Letter to the Editor: Painters Are Covering Up the Problems at Greenacres While Kids Are In School
- Category: Schools
- Published on 08 December 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
This letter about the Greenacres School was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Andy Taylor of Walworth Avenue: I have now written and spoken several times to the school board. There is a school board meeting on Monday night that I won't be able to attend and there are rumors that the board is going to continue to punt on making a decision on Greenacres, even after all this time. It is because of this that I write this letter. Importantly, I'm not only speaking on behalf of my family, but a number of other Scarsdale residents (not exclusively Greenacres) who agree with my point of view.
None of these core issues have been addressed during the "pause", so rather than rehash these issues, I copied them below. I write to point out a few things occurring recently at Greenacres.
Below are pictures taken in the last couple of weeks and again today. As you can see below, facilities workers are covering up one of the issues that regularly comes up at such an antiquated facility. Despite a roof that has had its "life extended", the darnedest thing keeps happening. Water leaks from the roof, down through the walls, bubbles up paint, and in this case, paint was scraped off and an ongoing attempt to resurface the walls. This opened up the subsurface, which was left open while students were and continue to be present. This is just the latest example of what you get with a structure that is way past its useful life. It's challenging to keep up the facility and stuff happens while students are present. It's just the reality. We can make all manner of proclamation, but think of the unknown and the exposures that will assuredly happen during a three year renovation, however perfectly planned. Think of the money that will continue to be poured down the drain over the coming decades, trying to desperately hold on to a relic that is over 100 years-old, in a B1 scenario. I don't know what precautions were taken to keep students away from this, but I didn't observe any barriers. Was there any lead paint testing done prior to opening up the walls? I don't know, but I do know that any refurbishment of that facility provides poor value to Scarsdale and puts an undue burden on the Greenacres community, and takes unnecessary health risks with the kids.
If following the "pause" on the elementary school in Greenacres, we end up with anything that resembles B1, not only will this Greenacres resident vote down the bond to finance that ridiculous project. I speak for a large and continuously growing block of Scarsdale residents who plan to do the same. Further, if the school board doesn't step up and do what is right for the kids, and tries to table Greenacres in favor of other capital projects, this same block is prepared to vote down all bonds and budgets until the board steps up. This is truly unfortunate and completely unnecessary, but the school board to date seems more concerned with politics than with their charge, and the community cannot let apathy trump what is best for the village.
Here are observations from my prior email:
B1 Poses a Greater Risk to Children and Faculty
At the meeting the other night, it was inferred that there was no risk to the children. The idea that regulations alone will ensure child safety is quaint. 1) regulations get broken. Well meaning general contractors aren't enough. Nearly all of this work will end up being partitioned down to various subcontractors for the lowest cost. FACT: cutting corners happen on nearly all commercial construction jobs due to speed and/or cost constraints. FACT: even with the best of intentions, accidents can happen. 2) how does anyone know what they are going to find until they start opening up the ceilings, floors, and walls of this very old structure? Ignoring the high likelihood of costly change orders for a minute, once this is all disturbed the risk of measurements that exceed limits in periods beyond the construction goes up. What are the implications if a breach occurs? What is the safety impact? What is the impact on costs? I've read examples of where school facilities are shutdown for a year or more until things get corrected. Spend 5 minutes online looking up asbestos and schools and you will find out like I did that teachers are over index for mesothelioma (asbetos-related cancer.)
Takeaway 1 - the risk of unintended consequences for B1 greatly outweighs C1.
B1 versus C1 budgets
I contacted an unbiased and uninvolved expert in commercial construction to get his views on the relevant proposals. I had no further relayed the choices (new build versus refurbishment of 100 year old building) when he offered up and I quote, ".... refurbished building will be much more difficult to judge how far over budget it could go." The point is there much greater uncertainty on project execution for B1. Then, unprompted he offered up this, "asbestos abatement contractors are really good at letting costs get out of control." When relayed that $285k was budgeted in the proposal for asbestos abatement, he literally laughed out loud and said well that will go way up.
Takeaway 2 - the certainty of C1 being done on time and on budget is significantly higher than B1.
B1 Construction Logistics
During the presentation the other night it became clear how little thought B1 has given to the day to day running of a school during 3 years of construction. So is the plan to march students outside and across the street and then around the active construction a few times each day for specials and lunch? Through in the rain, cold, snow? What sort of distraction to the kids day will this be? Where will all the wet coats and boots go when coming into the main building for lunch for instance?
Takeaway 3 - B1 is going to create very significant unanticipated distractions and burden on kids and staff who will have to navigate a construction site for a big chunk of their tenure at Greenacres School.
Operating and Maintenance Costs of B1 Exceed C1 and Ignore Useful Lives:
The architect acknowledged that a new sustainable design like C1 will have lower operating and maintenance costs although to my knowledge no one has provided an estimate. This ignores the amortization of the upfront capital costs over the useful life (B1 will have a shorter useful life than C1, adjust the upfront costs accordingly). The commercial expert I referenced above gave me some cost estimates for new efficient construction. With that and the guidance that the architect references in the preliminary evaluation last year and again referenced at the meeting last week, one can roughly estimate the costs. Let me help out with the math. If opex savings are as little as $200k lower per year, that is the equivalent of $4mm in upfront costs.
Takeaway 4 - the BOE needs to identify and include operating expenses, maintenance expenses and useful life to make an economic comparison. When this is done, the perceived gap in upfront costs between B1 and C1 will shrink or likely go negative when considering useful life.
A renovation places an unacceptably high burden on the children and community of Greenacres while STILL coming in short of the model program requirements. C1 saves the green and is the only solution offered that provides value to Scarsdale. Put politics aside. It seems that following the revised C1 proposal, the "Save the Green" crowd has thinned out and now opponents to a new school seem to be solely from those who live on adjacent lots and fiscal hawks who don't want to spend any money on anything. Give the children in Greenacres what they deserve and the residents of Scarsdale the value they require.
Firefighters Recover the Body of Missing Man After Sunday House Fire on Boulevard
- Category: Shout it Out
- Published on 06 December 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Police recovered the body of the missing victim of a fire at 174 Boulevard at 2:30 pm on Monday afternoon 12/5. The man was later identified by the Westchester County Medical Examiner as Dr. John Salimbene who lived, worked and ultimately died in the house as a result of a fire on Sunday afternoon December 4.
Salmibene, age 85, is survived by seven children and twelve grandchildren. His funeral will be held at Immacualte Heart of Mary Church on Carman Road at 10 am on Monday December 12.
Scarsdale Fire Chief Jim Seymour suspects that Salimbene was overcome by smoke in the house when the roof collapsed into the second floor, which fell into the first floor of the house where Salimbene's body was found under a pile of rubble. Though firefighters made several forays into the house during the fire to search for victims, they saw no sign of Salimbene.
Seymour says that firefighters were severely hampered in their efforts to fight the fire by excessive clutter throughout the house. Seymour warned of the dangers of clutter and said that heavy machinery had been brought in to assist with the search.
Salimbene's wife Marie, was taken out of the house by a good samaritan and she remains at Westchester Medical Center where she is being treated for burns.
This was the first time that a life was lost in an accidental fire in Scarsdale since 1976.
(see more here)
The 2016 Guide to Holiday Tipping and Gifting
- Category: The Goods
- Published on 06 December 2016
- Written by Stacie M. Waldman
If you scroll through community Facebook groups during this time of year, you'll find post after post from people asking about tipping and gifting during the holidays. What is the average that people tip in our town for the holidays? To whom do people give tips, gifts or simple notes of gratitude? How the heck do you even tip sanitation workers when you leave for work before they come to take away your trash? There are no right or wrong answers, although policies do exist for some companies and government agencies regarding what their employees are allowed to accept.
Part of the joy of the holiday season for many is the opportunity to say thank you to those who impact your life in a positive way or provide a service to you on a regular basis. Gifting and tipping is often done out of obligation but one should not feel obligated to give. If gift giving is not within your budget, a note expressing your genuine gratitude is enough and should be appreciated by even the "scroogiest". Even if it is within your budget, give some thought to whom you are tipping and why you are tipping them.". Have you ever tipped or given a gift to a receptionist at a doctor's office or the school nurse who goes out of her way to help you? Sometimes the people who expect something the least are the most gracious," said a Quaker Ridge resident.
The Emily Post etiquette website cautions, do not buy into the thought that if you don't tip you won't get good service for the coming year. If you think you've had bad service for this reason, you might want to...speak directly to a manager. The site also adds: Tipping is one of the most stressful and confusing aspects of etiquette today. It is a...way to show appreciation for a job well done; however, treating the person who has served you with respect is every bit as important.
*Not included in the table here are day care providers as only 17% of respondents use this service. Mostly people gave a small gift or cash valued under $50. Dog walkers were seldom used (15% of respondents have dog walkers) but those who do give a small gift or a week's pay. About 23% of people have a valet and most give some small acknowledgement of thanks such as a note, small gift, between $10-$50. Personal trainers commonly receive cash gifts of $51-$100, but some people will give a full week's pay. Doctors were the least likely to receive any sort of holiday gift from their patients. Of the 74 respondents to this question, 6 give a small gift, 2 write notes, and a few give gifts valued between $25-$100.
The Nanny: Most people give a nanny a gift equivalent to one week's pay or more (72%). Typical is one to two week's pay as a bonus. A working mom of three said, "My nanny makes my life so much easier for us and makes it possible for us to maintain our careers, so we give her a very generous 2.5 week bonus."
The Housekeeper: The majority of people have housekeepers (83%) and gift their housekeepers a week's pay as a holiday gift. Of those who have a housekeeper, an additional 16% give a gift valued over $25. "My housekeeper works hard for us and is reliable," said a Fox Meadow resident, "so I like to show my gratitude with an extra week of pay so she can afford to get her kids or herself a little something extra around the holidays. I usually include a gift just for her like perfume."
The Sitter: Half of those who responded to the survey have babysitters and usually give an extra week of pay to their sitter. Another 25% give between $26-$50. Some give a gift, with 50% of respondents spending under $25 and the balance spending more than $25. You may want to consider how often you use your babysitter to determine how you'd like to acknowledge them. A handmade gift or card from your kids is also something to consider.
The Boss: Half of respondents have no boss, but for those who do, more than half do not get them a gift. About a quarter of people will give their boss a gift valued under $25.
The Hairdresser and manicurist: Most people (91%) have a hairdresser as well as a regular person for manicures and pedicures. Of those, 25% give nothing and 25% give cash or a gift under $25; 10% give between $25-50, 20% give between $51-100, and 5% give between $100-$200. If you go to your regular hairdresser to get your hair done during the holidays, it is appropriate to give a bigger tip than usual (and up to the cost of the hair treatment). The same goes for a manicurist/pedicurist.
The Teacher: Schoolteachers often receive small gifts during the holidays. Of the respondents, 22% do not have children in school. Of the 78% that do, 12% give nothing and 40% give a gift valued under $25. Another 15% of those people who have kids in school give teachers a gift valued over $25, a monetary gift between $10-25, or a monetary gift of $26-50. Interestingly, two people gave teachers a cash gift of between $51-100 and one person gave over $200 to teachers. Although it is possible that these parents have children in private school with different policies, Scarsdale school policy states that class parents can ask for contributions of up to $10 per family for a group gift for the teacher and individual gifts must remain under $15.
The Bus Driver/Monitor: Just over half of respondents have a bus driver and monitor for their kids and most people give a small gift or cash valued under $25. Many parents will pitch in together to get the driver and monitor bigger gifts (average is about $10 each for driver and monitor.)
The Trash Guys: Scarsdale's Department of Sanitation has a policy stating that sanitation workers cannot accept or solicit monetary gifts. However, we certainly love our sanitation workers as they are the most tipped of any surveyed group; 94% of people give a monetary gift to their sanitation workers. Almost 10% of people give gifts valued under $25 and 14% give gifts valued over $25. Of those that give cash, 16% give between $10-$25, 24% give between $26-$50, 22% give between $51-$100, and 8% give between between $101-$200. These dollar amounts are per sanitation worker. One person gives over $200 and another gives the equivalent of a week's pay. If you're going to give the sanitation workers a gift, some people recommend taping a note onto the garbage cans on trash day requesting they ring the doorbell to hand them their acknowledgement directly, ensuring the right people receive the gift. Many people worry about people other than sanitation workers walking around and grabbing envelopes taped to trash cans. One mom posted on the Scarsdale Moms Facebook page that she went out of her way to drop cash off at the sanitation office for the people who haul her trash and they never got it. This might be due to the village policy. Another person told me that she chooses not to tip sanitation workers because they are salaried employees with benefits and are not dependent on tips. "They're not people who I have a relationship with and who provide me with a special service, so I don't feel the need to give them money beyond what I pay indirectly through taxes. On the other hand, I give holiday gifts to the people who help me out on a regular basis and never get acknowledged like my pediatrician who calls me back in less than ten minutes, solving minor problems and saving me countless trips to the office."
The Postman: Mail carriers are also usually acknowledged during holiday time, although the United States Postal Service (USPS) does not allow mail carriers to accept cash gifts, checks, or any other form of currency. They may accept snacks and beverages, gifts valued under $20 including gift cards to a specific retailer, or gift baskets that can be shared with other staff. That being said, only 12% of respondents give a gift valued under $25. More commonly, people give cash: 33% give between $10-25, $19% give between $26-50, 7% give between $51-$200, and three people actually give between $101-$200. Has anyone ever received a note from their mail carrier saying, "My apologies, USPS policy states I cannot accept cash..."? I didn't think so. My own mail carrier leaves me an envelope saying "happy holidays" on it with his address. It's even stamped! I personally find that to a be a bit aggressive considering the postal service's policy.
The Delivery People (Newspaper, FedEx, UPS): Newspaper deliverers commonly receive cash, between $10-25. Private delivery people (FedEx and UPS) may accept monetary and non-monetary gifts. Again, these are salaried employees with benefits so one should not feel obligated to tip even if they receive many packages throughout the year.
The Dry Cleaner: More than half of respondents don't give anything to their dry cleaner attendant. Those that do might give a small gift, gift card, or some extra cash with a pick-up.
The Gardener: Two-third of us don't go out of their way to give anything to the gardener. Those that do, though, most often give a gift valued over $25 or cash ($51-100). I wonder if more people would tip their gardeners if Christmas came in the springtime!
The Admin: A third of respondents have secretaries/administrative assistants. The survey results were all over the place and 10% give nothing. Some give over $200, some give less than $25, and there are lots of people who gave something in the middle or a gift versus cash. Sorry folks, there's really no average here or suggested gift value.
The Handyman: Handymen were the most likely to receive a simple note or card saying "thanks." Of the 40% of people who have a regular handyman, more than half do nothing. Another handful of people give a gift valued at less than $25, cash $51-$100, or cash $101-$200. Again, if your handyman is working around the holidays for you or really goes out of his way for you, it is nice to show your appreciation in some form.
Coaches, Tutors, Extracurricular Instructors: Although not included in the survey, many people wrote in to say that they do give their kids or their own instructor a holiday bonus or gift. Of those who choose to do so, most give the equivalent of one coaching, tutoring, or extracurricular session. "Every year I have my kids make cards for their teachers outside of school like their dance instructor and Spanish tutor. They're so appreciative of the time my kids take to do this."
Several people commented that they give gifts to others as well: groomers, milkmen, vets, gym instructors, and tennis professionals. Sometimes a bunch of people who regularly take a class will collect money from anyone wanting to pitch for a group gift. As far as groomers and dog walkers, many people will give a bonus if the person regularly attends to their pet.
A few people wrote in to say that instead of traditional "tipping" during the holidays, they donate to charity in the names of those who have provided a service and lets them know by giving them cards expressing gratitude.
There are many questions we can ask ourselves about the whole process of gifting to people other than family and friends: Why do we typically tip our sanitation workers but not the school janitor when sanitation workers are paid significantly more? They are both salaried government workers. Why do we give a holiday bonus to the relatively well-paid UPS delivery guy who has company-provided benefits but not the dishwashers at the restaurant we go to every week?
These survey results provide guidelines for what people in our community typically give to others during the holiday time and whom they gift. Remember, there is no "right amount," to give or obligation to give at all. This holiday season, I encourage you all to give a small gift, gift card, or "tip" to one person who doesn't typically receive a holiday gift. After years of doing this, I can say for certain it feels like a good deed and might make all the difference in one person's day.
Shop Local for a Host of Holiday Gifts
- Category: Around Town
- Published on 07 December 2016
- Written by Joanne Wallenstein
Shop Scarsdale for holiday gifts for all your favorite people, from family, to friends, teachers, helpers and more. See recommended gifts from this select group of local merchants:
Current Home is the place to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Looking for something unique and special? Feast your eyes on this gorgeous acrylic backgammon set! Not only is this ancient game fun for the whole family, this set will look beautiful when not in use and simply on display in your home. Comes complete with a set of dice, chips and cups. Other colors available. If you're looking for a gift that is more personal, they offer customized throw blankets that everybody loves. Stop by the store to see their many other options for holiday gifts.
Current Home,1096 Wilmot Road in the Golden Horseshoe Shopping Center, 914-723-2462, www.currenthomeny.com.
Daniele Trissi, one of Westchester's most prestigious jewelry stores carries handmade 18k gold and platinum jewelry, with diamonds and precious colored stones. Also find exclusive watch brands including Breguet, Carl F. Bucherer and Parmigiani.
Diamond band: Hand made 18k white gold double row flexible ring, set with 20 full cut diamonds, F color VVS. 2.75kt total weight. $8,900.
Sapphire ring: Hand Made Platinum ring, set with one non-heated blue Ceylon sapphire, 10.32kt, total weight, and 12 full cut diamonds, 3.50kt, H, VS1.$95,000.
Daniele Trissi, 14-16 Spencer Place, Scarsdale, (914)723-4500, www.danieletrissi.com.
Eye Gallery: Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors! Come into the Eye Gallery in Scarsdale for these shades plus many other new sunglasses and regular optical glasses too. Sunglasses make the best holiday gift! Check out these new shades:
(Top to bottom: Chanel, Barton Perreira, and Dita) Priced from $375 and up.
Eye Gallery of Scarsdale, 8 Spencer Place, Scarsdale. (914) 472-2020,
La Dentelliere is a European-inspired emporium featuring an abundance of items of elegance, grace and charm, all hand selected by the owner Michelle Anderson. In this extraordinary boutique you can find unique gifts, Florentine chandeliers, Limoges, jewelry and quality table linens from France and Italy. There is always a large display of unique picture frames, ready made and custom dried florals, Provence pottery, French antique tole teapots and decorative hand painted trays. Aromatherapy is prominently featured with room diffusers, atomizers, candles and potpourri. Wine accouterments, bar and table glassware, tabletop, home accessories and men's gifts are also offered.
La Dentelliere, 20 East Parkway, Scarsdale, (914) 723-2902
Valsey and Me offers single use soaps, handmade from olive and natural essential oils. Individually wrapped, they can be customized with a name or a phrase for personalized gift-giving. Choose from eight unique scents: Apple cider, lavender oatmeal, milk almond and honey, white grapefruit, strawberries and cream, cinnamon orange, lemon verbena and cranberry rose. You can mix and match the scents or order exclusively one. In honor of Valsey and Me's 10th anniversary, customers are being treated to 25% off all soap orders before December 20th. Visit www.valseyandme.com and enter code Holiday10583 at checkout.
Wyatt Lily: Holiday and custom gift ideas for everyone on your list, newborn to 14. Owner Rachel Uchitel hand-picks inventory, paying special attention to fabric quality and fit. Plus, check out their award-winning gift collection - New York magazine named them "Best Kids Presents," and the store has also been featured in People Magazine, Moms Magazine, and Stroller Traffic. See their custom clothing for the perfect unique gift for your favorite littles! Peruse their Instagram feed for the latest styles, then call or come on by to shop. They can't wait to meet you!
Limited edition, private label fashion onesies and baby tees for the chicest baby on the block! Newborn to 24M, onesies, 12M to 24M, tees $38
Wyatt Lily, 1 Chase Rd, Scarsdale, 914-472-1930, WyattLily.com.
Zachys: 'Tis the season... to gift wine! Impress the wine enthusiast in your life with Gifts By Zachys: Curated Gifts, Delivered; three-bottle wine packages hand selected by the staff that are guaranteed to satisfy. With over 15 gifts to choose from, which vary by region and varietal, they recommend these selections with a little "holiday flare!" Featuring a bubbly, white and red, our themed "Holiday Packages" begin at $75. Visit Zachys in-store or online to shop the full selection.
Premium Holiday Package (#406756)
Colet Navazos Cava Brut Reserva 2008 (92WA)
Chablis Montmains William Fevre 2013 (92WE)
Chateauneuf du Pape Halos de Jupiter Philippe Cambie 2008 (91 SWJ)
Zachys, 16 East Parkway, Scarsdale, (914) 874-8000.
Scarsdale Residents Bring Good, Clean Eats to Downtown
- Category: On Our Radar
- Published on 05 December 2016
- Written by Jordana Rothstein White
There's a new health food joint in town and two Scarsdale residents are taking charge in the kitchen!
When Organic Pharmer of Rye Ridge opened a second location on Garth Road earlier this year, it gave Chefs Lee and Darleen Gross the chance to work a whole lot closer to home.
While Organic Pharmer's gluten, dairy, soy, corn and egg-free menu items are intended for grab-and-go meals, its soups, salads, snacks, wraps, breakfast options and juice cleanses are also available for delivery in and around Westchester (some restrictions apply, check the website for details.) Better yet, the Organic Pharmer team now offers catering services for small and large parties—with as little as 48 hours notice, an impeccably prepared, fresh whole food meal can be at your door for guests to enjoy!
Excited about the prospect of lighter, flavorful fare in our own backyard, we sat down with the husband-and-wife chef team to learn more about the food they're making and the steps the whole Organic Pharmer team is taking to make Scarsdale that much healthier (and tastier!)
Q: After culinary school you trained at the Kushi Institute, a macrobiotic education center. Can you explain to our readers what macrobiotic eating is all about?
LG: Macrobiotics, in a nutshell, is a method of changing the world through food. In order to change society, you need to change thought processes, which come from the body, which is fueled by food...Basically, macrobiotics makes you see that you are what you eat, which translates to basic dietary techniques—the principle that you should eat a mostly plant-based diet with lots of whole, natural foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, much like the food we offer at Organic Pharmer.
Q: Organic Pharmer counts Dr. Susan Blum, founder of the Blum Center for Health, as part of its team. How closely do you collaborate with her on menu planning?
LG: Darleen and I work hand-in-hand with Dr. Blum. Our menu is seasonal and changes frequently. As chefs, we generate ideas for new dishes, then coordinate with Susan to make sure that the nutritional profile is in line with the macro nutrient and calorie counts she recommends.
Q: What's your must-have dish at the store?
DG: The Kale and Cauliflower salad is one of the most popular items on our menu. It gets great crunch from our croutons and roasted cauliflower, and lots of creamy, 'cheesy' goodness thanks to aged cashew cheese and an almond flaxseed 'pharmesan' based dressing. So tasty and only 250 calories!
Q: In addition to meals and snacks, Organic Pharmer offers a variety of cleanses. What advice do you give to cleansers trying to select a program?
DG: We have so many customers who cleanse regularly, and will come and do any one of our juice cleanses once a month. But for new cleansers, especially if you're trying to get healthy after over-indulging through the holidays, I'd highly recommend one of our juice and food cleanses. A cleanse that involves food is a bit more familiar to people that are new to cleansing, so they feel less deprived. Especially when it's cold outside, it's nice to have a cleanse option that doesn't just leave you sipping ice cold drinks all day!
Q: Speaking of the holidays, what special offerings do you have for this time of year?
DG: From now through the end of the year, we're making a sweet potato casserole that's a great alternative to those calorie-heavy sweet potatoes with marshmallows. With a pecan pumpkin-seed streusel topping, it makes a perfect sweet and savory side dish. We're also making gluten free croutons from our sprouted "sorghum sandwich bread." When you pick them up at the store, we even give you the recipe for a wild rice and sorghum stuffing that uses the croutons as a base!
Q: Before we let you go, we have to ask: how does it feel to be living and working in Scarsdale?
LG: I actually grew up around here, so it's great to be near family. The schools are wonderful and we're really enjoying the close-knit community. It's also kind of neat to be back on Garth road by the 7-11 where I used to hang out—it's like old times! But, in all seriousness, it's just nice to feel like we're helping bring vibrancy, fun and new life to Scarsdale's downtown.
Organic Pharmer Scarsdale is located at 28 Garth Road, open Monday-Friday, 7am - 6pm,Saturday, Sunday and Holidays, 8am - 5pm. For more information call 914-574-5590 or visit http://www.organicpharmer.com.