Winding bucolic roads, scenic views of the Hudson River, manicured suburban yards and the hustle and bustle of White Plains, Yonkers and New Rochelle are all images that come to mind when people think of Westchester County. Behind all of those images are the people who make this million-person county thrive.
Business is booming across Westchester, especially in the technology and life sciences sectors. Westchester has a host of prominent health care institutions, an active nonprofit scene and a number of high-ranking colleges and universities. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, one of Albany’s three people in a room, calls Westchester home, as do many other influential legislators. One of the most competitive congressional districts in the nation includes a portion of the county, and a neighboring district could feature a rare congressional primary involving an incumbent. Westchester residents are leading prominent national groups and top businesses have their best and brightest headquartered in the county. These are the remarkable leaders powering Westchester.
Numerous Westchester elected officials bemoaned Gov. Kathy Hochul’s sweeping housing proposals, which would have required New York City’s suburbs to speed up the building of new homes. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins held firm in negotiations with the governor, putting the ambitious housing plan on hold. That’s not the only time this year the Yonkers Democrat has stood up to Hochul, as she played a key role in blocking the governor’s nominee for state chief judge.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer has mulled over running for higher office before, and now the Democrat is eyeing a seat in Congress. Local politicos have nudged him to primary Rep. Jamaal Bowman, in part because of frustration surrounding Bowman’s critical views on Israel. While it’s unclear whether Latimer will challenge the incumbent, he does have a strong campaign record and local support that could boost his odds. Latimer has spent decades in office in the state Senate, Assembly and Westchester County Board of Legislators.
Who knows when Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s reign might end? The Yonkers mayor handily won the primary election for his fourth term in office and will be the city’s longest-serving mayor assuming he wins again in November. His longevity in office can be credited to the Yonkers City Council, which has voted to extend term limits in office twice for Spano. But his latest primary challengers brought new scrutiny and attention to Spano, who faced criticism for keeping at least 14 relatives on the city’s payroll.
Assembly Member Amy Paulin hit the ground running this year. She took over as chair of the Assembly Health Committee, which was previously led by former Assembly Member Richard Gottfried for 35 years. And she’s been busy putting health at the forefront of the state’s deliberations, advancing a bill to make the birth control pill easier to access and pushing for her Medical Aid in Dying legislation. In fact, the Scarsdale Democrat is the state lawmaker who has passed the most bills during the 2023 legislative session – and she also helped stall a housing agenda from the governor that could have reshaped the suburban communities she represents.
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins isn’t the only Westchester lawmaker who’s got clout in the chamber. State Sen. Shelley Mayer of Yonkers chairs the influential Education Committee, which is perennially in the thick of battles over school funding and high-profile policy debates. This year, the budget included a record $34.5 billion in total school aid, while a compromise was reached that allows some dormant “zombie” charters to be revived in New York City. State Sen. Pete Harkham of South Salem this year took over as chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee. A key accomplishment was passing legislation protecting wetlands, one of eight bills he sponsored in his committee that passed both houses. State Sen. Jamaal Bailey is better known for his role in the Bronx, where he chairs the county’s Democratic Party, but his district also includes Mount Vernon. Similarly, first-term state Sen. Nathalia Fernandez represents both the northern Bronx and a portion of southeast Westchester County.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman doesn’t shy away from conflict. The former school principal has gone viral for denouncing gun violence in standoffs with Republicans and joined fellow progressives in boycotting Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to Congress in July. Some observers have speculated that the progressive politician could mount a strong challenge against New York City Mayor Eric Adams, but Bowman has said he isn’t interested. A primary standoff may be headed his way regardless, as rumors suggest Westchester County Executive George Latimer may challenge him.
Rep. Mike Lawler is a top Democratic target nationally after toppling then-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Sean Patrick Maloney in 2022. Just don’t tell President Joe Biden, who offered words of praise for the first-term Republican as he has taken pains to walk a centrist tightrope while keeping himself in the headlines. Lawler, who is now considered one of the most vulnerable House incumbents, has said the GOP needs to move on from former President Donald Trump. Lawler, whose Hudson Valley district includes part of Westchester, previously served in the Assembly, where he was a prolific lawmaker serving in the minority, and he has been similarly proactive in introducing legislation in Washington, D.C.
When Mimi Rocah ran for Westchester County district attorney in 2020, she vowed to shed light on alleged police corruption and abuse in Mount Vernon. Two years after entering office, she concluded investigations that uncovered questionable police and prosecutorial conduct and vacated 26 peoples’ past convictions. However, she won’t be adding to the list of indictments against former President Donald Trump. In June, Rocah wrapped up a high-profile investigation regarding Trump’s local golf course without bringing forward any charges.
The Business Council of Westchester had an array of legislative priorities in Albany this year. That included opposing antitrust legislation, minimum wage raises and a bill requiring newly constructed buildings to be all-electric. The group also backed the state’s new Clean Slate Act and the governor’s controversial housing proposals. Marsha Gordon and John Ravitz remain among the most influential advocates for businesses across the county, representing more than 1,000 corporations, hospitals, nonprofits and other members.
Assembly Member J. Gary Pretlow is one of the most senior members of the chamber, serving there since 1992. He chairs the Racing and Wagering Committee and pushed for awarding three downstate casino licenses, which could benefit Westchester’s Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts. Assembly Member Steven Otis, who first took office in 2013, chairs the Science and Technology Committee and has spearheaded a state digital inclusion grant program. Assembly Member Nader Sayegh, who was elected in 2018, was appointed chair of the Students with Special Needs Subcommittee after an extensive career in education, including stints as a teacher, principal and president of the Yonkers Board of Education. He recently passed legislation to help increase diversity in the teaching profession and helped secure a record $406 million in state support for Yonkers Public Schools. Assembly Member Chris Burdick, a former Bedford supervisor who was elected to the state Legislature in 2020, chairs the Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities Subcommittee and is committed to addressing climate change.
Three other local Assembly members took office this year: MaryJane Shimsky, Dana Levenberg and Matt Slater. Shimsky, who served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, turned heads by knocking out incumbent Thomas Abinanti in a Democratic primary – and sponsored legislation this year on a STAR taxpayer bill of rights and village incorporation reform. In a more peaceful transition, Levenberg succeeded Sandy Galef, her former boss, and used her legislative background to pass the most prime sponsored legislation through both chambers of any first term legislator, including legislation to ban radioactive wastewater runoffs into the Hudson River from Indian Point Energy Center, which was signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The only Republican of the bunch is Slater, an ally of Rep. Michael Lawler who served as executive director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee and chief of state to then-state Sen. Terrence Murphy, where he focused on cutting spending and property taxes.
The rush to snag a full casino license in downstate New York has heated up this past year, with buzzy proposals cropping up around Times Square and Hudson Yards in Manhattan. But Ed Domingo is betting on Empire City Casino’s odds. If it gets a full-fledged license, the Yonkers casino has plans to bring live table games, restaurants and an entertainment center to the site acquired by MGM Resorts for $850 million in January 2019. Plenty of Westchester’s most influential leaders are backing its bid as well, optimistic about its potential to bring in jobs and revenue to the county.
Dr. Leonard Schleifer’s Regeneron has seen revenue jump by 7% so far this year, fueled in part by booming sales of drugs treating a rare cholesterol disorder, cardiovascular disease and other conditions. The pharmaceutical company has also benefited from partnering with drugmaker Sanofi, who recently jointly released a study with promising indications their drug could treat patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The drug could draw in billions of dollars – some of which could go to supporting Regeneron’s continued $1.8 billion expansion in Westchester.
After commuter railroads were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, things are looking up for the Metro-North Railroad. It has seen steady increases to ridership and hit a post-pandemic ridership record in June, as 224,371 passengers boarded its trains. Catherine Rinaldi has also had to navigate other challenges, such as historic flooding following storms in the Hudson Valley. She and Metro-North crews sprung into action to restore lines to service and man temporary bus service. Rinaldi also serves as interim president of the Long Island Rail Road, which allows for closer collaboration.
One of the largest employers based out of Westchester, IBM’s history and the county’s are intertwined. Arvind Krishna is the newest chapter in the connection, becoming CEO in 2020 and chair in 2021. Krishna is pushing for the Hudson Valley to become the next Silicon Valley, which President Joe Biden echoed in Poughkeepsie last year, when he said the region could be the “epicenter” of quantum computing. Last year, Krishna was named to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s board of directors.
While other cities across New York state are pushing back against housing newly arriving migrants, White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach is taking a different approach. He has worked with New York City government to house asylum-seekers and planned ways to connect them to city services. Roach, who has also overseen continued development in White Plains, is also one of the several local elected officials who backed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s housing proposal earlier this year.
Vedat Gashi generated support for his primary bid to unseat Rep. Jamaal Bowman last year, drawing endorsements from former Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey and other local officials. When his campaign fell short, he dove back into county politics. Gashi – a political refugee from Kosovo – became chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators in May, the first person of Albanian American descent and Muslim faith to hold the role. On his watch, the county has expanded services while balancing the budget.
Westchester Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins has had a busy year. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins selected the local government veteran to chair the state’s redistricting commission last year. That left Jenkins in the vital position of managing a new draft map of the state’s Assembly districts, while also juggling his responsibilities in Westchester government. Jenkins has extensive experience in county government, having previously served as chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard has made history twice. In 2019, she became the first woman elected to serve as mayor of Mount Vernon. This year, she became the city’s first mayor in 20 years to actually be reelected for another term, a sign of stability in what has been a politically volatile city. She was also sworn in this year as the president of the African American Mayors Association. Mount Vernon City Comptroller Darren Morton has also played a role in the return to a functional city government, improving transparency on Mount Vernon’s finances in an effort to tackle the city’s debt.
Noam Bramson’s 18-years tenure as mayor of New Rochelle is coming to an end. His time in office is ending on a rocky note, after an ethics panel found he violated the city charter in seeking to serve as the city’s economic development commissioner. But he’s already looking forward to a new role as executive director of Sustainable Westchester, a Mount Kisco-based nonprofit pushing for municipalities to shift to green energy and reduce waste.
The three Democratic candidates vying to take on Republican Rep. Mike Lawler could not have come from more different areas of Westchester politics. Mondaire Jones previously represented Westchester in Congress for a term, though redistricting and a rival Democrat pushed him out and prompted him to mount an unsuccessful bid for a House seat in New York City. Liz Whitmer Gereghty has had a more low-profile political career, serving on the Katonah-Lewisboro Board of Education for the past four years. Her larger political connection comes from her sister, the rising Democratic star Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. MaryAnn Carr has spent the longest time in government, becoming the first African American to serve on the Bedford Town Board in 2016 and then the first, and to date only, African American town supervisor in Westchester County history, when she served as Bedford's chief executive in 2021. Carr currently serves as the first vice chair of the Westchester County Democratic Committee.
Empire Strategic Planning ranks among the most highly compensated lobbying outfits in New York, having worked with such notable clients as the Greater New York Hospital Association, the Cappelli Organization, Standard Amusements LLC, the Westchester County Police Benevolent Association and the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association. The firm is headed by Nick Spano, a former state lawmaker who’s part of a well-known political family, as one of his brothers is Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.
Yonkers City Council President Lakisha Collins-Bellamy has kept busy ever since she became the first Black woman to serve in the council’s top role last year. She cast the deciding vote that extended term limits – a major boon for Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano – and passed a budget that gave a significant boost in funds to education. Collins-Bellamy is a lifelong Yonkers resident, with experience working as an attorney and serving on the Yonkers Board of Education.
These public officials play key roles in shaping Westchester’s future. As director of operations, Joan McDonald oversees all the county’s departments and its 4,500 employees. The former state transportation commissioner also chairs the county’s industrial development agency, steering financial incentives to major residential and commercial developments. Meanwhile, Terrance Raynor has served as the county’s public safety commissioner since last year, bringing experience as the former head of the Mount Vernon Police Department. And Andrew Ferris, a key confidant to County Executive George Latimer, has kept busy tracking policy developments on his behalf.
With Michael Israel as its president and CEO, Westchester Medical Center has put a special focus on its patients’ recovery. Just five months after long COVID-19 was first coined, the Westchester Medical Center Health Network launched the Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program. In June 2021, the hospital program received two grants totaling $35,000. This year, Israel oversaw the launch of the medical center’s branch of the Trauma Survivors Network and a new Center for Women’s Health Equity, which was funded by a $750,000 state grant.
Rep. Mike Lawler’s northern Westchester seat is a top target for the national Democratic Party – and Suzanne Berger, the chair of the county’s Democratic Party, is in the middle of the effort to flip the seat. Berger, along with Rockland and Putnam’s Democratic chairs, endorsed former Rep. Mondaire Jones when he entered the race in early July. The first woman to lead the county party, she helped Gov. Kathy Hochul secure a full term and is working to maintain a supermajority in the Westchester County Board of Legislators this fall. Outside of politics, the Dobbs Ferry resident is also a counsel for law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
As White Plains Hospital has expanded, its top executive Susan Fox hasn’t rested on her laurels. In 2021, the hospital opened a new $272 million Center for Advanced Medicine and Surgery as well as a lab this year to expedite lab diagnosis times. In March, the hospital announced plans to construct a new inpatient building as well. Early in 2023, Fox joined the board of commissioners for The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization which accredits health care programs across the United States.
Massive amounts of infrastructure funding are still being funneled into the Hudson Valley, spurring construction projects improving the region’s highways, roads, bridges and tunnels. The Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, headed by Ross Pepe, is well positioned to help its more than 600 members take advantage of the contracting opportunities. The organization has spent much of the past year highlighting gaps in infrastructure support throughout the Hudson Valley.
If Democrats want to flip the House of Representatives, they’ll have to flip a series of seats in New York first. Shannon Powell, co-founder of Indivisible Westchester, is helping launch a new political action committee, No Surrender New York, for that exact reason. Looking to oust Rep. Mike Lawler, Indivisible quickly put its support behind former Rep. Mondaire Jones. The organization has also loudly opposed the Democratic nomination of Charles Wood, who won his first term on the state Supreme Court on the Republican Party line.
Ramon Laguarta isn’t just making soda at PepsiCo, but snacks, sports drinks, bottled water and oatmeal. The food and beverage giant has consolidated its operations at its longtime Purchase headquarters in recent years, closing other offices in the county. Former company offices in White Plains have been sold to become medical offices and former offices in Somers were told to become a co-working environment. Earlier this year, PepsiCo secured a new contract with its security officer union and hosted a major conservation fundraiser in its sculpture garden.
Arts institutions, real estate developers and universities number among the many clients that have turned to Cristyne Nicholas and George Lence over the years. The duo bring to these clients expertise in media relations, government affairs and crisis management. Nicholas spent years overseeing press operations for New York City government, while Lence held top roles handling public affairs and legal issues at organizations such as NYC & Co. (now New York City Tourism + Conventions) and the Partnership for New York City.
The Westchester County Association is a key advocate for the county’s business sector. In WCA’s 2023 advocacy agenda, Michael N. Romita, the association’s president and CEO, helped put the organization’s support behind funding the county’s health care workforce, opposing “good cause” eviction legislation and streamlining broadband construction. Romita also successfully advocated for legislation that ensured telehealth and in-person visits are reimbursed at the same rate. Before Romita became president and CEO in 2020, he was a partner at Mercury Strategies and worked in the energy industry.
Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie has reason to be optimistic about her city’s future. She touted Peekskill’s financial health in a March address, noting that the city’s debt is on the decline and that home sales are on the rise. In 2022, McKenzie made history as the first Black woman to serve in the influential role. She brings with her years of government experience, having served as deputy mayor of Peekskill and on the Peekskill Common Council.
Real estate developers in Westchester know to turn to Mark Weingarten for expert legal advice. As a partner at DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr, he advises clients managing commercial and residential properties throughout the region. Weingarten also brings with him government affairs expertise and is a registered lobbyist in the state. He has previously held top roles at other law firms, including Weingarten & Weingarten as well as Robinson Brog Leinwand Reich Genovese & Gluck.
Robert Martin Company has a reputation for developing executive offices and industrial spaces in Westchester. Timothy Jones has steered its success since 2004, executing $4 billion in transactions over the years and overseeing the largest commercial real estate transaction in the county’s history in 2019. After securing some 586,000 square feet of new leases, renewals and expansions secured at the firm’s Westchester properties last year, the real estate executive is looking to expand the warehouse and multifamily residential portfolio while investing in other businesses in Westchester, the Carolinas and Florida.
Abrams Fensterman has long been a politically connected law firm in New York City, but it’s a legal heavyweight beyond the five boroughs too. In Westchester, where the firm has an office in White Plains, Executive Partner Robert Spolzino represents judges, elected officials and municipalities and is currently the law chair for the Westchester County Democratic Committee. Former Judge Jeffrey Cohen serves as of counsel at the firm, where he works on appeals, litigation and municipal and white-collar criminal law. Cohen, who served alongside Justice Hector LaSalle, defended him against accusations of being anti-abortion when he was nominated to serve as chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, while Spolzino, also a former appellate judge, offered praise following the eventual confirmation of Rowan Wilson as the state’s top judge. David Imamura has kept busy beyond his work at Abrams Fensterman. The attorney stepped down from chairing the state’s redistricting commission last year and became the first first Asian American official to serve as a Westchester County legislator in March.
Dr. Scott Hayworth is senior vice president and chief physician liaison officer at Optun Health, where he works to drive growth nationally for the company, working in areas including merges, acquisitions and strategic partnerships. He previously served as president and CEO of CareMount Medical, now under the auspices of Optum. While in that role, he led a rapid expansion for the organization across the Hudson Valley and built partnerships with other major hospitals in the region.
SUNY Westchester Community College further solidified its role recently as an engine for social mobility in the county by entering into a transfer agreement with Manhattan College. All students graduating from WCC with a minimum 2.5 GPA are now guaranteed admission into the local college. President Belinda Miles, who has led the 21,000-student community college since 2015, emphasized its commitment to help residents by expanding partnerships with local schools to guarantee admission in October 2022.
The product of Martin Ginsburg’s work can be seen all over the Hudson Valley. Over the course of six decades, the veteran developer has constructed numerous residential and commercial buildings in the region. That experience earned him naming rights to the new Martin Ginsburg Park in Yonkers, which Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and Ginsburg unveiled in April. Yonkers split the cost of the $1 million project with Ginsburg Development Cos., which handled its design and construction.
Real estate developer John Fareri passed a major milestone last year when Mount Pleasant officials allowed the construction of his firm’s latest major project, North 80, to go through. Now, Fareri Associates is slated to start construction this fall on the 3-million-square-foot science and technology campus. The biotech hub – is estimated to cost a cool $1.2 billion – will be the county’s largest. It’ll be a major achievement for Fareri, who has developed and managed real estate all across the Lower Hudson Valley.
New Rochelle City Council Member Yadira Ramos-Herbert prevailed in the Democratic primary to become the city’s next mayor, positioning her as the likely winner in the general election. If she succeeds, she will become the first woman and first person of color to serve as mayor of New Rochelle. Her success was also fueled by support from many powerful allies in the county, including current New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, Rep. Jamaal Bowman and the Working Families Party.
After 42 years with United Association Local 21, the last 20 of which were spent as a business agent, Thomas Carey announced his retirement on July 30. However, Carey isn’t completely exiting the industry – or the labor movement – and will continue to serve as president of the Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body. In April, Carey hosted an event with state Sens. Pete Harckham and Shelley Mayer along with Peekskill Mayor Vivian McKenzie where he advocated for an extra $2 billion for highway improvements.
Yonkers Public Schools is one of the largest employers in the county, and Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Samantha Rosado-Ciriello represents the 3,300 union employees who make it tick. In April, the federation held a rally for a new contract asking for smaller class sizes, more support staff and fair wages. The union also recently won an Innovation Fund grant to expand its Take A Look at Teaching/Grow Your Own program, which develops a pipeline of students to become future teachers.
Louis Cappelli’s firms have more than $1 billion in construction projects in the pipeline, including major endeavors across Westchester. The Cappelli Organization is collaborating on a $600 million redevelopment of the now-shuttered Galleria mall in White Plains and on a $300 million mixed-use project near the city’s Metro-North train station. The influential developer has also kept active in local and state politics, having given $720,000 to political campaigns and party committees over more than two decades.
Ruth Hassell-Thompson has deep roots in local and state government. She served as president of the Mount Vernon City Council and as the city’s acting mayor during the 1990s, before becoming a state senator in 2000. That extensive expertise in local and state government has served her well in her role at the New York State Homes and Community Renewal, where she has been since 2016. Gov. Kathy Hochul also selected her to serve on the state Cannabis Advisory Board last year.
Robert P. Weisz didn’t set out to be a commercial real estate pro. When arrived in the United States from his native Uruguay in 1977, he launched his career importing furniture. In the course of doing so, he bought a New Jersey warehouse and developed a deeper interest in real estate. Since then, his RPW Group has owned and developed more than 10 million square feet of space in Westchester and beyond. Weisz has begun to hand over the reins – his son Andrew Weisz took over as the company’s president in December.
Within Eileen Egan’s first hours as executive director of Phelps Hospital, it took in its first COVID-19 patient. It was then that she learned that she was in the eye of the storm. Moving past the coronavirus pandemic, Egan and Derek Anderson, the executive director of Northern Westchester Hospital, are taking Northwell Health’s Westchester locations into the future. In Anderson’s first four years, Northern Westchester Hospital opened two new labs focusing on heart health while Phelps Hospital completed a cancer imaging suite last year.
While NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital may be most associated with its Manhattan location, the system’s more than 4,000 beds spread across eight campuses – along with a regional hospital network and medical group – spill into Westchester as well. Paul Dunphey, Stacey Petrower and Philip J. Wilner all serve on NewYork-Presbyterian’s senior leadership and manage key Hudson Valley sites within the massive hospital system. In July, the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation gave Westchester Behavioral Health in White Plains $35 million for expanded pediatric units and a state-of-the-art behavioral health center.
From delivering a state budget to shepherding gubernatorial appointments for Gov. Kathy Hochul, Edgar Santana has made a name for himself in his first year as deputy secretary. Before his appointment, Santana was the director of downstate regional affairs in both the Hochul and Cuomo administrations. Santana also has experience working as the director of political and governmental affairs for the Laborers Eastern Region Organizing Fund and as executive director for the state Democratic Committee.
Cristle Collins Judd, like other higher education leaders, must navigate the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision – Sarah Lawrence College joined 36 other liberal arts colleges in a brief emphasizing the importance of diversity on campuses prior to the decision. Judd, who’s in her second five-year term, announced the largest gift in the college’s history in 2021. The anonymous donor of the $20 million said she was “tremendously impressed” with Judd. Judd also completed a $200 million capital campaign, the largest in the college’s history.
Since joining what’s now Iona University, Seamus Carey’s largest project has been the creation of not only a new school, but a whole new campus. This past semester, Carey’s work came to fruition with the opening of the NewYork-Presbyterian Iona School of Health Sciences in Bronxville. The school, hosted in the Kelly Center for Health Sciences, was supported by a $20 million gift from NewYork-Presbyterian. Iona recently announced a series of new degrees such as a master’s degree in nursing and bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. The growing school also transitioned from a college to a full-fledged university in 2022.
In the short two years since Subomi O. Macaulay became president of the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, the organization has tripled in size to 25 New York state elected officials. The caucus has also held a Westchester’s Power Circle event bringing together prominent Black female officials such as state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. The organization also physically expanded this past year, launching a new Greater Bedford chapter designed to represent the area of Lewisboro and Bedford, among other towns.
As Carola Otero Bracco approaches her 20th anniversary of becoming Neighbors Link’s executive director, the organization is still seeking out new ways to help immigrant communities in Westchester. As asylum-seekers began arriving in the county in May, Neighbors Link, along with a series of other nonprofit organizations, collected gift cards to help pay for migrants’ personal items and travel expenses. The Westchester County Board of Legislators declared Sept. 24, 2022, as “Carola Otero Bracco Day” in honor of her work in the county.
It’s difficult to be a local and national advocate, but the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson proves it isn’t impossible. While leading Mount Vernon’s Grace Baptist Church, the largest Black church in the county, Richardson has hosted COVID-19 testing for the local community and has spoken on the role of Black churches in helping reduce stigma around the COVID-19 vaccine. Beyond his work as a pastor, Richardson chairs the Conference of National Black Churches as well as National Action Network, the Rev. Al Sharpton’s civil rights organization.
Jan Fisher heads Nonprofit Westchester, advocating not just for nonprofits in the county but also individuals who work within the nonprofit sector. In this year’s advocacy and policy agenda, Nonprofit Westchester pushed for livable wages, the elimination of caps on administration and overhead, and the reimbursement of late payments from the government to local nonprofits. Before she joined Nonprofit Westchester, Fisher was an adviser for local nonprofits. She also serves as a board member for the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester.
Marvin Krislov oversees a higher education institution with over 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students across its Pleasantville and New York City campuses as well as its Elisabeth Haub School of Law in White Plains. One of the largest developments for Pace University this summer wasn’t in Westchester, but in Manhattan. In May, President Marvin Krislov announced the creation of a new, standalone college: the Sands College of Performing Arts, a “path-setting performing arts college for the 21st century” that will open for the fall 2023 semester.
The Westchester Institute for Human Development, which serves people with disabilities and vulnerable children through professional education, direct service provision and research, adapted successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic. Susan W. Fox, who has led the Westchester Institute for Human Development for seven years, has overseen its virtual education programs and telehealth services and the creation of new programs for young adults with disabilities. Her organization provides a wide range of support, including specialty medical care for adults with disabilities and child welfare services.
At every level, Allison Lake is an advocate. As the executive director of Westchester Children’s Association since 2018, she has sought to pass the Clean Slate Act, expand the Empire State Child Tax Credit and increase the amount of county funding for youth mental health. Lake launched a program this year to train landlord-tenant court observers to look at exactly how the court operates. In June, she convened a group of county government leaders to discuss improving children’s policy. She’s also a member of the governor’s task force to reduce child poverty.
Milagros Peña is about to unveil the largest project since her appointment as president of Purchase College in 2020. Purchase this fall will open an on-campus senior living community, Broadview, which will serve the campus community as a source of intergenerational learning for both students and senior residents. The trailblazing higher education leader, who is the daughter of Dominican immigrants and was the first in her family to graduate from college, is the first Hispanic woman to lead Purchase College.
Open Door Family Center puts a special emphasis on the community of community health care. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the center over $400,000 for nutritional education, breastfeeding support and counseling among other services through the federal government’s WIC program. President and CEO Lindsay Farrell said the program would help those who are eligible for WIC without even knowing it. “The impact of reaching a large percentage of these people, who never before had access, is huge,” Farrell said.
The Westchester Community Foundation is an active supporter of the county’s nonprofits, whether they are fighting hunger in the region or providing mental health treatment to youth and families. As executive director of the foundation – which is a division of The New York Community Trust – Laura Rossi helped steer $2.7 million in grants to charities in 2022. Rossi, who has centered the foundation’s work through the lens of racial equity, also served as co-chair of Sustainable Westchester’s board of directors and is a board member of the New York Funders Alliance and the Support Center and on the Westchester County Housing Opportunity Commission.
Westchester Jewish Community Services has come a long way since 1943. The nonprofit celebrated its 80th anniversary this year, having grown from a small nonprofit serving families in the region to one of the largest human services providers in Westchester. Seth Diamond, who previously served as New York City’s homeless services commissioner in the Bloomberg administration, now oversees more than 80 programs, offering mental health and trauma treatment, care for adults with disabilities, LGBTQ+ youth support and other care to 20,000 people in Westchester. It has also started focusing on assisting crime victims.
Joseph Apicella has more than $2 billion worth of development under his belt, having spearheaded acquisition, financing and construction of projects across the New York City metropolitan area. Some of his most recent notable projects have been in Mount Vernon, including a $95 million mixed-use development with retail, office and residential space. Apicella, who joined MacQuesten Development in 2015, has had a hand in several other major projects in Westchester, having worked on City Center in White Plains and Trump Plaza in New Rochelle.
Anthony B. Gioffre is a go-to attorney for local land use matters. Over the course of more than 25 years, Gioffre has advised real estate developers, retailers and other clients on issues ranging from permitting to compliance to environmental reviews. He recently played a key role in advancing a redevelopment at the old United Hospital site in Port Chester, which will include 775 rental units, commercial space, a hotel and more. The Westchester native comes from a long line of influential local lawyers – his father served as supervisor of Rye, his uncle served as Rye’s town justice, and his grandfather was a state legislator.
Anthony Viceroy has played a role in several notable acquisitions in recent years, including overseeing the sale of Westmed Medical Group to Summit Health in 2021. Viceroy from 2021 to 2023 served as president and chief operating officer of Summit Health, which VillageMD acquired this year and which now serves 8 million patients. Now, Viceroy leads VillageMD’s operations and efforts to grow, with an eye on supporting providers and millions of patients in Westchester and beyond.
After years heading up the American Jewish Committee, Harriet Schleifer took on the role of chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in June. The Westchester civic leader also has leadership roles with the UJA-Federation of New York in the Westchester region, the Westchester Jewish Council and the Chappaqua Central School District PTA. She is on the executive committee of the Chapel Haven Schleifer Center, secretary of The Jewish Museum and a board member of Cornell University, AIPAC, Plaza Jewish Community Chapel and The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
A transformed Westchester County Airport may be on the horizon. Since April, Gasparri became manager of the airport last year – and the county’s executive director of aviation this year – she has worked on a new airport master plan for the first time in three decades. Gasparri comes with plenty of experience, having held top roles at John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport.
Kim DiTomasso has been hard at work winning competitive campaigns in Westchester and beyond. She advised Assembly Member MaryJane Shimsky in last year’s primary, helping her defeat a six-term incumbent, and supported incumbent Assembly Member Michael Benedetto against his primary challenger. DiTomasso helped Vedat Gashi run against Rep. Jamaal Bowman last year and put Yadira Ramos-Herbert in position to become the first Afro Latina mayor of New Rochelle. She has also worked with Reps. Grace Meng and Paul Tonko, and a number of state lawmakers in the county.
Tony Alfano and Regginald Jordan lead Montefiore’s hospitals in Westchester County. with Alfano joining Montefiore New Rochelle in late 2013, while Jordan recently took charge at Montefiore Mount Vernon. The two hospitals were instrumental in the multiyear fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Montefiore’s Mount Vernon Hospital set up a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site specifically targeting underrepresented communities. Jordan came to Mount Vernon following a stint leading Montefiore Wakefield in the Bronx.
The advertising and communications firm Thompson & Bender has amassed a long, impressive list of clients across Westchester. PepsiCo Inc., Regeneron, the Business Council of Westchester and several municipalities have employed its services. Its success can be attributed to this powerhouse trio. Dean Bender and Geoff Thompson work on public relations, crisis management and government relations efforts at the firm, while Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson oversees advertising, marketing and other public relations work.
Tai Johnson is one of a number of accomplished New York public affairs pros who joined the consulting firm Actum in the past year before transitioning back to state Attorney General Letitia James' office as a senior advisor. Johnson previously served as special adviser and director of intergovernmental affairs for James. The Yonkers resident also served in top roles on the state attorney general’s campaign as well as at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and in the state Senate.
After starting his banking career with Valley National Bank from 2000 to 2011, Joseph McCoy returned in 2022 as a divisional head in commercial lending for the Hudson Valley. Just a year later, McCoy is now the bank’s market president in commercial banking. Outside of banking, McCoy is also a board member with the Business Council of Westchester, ArtsWestchester and Yonkers Partners in Education. He has said that while national economic headwinds are hitting Westchester, the county’s economic base has seen growth.
The Westchester Jewish Council’s main goals are to connect the county’s nearly 150,000 Jewish people with each other, local Jewish organizations and the state of Israel. Elliot Forchheimer, the organization’s CEO, has been working to fulfill those goals since 2004. Forcheimer and William Schrag, the council's president, have been working closely with the council/s 129 member organization to fulfill these goals. Highlights of the past year include the council's 47th anniversary gala, the second annual countywide "Anti-Hate Gathering," education trips to Israel and Alabama for clergy, a joint legislative breakfast with the UJA for local lawmakers and the 47th Westchester Jewish Music and Arts Festival.
While Susan Parish may have only officially started her new job leading Mercy College on July 1, she isn’t new to high-ranking roles in higher education. Parish is joining the college after a four-year stint as the dean of the College of Health Professions at Virginia Commonwealth University. Mercy College board of trustees Chair Joe Gantz said Parish has a passion for “equity, access and inclusion.” Parish succeeds former Mercy College President Timothy Hall, who officially retired in June.
When a coalition of 50 labor unions came together to sue McKinsey & Co. for its role in the opioid crisis, Louis Picani, the president of Teamsters Local 456, was among them. While suing McKinsey might be new for the president, advocating on behalf of the members of his union is not. Picani has been the chapter’s president and principal officer since 2016, and in 2019, he became the director of political affairs for the Westchester Putnam Building and Construction Trades Council.
Inflation has left many people turning to food banks this past year. Karen Erren has been hard at work ensuring Feeding Westchester is helping them and others in need. The nonprofit – which works with more than 300 partners to distribute millions of meals each year – is springing to action to make sure migrants arriving in Westchester can access food. It also recently assessed the state of hunger in the region and proposed policies to end food insecurity.
In an open letter welcoming students, Dr. Robert Amler wrote that at New York Medical School, “you will begin to make a true difference in your world.” At the School of Health Sciences and Practice, he’s working to prove that. In January, the college announced a $1.9 million grant for programming at both the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center and the Center for Disaster Medicine to “ensure equity and inclusiveness.” The college also announced an $825,000 award for the Women’s Institute for Science Entrepreneurship.
Marc Jerome has been a longtime leader in Westchester and the national for-profit college community. The president of Monroe College, Jerome has been the chair of the New Rochelle Business Improvement District board since 1999. He served on a stakeholder committee advising the Obama-era U.S. Department of Education on for-profit college regulations. Monroe has noted that its default rate is lower than state and national rates for for-profit colleges, coming in at 3.9% for the class of 2015, compared to 15.6% nationally.
Many financial institutions and developers have benefited from Thomas Leslie’s legal counsel. He works out of Greenberg Traurig’s Westchester office – which he founded – with a focus on advising clients on issues related to buying and selling real estate. The high-powered attorney has extensive experience on zoning and real estate, having previously served as special counsel to the village of Bronxville’s Planning Board, which reviews developments in the area.
Marks DiPalermo Wilson is a law firm that specializes in land use and environment review processes, corporate matters, sports, entertainment and government affairs. One of the firm’s key players is Kristen Kelley Wilson, an expert on municipal law, land use and development, and federal and state environmental approvals. She also serves in a governmental role as corporation counsel and city prosecutor in Rye. The firm, founded in 2016 by Cabot J. Marks and Christian DiPalermo, has offices in Manhattan and White Plains.
Before Judy Troilo became the executive director of The Loft, the county’s largest LGBTQ+ service provider, the organization was not the community staple it is today. Under Troilo, The Loft has increased its operating budget by 400% and tripled its staff to run its over 100 free programs, services and events. In June 2022, Troilo and Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced the groundbreaking of a new senior housing development friendly to LGBTQ+ people. The Loft also puts on Westchester Pride, which attracts 7,000 visitors, and the Hudson Valley Trans Forum.
The Yonkers-based Westhab is one of several Westchester nonprofits to help newly arriving migrants. Under Rich Nightingale’s leadership since 2014, the organization has also continued to develop affordable housing projects. In 2021, Westhab opened a 63-unit affordable housing complex and a new community center in Yonkers, which would feature child care, a food pantry and youth programs. The nonprofit has a 113-unit affordable housing development in Yonkers in the pipeline as well.
With its goal of an equitable New York state, Community Voices Heard and its executive director Juanita Lewis released “Building Westchester’s Future: The Need for Affordable and Equitable Housing” in March. The report found that 51% of the county is rent-burdened and called on the county to allocate $100 million of American Rescue Plan funding for affordable housing. Lewis, who joined the organization in 2009, was named executive director in 2021. She’s also a national trainer with VoteRunLead, which trains women to run for office.
Public relations veteran Stacey Cohen has advised numerous clients in Westchester on their communications and marketing needs over the past 26 years. Her firm’s work has ranged from leading a marketing campaign to get approval for Westchester Children’s Museum to be built at Rye Playland, to generating attention and interest in rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge. In addition to her work at Co-Communications, Cohen serves on the board of the Business Council of Westchester.
CEO Judith Watson is currently in the midst of an overhaul of her organization. In April, the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center got a new identity with its new name: Westchester Community Health Center. In addition, the Mount Vernon location is getting a $12 million renovation to better serve Westchester and the Bronx. The grant, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will provide a new roof and exterior face, as well as patient examination and waiting rooms.
Each night in Westchester county, around 1,600 people are homeless. Lifting Up Westchester and its CEO, Anahaita Kotval, are striving to change that. The organization runs two adult shelters, operates employment services and helps people find and maintain permanent housing. In January, Key Bank provided $200,000 to Lifting Up Westchester to establish a new job center. Kotval said the center will provide a centralized collection of services to help with the employment process.
Even before she became Tarrytown regional president for M&T Bank, Tyré Robinson was a leader in the industry, heading up the bank’s client outreach in the Lower Hudson Valley and Fairfield County, Connecticut. She co-founded the bank’s African American Resource Group for both New York and New Jersey. Robinson has served as a chair member of the AARG Professional Development Committee and as a multicultural banking adviser to M&T Bank. She serves on the boards of ArtsWestchester and the Westchester County Association.
Saber Real Estate Advisors has left its footprint in every corner of Westchester County. Managing Member Martin Berger has negotiated and advanced development plans valuing nearly $2 billion over the years, with much of that work taking place in Westchester. His Armonk-based firm currently has two projects in White Plains, including a mixed-use development featuring 175 residential units and 15,000 square feet of retail space. But its properties span from Briarcilff to Elmsford and Dobbs Ferry.
In July, Frank D. Sanchez made the move from being the president of Rhode Island College to becoming Manhattanville College’s president. The transition is a return to New York state for Sanchez, who had served as the vice chancellor for student affairs for the CUNY system from 2011 to 2016. Sanchez said that during his tenure at RIC, the college expanded its endowment by 65% and over five years had its fundraising increase by over 200%. Sanchez is Manhanttanville’s first Latino president.
New Rochelle has been fast-growing with new developments cropping up regularly. Much of that progress can be attributed to Joseph Graziose Jr.’s work at RXR. The influential real estate firm is serving as the city’s master developer, giving it an outsized hand in shaping New Rochelle’s downtown region. Graziose has played a key role in bringing those planned buildings to life. But his work isn’t restricted to the city, as he is involved in a $650 million redevelopment in White Plains alongside the Cappelli Organization.
Since taking the reins of the YMCA of Central and Northern Westchester in 2014, Cynthia Delfino-Birdsall has been committed to community development. She has forged partnerships with schools, health care providers and other organizations and advocated for support from elected officials, all while adding programming and shoring up the YMCA’s finances. She also has expanded universal prekindergarten programs in recent years into Somers, Elmsford and White Plains, and will add two new districts next school year: Valhalla and Yorktown.
Westchester Magazine’s Lynda Shenkman credited ArtsWestchester for evolving the county’s art scene to become a “catalyst for cultural change, inclusiveness and empowerment.” It’s easy to see why. In January, ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam, along with Westchester County Executive George Latimer, announced $501,571 in matching funds for over 100 arts organizations in the county through the Art$WChallenge grant. Through funding from state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Langsam also announced that ArtsWestchester would award over $550,000 to 164 groups in Westchester and Rockland counties.
There may be no more dynamic journalistic duo in Westchester than Damon Jones and AJ Woodson, who collaboratively run one of Westchester’s largest Black publications: Black Westchester. Woodson has used the platform to commentate on the happenings of New York, diving into the rise of white vigilantism and public safety within the county. The pair have also interviewed a series of influential leaders on the “People Before Politics Radio Show.”
Westchester native Perry M. Ochacher has lobbied on behalf of clients spanning numerous industries, from health care to construction and casinos. Numerous Westchester-based organizations have sought out his firm’s services, such as the Hudson River Museum and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital. Ochacher has extensive experience in the public and private sectors, including as chief of staff to the Westchester County Board of Legislators and director of state government affairs for Cablevision Systems Corp.
Since Bob Knight took over as CEO of Harrison Edwards in September 2021, the marketing and public relations firm has grown considerably while adding clients such as the Westchester County Association, Westchester County Tourism & Film, White Plains Hospital, the village of Pelham, United Hebrew of New Rochelle and the social services nonprofit Rising Ground. The Armonk-based firm also specializes in economic development, crisis communications and broadband – in fact, Knight in 2022 co-founded the American Association of Public Broadband. He also serves on the Westchester Children’s Association board.
William Segal was a key advocate in getting Westchester County Executive George Latimer to sign legislation guaranteeing that at least 6% of government contracts moving forward would go to service disabled veteran-owned businesses. As an advocate for veterans with disabilities such as himself, Segel has said that the law will allow service disabled veteran-owned businesses to “gain a strong foothold” in the county’s construction industry. The owner and president of Segel & Co., Segel presided over the firm’s participation in Construction Safety Week 2023 along with Citnalta Construction Corp.
WESPAC Foundation’s executive director, Nada Khader, has been leading the organization for 23 years – or nearly half of its existence. Over that time, the organization has been organizing in favor of progressive policies such as immigrant protections, equal rights and safe renewable energy. This year, WESPAC spoke out against the dumping of radioactive waste from Indian Point and in favor of the Not On Our Dime Act, which would prohibit New York nonprofits from funding Israeli settlement activities. She also has been creating pollinator gardens to improve the local ecosystem.
With former Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors CEO Richard Haggerty departing to lead OneKey MLS, Jana Currier has stepped in as the organization’s interim CEO. Currier has been a Realtor for over 30 years, spending 17 years of it with Coldwell Banker Currier & Lazier Real Estate. Before being elevated to interim CEO, Currier was the director of member engagement and then the chief operating officer for the association. Her vast experience made her “uniquely qualified for the position of interim CEO,” said Anthony Domathoti, the president of the association.
Westchester is home to a booming life sciences industry. Clarapath is one of those influential businesses, developing automated laboratory tools that can prepare tissue specimens for physicians and researchers. Eric Feinstein is leading the way for Clarapath to reach financial success, arguing its proximity to leading hospitals, pharmaceutical firms and other technology companies will be a major boon. The research of Partha Mitra, Clarapath’s founder, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, led to the creation of the company.
In New York, statewide races are often won in the suburbs – and that makes it critical for staffers like Brandon Lloyd to effectively serve constituents and shore up support for the boss. Lloyd has spent a year and a half as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s regional representative in the Lower Hudson Valley, following stints serving under Reps. Jamaal Bowman and former Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel as well as with the Westchester County Board of Legislators. He was recently named to Westchester Magazine’s Wunderkinds Class of 2023.
This year’s Yonkers Partners in Education graduates are going to Columbia University, Lehman College, Syracuse University and Westchester Community College among 56 others. The wide variety of colleges and universities is a testament to the group’s work to aid students in pursuing higher education. Sam Wallis became the group’s second executive director in 2019 and said that he has seen the wide-ranging impact that a college education can have on students, families and communities. Wallis was the group’s chief program officer before taking the top spot.
Corrections: A previous version of this post contained incorrect titles for Tai Johnson and Scott Hayworth. This post has also been updated with correct details about a potential expansion at Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts.
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