Three seats on the White Plains Common Council are up for grabs in the Nov. 7 election.
Incumbent Democratic councilwomen Victoria Presser and Jennifer Puja are running for their second four-year terms. Their running mate is Jeremiah Frei-Pearson, who ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly three years ago. Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson is not seeking re-election.
Looking to break the one-party stronghold on the council are Republicans Enrique Jinete, a doctor in physical therapy, and Charles Lederman, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer.
Frei-Pearson is a civil rights attorney who runs a White Plains-based law firm. He has lived in White Plains for about 12 years.
“I am seeking election to the council to make our city more affordable, with a focus on increasing affordable housing, more sustainable and environmentally friendly, and to make sure our city is safe and open to all,” he said.
Frei-Pearson is chair of the Mayor’s Sustainability Committee and is former chair of the Mayor’s Committee for People With Disabilities.
“I have worked hard to make our city a better place,” he said. “I worked on many initiatives to make our city greener, including recently helping obtain a federal grant for $1 million in trees. I worked hard to make our city more accessible to all. And, as an attorney, I have stood up for our values of fairness by recovering millions of dollars for underpaid workers and by representing families at the border when the Trump administration put children in cages.”
He said the most pressing issue facing White Plains is affordability and the need for more affordable housing.
Jinete has resided in White Plains for seven years. In his practice, he has provided rehabilitation services to seniors at facilities and in their homes, and services to young children with various muscle, skeletal and neuromuscular diseases.
“I am seeking election to the council because I want to bring change to the forum. I would bring new ideas and thoughts that are not being heard and represent the voice and the people of White Plains,” he said. “I want to serve as a path between the community and the government, working together to create a city that is safe, prosperous and inclusive for all its residents.”
Concerned about overdevelopment, job opportunities and the lack of services for youth and seniors, Jinete said his problem-solving abilities would be instrumental in addressing the challenges facing the city.
“I will assess situations objectively, gather information and propose matters,” he said. “Open-mindedness would allow me to think outside the box and explore new approaches to improve the city’s well-being. My dedication and commitment to public service would drive me to work tirelessly for the betterment of the community. I believe my communication skills, analytical thinking, creativity and dedication would make me an effective and valuable candidate for the city Common Council.”
Lederman has spent the last 20 years as assigned counsel to the courts in Westchester County. Prior to becoming a lawyer, he managed an international textile manufacturer/distributor. Born and raised in White Plains, he is a board member of the Rosedale Residential Association.
“I am seeking election because the all-Democratic government that we have had so long needs to hear a voice of opposition,” he said. “I can bring a voice from White Plains to the table. I believe our city has been overrun by a class of professional bureaucrats and officeholders who simply change seats according to the music playing, while upping their salaries and pensions at our expense. Term limits now! I’ll only serve until another native resident steps up.”
Lederman contended current officials have catered to outside investors instead of prioritizing the needs of current residents.
“The Democratic Party machinery has consistently placed marketing the city to developers and renters over the needs of us existing taxpayers and residents,” he said. “Rather, the city should fix the infrastructure and services that we already have for our residents, rather than continually seeking development to attract more people.”
Presser has lived in the Battle Hill section of White Plains for 42 years. She pursued a career in nonprofit and governmental public information for 45 years. In 2020, she retired as public information officer for the Scarsdale Public Schools after 18 years.
“It has been my honor and joy to serve on the White Plains Common Council these past four years. I hope to have the privilege of continuing that work,” she said. “I bring every fiber of my being to this work – all my knowledge, my expertise and my heartfelt commitment to strengthening our city and helping our residents with their concerns. And I relish the opportunities that government service offers to get things done.”
Presser said during her first term the council has updated the solar ordinance, hired additional police and firefighters, upgraded community parks and playgrounds and added the Pollinator Meadow Park on Route 119 and Veterans Memorial Garden behind City Hall.
She is chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board and would like to expand youth services, particularly for teenagers. She feels affordable housing is a top priority for city officials to tackle.
“I and my running mates intend to see that the requirements are enforced that all new developments have 12 percent of their units as affordable, and to find additional, creative ways to expand affordable housing options in White Plains,” Presser said.
Puja was born in White Plains, raised in West Harrison, and moved back to the city in 2015. She is executive director of a nonprofit that represents 100,000 working families in Westchester and Putnam counties.
“It has been an honor serving the community and there is a lot more work to be done. I would like to build on my success of creating opportunities for families, seniors and youth and being a voice for others on the common council,” Puja said. “My top three legislative priorities for re-election are to expand and enhance our affordable housing/affordable business opportunities, get mental health resources to city employees and residents and ensure that our community benefits from the development we see around us.”
During her first term, Puja said she has helped bring thousands of dollars in grant funding for new and improved programs that directly affect youth and families and advocated for the successful passage of local labor policies that include hiring local residents on jobsites, increased safety and apprenticeship programs.
“I’ve also been a voice for residents to amplify their concerns regarding potential development, quality of life concerns and beyond,” she said. “As an advocate, mom and leader in the community, having a chance to serve has been rewarding. As a councilwoman, I’ve been able to help residents with a wide range of needs. I double down on my commitment to being accessible and will always do my best to listen to the needs, suggestions and concerns of our White Plains residents.”
Affordable housing for residents of all ages and stages of life, the future of the city’s downtown, particularly the space where the Galleria mall has been vacated, and “the need for opportunities for all who want to live, work and play in White Plains,” are high on Puja’s radar moving forward.
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