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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 From 2013 onwards, Engel maintained a sizable portion of the Northern Bronx, but no longer represents Rockland County and instead serves nearly all of Southern Westchester.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


BedichekBedichek at a senior exercise class at the County Center in 2017(The following was sent to Scarsdale10583 by Louise Bedichek, daughter of Jane Bedichek)
Jane Gracy Bedichek died at White Plains Hospital Thursday morning, May 31. Rev. Pete Jones, Pastor of Hitchcock Presbyterian Church, and I were at her side.

She was born September 9, 1918, in Austin, Texas, the only child of John and Bessie (Wells) Gracy. She and her husband Bachman Bedichek moved to Scarsdale in 1949 when their first child, John, was a one-year-old. Their five children attended Scarsdale schools, beginning with Greenacres.

She ​became​ involved in community volunteer work early on, but found unique roles for herself in later years, after her children had left home for college, most memorably as she devoted many hours to gardening at the Library Pond and enlisted volunteers to help, at the same time that she served as President of the Friends of the Scarsdale Parks. ​Current President of Friends of the Scarsdale Parks Madelaine Eppenstein ​says her organization has built on these initiatives with planting events for volunteers in the spring, such as the one this year in the woods between the Scarsdale Library and Scarsdale High School. ​ In 2004 ​Jane was awarded the Scarsdale Bowl, an honor which thrilled her.

She ​found ​living near New York City​ to be very stimulating​ and enjoyed attending theater and ballet, visiting museums, and enthusastically sharing the cultural attractions of New York with her out-of-town guests. ​Closer to home s​he hosted speakers for the lecture programs of the Westchester chapter of the Archeological Institute of America (AIA).

On receiving word of Jane's death, her friend Ruth Petschek Stein wrote from London, "Her enthusiasm, energy, open mindedness, welcoming of new ideas and strange people were admirable—and in the background she never forgot her father’s admonition​:​ always remember, you may be wrong.

A​ ​service of Celebration of the Life of Jane Gracy Bedichek, will be held on Sunday afternoon July 22 at 2 pm at Hitchcock Presbyterian Church, 6 Greenacres Avenue in Scarsdale, to be attended by her children, daughters-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephew, niece, and grandniece. All who knew her are invited to participate in it.

MLandJon3Outgoing Forum President ML Perlman shares a laugh with incoming President Jon Mark.The Scarsdale Forum celebrated their former leaders and greeted their new slate of officers at their meeting on Thursday May 17. Taking the reins as President is former Scarsdale Mayor Jon Mark, a 40-year resident of Scarsdale. During his last year as Forum Vice President with Forum President ML Perlman, Mark chaired the Freightway Steering Committee to examine options for downtown development and also ran the campaign for the Citizen’s Non-Partisan Party election in March, 2018.

Mark’s VP will be Tim Foley who is currently a member of the Scarsdale Village Planning Board and previously served on the Scarsdale Advisory Council on Human Relations, in addition to serving on the Scarsdale Forum Board of Directors and Executive Committee. He has an extensive background in public policy and politics, having served on the steering committees for a number of community-labor coalitions, issue advocacy campaigns, and grassroots organizations across eight states and the District of Columbia. In 2014, he served on the Public Health Committee for the Transition Team for Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and was also a member of the Paid Sick Days Advisory Committee for the Department of Consumer Affairs for the City of New York. He currently works for Scarsdale’s own Assemblymember Amy Paulin.

Forum members also elected Randy Guggenheimer as treasurer, Richard Pinto as secretary and Eric Cheng, Alexander Harrison and Karen Smith as directors-at-large.

Foley said, “When I first moved to Scarsdale, the first and best piece of advice I received was, arestandfoleyTrustee Justin Arest with newly appointed Forum VP Tim Foley. that if I wanted to be involved deeply in civic life, I had to join the Scarsdale Forum. Jon and I have a shared vision of how we feel Scarsdale Forum can contribute to the community, and I will be looking for every opportunity as vice president to share the advice I was given and encourage residents – whether long-term or recent arrivals -- who seek to be more involved to find their home, as I have, in the forum." He continued, "Residents should know that the Scarsdale Forum is open to all in the community who wish to have thoughtful discussions about, and express their views on village matters.”

According to Mark, “This is very exciting for the Scarsdale Forum and its members. Further, I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to work with Tim, Randy, Richard and our new directors-at-large. I know that our organization will be all the better for Tim’s leadership and the involvement of the newly elected officers and directors.”

Dog Park

Also at the meeting, Madelaine Eppenstein who chairs the Forum’s Municipal Service Committee reviewed the results of the committee’s study on the development of a dog park in Scarsdale. The committee did an extensive study of dog parks in other areas and produced a list of factors to consider when creating a park in Scarsdale.

The 13 page report outlines many points to be considered including the costs of building and maintaining a park, the size of the park, the surface, shade, parking, rules for conduct, waste removal and use by non-residents.

Eppenstein acknowledged that the report does not recommend a particular site in Scarsdale for the location of the park. That decision was intentionally left to the Village staff and Board to determine. However, the report quotes Marilyn Glasser, a former parks superintendent who has been retained by several Westchester municipalities to consult on dog parks. Glasser recommends that the dog park be about one acre, have a relatively flat grass surface and be enclosed with a chain-vinyl fence with a minimum height of five to six feet. A water fountain should also be installed. Other requirements are handicapped accessible parking nearby and that the site not be too close to homes.

They estimate that it will cost $50,000 to build the park and ongoing costs to maintain it and clean it. One local municipality spent $14,015 on annual costs.

dogparkThe report finds that dog parks are not only good for dogs, they have “significant positive social outcomes for dog owners.” In Meridan, Idaho they found, “Because dogs are natural ice breakers, they can help to spark a conversation that might otherwise not happen. Discussing the breed of their dogs, temperaments and funny quirks are all topics you might overhear during a visit to a local park, not unlike parents discussing their children playing on the playground.”

The report recommends that the Village Board and staff convene a working group to consider the feasibility of constructing a dog park, the siting of the park and the funding, perhaps seeking private contributions for the construction.

Commenting on the possibility of a dog park in Scarsdale, one dog owner hoped it would it be built. She said, “I am tired of paying the $100/year non-resident fee to use Ward Acres Dog Park in New Rochelle. It would be good to have our own right here.”

Read the entire report here

(Photo credit: Lisa VanGundy)

ringelJoanna Bryan and Josh Ringel at Scarsdale Village HallJosh Ringel, Assistant to the Scarsdale Village Manager will be married to Joanna Bryan on June 9th. Here they are, awaiting their marriage license at Village Hall on Friday May 25.  Congratulations to Joanna and Josh!

BRCA test kitAccording the American Cancer Society, about 266,000 people are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year. There have been huge advances in diagnosis and treatment of the disease. There have also been advances in screening for risk of developing breast cancer along with ways to decrease risk of breast cancer development in people at high risk such as lifestyle changes, mastectomy and hormonal treatment, among others. For 41,000 people a year, breast cancer is fatal.

Everyone has BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes that work to prevent cancer. Inherited variants, or genetic mutations, in one or both of these can put a person at higher risk for certain cancers including breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute states that BRCA1/2 mutations together account for about 20-25% of hereditary breast cancers and about 5-10% of all breast cancers. The average lifetime risk of breast cancer for women is about 12%; with the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation, it is between 3 to 7 times greater than that of a woman who does not have the mutation. 

Doctors have been able to order a genetic risk test for women deemed at high risk for breast and/or ovarian cancer to determine if they have mutations in one of these genes. In March of this year, the FDA approved the first at-home genetic risk tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2. For $100-150 and a donation of saliva, consumers can determine if they have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation in just a few weeks via mail order.

What is the genetic risk (BRCA1/2) test?
Genetic risk tests help determine if one’s breast cancer or family history of breast cancer is due to an inherited gene mutation. Most women who are diagnosed with breast/ovarian cancer do not have this inherited gene mutation although being positive for the gene variant puts one at higher risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer in women and breast or prostate cancer in men.

Should all women undergo BRCA1/2 genetic testing for cancer since the test is readily available?
BRCA1/2 testing is available if you are considered high risk for the mutation, such as being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. It is important to understand that BRCA1/2 gene mutation leads to an increased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer (and prostate cancer in men), but not all with the variant will develop cancer. There can be physical, emotional and financial impacts of knowing your genetic status. The CDC and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation both recommend that you speak with a genetic counselor and/or a physician to provide you with accurate information and counseling both before and after the test. 

What are the benefits of having at-home genetic risk tests approved by the FDA and available for home use?
Juli Murphy Bollinger is a Senior Research Analyst at the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics. As a genetic counselor, she doesn’t have a strong opinion in favor of or against direct-to-consumer at-home BRCA1/2 testing but she does see the pros and cons of its availability. “The good is that it has become more affordable and can provide more access to more information for a larger population in the comfort of their own home. Companies such as 23andme do have a lot of reliable information on their website,” she said. “The test is quite accurate so there are not concerns around that.”

What are the potential downsides of at-home genetic risk testing?
According to Murphy-Bollinger, the biggest concern is false reassurance. Only a small fraction of breast cancer is hereditary, so the test is not providing patients with the full story or full answers. The FDA has released a statement saying that “…no doctor or patient should use the test as a basis for deciding treatment, ‘including anti-hormone therapies and prophylactic removal of the breasts or ovaries’.” Murphy-Bollinger added, “…there are other gene mutations that cause breast cancer and not all are hereditary; other risk factors include lifestyle, environment and more. If the at-home test comes back negative,” she said, “there is a concern that patients will think they are not at risk for breast cancer and may skip other important screening measures like mammograms and ultrasounds, or manually feeling for lumps.” She added that, “…if the test comes back negative, a patient may still possess other risk factors that put them at high risk for breast cancer, so again, we are concerned about false reassurance. Furthermore, we are concerned for patients if the test comes back positive.” A positive test does not necessarily mean a patient needs an immediate full mastectomy, hysterectomy or aggressive hormonal treatment. “It is important to have a team of people such as a physician and genetic counselor available to provide accurate information in the case of a positive or even negative result,” she voiced.

Are there any other ethical issues to consider with testing for BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations?
Murphy-Bollinger says there may be. “If your test comes back positive for BRCA1/2 mutation, it can be very stressful and confusing for patients regarding whom they should inform. Are you going to feel burdened by the responsibility to share this information with your family? Does extended family need to be made aware of your genetic status? A team of professionals can help patients determine what the results of the test means for themselves and relatives and put them at greater ease. You can read more about the position of the National Society of Genetic Counselors here via a statement released after the March 2018 approval of 23andme.com’s test. 

Additionally, information access and privacy may be issues with all at-home genetic testing. Consumers need to remember that when they are sending their DNA samples in for testing, this information may be used for other purposes such as market research or marketing purposes. It is too early to tell what these companies will do with this type of information, but others have used patient data for potential financial gain. Doctors and hospitals are bound by privacy acts such as HIPAA. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) released a statement shortly after the FDA-approval of the at-home kit; read it here.

The bottom line is this: The presence of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation does seriously increase a person’s risk of breast, ovarian and/or prostate cancer. Certain patients who are pre-determined to be at higher risk for these types of cancers may be advised to undergo testing, but experts across the field suggest considering this under the supervision of professionals in the field. A team of experts can help a patient develop strategies for cancer prevention and early detection in the case of a positive result for a genetic mutation; if the result is negative, this team can still help patients understand that they may still be at risk for various cancers and encourage a similar course of action of prevention and early detection.

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