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From the Mayor: Bronxville and Westchester County Have Much to Offer PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Sep. 26, 2018:  So much has been said of late about our county and not much has been positive vis-à-vis federal and local tax implications, transportation issues and the high cost of goods and services.

But Westchester County, and Bronxville in particular, has so much to offer, rich in history and accomplishments.

The following is just a sampling of information about our home village and county:

Bronxville Village

  • At the time of incorporation in 1898, Bronxville had 300 citizens.

  • We are now home to 3,358 female residents and 3,060 male residents.

  • With the exception of the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, Bronxville is the only community that is coterminous with its school district.

  • Sixty percent of our residents live in single-family homes vs forty percent in a combination of co-ops, condos, and rentals.

  • The village-proper has over 70 acres of parkland.

  • However, the largest park, Scout Field, is Westchester County property, 95% of which is in the cities of Mount Vernon and Yonkers. Hence, we are not allowed to patrol the property.

  • Alfredo Field near Siwanoy is village property but almost wholly in the Town of Eastchester. (The original soil from the field was sold and trucked to Queens for the 1939 World’s Fair.)

  • Approximately 23% of village parcels are tax-exempt properties.

  • The NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law sets the minimum speed for villages at 30 mph. It can be lowered only for a school zone or if there is a documented history of multiple serious accidents.

  • The village has no county-owned roads and only one state road, Route 22. The village cannot pave the state road, which was also constructed with no drainage catch basins on the entire stretch through Bronxville.

Westchester County

Some “firsts” in the county:

  • The first chapter of the Garden Club of America was founded in Bedford in 1938.

  • Yonkers resident Leo Baekland invented one of the world’s first plastics in 1907 and his company manufactured the glossy brightly colored plastics that defined the '50s and '60s.

  • The first elevator was built in Yonkers by the Otis Company.

  • Founded in 1888, St. Andrews Golf Club in Hastings, the first U.S. golf course, was developed by Yonkers John Reid. (It was even here in Westchester that the dubious tactic of a second chance at hitting a ball, "taking a Mulligan," got its name.)

  • The first self-made female millionaire was Irvington resident Madame J. C. Walker, who built a beauty empire manufacturing products geared to African American consumers.

  • The first parkway in America was our own Bronx River Parkway. The river itself was rerouted and our village border was changed to accommodate its construction in 1925.

  • The Union Church in Pocantico Hills has nine Chagall windows commissioned by David Rockefeller. This is the only series of Chagalls in America.

  • Paddle tennis was invented in Scarsdale in 1928 and first played there at the Fox Meadow Tennis Club.

  • Tuckahoe marble was once considered the finest in the country and was used to build St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the New York Public Library, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Washington Square Arch, the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington Monument. (Our President Kennedy commemorative plaque is adhered to a piece of Tuckahoe marble generously donated to us by our neighbors.)

  • Glen Island Casino, now Glen Island Harbour Club, was the premier home of the Big Band Era and launched the careers of Ozzie Nelson, Les Brown, the Dorsey Brothers, and Glenn Miller.

  • John Peter Zenger wrote an article about an Eastchester town election that heavily criticized the New York governor. Litigation over the article led to the immortalization of freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights, hence the name Bill of Rights Plaza at the intersection of Mill Road and Route 22 in Eastchester.

  • First visited by Italian explorer Verrazzano in 1524 and later by Henry Hudson in 1609, the county was named by English settlers arriving in the 1640s after the English city of Chester.

  • Covering 450 square miles and 45 municipalities, Westchester County is larger than 40 countries.

  • Crain’s rated Westchester County the slimmest, fittest, healthiest county in New York State because of its low rates of obesity, inactivity, and diabetes.


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
From the Mayor: Village to Purchase Avalon Parking Lot; New Building Inspector Hired PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Sep. 19, 2018:  As a result of multiyear discussions and negotiations, the village has finalized an agreement to purchase the Avalon parking lot adjacent to the Metro-North station.

For a transfer price of $1.6 million, Avalon Corporation will demolish the asbestos-filled, dilapidated former filling station and remove the underground tanks and conduits. The cleanup will be overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in a manner similar to the process at the Villa BXV condominium site.

Currently renting the lot for $90,000, the village will now have full ownership of a very strategic piece of property. The demolition of the gas station structure will also add 20+ premium parking spaces for our resident commuters and, frankly, keep the property outside the hands of a for-profit parking company which could rent to anyone it saw fit, resident or not.

In conjunction with the purchase, the village will be resurfacing the lot and upgrading the sidewalks, lighting, curbing, drainage, and landscaping, making the space a much more attractive venue.

The purchase is part of the trustees’ long-term goal to upgrade the few, but noticeably blighted, areas in our small village. We first focused on the Kensington Road parking lot site and upon completion of the Avalon lot improvements. Next, we plan to direct our attention to the Stone Place/Milburn Road area adjacent to the Paddle Courts.

Our comprehensive improvement plan also addresses our aging (100-year-old-plus) subterranean infrastructure. We are now focusing on our sanitary sewer system. To that end, we recently borrowed $2.8 million at a rate of 3.05% after a Moody’s review that reaffirmed our Aaa stable bond rating, the highest possible for a municipality such as ours.

As background, our village has a tax base of $3.2 billion with a 12.7% expansion overall in the last five years, some of it clearly due to the development of Villa BXV.

At the end of fiscal year 2017, the village held a 47.3% available fund balance ($7.6 million) to operating revenues. The village has added to the fund balance in seven consecutive years, and the board of trustees is committed to a guiding policy of maintaining a general fund balance of at least 30% of revenues.

Our debt and pension obligations were classified as moderate. We participate in all the obligatory New York State pension plans and paid our full obligation in FY2017 for a total of $1.1 million, or 7% of operating revenues.

It helped a great deal that 2017 was overall a good budgeting year for Bronxville. Mortgage tax proceeds exceeded budget expectations by $54,000, and local sales tax revenue apportionment exceeded our budget by a very healthy $112,000 for a total of $997,000. We are clearly bucking the trend, as our sales tax numbers have shown an increase for three years running after stalling for the years prior.

Every expenditure increase in the village budget of $80,000 translates into an additional tax point. If villagers had chosen to buy everything online and we had lost the local sales tax revenue source, FY2017 taxes would have been raised 12 points; this reaffirms the truism that shopping local is the bargain in the end.

We also benefitted from an online vehicle auction consortium we have joined, earning $110,000 from the sale of surplus equipment. Yearly expenses were also 4.5% below budget despite the severity of the winter and back-to-back Nor’easters.

The Moody’s analysis determined that "village management adheres to conservative budgeting, accurate assessments, healthy reserves, and liquidity and has invested in infrastructure and preventative maintenance projects. Financial position is strong and stable.”

As village government starts our “new year,” we are pleased to share that we have hired Paul Taft to replace Vincent Pici as building inspector.

It was a long and wide-ranging search, as we sought someone with impeccable professional skills, seasoned experience, and a desire to interact with our community to problem-solve. The trifecta of skill sets is possessed by a limited universe of applicants.

Paul comes to us from North Salem, having been its building inspector. He also has 31 years of general contractor experience in Westchester County and serves as an officer of the International Code Council. Paul has experience and expertise in building inspection, fire/safety inspection, zoning and planning enforcement plan reviews, and storm water management. He is on board as of this week.

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
From the Mayor: Parking: Searching for Solutions While Taking into Account So Many Variables PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jul. 11, 2018: Village Administrator Jim Palmer and I recently attended a parking seminar sponsored by the Urban Land Institute. Given the parking needs/constraints/potential opportunities in our village, we thought it well worth our time and we weren’t disappointed.

Overview

The United States has 260 million cars and currently 800 million spots, so the inventory is not scarce, rather, location is the issue. Not surprisingly, all the compiled data reaffirm that driverless cars are coming and ride sharing is gaining ground. With them come the anticipated problems of even more gridlocked streets as cars are programmed to head home after drop-off or continue on to a new destination. Cyber hacking is also definitely in the mix. All the experts thought that even with the burgeoning popularity of Uber and Lyft, combined with new technology, parking needs for the next 10 to 15 years would not change appreciably. Data confirm car-sharing services are replacing taxies, rental cars, and bus transportation, not car ownership and rail service.

Americans still have a unique love affair with cars. We are, unlike our peers in Asia and Europe, in fact very slow to embrace technology that takes our cars away from us in the form of automated or stackable parking. Many unique reasons account for this.

It starts with an abundance of land to personally park vehicles that our counterparts in Asia and Europe never had. Psychologically, we also don’t like to give over a prized possession, and we certainly cannot tolerate wait time as a vehicle is retrieved. (Almost 20 years ago, a fully automated state-of-the-art parking garage was opened in Hoboken. Not long after its debut, cars fell from upper decks, setting the industry back decades, according to experts.)

So looking at a parking paradigm that is not going to change a great deal in the foreseeable future, the solution is to manage what we have in the most efficient way possible and/or build so that the structures can be retrofitted if another use comes to light. This requires municipalities to first turn inward and look at local codes, 24/7 patterns, overnight parking, meter timing, fee structures, shuttles, valets, and traffic patterns. We are doing all of the above in the context of our recently launched village comprehensive plan.

On the building front, the trend is for open-air garages to be zoned for much higher first floors and narrower ramps so mixed-use is an option. 

Even meters must be looked at as a performance measurer–are they helping abutting businesses to move traffic/customers–and much less as a revenue generator.

In a very interesting experiment, Summit, NJ, just decided to forgo any new parking lots/structures and has contracted with Uber, at a cost of $175,000 per year, to ferry the overflow residents to the train station. It is too early to tell if it is a success.

The great news is that Bronxville is so in style–if we were ever out!–as a model TOD (Transit-Oriented Development). Data clearly validate that all age groups, with a particular emphasis on millennials, want to be within walking distance of public transportation, stores, schools, and medical services. The benefits are enormous both environmentally and socially. Dependence on the automobile is reduced, as is gas consumption, and roads are less congested, decreasing the carbon footprint. A walkable community has healthier residents who interact more often with their neighbors on a direct, more satisfying level.

Ancillary to the ideal of an entirely safe walkable existence is a discussion of the need for charging stations, numerous drop-off and pick-up areas for ride sharing, and the use of bikes. (As an aside, the LimeBike program in Yonkers has left the village with abandoned bikes in numerous unauthorized return locations.)  No one in the suburbs has embraced the Citi Bike concept of numerous “stalls” in front of their homes or businesses, so the solution remains vexing.

In an amusing/befuddling aside, Bronxville residents mirror their Westchester neighbors in that though so many have migrated from Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan, where a parking space within two or three blocks of one’s destination is a find, if a spot is not available on the street where their dining or shopping is located in the suburbs, this is considered inadequate parking.

The takeaway is that, as a community and a government, we must be flexible, be it public-private partnerships to effectuate more space or using the same space multiple times in a 24-hour cycle.

The buzzword seems to be “context” parking–i.e., the relation of the space nearest to the desired use intended. Is it best for a Manhattan-bound commuter, a reverse commuter, a weekend-only traveler, a merchant who needs to drive to his place of business, a shopkeeper who desires speedy turnover in front of his store, or a diner who desires a leisurely meal? All somehow must be balanced optimally with a little creative thinking.

The board of trustees and I are working on a variety of parking solutions, all at various stages of effectuation, reinforcing how important it is to take into consideration the current variables and future needs to make the most judicious and visionary decisions. 

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
From the Mayor: The 2018 NYS Legislative Session 'Ended with a Whimper' PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jul. 4, 2018:  New York’s 213 legislators closed up shop last week in Albany and headed home to gear up for the next election.

Surprisingly, it ended with a whimper, devoid of the usual end-of-the-session deal-making.

The session will probably be most notable for what didn’t get done rather than what did. A deadlocked senate, resulting from a Republican lawmaker going back on active naval duty, contributed to the vote deadlock.

Bills that both houses could agree on now await the governor’s signature to be enacted into law:

  • Prosecutorial Misconduct. A long-stalled bill to create a panel to investigate prosecutorial misconduct was finally passed. An eleven-member panel will now have broad authority to investigate prosecutors accused of wrongdoing.

  • Ticket Scalping. StubHub and SeatGeek will now have to clearly post that they are second-hand sellers, not connected directly to the venues. In addition, if they are selling speculatively for tickets they don’t actually possess, a 100% refund must be given if tickets are not forthcoming.

  • Restorative Justice. Truly copying our own village’s groundbreaking restorative justice program, the state would dedicate asset forfeiture revenues for programs that aid those in the criminal justice system with substance abuse and mental health issues to be placed in diversion programs as opposed to being combined with the general prison population.

  • Cashless Tolls. The state can no longer suspend one’s vehicle registration for the failure to pay cashless tolls in a timely manner.

  • Water Use Rate. This particular bill was personally championed by our board of trustees in coalition with neighboring communities. It would require water works corporations (SUEZ) to provide water use data by property address to municipalities for purposes related to “use” consumption as opposed to only property tax funding for clean, storm, or drinking water infrastructure improvements and services.

A vast majority of initiatives this legislative season never made it out of committee. The following would have impacted the village for good and for ill and will be monitored as they will most likely be up for continued discussion in the 2019 legislative term.

Condominiums and Cooperatives. The proposed bill would have amended real property law so that market value, rather than the rental income-producing stream, would become the valuation method for condos and coops.

Cellular Services. Legislation would have authorized cities and villages to join New York City in imposing a gross receipts tax on mobile telecommunication services to augment the current taxation on landlines only.

Employment. Language would have prohibited employers statewide from being able to ask prospective hires about their salary history.

Prevailing Wage. Bill would have subjected all projects financed, in whole or in part, by local governments to prevailing wage.

Teacher Evaluation. Bill would have decoupled annual teacher evaluations from state-mandated test scores.

Economic Development. Legislation would have required more oversight on the billions of dollars that the state spends to try to boost its economy including the creation of a “database of deals” that would publicly display how much the state was sending to private companies for job-creation programs.

Gun Control. Legislation would have allowed family members, school officials, and teachers to initiate court proceedings to try to remove guns from one’s home if they are found to be a danger to themselves or others.

Interest Rates. Law would have eliminated the current fixed-interest rate of 9% on any judgments against a municipality vs tying it to market rate, thus removing the incentive for plaintiffs to delay proceedings and also putting New York in conformity with other states.

Plastic Bags. Initiative would have prohibited the use of carryout plastic bags for sale to customers and impose fees designed to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags.

This was a good year for Mark Twain based on his beliefs (reputedly expressed by him) that “no man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
From the Mayor: Many Broxvillians Lend a Helping Hand PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jun. 27, 2018: Many a day I rush home to catch my favorite TV show, Jeopardy, and manage to get there often with just minutes to spare. As a result, I frequently catch the very last segment of ABC Nightly News called "Made in America." It features a company/individuals helping out their fellow mankind often in ways that are profoundly inspiring.

Just in the past month, initiatives that have crossed my desk have truly qualified as Bronxville's version of "Made in America."

As an example, Ms. Vise's pre-K class at the Reformed Church Nursery School heard about our Giving Garden and the plight of hunger of children just their age in Westchester. They decided to have a bake sale and donate all the proceeds (over $500!) to buy plants and supplies so other youngsters would receive fresh vegetables.

Mr. Justin Chao's third grade at The Bronxville School became very concerned about fair trade, particularly as it affects the production of cocoa/chocolate with the attenuating use of child labor. Designed to create sustainable incomes for farmers and their families, the practice of fair trade commits farmers, buyers, and manufacturers to not grow or purchase cocoa that was harvested via child and slave labor. The third-graders did extensive research. As an example, in the Ivory Coast, 109,000 children are engaged in child labor for the production of cocoa.

The third-grade class forwarded me a petition and their impressive research and asked me to share it with our local merchants, who may not be aware of what kind of chocolate they are purchasing to sell. The effort, clarity, concern for their fellow youngsters who literally live continents away, and their advocacy were beyond impressive.

Students in both the Bronxville Middle and High Schools gave a presentation about a science initiative based on studying the water quality of the nearby Bronx River. Varying in complexity based on age, the students presented very persuasive data sadly proving how unhealthy our river is for fish, plants, and any recreational use. I know their hope is that projects like theirs will shine the light on the need for an environmental clean-up. I took copies of some of their reports so I could be a partner in advocacy. Again, a very professional and analytical evaluation voicing their concern about the sustainability of the environs in which they live.

On the same theme of environmental stewardship, Bronxville High School students Barrett Dollar and Sophia Sulimirski presented their research on the long-term environmental effects of the continued use of plastic bags in our stores. They circulated a petition, gathering over three percent of the adult villagers to support their cause, just on a first try. Their research was very extensive and persuasive. As an example, the United States alone generates approximately 380 billion plastic bags each year. Extrapolating down to our village level, Bronxville residents use two-and-a-half million bags per year, with only one percent of the bags recycled nationally each year. In Washington, D.C., a five-cent-per-plastic-bag tax has contributed $10 million to cleaning up the Anacostia River, and in California, which enacted a total ban, beach pollution was halved. The village board of trustees will be working with these young women going forward to determine what is best suited for our village.

The Boulder Ledge Garden Club, too, wanted to make a difference that would benefit all villagers. Noticing the empty tree pits in the business districts due to storms or tree disease, they donated $5,000 of their own funds and canvassed villagers, receiving an additional $5,000-plus. So when you see beautiful new trees replacing unsightly stumps in our downtown, it will be thanks to the foresight and concern of Boulder Ledge.

Our Bronxville Giving Garden will also be looking for local donations to increase our yearly output of fresh vegetables from an impressive 250 pounds of vegetables in just our first season of growing. The produce goes to serve all our neighbors hungry and in need. One resident saw the effort being made at the garden firsthand and immediately dropped off an unsolicited check.

On a monthly basis, our Bronxville Senior Citizens members contribute cereal, soup, socks, and even pajamas when they learn of a need in one of our neighboring communities.

Every age group in our village is generous and philanthropic. Our village, though small in size, is big in heart, and it is beyond gratifying and reassuring that the spirit of giving and environmental awareness is learned so early and then sustained through a lifetime.

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, officeholders, candidates, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
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