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Home & Garden

New Hedges and Bricks on Midland Avenue Median PDF Print Email


By Staff

May 1, 2019:  Did you notice the new hedges and bricks on the Midland Avenue median? 

The new hedges were planted last week and paid for by Con Edison, who dug them up last year when they replaced an old 12-inch cast-iron main under Midland Avenue with a new 16-inch steel main. Jim Palmer, Bronxville Village Administrator, mentioned at that time that the new main was needed “to satisfy additional gas demands in the village.” 

You also may have noticed that there are new yellow bricks on either side of the hedges. According to Palmer, these bricks were purchased when the Bronxville Historical Conservancy and the village rebuilt one of the yellow brick roads on the Hilltop in 2016. Palmer noted that the hedges on Midland “act as a traffic-calming measure and the bricks provide greater visibility ... something asked for by our residents.”

Palmer also noted that the village still has the old bricks from the Hilltop brick road and will use them to repair existing sections of the other brick roads on the Hilltop.

Pictured here:  Hedges and new brick on Midland Avenue median.

Photo by A. Warner

Gung-Hoe Gardener: Time to Focus on What to Plant this Spring PDF Print Email


By Neely Bower

Apr. 24, 2019:  I hope you are all enjoying the daffodils that I suggested you plant last fall. While you are doing that, it is time to focus on when and what to plant this spring. Here are a few things to keep in mind and where to go for the best advice. I would suggest the home gardening page of the Cornell Cooperative Extension website. You can learn many things about gardening and maybe even a little botanical Latin. 

The first thing to learn is the hardiness zone of your area. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map divides the country into zones based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. Hardiness describes a plant's ability to survive in different temperatures, and the hardiness zones are used by gardeners to ascertain where different plants would grow best. The zone here in Bronxville is the first thing to learn. If you plant too early or too late for our zone, the plant will not thrive. Our zone is 7-8. This has changed over the years because of global warming. There is an area at the New York Botanical Garden called the “Lady’s Border” that grows many plants and shrubs that are not usually hardy here but have become so with zone changes, such as certain camellias and magnolias. 

You are on your own for purchasing plants for your new garden. I find the cheaper the better unless the plant is damaged or has bugs. I do not recommend starting from seed unless you have a greenhouse. Then you would already know more than I do. If you purchase plants from Stew Leonard's or Home Depot, check with Cornell Cooperative Extension first because those stores are apt to put plants out too soon.

Pictured here: Flowering quince from my garden on April 14.

Photo by N. Bower



Bronxville Building Inspector Paul Taft Answers Frequently Asked Questions PDF Print Email


By Susan Miele

Feb. 27, 2019:  Preparing a home construction project—whether renovating the kitchen, adding a deck, or erecting a fence—can be challenging enough with collecting bids and coping with the disruption. But starting a project without an understanding of municipal requirements can result in a longer-term headache. To help the community avert such a scenario, we set out to identify common questions and pitfalls and get authoritative guidance.

Enter Paul Taft, who assumed the role of building inspector for the Village of Bronxville Building Department in September. In addition to bringing his expertise in code enforcement and years of experience as a residential contractor, Paul brings to his role a commitment to community education. In fact, he’s busy planning a building-safety event for May 11 in recognition of Building Safety Month.

To provide a resource to homeowners, we worked with Paul to create a list of frequently asked questions to help ensure a successful project and minimal uncertainty. He emphasizes that each project is unique, so it’s important to contact the building department to ensure that your project is on the right track.

Q: What is the role of the building department?

A: The building inspector is responsible for enforcement of state codes and local laws regarding construction, building use, fire safety, and signage. The building inspector issues construction permits, administers and enforces building and zoning regulations, and issues certificates of occupancy. The building inspector is responsible for administering the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code and for issuing summonses for violations to the codes when necessary.


Q: Do I need a permit for my project?

A: The list of work requiring a building permit is extensive. While residents generally are aware of the need to obtain a permit to build a new home, demolish a structure, or create an extension, a permit is also needed for the finishing of basements and attics, roofing, new heating and air conditioning, new/replacement windows, generator installation/replacement, electrical work, plumbing, gas work, accessory structures, new driveways and parking areas, and renovation of bathrooms and kitchens. Minor permits include siding, fences, sheds, and oil tanks. Importantly, this list is not all-inclusive. Consult the building department before initiating a home project to ensure necessary permits are obtained.

Q: What is the typical time frame for obtaining a permit?

A: The building department has set a goal to issue permits in a timely fashion. Please expect that, depending on the size and complexity of a project, a building permit will take two to four weeks to obtain. Much depends on the completeness of the application, plan review complexity, and workload. This time frame does not include the time the applicant might need to respond to plan review.

Q: What fees are associated with permits?

A: Building Permit Application Fee, $150.00; building permit fee, $15 per $1,000 of the estimated cost of the job; electrical permit, $100.00; plumbing permit, $100 for the first three fixtures and $10 for each additional fixture; mechanical permit, $100 and $10 per each additional condenser; certificate of occupancy, residential, $125.00; commercial, $200.00; amendment, $100 and $15 per $1,000 of the estimated cost of the job; re-inspection fee, $100. The affidavit of final cost must be filled out with each application, and if the actual cost of the work ends up exceeding the estimated cost of the building permit, the applicant pays $15 per $1,000 in excess of the original estimate.

Q: When does a homeowner need to have his/her project considered by the zoning board, planning board, or design review committee?

A: Most single-family residential properties are exempt from review by the planning department and design review committee. They may be required to apply to the board of appeals (zoning board) for an area variance. The application to the board of appeals is a separate application from the building permit. If the proposed work can’t comply with the Village of Bronxville zoning code, then an appeal to the zoning board for relief of the code is what you are seeking.

Q: May I start work before my permit is issued?

A: Work on a project may not legally begin before a permit is obtained and displayed on the work site. Some cleanup and clearing may begin before the building permit is issued. Consult the building department for more information.

Q: What happens if I build without a permit or with an expired permit?

A: We all will sell our homes at some point. We have found that title search companies are reviewing property files very carefully and finding that work may have been done without the benefit of a building permit or have expired permits. If you may have had work performed without a building permit, serious consideration must be given to getting it legalized to ensure a safe home. If you have an expired permit, it is important to address that, as occupying the work area is not allowed until a certificate of occupancy has been obtained.

Q: What kind of restitution might a homeowner need to make if work has already been done without having obtained a permit?

A: Work started without first obtaining a building permit would need to be legalized. The owner is required to apply for a building permit for the work that was done illegally. Legalization fees that apply are as follows: legalization fee of $250 added to the $150 application fee, and the building permit fee gets doubled. Once the building permit is issued for the legalization, the owner would apply for a certificate of occupancy for the legalization. The legalization fee of $250 is also added to the certificate of occupancy fee. 

Q: What building code is used in Bronxville? 

A: The New York State 2017 Uniform Code, which is a supplement to the 2015 ICC family of codes

Code Enforcement

Q: What do I do if my neighbor and I are having a dispute regarding the boundary line of our properties?

A: Boundary disputes (unless concerning a municipal boundary) are private legal matters and are not within the jurisdiction of the municipality. Consult an attorney for legal advice. This is also the case for trees on private property.

Q: At what times of day is construction work allowed?

A: The following work–excavation, demolition, alterations, or repair of any building–may only be conducted Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, but not on any such day that is a state or national holiday, except in the case of urgent necessity and then only with a permit from the superintendent of buildings, which permit may be renewed for a period of three days or less while the emergency continues.

Q: How do I file a complaint?

A: All complaints may be submitted in writing. A complaint form may be found on the Village of Bronxville’s website.

Home Safety

Q: Apart from construction projects, what safety requirements must Bronxville homeowners adhere to?

1) Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors. The most common deficiency in a home is the lack of proper protection with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Check your home or building for the proper quantity and placement of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Regardless of the age of your home, requirements are as follows:

  • Smoke detectors. One in each bedroom and/or sleeping area; one outside of the bedroom and/or sleeping area; and one on each level.

  • Carbon-monoxide detectors. Outside of the bedroom and/or sleeping area within 15 feet of the sleeping area; one on each level.

A state law going into effect on April 1, 2019, requires solely battery-operated smoke detectors to have a nonremovable 10-year battery.

2) House Numbers. House numbers are required for all properties. When there is an emergency, time is of the essence. Click here for further details on the requirements for numbering. Section 505 Premise Identification.

3) Extension Cords. Another common risk is from the use of extension cords or multi-tap outlet strips. The use of these should be minimized. They must not be covered, as doing so can cause them to overheat and ignite. Outlet strips are designed for a maximum load, which should not be exceeded to avoid fire.

“We have been busy working to make our processes more streamlined and efficient,” Taft said. Questions and comments can be sent to CLOAKING .

Pictured here: Paul Taft.
Photo by A. Warner


Valentines: Sometimes a Flower or an Herb Has a Special Meaning PDF Print Email


By Staff

Feb. 13, 2019:  MyhometownBronxville photographer Neely Bower took these photos of flowers and herbs and their meanings at the William & Lynda Steere Herbarium of the New York Botanical Garden in 2018 before Valentine's Day that year. The Botanical Garden's website says that the herbarium has "approximately 7.8 million specimens, making it the second-largest herbarium in the world, according to Index Herbariorum."

We thought you, our readers, would enjoy learning about the meanings of these plants. Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Lilac: First emotions of love


Cactus (flower): Lust


Honeysuckle: Bonds of love


Carolina Rose:  Love is dangerous


Hydrangea: You are cold


Yarrow:  Cure for the heartache


Camellia (red): In love


Daylily: Flirt


Linden: Conjugal love


Myrtle:  Love


Motherwort: Concealed love


Heliotrope:  Infatuation


Photos by N. Bower

Squirrels Having Fun Over the Holidays PDF Print Email


By Susan Miele

Jan. 30, 2019:  Check your chimneys and batten down the hatches: A new kind of intruder has been entering Bronxville homes, and it’s not a burglar. Squirrels are invading.

In early December, Jeannie Murrer set out to decorate her home for the holidays. After finishing the tree in her family room, she was heading toward the boxes of decorations that remained in the living room when she heard an unsettling noise. Peering around the threshold, she saw something move in the middle of the room. Whatever it was, it had a tail. It was too large to be a mouse, and mice typically cling to a room’s perimeter. “You could have heard me scream for miles,” Jeannie admitted. “People must have been thinking, ‘She is totally crazy in that house.’” In a panic, she closed the room’s doors, dashed out the kitchen entrance, raced around the house, and opened the front door in hopes of facilitating the intruder’s exit.

Jeannie called her husband, who was out in Quogue. He instructed her to call the police and insisted on hurrying home. She hesitated to bother the police, but a neighbor advised her to do the same. As Jeannie had anticipated, the police explained that they cannot respond to animal encounters unless the animal behaves aggressively. She was advised to contact animal services.

Two hours after Jeannie called her husband, he returned home, but there was no further sighting. With the front door having been left open all that time, the animal might have accepted the invitation to leave or perhaps scurried up the chimney. Later investigation revealed that the damper had been open, but despite a cap on the chimney, there must have been sufficient space for a critter to crawl in or out.

But this was not her first encounter with the fluffy-tailed rodent. Last spring, Jeannie, a sportswriter for MyhometownBronxville, and her writing partner, Sue, were sitting outside on low chairs, discussing a story they were collaborating on. Jeannie was looking down at some papers when two squirrels aggressively came charging at them. Sue’s instinct was to seek cover behind the screen of her open laptop; Jeannie, less shielded, was alarmed to find a squirrel running up her leg.

Another Bronxville homeowner had an indoor squirrel encounter this month. She noticed noises in her chimney one night and again the next day. She closed all the doors and vacated the home with her son, fearing exposure to an animal’s germs. She pursued numerous agencies for assistance, calling five or six chimney-service providers, before landing on a local animal trapper. The company representative inspected the area for compromises and identified a small gap between the cap and chimney that would allow a small animal to sneak in.

Squirrels and other wildlife also have been known to regard a cat or dog door as an invitation to enter a house. But homes aren’t the only site of squirrel havoc. Several years ago, a teacher in the Tuckahoe School District discovered that squirrels had built a nest in the tailpipe of her car while it was parked in the teacher’s lot. This resulted in considerable damage, a high price tag, and a newfound hatred for squirrels. A resident of Chester Heights discovered a squirrel behind her stove.

The Washington Post runs an annual photo contest, soliciting amateur photos of squirrels that are up to no good. The published results can be quite humorous—provided, of course, the victim is someone else.

Photo by N. Bower

Editor's note:  This is not the first time MyhometownBronxville has reported on squirrel activity in Bronxville. We published an April Fools' Day article on the subject in 2010. Here is a link.

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