Republican judicial primary candidates: Marc Lust

LustAge: 63

Family: Wife, Lois; three children, Alyssa, Daniel, Ben

Status: Incumbent
Political Affiliation: Registered Democrat
Political Experience: 16 years as Harrison’s part-time town justice
Community Affiliations: Former Harrison coed little league coach from 1992 to 2006; former member of the Board of Directors of the Harrison Jewish Community Center; former president of Westchester County Magistrates Association
Years in Harrison: 29

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: Big San Francisco Giants fan

Q: It is extremely unusual for a sitting judge to face a primary challenge on the local level. How surprising was it to hear that you were passed over for the Republican ticket and that there’d be this type of challenge? 

 

A: I’m causing a primary challenge, and it’s very rare in this town. I can’t ever recall [that with] a Democrat. I’ve been previously cross-endorsed [by the Republicans] three times, which is quite an accomplishment. I have a lot of support throughout the community within the Republican Party and they encouraged me to run. I feel very good about my chances.

 

Q: What is the most unusual case you have ever presided over? 

 

A: Not really supposed to talk about cases, to some degree, but one unfortunate case was with a Manhattanville student who was murdered by her mother. I presided over two home invasion cases and both went up to the county court; a weapons case with rapper DMX. I’ve seen high-profile cases.

 

Q: Why are you interested in running for re-election to the town justice position?

 

A: I’m running for re-election as a way of continuing to give back to the community [where] I’ve raised my kids. I have the experiences and qualities to help ensure our judicial system is administered properly with integrity and professionalism. I was a practicing trial attorney for 38 years, and I’ve tried many cases myself which is invaluable [experience] to someone sitting on the bench.

 

Q: What is the most difficult part of the job? 

 

A: I don’t really find any part difficult, it comes naturally to me and I enjoy every day I get to sit on the bench. I actually try to make the whole experience interesting and I try to make it an educational experience and have people come away with a positive experience. I have enjoyed over the years students from our local schools at court, from kindergarten through high school, stopping now and again and explaining to the kids about the pitfalls to avoid, like underage drinking and using false IDs. It’s a good thing to do when the kids are young enough and to influence them in a positive manner. They write me letters and draw pictures with the judge and gavel, it’s very rewarding.

 

Q: What are the most important pieces of advice you have for attorneys concerning how they can improve their performance at oral argument? 

 

A: Most important thing is to be prepared, [as] I run my court in a professional manner. I established that standard soon after I took the bench. Once you’re prepared and know what you’re talking about, you’re going to be successful in getting your case across.

 

Q: Should the town justice role expand to a full-time position? 

 

A: No, I don’t think it needs to be expanded and it can be handled on a part-time basis. As a matter of fact, the Town of Harrison is a busy court and it’s a testament to our efficiency. A lot of credit goes out to our tremendous court staff, especially Jackie Ricciardi, our chief court clerk. We can more than handle it.

 

Q: What should the town judges be paid or, perhaps less controversially, how would one determine what the proper salary should be? 

 

A: Not sure how to answer that; it’s how good a job they do and how big the court is.

 

Q: Town justices are allowed to keep other employment unlike full-time justices. Why is that? 

 

A: Well, because it’s a part-time job, many judges would have a hard time making ends meet only working part time, so you’re allowed to do other things. 

 

Q: What qualifications or background make for an effective justice, in your opinion? 

 

A: Well first of all, it’s important to know the law, and as a local judge, not only criminal, but the penal code, criminal procedure, landlord-tenant law, municipal codes and rules of evidence. A good judge has to understand people and human nature. You have to come in with an impartial viewpoint and come into it fairly and let the parties verbalize their point. Be patient and know you’re there to be the judge. It’s important to treat people respectfully and sometimes you see these programs on television that sensationalize the judges and they scream, and that’s how they think judges act, but they should treat others in a respectable manner.

-Reporting by John Brandi

County pushes inter-municipal sewer agreements

This overflowing manhole in the Village of Mamaroneck is one of the many results of an overburdened sewer system plaguing Westchester County. File photo

This overflowing manhole in the Village of Mamaroneck is one of the many results of an overburdened sewer system plaguing Westchester County. File photo

By JACKSON CHEN
Westchester County is relying on its various municipalities to begin addressing the countywide issue of excessive water flow throughout its aging sewer system through an inter-municipal agreement. 

Municipalities such as the City of Rye and the Village of Scarsdale are expected to consent to a joint agreement, while others like the Village of Mamaroneck and the City of New Rochelle have already agreed to address the sewer problems.

The decade-long problem of excessive water flow in the county’s sewer system has been commonly referred to as inflow and infiltration. More importantly, the overburdening amount of water that flows through the county’s sewers has been impacting the already-aging infrastructure.

While an aged infrastructure is part of the problem, many residents also unknowingly dump fresh water—by means of basement sump pumps or improper household drainage—into the municipalities’ sewer systems that are meant to handle waste water, which ultimately overstresses the pipes and reduces efficiency.

For many Westchester residents, the struggling sewer lines remain mostly out of sight and therefore without cause for alarm, unless the municipality digs up the road to inspect and repair the pipes. Otherwise, the impact of an overworked sewer system translates into cracked lines, polluted waters and the eventual costly repairs.

To address this ongoing problem, the county was issued a consent order by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2008. As part of the consent order, the county conducted a flow monitoring study in September 2012 that showed several municipalities had exceeded the maximum amount of gallons allowed into their sewer districts on at least half of the days during the two-year survey.

Adding to the pressure of a consent order, a nonprofit environmental organization, Save the Sound, filed suit on Aug. 11, 2015 with the United States Southern District Court of New York against the county for ongoing sewage leaks and frequent overflows. Additionally, the Connecticut and Mamaroneck-based organization filed a notice of intent to file suit against the individual municipalities in the county.

“We’ve been doing 50 sampling sites up and down the coast from New Rochelle up to Greenwich [Connecticut],” said Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound. “We’ve been finding in Westchester County some really disturbingly high bacterial contamination, particularly up the streams and creeks.”

Johnson added that the county started addressing the sewer issues around 2000, but in three years’ time had performed no actions afterwards.

Now seven years removed from the 2008 consent order, the county is at the point where it needs its individual municipalities to come together with an inter-municipal agreement to combat the sewage system problems.

For the City of Rye, the agreement details what they must do to perform studies and analyses of its sewer lines to identify their condition and potential problems, according to Rye City Manager Marcus Serrano. The city manager estimated that the consultant fees may run in the hundreds of thousands, while the possibility of digging up streets to inspect or repair the lines would project to a much higher cost.

Serrano also said the city is required to address the issues they’ve discovered and eventually introduce a local law that would prohibit illegal home sewer hookups. Serrano said that the county believes that most of the extra water is coming from residents who have illegal sump pumps or pipe connections that pump clean water into the city’s sewer system.

“The more sensitive part that’s more disconcerting to all of us is that they want us to agree to inspect all the laterals, all the individual homeowners, to make sure there’s no illegal [connections],” Serrano said, citing private property concerns and the possibility of residents’ refusals.

Despite his concerns, Serrano said the city will most likely comply with the inter-municipal agreement because the county has been resistant to organizing a countywide solution.

According to Phil Oliva, spokesman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, the local sewer lines within the municipalities are not owned or operated by the county. Without a legal right to inspect or improve the individual sewers, the responsibility falls on the municipalities.

The sewer reform effort is already underway in the Village of Mamaroneck, and according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, the village has already begun the rehabilitation of the sewers because of a consent order they received individually last fall from the DEC.

Slingerland added that the rest of the municipalities would have to catch up to the amount of legwork the village has already tackled.

“We’ve been checking into the problem through investigating with dye testing, camera video testing and inspection of people’s homes,” Slingerland said, adding the village also completed relining a previously failing sewer pipe.

“Since we’re already moving ahead on the consent order we had last fall, we’re probably a year ahead of the game,” Slignerland said. “We have the plan set up and we’re moving forward by taking action.”

The village manager said 40 connections between the village’s sewer main and homeowners’ private laterals have been remedied and should affect a big improvement. Overall, Slingerland said the sewer rehabilitation efforts have run the village several hundred thousands of dollars.

While Mamaroneck is well on its way to addressing its sewers, Serrano hopes that Rye will be able to partner with other municipalities under a joint effort of retaining consultants and engineers to promote a cost savings as the city prepares for the inter-municipal agreement.

While a potential lawsuit looms over Rye and other municipalities, Serrano hopes that the inter-municipal agreement would meet the standards of the DEC’s consent order as well as Save the Sound’s lawsuits.

If the seven remaining municipalities sign onto the agreement,
the county will then oversee the progress of their studies and help to develop an approvable construction schedule by Aug. 31, 2017, according to Oliva. The county is projecting a completed construction date of Dec. 31, 2019.

For Save the Sound’s Johnson, he said the inter-municipal agreements are a step in the right direction, but much more is needed to be done to quash the issue.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 

Irving Harper dies, sculptures to be auctioned

Irving Harper, legendary artist and Rye resident, died of renal failure earlier this month. He was 99. File photos

Irving Harper, legendary artist and Rye resident, died of renal failure earlier this month. He was 99. File photos

By CHRIS EBERHART
Legendary artist and designer Irving Harper died from renal failure in the obscurity of his Greenhaven home in the City of Rye on Aug. 4. He was 99. 

He is survived today by his daughter, Elizabeth Harper Williams, who characterized her father as “a good, kind, creative, lovely man.”

She paused for a moment, and added, “I’ll miss him a lot.”

Since the 1960s, Harper, a quiet and reserved man by nature, created hundreds of paper sculptures of different shapes, sizes and colors in his off-the-beaten-path home—hidden behind trees and shrubbery in a corner of Brevoort Lane—as a way to relieve the everyday stress of working as a designer in the renowned New York City office of George Nelson in the late 1940s to the early 1960s.

During his time as a designer, Harper created some of the Nelson office’s most iconic contributions including the 1949 Ball Clock, the Herman Miller logo and the 1965 Marshmallow Sofa.

But in his spare time over the past 55 years, Harper created paper sculptures that never left his home. He never wanted them to.

To Harper, these sculptures were like his friends.

This was one of hundreds of sculptures created by Irving Harper that were scattered all over his secluded Rye home.

This was one of hundreds of sculptures created by Irving Harper that were scattered all over his secluded Rye home.

Last September, the Review interviewed Harper in his home, where he was surrounded by his sculptures. At one point, he took a break from answering questions, scanned the room and finally said, “I’m here looking at [the sculptures], and they’ve just added so much to my life.”

Earlier that month, on Sept. 14, 2014, Harper’s works were showcased for the first time ever in the Rye Arts Center on Milton Road.

During the opening of the exhibit, Harper sat in his wheelchair and watched visitors marvel at his paper sculptures. In January 2015, Harper saw one of his sculptures, a coiled snake comprised of light blue and dark pink paper, auctioned off for the first time ever. Rye residents Paul and Kate Conn presented the highest bid: $21,000.

Harper told the Review after the opening, “I didn’t want the attention, so I was reluctant [to showcase] the sculpture in an exhibit. But I eventually welcomed it, and it was a great feeling to be discovered.”

Harper Williams said her father’s works will be auctioned off by Richard Wright
in Chicago.

Meg Rodriguez, executive director of the Rye Arts Center said, “No matter who has Harper’s [paper sculptures], it would be wonderful if Irving Harper could live on through his work being publicly shared with future generations.”

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 

Westchester hosts concussion conference

Dr. Mark Herceg, who serves as Westchester County’s commissioner of Community Mental Health, speaks at the Conference on Concussions on Aug. 20. Herceg is heading a task force that is charged with implementing a program for area schools to use in the treatment of sports-related concussions.

Dr. Mark Herceg, who serves as Westchester County’s commissioner of Community Mental Health, speaks at the Conference on Concussions on Aug. 20. Herceg is heading a task force that is charged with implementing a program for area schools to use in the treatment of sports-related concussions.

By MIKE SMITH
On Aug. 20, area parents, coaches and players gathered at the Westchester County Center for the Safer Sports Conference on Concussions, a series of talks designed to raise awareness about the causes and effects of sports-related head injuries. 

More than 200 people turned out to hear medical experts give their take on brain safety in sports as concussions continue to be a hot-button issue across the athletic landscape.

Five speakers were on hand to discuss various issues concerning brain injuries, from how to properly diagnose a traumatic head injury to setting protocols to ensure that student-athletes who suffer these types of injuries can bounce back, both on the field and in the classroom.

In July, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino launched a concussion task force as part of his Safer Communities initiative. According to Astorino, whose own young children participate in sports, the topic of concussions has risen to the forefront of sports discussions in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are roughly 4 to 5 million sports-related concussions per year, a number that has been increasing at a steady rate.

“One of the things we know how to do as parents, trainers or coaches, if a child is on the field or the court and scrapes a knee, or twists an ankle, we know what to do basically,” Astorino said. “But if a kid is dizzy, we don’t always know what to do. It’s something I have talked about with other parents in the bleachers and that’s one of the reasons this has all come about.”

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino speaks at the Safer Sports Conference on Concussions on Aug. 20 at the Westchester County Center. Astorino hopes that his newly appointed concussion task force and last week’s conference will help keep our young athletes safer from brain injuries.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino speaks at the Safer Sports Conference on Concussions on Aug. 20 at the Westchester County Center. Astorino hopes that his newly appointed concussion task force and last week’s conference will help keep our young athletes safer from brain injuries.

Astorino’s task force has been charged with developing a model program that will be made available to local high schools to help athletic departments and school staffers address concerns stemming from sports-related concussions, especially with respect to post-injury management. The task force is being headed by Dr. Mark Herceg who serves as the director of neurophysiology at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains as well as the county commissioner of Community Mental Health.

Thursday’s conference, Asto-rino said, was part of the process to arm parents and coaches with more knowledge in the fight against concussions.

“The more we know about sports concussions, the better we can manage the injury if it does happen, and the better we can mitigate any lasting effects,” Astorino said.

Although there is not currently any one program in place for area schools to use, local athletic departments have taken it upon themselves over the last few years to put their own protocols in place for dealing with concussion management.

Dominic Zanot, who coaches football at Harrison High School, said that the response to concussions and the rise of concussion awareness today compared to his own playing days has been “night and day.”

“I graduated from Colgate in 2000 and I can’t remember even one protocol that was in place back then,” he said. “I don’t even know if the word ‘concussion’ ever came up. It was a completely different environment back then.”

Harrison, like several other area school districts in Westchester, implemented the ImPACT concussion evaluation system in 2011. The ImPACT system utilizes baseline testing of student-athlete’s cognitive brain functions to better manage when youngsters who have suffered a brain injury can safely get back on the field. According to Zanot, systems like ImPACT and the continued efforts of Astorino’s task force are invaluable in protecting young athletes.

“There is so much more information out there and we’re just better educated on concussions now,” Zanot said. “It’s not just something you take a two hour class on, though. [Coaches, trainers and parents] need to be continually re-educated.”

Football players from Eastchester and New Rochelle square off on the field during New Rochelle’s Champions Camp in July. Although concussions have become a hot topic in the football world, they affect student-athletes in all sports. Photos/Mike Smith

Football players from Eastchester and New Rochelle square off on the field during New Rochelle’s Champions Camp in July. Although concussions have become a hot topic in the football world, they affect student-athletes in all sports. Photos/Mike Smith

Hopefully, said Astorino, the new task force’s findings can be another effective tool to keep our young athletes safe.

“I know [the task force] has been working very hard here in the dog days of summer,” the county executive said. “I look forward to seeing what their report is, and then releasing it to all the school districts.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 

Column: Feelin’ old and tired

Sports Editor Mike Smith, top row, far right, and his baseball team battled valiantly this summer, but a championship wasn’t in the cards for the Mud Hens. After a long summer, Smith is starting to feel his age. Contributed photo

Sports Editor Mike Smith, top row, far right, and his baseball team battled valiantly this summer, but a championship wasn’t in the cards for the Mud Hens. After a long summer, Smith is starting to feel his age. Contributed photo

Over the last few years in my column, I’ve written countless pieces about the ability that rejuvenating power sports has and about the power of athletic competition to make anyone feel young again. But man, oh man, do I feel old today.

As you, dear reader, are no doubt aware, I’ve spent the last nine years of my life playing and coaching on a men’s baseball team in New York City. It has been fulfilling and rewarding, and during those precious few at-bats when I actually square up a fastball, it’s a throwback to a time when playing baseball was without a doubt the most important thing in my life.

After our 7-2 defeat during Sunday’s championship game, however, I felt every bit of my 30 years.

I think the wheels began to come off last week, during what can only be described as our “miraculous” run to our first-ever championship appearance. With a new playoff format that forced us to play four nine-inning games in less than 48 hours, it was crazy enough that my guys and I were able to leave the field—by and large—under our own power, much less with more baseball still to be played the following weekend.

Playing 36 innings of baseball in one weekend is tough enough for an 18-year-old. But for a team comprised mainly of players on the wrong side of 30 whose main source of exercise during the week is taking the stairs, not the elevator, to our desk jobs? It’s absolute lunacy.

Sure we came out of the weekend with a chance to hoist the trophy, but the cost was high. We lost three players to balky hamstrings alone, we lost our flame-throwing ace to a strained UCL, and we spent about 15 minutes in the penultimate game as our third baseman lay prone in the infield, screaming bloody murder as he tried to work through a calf muscle cramp that probably wouldn’t have been a big deal for someone half his age.

When you’re winning, you can sort of fight through those setbacks. Eventually, however, it’s going to catch up to you.

I, like most of my teammates, spent the last seven days trying to simply survive my workweek, feeling more like a desiccated, latex-clad extra on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” than a Major League star. The promise of hoisting a trophy was enough to carry us through.

Once that promise of glory is gone, however, that’s when you start to feel the nicks, bruises and aches of an entire season of baseball.

After the game, my teammates and I retired to our local bar to toast to another great year of baseball and commiserate in the latest loss. The defeat itself wasn’t that bad. We were simply beat by a better team. But taking stock of what we had left was a different situation entirely. Our left fielder, a loyal teammate for the past seven years, was heading out west to take a job in Oregon. Our center fielder, a guy I’d played with since college, let me know that he didn’t have another year left in his legs. Our longtime ace, when asked if he was coming back for another year, glanced at his elbow, smiled wanly and just shook his head.

The game catches up with all of us. Heck, even I don’t know if I’ve got one more year of baseball left in my increasingly broken down body.

I feel old right now, and tired. But I guess that’s how you’re supposed to feel at the end of a long season.

Opening Day isn’t until April. I got a lot of time to rest up.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter
@Livemike_Sports

 

Column: Winding down and help Stop Hunger Now

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending this year’s annual Senior Picnic in West Harrison. The weather could not have been better and more than 200 seniors enjoyed a day of fun and friendship. The appetizing menu included hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as chicken cutlets, sausage and peppers, salads and more. Our Recreation Department really outdid themselves this year and should be commended for their efforts. It was a great success and I enjoyed seeing many familiar friends and new faces. The annual Senior Picnic is a wonderful event and many of our senior residents look forward to it each year.

Harrison is responsible for managing accessible and safe public sidewalks and rights of way. Recently, trees on Halstead Avenue have been removed because their root beds have erupted, thereby lifting sections of the sidewalk and creating trip hazards for pedestrians. As much as I dislike taking down trees, this safety measure had to be done. These hazards pose liability risks to the Town/Village of Harrison and must be cured. The Highway Department is currently installing new sidewalks. New trees will be planted symmetrically, in the proper soils, so this condition does not reoccur. Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office.

I would like to bring your attention to the inaugural Stop Hunger Now event sponsored by Wells Fargo. Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief nonprofit organization and will be hosting an event on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Halstead’s Bar and Grill in downtown Harrison. Those in attendance will be packaging 5,000 meals for families in need. Refreshments and a silent auction will follow, with all proceeds benefiting the Harrison Food Pantry. Together, we can work to help stop world hunger. I encourage anyone who would like to participate in this worthwhile event to RSVP to Adam Elgert at 777-4012 or adam.elgert@wellsfargo.com by Sept. 9.

As the summer winds down, I would like to bring your attention to a highly-anticipated end of the season event. Back by popular demand, the Brentwood Pool Puppy Plunge will take place from Tuesday, Sept. 8 through Friday, Sept. 11 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and over the weekend on Saturday, Sept. 12 and Sunday, Sept.13 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The lucky dogs of Harrison are invited to swim at the Brentwood Pool before it’s drained for the season. Due to health regulations, only dogs will be allowed in the pool during this special event. No registration is necessary and this event is free of charge for all Harrison residents.

In closing, my next “Lunch with the Mayor” will be on Friday, Sept. 4 and I will be at Trevi Ristorante, located at 11 Taylor Square in West Harrison. The next event will be on Friday, Sept. 11 at Quenas Restaurant, located at 109 Halstead Ave. I will be at both locations from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and I look forward to meeting with residents and talking about issues facing our community.

 

 

What’s going on Harrison

Harrison library events 

The Harrison Public Library will be closed for renovations and will reopen on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015. Visit harrisonpl.org for updates and more information.

Art exhibition

Artists who are interested in exhibiting at the Harrison Public Library for approximately one month during 2016 are invited to submit samples of their artwork for review by a juried art committee sponsored by the Harrison Council for the Arts.

The samples and related items may be submitted in person at the library on Friday, Oct. 2 after 9:30 a.m. and must be picked up the next day, Saturday, Oct. 3 after 12 p.m. No registration or appointment is required.

Art eligible for exhibition must be two-dimensional. Samples must include two different pieces of the actual art, preferably framed, the artist’s resume and 12 copies, all different, of the artist’s work in the form of 35 mm slides, photos or prints.

All entrants will be notified by Monday, Nov. 16 by mail. Ten winners and three alternates will be selected to participate. Choice of month will be on a first come, first served basis. February and March are not available.

For more details, visit harrisonpl.org and click on the “Events and Programs/Juried Art Program” tab or contact Dan Briem at dbriem@wlsmail.org or 835-0324 or Connie Perrotta at cpcpone@yahoo.com or 315-1922.

West Harrison library events

Hours starting Monday, Aug. 3: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; closed on Sundays. The West Harrison branch will be closed on Labor Day, which falls on Monday, Sept. 7.

Citizenship and English classes

Free citizenship and English classes for adults 18 and older. Registration starts on Wednesday, Sept. 2 through Friday, Sept. 4. Class begins on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Space is limited. Please call 524-9214 for more information.

Story Time

Great stories, music and fun for ages 1 to 5. No registration necessary, bring your friends. Monday, Aug. 31 at 10:30 a.m. for 30 minutes.

Open Play Time

Come into the library and meet other parents, grandparents, caregivers and children. Open for children ages 1 to 5. Make new friends, play, read and have fun with some special toys. Meets Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Crochet and knitting class

Want to learn how to knit or crochet a simple scarf? Join the class. Come anytime between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays. Bring hooks, needles and yarn or practice with materials provided. Walk-ins are welcome. No registration needed. Call 948-2092 for more information.

Mother Goose Time

Songs, dancing and fun for the little ones ages 3 and under. Meets Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Harrison Recreation

Download brochures and applications for all recreation programs, unless stated otherwise, at harrison-ny.gov/recreation. For more information, questions, suggestions and/or comments, email recreation@harrison-ny.gov.

Flag football league

For boys pre-K through grade six. Girls are encouraged to join, and a separate girls’ league will be formed if the numbers dictate it. Registration is currently underway. For more information visit harrisonyouthflagfootball.com or call Joe Gallace with any questions at 924-8380. Fee for program is $180, after Sept. 17 $200. Check payable to Harrison Youth Flag Football, mailed to 156 Lakeview Ave., West Harrison, N.Y. 10604 or may be dropped off at either the Sollazzo Center or Mintzer Center.

Event rentals

Available at both the West Harrison Senior Annex and the Veteran’s Memorial Building in downtown Harrison, the building rental fee for events is $450 for 5 hours with a $300 security deposit. Add on additional space at either center for $100 plus an additional $100 security deposit. For questions and available dates call 670-3035. To rent the facility, you must have a 2015 Harrison resident identification card.

Volunteer opportunities

The Harrison Recreation Department has many opportunities for high school students through senior citizens to volunteer with youth programs and senior programs. For more information, call 670-3035.

Harrison Senior Centers

Harrison has two very active senior citizen clubs sponsored by the Recreation Department.

The West Harrison Group meets on Thursdays from noon to 3 p.m. at the Leo Mintzer Senior Annex Building, located at 251 Underhill Ave., to discuss items of interest, play bingo and discuss activities coming up in the near future.

The Downtown Group meets every Friday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building, located at 210 Halstead Ave.

The membership fee for both groups is $24 per year and refreshments are served at gatherings.

There is also a drop-in center at the Harrison Community Center, at 216 Halstead Ave., Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. where you may enjoy television, cards and socializing.

Come by the Tuesday exercise classes from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the community center.

For more information on recreation and social activities, call the Senior Citizen Center at 670-3000 ext. 3172.

 

Deadline for our What’s Going On section is every Thursday at noon. Though space is not guaranteed, we will do our best to accommodate your listing. Please send all items to news@hometwn.com

Harrison Shopping Center has new identity

The Harrison Shopping Center on the corner of Halstead and Oakland avenues has officially come under new management, as Urstadt Biddle Properties, Inc. recently acquired the property which had been under continuous ownership for nearly 60 years. Photo courtesy Urstadt Biddle

The Harrison Shopping Center on the corner of Halstead and Oakland avenues has officially come under new management, as Urstadt Biddle Properties, Inc. recently acquired the property which had been under continuous ownership for nearly 60 years. Photo courtesy Urstadt Biddle

By JOHN BRANDI
With a new property owner at the helm, the Harrison Shopping Center is about to undergo some changes, perhaps bringing new clients and clientele to the nearly 60-year-old complex. 

Urstadt Biddle Properties, Inc, a Greenwich, Conn.-based real estate investment trust, sealed the deal on the property earlier this month after managing the 25,000-square-foot shopping center for three years.

James Aries, director of acquistions at Urstadt Biddle, said the purchase was the natural, next step after the company’s close relationship with the selling family over the years, though the selling price has not yet been disclosed.

The complex was also on the company’s radar, as it is located 10 miles from their main headquarters and because, as bankruptcy proceedings are finalized and are forcing the failing A&P chain out, it would give Urstadt Biddle a chance to sort of reset the image of the property with their own vision, according to the company’s senior management.

Willing Biddle, president of the trust, said the most important step in moving forward is to stabilize a new anchor tenant to ensure a smooth transition from outgoing A&P into a new supermarket chain. According to court papers released in July that detailed the closing of 31 A&P locations in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties, Key Food Co-Operative has placed a sole bid on this location, at 341-385 Halstead Ave, for an undisclosed amount of money.

“Our goal is to work with [Key Foods] in a way that’s appropriate and nice for the neighborhood,” Biddle said. “They’ll be improvements to the store and much better operation than the A&P ever did and we’re encouraged by that.”

Though the deadline runs until Oct. 15 of when the court will finalize the buyout of the locations, Biddle said, in the meantime, three more supermarket chains have expressed interest in the Harrison A&P location. However, he declined to release their names, as he said the proceedings have a competitive nature to them, since companies attempt to buy up these old locations before the deadline.

The A&P had about nine years left on its lease with the shopping center with an option to renew, according to Aries.

“It’s a great location for a successful supermarket, and we think [that] is the best use for that space,” Aries said.

Biddle echoed this sentiment and felt a successful anchor would make its neighboring tenants better in the process, something the A&P was failing to do in recent years.

“[We’re looking for a] better anchor supermarket to feed off one other and the problem with A&P was that it was not maintained,” Biddle said. “They’ve had financial troubles and trouble maintaining staff and its stores.”

The financial stress of the A&P didn’t deter Urstadt Biddle with the all-cash purchase, as Biddle called the transition from supermarket chains “a plus.”

Meanwhile, Biddle and Aries both see big plans for the complex beyond the A&P vacancy. The attention, once a food-item store is secured, is going to turn to filling the two vacancies in the plaza—out of 11 storefronts—that will complement its anchor’s appeal. There’s already a plan to work with the existing tenants on drafting new leases and talks are taking place to bring a new client in soon to fill one of the vacancies, though Biddle declined to name the possible tenant as the negotiations are ongoing.

Other plans include cosmetic work to the property’s façade and changes in the parking model.

The property had been through undisturbed ownership for 58 years, and has seen two owners now, as it was built in 1957 and has been a “mainstay in downtown Harrison for generations,” according to Urstadt Biddle. Other tenants in the complex include a bakery, hair salon, a florist, restaurants and an AT&T satellite store.

Urstadt Biddle operates 74 locations throughout Westchester and Putnam counties and some locations in New Jersey in some capacity with the general atmosphere being “dominant, grocery-anchored centers in wealthy neighborhoods.”

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 

School district’s state test scores jump

Harrison Central School District has seen an increase of those scoring in the highest percentiles on statewide, standardized testing, according to state data released this month. File photo

Harrison Central School District has seen an increase of those scoring in the highest percentiles on statewide, standardized testing, according to state data released this month. File photo

By JOHN BRANDI
As statewide standardized testing remains marred in controversy, results have shown that a percentage of students in the Harrison Central School District have made progress in a year’s time and results have ticked up in both English and mathematics. 

Though fewer kids tested this year, as 19 percent of the student body in grades three through eight opted out of the state tests in Harrison, the results remained strong, according to data released by New York State’s Education Department. A range between 1,121 and 1,302 students were still tested on their skills in mathematics and English Language Arts, ELA, respectively.

Students scoring in the top three and four percentile in ELA testing have gone up five and three percentage points, respectively, from 2014 to 2015. Over that same timespan, math scores also jumped, and the students scoring in the high percentiles increased three and 11 percentage points, the latter marking the biggest jump in the results.

Harrison Superintendent of Schools Louis Wool questioned the validity of the results and felt that they weren’t good indicators of students’ progress.

“[They are] limited in value in determining whether or not students are making appropriate academic progress,” Wool told the Review.

Furthermore, the superintendent said it’s unclear if those opting out in Harrison on exam day affected test scores.

Either way, the overall message of that resistance is clear.

“We would hope that the state would take note that the opt out movement is a vote of no-confidence in its approach to assessing student growth,” Wool said.

Opting out of test-taking is still a fairly new phenomenon, with some parents pulling their kids from the classroom on test day in response to over testing and burn out. Statewide numbers of those students, in grades three through eight, who’ve opted out hovers at 20 percent, according to the same Education Department data.

Opting out is used as a civil disobedience tool to protest teacher evaluation models and Common Core curriculum standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a national, educational initiative that details what students in kindergarten through grade 12 should know in English and mathematics at the end of each grade. New York, along with 43 other states, agreed to adopt Common Core in 2010 to be eligible for grant money under President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia speculated on what effect opting out could have on how teachers are evaluated moving forward.

“This assessment is part of a bigger plan to let us know how we’re doing and where we’re going, and without that data we’re certainly at a disadvantage in knowing how those schools and those districts performed,” she said.

Under the current teacher evaluation system, students’ state scores make up 20 percent of the evaluation for a teacher; another 20 percent is based on local tests, while the bulk—60 percent—is based on observations. Teachers are then scored on a scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective,” and teachers who score “ineffective” twice in a row could be fired under state law.

That evaluation system is set to change however, due to education initiatives introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, through the 2015-2016 Executive Budget, which was passed in March.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 

County pushes inter-municipal sewer agreements

This overflowing manhole in the Village of Mamaroneck is one of the many results of an overburdened sewer system plaguing Westchester County. File photo

This overflowing manhole in the Village of Mamaroneck is one of the many results of an overburdened sewer system plaguing Westchester County. File photo

By JACKSON CHEN
Westchester County is relying on its various municipalities to begin addressing the countywide issue of excessive water flow throughout its aging sewer system through an inter-municipal agreement. 

Municipalities such as the City of Rye and the Village of Scarsdale are expected to consent to a joint agreement, while others like the Village of Mamaroneck and the City of New Rochelle have already agreed to address the sewer problems.

The decade-long problem of excessive water flow in the county’s sewer system has been commonly referred to as inflow and infiltration. More importantly, the overburdening amount of water that flows through the county’s sewers has been impacting the already-aging infrastructure.

While an aged infrastructure is part of the problem, many residents also unknowingly dump fresh water—by means of basement sump pumps or improper household drainage—into the municipalities’ sewer systems that are meant to handle waste water, which ultimately overstresses the pipes and reduces efficiency.

For many Westchester residents, the struggling sewer lines remain mostly out of sight and therefore without cause for alarm, unless the municipality digs up the road to inspect and repair the pipes. Otherwise, the impact of an overworked sewer system translates into cracked lines, polluted waters and the eventual costly repairs.

To address this ongoing problems, the county was issued a consent order by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2008. As part of the consent order, the county conducted a flow monitoring study in September 2012 that showed several municipalities had exceeded the maximum amount of gallons allowed into their sewer districts on at least half of the days during the two-year survey.

Adding to the pressure of a consent order, a nonprofit environmental organization, Save the Sound, filed suit on Aug. 11, 2015 with the United States Southern District Court of New York against the county for ongoing sewage leaks and frequent overflows. Additionally, the Connecticut and Mamaroneck-based organization filed a notice of intent to file suit against the individual municipalities in the county.

“We’ve been doing 50 sampling sites up and down the coast from New Rochelle up to Greenwich [Connecticut],” said Curt Johnson, executive director of Save the Sound. “We’ve been finding in Westchester County some really disturbingly high bacterial contamination, particularly up the streams and creeks.”

Johnson added that the county started addressing the sewer issues around 2000, but in three years’ time had performed no actions afterwards.

Now seven years removed from the 2008 consent order, the county is at the point where it needs its individual municipalities to come together with an inter-municipal agreement to combat the sewage system problems.

For the City of Rye, the agreement details what they must do to perform studies and analyses of its sewer lines to identify their condition and potential problems, according to Rye City Manager Marcus Serrano. The city manager estimated that the consultant fees may run in the hundreds of thousands, while the possibility of digging up streets to inspect or repair the lines would project to a much higher cost.

Serrano also said the city is required to address the issues they’ve discovered and eventually introduce a local law that would prohibit illegal home sewer hookups. Serrano said that the county believes that most of the extra water is coming from residents who have illegal sump pumps or pipe connections that pump clean water into the city’s sewer system.

“The more sensitive part that’s more disconcerting to all of us is that they want us to agree to inspect all the laterals, all the individual homeowners, to make sure there’s no illegal [connections],” Serrano said, citing private property concerns and the possibility of residents’ refusals.

Despite his concerns, Serrano said the city will most likely comply with the inter-municipal agreement because the county has been resistant to organizing a countywide solution.

According to Phil Oliva, spokesman for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, the local sewer lines within the municipalities are not owned or operated by the county. Without a legal right to inspect or improve the individual sewers, the responsibility falls on the municipalities.

The sewer reform effort is already underway in the Village of Mamaroneck, and according to Village Manager Richard Slingerland, the village has already begun the rehabilitation of the sewers because of a consent order they received individually last fall from the DEC.

Slingerland added that the rest of the municipalities would have to catch up to the amount of legwork the village has already tackled.

“We’ve been checking into the problem through investigating with dye testing, camera video testing and inspection of people’s homes,” Slingerland said, adding the village also completed relining a previously failing sewer pipe.

“Since we’re already moving ahead on the consent order we had last fall, we’re probably a year ahead of the game,” Slignerland said. “We have the plan set up and we’re moving forward by taking action.”

The village manager said 40 connections between the village’s sewer main and homeowners’ private laterals have been remedied and should affect a big improvement. Overall, Slingerland said the sewer rehabilitation efforts have run the village several hundred thousands of dollars.

While Mamaroneck is well on its way to addressing its sewers, Serrano hopes that Rye will be able to partner with other municipalities under a joint effort of retaining consultants and engineers to promote a cost savings as the city prepares for the inter-municipal agreement.

While a potential lawsuit looms over Rye and other municipalities, Serrano hopes that the inter-municipal agreement would meet the standards of the DEC’s consent order as well as Save the Sound’s lawsuits.

If the seven remaining municipalities sign onto the agreement, the county will then oversee the progress of their studies and help to develop an approvable construction schedule by Aug. 31, 2017, according to Oliva. The county is projecting a completed construction date of Dec. 31, 2019.

For Save the Sound’s Johnson, he said the inter-municipal agreements are a step in the right direction, but much more is needed to be done to quash the issue.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com