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gradbagAt colleges everywhere, dumpsters are filled with used but still usable items. Desk lamps, sheets, comforters, rugs, laundry bags, hampers, fans, and blankets are thrown away. This is where Grad Bag comes in. We collect, clean, package, store and redistribute dorm room items to soon-to-be college students who might not have the means to buy these things on their own.

Liz Gruber and Tara Smith Tyberg founded Grad Bag in 2012. As we moved our kids out of dorms, we watched the amount of dorm goods students throw into dumpsters at the end of the year. Knowing how expensive it is to outfit dorm rooms, we knew that a sustainable project needed to be born.

We started Grad Bag as a small grassroots effort contacting friends and neighbors asking them to donate their leftover dorm goods to us. We cleaned, folded and packaged the goods in our basements. We brought the goods to an August college transition workshop held by Let's Get Ready (LGR), a 501(c)(3) organization which harnesses the energy of college student volunteers to act as tutors and role models, providing free SAT prep, college guidance, financial aid workshops and mentoring for inner city high school students. At the conclusion of the transition workshop, the students loved shopping for free, guided by older college students.
gradbagstanleyStanley Steemer sent two teams and cleaned over 200 rugs!

After this first successful pilot, Grad Bag has expanded to collect goods directly at colleges on move-out day including Columbia, Barnard, Fordham, Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Wesleyan, CT College, Princeton and SUNY Purchase. In 2015 we started a pilot in Boston. We now have our "pop up" shops in Westchester, NYC, Boston and Maine. We gave dorm goods to over 600 students this summer!

This effort is only feasible with very generous in-kind donations and volunteerism. Scarsdale Village rises to the occasion every year to get the job done. We are thankful for the donations from Unitex Laundry, Stanley Steemer Carpet Cleaning, Standing Room Only, trucking by McKenna Custom Contracting, and especially to our summer home, Westchester Reform Temple. Scores of Scardalians come out to help collect goods from colleges, fold sheets, unload trucks, and help students shop wisely at our give-aways. Project Grad Bag thanks all our many supporters.

To donate or learn more about Grad Bag, visit our web page at www.gradbag.org.

gradbagunitexUnitex loading a truckload of laundry.


gradbagkidsInterns at work. How do you fold a bottom sheet?





gradbagfoldVolunteers at one of two “community folds” at WRT. The group helped fold and package Grad Bag’s total of over 500 sets of sheets, 400 comforters, 300 blankets and 150 mattress pads

fbbc 2It’s hard to believe that in only 30 minutes you can burn more fat and calories than in traditional workouts that are twice as long. That’s the promise from Fit Body Boot Camp in Scarsdale, and I attended two classes to test it out. After my first 30 minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session I was actually eager to go back for more.

While FBBC is a franchise, the Scarsdale location, on the second floor of Colonial Village Shopping Center on Weaver Street has been around for two and a half years. Since then, 360 members have joined. Rather than buying classes a la carte, here clients choose from different membership options and attend as they please. To get started, new clients claim 3 free workouts and after that sign up monthly or annually.

While the idea of having a membership may hint at a traditional gym membership, FBBC is committed to keeping their clients engaged. “We’re like the anti gym gym,” said Jim Moyna FBBC Scarsdales Head Coach, “We don’t want people to pay and not come.” They are so committed to their members that if they notice they haven't seen a regular member coming in, they will call or text to check in.

Since most exercise classes last 45 60 minutes the idea of an effective 30 minute workout sounds too good to be true. However, FBBC manages to pack a full workout in the shortened period of time which burns the same amount of fat and calories as longer sessions. What makes FBBC so effective is the aftermath. Due to the High Intensity Interval Training, (HIIT), you will burn even more fat after the workout while your body is recovering.

fbbc 3“We believe in resistance workouts with weights. Running and biking should just be an accessory,” said Moyna. Each day the class switches off between Boot Camp and Boot Camp MetaFIT (MF). Regular Boot Camp uses equipment such as hand weights, kettlebells, battle ropes and more to burn fat, boost metabolism and build lean muscle. Boot Camp MF focuses on burning fat, boosting metabolism and improving speed and cardiovascular fitness through exercises using body weight as resistance.

The classes begin with a warm up which includes stretching. Before getting started, the instructor will explain each exercise. The first class I attended was a circuit with core concentration. There were four different set ups and each had two different exercises. We did each exercise at each station for 30 seconds with 5 second breaks in between each station. After doing each exercise three times we switched to the next set up. Since no exercise was longer than 30 seconds and we were constantly doing new sets, the time flew bye.

The second class I attended was one of their more traditional bootcamps which focused on cardio. Here, we did eight cardio exercises, each three times with short breaks in between. To switch it up, the eighth exercise was different each round.

While running on the treadmill or biking for an hour is a great way to workout, it’s often boring doing the same thing for such a long time. Again, the class flew bye due to the constant change in the exercises. Even Though the class was only 30 minutes, I definitely felt like I had been in the gym for hours.

For anyone looking for a quick yet effective workout, give FBBC a free trial. “We try to be the best 30 minutes out of everyone’s day,” said Moyna. FBBC is always offering new membership deals, so try it out and claim 3 free workouts today.

fbbc 1

Fit Body Bootcamp
1495 Weaver St, Scarsdale
(914) 713-5650

Taking a gap year“Four years of high school and four years of college” is the formula for success for the vast majority of Scarsdale High School alumni. However, Scarsdale High School Dean Oren Iosepovici noted that there are typically a “handful of students every year” who choose to take a year off before attending college. The value of taking gap years or other alternative journeys is often overlooked by seniors in the midst of expectations and stress.

Iosepovici said the “Reasons (for taking a gap year) are varied overall but specific to the individual student. Some students feel they need a break after the hectic nature of 12 years of schooling, while others are looking to do something that is outside the box. There are also those who believe in the benefits of an additional year to grow and mature, and that a different experience may better prepare them for the rigors of a college education. As a whole, we generally believe it’s an option that is worthwhile as long as it's a productive one for the student.”

Here are the stories of four recent SHS graduates who have decided to take a different path:

Jordan KrautJordan Kraut, an A-School graduate, will be attending the Mechina Program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem next year. Kraut will be learning Hebrew while taking classes at the university. The following year, she will be returning to the US to study at Bucknell University in the College of Management.

“I decided to take a gap year because I just didn’t feel ready to move away, adjust to living alone, have a social life and do well in school. My family encouraged me to take a gap year because they thought it would be a great experience, but most of my friends thought I was crazy for ‘wasting’ a year of my life,” said Kraut.

But Kraut is hardly wasting any time. Next year, she hopes to learn how to adapt to new environments, take care of herself, and maintain her grades. She anticipates that spending a year in Israel will also expose her to a number of new cultural and linguistic experiences.
Kraut did express, however, some of her initial reservations. “When I decided to take a gap year… I thought about how different my first year out of high school would be, and how I would compare it to my friends’ experiences,” said Kraut. “I finally wrapped my head around having 1 year in Israel and then 4 years in college. I am not going to miss anything, it just will be postponed a year.”

Matthew Kuo was offered a “guaranteed transfer option” from Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. This option enables Kuo to attend any university of his choosing this upcoming fall, and if he achieves a GPA of at least 3.5 and takes a macroeconomics, statistics, calculus, and two English classes, Kuo will be allowed to transfer into Cornell for his sophomore year of college.

The guaranteed transfer option is not a binding decision, but Kuo has already decided to fulfill his requirements next year at Westchester Community College and then complete the remainder of his college degree at Cornell.

Although Kuo expressed some uncertainty about missing out on the “traditional college freshman experience,” Kuo explained that he wants to be as productive as possible next year. Kuo has previously interned at Ace & Everett, Thursday Boots, and Knot Standard. “I want to try my best to have internships on that level so I can go into Cornell having all this real world experience… knowing how a company operates and all those skills you don’t really teach, but you have to learn over time. I want to be able to get those (experiences) so I can bring that new angle to my school, and also so in the future I’m a lot more desirable as an employee,” said Kuo.

For rising seniors who receive the guaranteed transfer option, Kuo recommends to “try your best to keep the options open, because you never know. You never know if your interests change or what could happen.”

Nicole SilberbergNicole Silberberg will be taking a gap year with a program called Kivunim. Although this organization is based in Jerusalem, it includes international travel to 12 different countries. The basis of this program is to explore the conflict in the Middle East through first-hand exposure to different cultures and groups of people. “I’m hoping that visiting these countries firsthand will deepen my understanding of Jewish life and history as it relates to the conflict in the Middle East,” said Silberberg.

Silberberg has always been intrigued by unfamiliar cultures and places, and felt largely supported by both friends and family in her decision to take a year off. However, she is quick to acknowledge the uniqueness of her path. “I did not feel judged by the Scarsdale community,” said Silberberg. “Yet, I know this is not a typical path for SHS students and a gap year is not something that is recommended or talked about by the school. SHS hosts a gap year fair but does not encourage students to choose this path…College is something that is expected of students, and the administration and community at large assume that students will take this traditional path… parents often ask me about plans for next year as if going to college was a given.”

In two years, Silberberg will attend Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration to study business. She hopes that learning about other cultures will bring new perspectives and ideas into the hospitality industry.

Haofeng Liu will be attending the Naval Academy this fall. Throughout high school, Liu was always a dedicated and diligent student as well as an accomplished swimmer. With an acceptance rate of only 9%, the Naval Academy takes only the brightest and most athletically fit students.

Liu described the application process as “long” and “drawn out.” He started preparing the spring of his junior year by interviewing, applying for a congressional nomination, and taking fitness tests. For juniors and sophomores considering this opportunity, he says, “Stick with it. It’s a really long process and there are many times where you don’t know if you’re going to make it or if it’s worth it. You will be happy if you stick it through until the end.”

Liu said that although the Naval Academy isn’t deemed “normal” or “relatable” at times in Scarsdale, Liu suggested that ultimately public perception was irrelevant to his decision. “The reaction has generally been supportive, although most people don’t really understand my decision and why I would do that, which is fine. It’s not for everyone, especially not in Scarsdale,” said Liu.

Looking to the future, Liu is filled with anticipation. “I’m excited to get a world-class education and be trained to become a military officer at the same time. I’m ready to have the experience of my life, learn valuable life lessons, and bond with my classmates more than any regular college experience allows me to.”

reportFollowing years of controversy in Scarsdale about two property tax revaluations in 2014 and 2016, a committee of the Scarsdale Forum studied both revaluations, examined the deficiencies of each one and drew some conclusions about lessons learned for future revaluations.

The report notes that Scarsdale residents may have given the revaluations more scrutiny than homeowners in other municipalities. The Village’s highly educated group of data analysts, financiers and real estate professionals were able to critique the input data, processes and the mathematical models used for both revaluations and found many flaws in the inexact practice of assessing approximately 5,900 diverse properties.

The report notes, “It may well be the case that Scarsdale standards and expectations with respect to property revaluations are higher than ordinary industry standards. After all, Scarsdale standards for schools, police and other services are also higher than ordinary. In the context of revaluations, it may well be that the standards set forth here are higher than any potential vendors would want to bid on and commit to. Therefore, although this report articulates the necessary high standards, it does acknowledge that in practice it may be necessary to compromise for something less.”

The 60-page report will serve to document what happened and suggest improvements if, and when, Scarsdale embarks on its next revaluation.

Here are comments from Robert Berg and Steve Pass who co-chaired the Assessment revaluation Committee of the Scarsdale Forum:

Bob Berg: This is a very important report that aims to teach people best practices in conducting a town wide revaluation in Scarsdale and how to avoid certain pitfalls encountered in both the Tyler and Ryan revaluations. Michael Levine was the primary author of this extraordinary report and he has done a brilliant job of crafting a highly readable report about an arcane and technical subject. This report is mandatory reading for everyone in Scarsdale Village government who has or will have anything to do with property valuation and assessment as well as any vendor or consultant who may seek work for the Village going forward. We are delighted that so many Committee members participated in this project and signed the report.

Steve Pass: After several months of work, our committee is proud to present a report with recommendations that the vast majority of members agree will improve and help set a vendor's expectations for any future revaluation. While the report only addresses deficiencies of the two vendors' work in Scarsdale, based on my own research looking at revaluations elsewhere, many of these deficiencies are not unique to Scarsdale or the two vendors we used. Thus, this report and its recommendations should be useful to any municipality considering a revaluation.

Here is a press release from the Forum about the report:

Scarsdale Forum Examines Technical Aspects of Recent Scarsdale Revaluations and Makes Recommendations to Avoid Future Problems

The Scarsdale Forum Assessment Revaluation Committee has released a report on the 2014 and 2016 revaluations.

The report recognizes that there were too many instances in both revaluations where the results were not adequately explained and, worse, where the processes and the results could credibly and logically be considered unfair. However, the premise and focus of the report is that, with the benefit of hindsight, Scarsdale can learn from these revaluations to prevent a repeat of the problems. The goal is to put future Scarsdale leadership in a better position to supervise/manage a revaluation and to stand behind it in an informed and convincing way.

The committee recognizes that learning these lessons and applying them requires an understanding of the technical and sometimes arcane details of revaluations and of assessment processes generally. Therefore, the report is designed to explain this material to residents regardless of their expertise in these areas. It uses these explanations to demonstrate how specific aspects of both revaluations had actual unfair impacts and created additional perceptions of unfairness. The report makes recommendations to prevent, or at least minimize, these deficiencies in the future.

The report specifically addresses six topical areas that comprise the revaluation process and makes recommendations with respect to each.

Inventory Data
Valuation Modeling and Methodology
Land Valuation
Sales Data

The report includes many appendices that support the committee’s observations and add to the report’s value as a reference source. These include assessment industry literature, useful New York State materials, documentation from both revaluations, and some technical papers and spreadsheets. There is also an appendix that restates all the recommendations.

The committee believes the report will be a valuable educational resource, should any revaluations be considered in the near- to mid-future. While not every member of the public may wish to study it, the report has been developed in the belief that there will be those who do want to learn from it and use it as a guide. The Scarsdale Forum strongly encourages all leaders of the Scarsdale community to be familiar with its content and recommendations.

The committee members recognize that they are not experts in this field and are not declaring that any future revaluation must conform in all respects to this report. Rather, the committee believes that this report establishes expectations in terms of depth and detail of analysis. In any future revaluation, the assessor and any vendor should be expected to engage the public and address public concerns at this level.

This report takes no position on the current (July 2018) state of the Scarsdale assessment or on the timing of future revaluations. This is not to say that these are unimportant topics. Rather, these are potentially controversial topics and they are likely to require more analysis.

A copy of the report is available here.

protest3Almost 800 hundred locals came out in sweltering heat on Saturday June 30 to protest the practice of separating families of those seeking to immigrate to the United States. Under a new “no tolerance policy,” the U.S. Government is placing adults in detention centers and separating parents from their children who have been shipped all over the United States. In fact, immigrant children are being held in four facilities in Westchester County, and elected officials have been denied access to them.

protest2On Saturday June 30, local residents joined protestors across the country as part of the “Families Belong Together” campaign to demand that this policy be changed. Protestors called for the end of detention without due process and for the re-unification of parents and children, who in some cases are thousands of miles apart.

Westchester residents assembled at the Federal Courthouse in White Plains to hear speeches from Congressman Eliot Engel, County Executive George Latimer, State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and a 15 year-old boy who came home from school one day in November to find that his father had been picked up by ICE during the day and has not been heard from since.

Photos by Michelle Lichtenberg

protest cousinsState Senator Andrea Stewart CousinsprotestlatimerWestchester County Executive George LatimerprotestengelCongressman Eliot Engelprotest1John Leslie, Deb Pekarek and Michelle Lichtenbergprotestwater

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