KATONAH-LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Another momentous year has ended in Katonah and Lewisboro, and it is time to reminisce and recap the most noteworthy stories.
Being a memorable story, of course, does not guarantee it was a joyous occasion. Some stories, indeed, fall into that category, but for every hopeful and inspiring moment, there were just as many heartbreaking and frustrating ones. Here, we do our best to acknowledge all of those moments, good or bad.
The Katonah-Lewisboro Times Launches
Truth be told, this “yearly” recap only covers 10 months of news—because we didn’t release our debut issue until March.
Around this time last year, Halston Media, this paper’s parent company, sought to expand and launch a fifth weekly hyperlocal newspaper, the others being (in order of debut) Mahopac News, The Somers Record, Yorktown News and North Salem News.
We chose Katonah and Lewisboro after hearing from many in the community who said they missed having a newspaper to call their own.
It has been a truly wonderful experience learning about your communities and the people who live and work in them. We’re still learning who’s who and putting names to faces, but we appreciate how welcoming (and patient) you have been toward us. With your support, we hope to be here representing Katonah and Lewisboro for many years to come.
Nor’easter slams community
There was no shortage of stories early on for our small-town paper, as our inaugural issue coincided with one of the worst storms this area has ever seen.
An early March nor’easter felled trees, damaged homes and knocked out power to most of Katonah and Lewisboro for about a week. But that storm was nothing compared to the flurry of angry letters, phone calls and comments both NYSEG and Con Ed received during and after the outages for their perceived lack of response times and poor communication.
Elected officials called for resignations and investigations, while residents demanded compensation for discarded perishables. The energy companies, in statements to media and to Albany, apologized for the storm response and said they would take a more proactive approach in the future.
DeCicco’s closure leaves Cross River without a grocery store…
Since DeCicco’s Family Markets (not to be confused with DeCicco and Sons) left the Orchard Square shopping center in August, readers have bombarded this paper and the real estate company marketing the property with phone calls demanding updates.
Orchard Square’s owner sought to have a new tenant in place by the holiday season; however, Christmas came and went, and the store remained vacant.
We’ve reached out to the owner and the real estate company several times requesting information, to no avail.
In an email on Dec. 14, Adam Brodsky, director of commercial properties for the company that owns the Orchard Square shopping center, said that he would forward our latest request for comment on to the “new tenant,” which he did not identify. The new mystery tenant has not contacted The Katonah-Lewisboro Times, though we hope to have more information in early January.
With neither side willing to disclose too much information regarding the lease renewal, the question of why DeCicco’s decided to leave remains a case of “he said, she said.” The grocery store’s co-owner, Christina DeCicco, said the proposed rent increase was simply too high, while Brodsky said the offer was below market value. Brodsky said he was surprised when DeCicco’s pulled out of the “good faith” negotiations, but DeCicco said the space was listed as available before negotiations ceased.
Affordable housing complex unresolved
The Lewisboro Planning Board’s inaction with regard to the proposed 42-unit affordable housing complex in Goldens Bridge put the town on the federal government’s radar, prompting threats of a lawsuit should it not be approved by year’s end.
Unfazed by the warning, the Planning Board set a self-imposed deadline to vote on the project no later than Feb. 26, citing unresolved concerns regarding traffic, safety and financial ramifications.
The public hearing on the project, which spanned several meetings, concluded in June. The board has now discussed the project with the applicant, Wilder Balter Partners, at several more meetings, most recently as Dec. 18. The applicant has also expressed frustration regarding the delayed vote.
Stephen Robinson, a federal monitor tasked with analyzing affordable housing in Westchester, plans on submitting a compliance report with a federal district judge in January. The county was sued in 2006 by an anti-discrimination group that alleged Westchester’s zoning was exclusionary.
That lawsuit was settled in 2009, with the county being required to fund the construction of 750 affordable housing units by the end of 2016. Municipalities were also asked to adopt a model zoning ordinance governing affordable housing, which the Lewisboro Town Board did on Dec. 10. That action, Robinson said, saved Lewisboro from being “noncompliant” with the 2009 settlement, but said the Wilder Balter project “bears watching.”
South Salem resident wins Senate seat
Peter Harckham, a former Westchester County legislator most recently employed by Gov. Cuomo’s administration, pulled off an upset victory over two-term incumbent Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) in the New York State’s 40th Senate District.
A Democrat from South Salem, Harckham defeated Murphy in Lewisboro 3,732 votes to 2,220.
Prior to the general election, Harckham defeated fellow South Salem resident, Robert Kesten, in the Democratic primary election.
Katonah’s George Soros targeted
When a package containing an explosive device was delivered to the Katonah home of billionaire philanthropist and prominent liberal donor George Soros on Monday, Oct. 22, it appeared to be an isolated incident.
Authorities soon learned that wasn’t the case, as similar devices were delivered in the ensuing days to the homes and offices of other notable Democratic leaders and supporters.
Nobody was injured in the attempted attacks, which spanned five days and five states, and targeted a dozen people, from former President Barack Obama to actor Robert De Niro.
The first of the pipe bombs, delivered through the United States Postal Service, was discovered around 3:45 p.m. by an employee at Soros’ Cantitoe Street home.
Federal and local agencies investigated the incident and the device was “proactively detonated” by bomb squad technicians.
A suspect, Cesar Altieri Sayoc Jr., was arrested in Plantation, Fla., on Friday, Oct. 26. The 56-year-old man is charged with five federal crimes.
The final howl
Atka, a 16-year-old Arctic wolf who served as an ambassador for the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, died Saturday, Sept. 22.
As an ambassador wolf, the popular Atka greeted and howled along with thousands of visitors to the Conservation Center over the years. He also traveled to libraries, classrooms, auditoriums and to government meetings, helping the Conservation Center fulfill its mission to “teach people about wolves, their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting their future.”
Atka was born May 17, 2002. Just eight days later, he arrived at the Conservation Center from Minnesota. According to the Conservation Center, Atka is an Inuit name meaning “guardian spirit.”
The 90-pound wolf was described by the center as a “superstar” who loved his fans. Though he retired two years ago, an email address was created for Atka in 2017 so his fans could continue to communicate with him. Hundreds of emails came in following his death, with many saying Atka provided personal and professional inspiration. Some said they became wildlife biologists working with wolves specifically because of Atka.
Hundreds came out to the Conservation Center later in the week for a memorial in Atka’s memory.
Vaping, plastic bags and leaf blowers
In May, the Bedford Town Board enacted legislation restricting the sale of vaping products to one commercial district in town. In another effort to keep vaping products out of the hands of teens, Westchester County raised the age-of-purchase for tobacco products to 21 years old.
A month later, gas-powered leaf blowers became the target of the Bedford Town Board, which voted 4-1 to restrict their usage to certain hours.
Both the Lewisboro and Bedford town boards adopted plastic bag restrictions in 2018.
Beginning Jan. 1, shoppers at large Bedford retailers will have to pay a 10-cent fee for every plastic or paper bag they use.
Lewisboro went a step further, instituting an outright ban on plastic bags at retail checkout, which also began Jan. 1. Shoppers will also now be charged 15 cents for every paper bag they use.