Westchester BioTech Center Deal Approved


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.


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.


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

Drum Hill.jpg

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.


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.”

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

Public Safety Photo

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.

K2-in store.jpg

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.


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.”


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.


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.


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”


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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Legislators Pass Bipartisan, Zero-Tax-Increase 2017 Budget

img_57387th Year In A Row Without Tax Levy Increase
Increased Public Safety With 6 Westchester County Police Positions Added
Infrastructure Initiatives to Increase With 4 Engineers Added to DPW
Title XX Subsidized Childcare Gets $1 Million Boost

On December 12th, the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) passed the $1.8 Billion 2017 Operating Budget by a vote of 10-7.  The 2017 budget is the 7th consecutive county budget that carries no tax increase.

The budget was supported by all 10 members of the bipartisan coalition of 8 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

In addition to not raising taxes, the 2017 budget contains no reductions to the county work force, in fact the budget adds 6 positions to County Police and 4 engineering positions to the Department of Public Works. 


Minority Leader Testa speaking before budget vote.

Other than a slight reduction in funding to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, other non-profit partners kept the same level of funding as the 2016 budget.  There was an addition of $210,000 for other Community Based Organizations. 

During Budget and Appropriations Committee meetings, The BOL learned that the Title XX subsidized childcare program would not be able to accept new applicants beginning sometime in August 2017 based on current funding levels.  To ensure that low income families are able to access safe and affordable childcare while they are at work, the BOL added $1 million to the Title XX program. 

Prior to the budget vote, the BOL voted unanimously in favor of a resolution requesting the County Executive to undertake an open bidding process for a private operator at the Westchester County Airport.

Following the budget, BOL Chairman Michael Kaplowitz (D) Somers, noted how challenging the 2017 budget process was.  “I thank my Legislative colleagues and staff for their hard work and cooperation in producing this bipartisan, no-tax-increase budget.  The 2017 budget not only protects taxpayers by not raising taxes for a seventh consecutive year, it strengthens social programs that many Westchester County residents rely on as well as adding critical positions to our County police and engineering positions in the Department of Public Works to help address a major backlog of capital projects.”,  Kaplowitz said.  “We will continue to work together with the County Executive to find alternative forms of revenue and savings, in fact we will be issuing a Request for Proposals for a private partner to operate the Westchester County Airport which could unlock as much as $15 million in funds that have accrued from airport operations.”

BOL Minority Leader, Legislator John Testa (R) Peekskill, said the 2017 budget was achieved through a combination of fiscal discipline, bipartisan cooperation and finding alternative sources of funding.  “I am proud of the work that my 9 bipartisan colleagues and I have done to produce a seventh consecutive no-tax-increase budget.  My Republican colleagues and I are committed to protecting taxpayers by eliminating waste in government, constantly searching for more efficient ways to deliver services and finding alternative streams of revenue.”, Testa said.  “In addition to passing the 2017 budget today we also passed a resolution asking County Executive Astorino to issue a Request for Proposals to find a private operator the County Airport.  The County Executive proposed a very promising deal with a private operator for the airport and I am hopeful that following the bidding process we will act quickly to select a partner to help us monetize that important county asset for general county operational costs.”

BOL Vice-Chairman, Legislator Jim Maisano (R) New Rochelle, said. “This is a compromise budget that holds the line on property taxes and protects essential services.  Our County government is facing serious issues as we head into 2017 and we need to keep working together through bipartisan cooperation to ensure that our county is run in a fiscally responsible manner.”

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