Category Archives: News

Harrison residents Sue and Domenick Ciaccia, who own an international tea trading company, are being honored for their community service at the School of the Holy Child in Rye. Photo courtesy JoAnn Cancro Photography

Harrison couple values communi-tea service

Harrison residents Sue and Domenick Ciaccia, who own an international tea trading company, are being honored for their community service at the School of the Holy Child in Rye. Photo courtesy JoAnn Cancro Photography

Harrison residents Sue and Domenick Ciaccia, who own an international tea trading company, are being honored for their community service at the School of the Holy Child in Rye. Photo courtesy JoAnn Cancro Photography

By KATIE HOOS
A tea connoisseur and business owner specializing in the international tea trade, Domenick Ciaccia and his wife, Sue, value the gift of education and have, in turn, dedicated their time and resources to giving back to the Westchester community they call home.

The couple, who lived in White Plains for 27 years before moving to Harrison last August, said they feel they owe their success in international business and public relations to their modest upbringings and strong education.

Domenick, 55, was born in Bitetto, Italy, a small rural town outside of Bari in the southeastern region of the country. When he was 9 years old, he and his family immigrated to the United States and settled in the Fordham area of the Bronx near Arthur Avenue, a predominately middle-class Italian-American community.

According to Domenick, his father worked as a house painter to support the family and provide his four children with a good education.

“When my father came to this country, he was the sole breadwinner,” Domenick said. “We lived in a modest apartment in the Bronx, and yet he still sent us to Catholic schools because he understood the meaning of a good education, a good foundation.”

Domenick attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Grammar School in the Bronx, Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx and Iona College in New Rochelle, where he got a degree in international studies in 1980 after interning at the United Nations in New York City.

Upon completing his degree, which Domenick said gave him a “general understanding of politics and economic conditions around the world,” he landed a job in international trading.

“It was totally coincidental,” he said. “I was looking for a sales job after college, but I interviewed with a British firm that was involved in plantation products like rubber and tea. The rest is history.”

He worked with the British company for five years and a Canadian tea trader for five years before starting his own business, Universal Commod-ities Tea Trading, Inc., a Bronxville-based tea importer, in 1990.

Universal Commodities Tea Trading, Domenick said, serves as the middleman importing tea into the United States.

“Basically our role is to represent the growers and then we sell to the packers all over the world; companies like Lipton, Nestle, Tetley,” he said. “We’re the one link in between.”

In addition to traveling around the world to meet with tea growers, Domenick also taste tests tea, which is derived from the camellia sinensis plant. Describing the process as similar to taste-testing wine in that the tester analyzes the quality of the tea by sampling it and spitting it back out, Domenick said the variation of the camellia sinensis plant, where it’s grown and the region’s climate conditions determine the tea’s flavor.

“My favorite origins for tea are Sri Lanka, India, and Kenya. But I also like a good, plain, old English breakfast tea,” he said.

Domenick also currently serves on the board of the Tea Association of the United States, which is involved in everything from promoting tea in the U.S. to enforcing trade regulations.

He is also the founder and chairman of the American Friends of Bitetto—a not-for-profit cultural organization that aims to preserve the medieval history of his Italian hometown—and was a founding member and trustee of the Westchester Italian Cultural Center in Tuckahoe.

Sue, 52, also grew up in the Bronx and attended Iona College, where she earned a degree in urban studies and eventually began working in public relations for both Iona College and the City of New Rochelle. After Sue and Domenick were married in 1984 and started their family, Sue left the workforce and began volunteering at School of the Holy Child on Westchester Avenue in Rye, where all three of the couple’s daughters attended. Over the years, Sue served on the executive board of the Parent Association, was a class parent representative and helped organize and co-chair the school’s annual gala.

“Growing up, my mom was a lunch mother and was very involved, so the school setting was a natural place for me,” Sue said.

Both Domenick and Sue agree their educations played an important role in their successes today and see volunteering within the community and at the School of the Holy Child as an important duty.

“We’ve reaped the benefits of people before us who’ve given to the community and to schools, and we feel that, if you’re in the position to give back, it’s only the right thing to do,” Domenick said.

The couple is being honored at the School of the Holy Child annual gala and auction on Saturday, April 12, for their continued service and support at the Catholic all-girls school.

CONTACT: katie@hometwn.com

 
Nadine Zahr as Emma Goldman and Todd Ritch as Younger Brother perform “The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square.”

“Ragtime” is a must-see musical

Nadine Zahr as Emma Goldman and Todd Ritch as Younger Brother perform “The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square.”

Nadine Zahr as Emma Goldman and Todd Ritch as Younger Brother perform “The Night That Goldman Spoke At Union Square.”

By MICHELLE JACOBY
“A must-see” is how we describe shows or films we must see. “Ragtime, The Musical,” now playing now at the Westchester Broadway Theatre definitely falls into this category.

The Standing Ovation Studios of Armonk graces the stage as Westchester’s largest production with a cast of 40 New York City, national and local talent.

Based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, this sweeping musical portrait of early 20th century America tells the story of three seemingly unconnected families who wind their way through upper-middle class New Rochelle to Harlem and Tin Pan Alley to the immigrant melting pot of the lower east side.

This large production comes alive with set designs including a working Model-T automobile, time-period costumes and historical figures that shaped our future: Antoine L. Smith as Booker T. Washington, Steven Stein-Grainger as J.P. Morgan, Todd Alan Little as Henry Ford and amazing acrobatic performances by both Joey Barreiro as Houdini and Cali LaSpina as Evelyn Nesbit, the Weeee girl.

From left to right, Todd Ritch, on steps, as Younger Brother; Grant Albright as Little Boy; Fataye as Coalhouse Walker; Victoria Lauzun as Mother; Craig Waletzko as Father and the ensemble perform “New Music.” Photos courtesy John Vecchiolla

From left to right, Todd Ritch, on steps, as Younger Brother; Grant Albright as Little Boy; Fataye as Coalhouse Walker; Victoria Lauzun as Mother; Craig Waletzko as Father and the ensemble perform “New Music.” Photos courtesy John Vecchiolla

The talent, big voices and emotional heart-wrenching sc-enes were felt by every audience member.

Victoria Lauzun as the subtle, yet strong, mother shows her strength with several numbers such as “Goodbye, My Love,” “What Kind of Woman” and “Our Children” with Baron Ashkenazy played brilliantly by Joey Sanzaro.

The show features two local favorites who have blessed the stage before; Todd Ritch as the younger brother and Fatye as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. These two powerhouses are dynamic together. Ritch is young, energetic and passionate in any role he takes on. Fatye is comfortable on stage and very versatile, showing his range of emotions without missing a beat. Fatye is fun-loving with “Getting’ Ready to Rag,” inspiring with “The Wheels of a Dream,” angry with “Justice” and emotionally depleted with “Coalhouse’s Soliloquy.”

 

Coalhouse Walker, Jr. is in love with Sarah, played beautifully by Brittney Johnson.

This evening, the young actors who graced the stage are Grant Albright as the little boy and Ellie Leibner as the little girl. Jeremy Michael Lanuti, Chase O’Brien, Julia Grace Gold and Molly Perrine are among those who will share the spotlight.

This Standing Ovation Studio production of “Ragtime, The Musical” is an amazing collaboration of great story-telling, singing, dancing, set design, costumes, music and a little bit of a history.

Ensemble performs “Atlantic City.”

Ensemble performs “Atlantic City.”

Directed by John Fanelli and produced by John and Nannette Fanelli; Sheldon and Mennie Mallah, executive producers; book by Terrence McNally; music by Stephen Flaherty; lyrics by Lynn Ahrens; set design by Steve Loftus; costume design by Gail Baldoni and choreographed by Greg Graham.

This dramatic show is playing now through May 4 at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford. For more information about “Ragtime,” visit RagtimeWestchester.com or call 914-592-2222.

LouisMKleinMiddleSchool3

No school budget as vote nears

Again this year, the Harrison Central School District, led by Superintendant Louis Wool,  has not disclosed its budget to the public in a timely fashion, resulting in questions of transparency. File Photo

Again this year, the Harrison Central School District, led by Superintendant Louis Wool, has not disclosed its budget to the public in a timely fashion, resulting in questions of transparency. File Photo

By PHIL NOBILE
History has repeated itself with Harrison’s school administration officials as not even a preliminary budget has been released to the public despite a quickly approaching adoption deadline, causing transparency concerns.

Although the deadline for adoption of the Harrison Central School District’s 2014-2015 school budget is April 28, there is no budget currently available, leaving the gap for public comment and involvement to evaporate.

Despite budget work sessions being held the past two months at the Board of Education meetings, only two meetings remain before the budget adoption deadline and not even a preliminary budget has been released, according to district clerk Christine Beitler.

Last year, Harrison school administration officials failed to release the 2013-2014 preliminary budget until two weeks before it was required to be adopted and solicit public comment. The $108 million budget was ultimately adopted upping Harrison residents’ property taxes by 3.98 percent. No reductions in programming or class sizes were made.

This year, neighboring districts have allowed more than one month for public digestion of their school budgets.

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District’s budget was presented on March 18 and proposed at $131.7 million; the Rye City School District presented their $79.4 million school budget on March 4 and the Eastchester School District’s $76.9 million budget was presented on March 11. The adoption deadline for all three districts is April 22.

According to the state’s education law, the Board of Education is required to submit a detailed statement regarding the budget at least seven days before its required budget hearing. Harrison’s school public budget hearing will be at the May 7 meeting, according to a budget development calendar posted on the school district’s website. No other information regarding the budget or specifics is given on the website.

Transparency concerns go beyond the budget itself and extend to basic information.

As of press time, the agenda for the March 26 Board of Education meeting had yet to be posted on the school district’s website, one week after the meeting took place. All of Harrison’s other departments—Town Council, Planning Board, Zoning Board—post agendas days in advance of their respective meetings.

According to Beitler, posting agendas after meetings has been a practice under Superintendent Louis Wool.

New York State law only requires notice of time and place to be made publicly and actively available. In February 2012 though, an amendment was made to the state’s Open Meetings Law requiring governmental entities to make all records up for discussion available to the public prior to the meeting. Records include legislation, resolutions, laws and policies from a governing body.

Robert Freeman, the executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, said disclosure of agendas is ultimately up to the individual board, but added it is considerate to provide the information to the public ahead of time.

“I think that it’s courteous to the public to let them know what is likely to be discussed,” Freeman said. “We have heard from scores of people who expressed frustration from going to meetings where people have no idea what the board is discussing.”

As of April 1, the only information publicly posted regarding the Harrison Central School District’s budget for the upcoming year was provided by Assemblyman David Buchwald’s office in the form of an increase in school aid from the state. According to a press release, the district will see an increase of more than $100,000 in building aid. The school receives a total of $3.5 million in school aid from the state.

When asked for further information and response to the concerns, Wool declined comment as of press time.

Harrison Board of Education President Dennis Di Lorenzo and Trustee Rachel Estroff could not be reached as of press time.

This year’s budget will go before the public for vote on May 21, the same day as the School Board trustee elections.

The next Harrison Board of Education meeting will be on April 9 at the Louis M. Klein Middle School.

CONTACT: phil@hometwn.com

 
DSC_0666

Contractor paid for Jeff. Bridge

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees approved a payment of $125,770 to Arben Group for its completed work on the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, pictured. According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, construction will likely be finished this spring. File photo

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees approved a payment of $125,770 to Arben Group for its completed work on the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, pictured. According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, construction will likely be finished this spring. File photo

By KATIE HOOS
The Jefferson Avenue Bridge construction project, which began in September 2012, in an effort to increase the space between the bridge and the Mamaroneck River and help alleviate flooding issues in the area, has been plagued by numerous setbacks, unmet completion deadlines and community criticism.

Aiming to finally complete the bridge construction in the coming months, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees authorized a $125,770.50 payment to the Arben Group—the contractor responsible for the project—during a March 17 work session.

According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, Seneca Insurance—the issuer of the performance bond that protects the village in case of bankruptcy or financial default by Arben—requested the village make a payment to Arben.

“Since we are at the final stages of the contract for the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, Seneca Insurance has activated their rights and privileges as the bonding agency to make sure that the project is done and all payments due and liens held are satisfied,” Slingerland said. “The original request for payment from Arben came in late February and it took some time to review and approve it.”

In a Feb. 19 letter to the village, Seneca stated the village is not to pay Arben any further without Seneca’s consent because Arben is in “default” under the project’s performance bond.

When asked how Arben was in default of the performance bond, Slingerland declined to comment.

Seneca’s attorney, Adam Sch-wartz could not be reached for comment.

The Jefferson Avenue Bridge project has been fraught with problems.

Under the terms of the contract, construction was to last no longer than six months and, if an extension was needed, the contractor was required to obtain written authorization from the village manager.

This authorization never occurred, according to Slingerland, and the overextension of the contract is being reviewed by village attorneys.

Arben also entered into a verbal agreement with a subcontractor to do sheet piling work—the verbal agreement ultimately fell through—despite the contract between Arben and the village stating Arben cannot execute an agreement with any subcontractor without written approval from the village.

The written agreement to subcontract was never granted by the village.

In March 2013, the bridge construction hit a major roadblock that halted construction and added to the initial contracted cost of $3.1 million—which was to be split equally between the Village of Mamaroneck and the Town of Rye—when a 21-inch sewer line broke causing 3 million gallons of raw sewage to leak into the Mamaroneck River. The break resulted in the village being fined $17,000 by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a fee Arben will be ordered to pay.

A $1 million change work order for replacing the sewer line was issued.

The initial cost for the project was split between the village and the Town of Rye because the bridge connects the village to the Rye Neck section, which exists simultaneously in the Village of Mamaroneck and the Town of Rye.

On Feb. 20, one day after Seneca advised the village Arben was in default on the performance bond, the contractor submitted a request for payment to the village for the work the contractor had already completed on the bridge.

After Seneca reviewed the request, their attorney sent a letter to the village allowing the payment of $125,777.50.

The payment is in-line with the original contract between the village and Arben, bringing the total amount the village has paid the contractor to more than $3 million. According to Slingerland, there are still outstanding payments the village must pay Arben to complete the contract, but he could not provide a specific amount to the Review as of press time.

There is also an outstanding $158,735 retainage fee, which is the money withheld from Arben until the project has reached completion to the satisfaction of the village.

The vote to approve the issuance of the payment took place during the Board of Trustees March 17 work session and not a regular meeting because of time constraints, according to Slingerland.

“Arben had basically been waiting for a month for payment and the earliest we could issue it was at the work session,” he said.

The authorization of payment passed in a 3 to 2 vote in which Republican Mayor Norman Rosenblum, Democratic Trustee Leon Potok, and Republican Trustee Louis Santoro voted to approve the payment, while Democrats Ilissa Miller and Andreas Bermudez Hallstrom voted against it.

When asked why he voted against authorizing the payment during the work session, Bermudez Hallstrom said he thought the vote should take place during regular session, and not a work session.

The next regular Board of Trustees meeting was held Monday, March 24.

The construction is expected to reach completion this spring, according to Slingerland. “We still have to install the curbs, do the sidewalks and repave the street and the surrounding approaches,” Slin-gerland said, noting the April 30 completion date set by the contractor will probably not be met.

“Honestly, May 31 is more likely,” he said.

With the deadline of an ongoing 18-month long construction project rapidly approaching, some village residents are concerned that this will be just another unmet deadline.

Stuart Tiekert, a village resident who has closely followed the progress of the Jefferson Avenue Bridge construction, said considering the amount of work that still has to be done, the April and May deadlines are “unrealistic.”

“Half a million dollars worth of work still needs to be done,” Tiekert said, noting he is concerned from where the village is going to get the money to finish the job.

“I’m just unclear where they’re going to pay that money out of,” he said.

Deadlines and dollars aren’t the only issues with which Tiekert is concerned. He said the village has conducted its business on the project with a lack of transparency.

“It’s unfortunate that no one on the Board of Trustees has stepped up to take a leadership role in this and inform the residents of what’s going on,” he said.

The project, with its added expenses, has cost the village around $4 million, according to Slingerland, who said the village is responsible for repairing damages incurred during the construction to the privately owned properties—the Peña home located at 200 Jefferson Ave. and Picone’s Sausage, located at 180 Jefferson Ave.—on either side of the bridge.

When asked what the final total cost of the work will be, Slingerland said he could not provide an exact number.

CONTACT: katie@hometwn.com

 
Osborn-School-2

Reassigned Osborn teacher files $2M lawsuit

Almost a year after she and three other elementary school teachers were reassigned in May for alleged “improper coaching” during state tests, Osborn School fourth grade teacher Carin Mehler initiated legal action against six members of the current Board of Education, the board’s attorney Gus Mountanos, Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, former Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Evangelist, former board member Kendall Egan and Osborn School principal Angela Garcia. File photo

Almost a year after she and three other elementary school teachers were reassigned in May for alleged “improper coaching” during state tests, Osborn School fourth grade teacher Carin Mehler initiated legal action against six members of the current Board of Education, the board’s attorney Gus Mountanos, Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, former Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Evangelist, former board member Kendall Egan and Osborn School principal Angela Garcia. File photo

By LIZ BUTTON
Fourth grade Osborn School teacher Carin Mehler has filed suit against six of the seven members of the Rye City School District Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Alvarez and several members of the district’s administration and staff, becoming the first teacher to take legal action against the district almost a year after she and three other district elementary school teachers were removed from their classrooms for alleged “improper coaching” during state tests.

Mehler is also suing former board member Kendall Egan, former Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Dr. Mary Ann Evangelist, Osborn School Principal Angela Garcia as well as the school board’s hired attorney Gus Mountanos, seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from the defendants.

No damages are being sought from the school district as a whole, according to Manhattan-based civil rights lawyer Arthur Schwartz, who Mehler retained after she and three others were reassigned in May 2013.

Schwartz said the school district violated Mehler’s rights under the due process clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution, depriving her of her right to a job and of her reputation without due process of law.

The board’s response, disseminated on March 27 in the hours after the suit was filed, maintains Mehler’s claims that her civil rights have been violated are designed to coerce the board to ignore the testing allegations and return her to the classroom.

“While counsel for this plaintiff may be frustrated at the lack of resolution to date, we find it grossly irresponsible to have taken the extreme position of filing an illogical and baseless claim,” the board’s statement read.

Mehler’s attorney alleges there is coercion on the board’s part.

Of the three other teachers initially accused, the Board of Education has reached settlements with two of them, citing these agreements as evidence of progress in its March 27 statement.

Fourth grade Milton School teacher Shannon Gold resigned in January, admitting no wrongdoing, while third-grade Osborn School teacher Gail Topol returned to the classroom in February. She also admitted no wrongdoing, but paid the district a $2,500 fine.

Schwartz claims school board attorney Mountanos has routinely employed coercion to try to get him, as Mehler’s counsel, to “make a proposal” to resolve the situation, a directive that Schwartz, who also represents Dana Coppola, the other teacher who remains out of her classroom on reassignment, takes to mean agreeing to a plea deal that will expedite the teachers’ return to work.

Schwartz made his last “proposal” to get the teachers back in the classroom without necessitating legal action in February, which was to let the teachers return to the classroom or face a lawsuit, but Mountanos rejected it out of hand.

Schwartz said the school district has pushed his client to the brink.

After 11 months, Mehler and Coppola have still not been charged with anything and the district has presented no evidence.

Ally of the teachers and former Osborn School principal Clarita Zeppie said, “There is only so much [Mehler] can be expected to take before she takes an action. They have pushed her into it. It is a shame. I give her credit for waiting this long.”

All Mehler has ever wanted is to return to the classroom and teaching and continue doing what she loves, Zeppie said.

Schwartz said Coppola is considering her options and, over the next few weeks, he will file a motion for preliminary injunction, to which Coppola could attach her name.

Meanwhile, in a March 21 email addressed to the  school board and Superintendent Alvarez prior to the suit being filed, Rye Teachers Association President Jaime Zung said it was becoming more and more difficult, after almost a year has gone by, for the union to continue to remain silent as it continues to believe, Mehler and Coppola have done nothing wrong.

Zung said it was difficult for teachers to offer support for the board’s agenda when asked by board president Laura Slack and vice president Katy Glassberg at the union’s last general meeting.

Within the next several weeks he and other members of the union will be forced to address the board at a public session, Zung said.

Board member Ed Fox, who has made public statements about the ordeal dragging on too long, is the only current school board member who is not being sued.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com

 
Kensington-133

Parking dilemma discussed

The condominium project on Kensington Road will bring long-term benefits to the village—such as remediation of a contaminated site and a 300-space underground parking lot—but will also create parking problems during construction, according to a village official. Rendering courtesy Village of Bronxville

The condominium project on Kensington Road will bring long-term benefits to the village—such as remediation of a contaminated site and a 300-space underground parking lot—but will also create parking problems during construction, according to a village official. Rendering courtesy Village of Bronxville

By CHRIS EBERHART
Parking will become scarce in Bronxville as the Kensington Road condominium project gets underway, but the village’s mayor and Board of Trustees are looking into ways to remedy the situation.

Once construction of the 54-unit condo begins, which is scheduled to start as early as June 15, 179 parking spaces in the Lower Kensington lot, which comprises 12 percent of the entire 1,479 spots in the village, will be inaccessible during the 24-to-27-month period of construction.

The loss of parking will displace residents, commuters and merchants, making parking in the village as difficult as city commuters trying to find a seat on the subway during rush hour.

“It’s going to be tough because all those people in the lot are going to be displaced,” Peggy Conway, Bronxville’s deputy treasurer who has taken a lead role in village parking issues, said. “But it’s going to have a great ending with a beautiful, underground parking lot with 300 parking spaces.”

The 300 parking spaces Conway referenced are part of Bronxville’s Kensington Road contract with Greenwich-based developer Fareri Associates to build an underground parking garage in addition to the condos.

The heavily used Lower Kensington Lot, pictured here, will be lost during the Kensington Road construction project, but Mayor Mary Marvin and the Board of Trustees have been working to remedy the potential parking headaches that await the village. File photo

The heavily used Lower Kensington Lot, pictured here, will be lost during the Kensington Road construction project, but Mayor Mary Marvin and the Board of Trustees have been working to remedy the potential parking headaches that await the village. File photo

Of the 300 parking spots, 200 will be owned by the village, but the parking displacement in the interim while construction is going on is the issue at hand for Bronxville.

Conway said the village’s first priority is making sure the 78 residents who rent reserved, 24-hour parking spaces have a place to park that will still be close to their homes, and the village is turning to the state for help.

New York State law does not allow municipalities to limit parking on public streets to residents only, but does allow for municipalities to apply for hardship relief through the state Legislature, which would allow the municipalities to do just that.

Garth Road in Eastchester is an example of an area that reserves public streets for residents, but, unlike Garth Road, Bronxville is applying for a temporary parking hardship, which would only be in place during construction.

The proposed law was brought before the state Senate and Assembly by Democratic legislators George Latimer, of Rye, and Amy Paulin, of Scarsdale, respectively.

The bill has to go through committees in both houses and then to the floor of each house for a final vote.

While Andrew Buder, Paulin’s legislative aide, couldn’t predict a timeline, he foresees the bill passing.

Once the bill passes in Albany, it comes back to Bronxville, where the village Board of Trustees will host an open meeting to discuss the new law and allow for public comment. This will be done prior to the board voting on any resolution to pass the law.

Replacing those 179 lost spots in the village is one challenge; replacing the revenue those spots create is a second challenge.

According to Robert Fels, Bronxville’s treasurer, the loss of the 179 spots is equivalent to a loss of $242,000 in annual revenue due to missed permit fees and parking meters. That number shrinks to an estimated loss of $139,000 in revenue when revenue from the 78 residents, which would be given street parking if the bill passes, is taken into account.

During the March 19 Bronxville Board of Trustees budget meeting, suggestions about how to recover the loss of revenue and find parking for the merchants and commuters was tossed around the table.

One suggestion was to lower the parking permit fees for merchants that park in the Garden Avenue lot from $1,200 to $900 per year to match what merchants are paying for the Kensington lot. The thought was to try to encourage merchants to park in the Garden Avenue lot.

As the Garden Avenue parking lot is currently situated, 70 spaces are reserved for merchants and approximately 70 spaces for the public. There was also a suggestion to study the lot to see if the village can re-designate some of the public spaces to merchant spaces.

By lowering the Garden Avenue permit fee for merchants, the village would be able to make up for some of the lost $139,000 in revenue, which is a projection that assumes the village will not make any money from merchant parking.

As for commuters displaced by the Kensington Road construction, the suggestion is to move them to the Kraft Avenue parking lot, which typically has vacant spots.

Congestion and parking will become an increasingly difficult situation to navigate through in the coming months, in which the village will deal with five other projects either underway, about to begin or in the works.

Lawrence Hospital is in the process of building a $34 million addition to its facility; a $5.5 million village-wide flood mitigation project starts this year; the Bronxville School auditorium construction work is underway and there is a plan to turn 100 Pondfield Road, currently a four-story moving and storage building, into a renovated apartment building. That project will be sent to the village Planning Board in a couple of months.

All of this work will bring increased traffic and a need for parking.

In terms of Kensington Road, Conway said the contractor will be responsible for finding parking for the construction vehicles and workers, which will eventually require overflow parking. Conway said the village will help the developer as much as they can, but the burden is on the developer to find parking.

Mayor Mary Marvin, a Republican, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
The debate over whether or not to ban certain types of bamboo in the Village of Mamaroneck has intensified. File photo

Trustees, harbor commission clash over bamboo

The debate over whether or not to ban certain types of bamboo in the Village of Mamaroneck has intensified. File photo

The debate over whether or not to ban certain types of bamboo in the Village of Mamaroneck has intensified. File photo

By PHIL NOBILE
Questions of authority, procedure and balance between the village’s elected officials and volunteer coastal board has extended to a battle over bamboo.

The latest conflict between the Board of Trustees and the Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission comes from a proposed ban on certain types of bamboo in the Village of Mamaroneck. Under the plan, residents would be barred from planting bamboo in their yards within 20 feet of village or an adjoining property.

The proposal, which was recommended by the village’s tree committee, was originally brought forward before the trustees this past January, but subsequently referred to the Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission for approval at the commission’s March 19 meeting. According to board members, the impact of bamboo on wetlands was in front of the HCZMC for consistency questions on preserving the wetland areas from bamboo planting.

During the meeting, Cindy Goldstein, chair of the HCZMC, wondered why the matter appeared before her commission in the first place.

“We’ve had situations like this in the past and we scratched our heads and wondered ‘why are we getting this?’” Goldstein said. “We’re struggling with ‘why are we picking on bamboo?’”

Commission member Clark Neuringer described the proposal as banning of a “human behavior,” and not something that should be before the commission.

“My question was based on the fact it seemed to me there was a proposal outlawing certain behavior of people,” Neuringer, the village’s 2013 Democratic mayoral candidate, said. “To me it had zero to do with bamboo, but had to do with an action or activity that was being prescribed to be non-beneficial to a community.”

Neuringer, an architect, said the Board of Trustees failed to provide any insight on the legislation, and simply sent a “piece of paper” to the commission.

“There was no document submitted from the board outlining the rationale, the research or the reasoning. None of that was submitted. It was a piece of paper asking to make a determination,” Neuringer said. “There was zero background.”

As a result, the seven-member commission had a majority of three votes for abstaining from making a decision on the matter. Two other commission members voted for “yes” on consistency and another two voted for “no.”

Since the HCZMC voted to pass on rendering a decision, the matter will automatically be determined consistent after a 30-day mandated period, according to village code.

Village Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, expressed disapproval of the HCZMC votes to abstain on the matter, calling them a “shame.”

“There’s no reason to abstain,” Rosenblum said. “If you can’t make a decision, perhaps you should think about why you’re sitting on a board. It’s a disservice to the village.”

The 30-day delay from the commission to pass the law also sparked extreme criticism from Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, who accused members of the coastal commission of violating the state constitution.

“The Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission blocking of this law, even for 30 days, violates the state constitution and state law, violates municipal home rule law and violates village law,” Bermudez Hallstrom said. “We cannot abide by an open and knowing violation of the constitution. To do so is to invite ad-hoc law and all the chaos that brings. For example, Venezuela and Syria, where the law is not respected and they have constitutions and chose not to adopt them.”

Bermudez Hallstrom described the HCZMC’s declaration of consistency as “veto power” because the Board of Trustees cannot pass a law if a matter is found inconsistent by the coastal commission.

In January, Village Manager Richard Slingerland requested a legal opinion from the New York Department of State regarding consistency determinations by the commission.

According to William Sharp, a principal attorney for the department of state, the village code “impermissibly delegates legislative authority to the Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission,” and the village should consider amending the portion of the code “to address the problems associated with the consistency review.”

Although Rosenblum denied any constitutional conflicts on the part of the Harbor and Coastal Zoning Management Commission, he added the recent delay on the bamboo law was proof of the commission’s power.

“The Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission delaying the vote on the bamboo illustrates exactly why no board should have veto power over elected officials,” Rosenblum said.

The opinion from the state does conclude that “fault is not found with the work of the HCZMC,” and that, over the decades, the commission’s advice on policies “has proven very valuable.”

Goldstein dismissed the comments from the elected officials, calling them “disappointing.”

“To accuse commission members of illegal conduct or violating their oath of office in their performance of official duties is reckless and mean-spirited,” the commission chairwoman said. “The Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission is comprised of seven hard-working and conscientious individuals who give generously of their time and expertise to the Village
of Mamaroneck.”

The comments from village officials at the trustees meeting weren’t well-received by some members of the community either, including village Democratic chairwoman Elizabeth Saenger, who said commissions like the HCZMC were not receiving the recognition and respect they deserve.

“We have boards and commissions made up of volunteers with staggered terms who work very hard developing positions and researching on these kinds of issues,” Saenger said. “They’re really the pride and glory of our village, in my opinion, and we should pay more attention to them and let them have their proper role and not accuse them of being anti-democratic.”

The tension over the bamboo law isn’t the first time the trustees and the village’s commissions have been at odds in the past month.

At a March 3 work session, Rosenblum, voiced disapproval of the HCZMC’s decision to refer to the Department of State for additional training without consulting village officials. The mayor described the commission’s actions as “egregious.”

Despite the exchange of harsh criticism, Rosenblum denied any rift between the village’s volunteer committees and the Board of Trustees.

The public hearing on the bamboo law remains open and will appear on the April 16 Board of Trustees agenda.

CONTACT: phil@hometwn.com

 
The New York City Football Club and Manhattanville College are attempting to join forces to operate the team’s training and practice programs on the school’s campus. The proposal, which sits in front of Harrison’s Planning Board, calls for refurbishment of one field, creating another soccer field over old tennis courts and updates to the college’s Kennedy Gymnasium. Rendering courtesy Town of Harrison

Pro soccer club’s proposal draws concerns

The New York City Football Club and Manhattanville College are attempting to join forces to operate the team’s training and practice programs on the school’s campus. The proposal, which sits in front of Harrison’s Planning Board, calls for refurbishment of one field, creating another soccer field over old tennis courts and updates to the college’s Kennedy Gymnasium. Rendering courtesy Town of Harrison

The New York City Football Club and Manhattanville College are attempting to join forces to operate the team’s training and practice programs on the school’s campus. The proposal, which sits in front of Harrison’s Planning Board, calls for refurbishment of one field, creating another soccer field over old tennis courts and updates to the college’s Kennedy Gymnasium. Rendering courtesy Town of Harrison

By PHIL NOBILE
A proposed plan for an emerging professional soccer club hoping to team up with Manhattanville College for practice and training purposes is being met with some community concerns about potential environmental and quality-of-life issues.

The New York City Football Club, one of the newest teams to be added to Major League Soccer, has proposed a deal with Manhattanville College in Purchase to temporarily train at the school. At Harrison’s March 25 Planning Board meeting, attorneys for the club and college presented their plans to the board and public, following community comments that have raised environmental and traffic concerns.

The $10 million proposal calls for internal renovations to the college’s 56,000-square-foot Kennedy Gymnasium, removal of existing tennis courts to create a new regulation sized field and refurbishment of an older soccer field to accommodate professional athletes.

According to the plan, Manhattanville’s footprint will not be altered as the plan does not include any new buildings or external expansions, and the full grass and artificial fields built and fixed will be given to the college at the end of the contract between the parties.

Seth Mandelbaum, attorney for Manhattanville College, said the deal struck was a
five-year contract with potential for a two-year extension. Mandelbaum and the club’s chief business officer, Tim Pernetti, emphasized the deal is
temporary.

“This is a significant investment in Manhattanville College,” Pernetti said. “Once we build our permanent home elsewhere, the fields will be donated to the school in perpetuity.”

The club, which was formed officially in May 2013 and has struggled to find a permanent stadium in one of New York City’s five boroughs since 2012, stressed the use of Manhattanville College would be, according to language in the proposed contract, strictly temporary and solely for practice purposes until a permanent home is constructed.

Initially hoping to build a home in Queens at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the club was denied by strong opposition to the plan because of the changes needed to the park.

According to Pernetti, the club ultimately wants to find a permanent stadium and training facility, but views teaming-up with the college as a viable option pending the club’s inaugural season in 2015.

Major League Soccer, a professional soccer league in the United States formed in December 1993, plays its season each year from the beginning of spring until the end of fall.

Pernetti assured the Planning Board and local residents that usage of the facilities would not be excessive, with 25 players and 20 staff members using them at a maximum. The chief business officer also said the club’s youth program, the New York City Football Club Academy, would be limited to 80 to 100 players, or “a daily influx of up to 130 individuals,” with few weekly youth games at night and on weekends.

Like many European soccer clubs, the academy will serve as a farm program for select younger players in the community.

It is the youth program and lack of a full environmental assessment for the proposal that has drawn criticism from groups and communities in the area.

The Purchase Environmental Protection Agency—a nonprofit located in Purchase to monitor development proposals in the area—recently submitted an online petition for the Planning Board’s consideration, garnering more than 100 signatures as of press time.

The petition asks for Manhattanville and the New York City Football Club to submit a full Environmental Assessment Form to assess potential impacts; impose conditions on the proposal that the club or Major League Soccer will not turn the practice fields into playing fields for league scrimmages or games and that the Planning Board follow the town’s Master Plan, which states “Harrison will seek cooperation between the colleges and the town to protect the interest of residents.”

“The historical documented impacts of such development that a…major league sports complex will bring include traffic congestion, road widening, significant loss of property values and environmental threats, such as air pollution from all the extra cars and team buses, excess noise and change in the overall image and appearance of the community of Purchase,” the petition reads.

Mandelbaum referred to Planning Board consultant Pat Cleary’s recommendation that the proposal only needs a Type II action, meaning no further review under the state’s environmental review program would be required.

According to the state, a Type II action has “been found categorically to not have significant adverse impacts on the environment,” and, as a result, do not require any declaration or assessment forms to be filed.

“Neither the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations, nor the scope of this project, require the use of the Full Environmental Assessment Form,” Risa Heller, a communications spokesperson for the club, said. “The Planning Board, as the lead agency under SEQRA, agreed.”

Mandelbaum also argued there would be lower traffic than in years’ prior thanks to an old camp—Soundview Summer Camp—leaving the college with its 250 or more campers after this year. The soccer club’s summer program would only run in July, according to Mandelbaum, and, during the year, their farm youth program would only occur three weekday evenings and occasional weekends.

The attorney also countered the traffic concerns, saying it would be mandatory for all players and staff to enter through a designated College Road entrance, not through the college’s Purchase Street entrance or a side entrance on Anderson Hill Road.

The public hearing was closed by a 3 to 2 vote of the board at its March 25 meeting. At the next regularly scheduled meeting on April 22, the Planning Board is expected to decide on whether or not to approve the club’s proposal.

The football club hopes to begin training at Manhattanville College in January 2015 and begin competing by the start of the season in March 2015. The club’s director of football, Claudio Reyna, announced on March 20 that the team’s temporary stadium—rumored to be Yankee Stadium in the Bronx—for the first few seasons will be announced at some point this in April.

Executive Director of the Purchase Environmental Protection Agency Anne Gould could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: phil@hometwn.com

 
White Plains Road’s Mickey Spillane’s is renovating its second floor and turning it into a rooftop bar and outdoor dining area. The Eastchester Planning Board approved the owner’s site plan at its March 27 meeting. Rendering courtesy Tom F. Abillama Architecture and Planning

Mickey Spillane’s to add outdoor rooftop seating

Mickey Spillane’s is proposing to build a rooftop bar that would allow people to have a drink outdoors during the summer. Photo/Bobby Begun

Mickey Spillane’s is proposing to build a rooftop bar that would allow people to have a drink outdoors during the summer. Photo/Bobby Begun

By LIZ BUTTON
Irish pub and restaurant Mickey Spillane’s received approval from the Eastchester Planning Board to add an enclosed glass rooftop bar and open-air, outdoor dining area to its second floor to create a new, more versatile version of the popular downtown hangout.

Mickey’s owner Stephen Carty, who also owns the Irish-themed dining spot’s three sister restaurants including Molly Spillane’s on Mamaroneck Avenue in Mamaroneck, Maggie Spillane’s in Fleetwood and Nelly Spillane’s in Manhattan, said an outdoor dining area open seven days a week year-round will help quell the drop-off in business that usually occurs at Mickey’s during the summer months, when people prefer to be outdoors.

“The customer today wants that and we want to provide it,” Carty said.

The new set-up will facilitate a social, fun atmosphere in which people can sit outside and have a beverage and hang out with their kids, he said.

White Plains Road’s Mickey Spillane’s is renovating its second floor and turning it into a rooftop bar and outdoor dining area. The Eastchester Planning Board approved the owner’s site plan at its March 27 meeting. Rendering courtesy Tom F. Abillama Architecture and Planning

White Plains Road’s Mickey Spillane’s is renovating its second floor and turning it into a rooftop bar and outdoor dining area. The Eastchester Planning Board approved the owner’s site plan at its March 27 meeting. Rendering courtesy Tom F. Abillama Architecture and Planning

The renovations to the second floor, which will add an enclosed 30-by-30-foot glassed-in seating area—or pergola—and an open outdoor patio in the rear, began this week and will take about three to four months to complete, Carty said. Mickey’s patrons’ use of the finished area as a recreational space will not have any adverse impact on surrounding neighbors’ properties, which are mainly non-residential, Carty added. There is no music or amplification system planned for the spot, and the planning board has already vetted potential noise levels.

“I think it is a real enhancement and a benefit to the town,” Planning Board member Robert Pulaski said.

The proposal, approved at the March 27 meeting, calls for expanding the 1,353-square-foot second floor, formerly the restaurant’s room for special functions, to about 1,500 square-feet.

The open-air roof garden will be available to diners in temperate, mild weather conditions so people have the option to eat outside in a landscaped, fenced-in environment that is both attractive and safe, while the glassed-in pergola will be open year-round.

Plans for the building at 429 White Plains Road, which has been home to Mickey’s for the last seven years, were endorsed by the town’s Architectural Review Board at its Jan. 2 meeting.

The plan, developed by Yonkers-based firm Tom F. Abillama Architecture and Planning, was originally submitted to the Planning Department board in November 2013. At its last meeting on Jan. 23, Planning Board members raised some final concerns about potential noise that could possibly emanate from equipment like exhaust fans.

Architect Tom Abillama explained noise would not be an issue for diners.

“If you add the 71 decibels of the rooftop to the 58 decibels of the exhaust fan you end up having an additional three to four decibels over what exists right now,” he said.

Pulaski said he was satisfied after Abillama’s review that the applicants addressed any potential issues.

In adding outdoor dining space, Mickey’s, the restaurant chain’s flagship location, will be catching up to Molly Spillane’s successful back patio set-up and Maggie Spillane’s, which has its own lengthy rooftop area.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com

 
Recent proposed changes to the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, which acts as a guide for development along coastal regions, have some members of the community up in arms, claiming the village’s unique character is at stake. File photo

LWRP workshop plans for the future

Recent proposed changes to the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, which acts as a guide for development along coastal regions, have some members of the community up in arms, claiming the village’s unique character is at stake. File photo

By PHIL NOBILE
In an attempt to ease the fervent criticism of an update to the village’s encompassing waterfront document, the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees held a special workshop this past week, outlining what steps to take in the coming year.

At the March 31 workshop in the village’s courtroom, officials reiterated the process for the next few months regarding the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program’s future and attempted to map-out what future public involvement and meetings would entail.

The meeting, which was open to the public but no public comment allowed, was the “next step in the process,” according to Republican Mayor Norman Rosenblum, and was the first of many meetings in the coming year.

“[The Board of Trustees] needs help to put this into manageable chunks and help us dissect it amongst ourselves,” Democratic Trustee Ilissa Miller said. “In a couple months, we want to have something we are proud of and able to present to the public.”

Spending the duration of the meeting discussing parameters moving forward with the village’s consultants on the matter, the trustees talked about what aspects of the plan needed the most attention; how to digest the public comment and concerns; and how to plan out the next few months in accordance with state and federal guidelines.

The Local Waterfront Revitalization Program has been a particularly contentious issue in the village for the past few months since an update was submitted to the public in February after undergoing a six-year process. A two-week comment period that ended Feb. 28 engendered an outpouring of public concern, ranging from transparency and phrasing concerns within the document and the update process.

In an attempt to address the concerns, Charlie McCaffrey, village consultant for the
update process, gave the trustees guidance.

“You have options in how it is implemented,” McCaffrey said. “The state wants an accurate account and key provisions of how you will proceed.”

According to McCaffrey, the process will, “at best, take until the end of the year.”

The Board of Trustees will interpret and implement February public comment and concern and develop their own consensus, according to the consultant. Once that version of the LWRP is submitted to New York’s Department of State, the village is expected to conduct a public review process while state and federal agencies review the updated document themselves.

The updated LWRP will be ready for adoption by the Board of Trustees when it is returned to them from the state and all public, state and federal comments are acknowledged.

A deadline looms for the trustees to submit the village’s final iteration of the update by December 2014. The village is contractually obligated with the Department of State thanks to a $50,000 grant from the department for the project. An initial due date of December 2013 passed and, as a result, an extension was requested.

According to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, the extension was a final, one-year deal.

One of the more debated aspects of the waterfront program’s update comes with the role of the Harbor and Coastal Zone Management Commission. The update calls for minimizing the commission’s role to advisory rather than maintaining its ability to determine consistency independently of the Board of Trustees.

According to Les Steinman, the land-use attorney for the village, the board has a variety of options when it comes to the coastal commission. The Board of Trustees can delegate themselves determiners of consistency regardless of environmental classification and receive advisory input from the commission. Or, the board can also determine consistency for legislative actions or actions regarding village property and the HCZMC determines consistency on Type I or unlisted environmental actions.

Type I and unlisted environmental actions are defined as most likely to have an adverse impact on the environment, according to the state.

McCaffrey said, “Unlike other comprehensive plans and studies that communities do, one distinguishing feature of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program is that it has to be enforceable. Any of the visions, standards or policies have to be backed-up by local laws that justify that vision.”

According to McCaffrey, who worked on the original LWRP with the Department of State, the village stands to reap some rewards by gaining the state’s approval for the LWRP update.

“State approval means increased eligibility for grants, funding for local programs like the $50,000 grant for the update itself and more,” McCaffrey said. “Consistency of state and federal agencies is a major incentive for communities.”

Whether or not the trustees can decipher all of the public comment and layers of the 176-page update remains to be seen.

In letters obtained by the Mamaroneck Review, two members of a steering committee tasked with updating the LWRP, George Shieferdecker and Philip Horner, advised the trustees they wouldn’t be able to handle the depth of the document on their own.

Trustee Miller voiced the possibility of additional consulting during the workshop.

“We’re coming from the top-down, so having people who need to work and live with this on a day-to-day basis can help tell us where we might have gaps in our knowledge,” she said.

The Board of Trustees concluded the meeting by saying, at the April 7 work session, specific plans going forward will be discussed and drafted.

CONTACT: phil@hometwn.com