TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino delivered the first major address of his second term on Friday, outlining his plans to improve the county’s economic viability while creating jobs locally while also touching on other timely topics.
Astorino was the keynote speaker at the 13th annual Westchester Business Council’s KeyBank Breakfast at Abigail Kirsch in Tarrytown. There, he announced that he and Michael Kaplowitz, the new chairman of the Board of Legislators, agreed on nearly $300 million in infrastructure investments and improvements.
“There is no bigger project than the Tappan Zee Bridge. We don’t view this as a bridge between Nyack and Tarrytown, it’s a gateway to Westchester County,” Astorino said. “The success of the bridge can be seen as a catalyst to bring jobs to the county.”
With three rail lines, multiple major highways leading to and from Manhattan, and the Westchester County Airport, Astorino believes that the county is “primed for growth,” as businesses and residents alike are beginning to find New York City too pricey, and are instead looking to settle in the suburbs surrounding the metropolis.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a bedroom community to New York City. Businesses want to start out where employees can start families and grow,” he continued. “The more expensive New York City becomes, the better for us. I never thought the mayor of New York would be a major part of our economic development team.”
The $274 million of infrastructure investments marks an increase of $86 million from last year. The largest projects include the rehabilitation of the Ashford Avenue Bridge in Ardsley and the Fulton Avenue Bridge in Mount Vernon. Astorino and Kaplowitz predict that the projects will create hundreds, if not thousands of jobs for Westchester County residents.
“The Board of Legislators is committed to working with the administration to move these capital projects through the approval process quickly,” Kaplowitz said. “We’ve established a new committee structure that will allow us to perform our oversight functions in a more effective and timely way.”
Astorino added that with the ascension of Kaplowitz in the legislature, it could serve as a fresh start between the two branches of government, which have occasionally shared a contentious relationship in the past.
“The key point of this announcement is that it offers a fresh start between the executive and legislative branches of government,” he said.
The county executive kept the tone of his speech light, making jokes at the expense of “his friend” Chris Christie’s latest scandal and poking fun at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's medical marijuana proposal with an image of Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong. He ended his speech with a smile, after being asked the question everyone was wondering: what’s the latest on his potential gubernatorial campaign.
“We were just involved in a really tough campaign, which has led to some calls from around the state from people wondering if I’ll test the waters. It also helps that Westchester County is one of the few (counties) people recognize around the country,” he said. “It’s something I’m thinking about, whether or not to run. But no matter what, this will always be the place I call home, and the place I love more than anything.”