Scene and Seen: County Executive Rob Astorino Offers Solutions for Westchester County's Anticipated$114 Million Budget Shortfall in 2012; Tappan Zee Bridge Project Chosen for Expedited Federal Review and Approval

The economic state of the country has been a major topic of discussion in the news media and the barbershop the past few months. Finances are also on the mind of Westchester County legislators and residents as budget season approaches. County Executive Rob Astorino announced that the county was facing a $114 million budget shortfall next year and that he planned to close the gap without raising taxes by cutting spending, instituting a one-week furlough, and having union workers start contributing toward their health insurance as a trade-off to avoid approximately 250 layoffs. Astorino also asked department heads to reduce their budgets by 10 to 20 percent in a effort to save money. The county executive said he hoped to avoid layoffs, asking the public employee unions to pay more toward their health care to help save jobs. This year, the cost of state unfunded mandates to county taxpayers was $416.5 million, reported Astorino, who also said Albany was taking some encouraging first steps, but more needed to be done. So far, according to published reports, the unions that represent the county’s employees have not commented publicly on Astorino’s demands.

There was also big news out of the Business Council of Westchester last week, as the group announced that John Ravitz was named to the newly created position of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Ravitz, a former New York State Assemblyman, is former Chief Operating Officer of the Greater New York Region of the American Red Cross and Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross in Westchester County. He also once served as Executive Director of the New York City Board of Elections. “What excited me the most about joining the Business Council of Westchester was the fact that on a daily basis it has been in the forefront of revitalizing job creation and retention in Westchester,” Ravitz tells INComing.“To join Marsha Gordon’s team in helping to continue that work was an opportunity that I could not turn down.” Ravitz will oversee the Business Council’s legislative and government affairs, and community relations, and will play a key role in developing and expanding membership services. His selection was announced October 10 at the Business Council’s annual dinner. His appointment is effective Oct. 31.“I have dedicated my career to public service and addressing critical issues, and I look forward to being directly involved in addressing one of the most crucial issues facing our community today,” said Ravitz.

Westchester and Rockland County residents have heard news of a Tappan Zee Bridge replacement for so long, they can be forgiven for rolling their eyes at any new media reports. But it appears the long-awaited project might actually happen. President Barack Obama announced on Oct. 10 that replacing the decrepit structure is one of 14 projects nationwide chosen for expedited federal review and approval. The 14 projects were selected based on a presidential executive order in late August, which directed federal agencies to identify and help speed up high-priority infrastructure projects that potentially could create a large number of jobs, according to a report in The Journal News.

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Meanwhile, Judith Huntington was officially inaugurated as the 13th president of The College of New Rochelle on Oct. 14, at a ceremony held at The Wellness Center at the college’s New Rochelle campus. She began her tenure at The College of New Rochelle in 2001 as Vice President for Financial Affairs with full responsibility for all fiscal issues involving the College. Prior to joining The College of New Rochelle, she worked for 15 years with the accounting firm KPMG LLP. One of her first clients at KPMG was The College of New Rochelle; Huntington served as outside independent auditor for the College for about 10 years. Faculty, alumni, staff, students and leaders from the educational, business, and political community attended the inauguration.

Staying in the Queen City of the Sound, Willow Towers Assisted Living, part of the campus of services of United Hebrew of New Rochelle, has announced a yearlong initiative of specialized enhanced education for its staff and caregivers. The initiative, called Partnerships in Dementia Care, is a newly created program under the auspices of the White Plains Hospital Senior Services Department that trains personal and professional caregivers to help people with dementia improve their quality of life while reducing the burden of the caregivers. Willow Towers will serve as the pilot site for the newly designed person-centered coaching educational program for caregivers.

In other news, The Westchester Bank, a county-based community bank, recently helped raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a $2,500 donation to the American Cancer Society. The bank made the donation in the name of one of its customers, Debra Tricarico of Brookfield, Conn. Tricarico, who is currently being treated for breast cancer, has been very active in fund-raising on behalf of Breast Cancer Awareness. The $2,500 donation from The Westchester Bank represents the single largest amount she has collected so far for the cause. At a ceremony held at the Bank’s headquarters in Yonkers, Tricarico and John Tolomer, the bank’s president and CEO, presented the check to Susan Petre, Regional Vice President of the American Cancer Society.

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