Westchester Chronicles

Almost-extinct items, new titles from Westchester writers, a showboat docks in Port Chester, and more



Almost Extinct



Illustration by Monica Melnychuk


Remember roller-skating rinks? Diner jukeboxes? Pinball machines? Seen any lately? Some things you thought would never dis­appear have gone--or are about to go--the way of the Automat.


1. Roller-skating rinks

In Westchester: virtually extinct. In New York State and nationwide: alive and rolling, on an upswing.


Although roller-skating rinks are growing in number across the country, according to the Roller Skating Assoc­iation (RSA) Inter­national, there are none in Westchester County. The reason? “The high cost of real estate,” says Nellie Anderson Lillie of the RSA. “The land is worth more than the business.” 


2. Pinball machines

In Westchester: endangered. In New York State and nationwide: endangered.

Marc Schoen­berg, director of project manage­ment for Melrose Park, Illinois-based Stern Pinball, Inc., which is, according to Schoenberg,
“the only pinball machine manufacturer on planet Earth,”  reports that pinball machines are disappearing because “people can be readily entertained at home.” Pinball machines “are complicated and expensive,” he adds. Kevin McHugh of Classic Pinball Corporation, a retailer in West Patterson, New Jersey, agrees. “An operator is spending about forty-five hun­dred dollars for a new machine and he‘s lucky to make a hundred dollars a week from it, which he then has to split with the location that houses the machine. It just doesn’t pay.” 


3. Jukeboxes

In Westchester: almost extinct. In New York and nationwide: almost extinct.

Where are all the old-style coin-operated, flip-menu, push-button, stand-alone jukeboxes and wall-mounted units? “They’ve had to change with the times,” says Tony “Jukebox Tony” DeLucia of Antique Amusement Service in Hamden, Connecticut. “In this business, you either change with the times or you die.” While a few traditional jukeboxes still remain, they are, like pinball machines, relatively high-main­tenance compared to the new “downloadable” jukeboxes, and they are kept in place mostly for nostalgia in the occasional diner.


4. Public phone booths and payphones

In Westchester: almost extinct. In New York State and nationwide: almost extinct

Public payphones have become scarce. Blame it on cellphones. The quirky website payphone-directory.org lists 822 payphones in the entire state of New York, with only 47 of those in White Plains. AT&T, which operates 65,000 of those phones in 13 states, announced plans in December to leave the pay-phone business entirely by the end of this year.  

—Carol Caffin


Westchester Reads


A bevy of new books from our local literati


By Nancy L. Claus



A Circle of Souls

Preetham Grandhi

A Circle of Souls is the debut novel by Valhalla resident Preetham Grandhi, who immigrated to the United States from Bangalore, India, to study child psychology. This thriller takes us behind the scenes of a children’s mental ward, where a young patient inexplicably dreams in detail about the brutal murder of a little girl in the bucolic Connecticut countryside. Grandhi works in some African folklore, Hindu culture, and the paranormal for a real page turner of

a book.



The Dark Tide

Andrew Gross

Prepare yourself for a wild ride with New York Times best-selling author Andrew Gross’s latest thriller, The Dark Tide. It starts out with a terrorist attack in Grand Central Terminal and picks up steam from there, dragging a hedge fund manager’s widow into a storm of international financial scams, with plenty of murder and mayhem to keep things lively. Gross, who lives in Purchase, will be reading selections from the book at the Rye Free Reading Room on April 15 at 7:30.



Strong at the Broken Places

Richard M. Cohen

Richard M. Cohen, a journalist, Emmy-winning TV producer, and father of three who lives in Irvington with his wife, Today show host Meredith Vieira, wrote of his struggles with multiple sclerosis and colon cancer in Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir. While promoting the book, he met many people who also led full lives, despite chronic illnesses. His latest book, Strong at the Broken Places: Voices of Illness, a Chorus of Hope, tells the story of five of the people he met and how they have coped with adversity.



Cynthia Ozick

Literary lioness Cynthia Ozick, a New Rochelle resident, has written more than a dozen highly acclaimed books and is a recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her latest work, Dictation, is a collection of four long stories, including a novella that imagines a fateful meeting between the secretaries to Henry James and Joseph Conrad and shows how quickly comedy can morph into calamity.


The Fiction Class

Susan Breen

Irvington resident and fiction teacher Susan Breen’s debut novel, The Fiction Class, deals with a fiction teacher with writer’s block who has an ailing and argumentative mother in a nursing home in Port Chester. Teaching her mother how to write creates an unexpected connection between the two, while her students teach her a few things about writing and love. In keeping with the theme of life imitating art and vice versa, Breen will be conducting a free writing workshop and book reading at The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville on Saturday March 15. Call (914) 769-8322 for time.



Showboat, He Jes’ Keeps Rollin’ Along



For those looking for a Saturday night activity that’s out of the norm, look no further than the Showboat, a nearly 100-foot-long, crimson-and-white floating jazz club docked at Highland Marina in Port Chester. The Showboat will be a “dockside attraction that caters to all,” declares owner Billy Frenz, who, as of press time, was still awaiting permit approval from the village of Port Chester. Frenz brought the Showboat from the Showboat Hotel & Restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut, nearly a decade ago. (Prior to becoming a dockside venue at the Showboat Hotel, it had been an attraction called the Canadian at Freedomland in the Bronx.) He completely restored the boat and has turned it into “my version of a jazz club.” A boat enthusiast, Frenz has been running the New York City Powerboat Poker Run (an annual race for performance power boats on the Hudson River held by the National Powerboat Association) since 1992. The boat can hold up to 149 people. “It’s going to be a great venue for a wedding reception or a high-school prom after-party,” says Frenz, who is more than willing to supply food, music, and decoration to your specifications. While not open to the public yet, Frenz hopes to have the Showboat open every night with jazz music playing, unless closed for a private event. For more information: (203) 532-1312; frenzyyy@optonline.net.  

—Alexandra Trawick


Forgotten Westchester In Peekskill, an Overlooked Memorial

To a Forgotten Powerbroker



From relative obscurity, Peekskill’s own Chauncey M. Depew (1834-1928) rose to huge prominence in business and politics, serving as president of the New York Central Railroad from 1885 to 1898, followed by two terms in the U.S. Senate. His legacy survives in contemporary monuments to his bygone prominence: Depew Park in Peekskill; the Hudson River Day Line steamer Chauncey M. Depew; the entire village of Depew, New York  (near Buffalo), population 17,000— all named for the Senator while he was alive to receive the honor. Details of his life can be found in his autobiography, My Memories of 80 Years. An active abolitionist and acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, Depew once declined an offer to serve as Secretary of State under President Benjamin Harrison. In 1886 he delivered the main address at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.

The main concourse of Grand Central Terminal was draped in black bunting when he died in 1928, at age 93.


Today the old Depew mansion, built by his father in 1834, still looks out over the river from Main Street, but it bears no marker to recall its association with Peekskill’s distinguished native son. A significant landmark in its own right, although it has yet to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is a particularly fine example of the Greek Revival period, with a bold, columned portico as its most distinguishing feature. At some point in its long history, the mansion became a rooming house. Five mailboxes by the front door list the names of about a dozen tenants who live there today.

“I think the mayor used to live here,” one of them told a recent visitor.

—Thomas E. Rinaldi


Mommy, Where Do All Unsold Clothes Go?


With the holidays long gone and spring collections creeping into stores, it’s the time of year when you can snag a really good bargain. But, what happens if, even at 60 percent off, no one  picks up that Missoni sweater dress? Where does it go?


Usually, to charity. “We record, wrap, and pack the balance of the merchandise for charity—either the clothing drop or Salvation Army,” reports Jill Heller, owner of On the One in Mount Kisco. “Other times, we bring packages to the women’s shelter in Pleasantville.” Shop owners Robin White of New York Dolls in Mount Kisco and Lynn Puro of March in Briarcliff Manor donate to such organizations as Operation Fairy Dust and the Boys and Girls Club, respectively. “Sometimes I’ll pack the clothes and give them to poor people right here in Mount Kisco who I know really need them,” White says.


So, now think: do you really need that Missoni dress?

—Marisa Iallonardo



From Cooper to Condo?      



Next time you’re in Mamaroneck, take a drive to the corner of Fenimore and West Boston Post Roads. The white house on the northwest corner, more than 200 year old, was once home to author James Fenimore Cooper (remember Last of the Mohicans from English class?), and soon it might become home to plush condominiums.


With its sparkling view of the Long Island Sound, the property is apparently ideal for developers; indeed, they say it might be worth $4 million. And without official landmark status, that might be too tempting an offer for landlord Edward Chmelecki once a moratorium that the village placed on developing multi-family dwellings ends in a few months.


Built in 1792 by John Peter DeLancey, the house is one of the oldest structures in Westchester County. DeLancey’s daughter Susan married Cooper in the parlor on New Year’s Day 1811. The couple raised two of their seven children in the house.

Currently, the site houses Down by the Bay, a struggling restaurant. “This place has to be saved,” says restaurant proprietor Abe Nasser. “Its historical background is unique, and if they lose it, they’ll never get it back.”


Village historian Gloria Poccia Pritts couldn’t agree more. “We have all of this rich history and information about the family which makes that building, that home, important in our community. We should not let it pass by.”                           

                               —Kelechi Ubozoh


New Stores





238 Saw Mill River Rd, Millwood

(914) 944-1495


This inviting SoHo-inspired fine jewelry boutique offers everything from a classic sterling-silver heart pendant necklace ($18) to an exquisite aquamarine-and-diamond necklace set in white gold ($29,000). We spotted a custom-made, 18-karat yellow-gold necklace of circular links ($1,445), an estate-like platinum ring featuring a diamond surrounded by two sapphires ($21,000), and an array of diamond stud earrings ($115+). Co-owned by husband and wife Steve and Sue Matero, the shop offers a welcome blend of professional expertise and the warm, individual attention of a traditional mom-and-pop venture. Also available: custom design, re-fabrication repairs, and pearl restringing.



313 Halstead Ave, Harrison

(914) 315-6016 Justpuppytails.com


How much is that Labradoodle in the window? Stop by this upscale new puppy shop and boutique to find out. While you’re at it, cuddle one of the 30-plus adorable puppies curled up in actual baby cribs. The puppies ($300-$3,000), all of which come directly from breeders, are checked regularly by a veterinarian and each is handpicked for temperament. In addition to giving its pups lots of TLC (“At night, our employees come and check up on the puppies and the smaller breeds go home with us,” says co-owner Lorrie Smith), the shop offers lots of handholding for new owners. “We help with specialized training. And we also offer in-home training and on-site classes,” says Smith.

—Laurie Yarnell











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