Gatta Warns that Tax Cap Endangers Local Municipalities
- Category: Shout it Out
- Published on 02 March 2015
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
This is the last year that longtime Scarsdale Village Manager Al Gatta will present the Village Budget to the Board of Trustees. Gatta, who will retire in June held a public briefing session on the proposed 2015-16 budget and echoed many of the concerns he has had in past years about the uncertain future of village government. He fears that the state imposed tax cap and pressures to consolidate services with other municipalities will force smaller villages to cut services to residents. Though Gatta will leave Village Hall, it's clear that these issues will continue to weigh on him in the future.
Gatta cited several forces that make it increasingly difficult to continue government as the way we know it in Scarsdale:
- The state is incentivizing smaller governments and school districts to share services and in some cases merge.
- State grants, that in the past we given to Scarsdale only go to larger communities
- The tax cap has been decreased to below 2% though unfunded mandates exceed that percentage.
- Unfunded mandates are being ignored by Albany
- The state is imposing greater mandates on infrastructure improvements for storm drainage and sanitary sewers – while offering the village no way to pay for these mandated costs.
Gatta believes that Governor Cuomo's goal in imposing the cap goes beyond saving taxpayers money. He contends that the governors has an ulterior motive: and that is to reduce disparities and inequalities among state residents by forcing consolidations of local governments and schools.
The proposed 2015-16 Village budget stays within the tax cap and maintains the current level of services. This year, the cap for Scarsdale is 1.68% plus a growth factor of 1%, due to the increased value of village real estate. Overall, there is a 2.68% cap on the property tax levy.
Gatta reviewed some highlights of the proposed $54.4 million dollar budget, which is an increase of $1.766 million from the 2014-15 adopted budget and a mere $1.4 million from the estimated actual budget for 2014-15.
Department expenses will grow by $824,731
The largest increases are for health benefits – 7%, general liability insurance – 40%, and workers compensation insurance – 38%.
Pension contributions are not going up this year ending a five-year increase of 107%.
For the average home in Scarsdale, valued at $1,398,818, the proposed budget would mean an annual increase of $144.
Gatta then shared some facts about Scarsdale's water rates, which have risen dramatically. Scarsdale purchases water from New York City and from 1991 to 2015 the rates have gone up from $103.72 per million gallons to a projected $1705 per million gallons, a 1700% increase in 24 years. For 2015-16 the rate for homeowners sill be $2.05 per unit (749 gallons) for the first 50 units of water and $7.17 per unit for excess water about 749 gallons.
Gatta ended his presentation with the following thoughts:
'The 2015-16 proposed budget stays with the tax cap. This is the third year that the cap has been in effect and for the first two years the village only slightly exceeded the cap. Since the imposition of the cap, the smaller communities are showing the impact from service reductions and deteriorating infrastructure. The question that should be raised by all state residents is whether the incentives from Albany for mergers and consolidations by limiting the use of the property tax is an end in itself, or whether there is a grander goal in mind: one that moves the state in the direction of redistributing and equalizing the level of services in municipalities and school systems for all state residents."
Feeling Powerless: Melting Away the Winter Weather Blues
- Category: Shout it Out
- Published on 23 February 2015
- Written by Dr. Adam S. Weissman
The winter blues affect us all. Short, chilly days, early sunsets, and dark, blistery cold nights offer limited opportunities for warmth, sunlight, routine outdoor activity, and Vitamin D. What's more, that unnerving and unpredictable Winter Storm watch has us glued to our favorite news channel, ready to derail us at any moment from our work, travel, exercise, and social routines, against our will, leaving us feeling helpless and not in control of our own lives.
Uncertainty is the root of anxiety; it's human nature. We naturally feel anxious and unbalanced in the face of uncertainty, whether it's applying to college, financial instability, caring for a sick family member, relationship woes, or having our weekly plans - and in many cases, our livelihood - cast aside by Winter Storm Juno and the icy travel conditions and snows to follow. The key to mental equilibrium is acceptance of the things we cannot control and the ability to slow down our thoughts and emotions by problem-solving and weighing the evidence for and against our worried thoughts.
For example, while you may be unable to make it into the office for that important meeting or project deadline, it may be helpful to reason that our bosses and co-workers will likely understand since they are in the same boat as we are, instead of worrying endlessly about the ramifications of our unfinished work. And while it is possible that a call to a friend or relative that goes straight to voicemail may mean that he or she is in danger, perhaps that friend or relative simply lost power, or perhaps he or she is making the most of the unplanned "vacation day" with a warm bubble bath or an impromptu family movie night.
During this period of uncertainty, it is important that we all take care of ourselves... and each other... the STOP AND COPE coping tips below are a good place to start.
1. Shift Your Focus - When you're feeling tense or stressed out, you may get the urge to mentally replay your worries over and over in your mind. Shift your focus to something more positive. Remind yourself of something that makes you feel good. This can be a place you find relaxing and peaceful (e.g., a favorite beach or park) or maybe for your kids, a place where they had fun recently (e.g., an amusement park or baseball game).
2. Take Deep Breaths - You can also shift your focus to your body. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down, and concentrate on your bodily sensations and on your breath. Take long, deep breaths from your diaphragm; try inhaling slowly through your nose for five seconds, and then exhaling through your mouth for seven. Exhaling longer than you inhale deepens your breathing, which helps calm your nervous system. To enhance your mindful breathing, you can say a mantra as you focus on your breath (e.g., "one... relax, two... relax"; "breath in calm, breath out stress")
3. Open the Door and Get Some Fresh Air – You've been cooped up for days... of course you're feeling on edge! Go outside, maybe take a short walk (if it's safe where you are), and get some fresh air. Most importantly, get back into your routine as soon as possible. Don't let your stress or fear derail you from getting back on track with the things that you enjoy and the things that are important and fulfilling in your life.
4. Play a Game or Do Something Fun with Your Family - Schools are closed and the nasty weather conditions provide a unique opportunity for family bonding time. How often are we stuck at home, perhaps with no power (e.g., phone, TV, Facebook)? Spend time together as a family, talking, playing board games, building that fort in the living room the kids have been asking about for weeks! Or watch a funny movie together if you do have power. When we're doing something fun - smiling and laughing, it's pretty hard to feel anxious. Find the silver lining and turn this stressful event into a fun and positive family bonding experience that the kids will remember forever.
5. Anxious Thought Busters – When we're feeling stressed out, we have anxious, exaggerated thoughts; we tend to overestimate the likelihood of something bad happening and underestimate our own abilities to cope. Give yourself (and your kids) a pep talk. Identify your anxious thoughts and "talk back" to your "Worry Bully" (we all have one!) by coming up with more helpful, realistic coping thoughts (e.g., "I have been in worse situations than this before and have been able to manage just fine", "What would I tell a friend in this situation?", "I can rely on my friends and family if I need help", "The power will be back on soon")
6. New Adventures – Sometimes we can get stuck in our daily routine and not take the time to stop and think about our overall stress level, how we are balancing our lives, and perhaps scheduling some time for fun. Think of this "down" time as an opportunity to break free from your weekly routine. Start planning some dates for your next family vacation or perhaps a romantic weekend getaway!
7. Draw or Write – Writing down your anxious thoughts can help relieve some of the stress caused by repetitive worry, especially at night before bed when our "Worry Bully" tends to rear its ugly head and disrupt our sleep. Write down your anxious thoughts or fears on a piece of paper, put the paper aside, and re-visit your list in a few hours. Your worried thoughts may not seem so bad in the morning. Coach your kids to write down their worries, as well, or express themselves through drawing.
8. Close Your Eyes and Imagine Your Peaceful Place – Create your own utopia or relaxing place in your mind and go through each sensory experience – what you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. Perhaps make a special soothing playlist for your iPod and play some relaxing music in the background.
9. Open Up to a Parent or Friend - Share your feelings and don't be afraid to ask for help. Encourage your kids to talk about their feelings, as well, and to ask questions if they are feeling scared. Help each other and your neighbors.
10. Problem-Solve – Write down (or say out loud) the steps you are prepared to take to manage stressful situations that may arise (e.g., power outage, road block, running low on food, no public transportation, house or car damage). We are generally better problem-solvers than we give ourselves credit for, especially when we are feeling stressed out. Slow down your thoughts and emotions by following the 5 problem-solving STEPS below:
- Say the Problem
- Think of Solutions
- Examine Each Solution (pros and cons)
- Pick a Solution
- See if it worked
11. Exercise – You haven't made it out to the gym in days, so you probably have some pent up energy. Take a break, walk up and down a few flights of stairs, do some push-ups or sit-ups at home, or sign up for that Zumba or kickboxing class you've been dying to try. No matter what's going on in your life, exercise will always make you feel better. Try it out, and rate your stress level before and after on a scale of 0-10!
This article was written by Adam S. Weissman, Ph.D,the Founder & Executive Director of the Child & Family Institute in Scarsdale and Manhattan. He completed his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, his M.S./Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers, his internship at the NYU Child Study Center, and a 2-year post-doctoral fellowship in child/adolescent psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Weissman is a nationally-recognized expert in CBT for youth anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and ADHD, and an accomplished clinical researcher with nearly 20 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, 3 edited books, and over 50 professional presentations.
Disclaimer: Although Dr. Weissman is a board member of the Westchester County Psychological Association (WCPA), the views in this article are his and not the views of WCPA.
SHS Chorus Performs and Tours in England
- Category: Arts and Entertainment
- Published on 03 March 2015
- Written by Lena Proctor
While most people go on vacation to get away from school, this February, a group of 60 students from the Scarsdale High School Choir took a trip to England with their classmates and teachers. For six days and five nights, the chorus travelled, performed, saw the sights and made memories.
Choral Director and teacher John Cuk organized every moment of what proved to be an excellent trip. He arranged the hotels, the performances, sightseeing and transportation, packing loads of fun into just six days.
We were busy from the moment we landed in London. After an overnight flight, the choir met our tour guides at the airport and started sightseeing right away. We stayed in Oxford for two nights and in Cambridge for three nights and saw a remarkable number of England's most famed sites including:
Windsor Castle: also known as the world's largest occupied castle, we walked through the beautifully detailed and spacious fortress.
Christ Church College: This college at Oxford was the location of several famous scenes from the Harry Potter movies.
The Bodleian Library: while perusing on the courtyards of Oxford colleges, we stopped into England's biggest library, containing a copy of every sing book that has ever been published in England.
Cambridge: A whole day was spent at the university, but we did not out of things to do ... we toured, had lunch and performed with a masterclass of Cambridge students.
Covent Garden: We all enjoyed our visit to Covent Garden where we visited boutiques, souvenir shops, and stores.
Tower of London: highlighted by the famous exhibit of the royal crown jewels, we toured the beautiful tower inside and out and marveled at the view of the Tower and London Bridges.
Victoria and Albert Museum: tour guides shepherded us through the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, currently showcasing their current exhibition of wedding dresses from 1775-modern day.
Visit to Chinatown: for dinner one night, we took a trip to London's Chinatown- just in time for Chinese New Year- and celebrated by having dinner at a traditional Chinese restaurant.
Les Miserables: You can't visit London without going to the theatre – and everyone loved the musical performance of Les Miz at Queens Theatre in London's West End.
St. Paul's Cathedral: On a guided tour, we admired the high, detailed ceilings, and were taken downstairs to the whispering room.
St. Giles' Cripplegate Church of London: We performed with the New London Children's Choir and the Oxford Concerto Orchestra after a warm up-rehearsal in this beautiful spacious Church.
When I asked some fellow friend and performers what they liked most about the trip, it was very hard for them to decide. Sam Rosner, a tenor and also one of the soloists said, "I loved everything... singing in the chapel, and just the city of Oxford in general, and having the free time to explore such an old space with a modern subculture was really amazing. I also really loved meeting the English people, it was nice to get to meet the orchestra we were performing with, as most of them were our age! " Soprano Elizabeth Hansen said, "As cheesy as it is, the last concert really stuck with me. I really think it brought us all together, and we sang beautifully."
For me, I enjoyed making new friends and rehearsing the performing with the chorus. It was also nice to have a break from on phones and computers and to focus on the trip and each other.
On the last day of the trip at our last performance, a wave of sentimentality hit the group. After an amazing week, we all realized that the sound we created over the course of the trip will never be recreated again. The combination of all 60 of our voices created a unique and beautiful sound that each one of us will remember for a lifetime.
Photo Credit: Bella Vierra
Scarsdale Students go to School with Amigos in Madrid
- Category: Local Finds
- Published on 28 February 2015
- Written by Megan Shelton
I have wanted to visit Spain for as long as I can remember. I started learning Spanish when I was in sixth grade and I have been mesmerized by the country's history and culture ever since. That's why I was thrilled to be one of twenty students from Scarsdale High School accepted to participate in the Spanish Exchange Program to Madrid.
For two weeks this past October, twenty American families hosted students from Colegios Ramón y Cajal, a high school in Madrid, Spain in their homes in Scarsdale. In exchange, the Scarsdale students stayed with their exchange student's families in Spain for two weeks in February
Our plane landed in Spain on February eighth at 6:15 AM. We felt groggy and jetlagged after most of us had a sleepless flight, but our chaperones, school psychologist Ernie Collabolletta and Dean Mitchell Thompson, kept us incredibly excited. We all parted ways and started on our adventure, many of us sleeping through most of the first day. Recounting her first day, Danni Hyman, a Scarsdale High School Senior, told me, "I slept from 8 AM - 12 PM and then 6 PM - 8:30 PM and almost forgot to speak Spanish when I woke up!"
The next day (as well as four other days during the trip) was spent at the high school. A typical day there was quite different from a typical day at Scarsdale High School. At Colegios Ramón y Cajal, the older you are, the earlier your classes begin. The girl I lived with is fifteen years old, so her classes begin at nine o'clock. The American students began these school days in the library, a small, square room with five tables, shelves of books lining the perimeter, and a large desk in the back for the librarian to work. After first period, we went to class with our partners. We remained in one classroom for the duration of the day. The teachers change classes instead of the students. At around twelve o'clock, there is a thirty-minute break called "Patio". During this time, students can eat snacks, do homework, etc. Many of the Americans entertained themselves during the break by playing soccer or handball with the younger Spanish students. After Patio, we all went back to class until about two o'clock when it was time for lunch. Many of the students eat lunch at school. There are gates locking all the entrances to the school, so it is very hard for students to come and go as they please.
Lunch lasts for an hour or so, and then class starts up again. School ends every day at 5:15. After school, we would typically spend time with the other Americans and their exchange partners, or attend our partner's extracurricular activities. Dinner is usually eaten around 9:30 or 10 o'clock and ends quite late. It is customary to sit at the table and continue talking after all the food has been cleared.
The food in Spain is very different from food here. Walking up and down the city streets, it seems nearly impossible to find the wide variety of restaurants we are accustomed to in America. Most of the restaurants advertise tapas, chain food like Burger King or VIPS (a chain that sells American food and doubles as a gift shop), or Asian food. In each type of restaurant, there is a typical Spanish dish called a tortilla. These tortillas are not the traditional kind of tortilla we have in America. These tortillas are most similar to a quiche. They are made by whisking egg and potatoes together and frying the mixture. It surprised many of us how often the Spanish students eat at "American" chain restaurants for their full meals. The Spanish students told us they even love to go to these restaurants on nights out with their friends. Different families served a variety of dishes. My family served me a lot of salmon and soup. Steven Berke, a Scarsdale High School Junior, tasted paella for the first time, and says it is now probably his favorite Spanish dish. "I like it because it is very different from any other food I've ever had. The texture of it is so smooth, and everything in it comes together and creates a very exotic yet amazing taste."
What would a trip to Madrid be without some excursions? Our first excursion was to the Prado Museum and the Puerta del Sol. The next day, we visited the ancient city of Toledo, where we saw numerous churches. Many of the boys bought swords, and many of us tried Spanish marzipan for the first time. On Wednesday we visited El Palacio Royal (the Royal Palace), Calle Princesa (Princess Street), and wandered around Gran Vía (the "Times Square" of Madrid). The next day we visited La Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen), Templo de Debod (Temple of Debod), El Escorial (The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial), and the Reina Sofia Art Museum. It was great to finally see and set foot in all of the sites that I've learned about for so many years. Rick Goodman, a Scarsdale High School Junior claims that "the Valle de Los Caidos was one of the most magnificent places I have ever seen. The giant cross in the mountains is almost too big to be real. When a plane flew by the cross, the plane looked microscopic. I have never seen something so big in my life."
The one full weekend we spent in Spain turned out to be a three-day weekend. Each Spanish family did something different with their American exchange students. Some went to cheer on a Real Madrid soccer game, others stayed at a palace, and many spent a day shopping in one of the biggest shopping malls in Madrid, Plaza Norte Segundo, and along Gran Vía.
The experience we had in Spain is truly unlike any other. Samantha Seltzer, a Scarsdale High School Junior, sums it up saying, "We were really able to see how teenagers all around the world are so similar and different at the same time. It was an eye-opening experience that helped to immerse us in the Spanish language and culture and also helped us to see how, looking past a language barrier, these kids aren't so different."
This exchange gave us the opportunity to visit a country and live as if we were real Spanish students; and also allowed us to have an experience quite different than if we had just been visiting a country as tourists with our teachers or families. We were able to forge close bonds with each other, "Dean Mitch" and Ernie, and our Spanish counterparts. These bonds would never have formed without this trip. The compassion and camaraderie that bloomed is completely evident in the final post in our Spanish Exchange Facebook group from Scarsdale High School Senior Robert Lee: "Before I pass out on my bed, I want to say this trip was so much fun and I bonded with so many of you and met the funniest people on the planet. I love all of you and see you on Monday!"
Expansion and Upgrade Planned for the Golden Horseshoe
- Category: Neighborhood News
- Published on 25 February 2015
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Gristedes is on its way out and a new enlarged Seasons market will open in its place at the Golden Horseshoe Shopping Center on Wilmot Road. This is just one of the changes that will come to the Golden Horseshoe where plans have been approved for an expansion, upgrade, and a redesign of the 50+ year-old shopping plaza that sits in both Scarsdale and New Rochelle.
In the next few weeks Gristedes will close its doors and the store will be cleared. Once the space is turned over to the managers, 12,000 square feet of space, adjacent to the post office will be remodeled into a state of the art market by Seasons. Seasons, who owns stores in Kew Gardens, Lawrence and NYC, will build a market to serve the community. Their selections will include fresh fruit and vegetables, sushi, fresh fish, prepared foods, dairy items and a bakery along with the kosher products and meats for observant shoppers. Prices for staples and other groceries will be competitive and Seasons hopes to serve as the neighborhood market for nearby residents. Pictured above is the Seasons store in Lawrence that will serve as a model for the new location.
Seasons General Manager David Gellman expects that construction on the new site will begin in late spring and will take several months. In the interim, the original Seasons will remain open until the new site is ready.
And that's not all...
Once Seasons moves, the section of the shopping center that includes Seasons and the liquor store Cheers will be demolished and replaced with a new 10,000 square foot store. In order to accommodate this expansion, the driveway to the shopping center will be rerouted closer to Wilmot Road – and the parking spaces in the lot that borders Wilmot Road will be moved to the center of the plaza. Managers hope to attract a new drugstore into this new location, especially since the pharmacy in Gristedes will be gone. The liquor store will move to another storefront in the Golden Horseshoe.
Another new building will be added near the Bank of America ATM in the parking lot. The 4,000 square foot building would be ideal for a coffee shop.
The area that now houses the deli section of Gristedes will be remodeled into two additional storefronts.
As part of the upgrade, the sidewalk along Wilmot Road will be expanded up the hill into New Rochelle. There will be new lighting and improvements to the sidewalks in the shopping center and landscaping to make the center friendly and attractive.
Parking will remain at 400 spots, with some behind the stores for employees and deliveries.
This new phase follows a series of improvements that have occurred since the opening of the original plaza in 1956. According to Property Manager Rob Fine, his grandfather, a New Rochelle resident, built the original store –now home to Seasons -- in the 1950's. A strip extending from that store was added in the 60's with the second wing built in the 1980's. The site has been a good one for decades due to the demographics of the local residents, its location across from the JCC of Mid-Westchester, easy access from the Bronx River and Hutchinson River Parkways and ample parking for shoppers.
With this expansion and improvement of the site, the management hopes to attract new retailers who will meet the needs of the community in the 21st century.
From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor: The Story of Martin Greenfield
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 28 February 2015
- Written by Stacie M. Waldman
If you think you've heard enough stories of people who survived the Holocaust, you have not heard Martin Greenfield's story. If you think you've heard enough stories of people who dress celebrities and presidents, you have not heard Martin Greenfield's story. His is a unique and powerful one: one of family, survival, sheer luck, and the belief in the greatness of America. On March 26th, Mr. Greenfield will be speaking at the JCC of mid-Westchester and you won't want to miss the opportunity to hear this man's unforgettable journey from concentration camp victim to master custom men's tailor to Hollywood A-listers and U.S. Presidents.
I was given the honor of being invited to sit for an hour with Mr. Greenfield and hear more about his life story. I arrived at his factory in Brooklyn and was greeted by his son, Jay. Within moments, a stunningly dressed, elegant man with a big smile approached me for a firm handshake and led me to his office. There was not a computer in sight, just stacks and stacks of folders and framed pictures on every inch of wall space. I learned very quickly that the folders contained not only letters from ambassadors and university professors, but also letters from Jews and non-Jews around the world that had been affected by his story.
Although the questions I came prepared to ask reflected the style of his book, (half about his time in concentration camps during the Holocaust and half about his success as a master tailor to celebrities,) I quite quickly put down my notes and just listened. All Mr. Greenfield wanted to talk about was his childhood, his perfect childhood, and his family, and the day his life went from perfect to a series of horrors when the Nazis came and took him and his family away. "Growing up was a lot of fun for the first ten years," Mr. Greenfield told me, "until I had to start wearing the Jewish star on my arm. At age 10, the Russians sent my Czech teacher away and closed my Czech school- they put me in a Russian school. They wanted to send me to a work camp, so my father sent me to Budapest to work to avoid the Russian work camp. I became a different person when we became occupied and I had to wear the star. Before that, in Czechoslovakia, it didn't matter if you were Jewish or gentile, it must mattered that you were a person. I had such a happy childhood. There was always principle in my life- I was taught to bet on myself." He continued to talk about his family, namely his baby brother. "He was only a year old, my baby brother, when I left for Budapest. When I came home three years later he was 4 and all he wanted to do was hold my hand. We slept together in the same bed. He followed me everywhere and never let go. Until we got to Auschwitz. And that was the end of it. The end of him. That's what I couldn't conceive. The Nazi people destroyed my family; my two sisters, my mother, my grandparents, and my baby brother were all sent immediately to the gas chamber to die. My mother was originally sent to go with us but she wouldn't let go of my baby brother, so they were both sent to what was to be their deaths. Mengele made that decision. You know that name? The 'Angel of Death.' The doctor known for his unspeakable medical experiments on the innocents. My father and I were sent to work." Mr. Greenfield wanted to stay with his father but his father insisted that each of them had a chance of survival only if they parted. '"On your own, you will survive,' my father said. If you survive...you must honor us by living, by not feeling sorry for us."
In 1944, at the age of 15, Hitler's army rounded up the Jews of Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia where Mr. Greenfield lived with his family. They had an hour to pack up their belongings (which were handed over as soon as they entered the concentration camp) and were loaded onto a train that took them to a temporary ghetto and then to Auschwitz, the camp known for horrid medical experiments, the gassing then cremation of over a million Jews, and hard labor for the 10% of prisoners (mostly men) that were allowed to survive. "They gave us an hour to pack our things then they rounded us up and put us on a train. My dad was always an important guy- he was bright, he was an engineer, he helped build Czechoslovakia, he even built a synagogue- so we were on the last transport. Maybe my family got to live for two, three, five more days since we were the last transport," he remembered.
I asked Mr. Greenfield if he ever resisted the Nazis. "You could not resist anything," he responded. "If you resisted, you got shot. The one time I resisted they sent a dog after me. It bit my foot and it was bleeding in front of my father. They dragged me back. I still have a scar. They put me in the tailor shop to punish me and that is how I learned the trade. I also learned the power of clothes. I stole the shirt of the Nazi who had beaten me for accidentally ripping his shirt and I wore it in the camp (after I repaired it- my first tailoring lesson) underneath my prisoner's uniform. Wearing it made me realize that clothes possess power. Wearing the shirt helped me survive the camp. And now I am one of the most successful and famous custom men's tailors in America!"
Mr. Greenfield continued to reflect on his family, mostly the male figures in his life. "My grandfather, he was my Hebrew teacher. Part of my religious teaching was to treat all people with respect no matter what. That's why I did not shoot the woman who reported me for taking rotten lettuce out of her injured rabbit's cage." In his book, Mr. Greenfield describes a time when he was at Buchenwald when he was permitted off the grounds for work purposes. He was charged with helping to clean up the local mayor's house that had been bombed. When he got there, he found some pet rabbits, barely alive. As he was literally starving, he saw some brown, slimy lettuce in the rabbits' cage and a half eaten carrot and began to eat it out of desperation. The mayor's wife, carrying a baby on her hip, caught him and shouted at him that she was reporting him immediately. It struck him as particularly cruel given the circumstances, and also because he knew he looked like a skeleton and she had her child there as witness. Mr. Greenfield was severely beaten by an SS soldier immediately, and swore that if he survived Buchenwald, he would come back and seek vengeance on this woman- he would kill her. When he was liberated, on April 11, 1945, he began to formulate his revenge. He secured a machine gun and some friends, found the woman at her house, and with his hand quivering above the trigger, he, in his own words, became human again. "If I had shot her, the wound would have been in my own heart. That's how I was taught- it's written in the Gomorrah. I talked to the woman. I took her outside. I said, 'I am not Mengele. I am angry, but I cannot kill you.' I followed what was taught to me by my family. I have gotten many letters asking why I did not shoot her. I was raised to believe that I would have been as evil as a Nazi had I shot her. I was also taught to always share. There wasn't a Friday night that there wasn't a stranger at our table. One day, I asked my grandma, 'can't we ever eat alone?' She told me that we have enough, so therefore we share. We grew everything we ate and we had animals that sustained us as well. The greatest pleasure I have even today is when I have other people at my table or helping someone else I know needs help."
I asked Mr. Greenfield to tell me about his days after liberation. "My Czech teacher, a gentile, was one of the first people I found when I ventured back to Prague. He said, 'Your father wanted you to be a doctor. I will make you a doctor.' But I was determined to first find my father. It took me two years to find out about my father. He was shot at Buchenwald, where I was also a prisoner along with 89,000 others at the time. My father- he was executed one week before liberation. Only one week. When I was liberated by the Americans, before I knew what happened to my father, I vividly remember feeling such sorrow for those who suffered yet lived only to die right before liberation, during liberation, or shortly after. The Russian communists began to take over and they were almost as bad as the Nazis. They took everything from my family. My father's big, beautiful farm- they took it. Years later I went back to Pavlovo with my son and there were still Russians living there. It was no longer my family's house and farm.
After the war, Mr. Greenfield was sent for in Europe by relatives in America. An arduous boat ride left him on the shores of America in the hands of relatives he had never met. "I moved in with relatives in Baltimore," he said. "My cousins, three little girls, cried when I told them my story. Overnight, I thought, 'If I lived in this country, I wouldn't believe my story, so I'm not gonna talk about it.' I thought about what my dad had taught me and I wanted to honor my dad. 'Don't cry for us, just go on living. Honor us by living. Create our family in whatever you do if I don't survive.' For years I didn't talk bout what I had been through. Many of my big customers didn't know I was a Holocaust survivor- I always had a big smile and having an accent was commonplace. I didn't talk about it until a gathering in Washington, D.C. The Holocaust Museum was created and people started telling their stories. I did the Shoah [an audiovisual testimony] so my son's could have my story on tape. It took me until I was 86 years old to write a book."
"My relatives in Baltimore bought me my first GGG suit," he recalled. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Greenfield moved to New York and began working at GGG as a floor boy, eventually moving up the management chain. Thirty years later, he owned the company and changed the name to Martin Greenfield Clothiers. A very short list of the people he has dressed includes Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, Clinton, and Obama; Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.; Martin Scorsese, Jimmy Fallon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Ben Affleck, Michael Strahan, Kobe Bryant, Patrick Ewing, Conan O'Brien, Eddie Cantor, Sir Ben Kingsley, Al Pacino, Paul Newman, and the list goes on and on and on.
Asked about the response to his book, Mr. Greenfield became reflective and teary-eyed. "The book has been such a big hit. I can't believe it. Ambassadors invite me to lunch at their embassies. People want to talk to me. I get invited all over. In Texas, they have the book in one of the high schools and kids from the school have been writing me letters. They're not Jews. It's just incredible. You've got to read these letters. From China, from Buffalo, from all over, I don't know where to keep the letters any more. I can't answer every one. But I keep them all. Here, read this letter from a painter down south." I paused and read the letter. "Look what my book did for him. His letter made me cry. Look what he says. For this alone, if the book helped one person, isn't that something?" he asked. Mr. Greenfield proceeded to take the letter from me when I was done and reread it. A tear dripped down his cheek even though this was his second, third, or fourth time reading the same letter. It's impossible to get through his book without crying, yet here was Mr. Greenfield, Holocaust survivor and tailor to presidents, crying while rereading a letter from a stranger. "I got a letter from an 11 year-old that wants to become me. You wouldn't believe how an 11 year-old could write a letter like this. A 13 year-old relative wants me to be on the pulpit with him for his Bar Mitzvah." For several more minutes, Mr. Greenfield had me read letters from strangers who had been moved by his book. Many were hand written, some were emails that had been printed. They are all kept by Mr. Greenfield in manila folders piled on his desk surrounded by signed boxing gloves, basketballs, and pictures.
I couldn't leave without asking Mr. Greenfield about dressing so many famous people for so many years. He had even recently provided over 600 suits for "Boardwalk Empire." But he didn't have much interest in talking about that. "Being in the shop is my greatest pleasure. I know I won't be around forever so I'm teaching the younger people. I still do as much myself as I can." Although proud of his work, he seems to want his story to be his legacy more than his famous line of suits with his name on them. I had a quick tour of the factory and gave this miracle of a man a hug before he sat down on a century-old stool to eat Chinese food with his factory workers.
You can purchase Martin Greenfield's book on Amazon and you can come here him talk at a special event at the JCC of Mid-Westchester on March 26th from 7:30-9:00 PM.
A Stellar Season for the Raiders Boys Swim Team
- Category: Good Work
- Published on 03 March 2015
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
The fact that Scarsdale High School has no pool has not hampered the success of the school's stellar boys swimming team. This year they won the conference, the section and placed second at the state meet in Ithaca on February 28-29.
It doesn't get much better than this. Coach Tim Callahan, who has been coaching the team for more than 20 years explained that it "all has to do with the kids." Callahan said that 15 of the swimmers and divers on the team train year-round and said, "the kids are getting faster."
The team trains at the pool at Westchester Community College five days per week during the season and they got off to a winning start at the annual Relay Carnival which was held at White Plains in December. Ten teams participated and Scarsdale broke some records and excelled.
For their dual meets, the team's record was an impressive 8-0 and they have been undefeated in dual meets for five years in a row.
At the Conference meet in December, Scarsdale won for the fifth year in a row.
The medley relay team of Ryan Lee, Charlie McFarland, his brother Tanner Mcfarland, and Thomas Cook took first place. Senior Josh Hendell came in second in the 200 freestyle, and David Bravo won the individual medley where one swimmer swims all four strokes. Evan Moretti won the conference diving championship for the second year in a row.
Until this year, Scarsdale has never won the Section 1 swimming and diving tournament, placing third last year and second two years ago. So Callahan was especially proud to share the results from this year's tournament where Scarsdale placed first for the first time. The meet was exciting as Scarsdale and rival Horace Greeley were vying for the top spot, and the pendulum swung with each race. Graham Novich helped clinch the title when he competed in the consolation finals in the 100 yard butterfly against three Horace Greely students who were all seeded ahead of him. He won the race bringing six points to Scarsdale.
Also at the sections, the 400 yard freestyle relay team of Josh Hendell, David Bravo, Haofeng Liu and Charlie McFarland broke a school record, placed third and helped to win the title.
Diver Evan Moretti took home first place in the diving championship for the second year in a row.
The team was then onto the states at Ithaca College on February 28 and 29, where they brought nine teammates, the most that Scarsdale has ever sent to the state championship.
The boys excelled:
- Diver Evan Moretti took the silver medal in the NYS diving championship
- Josh Hendell came in fourth in the 500 yard freestyle,
- Charle McFarland broke a school record in the 50 yard freestyle and placed 7th overall in the state and also came in 3rd in the 100 yard breast stroke, breaking his own school record.
Commenting on the season, brothers Charlie and Tanner McFarland said, "The season could not have been any better. The team accomplished all the goals we set at the beginning of the season. We were undefeated for the 5th year in a row, won our 5th consecutive divisional title, and capped off the season with Scarsdale's first Section 1 Swimming title. Evan Moretti set a new Section 1 record with his victory in diving and Charlie set a new Section 1 record when he won the 100 breast. Everyone contributed and swam personal bests. We sent a record number of swimmers to the state championships in Ithaca (9). It was an exciting and fast meet, and we were very competitive. We finished 6th overall. Some team highlights - Evan Moretti took 2nd in the diving, Charlie was 3rd in the 100 breast, setting a new school record. His time puts him up for All American consideration. He was 7th in the 50 freestyle, Josh Hendell was 4th in 500 free and 13th in the 200 free and the medley relay team of Ryan Lee, Charlie and Tanner McFarland and Tom Cooke placed 13th, setting a new school record and the 400 free relay team of Josh Hendell, David Bravo, Haofeng Liu and Charlie McFarland placed 12th.