Category Archives: Columns

BELMONT1

Column: We’ve mastered this plan

belmontSince coming into office, it has always been my mission to streamline municipal spending while maintaining services. I believe the Town Council has acted responsibly in developing strategies and cost saving measures that will benefit our entire community.

Over the past several years, Harrison’s corporate tax base has diminished due to the departure of many large corporations. This is especially true along our Platinum Mile. The corporate tax base has also been affected by successful certiorari filings. This reduced tax base has resulted in an increased tax burden for Harrison residents. Adding some new uses to the Platinum Mile, along with some improved infrastructure and pedestrian connectivity, could help revitalize the area and improve our taxes.

I would like to bring your attention to Harrison’s newly adopted master plan. The Town Council spent much of 2013 laying the ground work for the master plan update. Through public engagement, with interested stakeholders, a draft plan was compiled and ultimately adopted by the council, in December 2013. The adopted plan is currently posted on our website at www.harrison-ny.gov.

The plan identifies guiding principles concerning our municipality’s development and revitalization. Our Planning and Zoning boards will use it as a reference for more efficient decision-making, and the Town Council will use it to review and approve planning and zoning decisions. It is a critical component in creating a new vision for Harrison and I am very happy with the finished product.

In an effort to fuel economic vitality and development in our region and stimulate new business formation, thereby creating new job opportunities, the plan addresses the development of the properties along the I-287 corridor, also known as the Platinum Mile. The adopted plan will be an important vehicle in the redevelopment of this area and includes a mixed use development approach.

The establishment of a new mixed use zone, to expand permitted uses, reflects the council’s desire to repurpose the vacant corporate office parks. New uses may include residential projects with supportive retail and will be carefully controlled through special permit regulations. Density issues and environmental impacts will be carefully examined, and the Planning Board will have approval authority. All new uses will be subject to the review and confirmation of the Town Council.

Save the date for this year’s “A Taste of Harrison.” On Sunday, May 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., The Friends of the Harrison Public Library will sponsor this event to benefit the library. At your own pace, visit restaurants, in any order, and enjoy a delicious sample of the chef’s specialties. Almost all of the downtown Harrison restaurants are participating. See the library’s website, harrisonpl.org, for list. Adults: $20 in advance/$25 day of event; children under age 12: $10 in advance/$15 day of event.

On May 18, an information table will be in front of the Commuter Parking Lot on Halstead and Harrison avenues. The Harrison Senior Transport will be available. For info, call Angela Brandt 914-373-4956.

Congratulations to student artists, James Duffelmeyer, Matthew Fertig, Jacee Cappelli and Claire Furio, this year’s winners of the Mayor’s Choice Award. Be sure to come to Town Hall and see the talent these students have exhibited. I am proud of all the art show participants and look forward to seeing more beautiful pieces in the years to come.

The next “Lunch with the Mayor” is on May 16 and I will be at Silver Lake Asian Fusion and Sushi Bar located at 87 Lake St. in West Harrison. I will be at this location from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and look forward to meeting with residents and talking about issues facing our community.

Jason5

Column: I did it! Wait, did I do it?

Jason-Column2By the time you read this, I will have a novella on the market. I’m ecstatic about that. I think.

I’ve wanted to write fiction since I was in the first grade. I didn’t realize I wanted to be serious about writing fiction until about 12th grade. I don’t know how or why but, once I realized that, college became an uninteresting prospect.

If I look back on it now, I think maybe I knew then what I definitely believe now, which is you can’t be taught how to write.

You can be taught how not to write. You can be taught grammar. You can be taught the difference between plot and story—not enough would-be writers learn this—and you can be taught sentence construction, but can anyone teach you to write dialog? Can anyone teach you character? Can anyone teach you how to pace a story?

No, I don’t believe they can. You want to learn those things? Write.

I think the same can be said, to some extent, for journalism. You can absolutely be taught journalism; it’s a specific, structured form of writing that requires an aptitude for research and adherence to an ethical standard.

But it’s still a narrative, or at least it should be. There are still characters. There’s still a plot, though perhaps not a linear one. It’s still, in its basest form, a story. So those elements of writing still come into play.

More than that, no one can teach you the people skills needed to be a good journalist. I firmly believe that. Oftentimes people tell reporters things they know they shouldn’t, for good reason or a bad one,

That doesn’t happen by accident; that’s the reporter doing that.

There’s also something called journalistic instinct. Knowing what’s a story and why it’s a story; sorry, you’re not learning that in school.

So, the bottom line is, whether it’s fiction or reporting, a writer writes, and you get to be a writer by writing.

That’s why I’ll have a book out by the time you read this.

Here’s the thing though; it’s an ebook, at least for now. That was never part of the plan. I think that’s why I don’t know how excited I am.

I’ve published a few short stories before, a few online and one in print. I always considered the print one the biggest achievement but, looking back, is that the best story I’ve got out there? I don’t know.

And there are two other factors at play. First, as we discussed here several weeks ago, the market for the kind of fiction I write, this New Pulp, is, at least at present, quite small. So small, in fact, there’s no major house publishing it because it’s too niche a genre—and set of subgenres.

But that’s the other thing, why aren’t big houses, or any print houses, really, doing this sort of thing? Because it’s too small an audience and their print product is getting whacked by ebook sales as
it is.

So, the reality is, my book is going to be as properly situated as it can be; right there on Amazon amongst its fellows in the subgenre.

Saying that, I’m still going to want a print copy when it’s available even if no one else does. And I think that’s why I’ve felt less excited than I thought I would at the prospect of finally breaking through with a piece of long-form fiction; it’s not happening the way I envisioned it.

But, you know what? It is happening, it’s exactly the kind of book I always wanted to write and I got there exactly the way I wanted to get there.

When I think about things that way, this is pretty exciting.

Anyone who knows me well as a writer knows all I’ve ever wanted from my fiction was for someone to read it—after buying it, let’s be honest—get to the end and think to themselves, or dare I hope say to someone else, “yeah, that was a good one.” I’ve said that’s what I wanted for years and, as I sit here with a book about to hit the market, it still is.

That first Amazon review; maybe that’s when it will hit me.

I did it?

CONTACT: jason@hometwn.com

 
Lisa Jardine

Column: Shanghai surprises

Students work together at the board.

Students work together at the board.

Every time I visit China, I’m reminded of what a country of contrasts it is.

As America is different from state to state, Chinese cities are each unique and can feel like different countries except for a few common threads like massive amounts of people and air pollution.

On a recent visit in March, I returned to Shanghai to visit an old friend. We only had three days to spend together, which, of course, in a city like Shanghai is not enough, but we made the most of it.

Over the course of my three days, I returned to my favorite soup dumpling restaurant, Ding Tai Fung in the Xin Tian Di neighborhood, a completely renovated and gentrified area of old Shikumen with traditional Chinese dwellings that could pass for SoHo in New York City.

Students gather around the laptop to watch “The Three Little Pigs.”

Students gather around the laptop to watch “The Three Little Pigs.”

We had custom clothes made for pennies at the South Bund Soft Spinning Material Market, walked and shopped the alleys of Tianzifang off the Taikang Road, twisting and turning with the day’s laundry strung up over our heads, and ate one of the best meals I’ve had in years at Mr. and Mrs. Bund, a completely modern restaurant with the most global diners.

 

 

 

We walked around the former international settlements in Shanghai, called concessions, and learned about the Shanghai of the 1920s and 30’s, when it was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. I was surprised to learn about the history of the Jewish people in Shanghai and their migration from Nazi Germany during the 30’s to escape persecution.jardine-info

I purchased a Haggadah in time for Passover, which was written both in English and Chinese. We stopped at the Peace Hotel, an art deco landmark establishment so steeped in history it’s like staying in a museum. It has one of the most eclectic and wonderful gift shops I’ve ever visited.

We listened to jazz at the Jazz Bar in the hotel, where the cocktail menu is inspired by the 20’s and 30’s and the Old Jazz Band is made up of six veteran musicians whose average age is 80.

But one of the most interesting experiences I had during my time in Shanghai was teaching English to fifth graders in a migrant school outside of the city.

Stepping Stones is a not-for-profit organization that brings expats and local Chinese volunteers together to teach English in Shanghai’s migrant schools. Currently, more than 200 volunteers teach 4,000 students in 20 migrant schools. My friend Stephanie, whom I was visiting, teaches the class on Wednesday afternoons and asked if I wanted to join.

As a writer, how could I pass up the opportunity?

Migrant workers who have come to the city looking for work now total more than nine million in the Shanghai area. When the workers move from the rural areas, they often bring their children, who, because of their parents’ low income and social status, cannot attend normal Chinese schools. These students are sent to migrant schools, which began in illegally overcrowded buildings with poor facilities; however, the situation is gradually improving.

There is still a lot lacking though, one of which is quality English instruction.

I was told we would teach three different classes for approximately 45 minutes and to make sure to dress warmly because the classrooms were cold. When we arrived, it was recess and the children were playing outside, all dressed in the most amazing array of colors as there are no required uniforms. We were greeted with both curiosity and happy smiles shouting “hello” in English.

I had been brought up to speed earlier on the lesson of the day that corresponded with the current chapter in their textbook. The subject was “Going To See A Film.” The textbooks come from England and many of the words the children learn are quite British, like the word film for movie, chips for French fries and biscuits for cookies, etc.

The lead volunteer brought the 1933 Disney cartoon “The Three Little Pigs” and after the lecture and practice we would show the film.

To begin class, Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” played over the scratchy loudspeakers and the fifth grade students, all 50 of them, filed quietly into the classroom and sat down. They took out their name tent and placed it in front of them. Each child had an English name they had chosen for themselves. Some were pretty traditional like Mark, James, and Susan. Some were more interpretive, like Ran. Their classroom teacher introduced us and the class began with a song. The students knew the words and sang along clearly and with confidence. After, there were eye exercises; the students rubbed their eyes and temples as a voice on the loud speaker counted to eight to prepare them for the work ahead.

The windy, twisty roads in Shanghai.

The windy, twisty roads in Shanghai.

The class proceeded with vocabulary lists and a Q & A about going to see films. One of the exercises was quite amazing. A sentence had been chopped up into words with each word written on a piece of construction paper. A group of students came to the front of the room and was given the stack of jumbled words. They had to quickly arrange them in the proper order using magnets on the board. I was struck by how well they worked in a group, how quickly they figured out the proper order and how there was no judgment or unkind words spoken.

The quality of the children’s English was interesting. They were excellent readers and their pronunciation was actually quite good. It was the comprehension that gave them the most trouble, which makes sense, as I’m sure they have very few opportunities to communicate with actual English speakers. Having the volunteers in the classroom, if only for a few hours a week, was a huge benefit for these kids and it seemed like they enjoyed having us there. The class ended with the cartoon, which we had to show on a laptop. It didn’t matter; all 50 students gathered around and were mesmerized by it. They laughed out loud and were completely focused and entertained. Even if it was only “The Three Little Pigs,” I think they got a lot out of the lesson and it certainly fostered a desire to speak English just a little bit better.

Stepping Stones welcomes volunteers throughout the year, even during the summer, when they run special summer programs. It’s a wonderful organization that is spreading the English word that much further around the globe.

Editor’s note: 
This marks the final entry for our Westchester Wanderer, Lisa Jardine. The entire staff at the Review would like to thank Lisa for her efforts over the past year in helping to build our Westchester brand and exposure for our newspapers. 

 
NOT TO BAD

Column: Cheering in real life

Social media might be connecting us, but it also takes something away from sports fandom, says Sports Editor Mike Smith.

Social media might be connecting us, but it also takes something away from sports fandom, says Sports Editor Mike Smith.

At its core, professional sports have always been a communal experience for spectators. For generations, the act of going to the ballpark and cheering on the home team with thousands of like-minded rooters was an integral part of sports fandom.

Sharing the joy of victory–or the agony of defeat, if you’re a Cubs fan–with fellow fans is pretty much the point of watching, right?

Even those who can’t make it to the game can still partake in the experience. Viewing parties and sports bars showing the big game provide an approximation of the stadium experience to some degree, or at least a place where friends and fans can gather together to hoist a few cold ones and complain about the obvious call the referees missed. But as Bob Dylan once said–assuredly with the Raptors-Nets series in mind–“The times, they are a-changing.”

With the rise of social media; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, fans are more connected to each other than ever, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

I don’t need to watch games with my buddies or sports-obsessed bar patrons anymore, at least not as long as I’ve got my phone. Did that 2-2 curveball Delin Betances just threw past Chone Figgins paint the black? All I’ve got to do is click on my Facebook and see what my friends are saying.

“Nasty pitch!!!! LOL,” writes Joe.

Just click “Like” to agree.

It’s the new world of sports discourse; short, to the point, and devoid of pesky things like human interaction.

As I’m writing this, the New York Rangers are preparing for Game 1 of the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. I know if I want to voice my displeasure with Penguins star Sydney Crosby, I don’t have to do it at my local watering hole or pay exorbitant ticket prices to get into Madison Square Garden. I can just sit in my living room, watch the game unfold on the big screen TV and fire off a deluge of tweets with the hashtag CrosbyFLOP, something I totally expect to trend over the next week or so in the tri-state area.

And what about the holy grail of sports fandom, the wild celebrations? That moment of release when the final pitch is thrown or the final whistle sounds in which fans cut loose to announce their season is still alive–or, better yet, just culminated with a world championship?

Who needs the sticky beer-showers, the hugs from random strangers and the chance to scream at the top of your lungs without any thoughts of disturbing the neighbors? You can always take the time to craft a carefully composed status to reflect your elation and just relive the celebration you missed with the countless crowd montages that will pop-up like weeds on YouTube just a few minutes after the game ends.

I love Facebook and I certainly can’t live without my phone. But as much as these help us to connect to the outside world, they can also insulate us from the good stuff, the hugs, the high-fives, the general sports-related madness to which we’re all guilty of succumbing once an a while.

So tonight, I’m going to put down my phone, turn off the laptop, throw on my Beukeboom jersey and hit the town, looking for a legion of Blueshirt faithful with whom I can cheer on the Rags.

Who knows, maybe someone will be filming us when we finally beat the Penguins and post it online. Maybe the unfettered enthusiasm and primal screams of our celebration will go viral.

I think I’m gonna go change my privacy settings now.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter, 

@LiveMike_Sports

 
Poetic-License

Poetic License 5-9-2014

“Poetry is aimless, not purposeful. The poem is dancing with itself.”— Billy Collins

poetic

“Observance”

 

At that time

I saw further

into the roseate glow

at the edges of late hour clouds,

I was the watcher,

alert to the changing position

of fireflies, the changing heart.

I tasted stone mint—

heard minstrels sing and recite,

could dance a fine fan-dan-go.

Before time fell backward

fate emptied my arms.

I was free to hope, imagine, laugh.

In that brief time

I could see further.

 

Mary Louise Cox,

Poet Laureate of the Town and Village of Mamaroneck

CAREY

Column: Port Chester’s massive project next door

CareyGood-bye United Hospital, hello Southern Gateway mixed use district.

This sweeping change is bound to cause mixed feelings for those of us who left part of our anatomy at United, and to cause concern for those who live in northeast Rye. The attached map shows what is planned just across the border, a “Southern Gateway Mixed Use Overlay District.”

Documentation for the Port Chester village board’s April 21 meeting included a resolution entitled “Acceptance of Amended Petition for Consideration of Zoning Text and Map Change Relating to the Proposed Redevelopment of the Former United Hospital Property and to Commence the State Mandated Environmental Review Process.”

As an “involved agency,” the City of Rye is to be given notice addressed to “Christian Miller, City Manager.” Does Port Chester have inside information on the identity of our next City Manager?

Here are some of the highlights of the Southern Gateway Mixed Use Overlay District:

The application to the Port Chester village board describes “a mixed-use development that includes a combination of a hotel, retail stores, restaurants, residential and senior age restricted uses and community open space. More specifically, the proposal offers a retail-based destination public space, together with age-restricted and appropriate multi-family residential densities, market-based medical office space, restaurants and cafes, gathering places and a hotel. The action also provides adequate on-site surface and structured parking, as well as ample green space and associated recreation facilities.

“As the southwestern gateway to Port Chester, the redevelopment of this vacant and blighted site to a viable use that complements the existing and future development of the surrounding area is critical for the long-term success of the village. Given that the hospital facility has been vacant and inoperative since 2005, the proposed redevelopment will result in the immediate revival of this important property, which represents the single largest redevelopment site in the village.

“The purpose of the Southern Gateway Mixed Use Overlay Zone is to permit bonus increases in allowable density in exchange for providing a designated community or public benefit.

“For all projects containing a residential component, dwelling unit configurations shall be comprised of primarily studios, one bedrooms and loft style apartments.

“Permitted principal uses

“(1) Multi-family dwellings containing efficiency, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units only; age restricted housing (e.g. 55 plus) including all unit configurations; convalescent home or nursing home.

“(2) Hotel or motel.

“(3) Bar or tavern; catering or events establishment; cabaret; table service restaurant, no drive-in, open front, fast-food or curb service restaurants.

“(4) Assembly hall; membership club; fraternal organization or similar social institution not operated for profit.

“(5) Health club, including racquetball facilities and indoor swimming pools; commercial indoor athletic training facility; bowling alley.

“(6) Theater

“(7) Retail store or personal service shop.

“(8) Office, office building; bank, excluding any drive-in windows.

“(9) Off-street parking lot or garage for motor vehicles…

(10) Ground-floor office as accessory use to multi-family development.”

Other permitted accessory and special exception uses are also listed.

“The maximum building height for all uses shall be eight (8) stories or eighty-five feet.”

This compares with the 12 stories now at 999 High St., a location within the proposed redevelopment area.

We trust our Rye City Council, in-line with their responsibility to protect us residents, will take a very active role in scrutinizing Port Chester’s Southern Gateway project. After all, it’s our Rye Gateway too.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
JOE

Column: The first 100 days: Lessons in humility

Joe-SackWhen I was at Easter mass last month, the monsignor was heading up the center aisle, sprinkling holy water on the congregation with a traditional blessing. When he arrived at my family’s pew, he paused, looked at me solemnly, and said, “You need all the help you can get.” With that, I got an extra shake of the aspergillum aimed at my snout, much to the delight of my children.

Of course, on that joyous occasion in church, truer words were never spoken, especially since I embarked on my service as mayor, and I greatly appreciated the additional dousing.

After I took office in January, the Rye City Review commenced a semi-regular feature which was auspiciously coined “Joe Sack: The First 100 Days.”

Talk about pressure.

Despite the mildly flattering black-and-white rendering of yours truly, with a pensive and thoughtful countenance, I was very apprehensive about accomplishing anything noteworthy enough to qualify for such an expectation-laden column, let alone in a period of just a few short months.

Adding to my fear that I may not be able to live up to the hype, or do anything right, I began receiving all sorts of unsolicited, well-meaning—and usually accurate—criticism of even my most mundane actions, from my performance on the dais—“get rid of the commercial, name-brand water bottle next to you unless you have signed an endorsement deal”—to the way I marched in the Little League parade—“you should have been wearing a suit and tie, at the front of the procession, and waving to the crowd at all times.”

This flak was actually coming from my friends and supporters.

Less amicable folk also found time to compose odes on the bathroom walls of the local blogs. And then there were the stern words from one of my predecessors published in that other Rye newspaper.

Although, by and large, Rye’s former mayors have been nothing but gracious and generous in their encouragement and assistance.

On top of all this, I came in dead last in the high-profile elected officials’ NCAA tournament bracket. And last weekend, I had the dubious distinction of bringing up the rear in the YMCA’s annual Rye Derby.

Amidst all the hoopla and crossfire and minor struggles so far, my council colleagues and I have tried to stay focused on listening to our neighbors, communicating with each other, working together to achieve consensus and keeping our eyes on the big picture.

I believe this approach has laid the groundwork for some good results already, including at Rye Golf Club, where we stuck with an inclusive process to achieve wide buy-in to hire a new general manager. We also retained a new snack bar vendor and a new Whitby Castle caterer.

Time will, of course, be the ultimate judge of our success on these matters, and on the dozens of other issues both large and small, which will all vie for our priority and attention over the coming months and years, beyond the first 100 days.

Despite our best efforts, things will not always go smoothly, but we are off and running.

The Council Corner is a new bi-weekly column which will alternate amongst the seven members of the Rye City Council. The next installment, on May 16, will feature Deputy Mayor Laura Brett.

 
Marvin-Mary

Column: Our library is a jewel of the community

Mayor-MarvinWhile walking home from Village Hall this week, I crossed at the library corner and realized what a gem, and a sometimes hidden gem, we have in this institution.

Begun as a reading room in 1875, our formal library has been in its current home since 1942. Our library, thanks to an innovative director, a proactive Board of Trustees, a talented and energetic Friends of the Library board and your generous donations, is so much more than a repository of books and tapes. It is a center of music, culture, learning, fun and an integrated partner/connector with all of our village institutions.

As illustration, just recently our library was awarded a very prestigious Arts Westchester grant, which will fund art installations this fall that connect the library users to the Bronxville Farmers Market, the objective being to promote the appreciation for the role that local plays in improving the health and lifestyles of village residents.

Our library also works closely with all of our educational institutions.

Just this past Thursday, the library collaborated with Sarah Lawrence College on a second annual springtime celebration of poetry, which featured poets from Sarah Lawrence College sharing their writings on history, legacy and community.

During this poetry month, more than 40 Bronxville public school students attended a poetry slam event and an upcoming evening will showcase local book authors.

Ensconced in a beautiful historic building lending to a reading-at-home feel, the library is also the backdrop for a very impressive fine arts collection of American paintings from 1890 to 1930.

Programs offered are varied and interests span every age group. Our time honored children’s story hours and activities continue to increase in popularity and elementary art and craft classes are now interspersed on the schedule.

On some nights, even magical things happen at our library.

After stories and songs for children ages 3 and above, the teddy bears brought to the library by the participants can stay for an overnight visit. The teddy bear owners can then witness their bears, who seem to get into all kinds of mischief, at play. Bears were caught roasting marshmallows and even making long distance calls.

All are invited to join a library book group, take Mahjong lessons and join a knitting group that makes blankets and scarves for those in need. Teen movie matinees are part of the program as well as an Oscar movie series.

And if getting up to speed in the technological world is a goal, the library offers regular classes in computer skills and e-reader instructions.

Should you not desire a lesson or even a book, just walk in our library and you will be able to get a copy of the New York Times crossword puzzle, read one of the 80 periodicals available or take advantage of a free museum pass service.

Thanks to the Friends of the Library, library card holders can sign-out free passes to a dozen museums including the Frick, the Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim just to name a few.

According to library director, Gabriella Radujko, one of the most important roles of the library is to engage library users in conversation about what is important to them. Armed with this information, programs are added and tailored and decisions about purchases of materials are considered. The addition of independent and foreign films were a direct result of patron feedback.

The library also has a unique resource for parents in the Children’s Room—a guide to help select age-appropriate books for their youngsters. “Big Nate” books continue to be off the charts in popularity.

As for adult preferences, “The Goldfinch”, “Flash Boy” and “Be Careful What You Wish For” lead as most requested. Local movie favorites are the “Wolf of Wall Street” and “August Osage County.”

Not surprisingly, given the dreadful winter, there has been a recent run on our landscape and gardening collection. Regardless of the recent trends, the love of the traditional book remains strong at our library.

In 2013, more than 46,000 adult books were circulated and, even more impressive, more than 45,000 children’s books were checked out. More than 8,800 audio units were downloaded and the library staff accommodated 138,791 visits just last year.

Never more in its history, thanks to the efforts of a strong and loyal staff and committed and enlightened board members, has our current library embodied the wishes of its very first library board president, Ernest Quantrell, who, in 1942 said, “A library should not only be a storehouse for books and a shelter for readers, but also an influence on the community.”

BELMONT1

Column: Yes, you read that right; kimono

belmontThis weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Harrison Fire Department’s pasta dinner, which benefits the department’s scholarship fund. The dinner followed a recruitment drive in which the fire department conducted tours of the station, allowing visitors to try on firefighter gear, and provided various activities throughout the firehouse. It was a great success and the department should be commended for its efforts in maintaining a top-notch staff.

I would like to bring your attention to a wonderful annual event taking place in town. The Harrison’s Children Center Art Exhibit is currently installed in Town Hall and the West Harrison Senior Annex. On Friday, May 2, there will be a reception at the Senior Annex from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Special thanks goes to the Harrison Council for the Arts and its dedicated staff for providing a program that offers a creative platform for our youngest residents.

On April 22, I attended an economic forum for elected officials and municipal leaders hosted by Assemblyman David Buchwald. The meeting was very informative and focused on attracting and retaining young professionals and small businesses in Westchester County. The New York Works program connects businesses in our area with the young adult work force and provides tax credits to those businesses that hire at-risk youth. This program’s impact will build a skilled work force, thereby fortifying our region’s economy. For more information, visit nyyw@labor.ny.gov for businesses, or info@youthworks.ny.gov for youth.

This year, the Harrison Fire Department Memorial Mass will be held at St. Gregory’s Church on Sunday, May 4. At this service, those firefighters who have recently passed away will be honored. The service begins at 8:30 a.m. and, after mass, there will be a brief ceremony in front of the department’s memorial bell.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the National Junior Honor Society students and their parents, who organized the Stonewall Circle 5k Fun Run. It was a wonderful event, benefiting the fight against pancreatic cancer, and all participants should be recognized for their support.

On Sunday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.—rain date Sunday, May 18—Harrison’s Japanese community will host a Harrison-Japan Spring Festival in Ma Riis Park in front of the Harrison Library. Traditional Japanese performances, including a tea ceremony, Japanese drums and dance, and kimono dressing, will be featured along with Japanese games, food and beverages. There will also be a raffle and profits will benefit the Harrison Library and Recreation Center, as well as the victims of Japan’s earthquake. I will be participating in the fashion show, donning an authentic kimono, and hope to see many friends, and familiar faces, supporting this very worthwhile event. For more information, visit www.japanblockfair.com.

The next “Lunch with the Mayor” is on May 2 and I will be at the new Halstead’s Bar and Grill, located at 7 Purdy St. in downtown Harrison. I will be at this location from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and look forward to meeting with residents and talking about issues facing
our community.

Jason5

Column: Spock would be a frustrated mayor

Jason-Column2By now, it should be no surprise to you to learn, first, I am a Star Trek nerd and, second, I vastly prefer the original series—Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, et al.—to anything that’s come after it.

It occurred to me the other day Mr. Spock would have a lot of trouble being a municipal mayor in New York State these days.

Shall I explain?

If you’ve been reading the Review lately, you know it’s budget season for local school districts and some smaller municipalities. You also know the mightiest of struggles, according to the folks creating those budgets, is the property tax levy cap signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in June 2011. Ostensibly created to provide homeowners with tax relief, the legislation, in essence, restricts the total amount of money a municipality or school district can charge for its services. An eight-step formula, created by the state, determines how much a taxing entity can levy for the upcoming year using the tax levy from the previous year as a base.

That I think Spock would be good at.

Because each municipality is different, each total tax levy ends up being different and, therefore, the amount each school district or municipality can raise its tax levy is different every year.

I think Spock would still be with us at this point—Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations and all that—but what is thought of, and, frankly, reported as, a tax levy cap is not really a cap at all because a municipality can create a local law to override its calculated cap with a 60 percent vote of its governing board. A school district can put a cap busting budget before the public and it can pass as long as it has 60 percent of the people behind it.

So, really, the tax levy cap isn’t a cap at all, it’s a point at which, to exceed it, a taxing entity has to meet a higher threshold of approval.

Spock, as you may know, is half Vulcan. The prevailing philosophy among Vulcans is logic; cold, rigid, unwavering logic and Spock, though half human, has dedicated himself to this discipline. Logic can be an effective way to view the universe and navigate the many dangers and wonders it presents.

It is probably not the best way to view New York State municipal tax policy, in which a mandated property tax levy cap is actually a varying brink over which taxing entities may pass with enough support.

Illogical? Unfortunately for would-be Mayor Spock, there is something else.

The state mandates local municipalities and school districts contribute, sometimes mightily, to their employees’ retirement. For school districts, implementation of the Common Core learning standards has been state compelled.

For these things, things these taxing entities must do, the state provides zero funding.

And everyone has to stay within the state calculated property tax levy cap. Which isn’t really a cap, but you get the point.

Still want to be mayor, Spock?

Now, if I’m going to be charitable to the state, I might say all of this is designed to, let’s say, encourage local governments and schools to find ways other than property taxes to fund their budgets. A town might try to impose a hotel tax, for example, or maybe a school district could put a utility tax in place.

Except Gov. Cuomo, who recently unveiled a plan to try to freeze property taxes for the next two years, pledged not to allow any new taxes in the state and getting such things passed has proven almost impossible.

So essentially, Spock, here’s the deal, in your terms. I want you to lead a landing party to Talos IV to survey the geological makeup of the planet. The party will consist of you and six other crewmembers, but five of those crewmembers have to be armored security guards, everyone has to carry a crate of tribbles and a hypospray of Retinax no matter what else they need, and you can only beam back 1.76 percent of any soil samples you take. Unless 60 percent of the party agrees you need more.

Enjoy.

I’m not a tax and spend guy, and I suspect Spock wouldn’t be either, but it would take Surak to figure out the logic, or the benefit to the taxpayer, in the state’s tax relationship with its schools and local governments.

CONTACT: jason@hometwn.com