Conceived by Heathcote resident and marketing consultant Renée Levine, the Scarsdale Hometown Heroes series celebrates the many essential workers throughout Scarsdale who have selflessly supported the community in meaningful ways throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Locked down at home and feeling disconnected, Renée wanted to harness the stories of local heroes in a way that would help bring the community closer together, highlight the goodness in those surrounding us, and provide for some much-needed hope.
To date, more than 50 profiles have been created, ranging from doctors and nurses to EMTs, volunteer firefighters, small business owners, delivery people, homecare workers, grocery store workers and more, giving the community a way to get to know and thank those supporting us.
The profiles shown here are no longer posted in the Library. To read the full profiles and see the complete series, go to Facebook and search for the group “Scarsdale Hometown Heroes” or to cutt.ly/scarsdaleheroes.
Photo credits: Andi Schreiber Photography John Florence Jon Thaler
Renée Levine is a veteran marketer. Her career has spanned across a number of major brands including British Airways, Oxford Health Plans, HealthNet and Cessna Aircraft Company, where she successfully led teams of professionals, marketed services to diverse audiences, and overcame domestic as well as international challenges with the development and execution of creative marketing solutions. Her work has garnered several awards for branding, TV, direct mail, digital, collateral and video animation. For the last seven years, Renée has taken on diverse clients through her marketing consulting business, brandmarketingninja.com.
Dr. Ying CHUU
Meet Dr. Ying Chuu, a pediatrician for a pediatric intensive care unit. The PICU treats the most critically ill children, so Dr. Chuu and her team were no strangers to complex and challenging medical situations.
When Covid hit, it mostly affected adults, and the ER and ICU quickly filled up. They realized the PICU was staffed with manpower trained in critical care, and so the 26-bed PICU stepped in to handle the overflow. “Once the floodgates opened, they all rushed in. It felt like controlled chaos,” says Dr. Chuu. Her team was able to stay together as a unit, something she believes accounts for the positive outcomes of so many of the patients they treated.
While it felt like they were “sitting on the sidelines” at the initial outbreak, Dr. Chuu and the other physicians became very hands on. “I felt needed and I’m glad I could be of service to people who were sick.”
The only doctor in her family, she feels that “becoming a doctor was my calling” and considers the hospital her second home.
When the acute adult Covid patients in her unit were replaced with kids diagnosed with Covid-related Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome, that hit closer to home given Dr. Chuu has two daughters of her own. Her team has cared for close to 40 kids who have come in with multiple organ failure. Thankfully, all of the cases have done well under the close watch of her team.
During quarantine, she became very self-sufficient, learning to bake, knit, crochet and make ice cream. While she has been extra cautious around her kids Evelyn and Serena and husband Tony, wearing a mask and giving them “half hugs” while looking away and holding her breath, she is looking forward to being able to return to fully and completely hugging her family once this is all over.
Dr. Shama SAQI
Meet Dr. Shama Saqi, a psychiatrist who works in the ER as well as a medical director at a local hospital clinic. Dr. Saqi is originally from Pakistan, has lived in five countries and speaks six languages.
COVID-19 impacted not only patients, but also the staff, including Dr. Saqi herself. With many of the psychiatrists in the high-risk population, Dr. Saqi picked up additional shifts in the ER once she recovered. “I feel like it’s my duty,” she says, “to help people.”
The population she treats is generally a vulnerable one, with many living in conditions that make them more prone to being sickened by the virus. The pandemic exacerbated their suicidal, psychotic and depressive symptoms.
Once again, the patients weren’t the only ones suffering. The constant wail of ambulance sirens and the toll of church bells was a traumatic experience for the staff. “When you hear church bells on weekdays, you know what’s happening,” she said. As a result, Dr. Saqi created a support group for the hospital frontline staff.
Recently, Dr. Saqi has had time to savor and appreciate the simple things in life, such as being at her home in Edgewood, reading, biking, or fishing with her husband, Tariq, and two boys.
Dr. Saqi encourages anyone who is experiencing mental health issues to seek help because, as she says, “A little help can go a long way.”
Dr. Jonathan BRADLOW
Meet Dr. Jonathan Bradlow, cardiologist and Scarsdale volunteer firefighter.
In practice since 1998, Dr. Bradlow enjoys the bonds that form between himself and his patients. Sometimes these bonds are so strong, they extend well beyond medicine. Take the close relationship he formed with a patient who was rushed from the emergency room and into surgery within two hours. Recovering at home, she placed a frantic call to him at 1am. “My toilet is overflowing! What do I do?” He told her to turn the bottom knob to the right and call her super in the morning. “It’s pipes and valves,” he jokes, “what don’t I know about that?”
When coronavirus cases started flooding the hospital, Bradlow’s team quickly turned their 1,500-bed hospital into a 3,000-bed COVID-19 hospital. Initially, PPE was severely limited; he was issued two masks a week, and no face shields. Five of his staff members as well as other friends and colleagues came down with the virus; dozens of patients died. “I stopped counting when we got to 30,” he says, “because it was just too painful.”
Bradlow adds that training during the era of AIDS was “nothing compared to this” and that the seven days during which he was running a coronavirus ward were the most difficult of his career. “COVID-19
has changed everything. The very real possibility and fear of contracting the virus has rocked the very foundation of the doctor-patient relationship.”
Dr. Bradlow grew up in Greenwich Village, with members of the Beastie Boys as his classmates. When he was five and the new firehouse in his neighborhood was completed, he attended a block party and at that moment decided he wanted to get involved with firefighting. When he moved to Scarsdale in 2002, he was given the opportunity and was recruited by Volunteer Firefighter Company 3 in 2003, where he still serves as First Lieutenant. Like many others, the firefighters’ jobs have been complicated by the pandemic. Recently, when a fire broke out in Scarsdale, his biggest concern—aside from containing the fire—was keeping everyone apart from each other with masks and gloves on.
When he’s not working, Bradlow enjoys Peloton cycling, listening to music, reading, watching SVU reruns and hanging out with his wife, Lisa, daughter, Ava, and son, Simon. What’s the first thing he’s going to do when it’s safe to do so? “We have friends in town who have lost loved ones and grieved alone,” he says. “I’m going to show up at their house with a deli platter and pay a delayed Shiva call.”
If you’ve ever passed by Lulu Cake Boutique on Garth Road, you’ve no doubt been tempted by their stunning confectionary creations. Owned by Jay Muse and partner Victor Gonzalez, Lulu has been an institution in Scarsdale since 2000.
Over the years, they’ve been through it all with the community—from 9/11 to blackouts, and from the last recession to hurricanes. But they’ve also lived the full circle of life with their customers, baking cakes for weddings, baby namings, showers, bar and bat mitzvahs, and are now even baking for the weddings of those baby shower babies from 20 years ago.
When the virus started to spread and the community locked down, they delivered a birthday cake to Victor’s elderly mom who was alone in the Bronx. It made her day, and it was then they decided they needed to deliver a free cake to every older person celebrating a birthday by themselves in the area.
“We see how overwhelmed they are with joy to have a beautiful birthday cake to celebrate, and it makes our day,” says Jay. “It’s been very empowering and humbling.” Using the ingredients left over at the end of each week, they have also delivered thousands of cupcakes to essential workers, with a goal of 25,000 by the end of the year. They will also match any cake their customers purchase for a “local hero” or a senior center with a second cake.
Originally from Hawaii, Jay’s upbringing taught him you should “give until it hurts.” In helping people, he finds that it keeps his mind busy and he dwells less on the negative. Jay and Victor moved to Scarsdale from the Upper West Side five years ago to raise their family. He can’t wait until this is all over so that he can “hug everybody that I know and that I don’t know.”
Meet Marisa Uranovsky, owner of Pizzarelli’s Pizza & Pasta. While she comes from a family full of artists and musicians, Marisa followed her business mind instead and pursued a business degree. With her combined love of food, people and customer service, she opened Pizzarelli’s five years ago with her husband Matteo.
Before masks and social distancing were required, Marisa had a feeling that the pandemic would get worse quickly so she took precautions early, limiting the storefront to two people, using masks and gloves, implementing a new touchless credit card system and continuously wiping down door handles. “My employees were as scared as I was. We just wanted to be safe, maintain the business and make it through this craziness,” she says.
When their mailman Martin suddenly stopped showing up, they found out he came down with the virus.
Martin eventually succumbed to the illness. “We saw him, and then all of a sudden we didn’t see him,” Marisa says. “It was shocking.”
To support the postal workers who were out every day risking their lives, she partnered with local customers and raised enough money to feed 75 postal workers across three post office locations twice. They also continue to offer essential workers discounts because, as Marisa says, “We’ve all been there; we know how difficult things can get.”
She’s thrilled to share her husband’s recipes with their customers. Matteo is a veteran pizzeria owner and she says, “It’s his devotion to perfection that makes our food so incredible.” Living in Scarsdale with their two-year-old Bella, they love that “all of our friends and neighbors are our customers.”
Meet Marine Stewart, a childcare provider originally from Jamaica who came to the U.S. in 1981 and has worked for several local families, caring for their children, and along the way becoming like a member of each family.
Recently, when the Scarsdale family she was working for needed someone to care for their mom, they asked if she could help find someone just like her, to which she replied, “Only Marine is Marine.” Knowing they would never have to worry about their mother with Marine watching over her, they asked her to step in.
When the coronavirus started to rage, Marine stayed locked in the apartment with the beloved matriarch and her two dogs, never leaving her side for four straight months.
The older woman often expresses how grateful she is that Marine takes care of her, her dogs, and the apartment. “I had two eyes full of tears,” says Marine. “She appreciates what I’m doing.”
When she’s not working, Marine loves to cook and describes herself as “a chef without the license,” often sharing dishes she has prepared with others. “You don’t have to know me in person for me to share,” she explains. “If I can do something for someone, they don’t even need to ask.”
While we’re not out of the woods in terms of the virus yet, Marine just wants to live, pray and spread the love. Her advice: Time is too short. Just spread the love and forgive. Forgiveness is the key to life.
Meet Juan Abrego, grocery manager for Seasons. While the store’s name and owners have changed throughout the years, he has been the constant, working for the company for the last 26 years. When one thinks of the American Dream, one envisions Juan.
Juan grew up near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. When his son was a year old and got into an accident, he knew the best place for him to receive treatment was in the U.S. So he sold what he had, and with the money in his pocket, came to the States. Juan was 18.
He started working at the grocery store when it was Scarsdale Kosher Emporium and is now responsible for all of the buying. His job became a challenge when the pandemic hit and everyone scrambled to buy items like toilet paper, wipes, and bread flour. Juan describes Seasons as “my second home.” It really is a family affair for him—his brother works as the chef and his wife as a cashier.
Initially, customers were anxious about walking the aisles; he too was scared when the virus first started to spread. But he recognized everyone was in the same boat, so he worked hard to get his customers what they wanted by calling on his suppliers. Despite the truckloads of merchandise he coordinated, he has never seen the shelves clear out as quickly as they did in those first few weeks. “It was never enough,” he says.
He’s been there so long, he says that “everybody knows Juan.” His customers even rely on his knowledge of the kosher items, telling him “you know more about kosher food than I do.”
Lately, he’s been working up to 60 hours a week in the store, but when not there, he paints and does construction, and is the “community handyman.” He lives in New Rochelle with his wife Belen and has two sons and a daughter. He hopes to be able to return to Puerto Vallarta soon to see his mom.
Meet David Raizen, owner of Scarsdale Security Systems, Inc. and president of the Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SVAC) for 26 years.
David grew up in Scarsdale, attended Quaker Ridge Elementary School and graduated from Scarsdale High School. He still lives in town, now with his daughter and foster son. David has been riding in the ambulance since high school as an EMT and now as a paramedic, and firmly believes in neighbor helping neighbor.
He enjoys the medicine part of it, and being a positive influence when people are at their lowest point. Asked about the pandemic, David says, “It has been scary. It is a hidden enemy that was aerosolized, and you never knew where and when you were breathing it in. SVAC was well prepared because we
planned ahead after the Ebola scare years ago. We had the proper equipment and training which allowed us to concentrate on medical care.”
When not working, David enjoys spending time with his children, sailing, kayaking and walking his dog. People always ask David why he is a paramedic, to which he replies, “Where else in the world can you go 90 miles an hour down the wrong side of the street chasing the cops?”
Scarsdale CHINESE AMERICAN COMMUNITY
The close-knit Chinese American community in Scarsdale is filled with compassionate residents who worked tirelessly to make a positive impact on the fight against COVID-19.
Led by medical professionals, a group of approximately 50 Chinese American residents took the initiative to organize fundraising and PPE donations in early March. The effort began with physician and volunteer Dr. Jun Xu and community leaders Kiki Hong, Angelene Huang, Claire He, Yvonne Xu, Zhaobo Feng and Adella Lin. This group was quickly joined by many others in the greater New York area with one mission: to put PPE into the hands of essential workers.
The entire Chinese American community united together to achieve this goal.
The Association of Chinese American Physicians, headquartered in Scarsdale, sourced and distributed PPE to hospitals, test centers and medical facilities that desperately needed it. School-based organizations, such as the Huaxia Chinese schools, organized a fundraiser and parents generously donated. Individual donations poured in from many local professionals and groups. The not-for-profit American Chinese United Care (ACUC), also headquartered in Scarsdale, connected hundreds of groups to serve the greater New York metro area. Youth volunteers contributed hun
dreds of hours of time sorting, packaging, transporting and distributing PPE, led by SHS students Alexander Ye and Kaylee Kravitz. The Scarsdale Chinese Association contributed generously. And locally, group members personally delivered thousands of items of PPE to local hospitals, firefighters, police departments, nursing homes and group homes.
What this alliance accomplished in a matter of weeks was nothing short of a miracle. They collected $6 million worth of PPE and cash that directly supported hundreds of hospitals and essential services in the tri-state area. Items donated included over 1.5 million masks, thousands of protective garments including hats, gloves, shoe covers, and face shields, as well as hand sanitizers, wipes, and even nine ventilators. This was a massive group effort that made a tremendous impact on our communities.
Pictured left to right: Dr. Jun Xu, Adella Lin, Tianying Xu, Angelene Huang, Kiki Hong, Claire He, Zhaobo Feng