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From the Mayor: Fall Brings Leaves, Child Safety Concerns, and Elections PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Oct. 11, 2017:  It is that time of year again--crisp air, pumpkins, freshly picked apples, and falling leaves.

Our leaf collecting begins mid-month and continues until early December. Almost incredible, our annual leaf removal costs regularly top $100k per season, and this does not include the additional cost of repairing clogged drains, as rainstorms routinely send the leaves directly into our storm sewer system. Drains clogged with leaves also vastly increase the risk of localized flooding.

Leaf Removal:  We continue to ask you to embrace the LELE "love 'em and leave 'em" program of mulching in place that so many of our neighboring communities have adopted.

The program, initiated in the Village of Irvington, is an effort to change habits and realize that our fall ritual of disposing of leaves curbside is actually wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary. There are multiple advantages to simply mowing the leaves back into the lawn. 

There is a significant cost saving to the village for fall leaf collection and disposal. As an example, Irvington has calculated their costs associated with leaf removal, and Bronxville's expenditures are much the same.  They spend $30K in dumping fees alone for vacuuming up and carting leaves away upstate. Combine that cost with labor costs, equipment maintenance, and gas--hence, the seasonal cost of $100K.

Mulching in place also greatly eliminates the need for leaf blowers, which may be used in the village in fall from October 1. Not only do leaf blowers generate significant noise and particulate matter, but the power of the engine at 150 mph (200 mph is akin to a jet plane) will systematically remove layers of soil, leaving yards pristine but extremely unhealthy.

Mulched leaves are a low-cost way to naturally fertilize one's lawn and landscape beds. Mulched leaves increase the water retention capacity of soil, especially useful for absorbing rainwater run-off. Mulch increases the nutrients in the soil as well as the biological activity of earthworms, microbes, and other beneficial organisms. Leaf mulch is more nutritious and more safe than commercial products. Most commercial mulch is actually the byproduct of dead trees that have often died from diseases.

Mulch as a natural fertilizer eliminates the need for commercial products that can prove dangerous to pets and the purity of our water systems.

When the piles of leaves on the streets begin to decay, harmful phosphates and nitrogen are released, eventually ending up in our sewer system and ultimately the Bronx River.

These same leaf piles are also a significant traffic hazard, as they are often placed in narrow roadways creating a slippery road surface.

Gardening companies already own the low-cost mulching blade and can retrofit mowers quite easily. Most new residential grade mowers also now come with a mulching blade for home gardeners at a nominal cost.

Yard waste:  If you choose not to participate in the mulch-in-place initiative, leaves must remain at curb's edge but on private property so our vacuum track can easily collect them. Yard waste such as branches and shrub trimmings cannot be comingled with the leaves, as they will clog the leaf truck. They should be placed curbside in biodegradable bags.

Organic Lawn Care:  This is also the time of year to discuss any changes in the care of your property with your landscape professional. We urge you, like the village, to opt for organic lawn care products. They are not more costly, and most area landscapers have the capability if they are given enough lead time, to order the proper materials. If each homeowner committed to the organic approach, we could greatly decrease the airborne carcinogens and limit the contaminants in our water run-off that go directly into our drainage systems.

Child Safety:  The fall also signals the return of all the children to our village for school and play. In order to increase the safety of all those now walking about the village, our village-wide speed limit is 30 mph, the lowest allowed by New York State. The only exemption is the 20-mph limit permitted in marked school zones. Any further speed reduction requires New York State legislation and must be predicated on documented evidence of accident rates, speeding data, and traffic volume, something the village cannot demonstrate.

In spite of repeated requests from residents, the village cannot install "children at play" or "slow/children" signs because state and federal standards reject their use, as they openly suggest that playing in the street is acceptable and give children a false sense of security. On the other hand, signs that alert drivers to playgrounds are encouraged because the parks are often located in places where a reasonable driver would not expect a large group of children. Sagamore Park is a prime example. 

Election Season:  Finally, it is also election season, with important local positions contested, including that of county executive, county legislator, and town supervisor.

If you are unsure of your polling place, please click here for more details. 

There are four polling locations in the village:
•  Concordia College, Districts 16 &17
•  The Reformed Church, Districts 18, 19 & 21 (formerly at Bronxville School)
•  Christ Church, District 20
•  NYP Lawrence Hospital, District 22 

This is a county-run election and any questions regarding the election should be directed to the Westchester County Board of Elections at 914-995-5285.


 
From the Mayor: Many Items Still to Do on the Village To-Do List PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville 


Oct. 4, 2017:  Our village to-do list, though well crossed out, has many more items to address. Some are small quality-of-life improvements, while others are multi-million dollar initiatives.

Public Works Garage:  Long in need of maintenance and regretfully on the back burner for decades, our public works garage is truly crumbling. Not renovated since its construction in 1942, the roof now leaks, bathrooms are subpar, and the work bays no longer hold modern equipment.

Though neither sexy nor noticeable, a revamping of our entire public works operation on Palumbo Place is long overdue. Currently, our equipment is stored outdoors, effectively cutting its life expectancy in half. In addition, our staff is often trying to repair vehicles or wash trucks while cars are whizzing by. The respect for our employees requires us to provide them with the safest workplace possible. 

A new building, whatever permutation it may take, will be a model of green initiatives appropriate to the functions required. In doing so, we hope to be eligible for New York State grants we have researched relating to solar/LED innovations.

Library:  Also with an eye towards eco-stewardship, our library board has undertaken a feasibility study to determine the potential benefits/cost savings of retrofitting the heating and cooling system to geothermal.

Sagamore Play Park:  Two of our open spaces need our attention this fall. Due to its intensive use, Sagamore Play Park needs new matting materials in many playspaces, new fencing, and constant upgrades of potential safety hazards and border landscaping. Again, the materials used will be environmentally friendly and, most, important child safe.

Bacon Woods:  A true oasis of almost two acres of open space straddling Kensington and Sagamore Roads, Bacon Woods is currently a diamond in the rough and needs a deserved "make-over." Our arborist will be fertilizing and aerating the open field nearest Beechtree Lane in the coming week, as well as pruning the majestic beech tree that so names the street. We are reviewing a bid for resurfacing the pathways with a porous, environmentally friendly surface. We also seek to irrigate the area so any new plantings can realistically thrive. I invite you to visit this zen park, as it is truly the hidden gem of the village.

Village Website:  Also on the fall docket is a technological overall of our village website to make it more user-friendly, informative, and comprehensive, with links to more village agencies and services.

Digital Speed Signs:  In response to residents' requests, in the next few days, the village will be placing portable digital speed signs in three locations: Midland Avenue southbound near Vine Street; Pondfield Road westbound near the Gramatan Avenue intersection; and Tanglewylde Avenue in the vicinity of Summit Avenue. Solar-powered and easily transportable, the devices can be programmed to display other traffic messages as well. 

Landscaping:  Certainly smaller in scope, but incredibly important to the village character, are aesthetic improvements, including the landscaping near our JFK Memorial and Giving Garden, power washing of our receptacles, and even a polishing of our commemorative plaques and benches to remember the history and generosity of those who gave us those lasting gifts.

Gum Buster:  In the same vein, you may have seen an incredibly odd machine recently on Park Place. Named the "gum buster," it can clean the thousands of dark gum spots that mar our sidewalks and create a very unattractive urban look. We plan on cleaning all the business district sidewalks and then loaning the machine to merchants to help maintain a cleaner look, as the small things do matter.

Metro-North:  We are again trying to forge an agreement with Metro-North about what is exactly the village's property/responsibility, and if not under our domain, how we can still accomplish the needed repairs and updating. We have some money in our budget to improve the environs around the station, but issues of liability and union job territories weigh in the mix. Truly one of the most unattractive links to the two sides of our village--a view shared by every planner and small-business consultant--we will continue to negotiate needed upgrades.

Teardrop Lights:  And, finally, the new teardrop lights purchased to better illuminate the west side near the train station and the traffic circle will be installed just in time to mitigate the effect of the daylight saving time switch.

 
From the Mayor: Visit the Four Corners PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor of Bronxville


Sep. 27, 2017:  As I wrote last week, the village was abuzz with expansion in virtually every neighborhood, be it paving, striping, sewer cleaning, drainage projects, or building renovation.

Perhaps even more important, long-term, two of our village institutions took on the expansion of mind and body.

Our beautiful library, built in 1942 as a library replicating a residential Georgian home, is now the home of so much more than a repository of book exchange. The Bronxville Public Library Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Bronxville Public Library have taken to heart the words of the first library board president, Ernest Quantrell, who had the vision almost 70 years ago to declare that "a library should not only be a storehouse for books and a shelter for readers but also an influence on the community. We hope the library will stimulate not only an interest in books and architecture but also in art and other cultural fields."

The activities organized inside its doors this summer are a testament to the commitment to culture and enrichment of every variety and for every age group.

If you stopped by the library in July, you might have seen the 250-plus children participating in the Bronxville Summer Reading Game, and the expansive lawn was home to a petting zoo, concerts, and a science show attracting 150-plus participants.

As a member of the Westchester Library System, our library can access virtually any book in any form from around the county for our patrons. The library also offers computer lessons, Kindle lending, free museum passes, and even daily printouts of the New York Times crossword puzzle.

The fall schedule promises to be as ambitious as previous program offerings.

In the recent past, the library has been home to the acclaimed toddler and infant program encompassing story reading, songs, puppetry, and crafts. Elementary school children from The Chapel School, St. Joseph School, and The Bronxville School walk over for 3:30 PM enrichment activities, and adult programs take place virtually every hour. Here's just a sampling of activities: Lectures on estate planning, elder law, and asset protection; tai chi and chair yoga; painting and ornament-making; cooking demonstrations; musical revues; and historical lectures. 

So please come and sample what is truly a library of the future and spread the word. As Lady Bird Johnson said, "Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest."

Only steps away from the library's front door is the village's newest expansion, the Giving Garden. The brainchild of the Bronxville Green Committee, led by Mary Liz Mulligan and master gardener/resident/broadway musician Dave Phillips, the garden has to date donated over 200 pounds of fresh vegetables to a soup kitchen in Mount Vernon, and harvesting continues on a twice weekly basis.

The impetus for the garden was the knowledge of the state of health in Westchester County, one of the wealthiest in the nation. One in five residents cannot count on daily food, and the rates of diabetes and obesity are skyrocketing.

Our food banks are doing their best, but by definition, their food must have a long shelf life--hence, salt-laden canned goods and no organic vegetables.

The garden not only helps our neighbors in need and supports the concept of local agriculture, it has become a catalyst for community giving, interaction, and learning. Our garden has been visited by dozens of other communities as they aim to replicate our model.

Now a gathering place for families to learn about agriculture, we hope to involve our schools going forward.  Just this morning, I looked out to see students from the Eliza Corwin Frost preschool program planting with Farmer Dave.

The garden operates solely on the generosity of volunteers and funding from local citizens. Our own Bronxville Rotary gave the leadership gift that truly made it all possible.

Thanks to another generous resident, professional web designer Nicki Piercy, the garden has a state-of-the-art website where anyone can sign up for planting, harvesting, or weeding for as little as one hour weekly. For those of us who live in apartments, the work is truly cathartic. If digging in the dirt is not your preference, donations can be made via PO Box 404.

All of the above activities are simply not possible without the extra efforts of the Bronxville Department of Public Works, the Bronxville Police Department and the office administration and staff. Though bare bones in numbers, their dedication to the village is inspiring. 

So please, take a moment and visit the Four Corners. I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

 
From the Mayor: Bronxville, a Classic European Village that Encourages Walking PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville 


Sep. 13, 2017:  As the summer comes to a close, many villagers are returning from trips abroad. A recent Politico essay suggests that one must indeed travel to a European destination to experience the formerly classic American town.

The narrow streets of European locales often meander through tightly packed houses, cafes, shops, and pocket parks, all crowded with people on foot.

Until the mid-twentieth century, this was the norm in many parts of the United States. Since then, we have spent nearly a century engineering our population away from walking. Most planners, and more important, medical experts think it's time we recalibrate.

Our infatuation as a country with the automobile has spawned the mall culture and, as a consequence, we as a society walk on average half as much as our peers did in the mid-1900s.

As a cautionary corollary, a medical study has demonstrated that eight hours or more of daily sitting nearly doubles the risk of Type 2 diabetes and sharply increases the risks of heart disease and cancer. Adding a brisk walk to a daily schedule cuts stroke risk in half. According to a former head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "Walking is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug."

Research has identified two distinct types of walkers: the utilitarian walker who walks because it's an easy, fast way to get where they are going or accomplish something, whether to work, a store, or dining out vs. the recreational walker who wants to enjoy the scenery and uninterrupted peace near parks, rivers, and woods.

In essence walkers are in it for the destination or the journey, but generally not both. In order to facilitate the destination walkers, safety has to be the prime concern, and with that in mind, town planners advise a whole change in our perception of what streets are for. Currently, there is a total bias in favor of keeping the cars moving vs speeding things along for the pedestrian. Roads and intersections are viewed with the goal of making them most expeditious for cars and trucks. In contrast, the most walkable communities have wider sidewalks and walk lights timed for the pedestrian.

Scientific study also demonstrates that human activity levels are influenced greatly by the "built environment." To bring it to the micro level, how can we keep our "European village" and foster increased pedestrian travel? With both Ridge Hill and the convenience of the Internet encroaching on our lifestyle patterns, we are so fortunate to have the beautiful bones of an architecturally exquisite, densely shared "downtown" Bronxville.

As a government, we know we must do all we can to preserve our unique asset, which is fast becoming an endangered species. Our village lifestyle is not easily replicated, so preservation is key.

To that end, the trustees and I are working on bringing businesses and services to the village that you want to walk to and frequent; creating pristine sidewalks for safe passage; and adding more trees, benches, proper lighting, and better pedestrian demarcation at intersections and crosswalks.

The trustees and I are also in the midst of embarking on a comprehensive review of our village's master plan. On the residential side, we will be reviewing our rules and regulations as they pertain to items such as including the length of time a project is allowed to be under construction, notification to neighbors of intrusive work, the preservation of historic homes and trees, and the parking rules in front of village homes.

On the commercial side, we are reviewing the permit process with the goal of streamlining the time it takes to open a new business in our downtown. In addition, we recognize the changeover from "dry goods" stores to service establishments such as gyms and dance studios and are reviewing our rules accordingly.

Our goal as we embark on a new legislative year is to preserve and improve our village as a vibrant, safe, intergenerational, fit, and walkable community for generations to come.

 
From the Mayor: Interesting Factoids about Bronxville and Westchester County PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jul. 26, 2017:  As is custom, this will be my last column until Labor Day.

I thought I'd take a break from reporting on flood projects, road repaving, and zoning codes and highlight some of the interesting factoids about our village and our home county. All were new to me until I sat in this special chair on Pondfield Road.

  • The village has 2,300 addresses, but over 10,000 people use Bronxville as their postal address.

  • Sixty percent of our residents live in single-family homes and townhouses, while forty percent reside in apartments, co-ops, and condominiums.

  • Bronxville residents pay more in property taxes to Westchester County (approximately $8 million per year) than they do to run village government.

  • With the exception of the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, Bronxville is the only other community that is coterminous with its school district, and the municipality issues both school and village tax bills.

  • The village is home to five churches and a 290-bed hospital that provides emergency care to over 35,000 patients per year.

  • In 1934, 301 babies were born in Lawrence Hospital. Now the total is over 2,500, for which village hall provides a birth certificate.

  • Palumbo Place is named for Joe Palumbo, the longtime village public works director. Leonard Morange Park, on the west side, is named after the first village resident to die in service of our country in World War I.

  • The village has no county-owned roads and only one state road. Route 22 is the only road that cannot be repaved or upgraded by the village's capital plan.

  • There are 1,356 parking meters in our village and they all work.

  • The original soil at the Alfredo Fields, near Siwanoy Country Club, was sold and trucked to Queens for the World's Fair in 1939.

  • Over twenty percent of the land (97 acres) in the village is tax exempt.

  • The Bronx River was actually re-routed and the village border changed to accommodate the construction of the Bronx River Parkway, which was completed in 1925; it was the first multi-lane limited access parkway in North America.

  • Most residents commute to work by rail, with the majority working in three industry sectors--finance, insurance, and real estate.

  • Approximately 50% of all married couples have children under 18 and one-quarter of our residents live in rental housing.

  • In 1733, 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.

  • Already the richest and most populous county in the colony of New York by 1775, Westchester is now the second wealthiest county in New York State and the seventh wealthiest in the nation.

  • Westchester County, covering 450 square miles with 45 municipalities, is larger than 40 countries.

  • The area was first visited by Italian explorer Verrazano in 1524 and later by Henry Hudson in 1609; English settlers arrived in the 1640s and named their new home for the English city of Chester.

  • As of the last Census, Westchester had a population just slightly under one million residents, one in five of whom was born outside the United States and one in eight of whom wakes up hungry. The county is served by 48 public school districts, 118 private and parochial grammar and secondary schools, and 14 colleges.

  • Forbes rated it the ninth best place to grow old, citing the gorgeous natural beauty within such close proximity to Manhattan as major positives.

  • Some Westchester Firsts:

    • Union Church in Pocantico Hills has nine Chagall stained-glass windows and one Henri Matisse window. The Matisse “rose window” was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller to honor his mother. Matisse finished the design just two days before he died. The Chagall windows, the only series in America, were commissioned by David Rockefeller.

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

    • Paddle tennis was invented in Scarsdale in 1928 and first played at the Fox Meadow Club there in 1931.

    • Yonkers resident Leo Baekland invented one of the world’s first and most useful plastics in 1907 and formed the Bakelite Corporation in 1910. It manufactured the glossy brightly colored plastics that defined the '50s and '60s.

    • In 1888, Yonkers resident John Reid became the first person to play golf on American soil, naming his three-hole course in a local apple orchard St. Andrews. It was even here in Westchester where the dubious tactic of hitting a second ball off the first tee if you didn’t like your first one--a Mulligan--got its name!

Have a safe, healthy, and fun summer and "I'll see you in September!"

 
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