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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

 
From the Mayor: Phone Scams, Door Scams, Package Thefts: Know What to Look For PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Dec. 6, 2017:  This incredibly joyous time of giving also becomes a time of taking, as scammers seem to want to capitalize on the goodwill and gift-giving of the season.

Police Chief Satriale has unfortunately dealt with the following schemes/behavior patterns in just the past few weeks.

Phone Scams

Callers identify themselves as IRS agents alerting you in a very urgent tone that there is an active IRS warrant out for you and money must be wired to clear up the warrant.  Bottom line, the IRS never reaches out by phone, so immediately hang up.

Con Edison is also warning local customers not to be duped by a scam that involves a caller notifying you of a delayed or delinquent Con Ed payment. To avoid having your utilities cut off, the caller instructs you to buy a prepaid Green Dot debit card and often knows which stores in town sell them. The caller instructs you to put your “bill amount” on the card and then provide the number of the card to the caller. At the point of transfer of the card ID number, the money is gone forever. Some scammers are so sophisticated that they can even make a Con Edison number show up on your caller ID. Con Edison does not ever accept payment by Green Dot cards, so this is a red flag from the onset.

In a particularly frightening and insidious phone scam, a caller will state that a relative, usually a grandchild, has been arrested and needs money to keep his record clean. The resident is directed to purchase debit cards to post bond, pay a fine, and relay the card identification number to the caller. They are quite sophisticated and share current information about family members via trolling the Internet. As an example, grandson Peter might have posted pictures of his holiday break in Cancun, so the caller now has accurate names, dates, and locations of your family member. Always confirm the situation with the alleged family member in need of help and don’t fall for the often-used line warning you not to call the child, just get the debit cards, as your grandson doesn’t want his parents to know about his predicament.

If you receive any of these calls, please follow up with a real-time call to our police department at 914-337-0500 so we can track and act in a time-sensitive manner.

Door Scams

This scam is similar to one perpetrated last year where a “Con Ed” employee, complete with authentic-looking ID, comes to your door and offers discounts or vouchers toward your utility bill. If you agree to the new “savings” plan, the scammer would pay the account balance with a fraudulent check and tell the customer the account was paid. The customer would then check the account’s status online or by phone, see a payment posted, and pay the scammer a percentage of the payment. When the dust settles, their check bounces; you’ve given cash to the imposter and your entire Con Ed balance is still due.

Package Thefts

Because of the holiday season and the volume of Internet sales, package delivery is at an all-time high and with it, package thefts. Cars often trail UPS trucks and remove parcels from a porch before the driver has even turned the corner.

If possible:

  • Ask for a tracking number. Most major shipping companies offer this service at no charge. This number allows you to track your package and notifies you when it will be delivered.

  • Request a “signature delivery option.” This requires a signature when the packages are delivered and ensures they will not be left at the front door.

  • Request a specific drop-off time and date when you will be home to accept packages.

  • Arrange to have your packages held at the shipping service so you can pick them up.

  • Ask the delivery service to leave your packages at a side or back door. An enclosed porch where packages are out of sight is also a good option.

  • Have your packages delivered to your workplace.

  • Have your packages delivered to the home of a relative or neighbor who will be there to accept them.

  • Ask a trustworthy neighbor to keep a watchful eye out for your packages. If they’re willing, ask them to safeguard your packages until you return home.

If you receive a package you didn’t order or one not addressed to you, call our police department first before calling the carrier.

In a new twist on the delivery scam, criminals are using stolen credit cards and, via identity theft, ordering goods – usually high-end purses and electronics – and having them delivered to totally random addresses.  They are smart enough to have package tracking and hope they get to the package before you do. If not, they arrive in a UPS, USPS, or Fed Ex uniform and ask to reclaim the package delivered “in error.” Again, as a complete red flag, the USPS, UPS, and Fed Ex never send drivers back to retrieve packages delivered in error, so call our police desk immediately.

Bottom line, if anything seems remotely suspicious, do not hesitate to call the police desk. Their availability and response have already resulted in arrests.

 
From the Mayor: U.S. Wastes Over $160 Billion Worth of Food Each Year PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Nov. 29, 2017:  This past week I attended several Thanksgiving dinners served to folks who were not financially able to provide their own. It made me grateful that our small village "giving garden" did its small part by producing 200-plus pounds of vegetables that were distributed directly to area soup kitchens.

Most important, it caused me to reflect on all the food we waste daily while others go hungry. Worldwide, 1.3 billion tons of food will be thrown away this year, and the United States contributes mightily to this total.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a full 10% of our available food supply is wasted at the retail level and more than 20% is wasted in our homes. That’s food worth more than $160 billion while one in seven American households doesn't have enough to eat. Reducing food waste by just 15% would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans yearly.

Getting food from farm to table uses 10% of our country’s energy supply, 50% of our land, and 80% of all fresh water consumed – yet 30%-plus of all that is grown goes uneaten. This same uneaten food is the largest component of solid waste rotting in our landfills and is producing record methane emissions. Methane gas can migrate significant distances and carries with it molecules of such toxins as pesticides, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning fluids.

Worldwide, France leads the way in addressing the food waste crisis as the first country to actually ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Supermarkets of 4,300 square feet or more must sign donation contracts with charities or face stiff monetary penalties. The measure was passed unanimously by the French senate, and modest projections estimate at least ten million more meals were served to the hungry in the first year. The "no waste" movement was the result of a grassroots coalition of ordinary shoppers, anti-poverty groups, and green organizations.

A very unusual provision of the French legislation also requires food banks and charities to share a legal obligation to stock donated foods in proper hygienic conditions and distribute with "dignity" – defined as only given out at accredited centers where human contact and conversation is fostered vs any street or truck handouts.

In addition, the law also makes it extremely easy for food factories to donate production overages directly to approved charities. England is not far behind, requiring its major supermarket chains to enter agreements with the government, albeit not punishable by fine, to cut food and packaging waste.

The U.S. is the only country to have a "Good Samaritan" law, the Bill Emerson Food Donation Act, which removed liability for any illnesses caused by donated food. We also have a very favorable tax provision to incentivize supermarkets to donate unsold food. Supermarkets can discount the value of food given away from their taxes up to 10% of their aggregate income, clearly an incentive to donate.

Then why are we not leading the movement?

First, it is an awareness issue. According to a recent survey, only 53% of Americans think food waste is an issue. A John Hopkins study had it at 43% just two years ago, so the trend is encouraging. 

Also, food is cheaper in the U.S. than in nearly any country in the world, aided (not without controversy) by significant corn, wheat, dairy, and soybean subsidies.

Americans, like most of the world populace, are also confused by the sell-by/consume-by packaging dates and often throw away food thinking they are avoiding foodborne illnesses.

Bottom line, our waste policy is consumer driven – a cultural, attitudinal desire to eat only perfectly shaped, unblemished, "pretty" food. We have a national obsession with the aesthetic vs nutritional quality of our food, and this image is reinforced by all the cooking shows/gourmet magazines where only "camera ready" products are used.

According to multiple consumer surveys, Americans also want to see an abundance of a product on a shelf, especially fresh foods. We don’t ever want to buy from a near-empty display. As a result, supermarkets have no incentive to order close to the margins; rather, they add a little more to the purchase price to create the "abundant" effect from over-purchasing.

The most major source of food waste is our national desire to purchase ready-made foods for the convenience. Prepared food cannot be repackaged or frozen by law or allowed to be kept even one day to redistribute in most states. But the appetizer platters, specialized salads, and rotisserie chickens are so in demand they are currently here to stay.

Currently, the most forward-thinking answers to the food waste crisis emanate from the EU nations, which provide a template from which to choose solutions tailored to U.S. conditions. 

 
From the Mayor: Village in the Midst of Another Parking Shift/Solution PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Nov. 22, 2017:  I recently archived some of the old newspapers in my office and came across a newspaper from 1939 with a lead article titled “What Do We Do About Parking?” I immediately stopped to read for the elusive answer only to learn that the title was entirely rhetorical rather than solution-oriented.

We are currently in the midst of another parking shift/solution as we relocate cars back to the Kensington Road area.

As a recap, two-and-a-half years ago, resident commuters, merchants, and resident-reserved parkers (parking designation for residents from Sagamore Road and Kensington Road who do not have on-site private parking) had to be displaced because of the construction of Villa BXV. When the old Kensington lot came offline, merchants were relocated to the Garden Avenue lot in spaces that were formerly designated for retail customers; commuters were relocated to Kraft Avenue, again impacting public parking options; and residents were relocated to on-street parking as a result of a time-limited state legislative waiver to do so.

With the garage now open, we have been migrating parkers back to their former locations in phases. It is especially important if we are to maintain a vibrant business district that we restore the public spaces “downtown” in the Kraft Avenue and Garden Avenue lots in advance of the holiday season.

The new garage offers direct access to the northbound train platform and is well lit, secured by video surveillance, and supplemented by regular police patrol. We are also in the process of redesigning the Sagamore/Kensington island to allow for smooth entrance and egress.

We believed the garage offered amenities never before available and overestimated the interest in the garage vis-à-vis an open-air space in direct proximity to the train, for which we apologize. We will take this into account for next year’s commuter pricing and lottery.

We know the value of southbound commuter access and we continue to lease the Avalon lot as well as actively pursuing some partnerships that could increase our inventory.

Parking in the village is probably the most difficult balancing act the trustees and staff face, with the domino effects sometimes unforeseen.

Each constituent group has valid, but often very divergent, needs, and we are mindful that every group is integral to the rich fabric that defines Bronxville.

The following are vignettes of some of the conundrums we try to resolve on an often-daily basis:

  • The complaint of a resident commuter who no longer has a spot in the Kraft lot vs the valid impatience of our merchants who want these spots back for customer parking. If they were asked, the commuter would also want to live in a village with a vibrant business district and the merchant would also want and respect the commuter as a taxpayer and potential customer.

  • The frustration of residents circling the village endlessly in search of a parking space to grab a cup of coffee, stop for a sandwich, or pick up a last-minute clothing item or gift or simply have lunch with a friend.

  • The complaint of a merchant tired of a fellow merchant or his or her employees feeding the meter all day in the prime spaces fronting the stores and impeding the free flow of customers and traffic vs. the needs of beauty salons, restaurants, and doctors’ offices in the same block seeking longer-term parking given the length of their services.

  • The west side merchants who also need the lengthy meter time for some service businesses but do not want the time interval so attractive that it becomes a less expensive alternative than the Lawrence Hospital parking garage.

  • Because service businesses are bringing added vitality to our storefronts, combined with the competition our goods merchants face from the Internet, more spaces are needed for exercise studio participants vs. the normal flow of customers into a traditional store in one hour.  

Also given the high cost of health care and pension plans, many merchants must hire more part-time employees and fewer 40-hour staffers, necessitating an added need for more merchant/employee parking.

Everyone should and does advocate for their parking needs. On any given day, a library patron will call, frustrated that they couldn’t park to use the facility, and there may be a school parent who has no place to park to volunteer or see a performance; a senior citizen who had to turn back home because parking options were too far from the activity; or a resident who cannot unload groceries or have a relative or babysitter park near their home because someone parked there at seven and left at five.

The increasingly tight parking situation is also an outgrowth of the continued success of our institutions. In the recent past, our nursery schools have added sections, our senior citizens group has grown in size and offerings, our refurbished library has attracted new patrons and increased offerings, and our public school’s enrollment, staffing, and footprint have expanded, all without appreciable increases in parking inventory.

The result of our effort to balance all the competing needs results in somewhat patchwork parking rules and regulations whose logic isn’t always easily apparent.

Please continue to share your concerns and suggestions as we try to fine-tune our parking map and strategies throughout the village.

 
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