22 People to Watch in Westchester County
Our guide to 22 people who you, your neighbor, and almost everyone else in our county will be talking about in the future.
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What’s a Rockefeller? Who is Bill Clinton? Just about everyone starts small, and those lucky enough to make it big always watch over their shoulders (sometimes with pride, sometimes with dread) for the next generation. So who is in that next generation? Why, Westchester residents, of course.
From the young film editor impressing Spielberg and the singer who will become her own Barbie to the physician who may well eliminate most childhood cancer deaths, they’re all your neighbors. Some have already grabbed headlines and honors (a leading NFL running back, anyone?); others aren’t even out of school. All of them, though, have even greater things in front of them. If you want to know where film, football, music, medicine, green architecture, and gourmet cuisine are going, look no further than the people who are the future of these fields, our own Westchester People to Watch.
The Fashion Entrepreneurs
April Bukofser and Marin Milio
April Bukofser of Pound Ridge and Marin Milio of White Plains met at Pace University, where they were both studying marketing. But it wasn’t until they went their separate ways for their first full-time jobs (Bukofser doing PR and design at Cynthia Rowley; Milio, event planning at MTV) and returned to Westchester to raise families that they teamed up for their successful custom clothing line, AprilMarin.
The two often talked about starting a business together, but they couldn’t settle on a concept. Finally, they decided to create custom clothing. “There aren’t a lot of places out there that do women’s custom clothing,” Milio says. “There are a lot of places that do men’s tailoring.” There was nothing stylish and contemporary.”
Enter AprilMarin, the line the duo launched in 2008, which now operates out of a showroom in White Plains and an office in Yonkers. “The line was created to reinvent the old classics,” Bukofser says. “We recreate dresses that are going to look good on every body type. Then we add adornments like a ruffled sleeve or a ruffled collar to make it modern.”
Their clothes have been featured on the Today show and have been worn by Wendy Williams during her daytime talk show. “Her stylist calls us frequently to ask us what’s new,” Milio says. By November 2011, the line had sold between 25,000 and 30,000 pieces—and the business is still growing.
The custom-made clothing is available primarily through their website, aprilmarin.com. “We’ve been approached by tons of stores all over the country that want our clothes, but you can’t make custom clothing for a store,” Bukofser says. “Still, we’ve heard the store market and want to respond to them. We launched a whole line of accessories, and we’re looking into doing dresses in more standard sizes.”
“It’s good to have the interest from stores,” Milio says. “But we still want to have that small-business feel. We have a huge repeat-customer base, and we know what our customers want. We want to say to them, ‘We’re not going to be too big for you.’”
Marc M. Jerome
It is somehow fitting that a man who lives with his wife, his three daughters, and a female Yorkshire terrier heads up a college with decidedly feminist origins. “Monroe College was started by my great aunt in the 1930s, a time when very few women were starting their own businesses,” Marc M. Jerome says. “Then my grandfather joined her—a man following his sister-in-law into business was certainly not the norm.” Today, Jerome is the third generation of his family running Monroe, as executive vice president. He works side by side with his father, Stephen J. Jerome, who is president of the college.
The campus has long had a synergistic relationship with the Queen City. “In 1983, our main campus was in the Bronx,” Jerome says. “At that time, the South Bronx was burning, the movie Fort Apache, The Bronx came out, and we decided to open a second campus in Westchester.” Ironically, 10 years later, the Bronx was doing just fine—but New Rochelle was in trouble. At that point, Jerome’s father asked him to join the family business. They decided to be bullish and invest in New Rochelle. “Monroe’s fortunes are tied to the fortunes of the city,” Jerome says. He helped form a Business Improvement District in 1999 and was elected to be its first chairman, a post he still retains. “Along with New Roc City, we have stabilized and energized this part of Main Street.”
Indeed, when he joined his father at the college, there were just 290 students and 40 staff and faculty members at the New Rochelle campus. The college has since grown nearly 10-fold to more than 2,200 students and 400 staff and faculty. Over the three campuses, including a new campus on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, the school counts more than 8,000 undergrad and grad students and 11,000 employees. The school is considered a national leader in urban and international education, and its new culinary arts program is growing in size and stature.
With the dramatic growth, Jerome discovered that his background as a labor and employment lawyer (he graduated Tufts University magna cum laude with a degree in Political Science and went on to the University of Pennsylvania Law School) was “the best thing I ever did. I spend seventy percent of my time on human resources, working with staff and students,” he says. “As a lawyer, I witnessed the consequences when management doesn’t listen to their people.”
Not only does he listen, but says he can name 80 percent of his students. His practice is to shake the hand of every student on the first day of classes, and then again when they graduate. “Seeing them walk up to get their diploma is the most gratifying part of my job.”
The Media Master
Today, Caroline Clarke is executive editor and host of Black Enterprise Business Report, working both in front of and behind the scenes to put on the television show. But her media command goes further than speaking into a camera: from writing for daily newspapers to running a publishing imprint and writing a popular weekly business blog, the 46-year-old New Rochelle resident has found success across platforms, genres, and audiences.
In the early ’90s, Clarke came to Black Enterprise, the African-American-targeted business and investment media company headed by Earl Graves, Sr., whose flagship magazine has four million readers. “This was before dot-com, if anyone can remember such a time,” she says. “I’ve held almost every content job there is.” Clarke has served as senior editor and editor-at-large of the magazine; editorial director for Black Enterprise’s book imprint (which, in 2001, published her Take a Lesson: Today’s Black Achievers on How They Made It and What they Learned Along the Way); editorial director of the Woman of Power Summit, one of the company’s signature annual events; and general manager for interactive media, helping to run blackenterprise.com, often performing multiple duties at once. She also writes a weekly blog.
“She’s an extraordinary, bright journalist,” says Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr., the company’s CEO and her brother-in-law. “She’s developed into a tremendous talent in broadcast journalism. You can teach people how to speak on television, but you can’t teach the ability to engage people or to be warm to the camera. I look forward to her taking our show into bigger and better things; I think she’s got a very, very bright future.” Graves, Sr., even refers to her as the family’s “secret weapon.”
Clarke’s job at Black Enterprise Business Report came by surprise. She was working in interactive media when Graves, Jr., called her into his office. “‘You’re perfect to do this,’” she recalls him saying. “‘You have two choices: you can say yes or you can say yes.’”
Growing up with West Indian–American parents in the Bronx, Clarke thought she would become an obstetrician, although she was attracted to both music and science. “My parents both had advanced degrees; they were both in education. In West Indian culture, education and ownership are the two pillars of life. They really pushed for tried-and-true careers—doctor, lawyer, teacher.”
At Smith, she majored in English, and her first boss out of college—the dean of Columbia’s Teachers College—encouraged her to go into journalism. At Columbia Journalism School, she covered stories right off the newswire. “I was lucky. I stumbled into my passion and a career I love, which really was the thing my parents always encouraged the most.” She bounced from the North Jersey Herald & News to the American Lawyer magazine in Manhattan before ending up at Black Enterprise.
Today, Clarke is aiming to grow the viewership for Black Enterprise Business Report, which currently airs on DirecTV and TV One, a network founded in 2004 and geared toward African Americans. The show currently is available in more than 54 million households (up from 38 million in 2007) in 210 markets, and she sees her work as part of the company’s mission. “People need to keep kicking the ball forward. It is challenging at times, and we don’t ignore that, but every problem has a solution, and we try to propose as many solutions as possible.”
The Rising-Star Chef
When Eric Gabrynowicz was a teenager with only some dish-washing experience in a local bar, he wrote out a set of goals for himself: to work in a New York City restaurant by age 21, as a sous chef by 24, as an executive chef by 27, and to own his own restaurant by 30. When Restaurant North in Armonk opened in 2010, he’d officially achieved all of these goals and had beaten his deadline by a year. Gabrynowicz, 30, is executive chef and partner at the highly touted restaurant, which was named a “Top Newcomer” and “Top Food” pick in this year’s Westchester/Hudson Valley Zagat Survey. In 2011, Gabrynowicz was nominated for a national James Beard Foundation Award in the “Rising Star Chef of the Year” category.
“It was incredibly humbling,” he says. “The most exciting career news I’ve ever gotten in my life.”
And Gabrynowicz hasn’t stopped checking off accomplishments: he has cooked with Al Roker on Today, for Martha Stewart Living Radio, and on Good Morning America. North received a rave “Don’t Miss” review from the New York Times and is on track to receive the first “Snail of Approval” in Westchester from Slow Food USA, a non-profit, member-supported organization founded to counteract the culture of fast food.
As a kid, Gabrynowicz, who grew up in Orange County, New York, worked on farms and had that dishwasher job at the bar. “I loved it immediately,” he says. “A place where you’re playing with knives and fire? As a thirteen-year-old kid, I just got galvanized by that whole pirate mentality of the restaurant business.” After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America with honors in 2001, he began as a line cook in über-restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe, where he met his business partner, Stephen Paul Mancini, a “crazy lunatic,” says Gabrynowicz, to whom “lunatic” is a high compliment. “We’re both diehard Mets and Jets fans,” he says. “We commiserated often, usually over a bottle of really, really good wine.”
Gabrynowicz took spots at other Meyer restaurants, including Blue Smoke and the now-defunct Tabla, before he made the jump to executive chef at Tavern at Highlands Country Club in Garrison, New York, in 2007. By early 2010, Mancini had convinced him to come on board at a new restaurant. “One of the important conversations you have to have when putting up your life savings is, what do you do if it fails? And that’s a very uncomfortable, but important, conversation. I like to gamble, but I never gamble anything that I can’t afford to lose. Could I have afforded to lose the restaurant? Probably not, but I didn’t think that way.” He didn’t have to. It’s nearly impossible to get a reservation on a Saturday night at North. During the week, it isn’t so easy, either. And odds are good there are going to be more restaurants where Gabrynowicz can wow diners. “We definitely want more than North, but we won’t think about opening number two until we have North exactly where we want it.”
“Show me some dance moves,” Clare Galterio, 26, says to an older gentleman at a slot machine. Sure enough, he starts up with a jig of sorts. Galterio joins in.
“I deal with eighteen-year-olds all the way up to eighty-seven-year-olds,” Galterio says. “I need to be able to talk to anyone.” You want her to talk to you, too, because Galterio is the in-person and on-air hostess who does the big giveaways at the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. The public relations manager has given away cars, cash, even ShopRite gift cards to lucky gamblers. The filmed bits she does to promote the casino’s prizes are simulcast on cable and shown in casinos, racetracks, and bars all over the country (and a few in Canada, too). She’s also done segments for WPIX. Right now, she is auditioning for other TV hosting gigs.
Galterio’s easy charm with people—which lets people do goofy dances without feeling silly—makes her a natural host. “I grab people from the audience. I do trivia. We do dance-offs.” Then again, Galterio is no stranger to performing. Growing up in Bedford, she danced her way through the studios of Westchester. “I’ve been dancing my whole life, but being on TV has always been my dream.”
Soon, that dream will be realized on an even bigger screen. Recently, she was cast—right off the casino floor—in Imogene, a movie starring Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening. She plays, fittingly, someone who gives away a car. “I did a tour for the directors when they wanted to film at Empire City,” she says. “They said, ‘Listen, we have a part written for someone to give away a car. Would you like to be in the movie?’ That was amazing because people don’t just give away roles like that, especially for speaking parts.”
Auditioning for other hosting jobs is not always easy. For example, she auditioned to be the new Nets announcer—on crutches. “I had to do it on a sprained ankle.” (She didn’t book the job, but the basketball season was truncated anyway.) In the meantime, life is good at Empire City. “I make people really happy,” she says. “I’m not the machine that they want to take out all of their frustrations on.”
Daniel E. Magnus
By 2008, Rye resident Daniel E. Magnus had already ascended to the highest levels of media, working as publisher and CEO of the free New York City daily Metro. A corporate reshuffle, however, sent the 48-year-old down a new path: running burger restaurants.
Elevation Burger is the first nationwide organic hamburger chain, and Magnus’s company, Magnus LLC, owns the exclusive right to franchise the chains in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. Since October, Magnus has been capitalizing on his green-credentialed meat patties with his first franchise in Rye, and he has 10 to 12 planned for the next few years.
After working on campus publications in college, Magnus went into media advertising and publishing for top-shelf titles like Esquire, GQ, Bloomberg, and This Old House, which he helped found for Time Inc. “I really enjoyed the entrepreneurial side,” he says. “I love starting things.”
Hence, Elevation Burger. “There weren’t many great food options out there to grab something quickly and feel good about what you were eating,” says Magnus. “USDA-certified, one-hundred-percent-organic, grass-fed beef is one of the healthiest meat products you can eat.” (And to make sure his investment would pass a taste test, Magnus drove to a New Jersey franchise and bought the entire menu.)
Magnus is planning to open those 10 and 12 restaurants in the next five years (nationwide, Elevation is planning 100 franchises by the end of next year). “I believe in what we’re doing,” says Magnus, who maintains that he’s had offers made on his two-county rights. Still, he’s holding on. “I’m a buyer, not a seller, of Elevation Burger.” In fact, Magnus says, he plans to expand beyond other counties if he can get the rights. As he says, everyone’s gotta eat.
The Rule of Law
Judge Walter Rivera
When Walter Rivera was campaigning for Greenburgh Town Justice, some voters were overwhelmed with emotion. “One woman gave me a big hug and said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this for forty years,’” the 56-year-old Elmsford resident says. The emotion—over what, for many, would be just a small-town election—stems from the fact that Walter Rivera is the first elected Hispanic official in the history of the Town of Greenburgh, a town of almost 90,000 residents.
Many, including Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, feel certain he’s destined for higher offices. “I would be shocked if he doesn’t move up,” Feiner says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if one day he becomes a federal judge.”
Rivera, an attorney with his own firm, Rivera & Colón, LLP, in Manhattan, has sat on the boards of the National Hispanic Business Group and the Puerto Rican Bar Association. He has been admitted to the Supreme Court of the U.S., has worked for the American Bar Association as a site visitor for law schools, and was appointed to the ethics subcommittee of the then Chief Judge of the State of New York’s Task Force on the law profession.
Rivera’s story begins in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, where his parents had moved after leaving Puerto Rico. He attended local public schools, but a scholarship from A Better Chance, a nonprofit devoted to helping gifted students of color, sent him to the elite Governor Dummer Academy (now Governor’s Academy) in Massachusetts. “It was a life-changing experience,” Rivera says. He went on to graduate from Columbia College in three years and receive a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. After a two-year clerkship in the New York State Court of Appeals, he became an assistant attorney general for the state. In 1985, he started his own firm.
Rivera’s newest job as one of three justices is part-time. “I don’t know yet what the future will bear,” he says. “I do have a sense that this is a step in a new direction for me.”
Like most 18-year-olds, Waccabuc resident Tiffany Giardina is busy prepping for the SAT. But, unlike most of her peers, she is also writing and producing songs and music videos and touring the country, opening for the likes of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. The oldest of three sisters, Giardina doesn’t come from a show-biz family: her dad is an insurance broker; her mom, a homemaker. “I’ve always loved putting on a show,” she says. “At family gatherings, I would take my cousins and sisters aside and we would plan out a show and then perform for our parents.”
When she was just five years old, Giardina played Molly in Annie at the Yorktown Stage; at nine, she played Marta in The Sound of Music with the Paper Mill Playhouse Off-Broadway. She released her first Christmas album, We’ve Got Christmas, in 2005 and performed her single, “Sure Don’t Feel Like Christmas,” on Fox News in 2006. In between, she appeared in TV commercials for Cheerios and Major League Baseball, some of which are still airing.
Now, she’s hoping for a much bigger audience as she makes the transition from teen to mainstream artist, using Stevie Nicks, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, and Lady Gaga as role models. “I’m at a turning point in my career now, working on a variety of different projects,” Giardina says. One of those is working with Mattel on a new animated film, The Princess and the Pop Star. “I’m the voice of Keira, the pop star,” she says. “It’s one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on—they sync the animation to my facial and body movements, so the character really looks like me.” Along with a new princess Barbie, Mattel will be issuing a talking Keira doll in Giardina’s likeness. (“When you push a button on the two dolls at the same time, our voices harmonize!”) The movie is slated for release this summer.
Tiffany works on her music every day, either writing some lines or a melody on her piano. When she is watching a movie, she often gets inspiration and writes about that. She wrote one song, “Casualties of Love,” with the upcoming film adaptation of The Hunger Games in mind.
What are her plans for the future? “My next album will be an extension of what I’m doing now, but with new music, a new sound. I hope my songs will be on Top Forty music stations, but I love being on stage best. Offstage, I’m very shy, but I become a different person when I perform—sometimes I don’t even remember the performance!”
The Film Editor
You may not know the name Todd Sandler, but surely you have seen his work. Have you seen, for example, the promos for War Horse—one of the biggest movies of the holiday season? Sandler edited them. He got the gig after Steven Spielberg saw his work at the Jacob Burns Film Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, where Spielberg was the honoree. Sandler edited a tribute video for the event. “When I met him afterwards, the first thing he said was, ‘Nobody’s ever gotten me before, but you got me,’” Sandler recalls. Two days later, DreamWorks called asking if he would cut a theatrical trailer and TV promos for War Horse.
Oddly enough, Sandler, who was born in Mount Kisco and raised in Somers, didn’t study film at SUNY Albany, where he attended college. Instead, he was enrolled in courses for actuarial science. But filmmaking was his true calling. Indeed, a short film, Corey, which he made with his brother while still in school, was recognized at both the Westchester Film Festival and Putnam Film Festival, and was picked up by the IFC Center’s shorts program.
After graduation, Sandler enrolled in an intensive semester at NYU, studying all aspects of film post-production. When he finished, he got a position as the print traffic coordinator at the Jacob Burns Film Center—where he stayed for the next eight years, working his way up until he became the Center’s director of technology and in-house editor. He worked there until 2011, when he left to pursue other projects full-time.
Sandler also has edited Leave, a film written by and starring Band of Brothers’ Rick Gomez and Frank John Hughes, with director Robert Celestino. It has been shown at a few film festivals so far, and its creators are looking for a distribution deal. “Todd is an extremely talented editor,” Celestino says. “He has the uncanny ability to help weed away what isn’t absolutely essential and pierce the core of a scene in ways that are not predictable. And he’s a hell of a lot of fun to work with.”
Sandler has since collaborated with Celestino on two screenplays. In addition, he’s co-producing a documentary, I’m Carolyn Parker, with Jonathan Demme. But, for now, he’s at home in the editing bay. “In the editing phase, that’s where it all begins,” he says.
The Adolescent Psychologist
Jennifer Powell-Lunder, PsyD
Of the thousands of parenting and family books that come out each year, only a few hundred pertain to teens, and most of those gather dust. But Four Winds Hospital’s Jennifer Powell-Lunder, PsyD’s Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent’s Guide to Becoming Bilingual is an international best seller. It’s so far been through its second printing and has been a Top 100 seller on Amazon. Powell-Lunder and her co-author, Barbara Greenberg, PhD, have lectured at Harvard and have been featured on Yahoo! and AOL, in the Chicago Tribune, and on Fox. Mickey and Minnie have posed with the book, and the collaborators’ website, talkingteenage.com, receives up to 10,000 hits monthly.
“Teens in conflict are not communicating well with their parents,” says South Salem resident Powell-Lunder, 44, a clinical child psychologist. “Even though they are speaking the same words, it is as if parents and kids are speaking a different dialect.” She is out to help parents and teens understand one another.
“Last Christmas, we saw a lot of kids buying this book for their parents,” says Powell-Lunder. She’s already started writing two follow-ups, one for parents looking for guidance in specific situations and one for teenagers who want to learn to “speak parent.”
Stan Rosenberg is the founder and head of a successful—and growing—not-for-profit organization. He’s also a sophomore in college, studying marketing at NYU Stern.
His not-for-profit, Trip of a Lifetime, sends underprivileged teens from Westchester and New York City on trips to the West Coast—provided they demonstrate financial need, have good grades, and use the experience as a catalyst to make a difference when they return.
The idea was sparked when Rosenberg went on his own teen tour out West in the summer of 2007. “The trip opened my mind and changed my perspective,” he says. But seeing the Grand Canyon and the Golden Gate Bridge cost upwards of $5,000. He realized he wanted to provide that kind of experience to those who did not have that kind of money for trips.
“Everyone told me it would be impossible to do,” he says. “It wasn’t until I was reminiscing with my friends about our trips that we decided we could do something.” Rosenberg and eight friends, all juniors at Scarsdale High School, found a couple of adult supervisors—including a lawyer who helped them become an official 501(c)(3) pro bono—and set out to start fundraising and organizing.
They began by contacting the companies that run teen tours. “Two were happy to work with us,” he said. “One of them said that they’d sent ten thousand teens on trips, and I was the first one to want to do something about the high cost for people who couldn’t afford it.”
The initial efforts were all grassroots: donations, bake sales, T-shirt sales, and a concert at the local community center. “Most of the donations we got were small: fifteen dollars, twenty-five dollars,” he says. Still, that first year, they raised enough to send two students on teen tours.
Since then, the organization has continued to grow. “We’re just starting to get more corporate donations,” he says. They’ve also been able to set up online auctions. In its second year, Trip of a Lifetime sent three students on trips; this past year, seven students. “My goal for next year is to send ten to twelve students on trips.”
Rosenberg still heads the nonprofit with the initial group of founders, even though they’re scattered at colleges across the country. “Trip of a Lifetime is one of my greatest passions,” he says. “I see it has so much potential. I want to help it grow to be as big as possible.”