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gradbag1When you are the first in your family to go to college, there is already a lot to worry about financially, so it was a huge relief to Nasir Dunham, 18, of New Rochelle when he found out that he would receive all of his dorm room supplies for free. “I think it’s amazing,” said Nasir. “I was already stressing about how to pay for everything.” Thanks to Grad Bag, an organization that collects and redistributes new and lightly-used dorm room essentials, Nasir will receive full bedding including a comforter, a set of sheets and pillows as well as a rug, hangers, shower caddy and a table lamp all at no cost.

To distribute the goods it collects, Grad Bag works with Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE), a non-profit organization that helps low-income Yonkers Public School students prepare for college. Grad Bag also works with Let’s Get Ready (LGR), a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that provides low-income high school students from Philadelphia, PA to Lewiston, ME with free SAT preparation, admissions counseling and other support services needed to gain admission to and graduate from college.

“As a first-generation college student, my parents didn’t have the resources to assist me with the college process. Let’s Get Ready helped me with SAT preparation and my college applications, now they are facilitating with the transition to college,” said Gensy Maldonado, 18. The New Rochelle High School graduate is excited to pick out her dorm supplies. “I am so grateful that Let’s Get Ready provides the support to make the transition easier.”

On Friday, July 20th, 100 incoming college freshmen, who are participating in YPIE’s transition workshop at the College Zone, will go to Grad Bag’s one-day pop up “shop” filled with dorm room items – all without price tags. The event will take place beginning at 9 a.m. at 600 North Broadway in Yonkers. In addition, more than 500 students in New York City, Boston and Maine will also receive free dorm room items at other events. Last year, Grad Bag gave away over 400 comforters, 700 decorative and bed pillows, 150 rugs, 400 bunches of hangers, 450 blankets, 700 twin XL sheet sets, 200 desk and standing lamps, hundreds of shower caddies and more.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Back to College Study, students spend an average of $114.21 outfitting their dorm room.

Grad Bag was founded in 2012 by two Westchester County moms, Liz Gruber and Tara Tyberg, who realized there was so many dorm room items that graduating seniors no longer needed, but were still in great condition. Instead of having the sets of XL sheets and twin comforters thrown away or gathering dust in attics, Grad Bag addresses two social issues: insuring that low-income students won’t have to stress about equipping their dorm rooms while recycling objects that would otherwise not be used.

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gunshopThe Law Committee on the Board of Trustees met on Tuesday to deliberate on proposed changes to the zoning of gun and vape shops in Scarsdale and later met with the Sustainability Committee to address the issue of clear cutting of trees in development lots.

After a gun store opened in Harrison in late 2016, many Westchester communities, including Scarsdale, have been taking precautionary measures to restrict the ability for gun shop owners to open stores in their municipalities. The recent vaping crisis in Scarsdale, however, has emboldened the board to make the proposed gun store provisions also apply to vape shops. The provisions are based on maximizing the distance between gun stores and schools, daycare centers, and religious facilities.

The board has proposed that gun and vape shops be strictly limited to the VCR 1.0 Zone. This zone encompasses a tiny portion of Garth Road between the Freightway and Eastchester border. The board proposed restrictive zoning over a blanket ban of these stores due to fear of serious litigation that could ensue since it’s difficult to limit what a store can sell. Former Village Attorney Wayne Esannason compared these stores to the adult entertainment stores in New York City. The city could not enforce an outright ban on these stores, so instead they took measures to severely restrict the locations in which these stores can be located. New Village Attorney Angela Martin also added that a California municipality did implement a gun store ban and was brought to court over the issue, but was ultimately upheld by the court in their ban. She stressed that Scarsdale wouldn’t necessarily see an identical outcome if a similar ban was implemented.

The definition proposed for “firearm”, which was based on the federal definition, excluded antique firearms. Trustee Ross pointed out that antique guns should be subject to the same restrictions as standard firearms, as they can still cause harm to others. The board agreed with Trustee Ross, and the change was made.

The board proceeded to a discussion of vape shops. Multiple stores in Scarsdale, including the soon-to-reopen 7/11, already sell e-cigarettes/vaping products. This posed a serious quandary for the board: would the new zoning law apply to both new and existing stores looking to sell vape products, or could exisiting stores still sell vapes under pre-existing and non-conforming use? Trustee Ross expressed concern over the ability to enforce a new law on pre-existing stores and potential litigation that could ensue. He instead suggested that the village might be able to prohibit further expansion of vape products within these stores (i.e no additional square footage of display/stock). Ms. Martin disagreed, saying that as long as sufficient time was allocated for these stores to phase out the vape products, the law could be passed without the non-conforming use policy.

After debating the feasibility of the pre-existing and non-conforming use of vapes/e-cigarettes, Trustee Arest commented on the proposed law as a whole. While he believes the intent is admirable, he questioned the effectiveness of any law the board can’t fully enforce. Trustee Arest recently met with Jack Waxman, the former SHS senior who created an anti-juuling documentary and has been outspoken on the issue of vaping in Scarsdale. According to Waxman, Scarsdale students are getting their vape paraphernalia online, in neighboring areas, and with fake ids, so Arrest wondered if the board was truly making any impact whatsoever. Mayor Hochvert put it best: “We can’t change the world around us, but we can send a signal”.

Trustee Arest also took issue with the proposed zoning of the gun/vape shops. While the VCR 1.0 Zone isn’t near any Scarsdale schools or religious centers, it is located only one block away from a nursery school in Eastchester. Trustee Finger pointed out that Scarsdale has very little retail space relative to towns like Eastchester, and while it may not be ideal, any other zone would have closer proximity to Scarsdale schools and religious facilities.

The conversation proceeded to address the issue of storage and safety in both gun and vape shops. The board agreed that bulk storage cannot be located in the display case of gun stores in case of a robbery. The board also agreed to take out a security provision that stopped minors and people without gun licenses from entering a gun store as it could pose legal problems and would be difficult to enforce. The board found the e-cigarete storage provision, which states that “public access to [e-cigarette storage area] should be limited,” to be a bit unclear and asked Ms. Martin to further define “limited access" moving forward.

Noah Kroloff used the public comment period to express support for the board’s proactive efforts in stopping the spread of gun stores, but asked if they could potentially pursue an outright ban. Trustee Veron said that the board will come to a conclusion first on the proposed zoning limitations and stated that an outright ban would be legally disastrous before voting on any change to the current law.

The Law Committee will consider all comments and decide whether or not to proceed with a vote on the gun/vape shop restrictions.

Immediately following the gun/vape shop meeting, the Law and Sustainability Committees met to discuss potential changes to the village tree laws. The goal of any amendment to the current law is to resolve the issue of clear cutting, or the mass removal of trees from a specific plot of land.

The board put forward two proposals that would require trees which were cut down to be replaced or the owners of the property would have to make a payment to the Tree Preservation Fund. Both options are similar, but Option B does not allow more than 240” of aggregate DBH (the diameter of the tree trunk) to be removed on a given property.

Trustee Veron warned that the proposed plans might have unintended consequences. Someone might need to remove a tree or two for safety reasons, and this law would hold them to the same standards as developers who want to clear cut entire properties. She believes the current plan doesn’t target clear cutting enough, as the fine for not replacing a tree would be minimal to a large scale developer.

Trustee Crandall stressed that there should perhaps be a provision in the law to encourage planting, so if a tree can’t be preserved, a new tree can replace it and eventually fill the environmental role the former tree held.

During public comment, one resident shared her story of a developer that clear cut the trees in an adjacent property, resulting in the loss of a shade canopy and an increase in floodwater during storms. Other public commenters expressed similar sentiments to Trustee Veron, and want the new law to target developers and not infringe on current owner’s private property rights.

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Primary 2After a fierce campaign, incumbent Congressman Eliot Engel was the clear victor in the June 26 primary for the Democratic seat for the 16th Congressional District, encompassing the north Bronx and southern Westchester County. Scarsdale resident Jonathan Lewis posed a serious challenge to Engel, and both candidates spent considerable funds to sway voters. Scarsdale residents received copious amounts of colorful mail, many phone calls and saw both Engel and Lewis on television nightly.

With 719 of 732 districts reporting, Engel had 20,394 votes, or 73.67% to Lewis’ 4,468 or 16.14%. Candidates Derickson K. Lawrence and Joyce Brisco each took about 5% of the tally.

Considering that a total of only 27,684 votes were cast, this was one expensive campaign. The district has 251,841 registered Democrats, but only 11% turned out to vote. Engel spent upwards of $1.3 million to defend his seat, while Lewis spent $700,000, much of it from his own pocket.

What accounts for the lackluster voter turnout? Democrats outnumber Republicans 4:1 in this very liberal swath of New York and Engel’s stance on issues such as healthcare, immigration and human rights and a voting record in line with much of his constituency. Many voters that we spoke to felt that with Trump in the White House now was not the time for Democrats to be fighting amongst themselves. Engel is the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and if the Democrats take the house in November he will be in a leadership position.

Engel sent in the following about the election to Scarsdale10583: "I’m humbled by the overwhelming support I received from voters in every corner of my district. Our campaign was always based on real progressive values and leadership—two things we desperately need in Washington today to fight the radical Trump agenda. I will continue to fight for them every day as their Member of Congress."

NYSResults




Lewis issued the following statement:

“During my campaign I have spoken directly with thousands of voters across the district and have heard their concerns about education, healthcare and economic opportunity, as well as curbing the influence of special-interest money in politics. This campaign has succeeded in giving my neighbors a voice, and I am forever grateful for their time and their substantive interest in these issues. We have held the party establishment accountable in a constructive effort to build a better Democrat party and most effectively oppose Trump and the Republicans.”JonathanLewis

“I thank my fellow candidates – Joyce Briscoe, Eliot Engel and Derickson Lawrence – for their spirited campaigns and discussion of the issues. This primary – Eliot Engel’s first significant primary challenge in almost 20 years -- has served its purpose of providing a public discussion and debate on the issues, which is what Democracy is all about. Now, in these dangerous times, we put our differences behind us and work together to achieve our progressive goals.”

“We congratulate Congressman Eliot Engel on his victory tonight and look forward to continuing a healthy dialogue with him as we move forward.”

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CNCGraphicTo the Editor: The Scarsdale Procedure Committee, which administers the non-partisan election system in Scarsdale, has invited voters to help improve the system by commenting on proposed changes to its governing document, the Non-Partisan Resolution. Please visit the PC’s website here where you'll find an explanation of the proposed amendments in addition to a copy of the current Non-Partisan Resolution, marked to show the proposed changes. The primary focus of the changes is to authorize the members of Scarsdale's Citizens Nominating Committee, who are elected by the voters to select candidates for the village offices of Mayor, Trustee and Village Justice, to choose the leadership of both the CNC and the PC.

During this public comment period through August 31, 2018, all suggestions about the proposed amendments received by the PC from Scarsdale voters and community organizations will be reviewed by the PC. The PC will then propose amendments which, in the Committee’s judgment, should be presented on the ballot for a vote Tuesday, November 13, 2018, at the same time that Scarsdale voters elect a new class of Citizens Nominating Committee members.

Please submit comments about the proposed amendments via email to meppenstein@eppenstein.com. These are the Scarsdale residents who are members of the 2018 Procedure Committee: Charles Baltman; Sarah Bell; David Dembitzer; Eric Cheng; Madelaine Eppenstein; Timothy Foley; Jeff Goodwin; Mayra Kirkendall-Rodríguez; Eli Mattioli; David Peck; Richard Pinto; Pam Rubin; Gregory Soldatenko; Jill Spielberg; Nancy Steinberg; Michelle Sterling; and Bruce Wells.

Madelaine Eppenstein, Procedure Committee Chair

Email: meppenstein@eppenstein.com


and Eric Cheng, Procedure Committee Vice Chair

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Primary 1Many of us are receiving lots of mail from the Democratic candidates running in the June 26th primary for Congress for the 16th district. The seat is currently occupied by Eliot Engel who has been in Congress for nearly thirty years. Unlike the past, when the seat was uncontested, Engel faces some competition this year.

Although he’s served in Congress for much longer, he only began serving the 16th district in 2013. The 2010 census lead to congressional redistricting in New York, and Engel’s district changed drastically. In the past, Engel represented the 17th district, which included Riverdale and the Northern Bronx, Mount Vernon, the western portions of Yonkers and the Rivertowns, and Southern Rockland County. From 2013 onwards, Engel maintained a sizable portion of the Northern Bronx, but no longer represents Rockland County and instead serves nearly all of Southern Westchester. This change caused both the 16th and 17th districts to lose a sizable amount of registered Democrats, with the 16th district having 19.8% less and the 17th district losing 17.9% of its registered Democrats.

This year Engel is one of four contestants vying for the 16th district, with challenges from Jonathan Lewis of Scarsdale as well as Derickson K Lawrence of Mount Vernon and Joyce Briscoe of the Bronx.

Here’s some information on the candidate's backgrounds and views on the issues:Primary 2Eliot Engel

Eliot Engel has served New York in Congress for 29 years. Among his key issues are equal pay for women, social security and Medicare, gun control, health care, and equal rights. He sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to increase penalties for discrimination in the work place, fought against Medicare cuts, received an “F” rating from the NRA, worked to make Obamacare a law, and sponsored the hate crime prevention law. He’s also a strong advocate for protecting the environment, and has sponsored legislation to protect and restore the Hudson River. Engel is also known for his work in Kosovo, where he urged President Clinton to intervene in the fight between Kosovo’s Muslim Population and the Serbians under Slobodan Milosevic to prevent another genocide. He also was among the first to support Kosovo when it declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and helped secure $49mm in US government assistance for the country. For his actions in Kosovo, his face is now on a stamp and a street has been named after him.

Because of his actions in Congress and strong commitment to democratic values, Engel has received numerous endorsements from local officials, including Westchester County Executive George Latimer, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, and County Legislator Ben Boykin. He’s also received endorsements from organizations including the New York State AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, Planned Parenthood, and the Working Families Party to name a few. Engel believes that these endorsements speak volumes to the amount of work he’s done to further democratic values and hopes to continue serving the 16th district.

Jonathan Lewis, has decided to challenge Engel as a newcomer with minimal political experience in county or state government. Lewis has significant volunteer experience and is now a trustee for the Yonkers Partners in Education and served a term on the Scarsdale Board of Education. On the issues, Lewis’ positions are quite similar to those of Engels’, including the need for affordable healthcare, gun safety, reproductive rights, saving the environment, strong national security, and protecting senior citizens to name a few.

Primary 3Jonathan LewisBut this begs the question - why is Jonathan Lewis running for Congress?

According to his campaign website, Jonathan Lewis is campaigning on “Repairing Our Broken Democracy” and cites Engel as a key example of a “broken democracy”.

“Both of my children have Type 1 Diabetes, and several months ago, my daughter and I met with Eliot Engel in Washington seeking to enlist his support to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. When my teenage daughter mentioned that something felt off about the encounter, I decided to dig a little. What I found was a deeply conflicted elected official: while serving on the House Diabetes Caucus, which is supposed to represent the interests of those afflicted with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, Eliot Engel has at the same time chosen to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from political action committees (PACs) representing big sugar companies AND big pharma companies. Eliot Engel has done nothing meaningful against these companies as they have raised the price of life-saving insulin nearly 300% in the past decade. That’s wrong, especially during a time when family incomes have been stagnant”.

It should be noted, however, that Engel has co-sponsored legislation to establish a National Diabetes Coordinator to reduce the progression and impact of Diabetes in America.

To spread his message, Lewis has sent out numerous attack ads against Engel, and has even payed for video ads on YouTube. Engel has taken Lewis as a serious threat, and has spent money sending out ads both attacking Lewis and touting his numerous legislative accomplishments over thirty years in congress. He’s also sent out ads that specifically target the Jewish community that list his numerous efforts in combatting anti-semitism and demonstrating strong support for Israel.

To show his commitment to fixing democracy, Lewis has pledged not to accept any money from corporate PACs or special interests. Engel has fired back at Lewis, noting that Lewis has failed to vote in multiple primary and general elections, thus demonstrating a lack of commitment to “protecting democracy”. Lewis, however, has attacked Engel for a poor voting record within Congress, noting that Engel has second-worst attendance record in the New York Congressional delegation, and has missed over 1,300 votes over thirty years.

In the midst of the back and forth between Engel and Lewis, two other candidates sit in the background hoping for a shot at the 16th congressional seat. Derickson K. Lawrence of Mount Vernon and Joyce Briscoe of the Bronx are also running for the seat.Primary 4Derickson K. Lawrence

Lawrence actually ran against Engel in the 2016 general election as a People’s Choice candidate and lost in a landslide, receiving only 5.3% of the vote. Lawrence has served as the Co-Vice Chair of the Westchester County Charter Revision to renegotiate the charter, Chairman of the Westchester County Homeowners’ Coalition, and Chairman of Westchester County Crime Stoppers. Some of Lawrence’s key issues include protecting the environment (including the labeling of GMO products), ending mass incarceration, and building an economy that works for all.

Lawrence is running because he believes he’s “the only candidate who has a record of improving lives in the 16th congressional district”, and has done so in four distinct areas. On jobs and upward mobility, he played a key role in starting the Mount Vernon Yonkers Bronx (MYB) $$eed Tank, an entrepreneurship program that allowed WCC students to learn to become entrepreneurs. The winner received a $10,000 stipend (paid for by Derickson). He’s also worked to close the achievement gap in Mount Vernon by bringing in Apple Education, a company that helps educators find better methods for teaching special education students. Additionally, he's helped stop gun violence by sponsoring a gun buyback program in Mount Vernon, which was extremely successful. Lastly, Lawrence believes legislation should be introduced at the state level to force pharmaceutical companies to disclose prices before prescriptions are filled and a state dispensary of drugs should be created for competition.

Primary 5Joyce BriscoeJoyce Briscoe is a paralegal who has volunteered within her community at food pantries, the YMCA, and the Red Cross. Briscoe believes that “Her role as a paralegal has helped her to impact the lives of my family and others. Being able to provide information needed to empower them and change their circumstances for the better”. She’s running because she believes that the current candidates do not represent the people in her community and can’t speak to the issues they face everyday.

Briscoe’s key issues include schools, public housing, police re-training/mass incarceration, DACA, and inequality. To fix public housing, Briscoe believes there should be a “contractor bidding/competition for best and fastest “Extreme Home Makeover” “move that bus” renovations, similar to how the reality show homes were completed in a week.” Briscoe believes that competition among contractors will lead to the most positive outcome. On police re-training, Briscoe believes that “Every cop should not be allowed to carry a gun--only the best on the Force….If a person is murdered on an officer’s watch, there must be a mandatory punishment (i.e.: jail, suspension without pay)”

All of the candidates will face off at the League of Women’s Voters Candidates forum on Sunday, June 24th at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville. You can find out more about the forum by clicking here. The primary will take place on Tuesday, June 26th and voting will take place at Scarsdale’s elementary schools.

Primary 6Amount of Money Raised by Each Candidate

 

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