Category Archives: Editorials

Forliano

Column: The return of ‘Historically Speaking’

The importance of the local history of the Town of Eastchester, that also includes the villages of Bronxville and Tuckahoe, is that it highlights important aspects about who we are, what we must preserve, and most importantly, what makes us unique. For that specific reason, I began writing a series of articles for the Town Report on the long and fascinating history of the Eastchester community in 2008. Four years and more than 90 articles later, I decided to take a sabbatical from the series titled “Historically Speaking.”

Why?

I stated in my last article in late August 2011 the reason for the leave: “The Town of Eastchester, including the villages of Tuckahoe and Bronxville, starting in 2014 will be celebrating its 350th anniversary. There are…unanswered questions that need to be explored so that the community will have a clearer vision of our unique past.” More time was needed to do more research, look at different perspectives, and collaborate with other historians and people knowledgeable about our special heritage. The validity of sources had to be checked, census records analyzed, new insights discovered and a variety of activities planned.

In 2011, I did not know that the sabbatical would last more than four years. During that time, I had the wondrous experience of working with Bronxville historian Eloise Morgan and an accomplished group of volunteers—teachers, lawyers, published authors, a professional genealogist and a retired policeman—to produce the first full-length book on the history of the Town of Eastchester titled “Out of the Wilderness: The Emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and Bronxville: 1664-2014.” The book, brilliantly edited by Eloise, shows how life in a land almost uninhabited by other Europeans evolved into the suburban world of Eastchester and its two villages.

The book “Out of the Wilderness” grew to 340 pages with more than 300 images including illustrations, maps and charts. Integrating the history of Tuckahoe and Bronxville with that of the town was a priority. New insights into the bonds that link our communities together were uncovered, along with the qualities that make Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville unique. Unfortunately, space prohibited us from covering the totality of our community’s past. There is still much more to be told. And that is the reason why the column “Historically Speaking” is being revived.

The mission of this column will be to reveal more about our collective identity. An earnest effort will be made to continue unearthing information from a variety of sources. Articles will be written based on the most up-to-date research. Hopefully, as time passes, new information will be added to the narrative connecting the people, places and happenings that made the town and the two villages what they are today.

There are other important reasons for reviving the column.

People who grew up in the town and live elsewhere, families who have never left the town, and new arrivals want to continue to know more about the communities’ cultural heritage. Thanks to the efforts of so many people in celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Town of Eastchester in 2014, there has been a revival of appreciation for our local history. It is imperative that we continue to work together to highlight our shared traditions and qualities that make us unique.

Fortunately the Town of Eastchester and the villages of Bronxville and Tuckahoe are blessed with a number of organizations involved in gathering information and informing the public about fascinating aspects of our storied past. These organizations are the Eastchester Historical Society, the Bronxville Conservancy, the Tuckahoe History Committee and St. Paul’s National Historic Site. In addition, these historical agencies are supported by a number of cultural, service and civic groups whose participation was instrumental to the success of the 350th celebration last year.

Copies of “Out of the Wilderness: The Emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville, 1664-2014” may be purchased at Womrath Bookshop at 76 Pondfield Road in Bronxville and in the Eastchester Town Clerk’s office located at 40 Mill Road.

 

Please contact us at  historian@eastchesterhistoricalsociety.org about any  comments or questions you might have about the content of our columns.

OP/ED

OP-ED: Governor is right; educate our prisoners

Politicians are always touting new ways to cut taxes. After all, who really wants to pay more money to the government in light of recent economic turmoil? Whether people are still talking about the economic crisis of 2008 or the economy in general, taxes are always a heavily-weighted topic of discussion.

Taxes are almost always a subject of debate between political parties, each stating it knows how to manipulate the economy in taxpayers’ favor. Most politicians’ promises to affect change are just political hogwash, however; I think New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is one politician who offers a great solution to reducing taxpayer spending.

This grand solution? Drumroll, please? Educate our prisoners.

A lot of people think providing funding for prisoners’ to access free higher education is a preposterous idea. Just imagine this scenario.

A local straight-A student from Rye gets into her dream school, but worries about how her family will pay for tuition. Her parents are so pressed for money they consider taking out a second mortgage on the house.

Now, imagine a cold-blooded murderer who stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death because she cheated on him receiving a free college education while serving time. Doesn’t this enrage you?

If the thought of an upstanding citizen facing more difficulty than a murderer in financing her education curdles your blood, then your reaction is completely normal. In fact, this anger is due to the turning-on of your moralization switch. Prominent psychologists would agree the moralization switch triggers anger at this example because of our natural inclination to inflict harm on those who we feel violated the basic moral code. The desire for retribution angers us because education is a privilege, and prison is a place of punishment.

But, while this idea of educating prisoners might seem crazy and infuriating at first, there’s actually a lot of evidence to support it.

First, multiple studies demonstrate there is an extremely high correlation between education level and risk of incarceration.

Can you believe third grade test scores are used to determine how many prisons to build? It’s shocking, I know.

While it will take years of policy making and deliberation to try to combat the problem of disparity in education, what we can do right now is seek to educate the prisoners that are currently in jail.

What good can this do, you say?

Well, prison education programs have consistently shown high success rates in terms of lowering recidivism rates. This basically means if an incarcerated individual is provided with schooling while in prison, they are less likely to return to prison in the three years after their release. Educated prisoners are clearly able to function better in society upon their return. While, presumably, most people probably don’t care about how an ex-prisoner adjusts to society, what they may not realize is a good adjustment means he or she won’t return. When a lot of prisoners don’t return, this means the jails have a smaller burden. This is great for two reasons: decreased taxpayer costs, and a safer society.

Let’s look at Westchester County Jail, which houses approximately 750 inmates. The cost of each inmate’s stay amounts to around $60,000 a year. This is alarming considering that’s essentially the price of college tuition at a private university. For this same amount of money, we could be financing education programs instead, which could easily decrease the resources allotted to prisons.

A decrease in the number of prisoners circulating through the incarceration system means a significant reduction in the amount of money the government and, subsequently, Westchester taxpayers, have to spend on prisoners’ housing and food.

In addition to the economic benefits stemming from funding prison education programs, there are social upsides as well.

Educated prisoners are more fit to re-enter society because receiving an education increases their self-esteem and confidence. This confidence boost makes them more likely to find a job and lead a stable life. The resulting decrease in recidivism rates signals a major improvement in compliance with the law. Obviously, these prisoners are doing their part by being citizens that contribute positively to their communities.

For some strange reason, despite these amazing positive impacts, the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1994, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, decided to ban federal funding for prison education programs. This cut in funding led to a severe decline in the number of prison education programs.

But the Bard Prison Initiative manages to continue providing free education for prisoners in New York. It runs on private donations, but prisoners who took part in this program have a recidivism rate of less than 2 percent.

In looking at the Bard Initiative as a gleaming example of what can be, Gov. Cuomo is leading us in the right direction. He’s able to turn off his moralization switch so he can accept the objective success of prison education programs.

Gov. Cuomo’s resolution to reinstate funding for prisons in New York is important because it will affect everyone. It’s up to us as taxpayers and citizens of Westchester to support Gov. Cuomo. If we reinstate education funding for prisons, we will be contributing to the development of a safer society while saving tax dollars. As citizens, it’s our responsibility to partake in the great democracy that our country was founded upon by vocalizing support for prison education.

Christine Nelson is a first-year student at Columbia University, planning to major in political science and philosophy, and a graduate of Rye High School. The opinions expressed are hers.