The Life of Westchester’s Rob Astorino

On the road (in an election year) with the County Executive


(page 6 of 8)

At Kensico Dam Plaza, a young girl in native Albanian  dress chats up the County Executive. 2pm

Our five-hour tour does not include a lunch break. Fortunately, the Tahoe’s glove box is stocked with granola bars and gum. “I have the sweetest tooth,” Astorino admits. “Cakes, cookies, all the junk.” There are also two yarmulkes in the glove box, on hand for the Israeli event. “Both were made for me,” he says. One says; the other, made by a powerfulJewish constituent’s wife, has his name in Hebrew. “At least, that’s what I was told,” he quips. Then he asks Brendan for the Albanian talking points.

Let the record show the C.E. consumes nothing but bottled water that afternoon. There are sandwiches at the Albanian flag raising, but he doesn’t touch them. He jumps into the crowd and does his thing. A tent is set up in front of the dam wall, with a stage in between, one of those hauled in on a tractor-trailer. Brendan stands by, proclamation under his arm. The next event, Israeli Recognition Day, is all way in Mamaroneck. Noam Bramson, Astorino’s Democratic rival in this election year, is going to be there, too. Astorino has about 45 minutes for the Albanians. 

The chairs under the tent are fully occupied, two of them by elderly women in babushkas. Young people in native Albanian costumes practice their dance steps. A jogger staggers by, wearing his first sunburn of the season. It’s become increasingly apparent that something’s off. There’s a problem with the sound system, someone says. The minutes tick by, and tick by some more. Brendan starts to twitch, like the hero in a race-against-time action movie. The C.E., on the other hand, seems unfazed. “I’ve never seen him angry,” Brendan confides. “Frustrated, yes. But never mad.”

If there’s one thing the C.E. hates, it’s leaving an event prematurely. And so he stays, talking and posing for pictures. The day is warm, but his brow is dry. Finally he takes the stage with the other principles. An elderly man in traditional folk costume sings a robust version of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by the Albanian national anthem. The C.E. is introduced in Albanian. “C’kemi,” he says, and the crowd applauds. His speech is about the human spirit wanting to be free, speaking out for one’s beliefs, “even if it comes at great personal peril.” He finally slips away just as the singing and dancing begins.      

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