Testa, A Leader on Protecting the Environment

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County Legislator John Testa has a been a leader on environmental issues for two decades and has a long record of initiatives he has supported and spearheaded. Testa’s record is well documented starting back from when he was Mayor of Peekskill. His active involvement in developing and promoting environmentally friendly policies continues to the present during his time as Westchester County Legislator for Cortlandt Manor, the City of Peekskill and the Town of Yorktown.

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Two of Testa’s former students at PHS performing lab tests on a electric generating wind turbine.

Testa was a high school teacher of Technology for over 30 years at Peekskill High School and used his interest in alternative energy sources as part of his curriculum. Before solar and wind energy use became commonplace, Testa used his classes to design, build and test various prototypes of alternative energy. “It was a very exciting time for the class because students would actually test their designs to see how well they generated power,” Testa said. “It became a friendly competition to see whose prototype worked best, whether it be a solar hot water unit or oven or a wind driven device. It was a way to have fun and learn at the same time,” Testa said.

Once becoming an elected official Testa was determined to use his position to advance pro-environmental policies. Let’s look closer at some of the major environmental successes Testa has had while in office.

As Mayor of Peekskill, John Testa…

instituted a comprehensive solid waste removal program with an emphasis on     increasing citywide recycling;

initiated a project to construct a new state-of-the-art water treatment facility;

worked jointly with Scenic Hudson on a 4.5-acre former industrial waterfront property called “Peekskill Landing” to clean up the land, the shoreline and preserve open space;

worked closely with the DEC to develop a remediation plan for a 4-acre area originally utilized as the city landfill;

secured a grant from The NY State Power Authority to replace 10 city owned fossil fuel vehicles with electric cars;

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Mayor Testa was a familiar sight driving through the city promoting the use of electric vehicles.

worked with representatives in Albany to establish a Conservation Easement with the State of New York that will permanently assure that the 500 acres of Peekskill owned property surrounding its reservoirs would be undevelopable;

secured an agreement to have a 45-acre parcel known as “Fort Hill” declared historic parkland;

instituted a Certified Local Government Landmarks Board that has helped to ensure the preservation of buildings within the Downtown Historic District;

encouraged adaptive re-use of buildings throughout the city resulting in a record number of preserved structures and National Register designations which led Peekskill to be recognized by the US Department of the Interior as a “Preserve America Community;”

Secured an agreement with the NYS Power Authority to install over 600 energy-efficient traffic and pedestrian signals within the Peekskill Business District.

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Legislator Testa has a record of working in a bi-partisan manner and with all levels of government across the Hudson Valley to promote environmental protection policies.

Since January of 2010 Testa has been a county legislator and has continued his dedication to presenting and supporting environmentally sensitive policies. During each term as legislator, Testa has been a member of the Environment and Energy Committee, which has recently been reconstituted as two separate committees, “Energy and Regional Efficiencies” and “Environment and Health.” Testa is an active member of both.

As Westchester County Legislator, Testa…

sponsored a County Resolution to oppose oil barge anchorages in Hudson River. Westchester was the first county to officially oppose with neighboring counties following suit, causing federal representatives to oppose the plan;

worked closely with the county’s partner, Energize NY, to complete major energy upgrade project for Drum Hill Senior Living Facility in Peekskill and solar panel installation at St. Christopher’s Church in Buchanan;

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https://johngtesta.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/legislator-john-testa-helps-secure-low-interest-loan-for-church-solar-installation-in-buchanan/

supported county law to eliminate #4 and #6 heating fuel;

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA developed and implemented land-use plans, stormwater and runoff management plans, public infrastructure standards and building codes to adapt to climate change risks (i.e., severe weather events, rising waters, extreme temperatures);

participated in creating a program to survey all county owned buildings to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels and the incorporation of alternative energy sources to any building projects and upgrades;
supported legislation that decreased the cost and simplified the process for small plumbing and electrical businesses to become solar installers in Westchester;

supported the implementation of a hybrid vehicle policy for county vehicles;

supported the implementation of an extended recycling law;

promoted home energy audits and tax breaks for solar panel installation in homes;

supported law to prevent the use of hydrofracking fluids in Westchester;

supported a County resolution regarding the Algonquin AIM Gas Pipeline project calling for various safety and risk assessments to be conducted by numerous Federal agencies involved in the project approval process;

secured the funding to totally rehabilitate close to 5 miles of county owned roads in the district. These roadways are the key east-west corridor for Northern Westchester and had not been brought up to standards for many decades. Now, these roads are up to 21st Century ADA and pedestrian safe standards;

directly involved in the review and approval of local farms and the expansion of the availability of locally grown and produced foods. He supported the creation and expansion of local Farmer’s Markets, including the recent addition by the City of Peekskill to establish an indoor market during the winter months and also the initiative by the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor (now known as the NY-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital) to create the “Harvest for Heath” program which includes a weekly Farmer’s Market, organic garden and a teaching kitchen;

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supported the recently passed county legislation prohibiting the sale of toxic children’s products;

called for a full environmental assessment study on the effects of the plan to close Indian Point. In addition to no credible plan to replace the lost energy generated by the plant, the over $40 million in local economic devastation to municipalities, school district and small businesses was never considered;

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Legislator Testa appeared at the FERC Scoping Session in Cortlandt Manor on the EIS for the AIM project to present the resolution that he and his 16 legislative colleagues unanimously passed calling for safety and risk assessments be conducted by the involved agencies with the project.

Despite his long and consistent record in the area of environmental protection, Testa is not ready to slow down. “Yes, I am proud of my record protecting the environment but there is still much more to do,” Testa said. “I am very interested in the continuous advancements in solar and electric related power generation and how we can expand their use in homes and vehicles. Sustainable development initiatives are critical to the future of our communities,” Testa added.

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Testa’s strong record on environmental issues is recognized each election by the NY League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) organization.

We are fortunate to have John Testa as a representative in Westchester County government as a strong advocate for policies focused on environmental protection, especially at this crucial time. There are always issues of concern regarding the environment but none larger than the two issues facing Westchester: the closure of Indian Point and the proposed Barge Anchorage sites along the Hudson River. Testa is in the forefront of both of these issues fighting to protect the communities he represents and the environment surrounding them.

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Westchester BioTech Center Deal Approved

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On April 3, 2017, the Westchester Board of Legislators and County Executive Rob Astorino announced the successful agreement to move forward with plans for the Westchester BioScience and Technology Center on the county-owned property next to the Westchester Medical Center.

The vacant property, commonly known as the “North 60” property is to be leased to Fareri Associates to construct a $1.2 billion, 3 million square foot complex. Fareri, a premier developer with over 40 years of experience will contribute an adjacent 20 acres of property to the project. As part of the agreement, Fareri will pay rent, including a percentage of gross annual income, real estate taxes, utility charges and permitting fees. At the same time, Fareri will invest $40 million is site infrastructure, roads, water supply, sewer and storm water management systems.

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The development comprises three major, multi-phase components: West Research Village, Central Village and East Research Village. Fully built out, the new center will include 2,252,600 square feet of biotech/research space; 400,000 square feet of medical offices; a 100,000-square-foot hotel with 100 rooms; 114,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, and a 34,000-square-foot Children’s Living Science Center, a unique complex designed to promote the improvement of the health of children in the region through dynamic and interactive educational programming.

The first phase of the project will include 220,000 square feet of biotech/research space, 100,000 square feet of medical space, 80,000 square feet of shopping/ground-level retail space, and a 100,000-square-foot hotel for a total of 500,000 square feet.

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The plan will incorporate many sustainable features, such as green roofs, gardens, preservation and improvement of on-site wetlands, bio-swales and rain gardens, interpretive trails and preserving and improving forest land on site. Approximately 54% of the property—or 43.6 acres—will be preserved as open green space.
North60_Astorino2“This project is the largest of its kind every approved by Westchester County, said County Legislator and Minority Leader John Testa (Cortlandt/Peekskill/Yorktown). It will make Westchester one of the top bio-technology centers in the county while bringing in $9 million in tax revenue, $ 7 million in rent annually for the county, not to mention the boost to the local economy, and tax base for the school district and town. The biotech center will create 4,000 permanent high level jobs and 8,000 construction jobs, added Testa.”

The project will now move through the local planning process in the Town of Mount Pleasant where North 60 is located.

Project Highlights:
• $9 million in estimated new real estate taxes annually to Westchester County, the Town of Mount Pleasant and the Mount Pleasant School District (there is no residential component, so the complex will not have any impact on the class sizes of local schools);
• $7 million in estimated new annual rent to Westchester County;
• Approximately 4,000 new construction jobs;
• More than 8,000 new permanent jobs from entry-level through the professional ranks;
• Forging relationships between the Westchester Medical Center and providers and inventors of cutting-edge medical technologies and innovations;
• Creating job opportunities for students in the emerging bioscience field by forming partnerships with nearby Westchester Community College, Pace University and New York Medical College;
• Creating a new Children’s Living Science Center that will provide children with a personal awareness of health issues.

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Legislator Testa, Mayor Catalina Announce Funding for Major Energy System Upgrades at Drum Hill Senior Living

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On March 6, 2017, Board of Legislators (BOL) Minority Leader, Legislator John Testa (Cortlandt-Peekskill-Yorktown), was joined by his colleagues in approving almost $400,000 in funding for energy efficiency upgrades for the Drum Hill Senior Living Community.  The funding is part of an Inter-Municipal Agreement (IMA) with the City of Peekskill.  The BOL approved the IMA by a unanimous 17-0 vote.

Energize NYThe City of Peekskill will sub-allocate a portion of the County’s allocation of Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECB) for the acquisition, construction and installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements at the Drum Hill property which is located at 90 Ringgold Street in Peekskill.

Among the major projects to be financed through the IMA are the demolition and replacement of two large boiler systems and the associated electrical, venting and plumbing work.  The new boilers will offer higher output using less energy.  There will also be an across the board upgrade to lighting and other utility fixtures throughout the facility.

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Legislator Testa, Mayor Catalina and Westchester County Economic Development Office Director William Mooney III at the Drum Hill energy upgrade announcement.

Legislator John Testa (R) Peekskill is the BOL Minority Leader.  “This IMA is an excellent example of how the County and municipalities like Peekskill can work together to access funding for important service providers like Drum Hill.”  Testa said.  “These upgrades will improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact at the Drum Hill property.  Which allows Drum hill to provide senior housing in a more affordable and healthy manner for our seniors.  This project demonstrates the success of this program and I hope for similar projects in Peekskill and throughout my district in the future.”

Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina said, “These funds provide Drum Hill with an excellent opportunity to upgrade the energy efficiency of their operations.  There have been many developments in energy technology in recent years which are now coming to the marketplace.  That means there are more opportunities for local governments, non-profits and other entities to save money and lower harmful emissions by upgrading.  I look forward to working with our government partners at the county level to identify additional opportunities to provide financing for energy efficiency improvements in our community.”

Related Post:

https://johngtesta.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/legislator-john-testa-helps-secure-low-interest-loan-for-church-solar-installation-in-buchanan/

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Republican Legislators, Police Union Announce 5 County Police Positions to be Filled

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On March 6, 2017, the bipartisan Coalition of Legislators who passed the no-tax-increase 2017 county budget, applauded County Executive Rob Astorino for moving to fill 5 Westchester County Police Officer Positions. The County Executive signed the Vacancy Releases earlier Monday which makes it possible to fill the positions by March 13th. The hirings were part of a budget compromise reached between the bipartisan coalition of 10 legislators and the County Executive.

Floor speech 2017Minority Leader John Testa (Cortlandt-Peekskill-Yorktown) said, “Public Safety is a priority for our caucus and we have a record of supporting all aspects of law enforcement and protection for our residents. Bolstering the ranks of our County Police Force was a key negotiating point for the Republican Caucus during the budget discussions this year. I thank the County Executive for acting quickly and in good faith to fulfill this promise.”

West. Cty PoliceWestchester County Police Benevolent Association President Michael Hagan thanked the legislators who voted for the budget saying, “I appreciate the hard work of the legislators to make these 5 hires happen. I look forward to continuing to work with the BOL to fill the remaining 10 vacant positions.”

Legislator Sheila Marcotte (Eastchester-New Rochelle-Tuckahoe) is the Chair of the BOL Budget and Appropriations Committee. “These new hires demonstrate that although we may prioritize things differently, if we focus on compromise and cooperation, we can work together to provide all the services and programs that our residents rely on while still protecting taxpayers,” Marcotte said. “I look forward to working with the County Executive throughout the remainder of this budget year to find additional savings to help Westchester County operate efficiently, with public safety and security as a top priority.”

BOL Vice-Chairman Jim Maisano (New Rochelle-Pelham) said, “Protecting taxpayers is our number one priority. The Board of Legislators will continue to ensure that our Department of Public Safety continues to operate at the proper staffing levels.”

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Legislator Testa Co-Sponsors Legislation to Ban Synthetic Marijuana

SpiceK2.jpgLegislator David Tubiolo (Yonkers-Mount Vernon) has proposed a Local law which would ban the sale or possession of  chemical compounds known as synthetic marijuana in Westchester County.  Minority Leader, Legislator John Testa (Cortlandt-Peekskill-Yorktown) is co- sponsoring the Act which was taken up for discussion on February 13, 2017 in the Board of Legislators (BOL) Legislation Committee. The substance is generally known as K2 or Spice, but is found under various names and deceptive packaging.

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Synthetic Marijuana can be found in stores under various names and packaging, including being sold as incense or potpourri.

The Legislation Committee, of which Legislator Testa is a member, received feedback from members of law enforcement including Westchester County Public Safety Commissioner George Longworth and representatives of both the Yonkers and Mount Vernon Police Departments. Both County and municipal law enforcement representatives voiced support for the proposed law and reported frequent interactions with individuals under the influence of synthetic marijuana who were “zombie-like”, irrational, violent or suicidal. They also reported that these incidents are on the rise. Because of its inexpensive cost, the negative impacts are seen disproportionately among young teems and in low-income areas. Westchester County Consumer Protection Commissioner Mark Fang also participated at the Committee meeting, indicating his Department’s support for the measure.

The Local Law would be implemented by amending the “Consumer Protection Code” to include a new Article XXIV entitled “Synthetic Cannabinoids” in relation to restricting the sale and possession of synthetic drugs. The law would be enforced through both local Police and the County’s Department of Consumer Protection. The civil penalties proposed for violators include a $500 fine for the first offense and $1000 for a second offense. The extent of criminal penalties is still under discussion.

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Emergency response to four people sickened by synthetic marijuana in While Plains in 2016.

Westchester’s law seeks to broaden the definition of synthetic drugs to avoid the “cat and mouse game” of slightly altering the chemical composition of the drug to circumvent local laws which producers have employed in the past.

Legislator David Tubiolo is Chair of the Seniors and Constituencies Committee which has oversight of the County’s Youth Bureau. “Synthetic marijuana is a serious and dangerous problem from both a public health and law enforcement perspective. Because of the inconsistent nature of the chemical compounds used, it is impossible to predict how the drug will affect the user and how severe those affects might be. This is especially dangerous for our kids who are the prime target of synthetic drug suppliers. The drug is generally marketed in brightly colored packages featuring familiar cartoon characters. There could not be a more innocent looking product which hides potentially deadly effects.” Tubiolo said.  “I believe that properly crafted legislation implemented through the coordinated efforts of law enforcement and our Consumer Protection Department can go a long way toward eradicating this addictive and deadly poison in our communities.”Scooby Snax.jpg

Legislator John Testa, the Co-Sponsor of the Law said, “Synthetic drugs are a uniquely dangerous and fast spreading phenomenon. The obvious threat to public health, especially that of our kids should be enough to keep it off store shelves but for sellers who are willing to put profits over moral responsibility, this Legislation will ensure that their profits dry up through severe financial penalties and potential criminal charges.” Testa added, “I spent my professional career as a public High School Teacher and I can see that the danger and accessibility of these synthetic drugs poses a threat to our youth that we must address now and at every level of government. I hope that our Legislation here in Westchester County can serve as a template for local, regional and state governments to use in battling this critical problem.”

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Legislators discuss synthetic drug ban with law enforcement and Consumer Affairs officials during the Legislation Committee meeting on February 13, 2017.

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Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney

Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (and then Thewalt-disney_lincoln Wonderful World of Disney) was a staple every Sunday night on television. Every week we looked forward to Walt Disney himself introduce cartoons, historic features, programs and films, all in color beginning in 1961. Those of us who attended the 1964 New York World’s Fair saw Disney’s influence everywhere. Who could forget seeing the “It’s a Small World” installation in the pavilion hosting the Pepsi salute to UNICEF. Then, of course, there was “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” the lifelike President Abraham Lincoln speaking to the audience. This was Disney’s first such ‘Audio-Animatronic’ figure that would eventually be expanded to a full “Hall of Presidents” at Disney’s theme parks.

waltaslincoln1So why did Disney select Lincoln as his first lifelike subject? Come to find out, Walt Disney had a lifelong connection to Mr. Lincoln. “Ever since I was a small boy in Illinois,” Disney once stated, “I have had a great personal admiration for Abraham Lincoln.” As a 5th grader, Walt used cardboard to create a stovepipe hat, his father’s coat and crepe hair to make himself an impressive looking Lincoln as he recited the perfectly memorized Gettysburg Address to his classmates. It was a performance he recreated every year until his graduation.

worlds-fair_disneyWhile planning for Disneyland in 1959 it was decided that a human Audio-Animatronic Lincoln would recreate a few of his historic speeches. Once Robert Moses, the force behind the NY World’s Fair, saw an early prototype of the Lincoln display he demanded it be included in the Fair. The development timetable for the Lincoln figure needed serious shortening in order to be ready for the “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” installation atwalt-and-lincoln-cast the Fair. The skillful artisans at Disney Studios and W.E.D. Enterprises in California used actual historic artifacts and original photos to craft the authentic Lincoln. They even used a Life Mask of Lincoln created by Leonard Volk in 1860. The advancement in recording technology was perfected for the movements of the figure. Engineers were required to create breakthroughs in the use of the hydraulic and pneumatic systems used for the physical movements of the figure. It was a long way from the centuries old animatronic devices that utilized clockwork movements to animate the figures.

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Once the NY World’s Fair was over, the Lincoln figure was shipped back to California and “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” was opened on July 18, 1966. The lobby of the Lincoln exhibit at the Main Street Play House in Disneyland displayed mock-up recreations of Lincoln’s offices and historic Lincoln items. Once in the theater, the show featured a short film called “Two Brothers” discussing the story of two brothers who fought on both sides of the Civil War. The curtains then rose to reveal the moving and speaking Lincoln figure.

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Walt Disney not only wanted to create a tribute to Lincoln but he saw “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” as a means to educate and bring history to life. Disney described it himself; “Most Americans will agree with me that no man has had more of a positive impact on a nation than Abraham Lincoln has on our country. He is venerated not only in our land but in many parts of the world. Yet I have always felt too few people realize that Lincoln’s concepts and philosophies are as useful, as necessary, as applicable today as they were when he pronounced them a century ago. His analysis of freedom and its true meaning, his approach to justice and equality, his own courage and strength all are as vital in the 1960’s as they were during the mid 1800’s.”

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Republican Caucus Proposes Law To Mandate NY State Attorney General’s “Model New York Gun Show Procedures”

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The seven Republican County Legislators and one Conservative member of the Westchester County Board of Legislators are proposing that a law be passed as quickly as possible that requires that any gun shows to be held at the Westchester County Center be mandated to follow the recommendations of the NY State Attorney General’s office from its “Model New York Gun Show Procedures.” While it appears that many gun shows across NY State are now following these procedures, the eight legislators believe that Westchester residents will feel more secure about having gun shows in our county if these clear and strict requirements are enshrined in law. If this law passes, Westchester County will have the strongest law regulating gun shows in NY State. Procedures this proposed law will require are:

1)  All guns brought into the gun show by private sellers are tagged so that, upon exiting, the operator can determine if guns were sold and that a proper background check was performed.

2)  Post conspicuous signs throughout the shows that give written notice to all dealers and lay out in online promotional materials that makes clear that New York State law requires that a National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) must be completed prior to all firearm sales or transfers, and it’s a crime not to do so.

3) Inform all gun show staff of the requirements of posting signs and conducting NICS and provide access to a dealer who is authorized to conduct a NICS at cost.

4) Limit the number of access doors at the show so that sellers and buyers have to enter and exit through an area where the NICS procedures can be monitored.

5) Use reasonable means, including police patrols, to prevent illegal gun sales outside of the building, including the parking lot, and have law enforcement at gun show to watch for illegal sales.

Vice Chair Jim Maisano stated, “I would expect quick passage of this legislation since it was developed after research and due diligence by Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman in working with the companies that run gun shows around New York. We believe that mandating the toughest regulations possible to ensure that gun shows follow all existing laws and that the safest procedures possible are followed is the right solution to deal with future gun shows at the Westchester County Center.”

Minority Leader John Testa stated, “The collaboration between show organizers and the NYS Attorney General has enabled gun shows to be successfully held across NY State. We can take an important step in Westchester that will preserve the Constitutional protections of citizens while assuring the public that a proven successful procedure for the event is in place. The GOP feels this is the best solution at this time.”

Minority Whip Gordon Burrows stated, “I fully support passing a law that sets forth clear guidelines to ensure that weapons sold at gun shows don’t find their way into the hands of felons, terrorists, the dangerously mentally ill and others that could not pass a background check. I believe our law is a win for both public safety and constitutional rights.”

This law is being drafted by the Westchester County Attorney at the request of all the members of the Republican Caucus: County Legislators Jim Maisano (R, New Rochelle), John Testa (R, Peekskill), Gordon Burrows (R, Yonkers), Sheila Marcotte (R, Tuckahoe), David Gelfarb (R, Rye Brook), Francis Corcoran (R, Bedford), Margaret Cunzio (C, Mount Pleasant) and David Tubiolo (R, Yonkers).

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