Category Archives: News

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin.
Photo/James Pero

Panel discusses ‘crisis in criticism’

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin. Photo/James Pero

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin.
Photo/James Pero

By James Pero
Honored, a little moved, and slightly freaked out: that’s how Manhola Dargis, the New York Times chief film critic and SUNY Purchase graduate, felt taking the stage at Purchase’s Performing Arts Center, where she and a distinguished troupe of panelists discussed the role of the modern critic. 

“I’m trying to remember the last time I was actually on campus; I think I saw some plays here, and I think I saw Glenn Branca here,” she told the audience. “Anyway, I’m not going to take you down memory lane. What I’m going to do tonight is talk to three of the smartest people I know.”

The people to whom Dargis was referring were three fellow critics: Wesley Morris, staff writer at Grantland; Emily Nussbaum, television critic at The New Yorker; and Amy Taubin, contributing editor at the British Sight and Sound.

For the modestly-sized audience, the objective of the Sept. 28 lecture was to illuminate the role of the critic in today’s media landscape. In the fashion of any good writer, they opted mostly to show rather than tell by meandering through topics ranging from the evolution of television to the rise of online comment sections, occasionally descending into spirited discussions about quality content in the world of film and TV—
an occupational hazard for three of the country’s most prominent
media critics.

One of the longest and most in-depth discussions of the night centered on what all four critics acknowledged was a growing “crisis in criticism,” the dynamics of which are affected by the very industries that critics cover.

“About ten years ago, there was a lot of discussion about a ‘crisis in criticism,’” Dargis said. “But you don’t hear that much anymore, because I think in a lot ways we started to realize that the crisis was not so much in criticism, but that the crisis was really in journalism.”

The panelists explained that with the rapid decline in print journalism and therefore widespread layoffs, establishment jobs—like the ones occupied by Nussbaum and the like—are increasingly harder to come by.

Nussbaum, referring to an interview for Rookie magazine in which she outlined the rather grim prospects of rising to a job like hers one day, was only interrupted by a brief interjection from Dargis who took a minute to veer the coversation clear
of gloom.

“How are we [not] bumming you out?” Dargis said to an audience rife with journalism students. “I am so sorry.”

Inversely, while critic jobs—at least ones that pay a proper salary—dwindle, the amount of movies and television shows released continue to barrel through the roof.

“Now, the New York Film Festival had 3,000 features apply for 26 slots, most of them being first-time features,” Taubin said. “At the same time, where there are fewer and fewer places to write cultural criticism where you can get paid, the amount of stuff being made has gone up tenfold.”

Dargis, who during the early 2000s was the chief critic for the L.A. Times, told the audience that during her tenure at the L.A. Times there were approximately 1,200 employees, and now there are just 600.

Newsrooms around the country have gone through a similar shift. According to CNN Money, the New York Times headcount had shrunk by half between 2009 and 2014, and Dargis said, at least in regard to cuts at L.A. Times critics were often the first to go.

This cut in employment and spike in the amount of films and television shows being released—the latter of which can be summed by a 1,000 percent increase in scripted shows for cable since 1999, according to Variety—has led to an unavoidable blind spot in coverage.

“Fifteen years ago there were about 400 movies [that] opened up in New York City,” Dargis said, adding that fellow chief critic at the New York Times, A.O. Scott, started keeping track. “A couple years ago, the number climbed to 600, and then 700, and then it was 800. I mean, every year it was another hundred movies…Last year it was 1,000.”

Dargis went on to explain that because of the influx coupled with the decline in staff, the New York Times, which had
traditionally reviewed every movie opening up in New York, had to begin capping.

For both the publications and the critics themselves, these new dynamics are a problem that remains to be solved.

“You want people to see movies that don’t have $200 million budgets. You want people to see movies that don’t have wall-to-wall commercials. You want people to see something besides a Michael Bay movie,” Dargis said. “How are people supposed to make choices when there are so many choices?”

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com

 
AandP-F

Halstead Avenue A&P to become Key Food

 

 

Before closing its doors, the A&P on Mamaroneck Avenue, pictured, will host a final auction of all its contents on Oct. 23, after press time. Photo/Andrew Dapolite

Before closing its doors, the A&P on Mamaroneck Avenue, pictured, will host a final auction of all its contents on Oct. 23, after press time. Photo/Andrew Dapolite

By Sarah Varney
The Harrison A&P at 355 Halstead Ave. will definitely become a Key Food store, but when and under what conditions current employees will work is still up in the air.

While legal documents indicate that the sale of the A&P store to Key Food is final, union officials for United Food and Commercial Workers representing Locals 338 and 474 told employees at the Harrison store on Oct. 19 that the purchase arrangement is not yet finalized.

“All they’re telling us is that negotiations are ongoing but that nothing has been agreed upon. There’s no contract approved,” a management staffer there who requested anonymity said.

Key Food’s purchase of A&P stores has been met with resistance from the union over whether or not employee conditions and benefits will be maintained. Locals 342 and 1500 on Long Island are also party to these negotiations, union officials said in an Oct. 17 update to members posted on the union website, local338.org.

In that same online update to union members, officials said some stores will change hands as soon as this week and some stores’ transitions may happen before any agreements are in place.

Pay reductions, weekly shift allotment and the elimination of family health plans are a few concerns expressed by union officials during the transition process. Key Food Co-op Inc. operates 185 grocery stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York. The company purchased 16 A&P locations, according to legal documents filed after a sale hearing presided over by Judge Robert Drain on
Oct. 16.

A&P, the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., originally filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 on July 20. On Oct. 1, the company put up 82 of its stores in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania on the auction block. A sale hearing held on Oct. 16 finalized the purchase of 53 stores, including the 16 that Key Food purchased. This marks A&P’s second bankruptcy filing in the last five years.

Down the road the news is worse for employees at the A&P store at 670 Mamaroneck Ave. in Mamaroneck. According to legal documents, that store was bought out by CW A&P Mamaroneck, LLC for $66,000. According to a cashier at the store who will retire once the location is shuttered, the union hasn’t been forthcoming to employees. “We’ve been in the dark for several months now,” she told the Review.

On Oct. 23, after press time, the store will host a final auction of all contents. “When everything sells out, we close,” store manager Ed Rose said.

On Oct. 22, after press time, prices will be decreased and the store will close early at 7 p.m., according to Rose.

For longtime customer Phyllis Kaskel, who has lived a half mile from the Mamaroneck supermarket for 35 years, Stop & Shop is likely now her only option.

But she won’t become a Key Food customer. “Hell no. It’s too ghetto,” Kaskel said.

CONTACT: sarah@hometwn.com

 
A $26 million school bond was approved by voters on Oct. 20, which will allow the Eastchester school district to move forward with a full-scale renovation of the high school campus.
Rendering courtesy Mary Ellen Byrne

$26M EHS bond approved

A $26 million school bond was approved by voters on Oct. 20, which will allow the Eastchester school district to move forward with a full-scale renovation of the high school campus. Rendering courtesy Mary Ellen Byrne

A $26 million school bond was approved by voters on Oct. 20, which will allow the Eastchester school district to move forward with a full-scale renovation of the high school campus.
Rendering courtesy Mary Ellen Byrne

By Suzy Berkowitz
The Eastchester school district’s proposed $26 million expansion bond for the White Plains Road high school campus was approved during a public referendum held on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

The bond passed by a margin of 1,243 to 598 of registered voters within the Eastchester school district, according to district officials.

The expansion and renovation project aims to combat the high school’s spatial and academic limitations and accommodate its increasing enrollment and is anticipated to be completed by September 2018, according to the school district.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Walter Moran said in a released statement, “The passage of the bond referendum will benefit the students of Eastchester High School for generations. Once again, this community has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to excellence in education.”

The expansion will include the addition of 12 general education classrooms and nine science labs; reverting a previously classroom-converted gymnasium into a gym; and updating the school auditorium with improved seating, lighting, stage flooring and sound, according to Eastchester High School Principal Dr. Jeffrey Capuano.

Capuano previously told the Review that the high school is at a “critical and exciting” point with its increased enrollment—the school’s graduating class has grown from 144 to 230 students since he took over as principal.

The cost of the bond is expanded to breakdown as follows: $18 million for additional classrooms, $3.2 million for renovating high-priority infrastructure, $2.6 million for renovating and expanding cafeteria space, $1.4 million for improving physical education amenities and $970,000 for renovating the auditorium.

Eastchester High School will receive a $26 million facelift. The money will be spent on additional classrooms, renovations to the cafeteria space, and upgrades to the auditorium and physical education amenities. File photo

Eastchester High School will receive a $26 million facelift. The money will be spent on additional classrooms, renovations to the cafeteria space, and upgrades to the auditorium and physical education amenities. File photo

The bond will be borrowed over 20 years with a projected interest rate of 3 percent, the financial impacts of which are not expected to be felt until the 2018-2019 school year.

Moran said he is deeply grateful and appreciative of those who turned out to support the expansion bond.

“What’s most important is that the students of our district can look forward to a magnificent high school facility—one they can be rightly proud of—one that will be a true flagship for this district,” the superintendent said. “It truly takes
a community.”

CONTACT: suzy@hometwn.com

 
The Village of Mamaroneck had its proposal for a residential parking system approved by New York state. Once implemented by the village, the system would prioritize parking for residents who live near the Metro-North station. Map courtesy Village of Mamaroneck

State approves new parking system for village

The Village of Mamaroneck had its proposal for a residential parking system approved by New York state. Once implemented by the village, the system would prioritize parking for residents who live near the Metro-North station. Map courtesy Village of Mamaroneck

The Village of Mamaroneck had its proposal for a residential parking system approved by New York state. Once implemented by the village, the system would prioritize parking for residents who live near the Metro-North station. Map courtesy Village of Mamaroneck

By Angela Jordan
New York state has approved the Village of Mamaroneck’s request to create a residential parking system near the Metro-North train station.

According to the bill, the municipality may designate some side-street parking in the village specifically for use by residents of Mamaroneck, who can obtain a permit that will allow them to park without regard to typical meter restrictions. The purpose of this legislation—which the village says could free up another 20 percent more in additional parking—is to alleviate parking issues for village residents who have experienced a deficit due to non-residents utilizing residential street parking for commuting purposes.

“There are a lot of people who drive here closer to the station and leave their car so they don’t have to pay the parking permit fee,” said Village Manager Richard Slingerland said. “The people who live near the train station don’t have enough parking.”

According to the memo attached to the legislation, in addition to lack of resident access to parking, the village has experienced a number of problems relating to commuter parking congestion.

“The absence of residential parking in this area has resulted in traffic hazards for residents and other pedestrians, as well as increased congestion and air and noise pollution,” reads the memo. “This legislation would allow the Village to remedy this problem consistent with state rules for residential permit parking programs.”

New York State Assemblyman Steve Otis, a Rye Democrat who sponsored this bill, told the Review that the request from Mamaroneck has been in the works for quite some time.

“These bills are not always automatically passed. There was even a time when the Legislature didn’t pass any of these particular requests,” Otis said. “To my knowledge, [the village] has been talking about this for a few years.”

Although there is a large lot at the train station meant to accommodate commuters, it doesn’t seem to be enough.

There is currently a waiting list for long-term parking permits there, and daily-parking permits cost $4.25 for 16-hour parking and $7 for 24-hour parking.

This approval for a new residential parking program may have come at the right time since there have been some recent changes made to the Mamaroneck train station, which could increase parking congestion in the area.

A bar and restaurant called Modern on the Rails, located next to the platform in the Station Plaza, opened its doors on Oct. 5. On just its second night open, it was already quickly filling up with customers.

According to Chris Zahner, a Modern on the Rails bartender, the business just relocated from New Rochelle, where it was close to the city’s train station. He said the operation was successful in New Rochelle, but that the decision to move to next to Mamaroneck’s train station was carefully planned and deemed beneficial for the restaurant.

“Most of our clientele [in New Rochelle] was well established,” Zahner said. “We expect to start filling these seats very soon.”

The potential for new traffic, in addition to the private offices located at Station Plaza, may create fewer available parking spaces in the existing lot.

Although the bill allowing the parking system has passed, the legislation also stipulates that a public hearing must be held before the specifics of the program are implemented by the village.

-with reporting by James Pero

Playland-18

Standard, county extend Playland co-operator period

 

 

Nicholas Singer, a partner of Standard Amusements, pictured with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, has stated that Standard Amusements is still fully committed to taking over Rye Playland even though the company now has five additional months to opt out of its agreement with the county.

Nicholas Singer, a partner of Standard Amusements, pictured with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, has stated that Standard Amusements is still fully committed to taking over Rye Playland even though the company now has five additional months to opt out of its agreement with the county.

By James Pero
A clause allowing for the management company Standard Amusements to walk away from operating Rye Playland has been extended five months after an agreement was made between the company and Westchester County earlier this week. 

As a result of the extension of a co-management period, Standard Amusements, which officially entered into an agreement in June with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, to make key improvements and gradually take on management of the park, will pay the county an extra $25,000.

The new deadline moved the window of time in which Standard Amusements will continue to co-manage the park with the county from Oct. 16, 2015 to March 31, 2016. The March date is now also the new deadline for Standard to decide if it were to opt of its contract with the county.

But according to a statement from Nicholas Singer, a partner in Standard Amusements, the request for an extension does not reflect any hesitation on the part of the company, rather a desire to fully evaluate the projects entailed.

“If Standard Amusements wasn’t interested in Playland, we wouldn’t have asked for the extension,” he said. “We simply need more time to conduct the due diligence necessary to ensure that our development and completion of the project will be successful.”

However, documents obtained by the Review containing correspondences between the county and Winston & Strawn—the law firm representing Standard Amusements—show the revitalization of the park being described as “daunting” by Standard Amusements.

A new five-month extension will allow for Westchester County to co-manage Playland with Standard Amusements before the private company takes over operations at the amusement park. File photos

A new five-month extension will allow for Westchester County to co-manage Playland with Standard Amusements before the private company takes over operations at the amusement park. File photos

The letter states that an additional $20 million in capital projects necessary at the park, which are currently being handled by the county, will extend the scope of Standard Amusements project to $45 million once passed over to the company.

Furthermore, the correspondence states that the $25 million investment into the park by Standard Amusements will likely be exceeded.

Astorino supported the extension, stating that it is reasonable, given the circumstances of the deal.

“One of the strengths of the deal is that it is a public-private partnership,” Astorino said, “But that also adds a layer of complexity that requires adequate time to be managed successfully.”

So far, Standard Amusements has already paid $500,000 of the $2.25 million it agreed to pay the county up front as per terms of the original agreement.

Additionally, the original agreement dictates that over five years, Standard Amusements will invest approximately $23 million of its money into refurbishing the park, to be paid to the county in annual installments.

The county stands to receive 7.5 percent of the park’s profits after Standard Amusements recoups its initial investment.

So far, county officials remain optimistic on the matter.

County Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, said in a released statement that, “After years of working on a plan that will literally save Playland, I think the addition of a few months to the transition process is reasonable, and in fact, prudent.”

Singer and county Legislator Catherine Parker, a Rye Democrat, could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com

 
Grainger-F

Former Mayor Grainger passes away

Former Rye mayors, Edmund Grainger, center, and Steve Otis, left, with current Mayor Joe Sack at the 50th anniversary of Rye City Hall ceremony in December 2014. Grainger passed away on Oct. 18 at his home in Rye. Photo/Lester Millman

Former Rye mayors, Edmund Grainger, center, and Steve Otis, left, with current Mayor Joe Sack at the 50th anniversary of Rye City Hall ceremony in December 2014. Grainger passed away on Oct. 18 at his home in Rye. Photo/Lester Millman

Edmund Grainger, 92, passed away peacefully on Oct. 18 at his home in Rye. He had a distinguished career in law, government, philanthropy and community service.

Grainger was managing partner of his law firm in New York City. He served as chairman of Village Bank from 1980 to 1989. He was president of several charitable foundations. Grainger’s’ government service included special assistant to the attorney general of the United States, Tax Division from 1953 to 1955.

He was passionate about providing service to his community, Rye, and served as city judge and council member. He was elected mayor, serving from 1966 to 1973. As mayor, he teamed up with his counterpart in Oyster Bay, Long Island to successfully defeat Robert Moses’ plan to build a bridge between the two communities. That battle remains etched in the minds of many in Rye and that victory will likely live on forever.

“Mayor Grainger will go down in history as one of Rye’s greatest for stopping Moses and Rockefeller from building the Oyster Bay bridge down the throat of Rye,” Mayor Joe Sack said.

Grainger also proved influential to his successors.

New York State Assemblyman Steve Otis, who served three terms as mayor of Rye, said Grainger saved the town in defeating the Moses bridge proposal.

“Ed Grainger was very helpful to me when I served as mayor,” said Otis, who faced his own Long Island Sound proposal decades after Grainger. “When a new group sought to build a highway tunnel from Long Island, Ed met with me and shared the strategies he used to fight the similar bridge proposal decades earlier. Ed was a gentleman who cared deeply about Rye and served our community in countless ways.”

But for Grainger, there was also life after serving as mayor. He was chairman of campaigns for the Rye YMCA capital fund, Rye Performing Arts Center fund and the Rye Historical Society Knapp House fund. He was a trustee of The Osborn Retirement Community and an original founder of the Rye Babe Ruth League and Rye
Little League.

Grainger was a member of the American Bar Association, Association of the Bar of the City of New York and Westchester Bar Association. He was a past governor and president of the Apawamis Club and past governor and chairman of the Westchester Country Club. He was a member of the American, Westchester and Eastern seniors golf associations.

Grainger received a B.S. from Georgetown University in 1943, a J.D. from Yale University Law School in 1945 and an L.L.M. in taxation from New York University in 1954.

At his home in Rye, Grainger and his loving wife Ginie celebrated 67 years of marriage in June. Grainger was the devoted father to Terry, Jeff, Janet Byrne and Kathy Hobbins, with 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Ed is also survived by his sister, Patsy Dyer of Lake Bluff, Ill.

A visitation service was held at the Graham Funeral Home in Rye on Tuesday, Oct. 20.  A memorial funeral service was held at the Church of the Resurrection in Rye on Wednesday, Oct. 21.

Before closing its doors, the A&P on Mamaroneck Avenue, pictured, will host a final auction of all its contents on Oct. 23, after press time. Photo/Andrew Dapolite

Local A&Ps begin transition

 

 

Before closing its doors, the A&P on Mamaroneck Avenue, pictured, will host a final auction of all its contents on Oct. 23, after press time. Photo/Andrew Dapolite

Before closing its doors, the A&P on Mamaroneck Avenue, pictured, will host a final auction of all its contents on Oct. 23, after press time. Photo/Andrew Dapolite

By Sarah Varney
The Harrison A&P at 355 Halstead Ave. will definitely become a Key Food store, but when and under what conditions current employees will work is still up in the air.

While legal documents indicate that the sale of the A&P store to Key Food is final, union officials for United Food and Commercial Workers representing Locals 338 and 474 told employees at the Harrison store on Oct. 19 that the purchase arrangement is not yet finalized.

“All they’re telling us is that negotiations are ongoing but that nothing has been agreed upon. There’s no contract approved,” a management staffer there who requested anonymity said.

Key Food’s purchase of A&P stores has been met with resistance from the union over whether or not employee conditions and benefits will be maintained. Locals 342 and 1500 on Long Island are also party to these negotiations, union officials said in an Oct. 17 update to members posted on the union website, local338.org.

In that same online update to union members, officials said some stores will change hands as soon as this week and some stores’ transitions may happen before any agreements are in place.

Pay reductions, weekly shift allotment and the elimination of family health plans are a few concerns expressed by union officials during the transition process. Key Food Co-op Inc. operates 185 grocery stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York. The company purchased 16 A&P locations, according to legal documents filed after a sale hearing presided over by Judge Robert Drain on Oct. 16.

A&P, the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., originally filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 on July 20. On Oct. 1, the company put up 82 of its stores in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania on the auction block. A sale hearing held on Oct. 16 finalized the purchase of 53 stores, including the 16 that Key Food purchased. This marks A&P’s second bankruptcy filing in the last five years.

The news is worse for employees at the A&P store at 670 Mamaroneck Ave. in Mamaroneck. According to legal documents, that store was bought out by CW A&P Mamaroneck, LLC for $66,000. According to a cashier at the store who will retire once the location is shuttered, the union hasn’t been forthcoming to employees. “We’ve been in the dark for several months now,” she told the Review.

On Oct. 23, after press time, the store will host a final auction of all contents. “When everything sells out, we close,” store manager Ed Rose said.

On Oct. 22, after press time, prices will be decreased and the store will close early at 7 p.m., according to Rose.

For longtime customer Phyllis Kaskel, who has lived a half mile from the Mamaroneck supermarket for 35 years, Stop & Shop is likely now her only option.

But she won’t become a Key Food customer. “Hell no. It’s too ghetto,” Kaskel said.

CONTACT: sarah@hometwn.com

 
In a panel of the “One Hundred Years of Clippings” showpiece, news of the Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee’s visits to schools is featured. Photo/Sarah Varney

Rye Garden Club’s centennial looks at history

In a panel of the “One Hundred Years of Clippings” showpiece, news of the Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee’s visits to schools is featured. Photo/Sarah Varney

In a panel of the “One Hundred Years of Clippings” showpiece, news of the Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee’s visits to schools is featured. Photo/Sarah Varney

By Sarah Varney
On Sept. 24 and 25, the Rye Garden Club celebrated its centennial with a flower show dubbed “One Hundred Years of Blooming.” Held in the ballroom at The Apawamis Country Club, the overall theme was a look back into the garden club’s history.

But along with the history, there were prizes. At this year’s show, Pam Reimers and Abby Pillari of Hortulus Garden Club in Greenwich, Conn., won overall first place for their floral design featuring cocktail glasses filled with flowers. In the internet category, 31-year long Rye Garden Club, RGC, member Nancy Ladd took first place with an exhibit that showcased the Net-a-Porter website in the “Internet” category. In this contest, gardeners created flower arrangements representing well-known websites. There were also designs for monster.com, freshdirect.com and apple.com. In the horticulture category, Angel Morris took first place honors.

For the event, longtime member Sue Seitz of Rye created a standalone triptych with news clippings, meeting agendas, line-art drawings for invitations to long-ago ladies’ luncheons, and pictures of leading members since the club’s founding
in 1915.

The club became official in 1917 when the RGC joined the national Garden Club of America, GCA. GCA requires member clubs to advocate for environmental conservation and spearhead green initiatives. For example, last spring the Rye club installed a pollinator garden at the Edith Read Nature Conservancy. The club also tends the plants at the Rye Free Reading Room and The Square House, installs holiday lighting and greenery and puts together a bounty of table-top centerpieces for Meals On Wheels recipients at Christmas time.

That dedication to public works through greenery has been a constant, Sarah Barringer, president of the RGC, said.

During the war years, the garden club organized how-to workshops on canning produce that was grown in victory gardens. “We’re not just ladies who play with flowers,” Barringer said.

The club’s most prominent members Katherine Barker, Betsey Jennings, Jean Flagler Matthews and Edith Read were all active in civic affairs and conservation activities during their lifetimes.

Both Jennings and Barker were prominent teachers of the art of horticulture. Even today, there are GCA members who remember Jennings’ lessons at yearly meetings. Jennings died in 1984 while her friend Katherine “Kit” Barker passed away in 2010.

“Betsy Jennings was an amazing horticulturist,” Barringer said. “She could grow anything and she was an amazing teacher.” Barker was known nationally for her flower design techniques.

It was Flagler Matthews, however, who was best known for her roots. She was a Standard Oil heiress and a colorful Rye character.

Seitz’s collage included photos of the heiress at Brookside, the 93 acres of land near the edge of what is now Rye Brook and Rye, which she bought in 1934. “She planted trees, she put in 5,000 daffodils,” Seitz said. “She redid it completely.”

Seitz remembers attending the annual “May Market” events at Brookside where the RGC gave tours to raise money for its civic projects. Flagler Matthews spared no expense. “She sometimes put up a tent on the grounds [for May Market] and she had chandeliers in them,” Seitz said. “It was hysterical.”

Flagler Matthews died in 1979.

Read of the eponymous sanctuary was another prominent club member. She was a very tenacious woman, Seitz said. The land that the wildlife sanctuary sits on was originally a dumping ground for Playland. There were old broken rides and trash from Playland Lake. The sanctuary opened in 1985. Read lived to be 102 and died in 1989.

Contact: sarah@hometwn.com

 
A recent court ruling found that County Executive Rob Astorino and Westchester County did not engage in housing discrimination. However, the court upheld HUD’s decision to withhold federal funding from the county due to the discrepancies over implementation of the affordable housing settlement. File photo

Court: HUD can withhold funds from county

A recent court ruling found that County Executive Rob Astorino and Westchester County did not engage in housing discrimination. However, the court upheld HUD’s decision to withhold federal funding from the county due to the discrepancies over implementation of the affordable housing settlement. File photo

A recent court ruling found that County Executive Rob Astorino and Westchester County did not engage in housing discrimination. However, the court upheld HUD’s decision to withhold federal funding from the county due to the discrepancies over implementation of the affordable housing settlement. File photo

By Sibylla Chipaziwa
A Sept. 25 appellate court ruling found that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s decision to withhold funds from Westchester County did not violate federal law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the Second District also found that HUD is therefore allowed to reallocate 2013 funds to other jurisdictions and withhold the remaining funds from 2011, approximately $750,000. The court also said that the 2014 funds—approximately $5 million in Community Block Development Grants—must be delayed from being reallocated by HUD until the county exhausts its right to seek additional legal review of the matter.

But the court’s ruling also made it clear that the county neither violated the Fair Housing Act, nor engaged in housing discrimination. And that ruling provided an opportunity for the Republican administration of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to claim victory in his ongoing battle with HUD.

Regarding the court’s ruling, Ned McCormack, communications director for the county executive, said that “it takes away any legitimacy from HUD’s claims that [the county’s] zoning is exclusionary.”

Circuit court judges Jose A. Cabranes, Reena Raggi and Richard C. Wesley said in their ruling, “We merely conclude that HUD’s decision—in the context of providing federal funds—to require the county to redo its zoning analysis and to develop strategies to overcome impediments to fair housing did not violate federal law” and added that “there has been no finding, at any point, that Westchester actually engaged in housing discrimination.”

Whether the county is guilty of discrimination is a separate, pending lawsuit, according to Holly M. Leicht, HUD’s regional administrator.

Leicht added that contrary to Astorino’s victory comments, the appeals court “in fact determined that…HUD has the authority to require prospective grantees to analyze their local zoning laws for discriminatory impact, and to reject those analyses when they are inadequate,” adding that HUD gave detailed reasons for its rejections and gave the county “multiple opportunities to make changes and resubmissions, but the county refused to do so.”

This issue over affordable housing in Westchester dates back to 2009, when former County Executive Andy Spano, a Democrat, reached a settlement with the federal government to provide 750 units of affordable housing in 31 Westchester communities within a seven-year timeframe under the threat of lawsuit.

Other requirements of the agreement included completing an analysis of impediments, AI—a review of factors affecting affordable housing development, such as a municipality’s zoning codes—and passing legislation that bans housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income, such as Social Security or Section 8.

The AI issue has led to a stalemate between the Astorino administration and HUD. To date, the county has submitted eight analyses of impediments, none of which have been accepted and approved by HUD. Ultimately, this led HUD to withhold federal funding and as a result, the matter ended up in the courts.

In July 2015, Westchester County appealed a district court decision to deny its motion for a preliminary injunction—a request that prevents a party from pursuing a particular course of action until a final decision is made—against HUD for withholding of federal funds. The county’s complaints were dismissed when the district court granted HUD’s summary judgment motion, deciding the case without a trial.

As a result, Westchester is no longing seeking additional funds from HUD for fiscal years 2015 through 2017. However, according to the decision, the county still has to meet the obligations of the 2009 settlement, including submitting an AI that HUD finds acceptable. Because of these circumstances, the court left open the question of how HUD would enforce the 2009 affordable housing agreement against the county and how the county could “end further supervision over its housing policies.”

McCormack told the Review that the next step is the county continuing to comply with the benchmarks in the 2009 settlement to build the 750 affordable housing units.

When asked if the quota would be reached in time—the end of 2016—he said, “We have plans to get there, and we’ve met all the benchmarks so far and our plan is to continue to meet them.”

According to McCormack, as of Sept. 30, 2015, out of the 750 affordable units to be built, 489 have financing and 442 have building permits.

In a statement, Westchester’s Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, said, “It is good to know that the Appeals Court recognizes that [the county’s] communities are not discriminatory.”

Kaplowitz added that the real issue was whether HUD had a right to withhold funds but also said that none of the eight AIs the county provided to HUD were acceptable.

“I urge the county executive and HUD to keep the dialogue open so that we can eventually satisfy this requirement of the 2009 settlement,” the legislator said.

CONTACT: sibylla@hometwn.com

 
Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin.
Photo/James Pero

Panel discusses ‘crisis in criticism’

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin. Photo/James Pero

Some of the country’s most prolific media critics took the stage at Purchase College to discuss the role of today’s modern critic. From left, Manhola Dargis, Wesley Morris, Emily Nussbaum and Amy Taubin.
Photo/James Pero

By James Pero
Honored, a little moved, and slightly freaked out: that’s how Manhola Dargis, the New York Times chief film critic and SUNY Purchase graduate, felt taking the stage at Purchase’s Performing Arts Center, where she and a distinguished troupe of panelists discussed the role of the modern critic.

“I’m trying to remember the last time I was actually on campus; I think I saw some plays here, and I think I saw Glenn Branca here,” she told the audience. “Anyway, I’m not going to take you down memory lane. What I’m going to do tonight is talk to three of the smartest people I know.”

The people to whom Dargis was referring were three fellow critics: Wesley Morris, staff writer at Grantland; Emily Nussbaum, television critic at The New Yorker; and Amy Taubin, contributing editor at the British Sight and Sound.

For the modestly-sized audience, the objective of the Sept. 28 lecture was to illuminate the role of the critic in today’s media landscape. In the fashion of any good writer, they opted mostly to show rather than tell by meandering through topics ranging from the evolution of television to the rise of online comment sections, occasionally descending into spirited discussions about quality content in the world of film and TV—
an occupational hazard for three of the country’s most prominent
media critics.

One of the longest and most in-depth discussions of the night centered on what all four critics acknowledged was a growing “crisis in criticism,” the dynamics of which are affected by the very industries that critics cover.

“About ten years ago, there was a lot of discussion about a ‘crisis in criticism,’” Dargis said. “But you don’t hear that much anymore, because I think in a lot ways we started to realize that the crisis was not so much in criticism, but that the crisis was really in journalism.”

The panelists explained that with the rapid decline in print journalism and therefore widespread layoffs, establishment jobs—like the ones occupied by Nussbaum and the like—are increasingly harder to come by.

Nussbaum, referring to an interview for Rookie magazine in which she outlined the rather grim prospects of rising to a job like hers one day, was only interrupted by a brief interjection from Dargis who took a minute to veer the coversation clear
of gloom.

“How are we [not] bumming you out?” Dargis said to an audience rife with journalism students. “I am so sorry.”

Inversely, while critic jobs—at least ones that pay a proper salary—dwindle, the amount of movies and television shows released continue to barrel through the roof.

“Now, the New York Film Festival had 3,000 features apply for 26 slots, most of them being first-time features,” Taubin said. “At the same time, where there are fewer and fewer places to write cultural criticism where you can get paid, the amount of stuff being made has gone up tenfold.”

Dargis, who during the early 2000s was the chief critic for the L.A. Times, told the audience that during her tenure at the L.A. Times there were approximately 1,200 employees, and now there are just 600.

Newsrooms around the country have gone through a similar shift. According to CNN Money, the New York Times headcount had shrunk by half between 2009 and 2014, and Dargis said, at least in regard to cuts at L.A. Times critics were often the first to go.

This cut in employment and spike in the amount of films and television shows being released—the latter of which can be summed by a 1,000 percent increase in scripted shows for cable since 1999, according to Variety—has led to an unavoidable blind spot in coverage.

“Fifteen years ago there were about 400 movies [that] opened up in New York City,” Dargis said, adding that fellow chief critic at the New York Times, A.O. Scott, started keeping track. “A couple years ago, the number climbed to 600, and then 700, and then it was 800. I mean, every year it was another hundred movies…Last year it was 1,000.”

Dargis went on to explain that because of the influx coupled with the decline in staff, the New York Times, which had
traditionally reviewed every movie opening up in New York, had to begin capping.

For both the publications and the critics themselves, these new dynamics are a problem that remains to be solved.

“You want people to see movies that don’t have $200 million budgets. You want people to see movies that don’t have wall-to-wall commercials. You want people to see something besides a Michael Bay movie,” Dargis said. “How are people supposed to make choices when there are so many choices?”

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com