Irving Harper dies, sculptures to be auctioned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Harper, these sculptures were like his friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTACT: christopher@hometwn.com

 

Westchester hosts concussion conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 

Column: Feelin’ old and tired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Follow Mike on Twitter
@Livemike_Sports

 

New Rochelle schools sued for $1.5M

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District is suing New Rochelle’s school district for services provided to 53 students who live in New Rochelle but now attend three private schools in Mamaroneck. Pictured are Mamaroneck High School, left, and New Rochelle High School. File photos

The Mamaroneck Union Free School District is suing New Rochelle’s school district for services provided to 53 students who live in New Rochelle but now attend three private schools in Mamaroneck. Pictured are Mamaroneck High School, left, and New Rochelle High School. File photos

By JACKSON CHEN
The Mamaroneck Union Free School District is suing the City School District of New Rochelle for $1.5 million for providing services to Mamaroneck students that reside jurisdictionally in New Rochelle.

According to the lawsuit filed on July 28 with the Westchester County Supreme Court in White Plains, the Mamaroneck school district provided health, welfare and special education services to students that live within the New Rochelle school district starting in 2009. The services were provided to 53 New Rochelle students when their parents decided to enroll their children into three private schools within the Mamaroneck district, according to the lawsuit.

According to Mamaroneck’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Shaps, the school district was required by law to provide the students with services ranging from nurse visits to evaluations regarding special education students.

While the students still resided in New Rochelle, they attended Westchester Hebrew High School on Orienta Avenue in Mamaroneck, Sts. John and Paul School on Weaver Street in Larchmont, and The French-American School of New York on Fenimore Road in Mamaroneck.

However, the disparity between student residence and their choice of schools is a common occurrence within the county. According to Jeffrey White, assistant superintendent of the City School District of New Rochelle, the district works with 18 other school districts that have billed New Rochelle for similar items from 2,000 students.

In dealing with the lawsuit in front of New Rochelle, White said he was willing to work with the Mamaroneck school district in a collegial manner, but that it was their prerogative if they wanted to spend taxpayer money to file a lawsuit.

According to New York State Education Law, the Mamaroneck school district and other school districts were required to provide the proper programs for New Rochelle’s special education or disabled students, but were also entitled to recover the costs from New Rochelle. Over a period of six years, Mamaroneck invoiced several bills to the New Rochelle school district that ranged anywhere from $70,000 to $560,000.

”We have communicated previously with New Rochelle and I believe they have continued to say they’d look into it,” Shaps said of the outstanding payments. “But this goes way back and the Board [of Education] felt comfortable going forward with legal action.”

The Mamaroneck Board of Education voted unanimously to pursue a lawsuit against New Rochelle and its Board of Education on July 28.

In the lawsuit, the Mamaroneck school district alleged that the New Rochelle school district acknowledged and promised to pay back the services provided.

The lawsuit added that despite numerous representations that the New Rochelle district would pay up, Mamaroneck school officials have still not received the $1.5 million.

However, White, who only joined the New Rochelle district this January, said that the district just needed a little time to look over the Mamaroneck invoices, alongside the duties of balancing a school budget, evaluating the capital budget, and tending to the various facilities issues the district has been dealing with.

The New Rochelle assistant superintendent added that he spoke with Meryl Rubenstein, Mamaroneck’s assistant superintendent, emphasizing the Mamaroneck school district would receive their due money, even without the call for legal action.

“It’s really tragic that Meryl [Rubenstein] has decided to go this route,” White said. “I told her we could work this out collegially…I suggested we could do it without attorneys and save both districts that expense.”

Since the filing of the notice of claim in June and the subsequent summons in July, the attorneys representing both school districts have agreed to give New Rochelle until Oct. 19 to respond to the lawsuit.

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 

Two children run over, one killed

New Rochelle police are quiet about the details surrounding the death of a young girl and injuries to a young boy after they were run over by a car in a Drake Avenue apartment driveway.

The incident occurred around 4:30 p.m. on Aug.18.

New Rochelle Police Sgt. Myron Joseph said one child was transported to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and the other child was transported to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. Joseph called the incident a “tragic accident,” but neither released the children’s names or ages because they are juveniles, nor the driver’s name because the incident is still under investigation.

-Reporting by Chris Eberhart

A&P prepares to auction off remaining Westchester stores

 

The A&P on Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, will be closing as part of the supermarket chain’s recent bankruptcy filing.

The A&P on Halstead Avenue in Harrison, pictured, will be closing as part of the supermarket chain’s recent bankruptcy filing.

By JOHN BRANDI
The wheels have come off the cart for the A&P supermarket chain, as it begins to sell off its remaining store locations in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties. 

A&P is now working out the final details to auction off its 31 remaining locations spread across the three counties, according to documents lawyers filed with the bankruptcy court in White Plains last month.

This is A&P’s second bankruptcy in five years. High pension costs, as well as labor provisions, such as collective bargaining agreements that require A&P to layoff workers by seniority—allowing laid-off employees with more seniority to take jobs from more junior workers at another store—have contributed to high costs, company officials said. The flagship A&P brand is not the only one to close; joining the brand of failing stores are its affiliates Pathmark and Waldbaums.

Within the first six months of the 2012 fiscal year, A&P was losing about $28 million a month, according to court filings. From February 2014 to February of this year, A&P lost more than $300 million.

One of the locations being sold off is in Bronxville on 12-14 Cedar St., the only supermarket in the village. Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin, a Republican, said it was important to preserve the location as a food item store because of Bronxville’s increasing senior population. The A&P has been a village staple since 1977.

“I [do] want it to stay a market as our seniors rely on it, and the many folks in the village without cars do as well,” Marvin said. “It is convenience for everyone.”

The mayor just may get her wish, as Acme Markets, a Philadelphia, Penn.-based market, has expressed interest in the space and placed a bid to acquire the 27,699-square-foot location. Though Acme was revealed as one of the bidders, other chain supermarkets have until a Sept. 11 filing deadline to bid higher, according to an Acme spokesperson.

The supermarket chain A&P, which has dominated the market for years, is announcing plans to transition nearly all of its store locations in Westchester County, including the markets in Bronxville, Eastchester and Harrison. File photos

The supermarket chain A&P, which has dominated the market for years, is announcing plans to transition nearly all of its store locations in Westchester County, including the markets in Bronxville, Eastchester and Harrison. File photos

Meanwhile, the Bronxville A&P building on Cedar Street was recently sold in November 2014 after continuous ownership for nearly 40 years.

The old owner, HLC Equities, cited a move from selling off its older retail buildings to the residential model market. However, Lawrence Porter, managing director of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank Capital Markets, who represented the $8.5 million deal, previously told the Review that the A&P had about a dozen years left on its lease agreement.

How that lease agreement will affect the upcoming store closure is unclear, as a call to the store’s new owner, Manhattan-based Gerard Alexander Realty Holdings  LLC, was not returned, as of press time.

Still, Acme also has its sights set on the A&P in neighboring Eastchester as well, though shoppers there have more grocery store options such as Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s. Eastchester Supervisor Anthony Colavita, a Republican, said, as a shopper of the A&P himself, he would like the 777 White Plains Road location to remain a food retailer, as it’s a convenient location and has provided tax revenue for the town.

“I can tell you though up to a few months ago, the volume of items has gone down and I’ve been disappointed with the inventory,” Colavita said.

This drop in shelf items could suggest that the chain is about ready to close its doors.

Though Acme has overlooked the store location at the Harrison Shopping Center, that A&P, which occupies 341-385 Halstead Ave., is still on the chopping block. That supermarket serves as an anchor point for the nearly 25,000-square-foot shopping complex, meaning shoppers frequent that store the most and then sprinkle out to the other adjacent retailers. Bankruptcy court papers revealed that Key Food Stores Co-Operative has submitted a bid for that location, as the company’s sole bid, as of press time.

However, Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said that Urstadt Biddle, the complex’s property owner, may have other plans for the location but didn’t disclose any further details.

Joseph Allegretti, senior leasing representative for Urstadt Biddle, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Democratic mayoral candidate Elizabeth Schaper said she was very upset to learn that the location on Halstead Avenue would be closing. Schaper said she’s been going to the big name store since she was a child.

“It’s important to keep it a market so residents of Harrison would not be [burdened] with a void,” she said.

A&P was founded in 1859 and operates under the following names: A&P, Waldbaums, Pathmark, Best Cellars, The Food Emporium, Super Fresh and Food Basics.

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 

County pushes inter-municipal sewer agreements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTACT: jackson@hometwn.com

 

Back-to-school supply costs continue to rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTACT: johnb@hometwn.com

 

Summer heats up in New Rochelle

The Striped Bass Band took the stage on Wednesday, Aug. 12 for the continuation of New Rochelle’s Emil Paolucci Summer Sounds Concert Series 2015. The band performed at the Hudson Park Bandshell from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., playing classic rock tunes from the ‘60s to the ‘90s in front of a large crowd accompanied by terrific weather.

The concert series kicked off on July 26 and runs through the end of the month.

The last event of the concert series is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 26 when 3D Ritmo de Vida, playing Latin-
tropical music with a New York attitude, performs. Admission to the concert series is free and takes place in Hudson Park.

-City Review staff

The Striped Bass 
Band’s bass guitarist 
Paul McGinness. Willie Parella, lead guitarist of the Striped Bass Band.  Hudson Park in New Rochelle was the place to be for a beautiful evening of good music on Aug. 12. The event was part of the city’s Summer Sounds Concert Series. Christine Novello belts out a song from the ‘60s. Rhythm guitarist Byron Yoburn plays songs from the 1960s and 1970s.

Puppy mill protestors rally to shut down local store

Best Breeds Puppies and Kittens is owned by Richard Doyle who has been arrested on multiple accounts of animals cruelty in relation to his stores in Connecticut. Photos/James Pero

Best Breeds Puppies and Kittens is owned by Richard Doyle who has been arrested on multiple accounts of animals cruelty in relation to his stores in Connecticut. Photos/James Pero

By James Pero
Furor over a pet store on Mamaroneck Avenue where residents of the Village of Mamaroneck have purported animals are being kept under inhumane conditions has culminated in two rallies adamantly protesting the shop.

According to village resident Donna Dickerson, the store, Best Breeds Puppies and Kittens located at 154 Mamaroneck Ave., has been less than upstanding when it comes to the treatment of their animals.

“These dogs don’t come from breeders, they come from puppy mills,” she said, referring to establishments where dogs are bred under inhumane conditions. “They come in sick with no food or water.”

Another fellow critic of the store, Carol Marinaccio, said that even despite attempts to trace the origins of Best Breeds’ animals, residents have come up short.

“Bottom line is the lineage is hard to prove,” she said. “We’ve asked for papers and [they] wouldn’t give us anything.”

While the origin of Best Breeds’ animals is difficult to prove, the physical condition in which some animals are sold to customers is corroborated not only by Dickerson’s comments but by the alleged treatment of animals at other stores operated by the same owner,
Richard Doyle.

On Aug. 6, Doyle, who lives in Mahopac, N.Y., pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in Danbury Superior Court in Connecticut; charges which relate to alleged instances that occurred at Doyle’s American Breeders stores in Connecticut.

The charges, which were issued by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, were related to three separate incidents that occurred between March and April of 2015. According to the court docket, one involved Doyle performing unlicensed eye surgery on a dog, and the other two resulted in the euthanasia of two other animals due to improper medical care.

This, however, isn’t the only time Doyle has fallen under scrutiny for the alleged mistreatment of animals at one of his storefronts. He was also arrested by the Dutchess County SPCA on April 25 and charged with both animal cruelty and selling diseased animals to one of his American Breeder storefronts in Wappinger Falls, N.Y.

Now, with more attention gathering around the conditions of Doyle’s businesses, even members of the Mamaroneck’s village government are rallying to join the cause.

“The rally is part of the democratic process. I support them 100 percent,” said Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, who has been actively involved in the push to bring awareness to Doyle’s practices.

Although rallies have been effective in bringing attention to the storefront, which some village residents have deemed problematic, the opponents of Doyle’s shops and others like it aren’t ready to stop there.

“Ideally, the outcome of all of this would be to shut down stores like this,” said Dickerson, pointing to the front of Mamaroneck Best Breeds during a rally, “so that puppy mills will have to close down themselves.”

According to Rosenblum—who invited protestors to discuss the issue at a village board meeting on Aug. 10—in order to see such a goal come to fruition, the involvement of the New York State Health Department, the New York State Department of Agriculture or the Westchester County SPCA is paramount. So far, according to Dickerson, no complaints have been officially filed with either organization.

Recent efforts on the county level to aid opponents in their fight to ban stores like Best Breeds in Mamaroneck, however, provide for pending legislation that would institute a minimum standard of care—including mandatory veterinary care and even daily exercise—as well as fines and jail time for non-compliance, according to Mayor Rosenblum. The law, according to Village Attorney Charles Goldberger, was introduced in September 2014 and has been moving “rather slowly” through the county Legislature.

In the meantime, some protestors, particularly Mare Horton, a librarian at the Harrison library, offered her proposal to ban all retail pet stores—which according to the Humane Society often sell puppies purchased from puppy mills—in the village through ordinances.

Currently, according to Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization, there are nearly 100 jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and Canada that have proactively banned the retail sale of pets completely.

While stores like Mamaroneck’s Best Breeds will remain open for the foreseeable future, Dickerson and other protestors like her hope that their words and awareness will help do the bidding for them.

“We’re not just here protesting [Doyle],” Dickerson said. “We’re here to educate people.”

SPCA of Westchester could not be reached for comment, as of press time.

CONTACT: james@hometwn.com