By Robin Jovanovich
Voters elected Rob Astorino Westchester County Executive eight years ago with the promise of protecting taxpayers (keeping taxes flat) while preserving essential services and promoting economic growth, which he often referred to as the “three Ps”. That platform brought him far, and one step closer to higher office with a solid run to unseat Gov. Cuomo. But last month, in a reversal of fortunes for the Republicans, State Senator George Latimer unseated Astorino.
Meanwhile, the County Exec has a lot he needs to finish before leaving office next month. The lease for Macquarie Infrastructure Corporation to operate Westchester Airport, a $1.1 billion
public-private partnership, goes to the Board of Legislators next week.
“It’s a fundamentally good plan,” said Astorino’s right-hand man, Ned McCormack, Director of Communications, in a telephone interview this week. “It unlocks recurring revenues ($30 million in the first year), by taking advantage of an FAA program, and it incentivizes the operator to run the airport better.” Macquarie has agreed to spend $550 million on terminal improvements and amenities over the course of the 40-year lease.
The proposed 2018 budget must be signed by the end of the year. The $1.8 billion proposal increases spending by less than 1 percent and keeps the tax levy flat “for the eighth straight year.”
Speaking for the Administration, McCormack said, “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished. Rob will leave the County in a much better place than what he inherited.”
They’re in the final stretch on the budget. “We’ve looked at the cost of everything. We’ve examined which if any services could be provided by an entity other than the County.” While the County has made a “huge commitment” to its park system over the last eight years, McCormack allowed that the Administration’s view is that park curator positions could be funded through Friends organizations. “It’s a negotiation process.”
Under the proposed budget, funding for nonprofits remains steady.
On the long-running subject of the public/private agreement with Standard Amusements to operate Playland, the County Executive’s office says the only thing impeding the deal is the lawsuit filed by the City of Rye. The lawsuit was dismissed in court but the City voted 6-1 to appeal the decision. “The deal is fundamentally sound,” said McCormack. “Nicholas Singer has been open to dialogue from the start. A work plan is in place, but there is still the legal overhang with Rye. This doesn’t have to end in court.”
Rendering of proposed interior improvements at Westchester Airport by Macquarie Infrastructure Corp.