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Bronxville Government and History

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Chamber of Commerce Concert Creates Summer Street Scene of Yore on Park Place; Gorilla Jam Highlighted PDF Print Email

concertkidsrbartold

July 6, 2011:  Summer got off to a rockin' start in Bronxville Thursday evening with the kick-off of the Bronxville Chamber of Commerce Summer Concert Series.  The warm but not-too-hot evening drew people of all ages to a street scene on Park Place with music provided by the band Gorilla Jamb.  Friends and neighbors relaxed at tables, strolled the street, and enjoyed delicious food and drink.

Bronxville restaurant Gourmet 2 Go sponsored the concert and delighted everyone in the crowd with a menu ranging from gazpacho and grilled tequila shrimp appetizers to grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce to meatball and pulled pork sliders, all accompanied by orzo or potato salad and corn on the cob.  Children lined up for snow cones and needed time to decide on the perfect flavor for the evening.

"This is a great opportunity to show off our menu to a wider audience," said Gary Schnorr, Gourmet 2 Go owner.  "We enjoy participating in the community."

Restaurants Il Bacio and Pete's Tavern moved tables to the street to add to the party atmosphere and offer diners good seats for the evening's entertainment.

Gorilla Jamb amped up the evening with its renditions of such 70s classic hits as Santana's "Black Magic Woman" and Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love."   The band, formed in the 1970s, played during the members' student days at Greenwich High School.  According to vocalist Sally Barry, an original member of the group, the musicians reunited in the early 90s and have been together since.

Band musician Oscar Rodriguez said, "We get together once a month and instead of playing poker we make music."  Rounding out the group are Scott Chard, Lynn Egy, Mark Conece, and Bronxville resident Will Maze.

"It feels like we never graduated!" added Maze, Gorilla Jamb guitarist.

The under-ten crowd took to the street for enthusiastic dancing when the band broke into a James Brown song.  Connoisseurs of classic rock tapped their feet and sang along to old favorites like Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" and Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water."

"Oh my, this really takes me back," said Sheryl Schultz.   "I know every word to these songs."

Standing in front of Pete's Tavern, guitarist Ray Grieche serenaded the crowd during Gorilla Jamb's breaks.

Peggy Conway, Bronxville Chamber of Commerce executive director, said, "It's a great evening and it's so nice to see everyone having fun."

Join the fun at the next concert, Thursday, July 28, at 6:30 pm on Park Place with the band Plan B.

Pictured here:  Young Bronxville kids dancing the night away at the Bronxville Chamber of Commerce Summer Concert.

Photo by Carol P. Barton

 
Richard Magat: 'My Kingdom for a Parking Space—in Bronxville!' PDF Print Email

parkingmetewarner08-12-090081

July 6, 2011:  Nothing raises the ire of a Bronxville driver (and visitors, too) as much as returning to a parking meter that has expired a nanosecond before the driver has returned to it and finding a ticket that has beaten said driver to the punch.

No wonder.  It's hard to park anywhere gratis in the Pondfield Road business district and most of the West Side.  Meters snake through main streets and nooks and crannies--1,114 in all.

They may strike their victims as a nuisance, but they are a boon to village taxpayers.  The meters and parking permits yield $1,796,520, and fines are $860,000, for a total of $2,656,520--the second largest item in the village budget after taxes ($7,912,956).

Who would have thought when the first parking meters were installed in the Village in May 1940 (only five years after the world's first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City) that they would collect such large sums today?  Bronxville's first meters cost a penny, but they collected $35 in only the first three days.

The village budget for parking enforcement totals $191,279--one full-time officer, one meter repair person, and part-time enforcement officers.  The full-time officer earns around $55,000, and part-time parking enforcement officers are paid at an hourly rate at $16.01.  They are not permitted to work more than 18 hours a week.  They are unionized with the Teamsters.

The character of the village was altered when by popular vote Pondfield Road was widened in the 1920s, prompting the Bronxville Review Press to observe, "A foreigner has remarked that Americans seem to spend most of their time hurrying around in motor cars, looking for a place to park!  No driver of a car can consistently regret the widening of Pondfield Road."

Parking rules are a patchwork for all but drivers with superb memories.  On Palmer Road, for example, the limit is 32 minutes, requiring a quarter, a dime, and a nickel.  The odd amount is the result of entreaties by merchants who didn't want space occupied too long by any single person.  Since the street adjoins Lawrence Hospital, parkers are advised to tool over to Pondfield Road West and park in the hospital's parking garage.

In contrast, some meters along the parking lot on Kraft Avenue are good for up to three hours; on Pondfield Road, 90 minutes; and on Parkway Road, one hour--a challenge for patrons wishing to dine leisurely in the restaurants along that thoroughfare.

Studio Arcade allows one-and-a-half hours.  Possibly the best bargain of all is a metered area on Kensington Road that permits 12 hours of parking at 40 minutes a quarter.

Meters wander far off the beaten path.  One of the most remote, certainly to residents who live in the fastnesses of Lawrence Park and Hilltop, is a kind of  "gasoline alley"--lower Milburn Street, dotted with a car wash and auto repair garages.  Meters along Milburn connect around a corner to Stone Place, the site of a building of doctors' offices.  One side is metered, the other reserved for holders of Bronxville parking permits.

Around another corner, parking limits expand sharply--two hours on Paxton Avenue.  Paxton is also the site of a 150-space parking lot that Lawrence Hospital has leased for its staff for 10 years, who pay a dollar a day.  Similarly, the Bronxville School provides parking for its staff in the Elementary School lot.

Up a long series of stone stairs is the start of Milburn and the back of the Avalon apartment complex.  A few spaces are reserved for Avalon tenants, and across a path, several places are available without charge to patrons of the corner restaurant after 6:00 pm.

The Village has only two garages--Lawrence Hospital's and the garage on Palmer Avenue.  The hospital costs $5 for the first four hours, $20 for eight to ten hours, and $25 for over ten hours.  The Palmer Avenue garage charges $18 to park between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm, and $2.50 an hour thereafter.

Parking permits are available for residents, including special permits for overnight parking (from 6:00 pm to 8:00 am) and train station parking ($920 annually).

"Believe it or not, people are very nice, even when they're ticketed," says Tony, a PEO (parking enforcement officer), who declined to give his last name.  A veteran of three years in the job, he covers the entire West Side and makes the loop once every hour.  Tony points out that meters flash when they are empty or disabled or otherwise fail.  The meters are digital, powered by a battery that can run down.  The meter can malfunction if a quarter descends too quickly.

Meters do get vandalized--jammed with pennies, for example.  Why? "Because they feel like it," says Tony.  "They're mischievous."  It isn't clear whether the mischief is by adults or youngsters.  It costs about $400 to replace a meter.  Occasional vandalism isn't the only peril.  Former Mayor Bill Murphy, the present parking commissioner, recalls that several years ago a massive flood disabled some 100 meters on Stone Place and Paxton.  They were dried out and restored to working order.

Parking officers also serve as eyes and ears.  One of them recently noted a woman taking photographs of buildings along Palmer Road and, since she didn't identify herself, a PEO reported it to a patrolman. "I apologized when she identified herself, but these days you just don't know," referring to ongoing national worry about terrorism.

The officers watch not only for expired meters but also for expired inspection and registration stickers.  The fines for each are $35.

The officers' only complaint is the buildup of heat under the yellow vests they are required to wear.  They are intended to make the officer more visible at dusk in the fall and winter, but toward the end of very warm days, it's hard to avoid removing them.

Photo by A. Warner

 
From the Mayor: Residents Ask Trustees' Opinion of Lawrence Hospital Project PDF Print Email

marymarvinsummerwarner

July 6, 2011:  During the past month, many residents have asked the trustees our opinion of the Lawrence Hospital building project.  While it is quite logical that citizens would solicit our thoughts, knowing that our job is that of stewards of our Village, both legally and ethically we cannot endorse or oppose any project before an independent land use board of the Village.

By law, the mayor appoints all members of the Village's land use boards with the advice and consent of the trustees.  These boards include the Zoning Board, the Planning Board, and the Design Review Committee.  If we were to comment on pending applications before our boards, we would be quite rightly open to the charge that we were attempting to exert influence over board members we appoint.  Taken to its logical bad end, board members might feel their reappointment was in jeopardy if their opinion deviated from one or more of the trustees'.

We would also be vulnerable to a post-decision lawsuit by the party who was not granted the approvals for which they petitioned.  The mayor's and trustees' role is solely one of appointment.  We choose individuals very carefully for each board, seeking residents with certain training, experience, or education in fields such as law, architecture, engineering, urban design, construction, real estate, and finance.  Most importantly, we seek residents who are known for measured judgment and balance in decision making.  We are confident that the members of all of the Village's boards meet these criteria and act in the best interest of the Village.

The hospital project is currently before our Planning Board, which consists of a chairperson, four board members, and two alternates.  Each member has a term of five years with eligibility for reappointment provided they remain a Village resident.  By Village statute, the Planning Board has full and independent authority to review, approve, or disapprove site plans and subdivisions such as the hospital project or the recent Kensington Road submission.

The all-encompassing duty of the Planning Board is to guide and encourage the appropriate use or development of land in the Village to promote the rational functioning, economic stability, and the public health, safety, and general welfare of the Village.

In addition to the Planning Board, the Village has a Design Review Committee consisting of a chairperson, two board members, and an alternate.  The Design Review Committee is advisory in nature and makes recommendations to the Planning Board as requested and routinely reviews proposed items such as awnings, signage, and landscape plans in the Village.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is the final governing body of the triumvirate of Village land use boards.  The Zoning Board consists of a chairperson, four board members, and two alternates, chosen to serve five-year terms with the option for reappointment.  The Zoning Board of Appeals is empowered to reverse, affirm, or modify orders, requirements, interpretations, and determinations by the Village's superintendent of buildings.  The Zoning Board can also grant variances to an applicant for use of his or her property in a manner not allowed by the local zoning laws.  Variances allow for flexibility in the application of the Zoning Code by permitting a landowner the opportunity to pursue administrative relief from certain provisions of the Zoning Law.

The most common request is for an area variance that would allow for a use of property that is not permitted by the dimensional or physical requirements of the applicable zoning law.  In making its determination, the Zoning Board must balance the benefit to the applicant if the variance is granted versus the detriment to the physical or environmental conditions of the neighborhood.

The Zoning Board cannot hear an application for a variance until the petitioner receives a negative decision from the superintendent of buildings and subsequently appeals it.

If an applicant does not achieve the result they requested at either the Planning or Zoning Board, their recourse is to file an Article 78 proceeding.  This is the legal channel to challenge activities and decisions of an administrative agency with the forum in the State Supreme Court.  A petitioner may challenge the decision of a Village administration body based on the assumption that the final determination was made in violation of lawful procedure, was affected by an error of law, was arbitrary or capricious, or was an abuse of discretion.

I end with asking residents to volunteer for these important boards, which can ultimately shape our Village for years to come.  Please send a resume to share your expertise with the Village by e-mailing me at CLOAKING .

 

 
'Card-Making for Kids' Workshop To Be Given at Bronxville Library on Saturday, July 9 PDF Print Email

ilibrarywarnerdsc_0002

July 6, 2011:  A free workshop, "Card-Making for Kids," will be held at the Bronxville Public Library on Saturday, July 9, from noon to 1:00 pm, to be given by Linda Sugrue.

The workshop is open to children ages 7 and up.  Children will make and take with them their own handmade cards with the New York summer reading 2011 theme, "One World, Many Stories".

The event is free, and all supplies will be provided.

Parents should contact Mrs. Erin Schirota, children's librarian, at 914-337-7680 for registration information. 

To learn more, visit either the Facebook link below:

Bronxville Library Card-Making Workshop

or www.itsfromme.com.

Photo by A. Warner

 
From the Mayor: 'Season-Specific' Information Including Break-ins PDF Print Email

marvinawarner

June 29, 2011:  This week's column is devoted to news and notices that are "season specific" for the Village as well as a look at the front-burner issues that the Trustees and I are currently discussing with department heads.

Texting While Driving:  We have observed a great increase in the number of people texting while driving.  Hard to believe since it is more dangerous than phoning while driving:  texting is currently only a secondary offense according to controlling state law.  This means that a police officer cannot pull a driver over for texting unless first stopped for a different legitimate violation.  In contrast, officers can pull a driver over for talking on a cell phone as a primary offense and issue a $75 ticket.  There is currently a bill before the state legislature to make texting a primary offense and we endorse this amendment to the law.

Break-ins:  Spring has also brought a rash of break-ins to unlocked cars in driveways, with residents losing pocketbooks, glasses, and GPS systems.  Please remember to lock your car at all times as this is a crime of opportunity.

E-Alert:  We share the above kind of police information routinely via our electronic alert system.  Currently, approximately half of Village residents have given us their e-mail addresses.  We encourage everyone to call Village Hall and register for the e-alert system as it is a terrific way to disseminate information that is urgent and time-sensitive and keep residents alert and in the know.  E-alerts are particularly helpful for updates during weather emergencies.

Ban on Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers:  As in previous years, our ban on gas-powered leaf blowers went into effect on June 1 and extends until September 30.  We are working on changing the current legislation to incorporate a significant mandatory penalty fee with a doubling and tripling escalation clause based on the number of violations by a homeowner or a landscape company.  Currently, the fine levied is insignificant enough that landscapers are simply absorbing it as a cost of doing business.  The ban clearly needs to have more teeth to encourage compliance.

Village and School Taxes:  June is also, unfortunately, synonymous with Village and school tax bills. Taxes may be paid without penalty until June 30.  Thereafter, a 5% charge is placed on the balance.  If you have not received a tax bill, call Village Hall and we can either send you a hard copy or e-mail one.  As in past years, in an effort to save time, money, and paper, your bill will have the stub for the second-half payment of taxes enclosed.  Kindly keep this for your future payment.  We will remind you via announcements and e-alerts when the second-half payment is due in early 2012.

Permits for Improvement Projects:  Spring also brings an uptick in home improvement projects, most of which need permits from the Village's Building Department.  If you are in doubt as to the need for a permit, call Village Hall before commencing any work, because the consequences are significant.  If unpermitted work is discovered, the permit fee automatically doubles, and there is an additional $250 filing fee added for every permit required.  Also, remember to close out valid open permits filed with the Village when work is completed.  Permits that are not closed out when complete cause a "red flag" and hinder property refinancing or sale.

Large Construction Projects:  We have also been reviewing some of the issues that have arisen from large private construction projects that are often long in duration.  Problems include the proliferation of construction vehicles parked all day on residential streets, damage to Village property when trucks are too large to navigate our streets, and the digging up of our paved roads by private contractors.

Street Repairs:  We are also having problems with the quality of street repairs done by the various utilities throughout the Village.  It is extremely frustrating to undertake a quality repaving program only to have a Con Ed or Verizon rip up the newly paved street and then cover the excavation with tin plates and/or subpar resurfacing.  The problem has been exacerbated in the past few years as utilities, in a cost-cutting measure, disbanded their in-house resurfacing departments and now farm the work out to subcontractors.  Often these subs want to "bundle" a group of repairs before doing the work, hence the unreasonably long periods between excavation and repair.

It is my view that, save for emergency repairs, new permits should not be issued to any utility until they have properly repaired previous projects in our Village.  Our legal counsel is currently researching our ability to require this.

Cost-Cutting Measures:  In an effort to cut costs through volume discounts, we have joined our colleagues in Tuckahoe and Eastchester to purchase office supplies in addition to our joint purchasing of curbing and paving materials.

Merchant parking permits are currently up for renewal with a deadline of July 1.

Capital Improvement Plan:  The major decision confronting the Trustees this summer is whether to embark on a capital improvement plan.  We did not have one in the last fiscal year due to money constraints, but given the extremely low cost of borrowing money, the time may be opportune to embark on even a modest improvement program.  However, we cannot make any decisions until after the state legislature decides whether to institute the proposed 2% tax cap.  Based on state-mandated pension cost projections, we already believe we may be above the 2% ceiling for the budget next year.

Compounding this, the current tax cap bill does not exempt the cost for debt service to make municipal infrastructure repairs--again an example of this tax cap legislation serving as a disincentive for communities to make needed and responsible long-term repairs.

We will continue to work on these issues throughout the summer months and we will keep you informed of our progress along the way.

 
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