The Life of Westchester’s Rob Astorino
On the road (in an election year) with the County Executive
(page 7 of 8)
I-287 whizzes by in a blur. Astorino tells a story about how he got pulled over in White Plains for speeding early in his tenure as County Executive. “The cop took one look at me and laughed. Of course the story was all over. The police commissioner of White Plains calls me, laughing.”
The Westchester Day School sits on a former estate in the tony Orienta section of Mamaroneck. The C.E. is an hour late. He’s missed the speeches, the TV cameras. As we bump toward the parking lot, a photographer loyal to the Astorino camp runs up alongside the Tahoe and yells, “Rob! News 12 is pulling out saying they’ve got a lot of material from Bramson!”
A frisson of urgency fills the Tahoe. The C.E. puts on his jacket and his kippa and exits the vehicle. He will not be rushed. He greets a friend and double-checks that the Hebrew letters on his kippa do indeed read “Rob Astorino.” The party is winding down. Bramson is gone, News 12 is gone, Eliot Engel is on his way out, but the C.E. schmoozes like nobody’s business. He seems to have many friends among that 10 percent of Westchester’s population that is Jewish. He talks for a while with retired ballplayer Art Shamsky and gives the proclamation to Ron Burton, president of the powerful Westchester Jewish Council.
Before the Tahoe has left the property, a mini media crisis hits. Ned McCormack calls to tell the C.E. that News 12 is working on a story that Astorino failed to attend the Israeli event on purpose, blew it off, snubbed the Jews. And if they don’t hear from him otherwise, they’re running with it.
Oy vey. The C.E. calls the station. Brendan furiously posts pictures from the event on Facebook and Twitter to prove the C.E. was there. After being put on a hold for a minute or two, Astorino patiently explains that there’s no story here; that he was late because the Albanian flag-raising event started an hour late and he was stuck at the Kenscio Dam. He hangs up and says, “We’ll see if they run it.” (They did not.)
On the way home, the conversation turns to bullfights. Astorino has spent time in Spain (that’s where he learned Spanish), so he’s seen a few. Bullfighters are extraordinarily respected in Spain, he says, for their courage, their finesse in defeating a thousand pounds of injured, angry beast. It’s dangerous—he’s seen a matador get gored—even if the odds are tipped in his favor: “Before it goes out, they stab the bull, they weaken it. But it keeps coming at you and coming at you.”
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