that some of the design elements of the building won’t fit in with the character of the neighborhood. 

The cliff that will be in the rear of the senior complex will act as a buffer to separate the facility from the rest of the neighborhood on Old Lake Street, but residents felt the roof line of the complex and its nearly 30 compressors would disrupt the sights and sounds of what they’ve grown accustomed to in this farm-like community.

Brightview Senior Living of Harrison, proposed for 600 Lake St. over Lawrence Barrego’s defunct quarry site, is a proposed 160-unit, four-story building that will provide independent and assisted living facilities and care for those living with dementia.

Frustration with the project was voiced at the Planning Board’s July 23 meeting.

Anthony Grgas, who lives right behind the proposed development at 87 Old Lake St., said he was most concerned with the noise and light pollution that would substantially change the surrounding neighborhood. He also took issue with the compressors that will be outfitted on the facility’s roof and could potentially run year round. The roof will end where his property line begins, which  will amplify the noise since his house and the compressors will almost be on the same level as one another.

He urged the developer, Shelter Development, LLC, to consider mechanics that were both more environmentally friendly and quiet, such as ground source heat pumps.

Though Brightview has built this type of senior living facility before, it has never been done in an area similar to West Harrison, according to Grgas. Most facilities, like the one in Marlton, N.J., or the one under construction in Tarrytown, are near commercial-use structures.

Further, Grgas pointed to the decline in home sales—according to his findings from Zillow—of three-out-of-four homes in the area nearest the facility in Tarrytown.

Michael Daher, a resident of Old Lake Street and a candidate for Harrison Town Council, said in a letter that the facility is insufficient and inappropriate for the current site. He also warned about a drop in home sales that could occur, and that have already been happening because of the quarry operations.

“There needs to be an independent, third party review of what effect Brightview will have on the depreciation of property values,” Daher said.

Meanwhile, plans have evolved to push the facility forward on the 6.5-acre property and to build an EMS substation on site for use in dire situations.

Planning Board member Nonie Reich was concerned with this type of facility and the constant need for EMS personnel responding to emergency situations. With this, she said, could bring constant sirens and flashing lights which could disrupt the surrounding vicinity.

Mark Tornello, a resident of 100 Old Lake St., highlighted Reich’s point and said his mother lives in a similar assisted living facility in Florida. When he would stay with her, he said it was noisy and EMS personnel were needed all the time.

Despite the public protest, the applicant asked the Planning Board if they could send the application back to the town board for its consideration to grant them a special zoning exception. Shelter Development, LLC, needs a special zoning exception of a “senior living facilities” designation to transition the site from its current R-1, or residential district, label.

The Planning Board rejected this request and decided to gather more facts on the environmental impact of the facility by continuing to meet.

Back in February, Town Attorney Frank Allegretti said the town had reached a settlement with quarry owner Lawrence Barrego—after several legal skirmishes in Town Court, Westchester County Supreme Court and in the appellate division—regarding stop work orders and 37 town code violations against the property and its old quarry business.

Allegretti said Barrego was allowed to submit an application for a site plan proposal, as per the agreement reached with the town, and it was either up to the town board or the Planning Board’s discretion whether it would move forward.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 29.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com