Tuesday, Jan 28th

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GoldwasserSought after Dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Goldwasser is back in town. She is now seeing both children and adults at her new offices on Central Park Avenue in Hartsdale. We asked her a few questions about skin, sun exposure, diet, aging and more – and here is what she shared:

Tell us about yourself. where did you train, where do you practice and what are your areas of specialization?

My undergraduate training was in nutrition at Cornell, which is a little unusual for a physician. For medical school I went to Downstate in Brooklyn. I interned at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and went back to Downstate for my dermatology residency. I have been caring for adults and children with diseases of the skin, hair and nails for the past 25 years in lower Westchester.

What are some of the most common reasons your patients schedule visits?

I commonly treat patients with skin cancer, psoriasis, acne, eczema, rosacea, skin infections, hair loss, and nail disorders.

What skin problems do you see that are preventable if patients are more vigilant?

Skin cancers and pre-cancers are highly preventable since most of them are caused by overexposure to the sun. Smoking also contributes to skin cancer. Lifestyle plays an important role in many skin diseases. Rosacea patients often benefit from alcohol avoidance, and psoriasis patients may see improvements with weight loss, smoking cessation, and alcohol avoidance. Patients with a tendency toward eczema need to be careful to avoid common irritants to the skin, like wool, perfumed and harsh soaps, and excessive sweat.

For teens, are there any new treatments for acne?

There are some new acne treatments! Topical minocycline (Amzeeq) recently became available. some excellent topical retinoids are now available over the counter. Neutrogena is offering a red and blue light acne mask, which can be helpful. More and more information is available about diet and acne--probiotics can even play a role in acne treatment.

On the other end of the spectrum, what can you do to help patients with age spots?

There are many different types of "age spots": Sun spots (lentigines), liver spots (seborrheic keratoses), skin tags and red spots called cherry angiomata are all different forms of age spots. These can generally be destroyed easily by freezing them, burning them, or cutting them off.

What are the most frequent signs of sun damage that you see? Has this gotten more prevalent in the years that you have practiced?

Sun damage manifests in many different ways. Some people develop wrinkles, some people have alterations in skin pigmentation or "mottling", and some people notice that their skin is thinner and more fragile. Suntanning gained in popularity in the 1950's, so many baby boomers are especially likely to have been overexposed to the sun in their youth. Tanning parlors proliferated in the 80's and 90's, and that took a toll, too. By the time i started my dermatology practice in 1994, we were already starting to see the effects of these practices. Fortunately smoking is much less common now, and that has helped somewhat.

What’s your view on Botox and other cosmetic skin treatments?

I'm not a cosmetic dermatologist, but injectable anti-aging treatments like Botox and fillers are popular. I tend to encourage a healthy lifestyle over these interventions. Eating a healthful diet, good sleep hygiene, regular exercise, avoiding sun/tobacco/alcohol, and maintaining a healthy body weight are the best bets for maintaining a youthful appearance, and good health, in my book.

How can you help patients who are experiencing hair loss?

Hair loss can occur for many reasons, but the most common type of hair loss that i see is androgenetic alopecia. This is an inherited type of gradual hair thinning. Most people recognize this type of hair loss in men because the pattern is so characteristic, but in women, the process is more subtle, starts a little later in life, and can pick up speed at menopause. Fortunately, there are many approaches to this problem: topical medications, light treatments, camouflage techniques, and hair transplants, to name a few. It's important to take a complete history, do a thorough exam and appropriate lab work, and discuss all the available options, because hair loss is an emotionally fraught diagnosis, especially in women and young men.

How does diet affect your skin?

Since my background and interest are in nutrition, I have so much to say on this topic, I don't think I could begin to address all the answers to that question in a column. Suffice it to say that I advocate a whole foods/plant-based diet. I like the simple way Michael Pollan puts it: "Eat real food (not too much), mostly plants". I spend a great deal of time interviewing acne and rosacea patients about dietary habits. Often these conditions are more of a "subtraction problem" than they are an "addition problem". Sometimes, what we need to address is what to eliminate or reduce, rather than what prescription to write. I counsel my acne patients to avoid cow's milk, whey protein, and foods with a high glycemic index like white starches, sugary drinks, and sweets. I ask all my rosacea patients to consider eliminating or reducing alcohol, especially red wine.

Have you ever seen skin conditions that you are unable to diagnose? Do you ever get stumped?

Of course I've seen skin conditions that have stumped me, but there are many ways to approach a diagnostic challenge. I believe in the power of slow medicine: taking the time to elicit a complete history and to expose and examine the patient completely can go a long way to solving mysteries. It can also be helpful to know your patients over time--continuity of care is a powerful tool!

I can think of an example: I saw a young man who happened to be an identical twin. Neither twin had experienced significant acne during the teenage years, but this young man suddenly developed severe cystic acne in his twenties. I couldn't imagine why this was happening out of the blue, but i suspected there must be some outside force at work. Sure enough, when I delved, it turned out the patient had been given an IV agent for an imaging study, and that triggered his terrible acne flare. If I didn't know him and his identical twin brother over the years, or if I didn't dig deeply into his recent history, I might never have figured out the cause of his issue.

Fortunately, skin is accessible to biopsy easily, and I work with some incredible dermatopathologists who can offer invaluable assistance. Finally, there is no shame in enlisting the help of other clinicians--sometimes it takes a village! Electronic medical records make it a bit easier to share information with other physicians, which can really create some synergy in difficult cases, and I try to leverage that. Of course, it also helps to have a solid relationship with the patient--physician-patient "teamwork" can make all the difference in tough cases.

Schedule your appointment with Dr. Jennifer Goldwasser at 210 N. Central Avenue, Suite 320 in Hartsdale by calling 914-422-3376 and learn more at her website at Goldwasserderm.com.

rebeccaalexanderImagine being 19 years old, away at college, living a healthy, active life-style and waking up one morning with a deafening ringing in your ears that lasted for days. Scared, you make your way to the campus medical center where, after a battery of tests, you are diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome. The doctors explain, at the tender age of 19, as a result of Usher Syndrome, you will have progressive vision and hearing loss and likely be completely deaf and blind by the time you are in your thirties. Terrifying to even think about, right? Well this is exactly what happened to Rebecca Alexander when she was at the University of Michigan some 20 years ago. And while this diagnosis would be enough to make even the strongest of wills want to give up, it instead inspired a sense of determination in Ms. Alexander which helped her accomplish a myriad of incredible goals including earning two master’s degrees from Columbia, scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro, and publishing a best-selling book titled, “Not Fade Away”.

On the evening of January 14th, Scarsdale PTC/C.H.I.L.D invited Rebecca Alexander to relate her incredible journey and share what helped her to conquer one challenge after the next. When Ms. Alexander first stood at the front of the auditorium with her radiant confidence, sculpted arms, and beautiful smile, it was hard to imagine that this woman had any difference of ability at all. However, Ms. Alexander quickly described that since her diagnosis in college, without her cochlear implants, she is now completely deaf and suffers from severe vision impairment (though at 40, she considers herself lucky to have what she calls “donut” vision instead of the complete blindness doctors said would occur by the time she was 30). Alexander went on to detail how although her diagnosis with Usher Syndrome at 19 was shocking, it wasn’t the first time she had struggled with her vision and hearing.

At the age of 12, Ms. Alexander told her parents that she struggled to see the blackboard at school. Subsequently, she was later wrongly diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, an inherited disorder that also eventually leads to blindness. It was this diagnosis that led Ms. Alexander to learn how to tackle challenges head on. Alexander credits her mother with empowering her by exposing her to as much information about blindness as possible. Alexander described how her mother would take her to conferences about blindness where she learned to interact and feel comfortable in the blind community. And because she still had sight, Alexander was able to help others in the blind community, instilling in her a strong sense of confidence. While everyone is different, Ms. Alexander believes that empowering children whom have “differences” with information about their disability can help them build resiliency.

Also important to note, Ms. Alexander vows that resiliency didn’t happen overnight; she didn’t suddenly decide to rise to the challenge. In fact it was a long process of overcoming one difficulty at a time. To expound upon this point, Alexander related that while in college, she was so embarrassed by her hearing aids that she tried to go without them during a Homecoming event with friends. As a result she went the entire evening without being able to hear or understand anything that was being said and realized that she was only hurting herself and making things harder for herself in the long run.

In the same vein, Ms. Alexander also said that the first few times she used her cane to help guide her, she was so worried about what other people thought and how they would judge her, that she ended up crying. But after realizing how helpful her cane was and how much confidence it gave her to navigate on her own, she started to work on accepting her circumstances. It was dealing with situations like these, one instance at a time, plus support from her family, that encouraged Ms. Alexander not to let her disabilities define her or decide her trajectory.

While Ms. Alexander expressed her gratitude for her parent’s support, she also warned that it is vital for parents (especially parents of children with disabilities) to make sure that they are taking care of themselves. Alexander detailed how difficult it can be for parents to come to terms with a diagnosis of a child and to learn to be a parent to a child with a disability. Parents have a hard time accepting that their expectations for a child with a disability differ from the dreams they had before they realized the child was differently-abled. Additionally, Ms. Alexander reminded us that children are like sponges and will absorb everything. They will easily pick up on your anger, sadness, and anxiety. For these reasons, Alexander encourages parents to get the support they need as well.

After her presentation, Ms. Alexander was joined by representatives (psychologists) from Scarsdale elementary, middle, and high schools and the panel opened up the floor for questions.

One parent asked, “With such potential limitations, how did you get to a place where you can do so much?”

Alexander responded by emphasizing the importance of teaching your child self-advocacy. She believes everyone should be teaching their children and students how to advocate for themselves and their needs. And if you are a differently-abled person, it is important to educate others about your disability so they can better understand the accommodations that would be helpful for you. Alexander also conveyed that being open and honest with people about her needs has been incredibly helpful to her successes. In conjunction, Ms. Alexander stressed the importance of showing gratitude for those who do help. She stated that everyone wants to feel like they matter or they are needed and if you express your gratitude you allow the helper to feel how instrumental they are to you.

Another parent asked, “Where should parents turn for support when their child is newly diagnosed with a disability?”

Kenneth Bonamo, Principal at Scarsdale High School, suggested that a parent’s first stop should be at their child’s school. Each school is equipped with a team of experts (including psychologists and special education teachers) who are ready and willing to help.

It was also expressed by the panel members that children should be an active part of creating solutions. Children shouldn’t just rely on mom and dad to fix everything for them, but rather learn the tools necessary to cope and manage. Also stressed was the idea that parents should lead by example.

Another parent asked, “How can we celebrate kid’s differences or help them to feel more “normal”?

Janelle Brown answered that it is often helpful to have children dispute dysfunctional thoughts or as she put it, dispute the “bully in the brain”. An easy way to do this with children is by creating a “pro and con” list and to look at the data and to see if what we are telling ourselves is reality or perhaps exaggerated. She also suggested that children can rate problems as a “big deal” or a “little deal”. A big deal would indicate someone is hurt or there is a real threat to safety, on the other hand, a small deal would indicate that everyone is safe and the child is bothered by the situation and should therefore react accordingly.

At the high school level, psychologists work to empower their students and remind them that no one is good at everything. Instead they encourage their students to focus on their own strengths. They also teach their students to practice “radical acceptance” where you don’t have to like or agree with a situation, but you should try to accept it and figure out ways to deal with it.

Just as important, Ms. Alexander reminded her audience that parents should strive to offer their children love and consistency. She also reiterated that children will take their cues from their parents, so parents need to work on their own reactions and self-awareness. And last, it is important to implement and teach coping skills at home.

To see Rebecca Alexander’s full presentation click here where a video of the program will be posted in the next few days. And to learn more about Ms. Alexander’s amazing journey, be sure to check out her memoir, “Not Fade Away” or visit her website.

Calm3(This is the opinion of site owner Joanne Wallenstein)
It’s understandable why a proposal to build up to 280 apartments on the Freightway site has so many Scarsdale and Eastchester residents up in arms. Though the garage is dripping and rusting, many cannot understand why the need to rebuild it would necessitate the largest development project in Scarsdale’s history. What’s more, what some see as an opportunity to bring people and revenue to the Village, others view as a threat to neighborhood character and schools.

Without the presentation of any assumptions or financials behind the proposals, residents are unable to assess the potential impact on the schools and the tax rate. Lacking details, it’s hard to see what if any benefit there will be to the schools, the Village and Scarsdale’s 17,000 residents.

Those who support the development plan point out that it may bring new life to the Village and attract young residents who may eventually buy single-family homes. These residents will be able to walk to the train and the Village and fuel a renaissance in our floundering downtown. They claim that transit oriented development in other Westchester towns has not proven to overcrowd schools or unravel the community fabric and has helped these towns to thrive. Again, since no quantitative analysis is provided, it’s hard to assess the impact on foot traffic in the Village and validate the claim that the project will revitalize the market for retail stores and restaurants in the Village.

So where does this leave us? After years of community input, focus groups and work by urban planners, are these objections reason enough to give up on development all together? Is there a potential benefit to listening to both sides to see if common ground can be found? Might there be other solutions that appeal to more residents?

Let’s take a deep breath and consider some facts on which most can agree.

-The Village-owned garage needs to be renovated now and ultimately completely replaced.

-The garage generates $600,000-$700,000 in revenues that are badly needed by the Village.

-The garage and the two and half acres surrounding it are an eyesore – and could clearly be put to better use.

-Scarsdale’s school population has been dipping and is expected to decline by another 300 students in the next five years. See the enrollment projections here: *

-Our downtown lacks the vitality of neighboring towns and many stores are vacant.

Currently, the Village has two proposals before them, one calling for 220 residential units and the other for 280. The two developers have presented renderings and site plans, but the accompanying financial data has been withheld, as Trustees fear that sharing it will put them in a poor negotiating position with the developers.

Neither plan offers much to current owners of single-family homes. One plan proposes a possible theater, but other than that, it’s difficult to envision how current homeowners would benefit. Would real estate taxes go down as a result of the revenue from the development? Would there be any new public facilities such as a dog park, a playing field, a pool or an ice rink? Who knows? Right now, those who live here now are hard pressed to find the pearl in the oyster. As one man put it, these two similar plans pose many risks with little potential reward.

However, just because these two plans have little appeal, it doesn’t mean that a solution cannot be found.

I suggest, as many did at the meeting, that the Village go back to the developers and ask for some creative solutions that reduce the number of residences and increase amenities for Village residents. Trustees should provide developers with a maximum number of housing units and a wish list of additional community facilities. Are office space or restaurant sites viable options? More site configurations warrant consideration.

Under these scenarios, with a reduced number of residences, perhaps the developer would not agree to underwrite the full cost of the garage – and the Village would need to take on debt to share some of the cost of the garage. But the tradeoff would be well worth the cost. More exploring needs to be done and rough cost and revenue estimates need to be shared.

About the finances, as the Scarsdale community includes people with professional expertise in municipal finance and real estate development, trustees should share financial projections and give these folks a chance to analyze the numbers. Simply stating that the development will provide a “net benefit” to the Village, as claimed by the Mayor, is not sufficient evidence to move forward.

In conclusion, the 2.5 acre site is very valuable property and Scarsdale remains one of Westchester’s most desirable places to live. If this development is supposed to be a public/private partnership, let’s put the needs of the public first.

Just because the first two proposals we received our not up to snuff, we should not give up. There are benefits to improving this site for those who live here now and those who will come, so let’s continue to explore our options.

*Note: Here are the school district's enrollment projections as of December, 2019.


handshake health.jpg.662x0 q70 crop scaleHappy New Year! It’s that time of year again when we shed our regrets from the year past and resolve to start the new year in the best way possible. Maybe you have resolved to work on wellness, to exercise more or to practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Or perhaps you made a resolution to buckle down and be more productive at work and to move towards professional success. Or still yet, maybe you resolved to make improvements in your community through acts like volunteering. But what if there were a resolution you could make that would impact all of these areas at once? A practice, only taking a few minutes each day, that would improve your wellbeing, make you more successful in your work endeavors, and positively impact society? Think it sounds too good to be true? Well according to Cedars Sinai, practicing daily acts of kindness can achieve just that.  

In their blog, the staff at Cedars Sinai outline how scientific research has proven that practicing acts of kindness releases chemicals in the brain such as oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone”, which is responsible for “making us more trusting, more generous, and friendlier, while also lowering our blood pressure.” In addition to oxytocin, practicing kindness causes the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters also released during exercise. Dopamine when released while we exercise is responsible for what some people call a “runner’s high” but when released while practicing acts of kindness it is instead called a “helper’s high”. Additionally, serotonin helps to regulate your mood, appetite, and sleep cycles, staving off depression and anxiety and improving an overall sense of well-being. Even more, Dr. IsHak of Cedar Sinai, says that engaging in acts of kindness is “believed to increase levels of an endorphin-like chemical in the body called substance P, which can relieve pain. 

Sounds pretty good so far right?! But wait, there’s more! Author and psychologist Shawn Achor argues that the happiness we gain from practicing random acts of kindness, can inspire us to be more productive, intelligent, resilient, and creative. Moreover, Achor maintains that practicing kindness is one tool we can implement to rewire our brains to be more positive and in turn, happy. In his Ted talk, Achor explains that we tend to believe that once we achieve success we’ll find happiness, when in fact, it is the opposite. Through his scientific research, Achor has proven that the more happy and positive we are, the more we are likely (through our increased productivity etc.) to find success. You can see Achor’s Ted Talk here:

So go ahead and send a nice email to a colleague, hold the door for the person behind you, let someone in while in traffic, or greet your neighbors on your morning walk...maybe this year we should all resolve to improve our health, find success, and to make the world a better place, one small act of kindness at a time. 

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
Lao Tzu

VillageHallMeetingAs you’ve likely heard, at the December 11 meeting about Freightway, the majority of residents present expressed opposition to converting the site into a transit-oriented development (TOD). In particular, they cited concerns about the proposed 200-plus rental/condo units that would serve as a cornerstone of such a design plan. How would the influx of hundreds of new residents impact the school district, the Metro North train station, and daily life in Scarsdale?

Over 30 members of the public lined up to voice their reservations and concerns about preliminary Freightway plans presented by the two finalist development groups. Taken together, the comments provided the village board with much food for thought as they continue to explore whether a TOD is the best choice the village. Here’s what some residents had to say:

Two Hours of Comments
Bob Berg (Tisdale Road) opened the public comment session, stating, “Freightway is an undeniable eyesore but the two proposals we’ve seen… are nonstarters… We’re not… looking for another 500-plus new residents to move into non-age-restricted apartments.” He continued, “If you can’t guarantee that the project will substantially lower our existing residents’ property taxes, stop now and let’s figure out another plan. I have grave concerns that 220 to 285 apartment units… can ever generate sufficient property taxes to even come close to covering the incremental cost the project will impose on our schools and village services, let alone lower our existing residents’ property taxes… Under New York property tax law, apartments receive incredibly favorable tax treatment as compared to single-family homes… This project will substantially raise existing homeowners’ property taxes to subsidize 500-plus new residents who will clog our schools and our already jammed Metro North train platform.”

Max Grudin (Overhill Road) followed, saying, “It’s all well if everyone pays their fair share of taxes. In 2016, the village board rejected the Homestead Act. It isn’t fair to discriminate against one family; it’s also unfair to discriminate against 99 percent of families... We’ve created two different classes of homeowners (single family homeowners and apartment dwellers)… it is important to reconsider the Homestead Act.”

Mayor Marc Samwick replied, “Homestead is not able to be acted on right now. Right now… the taxes that are assessed in Scarsdale are consistent with New York State law. New York State provides that you can override a piece of that, known as “homestead.” The village board, over the past five years, has twice evaluated whether to enact the homestead tax option… and on both occasions has unanimously voted against that. Next time it comes up, we’ll be happy to talk about it some more.”

Boning Lu (Jefferson Road) expressed concern about how new rental units would impact Scarsdale schools, and the assumption that only larger, specifically three-bedroom, apartments would house families with school-aged children. “(In New York City) people who live in two-bedroom, even one-bedroom (apartments) can raise school-aged kids… if you don’t have restrictions… you cannot prevent (these children) from (going) the schools. I don’t think 200 units will only generate 20 kids (as previously projected).” She went on, “We have to learn from other school districts… In Larchmont, they had a large residential unit constructed recently, and their school is overcrowded because they have too many kids… They had to build temporary classrooms… we spend so much, we don’t want our kids in temporary classrooms.”

Samwick responded, “We all are here for the schools as well... If we believe, at any time, that this development would yield something that is detrimental to our schools and changes the foundation of our community, we don’t need to proceed.” He added, “What I also want people to understand is these are things that absolutely will be and, by law, have to be studied and assessed.”

Bert Cohen (Chesterfield Road) followed, “I’m hearing about paid professionals and consultants, and it really reminds me of the reval. Whatever the arguments were (about) the logic, clearly, in many ways, the village didn’t understand the impact on the residents.” He continued, “270 apartments might lead you to 500 new students. I don’t care what study you have; it’s not going to work out... This whole thing is out of proportion to the village and… a parking lot. If we need a different parking lot, let’s come up with something else instead.”

Bram Levin (Overhill Road) “I think there are so many intersecting issues, which is why we hear such a diversity of comments… One of the things we keep repeating… is that we don’t have policy papers… published papers on our economic development… We should have an environmental plan… we don’t have an economic plan… we don’t have a future plan… We’re really working in the dark here… These (proposals) are very limited ideas. They don’t solve our traffic problems; they don’t protect or show concern for the school issues. The (Bronx River) parkway zone, which is a sensitive environmental area, has really suffered a great loss of trees… there are a lot of people living in this area… We should be dealing with this in a comprehensive, multi-community way. “

Samwick replied, “There is a village comprehensive plan that goes back. There have been other studies that have been done of our village center since. We’re standing on the shoulders of that. So, this is not coming out of left field by any stretch… Frankly, the discussion about redeveloping Freightway is decades old.”

A bit later, Brice Kirkendall-Rodriguez (Fox Meadow Road) said, “There has been discussion about the expected demographics for 200-plus new rental units at Freightway but we need to also think about the future demographics for… empty nests that are increasingly under pressure… We can make our community friendlier to our longest-tenure residents by minimizing tax burdens and increasing amenities. Freightway offers help in this regard and more.”

He continued, “While retail is suffering nationally, it is possible that our woes are amplified by a near monopoly in the village center… Perhaps Freightway offers an alternative to this monopoly and a way to fulfill consumer demand… non-residential, experiential retail opportunities abound, and the market already exists as evidenced by what Scarsdalians spend elsewhere… To see them realized means using the full scope of land available to us. Scarsdale already owns the air rights over Metro North’s tracks. It adds about 40 percent to the acreage for the site and more cohesively integrates Garth Road with Scarsdale Avenue and the village center… If our air rights are not part of this project, that value will never be captured… the project scope for Freightway remains smaller and has largely concentrated on rental apartments and parking.”

Samwick replied, “Amenities… we want to hear what your priorities and preferences are so we can try to incorporate that, as much as possible, into the development. Air rights: we’ve had preliminary discussions with everyone about how to best utilize them. Keep in mind the difficulties we had constructing the Popham Road Bridge, which is just 80 feet wide.“ He went on, “There’s only so much value in that land right now; there are a couple of ways you can get that value. You can put it on the tax rolls, you can sell it and develop it – you can get something up front and tax dollars at the back end. If you increase the tax dollars at the back end, you’re going to get less up front. We have certain needs up-front, primarily… parking. We also have a number of wants, in terms of amenities and things we can bring to the community. “

Deborah McCarthy (Bradley Road), “I don’t think that the path… to address fiscal concerns is the path we should be on… I have a great number of concerns about what is being proposed and how it may detract from rather than enhance the village center. In addition… I have a question with respect to the parking… how much parking is going to be allocated for the residences? When they’re talking about 720 spaces, is that for the commuters and residents?” Samwick quickly responded, “That’s for the community. Residents would have separate parking.”

McCarthy added, “One of the things… these two proposals fail to show is the ability to access the site and to depart the site in ways that would enhance traffic flow… The other thing is… the village should be asking for affidavits from these developers as to their litigation history. Have they been sued; have they settled those suits; what have the suits been about, so we have a better understanding of what their track record is. I can understand the desire of the village to want to develop that site… (but) there is vacant (retail) space in the village and working with the individuals who own that space is probably the most productive step the village can take in that regard.”

Samwick answered, “That is something that is already happening; the village manager and I met with (an) owner… two days ago. With regard to other things… We are not supporting or sponsoring the development proposals... These are designed to engage a conversation… we’re going through extra steps to involve the community, and involve the community at a much earlier stage than would normally be the case… By having early discussions, we’re not having refined plans to dive into.”

Marshall Kitain (Butler Road) “A vibrant downtown is a worthwhile goal. The proposed development here is too risky, is too big, and it offers no guarantee of creating the vibrant downtown we would like. Creating this much new housing supply does not serve current village residents... It will pressure the school system infrastructure, particularly if zoned for a single elementary school… Adding significant new housing supply at a low price point depresses existing property values, and the development itself is risky… The potential for unintended consequences here is very large… while transit-oriented developments may be great for some towns, that does not mean it’s right for Scarsdale… Listen to your constituents here tonight.”

Samwick replied, “We haven’t addressed school zones; that’s something the school district and board of education determines… I agree with you; just because transit-oriented developments have worked in other communities doesn’t mean this is right for 10583. But we want to look at it and make an educated determination.”

Kitain followed, “I wholly agree that it’s worth exploring. What’s being presented here are two, by and large, similar kind of developments. They’re not real out-of-the-box thinking… Amenities like squash courts and a pool… a park, a playground… those are real creative ideas and should be presented… once you continue going down one path, it almost becomes a fait accompli.”

Zangzhou Hu (Brite Avenue) then discussed the desirable Short Hills school district becoming overcrowded after a new apartment complex was built. She also expressed concerns about Scarsdale’s timeline in selecting a preferred developer, as well as the quality of the project analysis to date. Samwick explained that the reason a preferred developer would be “selected prior to having all the information is so that (it will) have enough comfort to spend money to do site due diligence. They will determine what the environmental condition of the site is; they will see where the bedrock is, where the water table is, and what can be built there. That enables the developer with the village to refine the program… in the meantime, we are doing analysis; we are looking at the experience of comparable communities; we’re looking at what the experience is with school generation…we’re looking at what it is in Scarsdale… We’ve heard about what is happening in Short Hills… we have not yet been able to confirm that… but it’s critically important (to take into account).”

Claudine Gessel (Kent Road) said, “This is just more kids, no matter how you look at it… and, of course, we don’t know how many kids there are, we just know they’re more. What we also know, from the Greenacres thing that just happened, is that we’re pretty maxed out… in every room, with every teacher, in every seat. We are maxed out and people don’t want to raise the tax bill… (for more square footage, and more teachers)… what kind of taxes is this generating?” Samwick followed, “Fiscal impact: if it doesn’t work, it’s not happening… with respect to schools, if we have to build more schools, it’s not happening.”

Alex Wolf (Harvest Drive) stated, “It seems to me that this project is offering us very marginal benefits in terms of the public amenities in return for huge profits for developers, who come in here, build, and, yes, Avalon will manage their asset. That’s wonderful for us… This garage (will cost) $2.5 million to repair. That’s less than one-tenth of a percent over a 10-year period during which those repairs are supposed to have a useful life… That’s $500 a family over 10 years. So why are we getting nothing for this (development)? We have to accept this residential component to get marginal benefit to the community? …We could have a bond issue and make the improvements that the community wants.”

Samwick followed up, “If we think we’re getting nothing (with this project), we’re done; we’ll fix the garage. With respect to the future of the garage, the garage is almost 50 years old. This $2.5 million is just the beginning. There is a lot of money, probably tens of millions of dollars, that needs to be spent over a longer period of time, albeit, but, unquestionably, we are at the beginning of a downward spiral with respect to that garage… That’s why it’s so important to do the evaluations that we’re doing right now.”

Fernando Gueler (Taunton Road) stated that he and other residents would like to see a spectrum of options for the Freightway site. He explained the frustration of having to choose just between repairing the garage and a large scale, multi-use project. He also felt that the two finalists’ designs were very similar, and presented residents with too few ideas/choices. Samwick explained that all developers were asked to provide designs that reflected existing village center architecture; the two designs presented include features that currently work in these types of developments and are market-driven

Kenneth Clay (Tompkins Road) commented, “It feels like a remedy for an illness I’m not sure we have. We have a parking lot that’s in decay; it can be repaired. We may have an opportunity to do some other things… We ought to do a little more to define the needs… I would hope this isn’t fully baked; this is illustrative, and that we will give further consideration with community input.” Samwick then said, “The way you’ve said it is exactly right; it isn’t fully baked.”

Michael Levine (Walworth Avenue) then said, “What is the impact on the public school population and what’s the sustainable or acceptable impact? …The visioning study… estimates at most 20 new public school students; that’s not consistent with the RFEI from East End, which says it’s targeting mature adults and seniors, and young families seeking starter homes in a walkable, suburban location with great schools. LCOR, similarly, (states)
‘The intent is to provide a wide variety of residential unit sizes… from families to millennials to mature adults, we’re committed to reaching as many groups as possible. Well, families and millennials, millennials become families. People who will have school kids… You really ought to look at this carefully now because it may avoid doing a whole lot of other work if you can’t find a way to keep the school population down to the 20 or so you said in the visioning study.” Samwick replied, “If there’s one threshold issue, it’s school impact. We are on top of it.”

Soon after, Mayra Kirkendall Rodriguez (Fox Meadow Road) stated, “I think it’s fantastic to have this kind of a session; I think it’s really great to see so many residents wanting to be actively involved in our municipality and it’s essential to have cognizant diversity. It can be hard, it can be ugly, because everybody has a different background, everybody has a different culture, (and) everybody has a different way of speaking. But it’s when you really deal with the differences in opinion… that the result is far better. If we surround ourselves with just the people who agree with us, that results in a higher probability of failure… I want this to be a smashing success... The sun is setting on America’s longest economic expansion in history… 25 huge retailers went into bankruptcy this year; 30 more are predicted to go into bankruptcy next year… I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade… we have to be very careful in our due diligence – the financials of the bidders, the economics of the project, and hopefully, that’s coming at some point soon… and any reputations risks to Scarsdale. “

Residents raised a number of other issues and urged that any development feature sustainable design; asked the village to improve communications efforts related to the project and engage more residents; questioned if the developers could drastically reduce the number of proposed residential units; reinforced the need for the village to serve current residents rather than future residents; and asked their neighbors to debate the issues respectfully.

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you may view the developers’ presentations and provide feedback via Scarsdale.com.

Following the meeting, John Gliedman of Lyons Road sent this letter to Scarsdale10583:

Meetings like the one publicized by the mayor and held on December 11, 2019 are so important because they help focus and foster advance planning. I fear there was no such meeting in the town to our east, Mamaroneck, when it learned in 2014 that 300 new families had been added as residents due to various trends, including new construction.

The signs of overcrowding began the following year, but they erupted in 2017 with news that rezoning of school assignments was on the table. A map had been prepared showing the new assignments, as the Chatsworth and Murray Avenue schools had become overcrowded. This triggered petitions and public meetings in early 2018, when parents who had moved to be walking distance from their school suddenly faced long trips to their proposed assigned school.

There is nothing inevitable about Scarsdale to say that this could not happen here. Take the Freightway out of the equation for the moment. Demographic pendulums have a way of swinging back and forth. Overcrowding is an ever-present risk. Now, add Freightway apartment development plans into the equation. Why risk a self-inflicted problem of overcrowding into our community? Surely our local store profits and the cost of sustaining Freightway are problems that we can isolate and solve without triggering new, worse issues?

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