Normally, it would be hard to imagine how a corporate lawyer, working umpteen hours a week, would find time to volunteer. When the subject in question is Douglas Kraus, it is perfectly understandable. This is a man who possesses limitless energy and places a high value on public service.
When Gray Williams mentioned his finding that Kraus is “an angel to the town,” this reporter’s interest was piqued. How could it be that this town was so blessed yet few knew they were living among such a generous spirit? During the nearly 20 years that he has served as Town Justice, Kraus has donated his salary to projects designed to enhance the life of its residents, preserve historical venues and beautify the town.
In choosing where to donate the funds, Kraus often turns to his wife Alice for guidance. When she served on the recreation commission in the 90s, Alice mentioned the need for a playground at Gedney Park. Today, this spot continues to attract many a restless youngster and caregiver. Other contributions have funded the pocket park (nestled in between the row of storefronts including Sarah Lawrence and Sotheby’s International Realty on North Greeley Avenue) and the first bus providing transportation for seniors. The Northern Westchester Hospital and the ambulance corps have also benefited greatly.
One of the major recipients is the New Castle Historical Society, Kraus shares Williams’s interest in preserving the town’s cemeteries and serves on the board of Fair Ridge Cemetery. “That’s our local history,” Kraus notes.
“There is a lot of interesting history right in our midst.” He also mentions a burial ground on the west end of town where freed slaves are interred. Another project, the refurbishment of Horace Greeley’s statue, is completed thanks to Kraus’s generosity.
His decision to place a high priority on public service stems from several early memories. In 1961, President Kennedy pronounced these formative words: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”
“I heard these words at an early age and they made an impression,” Kraus recalls. In addition, his father served on the nominating committee for the Chappaqua school district and his mother was very involved in the community. “My parents enforced the importance of doing public service.”
In describing his role as town judge, Kraus is exuberant: “It could well be the best job I’ve ever had. It’s terrific to be able to do something that’s useful to the community.” The judgments he delivers from the bench reveal Kraus’s understanding of the impact of a sentence on an individual and on society. The way in which cases are dealt with “can make a difference in a person’s life.” he observes. “Often times, we’re able to get people into rehab or other treatment programs to help them get on a more constructive path.”
Kraus’s professional life also bears the imprint of his dedication to public service. He retired recently from Skadden Arps, a firm which has always placed a high importance on pro bono work. In the 1990s, Kraus chaired the firm’s pro bono committee. He has also served on the boards of the Legal Aid Society and the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
Those who know and work with Kraus in the community sing his praises. When Dick Burns was Town Supervisor, Kraus served on the town board. “I can’t think of anyone I would rather work with than Doug,” Burns says. “He’s extremely bright and has a good sense of humor.” An appreciative Gray Williams chimes in: “He’s generous and public-spirited.”
Sarah Ellen Rindsberg admires the dedication and enthusiasm demonstrated by Justice Kraus.