Author Archives: Mary Marvin

Marvin-Mary

Column: Summer tips for Bronxville residents

This week’s column is season specific as the school year comes to a close and many begin to prepare for summer vacations.

With many residents traveling for extended periods of time, it is important that one’s home looks occupied.  Even when mail is stopped, Pennysavers and phone books left in the driveway are a telltale sign of an empty house. Tell a neighbor of your schedule, ask them to pick up items left at your home and urge them to occasionally park in your driveway. In addition, alert our police desk of your travels and they will add your home to the “dark house” list and have an officer go by on a daily basis. You may also want to leave a key at the police department to be used if an emergency should arise.

Bike thefts also increase in the summer months so be sure to lock them as well as the garage doors and not leave on the lawn.

In any effort to provide more reliable communications with residents in the village, we have implemented a new emergency notification system called Swift 911.  The system has the ability to make phone calls to the entire village, specific neighborhoods or even specific residents depending on the particular situation. All calls will have a Caller ID of the Village of Bronxville or the village police department. One can register online at the Village of Bronxville website, villageofbronxville.com and supply as many contact numbers as necessary. It is an especially important notification system if you are traveling.

Summer is unfortunately also synonymous with tax season here in Bronxville. Every resident should have received a bill. No penalties accrue if taxes are paid in person or postmarked no later than June 30. In an effort to save time, money and paper, the second half payment stub was included in the same envelope. Please save for December payment. Our Swift 911 alert system will send out reminders prior to the June 30deadline. Our police department will accept payments at their desk up until midnight on that last day to accommodate residents who cannot make the Village Hall 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. business hours.

Per state statute, a 5 percent late fee is added if the bill is still unpaid in July. Thereafter, an additional 1 percent late fee is added monthly on the base bill, interest not compounded. We have no local discretion as to this schedule.

As a reminder, the village ban on the use of gas powered leaf blowers took effect on June 1 and continues until Sept. 30. Kindly call the police desk to report any violators. The goal of the legislation is to have a quiet, dust free summer.

Summer also coincides with a rise in the use of electrical energy and water. Air conditioners use more energy than any other appliance and are often the cause for the periodic outages we experience. Just several days in a row of high demand can tax the Con Edison system. We already had an outage last week when a transformer ignited near Tanglewylde and Park avenues.

Every household needs to report problems directly to Con Edison either by phone 1-800-75CONED or via the internet at coned.com. Their system does not have the capability of making assumptions that if one house has lost power, the neighboring houses have as well. Each home must be reported to maintain a tracking record. The village also calls in outages if whole neighborhoods are affected or if villagewide and alerts Con Edison to citizens with particular health needs that require priority service.

There are many things we can do on an individual basis to reduce our aggregate energy use and decrease our chances for overload and outages.

Larger-scale energy-saving projects include:

Repairing drafts and leaks with caulking or weather stripping and upgrading insulation in attics and crawl spaces.

Installing reflective film on windows. It saves about 75 percent of the sun’s rays from penetrating, easing the load of air conditioners.

Buying new air conditioners or refrigerators with the Energy Star label to ensure the product is energy efficient.

Inexpensive energy saving tips include:

Cleaning the air conditioner filters at least once a month and setting timers on units to turn off when the house
is empty.

Maintaining a temperature no cooler than 78 degrees.  A setting of 75 degrees costs 18 percent more and a setting of 72 degrees increases your bill by 39 percent.

Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, which produce the same amount of light for about a quarter of the cost.

As for water conservation, environmental experts recommend watering lawns once a day in the early morning when evaporation is at its lowest, thus maximizing the effectiveness of the water cycle. Sprinkler systems should also be calibrated to avoid watering driveways, sidewalks and any hardscape. Conservation of electrical and water resources are proving critical to our long-term sustainability so please try to help conserve.Column:

Marvin-Mary

Column: The beauty and history of Westchester

After the beautiful weekend we just enjoyed, I was prompted to reflect upon how fortunate we are to live in Westchester County.

We constantly hear the mantra that we live in the highest taxed county in the country with very expensive day-to-day necessities as well as home prices. All true. (As an illustrative anecdote, in my hometown in upstate New York, “Quick Cash” at the ATM is a $20 bill, not $100). On the flip side, we also live in a unique county full of history, interesting people and unexpected surprises.

The following are some “did you knows” I unearthed while enjoying Sunday in the sunshine:

Already the richest and most populous county in the colony of New York by 1775, Westchester is now the second wealthiest county in New York State and the seventh wealthiest in the nation.

Covering 450 square miles and 45 municipalities, it is larger than 40 countries.

First visited by Italian explorer Verrazano in 1524 and later by Henry Hudson in 1609, English settlers arrived in the 1640s and named their new home for the English city of Chester.

As of the last census, Westchester had a population just slightly less than one million residents, one in five of whom were born out of the United States. The county is served by 48 public school districts, 118 private and parochial grammar and secondary schools and 14 colleges.

Forbes rated it the ninth best place to grow old, citing the gorgeous natural beauty within such close proximity to Manhattan as major positives.

Notable Westchesterites include:

Founding Father, New York governor, co-author of the Federal Papers and first chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay moved his family to Rye, studied with Angelican pastor Pierre Stoupe in New Rochelle and retired to a homestead in Bedford.

Painter Norman Rockwell lived in New Rochelle from 1913 to 1939, of which he called, “some of his happiest years.” He painted most of his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers while living in New Rochelle.

Mt. Vernon native Lt. Ira Palm led a raid on Adolph Hitler’s Munich apartment in the spring of 1945 and came back to the States with a gold-plated pistol bearing the initials, “AH.”

John Peter Zenger wrote an article about an Eastchester town election that heavily criticized the New York governor. Litigation over the article led to the immortalization of freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights, hence the name Bill of Rights Plaza at the intersection of Mill Road and Route 22 in Eastchester.

In 1979, “Mean” Joe Greene filmed the iconic Coca-Cola commercial with the young boy in the tunnel at Mt. Vernon’s Memorial Field at the corner of Sanford Boulevard.

In Tarrytown in 1780, British Army Major John Andre was captured by American militiamen as he attempted to smuggle plans for the fort at West Point which were provided to him by Benedict Arnold.

Yonkers resident Leo Baekeland invented one of the world’s first and most useful plastics in 1907 and formed the Bakelite Corporation in 1910. It manufactured the glossy brightly colored plastics that define the 50’s and 60’s.

In 1988, Yonkers resident John Reid became the first person to play golf on American soil, naming his three-hole course in a local apple orchard St. Andrews.

Some Westchester firsts:

Union Church in Pocantico Hills has nine Chagall stain glass windows and one Henri Matisse.  The Matisse “Rose Window” was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller to honor his mother.  Matisse finished the design just two days before he died. The Chagall windows, the only series in America, were commissioned by David Rockefeller.

The first chapter of the Garden Club of America was founded in Bedford in 1938.

Paddle tennis was invented in Scarsdale in 1928 and first played at the Fox Meadow Club there in 1931.

The Bronx River, or Aquehung as Native Americans called it, served as the key border between the Wappinger and Siwanoy Indian tribes. The parkway of the same name, completed in 1925, was the first multi-lane limited access parkway in North America.

Finally, an early prospective for home purchase for our own Bronxville boasted: “Few New Yorkers know that within three miles of the city limits is a varied and undulating country…there are no fences; everyone appears to own everything. You will find the lawn of one resident winding curiously into that of another whose grounds in turn, merge into still another occupant’s. There are no flat lawns or level gardens, but the slopes are dotted with trees, ribbed with fine rock and starred with wild flowers.”

Marvin-Mary

Column: In light of recent burglaries, tips for home safety

Burglary and break-ins have a major impact on everyone’s sense of safety and well-being as we are so demonstratively aware in our village these past few weeks.

The most common threat to residential home safety is burglary, but it is also the easiest crime to prevent. The normal burglary M.O. is daytime invasion when no one is home and most often in the summer months. Small yet valuable goods that can be fenced or pawned—laptops, electronic gadgets, watches or jewelry and cash—are the cache of choice. As a precaution, they should never be left in areas easily seen from a door or window.

Contrary to popular thinking, burglaries are most often quite planned. The main pre-requisite is easy access. It is a crime of opportunity. Skilled burglars know just by looking at your locks if they can pick them or not. If they do not have the special tools to open a high security lock, they will not waste time trying and will bypass your house for a neighbor’s. Burglars often target homes and then observe the neighborhood for daily activity. This is the reason why it is imperative that you call the police desk if you notice anything out of the ordinary in your neighborhood. Let trained professionals then assess the situation.

Working with Police Chief Satriale, we composed a list of things you can do so that your home doesn’t say, “Easy access.”

Since garage doors and back doors are the most common points of illegal entry, they should always be locked using deadbolts and most preferably with an ANSI Grade I rating. These locks are extremely hard to pick, pry or saw.

All doors for that matter should have deadbolt locks with at least a one-inch throw bolt.

In addition to a normal latch, sliding glass doors need a stick in the track to limit movement. For good measure, add a highly recognizable security emblem, guard dog image or decal on the glass.

On ground floor windows, the above are also helpful as well as secondary blocking devices that stop the window opening from opening more than six inches.

Interior lights as well as radios and televisions should be on staggered timers so on/off times vary.

Leaving a porch or garage light on 24/7 gives the impression that no one is ever home.

Exterior lights should ideally be on a timer with a dim mode until a bright light is activated when motion is detected.  These dim to bright systems are now relatively inexpensive and readily available at Home Depot type stores.

Home alarms should be activated day or night when no one is home, regardless of how brief you may be away. They not only protect from intruders but also monitor your home in case of fire.

A small home safe located away from the common locations in bedrooms and closets not only protects important belongings from burglars but also from fire and flood.

Bringing it down to our village level, our Bronxville Police Department offers many services to increase residents’ security just by calling our police department desk.

An officer will do interior and exterior security surveys of homes and apartments and suggest safety measures.

If traveling and/or doing construction, our officers will do vacant house checks and walk around properties and/or visually inspect for unusual activity.

Our police department has ordered highly visible cling-on decals with the department logo to be distributed to every village alarm permit holder. Now is the time to register and renew alarm permits and make sure all contact information is up to date.

Please contact our police department if you have surveillance cameras that are in the vicinity of any reported incident. They are often invaluable investigative tools.

Having neighbors you can trust is like being home all the time. Build a trusting and comfortable relationship with folks on your street as they can be your eyes and ears while you are away. A point of comfort, if our police department is called by you or your neighbor, the response time averages an incredible one to two minutes.

Finally, the children know more than you might think about the recent events in the village. Having a frank discussion can alleviate some of the uneasiness by dispelling the rumors which are most often worse than the reality. Share with them all that the family is doing to protect your home and encourage them to tell you anything at all that just seems not right in your neighborhood.

Our officers have been working extra shifts and coordinating with neighboring police departments as well as the county police in an effort to solve the recent crimes and restore the security we sometimes take for granted. They are to be commended.

 

Marvin-Mary

Column: Municipalities continue to operate efficiently

As we prepare the tax bills for mailing next week, every resident will see a reduction, albeit quite small, on the village’s side of the tariff.

We pride ourselves on being as efficient as we can with a very streamlined staff.  We have significantly fewer DPW employees, police officers and administrative personnel than we have had in decades.

Contrary to the mantra we hear from Albany, New York local governments are neither too plentiful nor inefficient. New York actually ranks 37th nationwide in the number of governmental entities per 1,000 residents.

The ongoing local governments’ maximization of efficiency to the point of austerity has resulted in a steadily declining number of municipal employees, uniform and non-uniform, not just in Bronxville but statewide.

Data from the New York State Comptroller’s Office verifies that local governments have exercised much greater spending restraint than our state government. To bolster local governments and offset local spending cuts, New York State has historically shared state revenue through a program called AIM or Aid and Incentive for Municipalities.

Despite a proven correlation between state revenue sharing increases and local property tax decreases, the last increase in AIM funding was in the 2008-2009 state budget. Since that time, it has decreased by 14 percent in real dollars. As a result, the entire AIM appropriation in the upcoming state budget, $715 million, is actually 65 percent less than just the increase in school aid in the same budget.

It is beyond frustrating because it seems that the elected officials and the average taxpayers they represent are not deemed a “special interest group” nor a constituency whose voices are heard
in Albany.

This year most communities made up the deficits through a slight unexpected decrease in the cost of local pension contribution. Despite the momentary reprieve, pensions are still 172 percent (non-uniformed personnel) and 83 percent (police
and firefighters) higher than the 45-year average. The growth, despite one positive blip on the screen, is still
unsustainable.

So where do we find revenue if not from the state or an unexpected steady decrease in pension and health contributions, all of which are unrealistic?

Many elected officials support legislation that would permit municipalities, at local option, to impose charges on tax exempt properties to defray the cost of services that local governments provide such as police and fire, lighting, sewers and road repair.

Another possible revenue source would be to increase the tax, again at local option, that municipalities can impose on utility companies operating within one’s boundaries.

Under current state law, cities and villages, but not towns, have the option of imposing a gross receipts tax, GRT, on the gross operating income of utilities at a rate of 1 percent.  As point of fact, the cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Yonkers already have the ability to impose the tax at a rate of 3 percent and currently do so. Other communities are asking for parity.

In addition, in recognition of the predominance of wireless technology and to promote equity in the tax treatment of the various types of telecommunication providers, both the state government and the City of New York have made changes to their similarly antiquated statutes to include cellular services under the taxable umbrella. Again, local government should be treated similarly.

Given the never ending stream of unfunded mandates and a sluggish economy against a backdrop of an increased demand for quality public services, the concept of shared services has new value.

Many municipalities, including our own, have been working together and sharing resources/joint purchasing—be it road resurfacing services, heavy equipment sharing, police training and tactical teams, and office supplies for decades.

The current challenge is to identify new areas for sharing that result in maintaining or improving delivery of the service while achieving cost sharing.

There are clearly many more areas or “low hanging fruit” that if we joined with our neighbors would produce volume discounts—the purchase of highly specialized equipment that is never used 24/7 and adminis-
trative supplies come to mind
immediately.

Issues of greater magnitude would require an inclusive community conversation because there are definite trade-offs such as:

• the loss of local character/unique identity and some local autonomy

• differing expectations of each community and fear that services will drop to the least common denominator

• the expected level of service, be it police response time or backyard garbage pick up

Because school districts and municipal governments operate under separate rules of governance, some of the logical intra-community cooperative efforts between a local school and village are stymied.

That being said, I believe it is incumbent upon all of us to, like a Venn diagram, review where we can overlap constructively.

Some of the seminal issues to be overcome must be:

• Are the expected savings demonstrable and meaningful?

• Is the arrangement mutually beneficial and not a “bailout” for one of the parties?

• Do the parties to the agreement have a short-term escape clause if the result does not meet expectation?

Given that we truly have reached a “tipping point” as to the level of taxation, Albany has to help us by changing taxation rules to grant local options, and flexibility and we must engage in meaningful dialog with all service providers.

Marvin-Mary

Column: March with us on Memorial Day

At this year’s—our 95th annual Memorial Day Parade, we are reviving a tradition of asking our village veterans to march with us. The village has no organized veterans associations, unlike the American Legion Post and VFW in neighboring Eastchester, whose members have long joined us in our parade. We hope this year to combine forces and honor veterans from Eastchester, Tuckahoe and now
Bronxville.

For such a small village, we have a large contingent of villagers who have served our nation—all of them truly a hero next door. Our Scroll of Honor has 1575 names—85 of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and we know we are missing so many more who have served.

Generations of Bronxville citizens have truly stepped up when called in time of national need. Families in Bronxville have sent their sons and daughters into harm’s way from as long ago as the Civil War up to and including the war in Afghanistan. In fact, we have Bronxville fathers who have served in Vietnam with sons who then served in Iraq. Other Bronxville residents experienced the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Iwo Jima and the taking of Normandy Beach. Your neighbors were military engineers, hospital corpsmen, Seabees, flyers, artillery experts, bombardiers, seamen, Special Forces, doctors, nurses, paratroopers, submariners and mountain troopers. A remarkable number of Bronxville women also served our country in various professional capacities.

One villager liberated Jewish captives behind enemy blockades, another discovered that soldiers were contracting hepatitis through battlefield blood transfusions, another was an original WWII “Desert Rat,” three were taken as prisoners of war, another tracked the German submarines in Long Island Sound and another treated survivors of the Wake Island Prison Camp.

Bronxvillians served our country in all corners of the world from the Philippines to Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, North Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some survived sinking ships and famous battles; others were killed in action or taken prisoner of war. Four members of the 1962 and 1963 Bronxville High School classes died in Vietnam, one less than two months after deployment. One young man survived Vietnam only to die in the World Trade Center attack.

Our villagers served directly under such famous leaders as generals George Patton and Douglas MacArthur, while another was the driver for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

These young men were our neighbors, someone’s son, your child’s best friend in school, the boy you coached in soccer, and now the memory of someone’s dad, grandpa or grandma—pages in proud family histories.

Village veterans ranged from the very well known “Ace of Aces” and Medal of Honor winner Eddie Rickenbacker who won virtually every military decoration having shot down 25 enemy planes and logged 300 combat flying hours—the most in World War I history—to scores of less famous quiet heroes.

Galvanized by his Bronxville neighbor Rickenbacker, one villager joined the RAF in 1939 because it was then his only opportunity to take a side against Hitler.

Another villager saved the piece of enemy flak that literally landed on his lap as he flew a combat mission over German fuel depots.

On only his tenth sortie, a resident was shot down over Hungary and went from college freshman to Prisoner of War No. 7910. He ended up at Stalag Huft III—the camp that was the subject of the movie, “The Great Escape.” Coming home 45 pounds thinner, he again chose to serve for almost two more years in Korea when his skill set was needed.

If you visit Arlington National Cemetery, you will see the grave of young Ed Keebler, a Bronxville School and Princeton graduate who joined the Marines and became a gunship pilot in Vietnam. On an early mission, Ed kept enemy fire trained on him so an Air Ambulance could Medivac the injured off the jungle floor knowing he was going to be shot down.

And even closer to home, there is a full size stained glass window at Christ Church dedicated to World War II hero and Bronxville resident, Charlie Flammer. A Princeton grad and B-25 Bomber pilot, he lost an engine but then maneuvered his plane so that his entire crew could get out while he went down with the plane.

And just recently, residents have won Purple Hearts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bronxville is home to an extraordinarily rich history of citizen residents who answered the call to serve.

It would be a privilege if all of our veterans would let the rest of the village salute them at the 9a.m. parade on May 25.

We sent personal letters of invitation to what we know is an incomplete/outdated list of those who served so please if we missed you, accept my invitation here by calling Village Hall at 337-6500 and saying yes to Memorial Day recognition.

It would be the village’s honor to have you a part of
the parade.

 

 

Marvin-Mary

Column: What your DPW does for you

The beautiful stretch of spring weather serves as a perfect backdrop for our beautifully flowering village. It is only fitting then that I write about the functions of our Department of Public Works which is greatly responsible for the care and quality of this village streetscape.

Just 17 strong plus a foreman, (down from a high of a 23-man staff about a decade ago), our DPW staff is hard working and loyal. Most of the gentlemen stay with us upwards of 20 and 30 years.

Many of the men have additional specialized skills—be it as a landscaper, mason, tree trimmer or electrical talent—that often save us from needing to hire outside expertise.

This year has been especially unique as we have yet to find a DPW superintendent to replace retired Rocco Circosta. Because we are a small village, many employees have to wear many different hats and DPW chief is a great case in point. Our new hire will need to be an engineer, certified building inspector and someone with the personality/small town skills to interact with residents especially when a crisis occurs. Because our village staffers most often serve a long career in Bronxville and become a part of our special municipal family, it is important the right person joins our team.

As is custom, this year’s DPW spring cleaning includes the usual de-weeding of the railroad banks for the planting of ivy, as well as the islands throughout the village, resurfacing/repairing our benches, prepping the village tennis courts, getting Sagamore Park ready for play, repainting/refurbishing the fountain near New York Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital and repairing curbing and street light fixtures.

Our crew also filled a record number of potholes due to the severe winter weather and they will assist with the villagewide summer paving program. As a reminder, if you think your street needs repaving, call Village Hall. It will be placed on our revolving list and staff will evaluate the condition and urgency.

Again this year, we will partner with our neighboring municipalities of Tuckahoe and Eastchester for the joint purchasing of blacktop to achieve significant cost savings. Another very positive collaboration is the relationship between our Bronxville Beautification Committee, Builder Ledge Garden Club and our DPW staff. Our garden clubs are beyond generous in purchasing plant materials for our parks and open spaces with our staff then often stepping in to do the actual planting and continued maintenance. It is an incredibly productive partnership that enhances the special beauty of our village while limiting taxpayer costs. In recent summers, sprinkler systems have been added in more public spaces to ensure the long term life of the plants purchased.

Thanks to a program promulgated by the New York State Power Authority, offering municipalities street trees at a cost of two-for-one, we anticipate that DPW will be planting 50 street trees by September. Though small in caliper and not nearly enough to replace those lost in recent years to age, disease and storms, it is a significant start.

As is tradition, our DPW undertakes a large signature project to upgrade the village every summer. Last year, it was the Garden Avenue parking lot flood mitigation project. Working in tandem with our outside contractor, DPW staff helped construct a parking lot with state-of-the-art drainage as well as plant islands that increase water absorption and limit the expanse of blacktop. Recognizing the unique and innovative quality of this project, Westchester County just chose Bronxville for the Earth Day Award for Municipal Excellence.

This summer our DPW is working with our outside contractor to refurbish the Metro-North underpass, long an unappealing gateway into our village.

In honor of Memorial Day, our DPW staff will also be replacing old/tattered street flags with recently purchased new ones.

One only has to drive down Palumbo Place behind Village Hall to see that our DPW staff accomplishes all the above with less than optimal conditions at their garage. Recognizing this and the fact that the DPW garage was last remodeled in the 1940s, the trustees and I are considering financially feasible remodeling alternatives.

Just in the past few weeks, you probably saw DPW crews in almost every neighborhood cleaning sewer and sanitation pipes as we focus on village infrastructure.

A small vignette relating to this project is a testament to their loyalty to the village and their willingness to go the extra mile.

Last week, one of our residents lost her engagement ring down a catch basin and enlisted the nearby DPW staff to help.

The men moved to the drain in question, removed excess water and then transported the “muck” to DPW headquarters. There, they sifted through the unpleasant debris and in the very last scoop recovered he ring.

The resident was extremely grateful and everyone involved felt the joy of a good deed—just another reason why this village is so very very special. Thank you DPW.

Marvin-Mary

Column: Our schools and government working together

The upcoming joint village/school district FEMA flood mitigation project brings to the fore the relationship of schools to their home municipalities. Bronxville is only one of two New York State communities that is co-terminus, meaning the school district boundaries are exact with the governmental boundaries. The other community is the small Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, N.Y.

We are also the only municipality that administers tax bills for their school district(s). In recent years, you have noticed that the Village made the decision, based on economy and efficiency, to combine the two taxing entities’ tax warrants on one bill.

Since by law a school district’s fiscal year is July 1 to June 30 whilst a Village fiscal year is June 1 to May 31, our June tax bill must be computed at the 11th hour, only after the school budget vote is approved.

The village assessment role is completed in February and the village board passed this year’s municipal budget on April 13, but tax dollar amounts cannot be computed until after the May 20 school budget vote.

Last year’s tax allocation funded village government with $8.3 million and the school district with $38.7 million or 18 percent and 82 percent, respectively, of the local tax pie.

Most communities collect taxes once a year. Many years ago, the village trustees passed a resolution to have the tax obligation split in two to alleviate the financial burden of one large payment. Beyond a decision such as this, which was discretionary, New York State Tax Law takes over on all other aspects of collection. It sets payment deadlines and any attached interest rates for failure to pay timely.

As example, upcoming tax payments must either be postmarked or delivered to Village Hall by June 30. (Our police department will accept bills on that last day until midnight so residents aren’t penalized if they can’t make it to Village Hall during the regular 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. business day.)

By New York State statute, a 5 percent late fee is attached if the bill is late/unpaid in July.  Thereafter, an additional 1 percent late fee is added monthly on the base bill with interest not compounded. No matter how dire or worthy the circumstances, we cannot legally waiver on this, nor offer any kind of installment plan. Court cases on the subject have upheld the state’s statutory authority citing fairness and equal treatment as the overriding factors, even so far as to state that not getting or receiving a tax bill is no excuse for non-payment.

Even tax-exempt properties have an assessed value. As example, the New York Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital complex is valued at almost $150,000 on our tax roll.

To lower the tax burden on taxable property owners, communities are going the way of user fees and special improvement districts to have all entities in their municipalities share in such services as lighting, paving and infrastructure maintenance.

The village also administers the school’s STAR exemption program and shoulders 100 percent of the cost and time to fight assessment challenges. An interesting factoid in law, there is a built in presumption that an assessor’s determination of value is correct until proven wrong.

School districts and municipalities can enter into joint agreements, the FEMA project a prime example.  Another area of permissible overlap is for the purchasing of goods such as office supplies, black top and gasoline, something we honestly should pursue in greater earnest.

On the flip side, capital projects promulgated by the separate boards are not joint undertakings and neither institution takes a position on the other’s initiatives thereby respecting the jurisdictional boundaries. Hence, the village board’s public support for the joint FEMA project versus our appropriate silence on the field project.

As point of interest, capital projects such as the above are exempt from the New York State property tax cap legislation for school districts but not for municipalities. However, municipal capital projects—even those requiring bonding are not subject to public vote. In addition, it is much easier to override the tax cap by a governmental board. Two-thirds of the board can override by public resolution. In contrast, a public vote of 60 percent of the electorate is required for a school district to surpass the cap.

School districts are governed by New York State Education Law and as such are not subject to any local zoning, planning, design review or building code laws, nor do they have to incur the costs for building permits.

Under the same autonomous umbrella, a school district is responsible for monitoring/patrolling its property to ensure campus security. School grounds are analogous to one’s private backyard.

We are fortunate to have a long history of cooperation between the village board and the school board producing a very symbiotic relationship. I believe the key to this success is the respect each board has for the other’s decision-making process and jurisdiction in the functioning of our village.

Marvin-Mary

Column: Meter feeding remains a concern

At a recent Board of Trustees public workshop, the trustees gave our parking enforcement officers the go ahead to issue tickets for meter feeding on Pondfield Road, Park Place and Paxton Avenue. The law against meter feeding has been in the village code for decades, but with a history of lax enforcement.

The decision to enforce the provision was the result of several years of constant complaints to Village Hall by our local merchants. They reported that the spaces in front of their establishments were not occupied by customer cars, but by vehicles of employees of neighboring stores. You can guess the frustration of arriving at one’s store to see the prime parking spaces out front filled for hours by fellow merchants daily feeding the meters.

We have worked tirelessly with the Chamber of Commerce, which is also very aware of and sensitive to this problem, to implore employees to park in the less prime spaces/purchase a merchant parking permit and/or have employers require staff to park away from potential customer spaces.

After conducting repeated surveys of Pondfield Road, Park Place and Paxton Avenue, we sadly concluded that the power of verbal suasion was not working. A very high percentage of cars on these streets belonged to employees of our establishments.

Though very reluctant to use a hammer, we felt we had to try a new approach to change a parking pattern that is proving to be very detrimental to lively commerce.

I continue to take one last opportunity to implore our merchants, employees and landlords to be vigilant in monitoring the location of staff parking and provide some incentives to change some embedded behaviors. Landlords could also help us—and their tenants—by requiring that at least some merchant parking permits be purchased as a provision of a lease. We have a limited amount of deeply discounted merchant parking available.

As with many things, a positive result for one merchant may result in a seemingly negative impact on another. As example, the 90-minute parking limit on Pondfield Road impacts those enjoying a leisurely lunch in the village or receiving a lengthy beauty or medical treatment. We understand this. There are however nearby options available for long term visitors in our Garden Avenue lot, the Cedar Street lot and the Kraft Avenue lot. Though perhaps not directly in front of the business of choice, these locations are literally just a minute or two away.

Despite the fact that most of us move to the village from New York City, where to park within four to five blocks of our destination was a very positive outcome, the perception in our downtown is that if there is no parking spot on Pondfield Road, there is no parking for shopping in the village. In order for the village commerce to remain healthy, we need to change this thinking.

In concert with this new enforcement measure, we are looking at all parking permutations and will adjust as needed. As example, some meter feeding in the village’s east side business district is clearly a help to some of our merchants whereas on on the west side, it would be a death knell.  Our street parking costs are significantly less than the Lawrence Hospital garage rates, so Palmer Avenue would be an inexpensive annex for extended hospital visiting.

In light of the fact that we soon plan to roll out a phone meter payment system as an added option to coin payment, we need to weigh the disparate impacts in hopes of avoiding some inherent pitfalls or unintended domino effects. To that end, we are actively canvassing area communities to see how they handle the various scenarios.

As with any changes, the trustees and village staff will never be wedded to an initial plan if there is a better way to achieve the desired result. Such is true with the current meter feeding prohibition.

Our hope is that all of our stake holders will heed this call—merchants to park farther from our retail establishments; employers and landlords to provide incentives for staff to do same; shoppers to look for a space just a little farther more far afield before saying there are no spaces in the village—and now that the nice weather is here our residents to consider walking to lengthy appointments or shopping trips when purchasing non-bulky items.

If habits modify a little, the enforcement component, which is no one’s preferred method of behavioral change, won’t be necessary.

Marvin-Mary

Column: The capital costs of maintaining a village

In tandem with our yearly operating budget, the trustees, village staff and I have crafted a very comprehensive capital budget. It is quite far reaching and aggressive as we deal with a village infrastructure, both above and below the ground, that is now 100-plus years old. For the years 2014-2016, we have budgeted $3.46 million for capital repairs and upgrades.

Chief on the list is always paving and this year’s cycle of snow, ice and freezing rain only exacerbated the needs as potholes were unprecedented. On the list to be paved are Garden and Kraft avenues, Stone Place on the west side and residential streets that have been in the queue.  Though almost $500,000 is allotted, it is stunning how far it does not go as the average residential street costs upwards of $100,000 to pave.

We have also awarded a contract to televise and clean approximately 28,000 linear feet of sewer mains throughout the village. This work has been ongoing since February involving high velocity jet cleaning followed by the use of a root saw for root and grease removal. The chief culprit causing clogs is household and restaurant grease and the so called “bio degradable” products such as hand and baby wipes. Since the debris clogs both the initial village pipes, and then the county system, residents are paying both in village and Westchester County taxes to free the pipes of debris. Even without obstructions, our 100-year-old clay pipes are crumbling simply due to age. Some of the spot repairs you see around the village cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. As illustration, the recent cost to replace a collapsed ten-foot section of clay pipe was $20,000 or $2,000 per linear foot.

On another important infrastructure front, the frequency of heavy rains and ice storms has destroyed municipal street trees at an unprecedented pace. In Hurricane Sandy alone, the village lost 50 mature trees. We budget approximately $130,000 yearly in operating costs to care for the trees we have—be it pruning, fertilizing, stump removal—and our capital budget will be increased to reflect the need for the purchase of new trees. We hope to collaborate with local organizations to raise the awareness and financial resources necessary to restore the village to its former leafier, canopied look.

This is also the capital spending cycle for a new garbage truck which costs upwards of $200,000. As I have mentioned in previous columns, because we have no indoor storage capability for our municipal vehicles, their life expectancy is not maximized to the degree possible.

New to the capital plan this year is a designation of approximately $250,000 to both upgrade and increase efficiency in our lighting configuration in the east side business district. This will be the first phase of improving lighting throughout the village.

We will also be adding some stationary cameras in strategic locations throughout the village to compliment the three mobile ones we have affixed to police cars. The cameras have been invaluable not only in detecting the routine expired/suspended registrations, but also instrumental in apprehending sex offenders, stolen cars and vehicles involved in burglaries and bomb scares.  As illustration, a car stolen in our village was tracked down within five minutes via a camera in New Rochelle and the vehicle soon recovered.

As point of fact, these cameras per the Vehicle and Traffic Law, in whatever jurisdiction they are located in New York State, can only enforce red light violations according to current law and not transgressions such as crossing yellow lines which are a bane in our village. Some few states are now experimenting with camera use to monitor speeding.

Also new to our capital program are engineering costs related to the refinement of plans for a possible decking of the Kraft Avenue parking lot to add approximately 150 new spaces to our parking inventory.

We have also set aside $100,000 to improve the traffic signalization at the intersection of Pondfield Road and Midland Avenue. The area is currently being surveyed and then suggestions will be forthcoming and implemented for increased student/pedestrian safety.

And finally, just an update on some ongoing capital projects.

The flood mitigation, FEMA, plan is moving forward on schedule and so far glitch free.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Parkway Road Bridge project. Bids went out in a timely fashion but only two responses received. Though professionally spec’d out at a cost of $150,000 to $200,000, the bids came in more than $500,000 and $1 million, respectively. We have learned that the companies that do this work in our region are all gainfully employed with much bigger scopes of work on the Tappan Zee Bridge project. As a result, we are refining our bid and casting the net geographically much farther to interest qualified firms that may be farther afield.

Given the age and historic significance of our village, there are still many more capital projects worthy of investment that didn’t rise to priority status but shall be undertaken in future years.

Marvin-Mary

Column: The amenities that Bronxville has to offer

I just returned from celebrating my mother’s 89th birthday near her home in the Albany area.  Now that she is a widow, I look at my former hometown through the lens of a single senior citizen.

While my mother’s town is populated with wonderful neighbors and friends, its access to services, culture and amenities pales in comparison to Bronxville.

I often write how great it is to be a young person in Bronxville—with freedom to walkabout and replicate a childhood much like ours of the past. However, it is also the perfect place to be a senior citizen.

Houses of worship, a movie theater, a post office, a supermarket, a college and stores with incredibly accommodating merchants are just a stone’s throw away from any Bronxville residence.

A walkable robust business district is vital to maintaining a robust senior population. So when a person of any age makes a purchase in our village, the sales tax dollars not only go to support the school and village government but also to aid in maintaining age diversity in our village. An inter-generational community adds to the richness and uniqueness of Bronxville and is well worth preserving. I cannot imagine Pondfield Road without toddlers, teens and seniors sharing the same sidewalks.

Seniors without cars can walk to a doctor of every specialty as well as a fine hospital. Our library offers movies, book clubs, computer lessons and thanks to the Friends of the Library, cultural performances and readings.

The Bronxville Adult School offers a varied array of classes, trips and recreational activities at a very reasonable cost.

We offer a taxi service, conveyance by Metro-North if Broadway calls and options for dining at every hour and price point. Bronxville’s ability to fulfill the needs of body and soul are unparalleled.

Our wonderful police department will also keep spare keys for our seniors in case of an emergency and even routinely conduct a house check if so requested.

In addition to all of the above amenities, Bronxville is home to two vibrant organizations solely dedicated to our senior population.

In existence for 40 years, the Senior Citizens’ Council of Bronxville offers a wide variety of programming and assistance. Thanks to the generosity of the Reformed Church, it has a home in their building.

In addition to sponsoring enrichment outlets, our senior organization is to be lauded for their tradition of philanthropic work—be it collecting cereal for a Head Start Program in Mount Vernon, buying mittens for the needy or delivering presents to hospital patients.

A recent addition to the village’s senior services is Gramatan Village which fills an important niche in our community. Founded by your fellow village residents several years ago, Gramatan Village follows the very successful model of a program first begun in Beacon Hill, Mass.  Gramatan Village’s mission is to provide local seniors with assistance and services enabling them to age safely and confidently in their own homes, thereby allowing them to age in place and stay in our community.

Simply put, we need our long standing residents to remain in the village. They add a level of continuity, diversity, historical perspective and chair or populate so many of our village government boards, charitable institutions and volunteer programs.

Many, many people move to the village primarily so their children can take advantage of a premier public education. However, the ever increasing model of arriving in the village in one’s 30’s with school age children and departing in one’s 50’s soon after the last graduate is also economically unsustainable for the long term health of the village.

As illustration, a home without school age children carrying an annual tax bill of $50,000 contributes all of that money to the upkeep of the school and village. If that person then sells to someone with just two children, (at an educational cost of roughly $30,000 per child), the house now has a $10,000 “negative” impact on the tax coffers.  An added burden of the premature departure of the empty nester is the increase in the overall size of our school, which impacts individual class sizes.

Logically, the primary goal is to keep taxes from hitting the tipping point for our residents of longest standing, but there are also other variables that contribute to the viability of the village as a long term home—be it safe streets, inclusive cultural and sporting events or ample parking for religious or senior services.

It is quite simply in everyone’s best interest, whether age 10, 40 or 80, to keep all of us thriving and well served by the village and school.