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Latest Controversy Over Scarsdale's Response To Sandy

A debate between Scarsdale Mayor Flisser and resident Mark Lewis was addressed at the Board of Trustees meeting.

After several weeks of comments and debate in the village, Mayor Miriam Flisser aired her concerns publicly at the November 27 Board of Trustees meeting. The mayor responded to public comments made at post-Sandy meetings and an opinion piece from Scarsdale resident Mark Lewis, who openly complained about the village's response to Hurricane Sandy.

In a November 16 op/ed in The Scarsdale Inquirer, Lewis stated that his "dissatisfaction over the response by the village, the mayor and Con Edison is growing."

Lewis, a past chair of the Scarsdale Democratic Town Committee, listed eight reasons the mayor, village and Con Ed failed residents post-Sandy.

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In his opinion piece, Lewis wrote that "failure for one week to call town meetings to keep citizens informed or to maintain and share with residents a list of critical recovery elements and progress on them."

He cited failure to clear trees blocking roads in the first week after Sandy, failure to "invite corporate, school or public officials except Assemblywoman Amy Paulin" to the public town meetings and "failure of the mayor to acquire basic information when she attended the first meeting, such as whether the schools would be open Monday."

Lewis said "failure to accept blame for failing to turn things around in a timely manner and offering as an excuse that the mayor is an upaid volunteer."

Last week, Mayor Flisser responded to the public comments at the BOT meeting.

Here is a copy of her full address:

I was surprised at our last Village Board meeting to be attacked by false statements from a resident, until I learned that Mr. Lewis is a political operative hoping to improve his now lost position in the Democrat organization. His diatribe is a great example of why Scarsdale removed itself from party bickering decades ago. I was surprised by Mr. Lewis' take on this, until I read, after the election, that the Democrat Party had lost significant position in Scarsdale, including failing to raise a majority in two voting districts (Heathcote, and Quaker Ridge.)

I'll refute some of his lies here. If you take your information from ill-informed websites frequented by cyber-trolls who are encouraged, or even wholly created, as sock-puppets by an anonymous blogger, you'd get a skewed view of the Village's responses to the recent crisis.  The crisis included, in short order, an 150 year storm, a national election, and a road-slicking snowfall following a catastrophic weather event that affected 16 states.

Please note: Police, Fire, Public Works, Water, and Scarsdale Ambulance all continued to provide services. Back-up generators and the much-vilified antenna at the Public Safety Building, originally deemed an extravagant expense and an eyesore, powered communications and other vital services.

The DPW removed 250 tons of debris from the roadways daily. 100,000 voice mails and emails were dispatched, starting before the day of the event, not "a bit late" as "acknowledged," to residents who, BTW, are never required to sign up, despite the famous website's owner's confused. confessed failure to do so. Shelter was offered at the Library, with movies and Lego games for the children; and overnight at nearby area locations; even offering private rooms with baths. Pet shelters were offered. Dry ice distribution locations were publicized.

By November 3, all major traffic corridors, previously obstructed, were open, including Post, Popham, Crane, Fox Meadow, Olmstead, Fenimore, Sprague, Heathcote, Wilmot, Palmer, Secor, Weaver and Griffen. The Village Shopping areas remained open with food staples and medications always available. By 11/04, the Scarsdale Ambulance Corps was hosting an open house for families watching the Football game. By 11/05, only five roads were closed due to live power lines, down from 60 original road closures. Homes on dead-end locations who could not move cars due to electrical wires were visited daily by Police and Fire teams.

The RUOK system, which sends Robo calls daily to disabled residents in normal times, was replaced by manual calls from police personnel, who arrived and checked on our most fragile residents in person.

As far as my own activities, I arranged and attended four public community events open to resident comments and questions, and Village Trustees represented me at two others. My husband and I personally answered scores of phone calls and emails on our listed home phone, helping to prioritize response for residents. I attended twice daily conferences with the County Emergency Operations Center, and Con Ed. Most of the time wasted at these conferences calls included histrionic pleas from your elected legislative representatives, whom Mr. Lewis represents, desperately angling for votes at this late stage, creating theatrical emotional episodes by those who had no command training nor authority in this event.

BTW,  I was also faulted by Mr. Lewis for being a volunteer, which I mention as a point of pride, not an excuse. I was recently certified in Medical Emergency Management for Nuclear Disaster by NY State for whom I am a physician volunteer responder. Some years ago, I was the Director of the 2nd largest pediatric clinic in the USA, and that included the Emergency Rooms.  Others may break down in a crisis, I don't.

To sum up the points: Robo Calls and email blasts were initiated to all homes the day before the storm, and despite failures of Cablevision Light Path, these broadcasts were never interrupted. We used innovative methods to create phone service, returning our Village phones to copper wires. Residents have received Robo calls from the Village in emergencies since 2010, when I initiated them as the Municipal Services Chair; and everyone is welcome to add additional cell phones or email addresses by visiting our Village website. We ran a Federal Election in the week following the storm, cleared snow from roads, held community meetings.

Once again I thank the residents who organized charitable activities for those less fortunate than Scarsdale, and offered assistance including the Hebrew Home of Riverdale, the Uniformed Fire Fighters Association, the Scarsdale Baptist Church; and especially the Congregational Church, which continued on with its community event, despite loss of electrical power and heat.

The VB continues to welcome information about the events for our ongoing comprehensive review.

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