MTA Highlights Penn Access

The MTA has launched a new website devoted to information and updates about Penn Access.  Visit the site at https://pennstationaccess.info.

When completed in a few years, the Penn Access project will link Metro-North’s New Haven line directly to Penn Station through four new stops in the Bronx. Because the rail line splits in New Rochelle, our community will have the closest station to Manhattan with direct service to both the east and west sides — a huge asset.

The MTA’s website focuses primarily on benefits for Bronx residents, which is understandable given that the bulk of new capital investments will occur in that borough, but the advantages for commuters in Westchester and Connecticut — and especially New Rochelle — will be enormous.

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Lots of New Rochelleans in Power 100

City & State has just published their list of the Westchester Power 100, which they describe as “the movers and shakers who are defining the county’s future.”  There are lots of New Rochelleans in the mix, including:

Kathie Davidson, Belinda Miles, Rich Bamberger, Seamus Carey, Bill O’Shaughnessy, Alisa Kesten, and Michael Fosina.  (Plus me — listed as number 10, which seems a little too high.)  If you count folks who have worked in New Rochelle or represent New Rochelle, then the local connections are much more extensive.

You can read through the whole list to spot friends and neighbors.

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Nita Lowey

Former staffers with Nita Lowey

Yesterday, Nita Lowey announced her decision to retire from Congress at the end of the current term.  In the hours since, countless leaders have offered public tributes to Nita’s service, all well-earned.  For Nita has, indeed, been a truly exceptional representative — effective, principled, tireless, often courageous — with an astounding record of accomplishment for our region and nation.  Few, if any, officials in Westchester’s history have achieved as much or enjoyed anything close to the same level of esteem and affection across a span of decades.

I confess, however, somewhat selfishly, that my thoughts about Nita’s retirement have been less about the public record and more inward-looking, personal, even emotional.

Nita gave me my first job out of grad school as Deputy Campaign Manager for her 1992 reelection.  From there, I went on to join her staff, mainly as a speech-writer, beginning a professional relationship that continued in different ways for about 20 years, most of my adult life.  Outside of family, I can’t think of any person who has had a more profound impact on who I am today.

Some elected officials have a private persona that differs significantly from their public image.  Not so Nita.  Up close, as a boss, she is every bit the same kind, warm, empathetic — and, make no mistake, also tough and shrewd — figure that she appears to be from afar.  One telling memory: Nita visiting with a family who had just lost a child to a random act of violence.  I was “staffing” her, watching silently from a respectful distance.  With the family, she was strong and comforting, just what you would hope for from a leader in an impossibly difficult moment.  And then, afterwards, as we walked back to the car, her voice and composure broke as she murmured “he was a good kid.”  A small moment, almost trivial in the context of a career with so many towering achievements, and yet, for me, indelible and moving still now, even as I write.  There are too many people in public life who feign humanity with the spotlight on and snap into cold self-absorption with the spotlight off.  With Nita, the humanity is never, ever an act.

Because of these qualities, she fostered a fiercely loyal community of staffers over the years, who maintained relationships with her and with each other long after they had moved on to other positions.  Today, I can still count friends, many friends, good friends, whom I know through Nita.  And across this network, the news of Nita’s decision has fallen like a lightning bolt, prompting reflection, story-telling, laughter, tears, and, above all, gratitude.

It almost goes without saying that most of what I know about public service, I learned directly or indirectly from Nita.  And although I have never come close to matching her accomplishments, graciousness, energy, or uncanny ability to read people, I have tried my best.  If more of us in public life adopted Nita Lowey as a model, our world would be a far, far better place.

This is not a eulogy.  Nita is happy and healthy.  She has more than a year of hard and important work left in her term.  And, if there is any justice, she will have many years after that to enjoy life and family.  So it is not a time for good-byes.  It is a time instead to say a simple, heartfelt, fervent: thank you.

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New Rochelle Takes a Stand

As a small city, New Rochelle can’t by itself change the direction of our country.  But when New Rochelle works together with other cities, we can at least influence the national conversation, prod Congress to action, or express a clear view in the courts.  That’s why I support inter-municipal agreements and initiatives that allow New Rochelle to take a stand on issues of great importance to many of our own residents and consistent with our community’s values.  Here are a couple of timely examples:

Today, New Rochelle is joining 105 cities, towns, and counties in filing an amicus brief in defense of the DACA program, which has helped countless young people remain in and contribute to the only country they’ve ever known.  The full brief has much more information.

Second, as a member of Mayors Against LGBTQ Discrimination, I am proud to join colleagues in calling on the Supreme Court to affirm that no one should ever lose their job because of who they love.  The Court will hear three cases on this topic today, with big potential implications.

New Rochelle is a welcoming, inclusive community that celebrates diversity, and we should affirm our core values at every opportunity.

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Mayors for Pete

Today, I am proud to join more than 50 mayors from across the nation in endorsing @PeteButtigieg for President of the United States. We made our announcement in an op-ed in USA Today. #PeteForAmerica

Mayor Pete is a generational talent, who will bring to the Presidency a perspective, skill set, and temperament that are ideally matched to the challenges and opportunities of our times. Mayors see firsthand the ground-level impact of policy-making on lives and communities, and we’re the best judges of fellow mayors; the widespread admiration Pete has earned among city leaders across the country is a testament to his exceptional abilities.

There’s more in this press release, and here’s the full op-ed.

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