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Village Board: Peace in the Neighborhood

PozinDan PozinThis Tuesday’s village board meeting was a far cry from December’s Freightway session, during which most residents rattled their pitchforks. In fact, the tone of the evening was harmonious, in light of last week’s announcement that the Freightway redevelopment has been halted. 

In his opening comments, Mayor Marc Samwick referenced the issue and stated, “The village board put a hold on the Freightway process for a number of reasons but, primarily, because we realized that many residents were uneasy with the idea of selecting a preferred developer when the initial proposals were considered out-of-touch with what is best for our community.” He continued, “The village board has shared many of the same concerns and neither proposal, as presented, was ever an option.  But (given the) concern (of) our neighbors, made worse with the spread of incomplete and, at times, inaccurate information, we decided the responsible action was to pause.”

He then stated that repairing and eventually replacing the garage is a viable option, along with a “recalibrated” design, but any additional proposals that may shown to the public will include data on financial and school impacts. While he assured the public that no next steps are planned at this time, Mayor Samwick reiterated the board’s commitment to the public comment period and encouraged residents to continue providing feedback on potential plans for the site.

Problem Solved
The pleasantries continued, as Samwick introduced the new village attorney, Dan Pozin, who joins Scarsdale from McCarthy Fingar LLP, where he serves as a partner in the municipal law and land use group. Scarsdale retained McCarthy Fingar at the beginning of this month and Pozin has been working with village staff for two weeks. He is Scarsdale’s primary contact at the firm, supported by several attorneys with deep experience in municipal law.  

In discussing the relationship, Trustee Seth Ross said, “The appointment of an outside firm as general counsel to the village represents a significant change from our past practice in Scarsdale. The decision to adopt this new model… was made after extensive deliberation by this board, and the firm of McCarthy Fingar was chosen after careful vetting and consideration of other interested firms.” 

Next, Ken Schneider, representing Scarsdale Concours, provided a feel-good moment as he presented checks to the Scarsdale Police Benevolent Association, Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SVAC), and Scarsdale Edgewood Family Counseling Service. Since 2003, Scarsdale Concours has raised over $400K for local beneficiaries thorough its auto show featuring antique, classic, and exotic cars. The next event is planned for October 2020. 

At the Podium

After accepting Scarsdale Concours’ donation, David Raizen (Aspen Road) representing SVAC, began the public comment session and seized the opportunity to talk about the importance of community support. “(SVAC’s) fund drive closed out at the end of the year. Our goal was between $250,000 and $300,000. I’ll use the $300,000 number; we did just about half – substantially less than any year that I can remember… There were some very generous residents (but) it was disappointing… We continue with the (misconception) that the corps is supported by tax dollars; it is not and we need your help in delivering the message.”

Robert Berg (Tisdale Road) followed and began by urging fellow residents to support SVAC, “They do fantastic work. They are the best organization in the village and I encourage everyone to give.” He then brought up Freightway: “I want thank the board for halting the process. As you saw at the December 11 meeting, members of the community had some serious concerns… People wanted you to just step back, let the community’s comments get to you, and to reconsider how the process has been handled and will be handled going forward.” Berg went on, “I certainly want Freightway to be considered a redevelopment site… Once you get hold of the comments and evaluate them, the next step should be a community forum so you can hear… what people in the community want to do... Thanks very much. I appreciate the time and the effort that was spent on this process to date. I think we’ve all learned a lot; it’s helpful to go through sort of a traumatic event like this, hopefully we’ll get a good result.” 

Sean Cohen (Chesterfield Road) stated, “I’d like to thank the (Freightway Redevelopment) committee for presenting (the proposals) to all of us and reconsidering… I do think the process raises a larger question, which is: what do you want the village to look like 10 years from now or 30 years from now?” He continued, “We see a lot of restaurants and things happening on Garth Road and very little happening in the central village itself… Maybe we need to look at an overall plan for the village. A number of people (stated) that the center is dying; Garth Road is growing, maybe because of what the main landlord in the central village is doing. There have been some successful developments, maybe we can (replicate them).”

Bob Harrison (Fox Meadow Road) followed and said, “(With regard to) Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps… I strongly encourage our residents to make a gift… for their efforts… let’s get out an write some checks.” He then moved on to Freightway: “It looks like the board’s made a wise decision in putting things on pause… I think the proposals we’ve seen from your two finalists are too large.” After referencing a simpler development plan proposed by a Scarsdale architect in the 1990s, Harrison continued, “I’m glad you’re pausing; I hope it’s more than just a pause and that you’re thinking about what’s best for the community. We don’t have to build an extravagant set of apartments.” He concluded by thanking the mayor and board for their efforts. 

After Michael Levine (Walworth Avenue) extended his thanks to the village for suspending  the Freightway process, Carl Finger (Butler Road) stated, “I understand the concerns of my friends and neighbors (that were) expressed during the (Freightway) meeting, namely burdening the school with too many additional students, however many that would be. What I cannot understand are the claims that I continue to hear… that the community has been kept in the dark, (and) that the plans and proposals have been foisted suddenly upon the community, when I do not believe that to be the case. I want to review what the board has done to keep the community involved from the beginning to end.” 

He then outlined the various public meetings and opportunities for Scarsdale residents to contribute to the Freightway redevelopment plan dating back to March 2017, such as land use committee meetings, online and in-person surveys, and public workshops and walking tours. Finger also noted that workshop recordings and summaries, and other information have been available via scarsdale.com, and that village invited residents to sign up for alerts about Freightway meetings and developments over two years ago. Mayor Samwick interjected when he exceeded the allotted speaking time, so Finger summarized his thoughts by saying, “That’s not all of it and, when I hear people suggest that the board that has not been soliciting community input and that we need community input, it makes my blood boil. I appreciate all the time and effort that’s been spent; I’m not suggesting anything in terms of results… I feel we have to have the record straight.”

Claudine Gecel (Kent Road) then said, “Probably, 98 percent of people in the village think we need more parking… It also seems that people are not in agreement on whether we need more apartments in the village… However, there are things that could go in that location that would not be apartments, such as… (a) mini medical center… there’s parking, there are doctors’ offices, there’s radiology, and there’s stores… There are other commercial enterprises that can go in that spot and there are REITs that specialize in that. It’s possible to explore something that would include more parking, offices, specific shopping… and it wouldn’t involve lots of apartments.” 

Trustee Justin Arest replied, “I think we have to cognizant of, when talking about medical offices, the parking implications and the traffic implications… We need to enhance our parking and find better ways to park for shopping and other things, but I’m not sure we need an extra number of striped spaces… I think medical offices are not really a practical option for that location.”  

Mark Your Calendar

Mayor Samwick and Trustee Ross will meet with residents on Wednesday, January 22 at Balducci’s (Palmer Road) from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. All members of the public are invited to this latest “Coffee with the Mayor.”  

The village begins its annual budget process today during a meeting at Scarsdale Village Hall. All budget sessions are open to the public; check scarsdale.com for dates and times. 

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