I am writing to support Bob Berg as a candidate for Scarsdale’s Board of Trustees. I have served with Bob on the Board of Assessment Review (BAR) for two years. It’s challenging, as we continue to work through a huge number of grievances due to the Ryan revaluation. I was disappointed by the Board of Trustees response when the new Ryan assessment roll was made public and its obvious problems were pointed out, but I could understand why the Board left it in the hands of the Assessor’s Office up until that time. Only later did I learn that Bob had been actively warning the Board all along. In fact, over a month before the disaster materialized he begged them to put it on hold, calling it a “Train wreck waiting to happen.” Bob Berg could not have been more right.
Despite the BAR’s heavy workload, in every case an attempt is made to achieve fair results with the information available. Bob plays a critical role in a sometimes arduous process with good humor and wisdom. As a new BAR member, I benefited from Bob’s experience and procedural knowledge, which he shares freely and patiently. However, Bob never gives my opinion, or other BAR members’ opinions, insufficient consideration. In fact, Bob frequently takes time to ask questions and solicit more details on other BAR members’ opinions before coming to his own conclusions. He demonstrates the discouragingly rare ability to change his mind when presented with additional information, or an alternative point of view. In light of recent history, I think this is the most important quality for a Trustee. Be willing to identify what is wrong and, if appropriate, change your mind and take substantive action.
Bob demonstrated his ability to identify what is wrong and take action recently when stopped the Village from violating our First Amendment rights by illegally and selectively seizing signs encouraging residents to vote “Yes” on the school bond. And he demonstrated it yet again, with his vocal objections to proposed changes to the Village tree code. Changes that would require homeowners wishing to remove trees to obtain more permits and pay more fees.
According to the Village’s statistics, approximately 50% of the approximately 750 large trees removed in the first ten months of 2017 were removed by builders clear cutting tear down lots. In other words, roughly the same number of large trees have been removed from over 5,000 lots with existing homes as have been removed from less than 30 tear down lots. But instead of revising building and tree codes to encourage builders (who need to obtain permits anyway) to retain trees and build homes that will complement the historical character of existing neighborhoods, the Village is considering penalizing the owners of existing homes who only want to prevent their homes from becoming accidental tear downs in the next big storm. The Village doesn’t even ensure that builders don’t kill trees on adjacent lots. Many homes are constructed by excavating full basements within six or eight feet of lot lines to achieve the minimum ten foot setbacks. If you have a mature tree near your property line, there is a good chance it will die. I lost a tulip poplar that was over 100’ high and probably five feet in diameter this way. It was dead and completely leafless in August and towering above my children’s bedroom. Fortunately, there was no delay in having it removed because no permit was required.
Too much time and energy that has been misdirected towards this issue. Trees are very important, but they can be dangerous. We all saw evidence of this last weekend, but Bob has already been actively fighting to ensure that we can remove dangerous trees without additional fees or red tape for months.
Contrast all of Bob’s efforts on our behalf with the Village’s response to Friday’s storm. While a significant portion of the town was without electricity or heat, and even larger numbers were without wireless, the library closed at 6:00pm on Saturday and 5:00pm on Sunday. Then, after the library closed on Sunday, it was announced that “the library will remain open until 9:00pm indefinitely.” Do they think we don’t realize the library ALWAYS remains open until 9:00pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? The high school, on the other hand, has arranged for extended high school library hours that are actually extended. Thank you Mr. Bonamo and others.
It’s important to have village leaders who don’t run off halfcocked, but they also need to act when necessary. If you want to avoid a repeat of the Ryan reval, you want to retain your first amendment rights, and you like electricity, intact roofs, AND trees, please make the time for vote for Bob Berg on March 20.