Friday, May 27th

scalesofjusticeWhat does County Executive George Latimer think about the Governor’s crisis in Albany? On Monday March 15, Latimer made a statement about Cuomo, asking for critics to wait to come to judgement.

Though he said the charges against Cuomo should be “taken seriously,” he urged his constituents to put off calls for Cuomo’s resignation until Attorney General Letisha James can conduct an investigation and an “objective assessment.” He said, “I have faith that she will supervise a “professional review.” He recognized that the NYS Assembly Judiciary Committee has been tasked with conducting an impeachment review with a broader scope and he will also await the outcome of that review.

Latimer said, “The results of these two investigations represent the rule of law and protect all of us. If we abandon process how will that affect us when a future matter arises?”

Latimer sought to diffuse talk about a phone call he received from Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s secretary who handles vaccine distribution. Latimer said, “Questions have arisen about outreach from Larry Schwartz to County Executives. I spoke to Larry but that’s not unusual…. I have known him for 25 years. He made no effort to influence me or threaten me.”

He concluded, “At the end of the day my career in government, or anyone’s career in government, is not as important as the system of democracy itself.”

COVID Tracking

Also on Monday, Latimer provided an update on COVID cases and vaccinations in Westchester. As of Monday, the county COVID tracker showed 446 new cases and 5,347 active cases in the county. He said that both new cases and active cases are declining, along with hospitalizations which are down to 252 this week. He reported that deaths have fallen to single digits for the last few nights. He said, “The numbers are encouraging but the virus is still out there.”

Westchester County is making great progress on administering vaccines. 13% of residents are already fully vaccinated and an additional 11% have had at least one shot. Over 108,000 vaccines, both first and second doses, have already been given at the Westchester County Center, 21,000 in other county facilities and another 9,500 at the newly opened Yonkers Armory.

Traveler’s Quarantines

Governor Cuomo has ruled that New Yorkers who travel to other states will no longer have to quarantine after April 1. However, the 14-day quarantine is still in effect for international travel.

Eligibility

Also new, is that front facing public employees, such as building inspectors and those employed in public works are now eligible to receive the vaccine. Public and private employees are entitled to time off to receive their vaccines.

Last, Latimer said he has asked the state for guidance on high school graduations and end of school year activities to allow school districts to plan.

stewartcousinsState Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins has called for Cuomo to step down.NYS Senate Majority Leader and Scarsdale’s State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins called for Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign on Sunday March 7, 2021. Her statement followed multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against the Governor from women he has worked with over the past few years. As of March 10, 20 out of 42 NYS Senators had either called for Cuomo's impeachment or resignation.

The accusations of inappropriate comments, touching and kissing come at a time when there is zero tolerance for this kind of behavior. The #metoo movement encourages women to come forward with reports of sexual misconduct and to call the aggressors to account. Conduct that was excused or ignored just a few years ago is now viewed through a new lens, but the 63 year-old Governor does not appear to have updated his act.

In her statement, Stewart-Cousins notes that the state remains in a crisis and says that the Governor’s behavior is a distraction. She said, "Everyday there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government. We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the Covid-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project.”

“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign."

Though Stewart Cousins statement signals that the Governor may be losing political support among his own party, he responded by saying he will not step down. He said, "I'm not going to resign because of allegations. The premise of resigning because of allegations is actually anti-democratic." He contends that he was elected by the people and will continue to serve them.

Cuomo has asked Attorney General Letitia James to set up an inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations and apparently plans to stay in office pending the outcome.

At the same time Cuomo is battling these accusations, news has emerged that his office altered reports of deaths at nursing homes to conceal the number of COVID deaths.

It has been a sudden fall from grace for Cuomo whose handling of the pandemic and daily COVID briefings during the height of crisis were highlights for residents quarantined at home. He often spoke of his mother, his daughter, her boyfriend and his own family’s struggles to carry on with life restricted by COVID. With hundreds of New Yorker’s dying daily, his folksy messages were inspirational and provided reason for hope.

However, according to a March 4 Quinnipiac poll, now, a year after the outbreak in New York, Cuomo’s approval has dropped from 72% in May 2020 to 46% in March 2021 though 55% said he should not resign.cuomo5The Governor says he plans to remain in office.

What do locals think? We spoke to a range of Scarsdale residents who offered their opinions on whether or not the Governor should step down. Some spoke of Senator Al Franken, who later regretted his hasty departure from the US Senate, wishing he had waited for an investigation from the Senate Ethics Committee. Others spoke of politicians who remained in office including President Trump, who was accused by many women of more serious offenses and stayed the course, despite allegedly paying to silence accusations.

Supporters contend that even though Cuomo’s reputation is tarnished he remains an effective advocate for New York and believe he should stay on the job to complete his term, while others think that between the accusations of a toxic work environment and his attempts to hide the true number of COVID deaths, he can no longer lead effectively and should resign.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

11DolmaRoadThe owners of an iconic home at 11 Dolma Road in Scarsdale made their third attempt to gain approval to knock it down at a hearing before the Scarsdale Board of Trustees on Thursday February 4. The applicants were turned down by the Committee for Historic Preservation (CHP) following a September 29, 2020 hearing and moved to appeal that decision to Scarsdale’s Board of Trustees.

Representing the homeowners were attorneys Andrew Schriever and Lawrence Graham from Cuddy and Feder as well as architectural historian Dr. Emily Cooperman. Daniel Pozin of McCarthy Fingar LLP acted as counsel to the Board of Trustees and the Committee for Historic Preservation was represented by James Staudt of McCullough, Goldberger and Staudt as well as Professor Andrew Dolkart, who teaches at Columbia University and was the author of the 2012 Reconnaissance Level Cultural Resource Survey Report of Scarsdale.

The survey recommended homes, landmarks and neighborhoods for historic designation.

Schriever presented the applicants' case and argued that the home did not meet the initial criteria for preservation, which says, “In making a determination whether to grant an application for a certificate or to deny such application and require that the building in question be preserved, the Committee shall consider the level of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture present in the building, as well as the integrity of location, design, setting, materials and workmanship.”

He claimed that it had no historical significance as it was not linked to a historic event or site. He argued that the code itself was “vague and overbroad,” and possibly unconstitutional. On the matter of whether or not the home was the work of a master, architect Julius Gregory, he said, “if an outhouse is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, does that mean it’s worthy of preservation?”

Dr. Cooperman said that Scarsdale code did not conform to the criteria in the National Register of Historic Places. Turning to the home, she said, since renovations were done to the windows and dormers and a small portion of the roof line, she claimed the home had lost its integrity and authenticity. She said, “The entrances and windows have been changed, the roof form is different and the materiality has been altered.”

She sought to demonstrate that Julius Gregory was not a master as he lacked “greatness,” was not named a fellow of the AIA and entered competitions but did not win them. Graham added, “he published no monographs,” and Cooperman said Gregory was known for his cottages rather than his mansions.

Defending the home and the process, Attorney James Staudt said, “If ever credit should be given to the CHP it is in this case. There are 600 pages of documentation. The record demonstrates that both sides were afforded opportunities to supply evidence…. The decision provides clear articulate reasons and thoughtful discussion of how Julius Gregory advanced architecture into the modern age…. it is difficult to fathom a more thorough process.”

He warned the Trustees, “Don’t be distracted by the constitutional argument. There is more than enough evidence under any standard of proof. The words are clear and easy to understand. The facts and analysis are clear. They are not vague.”

Andrew Dolkhart explained that he is an architect and preservationist and a full tenured professor of historic preservation at Columbia University. He has written several books and won awards. He said, “I feel very strongly that 11 Dolma Road meets the criteria for preservation.”

He said, “Historic preservation is no longer about 'George Washington slept here." And while the defendants insisted that the house was not "unique," Dolkart responded the word "unique" is not in Village Code; instead, it speaks to "broad patterns."

Dolkart said, “11 Dolma meets three of the historic preservation criteria. It is part of a broad pattern of village history. Why? The train, the Bronx River Parkway, the decline of single family homes in the city, and the growing appeal of country life for wealthy households; (the original owner) W. Wallace Lyon commissioned the house during a crucial period in the history of the Village.”

About Gregory he said, the house is “unquestionably the work of a master of suburban housing. He can’t be pigeonholed as a designer of small houses. He created fine Tudors, English Normans and revival homes. Gregory was well respected in the 1920’s and was chosen to design homes in Fieldston. His work is a bridge between traditional and modern design and embodies distinctive characteristics, and has high artistic value.”

Dolkhart said the house displays a sophisticated use of materials including stone and brickwork, a tower, and half timbering.53 Old Orchard LaneIn 2017, the CHP voted to preserve 53 Old Orchard Lane, also designed by Julius Gregory

Responding to Cooperman he said, “The house still has integrity. Buildings can be listed that have changed over time – in fact all the buildings that I have written applications for the national register have changed over time. The alterations on the front are relatively minor and were carefully done to blend in with the rest of the house.”

He continued, “Does this building still read as Julius Gregory’s English building? The answer would be yes. It has the steep roofs, patterned brickwork, stone and brick it still has the tower and the picturesque composition. These are the features that are important to a French Norman house.”

He called 11 Dolma “One of the most outstanding houses in Scarsdale,” saying, “It meets multiple criteria for preservation and I hope you will vote to preserve this piece of Scarsdale’s heritage.”

Staudt added, “The role of this board is to apply the law as written -- not to rule on the law. The historic preservation code has been upheld for half a century.”

He ended by saying, “I went to look at the house the other day and saw it and thought – if I were to make a movie about the 20’s in Scarsdale I would film it on Dolma Road in this house.”

Following the hearing the board adjourned into executive session. The Board of Trustees will vote on the appeal at a future meeting of the Board of Trustees.

KarenBrewCommunity volunteer and 16-year Scarsdale resident Karen Brew is running on the Scarsdale Citizen’s Non-Partisan Party slate to serve her first term as Scarsdale Village Trustee. Brew worked as an Executive Recruiter and is a graduate of Cornell University and the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. She raised two daughters in Scarsdale who are now in college. The election will be held on Tuesday March 16, 2021 and all registered Scarsdale voters can cast their ballots at the Scarsdale Congregational Church from 6 am to 9 pm.

We interviewed Brew about her experience and her views and here is what she shared:

Tell us about yourself, your experience in Scarsdale and why you would like to serve on the Village Board of Trustees.

We moved to Scarsdale when my older daughter was about to enter Kindergarten, over 16 years ago. I wanted to meet people and make connections so I immediately got involved, mostly in the schools. I was on numerous committees leading up to being Edgewood Elementary School PTA Treasurer for 2 years and then PTA President. From there I served on the Scarsdale PT Council Executive Committee (4 years), School Board Nominating Committee (5 years), Scarsdale Bowl Committee (2 years), Scarsdale High School Scholarship Fund for College Executive Committee (5 years) and the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale board (6 years). Both professionally and in my volunteer work, I enjoy working in teams and building solutions. I ask a lot of questions and love to problem solve. I believe with my skills and experience I can add value to the Village Board and I am excited to contribute to help keep Scarsdale the fabulous community that it is.

Were you surprised at the quick turn in events that led to your nomination?

I had been contemplating running in January but had decided to wait. When one of the selected nominees withdrew it provided me with an opportunity to reconsider. Then when I was approached, I had the benefit of knowing that Jane Veron was slated to be Mayor. The opportunity to work on the board with her experience, smarts and passion as Mayor was too enticing to turn down and so I stepped up!

What volunteer experiences in your past helped to prepare you for your new responsibilities as Village Trustee?

I think the volunteer experience that best prepares me for my new responsibilities as Trustee has been my past six+ years on the board of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale. The League studies the Village budget annually. At a community-wide meeting, the Village Treasurer and Village Manager present the coming year’s proposed budget. The League members listen, learn and question the presenters in order to gain an understanding of the process and resulting budget appropriations. This is followed by a consensus meeting at which the participants discuss and come to an agreement on a League-issued statement that supports or disagrees with the budget and the process used to get to the draft budget.

What areas of Village governance are of interest to you – what do you hope to pursue?

I will be in a better position to answer this sort of question once I have had an opportunity to view the internal workings of Village operations up close. While I have the familiarity that comes from being a resident recipient of village services, and my LWVS work gave me some insight on the Village budget, I anticipate that having the chance to get into the details of how the Village delivers services will generate my interest in particular governance matters that I consider deserve more attention.

In your view, what are the biggest challenges facing the Village today? How will you approach these issues?

I see some of the biggest challenges as:

Figuring out how to budget in a time of rising costs and decreased revenues.

Determining how to balance meeting the needs and wants of the residents in the short term without mortgaging away the longer term because of fiscal constraints.

Revitalizing the downtown so that we have a vibrant town center for the community.

For all of the issues my approach will be to, collaboratively with the full board, gather data and facts through the functional experts, gain community feedback and then come to consensus on the best go-forward steps.

You have had a lot of experience in leadership positions for the Scarsdale Schools. Do you think the Village and Schools can do more together? If so, share any ideas.

I definitely think that there are many areas for the village and school district to work together. We saw that recently with the Butler Field lights and there are surely more. I believe that with a healthy dialogue between constituencies, areas of cooperation can be explored and worked on to maximize positive outcomes.

What else?

The combination of my work and volunteer experiences will allow me to come up to speed as Village Trustee quite quickly. I have the skills and the passion to contribute to help keep Scarsdale the wonderful community we all moved here to be a part of.

Learn more about the Scarsdale Citizens' Non-Partisan Party here.

KarenBrewKaren Brew The Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC) announced today that Karen Brew has been selected to replace Ellen Plum, who previously withdrew her nomination, for the Scarsdale Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party (SCNPP) slate for Village Trustee. The 2021 SCNPP slate is the following:

Jane Veron of Fox Meadow, a Village Resident for 23 years, Village Mayor;
Sameer Ahuja of Heathcote, a Village Resident for 21 years, Trustee;
Karen Brew of Edgewood, a Village Resident for 16 years, Trustee;
Jonathan Lewis of Edgewood, a Village Resident for 19 years, Trustee

The General Village Election will take place on Tuesday, March 16th at the Scarsdale Congregational Church.

“I am extremely proud of the hard work and effort that the CNC put forth after receiveing Ellen Plum’s withdrawal letter. In addition to soliciting candidates from the entire village, the CNC sprung to action and contacted numerous individuals from the Scarsdale community to submit their names for consideration. Despite the tight timeline, the CNC conducted a wide search and performed extensive due diligence,” stated Eric Lichtenstein, Chair of the CNC.

Eric Lichtenstein served as Chair and Steve Pass served as Vice Chair of the CNC. In addition to the candidates for Village office, the CNC selected Jill Spielberg as Chair and Jon Krisbergh as Vice Chair for next year’s CNC. The CNC also elected Richard Pinto to serve as Vice Chair of the Procedure Committee.

Karen Brew has lived in Scarsdale for 16 years. She has been active in a variety of Village-related civic activities, including serving on the board of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale for the past six years, and on the Executive Committee of the Scarsdale High School Scholarship Fund for College for five years. Karen also was a member of the School Board Nominating Committee (SBNC) and the SBNC Administrative and Joint Committees. Karen was involved for many years with Scarsdale’s schools, serving as the Edgewood PTA President, Treasurer, on various Edgewood, Scarsdale Middle and Scarsdale High School PTA committees, as well as serving on the Parent Teacher Council (PTC). She also served on the Scarsdale Bowl Committee for two years.

Karen most recently worked part-time as an Executive Recruiter with Koren Rogers Executive Search. Before that she had various leadership roles in marketing management, strategy and consulting in the consumer goods and financial services industries. Karen earned a B.A. cum laude from Cornell University and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

Together with her husband (Richard) Damian, Karen raised two daughters here who both graduated from Scarsdale High School and are currently in college.

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