Westchester's Most Influential Residents
There are nearly one-million of us in Westchester—and we are all different. We cut across all ages, ethnicities, political persuasions, vocations, socioeconomic strata. But we all can’t be leaders, movers, shakers, and visionaries. We sought out a dozen of the most influential residents among us—those who have created, motivated, produced, planned, and inspired us in the county we call home.
Photography by john rizzo
Accessories provided by BoConcept IN SCARSDSALE
Hair & makeup by Stacy Nault, Eclipse Salon, TARRYTOWN
President/CEO, The Business Council of Westchester
When you have the world’s financial capital on your southern border, it’s easy to have your efforts eclipsed by your next-door neighbor. But as the president and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, 53-year-old Marsha Gordon of White Plains has artfully managed to give Westchester businesses a coherent, coordinated, and audible voice—helping to make them more competitive and viable amid an increasingly inhospitable economic climate.
Under Gordon’s eight-year stewardship, the 104-year-old Business Council has tripled its membership to more than 1,400 members, making it the county’s largest business organization (its rival, the Westchester County Association, has 525 members). The Council helps its members in four key areas: marketing, education, advocacy of common interests, and growth. Among its many services: affordable health insurance coverage, loans, and even technical assistance.
Ellen Lynch, CEO of the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency, puts her finger on Gordon’s golden touch. “I’ve seen Marsha in action at meetings and events where she knows not only every person in the room, but also their family members,” says Lynch. “Over the years, her networking talent has provided tremendous value. She has contacts across New York State and knows how to bring the right people together to get the job done. She provides important insight and expertise across all topics, including innovation, energy, education, transportation, workforce issues, and housing. She makes us all want to work just a little bit harder and give just a little bit more. I value Marsha’s leadership and I am proud to call her friend.”
Many in the business community credit Gordon with their success. Among them: Anthony Trama, CEO of Creators Media Group, a video production house in Pleasantville. “The success of our business would not have been possible without Marsha Gordon and her incredible team at the Business Council of Westchester,” he declares.
Christopher K. Jones, owner of Financial Solutions, Inc., an entrepreneurial consulting firm in Harrison, concurs. “Since joining the Council, I was able to forge relationships that led to a record year in growth, in revenues, and in profits,” he says.
When Ted Miller and his family moved to Westchester five years ago, he didn’t know a single soul in the business community, “yet somehow foolishly I decided to start a new company on my own,” says Miller of DataKey Consulting in Mount Kisco, a business management consulting firm. For three months, he did not receive a single call or job assignment. Then, he went to a networking round-table event at the Business Council. “Within thirty days I had my first few business leads, which then led to my very first DataKey client. Four years later, my business is expanding by leaps and bounds: DataKey has grown by twenty-five times, and will more than triple this year alone.” He credits Gordon and her association for much of his success.
Most recently, Gordon, a mother of one, has turned her attention to the lifeblood of any business—transportation. Gordon serves as the Westchester chair of the Tappan Zee Bridge/I-287 Futures Task Force. “We’ve always seen transportation and mobility as key to business growth,” she says, adding: “The Council has long advocated for east-west mobility—connecting the five rail lines in the county that run north-south, and connecting Suffern to Port Chester. Mobility in Westchester used to mean city to suburb. We know now that it means suburb to suburb. In order to remain vibrant as a business community, our employees have to be able to get to work. And they can’t get to work if the roads are clogged.”
Arts & Entertainment
Executive Director, The Jacob Burns Film Center
The Rome Theater in Pleasantville shut its doors in 1987, but, even after almost a decade of silence, Pleasantville resident Stephen Apkon knew there was life inside of it. He rebuilt the tiny cinema into a world-class center for independent, art-house, and global films, saving Westchester from a sorry life of commercial fare at cookie-cutter multiplexes and bringing in greats like Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, Kevin Smith, Danny Boyle, and Werner Herzog to educate local audiences about their movies.
Now, more than a decade later, with the 46-year-old Apkon as its executive director, the Jacob Burns Film Center is still expanding. Next month, just a block away from the cinema, students of all ages will be able to make films in a setup that’ll rival D.W. Griffith’s old digs in Mamaroneck, with 15 editing suites, four workshop spaces, two sound stages (with full lighting rigs and a garage door for load-ins), a recording studio, an isolation booth, a foley room, an animation workshop space, and a 60-seat screening room to teach animation, cinematography, editing, and sound design from leaders in the film industry.
For Apkon, this isn’t just a cool hobby—it’s a matter of national importance. “Today, the way we increasingly participate in the community, the way we engage in democracy, and the way we participate in the global community and the global economy is through visual media,” he says. Thanks to Apkon, Westchester’s been able to ride on that first wave of visual literacy. The Jacob Burns Film Center screens up to 500 films annually and has worked with about 60,000 students. Some of those students have had their creations accepted into film festivals, including the prestigious Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, and one is even scheduled to have a congressional screening. “Just like when print became the way we communicated chiefly, there was a bar that was set that separated the haves from the have-nots—those who could read and write and those who couldn’t—that bar is being set again today,” Apkon says. “If we look out ten years from now, this kind of communication is going to define people’s ability to be successful.” When that bar is set, Westchester will be ready, thanks to Apkon.
Not bad for a Wall Street guy, eh? Apkon graduated from Harvard with an MBA in 1986 and for the next decade worked in the corporate world. Yet film and education remained passions for him and, while living abroad in Israel, he got the call saying that his dream theater in Pleasantville was for sale.
“Steve is a brilliant dynamo of a human being and a massive force for good in this country, who happens to be based here amongst us in the suburbs of New York City,” says Jonathan Demme, JBFC board member and director of The Silence of the Lambs and the recent Rachel Getting Married. “He is a great leader, a great responder, a great catalyst, and a great, great guy. It is almost selfish of us to want to keep him in our neighborhood. But in that regard, this cat redefines and shines a light on the whole ‘think globally, act locally’ dictum. I am so glad and proud to be on his team.”
“I can’t think of anyone with as much drive and passion as Steve,” says Susan Todd, the Academy Award-nominated director of Children of Fate: Life and Death in a Sicilian Family and co-founder of Archipelago Films, who works with the Center as the director of international programs. “This place, under Steve’s visionary guidance, is one of a kind and a real powerhouse for film education, film viewing, and global understanding. I’m so glad he settled in Pleasantville.”
And so are we.
Executive Director, the Westchester Arts Council
When Reena Kashyap, executive director of the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, wanted to put together a celebration of clay in honor of the Center’s 50th anniversary, she needed help. She needed someone who knew the arts community, someone who could bring diverse organizations together around a common goal, someone who could make such a far-reaching event happen. She needed Janet Langsam.
With Langsam’s help, Kashyap’s idea mushroomed into All Fired Up, a countywide tour de force that encompassed more than 60 venues and showcased more than 600 clay artists. “Janet sees the big picture,” Kashyap says. “She wants to stretch herself, her staff, her organization, and her partners to think beyond the ordinary and make projects grander than they ever could have imagined.”
She does it by working hard and working well with others—and by networking. You’ll find Langsam talking about art in our local schools. You’ll see her advocating for the arts in municipal government offices. You’ll run into her at galas, openings, and cultural events (she says she goes to “hundreds” every year). Langsam, along with her staff of 18, has served approximately 200 artistic and community organizations. Last year, the council gave out $1.7 million in grants to organizations and artists. “I love bringing people together around art,” she says.
For example, early in her tenure, Langsam launched the Municipal Challenge program, where the Council agreed to give funding to arts organizations that were able to get their own local governments to match their funding. “You’d think it would be a smart thing to do for a local organization to go visit with their local legislation, their local mayor, and their local council,” she says. “Many of them didn’t. This gave them an incentive. It built stronger relationships on the local level, which is really a good thing.”
Langsam started off her own career in local government. While working as a painter and a writer for publications such as House Beautiful and the New York Post, she was elected head of the local planning board in her Flushing, Queens, community. When a former roller rink became available in Flushing Meadow Park, she suggested it be converted to an art museum. Thus, the Queens
Museum of Art, where Langsam served as chairman, was born. From there, she went on to serve as the deputy commissioner of cultural affairs for New York City and president and CEO of the Boston Center for the Arts, until finally arriving at the Westchester Arts Council in 1991. “The planning board opened up a window to me,” she says. “I learned that imagining what the community could be like, what the city could be like, what the world could be like, was an artistic pursuit. That was where I first began to think of the idea that I could be creative, not necessarily on canvas but in a different way.”
Today, she’s putting that creativity towards making sure that art is everywhere in the county. One idea is to start a “Percent for Arts” program, similar to those in Chicago and Miami, where one percent of all new construction money is put aside for the public arts. “If you encounter art everywhere in the environment, it really becomes a part of your life.” —Marisa LaScala
John R. Nolon
Founder and Director, Land Use Law Center, Pace Law School
The planet, many of us have come to realize, is in need of help, and, it seems, no one has done more to help our piece of it than John R. Nolon, a soft-spoken, bespectacled law professor you’ve probably never heard of. The 60-something Tarrytown resident is the founder and director of Pace Law School’s nationally acclaimed Land Use Law Center, a training and research center for environmental and land issues. Professor Nolon has taught, through a special leadership training program, more than 1,500 Hudson Valley leaders, decision-makers, legislators, citizens, and activists how to use—and, if necessary, change—local laws in order to protect and improve the environment and support eco-friendly development. He expects to see the program expanded to many states within the next five years.
“John is known as the green guru of Westchester,” says Ned Sullivan, president of the 45-year-old and 25,000-member-strong environmental group Scenic Hudson. “Not only is he a consummate legal practitioner, he is also a highly skilled mediator. I’ve seen him help Westchester public officials at odds over competing visions of land use to forge a shared agenda and move forward.”
Nolon always has been a proud tree-hugger. “I grew up on a remote rural Nebraska farm,” he says. “That’s where I learned to respect the land and take care of it.” He’s spent his career helping others take care of the environment, using his skills as a teacher (he also teaches at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies), environmental and land use attorney (he received his degree from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1974), mediator, and poker player (“a Harvard professor says it helps sharpen negotiating skills”).
Recently, he founded the Mayors Redevelopment Round Table to address what he deems to be the planet’s most critical challenge: climate change. The Round Table is designed to promote development of eco-friendly urban neighborhoods. “Seventy percent of the carbon dioxide emitted into the environment comes from transportation and buildings,” says Nolon. “One important way to reduce energy consumption and emissions is to get people out of their cars by offering more energy-efficient, affordable housing near public transit.”
Still, with so many feeling so overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the environmental crisis, does he really believe we can make a difference? “Absolutely,” Nolon declares. “A quote from Margaret Mead says it best: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’”
Founder, Westchester Fashion Academy for Children; CEO, Denise Proctor Bridal Designs
No doubt there are Westchester residents with greater name recognition who have influenced fashion in our county, indeed the nation—Ralph Lauren (Bedford), Joseph Abboud (Bedford), Vera Wang (Pound Ridge). But, please, permit us to make the case that none have influenced Westchester in fashion as much as Denise Proctor (Elmsford).
By our count, the 48-year-old Proctor, an FIT graduate and the CEO of Denise Proctor Bridal Designs, has taught nearly 1,000 Westchester kids the art of fashion. Can Ralph, Joseph, or Vera say that?
After all, Proctor founded the only fashion school in the county, the Westchester Fashion Academy for Children. Her students, who range in age from 6 to 17, are taught how to sketch, design, choose textiles, market, and manage a fashion shop. “I really make it a point that they understand everything about fashion because, believe me, when they get to an FIT, they’ll be way ahead. I just want them to have a really good, strong foundation.”
Proctor’s clearly is strong. She spent four years as a solo deigner sketching multi-million-dollar designs for such companies as Jonathan Logan. Her collections were sold at Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
She’s taught at Parsons and the Pratt School of Design, and she even helped restructure the fashion design program at BOCES. Today, she’s finishing up her first semester teaching textile science in the fashion merchandising program at Westchester Community College. “I had to increase the enrollment because word of mouth among the students from the first week spread and everyone wanted to meet her,” says Phyllis Fein, associate professor of business and the curriculum chairperson of the fashion merchandising program. “Denise has a passion that is contagious.”
NBA player, Chicago Bulls
Ben Gordon, 25, got his career start in Mount Vernon—something the six-foot-three-inch-tall Chicago Bulls guard, who still has a home in town, hasn’t forgotten.
And while Mount Vernon may be just one of 96 municipalities in Westchester, it is arguably the most competitive basketball city. (Mount Vernon natives Ray and Gus Williams, Rudy, Hackett, Rodney, and Scooter McCray, and Earl Tatum all played in the NBA). So, helping Mount Vernon’s sports programs, is, well, important. This past summer, Gordon founded the Ben Gordon New Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization designed to help get kids off the streets in Chicago and New York, particularly Mount Vernon, by having them spend time with mentors through the game of basketball and other activities.
As part of the Foundation, the refreshingly humble, soft-spoken Gordon this past summer held the fourth annual Ben Gordon Family Weekend, which featured a youth festival showcasing a talent show, a basketball clinic, and a celebrity bowl-a-thon with NBA star and Peekskill native Elton Brand. Nearly 8,000 people attended the four-day event. This year, in response to city budget cuts that threatened the highly venerated Mount Vernon High School sports program (its basketball team has won eight of the last nine section 1 titles and has been named New York State Champions four times this decade), Gordon donated $15,000, half of what he raised from the bowl-a-thon fundraiser.
“He is a tremendous man who understands the responsibility of giving back,” Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton I. Young says.
Gordon says he understands the fear of not having school sports; he himself has experienced that fear. “I know exactly how the kids at Mount Vernon High School feel because they were talking about cutting sports when I started high school.”
Gordon grew up across the street from a basketball court. “A lot of what I learned growing up occurred on the court,” says Gordon, whose mother today lives in Mahopac. “Sports can be a catalyst to push you with your education. I started playing basketball for fun. Now I look back at the benefits that I received from the game. Sports challenged me. It made me tough, and it also made me tougher in school.”
Lifelong friend Wes Alston, who helps Gordon schedule events he has to attend when in New York, is not surprised by Gordon’s generosity. “Fundamentally, Ben has not changed. He is the same kid I knew growing up. He’s always been very charitable.”
“Those who have a lot should give a lot,” says Mount Vernon High basketball coach Bob Cimmino. “Ben gets that. He has been an inspiration to the entire sports program. No one ever outworked him.” —Jonathan Quartuccio
Columnist, the Journal News
Expecting us to name County Executive Andy Spano or District Attorney Janet DiFiore as the county’s most influential pol?
Yes, well, we’re not denying their vast influence, but we don’t know of any elected or appointed Westchester pol who has an audience of more than 200,000 actually eager to learn what he has to say about our county and how it is run. Admit it: you too read what cranky, boot-wearing, Yonkers resident Phil Reisman has to say in his thrice-weekly column in the Journal News, sometimes with profound pleasure, other times with ferocious fury. (One irate reader recently blamed Reisman for Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Bill Ryan’s heart troubles).
His popular musings in the Journal (and on his WVOX radio show) have illuminated some of the biggest political controversies, from the beleaguered Yonkers School District (“…the blatant acts of cronyism, the greedy nest-feathering, the deplorable disregard for the welfare of the 26,000 public school children—it’s all cataloged on an endless list of outrage,” wrote Reisman of the Yonkers Board of Education in 2005) to former controversial D.A. Jeanine Pirro and her tax-evading, ex-con, soon-to-be-ex-husband Al (“He keeps giving us fresh material to work with,” wrote Reisman of Al Pirro on his blog. “Alleged mob ties, out-of-wedlock children, tax evasion—holy matrimony! Stop it Al, you’re killing us! You are the undisputed ‘clown prince’ of political spouses.”).
While we’d love for you to hear Reisman speak for himself, his superiors at the Journal wouldn’t allow him to be interviewed for this story (insert tongue-sticking-out icon here). So instead, we’ll let his words speak for him—the way most writers prefer it, anyway. “It’s a tremendous privilege to do what I do,” Reisman told Westchester Magazine in a 2005 interview (when he wasn’t yet muzzled). “If you can develop a moral outrage about something, you can fly with it.” By that token, Reisman should be at a cruising altitude somewhere in the stratosphere with his recent relentless harangue of Bill Ryan. Reisman has been hammering away at the chairman for a spate of controversies, including a failed attempt to garner a 40-percent pay hike, a criminal investigation of his chief adviser, and an alleged act of retaliation against the Board’s vice chair (who opposed Ryan’s pay hike) by having his office cut in half. “It’s as if he exists in a different dimension from the rest of us,” Reisman wrote. “He’s taken so much heat that I am beginning to think he is wearing asbestos underwear.” Zing!
“Phil Reisman’s column is must-reading for every elected official, political activist, and high-ranking government employee,” says Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner (Democrat). “If Bill Ryan is ousted as Board chairman after the next county legislative election, one of the reasons will be Phil Reisman’s columns.” As author and attorney Lawrence Otis Graham (a Democrat who blogs with Republican Rob Astorino, a former County Legislator, for this magazine; see Red v Blue at westchestermagazine.com) puts it, “Phil has the power of a modern-day Walter Winchell, and he’s also brilliant and intellectually honest. Reisman writes one of the smartest and wittiest columns in the political business.” Adds Astorino, “Phil’s column is a must-read. He’s a bovine radiologist:
he can see right through the bull. Politicians are toast the minute he sniffs out even a hint of corruption or hypocrisy.” —Robert Schork
CHAIRMAN, CLUB FIT; OWNER, COUNTRY HOMES, INC.
For Ossining resident David Swope, philanthropy is a family affair. It started with a gift of land back in the 1950s from his grandfather, Gerard Swope, that is the nucleus of the Teatown Lake Reservation. “My grandfather had an exceeding interest in philanthropy,” the 65-year-old Swope says. “He believed that if you live in a community, you should take part in it. My mother, too, was involved with volunteer work and my father was president of Phelps Hospital. There is a family tradition to being involved in the community.”
And his family would be proud. Swope recently received the ADO’s (Association of Development Officers) Nonprofit Board Member Award for his philanthropic work over the years for Teatown, Ossining Children’s Center, Open Doors Medical Centers, Westchester Community College, and the Jacob Burns Film Center. (ADO is an organization dedicated to the advancement of fundraising and philanthropy in the Hudon Valley). “David won the award because he does a lot of things for a lot of people—not just one cause,” says Linda Karesh, a co-chair of this year’s National Philanthropy Day and an immediate past co-president of ADO. “When he joins a board, he participates. And he is very good at encouraging his peers to give and get involved.”
His neighbor and fellow philanthropist, Rebecca Samberg, agrees. “David is smart, understated, and brings great creativity to the boards he is on. He loves to see non-profits working together and is marvelous at putting together coalitions. He brings people together in a way not too many can, and he can convince people to do the right thing and get things done.”
“‘Philanthropist’ seems like such a lofty word, better reserved for the Rockefellers,” Swope says modestly from the kitchen of his stately hilltop home with stunning views of the Hudson River. “I don’t have a huge fortune, I didn’t strike it rich in the stock market, but I’m comfortable. And being involved in these organizations has paid back to me far more than I’ve given.” Currently chairman of Club Fit, a large health club with sites in Jefferson Valley and Briarcliff Manor, Swope also owns a real estate investment company, County Homes, Inc., and Tappan Hill (the site of Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill) in Tarrytown.
After graduating from Harvard and Columbia Law School, Swope served as a Peace Corps volunteer in India, where he helped set up the first legal-assistance program in Bombay. “I was in the same group as Lily Carter. She was quite a pistol.” For the next five years, he worked as a lawyer at White and Case in New York City. But when his father became ill in the late 1970s, he returned to Westchester to help with his affairs. “Coming back home led me into my own,” he says of his decision to leave law and become more involved in his community. “There is nothing like being involved in a community organization—to see the talent, diversity, surprises, and goodness of people in this community.”
Swope has been involved with Teatown for decades, currently serving on the executive committee, and is co-chair of the development committee. He is president of the Westchester Community College Foundation, a board member since it opened of the Jacob Burns Film Center, and a leadership volunteer and board member at the Ossining Children’s Center.
“I can’t do everything,” he says, “but I have focused on these organizations. Giving financial help is great, but it is very important to be involved in organizations in which you give money. There are times you think your legacy is the number of galas you attend, but I want to be remembered as a citizen who participated in the community and tried to help.”
President and CEO, Open Door Family Medical Centers
What’s a self-described WASP with a degree in French doing running a health facility catering to Westchester’s working-class and immigrant communities?
An excellent job, apparently. Working with a $22 million budget, Lindsay Farrell oversees eight Open Door Medical Centers around the county that provide basic medical care to more than 36,000 patients a year—half of them uninsured and nearly all with family incomes less than $32,500.
“I work with stellar community health leaders across the country,” says John Sawyer, director of Federal Affairs at the National Association of Community Health Centers in Washington, DC, “and Lindsay is truly one of the best. She’s a respected voice on healthcare among her peers, as well as among policymakers at the local, state, and national level.”
Farrell notes that in any affluent community, such as Westchester, there are a huge number of low-income people enhancing the lives of the wealthy: mowing lawns, working in restaurants, cleaning houses and offices, taking care of children. “These people need access to basic medical services,” she says. “It’s social justice, plain
Which wasn’t necessarily front-of-mind when Farrell moved from New York City to Westchester 25 years ago. “After I got married, the last thing I thought I’d do is run a health facility,” says the petite brunette from her office in the Ossining facility, not far from her home. “All I wanted was the house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. I wanted to have kids, play tennis, get my nails done, be taken care of.”
She did have kids (a girl and a boy), and works out regularly (the aspiring triathlete and marathoner swims every morning at Club Fit in Briarcliff Manor and loves hot yoga at the Yoga Spa in Elmsford); and she gets her nails done at Ossining’s Shine Salon. But she also joined the Junior League of Westchester-on-Hudson when she moved here and started driving elderly patients to appointments at Open Doors, then a free clinic operating out of a church basement. The few hours a week of volunteer work mushroomed into full-time work and she rose to director of development and director of operations positions before taking the position as president and CEO when Open Door’s founder, Margaret Griesmer, retired in 1998.
Along the way, she received an MBA from Pace University. In 2006 she was named a Fellow in the American College of Medical Practice Executives. In 2007, her alma mater, Saint Lawrence University, honored her with the Sol Feinstone Award for her commitment to making affordable healthcare “available to all, not just the privileged.” “Now is a great time to be in community health,” Farrell says. “It’s one of the things that President Bush got right. He believed in community health centers and we were able to tap into the new funds he made available for Westchester County.” —Nancy Claus
Owner/Proprietor, Rainbeau Ridge Farm
If America has Alice Waters, then Westchester has Lisa Schwartz—and isn’t food production about local heroes now? This 53-year-old successful former management consultant and stay-at-home Bedford Hills mother is devoting her considerable energies to helping us in Westchester eat local foods—a trend applauded by most foodies. Surrounded by baahs and bleets, Schwartz is a modern-day goatherd—albeit one with a 15-acre spread, Rainbeau Ridge Farm, and a personal mission to reconnect Westchester with the land underneath its feet.
In partnership with her financier husband, Mark (whose work is devoted to investing in companies dedicated to developing green energy and renewable energy sources), Lisa Schwartz has turned her suburban Bedford Hills estate to ground-zero for a grass-roots educational movement. “When I started appreciating the land, I realized that we were onto something special here,” says Schwartz. “I felt it was something that other people would want a piece of.”
With the motto, “Making sustainable living second nature,” Rainbeau Ridge Farm offers a variety of land-centric programs, including: cooking classes aimed at maximizing the benefits of locally raised produce (recent topics included the lost arts of home canning and pickling, techniques designed to stretch the bounty of our local fields); educational kids’ programs designed to teach respect for traditional foodways (“The best way to get kids to eat their vegetables is to allow them to grow their green beans themselves,” she says); and gardening classes (Schwartz is preaching the gospel that we don’t need to be Martha Stewart to a have a rabbit hutch or a few chickens clucking around the yard).
Then, of course, there’s Rainbeau Ridge goat cheese, whose success is proving the value of Westchester land as farmland. Schwartz’s handmade Bedford Hills Meridian cheese just won a 2008 American Cheese Society’s award for best farmstead cheese; it is served at Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, and Iron Horse Grill in Pleasantville, among other restaurants. “Who would have thought you’d find one of America’s cheese luminaries on a small farm in Westchester?” asks Executive Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill. “Lisa is the perfect example of our recent artisanal revolution, using Old World techniques to create farmstead cheeses with distinct local character. They’re richer than most goat cheeses, but they’ve also got great acidity. They’re sweet, they’re tangy, they’re unctuous…they’re delicious.”
Alan Glustoff of 5 Spoke Creamery, whose Putnam county-made cheeses can be found at Gramercy Tavern and Murray’s Cheese Shop, both in Manhattan, declares, “It’s great to see someone making goat cheeses locally, but Lisa Schwartz’s role in keeping farming alive in Westchester County cannot be emphasized enough.”
Rainbeau Ridge welcomes visitors to its land (offering tours, events, and annual camp-outs), and the Schwartzes are significant donors to the Westchester Land Trust—the entity that’s keeping large swaths of Westchester’s green space free from development. —Julia Sexton
Louis Cappelli and Donald Trump, REAL ESTATE Developers
Look at the sky. See those glitzy skyscrapers? See those shining new apartment buildings? See those sleek condos—those glass-and-steel monuments to modern innovation? Credit for those glitzy skyscarpers, shining new apartment buildings, and sleek condos primarily belongs to two part-time Westchester residents, Donald Trump (Bedford) and Louis Cappelli (White Plains). Together, the two have built more than five-and-a-half million square feet of living space/office space in the county. That’s a lot of building.
The Trump/Cappelli business relationship followed a friendship that began on the golf course. Both love the game, though Trump is better at it (“He beats me,” Cappelli has said, “but it won’t always be that way.”). And both love to build—big and tall. Their first venture: City Center in White Plains, a mixed-use commercial enterprise, contains the 35-story high-rise branded (you guessed it) Trump Tower. It was apparently Cappelli’s dream to build Manhattan-type structures here, while it was Trump’s dream to expand his empire. “I enjoy the luxuries and conveniences of Manhattan high-rise living,” says Cappelli, who also has homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons, “and I really thought that there were a lot of people in Westchester who would enjoy high-rise living here. That’s really what started everything.”
“Everything” today for both men, separately and together, includes: the 1.2 million-square-foot entertainment complex New Roc City and the 92 co-op-unit Lofts at New Roc in New Rochelle; the 890,000-square-foot mixed-use Renaissance Square complex featuring the Ritz Carlton Hotel and Residences in White Plains; the 50-acre, 141-unit Trump Park Residences in Yorktown; the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor (“It gave Westchester a phenomenal course,” Trump declares in his typical immodest style); the 40-story, 194-unit Trump Plaza in New Rochelle; and the 35-story luxury high-rise Trump Parc in nearby Stamford, Connecticut (Stamford’s tallest building). “Westchester is a fantastic area,” Trump says. “As a developer, it’s inspiring when the raw material is so beautiful—and it’s so close to New York City.” How do they divvy up their responsibilities? Easy: Trump leverages his name for any additional dollar it can add to the selling price of a unit (“He’s one of the great brands of the world,” Cappelli says), and Cappelli does the rest. “We’ve certainly added a tremendous amount to the tax base,” Cappelli says. “We’ve taken blighted areas, cleaned up the blight, and put towers, retail, and hotels in its place—which is obviously a benefit to all.”
Carol Cioppa, president of the Westchester/Mid-Hudson chapter of the American Institute of Architects, agrees, for the most part. “Cappelli and Trump certainly have changed what many towns look and feel like. But not everyone wants a mini-Manhattan at their doorstep. However, the areas chosen for their projects were in desperate need of rebirth and revitalization. The work is carefully considered and beautifully conceived. Certainly the buildings are destinations in themselves. Just ask anyone who has been to the top of the new Ritz.” —Robert Schork