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Scarsdale Forum honors former Inquirer editor; mayor reports on ‘state of the village’

By VALERIE ABRAHAMS
Marjorie Meiman photo

Linda Leavitt, Scarsdale Inquirer editor emerita was recognized for her public service by the Scarsdale Forum.

 

For only the eighth time in its 111-year history, the Scarsdale Forum bestowed its public service award Oct. 7 for outstanding contributions to the life of the village; the honoree was Linda Leavitt, Scarsdale Inquirer editor emerita. Leavitt, editor-in-chief since 1989, retired in July.

Forum president Howard Nadel, who presented Leavitt with an inscribed crystal clock, noted that during Leavitt’s tenure, the Inquirer won local and national acclaim as one of the finest local newspapers in the country, garnering awards from New York Press Association for best weekly news coverage, excellence in feature and editorial writing, and a New York State Bar Association media medal for work by Leavitt and former editor David Kirkwood reporting the Scarsdale crèche case, which was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former Forum public service awardees are Dean Rusk, John W. Gardner, Dr. Howard Rusk, Malcolm MacIntyre, Lowell Tooley, Audrey Hochberg and The Scarsdale Inquirer. The Forum joins a long list of local organizations that have recognized Leavitt’s accomplishments, including the Town and Village Civic Club, the Scarsdale Historical Society, and the Scarsdale Teen Center. She is also a recipient of Scarsdale High School’s distinguished alumni award.

With a standing ovation in her honor, Leavitt addressed the audience of about 100, saying, “It was my lucky day when David Kirkwood hired me as associate editor in 1984. I had always been good at making up stories, but I soon found that in Scarsdale at least, truth could be stranger than fiction — and more profitable.”

She thanked Inquirer publisher Deborah White, her mentor Kirkwood and the many reporters who have shared her conviction that, “our work is important — finding out what is happening and why ... and having an excuse to ask nosy questions [and then] describing [the news] with clarity and style.”

Leavitt said writing editorials at first was a challenge, “terrifying at times, but I learned to enjoy it, especially as I grew a thicker skin. Over the years letter writers have accused me of many things, but a highlight was being called the ‘dictator of Scarsdale.’ I knew I had arrived when I got that one,” she quipped, noting there is a “fine line between being a sensitive member of the community and a good journalist.”

Grateful for the Forum honor, she said: “I couldn’t ask for a more thrilling conclusion to a wonderful career in my hometown.”

Ever the purveyor of news, Leavitt announced that the Inquirer’s former village reporter, Jason Chirevas, will become editor of the Inquirer beginning in November when interim editor Debra Banerjee will retire after 15 years with the newspaper.

Leavitt said Chirevas will lead the Inquirer’s move to a digital platform. According to a statement from White read by Leavitt, “There will always be a print version, but [readers] will be able to connect through their devices in the near future.”


State of the village

Following the fete for Leavitt, Mayor Jonathan Mark reported on the state of affairs in the village, and then the Forum convened a discussion of managing real estate development in Scarsdale, which will be reported in next week’s Inquirer.

In his report, Mark said the village is “in great shape.” He highlighted positives:

“Services are being delivered pursuant to a budget that stayed within the state-mandated so-called tax cap,” he said, and more than two miles of roads have been repaved. The police department received a Gold Standard Accreditation in December and the fire department earned the second best level of risk rating from the national Insurance Service Office.

Recent projects to renovate two village water pumping stations have optimized the stations’ performance for up to 50 years. And the recreation department, which is partly funded by the village, has increased programming and, for the first time ever, its revenues cover 68 percent of its expenditures.

The mayor reported the numbers of 2013/14 revaluation grievances and gave an update on the status of the 2016 reval, which he said is proceeding on schedule.

Mark also outlined areas of concern, noting the burden on the village for New York State retirement systems contributions has increased 107 percent, from $2 million in 2010-11 to $4.4 million. Those cost increases can cut into funds available for providing services to village residents, he said.

He projected that next year’s village budget might not stay within the tax “cap” if services are to be maintained at current levels, because the “cap” established by the New York State comptroller for the next fiscal year is expected to be less than 1 percent — a very “low ceiling” when considering village capital infrastructure responsibilities for the upcoming year, possibly including flood control along the Hutchinson River, renovations at fire station No. 1, rehabilitation of Freightway Garage, and continued repaving of roads.

“Even if the budget stayed within the ‘cap,’ a budget increase year-to-year may in fact exceed the ‘cap’ percentage,” Mark said.

A study of the environmental impact of the municipal sewage system is anticipated and that may indicate a need to remediate the system with taxpayers likely bearing the cost.

The water system is also being studied in cooperation with New York City to determine the needs and costs of maintaining the region’s aging water treatment and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, improvements at Hyatt Field Park are nearly completed, he said, and a rebuild of the staircase at the Scarsdale Metro-North station is under way. The village is testing a variety of LED streetlights and residents are encouraged to provide feedback, the mayor said. And, as reported in this newspaper, village trustees voted last week not to change the code governing gravel within lot coverage measurements, and lifted the village moratorium on the treatment of gravel as pervious.

In conclusion, Mark urged residents to stay informed and involved in village affairs. He noted volunteerism is “at a low ebb” and asked Forum members to “convince more of our neighbors to find time to join in our collective effort to continue to make Scarsdale the Village in the Park we all cherish.”


Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

 

October 23, 2015