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Westchester, Putnam Stakeholders Weigh In On Drinking Age Of 21

Jeffrey Rosen Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Dennis Ullman Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Wine bottles displayed at Ossobuco Restaurant in Mount Kisco. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The minimum age for drinking alcohol, currently 21, has been the subject of an ongoing debate for years.

Recently it received renewed attention due to a decision by Dartmouth College to ban hard alcohol on campus, according to The New York Times, which published an opinion section article featuring different perspectives on the matter.

To get local feedback on the issue, Daily Voice reached out to stakeholders in Northern Westchester and Putnam.

Dr. Nan Miller, an Armonk resident and therapist, is part of the group Mount Kisco Partners in Prevention , which aims to discourage teens from alcohol and drug abuse. Miller opposes lowering the age, saying it would be "destructive" to reduce it. She argued that doing so would raise the risk of problems with the brain, with addiction and would vehicle crashes.

Barry Malvin, who also lives in Armonk, is a fellow member of the Mount Kisco anti-drug group and holds the same view. He noted that brains for people who are underage haven't fully developed, nor has their judgment. He also explained that people are more prone to addiction if they start consumption at an earlier age.

Jeffrey Rosen, the owner of MTK Tavern, a bar in Mount Kisco, suggested that while the drinking age could be lowered, the minimum age for driving could also be raised. Describing handling a vehicle at 16 or 17 a “much greater risk," Rosen suggested that alcohol responsibility could be taught at a younger age and felt that restricting it, referring to the status quo, makes people want to have it.

Benito Albanesi, a chef at Mount Kisco's Ossobuco Restaurant, which is a combination of Italian cuisine and a steakhouse, says the age should remain 21.

Albanesi, whose restaurant has a large wine selection, referred to the current situation as "much safer," adding that people who are 18 act differently than they do when they are 21.

Dennis Ullman, who is a coordinator for emergency behavioral services at Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel, opposes changing the age. He shared data, published on the website of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), which show that in 1984 just eight percent of high school seniors had never used alcohol, while the figure had risen to 28 percent by 2008.

A 2014 post on the CADCA's website, which Ullman also shared, brought up data pertaining to New Zealand's lowering of the drinking age in 1999. Back then, according to the data posted, there were no major statistical differences in the car-crash rates between 18-19-year-old drivers and 20-24-year-old drivers. In contrast, during what was described as a longer-term period, meaning 2006 through 2010, the former group had a 21-percent higher chance than the latter.

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