Category Archives: News

The four candidates for two open Tuckahoe trustee positions debated village issues on Sunday with environmental concerns drawing the most passionate disagreements. Photo/Chris Eberhart

Trustee debate focuses on environment

By CHRIS EBERHART

The environment was at the core of a passionate Tuckahoe discourse on March 9 as the League of Women Voters hosted a debate in Village Hall for the four candidates running for two open trustee spots in this month’s elections.

The four candidates for two open Tuckahoe trustee positions debated village issues on Sunday with environmental concerns drawing the most passionate disagreements. Photo/Chris Eberhart

The four candidates for two open Tuckahoe trustee positions debated village issues on Sunday with environmental concerns drawing the most passionate disagreements. Photo/Chris Eberhart

On the Democratic ticket, incumbent Steve Quigley, 61, who has served on the village Board of Trustees for the past four years, is up for re-election and running along with the village’s Democratic Party chairman, Chris DiGiorgio, 47, who is looking to succeed outgoing Republican Trustee Janette Hayes, who chose not to seek re-election.

Across the aisle, the Republicans nominated two attorneys—Steven Alfasi, 48, and Melba Caliano, 60—to oppose Quigley and DiGiorgio.

During opening statements, Quigley, an intellectual property attorney at a Manhattan-based law firm, admitted most of the issues in Tuckahoe do not receive strictly partisan line votes with the exception of environmental issues, which created the most passionate moments in the debate.

DiGiorgio, an eye doctor with his own practice in New Rochelle, said, “I’ve seen enough environmental disasters throughout this country that the minute we are not looking at the ball in regard to the environment is the minute we have an environmental disaster.”

The Republicans held steadfast to the idea that the village is already doing enough for the environment.

“I reject the thought that we in Tuckahoe are irresponsible toward the environment,” said Alfasi, a private attorney with an office in Village Hall who has also served on Tuckahoe’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the past two years. “We are not. We are very responsible toward the environment.”

Environmental discussion first made its way to the dais in March 2013, when Quigley proposed a measure that would have banned plastic bags in Tuckahoe retail stores. The proposal was shot down by the majority Republican board by a 4-1 vote. Quigley, the board’s only Democrat, was the lone vote in favor of the legislation.

Fast forward to this past Sunday, plastic bags and the issue of re-zoning to rid Tuckahoe of the last remaining industrial zones—which allow businesses to have chemical plants and electronic manufacturing and create pollution—became a topic of intense, partisan debate.

“One way the Democrats stand apart is in environmental initiatives,” Quigley said. “By pledging Tuckahoe to be a climate smart community, we will be eligible to file for grants from New York State that will fund improvements to our infrastructure and our environmental sustainability.”

Alfasi refuted the statement.

“I had a discussion with Angela Vincent, who is the Mid-Hudson Climate Smart Communities coordinator. There are no such grants that Tuckahoe is barred from applying for when it comes to environmentally sound grants,” Alfasi said. “It doesn’t exist. We can apply for everything and anything.”

Doing away with Tuckahoe’s industrial zones was one of DiGiorgio’s long-term goals for the village.

“I would like to get rid of the last two industrial zones here in Tuckahoe,” DiGiorgio said. “I don’t believe we should have these types of zones that can potentially pollute the environment. I would like to see them converted to business zones, where we could have businesses that won’t do that.”

Caliano, an attorney with the New York State Education Department, fired back, saying there are no more industrial zones currently in the village.

“Tuckahoe has zoned out all industrial zones,” said Caliano, who has served on the village’s Planning Board since 2004. “The only industrial zones that exist today are those that are grandfathered in. No new industrial zones are permitted to come into Tuckahoe at this time.”

The debate then shifted gears to the rumored construction of a hotel on Marbledale Road, availability of playgrounds in the village and thoughts on being more inclusive to the Hispanic community.

The four candidates were mostly in agreement and their answers on those topics were similar: they all said they need more information about the construction plans for the rumored hotel, the parks are safe and well-kept and including more Spanish writing for village literature such as agendas and minutes would be beneficial, as would looking into the cost for a Spanish translator.

Then the hot topic that is plastic bags in Tuckahoe finally crept into the debate when Quigley said he’d like to see a separate plastic bag pickup by village DPW crews, which created a partisan divide between the candidates.

Alfasi snapped at Quigley’s plastic bag pickup idea, saying it would be a waste of money.

“The DPW has a place to bring your plastic bags if you’d like [to recycle],” Alfasi said. “Now should we have a plastic bag pickup additionally to the services we already have from the DPW? No. How are we going to pay for that?”

Caliano jumped on the back of Alfasi’s statement.

“One of my opponents indicated he was in support of a curbside pickup of plastic bags. That very opponent of mine at this juncture could’ve moved for that option at any time during the [Board of Trustee] meetings, but never did that,” Caliano said. “So now we’re hearing about it at this time is curious to me frankly…It’s a costly thing that we already have a system in place for.”

Quigley cited a New York Times article that listed areas—such as San Francisco, Honolulu, Austin, Los Angeles  Ireland—that have passed the plastic bag ban to illustrate his point about how that concept is spreading. Locally, the City of Rye and villages of Mamaroneck and Larchmont have also adopted such bans.

“I think that’s indicative of how this movement should be going,” Quigley said. “It would eliminate the problems moving forward. As far as why it wasn’t suggested earlier, that’s a contractual issue. That’s something that’s part of the collective bargaining agreement between the village and the DPW. That’s not something that the board has direct control over.”

DiGiorgio came to his running mate’s aid.

“With all due respect, Mr. Alfasi, we can always do more for the environment,” he said. “Anything we can do to reduce waste, anything that we can do to improve efficiencies with our environment needs to happen.”

Elections for the Tuckahoe trustees, who are elected to serve two-year terms with an annual compensation of $5,000, are held on March 18.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com 

 
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Village adopts state Multiple Dwelling Law

By PHIL NOBILE

Described as applicable legislation by the Board of Trustees, the Village of Mamaroneck recently adopted the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law to strengthen protections for the village’s lower-income tenants and enforce violations on building landlords.

Instead of an internal rewrite, the village decided to scrap its own outdated building code in favor of adopting a uniform state code in early 2014, which allows for a more streamlined updating process.

The state building code doesn’t speak to the issue of multiple dwellings, though, so the need for the village to also adopt a policy on multiple dwellings became apparent. That need led to the additional adoption of a state multiple dwellings law, which the Board of Trustees approved by a 4-to-1 vote.

Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, was in favor of adopting the multiple dwellings law, describing it as beneficial to tenants who need more protections from “unscrupulous landlords” as well as to building owners, who can abide by a uniformed code.

“The old village code had a very barebones law and conflicted with other standards,” Bermudez Hallstrom said. “Adoption of the multiple dwelling law was the most efficient way of assuring that residents of multiple dwellings in the Village of Mamaroneck live in safe, healthy and secure housing and that landlords can be held to account for providing inhabitable housing to those most vulnerable residents.”

According to Bermudez Hallstrom, the law was the only remedy for residents living in unsafe or undesirable housing conditions, with the alternative course of action being to take landlords to court over potential problems.

If the state applies any changes to the law, they are automatically applied to the village because of the uniformed nature of the law–a huge benefit in comparison to the many outdated portions of the village’s code, according to Bermudez Hallstrom.

Specifically, the village adopted sections 1 through 5 and 8 through 11 of the New York State law. The detailed legislation has multiple aspects that fall under the requirement of a multiple dwelling, which is defined by the state as a building that is rented or leased to three or more families living independently of one another.

The law lists specific requirements that landlords must adhere to when it comes to multiple dwellings, such as peepholes, proper mailboxes, fire codes and even punishments if housing is used for prostitution rings. According to Bermudez Hallstrom, the village code was missing some of these particulars.

The original village code regarding multiple dwellings needed replacement after the village repealed and rebuilt their building code to align with the state’s uniformed code. Originally known under village code section 226 as “Housing Standards,” Bermudez Hallstrom said the village’s version of a multiple dwelling law was a “very barebones law,” and conflicted with other standards the state multiple dwelling law set forth.

Not all trustees were convinced adopting the state law was a good idea.

Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, voted against adopting the law. He said he felt uncomfortable approving it because of a lack of explanation about the old code versus the new law.

“I don’t think we should be passing laws that we don’t quite understand what the impact is,” Potok said. “What we had was very straightforward. Why we want to impose convoluted law on our residents who need to understand their rights is beyond me?”

According to Bermudez Hallstrom though, the trustees had ample time to analyze and look over the now adopted state legislation.

“I emailed them to all the board members, so they had time to read them,” he said.

The adoption of the law was also not well-received by some members of the community.

Former Democratic mayoral candidate and longtime village resident Clark Neuringer questioned whether adopting the state’s 170-page law was appropriate for the village.

“There ought to be a sense of scale,” Neuringer said. “I don’t know if it is practical to take an urban law dedicated for 60-unit apartment buildings and highrise buildings and bring it to bear on a village that is predominantly three-or-four-sized family units.”

Bermudez Hallstrom, who described the legislation as a “flexible law,” said the claims it wasn’t proper for the village are “completely not true.”

“It can apply to any village that adopts it,” he said. “The cut-off is three families living independently of one another, and it applies to a lot of homes in the village.”

Village resident Norah Lucas questioned why the board opted out of performing a review for possible environmental effects the new legislation would bring.

According to Village Attorney Charles Goldberger, the state law replaces village law with such minimal change that a SEQR was not required to pass the law.

Bermudez Hallstrom echoed the attorney’s sentiments, and assured there would be no adverse environmental effects.

The law will officially go into effect when it is filed later this month, and will specifically replace section 226 of the village code.

CONTACT: phil@hometwn.com

 
Morgan Stanley’s proposal to build a 250-kilowatt fuel cell, which will provide a clean and reliable energy source to the company’s building, was approved by Harrison’s Planning Board. The final product will look similar to the one pictured. Contributed photo

Planning Board approves fuel cell proposal

By CHRIS EBERHART

Morgan Stanley’s proposed fuel cell at the company’s Westchester site in Purchase was approved during Harrison’s Feb. 25 Planning Board meeting as the proposal continues to make its way through the approval process.

Morgan Stanley’s proposal to build a 250-kilowatt fuel cell, which will provide a clean and reliable energy source to the company’s building, was approved by Harrison’s Planning Board. The final product will look similar to the one pictured. Contributed photo

Morgan Stanley’s proposal to build a 250-kilowatt fuel cell, which will provide a clean and reliable energy source to the company’s building, was approved by Harrison’s Planning Board. The final product will look similar to the one pictured. Contributed photo

After being introduced to the Planning Board on Jan. 28, the proposal was finally approved by the Planning Board and sent to the Town Council, which will hold a public hearing during its next meeting on March 20 and get feedback on Morgan Stanley’s most recent “green” investment—a 250-kilowatt fuel cell, which will provide a clean energy source to the Morgan Stanley office building, located at 2000 Westchester Ave. in Purchase.

Morgan Stanley, the multinational financial firm, will use Bloom Energy, a California-based energy company, to install the fuel cell, which will be powered by natural gas supplied by Con Edison. Instead of the gas being burned, the natural gas will be used in a chemical reaction to generate electricity that will provide “clean, base-load power to the facility and uninterruptible power in the event of a loss of power to the grid,” according to the site plan application. “This energy production will, in turn, reduce the demand on the commercial energy supply.”

Town Councilman Fred Sciliano, a Republican, said reducing the demand on the energy supply in the area lightens the workload for the grid, which powers all the buildings along Westchester Avenue and helps neighboring buildings around Morgan Stanley keep their energy usage down, which in turn, keeps costs down. Sciliano said such a practice becomes more beneficial in the summer months when air conditioners are constantly running.

In addition to the actual fuel cell, the site plan application also calls for a 550-foot service road, which would be constructed from the existing access road to the site from Kenilworth Road.

Rosemarie Cusumano, secretary for the planning, zoning and architectural review boards, said the costs of the proposal won’t be known until Morgan Stanley applies for a building permit.

According to the site plan, the proposal fully complies with the town’s municipal code and would not require any variances. Additionally, the proposal is considered a SEQR—the State Environmental Quality Review act—type II facility, which means the proposed project would not result in any significant adverse environmental impacts. Because it’s a type II facility, the proposal did not require any further SEQR review, but Morgan Stanley included a short Environmental Assessment Form essentially stating their will be no adverse impact on the environment.

The fuel cell is the latest continuation of an ongoing trend by Morgan Stanley to be “green.” Late last year, Morgan Stanley unveiled its six-acre, 820-kilowatt solar panel to offset a percentage of its electricity usage.

Sciliano said, in terms of utilizing a “green” building, Morgan Stanley is more the exception than the rule among Harrison businesses.

“Morgan Stanley has done a lot over the years and there are some buildings on the Manhattanville campus that are going green, but there aren’t a lot of other examples [in the town],” Sciliano said.

Representatives from Morgan Stanley could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 
A final decision on the Department of Public Works’ City Yard stands in the way of future development of the New Rochelle waterfront. File photo

Forest City withdraws $2M demand

By KATIE HOOS

Forest City Residential—the developer of the failed waterfront revitalization project known as Echo Bay—has withdrawn its letter demanding New Rochelle reimburse the firm for $2 million in expenses, eliminating the prospect of possible litigation between the two parties.

A final decision on the Department of Public Works’ City Yard stands in the way of future development of the New Rochelle waterfront. File photo

A final decision on the Department of Public Works’ City Yard stands in the way of future development of the New Rochelle waterfront. File photo

In a Feb. 26 statement, Forest City wished the city well in its future waterfront
development endeavors and stated it will not pursue further action in regard to seeking reimbursement.

“While the City of New Rochelle and Forest City Residential have different perspectives about the manner in which the Echo Bay waterfront redevelopment concluded, we have agreed the interests of both parties are best served by moving forward,” the statement read. “Accordingly, we are today setting aside our claim for expenses associated with the project.”

The city first entered into an agreement with the developer in 2006, anticipating a sprawling 26-acre site with 150,000 square feet of retail space, 600 luxury residences and public-use space along the waterfront. But due to the recession, development was put on hold until 2010 when it was substantially scaled back to 10.8-acres with 25,000 square feet of retail and 285 apartments.

Following Forest City’s attempts to move forward with the smaller project, community backlash ensued and support from City Council members began to waiver over concern for the financial toll the project would take on city taxpayers. Meanwhile, Democratic Mayor Noam Bramson continued to express his support for the project, citing his belief that it was in the best interest of the community.

Ultimately, a Nov. 26 bipartisan vote in which a near unanimous vote of the City Council—Bramson was the lone dissenting vote—ended the Echo Bay deal, just weeks after the mayor faced defeat on another front losing out on a bid for the county executive seat to incumbent Republican Rob Astorino.

Reflecting on the Echo Bay loss, the mayor said public discussion and dialogue is key for any major development project in the city and it is important to practice this in the future.

“In this instance, advocates of the project, such as myself, clearly could’ve done a better job of linking the development to long-held community goals,” he said. “We let the narrative get away from us.”

On Feb. 5, Forest City’s attorney issued a letter to city officials terminating a 2008 memorandum of understanding—the document that detailed the agreement between Forest City and the City of New Rochelle—and demanding the city reimburse the firm for $2 million out of a total of $3.1 million in out-of-pocket expenses incurred while planning the ill-fated Echo Bay project.

The City of New Rochelle responded to the demand, stating it was not going to pay the $2 million and was ready to defend itself against any legal action Forest City might pursue.

Rather than going to court, Forest City withdrew the demand.

The city acknowledged the effort the developer put in to the doomed project in its own Feb. 26 statement.

“New Rochelle recognizes Forest City’s significant investment in the Echo Bay site and is therefore grateful for Forest City’s decision to set aside its claim for expenses,” the statement read. “New Rochelle and Forest City’s partnership at Echo Bay began in a spirit of mutual respect, and it now concludes in that same spirit.”

With the Forest City cloud no longer looming overhead, talks of future waterfront development can begin within the City Council.

“I’ll continue to fight for the taxpayer and for development that’s responsible for residents and will generate revenue,” Republican Lou Trangucci, District 1, said. He said any development that would take place on the waterfront would have to take into account the relocation of the City Yard, the city’s Department of Public Works facility currently located at 225 E. Main St.

“I feel development has to be something that’s going to be beneficial to residents of the city and not ask the city to carry substantial financial burdens,” Trangucci said. “One problem with the waterfront is that the City Yard is there and would have to be moved at a substantial cost. Any future developer will have to carry that cost.”

Mayor Bramson said it would be “premature to define the net vision for the shoreline” right now, but he hopes in the coming months the City Council can begin to discuss a framework for future development opportunities.

Contact: katie@hometwn.com

 
A gathering of Westchester County and Harrison officials, school faculty and students participate in the initial groundbreaking ceremony for the School of the Holy Child’s many planned expansions and renovations.

Officials attend Holy Child groundbreaking

By PHIL NOBILE

A gathering of Westchester County and Harrison officials, school faculty and students participate in the initial groundbreaking ceremony for the School of the Holy Child’s many planned expansions and renovations.

A gathering of Westchester County and Harrison officials, school faculty and students participate in the initial groundbreaking ceremony for the School of the Holy Child’s many planned expansions and renovations.

Donning School of the Holy Child hardhats and shovels, officials from Westchester County and the Town of Harrison joined the school in a groundbreaking ceremony last week to kick-off the start of its many planned expansions.

Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett, Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, Rye City Councilwoman Julie Killian and others joined faculty and students of the private school for girls to formally begin construction on a planned field house and more.

William Hambelton, headmaster of the School of the Holy Child, described the updates as “critically important,” and essential to the vitality of the school.

“Over the years, we have profoundly strengthened our programs and curriculum,” Hambleton said. “I think what these facilities represent is a level of facility that is consistent with the level of program and student success that we are seeing right now, so it really completes the circle for us.”

Plunkett spoke on behalf of County Executive Rob Astorino, who recently announced his candidacy for governor, and was in Buffalo campaigning at the time.

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont addresses a crowd of Holy Child trustees, faculty and students at a March 6 groundbreaking ceremony.

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont addresses a crowd of Holy Child trustees, faculty and students at a March 6 groundbreaking ceremony.

“Holy Child and schools like it are so vital to the county,” Plunkett, who had four daughters graduate from Holy Child, said. “When you see the school building for the future, it’s an important part of making sure the education provided is not only in the classroom, but through the arts and athletics, and overall just well-rounded.”

The expansions focus on expanding athletic and art offerings that the preparatory school provides its student body, which consist of grades 5 through 12. According to Hambleton, the first stage of the updates is to complete the 22,000-square-foot field house—which boasts two full-sized basketball or volleyball courts with bleacher seating; locker rooms for Holy Child students, coaches and visiting teams; weight, training and fitness rooms; and a dance studio—by October of this year.

Also planned are improvements to the school’s Ross field, which, according to Belmont, has allowed for collaboration and community involvement between the town and school in the past.

A planned 22,000-square-foot field house, shown in this rendering, will serve as the focal point for Holy Child’s campus and boasts two full-sized courts, weight and fitness rooms, a dance studio and other modern athletic amenities. Photo courtesy School of the Holy Child

A planned 22,000-square-foot field house, shown in this rendering, will serve as the focal point for Holy Child’s campus and boasts two full-sized courts, weight and fitness rooms, a dance studio and other modern athletic amenities. Photo courtesy School of the Holy Child

“We use their fields and courts, and it’s an ongoing relationship where they also use some of our town’s fields,” Belmont said. “With the governor looking for us to consolidate and share services, here’s a perfect example of what we’re trying to do moving towards the future.”

Once the field house is done, the school plans to convert its old gymnasium into a 400-seat theatre, and will include specific space for the school’s drama and dance programs, a full-sized stage, sound and lighting equipment for productions and dressing rooms.

It’s these new additions that will “drive and sustain” the school for years to come, according to Hambleton, who said the school hopes to keep its quaint size, but plan for the future as well.

“We do believe that the new facilities will help drive and sustain enrollment, but we’re not looking to grow dramatically, but strategically in a few specific areas,” the headmaster said. “We do think the new facilities will make us much more competitive in our niche in the independent school world and that it will really drive enrollment in a sustaining way for years to come.”

The School of the Holy Child was established in 1957 after the school bought the St. Walburga’s Academy, which was founded in 1904. It sits on 23 acres off of Westchester Avenue and has an enrollment of 292 students.

CONTACT: phil@hometwn.com

 
Sustainable Playland Inc.’s proposed field house was reduced from 95,000 square-feet to 82,500 square-feet. An access road for parks maintenence abutted the building. In the updated plan, that access road will be replaced by 100 parking spots.

SPI reduces field house proposal

By CHRIS EBERHART

SPI will reduce the size of its proposed field house from 95,000 square-feet to 82,500 square-feet and shrink the size of the field zone footprint from approximately 10 acres to five acres. Photos courtesy Sustainable Playland, Inc.

SPI will reduce the size of its proposed field house from 95,000 square-feet to 82,500 square-feet and shrink the size of the field zone footprint from approximately 10 acres to five acres. Photos courtesy Sustainable Playland, Inc.

Sustainable Playland, Inc., the Rye-based nonprofit chosen by the county administration to renovate Rye Playland, announced a reduction in the size of its controversial proposed field house by 12,500 square-feet and a reduction in the footprint of the field zone by 50 percent in an effort to appease the amusement park’s protesting neighbors at a Tuesday meeting in White Plains.

But Rye City Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, said the reduction is not going to resolve the issues brought forward by residents of his city.

SPI’s proposal calls for the field house, which is the essential, money-making part of the overall plan to redevelop the park, to be built in Playland’s parking lot, which is also a FEMA-designated flood zone, and be located just yards away from a residential Rye neighborhood. Residents around the amusement park say the overflow of floodwaters and traffic will pour into their streets.

But the most scrutinized aspect of SPI’s proposal is the size of the field house, which has fluctuated since SPI responded to Republican County Executive Rob Astorino’s request for proposals to alter the park in early 2011.

Astorino first took office in 2010 and quickly identified revitalizing Playland as a priority of his administration.

Originally, the size of the field house was proposed at 72,000 square-feet, according to SPI’s RFP response in March 2011. The project then jumped to 95,000 square-feet to make it “economically feasible,” according to SPI spokesperson Geoff Thompson.

However, Thompson was never able to confirm when the jump in proposed size was made.

Over the past week, the number changed again, but this time the size was reduced to meet the demands of the neighbors, according to SPI officials.

Sustainable Playland Inc.’s proposed field house was reduced from 95,000 square-feet to 82,500 square-feet. An access road for parks maintenence abutted the building. In the updated plan, that access road will be replaced by 100 parking spots.

Sustainable Playland Inc.’s proposed field house was reduced from 95,000 square-feet to 82,500 square-feet. An access road for parks maintenence abutted the building. In the updated plan, that access road will be replaced by 100 parking spots.

On March 10, SPI submitted an amendment to its Playland Improvement Plan, which details SPI’s renovation proposals to the county. The plan calls for a downscaling of the field house from 95,000 square-feet to 82,500 square-feet with an overall reduction of the field zone by more than 50 percent from 10.16 acres to 4.86 acres.

That’s where SPI drew the line in the sand.

“I want to reiterate; [82,500 square-feet] is the minimum size we can go in order for the field house to be economically feasible,” Thompson said.

By reducing the field zone’s footprint, SPI was able to address the lack-of-parking criticism leveled by the park’s neighbors by adding 100 more spaces to the main Playland parking lot, which will replace an access road for park maintenance between the proposed site of the field zone and the maintenance sheds, which brings the total number of parking spots to 1,460 in the main lot, according to the updated plan, provided by SPI.

With the additional 100 spaces, there still remains a loss of approximately 34 percent of the existing parking spaces in the main lot if the proposed field house comes to fruition.

“SPI has made a lot of changes in response to public complaints, which are all legit,” Thompson said. “The plan is fluid and ever-changing, but the overall vision has not changed.”

Sack isn’t convinced reducing the size of the field house or the field zone will remedy the issues of flooding and traffic overflow area neighbors have raised.

“I look forward to seeing the revised plan, but the truth is that the size of it is still such that the same questions remain in terms of the possible environmental impacts,” Sack said.

Rye resident Mack Cunningham, a former Rye City councilman who has been an outspoken opponent of the field house, said the reduction will actually create more issues for the park’s neighbors because of the location of the added parking spots.

“The changes raise safety issues with the drop-off at the outdoor fields and pedestrians moving from the field house to the outdoor field zones,” Cunningham said. “This will also further quality of life issues [for Playland’s neighbors] because parents will want to avoid the field zone congestion and drop their kids at the Sanford [Street] and Roosevelt [Avenue] gate entrance.” Cunningham said this will increase traffic and illegal parking in the Rye neighborhood abutting the amusement park.

Despite the reduction, Sack said the Rye City Council is taking steps to address the field house. It has hired law firm Arnold and Potter at a starting amount of $10,000. Sack said Arnold and Potter will comb through the PIP and look into finding a way to have the city’s interests recognized and look at legal issues related to the city’s interests.

“We would like to ensure that we’re doing everything we can do to handle the matter and handle it appropriately,” Sack said.

-With reporting by Liz Button

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com 

 
Two Steer coaches stand with a student-athlete. Photo courtesy Steer

Steering students in the right direction

By MARGUERITE WARD

A couple of motivated individuals have the ball rolling on an inspiring pay-it-forward plan to improve young people’s lives through sports.

Steer for Student Athletes is making a change on the local level.

Steer for Student Athletes is making a change on the local level.

What started as an idea by longtime athlete and Rye resident Michael Eck quickly grew into a growing nonprofit as a few friends, community members and athletic leaders in the area, became equally inspired.

Now in less than one year as a fully-functioning nonprofit, Steer for Student Athletes has transformed the lives of a group of students through sports.

Don’t let the bold mission statement of the nonprofit fool you, its vision—“to use sports to save the world one kid at a time”—means exactly what it sounds like. For thousands of at-risk students, access to sports can mean the difference between pursuing a diploma or dropping out, getting motivated at school or falling behind.

 Two Steer coaches stand with a student-athlete. Photo courtesy Steer

Two Steer coaches stand with a student-athlete. Photo courtesy Steer

Steer for Student Athletes aims to make change on the micro-level. The nonprofit identifies students who have athletic talent and goals, but lack the resources to develop them. From providing new cleats, to SAT tutoring, to life coaching, the organization’s leadership is all-in when it comes to student success.

Eck and Kevin O’Callaghan are the nonprofit’s co-leaders. Dr. Tom Crawford, Joe Durney and Elizabeth D’Ottavio serve as Steer’s Board of Directors. Together, they are focusing on big dreams for small communities.

Stressing educational and life-skills, Steer uses sports as a conduit for accomplishment.

“It’s not about athletic prowess, it’s about using athletics to help form a successful student,” Durney said.

Research overwhelmingly shows students who participate in sports are less likely to drop-out, less prone to use drugs at a young age and more likely to have higher test scores.

Steer’s leadership hopes to change the lives of young students who lack the resources to fulfill their goals. Photo/Jamie Williams

Steer’s leadership hopes to change the lives of young students who lack the resources to fulfill their goals. Photo/Jamie Williams

Steer is currently operating in the Port Chester school district, but there are talks of expansion to other school districts in the future. So far, it is helping seven student athletes between grades 7 and 12. The team is hoping to add three more students to its roster by this summer.

The team behind Steer knows the impact of sports and wants to share it. Like the rest of the team, Durney sees the work he does with the students as a personal responsibility.

“I feel a moral imperative about Steer, that its mission to help students is part of my work,” he said.

One story, in particular has impacted Durney.

He described one middle school student who lacked self-confidence and motivation, despite showing strong scholastic and athletic potential. After Steer set the boy up with a former MLB player for coaching, the student turned his life around. Instead of sulking in class and shying away from attention on the field, the boy won an MVP award in a baseball tournament.

Durney describes the boy’s story as “a profound thing to witness.”

Jordan Eck, former quarterback at Hamilton College and son of Michael Eck, was heavily involved in building Steer from the ground up. Equipped with years of experience in athletic leadership, a communications degree and a love for helping kids, Eck took on the challenge of helping the team start its work.

“I wanted to do something that I cared about,” Jordan Eck said. “Helping kids and being hands-on, working from the ground on a whole new experience, it’s been really rewarding so far.”

When asked what specifically Steer will provide its students, Eck answered, “whatever it takes, really. We’re always here for them.”

Considering Steer’s short history, it has made a big impact.

Eck recalls the nonprofit’s first end-of-the-year dinner, at which all the board members, staff, donors, students and their families sat down together for the first time.

“The testimonials from that night on how we were helping [the students]; it’s one thing to hear it, it’s another thing to see it,” he said.

With a team of less than 15 people, this small nonprofit is gaining traction.

A handful of local community members with professional experiencing in student or sports coaching have signed on to Steer, providing students with life, school, and sports lessons.

“At its crux, Steer is about helping kids,” Durney said. “I hope that, in 10 to 20 years, when a student comes back and talks about their experience with Steer that they indicate that it had a meaningful, positive impact on their life.”

Stories of Steer students show how, when given resources, at-risk youth from difficult financial, familial, and educational backgrounds can excel in school and in sports.

George Baker, a historical re-enactor, tells the story of Abigail Adams through the eyes of her husband, John Adams. The re-enactment took place during the Rye Historical Society’s spring luncheon on March 6. Photo/Ashley Helms

Re-enactor tells story of Abigail Adams

By ASHLEY HELMS

George Baker, a historical re-enactor, tells the story of Abigail Adams through the eyes of her husband, John Adams. The re-enactment took place during the Rye Historical Society’s spring luncheon on March 6. Photo/Ashley Helms

George Baker, a historical re-enactor, tells the story of Abigail Adams through the eyes of her husband, John Adams. The re-enactment took place during the Rye Historical Society’s spring luncheon on March 6. Photo/Ashley Helms

Though she lived during a time when women weren’t allowed to own their own property, Abigail Adams proclaimed women should have more of a place in society than just being subservient to their husbands, leading some, including members of the Rye Historical Society, to consider her “America’s first modern woman.”

Adams’ outspoken nature on such issues made her the perfect topic for the historical society’s annual spring luncheon at the American Yacht Club on March 6, with her story told by George Baker, a John Adams re-enactor from New Canaan, Conn.

Baker told the story of being married to Abigail Adams, whose sharp financial skills, intelligence and strong will made her family prosper and helped shape the establishment of the United States as a separate entity from Great Britain. She became the country’s second first lady when John Adams was elected president in 1797.

Sheri Jordan, director of the historical society, said she met Baker during Rye’s 350th incorporation anniversary in 2010 and he told her he was working on an Abigail Adams performance. Jordan said, by bringing Baker’s performance to a broader audience, she wanted to highlight the part women played in history. She thought a presentation centered on Abigail Adams’ life would be a perfect match for the luncheon audience.

“I know [Baker] was an engaging speaker; it’s as if you had John Adams fast forwarded,” Jordan said. “Since it’s primarily women at a luncheon, I wanted to focus on women in history.”

Baker, dressed in full colonial attire, began with Abigail Adams’ upbringing.

She was born in 1744 in Weymouth, Mass., to a wealthy family. Her father was a reverend and her mother was a member of the Quincy family, after whom Quincy, Mass., is named. Baker said John Adams fell in love with Abigail, who was nine years his junior, because of her wit and energetic mind.

“Saucy was how I described her to a friend and saucy is how she always was,” Baker said.

Their marriage was tested continuously by John Adams’ travel, which spanned roughly 10 years. The two wrote letters back and forth to each other during the time they were apart. John Adams served as an ambassador to France and a delegate in Philadelphia, Pa. during the Continental Congress of 1774 and he often traveled back and forth between the two locations.

Abigail Adams stayed behind in Massachusetts on the couple’s farm, raising the children, but Baker said she was never angry at him for leaving and knew it was best for the country.

In one of the 1,100 letters John and Abigail Adams wrote to each other, Baker said Abigail Adams wrote to her husband in 1776 requesting the Continental Congress “remember the ladies.” She spoke out against the country’s Common Law, which stated that anything a woman had would come under her husband’s ownership when she got married. Baker said Abigail urged her husband to help establish laws that would give women autonomy.

“Your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend,” Baker said as he read an excerpt from one of Abigail’s letters.

Just before Abigail Adams died in 1818, Baker said she wrote a will that left $5,000, which would be the equivalent of roughly $200,000 today, to 25 women so they would be able to be somewhat independent from their husbands.

Baker said John Adams made sure the women received the money after Abigail’s death, even though, legally, he didn’t have to, and ensured equal educational opportunities for both men and women when he crafted Massachusetts’ constitution in 1780.

Baker has told stories of John Adams to businesses, schools and national conventions around the country. According to Jordan, proceeds from the historical society luncheon will go towards the society’s educational programs as well as storage of historical documents.

Three Boy Scouts and one Girl Scout, all of whom attend Eastchester High School, recently achieved the highest accomplishment in scouting: the Eagle Scout Award for Boy Scouts and the Gold Award for Girl Scouts. Two of the recipients, seniors William and Rebecca Brown, pictured, are twins. 
Photos courtesy Lisa Brown

Four students get highest scouting honors

Three Boy Scouts and one Girl Scout, all of whom attend Eastchester High School, recently achieved the highest accomplishment in scouting: the Eagle Scout Award for Boy Scouts and the Gold Award for Girl Scouts. Two of the recipients, seniors William and Rebecca Brown, pictured, are twins.  Photos courtesy Lisa Brown

Three Boy Scouts and one Girl Scout, all of whom attend Eastchester High School, recently achieved the highest accomplishment in scouting: the Eagle Scout Award for Boy Scouts and the Gold Award for Girl Scouts. Two of the recipients, seniors William and Rebecca Brown, pictured, are twins.
Photos courtesy Lisa Brown

By LIZ BUTTON
Four students at Eastchester High School, including a set of twins, recently achieved the highest award in scouting.

Three Boy Scouts attained Eagle Scout ranking: William Brown, a senior; Michael Poletti, a senior; and Sebastien Maroun, a sophomore, and one Girl Scout, William’s twin sister Rebecca, also a senior, achieved the ranking of Gold Scout.

Scouting is a big part of the Brown family’s history. The Brown twins’ father was also a scout, while their uncle is an Eagle Scout. Rebecca and William both joined the scouts in first grade, and their mother Lisa, a former scout herself, is the current leader of Rebecca’s Girl Scout troop.

Last November, to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, William ran a used bicycle drive, after which he cleaned and repaired 47 bicycles and donated them to Hurricane Sandy victims through an organization called “Good Goes Around.”

To get her gold rank in January, Rebecca ran a series of craft workshops for students and adults with special needs using recycled materials and also ran a badge class for a local troop of younger Brownie Girl Scouts with a focus on recycling.

The two other students who achieved scouting honors recently were both awarded the rank of Eagle Scout.

Poletti, who also serves as a student representative to the Eastchester Board of Education, repainted and cleaned the Tuckahoe Community Center and organized a blood drive.

Maroun organized an effort to create a reading garden at the Tuckahoe Library and recently presented the project details to the Tuckahoe Board of Trustees. He and fellow scouts from Bronxville Troop No. 1 plan to build a brick retaining wall along a path that leads from the library to the garden. Maroun is raising money for materials by selling engraved bricks, which will be installed in the garden and along the path.

Eastchester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Walter Moran said he is proud to commend four students who have exemplified the district’s mission statement, which reflects the importance of becoming life-long learners and contributing members of society.

The district, Moran said, strives to provide opportunities, like these for students to develop civic responsibility, global awareness and problem-solving skills.

“As recipients of the highest award in scouting, these students have distinguished themselves, their families and our community with their outstanding community service projects,” Moran said.

To attain an Eagle or Gold scout ranking, a candidate must organize and run his or her own community service project and fulfill requirements in leadership and outdoor skills.

Girl Scouts, who achieve the Gold Award as well as Eagle Scouts are also eligible for college scholarships.

Eagle Scout Awards are available to any level of Boy Scouts, up to the age of 18, while there are three awards for Girl Scouts: the Girl Scout Gold Award is available to high school scouts, while the Silver Award is given to Girl Scouts in middle school and the Bronze is for Girl Scouts in elementary school.

CONTACT: liz@hometwn.com

 
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Tuckahoe teacher arrested

Tuckahoe teacher Dorothy Lepore was arrested for allegedly stealing funds from student government organizations over a seven-month period.  Photo courtesy  EPD

Tuckahoe teacher Dorothy Lepore was arrested for allegedly
stealing funds from student government organizations over a seven-month period.
Photo courtesy EPD

A Tuckahoe middle school math teacher was arrested and is now facing felony charges after allegedly stealing thousands of dollars worth of student fundraiser money over a seven-month period.

Dorothy Lepore, a 41-year-old math teacher in the Tuckahoe school district, surrendered to Eastchester police early on the morning of Feb. 26 and was charged with third-degree larceny, a class-D felony, and faces a maximum sentence of seven years in state prison if convicted.

The veteran teacher served as the treasurer for the Tuckahoe middle school and high school student government organizations and allegedly pocketed $26,295 worth of student fundraiser money between May 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2013.

“She then, without consent or authorization, used the stolen money for her own purposes,” according to a press release distributed by the county district attorney’s office.

Lepore resigned from her position as the treasurer of the student government organization on Jan. 10, according to the minutes from the Jan. 13 Tuckahoe Board of Education meeting.

Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, said Lepore continued to work as a math teacher until she surrendered to the Eastchester Police Department on Feb. 26.

Tuckahoe Superintendent Dr. Barbara Nuzzi acknowledged the teacher’s arrest, but said she couldn’t comment on personnel issues.

“We are aware that a certain personnel issue has become the topic of media coverage and speculation in the community,” Nuzzi said. “It is the policy and practice of the Tuckahoe Schools to promptly report matters of public concern to local authorities and fully and completely cooperate and assist any outside agency or department in any investigation involving the school district and/or its staff.”

Chalfen said a school staffer became suspicious and notified the Eastchester police after long delays in dropping-off the student fundraiser checks in the appropriate accounts.

Because the investigation is ongoing, Chalfen said no further information can be released at this time. He said police can prove $26,295 was stolen, but further investigation will determine if more money was stolen.

Lepore is due back in Eastchester court on April 2, 2014.

-Reporting by Chris Eberhart