Our Power Dozen
Meet Westchester’s 12 most influential business leaders.
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Westchester Community Foundation
Philanthropy is hard. There’s deciding what kinds of organizations you support, vetting them for legitimacy, and setting up a payment plan, not to mention all of that paperwork.
Catherine Marsh, executive director of the 30-plus-year-old, five-employee Westchester Community Foundation, makes philanthropy easy—and possible for people who wouldn’t be able to do the legwork otherwise. Instead of working with a hodgepodge of organizations, or trying to set up a staffed foundation, donors can create funds with the Westchester Community Foundation. They then can suggest where those funds go, by choosing specific local or nationwide organizations, or they can select areas they’d like to help, like children or the arts. The Foundation then takes over the work: the vetting, the administration, the federal filing, even the liability.
“It only takes five-thousand dollars to have a fund here,” says Marsh, a Hartsdale resident who has been executive director for the past 11 years. “To start up your own foundation and to be cost-effective, we estimate you need over five-million dollars.”
Then, Marsh gets to help with the fun side of the Westchester Community Foundation—distributing the money to deserving nonprofits. The Foundation manages approximately $30 million annually and gives away nearly $5 million per year. In 2009, donors set up 483 grants through the Foundation, 184 of which went to organizations in Westchester. In addition, the Foundation has close to $2 million that it has total control over—no donor opinions necessary—and gives away through a competitive grant process. Under Marsh’s direction, all those grants stay within Westchester-based organizations. Last year, 60 organizations benefited from these funds.
“It’s one thing to give away fifty thousand dollars,” she adds, “and it’s another thing to say, ‘Where can this fifty thousand dollars have the most benefit?’”
“Catherine leaves no stone unturned in her search for values,” says Lisa Buck, director of The Bridge Fund of Westchester. Under Marsh, the Westchester Community Foundation has grown, from $728,256, managing 50 funds in 1998 to $1,864,403, managing 171 funds today.
“Non-profits, like businesses, sometimes compete for resources,” says Michael Clark, president of the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York, an umbrella organization for nearly 1,700 nonprofits. “Catherine brings them together in unique ways, strengthening them and strengthening the Westchester community. She’s a real visionary leader and a unifying force.”
The centerpiece of this process is an annual event known as The Summit, presented by Marsh with ArtsWestchester and the United Way of Westchester and Putnam. The event brings together all of the region’s not-for-profit leaders and teaches them management and leadership strategies. Marsh estimates that 700 people attended this year.
“Catherine Marsh built the Summit up from basically nothing,” Clark says. “Now, it’s the envy of others. She’s been able to bring a strong cross-section together.”
Laurence P. Gottlieb
Director of Economic Development
What is Westchester’s strongest selling point for businesses? Great schools? Natural beauty? The number of golf courses? No, no, and no. Laurence P. Gottlieb, the new director of economic development, tapped by County Executive Robert Astorino to re-energize the county’s business climate, gets right to the point. “It’s the quality of our work force—our intellectual capital—in virtually every job category,” he says, noting that 45 percent of residents over age 25 have a BA or higher while the national average is only 27 percent.
Playing off the double meaning of the word “capital,” Gottlieb’s multi-year advertising and branding campaign declares “Westchester County: New York’s Intellectual Capital.” Pretty heady statement, given our proximity to that big city just to the south of us. But Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of the Westchester Business Council, thinks it’s right on target. “This new campaign is an example of the consistent brilliance of Larry Gottlieb’s vision.”
Gottlieb, 43 and a Mount Pleasant resident, left a cushy position as a managing director at Burson-Marsteller, the world’s largest public relations firm, to take on this challenge; previously, he had been the director of communications at Entergy Nuclear. His focus is on attracting the hot growth sectors of biotechnology, finance, healthcare, and information and environmental technologies to Westchester. “We are lucky in that we are tied to New York City’s economy, which has weathered the downturn better than other parts of the country, but the state’s economic situation makes it hard for us to provide financial incentives for businesses,” he says. “So we need to be proactive in other ways if we want businesses to come here, grow here. I’ve met with large corporations, small entrepreneurial firms, individuals who have lost their jobs. They all want to know that this county cares about them and their needs. I want to make it clear: this administration is very pro-business. If we’re not optimistic about the county, why would businesses be?”
“Smart economic development begins with government providing a solid platform upon which entrepreneurs in business of every size can build their vision for the future,” says Astorino. “A successful public-private partnership begins with the county offering help and eliminating obstacles. This campaign is a major first step in the right direction.”
Adds Gordon: “Larry’s a great advocate for the county and always delivers on his promises. He is the best voice possible for Westchester’s economic development.”
—Nancy L. Claus
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Professor of Environmental Law, Pace Law School; Co-Director, Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic;
Chairman of the Board, Waterkeeper Alliance; Chief Prosecuting Attorney, Hudson Riverkeeper
Perhaps nothing is more an iconic representation of Westchester than the Hudson. And perhaps no one has been a bigger supporter and defender of the storied river than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. For his efforts to clean up the abused and neglected waterway, Time magazine named Kennedy, who operates a wildlife rehabilitation facility at his home in Mount Kisco, one of its “Heroes for the Planet.”
The confluence of Kennedy’s commitments to the law, to Westchester, and to the environment go back nearly three decades. After graduating from Harvard and earning his law degree at the University of Virginia, Kennedy attended Pace Law School’s master’s degree program in environmental law. He got his master’s—and a job: to found and direct the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic. The clinic’s major client is the Hudson Riverkeeper, Inc., the 44-year-old nonprofit whose mission is to protect the ecological integrity of the Hudson River and the drinking water supply for the greater New York City area.
As the Riverkeeper’s chief prosecutor, Kennedy has successfully brought more than 150 legal actions against the Hudson’s myriad polluters. His successes helped to spark more than 100 similar Waterkeeper organizations around the world, which have all coalesced into the Waterkeeper Alliance, an umbrella group Kennedy founded that today supports nearly 200 Waterkeeper programs on six continents.
“Kennedy is a dynamo of constructive activity,” declares Richard Ottinger, a former New York Congressman and the current Dean Emeritus of Pace Law School, who was one of Kennedy’s professors. “I’ve never met anyone who is more completely dedicated to environmental improvement.”
The dedication began early in life. “I had a sense from when I was very young that pollution is theft. When I was nine I wrote my uncle, President Kennedy, a letter, asking if I could come talk to him about pollution, and he invited me to the Oval Office. I told him I wanted to write a book about pollution, and he arranged for me to interview various members of his administration. It’s a preoccupation that has been with me all of my life.”
Says Kennedy, “The best measure of how a democracy functions is how it distributes and protects the goods of the land—the common wealth. Environmental injury is just deficit spending—it’s a way of loading the costs of our generation’s prosperity onto the backs of our children.”
Michelle Simon, the Dean of Pace Law School, says Kennedy's students are lucky to have him as a teacher—and the environment, as a result, is lucky too. “Every year we have about two dozen students who train under him,” continues Simon. “They’re going on to be our world’s future environmental lawyers and leaders.”
The News Anchor
News Director and Anchor
Pelham resident Janine Rose is a familiar face about the county—and for good reason. The director of Cablevision’s News 12 Westchester—which reaches 270,000 households in the region—is also an Emmy-winning news anchor for its evening newscasts, and Newsmakers, a weekend program focusing on the county’s movers and shakers.
A fixture at the station since 1979, when she started out as a customer sales rep, Rose has led News 12 Westchester to seven Emmys, four Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television News Directors Association, and a Cable Ace Award, the highest award in cable television. Personally, she has won two Emmys—one for the segment “Surfing for Sex Town Meeting” and the other for a three-part series, “The Predator Next Door.”
While News 12’s credo may be “as local as local news gets,” it does not convey either the power or professionalism of the station. Indeed, a February 2007 New York Times article stated: “News 12 Westchester has steadily raised its journalistic ambitions during its 12-year history, supplementing, and, at times supplanting, the efforts of longer-standing news media outlets like the Journal News in White Plains or the network-affiliated television stations in New York City. As [the station] evolved into a round-the-clock news operation, Ms. Rose evolved, too.”
But Rose is the first to downplay her influence. “The television news medium is very powerful, and as news director for Westchester and the Hudson Valley, it is my job to deliver the news,” she says. “I have responsibility, not power. There are two hundred cable stations out there, and viewers turn to us for local news. We provide a service that no one else does for Westchester and the Hudson Valley.”
Whatever she has, it’s clear that she is well respected by both her staff and peers. “She inspires us, gives us the room to be creative, embraces our quirkiness,” says News 12 anchor/reporter Tara Rosenblum, who has worked under Rose for the past six-and-a-half years. “I’d never had an Emmy nomination before working for Janine; since then, I’ve had six nominations and I credit her direction for those.”
“Janine Rose is to electronic journalism in this area what my late friend Nancy Q. Keefe was to print journalism,” says William O’Shaughnessy, president of Whitney Radio in New Rochelle. “Janine is the complete antithesis of the airhead, bleached-blonde bimbos who populate our television fraternity. She is a grounded, trusted, and comforting presence in our lives with an exquisitely tuned ‘Bozo Meter.’ The lady is earth.”
—Nancy L. Claus