By ASHLEY HELMS
On his New Year’s Day 2014 inauguration ceremony, County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, took his oath of office in a much more intimate setting than the first time he was elected to the seat in 2009.
Only family and staff members witnessed the official start to the county executive’s second term; a far cry from the crowd of Westchester residents that filled the seats of SUNY Purchase’s Performing Arts Center four years ago.
A small gathering inside the county executive’s office in the Michaelian Building on Martine Avenue in White Plains was precisely what Astorino wanted and he emphasized that the promises he made to residents during his first election in 2009 still hold true in his second term.
“[The inauguration] was a continuation of what we already accomplished and governed on and to be mindful that there are a lot of people struggling in this county that need help,” Astorino told the Review in an interview this week. “Especially…the homeowners because of the high property costs.”
Astorino faced what some considered to be a tough election season up until November. Astorino held onto the county’s highest elected office on Election Day, defeating his Democratic opponent, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, with 56 percent of the vote.
Following the inauguration, about 400 Westchester residents attended an open house at the Michaelian Building to meet the county executive. Astorino said he was pleasantly surprised that hundreds of people came to the open house, especially on a holiday. Some of the attendees, he said, were meeting him for the first time.
Astorino also touched on the county’s agreement with Sustainable Playland Inc., the non-profit company selected to ta-ke over operation of the iconic county-owned Playland amusement park in Rye. An asset management agreement with Sustainable Playland Inc., along with a lease to usher in the development of the Westchester Children’s Museum, was approved in April 2013 and signed by the county executive in July 2013. The agreement was intended to allow the Rye-based non-profit to preserve and update the park. The agreement with SPI is now awaiting a final approval by the Westchester Board of Legislators before improvement plans can begin.
On Monday, Board of Leg-islators Chairman Ken Jen-kins, a Yonkers Democrat, was replaced as board chairman by Legislator Mike Kaplowitz, a Yorktown Democrat, after a bipartisan coalition was formed to wrestle control away from Jenkins and board Democrats in late December. Jenkins and Astorino have had a contentious relationship since the Republican county executive took office in 2010, battling on numerous policy issues.
Jenkins filed a lawsuit in May 2013 against the Astorino administration, challenging the cou-nty executive’s authority to sign an asset management agreement with Sustainable Playland Inc. The state Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in December and Jenkins is planning to ask Supreme Court Judge Barbara Zambelli to review her decision.
Britta Vander Linden, Astor-ino’s communications director, said the county executive is looking forward to continuing to protect and serve the citizens of Westchester.
“[Astorino] was anxious to keep working and keep the celebration to a minimum,” Van-der Linden said. “I think it fit the mood to continue the work that he has promised that he would do.”