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Katy Keohane Glassberg, the former vice president of the Rye City School District Board of Education, has succeeded longtime board president Laura Slack, who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. 
Contributed photo

Keohane Glassberg takes over as Rye school board president

Katy Keohane Glassberg, the former vice president of the Rye City School District Board of Education, has succeeded longtime board president Laura Slack, who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.  Contributed photo

Katy Keohane Glassberg, the former vice president of the Rye City School District Board of Education, has succeeded longtime board president Laura Slack, who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
Contributed photo

By CHRIS EBERHART
Katy Keohane Glassberg  will move over one seat on the dais during Rye City Board of Education meetings as the former vice president succeeds recently-retired board president Laura Slack, who stepped down following the end of the 2014-2015 school year after nine years on the board. 

“The school district is in excellent hands with Katy Glassberg at the helm,” Slack told the Review this week. “She has excellent judgment, is intelligent, a great communicator and a dedicated, hard worker. The district and the community are fortunate to have her leading the school board.”

Keohane Glassberg, 47, is a retired litigation attorney in her professional life and is entering her sixth year on the school board. During her time on the board, Glassberg served as the vice president for the past three years, chaired the Policy, Facilities, and Health and Safety committees, served on the Management and Curriculum councils and served on the Technology, K-12 Science, Civility Initiative and Safe Routes to Schools committees.

“I’m gratified in the confidence that my board members had in me to elect me president,” Keohane Glassberg said regarding the unanimous vote of her colleagues. “And I was lucky to serve as Laura [Slack’s] vice president for these past three years. Laura [Slack] is incredible, and I’ve had great training in being a board officer.”

Keohane Glassberg, whose first meeting as school board president was on July 1, said the school district is currently in a good place after finalizing collective bargaining agreements with two unions—the Rye Administrator Association and the Rye Teachers Association-Secretarial, Clerical, School Nurse and Computer Aide Unit—and passing the school budget by more than 70 percent of the vote.

But looming is the possibility of a zero percent tax levy cap for New York state schools, which means school districts wouldn’t be able to increase their budgets in order to remain under the state-mandated tax cap.

According to a recent report by the New York State Educational Conference Board, a coalition of seven leading statewide education organizations representing parents, teachers, administrators and school boards, the state-mandated tax cap levy increase would be zero for the 2016-2017 school year, based on the first four months of the consumer price index and projections by the state Division of the Budget.

“My number one goal is the same as everyone else’s on the board and that is to ensure Rye schools continue to be as vigorous and excellent as Rye is known for,” Keohane Glassberg said. “And that’s been difficult with the tax cap and the unfunded mandates. And the possibility of a zero percent tax cap is worrying. It has all the districts worrying.”

Looking toward the 2015-2016 school year and beyond, Keohane Glassberg said her focus will be to continue the school district’s efforts in the areas of technology and communication with the community.

Last year, the school district experienced denial of service attacks, which are malicious attempts to make a server or a network resource unavailable to users by temporarily interrupting or suspending the services of a host connected to the internet. To fix the problem, Keohane Glassberg said the school board hired Edu Tek to manage the network and make upgrades to the security over the summer.

Keohane Glassberg has been a Rye resident for 20 years. She has one child in the schools and another who graduated from Rye High School in 2015.

Also assuming a new role on the Board of Education is Chris Repetto, who was elected vice president for the upcoming school year. Repetto, 48, said being elected to the position by the other school board trustees is “an honor, privilege and great responsibility.”

“We have an extremely well-balanced, unified and cooperative team in place, and I am deeply appreciative of their faith in me,” he said.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com 

 

 

 

The Village of Mamaroneck’s Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission has submitted its version of an updated waterfront development document to go up against a previous iteration created by a consulting firm. File photo

HCZMC submits LWRP update

The Village of Mamaroneck’s Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission has submitted its version of an updated waterfront development document to go up against a previous iteration created by a consulting firm. File photo

The Village of Mamaroneck’s Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission has submitted its version of an updated waterfront development document to go up against a previous iteration created by a consulting firm. File photo

By JACKSON CHEN
The Village of Mamaroneck’s Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission has submitted its version of the village’s all-encompassing document that guides coastline developments and environmental preservation. The commission’s version, which is already receiving criticism, will be considered by the state, in parallel to a previous version constructed by consultants commissioned by the village. 

The major guiding document, known as the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, LWRP, was first adopted by the village in 1984. More than three decades ago, the LWRP was created by several residents, but now requires an update due to the modernization of the village and a deadline set by the New York State Department of State. The village was expected to have set in place a new LWRP by the end of 2014, but was granted a flexible extension because its process is nearly complete, according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland.

“The current LWRP has served us well for 30 years,” said Cindy Goldstein, chairwoman of the harbor coastal commission. “What we need to focus on now is what does the current document not provide for moving into the future.”

According to Slingerland, the version created by the commission was submitted earlier this month and is currently being reviewed by Charles McCaffrey, who worked on the LWRP in 1984, and Lester Steinman, the village’s land use attorney. Even with a large group of volunteers assisting, Goldstein said that the commission’s LWRP still had areas that required more study, including a “proper boots on the ground inventory of our village and the natural topography.”

In their efforts to form an updated LWRP, the harbor coastal commission worked with a constantly-evolving working group that included a total of 36 residents. Beginning in January 2015, Goldstein held 12 public meetings where the working groups tackled each of the original 44 policies one by one to update their language.

”The LWRP update is really unusual because it’s really driven by the community,” Goldstein said, comparing it to the standard law making process involving legislators. “This is really a community document.”

However, former village Trustee Andres Bermudez-Hallstrom, a Democrat, said he felt there were certain residents involved in the working groups that may have had a conflict of interest with the LWRP. Of the 36 residents who were part of the working groups, Bermudez-Hallstrom said that 11 of them were involved in some type of land-use lawsuits in the village, which potentially poses a conflict of interest with writing the LWRP.

After hearing Bermudez-Hallstrom’s comments on the harbor coastal commission’s draft, Goldstein said they “violate the spirit of this village and the spirit of volunteerism,” and added that he was never present at a meeting.

Still, the former trustee felt the language within the commission’s draft was a double-edged sword, in that certain parts were heavily targeting certain areas, while other portions remained too vague
and could be loosely interpreted to stop any future development projects.

“It’ll set a terrible precedent and it sets itself up for decades of never-ending land use lawsuits,” Bermudez Hallstrom said of the commission’s LWRP redraft.

Instead, the former trustee was in favor of the LWRP rewrite that was completed in December 2014 by BFJ Planning, a New York City-based consulting firm. In contrast to the HCZMC’s free of charge iteration that updated the 44 original policies, BFJ’s draft cost the village more than $50,000 and included only 13 policies.

Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, similarly disagreed with the commission’s write-up because of some glaring changes, including not whittling down the number of policies to 13, like the BFJ draft. The mayor added that the commission was instructed to bring the document up to state standards instead of simply rewriting the original policies.

According to Rosenblum, the commission’s LWRP will be sent up to the state department, but the village has made clear that it wasn’t submitted by the Board of Trustees.

The mayor said the commission’s LWRP would be subject to changes and input from the public during hearings he expects to start in September.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
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Rye BOE approves two contract agreements

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By CHRIS EBERHART
The Rye City Board of Education approved memorandums of agreement with two unions, including a precedent-setting agreement with school district administrators, who agreed to give up their salary schedule as a cost-saving measure and move toward merit-based raises instead of automatic pay increases.

The agreement with the Rye City Administrator Association was one of two agreements, along with the Rye Teachers Association-Secretarial, Clerical, School Nurse and Computer Aide Unit, that was approved by the Board of Education during its June 30 meeting. Both agreements will run through 2018.

In the agreement with the administrators, a contract that expired on June 30, 2015, they agreed to forfeit their salary schedule, which outlined the salary ranges for each administrator position depending on how long they held the position in perpetuity in exchange for smaller raises each year of the contract and a merit-based pay increase.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the 13 members of the administrators’ union will receive a 2 percent pay increase. Wages will increase again in 2016-2017 by 1 percent and in 2017-2018 by 1.5 percent, with an additional 0.5 percent merit increase each year. That merit increase will depend on performance criteria that have on be mutually agreed to by May 31, 2016. Newly-elected Board of Education President Katy Keohane Glassberg, who took over the position on July 1, said the administrators giving up their salary schedule showed “remarkable leadership.”

“The salary schedule was set up before the tax cap and was almost impossible to meet in a tax cap environment,” Keohane Glassberg said. “This model is more sustainable and will have a substantial saving for the school district.”

The board president was unable to provide an estimate of how much those savings would entail.

As part of the agreement with the administrators, Rye High School Principal Patricia Taylor will receive a $4,982 wage increase to bump her annual salary to $185,267, and Osborn School Principal Angela Garcia will receive a $1,119 increase to $160,453 annually. Both Taylor and Garcia will receive an additional, one-time payment of $12,430 and $2,238, respectively. Base-wage increases for Taylor and Garcia will take effect before the increase of 2 percent in 2015-2016.

Glassberg said the salary adjustments bring the principals’ salaries to that of principals in neighboring school districts.

During the same Board of Education meeting on June 30, the board passed a memorandum of agreement with the 38-member Rye Teachers Association-Secretarial, Clerical, School Nurse and Computer Aide Unit, which had been without a new contract since June 30, 2013.

The clerical union will receive an increase of 1 percent for the 2014-2015 school year with retroactive pay from Jan. 1, 2015, an increase of 1.5 percent during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years and an increase of 0.75 percent during the 2017-2018 school year.

In exchange, pay step movement, which is based on an employee’ s number of years in the school district, is frozen during the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years and members will contribute 15 percent into their health benefits from 2013-2014 to 2017-2018.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

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The United Hospital 15-acre property, inclusive of the now defunct hospital and a staff residential housing facility, would have to be torn down to accommodate for the large-scale, mixed-use development project being proposed near the Rye border. Photo/Jackson Chen

United Hospital plan gains traction

The United Hospital 15-acre property, inclusive of the now defunct hospital and a staff residential housing facility, would have to be torn down to accommodate for the large-scale, mixed-use development project being proposed near the Rye border. Photo/Jackson Chen

The United Hospital 15-acre property, inclusive of the now defunct hospital and a staff residential housing facility, would have to be torn down to accommodate for the large-scale, mixed-use development project being proposed near the Rye border. Photo/Jackson Chen

By JACKSON CHEN
The Village of Port Chester has opened the gates for public comments as it has deemed the lofty redevelopment proposal for the long-abandoned United Hospital lot and its draft environmental impact statement as complete. 

The proposal for the site at 999 High St., off of Boston Post Road, calls for a roughly $300-million development project that would create 730 residential units, parking structures, retail and office space as well as a 138-room hotel. The 15-acre redevelopment project is being tackled by Starwood Capital Group, a Connecticut-based investment firm. Considering the scale of the project, Port Chester is reviewing the many environmental impacts that would result from the development, including traffic congestion, stress on school enrollment and overall infrastructure concerns.

According to Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla, a Democrat, the village board met with attorneys in executive session during its July 20 meeting for legal advice, before deeming the proposal’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, DEIS, complete. Pilla said that deeming the project’s DEIS complete would trigger the public review process.

After the required comment period and if fully approved, the development would allow for 500 units of one-bedroom and two-bedroom housing units that are aimed at a younger generation without children, according to the proposal. As for interested residents with families, the proposal also calls for 230 age-restricted units, a number which was set to limit the impact on the village’s school system.

The Village of Port Chester is reviewing the environmental impact of a proposed 15-acre development on the defunct United Hospital lot off of Boston Post Road. File photo

The Village of Port Chester is reviewing the environmental impact of a proposed 15-acre development on the defunct United Hospital lot off of Boston Post Road. File photo

When reviewing the proposal, village staff worked with AKRF, a White Plains-based planning consultant firm, alongside traffic consultants and a legal team, according to Port Chester Trustee Saverio Terenzi, a Republican.

“While people miss the hospital, it’s become an eyesore quite frankly,” Pilla said of United Hospital, which closed its doors in 2005. “Having a new development in our village that is attractive and draws people in, it’s going to have community services that will benefit our community and the surrounding communities.”

While the United Hospital redevelopment plan is being tackled by the village, its large scope and proximity is expected to impact nearby communities. The property sits near the City of Rye border.

According to Rye City Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, he testified in front of Port Chester’s board approximately one year ago when the project proposal first surfaced. Much like the concerns he voiced last year, Sack still holds concerns of increased traffic congestion issues on Boston Post Road and the possibility of hampering stormwater mitigation.

“The concern is that things will get worse,” Sack said of the potential for increased traffic. “It’s already pretty congested over there with Whole Foods and the other stores in the [Kohl’s] shopping center,” which sits across the street from the hospital property.

Sack added that after appearing before the village board last year, he and city staff met with the Starwood attorneys to clarify the city’s concerns. However, the mayor added that he hasn’t had any follow-up meetings or feedback recently, but city staff is keeping tabs on the project.

“We want to be able to have input,” Sack said, adding his main concern was the project’s impact on Rye. “I think it remains to be seen how much of our recommendations or suggestions will be accepted.”

Pilla, who took office as mayor in March,  said that the village has been informing the city of every milestone progression of the development. He added that on July 20, Rye City Attorney Kristen Wilson asked the village board to extend the public comment period into September to allow time for people who are away on vacation, but that an extension for the public was the village’s intention anyways.

“I’m pushing  this in a way where we do more than the minimum required from public participation,” Pilla said. “We’re going to hear from the public early and often, including the City of Rye.”

In the past, a development proposal for the construction of a Home Depot in Port Chester drew similar concern from Rye. The Home Depot currently stands at 150 Midland Ave., also near the city’s municipal border. When the village approved the project in 1994, Rye and a residential committee called the Rye Citizens Committee sued Port Chester, claiming there weren’t enough environmental impact studies done on the project. Eventually, the Home Depot was constructed after the Westchester County Supreme Court ruled in favor of the development and its second approval process.

When dealing with the United Hospital redevelopment, Terenzi said he doesn’t think the project will have much impact on Rye’s traffic patterns. The trustee added that most people will be using the nearby highways like the I-95 and I-287, leaving little impact on Rye.

The village has scheduled its first public hearing on the large-scale development project for Aug. 27, but is expecting the comment period to extend into late September. Pilla added that even after the public comment portions, the village board will hold public workshop sessions that will tackle specific concerns like parking, school impact and financial changes.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
2015-ELECTION-SQUARE

Just-Michael raises $61K in county campaign

New Rochelle’s Haina Just-Michael, left, the Democratic challenger to Westchester County Legislator Sheila Marcotte, is off to a strong start having already collected $61,000 in campaign contributions. File photos

New Rochelle’s Haina Just-Michael, left, the Democratic challenger to Westchester County Legislator Sheila Marcotte, is off to a strong start having already collected $61,000 in campaign contributions. File photos

By CHRIS EBERHART
Campaign finance reports for all of this year’s political candidates were required to be filed on July 15, and through July, Westchester County Legislator candidate Haina Just-Michael, a New Rochelle Democrat, had raised a whopping $61,000.

By contrast, Just-Michael’s opponent, incumbent Sheila Marcotte, an Eastchester Republican, had only generated $7,898 in financing. The two candidates are battling for the county’s 10th legislative district seat, which includes Eastchester, Tuckahoe and parts of New Rochelle.

Just-Michael’s fundraising is a combination of donations from supporters, friends and family. And her significant war chest does include a combined $30,000 donation from her husband and father.

“It always feels good to get a thumbs up, however it comes,” Just-Michael said. “In general, people are excited, and the momentum naturally happened. They want a different representative in District 10, and a lot of people are saying, ‘I want to do what I can,’ and they did. I’m so surprised and grateful.”

Arnold Linhardt, a Democratic political strategist, said the $61,000 that Just-Michael raised is a good showing for a challenger and will help because it gives her a solid foundation to draw from, but the difference “doesn’t mean it’s the end of Sheila [Marcotte].”  “Sheila [Marcotte] has shown in the past that she can put money together quickly, and
I have no doubt she’s going to do it again,” Lindhardt said. “So, I wouldn’t read too much into it.”

Historically, Marcotte has had trouble financially outpacing her Democratic opponents, although the disparity has never been as a stark as this year’s race. Nonetheless, Marcotte has always been able to persevere and pull out close victories in each of her previous two county elections.

In 2011, during Marcotte’s run at her first full, two-year term on the Westchester County Board of Legislators against former Tuckahoe Mayor John Fitzpatrick, a Democrat, she raised $10,872 through July to Fitzpatrick’s $12,012. And at this time in 2013, during Marcotte’s last re-election to the District 10 seat, Marcotte raised $3,984 while her opponent Mary Jo Jacobs, a New Rochelle Democrat, raised $10,557.

Marcotte has held the District 10 seat since 2010, when she defeated Greg Varian, a New Rochelle Democrat, in a special election to replace Vito Pinto, a Republican, who was tabbed by County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, to head the county’s Veterans Service Agency.

The next two elections— 2011 and 2013—have been close, and Linhardt expects the same this year. With no national or state elections, the strategist expects a low voter turnout, meaning the race will come down to who does a better job of grassroots campaigning to make their name known to voters. That’s where Just-Michael’s $61,000 will help her, he said.

“Sheila [Marcotte] is the incumbent; she’s starting with higher name recognition. So, she doesn’t have to introduce herself to the voters, unlike Haina [Just-Michael],” Lindhardt said. “As the challenger, [Just-Michael] has to persuade voters why they shouldn’t vote for the incumbent, and you need a lot of money for that.”

Marcotte believes she’s the underdog going into the election season, but, as in years past, she said she’ll have enough money to fund her campaign and will again focus her campaign on her record of keeping the county property tax levy flat.

“Both candidates will have the necessary resources to run their campaigns, and I look forward to bringing my campaign to our wonderful neighbors in Eastchester, Tuckahoe and New Rochelle,” Marcotte said. “But I’m proud to run on my record.

Marcotte pointed to her work as the chairwoman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, ensuring fiscal discipline and holding the county property tax levy flat for the past five years.

Ultimately, Linhardt, who has donated to Just-Michael’s campaign, said the race will come down to two areas that each candidate has to “lose closer in.”

For Just-Michael, he said the unincorporated Town of Eastchester, considered a Republican stronghold, is pivotal. And for Marcotte, it’s the North End of New Rochelle, which is largely comprised of Democrats.

According to Linhardt, Marcotte’s defeat of Jacobs in 2013 was largely due to New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, who challenged Astorino for the county executive seat, poor showing in the North End of New Rochelle.

The next Westchester County Board of Elections filing date for campaign finances is Oct. 2. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
The City of New Rochelle was reauthorized this year to implement a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax on patrons. As a result, the city collects approximately $300,000 annually in tax from its area hotels like the Radisson, pictured. Photo courtesy radisson.com

Legislature re-ups hotel tax; boutique inn in the works

The City of New Rochelle was reauthorized this year to implement a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax on patrons. As a result, the city collects approximately $300,000 annually in tax from its area hotels like the Radisson, pictured. Photo courtesy radisson.com

The City of New Rochelle was reauthorized this year to implement a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax on patrons. As a result, the city collects approximately $300,000 annually in tax from its area hotels like the Radisson, pictured. Photo courtesy radisson.com

By CHRIS EBERHART
In a stunning, last-minute change of heart, the New York state Senate passed hotel occupancy tax bills for six Westchester communities, including several towns and villages, after years of unsuccessfully trying to petition the state for the tax.

The Westchester municipalities that already had the hotel tax in place, including New Rochelle, which secured the tax back in 2009, were reauthorized by the state. The authorization has a sunset clause requiring communities to reapply for the tax every
three years.

Historically, the hotel occupancy tax bills, which impose a 3 percent charge on hotel occupants within a municipality’s borders on top of a 3 percent Westchester County hotel tax that is already in place, passed in the Democratic-led state Assembly but were repeatedly shot down by the Republican-controlled Senate because of a reluctance to institute a new tax.

But during this legislative session, under the new leadership of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Huntington Republican, the Senate changed its longstanding policy and passed a number of new taxes, including a hotel occupancy tax for Westchester communities and three upstate counties.

State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Scarsdale Democrat, said the hotel tax approvals for county governments opened the door for the possibility of a hotel tax in the local Westchester municipalities.

A group of four Democratic Assemblymembers—Paulin, Steve Otis, of Rye, Tom Abinanti, of Greenburgh, and David Buchwald, of White Plains—pushed Heastie to intervene on their behalf and urge the Senate to pass
the bills.

“There was drama all day,” Paulin said. “It was late in the legislative session—I’d say around 10 [p.m.] or so—when we found out the bills passed the Senate. It’s hard to know what changed their minds, but I know a lot of calls were made. A lot of pressure was put on the leaders.”

When asked if the change in regimes from former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, and Dean Skelos, a Rockville Centre Republican, to Heastie and Flanagan had anything to do with the bills passing, Paulin said, “There’s no question.”

Cities such as New Rochelle, Rye, White Plains and the Village of Rye Brook are among the other municipalities in Westchester that already impose the tax on hotel patrons.

In 2011, Rye Brook set the precedent as the only non-city to secure the tax. White Plains, New Rochelle and Rye annually collect approximately $1 million, $300,000 and $150,000 annually in hotel taxes, respectively, while Rye Brook collects approximately $630,000 annually.

New Rochelle has two hotels within its city limits: the Residence Inn Marriott on LeCount Place and the Radisson at 1 Radisson Plaza, with plans in the works for a third.

New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, a Democrat, said a new Vib Hotel, which is Best Western’s boutique brand, is “likely coming to downtown New Rochelle” on Church Street. Bramson said the hotel would be an eight-story structure with 80 rooms and could generate “tens of thousands of dollars” in hotel taxes to the city.

“This [is] an enormously positive addition to the downtown,” Bramson said, “and an indicator that the development community and investors see great opportunity in our downtown.”

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
The Rye City Council is revisiting a rezoning proposal for the property at 120 Old Post Road, after receiving the Planning Commission’s recommendations. File photo

Old Post Road rezoning revisited by council

The Rye City Council is revisiting a rezoning proposal for the property at 120 Old Post Road, after receiving the Planning Commission’s recommendations. File photo

The Rye City Council is revisiting a rezoning proposal for the property at 120 Old Post Road, after receiving the Planning Commission’s recommendations. File photo

By JACKSON CHEN
A proposed development project for 120 Old Post Road is being presented to the Rye City Council again after it received recommendations from the city’s Planning Commission.

The project, which aims to create a 135-unit, age-restricted, four-story housing complex, is seeking a zoning change from the council in order to move forward. The 120 Old Post Road lot is currently located within the B-4 zone that restricts properties to office building use. However, the three-story office building currently at the site has remained vacant and has continued to depreciate in market value since 2009, according to Jonathan Kraut, the attorney representing the project applicant and current owner, Old Post Road Associates.

“We’ve continued efforts to use or rent the property as it’s presently configured and the prospects have just not been forthcoming,” Kraut said. “It’s not a building that lends itself to multi-tenant use and a single-tenant use is just not happening.”

In a proposal that aims to maximize the potential of the site, Kraut proposed the creation of a RA-6 zone, which allows for active senior residential housing, and a rezoning of the 120 Old Post Road property.

The City Council, acting as the lead agency that determines the project’s environmental review, had several questions regarding an indirect impact on the city’s schools, the opportunity for a percentage of units to be considered affordable housing and the visual impacts of a new structure. While there are no current plans included in the proposal for affordable housing, the council asked Kraut to return with an opinion of the project accommodating a 10 percent portion of the residential units that would be deemed affordable housing.

Otherwise, one of the major concerns from the council was the increase in traffic since there would be an influx of residents in that area compared to the currently empty office building.

However, this isn’t the first time the applicant has requested a zoning change from the council. Kraut and other representatives of the project appeared before the council in October 2014, and they were ultimately deferred to the Planning Commission for its recommendations.

The commission submitted advisory opinions to the council on May 5, giving its recommendations on zoning standards ranging from the use of the property to the suggested amount and type of parking availability.

According to the commission’s recommendations, the land use board was in favor of age-restricted and multi-family use units. Many neighboring communities such as Rye Brook and Harrison have already amended their office space zones to be retooled for residential use. Additionally, the commission recommended there be a parking requirement of 1.5 spaces per unit, if the proposal remains at the one and two-bedroom unit configuration. Even with the commission’s detailed recommendations, the council had many questions of its own that are expected to be answered by the project’s team.

The 120 Old Post Road project will be in front of the council again during its Aug. 5 meeting.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino will now be required to submit his annual budget a month earlier after a public referendum on Election Day approved pushing the timeline back. File photo

Astorino suffers setback in housing bout

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino suffered a blow in his fight against HUD over affordable housing.  File Photo

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino suffered a blow in his fight against HUD over affordable housing. File Photo

By CHRIS EBERHART
Recent momentum for Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in his fight against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over affordable housing came to a screeching halt during a U.S. Supreme Court decision made in late June. 

On June 25, the court made a ruling on a Texas affordable housing case in a 5-4 decision in favor of HUD and disparate impact, which says housing discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional in order to be illegal, which will set a precedent for future affordable housing cases, such as Westchester County’s case.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the opinion of the court, said disparate impact claims are consistent with the central purpose of the Fair Housing Act which outlawed the refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“[Law]suits targeting unlawful zoning laws and other housing restrictions that unfairly exclude minorities from certain neighborhoods without sufficient justification are at the heartland of disparate-impact liability,” Kennedy wrote. “Recognition of disparate-impact liability under the Fair Housing Act plays an important role in uncovering discriminatory intent.”

Charles McNally, an HUD spokesperson, said, “Today is another important step in the long march toward fulfilling one of our nation’s founding ideals: equal opportunity for all Americans.”

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that HUD can continue to use this critical tool to eliminate the unfair barriers that have deferred and derailed too many dreams,” McNally said. “Working with our partners on the ground, we will continue to do all we can to build a housing market that treats all Americans with basic dignity and respect.”

Although the Supreme Court case was about the final appeal of a Texas court case—Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, a Dallas-based group advocating integrated housing—the impact will be felt in Westchester.

In Westchester County, a 2009 affordable housing settlement between former County Executive Andy Spano, a Democrat, and HUD, required the county to build 750 units over a seven-year period, complete an analysis of impediments—a review of the barriers that prevent affordable housing—and promote fair housing practices.

The analysis of impediments includes two analyses, both completed by federal housing monitor Jim Johnson who was appointed to oversee the implementation of the settlement, that rely on disparate impact to show evidence of exclusionary zoning in Westchester municipalities based on socio-economic factors and race, respectively. Under the Berenson analysis, seven municipalities in the county were deemed to have exclusionary zoning. Under the Huntington analysis, six municipalities were identified.

Since taking over the county executive position in 2010, Astorino has repeatedly denied the existence of exclusionary zoning in Westchester and has been at odds with HUD over the implementation of the affordable housing settlement. To date, the county has passed a source of income legislation and is on pace to fulfill the 750-unit mark on time. But the one sticking point that has remained is HUD’s unwillingness to accept any of the eight analyses of impediments submitted by the Astorino administration.

The standoff resulted in approximately $23 million worth of withheld federal grant money from the county for 2011 to 2014 that goes toward building affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods that are not in compliance with the settlement.

And prior to last month’s ruling, Astorino had been gaining momentum over the past nine months in this legal battle with HUD.

In a decision made on Nov. 3, 2014, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said plaintiffs in affordable housing cases must show that racial segregation within zoning laws was intentional and arguments in favor of the contrary “appear to be nothing more than wishful thinking on steroids.”

“This is yet another example of an administrative agency trying desperately to write into law that which Congress never intended to sanction,” Leon wrote in his decision against disparate impact. “It is nothing less than an artful misinterpretation of Congress’s intent.”

Next came Westchester’s victory in its attempt to recover the withheld grant money.

On Feb. 18, 2015, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s decision stating that HUD’s rejections of the county’s analyses of possible zoning discrimination in its municipalities and subsequent withholding of grant money for fair housing are not subject to judicial review.

The ruling allows the county and Astorino to pursue its case to recapture $752,844 in 2011 federal grant money, which is what hasn’t been re-allocated of the $7.4 million from the 2011 community development block grant funding that was administered to the county by HUD.

In March, the county’s existing lawsuit was amended to include the $16 million in grant money already lost from fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2014.

But after the June court decision to uphold disparate impact, the job of county attorneys became that much more difficult.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
New Rochelle’s Jake Gallin, 13, was recently recognized for his work on behalf of military families. Contributed photo

Local teen named one of top youth volunteers

New Rochelle’s Jake Gallin, 13, was recently recognized for his work on behalf of military families. Contributed photo

New Rochelle’s Jake Gallin, 13, was recently recognized for his work on behalf of military families. Contributed photo

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Democratic leader, recognized Jake Gallin, 13, of New Rochelle for being named as one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for his volunteer work on behalf of military families.

Gallin was nominated by Volunteer New York and selected by the Prudential Foundation as a National Honoree from a field of more than 33,000 youth volunteers from across the country.

“Jake Gallin’s efforts to recognize the sacrifices made by military families, whether they have a loved one serving in the military currently, or have lost a family member who made the ultimate sacrifice, is exemplary” said Stewart-Cousins. “He continues to volunteer his time, to raise money and awareness with his ‘Stars for Cars’ initiative, and as a result, he has received well-deserved national, and now state recognition.”

The seventh grader at the Albert Leonard Middle School in New Rochelle created “Stars for Cars,” a fundraising and outreach initiative for military families. Gallin has raised more than $19,000 for the United Service Organization, USO, by selling star-shaped magnets for cars that honor military families at starsforcars.org.

Gallin thanked Stewart-Co-
usins for the honor. “It was great—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was so glad to be there, to take part in it. I’m so grateful,” he said.

Gallin’s parents, Ally and Tom, accompanied him. Mr. Gallin said, “It’s another milestone for Jake and another platform for Jake to get his message out.”

Gallin’s inspiration for the initiative occurred in 2011, when he was 8 years old. He was watching a TV talk show, and heard First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, talking about the needs of military families. Teresa Arciola of Elmsford, a Gold Star mother who lost her son, Michael, in Iraq in 2005, was also on the program.

Gallin will tell you that Obama reminded the audience that 1 percent of our country is protecting the other 99 percent. He took it to heart, and started “Stars for Cars” to raise awareness for the sacrifices military families make here at home while a loved one is serving in the military, a Blue Star family, or is lost while serving in the military, a Gold Star family.

Gallin has also reached out to schools across New York state to make the “3 Holidays Announcements,” on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Sept. 11, also known as Patriot Day.

The message is, “We take this time to remember our ‘Blue and Gold Star’ military families and thank them for their sacrifice and generosity, and we want them to know that we are part of their community.”

More than 100 schools and districts in New York have signed on to make these public announcements. Stewart-Cousins delivered the Veteran’s Day announcement with Gallin at his school last November.

Gallin plans to donate the personal award of $5,000 to Volunteer New York and another $5,000 grant he also got from the Prudential Foundation to the USO.

The Prudential Spirit of Community awards is a national youth recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. (Submitted)

 
Day campers from Beth El Synagogue Center offer up some peach salsa to patrons at the New Rochelle Farmers Market.

City cooks up fresh food at farmers market

New Rochelle Mayor Mayor Noam Bramson, Frankie Rowland of Down to Earth Markets, and community advocates cut the ribbon to celebrate market season.

New Rochelle Mayor Mayor Noam Bramson, Frankie Rowland of Down to Earth Markets, and community advocates cut the ribbon to celebrate market season.

By NICOLE REED
A firetruck pulled up to the New Rochelle Farmers Market on North Avenue on Friday, July 17. The men hopped off and surveyed the scene. Instead of fighting a fire, New Rochelle’s bravest were there to buy fresh fruit and vegetables for the firehouse. As one of the firefighters explained, “It used to be stereotypical that the guys ate bad food, but that’s changed. It’s a younger generation in the firehouse and these guys are health conscious. Now we’re eating healthy and staying healthy. Everything here is always fresh. It’s great that the farmers market is in our backyard.” 

Day campers from Beth El Synagogue Center offer up some peach salsa to patrons at the New Rochelle Farmers Market.

Day campers from Beth El Synagogue Center offer up some peach salsa to patrons at the New Rochelle Farmers Market.

 

The vendors and customers who stopped by the farmer’s market that Friday were accompanied by New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson and community advocates for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Vendors featured at the market include Alex’s Tomato Farm, Dagele Brothers Produce, Meredith’s Country Bakery and the most recent addition: The Cheese Guy. The farmers are from New York state and sell non-GMO produce. The market’s baker brings savory breads and sweet treats to the table, including a line of gluten-free products.

Last Friday, The Cheese Guy, Brent Delman, debuted his goods at the market. According to Delman, he is one of only about a dozen kosher cheese makers in the United States.

Delman, raised in an Italian area outside of Cleveland, Ohio, grew up with a love for cheeses and spent years using his marketing skills to promote specialty food companies. Along the way, his esteem for tradition grew.

“As I got older, tradition became more important to me, from the tradition of handmade cheese to the tradition of keeping a kosher home,” he said.

Then he went to the island of Sardinia in Italy.

“A lot of things came together for me there,” he said. “I love sheep milk cheeses. On Sardinia, their sheep graze in the fields and eat naturally. I learned how to make a sheep milk cheese in this setting.”

When Delman traveled to Italy, he met a farmer whose knowledge was invaluable to The Cheese Guy. When crafting cheese, makers use rennet, a mix of enzymes added to milk to catalyze the curding process. As is custom, the rennet comes from the lining of a calf’s stomach. This method, however, does not meet kosher requirements. The farmer Delman met in Sardinia was willing to use a microbial culture as a replacement for the animal-based rennet.

“Then I was able to use traditional methods and my cheeses could become kosher,” Delman said.

Brent Delman, also known as The Cheese Guy, offers customers samples. Photos/Nicole Reed

Brent Delman, also known as The Cheese Guy, offers customers samples. Photos/Nicole Reed

Vendors at the New Rochelle Farmers Market range in age, and include campers from the Beth El Synagogue Center, also known as the Stars and the Astros, who use inspiration from the farmers’ produce to create a fresh recipe for customers. Recently, they have been offering tastes of homemade peach salsa, and will be cooking up culinary creations from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. now through Friday, Aug. 14.

The New Rochelle Farmers Market, located on North Avenue at Huguenot Park, in front of New Rochelle High School, is managed by Down to Earth Farmers Markets and is open every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Nov. 20.