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.

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.


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Column: NY Rising, HUD and flood mitigation

In the next few weeks, the City of Rye will have to decide whether to accept a grant from New York Rising for flood mitigation. The program administered by the state is a disaster recovery program that thoroughly and thoughtfully evaluates community needs to identify and provide funding for projects that build community resiliency. The money for the New York Rising grant comes not from New York state, but from the federal government, specifically, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, Community Development Block Grant, CDBG, funding. This kind of funding is usually used for affordable housing but here it is being used for disaster relief—the extreme flooding Rye experienced during the major storms in the last few years, Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene.

Grants for disaster relief or flood mitigation, whether from the county, state or federal government, should not come with strings attached. This CDBG grant from HUD, however, like all CDBG grants from HUD, require the recipients to enter into an agreement accepting conditions unilaterally imposed by HUD. The HUD grants used for disaster relief should be administered consistent with the resiliency goals set forth by the New York Rising program—to aid communities significantly impacted by a natural disaster—rather than to further HUD’s mission to affirmatively further fair housing. Our decision to accept or reject this grant, unfortunately, requires us to reflect on Westchester County’s experience with HUD in its affordable housing settlement and HUD’s heavy-handed administration of that settlement.

A renewed focus on affirmatively furthering fair housing in Rye is unwarranted. Rye has a history of advocating for affordable housing within our community and we have built or are in the process of building affordable housing in several locations in our community. Furthermore, Rye does not have a history of racial segregation and was more racially diverse 100 years ago than it is today. While it might be worth delving into the causes of the decreasing diversity in the community, the community’s history of racial integration suggests the cause is not zoning-related, but economic.

In Rye, and other communities with strong public school systems, the zoning districts where houses are closer together or that have multi-family housing have been increasingly settled by upper middle class families as housing prices have increased. Housing prices in the more densely-populated neighborhoods have now increased to the point where what was once an “affordable” neighborhood is no longer affordable.

The City Council is in the process of evaluating its obligations if it accepts the HUD grant. If we accept the grant, we will undoubtedly fulfill our obligations as required. If we decide against accepting the grant, our decision will undoubtedly rest upon our assessment of the risks associated with taking a CDBG grant. We should not have to make such a decision and it is unfortunate we even have to undertake this analysis. Our community suffered extensive damage due to flooding and, together with New York Rising, we have developed several plans to mitigate flooding, build our resiliency and minimize flood damage in the future. Grants for flood mitigation should not require a community impacted by a natural disaster to help further HUD’s mission to affirmatively further fair housing, particularly when the disaster mitigation being funded is unrelated to rebuilding any housing.

Column: Driving on Forest and storm safety

My family and I have lived on Forest Avenue for close to 60 years.

At first, there were no joggers and few walkers on the street. In fact, it was so rare for anyone to exercise on Forest that a rookie police officer stopped me one evening because he suspected I was running away from the scene of a crime.

We now know that a police stop based solely on running, even if the runner is glancing backward apprehensively, is improper. It was so decided in 2014 by the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, in the case of People v. Thomas, 5845/10. The rookie who stopped me did not remain on the Rye PD for long.

Today, there are many joggers on Forest, along with walkers, cyclists and adults with small children in baby carriages. These are all good to see, as long as they don’t expose themselves to needless danger, as long as they—other than cyclists—stick to the paved sidewalks where available.

The scariest sight for a conscientious motorist is a person in dark clothing walking or running after dark on the right hand side of the street, unable to see traffic approaching from behind him or her.

Then, there is the question of the Rye speed limit. For many years, the citywide limit was 25 mph. Then someone in their wisdom raised the citywide limit to 30. Recently, the limit was lowered to 25, but only in select locations, including part of our street.

The licensed drivers in my immediate family are unanimous in urging a return to a citywide speed limit of 25 mph, except on I-95 and I-287 where it is not up to us.

P.S.: As I write this, the air is briefly clear and cool, after a series of hot, humid days. While perspiring through such days, I worry about the September storms likely to follow such hot summer weather. Will it be like Hurricane Sandy again this year?

And while none of us can change the weather, we can and must prepare for the worst. Preparations are needed in each home, but more broadly citywide. And that is where the City Council comes in. It is up to the council to make sure we are ready for another Sandy or anything worse. I urge people to take a close look at how New Canaan, Conn., does it.

Every city employee should have a duty station and an assigned job during emergencies. Private citizen volunteers should also be organized and ready to spring into action when needed. The chain of emergency command must be clearly established and understood in order for Rye’s response to be most effective. Emergency shelters must be established and equipped, with their locations made known.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net          


What’s going on Rye

Rye Free Reading Room events

Art exhibit

Rye resident and multi-award winning artist Elizabeth B. Derderian will display a collection of still-life, landscape, cityscape and figurative paintings in an exhibition called “A New Chapter: Recent Paintings by Elizabeth B. Derderian.” The exhibition opens on Wednesday, Sept. 2 and will run until Wednesday, Sept. 30. Derderian’s paintings can also be seen hanging in Ruby’s, Sotheby’s, On The Way Café, on the postcards of the Pearl Restaurant Group and on the cover of the 2010 and 2015 Rye Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Guide.

Mother Goose Mondays

Join “Granny Jean” Klein, well-versed in early childhood development, as she introduces babies and toddlers to playful rhymes, songs and puppetry. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to participate with the children at the library . Because the program is often a child’s first experience in an audience setting, it is important that adults strive to arrive on time and actively help children focus on the presentation. This workshop is appropriate for children ages 6 months to 3-and-a-half years. The program will be held every Monday at 10 a.m. for 20 minutes in the Meeting Room.

Storytelling Guild

The Rye Storytellers’ Guild meets at the Rye Free Reading Room one Tuesday evening a month at 6 p.m. to share traditional and personal tales and trade tips on storytelling techniques. On Sept. 1, the group will tell stories about “School Days or Autumn’s Ways.” Listeners and tellers are welcome to join the Guild members at their meetings. To learn more, contact Angela at Booksamc@aol.com or Meg Stackpole at 967-0480 or mstackpole@ryelibrary.org.

Playland Park

International Friendship Day

On Saturday, Sept. 2, Rye Playland will celebrate International Friendship Day by giving park-goers $15 ride admission specials all day and will provide fun giveaways and activities featuring the Westchester Knicks, New York City Football Club, News 12 and the Scared by the Sound Haunted attraction. This International Friendship Day special cannot be combined with other offers and coupons will not be valid on this day.

Rye Recreation

General registration

Resident online registration for programs hosted by Rye Recreation begins on Thursday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. Registration for senior citizen programs begins on Monday, Sept. 14 and can be completed in person. Most programs have minimum or maximum requirements and may be cancelled due to low enrollment or may fill up quickly, so early registration is encouraged. Rye Recreation has moved to an online enrollment process for most of its activities, excluding senior citizen activities. To make the online registration process quicker, create an online account in “Community Pass” at ryeny.gov/recreation.cfm and follow the link provided. You may only register for your own family members. Full payment for registration is required whether registering online or in person. Rye Recreation accepts cash, credit cards or checks. Checks should be made payable to The City of Rye.

Rye Girls Softball camp

Softball camp will take place from Monday, Aug. 31 to Friday, Sept. 4 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Disbrow Field. Camp will be split into two groups, with rising third through fifth graders in one group and rising sixth through eighth graders in another. Register at ryegirlssoftball.com by clicking on “2015 Summer Clinic Registration” in the left-hand column menu.


Leaders of Tomorrow and the Rye Recreation Department present the 22nd annual field day of fun for kids of all ages on Sunday, Sept. 6 at 3 p.m. at Rye Recreation Park. The day of fun will include a bean bag toss, potato sack races, a cupcake-eating contest, the Jack Nye Memorial wood-racquet tennis tournament, hot dogs and John Carey Jr. Memorial music and dance program. For more information, contact Douglas Carey at rye1904@yahoo.com.

Jewelry and Beading Workshop

This two-session workshop is appropriate for children kindergarten through fifth grade. The first session, held on Tuesday, Sept. 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Damiano Recreation Center will allow participants to create and design from a selection of material including lead-free charms, pendants, crystal, sea glass and leather.

The second session, held on Tuesday, Nov. 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Damiano Recreation Center will allow participants to tap into their artistic and visual skills to create beautiful and wearable beaded jewelry and accessories. Everyone will create three projects to take home, including a necklace, a bracelet and a surprise project. The instructor, Melanie Rose, is the owner of Westchester-based jewelry and party service, Beadz. The fee for both sessions is $40 for residents and $50 for non-residents.

Rye Youth Soccer
fall 2015 registration

Rye Youth Soccer will now be accepting online applications for fall intramural teams for coaches, as well as girls and boys grades K through 5. The season will begin on Saturday, Sept. 19 and runs until Saturday, Nov. 14. Complete details on dates and times of the program can be found on Rye Youth Soccer’s website, ryeyouthsoccer.org, under the “Intramural” link on the left side of the home page. For more information, contact registrar Patti Adimari at pattirys@optonline.net or 967-5273. Scholarships are available upon request.



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

Search for clerk, police commissioner underway

Newly-hired City Manager Marcus Serrano is already tackling two major responsibilities in the city: hiring a city clerk and a police commissioner. Photo/Jackson Chen

Newly-hired City Manager Marcus Serrano is already tackling two major responsibilities in the city: hiring a city clerk and a police commissioner. Photo/Jackson Chen

As Rye City Manager Marcus Serrano settles into his new role, his priorities include hiring two new department heads: a police commissioner and city clerk.

Serrano, who was hired by the Rye City Council on June 10, was able to leave his village administrator position with Dobbs Ferry early and begin work in the city on June 29. With Serrano now cemented in City Hall, the city can begin addressing some of the cracks in the governmental infrastructure.

Shortly after Serrano was hired, City Clerk Dawn Nodarse retired on June 18, leaving the office staffed with only Diane Moore, the deputy city clerk.

Despite being the only person in the clerk’s office, Moore said things are still running smoothly as she gears up for the commuter parking renewal season.

“Because we were in this transitional time,” Moore said, “I think hiring someone kind of got put somewhat on the backburner in terms of waiting for the new city manager coming on board.”

According to records obtained by the Review, former City Manager Frank Culross said that Nodarse’s retirement provided an opportunity for the council to advertise the vacancy earlier in an attempt to strengthen the city’s administrative staff, in an email correspondence to the city council dated April 24.

“The city clerk’s office has been one of our underperforming units over the past year,” Culross said, adding that it wouldn’t be prudent to defer initiating the hiring process until a new manager came aboard.

However, the City Council decided to leave the responsibility of hiring a new city clerk to the newly-hired Serrano. According to Serrano, the city has advertised the opening with several clerk associations throughout New York state and Westchester County. While Nodarse was being paid an annual salary of $91,860 in 2014, Serrano said the offered salary for the new city clerk is still something reserved for negotiations.

Serrano is now in the midst of the interviewing process. According to the city manager, he has interviewed seven candidates in total and is expecting to go through a second round of interviews. The city manager added that he is hoping to have a recommendation for a new clerk to hire in time for the council’s Sept. 16 meeting.

While the interviewees for city clerk have mostly been local, Serrano said that the search for a new police commissioner to replace the current interim Police Commissioner Bill Pease has a more nationwide reach.

“I’m looking for a candidate who has a flavor or touch of all different aspects of the police department, with a friendly demeanor and will be able to get along with the community,” Serrano said of that interview process. While still early into the search process, the city manager added that he has received a few applications already.

Pease, who was hired in 2014 on a transitional basis by the similarly-transitional Culross, has expressed that he would stay with the city until the end of the year, according to Serrano.

Left with a slim timeframe, Serrano said that he hopes the council will agree on a commissioner candidate by October.

While Serrano will choose a final candidate for the new police commissioner, the council will have to approve of the city manager’s appointment, due to a charter change that the council adopted on Oct. 9, 2014.

If hired in October, the new commissioner would have at least two months’ time to assimilate into an expansive administrative role, with the help of Pease, who will be retiring from an annual salary of $147,144.

CONTACT: jackson@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

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


Back-to-school supply costs continue to rise

A few countywide organizations are coming together to ease the cost burden of school supplies for parents with school-age children.

A few countywide organizations are coming together to ease the cost burden of school supplies for parents with school-age children.

School supply lists have continued to grow for cash-strapped parents across Westchester County, but a few organizations are trying to provide relief to help ease that burden and give kids the tools to succeed in school. 

As summer comes to a close, parents with school-age children now have to shift their focus to the ever-increasing cost of school supplies. Item needs, usually in the form of a list provided by the child’s school, detail what should be bought for the school year ahead. The 2015-2016 digital school item lists from Harrison’s Louis M. Klein Middle School, which describes what a child entering kindergarten through grade 12 needs, feature 10 items or more, with the quantity of some items requested several times over.

For example, a child entering third grade will need eight broad-tip markers, two spiral notebooks and 12 No. 2 pencils.

According to the Huntington Bank Backpack Index, an analysis for exploring the costs related to school supplies, there has been a jump in price in each respective grade level for basic supplies since 2007. This year alone, parents can expect to spend an average increase of 1, 2.5 and 9 percent for kids in elementary, middle and high school, respectively.

“With the ongoing slow growth in wages, it is difficult for many families to meet the rising costs of sending children to school,” George Mokrzan, director of economics for Huntington Bank, said in a released statement. “For a family of five living at the poverty level guideline of $28,410, the cost of sending three children to school would consume as much as 10 percent of their income.”

Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of Education, one in every five school-age child was living below the federal poverty line in 2013, totaling 10.9 million children.

In an effort to help low-income families combat the growing costs of school supplies, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, launched Operation Backpack just last year. The county began teaming up with The Sharing Shelf of Family Services, a Port Chester nonprofit, and other similar agencies and businesses to collect and distribute school supplies for children in need.

“It’s wonderful to see the community step forward to make such a positive difference in the lives of local children,” said Deborah Blatt, coordinator of The Sharing Shelf.

Meanwhile, Hazel Alexander-Campbell, a Tuckahoe resident, is working to provide backpacks and other school supplies to lower-income children living in the Tuckahoe Housing Authority, THA, on Union Avenue, totaling around 67 children, up from 61 just two years ago. The demand for school supplies is still high, but luckily, Alexander-Campbell said, the donor list has grown and remains strong.
Some 30 donors on her list include elected officials from Tuckahoe and neighboring Eastchester, businesses in the area, emergency, first-responder organizations and even people whom Alexander-Campbell has met from as far away as Englewood, N.J.

“The feedback from the community at large has been positive so far, and there’s been such a big response from everyone who has donated and continues to donate,” Alexander-Campbell said.

Though she’s received nearly 100 backpacks, she said her committee, The Children Working for All Children, has collected other school supplies as well. The committee was started by her church, Shiloh Baptist in Tuckahoe, in 2008, but fizzled out when her pastor left the state. She reignited the effort in 2011 as the committee’s new president, and set her sights on initiatives that would assist children. For the past three years, she has been pushing to provide kids in the THA with the opportunity to have the same experiences as their higher-income peers.

“There’s an importance in children having supplies which make them have a better education,” Alexander-Campbell said. “[I want] for the children in my area to be just as successful, so they can go to school feeling positive.”

Jeanne Canon, a teacher in the Eastchester School District, said there’s a school budget in place for supplies, but oftentimes the parents will provide any additional item needs. She said, however, there is a certain degree where teachers are supplementing school supplies in the interim.

“What am I going to do? Wait six months to buy markers?” Canon said.

Pastor Ramaul Morgan, from West Harrison’s Memorial Community Church and organizer of an annual backpack giveaway which serves 150 local children, could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com


Rye Town Park wraps up summer concerts

On Aug. 18, The Angelo Rubino Band closed the show for this summer’s Twilight Tuesdays’ Concert Series at Rye Town Park. After previous rainouts, this week’s concert went off without a hitch. The six-member band performed various wide-ranging hits from the 1940s to the ‘90s.

The concert series, which took place at the park and overlooking the Long Island Sound, run in the park’s south pavilion every Tuesday night from late-June through August.

-Rye City Review staff
Left to right, Joe Inciardi on trumpet, Joe Mennonna, saxophone, and Angelo Rubino, saxophone, of The Angelo Rubino Band blast out a tune at Rye Town Park on Tuesday, Aug. 18 to mark the finale of Twilight Tuesdays’ Concert Series at Rye Town Park. Billy Frenz on guitar. Greg Grubox on keyboards. A respectable crowd was on hand at the Rye Town Park for the Twilight Tuesdays’ Concert Series. On Aug. 18, the concert series concluded for those in attendance on a beautiful night near the water. Barry Urich keeps the beat. Photos/Bobby Begun Ann Salto belts out a tune from the ‘40s at Rye Town Park on Forest Avenue in the City of Rye.

Column: Common sense doesn’t cost a cent

Frequently, readers call or email, and ask me if they can ask a stupid question. As I used to tell my students, when you’re learning about something new, there are no stupid questions, (other than asking if you can ask a stupid question). This especially holds true when it comes to remodeling. However, many a question can be answered by using “common sense,” and if you just think about it for a minute, sometimes the answer just pops into your head.

In the dictionary, common sense is defined as sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts. For example, you are about to cross the street and an 18-wheeler is barreling down the street toward the intersection. Should you cross or wait for the truck to pass by? If you chose to cross the street, you’re probably reading this column in your hospital bed, after being crushed by the truck, because you didn’t use your common sense.

Unfortunately, you can’t go to a convenience store to buy common sense. You get your allotment when you’re born and that’s it, but, most people have at least a modicum of this priceless attribute. The real trick is to use every bit of it that you were born with, and never ignore it just to save a buck or take the easy way out. You should know better.

So, you’re getting estimates for new semi-custom kitchen cabinets. Diligently, you get three estimates and two are about the same at $10,000 and one comes in at $5,000. What does your common sense tell you? There has to be a reason one estimate is considerably cheaper than the other two. Common sense dictates that you must evaluate what the cabinets are made of, where they are being manufactured, and most importantly, who you are buying them from. Most likely they are made from sub-standard materials, from a country that doesn’t pay its workers a living wage and the dealer has a less than stellar reputation and will probably be long gone before cabinets are delivered or your warranty expires.

Comparing appliance prices is not as complicated as the cost of cabinets, but even the appliance companies are making it more difficult to make “apple to apple” comparisons. If you choose a certain brand of dishwasher from a box store (big home center that’s shaped like a box), often it is not the same model as one you find at your local appliance dealer. The model number may be KCMA1223QV34-W1543 for one and KCMA1223OV34-W1543 for the other. Deceptive, isn’t it? (Why can’t the appliance companies call it a model “5” instead of a hundred numbers and letters? But that’s another topic.) Check the model numbers carefully if you want an accurate comparison.

Common sense is not limited only to pricing; it has to be used when dealing with every aspect of a remodeling project. An equally exciting example is the location of a wine rack in the design of your new kitchen. I’ve had clients insist that it be positioned over the refrigerator (model #X123ABF25Q15a-2b) or next to the dishwasher. Although I’m not a wine connoisseur, my common sense tells me it gets hot over the fridge and next to the dishwasher. Find another place, so your wine won’t turn to vinegar.

One last example before I let you go. When you empty your dishwasher, you can stack several plates on the counter and then bring them all to the cupboard where they are stored. But, you can only carry two glasses at a time, unless you want to risk breaking them. So, which cabinet should the glasses be stored in and which should be used for dishes? Think real hard and let your common sense answer this question for you.

Most of the remodeling basics will be taken care of by your kitchen designer, because with training, experience, and common sense they will know what to do. It’s your job to use your common sense when picking the right kitchen designer and contractor. If you choose strictly by price, you usually get what you pay for, and you may end up drinking vinegar.