Category Archives: Columns

LissaHalen-Column

Column: A block of stone

LissaHalenMichelangelo was partially correct when he declared, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it.” He may have added, “Every block of stone has a building waiting to be built with it ”as that was true in Tuckahoe.

Marble was discovered in this village in the early 1830s and was a thriving industry there for more than 100 years. If you’ve ever seen the U.S. Capitol building, the main branch of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, the U. S. Customs House or St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you’ve seen Tuckahoe marble.

There’s a place where you can not only handle smaller pieces of this dolomite, but also see photos of the original marble quarries, hundreds of feet deep. This place is the Tuckahoe Historical Society in the lobby of the Tuckahoe Town Hall located at 65 Main St., once the Tuckahoe School. The lobby now has an attractive showcase in it, which entices visitors with photos depicting Tuckahoe’s heritage-rich past.

Tuckahoe is Westchester County’s smallest municipality, a village within the larger Town of Eastchester. Tuckahoe’s history begins with this marble discovery along the Bronx River, long before there was a Bronx River Parkway.

The village is a hidden gem, but the keepers of the village’s history are the true hidden gems. The Tuckahoe History Committee dedicates Wednesday mornings to cataloguing the village’s rich and fabled history. The committee oversees this ongoing work. They are generous with their time and proud of the village’s history.

The Tuckahoe History Com-mittee does not focus merely on marble history, but on hundreds of years of the village’s history, which they promote and maintain.

Tuckahoe was one of several villages in the United States to run a trolley during the early 20th century. The First Trolley Bell is in the Town Hall lobby’s showcase. Burroughs-Wellcome once occupied nearby buildings, now luxury apartments and office space. Medical samples from this company are in the showcase. Drawers in the showcase hold unusual books such as the “Polk’s Bronxville/Tuckahoe Directory 1929-1930.” This book listed all addresses in the villages accompanied by all residents’ names and occupations, an earlier version of a local web search.

Want to see and read about village notables from the past and present such as Tuskegee Airman Capt. Edward Wood-ward? Request one of the many binders containing their stories and delve deeper to see residents’ family keepsakes.

If quarry workers were out of work or local families were just down on their luck, Tuckahoe was there to help and the binders contain the history of these many service organizations, which did this and so much more.

Stand by a window with any committee member to be regaled with the back story of local buildings like the Washington Hotel. And yes, there were several hotels in Tuckahoe. The Washington Hotel was built of Tuckahoe marble by Samuel Fee in 1883 and now serves as offices and apartments. Fee worked on St. Patrick’s Cathedral for 12 years before settling in Tuckahoe where he rose to become a quarry superintendent.

Listen to them discuss historic Depot Square with its modernized version, which now includes a Starbucks. Tuckahoe’s railroad station was one of the first railroad stations north of New York City of New York Central, now Metro-North, in 1844. Urban legend states quarry owners lobbied for the station to transport the marble. Prior to the construction of the station, marble was placed on oxen carts and trudged across town to the Hutchinson River before it was sent far and wide for buildings.

Listen to the committee discuss the nearby Olde Stone Mill, now a restaurant, but once a place where buttons were manufactured for the soldiers’ uniforms during the War of 1812. The present structure’s rich history began in 1853 when the Hodgman Rubber Company began one of the early manufacturers making waterproof boots and clothing. As the Hodgman Company, the mill was again asked to contribute to soldiers’ uniforms. This time they produced rubber raincoats in World War I. The restaurant owners will gladly discuss this structure’s rich history on display in the many photographs adorning its walls.

Each of these buildings are visible from the windows of Town Hall. Each of these topics and the remainder of Tuckahoe’s history are continuously catalogued and updated by these loyal volunteers. Don’t let the simplicity of classic school binders fool you. They now total close to 150, and more are being added as residents contribute memorabilia.

Stop by any Wednesday morning to research the vast Tuckahoe history in those binders. Give yourself plenty of time, not just to delve into the showcase of history, but to relax with the keepers of this history and absorb their love, pride and knowledge of Tuckahoe.

Consider dining at the historic Olde Stone Mill restaurant down the hill. Many other lunch options are within walking distance in this pedestrian town. Brewpubs are available for the beer aficionados: recently opened Growlers Beer Bistro and the Tap House directly across from the railroad station. The Tap House sits in historic Depot Square. Angelina’s, located across from Depot Square, provides Italian fare. There are sandwich shops, Carvel and coffee shops to satisfy your après lunch palette.

Once you’ve come to know not just Tuckahoe’s marble story but all of the village’s fabled history, you’ll be glad you did and you’ll come back for more.

 

Tuckahoe
Historical Society

Tuckahoe Town Hall,
65 Main St.

Wednesday mornings
9:30 a.m. to noon
Admission is free

 

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”

Jason5

Column: Nobody’s perfect, not even me

Jason-Column2If you’re reading this on the Review’s publication date, I am on the Disney Fantasy with my wife and parents enjoying the last of a seven-day cruise of the western Caribbean. Along the way, we celebrated my mother’s 69th birthday, our 15th wedding anniversary and, generally, the joy of touring the seas on a floating city of magic.

I’m sure I had a great time.

I’m equally sure I could use a great time right about now as I sit here in the office on the night before we depart.

If you’re a Catholic, you believe in something called papal infallibility. That means you believe the pope can’t be wrong.

That’s not exactly what papal infallibility means but, for the purposes of our visit this week, let’s agree that’s it in a nutshell.

While I’d suspect Pope Francis is not one who will throw his infallibility in anyone’s face—he seems like a pretty down-to-Earth guy—at least he has it to fall back on and, if you’re one of the faithful, you’ll go along with him should he choose to assert it.

I don’t have that luxury.

I recently realized I am wrong about something, about someone, and I have been from the beginning of my experience with them.

You and I speak pretty frankly in this space each week. I value that and I hope you value it, too. But this week we’re not going to be quite as detailed as usual, largely because I don’t think we need to be.

You’ll know how I feel because I’m sure, at some point, you’ve felt this way too.

There are a lot of things we do in life because we have to do them. They’re our obligations and we enjoy them or we don’t; they have to be done either way. Most people would count their jobs among these things and, hopefully, you’re one of the fortunate ones for whom your job is an obligation you like doing.

I’d consider myself a member of that group.

There are other things we do in life because we want to. I’m not talking about collecting baseball cards or cruising the Caribbean on a Disney ship, I’m talking more about the things we do because we want to do them for other people. Those are the things that often define not only how we’re seen and appreciated by others, they can also shape how we see and appreciate ourselves.

When viewed that way, are they really things we do for others? I’d say so, but I think it’s a delusion to believe in absolute altruism. We do for others to fill a need in ourselves.

Not saying that’s a bad thing, just saying it’s a thing.

When we invest in others outside the realms of friendship or romance, we usually do it because we see a place where we can be of service. In doing so, I think we hope what we bring to that particular table will be noticed, appreciated and, in the best of scenarios, we will get to see the fruits of our labor as the person in whom we invested overcomes or improves or achieves or does whatever else they set out to do.

They overcome. They improve. They achieve. And so do we.

This all sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? I’ll tell you what—and I hope you already know this—when it works, it is great.

Of course, in order for these investments to work, we’ve got to back the right horse, so to speak. The people in whom we chose to invest, for lack of a better word, need to be worthy of it.

What if they’re not? What if we’re wrong?

Well, then you end up where I am now; acutely aware of my own fallibility.

As I believe I’ve lamented in this space before, I’m going to turn 40 this year. That’s pretty far along in the game to butcher a character judgment as badly as I have. It makes me question myself to a degree with which I’m not particularly comfortable.

So what are the answers?

I think I’ve learned that, when I returned to an active, gainful life after 12 years on the sidelines telling people I was working on a writing career, I needed to feel like I had more to offer than news stories about the Village of Mamaroneck. While I’m proud of the work I did while I was on the beat there—and I hope those folks feel I did them a service—I think, looking back, I wanted to somehow validate my squandered years, to contribute to my new endeavor in ways perhaps those around me weren’t positioned to do.

And so I did, or tried to, and it didn’t pay off at all.

Lesson learned, I suppose, but not about life or anyone no longer in mine so much as about me.

I can still make mistakes—big ones—and there’s still room to grow and people from whom to learn.

I’ll invest again, I’m sure. But next time it’ll be from a stronger position.

Thanks for reading. We’ll talk about something fun next week.

Reach Jason at jason@hometwn.com and
follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas

 
Lisa Jardine

Column: The sweet smell of success

Maria Velente, owner of Chocolations and member of WEN.

Maria Velente, owner of Chocolations and member of WEN.

Women don’t have it easy when it comes to juggling career and family. I can count on one hand the women I know who have been able to accomplish this task seamlessly from the birth of their children to high school graduation.

I left the workplace after my third child was born and, when it came time for me to return, the landscape had changed dramatically. My degree in computer applications—based on mainframe architecture—was obsolete. I had to redefine who I was and what I wanted to do, which for me meant going back to school to get another degree in a completely different field.

But not everyone chooses to go back to school—some have chosen the brave path to entrepreneurship. A road paved with very exciting, yet quite terrifying, tasks.

Starting your own business can be daunting and can also create feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, but not if you find the right people to lend support.

The WEN group in mid-discussion. Photos/Lisa Jardine

The WEN group in mid-discussion. Photos/Lisa Jardine

Luckily for the women entrepreneurs in Westchester County, they have WEN, Women Entrepreneur’s Network, a group founded in Mamaroneck in 2010 by Susan Danziger, now headed-up by Kathy Perkal.

“I started the group to gather women entrepreneurs and business leaders so we could inspire each other, share stories, learn from experts through the monthly speaker series, and cheer each other on,” Danzinger said. “I’m thrilled that Kathy and the others have taken the help and that the group continues to grow.”
WEN currently has 68 members and meets on the first Friday of every month at Chocolations, 607 E. Boston Post Road in Mamaroneck, a chocolate factory with an open kitchen. Owner Maria Valente is also a member of WEN. She provides coffee, tea and delicious baked goods for each meeting and the organization asks each member for a $5 donation to cover the costs. The meetings are held in her very cozy, inviting space, which happens to smell divine as well. There are almost always set topics with coordinated speakers and the meetings last for about 90 minutes.

“WEN provides speakers and networking opportunities to female community entrepreneurs.

Chocolations in Mamaroneck, the meet up spot for WEN.

Chocolations in Mamaroneck, the meet up spot for WEN.

Sharing resources and business ideas in a relaxed and supportive setting makes us all better at what we do,” Perkal said. She’s the founder of Cartoon Cuts, a 17-store chain of children’s hair salons she started in 1991.

This is a very talented and diverse group of women.

Carol Wolfe, the owner of CSJ Consultants, is a computer technician working in homes and small businesses across Westchester County and surrounding areas. Her services run the gamut from Wi-Fi and syncing issues to data backup and recovery, to data transfer and organization of files and will even give you hands-on how-to lessons.

“I’ve been attending the WEN meetings for several years now. I started my business five years ago and am always seeking new ideas on how to expand and better promote my business,” Wolfe said. “The speakers Kathy has organized have been excellent, as [have] been the discussions that follow. What I have learned from this group of women has been critical to the success and growth of my business as I try and push forward and maximize the number of clients I service in the area.”

Maria Genovesi, principal of MCG Communications, an integrated marketing and promotional consulting company specializing in consumer media, had this to say about WEN.

“WEN has been a wonderful experience,” Genovesi said. “The group is filled with smart, creative and supportive women. Through the years, I’ve been both inspired and energized following each of our meetings.”

Avra Blieden recently expanded The Yoga Sanctuary, 951 E. Boston Post Road in Mamaroneck, to include the Sanctuary Boutique, a retail space for yoga, holistic and wellness accessories with a focus on environmentally conscientious, fair trade and locally crafted products from companies that support a variety of charities. The store’s products include funky yoga shirts, mats and handmade jewelry.

“Meeting with the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network was a motivating experience. I was inspired to hear a variety of local women speak about the challenges involved in building their own businesses,” Blieden said. “I would recommend other women entrepreneurs to attend these meetings to get concrete advice and expand their contacts through networking.”

Elizabeth Dowling runs Sw-eet Marketing Associates, a boutique marketing consulting firm. She also blogs at www.thewryhome.com.

“The WEN has helped my business grow and increased its overall awareness in Westchester County,” Dowling said. “I think having your own business can sometimes be challenging and WEN is a great support network for women entrepreneurs. Not only are there like-minded women in the group, but they also have fabulous speakers each month. I always learn something in the meetings, whether it is the latest trends in social media, business networking tips, how to calculate what to charge clients and so on.”

Women’s Entrepreneur Network invites women entrepreneurs, in any stage of their business, to join the group and share ideas. If you are interested in joining, or for more information: meetup.com/WEN-Women-Entrepreneurs-Network-Westchester/.
__________________

WEN Monthly Meetings
First Friday of each
month at 9 a.m.
Chocolations
607 E. Boston Post Road
in Mamaroneck
__________________

“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
lisa@hometwn.com.
And you can follow her on Twitter, @westchesterwand

NOT TO BAD

Column: Your moment of Zen

The New York Knicks announced that Phil Jackson will take over as head of basketball operations for the club. How will the Zen master’s patience hold up in one of the NBA’s most dysfunctional front offices? Photo courtesy NBA.com

The New York Knicks announced that Phil Jackson will take over as head of basketball operations for the club. How will the Zen master’s patience hold up in one of the NBA’s most dysfunctional front offices? Photo courtesy NBA.com

As my colleagues here at the newspaper can attest, Zen is a foreign concept in the life of a journalist. Daily deadlines, endless games of phone tag, on the fly revisions and the recurring stresses of press day are simply something we come to live with. If I’m going to stop and smell the roses, it’s going to be because I’ve got to write 600 words on the new garden that was just planted outside city hall.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about meditation recently, with the announcement that the Zen master himself, Phil Jackson is riding into town to help fix the New York Knicks.

With his 13 championship rings, his ties to the Knicks franchise and his prickly—yet professorial demeanor—it’s easy to see why people are so eager to see this far-eastern philosophizing basketball coach as the savior to this rotting carcass of a franchise. Though Phil’s health and age might be keeping him from actually coaching the team, it seems a given that his presence in the front office alone might create some sort of permeating sense of calm throughout an organization that sorely needs it.

For too many years, no matter what type of product the Knicks have been putting out on the court, the situation in the front office has always been—to put it mildly—an unmitigated disaster.

The Isaiah Thomas years, marred by inexplicable roster moves and the Anucha Browne Sanders sexual harassment scandal; the Donnie Walsh years—cut short when owner James Dolan decided to systematically freeze out the one executive responsible for turning the Knicks into a winner. The decision-making branch of this franchise has largely been miserable for the past 15 years.

And that comes down to Dolan.

How will he co-exist with Jackson? On one hand, the lassiez-faire attitude he showed during the Isaiah years—no doubt as a result of his admiration for everything Thomas accomplished as a player—might serve him well here. Jackson might be new to the front office game, but he’s a keen basketball mind. On the other hand, will Phil’s Zen philosophy survive in the cauldron of Madison Square Garden’s craziness?

As much as Dolan has sworn that Jackson will be left to his own devices, that typical Dolan approach hasn’t abated since Jackson signed with the team. At the press conference to announce the deal, MSG officials refused to allow questions from reporters, like the Daily News’ Frank Isola, who have been critical of the team in the past. At the Knicks game against Indiana later that week, Dolan reportedly hired a drum group to perform outside the arena—coincidentally on a day in which displeased Knicks fans had scheduled an anti-Knick protest.

Phil has always enjoyed a spirited—if sometimes frosty—relationship with the media. He has showed no mercy in tweaking his players or his employers in the press and is never at a loss for a good sound byte. Dolan on the other hand, treats the press either as an extension of the Knick brand or as an enemy to be silenced at all costs.

The question remains, which philosophy will win out? Will the enlightened Phil Jackson bring an end to New York’s dark ages? Or will Jackson, two years from now, find himself with bad knees, waning patience with a terrible roster and little support from the higher ups?

If anyone’s up to the challenge, it would seem like Jackson would be the guy. Let’s just see how long it takes him to take this smoldering pile of rubble and turn it into a peaceful little rock garden.

Follow Mike on Twitter,
@LiveMike_Sports

 
CAREY

Column: Is Crimea a new Sudetenland?

If you were born before 1930, the word “Sudetenland” may still make you shudder.

Let us hope those born after 2000 will not come to shudder at the word “Crimea” for similar reasons.carey

Hitler’s foreign aggressions began with his sending the German army into the Rhineland, from which it was barred by treaty. Later came the Anschluss, joining German-speaking Austria to Germany proper. In the meantime, Germans living in the area of western Czechoslovakia, known as the Sudetenland, were agitating in favor of Hitler. Italy showed how ineffective rules against hostile occupation were when it invaded Ethiopia.

Hitler demanded the Sudetenland be joined with adjacent Germany for the protection of Sudeten Germans. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, following a policy of appeasement, signed the infamous Munich Pact in 1938, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. He came home to Britain proclaiming “peace in our time.” Realizing later how mistaken this was, he vowed to protect Poland, but the following year, when Germany invaded Poland, Britain, with France, tried unsuccessfully to come to its rescue, as World War II began.

Since those times, we have often heard how the Allies should have drawn a line in the sand long before 1938, warning Hitler to go no further or be at war. The most effective action might have been to immediately drive the Wehrmacht out of the Rhineland. But a threat to do so would have been a hollow bluff, since the Allies were then seriously under-armed.

Now, some U.S. leaders cry out for the country to “get tough.” But it is up to them to declare exactly what action they want. Do they want to land U.S. troops in Ukraine and confront Russian troops? Would we go to war to protect against Russian occupation of all Ukraine?

In the background of present events in Ukraine is Georgia’s loss of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008 after fighting between it and Russia, leading to Russia’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Suppose in the months to come Putin, one-by-one, takes over Russian-speaking portions of the Russian Federation formerly belonging to the Soviet Union. Will we make it our business to use threats and even force to halt his grasp? Will we act with force to keep Russian troops out of eastern Ukraine, arguing that the 1994 Budapest Memorandum is a full-fledged treaty Russia is bound to obey?

Will we rely on UN Charter Article 2 to persuade Putin, said to be a lawyer, he must not take over territory by the threat or use of force? Article 2 is where UN members are required to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Russia argues in reply the people of Crimea have a right of self-determination and can go their own way if they so decide in a referendum. But the determination whether a particular vote is free and fair can best be made in so volatile a situation is by impartial international monitors. Any such monitoring was blocked for Crimea’s vote.

We are living in a dangerous time, and must tread bravely but warily.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
Marvin-Mary

Column: State interference is crushing local governments

Governor Cuomo has announced a two-year property tax freeze as a hallmark of his 2014 agenda, but it is facing growing opposition from both political parties, school districts and local governments as well as the non-partisan New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials.Mayor-Marvin

The two-year tax freeze is for individuals‑outside of New York City‑with an adjusted gross income of under $500,000. In order for a tax payer to receive the property tax credit, the local governments must remain under the cap.

In our case, that would include all taxing jurisdictions such as the Bronxville school district, the Village of Bronxville, the Town of Eastchester, Westchester County and the Eastchester Fire District.

In order to benefit from the freeze in a second year, the local governments would have to remain within the tax cap as well as agreeing to various consolidation plans with other communities.

The impetus for this new iteration in an election year is prompted by the governor’s belief, “that the state needs to pressure municipalities to cut spending in order to establish long-term tax savings in a state with among the highest taxes in the nation.”

There is not a community anywhere in New York that is increasing services by 2 percent each year, nor does any elected official think it is a good idea; rather we are cutting personnel and services to meet Albany’s bills.

Although the governor promised the implementation of the initial property tax cap would be followed by meaningful mandate relief to help local governments live within the cap, that promise was not kept and, in addition, state aid was cut.

No mandate relief is in sight, but election year pressure is increasing. The hypocrisy of all of this is astounding.

An example; since I have been mayor, our staff has been cut by more than 15 percent in an effort to meet the increasing mandates/bills sent directly from Albany. If the village did not buy a new pencil last budget cycle, just retained the status quo, taxes would have increased 5.5 percent because of bills from Albany.

The 2 percent tax cap was a great sound bite for a world that does not exist or for a public one assumed was not informed.

Adding insult to injury, the new tax cap freeze incentive only benefits communities who came to the game late and only recently began to consider consolidating and sharing services. Communities like Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe, which have been doing it for years, will receive no credit for past efforts.

Again, in a poorly planned rollout, the current iteration property tax cap plan will prove to be a disincentive to consolidating any future services due to the fact that, when a municipality consolidates services with another municipality, its tax levy cap is reduced, but this ignores the fact that the municipality still needs to pay another local government for the service.

The state powers-that-be must also recognize there are very different types of local governments with very different needs that do not lend themselves to certain consolidations, be it a school system, police department or 24/7 snow and ice equipment. The best interest of a community must always trump other political agendas.

The cap also does not exempt the cost of repairing aging infrastructure throughout the state, thus creating a powerful disincentive to do needed repairs that may not be visible to the taxpayer.

Before forcing municipalities to cut services and schools to cut programs, Albany needs to look inward and show leadership by cutting unfunded mandates with creative
solutions.

For example, many states that truly care about their employees and want to create a sustainable pension system plan created a hybrid model, with a 401K type model blended with defined benefits.

The New York Legislature’s solution was to create Tier 6, which now requires any new hires to pay 3percent to 6 percent toward their future pension. The problem is no one is hiring, rather reducing staff to meet the current pension burdens, and, even if a new hire is added, the financial benefit will be achieved in 20-plus years.

If the state government was truly serious about bringing property tax relief to local property taxpayers, it would begin by doing what every other state across the nation has done, pay for state and federal social service programs with state revenue, not county property tax and sales tax revenue.

In Westchester County alone, $225 million collected annually at the local level is paid to Albany for the state Medicaid program. Westchester County taxpayers could see $225 million in local tax relief immediately if the governor and the state Legislature would only do what 49 other states have done already.

That would be action, not a tedious and wasteful exercise. We deserve better.

Jason5

Column: Writing has ruined me for reading

Last week, Editorial Assistant Annarose Russo and I had a discussion about our inability to read anything, in that case a press release, without mentally applying the tenets of AP style.

That’s what we use here at your newspaper, by the way. It’s the reason you read things like, “The mayor said there are more than 50 potholes on Main Street,” rather than, “The mayor said there are over fifty holes on Main St.”Jason-Column2

Once you’ve reported, and especially once you’ve edited, in AP style for a while, you can recognize it when you see it in other publications immediately.

Or at least I can, and I hardly think I’m special.

Unfortunately for me, my adherence to AP style has grown and spread. I tweet in AP style. I almost always text in AP style, especially if I’m texting a current or former colleague.

If I don’t, they’ll know. But would they care?

Probably not; it’s not like I’ve had people chide me for texting colloquially. No, this is more a me thing. I know how things should be according to AP style—the rules I live by as the deputy editor of your newspaper—and I have to write them that way.

So, that’s all pretty straightforward. I work in AP style, so it bleeds over into other writing I do, day-to-day.

But here’s something you may not realize and, frankly, it makes my life—and I’d think the lives of all writers—more difficult.

When you know how to write, it is extremely difficult to read the writing of those who cannot.

Now, I’m not so much talking about emails and texts. I think we all accept a certain degree of informality there, whether we’re slaves to AP style or not. I’m talking about other professional writing; writing for which I know someone was paid.

When that’s bad, it makes me angry.

What do I mean by bad? I don’t mean fiction with a clichéd or holey plot and I don’t mean editorialized or effervescent journalism, although those are all bad too.

I’m talking about things like passive voice, adverbs, speech tags other than “said,” haphazard—or invisible—commas, an utter inability to properly place a semi-colon, capriciously shifting POV and exclamation points.

All exclamation points!

Well, nearly all.

When you know what you’re doing as a writer—which, by the way, you learn far more by writing badly for years than you do any other way—your tolerance for published ineptitude erodes to a pitted nub.

I’m well aware this may all read like snobbery, but the reality is it’s largely jealousy. Few writers are as published as they want to be—I’m no exception to that, certainly from a fiction standpoint—so it can be quite irksome to crack a paperback and not escape the first page before my eyes trip over a sentence ending in a preposition or reading something she exclaimed or he said proudly.

It’s a downer for all writers. You don’t have to take my word for it, either. Ask the writers around you, they’ll tell you.

But, for me, the problem runs deeper.

When it comes to my fiction, I’ve settled into what is called New Pulp by its participants and its all-too-few readers. To put it succinctly, new pulp is stories and characters suggesting the tone and texture, if not the trappings, of the works of men like Robert E. Howard, Lester Dent and the various Maxwell Grants.

Don’t know who they are? You won’t like this stuff. But that’s OK, you don’t need to know or like Sailor Steve Costigan, Doc Savage or The Shadow to understand my plight.

Because New Pulp is such a burgeoning, niche subgenre, not everything published under its auspices is, you know, good. Or even particularly professional.

Not long ago, I bought a New Pulp book—a print book, mind you, not even an eBook—about an adventuring aviator and his group of helpers tasked with rescuing a powerful man’s daughter from a remote island.

So my thing.

Except the book was unreadable. I threw it after Chapter Three.

And that’s part of my overall dilemma. I’m extremely grateful New Pulp exists and there’s a market for it at all but, when I read and throw things like that book, I feel it damages the subgenre as a whole and, by extension, its potential for success and, by extension, my potential for success.

I’m not convinced this entire visit won’t leave you thinking of me as a snob. I suppose maybe I just wanted a bit of sympathy for me, Editorial Assistant Annarose Russo and all of us whose job, and we would say calling, it is to pound these keyboards in just the correct sequence that will properly inform and entertain you.

If I was going to put a positive spin on all this, I’d say you know you’re a writer when most reading becomes insufferable.

That’s positive, all right; positively frustrating.

Reach Jason at jason@hometwn.com and follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas

 
NOT TO BAD

Column: Betting on goodbye

For the last six years, I’ve had a wonderful time serving as the sports editor for Hometown Media, but I’m afraid to say that come next month, loyal readers will have to get used to seeing a new byline in the back of our papers.Live Mike

Now, I’m not moving out of the area, taking my talents to a competing publication or anything else of that nature. I just figure that it’s going to take me some time to adjust to my new life as a billionaire.

This year, American rich guy Warren Buffet will be handing out $1 billion to anyone who fills out a perfect March Madness bracket.

That’s billion. With a b.

That’s 68 teams, 34 games, no mistakes, and one astronomically big prize potentially waiting for a lucky fan at the end.Livemike

But as big as the number at the end of that rainbow may be, it’s pretty much dwarfed by the odds of running the March table. Bookmakers have placed the odds of someone, anyone, having a perfect tournament at an astounding 9.1 quintillion–to‑1, which means Buffet probably thinks he can sleep easy knowing that he won’t be parting with a cool yard come April 8.

But there’s one thing Buffet didn’t factor in when he came up with this contest; the fact that I’ve lost so many bets over the course of my life, that something’s gotta give.

I’m banking on this being my great wagering turnaround.

I can still remember my first losing bet. Valentine’s Day, 1990.

The stakes were low—my older brother’s five dollars against my haul of confectionary delights from my first grade class’s celebration from earlier in the day—but the tensions in the living room were high. I was getting the chance to see my favorite boxer in the world, Iron Mike Tyson, take on this nobody named Buster Douglas, who—for some reason—my brother was picking to win by knockout.

Years later, after I learned pay-per-view events were not, in fact, ordered by popping a tape into the VCR and pressing play, I would come to find out that my brother had pulled a fast one on me, showing me a replay of the fight that had shocked the world three days prior.

My gambling career was off to an inauspicious start, and it didn’t get much better from there.

As a freshman in high school, I entered my very first March Madness pool—ironically run by an upperclassman who is now an assistant coach for a team heading to the dance—and found myself on the last day of the tournament, needing just one more Duke win to come into $850, no small fortune for a 14 year old who’s yearly income from raking leaves and shoveling driveways hovered around the $60 mark.

Rip Hamilton, had other ideas though, scoring 27 points to lead UCONN past the Blue Devils, giving the win to our JV quarterback—a religious type who promptly gave all of his winnings to charity.

At the time, I chalked that one up to karma, but my luck has never improved.

I took Lennox Lewis in his first fight against Hasim Rahman, the Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl, Clay Aiken over Ruben Studdard in the American Idol finals and I put 100 bucks on Barbaro to win the Triple Crown after his showing at the Kentucky Derby. Last March, I had a chance to win the Hometown Media office bracket, only to bow to then editor Mark Lungariello with a poor showing in the
Final Four.

If you want to add some insult to injury, try losing money to your boss sometime. It’s not a pleasant experience no matter how nice a guy he is.

And these are only the tip of the iceberg. If I had a nickel for every last-second three-pointer that blew a cover or every favorite I’ve picked that inexplicably didn’t show up to play that day, I guarantee that I’d have enough money to place a few more ill-fated wagers.

In some ways, I guess I’ve just been destined to back the losing horse. Given the chance, I’m sure that I would have been the guy who bet on the Betamax over VHS, Compuserve over AOL and that Alex Winter—not Keeanu Reeves—would emerge as the breakout star of the “Bill and Ted” movies.

So 9.1 quntillion-to-1? Bring it on. I’ve been defying the odds since my brother got his hands on my plastic bag full of Sweethearts and Hershey’s Kisses. By this time next month, I’ll be luxuriating in the Caribbean, sipping daiquiris on my own private beach somewhere; a billion dollars richer, without a care in the world.

After all, I’ve got to be due for a win, right? I’d be willing bet my life on it.

Editors note: Sports Editor Mike Smith’s campaign for a perfect bracket was busted on March 16 when NC State beat Xavier 74-59 in a first-round play-in game. He will be back to work next week.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter, @LiveMike_Sports

 
CAREY

Column: Environmental protection needed in Rye

careyRye has allowed its small park at the corner of the Post Road and Central Avenue to be graveled-over for a parking lot. A story in this newspaper’s March 7 issue gives the impression that this is the doing of one person, the city manager.

“Pickup said the city had mainly laid the gravel in anticipation that developer JCS Construction Group might possibly decide to work out a temporary agreement with the city to use the space for equipment and vehicles for the 2 Central Ave. project.” No mention of studying environmental impacts.

But where was the city’s policy-making body, the City Council? The article explained.

“Mayor Joe Sack…said the council…was not made aware that the park had been graveled-over either before or after the fact last summer.” And the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act were evidently disregarded.

And entirely apart from the environmental impact issues, there is the question whether a parking lot is a permissible “park purpose.” The highest court in New York State has just made it abundantly clear the need for a “park purpose” in order to locate a business operation in a park. The New York Times, on Feb. 27, referred to “a battle lasting years to place a high-priced restaurant inside Union Square Park.”

The Times writer waxed poetic.

“A beautiful children’s playground sits at the foot of the pavilion [where the restaurant is to sit]. There is not another playground to be found for many blocks, and during the summer it is packed, which offers the appetizing possibility that a diner, well sated, might splash a Sancerre on a tyke’s head.”

The Times makes clear that then Mayor Bloomberg lent his weight to the organizers of the “high-priced restaurant.” But, “when Bill de Blasio was the public advocate, he spoke against the restaurant. Now, as mayor, he inherits his Law Department’s victory in favor of it.”

The clincher in the Court of Appeals’ Union Square Park decision is this.

“While we leave open the possibility that a particular restaurant might not serve a park purpose in a future case, we conclude that the restaurant here does not run afoul of the public trust doctrine for lack of a park purpose.”

This statement, insufficiently supported by factual analysis, is not as persuasive, in my opinion, as the earlier, contrary decision by a single New York County Supreme Court Justice.

Rye is subject to New York State’s General City Law. Section 20(2) says, “…the rights of a city in and to its…parks, and all other public places, are hereby declared to be inalienable, except in the cases provided for by subdivision seven of this section.”

Subdivision seven allows cities “…to lay out…parks…and upon discontinuance thereof to sell and convey the same…”

Rye is not selling the park but, instead, is thinking of turning it over to a private party for use as a parking lot.

The question for Rye is whether making the little park into a private parking place could possibly be called a “park purpose.” I think not. In order for a parking place to serve a “park purpose,” it would have to accommodate users of a larger recreational area. The nearest recreational area is the nature center, which has its own parking on-site.

Then we should also consider whether the 95,000-square-foot field house proposed for Playland could serve a “park purpose.” I wonder if it would resemble Stamford’s even larger Chelsea Piers, a giant multi-sport facility. Just think of the traffic jams inching their way through Rye to get to the field house or leave it. Imagine the biggest mid-summer traffic jam on Playland Parkway happening year around.

Apparently, the City Council is sitting tight waiting for the county to do an environmental impact study on the field house with the possible result of a “negative declaration” denying any possibility of adverse impact. If we sit back and wait for that to happen, we are not on the job.

The City Council should initiate its own analysis of the impact of a 95,000-square-foot structure eating up existing parking space adjoining an important residential area.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
Marvin-Mary

Column: We’re working on a vision for downtown

 

Mayor-MarvinOur downtown business consultant, Phillips Preiss and Grygiel LLC, recently sent the village a progress report of our Downtown Planning Study.

They suggested some straig-htforward changes to the village code for which there was strong support within all the constituent groups surveyed.

The consultants recommend loosening the restrictions on outdoor tables/eating to allow a broader range of downtown uses to take advantage of seating through both a zoning change and the institution of an annual licensing program.

As example, a code change would allow a business like Chantilly Pastry Shop to have bistro chairs out front in which a customer could have a coffee/breakfast and read the paper.

They also recommended that outdoor dining licenses, when granted, be valid for one year and renewed annually. Currently, when our land use boards grant these licenses, they last as long as the business is in operation.

The consultants’ logic is the merchant can be made more accountable for cleanliness, garbage removal, sidewalk obstruction if renewal of the benefit was predicated yearly on adhering to village standards.

The consultants also received very positive feedback from the groups interviewed concerning the display of outdoor merchandise. However, they do believe the village is remiss in not having regulations delineating standards for both the type and location of the merchandise.

They recommend stores be permitted to feature large items, such as garden equipment, household furnishings, antiques and plants as they provide attractive and visually interesting displays within the public right of way, which enhance a pedestrian experience in an outdoor/walking business district such as ours. Sidewalk display items should only be of the kind that would normally grace a store window. Small merchandise items, such as clothing and shoes, canned and bottled items should be prohibited in order to avoid a cluttered and unattractive appearance. Additionally, since retail displays may impede pedestrian traffic, distance standards must be set forth to ensure safety is paramount over merchandising.

Again, the consultants recommend a yearly renewal process to ensure the merchants remain compliant with all provisions of the permit.

Per the trustees’ directive, the consultants were also tasked to review our zoning code and procedures with an eye toward identifying and then implementing changes that help to create a more “business friendly” environment and providing greater clarity and certainty to merchants seeking to enter Bronxville.

Some of the issues that came to the fore include re-defining various commercial uses, such as personal services, retail uses and “service establishments” to eliminate confusion. Given the prevalence of on-line purchasing, the consultants also suggested we revisit the current restrictions on personal service establishments along Pondfield Road. As example, would it be a detriment to have a bright, airy ballet studio among the shops?

Our consultants also re-exa-mined the current square footage cap of store occupancy of 5,000 square-feet, given the needs of some very successful stores looking to come to our area.

Most importantly, they encouraged us to create a user-friendly land use application checklist so prospective merchants/tenants would know up front exactly the needs and timeframe to open a business in Bronxville.

Our colleagues in Scarsdale just recently employed the same consultants and acted on many of their suggestions, resulting in very positive changes and increased occupancy in their village and we expect to do the same.

On a very positive note, village landlords have at least six new businesses that have received all their approvals and will be up and operating this spring, greatly adding to the vitality of our business district.

The trustees are acutely aware many of our zoning and planning code regulations were written for a time and an economic environment that no longer exists and will never return.

To that end, emulating our neighbors in Scarsdale, we plan to work with our zoning, planning and design review boards as well as our merchants via the Chamber of Commerce to craft changes to our regulations that reflect the current economic reality while, at the same time, not sacrificing the ambience and standards that make Bronxville a unique village and shopping destination.

We also are investigating ways we can work with our art students/garden clubs/high school in conjunction with our landlords to make what empty stores remain attractive to the passerby.

Our business district is a crown jewel in Westchester and we as a community must do everything we can to keep it vibrant and attractive.