Lena Crandall likes to speak slowly.
When she was growing up, she was always around people who spoke English as a second language, including her parents, who were Polish immigrants during World War II.
In Akron, New York, the small rural community between Buffalo and Rochester where she grew up, Crandall’s parents felt like they had to hide their views from the rest of the community and keep discussions and ideas inside the house.
“My parents felt they really had to keep their place,” said Crandall. “It was the Cold War and they felt they should keep their good ideas in the home, which was a great loss.”
Crandall though is not looking to have her opinions locked inside, as she vies to keep a seat on the Scarsdale Board of Trustees as a candidate in the March 18 election on the Citizens’ Non-Partisan Party ticket. Crandall, who has lived in Scarsdale for 28 years, sees herself as someone who can reach across the aisle to invite community members into the discussions happening around town, while also making Scarsdale feel like a home.
“I wasn’t so sure I was welcome when I first moved here in 1991,” she said. “I figured I’m from a little hick town and what could I bring to Scarsdale?”
What Crandall ended up bringing to the village was a long list of volunteer positions, which began in 2002 with her chairing the Fox Meadow Elementary School’s PTA Safety Committee after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
After she contacted the principal of the school at the time, the two worked collaboratively to formulate safety protocols for the school grounds in response to an emergency like 9/11.
After her involvement with the PTA Safety Committee, Crandall’s volunteer activity catapulted. She led the Fox Meadow School’s playground committee and co-chaired the school’s Community Service Committee. She eventually served as chair of the PT Council’s Community Service Committee and the Scarsdale High School PTA’s Sustainability Committee.
Crandall, who went to Brown University and obtained a law degree from Hofstra University, played a balancing act with her volunteer work, while also being a stay-at-home mother.
Eventually, after asking questions about an empty lot between the Brite Avenue tennis courts and the Fox Meadow athletic field near her neighborhood school, she started to gain an interest in sustainability and environmental issues.
“That’s when I first heard about freshwater wetlands, invasive species, native species,” she said.
The Friends of the Scarsdale Parks eventually reached out to her and she quickly moved up the ranks and transformed the group back to an activist organization, rather than the beautification one it had become.
“We spoke up whenever there was a subdivision that was significant [and we] spoke up in favor of better maintenance of our … parks,” she said.
While serving as president of the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, Crandall was also gaining leadership roles within the Scarsdale Forum, including vice president in 2015 and president the following year.
In the Scarsdale Forum, Crandall learned about various issues facing the community and she decided to make a transition from activist to village trustee in 2018.
“I was used to being on one side of an issue and I forced myself to take into consideration as much as possible from staff concerns, to residents’ concerns, to economic impact, to environmental impact, to really try to stop and think about everything,” she said.
While on the board, Crandall has served as a liaison to many groups, including Friends of the Scarsdale Parks, village historian, Conservation Advisory Council, Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service, the Board of Architectural Review and the Quaker Ridge, Scarsdale Meadows and Heathcote Neighborhood associations.
“We need to reach out to some other groups to make sure they feel more included in our village government,” she said. “Any other groups — I don’t know what all of them are — but I have an open door.”
Crandall has also had to deal with new issues facing the village, including the federal government’s cap on sales and local tax (SALT) deductions.
“With the restriction on the deductibility of state and local taxes, many families are hurting and certainly most everyone feels a pinch,” she said, adding that she grew up in a community where most people struggled to make ends meet. “So, I’m sensitive to economic constraints.”
Crandall said that Scarsdale is a safe and attractive community and that the more the board does to maintain what’s good about the village, the better it will be for everyone.
“At the same time we have to keep an eye on taxes,” she said. “It’s important to invest in the future.”
On the longstanding issues surrounding Freightway redevelopment, Crandall said the board had looked for “every opportunity to include the community.”
“My hope, frankly, was … we could get a preferred developer who would bring a better package for consideration,” she said. “Certainly the proposals that came in were way too big and my understanding was that the goal was to find someone we could start a conversation with and, as we saw during the aftermath of that [Dec. 11] hearing, the public wasn’t ready and that’s why we stopped everything.”
Emphasizing that there was no pressure to do anything at the site, Crandall said she doesn’t know where the project will go, but the village could continue to maintain the site, which could give the village more negotiating power, should the board decide to do anything.
“We have discussions among ourselves, we hear from professional consultants and village staff. We do our own research and we try to make the best decisions possible. Everything we did was in the best interest of the community,” she said. “There was such a public outcry, this might be dead, I don’t know, we’ll see what happens. But if anything goes forward we know, and any potential developer knows, that they’re going to face some tough questions here in Scarsdale.”
If elected for a second term, Crandall said she is hoping to take up more leadership roles, such as serving on the task force for the village’s recently passed Climate Smart Communities pledge.
Whether she gets to lead the task force or not, Crandall said she plans to continue to work on environmental issues. She said she also hopes to move forward with traffic safety prioritization, planning for the community, keeping an eye on the bottom line and to always “stop, take stock, listen to the community [and] learn more.”
“My hope is to bring the best of what I’ve learned, to always look for solutions, to listen and learn from other people and just to try my best,” she said. “That’s all I can do.”