Mayor Delfino and Andy Spano Engineer Woodcrest Land Swap for City Park

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WPCNR Getaway Gazette. By John F. Bailey. May 10, 2002. 3:00 PM EDT: The Mayor’s Office announced today that Mayor Joseph Delfino of White Plains and County Executive Andy Spano have negotiated an agreement where the former Dellwood Dairy property on the Silver Lake waterfront in Woodcrest Heights would be leased to the city for a passive recreation park, in return for the County acquiring the Petttinicchi property of 7.7 acres for 17 units of “affordable” housing.
Under the terms of the deal worked out personally by Mayor Delfino, with the assistance of Councilperson Rita Malmud, Chair of the city Recreation Committee, the city is able to acquire the 1.94 acre Dellwood piece nestled on the shores of Silver Lake on a 30 year nominal lease from Westchester County, the terms of which are to be worked out.

City to Lease the Waterfront for a Song.

Executive Officer George Gretsas speculated that it would be a token rental of perhaps as little as $1 a year. It would be similar to the deal the county has with Harrison’s lease of their side of Silver Lake for 99 years at a $1 a year.

Gretsas said the lease of the Dellwood property was contingent on the county purchase of the 7.9 acre Pettinicchi property, and subsequent entry into an agreement with a developer of the site to build the housing units.

Woodcrest Heights Approves.

Gretsas said the Woodcrest Heights Neighborhood Association had advised the city it was in favor of the purchase, provided that the parkland be used for “passive” recreation. Gretsas reports that all that the city plans for the Dellwood shoreline property is some paddleboats and nature trails, some park benches. No athletic fields of any kind are planned. He also said the city of White Plains would be responsible for maintaining the property, once leased from the County.

He said that the deal acquires at minimal expense the number one land preservationchoice of the Open Space Acquisition Committee, and that it completes a “lifelong” dream of the Mayor.
Malmud, Spano lauded.

Mr. Gretsas said that the agreement was “a byproduct of the cooperative relationship the Mayor has with the County Executive. The Mayor said that Councilwoman Rita Malmud partnered with the Mayor to join the effort.”

He said the plan was revealed to the Common Council in Executive Session last week and that the council supported the idea.
County Anxious to Close the Deal.

Gretsas added that the Pettinicchi family was eager to close the deal with the county.

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Connors Signs on as New Superintendent. Starts July 15.

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WPCNR Daily Mirror. From Michelle Schoenfeld. May 10, 2002. 9:30 AM EDT: The City School District reports today that Timothy P. Connors, currently Superintendent of Schools in Danbury, Connecticut, has signed a three-year contract to assume the position of White Plains Superintendent of Schools, beginning July 15.

THE NEW SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS OFFICIALLY ON BOARD: Timothy P. Connors right officially inked his contract to become Dr. Saul Yanofsky’s successor Thursday evening. He is seen with his wife, Jean, left, on April 23 when he was first introduced to the community.
Photo by WPCNR

Michelle Schoenfeld, Clerk to the Board of Education told WPCNR Friday that Connors had signed a contract Thursday evening which will pay him $197,000 per year through July 2005. She said there was no housing allowance provision in the contract, but a moving allowance was provided, and that Mr. Connors would take over the Superintendent position on July 15, 2002.

Dr. Saul Yanofsky, outgoing Superintendent will serve through June 30 of this year.

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GOP Puts Up Tony Sayegh of New Rochelle to Challenge Amy Paulin in the 88th

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WPCNR Drivetime Daily. Special to WPCNR. May 9, 2002. 4:00 PM EDT: A newcomer to politics, 30-year-old Tony Sayegh of Bronxville, has been chosen by the Westchester County Republican and Conservative Parties to challenge incumbent Assemblyperson Amy Paulin in the newly configured 88th Assembly District.

Photo From Scarsdale Today

The 88th now covers half of White Plains, all of Scarsdale and Eastchester, Bronxville and about half of New Rochelle.
Education, Clean Air and Water His Themes

According to the announcement of his candidacy made Wednesday on the steps of New Rochelle City Hall, “Citing his commitment to New York’s schools and working relationship with Governor Pataki, Tony Sayegh stressed his desire to help improve New York’s public schools.“

Mr. Sayegh said, “As a first generation American, I came to appreciate the fact that with a sound educational foundation, anyone can achieve the American Dream.  Unfortunately, our public schools are not providing the education that New York’s children need.  As your next Assemblyman, I will work with the Pataki Administration to ensure that our schools receive more state funding — but I’ll also make sure that we demand greater accountability from students, teachers, administrators and parents.”

In his speech, Sayegh also mentioned that he would be a strong advocate for cleaner air and water. “This campaign is about new leadership, a new vision, and new standards for New York,” Sayegh said. “Children deserve to grow up in a New York with clean parks, safe drinking water and clean air to breathe.”

“We can achieve results by working together — the Governor, the Legislature, and each and every one of us who share in our concerns with the way things are, our goals to make things better, and our vision of a better, safer, cleaner New York for generations to come.”

Salutes Pataki and Giuliani

Sayegh concluded his speech by citing two recent New York leaders who share in his optimism in improving the lives of New Yorkers. “When the critics said New York City was ungovernable, Rudy Giuliani proved otherwise.  And when the
same doubters said state spending could never be controlled, George Pataki proved them wrong.

“Now, the pessimists are saying that we cannot do better for our children’s schools, for our commitment to the elderly and infirm, for our environment.  I ask for your support as I begin my campaign and, like the two great leaders I mentioned, issue this challenge: we CAN do better, we MUST do better, and, working together, we SHALL do better.”

Republican headquarters said that Sayegh has worked in Washington, D.C., and was deeply involved with the Young Republicans. WPCNR is expecting a more detailed resume of Mr. Sayegh shortly.

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7 Weeks Later, AG Deliberates Delgado quo warranto Action.

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WPCNR Dispatch News Courier. By John F. Bailey. May 9, 2002. 2:15 PM EDT: The Attorney General’s Press Office reported to WPCNR Thursday that Larry Delgado’s request for the Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to initiate a quo warranto proceeding to remove Glen Hockley from office as a “usurper” of his Common Council seat, is still under review by legal staff in the Attorney General’s office in Albany.
Mark Violette, a spokesman for the Attorney General, told WPCNR the history of the request so far:

“Our office in late March received a request from Mr. Delgado to initiate a quo warranto proceeding on his behalf. That letter has been logged into our system and has been forwarded internally to the appropriate legal staff that is reviewing it, and determining what steps we should take in that regard. All the information I have on this issue is that our office has not reached a decision yet whether or not to proceed with a quo warranto matter for Mr. Delgado. We are contemplating it and deliberating it. When a decision is made we will let people know about that.”

WPCNR asked who was reviewing the matter and whether they had the election law expertise to evaluate the matter. Violette said he could not reveal the attorney reviewing the matter. He said, “We have a wide variety of legal experts,” and said the person reviewing it was “skilled” in this field.

Attorney General Has Necessary Information.

WPCNR asked Violette if the attorney(s) reviewing Mr. Delgado’s request had all the information they needed to make a decision. Violette said, “We have the necessary information and expertise to rule. If we need more information, we’ll certainly reach out to him (Mr. Delgado).”

Delgado not contacted for further information so far.

Asked how much longer the ruling to initiate or not initiate the action would take, Violette said, “As long as it takes. I’m not aware of any timetable. Our office is not working on a timetable. We are deliberating on how to proceed.”

Mr. Delgado’s attorneys, Jeffrey Binder and John Ciampoli, said they confirmed with the correspondence office that Mr. Delgado’s formal request for a quo warranto proceeding was received, but have had no contact from the Attorney General’s office in any form since sending the request.

Attorney General’s Office Works on a Triage System.

Violette explained to WPCNR that the Attorney General’s Office receives “thousands” of requests for the Attorney General to look into matters. He said that each request is reviewed and assigned, much like a hospital emergency room on a “triage” basis.

WPCNR asked what tier of triage “disputed elections” occupied in the view of the Attorney General’s Office, Violette said he did not know the answer. He said the officer assigning the cases “uses their judgment.”

Violette said he would get back to WPCNR on how many exact “thousands of cases” the attorney general’s office was working on right now, and how many cases they received weekly, monthly or yearly but he would find out.

Violette said they were aware of the nature of the case and its sensitivity to White Plains and the staff “was acting with deliberate speed on it.”

Court of Appeals Justices Concerned About Timing on a quo warranto Remedy Track.

The Attorney General’s Office has now had the Delgado matter in hand for seven weeks, three weeks longer than the Court of Appeals took to listen and weigh the arguments of Mr. Delgado and Mr. Hockley on the Appellate Court decision converting Judge Nicolai’s decision, calling for a new election citywide in White Plains.

When the Court of Appeals heard the arguments in the Delgado case, Justices Levine and Rosenblatt expressed concern on the time a plenary action, going to court, and perhaps having a jury trial would take to decide the winner of an election as opposed to seating an apparent winner immediately, and the aggrieved party relying on the Attorney General’s office to respond to a quo warranto action.

No “Heads-Up” from the Court of Appeals.

WPCNR asked Gary Spencer of the New York State Court of Appeals Press Office if the Court of Appeals, after they overturned the Delgado-Sunderland ruling, had notified the Attorney General’s Office of the possibility of a quo warranto request by Mr. Delgado coming Attorney General Elliot Spitzer’s way.

Mr. Spencer said “It’s not their role. I can tell you categorically they have not.”

Spencer said the Court of Appeals does not make it a practice of notifying other departments or branches of government of how to treat or be aware of sensitive decisions they have decided on. WPCNR was very specific. We asked Mr. Spencer if Court of Appeals Justices advise the Attorney General that he should “look into this” or “you better take a look at this,” or “Hey, Elliot this could be coming your way.” Mr. Spencer said “I can tell you categorically they have not.”

Appeals Decision Leaves Door Open.

The last paragraph of the decision written by the Court of Appeals reversing the Court of Appeals call for a new citywide election, reads , In sum, quo warranto is the appropriate remedy in this case. We need not determine at this time whether a declaratory judgment action might lie as an alternative remedy where quo warranto has ceased to be available to the aggrieved candidate because the Attorney General has declined to act.”

This intriguing sentence appears to leave open the possibility of future legal action by Mr. Delgado should the Attorney General decline to initiate a quo warranto procedure.

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Valentin Calls for Board Outreach. Geiger: Board Handled Yanofsky News Wrong.

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WPCNR Daily Mirror. Special to WPCNR May 8, 2002, 2:00 PM EDT.Five WPCNR correspondents delivered similar assessments ofthe Board of Education candidates debate held Tuesday evening at The Women’s Club in White Plains.

Five CitizeNetReporters said insurgent candidate Maria Valentin presented extremely well Tuesday evening, and said she called for Board of Education outreach to all neighborhoods.

They noted incumbent Larry Geiger with 18 years on the Board of Education possessed impressive knowledge and articulate understanding of district issues, saying that Geiger was eager to serve another three years and that the district had to “look to the future.”

They report William Pollack calling for “new blood,” and that Bob Tuck announced he was only going to serve one term on the Board.

Geiger and Sules Talk About the Yanofsky Departure.

Correspondents report that in a response to a question about Dr. Yanofsky’s departure, Larry Geiger said the Board could not give all the details because it “was a personnel matter.” He did say that the Board liked Dr. Saul Yanofsky, but his desire not to serve a full term forced them to seek a new superintendent. Geiger said that “originally it was agreed” by both the Board and Dr. Yanofsky, that it would be “in the best interests of the district” not to announce his departure until sometime last fall.

Another correspondent said Stephen Sules described the decision to seek another superintendent this way: “He (Saul Yanofsky) was the CEO of the organization (School District). When the CEO is becoming ambivalent about his job, it’s the responsibility of the Board to seek another CEO.”

Geiger added that it was a “mutual decision” by the Board to seek another superintendent, because of Yanofsky’s reluctance to serve a full term.

Geiger calls for new P.R. Person.

Mr. Geiger went on record as saying the Board of Education handled the announcement of the Yanofsky departure “poorly,” that they did it “wrong,” and expressed regret for that. So did Sules.

In a related question, a member of the audience complained he had not heard of the appointment of Timothy Connors as choice for Superintendent of Schools, having read about it in the White Plains Watch. Sules said that everyone in the District was notified of the Yanofsky departure, but the challenging candidate, Maria Valentin, who is a homeowner in the district said that was not true, because she had never received such an announcement letter.

More Communication Needed.

Mr. Geiger said he favored appointing a new full-time public relations person to
improve district communication. Geiger, on the subject of communication, said that he was in favor of distributing the “About Our Schools” district newsletter by mail throughout the School District, instead of inserting it in the monthly newspaper, White Plains Watch.

Ms. Valentin, according to our team of correspondents, said she would work to bring the Board of Education into all neighborhoods in periodic meetings to hear first hand concerns of parents and residents in those areas on how Board of Education issues affect them. She used the phrase “Board Outreach” to describe this initiative.

Pollak calls for Support of Connors.

William Pollak said “You can’t say anything bad about this man (Connors). We have to be supportive. He said all the right things.” Pollak also showed a sensivity to the seriousness of issues saying in response to a question about astroturfing Eastview Middle School field, that he was not sure if that was an appropriate question to consider at this time. Ms. Valentin said there were a number of fine soccer fields at George Washington, while Mr. Geiger quickly pointed out that in his position on the Recreation Committee he was in a position to work actively to fill recreation needs, without being specific.

Candidates say they attended Board of Ed Meetings.

In response to a question on how many Board of Education meetings the new candidates Valentin, Tuck and Pollack had attended, no candidate gave a specific number, but all said they had attended some. WPCNR which attends Board of Education meetings regularly has not seen the three challengers as being “regulars” at Board of Education meetings in 2002.

Opening and Closing Statements, Rebuttals, Restrict Content.

Three correspondents deplored the debate format. The format called for opening statements by all five candidates, followed by a question and answer period in which just six questions were asked, with all five candidates responding in turn.

No questions were asked about the new school budget, for example, or how the candidates would deal with a budget that has been going up consistently. No questions were asked about test scores, the minority achievement gap, the aging elementary and Middle School plants, the referendum.

One correspondent, a veteran observer of League of Women Voters debates was highly critical of the lack of content produced by the League of Women Voters debate format.

He described the debate as “watered down, tight-collared, tight-laced, so structured, so repetitive, it becomes routine, and little more than just a chance to have coffee with them.” This observer, who has seen a number of such debates, said the format should be far more free-wheeling so candidates could respond informally, and “tell me what you’re about.”

Valentin, Geiger present strongly.

This same impartial correspondent observing the debate said that “Maria Valentin should be elected in a landslide. She has the experience in the classroom, in administration, and other areas, giving her skills that could make her very valuable to the Board. Geiger with his corporate experience, deserves one more term.”

Two other observers for WPCNR said Valentin was the only candidate who showed any “passion” for the Board of Education position. One correspondent quotes her as saying “I really want to do this. I want this position.” This correspondent said “she’s the only bright light up there.”Another correspondent said Valentin defined the issues facing the district very well in her opening statement.

On the other hand, two of our contacts reported Robert Tuck did not read a prepared opening statement, and appeared to be adlibbing his opening remarks, not having a grasp of the issues. At the close of the debate, Tuck said he was only going to serve one term because he was getting old. Candidate Pollak acknowledged he was getting old but he was “ready to rumble.”

Over fifty persons attend. To be televised May 17 through 20.

Observers agreed that between fifty and seventy persons attended, but a person who attended the raucous community meetings during the Yanofsky departure controversy last fall, said “there was no passion and that’s disturbing to me.”

The debate, according to a spokesperson for Channel 73, the Board of Education Channel, will be telecast at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM, beginning
Friday, May 17 and running twice nightly on May 18, May 19, 20 and 21st.

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School District Declares Half Days for Middle School June 11 to 14

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WPCNR Morning Sun. May 8, 2002. 8:30 AM EDT, UPDATED 2:00 PM EDT: The City School District responding to PTA and teacher complaints about the amount of time teachers are taken out of class to evaluate eighth grade assessment test results has declared a series of half-day dismissals during the regular school week, June 11 to 14.
Parents should be receiving written notice of the new schedule in a letter from their respective schools shortly.

The new schedule will have students dismissed from Highlands and Eastview at 11:15 AM for the four school days beginning Tuesday, June 11 and ending June 14. Monday, June 10, is a regular full day schedule.

The decision to schedule the surprise half-days was made in response to lobbying by the White Plains Middle School PTA which has complained about the lack of meaningful, productive classes during times when regular instructors are taken out of class to evaluate the test results of the eighth grade State Assessment Tests in Social Studies, Technology, and Science.

Eight to 13 Full-Time Teachers Coopted for Grading Tuesday through Friday.

On Monday, June 10, still scheduled for a full day of school, 8 teachers will be out to grade the Technology Assessment. On Tuesday, the eight will again be out grading the Technology results. On Wednesday andand Thursday, the 12th and 13th of June, 13 teachers will be out of class to grade the social studies assessments. On June 14th, 12 teachers will be taken out of the Middle Schools to grade the Science Assessment.
Middle School Teachers have complained to parents that serious learning does not take place in the Middle Schools during the week when daily teachers are taken away from their classes. Parents of Middle School students took up the teacher-generated complaint at two public meetings in March and April, and as a result of their efforts, the Board of Education has agreed to the week of half-days.

The close of school is unaffected by the scheduling of the new half-days. Middle School will still be open June 24 and close June 25, as scheduled.

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Amy Paulin’s Albany: STAR Program Enhanced for Seniors

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Amy Paulin’s Albany: By Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. May 7, 2002, UPDATED May 8, 2002: Assembywoman Paulin reports the agreed-on new NYS Budget enhances the STAR program for Seniors by giving them a cost of living increase, and making available $10 Million more for property tax relief.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) today announced that the tentative state budget agreement will improve the School Tax Relief (STAR) program by ensuring that a senior’s STAR eligibility is protected from cost-of-living increases. The budget also simplifies the program for seniors.

“STAR plays an important role in whether many New Yorkers – especially seniors living on fixed incomes – can afford their homes,” Paulin said. “The Assembly was determined during budget negotiations that we continue to make New York a better, more affordable place to live. Improving the STAR program is key to that effort.”

Protecting STAR savings for seniors

According to Paulin, the budget includes a provision that would account for cost-of-living increases based upon the rate of inflation – automatically raising the income eligibility levels for seniors receiving enhanced STAR benefits.

Enhanced STAR saved eligible seniors in Westchester County an average of $2,290 last year – the cost-of-living increase will mean an additional $10 million in savings for seniors statewide.

“This program has helped many seniors keep the homes they’ve worked so hard to maintain,” Paulin said. “Unfortunately a small increase in household income has caused some homeowners to lose these important savings – and possibly their homes. This budget will ensure that small increases in income don’t jeopardize the STAR benefits seniors rely on.”

Other STAR improvements under the budget include easing application requirements for seniors and providing extensions for homeowners who fail to meet a STAR deadline due to a death or illness in the family, or other extenuating circumstances.

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Council Approves Bike Signs, Budget gets 1 Comment. NYPH Hearing Continues.

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WPCNR Common Council Reporter. By John F. Bailey. May 7, 2002. 2:30 PM EDT: The Common Council despite vociferous opposition from Robert Ruger and Robert Levine, members of the Traffic Commission, voted 4 to 3 to install 225 Bicycle Route Signs throughout White Plains at a cost of approximately $14,000 in Community Development Funds. George Gretsas denied that this was a prelude to marking out bicycle lanes on White Plains streets.

The Public Hearing on the proposed 2002-03 $103 Million budget was opened. Only Lyn Lubliner, President of the League of Women Voters made a comment. A series of three more Council meetings, with the Capital Projects Board on May 8, the Budget Advisory Committee on May 13, and Decision Night on May 20, will be held for Budget tweaking prior to the planned adoption of the Budget on May 28.

The Hearing on the New York Presbyterian Hospital biotech/proton accelerator plan was held open another month, with Allan Teck, President of CCOS calling for rescinding the designation of portions of the hospital property as landmark status, advocating placement of the biotech facility on the golf course portion of the property, which currently has landmark status. Concerned Citizens for Open Space originally lobbied for that designation of the property in the past. Marc Pollitzer of the North Street Civic Association, called on the council to explore with the hospital a “meaningful approach” to rezoning the property. One other commentator spoke against the project.

The Council meeting produced the lowest turnout in spectators in three years: 12.

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Geiger, Sules, Pollak, Tuck, Valentin Contest Two Board of Education Seats

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WPCNR Daily Mirror. By John F. Bailey. May 2, 2002. 11:00 AM EDT: Two present members of the Board of Education, seeking reelection to the Board for the next three years will be challenged by three at-large candidates in the Board election May 21 for the two seats up for election.
Michelle Schoenfeld reported to WPCNR Wednesday afternoon that the five candidates are:

Photo by WPCNR

*Incumbent Larry Geiger, a marketing executive and incumbent BOE member since 1984, is seeking his seventh term on the Board. Mr. Geiger was on the Board when the White Plains Choice Program was adapted. He supported the need and the execution of district Technology Upgrade of the 1990s, helped steer the Board to Saul Yanofsky’s selection as Superintendent of Schools in 1989, and strongly supported the high school renovation. His tenure encompasses almost twenty years of growth and positive change for the White Plains School System. His wife wrote a definitive history of White Plains High School.

Photo by WPCNR from the Internet, used with permission.

* Incumbent Stephen Sules, an insurance agent, who is seeking reelection to a second term on the School Board. He was elected in 1999. Mr. Sules, a softspoken thoughtful voice, has consistently supported achievement and supported initiatives to improve test scores, physical school projects, and the high school renovation.

Photo by WPCNR.

*Challenger William Pollak, a lawyer, who pioneered the Coachman “Homework Center.” Both his chlidren have attended White Plains Schools. He is a candidate of the White Plains Alliance for Vision in Education(WAVE), and a critic of the Board of Education handling of the decision not to renew Superintendent of Schools Saul Yanofsky’s contract.

Photo by WPCNR from Campaign Brochure.

* Challenger Robert Tuck, owner of a White Plains bicycle shop, husband of a teacher in the school system, long active in working with city youth and citizen at large who twice has run for Common Council unsuccessfully for the Republican Party.

Photo by WPCNR.

*Challenger Maria Valentin, a lawyer, and former popular and effective teacher in the White Plains High School throughout the 1990s. Another candidate supported by White Plains Alliance for Vision in Education (WAVE), she is a strong advocate for the Parent Choice Program, and has first-hand, effective knowledge of the contemporary school learning environment in White Plains.

Who can Vote.

Any legal resident and registered voter of White Plains is eligible to vote in the School Board Election May 21st, and in casting ballots for these candidates, they should vote for two candidates for the Board, because two seats are up for election.

First contested election in two years.

Michell Schoenfeld said that this was the first contested Board of Education election since 1999. Prior to that, she remembers “we always had contested elections.”

Schoenfeld said she distributed ten petitions to persons interested in running for the Board of Education.

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a debate between the five candidates to held at The Women’s Club of White Plains on Ridgeway Avenue, next Tuesday at 7 PM.

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Popular White Plains Umpire Suffers Serious Eye Injury in Field

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WPCNR PressBox. By John F. Bailey. May 2, 2002. 10:30 AM EDT.: Jimmie Wolf, the man who organized umpiring for the upper ranks of amateur baseball and softball leagues in Westchester County, Rockland and Dutchess Counties, colleges and the White Plains Little League, suffered a serious eye injury yesterday while umpiring a college game in the field.
He is resting at home, but is out of action for weeks, perhaps months.
Wolf, according to his wife, was hit in the eye by a thrown ball while calling action on the basepaths in a college game yesterday. He was hospitalized after the incident, and is now resting at home. Julie Wolf told WPCNR last night that they are hopeful he will recover 100% vision in his eye. Meanwhile, she told WPCNR, his first concern was that “his” games would be covered. She was scrambling to cover games last night.

Wolf organized the science of umpiring over recent years so that leagues could make one call to him, and he’d assign an umpire or crew to the games for reasonable fees. His umpires showed up, called before games and kept control of the game, and most of all knew the rules.

In the White Plains Little League, handling senior games and majors games, we always knew that Wolf would have the umpires there. The Umpire would be good. The game would be under control.

Jimmy professionalized umpire assignment by setting fees, at the beginning of the season, making sure umpires were paid a reasonable fee, and evaluating their competence, only taking on umpires on his staff he felt were good arbiters. He worked games with new recruits to teach them the tools of the arbiter’s trade.

His umpires are even-tempered men and women who bring a touch of class and big league professionalism to every game they call, thanks to Jimmie’s leadership.

It is a tribute to Wolf’s sense of duty to “The Game,” that he was pressuring his wife last night to make sure his own personal umpiring assignments were covered, while in great personal pain.

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