Thank you for the thoughtful editorial, “Leave the Leaves,” in last week’s issue [Scarsdale Inquirer, Oct. 30]. For economic, environmental and safety reasons it is time to revisit the issue of the village’s practice of allowing residents to pile loose leaves for collection.
The Scarsdale Forum last looked at the issue of ending the expensive, polluting and hazardous practice of village pickup of loose leaves in a report issued by the Sustainability Committee on May 15, 2014 (scarsdaleforum.com/Reports/View/445).
At that time, only 35% of the population in Southern Westchester lived in communities that vacuumed piles of loose leaves but, sadly, Scarsdale was among the towns still providing this costly and environmentally destructive practice that endangers pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
Much has changed since then, and some things have remained the same.
What has changed?
First, there is a global pandemic, and the village budget is in “austerity” mode. There is no reason to continue a program projected to cost $685,000 when picking up bagged leaves would cost far less. The widespread adoption of environmentally sound in-place leaf mulching practices by Scarsdale residents would even more substantially reduce costs.
Second, many of the landscapers who work in Scarsdale also work in neighboring communities, such as Edgemont and villages in Greenburgh, or in Yonkers, New Rochelle or Rye, that no longer vacuum loose leaves left at curbside. These landscapers now have the equipment and experience to readily switch to in-place mulching and bagging in our community.
Third, with the COVID-19 limitations, more people are walking, jogging and cycling in the village. The leaf piles are forcing pedestrians into the middle of busy streets and pose a serious hazard to cyclists and to cars that must swerve to navigate around the piles.
Fourth, Scarsdale had been a leader in food scrap, plastics and other recycling, but we lag behind our surrounding communities that require bagging of leaves for pick up.
What has remained the same?
First, the cost of the loose leaf vacuuming is little changed from 2014.These costs are for a program that is neither essential nor even advisable (read Westchester County’s initiative at leleny.org).
Second, the leaves piled on the edge of people’s properties continue to create a hazardous situation for cyclists and pedestrians. Add rain/snow, dog poop, fallen walnuts, twigs and slippery grass cuttings to the mix and it creates a truly perilous scenario.
What can we do to encourage the village to move forward?
It is time for Scarsdale to move to best practices of ending the leaf piles and picking up bagged leaves instead, hopefully in conjunction with the sustainable practice of in-place mulching. Even if the village does not cancel its curbside leaf vacuuming this autumn, please encourage your lawn service providers to mulch in place, and to the extent they collect leaves, to bag them in biodegradable bags for pick up. You will be contributing to substantial cost savings that could be put to much better use, helping our precious environment, and also making the roads safer for everyone.
DARLENE LeFRANCOIS HABER, M.D.