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Letters to the Editor

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Letter to the Editor: Jamaal Bowman's Historic Win: A Vote for Progressive Change PDF Print Email

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By Bill Gaston, a District Leader for the Bronxville Democratic Party

Jul. 22, 2020: No one saw it coming. Except for a few of us, that is.

Those of us who had met Jamaal Bowman and had heard his life story knew it was coming. Those of us who had canvassed for him on Mount Vernon street corners knew it was coming.  

Bowman’s historic upset primary victory over 30-year Congressional incumbent Eliot Engel was no fluke. Across the country, a wave of younger, multiracial, progressive candidates won races against establishment Democrats on a platform of transformative and generational change.

It was a David beats Goliath moment: Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal from Yonkers, and a political unknown in the 16th Congressional district, had never run for office. His opponent had the backing of nearly the entire Democratic Party establishment, including Hillary Clinton, as well as scores of Westchester County elected officials.

Bowman was outspent 2-1 in the campaign, overcoming a $5 million blitz by several super PACs in the final week that failed to salvage Engel’s seat. Bowman won handily with 60% of the “in person” votes (with most of the absentee votes counted). Early tallies showed he carried all major demographic groups across the district.

How could Congressman Engel lose this election -- and so decisively --after 16 terms in office? The simple answer: he lost touch with his voters.

The demographic face of his district had also shifted. While Engel had risen to the top ranks of House leadership, becoming chair of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, his district had become majority-minority. He had grown aloof from many of his own constituents, particularly in underserved neighborhoods in the Bronx and Westchester, who hungered for new representation.  

Jamaal Bowman, an educator and community activist, had cultivated grass roots networks with communities of color as well as multiracial social justice coalitions. Bowman’s success mirrored that of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose own stunning primary upset in 2018 over a 10-term incumbent in a neighboring district tapped into the same progressive energies. In a major boost to his campaign, AOC would endorse Bowman, as would Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

A second reason for Engel’s defeat: he was caught flat-footed by twin catastrophes. The first was the coronavirus, whose deadly epicenter has ravaged the district, disproportionately affecting African Americans. The second was the police killing of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and a surging Black Lives Matter movement. Bowman was a fixture at many of these gatherings in the Bronx and Westchester, including one in Bronxville, where he spoke eloquently about his mistreatment at the hands of the police, as well as the evils of militarism and systemic racism.

Meanwhile, during this unprecedented turmoil, a reporter discovered Engel holed up in his home in suburban Maryland, far from his district. Adding insult to injury, on a trip back to speak in the Bronx, Engel was captured on a hot mic uttering words that ultimately sealed his defeat: “If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care.”

Congressman Engel might have escaped the damage of these unforced errors had not the political earth beneath his feet undergone a seismic shift. Progressives, after years of frustration and defeats to play-it-safe establishment Democrats, successfully flipped the script and chalked up a big win.

In delivering an early retirement to Congressman Engel, primary voters demanded change. In doing so, the voters punched Jamaal Bowman’s ticket to the general election in November, where he will be the clear favorite to be our next Representative. Our party and nation are headed in the right direction as a result of Bowman’s historic win.


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 

 
Letter to the Community: Bronxville Needs a Wake Up Call PDF Print Email

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To The Community

My name is Claire Rich. I was a senior at Bronxville High School this past year and plan to attend Vanderbilt University in the fall. 

I’m writing because Bronxville needs a wake up call. New York’s schools are the most segregated in the nation. Here’s some statistics: Bronxville High School is 86% white and 0.2% black. Mount Vernon High School, which is exactly 1.3 miles away, is 79% black and 4% white. 80% of students at Mount Vernon High School are considered economically disadvantaged. Meanwhile, half of the Bronxville student body drives a white jeep and vacations in Nantucket. 

From my five years living here, I’ve noticed that people in Bronxville like to act as if racism is exclusively a Southern issue. Let’s talk about that. I can name far too many boys and girls who I have heard use the n-word in casual conversation in the past week alone. To all the parents reading this - are you sure, without a doubt, that your son or daughter was not one of them? 

When called out for their ignorance, those same boys and girls have said, “Who am I offending here?”, “Well, obviously I wouldn’t say it if there were any black people around” (proving that they understand it’s immoral, yet they  continue to say it), and “Why can’t I say it? Freedom of speech.” These are all direct quotes. 

No, it is not a few bad apples. This town is built on rotten roots. Why has all of Bronxville accepted the disparities between here and Mount Vernon so easily? Does no one question why Bronxville is 0.2% black?

Westchester has a dark history of racism perpetuated through residential segregation - in 1920, several towns in Westchester initiated zoning codes to keep out affordable housing, including Bronxville. This was an effort to go around the Supreme Court’s 1916 ruling in Buchanan V. Warley which outlawed racial zoning. 

The most common defense that I’ve heard is that people of color often can’t afford to live in Bronxville or Scarsdale, some of the wealthiest towns in the nation. This is false. The fact is that our town has actively worked to limit affordable housing in order to keep out people of color. It started in 1920 and it persists to this day.

There are 15 Westchester communities with less than 2% black population. These 15 communities only set aside 1.6% of available land for affordable housing. Meanwhile, Peekskill, Tarrytown, and Mt. Vernon designated 11.7 percent of available land. The whiter the community, the less land designated to affordable housing. According to census data, even when a small amount of affordable housing is present in communities like Bronxville, it is disproportionately given to lower-income whites over middle-class people of color. 

Many parents in this town claim to have never noticed any “overt racism”. That is a privilege most of Bronxville has - we can live our lives without asking the hard and uncomfortable questions. 

To the parents reading this, sit your kids down and talk to them about the lasting effects of systemic racism on our community. To the kids reading this, sit your parents down and do the same. 

I’m writing to urge all of you to ask the hard questions. Ask if your child understands the oppression the n-word carries. Ask yourself why our school is 0.2% black. Ask people of color how you can support them in these traumatizing times.

We are in the middle of the second coming of the civil rights movement. Now is the time to be uncomfortable. Challenge yourself and others to be the best ally you can be to people of color. Together, we can change this town and this nation for the better - but it starts at the roots.



Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.



   

 


 
Letter to the Editor: We Must Continue To Work For Change After Bronxville Unity Walk PDF Print Email

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Jul. 1, 2020: I am Annabelle Krause, a rising senior at the Bronxville High School. Next year, I will be the co-president of the Bronxville Human Rights Coalition Club.

On June 20, the town and our surrounding community rallied around the Black Lives Movement through the Unity Walk. I walked with some of my classmates, and we were happily surprised by the sheer number of people in attendance. I saw friends from Bronxville, as well as from the surrounding towns. This show of solidarity from the community was moving in its own way; a community coming together to fight for justice.  

At the culmination of the walk, there were speakers at Village Hall. Many speakers shared their stories of race and injustice, in Bronxville, in Westchester, and in history at large. I spoke as a student on behalf of the high school.

In a town like Bronxville, we are no stranger to systemic racism and discrimination of all forms, and we are hardly alone in that. Often, this is the hidden story. Every other year, our Village hosts Ghost of Bronxville to celebrate the artisans and founding members of our community. Although this is an interesting historical experience (and fun for little kids), it cannot exist in a vacuum.

The first time I heard about the village’s darker past in a formal setting was this past year in my Humanities Seminar at school. We discussed not only Bronxville, but also systemic issues in the greater United States. We read an article entitled Gentlemen’s Agreement in Bronxville: The “Holy Square Mile” written in 1959. The author, Harry Gersh, was an investigative journalist who tried to buy a house in the school district under a stereotypical Jewish last name, Greenberg. He was turned away by every real estate agent he met as soon as he told them his last name. The students and residents of this town must understand that the homogeneity of our population is not an accident, but the result of blatant historical housing discrimination.  

So, sitting in our seats of privilege as a majority white, Christian suburb, we cannot stop now. We rallied to show support, and now all those who support continued change must work to create real change.

Vote, donate, call your representatives, do your research, have hard conversations about race and injustice. There are many avenues to push our community and the United States towards a more equal society, one where the color of your skin does not determine your life expectancy and opportunities.


Photo by A. Warner


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
William W. Renner, Jr. Passed Away on June 15, 2020 PDF Print Email

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By the family

Jun. 24, 2020: William W. Renner, Jr.​ ​(Bill), age 79, passed away at home on Monday, June 15, in Bronxville, NY. 

Bill was born December 18, 1940, in New Haven, CT, to Leah Margaret (McKelvey) and William W. Renner, Sr. 

Bill's family relocated to Bronxville, NY, in 1942, where Bill was raised alongside his siblings,​ ​David Renner, Gretchen Renner Devlin, and Rick Renner (Susie). 

Bill attended Bronxville High School and was an alumnus of the class of 1958. He was a proud Hoya, and a member of the 1962 graduating class of Georgetown University, wearing his class ring until his passing.

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Bill served in the U.S. Army, where he was an M.P. for six months. 

Bill and Carol​ ​O'Brien Renner, his wife of 53 years and a life-long resident of Bronxville, raised their three children in Cedar Knolls. 

Bill's professional years were spent on Wall Street, where he was a government bond Broker for Garban, Ltd., and Liberty Brokerage. 

Bill was an avid photographer, history buff, and collector of antiques. He cherished family memorabilia, including a variety of items from the family's Renner Brewing Company, in Youngstown, Ohio. He had a vast collection of newspaper clippings from the University of Michigan, where his father was team captain and All-American quarterback. 

Bill was highly intelligent, could speak about a variety of unique topics, and was an aficionado of the New York Times crossword puzzle. 

Bill was a life-long member of the Bronxville Field Club, where he served on the Board of Governors & Admissions. He spent many of his days on the tennis court, and tanning in his favorite spot at the pool, chatting it up with his friends and many acquaintances. 

Bill was a warm and gregarious friend. He was the consummate host, always happy to open his door and welcome friends and neighbors to parties, including their annual Christmas Eve open house, offering and enjoying good cheer. 

Bill was genuinely interested in people's lives--not just in his own family but in friends and their children's, as well as in his own children's friends. 

Bill was a 'regular' and a lifelong supporter and friend to local business owners. 

Bill's greatest gift, aside from being a husband, father, brother and uncle, was being "Pop" to his six cherished grandchildren: Griffin Patterson (16), Christopher Patterson (15), Isabelle Renner (11), Isabella Renner (11), Caitlin Renner (7) and Teagan Renner (3). They truly adored him, his humor, his stories, quirky gifts, and his enthusiastic support on the athletic fields. 

Bill is survived by his wife Carol, and his three children, William W. Renner III, New Rochelle, NY; Kelly Renner Patterson, Bronxville, NY; Robert J. Renner, III (Catherine) of Fleetwood, NY; 6 grandchildren, three siblings, and his nieces and nephews who he adored, as well as by many life-long friends, and members of the community. 

In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to The Bronxville School Foundation, 177 Pondfield Road, Bronxville, NY 10708

Please visit ​www.mcgrathandson.com​, and feel free to leave a comment in the condolence section of the obituary, especially if you are unable to attend the wake due to COVID.

A wake will be held Friday, June 26, 2020, from 4–8 p.m., at Fred H. McGrath & Son Funeral Home, in Bronxville.

(Due to COVID-19 restrictions, face masks will be required, and social distancing regulations will be observed, and space will be limited.)  




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Letter to the Community: Making Change After the Bronxville Unity Walk PDF Print Email

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To The Community

Jun. 24, 2020: The Bronxville Unity Walk was held this past Saturday to support the messages of justice and equity that are part of the Black Lives Matter movement.  

The senseless death of George Floyd, and the social unrest that followed it, highlights the structural racism that plagues our country. The brutal deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others have forced us to deeply question our country's notions of racial progress and equity. Being silent is being part of the problem, and this weekend we spoke out.  

A group of families came together two weeks ago to discuss how to express our support for Black Lives Matter. Students from Bronxville High School led the way weeks earlier by organizing a number of rallies at Town Hall.  

The decision was made to organize the walk to bring together our residents, our friends and families, our school, our churches, and our local government to express unequivocally that we need to create a more just society where Black people can live without fear of racism and can trust the government will protect them equally under the law.

Meetings were held with various village and county administrators to align on the logistics, and an effort was made to notify all parties of interest to be as inclusive as possible. Mayor Marvin and Chief Satriale were instrumental in finalizing the activities. A small number of speakers were selected to reflect on this moment in time, and Heidi Kapoor, Matt Behrens, Derek Owen, Tiffani Chambers, Roy Montesano, Annabell Krause, Jonathan Alvarez, Ken Jenkins, and Jonathan Beer achieved just that. 

Systemic racism is a problem that needs to be addressed in Bronxville, as in most other communities in our country. We don't have the answers, and we may not know the questions, but a community group is being formed to begin a discussion around change. The next step requires developing a plan of action for driving measurable, systemic changes against racism in the future. If you are interested in being part of the discussion, please visit BronxvilleUnity.org to join.

Your neighbors,

The Bates, Beers, Behrens, Bradys, Devitts, Fultons, Gemes, Habners, Halleys, Kapoors, Peros, and Randalls

 

 

 


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
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