Thursday, January 31, 2008

Latimer's New Legislation

New York State Assemblyman George Latimer (D-Westchester, 91st A.D.) has opened the 2008 legislative session with a number of new legislative initiatives designed to attack specific problems faced by his Sound Shore constituency. Latimer - starting his fourth year in Albany - has successfully sponsored 15 bills into law over his first three years, ranging from open government legislation to items affecting insurance, health care and parkland.

Since the end of last year's session in June of 2007, some of Assemblyman Latimer's sponsored bills include:

A.9375 - L.I. Sound No-Discharge Zone: Submitted in the State Senate by Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, the bill would help reduce waste discharges into the L.I. Sound

A.9555 - Flood Mitigation Fund: A three-year, $30 million allocation for state funding of local flood prevention efforts.

A.9602 - Medical Conduct Practice: "Ann's Law", based on the tragic death of Mrs. Ann Petrizzo, a New Rochelle resident; the law would provide greater citizen input in complaints about professional misconduct

A.9603 - Homeowners Insurance Protection: The Assembly version of a law drafted by Senator Jeff Klein to make it harder for insurance companies to drop homeowner policies without state review - particularly in cases of flooding

The Assemblyman is drafting the Assembly version of Sen. Oppenheimer's bill to require the NYS Thruway Authority to reimburse local village, town and city governments whenever their police, fire or EMS departments provide service to travelers on the New England Thruway (currently local property taxpayers pay for providing that service). He is also developing legislation to allow the Rochelle Heights/Rochelle Park Neighborhood of New Rochelle to be included in the statewide program to provide tax incentives for historic preservation., as well as considering legislation to increase the threshold for the application of the Mansion Tax - making it easier for seller and buyers (and real estate professionals) to move homes that fall above the $1 million price range.

"Along with bills I am already advancing, I'm trying to tackle issues that can help improve the lives of our neighbors", Latimer stated, "people devastated by the floods; people trying to buy or sell homes in this expensive market; people who need a break in property taxes - which is everybody". All of these bills can be viewed on line at

Assemblyman Latimer represents the communities of Rye Brook, Port Chester, Rye Town, Rye City, Mamaroneck Village, Mamaroneck Town, Larchmont and part of New Rochelle.

Lowey to Bush: Fund Flood Mitigation

White Plains, NY) – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) contacted President George W. Bush to urge him to request funding in his upcoming budget for the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake flood mitigation projects in Westchester County.

“The options are clear,” said Lowey. “We can either fund the projects that we know will protect the region from severe flooding, or we can wait until disaster strikes the homes, businesses, and infrastructure of Westchester County and pay for assistance for the victims then. The financially and morally responsible choice is to invest now in the projects that will keep us safe.”

President Bush will present his Fiscal Year 2009 budget request to Congress in February. Federal funding to support a comprehensive county-wide flood mitigation strategy would help the region avoid the damages to homes, businesses, and infrastructure that severe storms may cause.

Full text of the letter to President Bush is below.

Dear President Bush:

As you prepare your budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2009 I urge you to include funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to provide long-term flood mitigation construction throughout Westchester County, New York, and the entire Hudson Valley region of the state.

By declaring a federal disaster for the region on April 24, 2007, you recognized the devastating impact of a Nor’easter on these communities and allowed for the appropriate short-term federal assistance to be provided. Unfortunately, without proper funding for long-term flood relief, future flooding in these areas is not a matter of if, but when.

Public Law 110-28 provided $8.165 million for the Corps of Engineers to investigate the flooding and propose mitigation strategies. However, these studies will be of little comfort to the people of New York if their homes and businesses are flooded again due to a lack of commitment from the federal government to provide appropriate funding for the construction of mitigation projects.

Additionally, Public Law 110-114 authorized $30 million for flood damage reduction measures along the Sheldrake and Mamaroneck Rivers Watershed. I urge you to include this funding for the Army Corps in your budget.

Because flood prevention work on one major waterway in Westchester could result in flooding of other waterways, this problem must be tackled from a county-wide perspective. The large-scale, comprehensive plan necessary to stem the constant flooding throughout Westchester requires a substantial federal commitment and is not without precedent. The federal government has already invested $85 million towards a similar $413 million project, providing flood relief for a far less populated area of New Jersey.

As I see it, there are only two options: fund flood mitigation projects now or pay millions of dollars worth of assistance with each inevitable flood disaster. I hope you agree with me that the former option is a better use of taxpayer funds to solve the flooding problems in Westchester County now.


Nita M. Lowey

Lowey Fights for Animal Rights


Co-sponsoring and voting in favor of the Animal Fighting Prohibition Act of 2007, which was signed into law on April 3, 2007. This law makes it a felony to sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venue.

Reintroducing the Inhumane Trapping Prevention Act to ban the use of steel-jaw leghold traps.

Cosponsoring two pieces of legislation to combat the deplorable practice of dog fighting. The Federal Dog Protection Act would ban dog fighting and any devices associated with it including training tools, videos and magazines. The Dog Fighting Prohibition Act would make it a federal crime to buy, sell, transport, train or possess fighting dogs. This legislation would also increase penalties for convicted offenders.

Voting for the Fiscal Year 2008 Interior and Agriculture Appropriations bills, which include language to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Also, I remain a proud cosponsor of several other animal welfare bills, including the Downed Animal Protection Act, the Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Act, the Polar Bear Protection Act and the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mamaroneck Village Settles Day School Case for Bargain Price

The Village of Mamaroneck will have to pay only $4.75 million to the Westchester Day School(WDS), instead of the $22 million in damages threatened by WDS's attorney, to settle a 2005 lawsuit brought by the private Jewish school after the village's Zoning Board of Appeals denied its 2001 application to build a 44,000-square-foot facility on its 26-acre campus on Orienta Point.

Mayor Kathy Savolt announced the settlement at a 7:30 p.m. press conference tonight, Jan. 14, prior to a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees, at which a resolution was passed approving the settlement and providing that the $4.75 million be paid to the WDS in three installments over three fiscal years. The first payment of $2 million is due 95 days after the agreement is made final. Future installments are due in 2009 and 2010.

Other terms of the settlement include elimination of the need for WDS to renew its special permits for the current permitted uses of its property and the application by WDS, within 90 days of the agreement, for site plan approval of its proposed new building.

The Day School's restraint in not pursuing an additional $17.25 million in damages for lost funding, increased construction costs and attorneys' fees is probably due to the fact that, with the exception of Deputy Mayor Tom Murphy-- who,throughout the trial and the subsequent appeals, had argued for settling the case-- none of the current trustees were members of the Village Board that approved the protracted and expensive litigation, which cost the village more than $900,000 in legal fees.

Savolt thanked WDS for not holding the entire community responsible for what she called "the irresponsible actions of a few individuals."

As noted by this reporter a little more than a year ago, as of Dec. 8 2006, the village had paid $417,971.14 to then ZBA special counsel Joseph Messina and $520,354.64 to Thacher Proffitt & Wood, the law firm of former Village Attorney Kevin Plunkett, who argued the case in District Court and in both appeals. At that point, the Day School was estimating its damages at only $5 million.

In her statement, Savolt noted: "Even though WDS offered to reduce the size of the building and make other changes, former village leaders took a hard line," which finally resulted in "a decision by the United States Circuit Court, the second highest court in the country, that the Zoning Board's stated reasons for denying the application were not substantiated by evidence in the record before it. The court stated the application was denied, not because of a compelling governmental interest that would adversely impact public health, safety or welfare, but. . .because of undue deference to the opposition of a small group of neighbors.”

Indeed, in his March 2, 2006 decision, the trial judge, District Court Judge William C. Conner, who was was particularly critical of then Zoning Board chair Mauro Gabriel's trial testimony. stated that "the ZBA's denial of the application was so contrary to the evidence and to the equities as to be arbitrary and capricious" and that the ZBA had "substantially burdened WDS's religious exercise. . .in violation of the Religious Land Use and institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) . .."

The United States Congress passed RLUIPA in 2000, in the words of the Department of Justice, to prohibit "religious discrimination and unjustifiable burdens on religious exercise in land-use and zoning decisions."

Immediately following Conner's decision, losing attorney Plunkett told this reporter that, in his opinion, the decision was ripe for appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court because, in its attempt to prevent discrimination against religious schools, Congress tipped the balance and opened the way for discrimination against secular schools.

However, in a friend-of-the-court brief, the U.S. Department of Justice stated:

"In October 2001, Westchester Day School applied for a permit which would allow it to construct a new classroom, connect two existing buildings, and renovate two additional buildings. The school has been in operation since 1948 and over the years the classrooms have become overcrowded and inadequate. The school sought expansion because the poor state of its facilities was undercutting its mission as a dual-curricular school offering religious and general education.

"In applying for its permit, the school submitted supplemental reports detailing parking requirements, traffic flows, fire code compliance, waterfront development compliance, and environmental impacts. After review, the Zoning Board of Appeals determined that no negative impact on the community would result from the expansion. Shortly thereafter, the board reversed course under pressure from the community, deciding that the expansion would have a negative impact. The school subsequently filed suit in U.S. District Court.. . .."

In its investigations of RLUIPA cases, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has found that most of them "have been resolved out of court through voluntary modification of potentially discriminatory zoning regulations." In the Mamaroneck case, however, even after the school had amended its application by reducing the size of the proposed building and agreeing to cap its enrollment, the ZBA, after approving the amended application, then attached conditions, including a decibel limit that would have precluded normal construction noise and a requirement that WDS's students' names and addresses be registered with the Buildings Department--a condition that local attorney John Romans, who had closely followed the case, called an "invitation to predators."

Attorney Barry Weprin, who was a member of the ZBA during the Day School deliberations and voted for its application, told this reporter that "in the summer of 2006 the Zoning Board held a special review of a smaller Day School proposal. It was approved 3-2, but after the meeting, the chairman [Mauro Gabriele] and board counsel [Joseph Messina] imposed conditions never discussed by the board and which were opposed by two of the three ZBA members who supported the resolution. . . Subsequently . . the board refused to reconsider those conditions by a 3-2 vote."

In the wake of the settlement, Murphy noted that “the Village had opportunities to end this case at no additional cost to the taxpayers," but "each time the majority of the previous Board of Trustees took the advice of the former attorneys and continued to throw good money after bad. It is time to resolve this case and focus our energies on other issues facing our village.”

The settlement agreement must be approved by the board of WDS and the judge who is presiding over the case.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Latimer Pushes for State Flood Mitigation Fund

New York State Assemblyman George Latimer (Dem-91st A.D.), who represents flood-ravaged neighborhoods in Mamaroneck, Rye, New Rochelle and Larchmont, has proposed a State Flood Mitigation Fund of $30 million over the next three years for projects that would mitigate flooding in the future.

In a statement to the press, Latimer noted, "When I walked through Rye's Indian Village, along Howard and Lester Avenues in Mamaroneck Village, or through New Rochelle's Halcyon Park, I heard and saw many people who were angry about what had happened - angry with a government they felt did nothing in advance to prevent the disaster. It is very hard to discuss specific government programs in those moments; people don't want to hear words, they want to see action." Latimer went on to say that he interpreted this response as a "challenge to translate the street anger into something productive and real: money."

Working with Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Greenburgh and his staff, Latimer has submitted legislation to create a statewide flood mitigation fund, which would operate out of the state's Department of Environmental Conservation to provide direct grants to communities that identify specific projects to reduce flooding. "Rye City is working on an expanded water-retention system on Bowman Avenue in Rye Brook; Larchmont Village is considering an enlarged pipe to carry more water away from Pine Brook homes; Mamaroneck's Flood Action Committee is nearing completion on some specific steps. These are the kinds of projects that this state fund could help support.",

The size and scope of flood-mitigation projects could total over $100 million just for Westchester alone,Latimer admits, conceding that his law is just a first step. And he further cautioned, "We must remember that, as awful as April 15-16 was, we experienced hardly any coastal flooding. That is another separate set of potential problems and projects to be considered."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at the behest of Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) is undertaking a multi-year study of the flooding problems of Westchester, and, after full review, can fund a significant percentage of the projects, with New York State picking up the difference. The time frame, however, extends a few years into the future, which, says Latimer, "is an unsatisfactory wait for residents who fear every weather report of upcoming heavy rain as another round of devastation at hand." Latimer's legislation, if passed and funded, would provide resources much sooner, once specific corrective projects are identified.

The bill has 16 co-sponsors, including Assembly members from the Albany area, Binghamton, Suffolk County and New York City. The first step will be to pass the legislation, followed by ensuring that funds are available in the 2008-09 budget to back up the plan.

"Westchester County has committed to a $10 million annual allocation for flood mitigation," Latimer noted, "and the state needs to do its share as well." He acknowledged, however, that the money "comes from all of us as taxpayers," and that mitigation is in their interest as well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Bronxville Lament: with friends like these. . .

At least a dozen Bronxville residents, including current Mayor Mary Marvin and her husband, Brad, and former mayor Sheila Stein and her husband, Fritz, were, according to a Westchester grand jury indictment unsealed on Oct. 24, victimized by Alicia Eimicke in what has been described by the Westchester District Attorney's office as a $9.2 million investment fraud scheme aimed at keeping her family's failing business afloat. Eimicke succeeded her father, Victor, as president of V. W. Eimicke Associates, after his death in 2000.

The felonies set forth in the indictment include 25 counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, which are class “C” Felonies; seven counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, class “D” Felonies; one count of Scheme to Defraud, a class “E” Felony; and two counts of violating the Martin Act, class “E” Felonies. The Martin Act sets forth the statutory framework governing the offer and sale of securities in New York State.

Alicia Eimicke, age 46, a cum laude graduate of Harvard, who grew up in the Sarah Lawrence neighborhood bordering Bronxville but now lives at 255 West 94th St. in Manhattan, faces a maximum of five to 15 years in state prison on each of the 25 top felony counts. The 35-count indictment charges that, from March 15, 1999 to June 1, 2004, when the Eimicke business form and greeting card supply company filed for bankruptcy, the defendant “directly, or indirectly through people who had already invested, convinced at least 32 investors. . .to purchase new bonds based upon the false understanding that business operations could sustain that high rate of return.”

According to county D.A. Janet DiFiore also a Bronxville resident, by the time Alicia Eimicke took over the management of V.W. Eimicke Associates in September,
2000, it had been insolvent for six years but had been kept going by her father's offers of a 15 percent rate of return on bonds sold to family and friends. Alicia Eimicke, according to the D.A.'s statement, “continued and increased the bond program.” The defendant is further charged with “consistently” refusing “to disclose the company’s true financial condition, maintaining that” the lenders' “investments were secure,” even though “the high returns that were paid required an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors in order to keep the scheme going.”

Eimicke's bail was set at $150,000 cash/$300,000 bond at her October arraignment, and, although she was led out of court in handcuffs, she was released later that afternoon after posting $150,000 in cash. If convicted on all counts and sentenced to consecutively-served minimum terms, she could spend the rest of her life in jail. Her attorney, Ronald P. Fischetti, entered a plea of not guilty. (Fischetti represented New York City Police Officer Bernard Schwarz, who was charged with assault in the 1997 torture and sodomy of Abner Louima. After three trials Schwarz was convicted on only one count of perjury, for which he was sentenced to five years imprisonment and three years of supervision.)

Alicia's sister, Laura Klimley, and their 81-year-old mother, Maxine, who were officers of the family company, filed for personal bankruptcy in 2004. In February, Bankruptcy Court Judge Adlai S. Hardin approved a $600,000 settlement in Klimely's case but, according to creditors, they saw none of it; it all went for attorneys' fees. However, the Klimleys recently sold their 19th century stone mansion at 5 Oakledge Drive in Bronxville for a reported $10.5 million, which could be vulnerable to individual creditors' civil lawsuits.

Maxine's bankruptcy case has been complicated by the fact that the Bankruptcy Court Trustee assigned to it, Barbara Balaber-Strauss, died in October. In February, however, Balaber-Strauss accused the family matriarch of falsely stating that furs, jewelry and antiques that she had previously valued at $4.3 million actually sold for only $443,000 (amounts that jibe insofar as they both contain 4's and 3's). The trustee rejected Eimicke's claim that the items' resale value turned out to be only five to 35 percent of their replacement value. Balaber-Strauss also named the Klimleys as defendants. According to Bankruptcy Court records, the case remains open. Maxine Eimicke's attorney, Nathan Horowitz, through his secretary, agreed that “as far as he knows, it's still open.”

Neither Laura Klimley nor her mother would comment when reached by telephone at their respective Bronxville homes. Klimley was a director of the family company, and her mother was its vice-president and secretary-treasurer. The company was founded by Victor Eimicke in 1951 and did business in Europe and Canada. Its 2004 bankruptcy filing listed investor debt of $27 million.

Ironically, it was the apparent uprightness of the famously churchgoing Eimickes that allowed the Peyton-Place-like scandal (albeit one involving money rather than sex) to accelerate beneath a veneer of small-town propriety. Victor, after all, was a respected elder and Sunday school superintendent at Bronxville's Reformed Church; a member-at-large of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America; a treasurer, president and board chairman of the National Bible Association; a vice-president of the board of the Japan International Christian University Foundation; a member of the board of Lawrence Hospital; a director and then president of The Community Fund of Bronxville Eastchester Tuckahoe; and chairman of the board of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where he and his wife established the Maxine and Victor Eimicke Scholarship Fund. Incongruously, he also served on the corporate board of Nathan's Famous and was a member of the National Council of the Metropolitan Opera.

Indeed, Fritz Stein recalls that his and Sheila's long friendship with the Eimickes developed through the Reformed Church, deepened through mutual entertaining in Bronxville and also included nights at the opera.

“On numerous occasions we had dinner with them at their house and in New York City,” Stein said in a phone interview. “Our kids were in Sunday school and he was a teacher at the Sunday school. We met their friends, and we felt comfortable with them.” In fact, Stein added, “we felt lucky when he [Victor] asked us to invest.” Which they did—-to the tune of six-figures.

“The interest rate was very good, but we never gave it a thought,” said Stein. Nor did they ever “get anything on paper” about the security of the bonds Eimicke was selling. But, because they first invested in the company 20 years ago, before it became seriously troubled, the Steins collected the 15 percent interest for enough years to avoid losing a lot of money. But they ended up not making any either. Then, Stein said, “when Victor was sick and Alicia took over” and the company was “close to going belly-up, she did ask us if we would put in $100,000.” However, he said, “we didn't have “$50,000 or $100.000 lying around.”

Though he now feels lucky to have come out no worse than even, Stein said he became concerned about more recent investors who were about to lose substantial sums, losses that did, in fact, mean financial ruin for some of them. According to Stein, Betty Duval, who is now elderly and suffering from Parkinson's disease, was at the wrong end of the pyramid and badly hurt. Even worse, according to Stein, her octogenarian brother, who lives in Florida, lost his retirement money, had to sell two houses and was reduced to playing piano in two bars to keep a roof over his head. Despite his age, however, he went back to school, passed the necessary exams and, instead of enjoying retirement, he is selling stocks for a living.

Stein's own sister, who lives in San Antonio, invested $50,000 with the Eimickes and, said Stein, “lost it all.” And Dr. Thomas Romo, a well-known plastic surgeon and Bronxville resident and his wife, Diane, lost a six-figure amount to the Eimickes and are pursuing a private lawsuit. Theirs is a particularly bitter pill because they were neighbors and friends of the Klimleys. (Romo is president of the The Little Baby Face Foundation, for which he heads a team of volunteer surgeons who provide corrective surgery, regardless of a family's ability to pay, for children born with missing or malformed ears, cleft palates and facial deformities.)

Stein remembers how “strange” it seemed to him that “when all this was turning sour, the Eimickes, Maxine and her daughter Laura, would go to our church and would just walk around the church as if nothing had happened. . ..” He testified before the grand jury and said he will “be happy to testify” at Eimicke's trial, if he's asked, “because I feel like it was a terrible thing they did.”

Other Bronxville residents, in addition to the Marvins, who are listed by the district attorney's office as having lost “in excess of $50,000” in investments with the Eimickes are Henry Blom, William and Julia Hertlein, Terence Cryan and Frank and Donna Madonna. And, in addition to their prior Eimicke investments, the Steins are listed as having lost “excess of $3,000” between April 16, 2002 and June 1, 2004.”

Alicia Eimicke's next court appearance will be on Dec. 12. At her arraignment it was noted that the defendant now works at a job in New Jersey which pays her $120,000annually. In 1984 Eimicke married Ferruccio Renzo Barbieri of Madesimo, Italy. She is the mother of two sons.


Memories of Mailer: Mr. Nice Guy

So much has been written about Norman Mailer since his death was announced. So much about what a ferocious dare he made out of his life, about his (eventually reconsidered) glorification of violence and pseudo-hipsterist amorality, his roaring off-page rhetoric, his boozing, his brawling, his self-advertising--in short, his cult of himself. But one simple, quiet fact should not be lost. He could also be--even in his most hellacious decades--a very nice man.

I was first introduced to what may seem this very odd perception of Mailer by my husband, Michael, before he was my husband, when Michael had been a person about Greenwich Village for about 13 years, I for only two. As Michael's biographer, Maurice Isserman wrote, the Village was a place of "successive waves of old timers and. . .newcomers."

In 1950, when Michael was a newcomer-- having had the gee-whiz innocence of his midwestern upbringing and four years at Holy Cross eroded only slightly by graduate school at The University of Chicago and a few months of hanging out a literary-political Bleecker Street bar--a friend took him to a party at Mailer's First Avenue loft. And the FAMOUS WRITER, an "oldtimer" all of two years into his reign as a literary lion king, was so kind to the "newcomer," making him welcome and putting him at his ease, that Michael never forgot it.

Just five years later they were writing for the same publication. Michael, having, by then, established himself first as a left-wing Catholic writer and then socialist intellectual and activist, wrote for the first issue of The Village Voice, which Mailer, together with its editor, Dan Wolfe, and publisher, Ed Fancher, launched in 1955.

That was also a year in which Mailer put Michael at ease with another act of kindess--or at least forbearance. Mailer's third novel, "The Deer Park", had just been published to reviews as disappointing as those of his previous book, "Barbary Shore." I.e.: no critical raves for Mailer since 1948, when "The Naked and the Dead" had made him the young author for others (like James Jones) to beat. And when a literary lion in Mailer's mold was hungry, he was primed to not just roar but bite. So Michael was understandably apprehensive when, out of some misguided refusal to lie, he responded noncommittally when Mailer asked him what he thought of his latest effort. But, instead of chewing Michael up, Mailer just let it go. (It might have comforted him to know, however, that when Michael was earning his pennies writing reviews for The Book-of-the-Month Club and was assigned "Catcher in Rye," he dismissively asked, "Who would want to read a book about some wise-guy adolescent?")

Another time Norman just let things go was one night, in a scuzzy Hudson Street bar named The Ideal, which we, who hung out across the street at the estimably literary White Horse Tavern, nicknamed The Ordeal. It was a longshoremen's place, frequented by Horse regulars only when they had imbibed sufficiently to have lost their sense of direction. As, apparently, had both Norman and Michael when they encountered each other there. Recognizing, if somewhat fuzzily, a familiar face and cocking his fists as steadily as he could, Mailer announced, "I can take you, Mike!" "Yeah," said Mike, hoping his easy preemptive capitulation and boozy smile would dissuade Mailer from proving his point. It did. Very--if not with clear intent--nice.

My own acquaintance with Mailer didn't begin until after I went to work at The Voice in 1962. By that time, Norman and Dan, who was married to the childhood friend of Norman's sister, had had a serious falling out--so serious that Dan kept a very large, very sharp letter opener in the top right-hand drawer of his desk, should Norman have come to the office to pursue the argument, whatever it was.

Their reconciliation was marked by the decision that The Voice would run a kind-of welcome-back interview of Mailer, who requested that I do it. And that was the first time I met this very nice, almost courtly man who showed no sign of the ferocity that would warrant having a letter opener at the ready. And though his demeanor was a relief, as a young reporter geared up for an attention-getting interview, I was more than a little deflated to find myself engaged with an enfant terrible who was no longer so enfant and on that occasion definitely not at all terrible.

Our next encounter was decidedly more memorable--more for the occasion than Norman's behavior, though he did have his moment that night. It was a dinner for Che Guevara at Bobo Rockefeller's upper East Side townhouse. Guevara was in New York to represent Cuba at the 1964 session of the United Nations General Assembly. Bobo, perhaps by design, was out of town. The host of the dinner, Look magazine writer Laura Berquist, was a friend of Michael's, which is why we were invited. Berquist had covered Cuba for Look and done interviews in Havana with Fidel Castro and Guevara. She was also a friend of Bobo's, hence the venue.

Norman was there, presumably because he was Norman (though, no doubt, he would have preferred to be Che). Also present was I. F. (Izzy). Stone, who edited an influential left-leaning Washington newsletter, as was a gaggle of elegantly attired Argentinian lovelies whose families ran in the same social circle as Che's. He, too, was sartorially impressive in his very crisply pressed military fatigues. He was also charming, quiet-spoken and--nice. Indeed, when another guest, a young man who identified himself as the leader of the Northern Student Movement, asked Guevara for advice about mounting an assault on New York City from the Adirondacks, as the Fidelistas had descended on Havana from the Sierra Maestra, Guevara very gently replied that the two situations were somewhat different and that it didn't seem to him that conditions in New York were ripe for insurrectionary success.

The Rockefeller townhouse was, of course, heavily guarded for the event by the NYPD, which prompted Norman to show off his well-honed, if off-key, Irish cop routine, shouting out the big bowed windows to the officers below, taunting them, albeit good-naturedly, in his not-so-Irish brogue, about having to protect a Commie like Guevara.

We continued to run into Norman on and off through the years. Sometime in the '60's, Michael and I attended a black tie affair, of which I have no recollection except that, when it was over, Norman and his wife at the time, Beverly Bentley, asked us back to their Brooklyn Heights apartment, along with the liberal Republican (these days an oxymoron) U.S. Senator Jacob Javits and his wife, Marion. That top-floor apartment, as Norman's widow, Norris Church Mailer described it in a recent interview, is "sort of one big open space with a view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty" that Norman designed "to be kind of like a ship." It now has "a sort of staircase leading to the top bedrooms," she noted, "but you used to have to climb straight up the wall, like on a boat. It was really very precarious."

To Michael and me, both committed acrophobes, it was downright terrifying. It seemed to us another of Norman's stratagems for challenging himself in every way he could, even to just go upstairs to bed--except without the stairs. But there were ropes--to climb up and on which to swing from an upper room on the west side of the apartment to a bedroom on the east side. Norman, of course, invited Michael, the good senator and another fellow in our party to join him for a climb and a swing. Michael declined; Javits, who was probably about 65 at the time but who prided himself on his physical workouts, seemed unwilling to refuse in front of his wife. The other fellow, too, seemed to feel his manhood was at stake. So, there they were, three middle-aged men in black ties and tuxes--a U.S. Senator, a celebrated writer and a who-knows-who--swinging around on ropes at one o'clock in the morning, in a kind of evolutionary regression. Norman had a way of doing that to other guys. Unless, like Michael, they didn't rise to the bait.

A few years later, it was only because Michael refused another kind of bait--the urging of then Voice writer and later New York Post columnist Jack Newfield and another Voice writer, Joe Flaherty, that he run in New York City's 1969 Democratic mayoral primary--that Mailer was substituted and, with Jimmy Breslin as his running mate, tried on the role of political candidate. He didn't last long on that stage, but, in losing, Mailer and Breslin were in good company because the incumbent, Mayor John Lindsay, lost the Republican primary to John Marchi and had to wage his successful campaign against Marchi and Democrat Mario Procaccino on an independent line.

However, while Breslin played his run for laughs, Mailer, who assumed alternate personae full throttle, ran hard. And though the main plank of their platform--that New York City should secede from the state--has no more resonance today than the intermittent threats of Staten Island to secede from the city, the Mailer-Breslin demand that automobiles be banned from Manhattan has born-again relevancy in Democrat/Republican/Independent/whatever-works-for-him Michael Bloomberg's proposal for congestion pricing.

A desire to ban feminists was also high on Mailer's agenda in those post-"Feminine-Mystique" years, which were not Norman's finest. It was an impulse that, so to speak, climaxed in a hair-raisingly hilarious battle of the more evolved sex against the opposite one, which still found occasion to swing from ropes. I refer to the 1971Town Hall symposium that pitted Norman against the beauteous bi-sexual feminist writer Germaine Greer; the lesbian Village Voice dance critic Jill Johnson; the never undignified, anglophilic literary critic and essayist Diana Trilling; and the president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, Jacqueline Ceballos.

And, if you're wondering why, in the picture at the top left of this blog, Andy Warhol and I are looking somewhat dazed, it's because we were caught by Voice photographer Fred McDarrah in the act of witnessing that sexual-intellectual happening. I was covering it for The Voice. As for Warhol, how could he not be there? And the same can be said of Betty Friedan, Susan Sontag, Cynthia Ozick and Anatole Broyard, who were also, necessarily, there. However, Mailer's wielding of a sexist knife, as it were, by referring to Greer, et. al. as "lady writers" and his threat that he might put his male member on the table right there and then, were, uh, deflated by the far more fearless Johnson, who proved herself the champ of scandalous shtick by running down the aisle of the venerable auditorium and demonstrating a bit of devil-may-care same-sex lovemaking with a girlfriend in the audience.

Just the year before, Michael and I had seen Norman display quite another sexual attitude--and it was the only time I ever saw him really embarrassed. It was 1970. I was pregnant with Michael's and my second son, Ted, and when we walked into the first session of our Lamaze natural childbirth class, there was Norman, with actress Carol Stevens, who was carrying Norman's daughter, Maggie. They were married only briefly, just long enough to establish their baby's paternity, which was, we thought, very, very nice. But Norman turned red-faced and flustered at the sight of us, unable to mask his acute discomfiture at being seen by people he knew, kneeling on the floor timing breaths. He never showed up for another session, and I couldn't help worrying that, if he did not play his role well in the delivery room, it would have been our fault.

The last time I saw Norman was in 1991, two years after Michael had died of cancer, at a party for Gregor Gysi, a communist in the Gorbechav/glasnost mold who had just brought East Germany's ruling communist party into the post-soviet world by transforming it into the Party of Democratic Socialism. Victor Navasky, then the editor and now publisher emeritus of The Nation, was there. So were socialist essayist and author Paul Berman and New York State Senator Franz Leichter, who retired just this year after having served more than three decades in the legislature.

Yet, for all of the evening's compelling cross currents, what fixed my attention was the simple fact that Norman was wearing a hearing aid. I found myself trying not to look at it. That was not supposed to happen to Norman Mailer. Not even an aging Norman Mailer. And certainly not at the age of 68. He was, finally, meeting his match, and it was his own body. He also envied me my martini, lamenting that he couldn't handle them anymore.

I never saw him after that, but I did read, over the last years, about how dramatically that body was accelerating its turn against him. And, after hearing he was dead and reprising that last night I saw him, I was again reminded of what a nice guy he could be. I remembered that my older son, Alexander, was at the party, too. He has directed and produced a good number of plays off-off Broadway, and Norman, despite the fact that our relationship, though it spanned decades, was not close, was always very helpful to Alec. He let him use his name in fund-raising, and, despite all the alimony and child support to which his five truncated marriages had obligated him, Norman would contribute some of his own money when he could.

And the night of that party, when I walked in the door, Norman greeted me with, "Ah, the great lady." Well, I'm really not. But how nice was that?


Monday, August 13, 2007

Latimer Updates STAR Property Tax Rebate Information

New York State Assemblyman George Latimer has provided the following update on key elements of and changes in the STAR property tax rebate plan.

Seniors who are currently receiving Enhanced STAR rebate benefits - a higher reduction based on age and level of income - will receive their checks automatically. The State Tax Department estimates mailing of checks and application forms on or about September 17th to all Westchester residents, except Yonkers - which has already received their mailing. Senior residents who are unsure if they are already enrolled in Enhanced STAR can verify their status by calling their town or city hall - 381-7820 for Mamaroneck Town residents.

For those enrolled in regular STAR, they will receive an application form from the State, which will require them to identify their income level. These application forms are expected to be mailed out on or about September 17th as well. STAR rebate check amount will depend on the level of income in three categories: under $120,000 annual income; between $120,000 and $175,000 per year; between $175,000 and $250,000. Those with incomes above $250,000 per year will not receive a rebate check for 2007.

Rebates for residents of the Mamaroneck school district will range from $384 to $768 and, in the Rye Neck district from $428 to $856, depending on the taxpayer's STAR category.

Benefits will be based as well by the school district and the town or city of residence. For example, Mamaroneck Town residents who live in Murdock Woods or along the "Mamaroneck strip" that borders Scarsdale, are part of the Scarsdale school district, and their checks will differ from those who live elsewhere in Mamaroneck Town. Mamaroneck Village residents of the Rye Neck School District (Rye Town residents) will receive a different amount than will Rye Neck school district residents of the City of Rye - primarily the Greenhaven neighborhood.

Latimer's office will be available to provide additional application forms once they are issued. If an Enhanced STAR resident has not received their checks, the Assembly office staff will assist in following up with the State Tax offices. Assemblyman Latimer's office in Mamaroneck can be reached by phone at 777-3832, or by e-mail at Any additional questions may be directed there, or to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance website at


Monday, August 6, 2007

Gigantus Interruptus

Shown above: A portion of the Albert E. Wilson house (left), which was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and (right) half of the half-built house next door, a project of Benmar Properties, LLP.


Construction of the Brook Street behemoth, a one-family dwelling fit for a clan that has been partially built at #609, has once again been interrupted by a stop-work order--its second resulting from a court ruling. On July 20, neighbors opposed to its erection by Benmar Properties, LLC filed an Article 78 challenging the project in New York State Supreme Court, and, at the same time, won a temporary restraining order against further work at the site until a hearing on Aug. 15.

At issue is whether the project is compliant with both the Village of Mamaroneck zoning code and with New York State's Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) regulations. It will be up to Judge Susan Cacace to rule on Aug. 15 on whether the temporary stay in construction should be extended until a decision is handed down on the Article 78.

A prior stop-work order was issued in January after Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Lippman ruled in favor of an Article 78 filed in June, 2006 by the same neighbors. That petition challenged the May, 2006 approval by the Village of Mamaroneck Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) of an area variance that precipitated the subseqent course of events. That variance allowed the subdivision of a property with an existing house at 601 Brook Street and the validation of the secondary lot thus created at 609 Brook Street as a buildable site. The project required a variance because its depth fell slightly short of zoning regulations.

In their 2006 petition, the neighbors argued, and Judge Lippman agreed in his decision, that the 2006 zoning board should have adhered to the precedent set by members of the village's 1991 zoning board, who denied an almost identical variance to the then owners of 601 Brook on the grounds that it would have negatively impacted the historic character of the neighborhood that had grown out of the 19th Century Tompkins Farm. Lippman's ruling annulled the 2006 area variance.

But it is 20th century history that injected the issue of SEQRA into the current controversy because, on April 18, the house at 617 Brook Street, right next door to 609 Brook, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The petitioners note in their Article 78 that the house at 617 brook is "the first residential structure in the Village of Mamaroneck to be listed on the National Register" and was designed by Albert E. Wilson, "a founding member of Wilson, Peabody and Brown, one of the premier architectural firms of the early 20th Century." The house was Wilson's retirement home, and his daughter, Ann, still lives there.

At the July 9 Village Board meeting, Lucas and Deputy Village Attorney Joseph Messina differed over whether the creation of a new lot at 609 Brook was, in SEQRA-related zoning parlance, a Type II Action or a Type I (unlisted) action. Messina, who had been special counsel to the zoning board when it approved the 2006 variance for 609 Brook and had unsuccessfully defended the ZBA against the 2006 Article 78, contended at the meeting that allowing Benmar to proceed with construction would be a Type II action that would not trigger SEQRA because what is being built is a single one-family house.

Lucas, however, argued that, if a lot that is to be subdivided adjoins a building listed [on] or found eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, constructing anything on that lot, even just a single-family house, could negatively impact the neighboring historic site and is, therefore, a Type I Action that requires a SEQR analysis.

Judge Lippman, in a footnote to his Jan. 10 Ruling, stated:

"The ZBA ruled that the action was a Type II action (thereby outside SEQRA'S purview) BASED ON ITS INTERPRETATION OF THE APPLICATION AS AN AREA VARIANCE AND LOT LINE CHANGE to construct one single family residence, . ..However, IF THE APPICATION IS INTERPRETED AS A SUBDIVISION [emphases mine], it would be subject to SEQRA review" since there "is no doubt that SEQRA views development occurring on properties adjoining structures of historical significance to be environmentally significant under the regulations."

Five months after the Lippman decision, according to a deed dated June 11, Benmar purchased, for $75,000, a 4.5-foot-x-50-foot strip of side yard from the owners of 307 Beach Ave. to add to the rear yard of 609 Brook. (The side yard of 307 Beach, then owned by Corey and Erica Bleil, abuts the rear yard of 609 Brook.) Prior to the sale, Building Inspector Richard Carroll had written a letter on March 20 to Benedict Salanitro, a principal in Benmar, affirming that the additional land would make 609 Brook zoning compliant for the construction of a single family home, and another letter, dated May 30, to the Blials, assuring them that 307 Beach would remain zoning compliant after the land was transferred.

Messina commented on these actions at the July 9 Village Board meeting, saying, "as I understand it, there was a purchase of land from a neighbor that was reviewed by Mr. Carroll. He made a DECISION [emphasis mine] that made both lots zoning compliant, and I believe he has issued a building permit. There are remedies. The remedy of course, is, at least, the Board of Appeals, with regard to the issuance of that building permit. With regard to the issue of SEQRA, they are also your remedy with regard to any appeal of that decision."

Lucas then asked if that meant that the zoning board should be the lead agency in a SEQRA review, and Messina replied that "the zoning board has to make a determination as to whether or not your interpretation is correct.. . .I'm sure your counsel can tell you what your potential remedies are. Certainly one of them is the Board of Appeals."

"But," Lucas responded, under the SEQRA regulations, the remedy is an Article 78.. . .If a municipality fails to comply with SEQRA. . .then the citizen's remedy is an Article 78."

"You're absolutely correct," Messina replied. But, Messina went on, "We believe that the municipality has complied with SEQRA."

"So, is it safe to say," Lucas asked, "that the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees feels that SEQR does not apply to the Benmar property?"

"I think," Messina answered, "that it is safe to say that it is the opinion of their counsel that SEQR does not apply. I have not polled each individual member of the board, nor do I expect them to be expert in that area. But I think, after review by both the village attorney and myself, we believe that the SEQR regulations do not apply."

(It is also safe to say that citizens of any municipality have a right to expect "each individual member" of its board of trustees to fully educate herself or himself on every matter that comes to a vote and that one of the major issues in the 2006 election in this municipality was the role played by attorneys in village business.)

The neighbors did file an appeal with the zoning board challenging the determinations set forth by Carroll in his letters to Benmar and the Blials and began arguing their appeal at the board's July 24 meeting. At that meeting, petitioner Stuart Tiekert noted that, in his letter to the Blials, Carroll had cited, as a basis for his determination of the continuing code compliance of their lot, an analysis he labeled Sheet S-l. However, Tiekert went on to say, in a phone conversation he had with Carroll about the letter after it was written, he was told by the building commissioner that Sheet S-1 existed "only in his head."

(Carroll, who, scuttlebutt has it, is on his way out, was recently cited by the village Ethics Board for telling the zoning board that he had completed a survey of a project for which he had issued a building permit at 818 The Crescent, though it later turned out that he had done no such study.)

Nonetheless, based on his determinations expressed in his letters, Carroll, on July 6, issued a permit for construction at 609 Brook to recommence. The neighbors then filed another appeal with the ZBA contesting the issuance of the permit, but it was registered too late to be included in the ZBA's July proceedings. However, conversation among the board members, their counsel and the petitioners indicated that the appeals of both the determinations conveyed by Carroll in his letters and his issuance of a building permit will be consolidated and treated as one when the hearing continues in September.

But, at the July ZBA meeting, the neighbors were limited to contesting the correctness of Carroll's assurances in his letters to Benmar and the Blials. In that context, they asserted that pre-existing nonconformities of the Blial's property, which had been permitted when the zoning code was revised in 1968, are no longer allowable because, by subdividing their lot, they created a new one not covered by grandfathering provisions. The neighbors also argued that a barn-like structure behind the Blials' residence is no longer legally situated

In a June 21 letter to Carroll, Lucas wrote:

"Under the present status quo, since the subdivision of 601 Brook Street has been judicially annulled, there is only one lot at 601 Brook Street. As a result of Justice Lippman’s decisions annulling the subdivsion, the parcels known as 601 and 609 Brook Street are illegal lots. The only legal buildable lot is the parent lot, formerly known as 601 Brook Street. The code allows only one single family home on the parent lot, known as 601 Brook Street. Thus, issuance of a building permit permitting construction of a second house on the lot would be a violation of the zoning code, and would constitute a knowing disregard by the village of Justice Lippman’s decisions." She also wrote that, because "Benmar has sold one of the two parcels, both structures and lots are illegal, although a final determination awaits the resolution of appeal."

(Benmar and the ZBA are appealing Judge Lippman's decision.)

In an affidavit that accompanied the petitioners' July 20 request to the court for the temporary restraining order, Lucas specified that, in her opinion, what she called Benmar's "unauthorized subdivisions. . .have rendered 307 Beach Avenue non-conforming with respect to its minimum side yard, driveway and front steps" and "601 Brook Street nonconforming with respect to its front yard, lot depth and rear yard."

At the July meeting the petitioners also raised the nature of the deed itself, which was qualified by a hand-written provision that the land was being transferred "Together with an easement in favor of the grantor [the Blials] for the exclusive use, enjoyment and maintenance of the subject parcel." In other words, although the land was sold to Benmar, it would be used and maintained by the Blails.

Petitioner Robert Balin, who is an attorney, called that "a threshhold legal issue looming over this entire issue" because "zoning is all about use."

ZBA counsel Steven Silverberg conceded that such a deed "is rather unusual" but added that it is "not unprecedented." Both attorneys noted a lack of case law to guide them. Balin, however, stressed that, unless further searches uncover some, there are "no cases approving" them. Silverberg questioned whether the strip of land under discussion was usable at all, but Balin cautioned that there is an analogous area of law in which it has been found that if, according to the deed of sale, the seller retains the use of the property, the seller also retains the responsibility to pay the significant balance of the taxes on that property.

The Blail's real estate attorney, John Manning, with the astonished look of a man who had just been ambushed, identified himself as the person who had penned in the "enjoyment and maintenance provision" and expressed bafflement that the notation on the deed might lead to an unintended consequence.

Benmar's attorney, Lawrence Mulligan, was not present, but a letter from him, dated that same day was read at the meeting.

In it, he wrote that Carroll's letters to Benmar and the Blail's contained merely "opinions," a characterization previously offered to this reporter by Benmar's former attorney, Paul Noto, who withdrew from the Brook Street case due to the press of other business.

Mulligan's letter did not deal with the fact that Carroll clearly knew, in writing the letters, that the recipients would be relying on his answers in making a decision about whether to go ahead with a land transaction.

Mulligan's letter also argued that the zoning board's jurisdiction in the matter could vest only after Carroll acted on the determinations expressed in his letters to Benmar and the Blials. However, the "powers and duties" section of the zoning code quoted by Mulligan does not mention action but does state, "The Board shall hear and decide appeals from and review any order, requirement, DECISION, INTERPRETATION OR DETERMINATION by any administrative official or board charged with the implementation or enforcement of this chapter and MAY REVERSE OR AFFIRM, WHOLLY OR PARTLY, or MAY MODIFY the order, requirement DECISION, INTERPRETATION OR DETERMINATION [emphases mine] appealed from and make such determination and order as, in its opinion, ought to be made in the premises."

As recenly as June 20, 2006, Mulligan was of counsel to Messina's law practice.

Asked, in a recent phone conversation, if he had recommended to Salanitro that Benmar hire Mulligan to take over from Noto, Messina replied that Mulligan was one of several attorneys he had recommended to Salanitro.

Messina was also asked if it might not appear problematic for the deputy village attorney to recommend a lawyer, particularly one with whom he had had an at least occasional working relationship, to a principal in a matter that had come before the village board, was now before the zoning board and is scheduled to be heard in court. He said that he was sure that Salanitro had asked several people, including Noto, to recommend a new attorney. Messina went on to say that he didn't "know why he [Salanitro] ended up with Mr. Mulligan. I guess he felt comfortable with him."

Phone messages left for Mulligan, before and after the July 24 zoning board meeting, have elicited no response.


Latimer to Help Track Unclaimed Funds

Many citizens have money they don't know they have because it's lying, unclaimed and forgotten, by them or by relatives, in an account of the Office of the State Comptroller--a little known fact on which Assemblyman George Latimer will shed some light at an informational session on Monday, August 13, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, at the Sarah Neuman Center for Healthcare and Rehabilitation, 845 Palmer Avenue in Mamaroneck.

Latimer, in conjunction with the staff of Sarah Neuman, will demonstrate how to track down and claim orphaned funds, which include utlilty deposits, dividend checks and reimbursements. He will trace possible funds, using a computer, in a process that takes about than 10 minutes per person. No appointment is necessary.

Latimer also holds fund-tracking sessions at his district office. For more information, call 777-3832 or e-mail


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lowey Announces Start of Flood Mitigation Efforts in Westchester

Flood mitigation work on the Mamaroneck and Sheldrake Rivers in the Village of Mamaroneck by the Army Corps of Engineers will be starting soon, according to a July 26 press release from Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland).

Other river basins, including those of the the Saw Mill River, Bronx River, Hutchinson River and Byram River, as well as Blind Brook, and their tributaries will also be targeted by the Army Corps in its mitigation efforts across Westchester County.

"I'm pleased that the Army Corps of Engineers has moved quickly and is already working on building a long-term flood mitigation plan for Westchester County," Lowey said in her announcement. "Too many lives and businesses have been turned upside down too many times by flooding across our region," she continued. "The millions of dollars I secured in the Emergency Supplemental laid the framework for this announcement, and I commend the Army Corps for its fast action in undertaking what will certainly be a difficult but necessary challenge."

Mamaroneck Village Mayor Phil Trifiletti expressed gratitude to Lowey in a July 26 phone conversation and told this newsletter that the initiative "will go a long way toward starting the process of alleviating the impact of flooding in the Village of Mamaroneck. However," he noted, "this is only one issue in a puzzle that has many pieces."

In May of this year, Lowey helped obtain funding for flood mitigation projects in the federal Supplemental Appropriations bill, which provided $8.165 million for the Army Corps to begin work on long-term flood mitigation projects in the parts of New York affected by the April floods. "This initial process," her statement explained, "will involve engaging local officials, surveying the impacted waterways and proposing flood damage solutions," as well as determining and preparing for the necessary structural changes to prevent future flooding.

Trifiletti said he would report back to harringtononline about exactly what first steps the Corps will be taking in Mamaroneck and when the process here will begin.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gabriele, Carroll Cited by Ethics Board

The Village of Mamaroneck Board of Ethics has found that Mauro Gabriele, a member and former chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, demonstrated bias towards Orienta resident Suzanne McCrory during her presentation on Feb. 1 of an appeal before the

The Ethics Board also recommended that the Board of Trustees "consider measures it deems appropriate" with regard to Building Inspector Richard Carroll for making an "incorrect and erroneous statement" to the ZBA about the matter McCrory was appealing.

The Ethics Board's July 11 advisory opinion was issued in response to complaints by McCrory and by Trustee Tom Murphy about Gabriele's behavior towards McCrory during her presentation of an appeal filed by George and Irene Henderson, regarding the construction of a new house at 818 The Crescent by former Congressman Richard Ottinger and his wife, June. McCrory and the Hendersons also live on The Crescent.

The advisory noted that, after Carroll stated at the Feb. 1 hearing that he had submitted a report on the building lot in question, Gabriele "criticized the Henderson appeal as deficient" and said "'So, on the presumption that that report does exist, then I think. . .it's up to the applicant to go out and hire an architect" [something not required in the Village Code] and prove that the Ottingers' architect "'is wrong and that the building inspector is wrong.'"

Gabriele went on to say that the Hendersons "wasted a lot of time of this board. . . and created a lot of hardship for people in this village, and so now it's time for the applicant to put their [sic] money where their mouth is and come to some kind of reasonable objection rather come up with all kinds of conjecture."

At that point, ZBA chair Clark Neuringer advised Gabriele, "I would be very careful in describing the actions of the applicant as being wasteful. . .that sounds very prejudicial," and Gabriele responded, "Okay,then I'm prejudicial [sic]." The Ethics Board said, in its opinion, that Gabriele "then tried to backtrack from his statement and Mr. Neuringer followed up, and said 'some of the things you have said. . . did sound a little prejudicial and biased.'"

"Thereafter," the advisory continued, "upon the request of Ms. McCrory, Mr. Gabriele stated that he had recused himself from the Henderson appeal. Nevertheless, Mr. Gabriele continued to participate in matters pertaining to the Henderson appeal. Then, at the March 1 ZBA meeting, Mr. Gabriele announced that he had consulted with his personal attorney and was no longer recusing himself," even though he "did not seek an opinion from. . . the board, the village attorney or the ZBA counsel. . .." The Ethics Board statement went on to say that Gabriele's "basis for his 'unrecusal' was his telephone consultation with a college fraternity 'brother' located in Pennsylvania who was not admitted to practice before the courts of the State of New York and was not familiar with New York law."

The Ethics Board also noted that, although Gabriele had recused himself on the Henderson matter, he felt entitled to join other ZBA members in opposing Neuringer's request that the village fund a detailed analysis of the property that was the subject of their appeal. The reason for the request was that the study that the building inspector had erroneously claimed to have done couldn't be found.

After meeting with McCrory and Gabriele and reviewing videotape and an unofficial transcript of the Febl 1 ZBA meeting, the Ethics Board reported that it was its "unanimous observation that Mr. Gabriele demonstrated bias towards Ms. McCrory. Significantly, Mr. Gabriele acknowledged to the Board his bias towards Ms. McCrory and expressed contrition for this conduct. Accordingly, it is the Board's unanimous recommendation that Mr. Gabriele be disqualified from participating in any matter that comes before the ZBA or any village board in which Ms. McCrory is either a party, or an agent or a representative of a party, that appears before said board or quasi-judicial body."

The board went on to state its "unanimous observation that Mr. Gabriele improperly weighed and addressed the issue of recusal and bias towards Ms. McCrory throughout the Henderson appeal and did not demonstrate the degree of civility towards the Hendersons or their advocates as otherwise required by the code."

While the board found that Gabriele had "displayed a lack of professional tolerance" during the Henderson hearing, it did not find that he exhibited a bias towards pro se appellants as a class, and it accepted his claim that "he was articulating his belief that the appellants in the Henderson appeal had not met their burden of proof to the ZBA. . .."

The board further found that the "tenor of the colloquy between" Gabriele and Neuringer at the Feb. 1 meeting "was less than collegial and inconsistent with the status of the ZBA as a quasi-judicial body." Neuringer, it stated, "recognized that Mr. Gabriele was going over a proverbial 'cliff' and did not need to push him."

The Board recommended that:

* Members of all village boards consult with the village attorney or ZBA counsel, as appropriate, with regard to recusal, conflicts of interest or disqualification, rather than relying on informal advice;

* "Members of the ZBA, a quasi-judicial entity, receive proper and formal instruction from the counsel for the ZBA with regard to the laws, standards and rules pertaining to" disqualification, conflicts of interest, recusal, the rights of pro se litigants, and the burden of proof and persuasion of parties appearing before the ZBA";

* When "a dispute arises over the pertienent legal standards applicable to an appeal,
counsel to the ZBA be immediately consulted"; and that

* Members of the ZBA "conduct themselves professionally and demonstrate civility towards the parties, the witnesses and each other."

It was also recommended that "committees or boards seeking an appropriation from the Village of Mamaroneck" certify that the request is being made by the body as a whole and specify "who on the particular board concurred in the request. . .."

And, in a phone interview, Ethics Board chair Joseph Lanza stressed that the board also recommends that "no member of a board or commission within the Village of Mamaroneck shall represenent any person, other than herself or himself, in front of any board."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Vision for 2025: Smaller Is Beautiful

Shown above: Harbor View? New Rochelle developer Ofer Attia's contribution to Mamaroneck Village, 2025


The volume of residential development that had been approved for the Village of Mamaroneck by the time the Mayor's 2025 Committee started working on updating the village's 1986 Master Plan last year and the trustees enacted a residential building moratorium six months ago made those actions seem, at the time, futile exercises in what might have been, rather than movement toward what the village should look like 18 years from now.

However, a progress report on the planning update presented at the village board's July 9 meeting by Tom Yardley, of BFJ Planning consultants, seemed to offer more light than might have been expected at the end of the concrete tunnel.

Of the recommendations that Yardley said will come from the 2025 Committee, one of the most promising is that the zoning code be amended to restrict the heights and overall square footage of new one-to-three-family homes by reducing floor area ratios (FAR's), thus, in effect, inoculatlng the village against the spread of the current epidemic of gigantism in home construction now afflicting neighborhoods like Orienta and Rye Neck.

Yardley read out the definition of floor area ratio as "the sum of the gross of the horizontal areas of the several floors of the building or buildings on the lot, measured from the exterior faces of the exterior walls or from the center line of party walls separating two buildings" but excludng "roof areas, cellar areas used only for incidental storage or the operation and maintenance of the building and any area devoted only to accessory off-street parking or loading." He noted, however, that the trustees might want to follow the lead of other municipalities and enlarge the parking area included in the FAR to 50 percent of garage space.

In an R-6 zone, he explaiined, where building lots are required to be 6,000 square feet, a .55 FAR would limit house size to 3,300 square feet. A desirable range for FAR's across the village, he said, would be .45 to .52, adding the caveat that, in reducing FAR's, "you want to make sure you're not going to make too many of the existing houses nonconforming." For example, he said, if most of the houses in a particular neighborhood are at a .28 FAR, but the neighborhood FAR is .35, "then the suggestion is that you bring the FAR down to a .28."

"The goal of this," Yardley said, "is to basically reduce the number of oversize developments within certain village neighborhoods, which, based on comments from the 2025 Committee and at the public meetings, have been altering the character of a lot of these village neighborhoods."

Preserving the village's small-town character and quality of life, maintaining its diversity and protecting and improving the environment, are, he said, the central elements of the committee's vision of life here in 2025. However, the trustees will also be considering whether to rezone the Columbus Park area from an R-20 residential zone to allow some commercial use because the MTA is trying to sell the old Mamaroneck train station and wants to be able to entertain "a maximum range of uses."

Laying out the demographic changes in the village since 1986, Yardley said there had been a .5 percent drop in population between 1970, when it peaked at 18,870, and 2000, with the biggest dip occurring between 1980 and 1990. He confirmed Trustee Tom Murphy's observation that since 2000 there has been a seven-to-eight percent increase in population and went on to say that the number of residents is projected to rise steadily through 2025.

But, he added, "There's not an awful lot of land in the village" and then went on to list some of the 275 residential units already in the development pipeline, including a 17-18 unit building on Mamaroneck Avenue, near the Mamaroneck Avenue School; 95 units in the condominium planned for the former Blood Brothers site on Waverly Avenue; and a total of 20-to-21 townhouse units on the Boston Post Road, opposite Harbor Island Park.

There is also the Parkview Station condominium complex ($550,000 a unit) now under construction on Van Rantz Place, opposite Columbus Park. This too-tall and oh-so-drab-looking project was billed as a townhouse development but comes as close to that description as the facade of The Westchester mall.

And the Harbor View townhouses planned by New Rochelle developer Ofer Attia for two sites opposite Harbor Island, on either side of Heathcote Hill? That project received site plan approval many months ago, but, so far, has not progressed beyond muddy holes in the ground, filled with dank water when it rains, and fenced in by chain link sporting danger signs.

Indeed, the unexplained delay in construction has fueled speculation among some educated guessers in the village that Attia may have run into financial difficulties as the real estate climate has cooled and might, instead of building Harbor View and the Waverly Avenue project, sell the sites, with their approved plans, to other developers.

Attia was reached on his cell phone on July 17, but before anything more than the subject of the call could be stated, the call broke up, and a second call was not answered. Nor has there been any answer to a July 17 e-mail, which said, in part:

"The delay in construction of the townhouse development opposite Harbor Island Park in Mamaroneck has fueled speculation in the village that you may have run into financial difficulties and might, instead of building the project yourself, sell the site and its site plan approval to another developer.

"There has been similar speculation about the project that has received preliminary site plan approval to be built at the former location of Blood Brothers.

"Can you confirm that you intend to complete both projects?"

On the bright side, the delay in the Post Road construction has preserved, for a while, anyway, the harbor view of Heathcote residents who had fought the project.
Another positive is that the opposition to interrupting the vista from Heathcote Hill across the park and out to the Long Island Sound has resulted in a 2025 recommendation that the determination of building heights for infill housing in C-1 zones take into account the "visual sensitivity" of areas like Harbor Island.

Yardley noted that the residential building moratorium is likely to be extended, that subdivision regulations, which have not been "touched since the '60's," have to be updated "to more closely reflect New york State municiapl law," and that changes should be made to the village's zoning maps.

He stressed that his presentation covered only the first phase of the master plan update and said that the second phase, which is already under way, is "focusing on specificde areas within the village," like the industrial area, which has already had a makeover, and on flooding.

Shown above: Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O'Keeffee is presented with a $1.000 check for the town's Flood Relief Fund from LMC-TV Executive Director Erik Lewis.

At the Town Board Meeting of the Town of Mamaroneck, LMC-TV, the public access station serving Larchmont and Mamaroneck, presented a donation of $1000 to the Town of Mamaroneck Flood Relief Fund.

Erik Lewis, Executive Director of LMC-TV presented Town Supervisor Valerie Moore O’Keeffe with a $1000 check representing LMC-TV’s fundraising efforts from their 50/50 Raffle Sale, program ads from their Award Night on May 25, and general donations made to them by the public for flood relief after LMC-TV announced its intention to devote any surpluses after expenses from these events to the cause of Mamaroneck flood relief.

"We are honored to be able serve our community in this hour of need," Lewis
said. "We produced informative programming in English and Spanish, created a 24- hour emergency notice bulletin board, and now we are very pleased to be able to contribute financially as well with money we have raised."

The check was written to the Town of Mamaroneck Flood Relief Fund, a fund
created by the Town of Mamaroneck to give direct grants to community
residents in need. Contributions to the fund are tax deductible and its
grant making process is overseen by a tri-municipal panel of community

Friday, July 20, 2007

Employees of Four Mamaroneck Village Establishments Arrested for Selling Beer to Minors

Employees of four Mamaroneck Village establishments were arrested on Tuesday night, July 17, for the unlawful sale of alcoholic beverages, a Class A misdemeanor.

According to Village of Mamaroneck Police Lt. James Gaffney, the arrests, for selling beer to minors, were made at 5:48 p.m. at the Internatinal deli at 130 Mamaroneck Ave., near the Boston Post Road; at 6:33 p.m. at Lulo Grocery at 657 Mamaroneck Ave., near the corner of Sheldrake Place; at 7:20 p.m. at KB Mart at 624 East Boston Post Road; and at 9:56 p.m. at Mi Cabanita bar at 501 Halstead Ave., at the corner of Melbourne Avenue.

The investigation of various Mamaroneck Village establishments was a joint operation of the VOM Police Department, the Westchester County Department of Public Safety and the Westchester County District Attorney's Office. The arrested employees were taken to Mamaroneck Village police headquarters, where they were booked and issued court appearance tickets.

A report, Gaffney said, will be sent to the New York State Liquor Authority, which can act against businesses that sell alcohol but do not comply with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

Detectives Bernie McNally and Edgar Prieto represented the Mamaroneck Police Department in the investigation and arrests.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Brook Street: Construction Resumes, Contention Continues

Contention over the construction of a large one-family house at 609 Brook Street in Rye Neck carried over to the Village of Mamaroneck Board of Trustees' July 9 meeting, from its June 25 session. At the prior meeting, the board had declined to review the village assessor's designation of an adjoining lot, purchased by the builder, Benmar Properties, from a neighbor at 307 Beach Ave., to make its project zoning compliant without a variance. (Scroll down to "Staredown at the Village Courtroom".)

Nine residents of the Brook Street/Beach Avenue neighborhood had previously prevailed in an Article 78 that resulted in the annulment of a variance for the project that had been approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals. At the June 25 meeting, one of those residents, Nora Lucas, asserted that, because the house at 617 Brook Street, next door to 609 Brook, had recently been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a new building permit for 609 Brook could not be issued until a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process had been completed. She requested that the BOT designate itself the lead agency for that process.

On June 26, however, Building Inspector Richard Carroll did issue a permit and work on the house resumed. At the July 9 BOT meeting, Lucas repeated her objection, asked that the trustees direct that the permit be rescinded and again requested that they assume the role of lead agency in a SEQRA process. The board, however, demurred, accepting the counsel of Assistant Village Attorney Joseph Messina that SEQRA would come into play only if the structure being built next to an historic site exceeded a one-to-three family private dwelling.

Lucas stated that, as an architectural historian, she does "SEQRA compliance" for "a living." "I do SEQRA in many communities," she said, and "I believe this is an action that requires SEQRA." She then asked Messina, "Are you saying it's the Zoning Board of Appeals" that "would be . . .the lead agency in this community?"

"The zoning board," Messina answered "has to make a determination as to whether your interpretation is correct. ..."

"Under SEQRA regulations," Lucas followed up, if a municipality fails to comply with SEQRA, "the remedy is an Article 78."

"That," Messina said, "is correct."

In a written informational Q & A she provided to the trustees, Lucas raised the further question of whether "the project sponsors" can "avoid SEQRA by segmenting this action into smaller parts."

Segmentation, she wrote, "is defined as the division of the environmental review of an action so that various activities or stages are addressed as though they were independent, unrelated activities needing individual determinations of significance. Except in special circumstances, considering only a part, or segment, of an overall action, is contrary to the intent of SEQRA.

"In this case, the Board of Trustees must be alert that small individual actions are being taken to mask the ultimate goal. For example, a swatch of land has been sold, the assessor has divided the assessment roll between the new owners, the zoning official has said that the resulting lots meet zoning, but these are only pieces of the whole action-–the creation of a new building lot next to a house listed on the National Register. These individual actions might be Type II [thus, not triggering SEQRA], but the overall action has SEQRA significance.

"SEQRA," Lucas concluded, "cannot be evaded by piecemeal approvals."

Brook Street resident Jeffrey Falk and Beach Avenue resident Stuart Tiekert, on behalf of themselves, Lucas and other neighbors, filed an appeal with the zoning board on June 21, challenging Carroll's determination that, after the transfer of land from 307 Beach to 609 Brook, the former remained zoning compliant and the latter became zoning compliant.


Help End the Horrors of Puppy Mills


Two to four million puppy-mill puppies are sold each year, while millions of animals at shelters are euthanized for lack of good homes.

To feed this brutal industry, untold numbers of breeder dogs spend their entire lives confined to tiny and filthy cages, giving birth to one litter after another until their worn-out bodies can no longer reproduce. They endure a lifetime of misery,deprived of exercise, decent food, or even basic veterinary care. As they age and their fertility wanes, these animals are often killed or abandoned.

What most pet owners and animal lovers don't realize is that so many of the puppies sold through pet stores or Internet sites come from places just like these -- breeding operations filled with suffering, disease and malnutrition. Puppy mills typically operate without oversight, sell puppies through third parties and use deceptive practices to fool the public into believing they care about the puppies they breed. That is why it is crucial to shine a spotlight on this unseen industry.

Help stop this cycle of abuse by making a generous donation today. With your gift, we'll have the critical resources we need to:

Investigate and expose the realities behind this cruel commercial industry;

Advocate for stricter regulation of the industry and increased funding to enforce existing animal welfare laws;

Educate the public about how to avoid buying puppies or kittens from inhumane commercial breeders;

Pass federal legislation to increase protections for dogs across the nation languishing in puppy mills.

Pass state laws to require licensing, regulation and inspection of large puppy mills, which currently escape USDA scrutiny due to a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act.

Reach out to prospective puppy buyers-- using everything from billboards to word of mouth--to educate them about the cruelty of puppy mills and where these animals are sold.

Puppy mills can only thrive if consumers are kept in the dark about the fraudulent tactics and inhumane conditions used to mass produce purebred and designer dogs. You have the power to shine a light on these cruel practices and prevent further animal suffering. Please spread the word to your friends and family.

Contributions to The Humane Society of the United States are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. If you have any questions about donating to us online, please contact us by e-mail or call 301-258-8276.

To donate by U.S. mail, please send your check made payable to The HSUS to Dept. GABA6J, HSUS, 2100 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20037.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Bucks and Bricks for Harbor Island

Frederick Longacre (upper left), president of Mamaroneck's Harbor Island Conservancy, has been named a winner of a $10,000 community servce award from Northwestern Mutual. The money will go to the Conservancy, which is currently selling inscribed bricks (lower right) to be installed in the walkway of its recently built Harbor Island Playground.

Harbor Island Conservancy to Benefit from Award to its President

Frederick Longacre, founder and president of Mamaroneck's Harbor Island Conservancy, has been named the recipient of a $10,000 community service award from his company, Northwestern Mutual.

A symbolic, over-sized check will be presented to Longacre at a Conservancy meeting on August 21. The real money will be donated to the Conservancy

Longacre is among 25 winners of the annual award, in a competition open to over 9,000 network representatives of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. The award recognizes exemplary volunteer involvement and dedication to charitable organizations and philanthropic projects in the representatives' respective hometowns. The winners were selected by a panel of judges, based on their commitment, dedication and hands-on volunteer involvement.

The community awards program is funded by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation.

Longacre, together with John Farris and Julia Sperry Longacre, spearheaded the Conservancy's latest project, the new Harbor Island Playground, which was opened with a dedication ceremony during Mamaroneck's Historic Harbor Street Fair on June 3.

Personalized brick pavers for the playground's walkway are still on sale. Among the nearly 60 psopls who have already purchased bricks are Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Village of Mamaroneck Mayor Phil Trifiletti.

Each brick measures 4” x 8”, which permits two or three lines of up to 12 characters per line. Engraved and installed, each brick costs $50. The $50 is fully tax-deductible and payable to the Harbor Island Conservancy.

Applications for inscribed bricks may be obtained: (1) at Village Office at Regatta on Mamaroneck Avenue; (2) at the Village Recreation Office, Harbor Island; (3) at the gazebo in the Playground; (4) Via internet at; (5) by mail from Harbor Island Conservancy, 180 East Prospect Avenue, Mamaroneck, N.Y. 10543.


Sick Animals Slaughtered for Us to Eat (and not in China)


It’s time to step up our effort to spare sick and injured farm animals the misery of being dragged to slaughter. Some members of Congress believe that the agribusiness industry is doing enough to protect animal welfare and food safety, and that laws are simply not needed. But the evidence is clear that farm animals are suffering and the nation’s food supply is at risk. Tell Congress it's time to help sick and injured farm animals.

Farm animals too sick or injured to walk -- those known as "downers" -- go through agonizing torment as they're forcibly moved to slaughter. Meat from such animals also may pose serious risks to public health. At least 12 of the 14 "mad cow" cases identified so far in North America have reportedly been downer cows. And downers may pass along dangerous infections such as E. coli and Salmonella, since these suffering animals are often lying in bacteria-laden waste and have higher levels of pathogens due to stress.


Please make brief, polite phone calls to your two U.S. Senators, Hillary Clinton at (202) 224-4451 and Charles Schumer at (202) 224-6542, today and urge co-sponsorship of the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act.

Making a phone call is easy. A staff member will take note of your message and pass it to your legislator. You can say:

"Hello, my name is [your name] and I’m calling from [your town and state] to urge [Senator Clinton/Senator Schumer] to co-sponsor the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (S. 394/H.R. 661). It’s time for Congress to make sure that farm animals who are too sick or injured to walk are put out of their misery and that they don't end up on someone’s dinner plate. Thank you."

After you make your calls, send a follow-up email to further encourage your legislators to protect downed animals and the food supply.

Finally, please tell your friends and family about this important issue and let them know what they can do to help. The more people who contact Congress, the more co-sponsors this legislation will receive and the better its chances of being passed into law.


Tricky Micky

In a prior post, I noted the opportunism and expediency with which NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the newly-minted independent, former Republican and previous Democrat, changes or drops party affiliations when they get in the way of personal ambition.

Well, in case you missed the July 6 article by Raymond Hernandez and Danny Hakim in the New York Times, they reported that "at the same time that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been traveling the country in recent weeks denouncing partisan politics, he has been quietly sending a very different message to the state’s Republican Party: I will continue to support the G.O.P. team.

"On June 19, shortly before Mr. Bloomberg announced that he was leaving the Republican Party, he telephoned the state’s most powerful Republican, Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader.

"The mayor wanted Mr. Bruno to know the announcement was coming. But Mr. Bloomberg, a major contributor to New York Republicans [not to mention the Republican presidential convention in NYC, which he organized and heavily bankrolled], also sought to reassure the majority leader that despite the change, he would still back Mr. Bruno and his Republican colleagues in the Senate.

“'He will support us now, and as we go forward,' Mr. Bruno said, describing the conversation. 'His support is his support.'

"The call to Mr. Bruno was one of several conversations Mr. Bloomberg has had with Republicans in New York in recent weeks pledging his political support.

"And it underscores the tricky territory the mayor has landed in as he positions himself as a newly declared independent.

"Mr. Bloomberg is seeking to raise his national profile for what he calls his nonpartisan approach to problem-solving, perhaps in preparation for a presidential bid. But at the same time, he appears determined to maintain his strong ties to Republican leaders in Albany as they try to hang on to their slim majority in the Senate, which they have controlled for more than 40 years.

"Mr. Bloomberg’s support for Republican candidates is critical; the mayor has been the biggest individual donor to Senate Republicans, according to state campaign finance records, giving $575,000 since October. He also gave the New York State Republican Committee $175,000 in the same period. (During that time, by contrast, he did not donate to any Democrats in the Legislature.)"

Tricky Micky?

Not totally. When he first morphed into a Republican because he couldn't get the Democratic nomination for mayor, he presented his bipolar partisanship as a bold elevation of ideas over ideology. And, of course, Bloomberg was a vocal and financially generous backer of that other great independent mind, Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who courageously votes with the Republicans against his own (?) party's attempts to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.

And, in his recent emergence from the partisan phone booth as a superhero, his chest emblazoned with a big I for Independent, he declared “Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles, and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology.”

Of course, historically, non-partisan, independent (a.k.a. unaccountable?} forms of government have tended to be tribal patriarchies, monarchies and dictatorships of the right and left.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Subscriptions (see above)

I want to thank all those who have already paid for subscriptions to harringtononline. Others who have not, but would like to enable me to keep this going, please refer to the notation above, right under the blog title.

I'll be posting more news after tomorrow night's Mamaroneck Village Board meeting.

Thanks, and keep cool.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

History and A-Half

Shown below: (Top, left) Ann Wilson (left) and architectural historian Nora Lucas, with a plaque commemorating the listing of Wilson's Brook Street house (rear) on the National Register of Historic Places. Bottom, right is the half-built house next door, at 609 Brook Street, the completion of which has been stymied by neighbors, including Lucas, who argue that its construction would adversely affect the historic character of their neighborhood.

Staredown at the Village Courtroom

The clock in the Mamaroneck Village Courtroom during the Village Board's June 25 meeting may have said 8 p.m., but the temperature in there was more like high noon when Benedict Salanitro took the microphone.

Salanitro, who lives on Linden Street and is a principal in Benmar Properties, LLC, has, for more than a year, been pitted against nine of his Rye Neck neighbors, residents of Brook Street and Beach Avenue, over a house Benmar has half-built at 609 Brook Street. 609 Brook Street is a subdivision of 601 Brook Street, a lot with one house, which Benmar bought and partitioned. The splitting of the lot was made possible by a variance, which, the neighbors successfully argued in a 2006 Article 78 petition, was improperly granted by the village's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on May 9, 2006.

The now-invalidated variance cleared the way for a building permit to be issued for 609 Brook, even though the depth of the new lot was roughly five feet less than what is required by the village zoning code. On receiving the permit late last spring, Benmar immediately began construction of a house of generous size, despite the filing of the Article 78.

By Jan. 9, 2007, when New York State Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Lippman ruled against the variance, the shell of the house was already up. The court decision, however, obligated Building Inspector Richard Carroll to issue a stop-work order, and the structure has remained shrouded in Tyvek ever since.

In his decision, Judge Lippman agreed with the Article 78 petitioners' claim that the ZBA should have been guided by a 1991 zoning board decision that denied a similar request for a subdivision at the same address on the ground that such a subdivision would have violated the historic character of the Tompkins' Farm neighborhood, where Brook Street intersects with Beach Avenue. Judge Lippman also rejected Benmar's subsequent request to reargue the case.

Salanitro's attorney at the time, Paul Noto, filed a notice that reserved Benmar's right to appeal Judge Lippman's ruling, but Noto also hinted at a possible remedy that could avoid further court action and enable Benmar to simply go back to the zoning board.

That remedy was Benmar's recent purchase of a 40' x 5+' strip of land from the owners of 307 Beach Avenue, whose side yard abuts the rear of the Benmar construction site. The addition of the transferred strip to 609 Brook Street deepens the Benmar lot by more than five feet and could, thus, eliminate any need for a variance.

But this range war won't be over 'til it's over.

The Article 78 petitioners had gotten wind of a possible land purchase a year ago, and, on June 21, they filed an appeal with the zoning board challenging two letters written by Building Inspector Carroll, one to Benmar on March 1 and another, on May 30, to the owners of 307 Beach, assuring them that the transfer of land between them would create no zoning code problems.

In one of the letters, Carroll stated that he had based his opinion, in part, on "my review of. . . the zoning analysis dated February 8, 2007 (Sheet S-1). . .." However, according to petitioner Stuart Tiekert, it seems that there is no written zoning analysis designated as "Sheet S-1". Tiekert shared an e-mail he sent to Carroll, in which he reminded him, "In our conversation you said that the 'zoning analysis dated February 8, 2007 (Sheet S-1)' was not actually a document but, as you said, 'just in my head,' even though you referred to it as both 'dated'" and as "'(Sheet S-1)' . .."

According to another petitioner, Nora Lucas, Carroll told her that he didn't recall the lawsuit over the variance granted for 609 Brook Street.

Reached by telephone, Carroll declined to comment on the Brook Street controversey, except to say that Benmar had bought the additional lot.

Salanitro, meanwhile, had gotten wind of the fact that the petitioners would be appearing at the June 25 meeting of the Village Board, which had on its agenda that night the approval of the village assessor's redesignation of Benmar's newly acquired lot. So Salanitro headed them off at the pass and got to the microphone before they did.

He told the trustees that their approval of the assessor's assignment of lot numbers to "property which has been conveyed between private parties" was merely "ministerial." Although the Mamaroneck board has, historically, approved such designations, he said, it never had any basis in law to do so. Village Attorney Lino Sciaretta confirmed that any action by the board would be only "pro forma" because it is "within the assessor's authority to create new tax identification numbers and to preserve the integrity of the tax roll."

Salanitro demanded that the board either vote to approve the new lot designation or take it off the agenda. Trustee Tom Murphy noted that he was "not interested in voting on something I have no power to vote on."

But, before Murphy could finish his thought and agree with Salanitro that the matter should be removed from the agenda, Salanitro warned, "If you're not gonna vote on it tonight, then we'll go to court tomorrow and have a mandamus action against the village, and you don't want that. . .you'll pay more court fees."

"Don't come up here threatening us." Murphy retorted.

"Tom Murphy," Salanitro came back, "you've been staring me down all night. If you want to stare me down, we'll go outside and stare down!"

"You want to go outside and stare down?" Murphy asked, with an incredulous laugh.

"I'm tired of being pushed around," Salanitro replied.

"You," Murphy told him, "pushed around your whole neighborhood."

And, as Mayor Phil Trifiletti urged that "everybody take a deep breath," the lawman on duty, Sergeant Gerard Ferraro, quietly approached Salanitro and, with one hand on his shoulder and the other on his arm, guided him out of the room.

Salanitro came back later and, saying he had, in the interim, smoked five cigarettes, apologized to the board, to Murphy and to the public.

Between his exit and re-entrance, Lucas presented the petitioners' view that Carroll had erred in saying that 307 Beach Ave., minus the land sold to Benmar, is zoning compliant and that, since Judge Lippman overturned the 2006 variance, 609 Brook reverted back to being part of the 601 Brook Street lot, from which it was carved. That, she said, means that there is no longer a subdivision but only one lot, 601,with two houses-- its original house, which Benmar doubled in size, and the partially constructed new house.

Lucas went on to say that no building permit should be issued until the legal action comes to some kind of end and until a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process is completed. The SEQRA process, she explained, is dictated by the fact that the house at 617 Brook Street, next door to 609 Brook, has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Lucas made three requests of the trustees:

--that they require that the SEQRA process be complied with;

--that the Board of Trustees be the lead agency for that process; and

--that the board direct the building inspector to not issue any building permit for 609 Brook Street until there is a resolution of the court case.

No action was taken on these requests, but approval of the assignment of a lot number to Benmar's newly purchased property was removed from the agenda.