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From County Bridges To The K-9 Brigade, We Answer Your June Westchester Questions

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Q:

I’m having an ongoing debate with a coworker. He says the low bridges on the parkways in Westchester were purposely constructed that way so that poor people from the City couldn’t take tour buses to spend time up here. Please tell me this isn’t true.
-Paul Stevenson, Irvington

A:

Undoubtedly, your coworker is referring to famed urban planner Robert Moses, who was arguably the single most influential man when it comes to the physical shaping of New York City. Moses never held an elected position, but he oversaw the construction, development, and, in some cases, demolition of significant areas of the City during the mid 20th century. His refusal to build a new stadium for the Dodgers in Brooklyn, for example, resulted in the team heading west after the 1957 season.

Robert Moses with a model of his propsed Battery Bridge. 

Robert Caro’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, 1000+-page biography of Moses is considered by many to be one of the greatest biographies of the last century. Caro claims that Moses was a racist and intentionally built bridges too low for buses to travel under on Long Island and in Westchester. Caro also suggested that Moses ordered New York City swimming pools be kept at colder temperatures because he believed African Americans would then be less likely to use them.

Not everyone agrees with Caro’s depiction of Moses, though. Columbia University professor Kenneth T. Jackson said that Moses might have been a racist in the same way many people from his era were, but that it is more important to focus on whether his personal beliefs affected his work. Jackson said the claims about the bridges and pool temperatures are absurd and, though Moses ordered the demolition of some poor areas, he did so along with Los Angeles, Cleveland, and other urban areas during that time period.

Some would argue that Moses built the bridges and parkways to be, like many of his projects, picturesque and efficient. 

Can tour buses drive under many of the county’s parkway bridges?

No, they can’t.

Q:

The county’s Department of Public Safety has a K-9 unit. Do they really do anything?
-Anonymous

A:

Hmm, I’m picking up a trace of cynicism in your tone about our four-legged officers. 

The Department has Labradors and German shepherds for sniffing out drugs and contraband and a bloodhound that finds people. You probably already know that a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than a human’s and that bloodhounds can follow a trail of the microscopic dead skin cells our bodies constantly shed.

But are they truly useful? Hey, I know someone you could ask if you doubt how useful they are—Demitri Gordon. 

In November 2011, he stole a car, raced away from police on Mamaroneck Road near Saxon Woods Park and, when cornered, jumped from his moving car and disappeared into Scarsdale’s Crossway Park. The police on the scene called for the Westchester K-9 Unit and Officer Mike Tiernay came by with Saratoga the bloodhound. Saratoga went across a nearby soccer field, an adjacent field, continuing to a baseball field, then down a steep grade where she found the perp’s jacket. She then ran back up the hill and found the suspect hiding in a pile of leaves.

How’s that for useful?

Last September, a traffic stop on Playland Parkway in Rye was also time for the dogs to show off their detective skills. Philly the German shepherd found about two pounds of cocaine in three sealed cans of beans in another passenger’s bag in the back seat.

Last year, when Minister Ethel Patricia Monroe disappeared, it was the county bloodhound that traced her scent to a park in Ardsley where her remains were later found. And when two sisters, 13 and 6, went missing in Yonkers last year, the bloodhound was summoned again. Those girls were found safe and sound the next morning.

Q:

I have been driving on Garden Road in Scarsdale and catching glimpses of a medieval-looking stone building through the trees. It’s right next to 47 Garden Road. What’s the story?
-Ricardo Fuster, Greenville

A:

You are referring to the Arthur Boniface Water Tower. It was built in 1929-30 and was originally known as the Grange Standpipe. It stands 100 feet tall and it contains a 1.7-million-gallon steel water tank to be used in the case of a water emergency in Scarsdale. There’s also a 155-step spiral staircase inside the tower.

It has been continuously in use since it was erected. Arthur Boniface held several key positions in Scarsdale, including village manager.

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