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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The Sculptor
Malcolm D. MacDougall III

Artist Malcolm D. MacDougall III, 22, of Ardsley, works out of a 5,000-square-foot airplane-hangar-turned-studio along the Hudson River. “It’s a pretty bare-bones place, without running water or heat,” he says, “but it was the perfect place
for me.”

Perfect because MacDougall needs the room. The Purchase College alum specializes in large, monumental sculptures. One of his works, Microscopic Landscape, made of 5,000 pounds of steel, is 24 feet long, 11 feet tall, and seven feet wide. The work won him Purchase’s 2010 President’s Award for Student Public Art, and the piece was displayed at the entrance of the college.

“It was installed alongside a sculpture by Henry Moore and a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy,” MacDougall says. “At the moment, my work doesn’t fit alongside those masters of sculpture. My goal is to earn a place alongside those types of people.”
He’s also had his sculptures displayed with other emerging Hudson Valley artists, such as Emil Alzamora, Sarah Haviland, and Arnaldo Ugarte, at an outdoor sculpture exhibition at the Wilderstein Historic Site in Rhinebeck, New York. “Malcolm was invited to participate because of the strong presence and energy that radiates from his work,” says Gregory J. Sokaris, the site’s executive director. When the exhibition ended, one of his pieces was put on display in the town of Hastings-on-Hudson.
Currently, he’s working on a sculpture called Stromatolites, which will take up an area of approximately 100’ x 100’. The work is made up of individual, undulating mounds—12 in all—which, taken together, comprise a landscape. It was inspired by “termite mounds,” he says, “as well as the effects of erosion on landscapes of varying density where basalt mounds rise above the ground.”

“Most of my work is inspired by the natural sciences,” MacDougall says. “When Stromatolites is installed, it’ll seem like it fits in, like it’s growing out of the landscape. But the material and processes used to make it turn it into an imposter in the landscape.”

Admittedly, he says, his art is “not the most practical. But it’s interesting to realize a sculpture, and getting it installed and renting the cranes is exciting.”

 

The Whole-Body Dentist
Sabrina Magid, DMD

Just two years into her practice, 29-year-old Sabrina Magid, DMD, is teaching her colleagues about what she sees as their roles in other fields of health: oral cancer, gastric reflux, sleep apnea, and even the difficulties faced by deaf and hard-of-hearing patients. She’s a founding member of the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health, a national organization devoted to the intersection of oral health and the overall health of the body, and has been a part of the push to get dentists to screen their patients for oral cancer.

“In training, I was struck by the number of patients who snore and have high blood pressure and gastric reflux,” Magid says. “As I investigated the causes, I began to see articles linking these with obstructive sleep apnea.” Today, she teaches colleagues nationwide about the disorder, which may affect as many as 23 million Americans. “OSA is often a problem with the tongue and the shape of the dental arches. Dentists can, and should be, playing a role in the diagnosis and treatment of this problem.”

Magid grew up in Westchester in a dental family—three generations of dentists preceded her, including her father, Kenneth S. Magid, DDS, today her partner at Advanced Dentistry of Westchester in Harrison. The woman who would be referred to as the “dental MacGyver” by fellow students didn’t want to go into the family trade. “You would think it would be an obvious choice,” she says, “but I had to come to my own conclusion. It was in my junior year of college when I decided, much to my family’s surprise, that I wanted to be a dentist. I guess you could say it’s in my blood.”

Dental school at the University of Pennsylvania, an award-winning residency at New York Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, and a medical mission to set up clinics in rural Latin America followed. Magid, who has been studying American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf culture since high school and teaching ASL since college, has also been treating deaf and hard-of-hearing patients since dental school. “Deaf patients often don’t get the warning that the treatment is starting,” she says. “Many deaf patients are also more sensitive to vibration, making treatment with a drill particularly unpleasant.” She uses a number of adaptations, including a speech-to-text converter, to ease the difficulties. She plans to start teaching dental students ASL at the NYU College of Dentistry.

 

The Environment’s Savior
Taylor Vogt

Taylor Vogt hasn’t yet graduated college, but the 21-year-old Croton-on-Hudson resident and Pace University student is already the president of an international student sustainability organization, and he has chaired a student advisory council, both for IBM. As if that weren’t enough, he may change the whole way our society produces alternative fuels.

The international organization that Vogt runs is IBM Students for a Smarter Planet, a 50-member organization that hopes to attract a 1,000-student membership. “I’ve always been interested in the environment,” Vogt says. His interest grew early, in large part because of 9/11. His father, Glenn Vogt, today the manager of Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua, had worked at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center. And though his father wasn’t at work that day, “as an eleven-year-old boy, I took a big step back and was like, ‘Why is this happening?’” Instead of getting angry, he wanted to find—and stop—what he saw as the root causes of the terrorists’ actions.

“They didn’t have certain things that they needed to survive; that’s why they were lashing out. I want to get them what they need,” says Vogt, who believes struggles for existence—exacerbated by environmental degradation—radicalized many who became members of Al Qaeda. “I decided to go into the field of environmental sustainability so this would never happen again.”

His work in sustainability recently has led him from studying the deer population at Teatown Lake Reservation and local cleanups to an internship at a composting firm producing methane gas out of organic waste. “Taylor has a unique visionary sense of an improved future—socially, environmentally, and economically,” says Michelle Land, a professor of environmental policy and director of Pace’s Academy for Applied Environmental Studies. “And he doesn’t simply talk about how things should be but ambitiously applies himself toward his vision.”

One big idea is to use cities’ sewers to produce hydrogen fuel. “We have flowing rivers underneath our cities in our sewers. If you can sequester the water, electrolyze it, and harness the hydrogen, you have a new, clean fuel source.” A self-described “ideas man,” Vogt admits he’ll need to find someone with an engineering background (preferably another young person) before this could become a reality, but he’s hopeful. In the future, he’d love to work as a grant-maker for the EPA or found a professional’s version of Students for a Smarter Planet. First, though, he’s going to work on that undergraduate degree.

 

The In-Demand Chef
Alex Sze

Most restaurants start out practically begging customers to stop by. But when Alex Sze, the 29-year-old chef/owner of Juniper in Hastings and alum of the highly touted Michel Richard Citronelle in Washington, DC, tried to limit his restaurant’s hours, it was the customers begging him to let them rush in.

Juniper, a 24-seat New American restaurant, opened in January 2010, but, by the following winter, the small space, long hours, and multiple concepts (including lunch café, BYOB dinner bistro, and take-out counter) had become taxing. So Sze, a resident of Eastchester, announced he was stopping dinner service. The move elicited an outcry from Hastings-on-Hudson food-world civilians as well as Sze’s contemporaries, who include resident Andy Nusser, chef at Port Chester’s Tarry Lodge.
“We stopped for a few weeks,” says Sze of trying to stop dinner service, “but the town really wanted us to continue dinner, so it wasn’t an option.”

While Sze was growing up, his parents owned a Chinese take-out place in New Haven, Connecticut, not far from Hamden, where they lived. But he didn’t work in the family restaurant’s kitchen—or attend culinary school. “I majored in biology,” says Sze, who graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2004. “I was en route to either practice medicine or go into dentistry.” But after moving to the DC area, he found himself applying to the most highly rated restaurants in town, including Michel Richard Citronelle (“which, at the time, was probably the best restaurant in DC”). He got a permanent job helping the pastry chef, which, turned into a second job at another DC standard—Maestro at The Ritz-Carlton. “I was working two jobs, probably seventy hours a week. I got my basics and my foundation.”

“He’s doing really good city food in a small town,” Nusser says. “He just makes things pretty delicious.”

As of this writing, Sze hasn’t found more real estate for the restaurant, but he’s keeping his eye out for space that will let him expand the restaurant and bring its success to more customers. He also hasn’t started planning his January menu. (Because of the local emphasis, his cuisine is mostly seasonal.) He says, though, that he is thinking “wintry soul food, kind of hearty.” If previous response is any indication, they’ll both be a hit.

 

The Beekeeper
Christine Lehner

When Christine Lehner’s partner first got her involved in backyard beekeeping six years ago, the Hastings-on-Hudson resident didn’t really expect that she’d end up the owner of a company with hives producing almost 1,000 pounds of honey a year. Yet now every year she sells out of her myriad honey products—honey, lip balm, and hand and face creams. “We could easily sell two or three times as much of the honey alone,” says 59-year-old Lehner, who also happens to be a full-time writer. “The problem is the supply.”

Her company, Let It Bee Honey, has colonies in Irvington, Rye, and Bedford, as well as on the Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown. In what she calls acts of “apian disobedience,” she even placed bee hives equipped with supers (the frame structures that allow beekeepers to remove honey) on rooftops in Manhattan before beekeeping was legalized in New York City, and on the headquarters of the famed National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) once it was.

Lehner grew up outside of Boston, an avid reader. Her interest in literature, strangely, brought her to beekeeping. After her partner, Charles Branch, signed them up for a class at The Back Yard Beekeepers Association in Weston, Connecticut, she quickly was drawn into the practice by reading about it. “There is so much wonderful literature written about bees,” she says. She also reports happily that her hives at the NRDC, of which her brother is executive director, are cared for by an “apprentice who can discuss early American Gothic literature with the bees.”

In addition to the two books she’s working on—oh, and a research project on her favorite beekeepers—Lehner says she’s always looking to expand the availability of her bees’ products and, of course, expand the reach of the bees themselves.

 

The Running Back Philanthropist
Ray Rice

 

Photo by Shawn Hubbard

Baltimore Ravens starting running back Ray Rice, a native of New Rochelle, is every bit the rising star—on and off the football field.

After 10 regular-season games, Rice, 24, has achieved 1,176 yards, averaging more than 110 yards per game, with many speculating he’ll eventually be joining the ranks of great running backs Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig with record-setting career yardages. Yet, off the field, he’s already started his own charitable fund, raising money for cancer, disadvantaged kids, and special education.

Raymell Maurice Rice lost his father, a bystander in a drive-by shooting, when he was just a year old. A cousin was killed in 1998 by a drunk driver, and Rice was raised by his mother, a special education teacher. After he became successful, his background stuck with him and made him want to improve the lives of those like him. “With everything that I’ve been through,” says Rice, “I have to give back.”

Meanwhile, Rice was already playing football at age five—with kids twice his age—and, after a high school career that had recruiters buzzing, played three record-setting seasons for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. In 2005, Rice’s freshman year, the college had its first winning season in 14 years. Despite standing only 5’8”, Rice scored 49 touchdowns over three seasons and averaged 155 ground yards per game before entering the 2008 draft and being picked by the Ravens in the second round.

In 2009, Rice, who is currently in the last year of his contract, led all NFL running backs in both receptions and receiving yards, with a total of 2,041 yards from scrimmage, becoming one of only eight players in the history of the league to rack up 1,000 rushing yards and 700 receiving. “Football is something that I’ve been blessed to do,” Rice says. “But if you’re just playing football, you’re not fulfilling your role, and that’s to impact people’s lives in a positive way.”

The Ray Rice Charitable Fund raises money for cancer research (“I have a family that’s been struck by cancer, and I know a lot of families that cancer has torn apart,” he says) and fosters community improvement in both Baltimore and New Rochelle. It also helps disadvantaged kids. In June, Rice hosts a football camp for more than 600 youngsters in New Rochelle, and, like his mother, he works with special-needs children, making hospital visits, supporting Special Olympics Maryland, and attending classes when he can to give kids a pep talk. This November he served Thanksgiving dinners at a homeless shelter. Rice is even known for visiting sick Ravens fans in the hospital and bringing along his teammates. “I want to be a guy who leaves his mark on the game,” Rice says, “and be remembered as a great player, and an even greater person off the field.”

 

The Cancer Doctor
Mitchell S. Cairo, MD

In the late 1970s, when Mitchell S. Cairo, MD, began his work  in childhood cancers and genetic disorders, he went to four funerals for every five children he diagnosed with childhood leukemia or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Today, due largely to his own wide-ranging research, the Armonk resident goes to one out of every 10, and he plans to bring the numbers down even further.

“His contributions to the field are too numerous to count, but have guided the development of the field over the past two decades,” says Joanne Kurtzberg, MD, a leader in transplant and stem-cell therapy at Duke University who has written several papers with Dr. Cairo.

Dr. Cairo, 60, was recruited to New York Medical College in Valhalla in February 2011, and the world-famous childhood cancer and genetic disease expert was appointed to the faculty in an unprecedented five departments—Pediatrics, Medicine, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, and Cell Biology and Anatomy—and then piled on titles there and at Westchester Medical Center like Chief of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation and Director of the Children & Adolescents’ Cancer and Blood Disease Center.

“Cancer and serious genetic disease require a multi-disciplinary approach, sometimes a multi-institutional approach,” Dr. Cairo says. “You cannot do that without having your own personal knowledge base be quite wide.”

Dr. Cairo did the first research on stem-cell transplants with donors who were unrelated to the recipients, and performed some of the first transplants under those conditions using cord blood (stem cell-rich blood that comes from the umbilical cord and the placenta). He likewise pioneered the use of stem-cell transplants for treatment of recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, a rare and fatal genetic disorder in which the epidermis is essentially unconnected to deeper layers of tissue. He has also used similar techniques to cure children with sickle cell anemia. When a daughter of baseball Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew was diagnosed with terminal leukemia in 1995, Dr. Cairo took care of her until her death, and the publicity around the case helped inform the public about importance of bone-marrow registries.

These days, Dr. Cairo is principal investigator of a national, eight-center consortium funded by a grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The consortium—The Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Lymphoma Cell Therapy Consortium­—is studying ways to re-engineer white blood cells of those with incurable lymphoma so that the immune cells will target cancers more aggressively than any previous treatment has. (A theoretically similar approach—using a different class of white blood cells—made headlines in August 2011 for its complete curing of two leukemia patients.)

Yet Dr. Cairo still has goals he wants to achieve—to continue raising the cure rate for childhood cancer, keep discovering the uses of stem-cell biology in treatment of genetic disorders (he’s opening three or four protocols for this next year), and advance regenerative therapy. “Unless some unfortunate accident happens to me, I believe that’s within our grasp within ten years,” he says.

 

The Flu Fighter
Jennifer Minieri Arroyo

It’s sniffle season again, and, if you got your flu shot, know that New York Medical College (NYMC) doctoral student Jennifer Minieri Arroyo helps make the worldwide flu-fight possible.

Minieri Arroyo, 31, of Yonkers, researches the influenza virus at NYMC. “Studying influenza virus is fascinating,” says Minieri Arroyo, who today works in the lab of Doris Bucher, PhD, one of only three labs in the world growing influenza seed virus. “Each year, on average, five to twenty percent of the American population is infected, more than two hundred thousand people are hospitalized from flu-related complications, and deaths range from three thousand three hundred to forty-eight thousand six hundred per year. To conduct research that may be applied to preventing these negative impacts on human health is fulfilling work.”

Minieri Arroyo began her current work in Bucher’s lab, where she has been studying the replication of influenza inside our cells. “Learning more about the strategies the virus uses to replicate in our cells could lead to future improvements in vaccine technologies and antiviral drug development.”

Minieri Arroyo has always been interested in science. She graduated with a BS in Biology from Fordham in 2002. After college, she worked at Valhalla’s Institute for Cancer Prevention helping to identify carcinogens and cancer-preventing compounds, followed by a few years screening nervous-system drugs at a company called PsychoGenics. In 2006, she started work in a PhD program in Microbiology and Immunology at NYMC in Valhalla, learning along the way about the role her school played in producing the yearly flu vaccine. Her publications include a major paper on growing influenza.

Minieri Arroyo is, in fact, a prolific writer, for a scientist. “Being able to clearly explain your work is very important,” she says. “Science is amazing and fascinating, and everyone deserves to have access to it.” Thus, she works with the Science Alliance of the New York Academy of Sciences to help graduate students gain career skills, including explaining their work to lay audiences.

Minieri Arroyo thinks she too will go into industry, hopefully continuing her work on influenza, and she’s preparing for positions ranging from science writer to chief science officer.

 

The Architect
Christina Griffin

What is good architectural design? To Hastings-on-Hudson architect Christina Griffin, it’s a well-built, aesthetically appealing building with a timeless feel about it. “There are some buildings that delight, like works by Gaudí and Gehry,” she says. “In my own designs, I am always looking for ways to elevate the spirit.” But lately, the 2010 AIA Westchester Hudson Valley Design Award winner adds another qualifier: good design should also be sustainable.

Her first sustainable project was the River Town House in Hastings-on-Hudson, a stunning home overlooking the river, which received the AIA’s WHV’s top design award, the Honor Award, and was rated LEED Platinum, the highest possible sustainability rating for homes. “That was the turning point in my career,” Griffin says. “During the project, I’d look for ways to reduce waste, salvage materials, and save energy through better insulation, solar power, and geothermal systems. I built a roof garden that is not only beautiful, but helps manage storm water and reduce the heat-island effect. My goal is to set an example for neighborhoods.”

To that end, Griffin is the former chair of the Hastings Architectural Review Board and the creator of an architecture design guide for Hastings, having written the guidelines on how to best restore buildings with rich detail and architectural elements. For example, she cites a local building, believed to be from the 1800s, with a brick façade and cast-iron headers that is ready to be completely redone. “This is a great time to think about sustainability, creating a well-insulated shell and installing super-insulated windows.”

Of course, not everyone can afford to take these big steps. Little steps help, too, Griffin believes. “Energy conservation in itself is sustainability. Although some clients initially balk at the cost of geothermal and solar, I ask them, ‘Don’t you want to go off the grid?’ After all these storms, they say, ‘yes.’”

 

The Producer
Stephen Ferri

Harrison resident Stephen Ferri is a theatrical triple-threat—but you won’t see him in the spotlight. Instead, he applies his theatrical talent to stage managing, musical directing, and producing.'

Ferri, 21, currently is a junior majoring in Theater Design Technology at Purchase College. But he’s already founded two of his own theater companies. He launched the first, the Harrison Summer Theatre, because, he says, “I really wanted to do something for the residents” of Harrison. (The program now attracts non-Harrison residents, too.) The group has tackled musicals like All Shook Up and Rent, and, last year, it performed the regional New York premiere of Spring Awakening. The second company, the New Musical Theatre Series, looks more towards newer, emerging works. “We give opportunities to take a work from page to stage,” he says. In the case of Songs for a New World, this included adding orchestrations—it was performed with a 30-piece orchestra.

Ferri, who won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement for a high school production of Miss Saigon, has his fingerprints on all aspects of these productions. “I do theater tech, where I stage-manage shows,” he says. “I’m a musical director, where I hire and conduct the orchestra, and I might arrange the orchestrations. I produce the shows: organizing them, getting them on their feet, getting the rights. I sometimes do the scenic design or lighting design.”

And he does it all well. After Spring Awakening, theater reporter Peter D. Kramer for the Journal News wrote of Ferri: “He got the rights, he produced, he was musical director and set designer. His band was pitch-perfect. The kid has skills, to be sure.”

Outside of his own two companies, Ferri has worked with other theaters, such as the White Plains Performing Arts Center, the Westchester Broadway Theatre, Westco Productions, and The Westchester Sandbox Theatre. He estimates he works on 15 to 20 shows per year. “It’s nice to have people call me and want me to work on their shows,” he says. “I’m booked about a year in advance now.”

 

The Makeup Artist
Jay Alvear

Jay Alvear may be only 22, but he’s already been called to make Bethenny Frankel’s lashes longer and Danica McKeller’s cheeks rosier. Indeed, he’s becoming the celebrities’ favorite makeup artist.
Yet, Alvear didn’t set out to be a makeup artist. He set out to be an art teacher. “Then I had an internship at an elementary school—and it really wasn’t for me,” he says. The Sound Shore resident turned to makeup. “Makeup is just like any other art form,” he says. “It’s just a different canvas.”

And, on his canvas, Alvear is a budding Picasso (only his faces wind up looking much prettier than Picasso’s figures). He’s been a key makeup artist at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Fashion Week in Milan. He’s worked editorial photo shoots for international fashion magazines. He’s done special effects and theatrical stage makeup for Sleep No More, Stop the Virgins, and Broadway Bares. And he’s done makeup for Kristi Yamaguchi, Taylor Dane, and Neil Sedaka. He’s been sent to Paris, Milan, and Miami for shoots. “I do makeup for everything,” he says. “I’m multimedia.”

He didn’t attend cosmetology school. A self-professed makeup “nerd,” he maintains there is a science behind the art form. “High definition has changed the world of makeup. It’s like doing makeup under a magnifying glass. Any kind of shimmer or oil will show up ten times more. If you do lots of shimmer on a model’s eyelids, it’ll end up looking greasy.”

Alvear is also in the early stages of developing his own cosmetics line. “I’ll be using it backstage on my shoots and may be distributing it to high-end makeup shops like Space NK and a few luxury salons. But it would be more for backstage use. There are a ton of consumer lines out there, but fewer lines for the makeup artistry. It’ll be more about what shoots the best.”

Alvear wants his clients to know that killer makeup is an essential accessory, like a killer pair of shoes. “Makeup shouldn’t be a chore you do in the mornings. You can be anyone you want.”

 

 

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