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Westchester Chronicles


Westchester Chronicles



Parking Peril

Here, in descending order are the five best places to which you should carpool
or, heaven forbid, take one of those buses you see driving around.


No. 5: In front of the Best Buy in the Gateway Shopping Center in Yonkers. Bring your six-shooter and your spurs to the “Wild West” of parking lots, and be quick on the draw when you see an open parking spot. The “I-was-waiting-first” rule does not apply in this Southern Westchester strip mall.


No 4: Downtown Scarsdale. It’s impossible to find a place downtown and parking at the train station is a risk as the meter maids swarm it like bees—in a very expensive hive. There is some free parking up the hill that borders the city to the south. Bring your hiking boots.


No. 3: Westchester County Airport.  You know an airport has problems when it puts up signs asking people not to drive to it. This is Westchester, not Queens, and there ain’t no monorail to whisk you away to the terminal of your choice like there is at JFK. Oh, but what about cabs? you ask. At approximately $25 a ride, we’d rather park in Port Chester and walk.


No. 2: Whole Foods Market in White Plains. Whole lotta aggrava-tion is more like it. We love that the fresh-food superstore finally came to White Plains, but who asked M.C. Escher to design the parking garage? Not only is the ground level, where the market is actually located, usually full, but the parking attendants have a habit of sending drivers in strange one-way circles looking for non-existent spots.  We’d be tempted to say, “Screw it,” but what would life be like without plumcots (plum/apricot hybrid), purple cauliflower, or Annie’s Homegrown Cereal?


No. 1: The Westchester

The hands-down, absolute worst place to deal with parking in all of Westchester is at (drum roll)…The Westchester. Round and round you’ll go as if on some sort of satanic carousel as you approach higher and higher levels looking for an open spot. And what’s worse, you have to pay for this privilege. What’s up with that? At least when you’re too broke from buying that “oh-just-this-once” pair of designer jeans to pay the parking bill, you can use—for free—one of the demo phones at the mall’s Verizon store to plead with a loved one to send cash.  –W. Dyer Halpern


Forgotten Westchester

Ghost Train



Once upon a time, when Westchester was more farmland than freeway, railroads dominated the county’s commuting landscape. Back in 1869, the New York and Boston Railroad incorporated with the goal of building a 58-mile rail line from the Harlem River at High Bridge to Brewster in Putnam County. It opened in 1881 under different ownership, but couldn’t make a go of it. In 1894, J.P. Morgan took over and leased the tracks to the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad; rail fans today know the line as the Putnam Division. The Putnam’s tracks were located approximately halfway between the Hudson and Harlem lines of today’s Metro-North Railroad. The dearth of station parking has been cited as one reason for the eventual failure of the Putnam Division. The last passenger train ran on the Putnam Division in May 1958; freight service stopped 12 years later.


Now, standing vacant and forlorn in the quiet heart of Westchester, the Millwood railroad station, believed to have been built around 1880 in Briarcliff Manor (it was moved to Millwood circa 1906), still hangs on as a remembrance of things past, along with three other stations that survive along the route of the defunct railway. The right-of-way survives as well; where tracks once ran, a paved recreational path known as the North and South County Trailways runs in its place. While bikers and joggers might enjoy using the route these days, commuters sitting in traffic on the Saw Mill Parkway and other nearby roads might wish that trains could still carry them between their suburban homes and their New York City jobs.

—Rob Yasinsac


Where to Donate Furniture


Talk about a win-win proposition. You can clear your basement and attic of gently used furniture and help a local family in need. How? Furniture Sharehouse will pick your stuff up, give you a donation receipt for tax purposes, and then redistribute the furnishings to clients referred by area social service organizations. For more information, call
(914) 834-1294 or visit www.furnituresharehouse.org. (There is
a two-piece furniture minimum as well as a $20 minimum donation at time of pickup to offset the cost of trucking services.)


A Change Of Heart


“My heart. Stopped. And my breathing. Stopped.

The telltale flatline appeared up on the screen.

I was dead.”




Sick Girl, out last month from Grove Press, is the compelling story of Chappaqua resident Amy Silverstein and her roller-coaster medical ride from a driven 24-year-old Phi Beta Kappa NYU law student to a very sick girl indeed. An undetected congenital heart defect was causing her heart to fail; only a transplant could save her. Since the transplant, Silverstein has lived her life teetering on the brink of a medical emergency, with a tortuous regimen of toxic drugs and heart biopsies, keeping the true extent of her suffering carefully hidden behind a mask of normalcy, even from her family and friends.

Sick Girl is also a touching love story. Silverstein met her future husband, a lawyer, a year before she got sick. He proposed to her in her hospital bed before her heart transplant, and then again after, to the delight of the nurses in the ICU, because she had “a change of heart.”



Silverstein’s story is not a typical one.  “First off, most people who need a heart transplant die waiting for an organ,” she says. “Second, transplanted hearts usually give out before ten years, most commonly from an incurable artery disease only seen in transplant patients, part of the rejection phenomenon. The only cure is a re-transplant, and the chances of getting another organ are slim. Or the patient develops cancer or other diseases as a side effect of the medications that you need to take to keep the body from rejecting the organ. I am an anomaly—so far, my heart shows very inconsequential signs of artery disease.”


Today, 19 years after her transplant, nine years after her heart’s “expiration date,” she’s given up law for writing, runs four days a week, and does strength training twice a week at Prescription for Fitness in Chappaqua. “I credit Tony, my personal trainer, as one of the people who keeps me alive,” Silverstein says, adding that his workouts are killers. “He told me the statute of limitations ran out on my heart long ago. He has given me confidence that my heart is good. And as long as this body is chugging along, I’m going to write.”

—Nancy L. Claus


By the Numbers


A numerical look at Thanksgiving


102: Number of passengers on the Mayflower


35 million: Approximate number of U.S. citizens today who can trace their roots back to those original passengers


5: Number of years Squanto spent in England—as a slave—before returning to the New World. Documents suggest that without his help, the Pilgrims might not have survived that first winter.


41: Number of men who signed the Mayflower Compact upon arrival at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620


$0: Cost to visit Plymouth Rock today. It is located at Pilgrim Memorial State Park in Massachusetts 


$1.07: Approximate cost per pound of a frozen turkey


250,000: Number of wild turkeys found in New York State, in case you decide to catch your own (not recommended!) 


5: Number of places in the United States named after turkey: Turkey, Texas; Turkey Creek, Louisiana; Turkey, North Carolina; and Turkey Scratch, Arkansas


15: Approximate number of giant balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


10,000-14,000: Cubic feet of helium required to fill each balloon. Macy’s is the second largest consumer of helium in the world, after the U.S. government.


12: Average number of ingredients in a pumpkin pie


$12.50: Cost to buy a pumpkin pie at Grandma’s in Cortlandt Manor


$360.15: Average amount of money spent per American on “Black Friday,” the Friday directly after Thanksgiving


$40: Amount of money the average customer spent at Try and Buy toy store in Pleasantville on “Black Friday” last year

—Marisa Iallonardo


Let’s Talk Wild Turkey 


By David Gottlieb



Bet you’ve seen one or a dozen or MOre of these gawky, rather scary-looking creatures that wouldn’t look out of place in a Stephen King movie, in your backyard or pecking and preening along the

Saw Mill Parkway

.  We’ll help you out and tell you it’s a bird (a hell of a big one), but what kind? Well, the wild turkey is rather intriguing—reclusive yet quite at ease in civilization, especially if that’s where the food is. These birds can fly 40 to 55 miles per hour for short distances, run 12 miles per hour to escape predators, and are hardy enough to peck for food through five inches of snow.


Most of the year, the guys hang out with the guys and the girls with the girls. Foraging for food is the primary occupation and preoccupation of both sexes. The male, who stands about two and a half feet tall and weighs about 20 pounds, does his Darwinian duty from early April to early June. Somehow, his head then sports a new red, blue, and white cover as he struts before likely mates, fluffs feathers, and issues a gobble that clinches the deal. He is busy and
non-monogomous; a single Tom will mate with many hens. Then  it’s back to chilling with all the guys.


Hens lay 10 to 12 eggs for a 28-day incubation, but 60 to 70  percent of newborns (poults) die within the first month. Still, well  before the white man arrived, this Native North American coped with weasels, foxes, coyotes, and other predators. But the white man’s thirst for land, a  cultivated taste for meat, and efficient killing tools almost doomed the breed in the Northeast. Without hunting or zoning regulations, the turkey  community shrank. By 1840, it was virtually gone from New York and  contiguous states.


William Porter, a recognized authority—and hunter—explained why the wild turkey is so popular with hunters: “It’s a perfect  food—relatively easy to hunt and carry, and tasty.” Craig Cupani, chef and owner of Lia’s Restaurant in Hartsdale,  agrees about the taste. “You lose a little bit of texture in a wild turkey compared to the domestic  bird, but you gain it back in flavor. It’s just plain fantastic!”


These wily critters, no doubt you’ve noticed, have made a comeback. By spring 2004, the  state was home to about 250,000, according to a 2005 National Wild Turkey Federation report. It’s a simple and comforting tale: what man had virtually  destroyed, man brought back.


A Model Project



Model Marisol Thomas, Bedford resident and wife of singer Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty fame, has designed a line of cotton tees with inspirational rhinestone-studded messages to benefit Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla. The shirts are available through Presents for Purpose, a company that works with dozens of charities raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for their respective causes. “It’s a great way to help the hospital,” says Presents for Purpose COO Leslie B. Weissman, a Chappaqua resident who serves on  Blythedale’s board of trustees. “Marisol has done an exceptional job creating these shirts.”


Thomas became acquainted with Blythedale when her husband performed at the annual holiday concert. “When you see the faces of these children, it affects you more than you can imagine,” she says. “Blythedale is a wonderful place that does incredible work with children. We are so blessed in our life and I wanted to do something for Blythedale.”

The shirts, which retail for $35 to
$50 and carry such sentiments as Hope, Miracle, Innocence, and Optimism, can be purchased from www.presentsfor
purpose.com. —NLC


A Dubious Honor


Sarah Lawrence College is named the most annoying liberal arts school in the country. . .or not.


Gawker, a website devoted TO
chronicling Manhattan’s media news and gossip, recently embarked on an unusual mission: to name the most annoying liberal arts school in the country. After conducting a poll, the school that secured the highest number of votes (2,344 and rising) was—drum roll—Sarah Lawrence College, right here in Bronxville.

Don’t break out the celebratory Champagne and noisemakers yet. The story has a cruel twist. As Al Gore surely knows well, it’s all too easy to rack up the highest number of votes and still lose the election. Gawker yanked the title of most annoying school away from Sarah Lawrence and gave it to the first runner-up—Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut—after reports came in that SLC alums were actually campaigning to win. Here’s what some voters had to say about why “Sadie Lou” deserved the win:


“Wealthy families typically have a child who is sent to an elite private school, receives a good education, and by dint of his/her natural intelligence, work ethic instilled by his parents, good grades, benefits that come with wealth, and the university preferences for legacies, goes to Harvard or Yale. That child also has a younger sibling who, with the same education and benefits, spends most of his/her time drinking, doesn’t really like learning, and is known for having access to good drugs. That child goes to Sarah Lawrence.”


“A former friend of mine went to Sarah Lawrence. She got Grace Paley as her freshman advisor. After one meeting, she dropped GP because Paley ‘wasn’t interested enough in my personal educational experience.’ Game, set, match.”


“NYU kids used to come into Yonxville for our parties ’cause they knew they’d get to see girls make out.” (Note: we assume Yonxville is a combination of Yonkers and Bronxville.)


“I’m a Sarah Lawrence grad and I’m voting for Wesleyan, because in terms of annoyance, Wesleyan is Sarah Lawrence plopped in the middle of Connecticut. I am convinced that this makes their unwashed hair twenty percent smellier, their experiments with lesbianism fraught with twenty percent more stupid drama, their Derrida references twenty percent more pretentious, and their drugs twenty percent less potent.”


“Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney went there. The only school with two Beatle wives? That’s pretty obnoxious. Additionally, I had classmates named Cascade, Ophelia, Odelia, and a girl who called herself Feather.”


“Um, let’s not forget that Sarah Lawrence is in Westchester. Imagine the summer before your freshman year there. You spend August anxiously awaiting your move INTO—not out of—the ’burbs.”


Aw, come on, Gawker—lay off Sarah Lawrence. From what we hear, the kids up the road at Bard are way, way worse.

          —Marisa LaScala


Check Out NaNoWriMo


No, it’s not a trendy up-and-coming neighborhood you haven’t heard about—but it will take you back to your starving-artist days.


If you’ve ever said, “My life should be a book” or have dreamt of  penning the Great American Novel, this is the month to dig out that typewriter, scrounge up your old journals, brush up on Kerouac, stock up on Red Bull, and get ready to start anew. Why? It’s National Novel Writing Month.


National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, started in 1999 in California’s  Bay Area when a group of writers decided that anyone can bang out a book in 30 days—and that it’s more fun to try in groups. While only 21 people attempted to do so in its inaugural year (and only six succeeded), last year saw 79,813 participants and 12,948 completed manuscripts.


The rules for NaNoWriMo are simple. Create an account at www.nanowrimo.org. Begin your great work of literature on November 1, and stop writing before midnight on November 30. If you then upload your manuscript and the NaNoWriMo electronic word counters say you’ve reached 50,000 words (175 pages), you’re declared a winner, your success is announced on the website for all to see, and you go on receive to eternal fame and glory. (Or, you know, you move on to editing.)


Nora Mulligan, a Peekskill-based author (The Visitor’s Gift) and four-time NaNoWriMo winner, enjoys the communal experience of the event. As the municipal liaison for Northern Westchester, she’s organized NaNoWri Mo events like “write-ins” at the Peekskill Coffee House. “As a writer, most of what you do is by yourself,” she says. “During NaNo WriMo, people all across the country and all over the world are doing the same crazy thing. People are there to cheer each other on, to commiserate with each other, and work out plot problems for each other.”


Of course, no one said that what you come up with has to be any good. (Phew!) “By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes,” reads the NaNoWriMo online mission statement, with one additional caveat: “Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap.”



A Rose by Any Other Name


By Peter Bronski


When you hear the initials, “O.C.,” what comes to mind?  Oklahoma City?  Ontario, Canada?  Hardly.  There’s only one true O.C., and that’s Orange County, California. The same can be said for Westchester. There are at least four other Westchesters across the country, but when it comes to the real thing, there’s only one: Westchester County, New York.  Residents of the county know there’s something special about this place they call home; it’s the true Westchester, and to a Westchesterite, no other “West-chester” can measure up.  It’s merely a poseur.


“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” proclaimed Juliet in Shakespeare’s play. But would it?  Here we take a look inside the “other Westchesters,” and offer up the 411 on how they stack up against the 914 in terms of everything from population to median household income.



Westchester County, New York

Population: 949,355*

Median Age: 39.2

High School Graduation Rate: 86.9%

Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 45.4%

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