Good Evening.

Tonight, I join you and my colleagues in government on the occasion of the sixth year of my presentation on the State of Westchester County. We gather here in the People’s Chamber, where the members of the Board of Legislators and the public join together to witness this event. This room serves as the nucleus of democracy, where laws are crafted and civilized discussions take place.

Chairman Vedat Gashi, and esteemed members of this Board, I express my gratitude for your leadership and for granting me the opportunity to address you tonight. I also want to acknowledge and pay tribute to those individuals who currently serve our County, and those who have paved the way for us. I extend my appreciation to County Clerk Tim Idoni, District Attorney Mimi Rocah, former County Executive Andy Spano, the legendary former Chairman of the Board of Legislators Herman Geist, former Chairman and current Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, former Chairman and current Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Facilities Michael Kaplowitz, former Chairman and current Legislator Benjamin Boykin, immediate past Chairwoman and current Legislator Catherine Borgia, and all other elected officials. Your friendship and willingness to collaborate are highly valued – tonight and always.

To my executive team, including my senior team - Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, Director of Operations Joan McDonald, County Attorney John Nonna, Director of Communications Catherine Cioffi, Director of Intergovernmental Relations Steve Bass, my Chief of Staff Andrew Ferris, Deputy Director of Operations Emily Saltzman, Director of Research Ellen Hendrickx and Director of Countywide Administrative Services Chris Steers - I extend my sincerest appreciation for your exceptional contributions. Your dedication to the residents of this County has been a source of inspiration, and I am forever grateful for your remarkable efforts and your friendship.

We may be up on the ninth floor, but we’re not up there alone, my friends. I want to give a big shout-out to the incredible crew of over four thousand County employees who are the backbone of our government. I see you in the elevators, in the hallways, parks, senior events and out there on the streets, doing your thing. Now, I may not have all your names memorized just yet (you have to admit I’m doing a pretty good job), but I want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you. Your dedication is top-notch, and you deserve a sincere thank you from all of us. Keep up the fantastic work. I know, I know we’ve got more contracts to sort out but we’ve settled many and I’m proud of them – but I’m deeply proud of you. Cheers to you all!

Tonight, there are those among you who are joining us from the comfort of your homes catching us on Facebook Live, or following along on the County’s webpage. And to each and every one of you, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude. Thank you for being engaged citizens who care about the well-being of this incredible County. Your support means the world to us. Thank you for granting me the honor of serving you for two terms. I’m here, and out there, every day, rain or shine – for you.

As I step foot into this Chamber for the annual address, the State of the County, I can’t help but reminisce about the first time I entered this very space over three decades ago. You know by now I’m a sentimental guy! It’s astounding to witness the transformation that has taken place within our County since then. We stand here today, surrounded by a County that has evolved and grown, marked by change and progress. However, amidst all our differences, let us not forget that deep within our essence, we remain the same people, sharing this small patch of land. We continue to work hard, strive for better and find joy in sharing a laugh together.


Looking Back

So here we are, still sharing this small patch of land for a moment in time, all of us here together in our Westchester County. So you ask – what is the State of our County?  Is it fierce? Is it united? Or is it thriving?  It is all of this – because the State of our County is one of unyielding strength, unwavering resolve and, most crucially, boundless potential.

Democracy is the cornerstone of our society. It is the fundamental principle that empowers us, the people, to shape our collective destiny. But let us not forget that democracy is not a static entity. It requires constant care, vigilance and active participation from each one of us to ensure its preservation. Today, we find ourselves facing threats to our democratic institutions, both from external forces and from within. It is our duty to rise above partisan divides and defend the very essence of our democracy.

We must acknowledge that a strong democracy thrives on a vibrant and engaged community. Our communities are the lifeblood of our nation, the places where we live, work and raise our families. It is within our communities that we foster the bonds of trust, cooperation and mutual support. As Westchester County residents, we recognize the power of community, and we believe in creating policies that strengthen and uplift our neighborhoods and our people. Together, we can build bridges of understanding and unity, ensuring that no one is left behind.

So let’s talk openly, and inclusively, about the most pressing issue of our time - the plight of asylum seekers. We must approach this matter with compassion, empathy and a commitment to upholding our values as a nation. Asylum seekers are individuals, just like you and me. They are individuals who have fled their home countries due to persecution, violence and unimaginable hardships. Unimaginable. They come seeking refuge, hoping for a chance at a better life for themselves and their families. I know that we all, deep down, believe in treating them with dignity and respect, while also ensuring a fair and efficient immigration process and protecting the interests and addressing the legitimate concerns of those who already live here.

A Path to Hope

We must be practical in our approach. We must recognize that we face complex challenges in managing our borders and immigration systems. It is essential to strike a balance, ensuring enforcement of our laws and providing humanitarian assistance. We believe in comprehensive immigration reform that focuses on realistic solutions.

We must rise above political ideology and work together in a spirit of cooperation. We must resist the temptation to demonize one another based on political affiliation, and instead focus on the shared values that unite us. Our democracy is strongest when we stand together, embracing our diversity and working towards a better future for us all. We are all Americans.

I am proud that we have accomplished another significant milestone in our journey towards a better future. Our County has successfully cut County property taxes for the fourth consecutive year. This achievement is a testament to our commitment to fiscal responsibility, and our dedication to improving the lives of our citizens.

Cutting County property taxes is not mere political rhetoric - it is a tangible action that directly impacts the lives of our residents. It allows hardworking County residents to keep more of their earnings, invest in their dreams, take the kids to do something fun - and most of all - worry less.

It is through careful planning, smart budgeting and responsible decision-making that we have been able to lower taxes without compromising the quality of vital public services here in Westchester. In fact, we were able to go a bit further by suspending Bee-Line Bus fares for two summers and the holiday season (by the way it starts this Saturday - again) and suspending the sales tax on home heating products.

Our commitment to infrastructure improvement is evident through initiatives like the repaving and reconstruction of Mamaroneck Avenue and Theodore Fremd Avenue, along with countless other byways.

And, all of this was managed while also improving the County’s bond rating and growing our reserves.  These achievements reflect our commitment to responsible financial management and reinforce the confidence of investors in our County’s financial stability. By maintaining a strong bond rating and surplus, we can better allocate resources to meet the needs of our community and invest in further improvements.

Additionally, we have fostered partnerships with local governments, resulting in increased revenue share back that surpasses any other Hudson Valley or downstate county.

The well-being of our residents has always been a top priority. We have prioritized funding for childcare, assistance to programs for food security and hosted multiple job fairs for people with disabilities to connect job seekers with employers, and the Sunflower Lanyards Program at the County Airport to help those with hidden disabilities as they travel.

This government firmly believes in equal rights and opportunities for all individuals. We have implemented robust anti-discrimination policies that protect and support all groups within our County, even funding a study focusing on assessing the needs of the Asian-American Pacific Islander community.

The study was commissioned by the Asian-American Advisory Board and surveyed 800 Asian Americans residing in Westchester, making it the first comprehensive needs assessment of its kind in the County’s history. The major findings of the study highlighted several areas where the AAPI community in Westchester requires attention and support, including language access, public safety, mental health care, social isolation and educational curriculum. This study serves as a crucial step towards understanding and addressing the challenges faced by the AAPI community, and promoting inclusivity and support in the region.

Our commitment to inclusivity extends beyond rhetoric, as we have taken tangible actions to uphold these principles. As we move forward, we must remain vigilant to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background, has a fair shot at achieving the American dream. 

We have also shown our deep respect and appreciation for the sacrifices made by our residents. We have honored those lost from COVID-19, our Gold Star mothers, 9/11 illness victims and all veterans who have served this County with dedication. The memory of individuals like the late Reginald A. LaFayette, we preserved by naming 100 East 1st Street in Mount Vernon in his honor.

In the Probation Department, a Department where they regularly collect and distribute restitution payments to victims of crimes, they commenced a special project to distribute surplus restitution funds to those victims who have been waiting the longest. In November, the Probation Department paid out nearly $190 thousand dollars to 23 victims. One elderly victim was about to lose his house to foreclosure. He received all that he was owed, a total of nearly $130 thousand dollars, and was able to keep his house.

We understand that there are vulnerable individuals who rely on government support. That’s why this legislature passed - and we signed into law and funded - Access to Counsel legislation.  The unfortunate reality is that renters are significantly underrepresented by attorneys in eviction cases. This new law levels the playing field and gives low-income households facing eviction access to free legal representation.

And, we have focused on another pressing issue in this County – Housing.

Building Affordable Homes

We understand the power of a balanced approach that combines fiscal prudence with social responsibility – to serious policy, to asking the questions and exploring the ugly parts. Let us continue to work together, transcending political divisions, to build a County that is strong, inclusive and thriving.

In Westchester County, our commitment to combating crime is unwavering. Recognizing the importance of this mission, I have significantly increased the funding for the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, providing them the highest level of financial support in their entire history. While some areas in the country may be experiencing an unfortunate increase in crime rates, tonight I am announcing that Westchester County continues to witness a consistent drop in criminal activities. I attribute this positive trend to the dedication and bravery displayed by our men and women in uniform.

Commitment to Safety

And, one of the partnerships that we talk about to combat crime is in the Office for Women.  Receiving a $1-million-dollar federal grant, the Domestic Violence High Risk Team has trained nearly three thousand law enforcement officers in trauma-informed investigations, and assessment of harm. This Team is now serving as a statewide model, and we could not be more proud.

In March, I took a significant step forward in our commitment to honesty and integrity in public office by signing into law the Truthful Disclosure Bill. Recent events involving a deceitful elected official have reinforced negative perceptions of politicians. We must dispel this stereotype and restore faith in our government.  Under this legislation, candidates for County Legislator and County Executive will complete a comprehensive Candidate Disclosure Form. This form encompasses essential biographical information, including educational, military and employment histories. Candidates must certify the accuracy of the provided information. We must remember that our democracy thrives when our elected officials embrace integrity. 

Recently, the Youth Bureau increased its financial support towards youth suicide prevention, mental health counseling, and social/emotional interventions through various programs through Boys and Girls Clubs, MHA/Break the Hold Foundation, local Youth Bureaus, and others. For the first time, our Youth Bureau offers free therapeutic services to children and youth enrolled in the 63 Invest in Kids Programs throughout the County.

In the Department of Correction, over the past seven months, working with the Department of Community Mental Health, St. John’s Riverside Hospital and their medical provider, Wellpath, have successfully developed a comprehensive Medication Assisted Treatment program to support residents diagnosed with an opiate disorder.

We have all seen and read about the increase in opioid overdoses happening here in Westchester County, and around the country. We have also seen that the use of, and access to, Narcan has significantly reduced the number of overdose deaths. We recognize that the more people trained to use Narcan, the safer our communities can become. Our first responders are trained but now is the time for all Westchester County employees to have the opportunity to receive the basic knowledge of Narcan, and how it is administered.

Thus, here tonight, I am announcing the Narcan Training for County Employees Initiative, a plan to train our County employees on how to administer Narcan. By imparting these facts and information to our employees, we will have begun a public campaign that will reach all areas of our County for residents to better understand the opioid crisis and be better prepared to combat it. 

This past September, we came together to recognize National Suicide Prevention Month and unveiled The Healing Garden at Ridge Road Park in Hartsdale. With its trees, pathways and benches, the circular garden becomes a gathering place for families, friends and the public to remember and honor those we have lost to suicide. It serves as a space for reflection and education, promoting awareness and prevention efforts. The establishment of The Healing Garden stands as a testament to Westchester County’s commitment to mental health support and suicide prevention, a beacon of hope for those in need and a sacred space for remembrance.

The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency granted financial incentives to residential and commercial developments, resulting in a private investment of an impressive $1.84 billion dollars in Westchester County’s economy. Spearheaded by the monumental $1.8-billion-dollar expansion of Regeneron, these projects supported by IDA incentives are projected to generate over 1,580 construction jobs, 600 new apartments and 832,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

In recognition of the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, the County has extended its support to religious organizations, nonprofits and minority and women-owned businesses through grants amounting to $17 million dollars.

Our Economic Development Strategy remains firmly on track as we allocate our human and financial resources to cultivate five key sectors: Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing, Clean Energy, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

To bolster the Life Sciences sector, we secured a $350 thousand dollar grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration supplemented by matching County funds, totaling $430 thousand dollars.

To tackle the shortage of trained and skilled workers, we established the Clean Energy Accelerator Program in collaboration with Sustainable Westchester.

Launch1000 is a fully remote, six-month idea accelerator program with a curriculum that helps entrepreneurs, who are Westchester County residents, fine-tune and start a business. The Program provides laptops and free Wi-Fi to participants. Over 350 entrepreneurs have gone through the Program and launched businesses since its inception in 2020.

As we progress forward, the County of Westchester remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering economic growth, supporting local businesses, and building a thriving and inclusive community.

This past year I questioned Holtec International’s plan to expedite the dumping of treated waste from Indian Point into the Hudson River.  In decommissioning this plant we need transparency and thorough analysis, prioritizing the long-term well-being of our residents over convenience and cost. I am promising you now, I will continue to work alongside you.

Westchester County takes great pride in its exceptional environmental record when it comes to waste reduction. Our Department of Environmental Facilities has implemented a range of innovative programs to remove various types of waste from the waste stream, including traditional materials like glass, plastic and paper, as well as electronics, textiles, paint, food scraps and boat wrapping. Over the years, our waste production has significantly declined and continues to do so. And we will do more in the days to come.

In 2022, municipalities in the County delivered nearly 75 thousand tons of curbside recyclables to our MRF, generating revenue of over $7 million dollars from the sale of these materials - a remarkable increase of over 95% compared to 2020.

Westchester was also at the forefront of pushing Proposition 1 - The Environmental Bond Act, you know “Flip it Over!” Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the County and its residents, the Bond Act passed with overwhelming support within Westchester County. So you know, let’s flip it over!

Flip it Over

We told you to flip it over and now we are also telling you to plug it in! As County Executive, one of my key goals has been to increase access to electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations for both the County Government and our residents.

Currently installed and operating for the public are 40 stations and in process by the end of this year will be an additional 149 stations - vastly increasing the total number of our public charging stations.

Our administration has developed a comprehensive program to address a significant and growing public safety threat from fires caused by Lithium Ion Batteries. Westchester’s new comprehensive Lithium Ion Battery Safety Program includes proposed legislation requiring point of sale warnings and safety information, requirements that devices meet prescribed safety standards, and a prohibition on the sale of re-assembled or damaged batteries. The Program also includes public education, firefighter training, and disposal options for damaged and old batteries.

This is all about the long game. Recently, I introduced four bills to showcase our commitment to fostering a healthier and more sustainable community for generations to come.

The Addressing Asthma in Communities of Color Amendment is a crucial step in addressing the high rates of asthma among communities of color. By creating a subcommittee dedicated to studying and proposing actions, we can identify risk factors, develop intervention strategies and raise awareness about asthma to ensure equitable access to quality treatment.

The Lead Free Parks Act will prioritize the safety of our residents by monitoring and remediating drinking water in all County parks.

The Renewable Energy Database Act will empower municipalities by providing access to a database that assists in siting renewable energy infrastructure.

Lastly, the Equity in Environmental Legislation Act will guarantee fairness in our decision-making processes by considering the historical cases of environmental justice.

These are all about the long game, but there is one situation in my hometown of Mount Vernon where the clock was running out. I am proud of the significant progress we have achieved in revitalizing Mount Vernon’s water and sewer infrastructure. As County Executive, I am dedicated to ensuring a better future for the city and its residents - and look I’ve got Mount Vernon, as well as Rye City, in my blood. 

The groundbreaking ceremony for the “Third Street Sewer Project,” attended by Governor Kathy Hochul, marked a crucial milestone in our journey to address long-standing challenges. This project aims to eliminate the need for temporary bypass pumps that have caused raw sewage backups in five thousand homes for nearly three years. While there is still work ahead, we remain committed to fully repairing Mount Vernon’s sewer infrastructure. With 90% of the system digitally mapped, we have made significant progress in understanding the scope of repairs needed.

Under my leadership, Westchester County continues to invest in critical infrastructure projects, supporting communities like Mount Vernon. I hope, actually I know, Stan and Loretta, my Mom and Dad, would be very proud of their boy.

The Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department has been working tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for our residents and provide them with exceptional recreational opportunities.

We are restoring Muscoot Farm’s Main House, a significant capital project with a budget of $1.9 million dollars. This historic landmark is now being preserved for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

To ensure the safety of our trailway users, in December, we added Smart Sign QR Codes to provide a convenient way for users to contact emergency services if needed.

Just last week we reopened Willson’s Woods Pool. After extensive repairs and improvements, we welcomed back swimmers and sun-seekers. The Wave Pool, known as Willson’s Waves, promises thrilling experiences with its graduated depth and intermittent waves up to three feet high.

We’ve got Pickleball Courts at Tibbetts Brook Park, the first full Cricket Pitch at Croton Point Park, and an upgraded South County Trailway. We are working to restore the Kingsland Point Lighthouse and we have all but rebuilt Playland, spending $150 million dollars to restore it to its glory.

We reopened the Westchester County Center. After serving as an overflow hospital, testing center and vaccination site during the pandemic, the County Center returned to its regular operations – including Section One Basketball.

And through our tireless efforts and persistent determination, we bore witness to the extraordinary transformation of Memorial Field, as it emerged, triumphantly, like a phoenix from the ashes soaring to new heights.

A Promise Kept: Opening Memorial Field

From my earliest days to the present, I have embraced the spirit of Mount Vernon, and it will forever hold a special place in my heart. Once a Mount Vernon Knight, always a Mount Vernon Knight. Although, let me give a shout-out to my Rye Garnets too.

Next month we will be hosting the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion Department of New York Conventions. This marks a momentous occasion as these conventions have not been held in the downstate area for decades, and never in Westchester. It is a true testament to our commitment to honoring and supporting our veterans.

In light of this milestone and as a sincere tribute to all the brave men and women who have selflessly sacrificed for our country, the Westchester County Center will proudly present a special Freedom Concert Tribute to American Military Heroes on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m.

And as always, thank you. May we always remember the valor and sacrifice of our veterans.

Distinguished guests, residents of Westchester County, today I address you with rock-solid conviction. In a world divided into two Americas, we stand tall, thriving and taking care of one another. This is our calling, our purpose.

If we cannot make this place an effective, functioning home, then where in the world can it be found? We are the crucible, the laboratories of democracy, holding the cure and the method in our hands. Our power lies in our unity, our commitment to progress and our belief that a better future is within our reach.

Westchester County is not just a name on a map; it is a symbol of possibility, of resilience and of determination.

Today, I declare to you that the State of our County is one of unyielding strength, unwavering resolve and boundless potential.

Together, we will continue to forge ahead, paving the way for a brighter tomorrow and solidifying our legacy as the beacon of hope, progress and prosperity.


A Walk in Westchester County

Let us stand firm, shoulder to shoulder, and address the problems of our generation. And, overcome them, as our parents’ generation, and our grandparents’ generation did. Let us prove to be worthy of their respect.

Thank you and goodnight.