Mayors Show Why They Are Effective Leaders at BCW’s Valley Bank Leadership Event
BCW members and guests attending Thursday’s Valley Bank panel discussion with five Westchester city mayors were treated to a fast-moving, informative and stimulating discussion capably led by BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon. The event was held at Kanopi, the restaurant on the 42nd floor atop the Opus Hotel in downtown White Plains.
The mayors — Mount Vernon’s Shawyn Patterson-Howard, New Rochelle’s Noam Bramson, Peekskill’s Vivian McKenzie, Yonkers’ Mike Spano; and White Plains’ Tom Roach — were each in top form as they discussed a range of topics including economic development, housing, major new projects , challenges they face, and their personal approaches to leading their respective communities.
Shawyn-Patterson noted that her background as a planner helped her take creative approaches tailored to Mount Vernon’s divergent neighborhoods. For the first time in decades, the city is completing a new Comprehensive Plan that will provide guidance as the city “reimagines” its downtown, and plans for a range of new housing with a focus on market-rate to workforce. She noted that the city’s choice of three MetroNorth stations is a key factor in enticing new residents.
Bramson, who is not seeking reelection after 20 years as New Rochelle’s mayor, said he takes pride in having guided a highly successful redevelopment of the city’s downtown. He noted that while there is still work to be done including the completion of major infrastructure upgrades, New Rochelle is now the fastest growing city in the state, and a model for balanced redevelopment.
Taking a cue from Gordon’s lead question, Spano discussed Yonkers’ well-earned new moniker, “Hollywood-on-Hudson.” He said the 22 new film production studios being created in the city will result in 6,000 jobs and noted that a special education program and school will train local young people for careers working in the studios. He also noted the recent arrival of Target at the Cross County Shopping Center and the importance of the ongoing effort to gain a full gaming license for MGM’s Empire City.
Mayor Roach said White Plains continues to see new downtown apartments occupied as quickly as they come online. He noted that the city requires 12 percent of the new units to be affordable, helping to assure housing opportunities for a range of incomes. He emphasized the importance of the redevelopment of the former Galleria Mall site which is in the initial stages of discussion with the city. He described the site as a “mega-block” that will be designed with an emphasis on creative open spaces, with multiple uses including retail, dining and entertainment venues and a full interconnectivity with the rest of the downtown.
Peekskill’s McKenzie said her city in Westchester’s northwest corner is focused on smart development and is working to be flexible with developers to encourage them to take creative development approaches. Currently some 800 new units of housing are “coming on board,” and the city is attracting many new younger residents from Brooklyn and other parts of the Metro area. She noted that a major planning goal is creating a stronger linkage between the city’s downtown and its Hudson River waterfront where a new public pier is being completed that will allow larger tourist boats to dock.
Gordon wrapped up the 60-plus minute session posing an intriguing question to each: What is your best leadership quality? Bramson: Humility. Patterson-Howard: Being a connector. McKenzie: Knowing I can’t do it alone. Spano: Being my community’s biggest cheerleader. Roach: Saying what I think.
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