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NYS Supreme Court Reverses Lower Court Decision Regarding Leon Behar and Quaker Ridge Golf Club

brittanyA NYS Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Quaker Ridge resident who charged that flying golf balls teed off from the club's second hole were careening into his yard and denying him use of his property. The resident lives on Brittany Close in a home that was built on a piece of the original Winston Estate that borders the Quaker Ridge Golf Club. The club was built in 1918 and the new development went up almost a century later when Gail and Leon Behar Behar bought their home in 2008. Many of the trees that originally shielded the property from the golf course came down during storms or were removed when the Behar's put in a pool.

The case dates back to 2009 when the Behars of 8 Brittany Close in Scarsdale asked the Village of Scarsdale for a variance to construct a 40-foot fence to shield them from flying golf balls. At that time they claimed that during one seven-day stretch 69 golf balls flew into their yard. The Scarsdale Board of Appeals denied the Behars the right to build the fence in March 2010 which neighbors contended would be an eyesore. Behar then retained attorney Julius Cohn who took the case to the State Supreme Court where the judge recommended that the club build not a 40-foot fence, but a 60-foot fence with Behar contributing $10,000 to the cost. In June 2010 the matter went before the Scarsdale Planning Board where the Homeowner's Association objected to a 60-foot fence saying it was unsightly and argued that a 40-foot fence surrounded by trees would suffice.

Until the matter could be resolved use of the second hole of the golf course was restricted.

In November 2010 the Planning Board asked the club to build a 40-foot screen and to plant a stand of 35-foot Armstrong Maple trees on the club's side of the screen. The fence was to stay up for five years until the trees grew in to shield the property. This fence was erected and it appeared that the matter was resolved.

However, apparently the 40-foot fence did not do the trick. Behar says there are still "an inordinate number of balls coming on to his property." He and his attorney Julius Cohn continued to pursue the matter in court and on June 18, 2014 the NYS Supreme Court issued a decision in Behar's favor. The found that Quaker Ridge Club had "failed to reduce the number of golf balls landing on the plantiff's property producing a tangible and appreciate injury to the property that renders its enjoyment especially uncomfortable and inconvenient."

They found that Quaker Ridge was trespassing on the Behar's property as "golf balls have invaded their property with such frequency and over such a long period of time, without Quaker Ridge taking steps to sufficiently abate the situation, so as to amount to willfulness."

They said Quaker Ridge was negligent in it's operation of its golf course in relation to the Behars' property and held ".......that Quaker Ridge breached its duty to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance and use of its property to prevent foreseeable injury that might occur on adjoining property by failing to take precautions in design and location, in the form of play, or in the erection of protective devices as a safeguard against injury to the plaintiffs' property."

The court overturned the previous ruling that blamed the problem on the Behar's decision to remove trees, saying "Contrary to the Supreme Court's determination, Quaker Ridge did not establish that the plaintiffs were bound by a tree preservation plan, or that the plaintiffs' conduct in failing to preserve trees on their property was the sole proximate cause of the condition underlying their claims of nuisance, trespass, and negligence.

As a consequence, the Club is permanently "enjoined from operating its golf course in a manner which constitutes a private nuisance and causes a trespass upon the Behar's property."

How the club is required to avoid being a nuisance is not clear from this ruling and will be left to another court to decide. However, the Behar's can now seek monetary compensation for the loss of the use of their property and these damages will be decided in a subsequent hearing.

Commenting on the decision, Behar said, "Quaker Ridge Golf Club knowingly prevented me from using the outside of my home or over 6 years. Four Appellate Division judges used the word 'willfulness' in describing the actions of the Club. Moreover, those same four judges found Quaker Ridge Golf Club liable for their actions and in breach of their duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injury. This decision has restored my family's faith in our legal system and I am confident that a Westchester jury will ensure that I am adequately compensated for the loss of the use of our home for the last 6 years and for the unnecessary hardship and fear that Quaker Ridge Golf Club intentionally imposed on my family."

Calls to the Club's manager and their attorney's were not returned.

Richard Rockefeller Dies in Small Plane Crash in Harrison

RockefellerThe Journal News is reporting that Richard Rockefeller, the 64 year-old son of banker David Rockefeller died Friday morning when the single engine plane he was flying crashed into trees on Cottage Avenue in Purchase. He took off in his Piper Meridian single engine turbo prop plane from Westchester Airport early this morning and crashed at 8:08 am. No one else was on the plane. Rockefeller was a doctor and an experienced pilot and was scheduled to fly to Portland, Maine presumably to return home to Falmouth, Maine. At the time of the accident the weather was foggy and rainy.

Until 2000 Dr. Rockefeller practiced medicine as a family doctor in Falmouth and then started to work on global health causes. He was married and had two grown children. According to family spokesman Fraser Seitel, Richard Rockefeller, who was a grandson of John D. Rockefeller, had dinner with father David on Thursday night to celebrate his father's 99th birthday.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, and Westchester Airport Manager Peter Scherrer, as well as public safety officials from Westchester County and the Town of Harrison have planned a press conference at 12:30 pm on Friday to answer questions about the crash.

Read more here: 

Tyler Defends Revaluation Methodology in Scarsdale

tyler1A large crowd turned out on Thursday May 29 to hear answers from Tyler Technologies on the methodology behind the first revaluation of Scarsdale real estate in 43 years. Many who rarely visit Village Hall appeared to have come to listen as well as to vent about the results of the revaluation that caused dramatic changes to some property assessments.

In an effort to keep the crowd under control, Mayor Bob Steves gave the floor to Tyler for a lengthy presentation and initially asked those with questions to submit them on index cards rather than come to the podium themselves. He warned the audience that this was not the opportunity to debate the valuation of individual properties but a time to learn more about how properties were assessed.

Eugenia Flynn, the Appraisal Operations Manager at Tyler, shared her credentials and introduced the Tyler team that includes Dr. Richard A. Borst, a senior research scientist – and statistician. Also on hand was John Ryan, an independent revaluation consultant who was hired by Scarsdale Village to monitor the process. Ryan told the group, "If you have good data in the system they are the basis of good values." John Wolham of the NYS Office of Real Property Tax Services also attended the meeting. He will certify the new tax roll when the process is complete.

Flynn explained that the purpose of the revaluation was to bring appraisals to fair market value. The process was begun in 2012 and considers property class, location, desirability and market supply and demand using fair market value as of July 1, 2013.

She explained the difference between a mass appraisal where "all properties are appraised using a common database, uniform methodology and allows for statistical testing of the results," versus individual appraisals who are done by a real estate agent, a certified appraiser or a bank.

According to Flynn, "Equitable appraisals among similarly-valued properties is critical. The same model is Tyler2applied to all properties." In Scarsdale, "95% of homes were inspected (a highly unusual access rate), Tyler built and tested models and valued all properties using these models." Since, "land directly relates to the desirability of a property's specific location." Tyler "analyzed all vacant and teardown land sales to develop land valuation models that were considered to reflect the market as of July 1, 2013." Scarsdale was divided into 13 areas for the purpose of defining comparable sales.

Following the completion of the process earlier this year, notices of the new property assessments were mailed to residents and posted online. Property owners were given the opportunity to have informal meetings with Tyler, and 927 or 15.6% of property owners met with Tyler and 1,088 properties were reviewed. This week, June 1, revised mailers were sent out to those who asked for a review, and the valuations of approximately 437 properties were changed.

Property owners who wish to grieve their new assessments can do so between June 2 – 17, and the final assessment roll for 2015 will be filed by the Village in September, 2014. The Tyler powerpoint presentation has been posted on the Village website and can be viewed here:

A question was asked about how assessments will be updated in the future and Village Assessor Nanette Albanese explained that now that the Village has done the revaluation they have the right to review assessments on an ongoing basis and make changes if they spot trends that affect a group of properties. The Village has submitted a grant application to the state for funds for personnel to keep the property tax roll updated. From the discussion it was not 100% clear how this would be accomplished but Village officials agreed that the roll would be maintained and they would not let many years lapse without a reassessment.

Many questions were asked about the value of the land vs. the home, the inclusion and weight of different variables in the model, the process for making corrections for over-assessed and under assessed properties and the difference between land values in each of the 13 assessment areas.

The statistician spoke at length about the statistical modeling process, but it was very difficult to understand his explanation.

At one point, someone in the audience asked Tyler if they have a way to do the revaluation in a more transparent manner. Borst responded that it is possible to put constraints into the mathematical process that would do this.

The meeting went on after 11 pm with the Mayor giving everyone a chance to speak – some even twice. Despite the call from the Heathcote Association to delay the revaluation, Mayor Steves indicated that " we will make what we have here work," and said he saw little benefit to repeating the process. In addition, Wolham and Borst of Tyler agreed that the model was valid and fell within a 97-98% tolerance level, even if it did not pass muster with some of the taxpayers.

The session was recorded and can be viewed online here:

Constantin's Chocolate Ganache Cake Wins First Prize at Greenacres Bake-off

BakeoffwinnersClose to 150 residents attended the Greenacres Barbeque and Bake-off at Hitchcock Church on Saturday June 6. Graced with perfect weather, the event, sponsored by the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, offered fun for all and the chance for neighbors young and old to mix and mingle. After a hearty lunch of barbeque, beer and fried chicken, the judging of the bake-off contest began. The judges were Seth Greenberg, known for his famous brownies, and Tal Campana of Martine's Bake Shop. They carefully considered all the fine baked goods and awarded the top prize to Jennifer Constantin, an officer of the Greenacres Neighborhood Association and a first class baker for her Chocolate Ganache Tart. Fortunately, Jennifer agreed to share the recipe with you and you will find it below.BakeryTable

Here is a complete list of contestants and what they baked:

First Place: Jennifer Constantin: Chocolate Ganache Tart
Second Place: Sara Cetron: Coconut Layer Cake
Third Place: Kathryn N. Cotter Gateau Ganache
Midori Im: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Kathy Steves: Linzer Sandwich Rings
Emma Kornberg: Snickerdoodles
Joan Sereysky: Chocolate Frosted Cake
Nora H. Marino: Walnut Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Chocolate Ganache Tart Recipe: Courtesy of Jennifer Constantin

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup marcona almonds(rinsed and dried, if salted)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • Lime zest from one whole lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make dough: In a food processor, pulse almonds until finely ground. Add sugar, flour, zest and salt; pulse until combined. Add butter, pulsing until coarse crumbs form with no large butter lumps (dough should clump together when squeezed with fingers).

Immediately transfer dough to a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using a measuring cup, evenly press dough in bottom and up sides of pan.

Bake in center of oven until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make ganache: Place chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil. Pour hot cream, through a sieve, over chocolate. Stir until smooth and creamy in texture. Mix in vanilla.
Pour chocolate mixture into center of cooled tart shell (if chocolate is lumpy, pass through a sieve). Let stand until set, about 2 hours, or chill for 1 hour.

Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe for Chocolate Ganache Tartashmanmarkstevespekarekryanbbqkidsrublin2bakeoffJudges

Greenacres Kids Get to School the Green Way

walkingbus2On Friday May 23rd the Environmental and Sustainability Committee of the Greenacres Elementary PTA implemented a "walking school bus," where children walk to school along a safe route accompanied by a minimum of two parent "drivers." One parent leads the pack while the other supervises the rear. The walking school bus picks up "passengers" along the way to school. The Greenacres school bus will operate every Friday for the remainder of the school year.

The bus started with seven lines, spanning the various corners of the area of Greenacres. On its first day there were over 60 passengers. The reason for the bus is twofold – to encourage walking as an environmentally- friendly practice and to promote a healthy lifestyle.

The key to the success of the bus program is the parent volunteers who are needed to supervise the walkers. While the Greenacres community is a relatively quiet one, there are some streets which are not pedestrian-friendly and greater caution is required.

Organizer Eunjee Hong explained that, "Having just moved from Manhattan, we were used to walking to school and I wanted to keep that up with my kids, so I was already walking them to school here. I thought the idea of a walking school bus was great and was happy to hop on board." She added, "We see this as a great opportunity to save gas, reduce harm to our environment and have healthier kids.

Another outgrowth of the walking school bus is increased interaction between neighbors and foster community-building among residents who are often isolated in their cars. In an age when students sit in front of a screen rather than play outdoors it's beneficial for them to get to school on their own two feet.

One mother noted that, "It was usually challenging to wake my son up for school. But since he started walking with our neighbors, he's eager to get up and enjoys 'carpooling' to school. I'm so glad this bus program has been initiated so that more children will be able to walk to school on a regular basis, even if their parents are unable to accompany them."

At the debut of this year's walking school bus, one of the buses had a special passenger, Scarsdale Mayor and Greenacres resident Bob Steves. Mayor Steves has been a longtime advocate of reducing traffic around the school and in fact was responsible for doubling the parking fines around the school to encourage students to walk instead of drive to this neighborhood school.

More information on how to start a walking school bus can be found at http:// www.walkingschoolbus.org.
(Photos by Amy Nasdasdi)

walkingbus3

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