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From the Mayor: Village Challenges and Priorities for Coming Year PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jan. 31, 2018:  In my first official village-centric column of the new year, I wanted to share with you what the board of trustees has determined to be priorities for the upcoming year.

Truly, the year promises to be one of the busiest I can recollect, as so many major projects are on the front burner.

As an overview 

Garage for Our Public Works Staff and Equipment:  Built in 1942, and not substantially remodeled since, our current facility has a compromised infrastructure. Leaking in so many spots, the building cannot hold our equipment, necessitating outdoor storage, which halves the life of most of our intricate vehicles. Repairs also have to be made in the freezing cold and on a public street.

Last year, we sought proposals, which resulted in estimates much higher than anticipated, so we are going back to the drawing board. Regardless of the scope, something has to be done to improve working conditions and storage of millions of dollars of equipment.

Update Zoning and Planning Regulations:  In light of changing residential and business realities, our overall zoning and planning regulations must be updated to reflect the current climate.

As an example, due to the popularity of Internet shopping, stores want to operate in the village with a service component or solely as a service, such as exercise studios and restaurants.

On the residential side, teardowns, tree removals, and multiyear construction projects need to be addressed with new rules and regulations. The quality of life of neighbors must have a more central role in our consideration of permits and approvals.

Upgrade to Village Commercial and Residential Lighting:  We currently have the most inefficient lighting system possible, employing 189 Watt incandescent bulbs on most of our streets, near both homes and businesses. We will move slowly, especially in residential areas, as needs are very different depending on street width, topography, and density of homes. Our neighbors in Scarsdale are ahead of us in the process, and we are learning from their rollout. Certainly, aesthetics is a major factor throughout the village. In the business district, other factors must be considered, including insurance and liability issues, traffic flow concerns, and illumination needs when businesses are closed.

Teamsters Labor Negotiations:  Our public works department employees are represented by the Teamsters. We are currently in constructive talks to craft a new agreement going forward. As would be no surprise, health care coverage and contribution rates are the main issues under discussion.

Infrastructure Improvements:  We continue on our aggressive course to repair our 100-plus-year-old infrastructure in a methodical way to avoid patchwork emergency deferred-maintenance issues, which are much more costly. The sewer system is currently our main focus as we enter Phase Two of pipe repair and relining.

Midland Avenue/Pondfield Road Intersection:  We continue to seek a light/walk configuration that will improve pedestrian flow, in particular, as we encourage residents to embrace a more walking environment. In recent years, more stringent state rules apply when an intersection is reconfigured (witness what we were required to do near St. Joseph’s Church), and we are conscious of the unobstructed beauty of the village’s crossroads at Pondfield and Midland. Currently, we are reviewing many options, aware that an improvement is warranted.

Budget:  Starting in early February, the trustees, staff, and I begin a very comprehensive review of our spending in anticipation of a new budget being crafted and adopted by May 1, 2018. 

Municipal expenditures are 19% of every village tax dollar. Given the recently passed tax laws, we are acutely aware of the added burden placed on Westchester County residents in particular.

Kensington Road Improvements:  As the Villa BXV project nears successful completion, we are looking toward upgrading the nearby Bacon Woods Park, sidewalks, and intersections that were left in limbo as we awaited positive development on the long unattractive Kensington parking lot. The village owns Bacon Woods, a hidden gem that is a 1.6-plus-acre park straddling Kensington and Sagamore Roads, which warrants upgrading and refurbishing.

Business District Revitalization:  Extremely important to the value of everything in the village, we continue to work with our chamber of commerce, standing committees, merchants, and landlords to not only fill the vacant storefronts but ensure that we have the optimal mix of businesses to promote stability and profit.

Parking Opportunities:  We are actively working with various property owners and village entities to increase our inventory through village ownership and/or public/private partnerships.

Smaller in Scope but Equally Important: 

  • Constant refurbishing and maintenance of the condition and attractiveness of village public spaces

  • Village Hall

    • Improvement of our website

    • Startup of the community garden

    • Repairs to the library’s HVAC system

    • Upgrades to court security, phone system, parking software, records retrieval, and cameras

    • Improvement of our green efforts re composting and recycling volume

    • Replacement of street trees lost over the years to age, storm, and disease

Our overarching goal is to make the village the most efficiently run, fiscally responsible, attractive, and inviting place to live. 

As most residents did, we came to the village for the excellence of the public school system. The task of the municipal government is to offer enough services and amenities within a very small budget for you to want to make the village home long after the children are off to college. 

For long-term sustainability, it is imperative that we keep a healthy balance between school and non-school families and encourage lifetime investment in our community. 

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

 
From the Mayor: Laws Passed in Other States in 2017 PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jan. 17, 2018:  In last week’s column, I highlighted some of the 500-plus laws passed in the last session of the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

I thought it further useful to research what was passed in other states in 2017, as they often share a commonality of purpose or act as a forecast as to what may affect New Yorkers going forward.

Nationally, the themes centered on very specific societal issues: opioid addiction--both stricter laws and medical assistance--human trafficking, the legalization of marijuana, EpiPen usage in public facilities, and gun control. Literally dozens of states enacted legislation pertaining to all of the above subjects. In addition, the minimum wage was raised in 14 states, and soda taxes are clearly gaining traction.

Closer to home, New Jersey and Connecticut covered most of the above topics, but the New Jersey Legislature focused on reducing the tax burden as it competes with New York for one of the most expensive places to live. To that end, the sales tax was lowered to 6.875 from 7%; the amount of retirement income excluded from state income taxes will increase fivefold; and the estate tax exemption now rises to $2million.

Connecticut added two potentially groundbreaking pieces of legislation that I believe will be copied in other states going forward: Employers are now not allowed to ask a job applicant if they have prior arrests or convictions on an initial job application, and most insurance policies will be required to cover 3D and more advanced mammogram procedures.

Our neighbors in Vermont are trying to come to terms with their particularly acute opioid epidemic by passing some very strict drug laws. As an example, anyone convicted of selling fentanyl can now receive a prison term of 20 years and a million-dollar fine.

A Vermont law that I think should be nationwide is the requirement that anyone seeking public office or a high-level government staff position must disclose all business ownerships and sources of income above $5,000. In addition, officeholders may not become lobbyists immediately upon leaving office.

In a portend of things to come, the Utah Legislature added a 4.7% sales tax on all Amazon purchases since they are losing $200 million-plus every year in this revenue stream. In the same vein, California now grants lower-level felons the right to vote, and no one under the age of 18 can be charged with prostitution.

I would be remiss if I did not mention other new California initiatives, as their legislature was the most pro-life, passing almost 900 new laws. 

  • Victims cannot ever consent to sex while unconscious or incapacitated by drugs, alcohol or medication. 

  • All single-user toilets must be gender neutral. 

  • Terminally ill patients can choose to end their lives using experimental drugs not receiving full FDA approval. Health plans may cover their costs, and physicians who recommend them are exempt from any disciplinary actions. 

  • Parents must be notified by any sports league if their child’s head was hit, and all coaches and sports administrators must receive concussion training and abide by new protocols when assessing head injuries. 

  • The term Redskins cannot be used by any public school sports team or as a mascot.

  • Gun magazines of more than ten bullets are now strictly banned.

Illinois, in the first of its kind, enacted a law requiring cosmetologists to undergo training to recognize physical signs of sexual and domestic violence.

Finally, every year, the states do not disappoint and enact laws that are esoteric, fun, a little zany, or just plain head-scratchers.

  • In California, barbershops and hair salons may serve free beer and wine to customers until 10:00 pm (I couldn't find a prohibition on start time!?)

  • North Carolina did not overturn the ban on restricting bingo games to five hours.

  • Golf carts may now be driven in Ohio on all roads with a speed limit up to 35 mph. This law would permit them on every street in Bronxville!

  • In Utah, marriage is against the law between cousins only if you are younger than 65 years old.

  • Oregon has banned the use of sky lanterns, but not fireworks, due to the potential for fire.

  • In one of the last states in the Union, Pennsylvania now allows one to buy a six-pack of beer, but not a case, in a grocery store instead of the state-run package store.

  • In an effort to be more green?? California now allows burials only 3.5 feet deep vs the traditional five-foot requirement.

And I end with my favorite, from California – In an effort to reduce the amount of gas from cows, Senate Bill #1383 approved a system of tubes and attached backpacks to filter and capture the gas – a dreadful visual indeed!!

 
From the Mayor: Some Substantive Bills Enacted by the New York State Legislature in 2017 PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jan. 10, 2018:  January signals the enactment of many laws passed by the New York State Legislature in its 2017 session.

Over 500 bills were signed into law with a goodly number having an effect on village residents.

When seeing 500 new laws passed, I think of the quote on less government that I often refer to, reputedly expressed by Mark Twain, that “no man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” California beat us by a country mile with over 900 new laws enacted. Many were very substantive and directed to issues of great impact, including opioid addiction, domestic violence, and cancer screening.

The following is a brief description of some of the more substantive bills enacted.

Health

  • Insurers are now mandated to cover the cost of the anti-overdose drug naloxone and cover treatment of substance abuse without a preauthorization requirement.

  • Doctors can now prescribe new and often more costly drugs for serious illnesses without first waiting for the less expensive alternatives to “fail” per most insurance company protocols.

  • Individuals with emotional/drug-related problems may be committed for 72 hours for medical observation vs 24 hours.

  • County health departments now must report and make public opiate overdose data as well as the quantity of Narcan purchased and used.

  • There is now a requirement to post a human trafficking help hotline number at highway rest stops, airports, bus stations, emergency rooms, and adult entertainment establishments. (Currently, over 10 million people are being trafficked worldwide, 1 million of whom are children.)

  • The age of consent for marriage has been raised from 14 to 17.

  • Local courts in locations where a victim of domestic violence is registered to vote are authorized to issue an order to keep such information confidential and not subject to public disclosure.

  • Municipal employees are granted up to four hours of paid leave annually for cancer screening.

  • Certain restaurants, organizations, and arenas may stock epi-pens and use if administered by trained personnel.

  • Laboratories now have an affirmative duty to seek homes for animals used in research.

  • The time has been extended for filing 9/11 illness claims.

Safety

  • Motor vehicles must now pull over for EMTs and volunteer firefighters who display blue or green flashing light protocol.

  • Tinted windows restricting more than 30% of light transmitted through a windshield will now fail vehicle inspections.

  • Courts can now charge individuals involved in alcohol-related boating accidents with repeat offender status if the driver had any prior DUIs or DWIs in any vehicle type.

  • Given that 25% of inmates in New York prisons are of Hispanic descent and 10% are foreign-born, translators will now be offered at all parole hearings.

Miscellaneous

  • There is a generous tax credit for hiring veterans.

  • Uber and Lyft are not granted licenses to operate upstate.

  • The Board of Regents must now provide notice of its meetings at least seven days in advance.

  • State agencies must post proposed or revised regulations on their websites.

  • Homeowners who have graduated from a disaster preparedness course are eligible to receive insurance reduction.

The Unusual

  • Pets are allowed to be buried with their owners in certain cemeteries. (Seventy-three million American households have pets.)

  • Daily sports fantasy games have been reinstated, as they were ruled games of skill vs illegal gambling.

  • Funeral homes will now be eligible to serve beverages and “light fare” food.

  • Craft beer makers receive a tax benefit for every bottle brewed.

Stay tuned as the 2018 session begins! 

 
From the Mayor: An Honor and an Inspiration to Work with Village Staff and Board Members PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jan. 3, 2018:  As the year came to a close, I took stock of all that goes on in our village of 6,500.

As many of you saw during the tax season, our administrative staff is professional, helpful, and always in good humor. 

The same is true of our court and parking staff and building department, even under some of the most difficult of circumstances. Our two justices conduct a court known for its fair and progressive approach.

And our police department – what a group of kind, patient, and competent officers (80% of whom could be my children!). Chief Satriale and Lt. Bunyan lead by example, and it is a very cohesive department.

The DPW staff is second to none; most of them stay with the village for decades and take great pride in keeping their village neat, clean, and beautiful. They care deeply about the families on their route and worry when they don’t see you. 

It is truly an honor and an inspiration to work with people who care so deeply about their jobs and their village and do it with such dignity and competency.

As a result of 2008 and the reset of the financial environment, we now have one of the smallest staffs for our size, making their efforts even more admirable and appreciated. 

The village also has many boards staffed by volunteers who serve to enhance the quality of life in the village. They include:

Finance Committee
Edward Forst
Leighton Welch
William Barton
Donald Gray
Elizabeth Favaro 

Planning Board
Gary Reetz, Chair
James Murray, Vice Chair
Adrienne Smith
Rene Atayan
Larry Vranka
Michael Goldman
Mark Wood

Design Review Committee
Maureen Hackett, Chair
Maggie Marrone
Stephen Hawkey
Lawrence Vranka

Zoning Board of Appeals
William Fredericks, Chair
John Browne
Eric Haims
Stuart Mackintosh
Martin Murrer
Sheldon Reynolds
Charles Law

Ethics Board
Donald Kennedy
John Priesing
Wendy Riggs
Williams Slattery
Marilyn Wood Hill
William Primps, Counsel

Board of Assessment Review
Robert Shearer, Chair
Lisa Connors
John Hill
David Harris
Gene Piper 

Library Board of Trustees
Sarah Normand, President
Peter Thorp
Julia Murphy
Darcy Kaye
Ruth Walter
Susan Finch Moore
Catherine Bird
Katy Barrett
Pippa Colvin

Bronxville Green Committee
Mary Liz Mulligan, Chair
Jess Atrio
Susan Checklick
Emily Conway
Matthew Daly
Ellen Edwards
Pam Lippe
Mayor Mary Marvin, Liaison to Village of Bronxville
Judith McNatt
Wendy Murphy
Ellen de Saint Phalle
Dave Phillips
Gretchen Pingel
Judith Schwartzstein
Hillary Sheperd
Gene Westmoreland
Mary Westmoreland
Penny Fujiko Willgerodt

Bronxville Giving Garden
Jess Atrio, Volunteer Coordinator
Suzy Checklick, Farmer
Nicki Piercy Coddington, Graphic Design/Website
Mayor Mary Marvin, Liason to Village of Bronxville
Mary Liz Mulligan, Director
Wendy Murphy, Education Programs
Dave Phillips, Farmer
Gretchen Pingel, Articles
Eben Thurston, Social Media

Friends of the Bronxville Public Library
Margaret Mager, President
Lia Gravier, Vice President
Christopher Goff, Secretary
Thatcher Drew
Jennifer Gordon
Elizabeth Maitland
Ellen Politi
Darcy Kaye as the Trustee

The village simply cannot function without the hundreds of hours of volunteer service given by all of our committee members. We welcome any resident to offer their time and talents to a board.

Sometimes a certain skill set is helpful, but in general, the only requirement is interest and availability. 

Please reach out to us via CLOAKING . I can guarantee you the work is always interesting and the service gratifying.

 
From the Mayor: Recent Issues--Advance Payment of Taxes, Food Composting, and the Scaffold Law PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Dec. 13, 2017: The following is a compilation of issues that have crossed my desk in the past few weeks. Though no unifying theme, they are germane to day-to-day governance.

Advance Payment of Taxes:  Many of you have inquired, but, unfortunately, the village is unable to accept payment in advance for taxes due in future years because the village is required to follow the procedures set forth in the New York State Real Property Tax Law.

Specifically, taxes can only be collected after the tax receiver has issued a tax warrant, published appropriate notices with due dates, and filed a tax roll identifying the amount due from each property.  These steps follow after the village board has established a budget, tax levy, and tax rate for the ensuing year and after the assessor has published an assessment roll. 

The Village of Bronxville is unique among other villages in Westchester County since the village collects school taxes and therefore cannot issue a tax warrant until we also receive a tax levy from the school. In other words, the village cannot simply accept payment since we are required by law to follow collection procedures consistent with state law and on a schedule consistent with all villages in Westchester County.

Food Composting:  As a follow-up to last week’s column on food waste, our forward-thinking neighbors in Scarsdale and Larchmont most recently launched a food composting program in lieu of hauling food waste to landfills at a substantial cost to the community thereby depositing rotting food that releases methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Food scraps are collected in countertop pails and transferred to the municipal recycling centers at no additional cost. Pretty much everything is accepted, including cut flowers, paper goods, and coffee grounds. The only items forbidden include plastics, pet waste, diapers, and Styrofoam.

Food composting makes sense because it returns the nutrients back to where they came from – the soil. Worldwide, there currently is a soil crisis because organic materials from the earth are being removed at a rapid rate, leaving our soil degraded and impoverished. Composting is so important because it enhances overall soil health as organic-rich earth retains moisture better and mitigates the impacts of drought.  Nearby Anne Hutchinson School in Eastchester was a pioneer in separating their lunchroom food waste from garbage.

The Bronxville Green Committee is looking into the logistics of starting a program in the village, with the major obstacle being space near the DPW complex to collect and store the compost.

Scaffold Law:  The following is a recurring issue that comes up every year as a provision in New York State law that virtually every elected official wants repealed. It demonstrates how just a few paragraphs inserted by special interests can literally add billions of dollars to state and local governments--yet another reason why we have to be alert to virtually every piece of legislation that makes it to the governor’s desk.

It’s hardly news that New York roads, bridges, tunnels, and pipelines are crumbling. Governor Cuomo himself pointed out that 60% of our roads and 6,000 of our bridges statewide are in need of immediate repair and the MTA, LIRR, and subway system are beyond deferred maintenance condition.

Clearly, an infusion of funding is needed, but there are also obvious steps that can be taken to maximize the current use of allotted resources. New York has costly barriers, the most notable the “Scaffold Law,” that make it truly the most expensive place on earth to build.

Under the law, unique to only New York State, the courts hold contractors and property owners, including municipalities and public agencies like the MTA, absolutely liable for gravity-related construction injuries, even if the contractor or owner had nothing to do with the accident.

The effect is astounding.  The New York School Boards Association estimates that the scaffold law wastes $400 million in construction costs statewide.  Researchers for the Regional Plan Association confirmed that this law was a major driver in making the Second Avenue Subway the most expensive subway project in the world.

The law literally drives insurers out of the New York market or forces them to hike rates, now the highest in the country. As an example, the Port Authority pays, on average, more than twice as much for “losses” on the New York side of a bridge as on the New Jersey side – same project, same contractors, same laws of gravity – just different liability rules.

A unique and heartening coalition of groups including local governments, taxpayer groups, and affordable housing advocates including Habitat for Humanity – just about everyone but the trial lawyers – has called on Albany to reform this. We are hoping for success in this legislative term.

Pictured here:  Mayor Mary Marvin with Frosty the Snow Man.

Photo by A. Warner

 
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