Category Archives: Bronxville Today

Marvin-Mary

Column: What to do about pensions

The subject of pension liabilities is always an issue of concern for governments, but two recent events brought it to the forefront once again.

Central States Fund, a prominent Teamster pension fund and one of the nation’s largest, has filed for reorganization under a new federal law and informed its more than 400,000 members that their benefits must be cut.

Cutting retirees’ benefits has generally been thought undoable, but the director of the Teamster fund believes that reducing the payouts is the only realistic way to make any of the money last. Currently, the Central States Fund pays out $3.46 in benefits to its retirees for every $1 it receives in employer contributions, resulting in a pension capital fund reserve that will run out in 10 to 15 years. Conversely, restructuring could make the fund last 50 more years. The fund chairman, unlike many government leaders, realized that the responsible thing, not the politically expedient thing, was to confront the problem now.

The governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, took the same principled approach. After a four-year overhaul and intense union negotiations, a new pension plan was enacted that neither raised taxes nor forced the purchase of risky pension obligation bonds. To reach this result, retirees had to trade in part of their defined benefit pension plan for a 401(k)-style plan where they must bear some of the investment risk.

Mired in Illinois’ $110 billion shortfall, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago is also attempting to get a handle on pension costs, but the outcome has been very different due to a very important variance in state law.

Most states, including Illinois and New York, took steps long ago to make pensions creatures of contract law versus that of a statutory right á la Rhode Island, and the distinction is critical.

Statutes are relatively easy to change by simple amendment, but pension “contract” states have to confront a clause in the United States Constitution that bans them from enacting any law that retroactively impairs contract rights.

The clause dates all the way back to post-Revolutionary America and was created as a way for the Founding Fathers to stop the states from giving themselves debt relief.

In essence, Gov. Raimondo had bargaining leverage that Mayor Emmanuel does not.

Mayor Emmanuel successfully negotiated compromises with 30 of his 33 unions. The deal collapsed when some holdouts filed an injunction to stay the new plan until the Supreme Court of Illinois decided the constitutionality of a concurrent case concerning an Illinois state pension revision.

The court found the state’s restructuring unconstitutional, and soon after, a Cook County judge ruled the decision binding on Chicago as well.

The effect on Albany did not go unnoticed as Illinois’ constitutional provision nearly verbatim mirrors that of New York’s, which defines membership in a governmental pension system as a “contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or repaired.”

The Illinois court went even further and disallowed any attempt to reduce the future benefits not yet earned by people still working in government.

New York officials have always presumed that our constitutional language would be interpreted in a like manner, i.e. entitling public employees to earn all the benefits offered by the pension system at the time of their hire.

That is why the few reforms of late have only focused on changing the rules for new “tiers” of employees not yet hired.

As a result of the court’s interpretation, the current reality for Chicago is a record-breaking property tax increase. Mayor Emmanuel stated his only other option to bridge the gaping financial hole was to layoff thousands of police and firefighters and forestall street repairs and rodent control programs, making in his words the city of Chicago “unlivable.”

At the Illinois state level, the governor is scrambling to avert the same draconian choice of deep spending cuts or exorbitant tax hikes by proposing a constitutional amendment that limits current employees from being entitled to pension benefits they have yet to earn.

Likewise, but with a zero chance of passing in New York, Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Suffolk County has proposed a similar constitutional amendment.

Faced with what appears to be an almost insurmountable legal firewall, some financial analysts are urging Congress to enact a law enabling states to declare bankruptcy the way municipalities such as Detroit and San Bernardino, Calif., did under Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. California and Illinois are in such extremis that the possibility is not so far-fetched. As a nation, it is estimated that we now have unfunded public pension liabilities of as much as $3 trillion. The logic flows that even the threat of bankruptcy and the attenuating change in financial obligations would give governors and legislatures a powerful new weapon to achieve concessions.

I don’t know where the answers or solutions lie, but I know it is not by not confronting the issue head on. Inaction is a clear and dangerous action and as the fund manager of the Central States plan stated, it is also “irresponsible.”

The state of New York must do something soon and significant. A union leader in Rhode Island put it best when he said, “A settlement can be fair and heartbreaking at the same time.”

Marvin-Mary

Column: More history of the Metro-North train system

My continued sojourns to Brooklyn have prompted me to become more interested in our train station and railroad system as well as the nearby environment.

The current station is actually the third permutation of a rail station in our village. The first was a wooden house built in 1844 on the village’s east side when the tracks were laid, and Bronxville was known as Underhill’s Crossing. Its architectural distinction was separate waiting rooms for men and women. Starting in 1852, it also served as our first post office replete with 14 mail slots for local deliveries.

In 1893, again on the east side only, a stone and wood structure was built to emulate a country home. During the period of 1904 to 1914, seven people died at the crossing to the west side, but only after much controversy, the underpass was constructed and a second west side station was built in 1916. Designed in a Spanish Mission revival style to mirror the nearby Gramatan Hotel, our current station had a baggage room and rows of church pews in the nave-like main room.

The last restoration was in 1998, coinciding with the village’s 100th birthday celebration.

The current Metro-North rail system, under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, resulted from the early mergers of the New York Central and Pennsylvania railroads. The larger entity was created by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller as a public benefit corporation in 1965 as a way to purchase and operate what was a bankrupt LIRR system.

The MTA has the distinction of being the largest regional public transportation provider in the Western Hemisphere with a catchment area of
5000, square miles and 14.6 million people.

The system operates in 12 New York state counties, as well as two in Connecticut. Eleven million people travel the rails daily, with 800,000 passengers using the seven bridges and two tunnels in the system on a daily basis.

The Bronxville commute is traditionally on 12 car trains, traversing 15.3 miles in 36 to 42 minutes. When the system first started, the same trip took 62 minutes; and when I moved here more than 20 years ago, it was only a 28-minute ride. The Metro-North rail fleet is significantly older than the LIRR equipment and travels 24
percent fewer miles before breaking down.

It currently takes 65,000 employees to operate the system, with a budget of $14 billion, two-thirds of which go to the employees. Due to some comparatively generous labor agreements, 40 percent of the aggregate labor costs fund healthcare, pension benefits, retiree health care and other fringe benefits.

Actual train ticket costs cover only 40 percent of the yearly operating costs, with tolls only covering 12 percent of bridge and tunnel expenses.

The balance is made up by seven separate taxes paid by the state, New York City and the adjacent New York state counties. The balance and fairness of payment obligations is a current source of tension between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Currently, the state contribution is only 4 percent of the yearly obligation.

What came as a complete surprise to me and most of my elected colleagues is a “platform maintenance tax” imbedded in our county tax bill.

Westchester County and its property taxpayers contribute $28 million yearly to the MTA under this obligation. The Town of Eastchester pays $1.3 million of this total, with Bronxville’s share amounting to $406,000 annually.

Residents from Connecticut pay zero toward the platform maintenance tax despite heavy rail usage and the presence of multiple stations, while residents of Pound Ridge pay $372,000, without even having a platform to maintain. One only has to look at our station to know nothing close to $400,000 annually is dedicated to station maintenance. As a point of interest, the village has often offered to paint fences, clean up garbage and repair benches on Metro-North property but the MTA has turned them down due to liability and insurance issues.

Riders from Connecticut provide $156 million less in subsidies than the yearly MTA services they consume, with New Jersey riders contributing $56 million less than their proportional share.

Adding inequality to inequality, New York state businesses, including village government, also pay a payroll tax directly to the MTA to offset the deficit. In the village’s case, it is $30,000-plus per year or almost a half of a percent tax obligation in our budget.

The entire system is governed by a 19-member board with seats earned through political appointment rather than expertise in the transportation delivery system. The governor appoints five members, the New York City mayor appoints four, and the county executives of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester appoint one each.

The county executives of Rockland, Dutchess, Orange and Putnam each get an appointment, though their representatives only account for a one quarter vote each. The remaining seats are filled by members of organized labor and a citizens’ advisory committee.

The Westchester Municipal Officials Association, which represents all 45 Westchester communities, has joined the argument against the inequitable platform tax as an additional burden on Westchester property taxpayers versus Connecticut residents who are a significant percentage of the MTA New Haven ridership but are exempt from the tax.

In short, Connecticut residents who take advantage of the rail system daily are having their costs subsidized by Westchester residents, many of whom do not use the train service.

I urge you to reach out to our legislators to redress the imbalance. Unfortunately, this is just another reason why New Yorkers are often reluctantly leaving the area because of our high cost of living.

Marvin-Mary

Column: Kensington Road project clears final hurdles

I am pleased to announce that after more than 30 years—hard to believe—the Kensington Road development has overcome the final hurdles, most notably issues with our monopolies United Water, Metro-North and Con Edison, and a sales office will open in mid-October at 9 Park Place in the village.

The Kensington Road site has had a turbulent history, as developers either proposed projects that do not keep with the village character or have arrived only to be stymied by the economic downturns of the early 1990s, and then again between 2008 and 2009.

The benefits of completing this project are at least fourfold: the village will no longer have a Brownfield site; our current zero tax benefit on the property will generate significant tax revenues for the village; residents and merchants will now have clean and safe indoor parking and the village’s aggregate inventory of spaces will increase; and the area will be graced with high-quality residential construction in a neighborhood compatible with Mediterranean/European-style architecture.

Amenities in the new development include a 24-hour concierge service, a private extension to the Metro-North platform, two covered parking spaces per unit, a fully-equipped fitness center, a play area for children, outdoor common spaces and an indoor entertainment space.

The condominium units themselves, an unprecedented half of which will have private outdoor patios or terraces, will also feature special urban windows, gourmet islands with top-of-the-line appliances, spa baths and open great rooms. The apartments vary in size, with five penthouse units available complete with wraparound terraces.

The parking garage is expected to be completed and in use by next summer with unit occupancy commencing in the spring of 2017.

The pricing plan has yet to be completed as the developer awaits final approvals from the New York State Attorney General’s Office. The sales office will offer a virtual tour of the apartments for purchase as well as a fully replicated kitchen and the opportunity for a consumer to choose their own interior finishes.

The project’s developer is Fareri and Associates of Greenwich, Conn. Owning or developing more than $600 million in real estate in Westchester and Fairfield counties, Fareri projects include The Harbor on the Greenwich waterfront as well as the Chieftains, a collection of 28 luxury homes built on the Gimbel estate also in Greenwich.

The company chairman, John Fareri, was also the founder of the $200 million Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla honoring the memory of his youngest daughter.

The village and the developer were sued this past spring by Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. for an alleged violation of the Fair Housing Act, claiming the project would
discriminate against families with children.

The following is a public statement by the village agreed upon by all three parties per the recent settlement of the lawsuit:

“In the past, we have described the new condominium project being built on Kensington Road, in Bronxville, as ‘age-targeted,’ and designed to accommodate empty nesters. With recent changes to our zoning code, this description no longer accurately describes the project.

“The Kensington Road project will not be ‘age-targeted.’ The village has amended the Bronxville code so that it no longer provides for an ‘age-targeted’ special permit.

“The Kensington Road developer has confirmed that the project will not be marketed specifically for empty nesters. It will be designed and marketed for all people, including families with school-age children.

“These changes are in keeping with Bronxville’s legal obligation under federal, state and local law and I am proud to say that these changes strengthen Bronxville’s commitment to providing equal housing opportunities for all people, without discrimination on the basis of family status or any other protected category.

“Bronxville is a wonderful place to raise children—with our great schools, beautiful parks and strong community. We certainly welcome new children in the Kensington Road project and throughout our village.”

We are pleased the lawsuit is resolved. We believe the Kensington condominiums will be a great new addition to our village, and we are excited to see them coming to fruition after many years of careful planning.

Marvin-Mary

Column: The history of Bronxville from a new platform

During my new and glorious role as first time grandmother, I find myself spending more and more time on the southbound side of our train station as I head to Brooklyn for a visit or to babysit.

Always too early, even for the on-schedule trains, I have taken to really studying the surrounding environment and I continue to be in awe of the beauty, gravitas and history of our village.

The train system I wait to catch first arrived in the village in 1844, more than 50 years before we were considered the Village of Bronxville. Our first petition attempt to incorporate was invalidated by the Eastchester town supervisor who declared the vote illegal because women had signed it. Now 53 percent of our village population is female, and I daresay Bronxville women can move mountains when called upon.

In fact, the village was a hot bed of the suffrage movement and it has been chronicled that in 1911, village women clapped so vociferously for their right to vote that they “split from thumb to wrist their arm-length suede gloves.”

The first actual village government was formed at “Dogwoods,” the home of Frances Bacon, newly-installed village president, at 61 Sagamore Road. Still familiar names, Bacon, Kraft and Ken Chambers were our first governing body.

Suffrage was not high on the agenda; rather, our first ordinances were for the fear of the establishment of saloons and brothels. Gambling and the use of profane language was outlawed as well. One of the first official acts was to create a village seal. The motif chosen was a bumblebee, though we don’t know why.

Under the category of “history always repeats itself,” addressing noise pollution was also an early priority. The same adage is true in reference to the neighborhood just to the back of me as I stand on the railroad platform. The Parkway Road residents formed a neighborhood association in the early 1900s named Bronxville Manor Improvement Association with the goal of addressing “public improvements long neglected.” As early as 1905, residents asked village government to address the decayed bridges on Parkway Road, soon to be followed by a petition to increase the inadequate street lighting.

These old meetings also observed the complete submersion of the old Girl Scout Cabin on Paxton Avenue due to catastrophic floods in 1910 and 1938.

The “Lowlands” neighborhood area near our present-day school was also plagued by early flooding. In 1920 when the current site on Pondfield was chosen for the public school, a village elder remarked that “the only problem was that much of it was covered by water.”

Chief among the tall buildings on the downtown side of the railroad is Lawrence Hospital, now part of the New York-Presbyterian network. It was created out of necessity as Dudley Lawrence, the son of the village founder William Van Duzer Lawrence, was struck with acute appendicitis while his parents were vacationing in Europe. The local doctor advised that an immediate operation was required, so a baggage car was outfitted with a bed and mattress from the family-owned Gramatan Hotel and attached to the first train coming south from White Plains. Dudley’s life was saved and his parents donated the land and a $250,000 endowment to open a village hospital on the site.

The crown jewel in the Lawrence family holdings was indeed the Gramatan Hotel. With 300 guest rooms and 165 private baths, it was home for extended stays by such notable guests as Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Teddy Roosevelt and even Greta Garbo, as well as many bachelors who were segregated to a separate wing for single gentlemen housing. It is also recorded that President John F. Kennedy was a very reluctant ballroom dance student at the hotel when it was first the home of the venerable Miss Covington’s School of Dance.

A particularly poignant story relating to the Gramatan Hotel surrounds the protracted death of a young 15-year-old visitor from Pittsburgh. Stricken with incurable influenza, Margaret Brown’s spiritual needs were tended to by the kind neighboring rector of Christ Church, Albert Wilson. To show their thanks, the Browns commissioned the very first stained glass window in Christ Church in gratitude to Rector Wilson and as a lasting Bronxville memory of their daughter.

The hotel closed in 1972 because of the increasing cost of taxes, labor and maintenance. The entire structure was demolished in just two days. The Gramatan Hotel was the early home for the village’s Catholic community. Without a church to call home, but with a congregation growing too large to continue to meet in private living rooms, the pastor of Tuckahoe’s Immaculate Conception Church rented space at the hotel for Sunday services. The present home of St. Joseph’s was not built until 1928.

As I stand on the train platform in the quiet off-hours now thrice weekly, my thoughts often revert to the prophetic words of famed architectural critic Paul Goldberger who spoke on the “Power of Place” at the Historical Conservancy’s First Annual Brendan Gill Lecture. He observed that Bronxville as a community has been “endlessly copied, but never matched.”

Note: Special thanks to the plethora of local historical books, lectures and journals and their esteemed authors from whom I have borrowed freely for this column.

Marvin-Mary

Column: What happened during summer’s ‘lazy days’

The “lazy days” of summer for Bronxville government, when residents’ needs decrease sharply, have been replaced by an aggressive program of infrastructure repair and improvements to take advantage of the slower village pace and traffic.

Chief among summer projects was the reopening of the Parkway Road Bridge. Though long in negotiation, it was brief in repair time. Thanks to financial and municipal partnerships with the City of Yonkers and the Town of Eastchester and the state through the intercession of Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, we have a bridge that now meets all NYSDOT structural and safety standards.

Road paving and curb reconstruction continued at an aggressive pace with parts of Midland Avenue, Garden Avenue and all of Stone Place, Studio Lane, Paxton Avenue, lower Milburn Street and a section of Kraft Avenue being resurfaced. Kraft Avenue was delayed so Con Edison could install an enhanced gas line to facilitate the needs of the soon to be opening Diner.

Literally as I write, our downtown crosswalks will be repainted and major intersections “re-stamped” to provide more clarity and safety for crossing.

More money than ever was spent this summer on a sewer cleaning and relining program. Based on the decades of buildup found in the system, we can only believe that drainage during storms will be improved significantly.

Meetings were held with our School Administration, professional engineers, FEMA officials and state and federal elected representatives to seek sources for additional funding to meet the 2016 costs of the flood mitigation project. Though there have been no firm commitments yet, we are confident the project will go forward if in perhaps a modified form.

The Kensington Road Project developers overcame the hurdles presented by the interfacing with all of our monopolies: United Water, Con Edison, and the MTA. The site is clear of all contaminants and work on the parking garage has begun in earnest. The sales office will open at 19 Park Place by mid-October.

An unusual number of our street trees, especially in the business district, did not survive the summer. As a result, in the coming weeks, you will see replacement trees planted throughout the village with a concentration in the downtown. The planting program was delayed due to the continuation of the oppressively hot weather.

Our traffic engineer is making finishing touches on proposed changes to the intersection at Midland Avenue and Pondfield Road to improve traffic flow and, most importantly, increase pedestrian safety especially for our schoolchildren walking to and from campus.

In partnership with Town Supervisor Colavita, we are very close to finalizing an agreement with county government to create an additional playing field on the Scout Field property. The plan will be fleshed out in the coming weeks.

The village board also codified some changes to our zoning code to make our village more business-friendly. Changes included allowing more food establishments to offer outdoor dining. Updating our zoning codes to better conform to the retail realities of 2015 is now an ongoing process.

The board’s decision to extend on-street-only meter hours was made in July in anticipation of a slow rollout so residents, merchants and visitors could acclimate to the new regulation. Even as of today, we continue to issue warnings, not tickets, until parkers are accustomed to the change.

The rationale for the change is threefold. We monitored the use of evening on-street parking and found that a majority of parkers were using the “free” spaces to head into Manhattan for the night and not for frequenting our restaurants or extended-hours stores. In order to ensure that the cars parked in front of our stores are patronizing them, meters have been programmed so they may be filled just once to cover the entire period of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so no one needs to leave a nice local dinner or movie to “feed” the meter.

All of our village lots continue to be free in the evenings, so the free parking option always remains. As an example, someone would have to fill the meter to park directly in front of the movie theater or have the choice to park in the nearby Kraft Lot for the free.

We might be late to the game, but we join all of our neighboring communities in extending parking meter hours into the evening. Although we are confident that the meter hour charges will free up spaces for the advantage of local businesses, the change also clearly has a financial benefit as well.

Projecting conservatively, the increased revenue on the village government side of the tax ledger will equate to a percentage point in tax savings. Given that Westchester County was recently rated the third most expensive place to live in the nation and Bronxville ranks near the top of locally taxed communities, every revenue increase/tax decrease is significant and sought out.

If you have any questions or thoughts about any of the above initiatives, please reach out to me at mayor@vobny.com.

Marvin-Mary

Column: More August projects and changes

As is my custom, this will be my last column until post-Labor Day. Given the time frame, I think it is apropos to highlight village projects and improvement activities that will be taking place within the coming weeks—or in essence, what to expect to see in the village upon your summer return.

Village government goes into overdrive during what are the most leisurely months for residents as we seek to complete the most disruptive projects while the village is at its quietest and least crowded. Our logic is that the associated noise, traffic detours and parking inconveniences should affect the least number of people possible.

Clearly, the most obviously disruptive project will be street repaving and curb replacement which has already begun on Paxton Avenue. Other streets slated to be repaved in the coming weeks include the Kraft and Garden avenues, the Milburn and Stone places and Studio Lane.

The decision as to which streets are repaved is made by our Department of Public Works based on the age of the road surface, the amount of traffic, the state of disrepair and the location in the village. We also try to coordinate our projects with Con Edison so recently paved streets do not end up subsequently being torn up for utility work. Even if your street does not make this year’s list for complete resurfacing, all of the potholes will be repaired. Continue to call Village Hall at 337-6500 if you believe your street should be on the list going forward as we catalog all requests and inspect accordingly.

Before repaving, all of the above streets will be “roughed” or milled with layers of deteriorated asphalt removed. Without doing this, the road beds would grow too high, detrimentally changing water flow and drainage routes.

In the theme of drainage, our FEMA project was approved in 2011 for a total grant of $5.1 million from the federal government based on a total project cost of $6.8 million. But the 2015 estimate of the cost of the project is now $11.2 million, representing a shortfall of $4.3 million.  Though the project primarily benefits our school district, by law, local government rather than the Board of Education must be the lead agency in securing funding. We are collaborating with our school officials to seek whatever grant monies there may be available to close the gap. Since the school’s loses due to flooding were so great, even the upwardly-revised mitigation costs are more than what meets FEMA’s and our engineering professionals’ cost/benefit analysis equation.  Unfortunately, due to the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy and other recent catastrophic events, FEMA’s reserves for our region are completely tapped out. We are in the process of reaching out to every elected official that represents us at the federal, state and county levels to seek new funding sources.

In positive funding news, the Parkway Road Bridge repairs are underway and set to be completed by September, thanks to contributions from the City of Yonkers, the Town of Eastchester and state aid secured by our Assemblywoman Amy Paulin.

We know the repairs clearly took longer than anyone anticipated, but in the long term, the joint funding and attendant
responsibilities provided the most prudent path to proceed to protect everyone’s interests going forward.

On other fronts, our police department asks that you confirm the registration of your home alarm system and stop by Village Hall to receive the new permit stickers. They are larger, more official-looking and easily noticed from the street. Check villageofbronxville.com for the alarm permit distribution hours.

The rock hammering and removal is winding down on the Kensington Road project. The two large drillers that were operating for the past several months were even removed last Friday.  Concrete work for the garage foundation will now begin.

Now is also the time to put the gas-powered leaf blowers away until fall. Fines for summer use have increased from $25 to $250 for a first violation and escalate to $1,000 for a third offense.  The village board learned by experience that the $25 fine was no deterrent to use but was merely being absorbed by area landscapers as a cost of doing business. To give everyone fair notice of the new fine structure, violators will be issued a warning on their first offense.

In other news, the New York State Office of Taxation and Finance just notified the village that our tax equalization rate was computed and affirmed at 100 percent. As per the state, “The village is assessing property at 100 percent of value and the continued reassessment numbers roughly equate to market value.”

If you are fortunate enough to enjoy the village during the quiet of August, shopping and dining are a particular pleasure. August is a special, slow-paced and relaxed time to be savored in Bronxville.

Marvin-Mary

Column: Support local businesses and be mindful

At the Village Board of Trustees meeting in July, the trustees and I adopted zoning and parking changes with the goal of increasing local shopping, services and dining traffic.

On the zoning front, we have updated a process to streamline the course of opening a business in the village. In addition, we expanded the types of businesses that can offer outdoor seating.

The outdoor option will be renewable yearly to ensure that the village has control over the cleanliness, ambience and seat regulations on the site.

Revamping the zoning code—which was largely written between the ‘50s and the ‘60s—is an ongoing process, as we are attempting to reflect the needs of the current economic environment. To retain a viable business district in the 21st century, a new balance has to be struck between the sale of soft goods and the delivery of services.

On the parking front, at the request of customers, we will be adding a non-coin phone app option for meter payment called Pango beginning in August.

This app will allow time to be added to a meter remotely up until the hour limit of the specific meter. For example, if parked at a three-hour meter where a driver has paid for two hours, they can add the extra hour via a mobile device. However, they cannot add hours beyond the meter’s time limit. Without this regulation, commuters would be able to park in front of Value Drugs all day by adding time from their Manhattan office, which would defeat the goal of stimulating local shopping.

To assist businesses whose customers require longer stays, including restaurants, hair salons, the movie theater and exercise studios, three and four-hour meters have been added in both the Garden Avenue and Cedar Street lots. In addition, all lot meters designated for commuters and merchants are open to the general public after 3 p.m.

We continue to encourage our merchants and their employees to make use of the more outlying parking spaces available. There is nothing more frustrating for one merchant than to arrive at work to find a fellow merchant parked all day in front of their store.

Like our neighbors in Tuckahoe, Yonkers, White Plains and Ridge Hill, we have extended our on-street meter hours—in the village’s case, until 9 p.m.

To avoid having to leave a movie or dinner early, coins or Pango can be used just once to reach the 9 p.m. time limit. It is important to note that only on-street meter parking is affected. All of our lots remain a free option. For example, if someone parks right in front of the movie theater, payment will be required versus the free option across the street in the Kraft lot.

The benefit is twofold. Obviously, there is a monetary one. Village residents live in the most highly-taxed community in the most highly-taxed county in the country. The additional meter revenue is anticipated to lower village taxes by at least 1 percent next year.

After diligent surveillance, we also determined that many of the formerly “free spaces” in the evenings were being more used by folks heading into Manhattan events versus those frequenting local businesses. In the end, shopping local is the goal of all our modifications stated above.

Small businesses are the backbone of the sustainability and value of Bronxville, just as they are for our economy nationwide. They are the peak job creators, currently generating more than half of all the new jobs in the country. When small businesses flourish, there is a multiplier effect on the economy of other new hires, including accountants, lawyers, architects and cleaning staff.

As a result, many of the forward-thinking communities throughout the nation—Palo Alto, Calif.,Winnetka, Ill., and Morristown, N.J., come to mind—have realized that keeping purchases local creates local jobs, keeps money local, saves on fuel and ancillary transportation costs, encourages a walking environment, fosters a human connection between merchants and customers, and increases overall property values.

These communities have so named their initiatives “Support our Supporters,” recognizing that it is the local merchants, not the Amazons, the Zappos and the Costcos, that provide the gifts to every local organization.

Contrary to popular belief, purchasing on the Internet may be a tax-free convenience at midnight, but in the long term is ultimately no bargain. Without local purchasing, Bronxville would have lost approximately $900,000 in sales tax revenue last year, translating into a whopping 12-percent tax increase for residents.

So as you soon prepare for back-to-school shopping, please think local and support Bronxville merchants. It is the best long-term bargain of all.

Two issues related to both the business district and the summer months require your attention and vigilance as well. During the warm weather, there is a cadre of folks who walk through village streets just to test car doors, and if unlocked, take what they can—change, wallets, GPS devices and sunglasses. This practice is prevalent throughout lower Westchester and simply a crime of opportunity. If cars are locked, they are bypassed; if not, front seat contents are taken. Please do not forget to lock all car doors.

In addition, we are seeing a proliferation of solicitors, be it for the purchase of candy or simply a donation for a “worthy cause.” Sadly, we have found these charities lack the required village sales permit and devoid of legitimacy. If you are approached, just ask for a valid village permit. Quite often just the polite inquiry has resulted in departure from the village. As a reminder, the First Amendment protects the “selling” of an idea so those requesting your time or signature to discuss perhaps fracking or clean water are constitutionally protected to do so without any prior village approval.

Marvin-Mary

Column: The history behind the Fourth of July

The recent holiday weekend prompted me to reread the Declaration of Independence. Its true brilliance and timeless nature never ceases to fill me with awe and pride. Many communities have a public reading of the document at some point over the holiday weekend. I believe this tradition is something worth pursuing for our village.

The following are the first two paragraphs of this great document followed by some facts relating to the men and events at its inception.

The Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That, whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

Here are some tidbits of the men behind the declaration:

• Of the 56 signers, eight were born in Britain.

• The youngest was Edward Rutledge of Charleston, S.C., who was educated in law at Oxford. He continued a lifetime of government service culminating in the governorship of South Carolina. He died at age 50.

• The oldest was Benjamin Franklin at age 70.

• Thomas Jefferson is credited as the author of the Declaration of Independence. Actually, he was part of a five-person committee appointed by the Continental Congress to write it. It included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman.

• Though a member of the writing committee, Livingston refused to sign the document as he believed it was too soon to declare independence.

• After Jefferson wrote an initial draft, the other members of the Declaration Committee made 86 changes, including shortening the overall length by more than a fourth.

• Jefferson was quite unhappy about some of the edits. He had included language condemning the British promotion of the slave trade (even though he was a slave owner), but this language was removed over his vehement objection.

• One of the most widely-held misconceptions is that the declaration was signed on July 4, 1776.  In fact, independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776, a date that John Adams believed would be “the most important epoch in the history of America.” On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the final text of the Declaration. It wasn’t signed until Aug. 2, 1776.

• When George Washington read the document aloud in front of New York City Hall, a raucous crowd cheered and then subsequently tore down a nearby statue of King George III. The statue was then melted down and shaped into 42,000 musket balls for the fledging American Army.

• There are five references to God in the Declaration of Independence.

• We were often taught that the primary reason the American colonists revolted from British rule was related to taxes, but “taxation without representation” is the 17th among 27 reasons given for succeeding.

• The Declaration of Independence spent World War II in Fort Knox, Ky. Two weeks after Pearl Harbor, both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were packed in 150 pounds of protective gear and escorted via train by Secret Service agents to Louisville, Ky.

• Only one president, Calvin Coolidge, was born on the Fourth of July, but three of the first five presidents–John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe–died on Independence Day.

Marvin-Mary

Column: An unfortunate incident at graduation

Last week the trustees and I reacted to an incident occurring at the very end of the beautiful high school graduation festivities.

The unacceptable behavior was directed at our police and frankly its importance was not how many chanted or who else heard it, rather that our police officers in cars at both the beginning and end of the parade heard it. That was enough. Not angry, but frankly stunned and disheartened, they reported it to Chief Satriale who reached out to the Board of Trustees for a show of support. That was an easy decision as our officers are so deserving of our backing. We also didn’t have to look very far to see what can happen to the fabric of a community when elected officials don’t back up the fine men and women in blue.

What followed was a tough week, but upon reflection, a week of real value. Conversations were held in homes discussing the dignity and honor of everyone’s job—how words can often be as profoundly hurtful as physical attacks, and the need to speak up when you disagree with another’s behavior. A community conversation was started that was sincere, positive and productive.

Just another reason why this village is such a special home.

It’s not easy being a police officer in Bronxville. So much is expected of them. As to the treatment of our youth, they walk a very fine line and often employ a great deal of discretion. In more cases than not, young people are sent or driven home or parents called to come to Village Hall in lieu of the judge. Our officers are focused on teaching life lessons, not ruining futures.  When our children leave our village, the police world is quite different and less forgiving. We are not the norm.

Last week’s incident struck a particular nerve as our department is currently so very young and new. With this new energy, our chief has redoubled efforts to have our officers make a concerted effort to connect with our young people in various non-adversarial situations.

Chief Satriale has hired 16 of the 19 officers on the current force just since he took over leadership in 2007. A record eight officers have been trained as certified youth officers. Three officers now live in nearby Eastchester and as a result of their proximity, attend many village youth events while off duty. One of our newest officers now volunteers as a fourth grade lacrosse team coach.

Though we thought we had been quite careful not to use a broad brush when referring to those involved in the chanting, I reiterate that we know only a small minority of the 113 graduates participated.

Bottom line, our message was that no matter the number of participants, we are all diminished by this type of behavior. Frankly, it would have been far easier to just let the moment go by. But Bronxville has high standards, high expectations of behavior that we must preserve and hold dear. Our level of civility in public discourse is admired by many.

But just as it is important to point out unacceptable behavior, it is even more important to acknowledge the swift and adult response that was received at the police department from the senior class leadership.

Representatives hand delivered an incredibly sincere, heartfelt, thought filled letter to Chief Satriale and the class president will be meeting with the chief next week. This display of character by these young leaders will serve them well in life’s next chapter. The police department also received letters from students clearly not involved who just felt badly. As yet, no one admitting to participation has offered an apology but that, too, is a life lesson I guess.

I truly believe this incident could end up strengthening the bonds between our young people and our police officers. The more we interact the more we humanize our relationships.

For example, when you see officer Lauralee Ulrich, be comforted to know she is a certified EMT. She actually saved the life of a gentleman who had a heart attack right outside of Lange’s. Sergeant Anderson was a talented high school kicker and is more often than not on the Bronco football sidelines. When you see officer Dentini, you’ll know he is a bodybuilder and lover of all things athletic. Our force is so young and physically fit that 10 members have trained and qualified for bike patrol. Sergeant Van der Leew is an accomplished bagpiper who competes at the highest levels internationally but still joins our parade. One of our most senior officers Dennis Karraman is an avid fisherman.

Our police officers are good people. Our young people are good people. To the Class of 2015 and all future classes, you are the village’s finest asset, the hope of the future and our most cherished natural resource. You comprise more than one half of the Bronxville population and bring great joy and energy to our village.

I wish you happiness and fulfillment as you write a new chapter in the book of life and always know you have a warm and embracing home in Bronxville where people care for you deeply.

Marvin-Mary

Column: Services to take advantage of this summer

With the school year coming to a close, many organizations also end for the summer months lessening the activity throughout the village. The same cannot be said here at Village Hall.

Many residents use the opportunity to avail themselves of village services now that their schedules have also cleared somewhat.

The following is a thumbnail sketch of some of the services available at Village Hall weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Village Hall staff issue birth and death certificates as well as handicap parking placards. Only individuals born in New York Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital can have birth certificates processed at Village Hall. If born in any of the New York City hospitals, birth certificates are available online at health.ny.gov/vital_records or at the office of Vital Records, 125 Worth St. New York City. Handicap parking permits may only be issued by the community to which one pays taxes. Sharing a common postal address does not meet this criterion.

• The village does not issue marriage licenses though weddings can be performed at Village Hall by our own two judges and the mayor. Licenses can be obtained in nearby Eastchester, Mount Vernon or Scarsdale.

• Pet licenses are issued at the town level at Eastchester Town Hall, located at 40 Mill Road.

• We do have three notary publics on staff to certify documents.

• Our village Building Department issues all work-related permits for construction/repairs in the village. It is wise to come in prior to commencing any projects so the staff can guide you as to what permits/possible variances are needed for each project. Work commenced without proper permits results in the doubling of the fees. As a point of information, if the work required a permit, the permissible work hours are weekdays only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. However, any work producing excessive noise may be a violation of the Village Noise Ordinance, regardless of whether the work required a permit, if done after hours or on weekends.

• Our Department of Public Works staff will pickup bulky waste items for the small fee of $20. Special pickups of these items are scheduled for the second day of your normal weekly garbage cycle and service should be requested 48 hours prior to the desired Thursday or Friday pickup. Items must be curbside the night before and air conditioners, refrigerators, paint and batteries cannot be collected. Recycling bins are also available from our DPW office at the cost of $10.

• Individuals selling goods door to door are required to receive a permit from our village administrator, though most rarely do so. Do not hesitate to call our police desk if the salesperson cannot produce the permit. Quite often after investigation, our police department has determined that the charities purported to benefit from our purchases are non-existent. The First Amendment does protect all those “selling” an idea such as the Jehovah Witnesses or Greenpeace so they do not need village permission to ring your bell. To limit this kind of solicitation, a small “No Solicitation” sign near the front door has a proven legal effect.

As point of information, none of the phone solicitations you receive requesting donations to the Bronxville Police Department actually go to our department. The callers are companies hired by some jurisdictions, (never ours), who then give a small percentage pledged to the police department that engaged their services. Our police solicit by direct mail only once per year for a donation to their Memorial Day weekend benefit.

• The police department is also the location to register house alarm permits, request patrol of your home if you are traveling and to leave a house key to be used in emergency situations.

• Our parking desk can assist in the purchase of resident and merchant parking permits and decals.

• Residents may also add their names to our waiting list for reserved parking spaces.

• Contractors may also purchase buyouts for parking spaces for the duration of small projects.

For all the above services, we ask for your patience as we operate with a much reduced Village Hall staff. Just in the past decade, we have trimmed jobs by 15 percent in an effort to keep taxes down. Despite this, our staff remains efficient, positive, professional and in good humor.