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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!"

 
From the Mayor: Twelve Public Works Improvements this Summer PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jul. 19, 2017:  No longer the quiet period for village government, the summer months are now dedicated to public works improvements, with the most disruptive activities planned for the least congested times in the village.

All of the following will commence at some point during the coming weeks with the goal of substantial completion by Labor Day.

  • 85 Pondfield Walkway and Stairs:  In collaboration with the adjacent property owner, repairs will be made to the area, as it is an important conduit from Garden Avenue parking to our stores and professional offices.

  • Sewer Relining Project:  Set to begin in August, the village’s principal trunk line for the sanitary sewer will be relined from the intersection of Pondfield Road and Route 22 all the way to Meadow Avenue, including a section under The Bronxville School. Concurrently, we have submitted a grant application to the state, as, after researching, we believe we qualify for funding to help offset the full cost.

  • Kensington Road:  The completion of the road and streetscape improvements in the area will be dependent on the exterior completion of Villa BXV. Curbing, landscaping, and existing sidewalk repair will extend to Beechtree Lane. A raised landscaped island will be added at the Sagamore Road/Kensington Road intersection for better ease of passage for both cars and pedestrians. Of importance, we do anticipate that the sidewalk on the Villa BXV side will be completed for walkers in time for the opening of school. After this work is completed, sections of Sagamore and Kensington Roads will be repaired accordingly.

  • Road Repaving:  In conjunction with the completion of the FEMA flood mitigation project, sections of Midland Avenue will be repaved, as well as Crows Nest Road and Village Lane. Money and time permitting, Fordal Road would be next on the docket. Notices will be delivered to affected homeowners outlining the days and length of disruption so one can plan accordingly. If your street is not on the year’s list, all requests are catalogued and reviewed yearly for placement in the queue.

  • Phase II Downtown Lighting:  New lamps will be added in the Kraft Avenue parking lot – many of them teardrop in shape – as well as in the environs of the west side traffic circle.

  • Phase I Residential Lighting:  We have begun testing new LED lighting on Oriole Avenue between Orchard and Woodland and welcome your feedback (look for labels on the light posts identifying the new fixtures). The residential upgrades will occur only after an extensive testing period and in consultation with neighborhoods. At project’s end, the village will save 33% in electrical costs on a yearly basis not even factoring in the significant decrease in maintenance.

  • FEMA Flood Mitigation Project:  This project is coming in on time and within budget, and public right-of-way portions will be completed in the next two weeks, thus freeing the school district to begin work on its property.

  • Comprehensive Plan:  The village is preparing to issue a request for proposals ("RFPs") for planning firms to assist us in revamping our village code to reflect the needs and realities of 2017, on both the commercial and the residential levels. Chief among concerns on the residential side are the preservation of trees and historic structures, teardowns, reviewing size of additions vis-à-vis lot sizes, and duration time of projects. On the commercial front, chief concerns include the balance between retail merchandise stores and service establishments and the revamping of the approval process for the opening of any new businesses. Bids should be in hand by fall.

  • Department of Public Works Building:  The trustees will be reviewing proposals to upgrade facilities on Palumbo Place. Never updated since being built in 1942, our DPW structures are woefully inadequate for 2017 needs. As an example, most of our intricate equipment must be stored outside because of space limitations, decreasing their average life-span by almost 50%.

  • Retail Mix and Marketing Committee:  The committee is in full swing, with all constituent groups a part of the discussion. Subcommittees include communications, business outreach, marketing, signage and streetscape, and parking. It is a very positive collaborative group that I am confident will produce results.

  • Metro-North:  Metro-North informed us that painting will begin in about four weeks on the south side of the underpass, followed by a repainting of the two covered walkways down to the street underpass, the surrounding canopies, and railing and even the station building itself. This is the start of what we hope will be the first in a series of improvements to the station area.

  • Village Cameras:  Finally, as a point of clarification, our village cameras are NOT red light cameras. Red light cameras can be used only for red light enforcement with a civil penalty to the registered vehicle owner. Our cameras are surveillance only, except for extremely rare occurrences involving vehicle and traffic law violations where the driver can be positively identified by the footage. 

Again, any residents directly affected by any of the above projects will be contacted directly.

 
From the Mayor: Wrap-Up of Laws Passed by the New York State Legislature PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Jul. 12, 2017:  The recent session of our state legislature came to a close with the next regular session not until January. As is often the case, not much consensus was reached. There were many symbolic one-house bills that made political statements but did not affect any outcomes. The session was unique in that the governor used the budget cycle in April to tie his legislative initiatives to the funding process so he did not offer an end-of-session set of agenda goals.

His signature initiatives of providing free State/City University of New York tuition starting this fall for income-eligible students and increasing the age of prosecution and incarceration as an adult from 16 to 18 were achieved during budget negotiations.

Some bills of significance were passed and legislation that has made it to the governor’s desk include a bill forbidding marriage in New York State under the age of 17, with parental consent required between ages 17 and 18. Prior to this, individuals could marry as young as 14, creating a direct connection between young women being married as part of human trafficking rings.

For the first time, a bill will require all nonprofit animal shelters and rescue centers to be subject to state regulation. This safeguard would eliminate the puppy mills that don’t incorporate and then masquerade as nonprofits.

A bill providing an additional $200 million for opioid and heroin addiction programs made it through both houses, and Westchester County, upstate New York, and Long Island can now employ the services of both Uber and Lyft.

Both parties agreed on bills that would treat e-cigarettes in just the same manner as regular cigarettes in restaurants and bars.

For victims of medical malpractice, the legislature agreed to extend the statute of limitations for misdiagnosed cancer to two and a half years from the discovery of the cancer, not from the date of misdiagnosis.

If signed, the use of medical marijuana will now be extended to victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A very watered-down “Buy America” bill was passed for the use of steel and iron. Canadian companies and legislators representing border districts protested vigorously against a broader ban.

Only after reconvening at a special session called by the governor was the issue of mayoral control of the New York City public school system resolved. In a 72-page multi-topic bill, Mayor de Blasio was granted an extension of centralized control. If not granted control, the reversion to local district boards would cost New York taxpayers over $1.6 billion in administrative costs alone for just the next decade.

In order to receive continued control just one day before his authority was to lapse, Mayor de Blasio, in a side arrangement, agreed to an increase in the number of charter schools in the city and promised to make it easier for those currently in existence to function.

If supportive of mayoral school control in this omnibus bill, one also had to vote for increased flood relief in upstate New York, various sales tax levies for counties throughout the state, and the renaming of the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Mario Cuomo Bridge.

Some of the more noteworthy items that did not make it to the governor’s desk for possible signature include bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide, permit alcohol sales in movie theaters, and crack down on heroin dealers.

As to the above, advocates pushed hard for legislation that would allow individuals with a terminal illness to seek lethal drugs from a physician but the bill never got a vote. This particular subject seems to take years of advocacy in every state throughout the country to ever win passage. The governor supported the service-of-alcohol-in-theaters bill but the Democratic Speaker Heastie did not.

The Senate passed, but the Assembly did not, a series of bills to crack down on drug dealing, including creating a new crime of homicide against those who sell heroin or opioids resulting in fatal overdoses. An additional bill would have increased the criminality of sales near rehab facilities. In addition, the Child Victim Act, a bill that would extend the time period molestation victims have to file lawsuits to age 50 and allow criminal charges until the victim turns 28 repealing the current law that allows any suit only up until the age of 23 did not make it to vote.

Bills authorizing early voting or making it easier to register also never made it to a full vote.

Despite two legislative leaders receiving convictions and two aides to the governor currently under indictment for bid rigging and bribery, no ethics reforms bills are on the governor’s desk.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have always subscribed to the view purportedly expressed by Mark Twain that “no man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.”

 
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