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Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club appeared before the Village of Mamaroneck Zoning Board of Appeals on Feb. 6 as part of an ongoing debate over whether the club is zoning compliant. 
Photo courtesy Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club

MBYC discussion focuses on tax forms

By ASHLEY HELMS

As debate over the zoning compliance of activities at Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club continue, those on both sides of the issue turned their attention to an IRS 990 tax form and if it is necessary in determining whether or not the club conforms to village zoning.

The club was in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals again on Feb. 6.

Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club appeared before the Village of Mamaroneck Zoning Board of Appeals on Feb. 6 as part of an ongoing debate over whether the club is zoning compliant.  Photo courtesy Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club

Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club appeared before the Village of Mamaroneck Zoning Board of Appeals on Feb. 6 as part of an ongoing debate over whether the club is zoning compliant.
Photo courtesy Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club

The club is required to file an IRS 990 form annually with the village to operate as a not-for-profit membership club as outlined in the village zoning code. The club filed the form in 2012, but has not since.

In addition, the tax form that the club filed in 2012 was an IRS 990 EZ, an abridged form of the standard 990.

According to the code, clubs in the marine recreation zone must annually file an IRS tax form 990 with the village clerk-treasurer. The submitted tax forms must be either a 990 or 990T, according to the code.

Membership clubs in the marine recreation zone are permitted to hold non-member events, but they may not exceed 20 percent of the total number of events held at the club.

Membership clubs are the only type of organization allowed in the marine recreation zone.

Critics say, given the nature of the way Beach and Yacht determines membership, virtually every event held at the club could be seen as a non-member event. A member event is an activity for the benefit of its members only, while a non-member event, as critics say Beach and Yacht handles them, is one in which anyone is allowed to pay a fee to the club to become a member in order to hold an event, such as a wedding.

The club has said the zoning codes are vague in how they define member events and non-member events.

According to the code, any club event that is not restricted to club members only is considered a non-member event by the village. A special permit to hold such events, which the club has, must be renewed every three years, but non-member events must not exceed 20 percent of the total events held at the club, according to the code, which does not specifically outline what member events are.

The discussion was a continuation of heated public hearings in front of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals regarding zoning compliance of the club following building inspector Bill Gerety’s determination in April 2013 that an amended site plan application to build a new yacht building at the club, located at 555 South Barry Ave., was zoning compliant. This is what caused residents to mount continued opposition to the club’s practices.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is now trying to pinpoint what exactly are the activities taking place at the club, if the activities are detrimental to the community and if they are permitted by the village’s zoning codes.

Opponents of the club’s operations, including the Shore Acres Property Owners Association, say Beach and Yacht is a for-profit enterprise that, essentially, has become a catering hall for weddings and bar mitzvahs provided to anyone who is interested and can pay a fee to the club to hold an event.

In one particular instance at a Planning Board meeting on Dec. 6, Gabrielle Cohen, a Mamaroneck resident and opponent of the club’s current operations, said when she researched Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht on the Internet, wedding vendors, including TheKnot.com, list the club as a wedding venue. According to Cohen, based on comments on the website, there have been at least seven weddings at the club since May. Cohen assumes these weddings were for non-members.

The Shore Acres Property Owners Association—a homeowners group that has been serving as a community watchdog and pushing for reform of the club’s practices—and its legal counsel, Debra Cohen, argue that, because the club hasn’t filed a 990 with the village since 2012, there isn’t adequate data on what events are member events or non-member events at the club.

Debra Cohen said there also isn’t a breakdown of the club’s specific income sources and expenses, which would be included in a 990 form. For this reason, Debra Cohen said Gerety was unable to properly decide if the club was zoning compliant. The Zoning Board of Appeals should be unable to make a decision if the club is zoning compliant for these same reasons, she said.

“This board needs a factual basis for determining that the club is in compliance,” Debra Cohen said.

Opposition to the club’s activities by SAPOA has been ongoing, with action against the club on the group’s behalf gaining momentum this past summer.

In July 2013, SAPOA issued a letter to the village Planning Board saying it found a number of potential violations to the State Environmental Quality Review Act and village zoning codes within Beach and Yacht Club’s amended site plan for the new yacht building, including emergency service codes and visual changes to Mamaroneck Harbor.

Opposing Debra Cohen’s statements at the Feb. 6 meeting, attorney Paul Noto, representing Beach and Yacht, maintained the 990 IRS form is not the deciding factor in whether the club is zoning compliant within the village’s marine recreation zone.

In addition, Noto said every activity that goes on at the club that generates revenue is allowed as an accessory use under the village’s zoning codes and is required for the club’s benefit. Noto also said the club has a special permit that was renewed in March 2012, allowing the club to hold non-member events as long as they don’t exceed the 20 percent regulation.

Noto would not comment on how many of the club’s events are considered member events.

“All of the arguments about the applicability of the IRS regulations are completely irrelevant,” Noto said.

The club must submit a 990 form, but the code doesn’t specifically outline if the form is used in determining the club’s zoning compliancy.

Some residents also find fault with a private tennis shop operating on the club’s grounds that is open to the public as well as the club’s ownership allowing residents to take tennis lessons without being a member.

Noto said tennis courts and lessons are “part and parcel” of a recreation club and are necessary in order to keep the club afloat financially.

The club’s allowed accessory uses, as outlined in the code, include, but are not limited to, day camps, dining and entertainment services that don’t exceed 40 percent of the square footage of the clubhouse and what the code refers to as “other accessory buildings and accessory uses customarily incidental to the principal club use of the premises.”

Tennis courts, swimming pools, facilities for docking and other outdoor recreation uses are considered, according to the code, primary uses of a membership club. Permitted accessory uses must be done only in conjunction with a club’s primary uses, the code states.

Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Lawrence Gutterman said the fundamental purpose of zoning codes are to keep the health, safety and wellness of the village and its residents in check, so the discussion should be based on outlining what exactly the club’s activities are and if they’re detrimental to the community.

Debra Cohen said residents have complained about the noise and traffic caused by the club’s events in front of the Planning Board and to the police.

Village resident Paul Ryan said the accessory uses that were mentioned by Noto and outlined in the code are not supposed to outweigh the club’s primary uses, like conducting events for the sole benefit of its members and operating as a not-for-profit club.

Ryan said the only option for the village may be to hire a forensic accountant, paid for by the club, to go back and look over all of the tax forms filed by the club because for decades, he said the club has been reluctant to give full disclosure of its accounting practices.

“[After an investigation], everybody can move on. This has been going on for 30 years and we haven’t gotten a straight answer yet,” Ryan said.

Discussion about the club’s zoning compliance is ongoing. The Zoning Board of Appeals meets again on March 6.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

 
The debate over whether or not to ban certain types of bamboo in the Village of Mamaroneck has intensified. File photo

Village to consider bamboo ban

By ASHLEY HELMS

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees is considering a ban on bamboo plants in residents’ landscaping following a suggestion put forth by Village Manager Richard Slingerland and the village Tree Committee. Small indoor bamboo plants, like the one seen here, would remain legal. Photo/Ashley Helms

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees is considering a ban on bamboo plants in residents’ landscaping following a suggestion put forth by Village Manager Richard Slingerland and the village Tree Committee. Small indoor bamboo plants, like the one seen here, would remain legal. Photo/Ashley Helms

When thinking about bamboo, images of the giant panda gnawing on shoots of the lush green plant in the Chinese wilderness may spring to mind, but the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees may put the kibosh on planting bamboo in lawns across the village following a suggestion put forth by its tree committee.

Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, who is a liaison to the tree committee, said Village Manager Richard Slingerland suggested banning bamboo due to the speed at which it grows, its ability to invade nearby lawns and the fact that other communities have banned the plant.

The plant is attractive since it grows densely and quickly, but Potok said that to keep it from spreading, a bamboo owner must dig a trench near the plant and insert something solid under the ground to block the roots from spreading.

“The thinking was better to ban it…anyone who has it [would be] grandfathered, but no new plantings,” Potok said.

Small, household bamboo plants would still be allowed, but residents would be barred from planting it in their yards, the trustee said.

Other New York municipalities have enacted bans on planting bamboo in residential lawns. The Town of Smithtown was the first Long Island community to enact a ban on the plants in August 2011. The idea for the ban came from residents’ bamboo plants invading adjacent lawns.

The Village of Malverne, also in Long Island, unanimously approved a bamboo ban in May 2013 that carries a $350 fine for residents who violate the law. Indoor bamboo plants remain legal, though, as they would in the Village of Mamaroneck.

Village Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said he brought the topic of banning bamboo up to the village Tree Committee in 2007 when he was serving as chairman. At the time, he said neither the committee nor the Board of Trustees were supportive of the measure.

“I find [bamboo] to be invasive. It’s a type of plant that once you let it go, it’s impossible to get rid of,” Rosenblum said.

Damon Aitchison, a nursery worker at Tony’s Nursery in Larchmont, said bamboo reproduces quickly under the soil once it’s planted; a process called rhizome. For every new shoot of growth, two more grow out along with it from the new shoot and the plant continues to multiply for years. If a resident wants to uproot the plant to stop it from growing, Aitchison said it’s an extremely difficult process.

“Even if you leave one piece in the soil, it’ll keep growing,” Aitchison said. “Clumping bamboos are okay, but the more common ones are very invasive.”

Clumping bamboo, a term for bamboo that doesn’t spread rapidly, is easier to control and is less likely to invade other lawn spaces nearby due to its shoots expanding more gradually under the soil. The bamboo stalks that grow up from the soil stick together in one location as opposed to spreading out. For these reasons, clumping bamboo are not considered an invasive species.

The more common bamboo species Aitchison referred to are called black and golden bamboo; these are the types of bamboo with the potential to do the most damage.

Black bamboo plants can grow up to 16 feet tall and turn black after two or three seasons, hence the name. Both the black and golden bamboo species, if planted in a lawn, can create a thick grove that can be used for privacy purposes since it’s difficult to see through.

But Aitchison said black and golden bamboo plants are the species that will invade all the lawn space it can.

“The ones with the 25-foot frames, that’s black bamboo. It never stops running [through the soil;] it’ll just continue to grow,” Aitchison said. “People have them because they’re fast and they produce a dense screen, but it’ll grow to your neighbors’ yards. It’s something that has to be controlled.”

Bamboo is considered an invasive species because it was introduced to North America through goods imports from Asia, Aitchison said. Today, he said the plants are cultivated in the United States and are available for purchase at many nurseries. It can withstand almost any type of weather and begins its spring growing period in March.

Resident Stuart Tiekert, a professional garden landscaper, said the state has a list of plants it considers invasive and bamboo is not on them. He said that while the Board of Trustees can pass a law, it doesn’t always mean that passing a certain law is a good idea.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Library, golden and black bamboo are not listed as invasive species in the State of New York.

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com

 
The Mamaroneck Union Free School District is amending its policies for assigning incoming kindergarten students to the four classes in the district. The changes stem from the district being investigated by the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in August 2012 after Larchmont parent Rina Jimenez filed a complaint alleging racial segregation. File photo

District amends placement policy

By ASHLEY HELMS

Newly-enacted policy changes for assigning incoming kindergarten students to classes in the Mamaroneck Union Free School District will, ideally, bring about equality in the number of non-white students in each district kindergarten class.

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District is amending its policies for assigning incoming kindergarten students to the four classes in the district. The changes stem from the district being investigated by the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in August 2012 after Larchmont parent Rina Jimenez filed a complaint alleging racial segregation. File photo

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District is amending its policies for assigning incoming kindergarten students to the four classes in the district. The changes stem from the district being investigated by the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in August 2012 after Larchmont parent Rina Jimenez filed a complaint alleging racial segregation. File photo

The Board of Education unanimously approved the policy revisions to kindergarten classroom assignments on Jan. 28, with the most notable change being the district will now consider a student’s race and economic characteristics when assigning them to classes.

In previous years, only the students’ age and social, emotional and physical maturity, along with academic achievement and where they went to preschool, were considered. Students were also allowed to be paired with a friend or sibling following a formal request by parents, which remains intact.

The policy changes stem from the district coming under investigation in August 2012 by the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights following a complaint submitted to the office by Larchmont resident and Central School parent Rina Jimenez.

Jimenez alleged that non-white students in Central School kindergarten classes were disproportionately assigned to one of four classes. Jimenez also pointed out that the teacher assigned to the class with mostly non-white students was black while the other three teachers were white. Jimenez’s son was in the class with non-white students.

Central School staff maintained that the teachers for each kindergarten class were selected randomly by writing a teacher’s name at the top of each class list.

Geography seemed to play a role in which class students were assigned.

In one instance, students living in Larchmont Acres East, an apartment complex with predominantly non-white residents, were all assigned to the same class. In the Lachmont Acres West cooperative, one Hispanic student from the complex was assigned to the same class as the non-white students and the three white students from the same complex were assigned to other sections.

While the addresses of students were provided before class assignments were made, Central School staff denied using this information during class assignments.

The Office for Civil Rights determined in late August 2012 that the district applied its criteria for assigning classes inconsistently and, though its placement policies were race-neutral on their face, they had a significantly disproportionate impact based on race or national origin.

After signing a resolution with the office in August 2012, the district was ordered to provide the office with data regarding the number of students assigned to each class for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years based on race and national origin to ensure application of uniform criteria.

The investigation concluded in September 2013.

The district maintained it did not have knowledge of the students’ race when assigning them and did not intentionally segregate classes, but they did have the names of the incoming students.

Debbie Manetta, public relations officer for the school district, said the policy changes will ensure that criteria for assigning the students will be applied consistently. Manetta pointed to an extraordinarily high number of parental requests for specific classes for their children, including many sets of twins who wanted to be placed together, in the 2012-2013 school year. The new policies are intended to also formalize the procedures for special class requests, Manetta said.

“[Parental requests] may be considered as one factor in the placement process if it doesn’t produce disparities in classes. I think overall there’s a heightened sense of awareness,” Manetta said.

According to documents from the August 2012 Office of Civil Rights investigation, the office found nine parents that identified a friend with whom their child wanted to be in class on the required parental forms. Of those, seven were granted their requests all or in part. Six of those students were white and one was Hispanic. OCR determined that of the two requests that weren’t granted, one was Hispanic and one was biracial.

Manetta said the district has put a considerable amount of thought and effort into revisiting the policies since the Office of Civil Rights initiated its investigation. The district will continue to make sure honoring a large number of classroom requests won’t create an imbalance.

“The district has worked in conjunction with OCR, which has signed off on the efforts,” Manetta said.

Jimenez declined to comment on the policy changes or the investigation.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner, a Democrat, has resigned from the Town Council on Feb. 1. Wittner said limited mobility and declining health prompted her to step down. File photo

Wittner resigns from Town Council

By ASHLEY HELMS

After a 17-year political career, the Mamaroneck Town Council has bid farewell to a veteran councilwoman and avid environmentalist.

Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner, a Democrat, has resigned from the Town Council on Feb. 1. Wittner said limited mobility and declining health prompted her to step down. File photo

Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner, a Democrat, has resigned from the Town Council on Feb. 1. Wittner said limited mobility and declining health prompted her to step down. File photo

Phyllis Wittner, a Democrat, resigned from her position on the Town Council on Feb. 1 after joining the board in 1996. The 82-year-old town resident cited her physical mobility and overall health as her reasons for resigning, but said she will continue to protect the town’s environment; endeavors that she said are still in the works.

“I’m elderly and the parts don’t move well anymore,” Wittner said. “[The Town Council] is too much for me to contend with. However, I am still working at home on environmental matters for the town.”

After completing a career in marketing and merchandising, Wittner said she was volunteering for town boards, including the Coastal Zone Management Committee, and was approached about joining the Town Council in 1996 by Elaine Price, the Democratic supervisor at the time. Wittner said she is happy she joined the Town Council and stressed that campaigning for an election isn’t as arduous as many people think it will be.

“I had to thank [Price] because she took me by the hand and took me through the campaign process,” Wittner said. “I encourage people [to run] who have something to offer the town.”

While on the Town Council, Wittner said she was instrumental in the dredging of the Premium River in Larchmont and creating the Long Island Sound Watershed Intermunicipal Council in the late 1990s. The council is a group of 13 Westchester municipalities located within the Long Island Sound watershed that, like the Town of Mamaroneck, are concerned with protecting the environmentally sensitive area.

Despite her body of work, Wittner remains humble. She said she doesn’t focus on the things she’s done for the town.

“I have done an awful lot, but I don’t dwell on it,” Wittner said. “I just enjoy working with very bright people on the board. They’re great people; they’re well informed and did an excellent job.”

Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, a Democrat, said she started her career on the Town Council in a way that was quite similar to Wittner’s. Seligson said Wittner was the liaison for the Coastal Zone Management Committee in 1999 while she was a member of the committee and Wittner asked her if she was interested in being on the Town Council. A spot on the board became available after Valerie O’Keeffe, a Republican, was elected as supervisor, and Wittner endorsed Seligson to finish out O’Keeffe’s unexpired term.

“I had never thought about it, but she asked me and I said I would consider it and I decided I was interested,” Seligson said. “We have been good friends ever since.”

Now that she will have more time to herself, Wittner said she wants to continue her hobby of collecting bird-themed postage stamps from around the world. She said collecting the stamps requires a great deal of devotion and anticipates resuming her hobby soon.

“I devote a lot of time to [bird stamps;] I want to know what order they’re in, the family and species,” Wittner said. “It takes a lot of research, its not just putting a stamp on a page.”

Regarding the process of appointing a candidate to fill Wittner’s seat, Seligson said someone will be selected by the board and they will be required to run in the next general election in November 2014. Seligson said the Town Council has been discussing possible candidates and, though she is not at liberty to drop names right now, she said the board will select a new council member quickly.

“We knew [Wittner] was going to leave for a few months. She gave it her all and had great interest in conservation and has been an incredibly committed board member and public servant,” Seligson said.

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com 

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District debuted dual-language kindergarten this school year. The classes consist of alternating English and Spanish lessons and will eventually be expanded throughout all grades. 
Photo courtesy Debbie Manetta

School district rolls out dual-language classes

By ASHLEY HELMS

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District debuted dual-language kindergarten this school year. The classes consist of alternating English and Spanish lessons and will eventually be expanded throughout all grades.  Photo courtesy Debbie Manetta

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District debuted dual-language kindergarten this school year. The classes consist of alternating English and Spanish lessons and will eventually be expanded throughout all grades.
Photo courtesy Debbie Manetta

For Spanish-speaking youngsters who want to learn English, or those proficient in English whose parents think a bilingual classroom is beneficial, the Mamaroneck Union Free School District has a class to meet those needs.

Making its debut in select kindergarten classes throughout the district this school year, the district rolled out its first dual-language classes for English or Spanish speakers who want to learn both languages side-by-side. The program, “Dos Caminos,” or “two roads” in Spanish, is a free program for which parents must sign their children up, according to district spokeswoman Debbie Manetta.

According to Manetta, the curriculum is rotated between the two languages evenly. One day will be taught in English and the next day will be taught in Spanish. Manetta said the program is expected to improve oral and written proficiency in both languages as well as provide cognitive enrichment for young children.

“It was based on research that points to the many benefits of dual enrichments. We’re very excited about the success of the program,” Manetta said.

This year, the program has a total of 48 students split between two classes in the Mamaroneck Avenue School, Manetta said. The classes are being taught by one English-speaking teacher along with two bilingual teachers, Julianna Sage and Kristy Almeyda.

Speaking at the Feb. 4 Board of Education meeting, Sage said the students who are dominant in English will ask the Spanish-dominant children to interpret words for them, which gives the Spanish speakers a chance to shine. Sage said that, in a monolingual class, the Spanish-speaking children would be quiet because they don’t have as much of a grasp on the English language.

Sage pointed to an example of a day in class when a student, who is dominant in English, asked another English-speaking child how to say doll house in Spanish. The child translated  into Spanish for her, and the  student labeled her doll house with the Spanish term.

“So not only are the Spanish-dominant children helping the English-dominant children, but they are getting it and they’re grasping it themselves and, in turn, they’re transitioning [to bilingual,]” Sage said.

The program will continue next year for new kindergartners, but Manetta said the district is looking to expand the option to all elementary grades in the coming years.

“The idea for the classes came from a combination of community members expressing interest over the years and [Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps] taking a real interest in making it happen,” Manetta said.

In a similar program, the George Washington Academy in White Plains has a Spanish and English dual-language academy for its elementary school students. In the lower grades, students are separated into classes based on their native language, but mix for classes like math and social studies. Starting in fourth grade, English and Spanish is alternated in most classes.

Although he has spoken about the benefits of having dual-language classes in the past, one local activist said he still feels the district is far from being
racially inclusive.

Luis Quiros, a Mamaroneck resident, said he started talking about the benefits of a dual-language program when he ran for a spot on the school board in 1990. He said he doesn’t think the district should’ve waited so long to implement the new classes. Quiros said he would often tell the district that English and Spanish being taught
side-by-side would be beneficial to students socially and
intellectually.

“When you deny people’s language, you take away their ability to improve,” Quiros said. Quiros said, in his opinion, the district was pushed to implement the dual-language classes after the it came under investigation by the U.S Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in August 2012 following a Central School parent’s complaint that the school’s four kindergarten classes were racially segregated.

The investigation concluded in September 2013, and while the district has amended its policy for class assignments, it’s required to report data from district kindergarten classes for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.

Quiros said dual-language classes can help alleviate what he calls the achievement gap myth, which he said suggests that Latino students are less likely to achieve academic excellence rather than there being less opportunities for excellence for Latino students. This includes tests and lesson plans that are in English only without the opportunity to become proficient in English while maintaining the Spanish language, according to Quiros. He said although the new class is a positive addition, policies set by the district are all racist in their underlying message that Latino students aren’t as capable as white students.

“The changes don’t come from the right place. Every policy has its roots in racist thinking,” Quiros said. “Yes, I think [the dual-language classes] will have a positive effect. I’d like to see [the program] grow, but the dual-language approach does not mean the school district is better serving the Latino community.”

Manetta refuted Quiro’s statements. She said the district was not mandated to implement the program in any way. The program makes sense for the community, and so far, it has been working out quite well, she said.

“[Superintended Dr. Robert Shaps] saw the potential of a bilingual program for the community and we’re seeing the incredible results,” Manetta said.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com

Incumbent trustees Marlene Kolbert, left, and Peter Fanelli along with Mayor Ann McAndrews were nominated to run in the 2014 village election by the Democratic caucus on Jan. 28. They will likely run unopposed. 
Photo courtesy Larchmont Democratic Party

McAndrews, trustees to run unopposed

By ASHLEY HELMS

Incumbent trustees Marlene Kolbert, left, and Peter Fanelli along with Mayor Ann McAndrews were nominated to run in the 2014 village election by the Democratic caucus on Jan. 28. They will likely run unopposed.  Photo courtesy Larchmont Democratic Party

Incumbent trustees Marlene Kolbert, left, and Peter Fanelli along with Mayor Ann McAndrews were nominated to run in the 2014 village election by the Democratic caucus on Jan. 28. They will likely run unopposed.
Photo courtesy Larchmont Democratic Party

The Village of Larchmont Democratic Party nominated incumbent trustees Marlene Kolbert, Peter Fanelli and current Mayor Ann McAndrews to run in the 2014 village election. All three are likely to be unopposed.

The mayor and trustees were nominated during the village’s Democratic caucus on Jan. 28 in anticipation of the March 18 election day.

As for potential opponents, the Larchmont Republican Party hasn’t nominated a candidate to run in a village election since 2006, according to Deputy Village Clerk Brian Rilley.

The due date to submit a petition to run on the Democratic or Republican line was Jan. 30, but Rilley said anyone who is interested in running as an independent candidate has until Feb. 11 to file a petition with the required 100 signatures.

The Board of Trustees is currently comprised of four Democrats and one independent, John Komar.

After being elected to the board in 2002, Kolbert is running for her seventh two-year term as trustee. A 45-year resident of the village, Kolbert said she is running to keep environmental concerns at the forefront. She said her time on the board has been with the sole interest of keeping Larchmont a great place to live or to make it better. Larchmont elections are almost always uncontested because it’s hard to energize people to run as trustees are unpaid and a seat on the dais does not include healthcare benefits, Kolbert said.

“People have to be inspired to be involved in their community,” Kolbert said. “But we’re always looking for new blood.”

During her tenure on the board, Kolbert said she has worked to pass Larchmont’s reusable bag initiative, which banned the use of plastic bags in 2013, as well as limiting the use of gas leaf blowers and banning pesticide use in village parks and streetscapes.

Kolbert said she has worked on a village climate plan that will hopefully reduce greenhouse gasses by 20 percent by 2015.

“It’s just small steps because we’re a very small village, but we’re working really hard,” she said.

In the 1990s, Kolbert said she was also instrumental in blocking proposals to build a 55-story apartment complex on Davids Island off the shores of New Rochelle. She was active in organizing public opposition to the proposal throughout the 1980s. Kolbert also spent eight years on the Mamaroneck Board of Education; four as president in the 1980s.

A lifelong village resident, Fanelli is running for his second term on the Board of Trustees. Initially, he made his first run at political office in 2006 as a Democrat on a three-candidate bipartisan coalition ticket that included one Republican and one Independent, but the coalition was defeated by Jim Millstein.

Fanelli wants to “keep Larchmont, Larchmont” by working on flood mitigation initiatives and rebuilding failing infrastructure. He said he supports the Palmer Avenue streetscape project, which is intended to revamp streetlights, benches and other fixtures along Palmer
Avenue. The project has hit several delays and has drawn the ire of some residents who want several trees that are slated to be cut down to remain intact.

“We’re trying to get more stores around Palmer Avenue once they do the streetscape,” Fanelli said. “A lot of exciting things are taking place.”

Fanelli said one of his biggest initiatives is to bring in new water meters that allow the village’s Water Department to remotely monitor water usage in homes and businesses across the village. This is going to make it easier to find possible leaks and wasted water. A price tag for the project hasn’t been calculated just yet and the village will be paying for it, but Fanelli said it’ll save taxpayers money in the future.

“Say you’re using 100 gallons of water every two or three months, then you’re using 500 gallons. Then we know there’s a problem,” Fanelli said.

McAndrews is running for her second term as mayor. She served as a village trustee before becoming mayor in 2000, but was off the board between 2002 and 2003 and 2011 and 2012. She said she was asked to run for mayor in 2002, but was defeated by Ken Bialo, a Republican, and her time on the Larchmont Board of Trustees was up.

McAndrews echoed Fanelli’s statements about the new water meters and said the village will also be repairing the two tanks that supply the village with water. Keeping infrastructure up to date is important going forward, she said, and she wants to manage village government in the most efficient way possible.

“I’ve explained that this village is a lovely old house on the sound,” McAndrews said. “But sometimes it needs major capital improvements.”

Mayor and trustees serve two-year terms without compensation.

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com

Mamaroneck-HS-7

Schools propose 4.3% tax increase

The Mamaroneck School District presented preliminary budget numbers for the 2014-2015 school year on Jan. 28. The district is anticipating a 4.3 percent property tax increase. File photo

The Mamaroneck School District presented preliminary budget numbers for the 2014-2015 school year on Jan. 28. The district is anticipating a 4.3 percent property tax increase. File photo

By ASHLEY HELMS
The Mamaroneck Union Free School District has been crunching numbers and laying the groundwork for the 2014-2015 school budget since November; with preliminary numbers projecting a 4.3 percent property tax hike and the possible elimination of one full-time elementary school teacher as of the Jan. 28 Board of Education meeting.

Early projections show a $4.9 million increase in property taxes, which translates into a 4.3 percent tax rate increase for property owners. The tax levy cap stands at a 1.7 percent increase from the 2013-2014 approved budget; $2.8 million will need to be shaved from the $113 million budget in order to fall under the 1.66 percent tax levy cap before the budget vote on March 18.

These figures may change depending on different issues, including Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s two-year tax freeze initiative proposed in his state budget presentation, Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps said.

If a municipal school district stays under the allowable 1.66 percent tax levy cap, New York State would subsidize the cost of the tax freeze with its projected $2 billion budget surplus. This way, residents within the school district would not experience a property tax increase for the next school budget years.

“It has to be worked out, but that’s generally the idea; rewarding municipalities and districts for staying under the tax cap,” Shaps said.

As he understands it, Shaps said being eligible for the tax freeze could allow for consolidating Board of Cooperative Educational Services initiatives going forward in order to save the district money. The superintendent said the Rye Neck and Mamaroneck school districts are mulling over how to consolidate services in the long term.

Regarding the possible elimination of a teaching position, Shaps said class size enrollm-ents guide teaching positions and the number of sections needed for each elementary school grade every year.

Official enrollment numbers for kindergarten classes won’t become available until the summer and class sizes in all of the elementary grades could change, Shaps said, but the district anticipates smaller class sizes at the elementary level.

Shaps stressed the budget presentation was not official and that figures may change before the budget is subject to a vote.

“All this could change. Until we have hard numbers for kindergarten, we really won’t know, but we know those numbers will change,” Shaps said.

Contributions to the state tea-cher’s retirement system are also in flux, according to Assistant Superintendent for Bus–iness Op-er-ations Meryl Rubinstein. The district is anticipating between 17.2 percent and 17.7 percent of a teacher’s salary will go toward retirement benefits, she said. The current budget model is using the 17.7 percent figure to be safe; the final data won’t be available until the middle of February, Rubinstein said.

Stemming in part from the frigid temperatures this winter, which hovered around 0 degrees on some days, the district is anticipating increases in energy costs by roughly 8.6 percent. School board member Robin Nichinsky asked if, although this winter has been abnormally cold and caused schools to use more energy for heat, the district has to budget for that same energy usage in the next year.

Rubinstein said the district makes assumptions, but it’s difficult because of the unpredictability of the weather and energy costs. She said the district won’t estimate too high of an amount of energy costs for the 2014-2015 school year in case numbers change.

“Even meteorologists can’t tell you what the temperature is going to be like a week from now, so we have to go by some assumptions,” Rubinstein said. “There are increases because of supply and demand right now.”

Going forward over the next several weeks, the district will include additional savings and reductions in expenses coupled with the possible use of fund balance money so the budget will fall under the tax levy cap, Shaps said.

“The goal here is, on March 18, to provide you with a budget that meets our goals and objectives as a school district,” Shaps said. “But is certainly more affordable in terms of the tax levy limit.”

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com

 
The Hommocks Ice Rink will undergo various upgrades to make it more environmentally savvy and ready for year-round use, according to Democratic Town of Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson. The improvements were folded into an energy service contract with Honeywell Controls. Photo courtesy Hommocks Park Ice Rink

Town moves forward with energy service contract

The Hommocks Ice Rink will undergo various upgrades to make it more environmentally savvy and ready for year-round use, according to Democratic Town of Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson. The improvements were folded into an energy service contract with Honeywell Controls. Photo courtesy Hommocks Park Ice Rink

The Hommocks Ice Rink will undergo various upgrades to make it more environmentally savvy and ready for year-round use, according to Democratic Town of Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson. The improvements were folded into an energy service contract with Honeywell Controls. Photo courtesy Hommocks Park Ice Rink

By ASHLEY HELMS
Upgrades to town facilities are expected to be easier on the environment and on energy bills at the same time.

To finance improvements to the Hommocks Ice Rink, which will allow the facility to be open year round, and the Mamaroneck Town Center, the Town Council approved a company to work with the town to usher in a sustainability makeover. The contractor has been hired following the outline of an energy service contract.

An energy service contract allows “green” projects to be packaged together so public entities can pay for the construction through energy savings that follow the construction project.

In essence, the energy savings stemming from the projects become a cash flow, Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, a Democrat.

“And if [Honeywell] doesn’t make the savings, they will pay the difference,” Seligson said. “It’s a complicated formula; it takes pieces of the project and they come up with blended savings.”

The town’s energy service contract, worth $4.9 million, has been made with global energy solutions company Honeywell Controls to bring about environmentally friendly upgrades to aging buildings.

According to Town Admin-istrator Steve Altieri, the town will be bonding for the price of the contract over the next month. This will be reflected in residents’ tax bills in 2015. Altieri said the taxpayer share has not been calculated yet, but bond interest rates are expected to stand at roughly 3 percent.

After Honeywell looks over the facilities’ energy bills and takes into consideration how long each building will be open during the day, along with its inside temperatures, the company will be able to guarantee energy cost savings for the town going forward, Altieri said. So far, the town administrator said the estimated energy savings for the town will be $260,000 per year. If energy service goals are not met, the town will be reimbursed.

The Town of Mamaroneck has entered into an energy service contract with Honeywell Controls to provide energy upgrades to the Town Center, pictured, and the Hommocks Ice Rink. The improvements are slated to take place between April and October. File photo

The Town of Mamaroneck has entered into an energy service contract with Honeywell Controls to provide energy upgrades to the Town Center, pictured, and the Hommocks Ice Rink. The improvements are slated to take place between April and October. File photo

“The town and Honeywell will agree on certain operating parameters; hours per day [each facility] will be open, the temperature inside…and at the end of each year, [Honeywell] will come in and audit the energy use,” Altieri said. “If we do not accomplish the savings they indicated, they must write us
a check.”

Selig-son, said the Town Center is 30 years old and the ice rink is 23 years old and both are in need of construction to make them more sustainable and up-to-date.

At the rink, the chiller system that keeps the ice surface cold is going to be replaced along with a new air handling unit and a heat recovery ice melt system.

 

A heat recovery ice melt system is when scrapped ice from the zamboni—a machine that resurfaces the ice and makes it smooth again—is melted down into water and reused on the ice surface, the supervisor said. The rink’s bleachers will be heated in a new way, as well.

“In the process that creates ice, heat is created, and that will go to heating the [rink] area,” Seligson said.

Hommocks Ice Rink Man-ager Rob Lunde said he is looking forward to seeing savings on the rink’s energy bill. He said the project is mostly mechanical and the average rink attendees may not notice improvements aside from the new barriers that surround the ice surface.

“The facility was built in 1989 and we’re long overdue for an upgrade,” Lunde said.

In the Town Center, the attic will be sealed so the building will hold in heat more efficiently and four of its eight boilers will be replaced and switched over to a natural gas heating system, Seligson said.

All the town’s street lights will also be switched from regular bulbs to LED. Using LED lights are expected to drive energy savings, the supervisor said. LED lights use less electricity and last longer than conventional bulbs.

Honeywell’s outline of the energy service contract was broken down into tiers. The first tier of the energy service contract audit looked at energy bills for the facilities through 2012, according to Altieri. The second tier will involve Honeywell studying the 2013 energy bills and touring the facilities to see what the mechanics are.

“Now they’re going to scour the facilities and make sure all the energy uses are part of that audit so they can determine accurate energy usage data,” Altieri said.

After it conducts its second tier energy audit in the coming weeks, Honeywell will be able to guarantee energy savings for the town for the next 20 years, Seligson said.

In 2013, the Rye Neck School District also approved an energy service contract with Honeywell in order to improve the district’s energy systems.

The town project is expected to run from April to October 2014, when the ice rink is closed for the spring and summer season, the supervisor said.

“We’re closing [the ice rink] two months earlier than we normally would,” Seligson said. “Currently it’s seasonal, but with the upgrades we are going to be able to use it all year. A crux of this project for us is that it had to be done in a short time frame.”

According to Seligson, the town has never utilized an energy service contract before. After conducting research throughout 2013, she said she discovered packaging various energy upgrades together in an energy service contract allows a municipality, under state law, to work with just one contractor who then subcontracts the work.

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com

 
Village of Mamaroneck resident and activist Guisela Marroquin filed a United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the village’s Community Action Program in 2012. She claims she was discriminated against based on her ethnicity and defense of the village’s Hispanic community. Photo courtesy LinkedIn

Former CAP director claims discrimination

Village of Mamaroneck resident and activist Guisela Marroquin filed a United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the village’s Community Action Program in 2012. She claims she was discriminated against based on her ethnicity and defense of the village’s Hispanic community. Photo courtesy LinkedIn

Village of Mamaroneck resident and activist Guisela Marroquin filed a United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the village’s Community Action Program in 2012. She claims she was discriminated against based on her ethnicity and defense of the village’s Hispanic community. Photo courtesy LinkedIn

By ASHLEY HELMS
Finally ready to speak out, a local community activist alleges a community center aimed at helping disadvantaged residents may be harboring discriminatory practices.

Village of Mamaroneck resident and community activist Guisela Marroquin filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the village’s Community Action Program in its capacity within the Westchester Community Opportunity Program in April 2012. While the complaint was ongoing, Marroquin said she was still employed by the organization and didn’t feel safe going public with her case. She has since moved on to another agency.

Though she did not pursue a lawsuit due to the prospect of burdensome legal fees, Marroquin said she faced continuous ethnic discrimination during her four years as director of the organization, from 2009 to 2012.

The village’s Community Ac-tion Program, located at 134 Center Ave., is an extension of the Westchester County Community Opportunity Prog-ram, WestCOP, which has subsidiaries across the county based on the needs of each municipality’s residents. It is a non-profit social service agency operating programs to combat poverty and hunger in the county.

In her complaint, Marroquin said she was discriminated against based on her race, gender and national origin by the all-male African American Board of Directors during her time as director of the CAP center. Originally from Guatemala, Marr-oquin said she faced many road blocks when trying to improve opportunities for Spanish-speaking residents of the village.

She also claims she worked in a hostile work environment amongst supervisors, particularly Executive Director O’Dean Magnum. Many supervisors did not have training in the field of social work, she said.

“The majority of the people [who used the Community Action Program] were Latino, but the board felt that I wasn’t helping African Americans,” Marroquin said. “They thought I was choosing to only help one population.”

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Comm-ission is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on race, gender, religion or national origin, among other criteria. If a complaint is filed with the agency, the EEOC can investigate the claim and the business or person it’s made against to find out if discrimination has occurred.

Marroquin said she was told by other Hispanic village residents that they felt shut out of the CAP center before she was hired as the Mamaroneck area director; none of the employees were bilingual and programs were not geared toward the Hispanic community, despite a significant portion of the village being of Hispanic heritage, she said. Marroquin was the first bilingual Spanish speaker at the CAP center, she said.

According to census data from 2010, Hispanic residents make up approximately 24 percent of the village population, while African Americans account for only 4 percent of village residents.

In one particular instance in August 2009, according to the complaint, while Marroquin was working as a childcare provider before being hired as the area director, she said she received complaints from the director of the Mamaroneck Child Development Center Denise Gilman about the daily presence of Latin childcare workers and Latin children in what Marroquin said Gilman referred to as “her space.”

Over time, Marroquin said the hostility escalated to the point where she was continuously reprimanded through memos and was reminded on a consistent basis that she could easily be fired. Marroquin said she filed the complaint with the state EEOC office in 2012, and during the EEOC investigation, she was treated better by her superiors.

“While the investigation is going on, they get a letter that someone is filing a complaint. They stopped harassing me then. After [the investigation] ended, I started getting memos,” she said.

Paulette Warren, director of human resources for the CAP center, said she could not comment on specific instances that Marroquin outlined in her complaint, but said Marroquin did not pursue legal action.

“The only thing I can say is we don’t discriminate against employees and we treat everyone with respect,” Warren said.

If the EEOC decides someone has the right to sue for discrimination, they will receive a right to sue letter. Marroquin said she did receive a right to sue letter, but did not chose to sue because she couldn’t afford a lawyer. The investigation concluded in early 2013, Marroquin said.

After being hired at another organization, Marroquin said she left her position as director of the CAP center in 2013. She said she doesn’t think the CAP Center or WestCop is handled in a way that’s beneficial to the community.

Marroquin said, “[The CAP center is] an example of [what] can go wrong with a nonprofit. I wanted it to be exposed as a learning tool to other nonprofits.

“My complaints came from knowing I was being deliberately treated in a way I thought was hostile and it was beyond a supervisor and an employee having a tense relationship.”

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com

 
Harbor-Island-1

Trustees approve new harbor late fee

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees approved a $50 flat fee for late harbor dues on Dec. 16 by a 4 to 1 vote. This is the first time the village has implemented a late fee. File photo

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees approved a $50 flat fee for late harbor dues on Dec. 16 by a 4 to 1 vote. This is the first time the village has implemented a late fee. File photo

By ASHLEY HELMS
The countdown has begun. For the first time in history, summertime boaters will now be hit with a fine if they don’t pay their harbor dues on time.

Boat owners that use the Village of Mamaroneck harbor have until Feb. 15 to pay their dues or they will be hit with a newly implemented late fee of $50. The measure, implemented on Dec. 16, 2013, is aimed at improving fairness and limiting paperwork.

Prior to the $50 fee implementation, there wasn’t a penalty for late payments, according to Harbor Master Joseph Russo. The harbor master said he was in favor of the $50 flat fee and approached the village’s Board of Trustees with the suggestion.

There were some boat owners who didn’t pay their harbor fees until the season began in May, Russo said.

“This just makes our process a little easier,” he said.

The Board of Trustees considered whether to implement a $50 flat late fee or a charge of 5 percent of a boat owner’s harbor fee, which is based on the size of the water craft.

Russo said he put forth the idea of a $50 flat fee.

Instead of a 5 percent late fee based on boat size, The Village of Mamaroneck Board of trustees approved a $50 flat fee for late payments on Dec. 16, 2013. File photos

Instead of a 5 percent late fee based on boat size, The Village of Mamaroneck Board of trustees approved a $50 flat fee for late payments on Dec. 16, 2013. File photos

Calculating individual late fees based on the size of the boat‑which the 5 percent charge would have entailed‑would have been too much extra paperwork, Russo said.

If a resident wants a certain spot on the harbor that is usually occupied by another boat owner, Russo said he can now give it to them if another boater in the spot doesn’t pay his or her dues on time.

“No favoritism; it makes it more equitable,” Russo said. “It’s not fair for the people who pay ahead of time and request a certain spot, but there’s someone who pays late. Spots can be reassigned if they don’t pay, though we don’t like [to reassign.]

Trustee Leon Potok, a Dem-ocrat, was the only member of the board to vote against the flat rate proposal. He favored the alternative solution.

Potok said the Board of Trustees could approve the 5 percent fee for now, but revisit the issue in a year to see how many late payments there are and if the board should increase the fee to discourage late payments.

Potok said he doesn’t think the harbor master has done a financial analysis of what produces more prompt payment because he would have had to make assumptions about the percentage of people that would pay late. Only if the late payments were coming from small and lower-cost boats would the owner be paying a higher penalty with a flat fee instead of the 5 percent late fee.

“The question is if the 5 percent fee or $50 fee is going to encourage prompt payment,” Potok said.

Trustee Louis Santoro, a Rep-ublican, said he spoke with Russo, who said he doesn’t favor the 5 percent surcharge because, for some boat owners, the late fee would be relatively minimal and he felt it wouldn’t encourage people to pay on time.

“It [should be] $50 across the board; big boat or a small boat,” Santoro said. “Being that it’s $50, someone with a smaller boat would be inclined to pay on time if they know the fee is going to be $50 compared to $15 or $20.”

Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, agreed. He said, a flat fee or percentage isn’t fair or unfair; it’s the consequences of paying the harbor fee late.HarborIslandPark1

“It’s a penalty that you should pay on time. If you don’t pay on time, you pay [the late fee],” Rosenblum said.

According to Russo, there are about 700 boats registered for use at the harbor. Since the flat fee has been enacted, the harbor master said he has received triple the amount of harbor use renewals than in previous years.

Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, said he assumes the amount of village residents who own a boat is relatively small. The harbor master does his job every day, Bermudez Hallstrom said, and the board should trust that Russo knows his job inside and out and understands what the best course of action for late fees is.

“If we can get more money by charging a flat fee, I think that makes more sense to get our departments as self-sustaining as possible for the benefit of all taxpayers,” Bermudez Hallstrom said.

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com