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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.

 
Dr. Viji George and Community Members Form George & Associates, a Boutique Consulting Firm PDF Print Email

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By Staff


Nov. 15, 2017:  When Viji George was elected the eighth president of New York’s Concordia College in 1991, he sought advice on how best to lead a complex organization, but the help available was far beyond the college’s financial reach.

As a result of this experience, he and a group of like-minded professionals pooled their talents to launch George & Associates Consulting, a boutique firm designed to help mid-sized nonprofit and educational organizations. 

“During my tenure as president, I often found myself in need of external advice and guidance on complex matters that faced organizations like ours,” said Viji George, CEO of George & Associates Consulting.  “Though such help existed, it was beyond our means, and, furthermore, consulting firms often practiced in functional silos and did not offer holistic solutions. So, shortly after stepping down from the presidency, I decided to launch a firm that adopted a multi-disciplinary approach providing world-class solutions at real-world prices.”

To accomplish this vision, Dr. George enlisted the help of seasoned professionals in the community he had come to know over the years with experience in issues that confront nonprofit and educational institutions. The team at George & Associates will offer consulting services in the following areas: strategic planning, leadership development, talent acquisition, board assessment and development, fiscal management, and resource development.

“Nonprofits leaders juggle so many urgent operational, fundraising, and program issues that we often do not take the time to step back and ask the critical missional and strategic questions,” said Tim Hanstad, co-founder of Landesa. “Yet those questions are the biggest keys to success. A multi-disciplinary firm like George & Associates provides a cost-effective means of arriving at solutions to these issues.” 

Recognizing that in smaller and mid-sized nonprofits it’s all one can do to keep up with day-to-day operational challenges and respond to each fire as it flares up, the firm's goal is to offer systematic, transformational solutions customized for each individual organization so it can discover its true potential.

One of the associates, Pat Drew, commented that “Viji has brought together a great team of talented individuals who together can offer comprehensive solutions to help organizations succeed.” Pat is joined by the following members of the greater Bronxville community, Dr. Jack BierwirthGreg ColemanMary Anne DennistonPaul Grand PreGuy MinettiMarcia Lee, and Irena Choi Stern. For a fuller listing of associates, please go to https://www.georgeassociatesconsulting.com/ or contact Viji George at CLOAKING .

Pictured here:  Dr. Viji George, CEO of George & Associates Consulting.

Photo by A. Warner

 
From the Mayor: What Makes a Good Leader? PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Nov. 8, 2017:  When this column appears in print, it will be the day after Election Day 2017. The whole run-up to Election Day caused me to reflect on what makes a good leader, be it in the political arena, corporate setting, sports team, or even fifth-grade student council.

So much has been written and I confess, I am fascinated by the subject. The following is just a distillation of some salient points that resonated with me and I thought had wide and intergenerational application.

Not surprisingly, honesty is the keystone. Respect goes to a man or woman of his word. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably honesty, integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Honesty also requires telling the hard truths even if uncomfortable for many to hear. Winston Churchill was a master at being a pragmatist who dealt with grim realities but still had the optimism and courage to act. After the devastating defeat at Gallipoli, which resulted in over 100,000 casualties during World War I, Churchill took complete responsibility. He had the ability to endure setbacks, face reality, and yet inspire his countrymen to a better vision.

Focusing on the political arena, a politician must extend his or her honesty and integrity to remove ideological blinkers and seek common ground, as leadership is truly not about the next election, rather, the next generation. 

All studies agree that a good politician stands above any specific personal views and expands to include everyone’s beliefs. In that vein, judgments should be made with reliable and unfiltered information with the intention of good for all. The need for power, publicity, attention, or personal agendas must be left at the door.

Right after honesty and integrity is the need for excellent communication skills. Most experts agree that a skilled communicator emulates Aristotle’s classic elements of rhetoric – reaching people through logic (logos) and what is rational, appealing through emotion (pathos) and their sense of value or ethics (ethos).

The real gift seems to be the ability to distill a message, however complex, into something that is accessible – a talent for simplicity and brevity, and the ability to convey complicated concepts in just a few phrases. President Ronald Reagan and former GE CEO Jack Welch are considered the gold standard. 

Another critical component of effective leadership is humility. Knowing one’s area of weakness does not make one weak. It actually allows a leader to delegate to others who have the abilities and complement rather than supplement her skill set, lay the groundwork for others' success, and then stand back and let them shine. As Henry Ford said, “Never find fault, find the remedy.” In essence, a good leader does not take others down in order to go up. President John Kennedy was a master at this.

A leader is humble enough to own his mistakes, give credit to others, relate downwards as well as upwards, respect his colleagues, and empathize with them as people.

My favorite leadership advice is from Joseph Plumeri, the vice chairman of First Data, in a recent New York Times article, “Play in Traffic.”  Simply put, it means push yourself out there, participate, get involved and be curious, question everything, accept challenges outside your and your staff’s comfort zone, have boundless energy, and don’t be shy about having a passion. But in the end, also be decisive enough to make decisions, even amid some ambiguity.

Said so often but always true, lead by example. In my small sphere, I would add have a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at yourself. In my case, it is needed on a daily basis.

Perhaps the most profound leadership advice was articulated by Ruth Simmons, former president of Brown University. “You have to be open and alert at every turn to the possibility that you’re about to learn the most important lesson of your life.”

 
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