Category Archives: Columns


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.


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.


Lisa Jardine

Column: Neil Waldman dreams big

“Red Eye” a self-portrait by Nazaury Delgado, a graduate of the Fred Dolan Art Academy whose works will be offered at the auction.

“Red Eye” a self-portrait by Nazaury Delgado, a graduate of the Fred Dolan Art Academy whose works will be offered at the auction.

Neil Waldman has lived in Westchester County for more than 20 years but his heart belongs to the Bronx, the borough of his birth.

After a long and celebrated career as an artist and book illustrator, he had a dream to return to the Bronx to create a free Saturday art academy for young underprivileged artists. Waldman pulled together a team of noted illustrators, designers and art educators to teach young students the skills and tools necessary to create portfolios for college acceptance. He dreamt of discovering young artists who would go on to realize their dreams of being able to do something they loved as a career and, in turn, transform their lives and break the chains of poverty.

In September 2006, that dream became a reality when the Fred Dolan Art Academy opened its doors.

The school runs on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. out of P.S. 306, inside the public high school for which the art school is named.

“Fred Dolan was a dear friend of mine and one of the most remarkable educators I ever knew,” Waldman said. “When Fred became principal of P.S. 306, the school and the surrounding area were dangerous but, through his leadership and incredible programming that he brought into the school, he was able to affect change, which then spread throughout the neighborhood. He was the inspiration.”

Watercolor illustration by Cornelius Van Wright, a teacher at the academy and an illustrator of more than 50 children’s books. Photos courtesy Fred Dolan Art Academy

Watercolor illustration by Cornelius Van Wright, a teacher at the academy and an illustrator of more than 50 children’s books. Photos courtesy Fred Dolan Art Academy

The free Saturday school provides pizza, Metro Cards and art supplies, in addition to the priceless education, starting from 6th grade. The first year the school opened, its only senior was accepted to five colleges and chose to study architecture at the New York City Institute of Technology. Since then, 23 students have graduated from the art school and all 23 have received scholarships to schools like The Rhode Island School of Design, The Art Institute of Chicago, Dartmouth College, New York University, The School of Visual Arts, USC and many others.

There is no application or testing required to attend the art academy, but there are three covenants:



1. You must show up every Saturday.

2. You must work hard.

3. You must not cause any discipline problems.

“We accept all students who want to join regardless of level of talent or GPA in school,” Waldman said. “But what is remarkable is the effect this program has had on our students’ grades. We’ve had many students join with averages in the low 70’s and, by the time they apply to college, we’ve only had one student with less than a B average. And that is without a penny spent on academic tutoring. It’s amazing what the incentive of a free college education can do.”

“New York Night” by Neil Waldman, founder and teacher at the school, and illustrator of more than 50 children’s books.

“New York Night” by Neil Waldman, founder and teacher at the school, and illustrator of more than 50 children’s books.

The Saturday art school was initially funded by grants from The Children’s Aid Society and The DreamYard Project, but funding was recently pulled after budget cuts, and the art academy became a 501(c)(3) last year so the school could continue.

On Tuesday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m., the school will hold its first charity art auction at 750 Lexington Ave. in New York City. Art from current students as well as their acclaimed teachers will be auctioned off. The opening bids will be low to encourage as much participation as possible. On hand will be the artists themselves and their families, providing a unique opportunity to see how clearly this school has made a difference in so many lives.

“We believe there is not another school like this in the country. We start in middle school and expose the students to the highest level of professional art instruction, the type of training that most young artists are not exposed to until they get to college,” Waldman said. “Our school is literally taking kids who live in homeless shelters and the housing projects in the South Bronx—kids whose parents didn’t go to college, let alone anyone in their neighborhood—and get them into great schools, with scholarships.”

“The Pink Trees” by Neil Waldman.

“The Pink Trees” by Neil Waldman.

“One of our recent students just received a $260,000 scholarship to Dartmouth. As soon as our students realize we are telling the truth about their future, they start working harder in school. We believe that, from the time they enter our school until the time they graduate, their GPAs have gone up by an average of 14 points.”

Innate talent isn’t a requirement; they accept all kids, regardless of ability.

“If they work hard, they will build their technical skills and go on to be successful artists” Waldman said. “The number one thing art schools are looking for, across all majors, is fine draftsmanship, without exception. Can a student sit down in front of a Coke bottle and copy it identically?”

Catch The Rising Stars is the name of the auction and it will feature more than 40 works of art with minimum bids around $100. There will be champagne and hors d’oeuvres and plenty of opportunity to meet the artists themselves. A
suggested donation of $75 is requested to attend the event.

Why not come and drink champagne and see beautiful art and help some pretty special kids reach their dreams?

You never know, you just might meet the next Picasso.

For more information
on the school and the
upcoming auction or to
reserve your space:

“I’m always on the lookout for a great story, an amazing restaurant, an unusual
day trip or a must-see cultural event in Westchester County.”

To contact Lisa, email
And you can follow her on Twitter, @westchesterwand

On April 27, dedicated runners hit the streets to compete in the Rye Derby. Sports Editor Mike Smith much preferred his spot on the sidelines. Photo/Mike Smith

Column: “Fun” running

On April 27, dedicated runners hit the streets to compete in the Rye Derby. Sports Editor Mike Smith much preferred his spot on the sidelines. Photo/Mike Smith

On April 27, dedicated runners hit the streets to compete in the Rye Derby. Sports Editor Mike Smith much preferred his spot on the sidelines. Photo/Mike Smith

On a sunny, brisk Sunday afternoon, I watched a throng of dedicated runners take to the streets of Rye to compete in the annual Rye Derby. As these people streamed across the finish line, caked in sweat, with varying looks of weariness and elation on their faces, I couldn’t help but think, boy, do I hate running.

Now, I understand that some people are just into running. At some level, I get that. I grew up as an athlete and I still lace-up the cleats to play baseball once a weekend for the thrill of competition. For me, competition is less about the team on the other side of the field and more about my own internal struggles each time I step in the batters box. So I get the allure of running.

I completely understand a runner’s dedication to his or her craft, the constant work to improve a time and the sense of accomplishment of finishing a race. I just don’t know how they do it.

Back in my school days, I certainly put time and thought into our yearly timed mile in gym class. But, while other kids were out there training, regulating their breathing, hoping to gain a precious few seconds on our run, my preparation took a different form entirely. I was doing my best to perfect finishing the mile with the least amount of effort possible.

I struck gold sometime in my sophomore year when I realized the paddle tennis courts around Scarsdale High School’s track provided a fantastic hiding spot. I’d set off on our first lap of the mile, duck behind the courts—out of view of our phys-ed teacher—let the rest of the class continue the run and then join back up for the last lap, right in the middle of the pack so as not to attract attention.

It was the perfect plan.

As a college pitcher, my practices consisted of throwing a bullpen, shagging some fly balls and extensive cardio. How I loathed running endless poles in the outfield. But when our coach sent us on long, timed runs through the neighborhood around the field with no supervision, I quickly reverted back to my old ways, mapping out shortcuts through the winding streets with the rest of the relievers, trying to minimize the agony—and tedium—of those wind-building jaunts through Carlisle, Pa.

So, when I watch runners now, either while covering a road race or just by checking the Facebook status updates of my friends training for marathons, I can’t help but feel equal parts admiration and bewilderment. One of my friends, after completing the New York City Marathon last year, took a selfie after the race, that showed her, in full running gear, medal around her neck, laying prostrate in a bathtub full of ice.

If that’s the effects of pushing your body to the limit, I think I’ll pass.

But who knows? Maybe I’ll catch the running bug. Maybe I’ll compete in the Rye Derby next year. If I get in good enough shape, maybe I’ll even try my hand at a marathon one of these days.

But they already caught the woman who tried to game the system by taking the Subway. So maybe I’ll have to
rethink that.

Follow Mike on Twitter,


Column: Enjoying a gorgeous spring

careyWhile complaining about UN bashing, or Putin’s greedy grasp, or whatever else may be aggravating us, we must rejoice and give thanks for the remarkably beautiful weather we in the northeast have enjoyed during the Passover/Easter season. Such a relief after an unpleasant winter!

Seldom have the daffodils or forsythias been more brilliant in their golden hues. And now the magnolias in their majesty are bursting forth, to keep company with the delicately purple cherry trees. Soon the dogwoods, pink or white, will join the beauty parade, as azaleas startle the eye with their brilliance and apple blossoms dance in the breeze.

UN bashing aimed at veterans

The American Legion is a veterans’ organization I have proudly belonged to, though inactively, since 1946 when the Navy gave me an honorable discharge. I read the Legion’s magazine with pleasure every month. Except, that is, for one article in the May issue that just arrived.

The article is entitled Road to Hell and alongside the title is a gruesome photo showing dozens of skulls said to be from the Rwanda massacres. This ghastly imagery is apparently intended to show what kind of atrocities armed intervention by U.S. forces might be used to prevent. The question dealt with in the article is who can authorize the use of U.S. force to stop evil actions like genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

The author’s assertion is the principle known as “R2P”‑short for responsibility to protect‑approved in UN circles, would take away from our government the authority to decide when U.S. force may be used to protect and give that authority to any of several agencies the author lists. His list includes the UN secretary-general, the International Criminal Court and, incredibly, CNN.

Here is how the author puts his argument: “Good intentions aside, the United Nations R2P doctrine would take the decision of U.S. intervention out of our hands.”

The author is listed as a member of the Board of Editors of the American Legion’s monthly magazine. Whatever background he may have in international law or in the role of the United Nations is not disclosed. Nor is the reader told why he would want to go to such lengths to bash the UN, such lengths as claiming the International Criminal Court might have some authority over U.S. use of military force, or even that CNN might also be empowered to direct the use of our country’s armed forces.

The ultimate absurdity in the article is the assertion that CNN could somehow decide for us how and where to use our military might. CNN, of course, can influence American and other public opinion, and public opinion can influence our government’s decisions, but to suggest CNN calls the shots is hyperbole stretched way beyond the limits of credibility.

Here is more of the author’s UN bashing: “First, R2P taken to its logical conclusion will increase the heavy burden on a shrinking U.S. military while decreasing America’s freedom of action and independence.”

He does not explain how our option whether or not to intervene could burden our military, unless we were to choose to incur such a burden. No one could impose such a burden on us against our will.

Then the author proceeds to create “a second problem with R2P…who at the United Nations, the ICC, the EU or CNN decides what justifies an R2P intervention?”

This language raises problems of common sense.

The ICC, which the author does not identify as the International Criminal Court, has nothing whatever to do with deciding whether we should intervene militarily. The EU is the European Union, which similarly has no control over our decisions. As for CNN’s connection with our military choices, even to mention it calls in question the seriousness of the discussion.

As the author winds up, he batters down an open door with this incontrovertible assertion: “Why the United States intervenes militarily…should be determined by the president and Congress. It’s not the U.N. secretary-general’s prerogative.”

Shouting this obvious truth from the housetops does not require a gratuitous kick in the shins of the secretary-general to go with it.

I hope my fellow American Legionnaires will see through the haze the article creates and understand that, of course, our government and it alone decides and will continue to decide whether and when to call upon our military.



Column: Where the bell tolls

LissaHalenThe bell tolls at St. Paul’s Church, right here in Eastchester. Actually it tolls in what was once a part of

As Eastchester celebrates its 350 years of history, it would be a great time to visit not just the historic bell but the entire six acres of St. Paul’s Church. St. Paul’s has so many layers of history the National Park Service has designated it a National Historic Site.

A bit of geography with this 350 years of history may be necessary before a visit as Eastchester’s southern border has gone through several metamorphoses.

Beginning in 1664, the town’s southern border was in present-day Bronx up to approximately where Co-op City, Pelham Bay and Split Rock are now. That would put St. Paul’s right in the middle of Eastchester, a perfect place for what was once a meeting house and a village green.

Too much geography? Time to travel to this National Historic Site and touch these layers of history where the bell tolls.

Cast at the same foundry in London in 1758 as our country’s Liberty Bell, St. Paul’s bell is considered a smaller cousin to the country’s celebrated Philadelphia bell.

Before St. Paul’s bell tolled, a beating of the drum summoned worshippers to service. Once the bell was installed, up until the American Revolution, the bell announced local events and rang out annually on June 4to celebrate King George III’s birthday. It is now rung every July 4, commemorating America’s independence.

A trip up the belfry to touch and see the bell up close is part of the site’s Church Tower Walks given in spring and summer every other Friday.

As befitting this colonial village in the early 1700s, a small wooden meeting house was first constructed here on what was the village green. No, it’s not wooden now since the structure was torn down for firewood during the revolution. The church, which stands today, was started in 1763, completed after the revolution and added to through the years.

Not only does a bell toll, but an organ plays at St. Paul’s.

The organ is one of the nation’s oldest functioning pipe organs still in its original setting built by Erben, one of the finest organ craftsmen of the day in 1833. Take a look at its ivory covered keys with their engravings of the names of the musical stops.

At the church, sit in one of the unusually high pews. Their height may seem odd, but history explains the reasoning behind it.

Prior to modern conveniences like heating, the congregation brought their own space heaters and the high pews kept the heat in. The heaters were small, rectangular foot warmers—made of metal and wood—filled with hot embers from their fireplaces and placed on the floors of the pews. Clever.

During the revolution the aforementioned bell was hidden to prevent it from being confiscated for ammunition. The original meeting house and the unfinished church were used by soldiers on both sides of the war.

Surprised by the replicas of medical instruments? That is testament to the church being used as a hospital during the revolution. One glance at these tools and you’ll be happy you were not wounded then and there. It’s no wonder that the wounded soldiers were given liquor to dull the pain and that many died from infection.

Before venturing outdoors, stop for a moment to enjoy two paintings by a local artist, Edward Gay. He once sat on these grounds with canvas and paintbrush in hand. The spot overlooking the fertile river valley was perfect for an emerging American landscape painter during the late 1800s.

Walking outside, one would never guess the area was once so rural and lush. Now St. Paul’s sits in an industrial area. This industrial impression is unfortunately your first impression as you drive along Columbus Avenue to the historic site.

Ever see initials on a tom-bstone? The town was so small that full names were not always used since anyone in town would know “RS” referred to Richard Shute, one of the original settlers of the area. Shute’s 1704 grave remains one of the earliest in the cemetery.

Search for the graves of soldiers from both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Meander over to the little bench, the peculiar grave site of the aforementioned artist Gay. Close your eyes and visualize the rustic landscape he appreciated and memorialized in many of his paintings, one of which is also owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

All of these features are available to the general public for free.

St. Paul’s Church is not merely a historic site, but an eclectic schedule of events.

Besides ongoing guided tours there are concerts that allow people to enjoy the organ, cemetery tours, historical reenactments and lectures about American history. Go to one or all, but begin at the site’s excellent website run by the National Park Service.

St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site is an enduring legacy to the United States Colonial period, Revolutionary and Civil wars and the demons of industrialization. Disregard the nearby commercial buildings to experience the layers of history right here in what was once the center of Eastchester.

Go visit. You will not just see where the bell tolls but you may get a chance to ring the bell yourself.


Just the Facts

St. Paul’s Church
National Historic Site

897 Columbus Ave.,
Mt. Vernon, NY 10550


Admission is free

Lissa Halen is a resident
of Eastchester for more than
35 years and a member of
the Eastchester Historical Society Board.
Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
Seasonally the second Saturday of each month from noon to 4 p.m.
First Thursday of each month 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Special Events:
Ongoing—check the website.


Column: Thanks for nothing, Bow Tie

Jason-Column2Sometimes progress isn’t.

Last year, I wrote a profile of the Mamaroneck Playhouse movie theater for a special edition of the Review. I took some time to get to know the place and some of the people who’d been affected by it. If you’d like to visit the Mamaroneck Playhouse, you may do so, it’s right there in the village at 243 Mamaroneck Ave.

Oh, one thing; it’s a dead hulk now. The last night of operation was Sunday, April 20. The last movie to end there was “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

The Playhouse was owned by Clearview Cinemas when I wrote the piece last year. In June 2013, Clearview sold the playhouse, and several other small theaters in the area, to Bow Tie Cinemas which described plans to renovate its new acquisitions but—in light of the quick sale and condition in which I found the Playhouse when I visited it for the last time on April 17 of this year—does not appear to have had any intention of helping the ailing theater, which was once a palace.

I’m not at all happy the Mamaroneck Playhouse is gone. I think it’s a terrible thing to see an institution that has stood since 1925 reduced to a façade and condominiums which, according to published reports, is Bow Tie’s plan.

Saying that, I think it’s easy to blame Bow Tie for the theater’s passing, and I do to an extent, but let’s look at a couple other factors, too.

While it’s true my wife and I found the Playhouse to be in near condemnable disrepair when we saw Captain America on the 17th, we also saw “Argo” at the theater last year, shortly before my profile ran, and things weren’t much better then. Clearview was apparently only willing to go so far, if any distance at all, to make the Playhouse resemble anything it had once been.

And certainly United Artists, which owned the Playhouse before Clearview and carved it into four screens and two floors, never had the village’s history with Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith in mind.

That’s all well and good; the almighty dollar reigns. I get that.

What I don’t get is why didn’t any of these companies understand they were tilting at windmills for the last two

Bow Tie, like Clearview before it, owns three other local movie theaters: The Larchmont Playhouse, Bronxville Cinemas and Cinema 100 in White Plains. Let’s examine some schedules.

At press time, the three theaters I just listed are showing, among a few other, more commonplace things, Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Dom Hemmingway,” a British comedy with Jude Law; “Le Week-end,” an English-French dramedy and “The Lunchbox” an Indian romance set in Mumbai.

The plot of that last one sounds good, by the way; have a look.

For its last week of existence, the Mamaroneck Playhouse, an analog to those other theaters in terms of size, physicality and native demographics, showed Captain America, “Rio 2” and “Muppets Most Wanted,” which is fairly

Do you see the point I’m making?

By programming the Larchmont and especially the Bronxville and White Plains theaters counter to the mainstream fare found in the bigger, modern theaters like those found at Ridge Hill in Yonkers and City Center 15 in White Plains, Bow Tie’s other theaters in the area continue to, you know, exist.

Why couldn’t that have been done for Mamaroneck?

Would it have been feasible for the Mamaroneck Playhouse to continue with art and independent programming? Perhaps. Could a nonprofit organization still buy the building, restore it to its single-screen grandeur, and turn it into something like the wonderful Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville? Perhaps.

We’ll likely never know though because to do things like that, you have to love movies. You have to care.

I’ll never say companies, or individuals, don’t have the right to make a profit, but it sure seems like Bow Tie bought at least the Mamaroneck Playhouse with the intention to do violence to its insides. That’s a shame because, once 243 Mamaroneck Ave. is an elegant, 90-year-old false face over little boxes of granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and stand-up showers, a community will lose a keyhole to its past.

Which hurts, because the playhouse could have also been a bridge to broader minds for the future.


Reach Jason at and 

follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas

Lisa Jardine

Column: SK8R girl from Rye takes on the world

Netta Schreiber is more than your average teen. At the age of 12, she became a member of the Israeli Ice Skating Federation. Contributed photos

Netta Schreiber is more than your average teen. At the age of 12, she became a member of the Israeli Ice Skating Federation. Contributed photos

Netta Schreiber is your typical 15-year-old girl from Rye. She likes hanging out with her friends on the weekend, eating hamburgers at Ruby’s, listening to classic rock like The Who and shopping for clothes at lululemon and American Apparel.

But the similarities end there.

From the time she was seven years old and her grandmother thought it might be a good idea to learn how to skate—in case she had a birthday party or something—Netta has spent most of her waking hours on 3/16-inch-thick carbon steel blades. She’s a skater girl.

Netta was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1998. She spent the first four years of her life there before moving to Rye. She started skating at Playland in weekly group lessons. It was love at first skate.

Group lessons became private lessons and soon, Netta’s coach informed her parents she had the potential to be a seriously good skater. In middle school, she skated daily while attending school, but found it challenging to find rink time when it wasn’t overcrowded and dangerous.

It became obvious something needed to change.

After her first month of eighth grade, Netta’s coach suggested “distance learning” with Laurel Springs, allowing her to spend most of her day skating.

“At first, my parents were totally against it, but my coach said, if I was going to go anywhere in skating, I had to home school,” Netta said.

There were two other skaters at her rink who were doing it, so it made the transition easier.

“I was really happy with my decision,” she said.

Rye’s Netta Schreiber, 15, has her sights set on the 2018 Olympics in Korea. She recently competed in the Junior World Championships.

Rye’s Netta Schreiber, 15, has her sights set on the 2018 Olympics in Korea. She recently competed in the Junior World Championships.

Netta went from doing novice-level local competitions in the tri-state area to junior international competitions.

In 2011, at the age of 12, Netta became a member of the Israeli Ice Skating Federation, an organization started 17 years ago with one skater that now has more than 30.

“Netta is a hard-working, dedicated athlete. She sets a good example for youngsters. With hard work and patience, good things will happen,” Boris Chait, president of the federation, said.

The membership brought Netta the international exposure to move her to the next level of competition. In the summer of 2012, she had her first Junior Grand Prix. Then, in 2013, at the Mentor Nestle Nesquik Torun Cup, in Torun, Poland, she won the Bronze medal and her scores qualified her for the upcoming World Championships in Japan in 2014.

“When the score came through, I knew what it meant immediately,” Netta said. “It’s the best news of your life as a skater. I didn’t cry. I just stood there in shock. I had so many mixed feelings. And my phone was dead! When I finally got to speak to my parents back in Rye, it was 2 a.m. and we were all screaming on the phone.”

On March 10, Netta left Rye with her mom Danit, a yoga instructor in Greenwich, Conn., and Harrison, for the World Junior Championship in Bulgaria, which alone would be a huge accomplishment, but it served as a warm-up for what came the following week, the World Championships in Saitama, Japan.

“I never thought about not competing at Junior Worlds—I thought the best thing was to go to both. Yes, it’s very demanding physically, but it’s what athletes live for.”

Netta arrived on the world stage at the age of 15, the youngest skater, male or female, in the competition.

“The first day I arrived, I was so intimidated—these were the skaters I had been watching my entire life—skaters like Mao Asada, Yuzuru Hanyu and Carolina Kostner,” Netta said. “I was so nervous I couldn’t even eat!”

And she had to skate first.

“I was the only skater without a world ranking—I had to go first. But my mom gave me great advice. She said, ‘No one knows you, no one cares.’ That helped me relax a lot. It was my dream to get to the world stage and I had no expectations. I just wanted to enjoy every minute. I let the nerves go in practice,” Netta said.

Did she learn anything from her big experience?

“I learned a lot, especially that, behind the scenes, everyone is crazy—even the best skaters,” Netta said.

And sitting in the “kiss and cry” for her first world championship?

“It’s terrifying,” she said. “You don’t know what to expect, even when you’ve had a good skate. The judges are all so different and, with an unranked skater, they can have mixed opinions. There is no set range when you go first.”

When it was all over and the numbers were announced, Netta “felt a big sense of relief. And then my first thought was—I can eat.”

Netta has her sights set on Korea for the 2018 Olympics. She believes hard work beats talent and anyone who works hard enough can be an Olympian.

For now, with the season officially over, she’s taking a week off to catch her breath and refresh, do some restorative yoga and try to return to being a normal kid.

Then it starts all over again.

“I’m at the rink by 6 a.m. and I’m there all day with a break to eat and do homework. I also take ballet and stretching classes,” Netta said. “I take the weekends off and try to have a normal weekend just like any other 15 year old. Being on the road so much, it’s hard being away from my family. They don’t like it when I’m gone. But when we are together, we appreciate it more. We don’t take anything for granted.”


To learn more about Netta,
check out her webpage on
The Israeli Skating Federation

“I’m always on the lookout for a
great story, an amazing restaurant,
an unusual day trip or a must-see
cultural event in Westchester County.”
To contact Lisa, email
And you can follow her on Twitter,


Column: Coping with Easter hockey

Sports Editor Mike Smith is a big-time Rangers fan, which sometimes makes him a grouch come playoff time. Contributed photo

Sports Editor Mike Smith is a big-time Rangers fan, which sometimes makes him a grouch come playoff time. Contributed photo

April 20 may have been Easter Sunday, but I have to tell you, I wasn’t feeling very Christian.

While most of my family was decked out in their finest duds and headed to mass, I also found myself in a state of constant prayer. Instead of packing in the pews with the rest of the church-going crowd, I opted to appease the hockey gods instead.

While it may be the holiest of days for most Christians, I traded in Saint Peter for Martin St. Louis and chose to root on the Rangers as they took the ice against the Flyers.

And it didn’t go well.

A big second period propelled the hated Flyers to their first playoff victory and turned me into something of a grump for the majority of my family’s Easter party.

I don’t mean to be a bad sport, but the hockey playoffs just bring out the worst in me.

In my hierarchy of sports fandom, I would put the Rangers behind the Red Sox and Giants, but firmly ahead of the Knicks. But for my money, there’s no better—or more stressful—time to have a rooting interest than in the NHL playoffs.

Baseball playoff series are a long grind, punctuated by the occasional big play. Football playoff games are a once a week affair, easily digestible even in losing efforts. But NHL playoff series are a different beast entirely.

Seven games of constant white-knuckle stress can take their toll on even the most relaxed hockey fan, and watching the Rangers blow a 2-0 lead at home to a hated division rival is certainly not conducive to the general merriment of a holiday party.

Of course, it didn’t help that my brother, a Philadelphia transplant, was cheering on the Flyers, or that my cousin Andy—ever the contrarian—was pulling no punches when deriding the Rangers’ largely ineffectual power play. I’m a pretty calm guy, but after the final horn sounded, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with my family.

Ultimately though, it was tough to dwell on the Rangers’ failure.

Watching my young nieces stumble around the backyard in their quest for brightly covered and hastily hidden Easter eggs, shrieking with delight at the discovery of each treasure, helped me to put things in

No matter how badly the Rangers might have played, it’s pretty much impossible to stay down in the dumps while being assaulted by four-year old balls of concentrated cute.

By the time everyone left, I had forgotten all about the game.

Sometimes, a dose of family is good like that. They can help you realize that most tough times—especially ones brought on by sports fandom—are fleeting.

So maybe I’ll be a little bit calmer on Tuesday when the Blueshirts head down to the Wells Fargo Center for Game 3. Maybe I’ll be able to sit in my apartment, watch the game with my roommates and be able to remind myself, no
matter how bad things get, that it’s just a game.

Then again, maybe I’ll see if my nieces need a babysitter that night. I’ll need all the help I can get.

Follow Mike on Twitter, 


paul bookbinder

Column: Streamlining your stuff

BOOKBINDERAs the years go by, we tend to accumulate as much stuff as we possibly can, fitting it into every nook and cranny our home has to offer. Just take a look in your attic, your garage and especially your kitchen to see what I’m referring to.

When is the last time you needed that big pot your sister left at your house 10 years ago? Or what about the 50 packets of duck sauce you’ve saved, just in case they forget to include it with your next order of spare ribs.

I’m not judging anyone for this behavior because I’m just as guilty, if not more so, as the next person.

Given the premise that this is an inescapable situation, there are remedies of dealing with the clutter, especially in the kitchen. Whether you’re planning a new renovation or reorganizing your existing kitchen, many storage products are available to ease the over-stressed, over-flowing-with-stuff lives of everyday people like ourselves.

Roll-out trays are one of the best solutions to increase the efficiency of base and pantry cabinets, and by making things easier to reach, it’s easier to organize them.

If your base cabinet already has a drawer at the top, you can usually fit two roll-outs in the lower section. Pantry cabinets can generally fit four or five roll-outs. This is one of my favorite upgrades because, as time passes, I find bending over less and less rewarding.

Retrofit roll-outs can be custom made to any size in wood or come in stock sizes in plastic. Some companies, like Rev-A-Shelf and Knape & Vogt, manufacture specialized wire drawers, which attach inside a base cabinet below the existing drawer. They can be ordered with a variety of inserts, providing an extra silverware or multi-purpose drawer without having to replace or rebuild the cabinet.

Wall cabinets are usually only 12 inches deep, half the depth of base cabinets, so roll-outs don’t offer much help up there. Besides, you’d have to stand on your toes to see into them. Instead, try adding an additional shelf in these cabinets. This can increase storage space by up to 20 percent and, at the same time, make things easier to organize.

If you do find yourself standing on your toes to reach into the wall cabinets, Rev-A-Shelf has come up with an ingenious solution. They have developed an innovative, pull-down, wire shelf unit. The whole unit pulls outward and downward bringing the shelves about one foot lower for easier access.

There are also many accessories that can be attached to the inside of the doors. A simple spice rack with adjustable shelves can clear up the clutter on the counter by the stove. It may be necessary to trim the depth of the shelves a little to ensure the door will close.

Adjustable can bins can also be attached to the door and function similarly to a spice rack. These are available in plastic or wood.

Many older kitchens have blind corner cabinets—cabinets you have to reach all the way into the back to get anything. If you have one, you know exactly what I mean. If the width of the door opening is greater than 13 9/16 inches, you may be able to fit revolving, half-moon shelves in the base cabinets. Although you lose some space because of the half-moon shape, it’s more than made up by the convenience of having everything swing outwards toward you.

Luckily, American industry recognizes that we’re not going to get rid of our stuff, so they keep developing new organizers to manage all that we now have and what we’ll accumulate tomorrow.

Paul Bookbinder, m.i.d., c.r., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck.
He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or


COLUMN: Guest column: Ukraine, Russia and ourselves

The author of this week’s column, Patrick J. Flood, is a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer with careyextensive experience in eastern Europe and with east-west relations and international human rights affairs. Following his Department of State career, he taught at universities in Hungary and Ukraine as well as in the U.S. Here are some of his views on east Europe today, reprinted with his permission:

When Ukraine gained independence in 1991, its borders were those set by the Soviets when they ruled the country. For reasons not known to me—perhaps only for the convenience of not having to negotiate new borders—they were left unchanged at that time.

The frontiers thus enclosed two peoples, ethnic Ukrainians in the west and center and ethnic Russians in the east and in Crimea.

And several small minorities, but Russians and Ukrainians account for around 95 percent of the population.

The two peoples have been in a state of constant rivalry and intermittent friction since independence, making it difficult to form a broad base of loyalty to a single Ukrainian state. Neither group is prepared to see the other rule over them, at least in a unitary, centralized state.

Ukraine became independent with no democratic political tradition, no recognizable democratic political parties and a ruined economy. Ever since, Ukrainians in all ethnic groups have been asking themselves, “What is Ukraine? What should be our vision for the future? Who can help us achieve it?”

Together with the deep ethnic and regional rivalry, the fact that they have not agreed on the answers is not surprising and helps explain the turmoil we have witnessed in recent months.

I conclude that, as to U.S. and European and Russian policy, everyone involved in or with Ukraine needs to take care not to overplay their hands.

For the U.S., our only real interest is in preventing the situation from degenerating into open warfare in Ukraine and in forestalling any widening of the conflict. We have some capacity to influence matters toward a peaceful and acceptable conclusion, but policy statements and private discussions need to take fully into account a slight misstep could spark an explosion and chain reaction. So far, we have been prudent, most of the time. We should remain open to solutions that with which the two groups in Ukraine can live, and it should be for the two groups to sort out the constitutional questions. We should avoid demanding the two halves form a single, centralized unitary state. If they were to develop into separate states, as did the Czech and Slovak peoples, or form an internal federation with considerable local autonomy, that is their affair.

What matters most in any arrangement are guarantees of fair treatment and respect for the human rights of people in all ethnic groups. We should provide substantial economic aid to both regions within Ukraine.

Crimea is a separate matter. Unique features distinguish Crimea from all the other territories. First, according to the most recent Ukrainian government census in 2001, Russians are an absolute majority in Crimea, which does not appear to be true of any of the other provinces. Second, Russia, and later the U.S.S.R., ruled Crimea from 1783 until Ukraine became independent in 1991. Third, Khrushchev’s gift of Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 changed nothing in terms of who ruled the peninsula since Ukraine itself, like the whole U.S.S.R., was always totally governed from Moscow.

The empty gesture of a Soviet communist dictator was certainly illegitimate and hardly qualifies as a valid, legal transfer of jurisdiction binding successor states, and we should not dignify it by giving it any importance.

Whatever anyone thinks about Russia’s method of returning Crimea to Russia, it seems that the people who live on the peninsula are pretty happy with the result. Crimea is Russian’s responsibility now, and Russia should be providing any economic aid it needs. Of course, the U.S. and other countries reserve the right to criticize and press for an end of any human rights violations that may occur.

The current pro-Russian actions in eastern Ukraine could lead to a wider conflict, but are probably aimed at improving the chances for greater internal autonomy rather than annexation to Russia. It is clearly a time when all interested states should be pressing for calm.