A former Sleepy Hollow firefighter pled guilty Monday to setting two fires in the village that left 19 people homeless.
Trent Bronner, 24, a former athlete at Sleepy Hollow High School, could face up to 25 years in state prison when he is sentenced July 9 after pleading guilty to two counts of arson in the second degree, class B felonies, and one count of arson in the fourth degree, a class E felony.
Bronner was arrested April 27, 2011 by Sleepy Hollow Police after setting fire under the porch of a home at 13 Cedar Street, which also spread to 19 Cedar Street, destroying both dwellings. During the course of the investigation, which the Westchester County Cause and Origin Team determined was intentionally set, Bronner admitted to starting another fire July 19, 2010 at 128 Cortlandt Street, according to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.
Warm April breezes coming off the Hudson River belied the damage suffered by the villages last October.
Hurricane Sandy’s unwelcome visit prompted a fourth extension to mid-April for storm survivors to file applications with the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Recently, The Hudson Independent spoke with village administrators about their respective riverfronts.
While FEMA is meticulous, the repair process was slow until the last few weeks, Village Administrator Lawrence Schopfer explained last month.
“We’ve been meeting with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), and we’ve made little progress in Scenic Hudson Park,” Schopfer said. “It’s safe, and we need to get the bulkheads repaired so there’s no further damage.”
Most of the village’s storm damage was in its parks and waterfront — due to high winds and the overflowing river, rather than rains — and 20 of Scenic Hudson Park’s 100 bulkheads floated away, maybe to the ocean by now.
The village is working with an engineering firm to devise remedial repair plans, and first needed specific answers from FEMA. “In the past (with Hurricane Irene), FEMA had generally been responsive, and this (time) has been different,” Schopfer said of the agency’s slowness.
Early estimates of $150,000 to $200,000 are closer to $250,000 — including emergency protective work (before the hurricane), and debris removal (trees, brush and organic waste) — and first have to be reviewed by FEMA.
“We’ve also kept in touch with (Congresswoman) Nita Lowey (D/Harrison) to keep her (office) apprised of the progress,” Schopfer said, adding the village is “not in such a dire situation. It’s not total devastation here.”
Downed trees and wires shut off electricity to a majority of village residents. Flooding was a major issue on Bridge Street; restaurants Chutney Masala, MP Taverna and Red Hat on the River, and Eileen Fisher LAB store, sustained extensive damage.
“We managed to come back with a vengeance, and while it was a bit of an ordeal, we managed to get through,” Chutney Masala chef-owner Navjot Arora said. It reopened December 14, completely restored — ground floor, drywall, electrical equipment, water heater.
“We’re doing well, and people are still coming in to tell us they’re so glad we’re back,” Arora said. He and his wife, co-owner Anu Arora, opted not to complete the tedious paperwork required for a FEMA loan, and instead was aided by his partner and the landlord, Bridge Street Properties’ owners, Bill Thompson and Jeffrey Reich.
MP Taverna chef/owner Michael Psilakis had to rebuild his restaurant, which opened months earlier (May 2012) to critical acclaim and an October 2012 cover story in Westchester Magazine.
“It was a really difficult time for us, emotionally draining,” Psilakis said. “In the long run, it affected my business as a whole (since) all my other restaurants were touched by the damage. It was about dedicating resources we weren’t planning on dedicating to open a second time, and that takes a toll.”
Four months after sustaining significant damage, Eileen Fisher LAB Store reopened March 1 with new eclectic fixtures and a wall highlighting the season’s basics.
Irvington resident and designer Eileen Fisher attended its April 13 reopening party. “I was really sad that we had to close the LAB Store,” Fisher said. “Not only is it my favorite place to shop and experiment with the clothes, but the LAB Store has become a community hub.”
With Schopfer’s help, the Irvington Historical Society also applied for federal aid.
“We’re in a separate category from most FEMA cases; for example, our cases are acid-free and expensive,” President Andy Lyons said. “FEMA may cover expenses from the initial steps, (like) trash removal and stabilization.”
The collection was relocated to Astor Street, then shelved, organized, and is being re-inventoried. Lyons said while the process takes time, the Society is not in a hurry.
“There was no mold problem, and we were lucky since (a storm like that is) tragedy for a collection,” he said. “We had wonderful community support in this process, and we feel very fortunate.”
Last month, members of Irvington Girl Scout Troop 1719, and troop leader Deborah Flock, met at the History Center (McVickar House) for an educational tour with curator Barbara Sciulli. Equipped with “cleaning stations” arranged by ex officio trustee Betsy Wilson, they cleaned old pharmaceutical bottles and four old candy tins.
“We had the definitions for many of the medicines and that was a fun aspect, to learn what were the uses, some even from the American Indian’s work,” Wilson said.
Residents of Hudson Harbor might soon have new neighbors — the bridge design team seeks to rent property for its five-year project.
“Tappan Zee Constructors is planning to lease land at Hudson Harbor and is also looking at village land,” Tarrytown Village Administrator Michael Blau. TZC also has office space at 555 White Plains Road in Tarrytown, where the project team will work during the five-year construction time.
While groundbreaking for the bridge project is yet to happen, ribbon-cutting for Phase Three of Hudson Harbor last October marked the opening of its model townhouse.
Greenwich, CT-based, developer Joseph Cotter of National RE/sources has been promoting the homes adjacent to Riverwalk Park. This northern portion of the RiverWalk extends from the Sleepy Hollow border traversing the full length of Hudson Harbors and currently ends at Andre Brook. The southern portion of the RiverWalk extends from the Irving neighborhood south of the Tappan Zee Bridge and ends at the southern end of Lyndhurst. Land will be reserved for connecting the RiverWalk beneath the new bridge, and the complete trail will connect near Losee Field at the nearly complete kayak launch.
The RiverWalk traverses Kraft Foods and Metro-North property and ends at the southern end of Lyndhurst, connecting to the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail. Space will be reserved for connecting RiverWalk beneath the new bridge; the complete trail will connect near Losee Field.
“Hudson Harbor was one of the only projects that didn’t sustain damage from Hurricane Sandy,” Cotter said. Phase one (condominiums) is sold, but only a few units on Phase Two — 42 residential units that overlook the Hudson River and the RiverWalk — are sold.
Phase Three Carriage Houses, while gaining interest, are not yet on the market.
Discussions continue between the village and Hudson Harbor regarding the hoped-for aquatic center. “There are outstanding issues that the developer and the village are attempting to negotiate,” Blau said.
Per his 2004 contract with the village, Cotter must honor his obligation — which stands, though the contract has been amended a few times — to build an aquatic facility available to village residents.
“The village is not giving up on the concept of an aquatic facility,” Blau said at the time. “That’s still in the agreement and he’s still obligated to develop that for us.”
Cotter noted other swimming pools proposed in the area. “We want to make sure it’s the right fit,” Cotter said. “We know we have a recreational obligation to meet.”
Glenn Vogt, a partner at Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua, will bring Rivermarket Bar & Kitchen to Tarrytown in late May or early June.
“It’s to promote sustainable foods and products from the Hudson Valley,” Vogt said. Biodynamically-produced wines and spirits — referring to agricultural methods, and how the fruit is handled and process post-harvest — will be served at the bar.
Since Hurricane Sandy, the Tarrytown Boat Club suffered three additional floods and is working with FEMA, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the village.
“Our club members are designing a new building that would not be affected by all these high tides,” Dockmaster Ted Tenenzapf said. “At this time we are focusing on rebuilding our restaurant, membership, boat club, locker house, fuel dock, marina, office, and ground, and restoring electric, all lifts, and shop tools.”
Those who yearn for nautical history will be happy to learn a refurbished Tarrytown Lighthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, reopened for tours on April 21.
Its $800,000 restoration was aided by a $552,000 bond approved by the county. Sleepy Hollow received grants of $248,000 ($98,000 in the form of a “Save America’s Treasures” federal grant; the balance came from New York State).
A five-year renewal on the original five-year agreement — permitting the village to operate and maintain the park from November 1, 2003, to October 31, 2008 — expires on October 31, 2013.
Approved proposals for the General Motors site stipulated that the Sleepy Hollow waterfront was to remain public space, and that developers would build from Ichabod’s Landing north to the park.
“The tanks have been removed, and the project is moving along,” Cotter said of the River’s Edge development. Proposals for the former Castle Oil site are temporarily on hold while developers seek approval for a three-foot height change per anticipated revised flood maps from FEMA.
“We’re reengineering the project in the event there’s another storm like Sandy,” he said. Earlier this year, FEMA released new 100-year flood maps that doubled the number of at-risk buildings in areas, including Westchester County.
FEMA’s modification to its 60-foot height, approved by the village and planning boards, brings it to 70 feet. Site plans varied the elevation, some describing it as 67 feet when measured from a curb elevation of seven feet; the modification would be three feet.
“It’s prudent to raise the level if it happens again, and for people who want peace of mind that their new homes won’t be damaged,” Cotter said.
The developer will provide an easement to the village for a public pier and an addition to the RiverWalk Park at the 60-unit building between Horan’s Landing Park in Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Harbor development in Tarrytown.
Cotter plans to have a canoe and kayak-launching area, and is negotiating with a kayak store for a waterfront location.
Renowned philanthropist, Kathryn Wasserman Davis, passed away peacefully at her Florida residence on April 23 at the age of 106. A resident of Tarrytown for 70 years, Mrs. Davis was a passionate advocate for peace and a champion of preservation along her beloved Hudson River.
Born in 1907, the youngest child of Joseph Wasserman, and Edith Stix, she led an exciting life, travelling to Europe, the Middle East and Asia at a very young age. Her father, an innovative carpet manufacturer, founder of Art Loom in Philadelphia, collected art and antiques throughout the world, eventually donating a Chinese Buddhist temple to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a little girl, Kathryn marched with her mother in suffragette parades. Graduating from Wellesley College in 1928, she received her M.A. in international affairs at Columbia University in 1931. While living at International House, she watched the George Washington Bridge being built - thus beginning her undiminished love affair with the Hudson River.
She earned her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Geneva in 1934, writing a published thesis entitled “The Soviets at Geneva: The USSR and the League of Nations, 1919-1933” - a timely study of the forerunner to the United Nations. In Geneva, she met fellow student and future husband, Shelby Cullom Davis, whom she married in 1932, and who was as interested in Russia as she. She visited that country over 30 times, frequently meeting Russian leadership and celebrating her 95th birthday with Mikhail Gorbachev. Her love affair with Russia began in 1929, when she and her sister took a horse back riding trip through the Caucasus Mountains, a daring and adventure-filled exploit that changed her life. When her horses were stolen, Kathryn recalled, “We ate wild berries for breakfast and spit-roasted mountain goat for dinner, and I couldn’t have been happier.”
Mrs. Davis joined her husband in helping create the family firm specializing in insurance securities in addition to their family foundation through which they supported educational initiatives at their alma maters and other institutions. A trustee at Wellesley College, she created Russian Studies and Economics chairs, enhanced Asian and Slavic studies, supported student financial aid and created the college’s Davis Museum and Cultural Center. At her husband’s alma mater, Princeton, the Davis’s created the Davis Center for Historical Studies, multiple history professorships, and The Davis International Center. In addition, she has funded the Kathryn and Shelby Collum Davis Libraries at St. John’s University and her newest, at Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International and Developmental Studies. She received honorary doctorates from Columbia University and Middlebury College, and relished her role as the wife of the United States Ambassador to Switzerland from 1969-75.
In 2007, Mrs. Davis received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service at a ceremony in Washington D.C. where she joined notable scholars and world leaders, all recipients of this august award. In 2006, she was awarded the East-West Institute’s Peace and Conflict Prevention Prize bestowed on her for her generous and life-long commitment to peace.
On turning 100, Mrs. Davis created Projects for Peace with a million dollar challenge grant for 100 students world-wide, each of whom received $10,000 to design projects that would contribute to creating harmony in unstable regions and thus work toward her cherished goal of making a better world. She continued that challenge ever since, with Projects for Peace going strong into 2013, inspiring and motivating young people through her constant engagement in their initiatives.
Mrs. Davis often reflected on her good fortune to live in Tarrytown, in her home perched high over the Hudson River where the views astounded her every day. Taking up painting in her mid-90’s, after she broke her hip playing tennis, she called herself an “impatient impressionist,” and took painting classes to age 105, creating hundreds of canvases filled with the views she continually loved.
Partnering with Scenic Hudson, Mrs. Davis gave a substantial bequest to help renovate Sleepy Hollow’s deteriorated bathhouse, the Kathryn W. Davis RiverWalk Center, which is now refurbished as a kayak center, educational venue and beautifully restored building enhancing Kingsland Park. In addition, her donation to Tarryown’s Scenic Hudson RiverWalk Park became the foundation for that park’s creation. She also partnered with Teatown Lakes Reservation and other local environmental education efforts. An avid tennis player in her youth and competitive in sports, she kayaked on the Hudson River until the age of 105.
Combining her tireless advocacy for international relations with her commitment to local institutions, Mrs. Davis more recently funded the Kathryn W. Davis Fellowship for International Understanding Through Film which makes it possible for filmmakers, educators, and programmers from around the world to live, work, and teach at the Jacob Burns Film Center Campus in Pleasantville. She was an early champion of and lecturer for Planned Parenthood, and more recently funded scientific research on cures for glaucoma. She was presented with the Double Helix Award, given by the Cold Springs Laboratory in recognition of her raising awareness and funds for biomedical research.
Mrs. Davis is survived by her children, Shelby Moore Collum Davis and Diana Spencer Davis, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. Together with her family legacy, she leaves her friends and community with memories of an indomitable spirit; her life-long curiosity, generosity, wit, warmth and intelligence were unparalleled. Accepting her Woodrow Wilson Award, she commented, “My many years have taught me that there will always be conflict. It’s part of human nature. But, I’ll remind you that love, kindness and support are also part of human nature. My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace instead of preparing for war. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. And therefore let us take advantage of today to be as useful as possible.”
As diminutive as she was energetic, her unmistakable presence in our river town community, at many cultural events and celebrations, and on the Hudson River in her kayak, will be deeply missed.