Many of Westchester County’s best and brightest have a reach that extends far beyond the borders of the suburban county. Local CEOs like IBM’s Arvind Krishna and PepsiCo’s Ramon Laguarta oversee multibillion-dollar corporate empires that span the globe. Leonard Schleifer’s Regeneron helped save the life of former President Donald Trump, while Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah is among a number of prosecutors who could threaten his political survival. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who’s running for reelection in a district that includes more of Westchester, is also spearheading a national effort to keep Republicans from taking back the House of Representatives. And in Albany, few politicians have the seniority and the sway of state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
City & State’s Westchester Power 100 highlights many of these prominent power players, along with more locally focused leaders of all kinds, including government officials, business executives, health care leaders, nonprofit heads, union chiefs, advocates, activists and more.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins had a busy spring, negotiating the state’s first budget with the Hochul administration. But the Yonkers Democrat kept the energy up even into the summer, as state legislators returned to Albany in July to pass bills solidifying abortion rights and enabling new gun restriction in response to decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. In August, she supported calls for the state Independent Redistricting Commission to reconvene to draw new Assembly districts after the district lines were struck down earlier this year.
As inflation continues to lighten Westchester residents’ wallets, Westchester County Executive George Latimer created a plan to ease the financial burden. In June, he outlined a proposal that would increase funding to food pantries, remove a sales tax on residential energy costs during the winter and allow Metro-North riders to save on the cost of parking near certain train stations. Latimer has also been busy overseeing the county’s response to the growing number of monkeypox cases in the region.
Since joining the state Senate in 2018, Shelley Mayer has made education a policy priority. As head of the state Senate Education Committee, Mayer played a role in discussions about renewing mayoral control of public schools in New York City this year. The Westchester Democrat has also made abortion access a priority this year: In August, she released a letter urging federal officials to loosen regulations and increase access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
Over the past year, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano floated the possibility of running to become governor. But so far, he’s been content to remain the chief executive of the state’s third-largest city, a role he has held for the past decade. With two years left in his final term, Spano remains busy advancing several priorities. One of them was securing a full gaming license for MGM Empire City in Yonkers, which could bring thousands of jobs to the city.
Two years ago, Rep. Jamaal Bowman made headlines for successfully unseating a longtime incumbent as a political novice. Now, the left-leaning freshman legislator is the incumbent fending off more moderate challengers. In August, he beat two Westchester County legislators – Vedat Gashi and Catherine Parker – to win the Democratic primary to represent the newly redrawn 16th Congressional District.
Throughout the past two decades, Assembly Member Amy Paulin has earned a reputation as one of the legislative body’s most prolific legislators. The lawmaker – who represents Scarsdale, Eastchester, Tuckahoe, Bronxville and Pelham, among other Westchester neighborhoods – has introduced more than 1,700 bills during her time in office. In the past year, she directed that legislative energy toward reproductive health bills and legislation legalizing eco-friendly burials in the state.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is in the thick of the Democrats’ bid to retain its narrow majority, both as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and as a vulnerable incumbent. The Hudson Valley lawmaker fended off progressive primary rival state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi this summer for the 17th Congressional District. He’s now set to face Assembly Member Mike Lawler this fall. His aggressive maneuvers, including running in a redrawn district that overlapped with Rep. Mondaire Jones, a fellow Democrat, and the DCCC’s elevation of far-right Republican candidates, have drawn criticism – but the tactics haven’t backfired so far.
After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s law limiting the concealed carry of firearms in July, Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah slammed the ruling, warning that it would limit prosecutors’ ability to respond to gun violence. In the aftermath of the decision, Rocah hosted an event on gun safety legislation in New York. Meanwhile, the former federal prosecutor has been investigating the property tax records of former President Donald Trump’s golf club in Westchester.
The Business Council of Westchester is the county’s premier association representing the interest of the companies, businesses and nonprofits that call the county home. Under Marsha Gordon’s leadership, the association launched a new initiative this year aimed at driving even more economic development to the region. Known as the Westchester Innovation Network, this new program pairs innovative companies with established industry partners in Westchester. It’s already received backing from institutions such as Regeneron, Montefiore and the Robert Martin Co. The association’s success can also be attributed to John Ravitz, whose experience as a former Assembly member gives him the know-how to get government officials’ backing on policy priorities. One major push this year: securing a full casino license for Empire City Casino.
Now that the state has opened up opportunities for downstate casinos to seek full-fledged commercial licenses, Empire City Casino is working hard to obtain one. Ed Domingo has argued that bringing live table games to the Yonkers-based casino would bring economic benefits to the area. Though it’s too early to say for sure, Empire City Casino is expected to succeed in its efforts to become a full-scale casino – and having the support of local elected officials and business leaders certainly helps its case.
For years, Regeneron’s Tarrytown campus has been a major economic hub in Westchester. And the biotechnology giant led by Dr. Leonard Schleifer recently doubled down on its presence in the region, committing $1.8 billion to expand its research, manufacturing and support facilities. In June, Regeneron broke ground on the expansion project, which is projected to create 1,000 new jobs over the next five years. Meanwhile, Schleifer’s company developed a COVID-19 antibody drug, though it has proved less effective against more recent variants of the virus.
Throughout New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson’s tenure, he has focused on revitalizing the city’s downtown area. He continues to oversee new projects in the region, and the New Rochelle City Council signed off earlier this year on a proposal to develop another 3,000 housing units in the city. Alongside private developers, the city also began construction this summer on a project to create a renovated plaza and open space for pedestrians and businesses.
After a decade serving on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, Catherine Borgia was unanimously elected as chair of the legislative body at the start of this year. She hit the ground running, pushing forward legislation that would protect abortion health care workers and patients seeking abortions from harassment. She and other lawmakers also supported a bill that would require employers to publicly disclose salary range information in any job postings that they promote in the county.
The past year has brought major casino developments to the state, thanks in part to Assembly Member J. Gary Pretlow. The chair of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, Pretlow pushed to legalize mobile sports betting, which has resulted in nearly $2 billion in wagers placed and more than $70 million in tax revenue for New York. This year, he also successfully advanced efforts to allow downstate casinos – such as Empire City Casino in Yonkers – to access full-scale gaming licenses.
Over the past two decades, White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach has overseen a rapidly growing city. Recent developments include a new mixed-use project near the White Plains train station and nine solar projects that will triple the amount of solar energy produced in the county. This year, Roach got support from White Plains Common Council members for a 1.86% tax increase, as part of the city’s $210.3 million annual budget.
Plenty of major companies call Westchester home. The technology giant IBM is one of the most well known. Arvind Krishna has led the Armonk-based company since 2020, advancing in work across areas such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and the blockchain. One of Krishna’s most significant accomplishments in his 30-year career at IBM was leading the company’s $34 billion acquisition of the software firm Red Hat. In May, he also joined the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The onset of COVID-19 caused Metro-North ridership to nose-dive – but this summer saw a rebound, including a pandemic record in September of 180,200 riders. Catherine Rinaldi, who has been running both the Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road since February, knows commuter rail has a long road back to pre-pandemic levels. Finishing the East Side Access project will help, as will long-term plans to give Westchester passengers access to Penn Station and construction of four new Metro-North stops in the East Bronx by 2026.
Now in his second term as deputy Westchester County executive, Ken Jenkins continues to play a key role in county government operations and decisions. When he was sworn in this past January, Jenkins touted the Latimer administration’s work advancing infrastructure projects across the county and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jenkins is a veteran of local politics, having previously served as chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and as head of the Yonkers Democratic Committee.
These three government officials hold vital responsibilities in Westchester. As director of operations, Joan McDonald oversees each county department and the county’s $2 billion budget. She also played a key role in leading Westchester’s response to COVID-19, including its vaccination effort. Andrew Ferris is chief of staff to Westchester County Executive George Latimer, tracking policy and operational issues as they arise, and also serving as his political brain. And since June, Terrance Raynor has been in charge of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, where he draws on his past experience as commissioner of the Mount Vernon Police Department.
State Sen. Pete Harckham never shied away from a challenge. Four years ago, the county legislator upset Republican then-state Sen. Terrence Murphy, helping Democrats take control of the chamber. In 2020, Harckham fended off former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in the race for state Senate District 40 by about 6,000 votes. Harckham has since sought to strengthen privacy rights for kidnapping victims and help localities protect wetlands from pesticides. In May, he helped pass legislation that will create a new state agency focusing on addiction and mental health services, and embarked on a listening tour that discussed issues surrounding addiction and drug abuse.
Yonkers is home to the fourth-largest school district in the state, which educates about 27,000 students, and Edwin Quezada and the Rev. Steve López are the two key figures responsible for shaping the city’s public school system. This year, lawmakers set aside an additional $360 million in school aid to Yonkers in this year’s budget, and the city saw its graduation rate jump to 90% – the highest it has been in decades.
A veteran of state and local politics, Nick Spano is a valuable ally for clients navigating government in Westchester and in Albany. He brings with him decades of experience as a former state legislator, having served in both the Assembly and state Senate. His lobbying firm, Empire Strategic Planning, has assisted groups such as the Greater New York Hospital Association, Montefiore Hospital and the Westchester County Police Benevolent Association.
Lakisha Collins-Bellamy’s successful bid for Yonkers City Council president was notable in more ways than one. She defeated the incumbent in last year’s Democratic primary and then edged out her Republican opponent to become the first Black woman to lead the City Council. This year, Collins-Bellamy completed her first budget process as City Council president, passing a budget that increased funding to the city’s public schools.
Assembly Member Mike Lawler is aiming to move up a rung on the political ladder, taking on Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in a bid for Congress. The Rockland County lawmaker has an uphill battle to get to Washington, D.C., but the Hudson Valley matchup is widely viewed as a competitive race. The political consultant ousted incumbent Democrat Ellen Jaffee two years ago to win his seat in the Assembly and easily won the Republican nomination for the 17th Congressional District seat this year.
PepsiCo is known worldwide for its expansive array of snacks and beverages. But the global company has its roots in Westchester, with its headquarters in Purchase. Since being named CEO of the food giant in 2018, Ramon Laguarta has skillfully navigated PepsiCo through the pandemic and ongoing inflation. The company reported revenue growth earlier this year, bolstered by increased prices for its products, though higher commodity and transportation prices remain an obstacle.
Westchester Democrats have had plenty to celebrate over the past few years, as they’ve maintained a staunch hold on local, state and federal politics. But Westchester County Democratic Committee Chair Suzanne Berger has had to navigate more contested primaries as well. That includes this year’s face-off between incumbent Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who unsuccessfully challenged Maloney in the Democratic congressional primary for the 17th District. Berger backed Maloney, even penning an op-ed arguing his victory would be vital to protecting abortion access.
Michael Israel has led the Westchester Medical Center Health Network since 2005, overseeing 10 hospitals and more than 13,000 employees in the Hudson Valley. The hospital system played a vital role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic locally, connecting residents to vaccines and launching a program to help people with ongoing symptoms after recovering from COVID-19. Now, as the monkeypox virus begins to spread across the state, the hospital network is helping people access monkeypox vaccines as well.
Over the course of more than 30 years, Susan Fox rose through the ranks to lead one of Westchester’s premier health care providers. Since 2015, she has served as president and CEO of the 292-bed White Plains Hospital, overseeing award-winning health care services at the Hudson Valley hub for the Montefiore Health System. In addition to her work at the hospital, Fox chairs the Westchester County Association, one of the region’s top business advocacy organizations.
Led by Ross Pepe, the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley represents more than 600 businesses that fuel construction in the region, advocating for the interests of contractors, suppliers and other construction professionals. Luckily for its members, the past year has brought good news, including President Joe Biden signing off on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the progress of major projects such as Regeneron’s expansion in Tarrytown.
This duo of communications professionals advises clients across Westchester, New York City and beyond. Cristyne Nicholas, who once worked as then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s communications director, leads Nicholas & Lence Communications as CEO, while George Lence handles the firm’s work on behalf of government and community affairs clients like Times Square Alliance and City Experiences by Hornblower. The firm’s Westchester clients include MGM's Empire City Casino and Westchester County Golf Tourism.
Throughout the past two years, Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard has kept busy. In July, she announced the beginning of the city’s new guaranteed income pilot program, which will provide monthly payments of $500 each to 200 low-income households for a year. Patterson-Howard is also overseeing efforts to update Mount Vernon’s aging wastewater infrastructure, using $6 million from the state to make it happen. Meanwhile, Mount Vernon Comptroller Darren Morton has taken steps to make Mount Vernon’s finances more transparent, revealing in a recent report the city is carrying more than $60 million in debt.
When Westchester state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi announced she would challenge Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for a seat in the 17th Congressional District, Nathalia Fernandez jumped at the chance to run for her state Senate seat. The Bronx Assembly member blew out her competitors in the Democratic primary in August and will represent New Rochelle assuming she wins the general election in November. Her district neighbor, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, who represents Mount Vernon and the Bronx, leads the Bronx Democratic Party, which has faced division since it backed a primary challenger who lost to incumbent Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera.
Assembly Member Sandy Galef’s time in office is winding down. After three decades in politics, the 82-year-old legislator is finishing her final term at the end of the year. The lawmaker, who represents northern portions of Westchester County, has focused most of her attention on the issue of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which was finally decommissioned in 2020. Galef’s hand-picked successor, Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg, successfully won the Democratic Party to take over the seat once Galef leaves.
Last December, Westchester County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky decided to challenge Assembly Member Thomas Abinanti for his Assembly seat, claiming that he has sponsored bills that either limited the use of or provided exemptions for vaccines and that he failed to get recovery resources for the district after Hurricane Ida. Six months later, she upset the six-term incumbent in the June Democratic primary by about 1,000 votes. Now, Shimsky faces Republican Carlo Valente in a solidly Democratic district where she is heavily favored to win.
Mark Weingarten has a keen understanding of land use and zoning in Westchester, making him the go-to attorney for developers and property owners in the region. A partner at the law firm DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr, he is also a registered state lobbyist. He was previously a partner at Weingarten & Weingarten and special counsel at Robinson Brog Leinwand Reich Genovese & Gluck.
Dr. Scott Hayworth led physician group CareMount Medical for over three decades. Last year, after CareMount was absorbed into Optum’s nationwide health network, he was made CEO of Optum Tri-State, one of the new parent company’s five regions nationally. Hayworth has promised patients that CareMount’s health care services will remain locally led, while touting the Optum merger as a way to provide a “greater regional footprint and more access” to health services. Hayworth now oversees three groups – CareMount Medical, ProHealth New York and Riverside Medical Group – that collectively serve 1.6 million patients.
After Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats across the country began to mobilize – and Westchester County was no exception. Shannon Powell started the region’s Indivisible chapter, rallying progressive voters ahead of local, state and federal elections. When the Proud Boys, a white nationalist group, made an appearance in Briarcliff Manor last year, Powell and other Indivisible members showed up to protest against them.
At a time of rising tuition prices, SUNY Westchester Community College President Belinda Miles is relieved that the school, which educates more than 24,000 full-time and part-time students, has avoided a tuition increase for the current school year. That was made possible by the Westchester County government, which provided additional funding to the school. This fall, the college opened a new Yonkers campus at the Cross County Center.
Robert Martin Co.’s presence in Westchester is immense. The company’s real estate portfolio encompasses 6 million square feet of properties and 200 acres of land. Under Timothy Jones’ leadership, the company completed the largest commercial real estate transaction in Westchester’s history, worth $487.5 million. Earlier this year, the company secured a $455 million financing package for its industrial portfolio in Westchester.
Luxury development is Ginsburg Development Cos.’ area of expertise. Over the course of the past five decades, Martin Ginsburg’s real estate company has developed commercial and residential projects across the Hudson Valley. Last year, Ginsburg proposed building more than 160 apartments plus hotel rooms and retail space next to Peekskill’s train station. Ginsburg is also looking to produce a 520-unit residential development planned near the Ludlow Metro-North station in Yonkers, though he’s encountered some opposition from the Yonkers City Council.
Fareri Associates is moving ahead on a major project in Mount Pleasant after receiving a $3 million grant from Empire State Development. The North 80 project, which will create a 1.2 million-square-foot science and technology center, is just one of many projects that John Fareri has worked to bring to life throughout his career. Last September, the Connecticut-based real estate pro joined the board of directors for the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp.
Assembly Member Nader Sayegh was first elected to the Assembly in 2018, when he won the seat vacated by state Sen. Shelley Mayer, a fellow Democrat. The attorney and former Yonkers Board of Education president has partnered with another fellow legislator, Assembly Member J. Gary Pretlow on legislation that would require lower Manhattan businesses to notify current and former employees of health coverage benefits tied to the 9/11 terrorist attack. His colleague, first-term Assembly Member Chris Burdick, teamed up with state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi to pass the FIRE HATE Act – the Freedom from Interference with Reproductive and Endocrine Health Advocacy and Travel Exercise – which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed in June in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Michael N. Romita took over the Westchester County Association in March 2020 – two weeks before the state’s pandemic lockdown. When the need arose for personal protective equipment, Romita convinced a Mount Vernon manufacturer of ball chains to pivot to distributing face masks to alleviate the shortage; today, Bona Fide Masks has shipped more than 100 million face masks. Romita’s priorities for the WCA now include affordable housing, high-speed internet access, helping businesses with remote work and supporting the region’s health care industry.
Thomas Carey is one of several staunch allies backing Empire City Casino’s bid to receive a full gaming license. The labor leader has argued that it would create new union jobs for construction workers in the region, in addition to generating other economic activity for Westchester at large. Carey has served as president of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body since 2016, fighting on behalf of 150,000 members in Westchester and Putnam counties.
Abrams Fensterman is known for its political influence in New York City, where Frank Carone, a former executive partner of the firm, is serving as chief of staff to New York City Mayor Eric Adams until the end of the year. But the law firm is a heavyweight beyond the five boroughs too – including in Westchester, where it has an office in White Plains. Executive Partner Robert Spolzino, a former state Supreme Court justice and member of the state Commission on Judicial Nomination, has represented judges, elected officials and municipalities in a variety of cases over the years. Another former judge, Jeffrey A. Cohen, serves as of counsel at the firm, where he works on appeals, litigation and municipal, and white-collar criminal law. Associate David Imamura serves as chair of the state Independent Redistricting Commission, which proposed new state legislative and congressional district maps – and may take another crack at redrawing the Assembly districts.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Samantha Rosado-Ciriello grappled with how to bring students back to school in an environment where teachers felt safe. The Yonkers Federation of Teachers leader stuck up for her members when the Yonkers Council of PTAs/PTSAs presented its plan for school readiness two years ago. A year later, Rosado-Ciriello said teachers were done with remote learning and the county delivered 25,150 masks to schools. This academic year has started smoothly, backed by the Yonkers City Council’s record-breaking $683 million budget allocation for city schools.
Venerable Mount Vernon lawmaker Ruth Hassell-Thompson embarked on a second career when she left the state Legislature to join the Cuomo administration six years ago. Since Cuomo resigned, Hassell-Thompson, who remained in her post to help Gov. Kathy Hochul advance her affordable housing plan, has also taken a leading role in racial equity and drug policy. In June, she was named a member of the state Cannabis Advisory Board, which will help regulate the marketplace and decide how the state spends its recreational marijuana tax revenue.
Uruguayan-born commercial real estate developer Robert P. Weisz was originally drawn to buying properties in Westchester because of its proximity to New York City and the quality of its housing. Today, Weisz sees the county as a destination in its own right and hopes millennials see a home for themselves in his buildings along the “Platinum Mile” off Interstate 287. Weisz brought a Wegmans grocery store and a Life Time Fitness location to the county and credits municipalities for changing zoning to allow taller residential buildings that have attracted new residents.
Northwell Health is the largest health care network in the state, with a number of hospitals and other facilities in New York City, Long Island and Westchester – where both Northern Westchester Hospital and Phelps Hospital are located. Since 2019, Derek Anderson has led the 245-bed Northern Westchester Hospital, which recently earned a four-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Eileen Egan took the reins of the 238-bed Phelps Hospital in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, an experience she described last year as “baptism by fire.” The Sleepy Hollow hospital installed a new imaging suite to perform positron emission tomography and CT scans earlier this year.
There have been a lot of changes lately at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester: Paul J. Dunphey was appointed to lead the 288-bed hospital this spring, and it just dropped its former name of Lawrence Hospital as it expands its footprint in the county. Dunphey is also a senior vice president at NewYork-Presbyterian and runs the sprawling hospital system’s Allen Hospital in Manhattan. He’s aiming to strengthen Westchester’s ties to another of its facilities in the borough, the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. His colleague Stacey Petrower since 2016 has led the system’s Hudson Valley Hospital, a 128-bed Cortlandt Manor facility that recently launched a new interventional cardiology program and cardiac catheterization laboratory. NewYork-Presbyterian’s Westchester Behavioral Health Center in White Plains led by Dr. Philip J. Wilner, who’s also executive vice chair at Weill Cornell Medicine’s psychiatry department.
The Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus marked its 45th anniversary last year. Over the years, the political organization has seen its members rise to influential offices in Westchester and Albany, with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and former Westchester County Board of Legislators Vice Chair Alfreda Williams among its alumni. Since Subomi Macaulay became president of the group last year, its membership enrollment has doubled, engaging more politically active Black women across the county.
Over the past 40 years, Louis Cappelli has completed 25 million square feet of development – worth about $10 billion – and helped to transform the Westchester skyline with distinctive towers like New Rochelle’s Trump Plaza and The Ritz-Carlton hotel and residences in White Plains. Cappelli has another 20 million square feet in development, including the Hamilton Green complex, which features four buildings with 860 units and 85,000 square feet of retail, on the site of the former White Plains Mall. Demolition kicked off in September.
Immigrants arriving in Westchester often seek help from Neighbors Link. The nonprofit offers a wide range of services, including legal services, workforce development and early childhood education programs. Carola Otero Bracco, herself a first-generation American born to Bolivian parents, has ensured that Neighbors Link can respond to urgent crises. The organization disbursed flood relief to residents after Hurricane Ida and has recently mobilized to help an influx of immigrants arriving in New York City.
When Mariano Rivera, the legendary Yankees relief pitcher, needed Mount Kisco to approve a site plan and special permit for his new auto service center, he called Anthony B. Gioffre III. For the past decade, the White Plains land use attorney has helped developers, retailers and religious institutions navigate the county’s complicated zoning regulations. In April, Gioffre was named managing partner at Cuddy & Feder. He continues to advise developers like Pearl Street Development, which has proposed a 12-story, 194-unit apartment building in Port Chester.
After serving as a prosecutor for 38 years in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including 30 years working with then-Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, Leroy Frazer was ready for a new challenge. In July, Westchester County Executive George Latimer named Frazer chair of the county’s police board. Frazer is no stranger to public safety issues, having run a task force charged with developing a blueprint for new policing strategies and holding public hearings to get feedback, the committee completed its recommendations in May after months of research.
As the head of the largest Black church in Westchester and chair of the Conference of National Black Churches, the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson helped people overcome coronavirus vaccine reluctance at some 30,000 congregations. Since realizing that needles themselves are a barrier for many, he has pushed for federally funded vaccine delivery alternatives. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Richardson supported legislation that would codify Roe v. Wade and said that it would mobilize the Black community ahead of the midterm elections.
Vivian McKenzie made history this year when she became the first Black woman to serve as mayor of Peekskill, a small city with a population of over 25,000. Since taking office, McKenzie has laid out several priorities for the city’s future – which include making Peekskill more walkable and reinstating the civilian complaint review board. Before being elected mayor, McKenzie served as deputy mayor and was a member of the Peekskill City Council.
The Westchester Institute for Human Development is focused on delivering quality medical, clinical and support services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since 2016, Susan Fox has overseen its work connecting children, adults and families across the Hudson Valley to needed care. Fox brings with her extensive experience, having previously served as associate director and clinical assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability.
Allison Lake is a staunch advocate for children across Westchester County. Before joining Westchester Children’s Association in 1998, she accumulated over a decade of experience in community and nonprofit work in the United States and West Africa. Her organization evaluates the needs of youth in the county and pushes for policies and measures to solve the biggest challenges facing children in the region. In the past year, the organization backed the state’s proposal to increase child care subsidies in the state budget and has worked on youth homelessness.
This pair may be Westchester’s most powerful political power couple. Chris Johnson, who was first elected to the Westchester County Board of Legislators in 2017, has risen through the ranks and now is majority leader of the overwhelmingly Democratic legislative body. Johnson, who’s also a school counselor, previously served in the Yonkers City Council and was a staffer in the state Senate. Tai Johnson left her position as special adviser to state Attorney General Letitia James this spring to join the consulting firm Actum, which was co-founded by Mercury veterans Rachel Noerdlinger and Michael McKeon. She also made career stops at the New York City public advocate’s office, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the state Senate, where the couple met.
Seamus Carey helped steer the New Rochelle-based school through its most dramatic transformation in 80 years to become a full-fledged university. The move, which Carey announced in July, wasn’t just a name change. Iona is expanding its academic programs, adding club sports and teams like men’s lacrosse, and building a new school of health sciences on the former Concordia College campus. Carey also helped lure Basketball Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino to the school two years ago, and enrollment at Iona is up 35% over a three-year period.
Marvin Krislov came to Pace University from Oberlin College five years ago hoping to help its students become more upwardly mobile and to help its law school rake in more cash. The coronavirus pandemic delayed some of those plans as the school refocused on online learning, but Krislov has since helped Pace reacclimate to in-person instruction. In May, he celebrated commencement with students. He recently wrote about the importance of class diversity in higher education.
Sarah Lawrence College has been flush with donations during Cristle Collins Judd’s five-year tenure as president of the private liberal arts institution. Last year, the Bronxville-based school, which has 1,675 students, received its largest gift ever: a $20 million contribution from an anonymous alum. And in February, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation gave the college a $1.5 million grant to create curricula and programs focused on climate and environmental justice in the humanities.
Two years ago, Milagros “Milly” Peña became Purchase College’s sixth president and the first Hispanic woman to lead the institution in its 53-year history. She sought to leverage the SUNY school’s strengths to develop future leaders and become more inclusive, although the pandemic delayed her strategic plans – including her own inauguration, which wasn’t held until October 2021. By May, Peña led Purchase’s first in-person commencement since 2019. This fall, she welcomed Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Glück as a distinguished lecturer and changed the name of a dorm students felt was offensive.
Tim Hall is finishing up his time at Mercy College, after nearly a decade as president of the school. The college president has announced plans to retire following the 2022-23 school year. During his tenure as president, Hall oversaw renovations at the college’s Manhattan campus and struck an agreement with the College of New Rochelle to allow students to complete their education at Mercy College after the former school closed. Hall also serves on the board of the Westchester County Association.
Anthony Viceroy, the longtime head of Westmed Medical Group, was elevated to a new role after the organization joined Summit Health in January. The partnership brought Westmed’s roughly 2,000 physicians and clinical employees, and its locations in Westchester County and Connecticut into the medical network’s fold. Viceroy praised the partnership earlier this year, saying it would bolster the organization’s primary and specialty care efforts.
Longtime philanthropic leader Laura Rossi has been connecting donors to nonprofit leaders and other stakeholders to improve the quality of life in Westchester since 2007. Last year, her community foundation distributed over $433,000 in COVID-19 response grants to three nonprofits fighting food insecurity, $250,000 to Saint Joseph’s Medical Center to expand access to its behavioral services and support its suicide hotline, and $160,000 to the Ossining and Peekskill school districts for a mental health outreach project in the aftermath of the pandemic.
When an off-duty police officer was acquitted in July of attempted assault charges for punching Malik Fogg while he was in custody in February 2021, Mark McLean said he was “enraged” but not deterred that justice would ultimately be served. The NAACP leader led protests and demanded New Rochelle fire the officer involved. McLean has called for community leaders to end the “epidemic of violence” after a teenager killed a 16-year-old boy in January. In May, McLean, a minister, traveled to Israel to build community ties with Westchester faith leaders.
Yonkers Police Benevolent Association President Keith Olson has called for bail reform law revisions after a suspect in a double homicide in November was released without bail a month earlier. He also slammed the city’s vaccine mandate for law enforcement and stood by police Detective Brian Menton, who was shot in the stomach during a controversial undercover operation in which law enforcement killed the suspect. This summer, Olson called for police officers to get a pay raise after three years of negotiations over a new contract.
Anthony J. Alfano has led the 242-bed Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital for nine years. Last fall, the hospital completed a major $44.3 million capital project, including a revamped emergency department, a renovated radiology suite and a new health center. Jaccel Kouns has been at the helm at Montefiore Mount Vernon Hospital for nearly nine years. On her watch, Montefiore scrapped plans to shutter the 121-bed facility, which played a key role in increasing capacity early on during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dean Bender, Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson and Geoff Thompson helped shape their Briarcliff Manor-based firm into the go-to marketing and public relations company for Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Its clients list is a who’s who of regional players including Stew Leonard’s, Cross County Center, Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York, the city of Yonkers and the Westchester Parks Foundation. Bracken-Thompson handles much of the firm’s marketing strategy while Thompson and Bender split public relations campaigns and crisis management duties.
The Open Door Family Medical Center and Foundation has spent the past two years getting Westchester residents connected to COVID-19 vaccines and telehealth appointments. Now, as monkeypox proliferates in the region, the organization is making sure people can get monkeypox vaccine doses as well. Those are just a few of the vital services the health center, headed by Lindsay Farrell, provides to nearly 60,000 patients each year.
Louis Picani, a Yonkers sanitation worker for 18 years, praised Westchester County Executive George Latimer for boosting the county’s capital budget, which will create more jobs for his teamsters, and for standing by front-line workers during the pandemic. Now, he wants Gov. Kathy Hochul to start spending $5 billion in federal infrastructure funds earmarked for the state on its dilapidated bridges and roads. Last year, he pressured Mount Vernon leaders to pay municipal workers after they didn’t receive overtime pay for a three-month period.
More than 20,000 people each year seek out the various social services from Westchester Jewish Community Services. The nonprofit has been led by Seth Diamond since 2018. Diamond is a veteran of New York City and state government, having overseen the city’s homelessness initiatives and managed the state’s storm recovery response. In April, the organization dedicated its gala to state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Mariquita Blumberg, who is the organization’s board president.
After managing operations and maintenance for John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport, April Gasparri was named general manager at Westchester County Airport in January. Gasparri, who graduated from U.S. Military Academy and flew helicopter missions in Afghanistan, solicited feedback at public hearings this year as the county administration develops the airport’s first master plan in 30 years. Mitigating noise pollution has been a chief concern among neighbors, as are airfares that have shot up 45% over the past year.
Whenever Westchester Democrats need to throw a glitzy event to impress their donors, they dial up Kim DiTomasso. For the past two decades, the Ditto Consulting principal has helped politicians like Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and Westchester County Executive George Latimer raise campaign cash. Fundraising has been a challenge during the pandemic, but DiTomasso has found ways to keep the money flowing. She’s also advised Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, which helps young people develop leadership skills.
Three years ago, the United Way of Westchester and Putnam launched a nationwide search for a new CEO; ultimately, the organization found its next leader in South Salem. Tom Gabriel’s family received assistance from nonprofit organizations when he was a child, so his dedication to anti-poverty measures dovetailed with the United Way’s mission. This year, his organization received $2.4 million from the state for its 211 helpline, distributed $1.5 million in emergency food and shelter grants, and gave $38,000 to Putnam nonprofits.
The COVID-19 pandemic and recent spiking inflation has made Feeding Westchester’s work all the more vital and difficult. The nonprofit has consistently been serving more Westchester residents in need than it did before the pandemic began – while also dealing with rising food costs. Luckily for Karen Erren, who heads the nonprofit, the organization has gotten additional support to continue providing food to hungry people. In June, Westchester County committed an additional $700,000 to the food bank.
Dr. Robert Amler has been a leading voice in epidemiology since his days as a regional health administrator with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. During the pandemic, he offered advice on keeping kids safe during summer camp, warned that a return to normalcy would harm immunocompromised patients and gave recommendations to parents navigating how to vaccinate their infants. This summer, Amler has been in the middle of analyzing the state's wastewater surveillance of the spread of polio, while also explaining the origins of monkeypox and its transmissibility to the general public.
A decade ago, Community Voices Heard changed its strategies challenging the political makeup of state power to better enact radical change. Last year, Executive Director Juanita Lewis helped lead a grassroots campaign supporting 20 candidates in New York City and Yonkers for office – and 17 of them won. This year, Lewis pushed Albany lawmakers to pass good cause eviction legislation to protect tenants from arbitrary rent hikes and announced plans to study the disastrous effects of housing segregation and zoning laws after a Bronx fire killed 17 people in January.
Christian DiPalermo has the political know-how to help his clients navigate government and politics in the lower Hudson Valley and beyond. He has wide-ranging political experience, having served as vice president of the government affairs firm TLM Associates, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks and as district representative for former Rep. Nita Lowey. Now, clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits seek his advice on matters before local and state governments.
More than 300 nonprofits turn to Nonprofit Westchester for resources and support. Led by Jan Fisher, it is the only organization focused specifically on supporting Westchester’s nonprofit sector. Among its offerings are professional development, education and advocacy services, which are available to each of its members. Nonprofit Westchester recently partnered with local groups including Westchester Community Foundation and Pace University to conduct a survey of nonprofit salaries in the region.
Craig Gurian, a civil rights attorney, has been fighting housing discrimination in some of the country’s bluest territories for a generation. Gurian argued that New York City’s affordable housing lotteries were perpetuating segregation in a 2015 federal lawsuit. He also claimed that liberals refused to confront segregation as then-President Donald Trump insinuated Westchester County was “ground zero” for building low-income housing. A federal court decree to desegregate Westchester hasn’t been enforced, Gurian insisted, and now its towns must build more housing to alleviate the affordable housing crisis.
Even when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the region, it didn’t stop real estate agents like Richard Haggerty from selling homes. Haggerty, the head of New York’s second-largest Realtor association, helped agents and brokers prepare for the frenzied demand for Westchester homes in 2020 and 2021, and now sees interest in second homes north of the city increasing. His prescient grasp of the housing market earned him invites to an international real estate conference in Cannes, France, in March and RISMedia’s leadership conference in Washington, D.C., in September.
As the head of Greenberg Traurig’s Westchester practice, Thomas Leslie spends the bulk of his time advising financial institutions and developers on their real estate transactions and loan portfolios. Leslie draws on his experience as a former special counsel and member of Bronxville’s planning board to offer advice in suburban land use matters. He has also supported the expansion of the firm’s finance practice by welcoming Nathan Eisler as a finance shareholder this summer.
Stacey Cohen didn’t have a five-year plan, let alone a 25-year plan, when she launched her marketing and public relations firm in a spare bedroom of her apartment in 1997. But she built up her White Plains-based company with a diverse stable of clients in the tri-state area including Westchester County government, the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp., CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield while keeping her kids as a top priority and never missing a school play. Cohen has helped guide her clients through the pandemic by helping them shift events online and emphasizing reconnection with their audiences over revenue-building.
The Armonk-based developer is responsible for some of the most desirable luxury rental properties in White Plains, including The Duet, two towers offering 127 units on Maple and Hale avenues that broke ground just before the pandemic. Now, Martin Berger is converting the 156-acre site of the former Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie into a $300 million “intergenerational live-work-play community,” with 750 units of housing, medical offices and stores, a hotel and conference center, and walking trails.
Armonk-based marketing firm Harrison Edwards didn’t have to look far to find its latest CEO. Bob Knight, who joined the company in 2005, became chief operating officer a decade later and most recently served as partner before being chosen to succeed company founder Carolyn Mandelker, who stepped down last summer. Knight has focused on promoting the expansion of broadband access throughout both the region and the country. This spring, he criticized new regulations that could make it more challenging for cities to build broadband projects.
Louise Feroe was living happily in Florida until Manhattanville’s board of trustees brought her back to temporarily run the liberal arts college after president Michael Geisler retired in June. Feroe is no stranger to the Purchase school. Between 2017 to 2020, she served as the school’s interim provost, and she stepped in as acting president while Geisler was on sabbatical last year. Bucking nationwide trends, enrollment at Manhattanville increased 40% this fall, with 500 new undergraduates and 200 new graduate students.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate a half-century of abortion rights was gutting for Catherine Lederer-Plaskett, who has dedicated decades of her life to protecting women’s reproductive rights and pushed Albany leaders to pass the Reproductive Health Act. Lederer-Plaskett, who contended with anti-abortion activists breaking into a White Plains abortion clinic to harass patients last year, has implored young people to vote at rallies and lobbied Westchester County lawmakers to expand protections for patients and workers at health clinics.
When longtime Tompkins Mahopac Bank CEO Gerald Klein Jr. announced his retirement in February 2021, David DeMilia was the natural choice to replace him. The lifelong Westchester resident joined the financial institution in 2008 and was soon leading its commercial lending division. Now, he’ll lead a rebrand of the community bank, which is now simply known as Tompkins. DeMilia has served as a trustee for Westchester Medical Center Health Network for which he raised $125,000 while he was at Tompkins.
Few people in the state are as committed to creating life-changing opportunities for young people as Joanne Dunn. For more than 15 years, the Mount Vernon nonprofit leader has been managing employment programs for the county’s most vulnerable residents. Dunn helped launch the READI program in Peekskill to help young people get prepared for the workplace, and she received the NAACP Peekskill chapter’s award for outstanding service to youth and families. This spring, she moderated a panel on nonprofits and colleges collaborating to fulfill their missions.
Jeanette Gisbert took the reins of this volunteer organization just as pandemic lockdowns began. Restrictions on in-person gatherings and live events have not stopped Gisbert from mobilizing tens of thousands of volunteers, who performed 400,000 hours of service in the Hudson Valley during the past year alone. Among her organization’s most meaningful events this year: connecting volunteers with nonprofits on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and running Volunteer New York’s 12th annual day of service commemorating 9/11.
There are plenty of news outlets in Westchester, but Black Westchester is unique in its dedication to covering political and policy developments from the perspective of the county’s Black community. Led by Publisher Damon K. Jones and Editor-in-Chief AJ Woodson, the news outlet also features sports, culture and entertainment coverage in Westchester and the broader tri-state region. Woodson recently penned a book recapping the website’s origins.
“Can Nick Singer be the man who saves Playland?,” The Journal News asked in 2015. It turns out that he could. After a yearslong saga that spanned the terms of two county executives, a canceled contract and a bankruptcy filing, Singer last year reached a deal with Westchester County Executive George Latimer and won approval from the Westchester County Board of Legislators to manage the county-owned amusement park. Singer, who often went to Playland as a kid, is also the co-founder of Standard General, a New York investment fund.
Luis Muniz, a White Plains detective, founded this association with the mission of representing officers who felt disenfranchised and creating future leaders in the county’s law enforcement community. Muniz has been recognized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence/Westchester for his work educating youth on substance abuse and by the then-Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for his leadership in the Latino community. In October, the WHLEA will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a dinner gala in New Rochelle.
When Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah needed someone to shape her public safety agenda, she turned to a familiar face. Jin Whang has overseen many grassroots campaigns, including Rocah’s successful 2020 district attorney race. As a consultant with the Fait Accompli Group, Whang produced the digital campaign behind legislation that codified reproductive health rights in New York in 2019. Whang also sits on Westchester County’s Asian American Advisory Board, which formed in 2019 with the goal of fostering inclusivity and racial justice.
Republican consultant and Trump skeptic William F.B. O’Reilly offers his hot takes for Newsday on topics like whether GOP cancel culture in Texas has gone too far, how the Virginia governor’s race is a road map for Republicans, and the backlash against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip. O’Reilly continues to play a direct role in state politics, steering former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s gubernatorial bid this year and telling the New York Post how GOP gubernatorial nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin can win by focusing on taxes, inflation and crime.
Michelle Nicholas had a distinguished career in philanthropy, helping Girls Inc. of Westchester access new revenue sources and adapt to the pandemic, before joining PCSB Bank in June 2021. The move put the Guyana-born Nicholas in charge of shaping the bank’s diversity, inclusion and equity strategies while building relationships with community leaders throughout the Hudson Valley. Nicholas has since joined the United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s board of directors and led a partnership with United for the Troops to provide donations for veterans.
While Aleida Frederico has retired from TD Bank, where she was a senior relationship manager and vice president, she’s as actively engaged in the Westchester community as ever. Frederico serves as chair of the Westchester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She is also the secretary of the executive board of the Westchester County Association, a local business organization and helped found the 100 Hispanic Women Leaders’ Westchester chapter.
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