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spruceThe Village Board considered the fate of a Colorado blue spruce tree in Boniface Circle and also heard details about the effect of COVID on Village Hall personnel and leaf collection at their meeting on Tuesday night November 24, 2020.

Mayor’s Remarks

Mayor Marc Samwick discussed how the specter of the coronavirus pandemic has made this holiday season different from those of years past. He specifically singled out COVID fatigue and the dark, winter season as contributory factors behind that change. In addition to reading out Center for Disease Control suggestions for how to deal with the season’s challenges, Mayor Samwick spoke to the recent increase in local COVID-19 cases. Scarsdale “has gone from 9 [cases], about three weeks ago, to 38 [cases] today,” according to the Mayor. Samwick also noted that village staff members have gotten sick, taking a toll on village operations.

The Mayor stressed the importance of continuing to provide fiscal support for different Scarsdale institutions. He asked residents to “please continue to shop and dine the ‘Dale throughout the winter months,” and called for donations to the Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps, so as to avoid the increased costs that would come from the use of a commercial ambulance service. See his full remarks here.

Village Manager Comments

Scarsdale Village Manager Steve Pappalardo shed more light on the effect of COVID-19 on Village Hall. As a result of positive tests and “close contact,” 11 full-time employees are currently out of the office under home quarantine. The exposure hit the first floor of Village Hall where the Village Clerk, Village Treasury and Water Departments are located. These have been shut down as a result, with offices closed until November 30 when the quarantine will end for these staff members.

Village Manager Pappalardo explained that a plan is being developed, in response to these closures, to have employees work in two different groups—one from home, and the other in the building—so as to prevent a cluster of positive tests from once again sidelining an entire department for 14 days. Cleaning protocols will be increased with the entire building fogged twice a week and high touch areas cleaned daily.

Leaf Pick-UpLeafBagsThe Village Manager called on residents to bag their leaves.

Pappalardo also noted that the Highway Department has been impacted by the virus. Currently 14 full time and seasonal workers have tested positive or are quarantined as close contacts. The number of crews taking care of leaf collection has decreased because of COVID. As a result, the Village is close to completing the second round of leaf collection at each home but may not be able to complete a third round of leaf collections by the end of the season on December 11. Pappalardo asked residents to consider bagging their leaves, and leaving them at the curb to be collected by sanitation workers, or asking their landscapers to bring the leaves to the recycling center where they can deposit them without a fee if they have proof they come from a resident’s home. Forms to allow leaf drop off were distributed to landscapers or can be picked up at Village Hall and at the recycling center. A signed note from the resident will also suffice. The Village would appreciate the help as they have been “dealt a severe blow” by this pandemic.

Public Comment Period # 1

Marcy Berman-Goldstein spoke on behalf of the Scarsdale Business Alliance and the Downtown Revitalization Committee of the Scarsdale Forum. The groups have a joint desire to revitalize the village center and have been assessing ideas to recreate Boniface Park into a welcoming space for visitors. She said, “Unfortunately Boniface Park has long been a neglected and underutilized space…. It is dark and shadowy at night and was until recently overgrown with bushes that blocked views…. The blue spruce tree is not thriving … it should be removed to open up space for public use. … planting a new tree would still allow for a tree lighting, or a temporary tree could be used during the holiday season. Members of the SBA and Downtown Revitalization Committee respectfully request that the blue spruce tree be removed, leaving space for other uses.” She said funds to do the work might be able to be raised through private sources.

Susan Douglas spoke on behalf of the Scarsdale Forum, and echoed concerns about the blue spruce tree. She noted, however, “that The Forum has and will continue to promote green projects,” suggesting for example, that Scarsdale residents could mulch their leaves at home, as an eco-friendly alternative to collection options. About the tree she said, “We want a festive holiday tree. Just not this particular tree in this particular location.” She said the tree was “visibly unwell” and “infested with beetles”. She called it “scraggly and sad,” and suggested a replacement tree or a temporary tree. She said, “We are interested in creating a vibrant downtown,” but that “every space does not need to be covered with grass and trees.” She called for the area to be a gathering space with tables and chairs, emulating European cities where people can have a snack or hear a musical performance or a tent could be set up for events.”

Madelaine Eppenstein, President of Scarsdale Forum, spoke next. She wished everyone at Village Hall well. She added that after consulting with a certified arborist from Bartlett Tree, it was determined that the Colorado blue spruce tree at Boniface Circle Park has fungal disease and is perhaps suffering from “insect damage.”

Bob Berg spoke in defense of the blue spruce tree in Boniface Circle Park. “It is a tree that has not been determined to be dying at this point,” protested Berg. He then complained about village laws related to people tearing down trees on private property. Circling back to the blue spruce, Berg called it an “iconic tree,” and referenced the Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi, claiming that the effort to tear down that tree seemed to be in the vein of those who want to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” Berg also called for Trustee Lena Crandall to analyze the impact of taking down this tree.

Diane Gurden, the Village Budget Portfolio Chair of The League of Women Voters of Scarsdale, spoke next. She asked the board a series of questions about the impact of COVID on the upcoming budget process. Among them were: “Has the Village applied for any grants for COVID relief? How will the board gather community input for the budget? How has the pandemic impacted village revenues? How has COVID 19 affected levels of staffing for this year, and how will it impact the upcoming year?” In response to those questions, and several others, Mayor Samwick said he is looking into financial relief for merchants, and that the issues Gurden raised will be addressed during the budget process.

4KingstonRoadA developer is proposing the construction of 22 foot retaining walls to accommodate a larger yard and pool at 4 Kingston Road.Mark Nadler from 171 Brite Avenue spoke in opposition to the site development at a home on 4 Kingston Road which includes the construction of “2 massive retaining walls, 22 feet high by 100 feet wide. He is the downhill neighbor. He asked for the board to help repair a “broken approval process.” He said, “This is about a non-local builder,” wanting to move over a 32-foot high hill six feet closer to my property line to accommodate a bigger in ground pool and yard.” He said, “His rights as a builder should not exceed my rights as a homeowner.” He said, “the entire purpose and function of the Scarsdale Architectural Review Board needs review, as they are not sure of what they are or are not reviewing.” He continued, “It is impossible to get details of the BAR conversations. This was approved without any visuals of the 32- foot high hill or retaining walls or where they are to be located. There was no in-depth discussion of landscaping, land use or the suitability of this project. …. I should not have needed to hire a lawyer, and spend thousands of dollars,” to find inconsistencies in what was proposed. He said, “I also hired an engineer who did a stormwater management study which found several mistakes in the builder’s submissions. The zoning board of appeals needs to focus on damage to a neighbor. The pool application is on the agenda for the Board of Zoning Appeals on 12/9 and I suggest that this should be adjourned since plans need to be submitted. I plan to bring experts to testify at that meeting.”

The Mayor assured Nadler that he had attention from the highest level staff to ensure that everything is legal and appropriate.

Bob Harrison, the Volunteer Director of the Scarsdale Summer Youth Tennis League, discussed the price of the proposed comfort station at the Middle School Tennis Courts. A strong supporter of the comfort station, Harrison did not understand why it is slated to cost $150,000. In response, Village Manager Pappalarado said that the Scarsdale School Board did approve the IMA, but that he understood Harrison’s concerns, and that the architect had been contacted about a preliminary project estimate.

Trustee Liaison Reports

Trustee Rochelle Waldman announced that beginning December 1, contactless drop off and pick up will be available at the newly reopened Scarsdale Public Library at 54 Olmstead Road. She also noted that expanded library hours are being introduced as well. The librarians are available by phone and virtual services have been planned. However, rising COVID infection rates are affecting in person services. She said, “Though they want to offer some in-person services, we’re concerned for the welfare of staff and patrons.” Waldman said that peer libraries are currently drawing down their in-person offerings. Scarsdale will continue to assess the situation and may allow for in person browsing by appointment.

Trustee Crandall called for a public works session to evaluate the proposal for the tree at Boniface Circle. She said, “Is it a hazard tree in a public place?” Crandall also noted that she was “concerned about the emotional impact of the discussion on our residents” during this time of COVID. She said that apartment inhabitants who look out onto Boniface Circle were concerned, and that taking down the blue spruce tree is a permanent change that might affect them. However she said she would look at this with an open mind. She also called for residents to bring plastic film and plastic packaging material to the recycling center.

Trustee Jonathan Lewis expressed concern about Scarsdale’s “cyber-security readiness and [its] ability to work in a virtual environment for some time.” He stressed the need for the Village to put in cyber defenses, reach out to the Technology Advisory Council for support, and address these issues before the currently-scheduled January 12 meeting, which he believes is too far away to begin taking action.

Trustee Randall Whitestone reported on a virtual meeting of the Safe Coalition, Children’s, Family Community, an organization that works to provide support for those struggling with domestic violence. Whitestone referenced a half hour video they released about resources available for those dealing with domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agenda Items

The trustees approved a resolution read by Trustee Justin Arest for issuance of $6 million in refunding bonds which will save the Village over $500,000.

Trustee Crandall read a resolution accepting a monetary gift of $1,650 from Meredith Grossbach, for the purchase of a bench near library pond in memory of her late father, Dr. Conrad Goldberg.

The Board approved resolutions to place a créche in Boniface Circle, a Menorah in Chase Park and to Chabad to hold a virtual menorah lighting celebration in Chase Park on December 13, 2020.

Trustee Waldman read a resolution to accept a “police traffic services program grant” that was approved by a roll call vote.

After explaining the financial hardship that O’Neills Concession—the proprietor of the Scarsdale Pool concession stand—underwent at that venue this year, the board approved a license fee reduction of $11,000 from $16,000 to $5,000.

Trustee Whitestone proposed that the contract to rehabilitate the Boniface Water Tank on Garden Road, “VM contract #1249, be awarded to Brave Industrial Paint.” The resolution passed.

Public Comment Period # 2

During the second public comment period, Mike Levine said that a spruce tree came down on his house and advocated for streamlining the process to “remove large, old trees.”

Future Meeting Schedule

During discussions about future meetings, Trustee Lewis asked the Board to consider bringing back agenda meetings and trustee work sessions. He said that since the COVID crisis there has been little opportunity to engage in serious public discussion. Trustee Arest, called for more frequent work sessions to discuss help for downtown merchants and a host of quality of life issues.

The next Village Board of Trustees meeting is Thursday December 3, 2020.

keto food pyramidWhat’s up with everyone “doing keto”? I was at a friend’s house for dinner and all her salad dressings were “Keto” and the café I was having a PTA meeting at had “Keto friendly” salads for lunch. As I began inquiring, the endocrinologist in the crowd chimed in saying that she has patients coming in regularly complaining that they’re tired and fat and they want to begin the keto diet under physician supervision.

The theory behind the Ketogenic Diet is high-fat, low-carbohydrate (carb) and moderate protein food intake. By restricting the body of carbs, one will eventually reach a state of ketosis – a metabolic state where fat is burned for energy. Ketosis can only occur when carbohydrates are kept at extremely low levels (usually below 30/40 grams per day and some plans restrict intake to below 21 grams per day). Percentage-wise, the diet suggests a daily intake of foods that consist of 75% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbohydrates.
Initially used by the medical community to treat epilepsy patients with seizure disorders, there is some preliminary data showing that a ketogenic diet may benefit patients with certain types of other diseases.

One woman in our community told me that she had been diagnosed with glioblastoma (brain cancer) and through online research learned that a ketogenic diet may prevent recurrence. There actually is data to back this claim, though much of it is still preliminary. There is also increasing data revealing that the keto diet may help patients with neurologic diseases and with diabetes. “My tumor was resected in January,” she said, “and I began Keto about three weeks ago. It’s not too difficult to follow and I’ve lost about ten pounds.” I asked if her doctor was supportive as the diet was based on information she found online versus information that was physician-provided. “My doc was supportive but warned that it might be hard to restrict carbs to 21 grams per day. It hasn’t been too difficult though.” (I didn’t think so either until I realized that my one cup of yogurt contained an entire day of Keto- Diet carbs!)

Another person here in Scarsdale said she saw a classmate of hers lose “…oodles of weight on the Keto Diet so I thought I would try it. The first two to three days were really tough…I was light headed so I spent of lot of the time laying down. I ate lots of cheese. I did the diet religiously for 20 days and I must admit that my clothes fit better and I lost six pounds quickly.” She explained that being from an Indian family, she felt she could not continue the keto diet. “I went back to India and of course pigged out on the carb rich diet and realized I could never go back on keto!” She learned a lot though and did lose weight quickly and noticeably. “My skin brightened up with all the veggies,” she said, “but as soon as you stop the diet, the weight piles back on. I also didn’t like the feeling of being cranky and not having the energy to work out.”

There are other issues that come up surrounding the Keto Diet. For example, my endocrinologist friend told me about her keto diet patients feeling extremely tired and cranky at the start of severely reducing carbohydrates. Some patients even describe themselves as not thinking clearly. Other people have termed this “Keto flu” as the body adjusts to limited glucose availability and people actually experience flu-like symptoms. These issues usually resolve within a week or two.

I reached out to long-time nutritionist Elizabeth DeRobertis, MS, RD, CDN, CDE, Director of the Nutrition Center at Scarsdale Medical Group to get the facts and her expert opinion on the ketogenic diet.

Do you have patients coming in asking about the Keto Diet? What are the most common reasons patients want to begin this diet?

Yes, I do have patients coming in asking about the Keto Diet, usually inquiring because they have heard of someone who has lost weight doing it and heard that they did not feel hungry. I believe the biggest draw is that people say they feel full/satisfied and are losing weight at the same time.

How does it stack up against similar diets, like Paleo or Atkins, in terms of weight loss and sustainability?

Keto is similar to plans such as Atkins and Paleo and everything else that reduces carb intake. The difference is the focus on increased fat in the Keto Diet versus increased protein in the others. Any plan that reduces carbs ultimately reduces calorie intake and thereby results in weight loss. An increase in protein and an increase in fat helps people to feel satiated. People seem to crave carbs less when they all but eliminate them. When you start your day off with a higher-carb breakfast, your body needs to produce more insulin and that extra circulating insulin can actually make you feel hungrier and crave even more carbs. With a higher protein breakfast, your body does not need to produce insulin in response to that meal so a higher protein breakfast helps people feel full quickly and feel full for longer. Protein and fat both promote satiety (or feeling full) so therein lies the success of the Keto Diet.

In your professional opinion, what type of patient is a good candidate for the Keto Diet (and who is not)?

I think it’s reasonable for someone try a Keto type of approach if they want to lose weight and they don’t feel satiated with their higher carb lifestyle. The Keto Diet is based on increased fat, however, and it allows that fat to come from saturated fat. The downfall to this is that I have seen this raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, in people who previously did not have high LDL cholesterol. Saturated fat is the type of fat that can cause plaque to build up in the arteries. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 13 grams or less of saturated fat per day. The Keto Diet includes coconut oil which in and of itself has 12 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. The AHA recently made a statement that coconut oil should not be ingested because of its high saturated fat profile. As a nutritionist, I believe that people can achieve the same level of success with this plan by choosing unsaturated fats over saturated fats. Fat does help people to feel full and modifying the type of fat can make this plan a healthier option. For example, I would suggest nuts over cheese as a snack on the Keto Diet as nuts contain healthier fats than cheese. If we compared the satiety of a snack such as a 100-calorie bag of pretzels to a 100-calorie portion of veggies with guacamole dip, the guacamole would likely promote greater satiety because of its high fat and low carbohydrate make up; and avocado is high in unsaturated or “healthy” fat. This is especially important for people with a personal or family history of heart disease; I advise using olive oil over butter, turkey instead of salami and other unsaturated-fat food options.

Do you have any other thoughts on the Keto Diet from your perspective as a nutritionist?

It’s okay to follow a more restrictive plan initially, but it is extremely important to have a transition plan and a longer-term plan in place. For example, when the weight loss goal is achieved or if a patient is feeling bored or like they are veering off course, rather than giving it up completely and returning to old unhealthy eating habits, it would be a good time to start to add versions of foods they have been missing in small quantities. Take a bagel, for example. Rather than indulging in such a high-carb food, a Keto dieter can add two slices of a whole grain healthier bread as part of their lunch. (As a side note, my new favorite find is Dave's Killer Bread at 60 calories a slice!) I have learned that different things work from each of the many diet plans that have been popular over the years. There is some truth in each of them, but the key is to find what works for the individual in order for the to sustain the lifestyle.

Have you tried the Keto Diet? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

LatimerState Senator George Latimer pulled off a big victory in Westchester County, defeating two-term incumbent Rob Astorino to become Westchester County Executive. Though Astorino was initially in the lead, the margins narrowed in the weeks before the election. Latimer's supporters knew the vote would be close and a committed group of volunteers organized to bring out the vote. Latimer surprised everyone by winning 57% of the 206,230 votes cast, soundly defeating Astorino's 43%. Astorino, a former radio personality and producer was a rising star in the Republican Party and challenged Andrew Cuomo in the race for NYS Governor in 2014.

Latimer rode a wave of Democratic Party support across the country as voters expressed their frustration with Trump's policies. Key issues in Westchester include taxes, gun control, water safety, women's rights and the proposed privatization of Westchester County airport. A controversial $1 million donation to Astorino's campaign by Breitbart supporter Robert Mercer brought national politics to the local level and may have swayed some voters.

According to results from the Westchester County Board of Elections, Latimer won 66.79% of the vote in Scarsdale, getting 2,561 of the 3,834 votes cast for county executive.

Myra Saul headed up the volunteer effort in Scarsdale with Deborah Porder, Stephen Sherman and student Jack Greenspan. Commenting on the results, Saul said, "Many volunteers from Indivisible Westchester, Democratic clubs and local advocacy groups greatly helped Latimer, who never had the financial resources available to the Astorino campaign. People power was Latimer's secret sauce. Many people in Scarsdale volunteered for phone banks, postcard writing and canvassing events. Many of the volunteers had never been politically active before. A Scarsdale high school contingent was also active. While much of this activity reflected a desire to rid Westchester of a very conservative Republican who is associated with the Trump brand, there also was a deep desire to change the course of the county's policies. For example, many in Scarsdale were horrified at the gun show held last year at the County Center at which racist and anti - Semitic literature was available. Latimer has pledged that no gun shows will be held on county property. We can expect that Latimer will stop privatization of the airport and will be more diligent in addressing environmental concerns. Finally, Latimer has promised a return to a pragmatic, non-ideological county government. After the contentiousness of the Astorino era, many are looking forward to an administration that believes in government and a desire to get things done competently and in the public good."

 

Mark Lewis, who chairs the Scarsdale Democrats provided the following analysis of the race for County Executive and the Board of Legislators, where Scarsdale's representative Ben Boykin ran unopposed. He said, "Scarsdale went for George Latimer by a 2 to 1 margin. The win means that we will be going in a new direction in the County. George will be more supportive of helping non-profits who get funding from the County. The Democrats also won three more seats in the Legislature, probably signaling a change in leadership in January when the newly elected legislators and the new County Executive begin their terms in office."

He continued, "All the unions need new contracts and Astorino has not negotiated with them. George will have to find a way to settle new contracts. Astorino has let our County roads and other infrastructure deteriorate. George will be proactive in fixing the County infrastructure. He has pledged to increase the Planning Department so they can plan and implement improvements to the County infrastructure. He will not let bridges wait eight years, while pieces of the bridge fall on cars passing under them before repairing them, which is what happened on the Ardsley Road Bridge going over the Thruway in Greenburgh. He will not wait eight years to repair swimming pools such as the Sprain Brook pool, which had to be closed down for three years due to ill repair, before fixing them."LattimerEngel

He concluded, "Rob Astorino is presenting his last County budget so we do not know what that will look like. The new budget will be coming out in the next few days. George will have to live with an Astorino budget which will be passed before he takes office in January. Ben Boykin, who represents Scarsdale and White Plains, also won as he ran unopposed and will be one of the more senior legislators. Ben is a CPA and is very knowledgeable about budgets."

As for the three propositions on the ballot, here's how Westchester County voted:

Proposition One to convene a NYS Constitutional Convention was defeated 81% to 19%.

Proposition Two to allow courts to reduce or revoke the pensions of public officers who are convicted for felonies was approved 73% to 27%.

Proposition Three to permit the use of preserved forests for health and safety needs was approved 60% to 40%.

Please email us your feedback at ScarsdaleComments@gmail.com.

We would love to hear from you. Thank you!

eclipse3It's come and gone – the 2017 eclipse of the sun that reached its peak in Scarsdale at 2:44 pm on Monday August 21. The event, which last occurred in 1979, stopped everyone in town in their tracks, as they put their eclipse glasses on to watch the moon pass in front of the sun – leaving just a crescent of the sun to view. Here in New York, we were able to view about 75% coverage of the sun. As the moon passed over the sun it created a dark shadow over town.

Earlier in the day, the Scarsdale Library promised to distribute 140 pairs of eclipse glasses and those were gone quickly when over 300 library cardholders lined up to collect their own pair. They were gone quickly – and unfortunately some walked away without a pair of their own. But since one pair was given to each family, everyone could share the lenses and observe the eclipse.

Some traveled to interesting venues to view the eclipse. Andrea Seiden and Peggy DaSilva went to the roof of the Museum of Natural History where an area of devices were available to use to look at the sun. 

Brothers Adam and Benjamin Longman, who have been interested in astronomy for years, decided that the eclipse was the ideal reason for a road trip.  First they drove to Washington D.C. where Adam is a third year student at George Washingon Law School and spent the night. The next day, they were originally headed for Charleston when they heard that bad weather might prevent a good view.  Instead they headed to Clemson University in South Carolina where they were able to see the total eclipse. Adam said he looked up and saw "a black disc covering the sun" and the shadow turned the bright afternoon into "twilight."

Liam Haller also took a long road trip, driving 29 hours from Scarsdale to Alcoa, Tennessee where he watched the eclipse in Springbrook Park. Along the way he picked up friends at the University of Virginia.

Commenting on the phenomena, Michelle Lichtenberg said, "What I loved about the eclipse was the opportunity it gave us as a nation to unite and examine this solar event together.  After a bleak week of news, this was a welcome chance to rise above our differences and appreciate mother nature from coast to coast."eclipseglasses

What did you think of the eclipse? Did it live up to all the media hype? Send your comments and photos to scarsdalecomments@gmail.com and we'll include them here!

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