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Mourning an Extraordinary Woman

youngisraelHundreds of congregants, family members and friends gathered to remember mother, friend and physician Robin Goldman at Young Israel in Scarsdale on Thursday January 21. She was found dead at her home on Tuesday, and in keeping with Jewish tradition, she was buried the following day.

The Modern Orthodox shul was packed, with many standing around the perimeter. Most funerals praise the dead, but this death – a shock to all – inspired extraordinary memories. Her three children recounted memories of their beloved mother and shared some of the things they learned from her. They wept as they spoke, bringing tears to almost everyone in the room.

Her youngest daughter, Jenna, called her mother her best friend and wondered how she would go on without her. She explained how her mother doted on her, shopped for her, corrected her papers, wrote her letters and even delivered food to her apartment. Noting her mother's ability to anticipate everyone's needs, the family called her superwoman.

Jenna recently suffered the loss of a good friend in an accident Goldman Robin MD 2012 12-19in Honduras and came home from Australia to be with her friend's family. She recounted the last conversation she had with her mother this week and resolved to continue to make her mother proud in the years to come.

Dr. Goldman took pride in both her own children and the students she taught at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, serving as a mentor to many. She also saw the children of friends and considered it her duty to give medical treatment to whoever needed it.

Daughter Alyssa told the group about a wonderful "around the world" wedding shower her mother and friends threw for her before her wedding in September. She was so grateful that her mother was at her wedding and said that Robin felt that two-thirds of her work was done when two of her children were married to good partners. Alyssa said that her mother valued family above all, and hosted imaginative holiday celebrations. This year, the theme for Hanukkah was Pictionary and the family enjoyed drawing on an easel she dug up from years ago. She wondered aloud why God seemed to be taken the lives of the earth's angels.

Son Adam shared thoughts on Goldman as a grandmother. She had special relationships with each of his four children, the last born just 31 days ago. His mother continued to shop for him and help him with his work, well after he was married and a father to his own children. Goldman loved the color purple and Adam purchased a purple stethoscope for her for Hannukah. He asked everyone to think of her every time they saw something purple. She also loved tag sales and shopping for Judaica which she distributed to her children to display in their homes.

Goldman's sister said that even though Robin was her younger sister, she had learned from her. She called her beautiful, elegant, strong and brilliant and said, "I did not have enough of you." She vowed to keep her nieces and nephews close and to remember her sister everyday.

Two friends also came to the bima to remember Goldman and marvel at her energy. In addition to working as a physician, and caring for her family, she was deeply religious, attending services often, serving on the sisterhood, bringing food to congregants and reading the weekly parsha. Outside the shul she was the president of the PT Council at her daughter's school, participated in several book clubs and served on advisory boards for the village of Scarsdale.

The rabbi said that Goldman recently went on a trip with other congregants to visit concentration camps in Poland. At one camp they stood over a ditch where many had been gunned down right at the end of the war. She asked, "Rabbi, how could God have let this happen?" Before the Rabbi could speak, the skies opened and there was thunder and rain. The rabbi explained that for some tragedies there is no plausible explanation.

And clearly none for the tragedy that took Dr. Goldman's life.

However, no one, not the family, not the friends nor the rabbis mentioned Jules Reich and the unspeakable act this husband had committed. They spoke without bitterness. It was remarkable to feel the love and the faith that binds this remarkable family to an admirable woman who could teach us all how to live.

The family asks that contributions in Goldman's honor be made to Young Israel of Scarsdale and AMIT.

SHS Speech and Debate Team Shines in the Florida Sun

debateMembers of the Scarsdale High School Speech and Debate team traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the 8th Annual Sunvitational Speech and Debate Tournament on the weekend of January 9th. Joining more than 1,000 entries, the Scarsdale squad consisted of four debaters and three speech students.

Four Scarsdale students received invitations to participate in an elite round robin event prior to the tournament on Friday, January 8th at Nova Southeastern University. Zack Gelles and Gillian Zipursky participated in Lincoln Douglas debate and Daniel Altabet and Justin Cooper participated in Original Oratory. Justin Cooper earned a 3rd place finish in his event. For the main tournament, Samara Jacobson and Michael Landau joined the Lincoln Douglas debate squad and Zach Kapner joined the speech students. Samara Jacobson made her way to the quarterfinals of the tournament and received a bid to the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky in April. Zack Gelles and Gillian Zipursky each made it to the octofinal round for Lincoln Douglas. They both previously had received bids to the Kentucky TOC. Daniel Altabet made it to the semifinal round in Humorous Interpretation, and Zach Kapner made it to the quarterfinal round in extemporaneous speaking and placed 6th in Informative Speaking. Justin Cooper placed 3rd in Extemporaneous Speaking and was the Champion in both Original Oratory and Informative Speaking.

The Sunvite tournament provides the winner of each category with a hand-painted skim board as a trophy. Altabet, Kapner and Cooper will be joining the debaters in Kentucky for the Tournament of Champions in April.

School Board Turns Down Appeal to Expand Busing in Scarsdale

schoolbusA proposal from community members to increase eligibility for busing to more or all students was defeated unanimously by the Board of Education, late into their meeting on the night of December 14th.

Currently, Scarsdale's policy is to provide busing for students who reside 1.5 miles or more from their school. This poses difficulties for children who cannot walk that distance or need to cross busy roads, often without crosswalks or sidewalks. Some parents who are unable to drive their children back and forth pay for private buses.

Speaking for the administration, Dr. Hagerman and Mr. Mattey explained the current policy and the costs and procedures that would be required to change it. The district's current policy of providing busing to those who live 1.5 miles or more from their school is more generous than the state policy which requires busing for students more than 2 miles from their school. The district receives 6.5% in reimbursement from the state for the transportation.

The transportation budget for the 2015-16 school year is $4.1 million, which includes the purchase of buses.

Stuart Mattey reviewed the additional costs that would be incurred to provide busing to more students.

If the distance was reduced to 1.2 miles, 400 more students would be served at a cost of $563,000

If the distance was reduced to 1 mile, 900 more students would be served at a cost of $1.1 million.

Mattey noted that increased bus ridership could impact traffic and the environment and necessitate increased bus storage.

A change to the busing policy would require a voter referendum. If the transportation costs caused the overall budget to increase by more than the tax cap, which is anticipated to be at near 0% this year, the district would require a supermajority or 60% vote to pass the budget.

Dr. Hagerman delivered the district reccomendation which was to maintain the current busing policy. He noted that there had been some confusion about changes to the busing policy for special education, private and parochial school students and said that no changes to that policy had been proposed. The board received 54 emails about busing during the prior week, some of which may have been due to the confusion.

In a meeting that ended near midnight, each board member aired their view on a change to the busing policy. All concurred with the administration's recommendation to leave the current policy in place.

While sympathetic to community concerns, Board members expressed the need to use tax dollars for curriculum and programs that would benefit all district students rather than a subset of students who could use the transporation

Here are a few of their comments:

Suzanne Seiden said, "This issue comes up every year. ...We weigh all the factors .....
I do not favor making any change in our transportation policy. The cost is so high that it would negatively impact our curriculum. We would have to make significant program cuts or raise taxes to pay for it."

Bill Natbony said that as a board member he must "Exercise my fiduciary responsibility by considering the entire community.... The current policy is more generous than required by state law and it has been in place for some time .... There will be pressure on the overall budget for next year. Many of the additional expenditures will benefit all students. .... I do hope we can work with the village to have more sidewalks, crosswalks, and stop lights.

Chris Morin said, "I would love to see improvements but championing the most expensive and least efficient proposal does not make sense so I oppose it."

Scott Silberfein concurred, saying "We should explore efficiencies and safety issues but I support the administration's recommendations.

Pam Fuehrer said, "I don't want to compromise our transition plan goals. We need to stay focused on our plan.

Art Rublin confessed that he walked a distance to school as his parents worked. He said, "There's no surprise when you move here about where there is bus service.... Crossing guards might be helpful at more intersections....Heavy backpacks can be an issue and maybe teachers should consider this. At some point it may make sense to look at efficiencies, but I support the administration's recommendation on this.

Board President Lee Maude agreed. She said, "I don't believe we should change our policy this year. We set our plans and I think we should stick with that. However, your emails screamed out to me ....I am a parent of a child who takes a private bus. I wish I knew when I bought the house that I was 1.4 miles from the middle school. As a working parent I had to have a babysitter who drove and I had to put my children in after school clubs. I understand your frustrations, but it's the life we live so that our funds can go into the curriculum."

During the public comments session, Alissa Kanowitz said, "We live on Seneca Road, 1.2 miles from the school. When I bought the house, I did not realize that I would have to drive my kids to school. I left work because of this. It's unwalkable and we don't have enough children in our neighborhood for private bus service. It is not safe for our kids to walk to school. Our neighborhood does not have sidewalks or crossing guards. It's an unfair burden for families who have children a mile or more away from the schools."

Commenting on the decision in an email after the meeting, Melissa Mantzouris and Mauri Zemachson who originally brought the issue before the board, said the following:

"We are very disappointed with the board's decision to not move forward in making any changes to the 8410 policy around busing. We knew that from the beginning, this was not going to be an easy battle. We made sure to research our facts and provide as much rationale as we could to get the board to make a change. We asked for 100% busing because we felt everyone should have access to the same benefits of this town. We still feel the board should perform an efficiency study to assess how current funds are being used and if they are operating as efficiently as they can be. We have tremendous respect for Mr. Hagerman, Stuart Mattey and all the members of the board. We have learned a lot about the board of education and it's process. Busing is an issue that continues to come to the board every year and the reasons for not making any changes seem to always be due financial constrictions. It's a tough battle but the end goal in mind was to fight for the safety of our children in Scarsdale. We will continue to work towards our goals and we will look at ways the village can improve roads and traffic hazards near schools. We appreciate all the parent support and media attention we received."
Thank you Melissa Mantzouris and Mauri Zemachson

Bob Berg, a champion of fiscal responsibility for the district sent the following on busing:

"The dichotomy between the Mandarin discussion and the busing issue was stark. Proponents of providing District busing to all District students are really all about the money. For the most part, they are users of the "private" bus system who live closer to the schools than the 1.5 mile mark beyond which the District provides "free" District busing to the schools. These residents pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year to have their kids bused to the District schools, and feel that they pay a lot in property taxes and "deserve" "free" busing. Though some profess safety concerns preclude their kids from walking or biking to school, the driving force seems to be to externalize the costs of the private bus service by having all Scarsdale taxpayers pay for this service. Unlike the Mandarin issue, the busing proponents don't engender a sympathetic response. The costs of expanded busing are enormous, ranging from $560,000 (reducing the mileage restriction from 1.5 miles to 1.25 miles) to nearly $5 million if all District students are provided District busing. Moreover, the operational costs of the busing program are not excluded from the tax cap. Expanded busing would easily bust the tax cap this year, thereby requiring a 60% vote in favor of a budget. I daresay that a proposed budget that exceeds the tax cap in order to pay for expanded busing would not capture a supermajority of the votes. Further, in a time of serious budget constraints, expanding busing would have to come at the cost of program cuts, staff reductions, or both. I want my tax dollars spent on items that preserve and enhance our in-school programs and staff, not to subsidize the users of the private bus system.

Finally, for those proponents of expanded busing, I note that no one is required to take the private bus. This is a voluntary expense undertaken by parents who, for whatever reasons, don't want their kids to walk or bike to school. Scarsdale already has a generous District busing policy – State law mandates that a District must provide busing to K-8 students who live 2 miles or more from the schools and high school students who live 3 miles or more. Scarsdale, however, provides District busing for students who live 1.5 miles or more. No one who buys or rents a house in Scarsdale should be surprised to find out that her kids are not entitled to District busing when they reach school age. The District's busing policy has been in place for nearly 20 years, and the District maintains a list of which properties are eligible for District busing. Thus, I was pleased that the Administration and the Board declined to go forward with a public referendum on reducing the District's mileage limits for busing.

On Wednesday morning, following the Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Hagerman shared the following letter he sent to Melissa Mantzouris and Mauri Zemachson:

Dear Melissa and Mauri,
On behalf of the District, we thank you for your interest, passion, and work around busing. As I hope was made clear through multiple discussions, we understand the points you raise about student safety and appreciate your diligence on this topic. If there is any way we can support your efforts with the village or county in terms of additional sidewalks or the like, we are happy to do so.

In terms of managing expectations, while there are likely always some efficiencies to be found, and we are willing to engage in this work, bus transportation is never an exact science, and, unfortunately is dependent on the individual daily decisions of students and families, along with other uncontrollable variables, such as weather. We all wish we had the ability to customize our bus service on a daily basis to account for these changes, but, of course, this is impossible. From a consumer standpoint, it can look like a relatively full bus on a cold, rainy or snowy day, then half full bus on a warm, sunny spring day. Unfortunately, again, we cannot manage this at a daily level, so we have to provide the same level of service, understanding that there will be fluctuations--perhaps even very large ones--from day to day.

This, of course, does not preclude us from taking a more macro level approach and looking at our routes across the District. So you know, this is actually done annually, based on the number of bus riders. Routes are re-calculated each school year to account for changes in ridership, and they are occasionally revised during the year, based on changes in enrollment. It was mentioned in the meeting that we have an older mapping system (software program), and we do. This does not mean, however, that we use outdated maps or routes for busing.

Finally, even in the event we are able to save some dollars through efficiency, you still understand that we can not unilaterally change the busing limits. As indicated during Monday night's meeting, this would require a voter referendum. With 50% of our families with no students in the District, and 39% of our current families receiving busing, this leaves a very small number of citizens to convince a very large number to make this change--with a very expensive price tag. I don't say this to try to be discouraging, I just want to be clear about how tall the mountain is should we ever try to climb it.

Thank you again for your time and energy on this, and we are hopeful more can be done to ensure the safe passage from home to school and back again.


A New Railroad Line Through Scarsdale?

alt3Could a new railway line be constructed through Scarsdale? It sounds preposterous but a new track through Scarsdale is one of the options explored in a report from the Federal Department of Transportation on the future of the railway system.

Rail transportation along the Northeast corridor is plagued by infrastructure problems and outdated technology and has insufficient capacity to meet demand. To address these issues, in 2012 the Federal Railroad Administration launched NEC (Northeast Corridor) FUTURE to develop alternatives for rail transportation improvements for the corridor.

Since that time, the group has come up with four alternatives to address the issues, and though it's unlikely it would pass Congress, one of the plans includes a high-speed train line that would run either in a tunnel underneath Scarsdale or on an aerial structure above us.

According to reports, "The rail transportation spine that runs from Boston to Washington, D.C. accommodates over 2,000 passenger trains and 70 freight trains each day.... There is insufficient capacity to reliably meet today's travel demand or to expand travel options as the region grows. With highways and airports facing similar structural problems the Northeast is facing mobility challenges that could have economic repercussions for the region and the nation as a whole."

Planners have researched the issues and options and come up with four alternatives for the future:

They are as follows:train

No Action: accommodate the same number of trains as today, with likely declines in service and limited intercity service.

Alternative 1 maintains the rail line as it is today but increases capacity by expanding capacity, adding tracks and relieving chokepoints.

Alternative 2 would expand service, maximize the capacity and service and provide a supplemental train route between New Haven, Hartford and Providence to serve more passengers and reduce trip time.

Alternative 3 transforms the role of rail by becoming a dominant mode choice for travel in the Northeast. As part of this plan an additional rail spine would be added "primarily in tunnel or aerial structure through Scarsdale and White Plains, where a new White Plains East station is proposed."

How would the railway acquire the property rights to build the line? According to Scarsdale's Deputy Village Manager Robert Cole, "It is typical for state and federal agencies to first attempt to negotiate land acquisition with property owners before a specific alignment is announced. If such negotiations are not successful, then eminent domain proceedings can be initiated, or a different alignment can sometimes be identified."

How likely is it that a line will be built through Scarsdale? Given that the estimated budget for Alternative 3 is $290 billion, it far outstrips the expense for the other options. It is therefore far less likely to be built than Alternative 2, estimated at less than half the price, $135 billion. About the proposal, Mayor Jon Mark says, "While all these numbers are astronomical, it seems unlikely that Congress would budget $290 billion to expand rail travel in the Northeast Corridor given all the other demands for tax dollars -- and assuming Congress could coalesce around this project at all. "

However, the Village had the opportunity to comment on an Environmental Impact Statement for the alternatives and the Mayor took the opportunity to write to the Federal Rail Administration. In his letter below, dated December 19, he says that a tunnel or an aerial structure would have "significant adverse impact to our residents, their homes, their property values, their quality of life and the character of the Village."

Read his letter here and read more about the proposal here.

Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, Northeast Corridor Program Manager U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration
Orie Bowling Green, Suite 429
New York, NY 10004

Re: Northeast Corridor Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement Public Comments

Dear Ms. Reyes-Alicea:

On behalf of the Village of Scarsdale, New York, I submit the following comments regarding Alternative 3 of the Northeast Coridor (NEC) Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. While the Village strongly supports intercity passenger rail service, we are deeply concerned about the new spine included in Alternative 3. As proposed, the new spine would branch off from the existing NEC at New Rochelle, NY, and pass through the Village of Scarsdale "primarily in tunnel or aerial structure." A new rail spine through Scarsdale, whether it be by tunnel or aerial, would result in significant adverse impacts to our residents, their homes, their property values, their quality of life and the character of the Village. The future-serving new spine is also terribly costly, diverting necessary investment from other local, regional and national passenger rail, commuter rail, heavy rail, and other public transit assets.

The overwhelming backlog of state of good repair needs, both regionally and nationally, should be fully funded prior to entertaining construction of costly new lines, including the proposed NEC spine through Scarsdale. To illustrate, the MTA system constitutes a suite of critical local, regional, and national assets that must be protected with appropriate maintenance and upgraded over time to keep pace with safety and security updates, storm resilience, and commuter needs and expectations. To those ends, the MTA's 2015-2034 Twenty-Year Capital Needs report identifies nearly $106 billion in necessary core asset investment. Similar investment is required in other economically important regions across the Nation. While we do need to plan for future needs, our expenditures must first meet the needs of the present.

Alternative 3's ambitious goal of transforming the role of rail by having it become the dominant mode choice for travel in the Northeast, relies on costly overbuilding to support future demand. ln the process, it sacrifices $155 billion in funding otherwise available to meet the overwhelming existing needs of our Nation's aging and outdated passenger rail and public transit infrastructure while also generating significant adverse impacts to the residents of Scarsdale. Therefore, I strongly urge the Federal Railroad Administration to prioritize regional and national state of good repair ahead of costly major expansions targeting projected future growth, and request that Alternative 3 of the NEC Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement be removed from further consideration.

Respectfully submitted,
Jonathan I. Mark, Mayor

Residents are also invited to comment on the alternatives. The Village staff recommends that you write a letter and submitting it both in hard copy and by email. Email comments can be submitted here and hard copies should be mailed to:

Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, Northeast Corridor Program Manager
U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration
One Bowling Green, Suite 429
New York, NY 10004

In addition, you can attend a public hearing and submit a comment card or letter in-person. The hearing dates and related information can be accessed here.

Scarsdale Man Charged with Rape and Sex Abuse

rahimoonThe Daily News is reporting that the son of a Pakistani diplomat who lives in Scarsdale was charged with raping a 13-year-old Bronx girl and sexually abusing her friend. The suspect's father, Muhammad Rahimoon is a community/welfare counselor for the Pakistani government.

According to the report, Mehmood Rahimoon (Rey), age 20, of Scarsdale met the victim on an app called Whisper in October of this year. He contacted the girl several times before meeting her in October. On December 1, Rey and the girl had sex in a room at the River Road Motor Inn on Webster Avenue in Woodlawn.

Rey is also charged with forcing a 13 year-old friend of the victim to touch his private parts, according to prosecutors. At the time, the girl's father was waiting at her school to pick up his daughter and the victim. When her dad called, the friend said that she and the victim were working out in the park with their running club. Rahimoon got on the phone and told the father that the girls would be back at school soon.

That night, the friend told her dad what happened and he called the police. In order to catch Rahimoon, detectives set up a meeting with him in upper Manhattan on Tuesday night 12-8-15. Rahimoon drove a car with consul license plates to the liaison where he was arrested.

Rey does not have diplomatic immunity. Prosecutors say he confessed and was charged with raping a minor, sex abuse, sexual misconduct, and endangering the welfare of a child. His bail was set at a $20,000 bond or $10,000 in cash. Rey's sister said he is currently studying business at Westchester Community College.