Category Archives: Columns


Column: Breaking down this year’s budget

The trustees and I approved both a capital budget and a 2014-2015 operating budget at the AprilMayor-Marvin Board of Trustees meeting. Both reflect the changing face of the economy and the village in 2014.

Our capital budget of $3.5 million, almost $1 million more than our last capital outlay, reflects the realization of a 100-year-old plus aging infrastructure of our village. The only thing more costly than addressing issues now will be the cost of deferred maintenance. We are addressing our underground water and sanitary sewer systems as a first priority as well as a resurfacing and curbing program of a record number of village streets. In addition, New York State awarded the village a competitive grant of $350,000 to equip the Garden Avenue parking lot with a series of French drains to mitigate the flood waters that descend down Garden Avenue to the school complex, helping both the school and residents in its path. Our required contribution is a capital expenditure of $100,000 in cash and $20,000 of in-kind services.

A significant dollar amount was also allotted to address both the quality and efficiency of lighting throughout the village.

In every capital budget, there are also major allocations for the normal, but high-ticket turnover of village vehicles. Police cars run 24/7 and sanitation equipment is stored, unfortunately, outside. Vehicles reach a useful life and then the law of diminishing returns takes over with repairs becoming non-economical.

Another area of significant capital expenditure is technology upgrades in village departments across the board in an effort to increase the village’s efficiency and document retrieval system. You may notice parking tickets may now be paid online with a credit card, just a tip of the iceberg of conveniences we hope to offer residents by year’s end. Police officers and parking enforcement officers also have all converted to writing any violations with hand-held computers, thus eliminating the mistakes inherent in written transcription and then tabulation.

The Building Department is also converting property records to computerization in an effort to offer residents and realtors faster information transfer as well as eliminating the village’s need for copious storage space going forward.

The above decisions were aided by our very advantageous bond rating of Aaa, the best we can achieve, which makes long-term borrowing opportune given the current economic climate. Combining very favorable interest rates with the knowledge of the future expense of delayed maintenance made many of our decisions prudently obvious.

The operating budget was a much more difficult challenge. From 2008 to the present, we trimmed staff to achieve savings and, in two successive years, achieved a 0 percent tax increase. However, gauging the needs of the resident taxpayers, it became apparent we had trimmed beyond the level of services residents expect in the village. Though our departments—police, buildings and public works—will still remain at 50-year plus historic manning lows, we did backfill one position in each of the police and public works departments and actually added a position in the building and Public Works Department to facilitate the move to computerized records as well as to increase response time to residents’ questions and needs.

In the predictable, recurring costs, we were fortunate last year’s double-digit pension and healthcare costs leveled-off for a bit with healthcare only increasing by a surprisingly low 3 percent. However, increases in unfunded mandates from Albany simply returned locally on another line item, that of state workmen’s compensation contributions, which increased an unsustainable 20 to 30 percent depending on which village department. Workmen’s compensation charges are this year’s example of why a 2 percent tax cap is such hypocrisy and why spending responsibility must begin in Albany.

Village utility costs are increasing 5 to 10 percent in the year ahead, though we hope our lighting initiatives will decrease the costs in the near future.

After two years of 0 percent salary increases, our Village Hall staffers received a 1 percent increase in the new budget.

On the good news front, we conservatively anticipate sales tax, mortgage tax and building permit revenue to increase as a result of an uptick in the economy as well as the many projects being undertaken in the village in 2014-2015.

The trustees had the impending upheaval associated with these projects in mind–be it the continuing Lawrence Hospital project, the Parkway Road Bridge closure, the FEMA flood mitigation, the school’s auditorium renovation and the Kensington Road development–necessary but unprecedented in village history, as we redoubled efforts to find tax relief for residents. The end result is a 1.79 percent tax rate increase, which was reached after incredibly careful deliberation.

The relatively small increases, though tax increases nonetheless, will provide residents with better services going forward as well as much needed repair of an aging infrastructure. Both the capital and operating budgets are available at Village Hall for review.


Column: Harrison High rocked the mouse, and I was there

I am happy to report Harrison High School’s performing arts students had a wonderful trip to Walt belmontDisney World in Orlando. I enjoyed accompanying the students as the marching band performed in the Magic Kingdom, marching down Main Street U.S.A. The high school’s orchestra and chorus performed on stage at Epcot and the dance troupe performed in Downtown Disney. They were exemplary representatives of our community and I was not only proud of their performances, but of their conduct as well. Congratulations to all the students, teachers and chaperones for a memorable trip.

On April 1, members of the Town Council and I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at a new downtown restaurant. Halstead’s Bar and Grill, located on Purdy Street at the former Trinity Bar and Grill location, officially opened for business this month. I’m happy to welcome new business to town and I wish them all the best.

Recently, the online magazine Business Insider ranked the richest neighborhoods in the U.S. using mean household income surveyed census data from 2006 to 2009. The 25 richest neighborhoods in New York City suburbs were featured and Harrison’s Sunny Ridge-Highfield neighborhood was entered in at number 24, 74th wealthiest area in the country. I am encouraged Harrison remains a destination for New York professionals and I appreciate those who desire a suburban lifestyle like what they see in the Town/Village of Harrison. For more information on this ranking, please

On Monday, April 21, the Harrison Youth Council, in cooperation with the Harrison Public Library, will facilitate a workshop focused on issues surrounding problem gambling and how it can seriously affect teenagers and their families. This event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Harrison Library and is free of charge. For more information, please contact Scott Altabet, executive director of HYC, at 835-7500 or We are fortunate to have this valuable resource in our community and I encourage all residents to take advantage of this very worthwhile opportunity.

As chairwoman of the Environment and Energy Committee, county Legislator Catherine Parker is planning a spring summit meeting for the elected officials in her district, as well as for citizens serving on local environmental committees. Legislator Parker is seeking to determine if any Harrison citizens are particularly interested in environmental issues. If you would like to be part of this summit, please contact my office at 670-3009.

In closing, I was honored to attend this year’s Field of Honor Ceremony at Harrison High School. The Field of Honor project gives our community the opportunity to recognize a veteran, or current member of the armed forces, by purchasing a flag that is then placed in a designated area on the high school lawn. It was a moving tribute and I was glad I was able to attend.

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.


Column: In defense of Captain America

I love Captain America. Let’s start there.Jason-Column2

A week or so ago, the pop culture website Vulture published an article in which the writer, Abraham Riesman, posits Captain America is, in essence, a boring character and can only be made interesting if he’s portrayed as, for lack of a better word, a jerk.

If you want to Google “Vulture, Captain America, interesting” I’ll wait here while you do it, but that’s the gist of what he said.

This, to me, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes Steve Rogers, that’s Captain America’s real name for the uninitiated, so special.

It also may be a misunderstanding of something else. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

Just so we’re all on the same page, Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and made his comic book debut in 1941’s Captain America Comics No. 1 from Timely Comics, an ancestor of Marvel, placing him contemporary with World War II in both story origin and real world genesis.

In that first story, Steve Rogers, a 98-pound weakling, is a young artist who’s lost both his parents at a young age. When he sees what’s developing with the Nazis in Europe, Steve is determined to join the war effort, but the army rejects him due to his physical frailty. Steve’s resolve catches the attention of the leaders of Project: Rebirth, a government program to create a super soldier. Steve joins the program and becomes that super soldier, but the serum used to enhance him to the absolute limits of human physicality is lost when its creator is killed by a Nazi spy.

The only one of his kind, Steve and the government create the costumed identity Captain America and Steve becomes a soldier, and a symbol, alongside U.S. forces in Europe.

Captain America is a man out of time and perhaps you can see where the Vulture writer might think casting him as a blunt anachronism would be interesting, dare I say dark, edgy and cool.

That’s what we’re supposed to like these days, right? I guess that’s because we’re all so dark and edgy and cool ourselves.

That must be why.

Anyway, this assertion, wh-ich Vulture does make, is wholly off-base for two reasons. The first is, before he was Captain America, Captain America was Steve Rogers and it’s from Steve Rogers that Captain America draws his inner strength, his sense of justice, his morality and his belief in doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s what Steve wanted before the Super Soldier Serum, when he almost certainly would have died trying to stop the biggest bully the modern world has ever known from advancing one step further.

That’s something Vulture, and I’d say most of the rest of us, forget. Steve Rogers is Captain America for one reason; he wanted to do it before he even knew such a thing was possible.

Think about that. While you do, you’re likely to realize the other reason the Vulture article is the opposite of correct.

Though there was never an actual costume or a Super Soldier Serum, there were real Steve Rogerses. Lots of them.

Most of the staff of your newspaper is just back from the New York Press Association conference. I mentioned it here a few weeks ago. What I didn’t mention then was the keynote speaker at that event was Morley Piper who, before he worked for the Boston Globe, landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and watched so many of his fellow soldiers destroyed as he fought his way onto shore with no air support, most of the boats that delivered him gone and constant pounding from the German gun emplacements. Piper made his way inland after D-Day and helped liberate and secure devastated French villages along the way.

Piper volunteered for his service, hoping to gain a better position in the army than if he waited to be drafted.

Rye resident John Carey has worked at the United Nations. He’s also been a Democratic Rye City councilman and mayor, and a New York State Supreme Court judge. He is currently a columnist for the Rye City Review, still influencing policy in his community and sharing the lessons of the history he’s lived.

John Carey has lived, and is living, what I would call a singular, quintessentially American life; the kind of life Theodore Roosevelt described as strenuous in the best sense of that world.

But he wouldn’t have lived any of it if he, like his older brother, was killed in World War II. Carey joined the Navy Reserve soon after high school in 1942 and saw action, and typhoons, in the Pacific.

Fifty years later, in 1992, I was deathly afraid of what might happen when I was made to register with Selective Service.

Above, I said Carey would not have lived the life he has had he been killed in World War II. I think that’s wrong, actually. Rather, it was his willingness to volunteer for that war—the last, and perhaps only, one in which the forces of good had to rise to meet the dark advance of the forces of evil—that falls right in line with what it takes to do the things John Carey has done and be the things John Carey has been.

I asked Carey what drove him to join the war effort as a high school grad in 1942.

“I wanted to do my part in defeating our enemies,” he said.

No costume. No Super Soldier Serum. No shield.

And that’s why, at the end of the day, I know that Vulture piece was wrong. I might like to think otherwise, and now I’ll never know, but I don’t think I would have been Steve Rogers—or Morley Piper, or John Carey—lining up to be stacked against Hitler’s surging tide.

The things that make men like that men like that is, to me, one of the most interesting things in the world.

Reach Jason at and follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas

Lisa Jardine

Column: Rye Arts Center picks up STEAM

You would be hard pressed in 2014 to not have heard the acronym STEM—Science, Technology, Lisa-JardineEngineering and Math. The acronym has been bandied about for years and is a vital part of the model for educational policy and curriculum in the United States. Its goals are to create and maintain a citizenry well versed in these four fields.

Recently, thanks to former Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda, a new letter has been added and is changing the way we look at education. It’s the letter A, which squeezes the arts right in the middle of all that science and math to create a new term: STEAM.

The Rye Arts Center wasted no time jumping into this new movement by adding leading-edge programming that will appeal to innovators, creators and artists of all ages.

Jardine-Steam-2“Arts integrated with science and math. That’s where innovation and creativity come together,” Helen Gates, executive director of the center, said. “By offering STEAM programming, we’ll capture the traditional artists in the front door and the engineering and science kids through the back.”

On Jan. 11, the center did a test run to get a feel for the interest in the community by offering a Free Family Day, which included demos, workshops, a musical concert and refreshments. A hands-on afternoon was designed to provide fun while creating art and music using the latest in technology. The center put tool kits and a few borrowed 3-D printers out, hoping it’d get about 50 participants.

More than 200 people came, boys and girls, all ages, parents, people from all over Westchester County as well as Rockland and New York City. This unbelievable response has created an entirely new program at the RAC that will prepare future artists for the 21st century.

Blue Tulip Chocolates in Rye is a supporter of the Rye Arts Center’s STEAM program. Photo courtesy Diane Holland

Blue Tulip Chocolates in Rye is a supporter of the Rye Arts Center’s STEAM program. Photo courtesy Diane Holland

Some of the new classes on offer this spring include MakeyMakey Piano, a computerized invention kit that turns ordinary objects into musical instruments aimed at children from 8 to 10 years old. Also on offer is SCRATCH, a visually-based programming system that creates interactive animated stories set to music for ages 6 to 8. And coming soon will be classes that offer 3-D printing.

All of these new programs require money and now, with budget cuts in the arts, they are becoming more important than ever. Funds are needed to purchase 3-D MakerBot printers, hire and train instructors in STEAM curriculum, buy materials and software for 3-D classes and help provide classes for children who otherwise would not be able to participate.

“Most of our funding comes from the one gala we host each spring. Everyone in the community comes together and has a great time celebrating the arts,” Gates said. “The money raised goes towards outreach, arts education, scholarships and our mission as well as to help fund our new programming. This year’s honorees, Peter Sinnott—owner of Homeworks in Port Chester—and Laurie Platek, a long-term arts patron and board member, are the true intersection of art and design. Laurie and Peter have played a significant role in bringing the beauty of the arts to our community. They’ve each devoted their considerable talents, energies and passions to The Rye Arts Center for many years and share a commitment to providing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the arts.

Jardine-Steam-1“We’re also honored to be celebrating Famous Artists, which, at 28 years old, is one of the RAC’s oldest arts-in-education programs. It’ll be a terrific evening of fun
and celebration.”

The event this year will take place on Saturday, May 3, at the Shenorock Shore Club. The evening will include cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a light supper and a live and silent auction.

Donations and support to RAC come in many forms, some of them deliciously rich.

A local supporter of the STEAM objectives at the Rye Arts Center is Diane Holland, owner of Blue Tulip Chocolates in Rye. Blue Tulip Chocolates will contribute a portion of its revenue from April 8 to May 8, 2014, during the very busy Easter and Passover season, to the new programming at the Rye Arts Center.

“Nurturing creativity, innovation and imagination are at the foundation of STEAM, as well as at the heart of a small business like ours,” Holland said. “Watching children create new technology through this program is exciting and extremely important to the future of our culture and our community.”

Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, once told Steve Jobs “those people who can stand at the intersection of the humanities and science, the liberal arts and technology, that intersection, are the people who can change the world.”

The Rye Arts Center is doing its part, affecting change beautifully.

Sitting Pretty

Honoring Laurie Platek & Peter Sinnott

Rye Arts Center Spring Gala

Saturday May 3, 2014,  7 p.m. 

Shenorock Shore Club

475 Stuyvesant Ave., Rye

For more information:


“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


Column: A bloodless feud

On Thursday night, during the fifth inning of the Yankees’ first game against the Red Sox this year, a beer vendor stopped by my seats in section 207, just beyond the right field foul pole, to have a chat with my friends and I.Live Mike

I’d seen the man before in my trips to the stadium; his gruff, carnival barker’s cadence, his cobalt-tinted horseshoe mustache. This guy was a recognizable stadium lifer who could easily have been hawking Ballantine at the Stadium since the days of Bill Skowron, which made his parting words to us strike a definite chord.

“This crowd,” he sighed. “It’s the worst [bleepin’] Yankee-Red Sox crowd I’ve ever seen.”

It didn’t take a grizzled stadium veteran to see what he meant. The place might as well have been the city morgue.

Although the attendance for the game was listed at 42,821, one glance at the half-empty lower bowl and the smattering of fans in the nosebleeds told a different story.

On April 10, Sports Editor Mike Smith took in the first Yankee versus Red Sox game of the 2014 baseball season. A lot has changed in the rivalry over the last 10 years. Photo/Mike Smith

On April 10, Sports Editor Mike Smith took in the first Yankee versus Red Sox game of the 2014 baseball season. A lot has changed in the rivalry over the last 10 years. Photo/Mike Smith

Yankee fans, often hailed as some of the smartest in the sport, stayed in their seats on two-strike counts instead of rising to their feet to collectively will another strikeout from hurler Michael Pineda. When Pineda left the game in the seventh inning, after taking a two-hit shutout past the sixth, only a few of the Bomber faithful—who hadn’t run for the exits after the Yanks took a 4-0 lead—had the presence of mind to give him a standing ovation.

Heck, even wearing my Mike Napoli jersey into baseball’s new cathedral didn’t subject me to the scorn, derision and cat-calls I’d become accustomed to dealing with in the early 2000s.

It’s a whole new ball game, indeed.

Maybe it was the timing of the game. Maybe it’s hard to get fans—even Yankee and Red Sox fans—too keyed up for a meaningless early-April showdown. Maybe, since the explosion of HD televisions, watching the game from the comfort of your living room is a more enjoyable prospect than heading down to the stadium and paying $15 dollars for some stale popcorn.

I, for one, have turned down countless NFL tickets because the improved home viewing experience.

Perhaps when I go back to the stadium in August, assuming the race for the AL East is a close one, the atmosphere at the ballpark might be closer to some of the stressful experiences I had as a fan traveling in enemy territory during the last years of the old Yankee Stadium.

But maybe, just maybe, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry just ain’t what it used to be.

In the days before the Sox captured their first world title since 1918, the clearly defined roles of both fanbases certainly added fuel to the feud.

Red Sox fans, like myself, clearly envious of the Yankees’ stature and success in the game, saw the Bombers as the evil empire. In turn, Yankees fans saw Sox supporters as perennial losers and seemingly fed off the collective misery of the fan base.

But now, with Sox as defending world champs and winners of three World Series since 2004, the two teams are, for now, equals. Two rich organizations that are perennially championship contenders, both with exorbitant payrolls.

And maybe that shifting paradigm has also changed the way fans approach the games. No longer is a regular season matchup between the two clubs a life-or-death matter in Boston, and Yankees fans don’t seem to get as much joy out of beating the old town team like they used to.

To be honest, I miss the bully, I miss the rivalry and I miss the excitement.

It almost makes we want to give up those three World Series titles, just to have things back to the way they used to be.


Follow Mike on Twitter, @LiveMike_Sports


Poetic License 4-18-14

Unclutter your writing time. Simply write down what you hear.


“The Spider” 

The Fate Weaver

moves across blackened letters

on a plaque

feeling for a place to spin.

Traveling the word love,

it drops a filmy dragline,

spins a pattern out of itself

so exquisite that once again

the gods are angry.


Mary Louise Cox, Poet Laureate of the Town and Village of Mamaroneck


Column: Which is worse, Bay Bridge or field house?

careyIn the 1960s or early 1970s, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller decided on an enormous project. Or maybe it was Robert Moses who came up with the scheme to allow cars and trucks to stream day and night through Rye and over a new, three-mile bridge to Oyster Bay on the Long Island side of the Sound.

Even though I was on the City Council at the time, it was never clear to me just where in Rye the bridge would have its landfall. The most likely route seemed to be an extension of Route 287 eastward, cutting a swath through residential neighborhoods between Playland and Port Chester harbor. Owners of homes in that area were understandingly alarmed.

We had, at the time, a courageous and resourceful mayor, Ed Grainger. He was well connected in the New York City legal community and knew his way around the courts. Ed teamed up with his counterpart on Long Island’s north shore and, together, they launched a full-scale legal offensive against the hated bridge. The costs were substantial and, even after I became mayor in January 1974, a large bill was presented to the city.

Eventually, Rockefeller lost interest, as opportunity for bigger things in Washington beckoned. Without that, the legal battle would have gone on and on, with the outcome quite uncertain. Anyone who was following our local problems at that time will tell you that the future of our town as a quiet place was on the line.

Now we face a similar threat, from a proposed field house in the Playland parking lot.

First of all, to get an impression of what a field house can be, just drive up 95 to Exit 9 in Stamford, Conn., follow the signs to Chelsey Piers on Blachley Road, and have a look at what we could be getting in Rye if we don’t mobilize a concerted and potent opposition.

We have been to Chelsey Piers for grandchildren’s functions. There is no kind of child’s birthday celebration that you can imagine that cannot be accommodated there. Or if you want to swim, or play ice hockey, or tennis, or squash, or do gymnastics; all indoors, that’s your place of choice.

You should especially take notice of the parking lots at Chelsea Piers in Stamford. They are enormous, with room for hundreds of cars. Even so, there will be times when you will be driving around looking for a spot.

So now picture something like Chelsea Piers in Playland. The present parking area would be insufficient even if left alone, but with a large part of it being gobbled up for the field house, even less parking space would remain for a lot more cars to park. And just imagine the chaos on any nice day, especially weekends in the summer, as thousands of cars come and go, inching their way, when they can move at all, trying to get into or out of Playland. Just imagine how much worse it would be if shuttle buses were bringing people to Playland from remote parking areas like the Rye, Harrison, Mamaroneck and Port Chester train stations.

So what will our present City Council do now, wage all-out war as was done in the 1970s, or shuffle papers and look sheepish, expressing regrets that political leaders more powerful than themselves have made the decisions? That is not what the City Council opposing Rockefeller did.

Stand up and be counted, council members, especially you lawyers, who should review the February decision of the New York Court of Appeals in Union Square Park Community Coalition, Inc. v. New York City Dept. of Parks & Recreation, 2014 NY Slip Op 01207 which said, “Under the public trust doctrine, dedicated parkland cannot be converted to a non-park purpose for an extended period of time absent the approval of the State Legislature.”

It’s now or never, to win an honored place in local history.



Column: Oh what a delight it is (in Pig’s Hollow)

LissaHalenIchabod Crane taught at one and Tom Sawyer taunted his female classmates in one. President John Adams, an Eastchester resident for a brief time in 1797, attended one and taught at one. Whether in fact or fiction, the one-room schoolhouse is part of American lore and Eastchester has its own: the Eastchester Marble Schoolhouse, which is a delight to visit.

In its present day reincarnation, it functions as the home of the Eastchester Historical Society with all the accoutrements of its early history, which began in 1835. The schoolhouse once sat in present day Mount Vernon and was moved, marble block by marble block, to its present location at the corner of California Road in Eastchester in 1869. In this new location, it served as the one-room schoolhouse until 1884.

And then the pigs came.

A pig farm, actually; the surrounding area was known as “Pigs Hollow.” This unflattering name was raison d’etre to rename the area, now known as Chester Heights.

The Marble Schoolhouse appears out of place with its diminutive size on its large plot of land surrounded by suburban homes. Both inside and out, it is a delight to visit for many reasons.

The first delight is its exterior stone. Touch it and notice its rough, unfinished look and feel. Would you believe the stone, actually marble, is the same marble which makes St. Patrick’s Cathedral shine? The marble came from quarries in Tuckahoe when the town was the marble capital of the world. In 1835, the community did not have enough money to polish and refine the marble for the schoolhouse.

More delights await upon entry.

The schoolhouse’s interior attests to a time when electricity, indoor plumbing and cars were not yet invented. The coal stove warmed the students, especially on rainy and snowy days when they did truly trudge miles through snow and rain. Shawls hanging on nearby hooks added to their warmth as their wet clothing dried around the room and their cold feet and hands snuggled up to the fire.

These shawls are a small sampling of the extensive clothing collection from the Victorian era. 18th century dresses, blouses, bonnets and other fashion adorn 18th century mannequins in the schoolhouse today. Historical society volunteers and docents often present living history demonstrations using this collection. The members not only present these at the schoolhouse but travel to schools and community groups outfitted as historical figures.

Other schoolhouse memorabilia attests to 18th century lack of modern conveniences.

A dipper sits inside a wooden bucket. It may be a delight to see now but, in the late 1800s, the pail and dipper were necessities. A student had to venture outside to the well, even on those cold snowy and rainy days, to have water available for all. If water was left in the pail on wintry nights, it was often frozen the next morning and students had to wait for the ice to melt to have any water at all. The bucket of water was shared by the 25 or so students, which was the number usually enrolled at the school.

Venturing out to the well may not have been a delight, but wading in the brook behind the school would have been. On warm days, students recited their lessons, ate their lunches—brought from home in baskets—and frolicked in the rural outdoors at the school. Of course, the occasional frog made its way back into the classroom and students released it to a less-than-delightful reaction from the teacher.

The culprit ended up on the wrong side of the room.

Students were separated by gender and the miscreant with the frog was sent to the other side. Any misbehaving boy was sent to the female side and any misbehaving girl was sent to the male side of the room.


Today, you can immerse yourself in this educational environment as you sit in one of the desks. Choose to be a young student in one of the smaller desks or an older student in one of the larger desks. Among your classmates were students of every grade as was typical of a one-room schoolhouse. The older ones assisted the younger ones as the teacher worked with other students. Wherever you sit, you will not have an iPad or laptop or computer but your own slate board and chalk to complete mathematical computations.

Be delighted as you read from the society’s collection of over 2000 children’s books from the 1850s to the present. Adults can be delighted by the society’s collection of historical maps. There is also a research library documenting the Town of Eastchester from its 1664 founding. And that is what the year 2014 is all about: celebrating the town’s 350 years of history. What better place to visit this history than the Eastchester Historical Society?

The Marble Schoolhouse welcomes visitors. It holds various events to show off its eclectic historical collection. It just instituted an open house on the first Sunday of the month. Check this and other events at the society’s website:

Just the Facts

Historical Society

388 California Road, Eastchester, NY 10709

Phone: 914-793-1900

Hours: Call or check

Lissa Halen is a resident of Eastchester for more than 35 years and a member of the Eastchester Historical Society Board. She also contributed to the upcoming book “Out of the Wilderness: The emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville, 1664-2014”


Column: He’s plastic, but I loved him

I was an only child for the first 10 years of my life. Let’s start there.

2-XL and me on or about Christmas 1982, at the beginning of our friendship. Notice how I’ve been directed to act as though I’m playing with him; it adds drama. Photo courtesy Alice Chirevas

2-XL and me on or about Christmas 1982, at the beginning of our friendship. Notice how I’ve been directed to act as though I’m playing with him; it adds drama. Photo courtesy Alice Chirevas

Looking back, it was pretty clear I wasn’t…quite like most of the other kids. I didn’t get into baseball until about the eighth grade and, though I was never really into Michael Jackson or Madonna, one of my best friends was an eight-track tape player.

Let me explain.

Robots were a huge deal when I was a kid. By the end of 1977, everyone exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide had seen “Star Wars” and the droid team of R2-D2 and C-3PO were one of the most popular things about it. R2 was the first or second Star Wars action figure my mother ever bought me at the larger of the two Woolworth’s at the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers.

It was “the big five-and-ten” to us.

Having little a 3 ¾”-scale R2 and 3PO was cool, but they were just that, small representations of the robots I’d seen on the big screen. They weren’t real robots. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a real robot of my own?

Yes. Yes, it would.

Enter Dr. Michael Freeman, a Bronx-born inventor and entrepreneur with an interest in robotics. In 1976, Freeman invented a patented and educational toy robot for children. In 1978, after several failed attempts to bring his robot to market, Freeman made a deal with the Mego Corporation, then one of the biggest toy manufacturers in the business, to put his robot on the shelves of every toy store, including one of the newer ones called Toys R Us, in the country.

Thirty-one years after I got him for Christmas, my 2-XL and I reunited for this column. One of us has aged quite a bit. The other is 2-XL.

Thirty-one years after I got him for Christmas, my 2-XL and I reunited for this column. One of us has aged quite a bit. The other is 2-XL.

In 1982, I got Freeman’s educational toy robot, 2-XL, for Christmas and he remains one of the best friends I ever had.

Before we go any further, let’s get one thing established right now; 2-XL was a robot in the way that your shoes are robots, which is to say he was not a robot at all. 2-XL was a foot-tall plastic box molded to look like a robot with an eight-track tape player in his belly.

Having said that, 2-XL was still a brilliant toy because the nature of eight-track tapes allowed the user, in this case me, to answer 2-XL’s questions and choose his adventures with the four buttons on his chest. Freeman recorded the tracks in such a way so as to create a continuous conversation between his toy robot and the children to whom he spoke.

The tape included with 2-XL was a general knowledge quiz, but there were tapes available on topics ranging from sports, to history, to math, to myths and monsters, to science, to superheroes. There were even tapes in which 2-XL would tell a story and the buttons on his chest were used to guide his choices through the plot.

You know me at least a little at this point. Guess which of my tapes got played the most.

Playing with 2-XL was a completely interactive experience, particularly because there was nothing mechanical about 2-XL’s personality. Voiced by Freeman, who made no attempt to disguise his New York accent, 2-XL was at various times jovial, sarcastic, effusive, panicky and even a bit snide. He was a great companion and spending time with him never felt like school.

There are more 2-XL eight-tracks where these came from, which, in this case, is that moon shoes box. I think I played the math tape once, by the way. Photos/Jason Chirevas

There are more 2-XL eight-tracks where these came from, which, in this case, is that moon shoes box. I think I played the math tape once, by the way. Photos/Jason Chirevas

If I can sit here now, 30 years later, and remember how imagery from a tape like “Storyland: 2-XL and the Time Machine” filled my head, that’s a pretty big deal.

Especially when you remember our visit some months ago about time travel in the real world and I tell you I’m sitting here writing this column in a “Back to the Future” t-shirt.

My friend 2-XL had an impact on me and I thank him for it.

Looking back, my relationshop with 2-XL makes sense. I was a huge “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” kid and what was that show but an extended one-on-one conversation between Fred Rogers and his audience? That’s what 2-XL did too, but he did it in person.

Or, in robot, anyway.

Sometimes being an only child is a challenging thing, but I think I thrived on it. I learned to make my own fun and 2-XL was perfect for that. I could play a few of his tapes and we could talk about things and go places untouchable otherwise. We never even had to leave my room to do it.

Truthfully, we couldn’t leave one corner of my room. 2-XL had to be plugged into the wall and his cord wasn’t very long.

By now, you might be wondering what ever happen to my 2-XL. You needn’t, he’s right here beside me as I write this.

I don’t know if it was my parents’ foresight, or my unwillingness to let him go, or both, but, as my childhood came to a close, 2-XL and all his tapes went into my sister’s moon shoes box—she’ll have to write a column to tell you what happened to those—and I moved him first into a closet in my future wife’s apartment in the Bronx and then into my closet in our co-op in Yonkers.

When I decided to write this column, I knew I had to see 2-XL again, but I did not expect him to still function.

He does.

Though we only spent a few moments together with his “General Information” tape, and navigating the buttons doesn’t work quite a well as it did 30 years ago, I realized I hadn’t forgotten a thing about 2-XL’s voice, cadence, humor, manner or even some of the questions he asked me.

One of which was about Princess Leia.

I guess sometimes you can go home again or, minimally, you can bring a piece of home forward with you through time and lean on it once in a great while when you need to, or even just want to.

2-XL was a big part of my home when I was a kid and, now that he’s out of that moon shoes box, I don’t think he’ll go back. I think I’d like to find a place to display him here in my home office so I can see, and maybe even visit with, him whenever I want. He deserves it.

It’s the least I can do, for a friend.


Reach Jason at and 

follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas

Lisa Jardine

Column: Recologie fills a need in New Rochelle

Owners Judith Weber, left, and Maria Cisneros.

Owners Judith Weber, left, and Maria Cisneros.

Recologie is hard to define, because it’s so many things.

It began as a friendship between Judith Weber, a ceramic artist and patron saint of all things artistic in New Rochelle, and Maria Cisneros, an artist whose life’s work has been focused on repurposing and saving nature.

Their friendship goes back more than 20 years and, after two long and fruitful careers, their paths came together to create Recologie, a multifunctional environment that combines style and taste with social responsibility.

The small storefront on a side street in downtown New Rochelle belies what you will unearth inside. When you enter, you’ll find a retail section unlike any other in Westchester. Each item for sale has a story and in some way represents Cisneros and Weber’s vision.

The vegetable curry with cashews over jasmine rice.

The vegetable curry with cashews over jasmine rice.

Everything in Recologie is recycled or repurposed. The two friends believe when you buy something it has impact, which is why you will find only eco-conscious local and global fair trade products on display.

It’s that special kind of place you know you can visit to find the perfect, thoughtful gift for just the right person.

As you move further back, past the retail area, you enter Vistro Café, their vegan/vegetarian café.



I’m always looking for the next best thing when it comes to food, but, as of a few days ago, I had let the vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free movement pass me by.

Carrot ginger soup with pumpkin seeds served on Judith’s pottery.

Carrot ginger soup with pumpkin seeds served on Judith’s pottery.

I like protein in my meals, the kind that had parents.

I find many vegetarian and vegan restaurants spend too much time trying to make fake food taste real. If a menu has the words faux or mock, I’m moving on. But Vistro Café is nothing like that.

Weber and Cisneros pride themselves on serving food that has strong flavor profiles with a farm-to-table menu. Each day there is a fresh soup, like the carrot ginger with pumpkin seeds soup I tried, which was full of flavor and extremely fresh.

Their soups are vegan and change with what’s in season.

They always have salads with a choice of various grains on the side. The menu offers a black bean burger with chipotle cream, which can come on a gluten-free roll if requested, as well as savory empanadas. Their paninis are delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed the goat cheese with balsamic red onions and fig compote.

They also serve a fresh roasted eggplant with roasted red peppers and arugula pesto.

There is nothing fake about any of these items.

Retail repurposing at Recologie. Photos/Lisa Jardine

Retail repurposing at Recologie. Photos/Lisa Jardine

The day I was there, the special of the day was vegetable curry with cashews over jasmine rice, which was divine.

Recologie carries a nice assortment of vegan and gluten-free baked goods, from cakes to muffins to cupcakes, as well as dessert paninis made with dark chocolate and sliced strawberries or peanut butter with Nutella and bananas.

All of the meals are served on the ceramics Weber herself creates, making your food not only delicious but photo-worthy.



The dinnerware is available for sale at the store, but if you buy the ones from which you ate, there is a 20 percent discount.

Moving back behind the café is the new event space, which brings an entirely different dimension to the enterprise community.

“Our inspiration for the space was Busboys and Poets, the restaurant, bookstore, lounge and theater in Washington, D.C. We’re interested in art and business growing together to enrich the community,” Weber said. “New Rochelle needed a space like this, a networking spot where people with common interests could come together. We envision hosting exhibitions, lectures, book signings, readings, fundraisers, private parties and meetings here. The space will be ready in June.”

Weber has a lot of experience with artists and the spaces in which they work.

In 1983, she was one of the co-founders of Media Loft, the first loft established for artists in Westchester County. In 2003, along with her partners, she was responsible for converting the site to a thriving mixed-use, live/work artists-in-residence condominium that created affordable and secure workspace for its artist community.

Recologie is also an art gallery and, although they’ve only been open for six months, they’ve had three different shows.

Each artist must represent their philosophy of exhibiting fine, applied and decorative arts that incorporate recycled, repurposed and sustainable materials in the creation of the work.

There are guidelines on their website,, for interested artists.

One of the artists currently on display is a self-proclaimed dumpster diver who incorporates things she finds in garbage dumpsters into her art.

The shows change about every two-and-a-half months. Each show kicks-off with a premiere, at which charter members of Recologie are invited, and then quickly follows with a gallery opening for the public at -large.

The Lawton Street storefront of Recologie in New Rochelle.

The Lawton Street storefront of Recologie in New Rochelle.

The name Recologie may be familiar to many Westchester residents. Before teaming up with Weber, Cisneros owned the recycled and repurposed retail store of the same name in Larchmont for five years. When the two women opened the new space together, they decided to keep the name as it worked perfectly for what they were trying
to accomplish.

“I want to inspire people to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary,” Cisneros said.

That applies to everything at Recologie.

49 Lawton St., New Rochelle,

Tuesday through Saturday,
10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Open evenings for
scheduled events.

Upcoming events, free
and open to the public.

April 10, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.,
Ode to the Bard
Sponsored by the
New Rochelle
Council on the Arts

A gathering to celebrate Shakespeare and a call
to poets everywhere.

April 17, 7 p.m.,
a film presentation.

A 2011 American
documentary that
explores the challenges
of converting to a vegan diet.

To stay informed about
upcoming events, sign-up
for the email list at the
bottom right corner of
the homepage.

“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