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What’s going on in Rye

Story Time

Nursery rhymes, son-gs and fingerplays, “Granny Jean” Klein, well-versed in early childhood development, introduces babies and toddlers to playful rhymes, songs and puppetry. Parents and caregivers participate with the children and are encouraged to continue the activities at home. Because the program is often a child’s first experience in an audience setting, it is important that adults strive to arrive on time and actively help children focus on the presentation. Open to 6 months to 3-and-a-half-year-olds. Meets Mondays at 10 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. for 20-minute sessions.

Calligraphy for teens

Rye Free Reading Room will hold calligraphy workshops for teens every Monday at 4 p.m., running until July 27. Workshops will be held in the Meeting Room and snacks and supplies will be provided. For more information or to register for the class, call 231-3172.

Yoga for kids

On Saturday, July 25 at 11 a.m., master storytime yoga teacher Elisha Simpson will take children on a journey of exploration through body and word as she accompanies folktales from around the world with yoga exercises to give audience members a way to connect and discover their inner world of creativity, body and imagination. Following the stories, there will be a simple related craft. Visit ryelibrary.org or call 231-3162 for more information.

Science Fun Club

Science teacher Johnda Ferrari is conducting a summer Science Fun Club for children entering third through fifth grade at the Rye Free Reading Room on Fridays, July 17, 24 and 31. The hour-long programs, starting at 4 p.m., will focus on such topics as ocean, bird and insect life and magnetism, and will present learning in a fun way and include hands-on activities like experiments, games and crafts. Visit ryelibrary.org for specific information about each session and to sign up. Pre-registration is required and opens a week in advance of the program.

Torn paper painting workshop

Join fellow art lovers to try your hand at torn paper painting for a two-session workshop at the Rye Free Reading Room on Saturdays, July 18 and 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Torn paper is an unconventional collage technique that is fun, creative and sure to produce beautiful results, even for the person with little or no art experience. The first session will be devoted to preparing papers of all types to be included in your painting. The next week, you will learn how to use the papers to create an art piece. Visit ryelibrary.org or call 231-3161 for more information.

Spin-A-Yarn

An open to the public needle work and fabric arts get-together on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Bring your own project and supplies and work and chat.

Wiggle, Giggle Time

Music and movement for ages 18 months to 4 years on Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:30 a.m., 10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. for 20 minutes in the Meeting Room. Participation from parents and caregivers is encouraged. As space is limited, you may attend one session per day. Doors close five minutes after the program begins to avoid interruptions. Call the Children’s Reference Desk at 231-3162 for more information.

For the Love of Dogs

Meet and greet some adorable canine friends who are up for adoption through For the Love of Dogs rescue center on Thursday, July 23 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Meet and interact with the canines and ask questions of the rescue center staff and volunteers. Applications for adoption will be available.

Poetry group

Read and share your thoughts about contemporary poems with fellow poetry lovers in lively monthly discussions led by Michael Alcee on Thursday, July 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Ogden Nash Room.

Rye Arts Center

Summer program registration

Keeping kids’ creativity flowing is key to summer fun. Look no further than The Rye Arts Center, RAC, to find the perfect summer program or class for your child. There is a broad range of weekly as well as summer-long programs for kids ages 4 through teen and adults. RAC will provide complete flexibility to keep a child of any age, ability and interest busy with creative fun. Programs begin June 29 and can be combined for a half or full day, by the week or multiple weeks to suit everyone’s schedule.

Also new is the RAC’s Makerspace classes which feature both high-tech and high-touch fun in designing, creating and making. Classes include coding, Minecraft 3-D design and printing, filmmaking, LittleBits, MakeyMakey, Scratch animation, circuitry, Arduino, electronics and creative building.

Musical theater workshop weeks will feature opportunities to perform stage favorites “Willy Wonka” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” For tweens, fresh air and fine arts will be offered with the RAC’s new plein-air painting class for ages 11 to 14.

Rounding out the RAC’s summer offerings are workshops in traditional fine arts including painting, drawing, cartooning, ceramics, digital photography, writers’ workshops, vocal pop workshops and music instruction. For young artists ages 4 to 10, the RAC offers a three-hour-long creative arts immersion morning program.

The summer guide can be found online at ryeartscenter.org. For questions, call 967-0700 or stop in at the main office located at 51 Milton Road, Rye.

Rye Nature Center

Summer camp

The Rye Nature Center offers an adventurous and educational summer program for children aged 3-and-a-half to 15 years old. Set on 47 acres of forest and trails, the camp creates an ideal setting for children to enjoy the outdoors. The Nature Center offers a hands-on approach to scientific inquiry and gives young naturalists the chance to encounter animals both in the museum and on the property. Registration for summer camp 2015 is now open. For more information, call 967-5150 or email allisonbedosky@ryenaturecenter.org.

Golf tournament in Greenwich

The 26th Annual George J. Kirby Memorial Golf Tournament will be held Monday, July 20 at 11:30 a.m. at the Griffith E. Harris (The Griff) Golf Course in Greenwich, Conn. The participation fee is $175, which includes the cost of the tournament and a following dinner hosted by Kelly’s at the Rye Recreation Park.

More than 300 Rye senior citizens are able to participate in cultural, educational and health programs plus seasonal luncheon events every year thanks to generous local business and individual sponsorships. Become a lead sponsor by donating a check in the amount of $150 or more. Checks should be made payable to Rye Senior Citizens and can be sent to: Jerry McGuire, 411 Midland Ave., Rye, NY 10580.

For more information about event sponsorship or golf and dinner reservations, contact Jerry McGuire at 490-8641.

RyeTV telecast

Kent Iarocci has a telecast titled “Square?” His telecast is on RyeTV. It is educational, environmental and recreational. Visit ryetv.org for a schedule of upcoming programs.

Deadline for our What’s Going On section is every Thursday at noon. Though space
is not guaranteed, we will do our best to accommodate your listing. Please send
all items to news@hometwn.com.

 
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City pays another $20K in Holmes case

The City of Rye lost another $20,000 when its insurance carrier, Travelers, decided to settle a second letter of demand that stemmed from criminal actions of John Holmes, pictured, a former auxiliary police officer. File photo

The City of Rye lost another $20,000 when its insurance carrier, Travelers, decided to settle a second letter of demand that stemmed from criminal actions of John Holmes, pictured, a former auxiliary police officer. File photo

By JACKSON CHEN
The City of Rye will fork over another $20,000 as its insurance carrier has settled a second civil rights letter of demand involving an unlawful traffic stop by a former Rye auxiliary police officer.

The latest letter of demand was a direct result of an incident on June 20, 2014, when John “Jack” Holmes unlawfully pulled over an individual in Saratoga, N.Y. With no actual police authority and not on the city’s police force at the time, Holmes still identified himself as Detective Jack Holmes of Westchester County when he pulled over a vehicle that belonged to John Turi, a public defender for Rensselaer County.

Turi, represented by the attorneys of the Law Offices of Kurt Mausert, filed a letter of demand for $20,000 with the City of Rye and its police department for allegedly violating his first, fourth and 14th amendment rights. The case was automatically overtaken by the city’s insurance company, Travelers, and settled in late May.

Shortly following Turi’s settlement, a passenger in his vehicle, Anthony Rogers, also filed a letter of demand for $20,000 against the city in early June, according to records obtained by the Review.

Also represented by Mausert, the letter of demand for the passenger said “Rogers was subjected to the same illegal seizure and detention that Mr. Turi suffered and should be entitled to the same damages.”
According to Mausert, the city’s insurance company agreed to again settle the matter to his client’s satisfaction approximately three weeks ago.

Rogers’ letter of demand said that Holmes approached the vehicle on the passenger side. Rogers, who is an African-American, said in the letter that there may have been “racial motivation on behalf of Mr. Holmes” because Holmes’ demeanor and facial expressions were directed towards Rogers.

As for the quick decision on a settlement, Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, said that Travelers’ decision wasn’t done with the consent of the city.

“I don’t see how the actions of this person make the City of Rye liable,” Sack said. “This insurance company decided to settle the case on their own.”

Sack added that he wouldn’t have paid any money on a claim he didn’t think was legitimate. Holmes, now a resident of Port Chester, had an extensive history with Rye, but has since been kept at arm’s length. As a result of his criminal charges stemming from the Saratoga incident, Holmes pleaded to undergo anger management counseling and not apply for an auxiliary police position with the city for one year.

On top of these civil rights violations in Saratoga, Holmes also was involved in a similar incident at the Rye Ridge Shopping Center in Rye Brook in October 2010. According to police, Holmes allegedly harassed a female motorist in the shopping center’s parking lot by overextending his authority as an auxiliary police officer for the city.

Holmes was also arrested in 2013 for submitting a falsified letter to secure a police uniform contract with the city’s police department that would benefit his own company, New England Sportswear, which is located in White Plains.

Despite a history of reckless behavior, Holmes was reinstated to the city’s auxiliary force in March 2014 after his suspension for falsifying records to secure the uniform bid was lifted. While Rye Police Lt. Robert Falk, who was serving as an interim police commissioner at the time, was fine with Holmes being reappointed to the force again, the Rye City Council condemned the decision.

Ultimately, Holmes was asked to resign from his auxiliary position in June 2014.

City Attorney Kristen Wilson and representatives of Travelers could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
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NRHS seniors graduate, honor WWII veteran

WWII veteran William Moye, who turned 100 this year, left New Rochelle High School early to serve in the war. This year, he was presented with an honorary diploma.

WWII veteran William Moye, who turned 100 this year, left New Rochelle High School early to serve in the war. This year, he was presented with an honorary diploma.

McKenna Field behind New Rochelle High School was lined with attendees shoulder-to-shoulder on June 25 to watch the graduating Class of 2015 receive their diplomas.

Straddling the 50-yard line, the seniors sat in foldout chairs wearing their purple and white gowns and listened to a list of guest speakers that included New Rochelle High School Principal Reginald Richardson, Class Valedictorian David Schwartz and Class President Heather Manley.

“I will miss seeing you in the hallways, on the stage, competing in games, studying in the library or not studying,”
Richardson said during his commencement address. “Every graduating class has a personality; boy did 2015 ever have a personality. You were not the shy and quiet class…I will miss the great times we’ve had together.”

During the ceremony, Richardson also presented a diploma to someone who attended New Rochelle High School decades ago.

WWII veteran William Moye, 100, who left New Rochelle High School early to serve in the war, was presented with an honorary diploma. Moye received a standing ovation.

“This is the proudest day of my life,” the WWII veteran said.

The ovation lasted for several minutes before simmering down. Then it was the seniors’ turn to receive their diplomas. One by one they were called, shook hands with their principal and accepted their diploma that will catapult them into the next stage of their lives.

-Reporting by Chris Eberhart

Harrison-hotel2

State passes hotel tax for Harrison

The Town/Village of Harrison recently received word that its request for authorization to implement a hotel tax has passed through the New York Legislature. Harrison had failed repeatedly to try to gain such authorization for its two hotels. Mayor Ron Belmont said, according to estimates, Harrison could see an excess of $200,000 in additional revenue per year from the Hyatt House and Renaissance Westchester Hotel, pictured. Photo courtesy marriott.com

The Town/Village of Harrison recently received word that its request for authorization to implement a hotel tax has passed through the New York Legislature. Harrison had failed repeatedly to try to gain such authorization for its two hotels. Mayor Ron Belmont said, according to estimates, Harrison could see an excess of $200,000 in additional revenue per year from the Hyatt House and Renaissance Westchester Hotel, pictured. Photo courtesy marriott.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 the Town/Village of Harrison, after years of unsuccessfully trying to petition the state for the tax.

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’s already in place, passed in the Democratic-led state Assembly but was repeatedly shot down by the Republican-controlled state 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 the Westchester communities and three upstate counties.

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

“Under the old leadership, I don’t think these bills pass,” Paulin said. “This was the window of opportunity, and if we didn’t get it done now, we don’t know if we’d ever get it done.”

But the Republicans in the Senate was just one of the roadblocks.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been against a hotel occupancy tax for the same reason as the Senate, still has to sign the bill into law, and then the local municipalities have to vote to pass the authorization. All the state bills do is allow the local municipalities to establish the hotel occupancy tax. Locally, the municipality still has to follow the steps of establishing a new law.

With two hotels in Harrison, the Renaissance Westchester Hotel and Hyatt House, Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said he is hoping to see in excess of $200,000 in annual revenue from the hotel tax.

“Anytime we get to add some relief to our property owners it’s a relief for
everyone,” Belmont said.

Cities such as White Plains, New Rochelle, Rye 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, $280,000 and $150,000 annually in hotel taxes, respectively, while Rye Brook collects approximately $630,000 annually.

The authorization has a sunset clause requiring communities to reapply for the tax every three years.

-with reporting by James Pero

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 

 

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Mayor, deputy mayor seek re-election

Coming as no surprise, the incumbent mayor, Norman Rosenblum, left, and the incumbent deputy mayor, Lou Santoro, announced their re-election campaign recently. Photos courtesy Lou Santoro

Coming as no surprise, the incumbent mayor, Norman Rosenblum, left, and the incumbent deputy mayor, Lou Santoro, announced their re-election campaign recently. Photos courtesy Lou Santoro

By JACKSON CHEN
Familiar faces will appear on the Village of Mamaroneck’s Republican ticket in this year’s Board of Trustees election. 

Mayor Norman Rosenblum, 72, and Trustee Lou Santoro, 57, both Republicans, will each be seeking their fourth term as mayor and trustee, respectively.

Rosenblum said the duo is running in 2015 for the same reasons they ran together the first time in 2009. “We didn’t like where the Village of Mamaroneck was when it first started,” the mayor said of his motivation.

Rosenblum added that since taking elected office, the village is now very successful and has been highly rated several times by unbiased national groups, including “CNN Money” and Movoto, a popular real estate website.

“The reason you want to run again, quite honestly, is the positive feedback we get from people,” Rosenblum said. “It’s unbelievable and you keep getting reinforced.”

For the three-term mayor, one of the most impactful changes in the village includes the noticeable amount of development throughout. “There’s a tremendous amount of development that’s going on and we’re doing it very successfully [with] a real key, which I believe is maintaining the character and quality of life in the Village of Mamaroneck,” Rosenblum said.

The mayor added that “any community that doesn’t continue to develop will die from atrophy.”

While new businesses and structures are steadily being constructed, Rosenblum and Santoro, who also serves as deputy mayor, said there’s still some unfinished business that they’d like to see through, and therefore have a desire to continue to serve the village.

Like many municipalities, the village is facing the countywide issue of an extremely worn sewer infrastructure system. According to Rosenblum, the village is always planning ahead on water-related issues by creating a flood mitigation plan, developing a comprehensive infrastructure plan and working with FEMA.

Besides dealing with a failing sewer infrastructure, the mayor and deputy mayor had a hand in pushing forward a large piece of development-friendly legislation, commonly referred to as the transit oriented development, or TOD. The controversial law was aimed at capitalizing on development prospects for areas next to the Metro-North train station in Mamaroneck, but caught the ire of some local residents and their concerns over the potential for increasing flood issues in the area.

Adding onto their three terms of experience in handling village business, both Rosenblum and Santoro have consistently acquired the endorsements of the Republican, Conservative and Independence parties in every election, including the current election season.

Santoro attributes the pair’s success and popularity to being more accessible and hands-on than their counterparts.

“We’re out walking the streets,” Santoro said. “No matter where we go—the gym, restaurants, down by the harbor—people see us and know us.”

In terms of their challengers, Rosenblum said the anti-development sentiments and possibility for conflicts of interests would give the incumbents an advantage. Democratic mayoral candidate Dan Natchez, president of Shore Acres Property Owners Association and a former village trustee, is headlining a ticket that also includes trustee candidate Thomas Burt, a Democratic district leader with experience in class action lawsuits.

The mayor serves a two-year term and is paid an annual stipend of $8,427, while village board trustees also serve two-year terms and are paid $4,590 annually. Election Day is set for Tuesday, Nov. 3.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
Hilton_Westchester2

State passes hotel tax for Tuckahoe

The Village of Tuckahoe recently received word that its request for authorization to implement a hotel tax has passed through the New York Legislature. Tuckahoe is in the planning stages of constructing a hotel on Marbledale Road. The Westchester Hilton in Rye Brook, pictured, currently brings in approximately $600,000 in revenue from its hotel tax. Photo courtesy hilton.com

The Village of Tuckahoe recently received word that its request for authorization to implement a hotel tax has passed through the New York Legislature. Tuckahoe is in the planning stages of constructing a hotel on Marbledale Road. The Westchester Hilton in Rye Brook, pictured, currently brings in approximately $600,000 in revenue from its hotel tax. Photo courtesy hilton.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 the villages of Tuckahoe and Mamaroneck and 

the Town/Village of Harrison, after years of unsuccessfully trying to petition the state for the tax.

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’s already in place, passed in the Democratic-led state Assembly but was repeatedly shot down by the Republican-controlled state 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 the Westchester communities and three upstate counties.

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

“Under the old leadership, I don’t think these bills pass,” Paulin said. “This was the window of opportunity, and if we didn’t get it done now, we don’t know if we’d ever get it done.”

But the Republicans in the Senate were just one of the roadblocks.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been against a hotel occupancy tax for the same reason as the Senate, still has to sign the bill into law, and then, the local municipalities have to vote to pass the authorization. All the state bills do is allow the local municipalities to establish the hotel occupancy tax. Locally, the municipality still has to follow the steps of establishing a new law.

In Tuckahoe, the village Planning Board is currently vetting a proposal to build a Marriott Springhill Suite hotel on the old quarry site on Marbledale Road. If the hotel occupancy tax were to be implemented, travelers who stay in the hotel would pay a tax to the village, which in turn would allow the village to lower property taxes for
village residents.

Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond, a Republican, said if the bill becomes law in the village and the hotel is built, Tuckahoe could collect an additional $150,000 per year that would go toward lowering village taxes.

“I have been working with many people on both sides of the aisle over the past few days to get this done,” Ecklond said, “and I am pleased that everyone worked together to do what is best for Tuckahoe.”

State Sen. George Latimer, a Rye Democrat, has been a proponent of the hotel tax carrying the bill on behalf of several municipalities over the last few years. Latimer said it isn’t a new tax and primarily affects out-of-towners as opposed to local taxpayers.

“This is about creating a new revenue stream for the village to keep property taxes for residents down,” said Latimer, who carried the bill in the Senate for Tuckahoe for the past two years.

Cities such as White Plains, New Rochelle, Rye 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, $280,000 and $150,000 annually in hotel taxes, respectively, while Rye Brook collects approximately $630,000 annually.

The authorization has a sunset clause requiring communities to reapply for the tax every three years.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
Osborn Elementary School teacher Carin Mehler will return to the classroom as a sixth-grade Social Studies teacher after more than two years of reassignment imposed by the Rye School District. File Photo

Reassigned Osborn teacher to return to classroom

Osborn Elementary School teacher Carin Mehler will return to the classroom as a sixth-grade Social Studies teacher after more than two years of reassignment imposed by the Rye School District. File Photo

Osborn Elementary School teacher Carin Mehler will return to the classroom as a sixth-grade Social Studies teacher after more than two years of reassignment imposed by the Rye School District. File Photo

By CHRIS EBERHART
The Rye City School District decided not to bring charges against Carin Mehler, the reassigned Osborn School teacher who was accused of improper coaching during state tests in 2013, and instead sent her a letter on June 26 stating she will be assigned to the Rye Middle School to teach sixth grade Social Studies at the start of the 2015-2016 school year in September. 

Mehler’s return marks the end of a more than two-year absence from the classroom after the school district reassigned her and three other teachers for allegedly coaching students during state exams in May 2013. Mehler was being paid $127,000 in salary per year while the school district investigated the allegations.

But the school district said in a statement that was released on June 27 that it did not wish to pursue Mehler’s case in court to protect the children involved from being exposed to the judicial system.

“While the district cannot comment about any of the specifics regarding this case, the district has made a determination not to pursue charges against Mrs. Mehler,” Rye City Superintendent of School Dr. Frank Alvarez said. “The district wishes to spare children the experience of being subpoenaed, testifying before a hearing officer and being subjected to cross-examination by Mrs. Mehler’s attorney.”

Despite news of Mehler’s return to the classroom, her attorney, Arthur Schwartz, said they are looking to file a second lawsuit for the damage done to her reputation.

“The treatment of Carin Mehler—holding her up to public ridicule, assigning her to a windowless room for a year and ‘reassigning’ her to work at home for a second year—was contrary to everything we teach our children about our country. We are supposed to give people due process when we deprive them of life, liberty or property,” Schwartz said. “Carin Mehler begged for due process. She went to court and the district said they would eventually bring charges. But they didn’t.”

Mehler filed an initial lawsuit against the school district, Alvarez and each individual member of the Board of Education in March 2014 alleging the school district violated her civil rights because it kept her on paid reassignment despite not bringing charges against her.

But since Mehler was being paid during her reassignment, U.S. Judge Cathy Seibel, who was overseeing the case, dismissed the lawsuit this May stating Mehler cannot claim to be deprived because she was being paid.

The school district’s attorney Gus Mountanos said the court’s decision to dismiss Mehler’s original lawsuit shows none of her due process rights were violated.

“As the court clearly and explicitly held in its decision and order of May 26, 2015, Mrs. Mehler was at no time deprived of her due process rights in connection with her reassignment,” Mountanos said. “In effect, the decision states that she was not deprived of any rights, property, contractual benefits, or anything else that would serve as the basis for a suit premised upon alleged due process violations.”

Mehler’s return to the classroom marks the end of the saga of the reassigned teachers with all four of the accused having reached resolutions.

The other three teachers who were reassigned—Shannon Gold, a fourth-grade teacher at Milton Elementary School, Gail Topol, a third-grade teacher at Osborn and Dana Coppola, a third-grade teacher at Milton—already reached settlements with the school district.

Gold resigned in January 2014; Topol agreed to pay a $2,500 fine and convert 27 days of her administrative reassignment into a paid suspension in exchange for returning to the classroom in February 2014; and Coppola returned to the classroom in September after agreeing to pay a fine of $18,000.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com 

 
Save the Sound, a non-profit organization that cleans and protects the Long Island Sound, issued a notice of intent to sue Westchester County due to ongoing sanitary overflows. Photo courtesy Save the Sound

Non-profit looks to sue county

Save the Sound, a non-profit organization that cleans and protects the Long Island Sound, issued a notice of intent to sue Westchester County due to ongoing sanitary overflows. Photo courtesy Save the Sound

Save the Sound, a non-profit organization that cleans and protects the Long Island Sound, issued a notice of intent to sue Westchester County due to ongoing sanitary overflows. Photo courtesy Save the Sound

By JACKSON CHEN
A non-profit environmental organization has filed a notice of intent to sue Westchester County for ongoing violations of leaking sewer pipes and frequent overflows in early June. 

The legal notice, filed by Save the Sound, a New Haven, Conn., and Mamaroneck-based organization that works to restore and protect the Long Island Sound, gives the county 60 days to remediate several water impairment issues the organization has noted over the years.

“For over a decade, state, county and municipal officials have failed to effectively address sewer overflows and leaking sewer pipes in Westchester County,” said Roger Reynolds, legal director of Save the Sound. “Without an action like this, we’re unlikely to see meaningful progress.”

According to Save the Sound’s notice, the county has allegedly discharged “partially treated sewage” on Dec. 9 and 10, 2014 from a sanitary sewer overflow control facility in the New Rochelle sewer district, which violates a permit the county received for the Clean Water Act.

Adding onto the alleged illegal discharge, the organization’s notice said that Westchester County has failed to enforce the County Sewer Act, which limits levels of flow from the municipalities in the New Rochelle, Mamaroneck, Blind Brook and Port Chester sanitary sewer districts.

As for their third reason, the notice of intent to sue alleges that the county also failed to implement state-mandated flow reduction requirements within the impacted municipalities. While there are only four sewer districts named in the notice, the combined facilities serve most of the lower Westchester communities, including New Rochelle, Harrison, White Plains and the Town of Mamaroneck.

“The county and the municipalities have known since at least 2003 that much more is needed to be done to fix these problems and the actions taken so far have been woefully inadequate,” Reynolds said.

When reached for comment this week, Phil Oliva, a spokesman for Republican County Executive Rob Astorino, told the Review, “We will review the documents being submitted and the other regulatory items that are pertinent to this action.”

In December 2014, the Village of Mamaroneck, which is one of the listed communities in the notice, attempted to address the overflow issues by repairing deteriorating sewer mains and conducting home inspections on illegal hookups that contribute to the overflow problem.

Further inland than Mamaroneck, the Village of Bronxville hired consultants to assist them in cleaning out and video monitoring approximately 39,000 feet of sewer main in May 2014. And higher up in the governmental hierarchy, New York recently announced a $200 million program that was created to help municipalities fund any capital projects that would improve water quality infrastructure projects as part of the 2015-2016 state budget.

Despite the effort that has been put in by the county and the individual municipalities, the sanitary sewage overflow continues and the crumbling infrastructure problem persists throughout.

According to Save the Sound’s water quality testing in 2014, several areas within the Mamaroneck Harbor and Hutchinson River showed samples with failing levels of fecal contamination over a testing period of several days. The continuing issue of poor water quality and overflow issues was what led Save the Sound to present the county with legal action.

In the past, the county has been served with numerous consent orders from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which seems to be the extent of the legal action taken to address water concerns, according to Reynolds.

However, Reynolds said those orders have not been enough and the county has had no activity in improving conditions in the last 10 years.

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

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 
The Mamaroneck Hotel, 1015 W. Boston Post Road, will soon be charging a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax on its patrons after the village was granted the authority by the state to do so. The village had been pursuing a hotel tax unsuccessfully for years.  File Photo

State passes hotel tax for Mamaroneck

The Mamaroneck Hotel, 1015 W. Boston Post Road, will soon be charging a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax on its patrons after the village was granted the authority by the state to do so. The village had been pursuing a hotel tax unsuccessfully for years.  File Photo

The Mamaroneck Hotel, 1015 W. Boston Post Road, will soon be charging a 3 percent hotel occupancy tax on its patrons after the village was granted the authority by the state to do so. The village had been pursuing a hotel tax unsuccessfully for years. File Photo

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 the Village of Mamaroneck, after years of unsuccessfully trying to petition the state for the tax.

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’s already in place, passed in the Democratic-led state Assembly but was repeatedly shot down by the Republican-controlled state 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 the Westchester communities and three upstate counties.

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

“Under the old leadership, I don’t think these bills pass,” Paulin said. “This was the window of opportunity, and if we didn’t get it done now, we don’t know if we’d ever get it done.”

But the Republicans in the Senate were just one of the roadblocks.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been against a hotel occupancy tax for the same reason as the Senate, still has to sign the bill into law, and then the local municipalities have to vote to pass the authorization. All the state bills do is allow the local municipalities to establish the hotel occupancy tax. Locally, the municipality still has to follow the steps of establishing a new law.

In Mamaroneck, the ability to implement the tax on patrons of the village’s two hotels is estimated to yield up to $25,000 a year in revenue, according to Assistant Village Manager Daniel Sarnoff.

Vincent & Sons is located on East Boston Post Road and the Mamaroneck Hotel on West Boston Post Road.

The lure of the hotel tax is the cost is covered primarily by those outside of the community and therefore doesn’t impact the local taxpayer. It serves as a revenue generator for communities outside of the property tax.

“It’s very important to the Village of Mamaroneck,” Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said. “It will allow the village to have revenue based on outside visitors. We happen to have two hotels in the village of Mamaroneck and we will benefit from it.”

Cities such as White Plains, New Rochelle, Rye 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, $280,000 and $150,000 annually in hotel taxes, respectively, while Rye Brook collects approximately $630,000 annually.

The authorization has a sunset clause requiring communities to reapply for the tax every three years.

-with reporting by James Pero

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 

 

The City of Rye has decided to sue its insurance carrier, Travelers, for failing to decide a multimillion dollar insurance claim that dates back to 2013. File photo

City sues Travelers over golf club claim

The City of Rye has decided to sue its insurance carrier, Travelers, for failing to decide a multimillion dollar insurance claim that dates back to 2013. File photo

The City of Rye has decided to sue its insurance carrier, Travelers, for failing to decide a multimillion dollar insurance claim that dates back to 2013. File photo

By JACKSON CHEN
The City of Rye has decided to sue its insurance carrier for inactivity on a nearly $2 million claim regarding stolen money from the city’s golf club. 

Represented by Jaffe and Asher LLP, a law firm with its headquarters in New York City, Rye has filed a complaint against Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America for more than $1.8 million plus a 9 percent per year interest rate. According to the complaint, Travelers has failed to honor its insurance policy and reimburse the city for nearly two years, dating back to the initial filing of a $2.1 million insurance claim in August 2013.

The claim was submitted on the heels of the money stolen by former Rye Golf Club Manager Scott Yandrasevich, when he bilked the golf club members out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As part of the complaint, the Rye City Council included its investigation report that was completed with the assistance of Brune and Richard LLP, and Breen and Associates, a financial investigations firm.

According to the report, the council said that the RM Staffing, a shell company used by Yandrasevich, invoiced and received more than $7 million from the city for its supposed work with the golf club from April 2007 to September 2012. Additionally, the council’s report adds that the invoices from RM Staffing were vague in description and often did not include full names of employees.

The report mentioned an example where the shell company invoiced and was paid more than $250,000 for a fake employee named “Lisa.” Among many other questionable charges, the council added in its report that Studio Y, an affiliated shell company of RM Staffing, had invoices that totaled more than $690,000.

The infamous former manager resigned amid allegations of embezzlement amounting to approximately $342,120 in January 2013. Then last year, Yandrasevich plead guilty to charges of grand larceny and falsifying records. He is currently awaiting sentencing on July 30.

According to Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, the city attorney has been in contact with Travelers, but they have not taken any position on the claim or “given any indication that they’re going to live up to their obligations.”

“We want an answer,” Sack said. “Even if that answer was no, at least we could have been guided accordingly. But this is the best way we have to protect our rights at the present time.”

The complaint, which was filed on June 15, was a result of a summons and notice that the city filed on Feb. 26. The complaint also said that Travelers breached the insurance contract with the city by taking no action on the claim and emphasized that the former manager pleaded guilty, admitted wrongdoing and is currently awaiting sentencing.

As part of a plea agreement, the former manager is expected to pay restitution, totaling $271,120, to the City of Rye for the money he defrauded from the club and its members through several shell staffing companies. Kristen Wilson, the city attorney, could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com