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From the Mayor: Answers to Questions about the Recent Flooding in Bronxville PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Oct. 3, 2018:  Last Tuesday, we had the third major rain event in as many weeks and clearly the most damaging, affecting every corner of the village including homes never before flooded. As a result, many questions were directed to school and village officials as to the whys and wherefores. The following are responses to the questions for which we could garner immediate answers after consultation with the project engineers and pump manufacturers. Many other issues we continue to research and will answer in follow-up columns. Please send any additional questions to my email at  CLOAKING . Responses are in narrative form, but if you wish to see the background data that predicated the answers, you are welcome to come and review at village hall.

Background - Midland Valley Drainage Basin

In 2007, after $22 million in damages to school property and the loss of multiple weeks of school and significant damage to village residences, school and village officials began exploring grant opportunities to avoid such catastrophic flood damage to our village going forward. After years of applications and cost-benefit analyses, we received a FEMA grant of $5,770,000. However, the funds came our way only after another storm in 2011 that caused an additional $6 million in damages to the school alone. The school district could not be the grantee or lead agency of the FEMA grant by law, so village government led the project. A multiyear plan was designed and fully vetted by FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Westchester County, and two regional engineering firms.

A five-pump system was designed for the rainfall and river flow distribution based on the 2007 storm event of 7.52 inches in a 24-hour period--the equivalent of a 50-year-magnitude storm. The village and school partnered to absorb the cost of two pumps and a new stormwater force main, with the school going out to a required bond vote for the additional pumps and corresponding increased level of mitigation.

Did the pumps work?

School and village officials met post-storm with the pump manufacturer and project engineer at the pump site to determine their efficacy. There was indeed a problem on pump one with the automatic nature of the trigger switch and float sensor. It is being remedied with new and redundant mechanisms.

Thankfully, Mike Lee, the Bronxville School’s director of facilities, received the alarm, was on site, and started the pump manually, causing no delays. Even if pump one had failed to activate, pump two would have engaged automatically. 

Were the pumps worth it?

Given $30 million in damage, five feet peak water levels in our school in both the 2007 and 2011 events, and multiple weeks of lost instruction, the pumps clearly meet the cost-benefit test based on just the past three storms in September when they activated.

During this past Tuesday’s event, the pumps ran four hours straight as the flow of water in our Midland basin pipes exceeded the level of both the 2007 and 2011 storms.

What will the additional pumps accomplish?

There were periods during the storm event on 9/25 when the water was rising in the pump station chamber with both pumps running. This indicated that stormwater runoff was entering the system at a rate greater than the available pumping capacity, resulting in excess runoff in parking lots, etc. In essence, two pumps mitigated a great deal of damage, but more were needed.

Additional pumps will provide further flood mitigation for storms similar to 9/25, as well as larger-magnitude storm events that result in even higher river flows and longer periods of rainfall, resulting in potentially greater damage to school property.

What kind of storm was this past one? 25-year? 50-year?

Data from the National Weather Service gaging systems that are used to analyze rainfall in the Bronx River Watershed are not yet available for the 9/25 event. As far as intensity, we do know that the maximum hourly rate change of rainfall was almost 100% higher during the 9/25 storm vs the 2007 Nor’easter, which was the impetus for the system. The 9/25 maximum hourly and two hourly rate change of rainfall was even more than 100% greater than the 2011 storm. The damage from last week’s storm was from the intensity, not the duration.

Why did Meadow Avenue flood with two pumps working?

The two pumps were clearly at capacity during the rain event, and we have requested that the mitigation effects of a third and fourth pump be analyzed by the project engineers with focus on Meadow Avenue. In the interim, we are re-clearing the drains on Meadow Avenue as well as all the drains in the Midland Valley Drainage Basin. In the coming months, we will clean all 400 drainage basins throughout the village. Lawn and tree debris, road gravel runoff, and roof leaders emptying into the storm sewers are our constant clogging culprits. We are also reviewing the size of the conveyance pipe on Meadow Avenue with the thought that the capacity may need to be increased and/or dry wells/retention tanks added in that area as well.

Did areas near Park Avenue/Sycamore Street flood more because of the pumping system? The artificial field? The removal of trees?

Water from these neighborhoods is collected into the Midland Basin storm conveyance pipes, which are 36” and 72” in size. The pumping system actually helped move the water downhill to the storage chambers below Hayes Field and then removed uphill via a force main to the Bronx River at the outlet at the intersection of Palumbo Place and Gramatan Avenue, where it was discharged. The system, as designed, “operates as a closed system with no release of collected runoff into adjacent soils and no groundwater entering the system.” In short, the new force main took water from the existing 36- and 72-inch pipes (via the pump), allowing them to capture additional runoff. As to the permeability of Hayes Field, the school district is reaching out to the turf field designers for absorption data. Ten trees along Midland Avenue were removed for the pumping station but were replaced by 20 new ones as well as additional landscaping.

Why did water cause damage by seeping up through basements?

Given the rain levels of this summer followed by three major storm events in three weeks in September, the absorption rate of the soil was compromised. (The county sent us numerous advisories during even small wind events because of the fear of trees toppling in the saturated soil.) When I spoke with my colleagues in Tuckahoe and Eastchester, they relayed incidents of residents’ basements filling with water in some of their highest elevation neighborhoods--a never-before occurrence.


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: 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.

 
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