Election 2023

Torres, Smith in Rematch for Board of Legislators’ District 1 Seat

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For the second consecutive election cycle, Republican Joe Torres is running to unseat County Legislator Colin Smith in District 1 on the Westchester Board of Legislators.

Smith defeated Torres in 2021 by 485 votes.

The newly-drawn district includes Peekskill, the north side of Cortlandt and a portion of Yorktown.

“I think I have better chance to win this time,” Torres said. “A lot of people are unhappy with Colin because he hasn’t done anything for the area and many don’t know him as their legislator.”

Torres served as a Peekskill city councilman from 2014 to 2018 as a Republican working with a Democratic majority.

“We were in the minority and got a lot of things done,” Torres said. “I’m able to work with the other side.”

As councilman, Torres was the liaison to the police and he also volunteered with the Office of Emergency Management. He and his wife, Theresa, have lived in Peekskill for 30 years where they raised their four children. He opened his own business, Reliable Sewer & Drain, in 1984.

Smith was born and raised in Peekskill, and after graduating law school he served as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx. He then went into private practice.

In 2017, he was elected to the Peekskill Common Council. Two years later, he defeated former Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina for the District 1 seat on the Board of Legislators.

Smith said he was running again to continue to address ongoing issues such as police reform, affordable housing, sewer consolidation and crucial infrastructure needs.

“Since I’ve been on the Board of Legislators, we have secured over $10 million for infrastructure to help improve roads running through my district such as Main Street, Route 6 and North Division Street,” Smith said. “Tapping into the county’s substantial resources has helped to support local municipalities.”

The needs for affordable housing vary between the district’s municipalities. Smith supports the county’s affordable housing program, which has proposed investing $100 million to create more units across the county.

“We’ve seen something done every year in fair development of affordable housing in Peekskill and some in Cortlandt and some for seniors in Yorktown,” Smith said. “These areas have different socioeconomic populations. In Yorktown, affordable housing has come to have a negative connotation for those who don’t fully understand or appreciate the need.”

Yorktown currently does not have zoning or an ordinance to help create new affordable housing. Torres has publicly denounced certain efforts on the part of the county to change the town’s zoning.

“There are talks underway by Democrats seeking to take away your local zoning control so that they can control incoming low-income housing in your neighborhood,” Torres said. “Yorktown had a recent brush with this monster in the closet when they were to receive funding from the county government.”

Recently, County Executive George Latimer has called for a new, Westchester-based court to speed up the process where those seeking asylum can have their application to determine their claim expedited. Torres said he was surprised to learn how immigrants who settled in Peekskill 20 years ago and who live and work here are angry and upset with the influx of new immigrants.

“They resent new immigrants who are treated better by getting free phones and money,” Torres contended. “That didn’t happen when they arrived here. I’m all for people coming to this country, but we have to be reasonable. At the end of the day, more people means more taxes, especially now, when the economy is not doing as good as people think it is, and when we have to tighten our belts.”

Smith, who represents immigrants in his law practice, agrees with creating a court in Westchester that could handle the influx of migrants, especially since all immigration courts are in New York City. Wait times for some asylum seekers to hear their cases can take years.

“Latimer has called attention to this issue even though the courts are under federal jurisdiction,” he said.

As a Peekskill resident, Smith said he has seen a vast change in the last few decades with an influx of immigrants from Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico. “These are my friends who now have businesses here and I haven’t heard about any resentment for new immigrants,” Smith said. “As a government we need to do what’s best for all our constituents.”

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