Commentary: Guest Columns for 2009
VOTE NO/VOTE YES on School Bond
Columns for 2008
Mumbai Memorial, Dec 7 - by Rabbi Mendel Silberstein
Skies - for Now? by Patty Horing
School Board Speaks Out on Tax Cap
Farber: Served Community, Friends & Family by Cheryl
Bench: A Father's Day Tribute by Melissa Azulay
Aid: Getting MORE for Mam'k Schools by Emily Saltzman
Fire With Cooperation by Ned Benton
from 2006 and 2007
from 2003 and 2002
VOTE NO/VOTE YES on School Bond
Editor's Note: Opponents of the Mamaroneck
School District's $38M bond have developed a website and distributed
fliers detailing their criticisms, as outlined below. Board
President Linnet Tse replies to the critics and clarifies
her own and the board's positions.
The bond vote on February 10 is loaded with
projects better suited to rosier economic times.
It's not all or nothing. According to the Assistant
Operations, if this $38 million bond fails,
another bond, just for the necessary repairs, can be
voted on in just 45 days.
During the worst financial crisis in our lifetime,
it is fiscally irresponsible to ask the community to
pay over $9 million for 4 brand new artificial turf
fields, a new track and 2 new playgrounds, when what
we really need are necessary repairs to roofs, electricity
upgrades, safety code compliance and new boilers for
the Hommocks and Central.
What the school board info meetings haven't
•3 school board members, including the school
board president, Linnet Tse, believed it was wise, in
light of the economic meltdown, to split the artificial
turf expenditures and necessary repair bonds into 2
separate bonds. That way, the community would be given
a choice (one bond vs. two-part bond). They were defeated,
3 votes to 4. The board has been advised by their hired
bond consultant to present a united front to the public.
• New York state's gigantic budget deficit will
decrease school aid, so taxes will go up.
• Mamaroneck Town taxes will rise almost 4%.
• Sound Shore residents are federally mandated
to pay $235 million for Long Island Sound sewer upgrades.
There is no cost per household as yet.
• High taxes are already affecting our housing
sales. We have to conserve expenditures.
• The original bond was $51 million. That means
$13 million in repairs are waiting in the wings.
• In the last bond, $7.5 million of work could
not be completed due to cost overruns. Murray Avenue
never got their elevator. Why must repairs to our schools,
that will save so much in the future, take a back seat
to 4 new artificial athletic fields, a new track (we
spent $2 million for the current one only 6 years ago)
and 2 new synthetic playgrounds before an ADA-compliant
school, decent bathrooms, pointing to cement (Murray
is so bad that the whole wall has to be rebuilt) and
whatever else was left out with the $13 million?
• Whatever they say it costs, it always costs
more. With the last bond, 25% of the work was not done.
• The cost estimates for the bond were prepared
by the architects, not by independent cost estimators,
who are trained to deliver a realistic picture of the
true costs. Bids cannot go out until the bond is approved,
so these costs are a best guess.
• Artificial turf lasts only 8-10 years. We'll
still be paying for them in 15 years. A new field replacement
costs $400,000 to $600,000 each. Where will replacement
money come from? We are told from future school budgets
and new bonds.
• $9 million of the bond is being funded by New
York State. While that is still true as of today, since
this is a multi-year project, falling tax revenues to
the state can change that. Governor Paterson has said
that "nothing is off the table" and he specifically
is targeting education and health care. We taxpayers
would be left to pick up the burden.
• Our current grass fields at MHS are in such
bad shape because, ever since the school board tried
to relocate the Kemper War Memorial for a new grass
field, field proponents have been pushing for synthetic
fields. There is no line item in the current budget
for natural grass field care.
• If 1 new grass field was fine, why do we need
4 synthetic fields? This is overkill. No attempt at
scaling back the scope of the project has been accepted.
They want it all.
• The community is asked to pay for the million
dollar fields, but depending on the warranties, permits
to use the fields may be required, although the board
is currently promising that won't happen. Conversely,
if the fields are open to all, they can be easily damaged.
• The change (thankfully) from crumb rubber at
$.31/sq. foot to Mondo fill for the synthetic fields
adds up to $3 per square foot. That can add another
million dollars to the project. We were told the bond
supports a range of options. That's some wide range.
• We paid for re-doing Central field 3 times.
Until the runoff problem from Stop & Shop is fixed,
an artificial turf field may be a waste of money. New
Rochelle and Rye's synthetic turf fields were damaged
by floods and were replaced at taxpayer's expense.
• Maintenance can be sliced may ways. While a
figure of $5,000 per field, per year is claimed for
synthetic turf, in a 16-year scenario, Brad Fresenburg,
an MU Extension turfgrass specialist, completed a cost
analysis of installing and maintaining natural and synthetic
fields. Including installation and 1 replacement of
synthetic turf, an annual average cost for each field
type as follows: natural soil-based field, $33,522;
sand-cap grass field, $49,318; basic synthetic field,
$65,846; and premium synthetic field, $109,013.
When you can only afford to patch your roof, don't
borrow to buy a Maserati.
The proposed Mamaroneck Schools bond referendum, scheduled
for February 10, 2009, was developed as part of a long
(over two years), transparent and well-documented process.
Recently, critics of the bond began distributing information
that contains many inaccuracies. While the board respects
different points of view, the dissemination of misleading
information is not acceptable. I would like to clarify
some of the inaccuracies put forth by this group. Hopefully,
it will encourage members of our community to give the
bond the fair-minded consideration it deserves.
Though critics are implying otherwise, the
board IS highly sensitive to the economic hardship in
our country and community. The Board, with significant
community input, has worked diligently over two years
to cut the original $75 million proposal almost in half.
The bond will result in no tax increase until the
2010-11 school year, when there will be an additional
cost of approximately $80 per average home. While we
are not eager to increase our debt service at any time,
the board has the responsibility to ensure the proper
maintenance of our schools and the safety of our children.
It is more prudent and cost effective to take care of
this critical work NOW, than to have to do so under
emergency conditions. All of these considerations went
into the board’s decision.
The majority of the criticism has been focused on
a relatively small portion of the bond -- the much-needed
field work, which, in fact, represents only 20% of the
bond. Let me clarify a few key points about this field
• Our grass fields are NOT in bad
shape because of neglect. Our fields,
which serve over 5,000 students and the wider community,
are woefully inadequate to meet our needs and in poor
condition due to severe overuse. We simply don’t
have enough field space to serve the schools and the
community. Safety issues remain despite the significant
and expensive ongoing upkeep efforts by the district.
Durable, safe, low maintenance synthetic turf, vastly
improved in recent years, is the best way to maximize
usability of our very limited field space.
• The district will NOT need to
completely replace the athletic fields every 8-10 years.
The average lifespan of a synthetic turf field is 10-12
years and often longer. When the "carpet"
needs to be replaced (in addition to some possible crowning
or re-leveling of the fields), it will be at a fraction
of the initial installation cost because the basic infrastructure
will already be in place. Other school districts we’ve
spoken with confirm that synthetic turf is much easier
and far less costly to maintain than natural grass fields.
In fact, because of its durability and ease of maintenance,
synthetic turf has become the standard at thousands
of schools, parks and sports facilities across the country.
• The board made the decision not to use recycled
crumb rubber infill in deference to concerns that we
heard. The alternative infills are available in lighter
colors (not black) that will absorb less heat. While
more expensive, the cost of using an alternative infill,
IS included in our project estimates as is the cost
of the maintenance equipment (a groomer and leaf picker)
needed to care for the synthetic turf.
• While lead has been an issue in some older
generation nylon turf fields, the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission’s July 2008 evaluation of newer
polyethylene turf fields found these newer fields are
safe to install and to play on. In fact, synthetic
turf is now available without any lead or lead chromate.
The district plans to include in its product specifications
the requirement that the turf products contain no lead
or lead chromate.
Two more points need saying: critics have implied
that the board will put a lower bond up for vote in
45 days, if this $38 million bond is defeated, as if
the creation of a bond referendum is easy and cost-free.
Neither of those points is true. NO such decision has
been made; any such decision would have to be discussed
and made at a public meeting. Because of the critical
nature of ALL the work, it is unclear what the board
Finally, these critics have implied that I, as board
president, did not or do not support this bond. This
is categorically false. There was a difference of opinion,
debated honestly and openly in numerous public meetings,
among board members on how to present the bond referendum
to the community. However, we are all in agreement that
this bond referendum is critical to preserving district
facilities and ensuring safe, healthy learning environments
for our children. The board is unanimous
in its support of this bond.
I encourage voters to visit our website - www.mamkschools.org
– to learn more about the proposed bond referendum.
[See, for example: Project
Descriptions & Costs and Frequently
Please attend one of our informational sessions, and
most important, remember to vote on February 10 at your
local elementary school.
Mamaroneck Board of Education
COLUMNS FOR 2008
Answer Moishe's Cry
Join the Westchester Mumbai Massacre Memorial, December 7
by Rabbi Mendel Silberstein, Director of Chabad of Larchmont
(December 4, 2008) The pain is intense, the wound is deep,
and the cry of an orphan is piercing.
The sound of a two year old Jewish child screaming for his
mother at his parents' funeral, "Ima, Ima" (mother,
mother) is crushing!
Little Moishe tugging at his parents' lifeless bodies, his
pants soaked with blood, is waiting for us.
Little Moishe needs to know that his Jewish family, and the
whole world, cares.
I ask you to please answer Moishe's cry. Please come and join
the Westchester community for a memorial and solidarity tribute
this Sunday, December 7, 2008 at
Young Israel of Scarsdale, 1313 Weaver Street, 5:30 - 6:30
Little Moshe is the son of my colleague and friend Rabbi
Gavriel and his wife Rivkah Holtzberg, the beloved directors
of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, who were killed along with
4 other Jews last Thursday at their Chabad House during one
of the worst terrorist attacks to strike India in recent memory,
which left more than 150 people dead and hundreds more injured.
Through the heroic actions of his nanny, the Holtzberg's
toddler son, Moshe, managed to escape many hours before Indian
commandos stormed their building, known as the Nariman House,
in the popular touristy neighborhood of Colaba. The boy -
whose birthday was Saturday - was unharmed, but was wearing
As Chabad representatives in Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave
up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride
in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs
of Israeli tourists. Their Chabad House was popular among
the local community, as well as with visiting businesspeople.
The Hertzberg’s arrived in Mumbai in 2003 to serve
the small local Jewish community, visiting businesspeople
and the throngs of tourists, many of them Israeli, who annually
travel to the seaside city. For five years, they ran a synagogue
and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction
I met Gabi while I was studying at a Yeshivah in Brooklyn.
A prodigious student, he was a two-time champion in a competition
of memorizing the Mishnah, a compendium of rabbinical laws
and enactments redacted in the second century C.E.
His 28-year-old wife, born Rivkah Rosenberg, is a native
of Afula, Israel. She taught classes, inspiring myriads of
people who walked through their doors. Her ability to connect
with people and make them feel at home was legendary among
visitors to their center. Friends described her as always
having a positive outlook and a kind word for everyone.
Two years ago, the Holtzbergs raised funds to purchase the
current location of the Rohr Chabad Center, a five-story building
in Mumbai’s Colaba market area known as Nariman House.
A trained ritual circumciser and slaughterer, the rabbi also
conducted weddings for local Jewish couples in addition to
teaching Torah classes and visiting with tourists.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous
memory, whose teachings Gabi and Rivkah followed, taught of
the need to turn tears into action. Beneath the surface of
every terrible experience there lies the opportunity to grow
and increase in goodness. Every step back can — and
must — become the impetus for a giant leap forward.
Chabad-Lubavitch has started a global campaign for mitzvot
(Divine commandments, or good deeds) to be done in memory
of those murdered. You can go to www.JewishLarchmont.com
to join with the thousands of others who have pledged
to do something in memory of the victims. There, you can choose
from a list of suggestions or choose your own personal acts
of goodness to be your personal answer to the senseless evil
which was perpetrated.
In their deaths, as in their lives, Gabi and Rivky brought
people together from diverse backgrounds, uniting them in
the celebration of Judaism. Together, across the globe, let
us join in ensuring that the lives of the Holtzbergs and the
other victims live on by continuing that unity, that enormous
outpouring of love and prayer, in our own homes and communities
and, indeed, in the world at large.
The great medieval sage/scholar Moses Maimonides who, incidentally,
lived in Muslim countries where he was respected by Jew and
Muslim alike, taught: One positive action, one word, or even
one thought, can reverberate throughout the world, and impact
the entire world for good. I encourage all people of goodwill
to add in goodness and kindness, to those around you--and
to people you may have never met.
I ask of each and every one of you to emulate the shining
example of Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg. To dedicate our lives
a little bit more to goodness and kindness, to true and boundless
love of our fellows. To take on one additional Mitzvah, so
that each and every one of us, in our own way, creates an
individual Chabad House – a personal space of love and
For more information please contact Chabad of Larchmont at
914-834-4321 or Rabbi@JewishLarchmont.com
Quieter Skies - for Now?
by Patty Horing, Quiet Skies Committee
(October 2, 2008) For those who remember the loud old days
of summers past, the skies over our area were surprisingly
quiet this summer. High fuel costs led airlines to reduce
the number of flights at La Guardia and nearly eliminated
that noisy practice of "circling." But that doesn't
mean that the Quiet Skies Committee of Larchmont/Mamaroneck
is out of commission. (See: Plane
Crazy? Local Group Working to Route Planes More Fairly.)
Quiet Skies has tallied some successes in its mission to
lessen air traffic over our community. But the process is
so lengthy, litigious and political that continuing vigilance
Skies of 2000: Founded by a group of frustrated citizens
in the summer of 2000, Quiet Skies is a non-profit, volunteer
organization whose sole focus has been to lobby for a fairer
distribution of LaGuardia-bound air traffic, which has plagued
our skies since the airport increased its hourly take-offs
and landings. For eight years we have been working with our
local municipalities, the offices of Senators Charles Schumer
and Hillary Clinton, and most notably Congresswoman Nita Lowey,
through whom we have had direct access to air traffic controllers,
Federal Aviation Administration officials (who run the planes)
and Port Authority officials (who run the airport).
Unfortunately for us, our towns line up with LGA's runway
22, the runway used for the majority of landings due to the
geography, wind direction, and technology currently available
at the airport. A point to point directional system forces
planes to line up with the runway at least 5 miles out. We're
11 miles out , but in many situations, especially low visibility,
planes line up much sooner, often over Larchmont.
For years our group was told by officials that little could
be done unless the whole airspace was redesigned. Then, in
2006, FAA announced that it was creating a Draft Environmental
Impact Statement for a redesign of the airspace in New York,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which was to be the first area
changed as part of a national overhaul. (See: Village
Skies Under FAA Review.)
As a result, in 2007, Quiet Skies raised funds to support
the hiring of a highly specialized aviation consultant and
legal team to review the multi-thousand-page DEIS and submit
official comments to FAA on our behalf. We raised half of
the funds from the local municipalities (Town of Mamaroneck,
Village of Larchmont and Village of Mamaroneck) in the amount
of $15,000 each, and the other half of the money was donated
by private citizens. (See: Larchmont
Contributing $15K to Quiet Skies Campaign.)
The result was as good as we could realistically have hoped
for -- in fact, ours was the ONLY community to benefit from
early and aggressive lobbying in the final outcome. (Active
lawsuits in New Jersey and Connecticut continue.)
Here's how we benefited:
consultants discovered a plan in the DEIS to start a new cycle
of take-offs from Runway 4 that would have put thrusting planes
up over all the Sound Shore communities -- in effect more
than doubling our existing noise problem, since take-offs
are even louder than landings. FAA dropped this heading
from the final plan in response to our comments.
This eliminated a major noise disaster for the Sound Shore.
its Final Environmental Impact Statement, the FAA officially
indicated that it would seek to reduce overflights from LGA-bound
planes landing on Runway 22 (our perennial problem) by installing
new technology called "R-NAV", which is a 3-point
GPS system that allows planes more flexibility in flight paths.
With R-NAV, the FAA hopes to increase the number of flights
that can use the over-the-water route from its current 29%
to MINIMUM of 40%.
would be a tremendous improvement for our communities when/if
it comes to pass. Because other localities were not as favored
in this process, there are a number of pending lawsuits that
might hold up implementation of aspects of the redesign.
Going forward, our group is continuing to work with elected
officials to determine how best to facilitate R-NAV implementation
and manage fair distribution of aircraft with the new technology.
Even without the law suits from Connecticut and New Jersey
communities, the redesign plan will take years to implement.
This is a complex and political situation that continues
to change in unexpected ways. We’ve learned that vigilance
is required – when no one is watching, changes can be
implemented that disadvantage our community.
Want to help? Quiet Skies welcomes new
people who are interested in getting involved and giving some
time to help address this key quality of life issue.Anyone
wishing to get involved can email: email@example.com
Mamaroneck School Board Speaks
Out on Tax Cap
On September 15, 2008, the School Board issued the following
letter to the media and the community:
Dear School District Resident:
As many of you are aware, the New York State legislature
is considering a proposal to impose a cap on property taxes
levied by school districts. As members of the Mamaroneck Union
Free School District Board of Education, and as taxpayers
ourselves in the District, we have studied this proposal and
are deeply concerned about the potential adverse effects this
measure may have. We want to let you know our opinion on this
The heart of the proposal (as passed by the State Senate
but not considered by the State Assembly) is a cap on the
annual growth of school property taxes. The cap would limit
the school tax levy increase to 4% per year, or 120% of the
Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is lower. (Please note
that this is a cap on the school district portion of property
taxes only, not on all property taxes.)
There is no question that property taxes are high and are
a burden to taxpayers in the state. High taxes are a source
of anger for some, anxiety for others and hardship for many.
But we believe the cap as proposed is not the answer and indeed
may be a cure that is worse than the disease it seeks to prevent.
Before even getting to the negative effect this proposal
could have on education in the state, there are a number of
points about the proposal that should give each of us pause.
First, many of the costs our schools face - and which have
caused school property taxes to skyrocket - are a direct result
of costly mandates imposed on local schools, many of which
would be unaffected by the proposed legislation. Second, there
is already a mechanism in place that keeps school budget increases
in check. Schools are not only required to balance their budgets
every year but, alone among branches of government, must go
to voters every year to get their budgets approved. If a district’s
budget fails twice in a given year, it is obligated by existing
law to go to a “contingency” budget - that is,
a similar cap on increases of 4%, or 120% of the CPI, whichever
is lower, that is now being proposed as the “new”
We, in the Mamaroneck Union Free School District, understand
this dynamic. Two years ago, voters rejected the District’s
initial budget for reasons that were uniquely our own. It
necessitated the Board to re-evaluate spending and program
initiatives and come back to the voters with a new budget
that passed resoundingly. This year, that defeat was on everyone’s
mind as the Board crafted a budget that again passed overwhelmingly.
As it should be, the voters of our district, rather than the
politicians in Albany, decided what their own district should
Finally, supporters of the tax cap suggest that it will lead
to fiscal reform in Albany. We do not believe this will be
the case. If the governor and the legislature really favor
necessary fiscal reform, they should attack the problem directly
and enact real reforms that meet our needs.
Politics aside, the impact of the proposed cap on our educational
system could be severe. As residents of this District well
know, very little of our school budget is discretionary. Much
of it, in fact, comes from state and/or federal mandates ranging
from pension contributions to special education to the No
Child Left Behind Act, all of which require the District to
provide services or benefits but provide little or no funding
to do so. With so much of the District’s budget “baked
in,” the long term effect of a tax cap could be to cut
those relatively few items over which the District does have
control, such as teacher jobs and our excellent art, music,
sports and extra-curricular programs. Long-term evidence from
California and Massachusetts, two states that enacted property
tax caps, shows that the caps in those states resulted in
deteriorating conditions in the schools - from increased class
size to crumbling buildings. Further, a cap imposed by Albany
would limit the flexibility of districts to cope with other
cost spikes, such as fuel prices, which have doubled in the
past year. In short, the few decisions that we as a community
can make - such as class size, enrichment programs, working
with families and children in need - could be taken from us.
Proponents of the tax cap have said that they will work to
have the state make up the lost revenue through either a reduction
in state mandates or increased state aid. The package of mandate
relief that the State Senate proposed fails to amount to serious
fiscal relief for our district. Moreover, at a time when the
state has already made over $1 billion in cuts to state programs,
it is difficult to believe that those lost revenues can be
As a school board, we understand and share your concerns
about high property taxes. We urge you to become educated
on this issue and to let your elected representatives know
how you feel. We support meaningful efforts by the state to
re-order its economic house and provide school districts relief
from continually escalating costs, and we will continue our
own efforts to bring fiscally responsible budgets to the voters
of our district. But, the current proposals do not make the
grade and our children will pay the price.
Linnet Tse, President
For the Mamaroneck UFSD Board of Education
Michael R. Jacobson
April Farber: Served Community, Friends
by Cheryl Lewy
(August 14, 2008) April Jill Farber was an educator, community
volunteer, public servant, mother, wife, daughter, listener,
and doer. (See: Obituaries:
in 1949, April lived in Riverdale briefly before moving to
Ardsley, where she grew up. April attended Mount Holyoke College,
transferred to and graduated from the University of Wisconsin
at Madison as a Psychology major, received a masters degree
from Yeshiva University, New York in Special Education and
did post-graduate work at Teachers College, Columbia University.
April worked for the Orange (Connecticut), Mount Vernon (NY),
and Greenwich Public School systems as a special educator
and educational evaluator; she also worked for Manhattanville
College in Purchase as an adjunct professor. April was a dedicated
educator who enjoyed working in the field of education and
helping students achieve their highest potential both in the
classroom and outside of it.
April moved to our Larchmont/Mamaroneck community in 1987
and became an active participant of life here. After getting
settled in and integrating her children into the community,
April herself joined in and became involved with community
and civic organizations. Her father, Bernie Forrest, had been
active in politics and government in Ardsley and the Town
of Greenburgh and so April followed his example and interest.
Always one to support ideas and information, she joined the
local League of Women Voters and in 1993-95 was co-president
of the Mamaroneck League. April then ran and won a position
on the Mamaroneck School Board and served in that capacity
for three three-year terms for a total of nine years. April
chose to break the tradition of two terms because she felt
a strong commitment to our schools and to making them ever
better and stronger. In her capacity as a school board member,
she served as board secretary and vice president, as well
as serving on various committees including the Mamaroneck
Avenue Task Force and Building Committees, liaison to HRC,
Hommocks and High School planning councils and the Teacher
April rounded our her community involvement by serving as
a School Board Selection Committee Member, a Children’s
Corner Board Member, and a member of the Larchmont Temple
April was an exceptional woman with great interpersonal skills.
She was a good listener and asked deep and probing questions.
After she listened she had the ability to thoughtfully consider
all sides of an issue, and ask a wide range of people for
their thoughts. She then would develop wise solutions to problems
whether they were academic, educational, personal or social
to achieve resolutions that satisfied many and were incredibly
fair and even handed for all. She treated all mankind, students,
parents, friends, and strangers with a fairness, dignity and
respect that was greatly appreciated and recognized by those
who worked with her.
In her final work as Chair of the Human Rights Commission,
Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe hailed April as a “good
woman” who treated all with patience, dignity and respect.
April worked hard to find the right balance for the Human
Rights Commission in our community. She analyzed the role
the Commission should play. She even had long discussions
about the meaning of the word “Commission” and
how that should play into the by-laws and role that Commission
should play. April also worked hard to make the January Martin
Luther King celebrations meaningful and important for the
Larchmont Mamaroneck community.
April was a wonderful mother to Alissa and David, and wife
to Barry Farber. Indeed, she was a devoted mother, wife, daughter,
daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, and friend.
She enjoyed scuba diving, tennis, biking, needlepoint, dancing
and singing, calligraphy, and piano playing. April was an
active tennis player and could be seen at Harbor Island’s
bubble for years, at Debbie Frank exercise studio, and out
and about in the community.
April lived her life to the fullest for as long as she could.
She enjoyed laughing and learning, and being an active member
of our community; she loved celebrations and holidays, and
perhaps most of all, traveling and spending time with her
wonderful group of friends and family.
In addition to her husband Barry, she is survived by her daughter
Alissa and her husband Dan Restuccia; her son David and his
fiancé Genna Gurkoff; her father Bernard Forrest; her
mother-in-law Nettie Farber; and her brother Wayne Forrest,
sisters-in-law Jean Seibel and Varda Farber, brother-in-law
Neal Farber, nephew Dani Farber, and nieces Jamie Forrest
and Arielle Farber.
April will be missed as a valued member of the Larchmont/Mamaroneck
community. Her smile, dedication and spirit will be remembered
by all and her good deeds will go on to help a large part
of our community for many years.
Cheryl Lewy is the former mayor of Larchmont Village.
A Father’s Day Tribute
by Melissa Azulay
(June 11, 2008) The sun is just starting to rise over Long
Island, I can see by the calmness of the Sound as the ripples
of light move across the water. Meet me at the corner of Magnolia
and Park and walk with me to a special place, a place perfect
for Father’s Day. The dog is itching to go; she sits
by the front door with her nose touching the glass.
Come with me and we’ll slip into Manor Park near the
small inlet where the stone turns a beautiful gray and green
as the sun peeks over the trees, generously reflecting the
water. There’s a special spot here treasured by many
long-timers and by one particular family. Feel the spirit,
there, just beyond the tree and overlooking the water. It’s
a bench aged by a decade of weather.
My love and I have been coming here for about a year. We
fell in love with this place as we were falling in love with
each other. There was always something about this bench that
gave me goose bumps from that first spring day in 2007. We
shared the Saturday newspaper and a cup of coffee from our
friends at Kearns’ Deli. I thought of what it might
be like to climb the rocks and dive into the water, but it
was still pretty cool.
Now we live here and visit the park and the bench as often
as we can with our Golden Doodle puppy, LuLu. She finds the
bench on her own, sitting stately on it to catch a glimpse
of the Sound, even if someone is already there. When we jog
at sunset, we notice there’s always someone sitting
peacefully at this one special bench.
Lulu was on that bench taking in the views at sunset when
it happened. I had been trying to photograph her, when a sudden
blinding light bounced from the bench’s brass plate
into my viewfinder. Attracted by the light, I read the plate
– and then reread it over and over slowly and carefully.
My heart skipped and I shivered as I read the inscription:
But wait, there was more. LuLu and I walked a few steps more
to another bench in the shade of an old tree that shared the
same southwesterly view of the Sound. This bench had two tribute
plates, which left me speechless.
The tributes stuck with me. I found myself both intrigued
and teary-eyed thinking about a man and his family I had never
met nor even heard of before.
Deeply moved, I began to research Harold Mait. I found that
he was not only an adoring husband and father of three, he
loved to camp and was a camp counselor, too. He was well known
as “Larchmont’s finest coach” and took great
pride in mentoring young athletes. He loved to play poker
with his pals. I found he was a great runner and completed
the Rye Derby every year. In 1997 he ran the Derby in 45:48,
besting by a few seconds his time in 1996. I also learned
that he died suddenly, very suddenly, at 52, just weeks after
his record time at the 1997 Derby. He was buried on Father's
Day, eleven years ago this weekend.
I’m sure there is more, much more to the story of
Harold Mait. But maybe there is more to learn here. Maybe
it has to do with the warmth radiating from Harold’s
bench that provides so many of us who stop there a moment
of tranquility. Maybe it has to do with stopping to think
about how lucky we are to enjoy our village and our town,
our parks and all the people that have made Larchmont the
wonderful place it is.
You see, I believe that it was Harold’s spirit that
inspired me to write this. I believe, when you read about
Harold, you will think of the love of your life and remember
to say everything you need to say. I think Harold would want
everyone who visits his spot to live every day like it is
the last, because you just never know. I believe this is Harold’s
way to tell Janet, Josh, Jenny and David that his spirit and
love is very strong after all this time.
This Father’s Day, Larchmont Manor Park will be filled
with residents and visitors alike. They’ll be looking
out over the Long Island Sound; they’ll be running and
walking by the benches; they’ll be seated and holding
hands. Some will come alone, and some will come with one or
two or many. Hopefully, the sun will be shining strong enough
to brighten the tarnished green tribute, just as it did for
Happy Father’s Day Harold Mait.
State Aid: Getting MORE for Mamaroneck
by Emily Saltzman
(May 8, 2008) Last year, the contentious discussions over
Mamaroneck’s school budget revealed that many residents
were frustrated with their entire local tax bill and with
the lack of state support . That motivated a group of local
residents to create MORE, Mamaroneck Organization for Revenue
Enhancement, to coordinate lobbying efforts to secure more
state aid for our school district. What we’ve learned
since last year is: state aid is a highly complex and political
You start with math. In order to compute the amount of state
education aid a school district will receive you simply calculate
the following: .50 [District Actual Value per Pupil /$426,800]
+ .50 [District Income Per Pupil/$136,600]. Still with me?
The 2008-2009 budget just adopted by the state is $121.7
billion of which $41 billion is for education. Those are huge
numbers, and it can be hard to understand why our schools
receive so little of it.
In a nutshell, school aid in New York State is designed
to help "equalize" expenditures so that schools
in districts with less property wealth can provide a quality
of education as high as that in districts with greater wealth.
A district's wealth is determined by aggregate property value
as well as the adjusted gross income (AGI) of its residents.
The complex formula described above is how a district's wealth
is computed. Our district's Combined Wealth Ratio is three
times the state average. Although Mamaroneck does receive
some extra funding for our special education and English language
learner populations, our property and income wealth render
us eligible for little state aid, since most aid dollars are
distributed, according to a report by the NYS Department of
Education, "in inverse proportion to each school district's
ability to raise local revenue for education." In fact,
according to the Westchester Putnam School Board Association,
compared to all the other counties, Westchester gets the least
back for every tax dollar sent to Albany.
Of course aggregate wealth figures do not take into account
the range of incomes and property wealth in a relatively diverse
school district such as ours. In addition, although our relative
wealth is higher than average for New York State, so are our
costs. Local taxpayers do get a bit of a break through the
STAR tax exemption program, but we get little help elsewhere.
For 2008-2009, we did not receive any “high tax aid,”
which is computed with another complicated formula that takes
the tax levy with condominiums divided by AGI.
Many school districts on Long Island also have high property
and income wealth but get more school aid - and the reason
is politics. The New York State Senate is controlled by the
Republicans, and there are Republican state senators from
Long Island. The electoral success of these senators is critical
to the Republicans maintaining a majority in the Senate -
and extra school aid is a great way to guarantee re-election
, especially in a high tax area like Long Island. Southern
Westchester does not have any Republican senators. Ironically,
Long Island residents seem to complain just as much about
their property taxes as Westchester residents!
Although the math and the politics seemed stacked against
Mamaroneck, there are some signs of hope. Elected officials
are well aware of the public's increasing anxiety and frustration
over property taxes. As soon as he took office, former Governor
Elliot Spitzer created two commissions to examine property
tax reform and local government expenditures. A final report
from the Property Tax Reform Commission is due on May 22,
and its chair, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has expressed
hope that its recommendations will lead to lower property
Officials are taking the issue seriously, and the public
is playing some role. Many elected officials, such as Senator
Jeff Klein, Assemblywoman Sandra Galef and Assemblyman Greg
Ball, have been seeking ideas from citizens to lower property
taxes. Recommendations include looking to income and sales
taxes to support schools, eliminating unfunded mandates, capping
teacher benefits and requiring districts to share some services.
Assemblyman George Latimer answered the loud cry for help
from Albany by obtaining an additional $250,000 for the Mamaroneck
schools. He and other Assembly members from Westchester County
are working together to lobby Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
to address Westchester's school aid situation.
There is much work to do to convince state leaders that our
district should get more aid, especially in tough economic
times. If you are interested in joining the effort to lobby
for more state and federal aid for Mamaroneck schools, contact
Emily Saltzman is the coordinator of
MORE. She works for an Albany-based government relations firm
FIGHTING FIRE WITH COOPERATION
by Ned Benton
(January 31, 2008) In Larchmont Village and the unincorporated
part of the Town of Mamaroneck – zip code 10538 - we
have excellent firefighting apparatus, many capable volunteer
and career firefighters and good firefighting infrastructure.
But overall effectiveness is impaired by poor inter-municipal
Every home and business in 10538 should have excellent fire
protection, but many do not. The problem is not funding –
it’s lack of cooperation between the Mamaroneck Town
Council and the Larchmont Village Board.
The two boards are meeting on February 4th to discuss inter-municipal
issues, but fire protection is not on the agenda. We have
already heard the following excuses: 1) It’s been that
bad for a long time. 2) The other government has the fire
department problem. 3) The other board has to ask first. 4)
The firefighters don’t get along. 5) We need a state-funded
study. 6) A study will take years. 7) We’d rather cooperate
with another community.
Like Saint Augustine who once prayed “Give me chastity
and continence, but not quite yet,” members of both
boards claim to be in favor of fire department consolidation
– but not quite yet.
Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe and Councilman Ernie
Odierna agreed, during last November’s Town supervisor
debate, that consolidation would be a good idea - but Larchmont
would have to ask first!
The obvious answer is for the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District
(TMFD) to provide protection for all of 10538. Apparatus would
respond from the nearest firehouse - Weaver Street and Larchmont
Avenue - improving response times and delivering more paid
and more volunteer firefighters – including consistent
incident command - for every fire at every location. Savings
in personnel and equipment costs could be achieved for both
Let’s Face Facts About Fire
If local leaders would candidly assess the facts, they would
admit that each community – particularly Larchmont -
has dangerous flaws in fire protection. The problems are obvious
Apparatus Delays: While both departments
can deliver apparatus to most locations quickly, the glaring
exception is the slice of Mamaroneck on Pryer Manor Road and
in Dillon Park. TMFD apparatus drive from Weaver Street’s
firehouse, over I-95 and across Larchmont, losing 2-3 critical
minutes compared to immediate response from Larchmont’s
firehouse. Delays are a serious risk for residents of those
neighborhoods who pay for first-class protection and receive
a delayed response.
Firefighter Delays: TMFD can deploy dozens
of qualified firefighters, thanks in part to the mass of volunteers
resigning from LFD and joining TMFD. But LFD’s roster
of volunteers meeting minimum alarm response standards has
dropped from almost 30 a year ago to just 8, which does not
assure sufficient manpower to safely respond on its own.
While the mayor may be satisfied with the response to the
recent fire at her home, LFD has consistently faced more serious
fires, and the handful of paid and volunteer firefighters
available cannot simultaneously command an incident, operate
apparatus, connect and stretch hose, set up ladders for ventilation
and rescue, search for building occupants and provide a rescue
team. LFD cannot assure consistent compliance with basic safety
and firefighting standards.
Dispatching Delays: It stands to reason
that a single fire district could dispatch all of the apparatus
and firefighting personnel needed at a fire more quickly than
two separate agencies. We would skip the minutes it can take
for the first department to invite the second department to
Mutual Aid Arrival Delays: New Rochelle
can deliver aid to Larchmont in about ten minutes, as illustrated
in the New Years Day fire. But during those critical first
10 minutes - when small fires must be contained, and victims
of larger fires must be rescued - LFD alone cannot deliver
the essential elements of an effective response.
Lack of Incident Command: LFD is now operating
without deputy chiefs and must often rely on whoever is the
ranking firefighter at the scene to coordinate teams of firefighters
working in different locations, assess fire progression, call
for additional assistance and initiate rescue operations if
needed. Until enough qualified firefighters are at the scene,
the ranking LFD firefighter faces unsafe command choices:
join the initial attack (and forego coordination of the entire
attack) or delay firefighting until aid arrives.
Regional Emergencies: Larchmont’s
handful of firefighters cannot provide the scale of response
needed in major storms or other widespread events. Mutual
aid doesn’t work when neighboring departments are overstretched
responding to their own emergencies.
Cost: Even before hiring a paid fire chief,
Larchmont’s firefighting personnel costs (according
to 2005 Comptroller data for NY villages) were the fifth highest
per capita and second highest per square mile. LFD spent $400,000
more in firefighter salaries than TMFD, which covers 40% more
property. Hiring a paid chief boosts LFD expenses, as would
adding extra firefighters or deputy chiefs.
Let’s Cooperate With New Rochelle?
Mayor Feld wants to consider another option – joining
a mega-district that would include New Rochelle, Mount Vernon,
Eastchester, Pelham and Pelham Manor. But our property tax
share of the mega-merger budget could double what we are paying
now in 10538. And what about response time - would it still
take ten minutes for essential aid to arrive from New Rochelle?
Supervisor O’Keeffe has already taken a public stand
against this type of merger plan. Larchmont’s leaders
should be able to promptly make a similar assessment.
Cooperate … Now
On February 4th, the Town and Village leaders should face
facts and admit that consolidation of fire protection is in
the immediate interest of both communities. They should formally
agree to begin taking concrete steps to enable TMFD to serve
both communities while continuing to station firefighters
and apparatus at Weaver Street and at Larchmont Village Hall.
If they need a model for leadership, they should look to
the chiefs and members of the TMFD. In the face of provocative
public comments, they have conducted themselves with the utmost
professionalism. That is one more reason why placing fire
protection for both communities in their steady, experienced
and professional hands is the best choice.
Ned Benton chairs the department of
public management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and
is a former Village of Larchmont trustee and former LFD volunteer