Election season is upon us again, and White Plains has races on Nov. 8 for seats on the White Plains Common Council and Westchester County Board of Legislators.
Read below to learn more about one of the candidates, and click to find out who else is running.
Meet the Candidate: Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona, running for a 4-year term on the White Plains Common Council
How Long in White Plains/Where: has lived in White Plains for 22 years, currently lives in the Highlands neighborhood
Family: Daughter Isadora Machado and son Gacel Machado, both are White Plains High School graduates
Job Title/Profession: Urban Planner/Senior Designer for Lecuona Associates, Principal since 2005; Project Manager/Senior Designer with Peter Gisolfi Associates, for 13 years
Education: Dual Master’s Degree: Masters in Science in Urban Planning from the School of Architecture, Preservation & Urban Planning (GSAPP), Columbia University; Masters in International Affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia University; Certificate in Construction Management Training, New York City Department of Small Business Services; Completion of Computer Graphics Courses, Parson’s School of Design New York; Registered Architect, School of Architects in Madrid, Spain; Bachelor of Architecture, University of Architecture in Madrid
Other activities and current/past involvement:
- White Plains EcoNeighbors, co-Founder; White Plains 2010 Census Committee; White Plains Volunteer Firefighters; White Plains Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Committee (SEEC);White Plains Rotary Club; White Plains High School PTA Co-President; Board of Trustees White Plains German School New York
- Steering Committee Westchester Red Cross Board; Westchester National Organization for Women; chair of Building Committee Westchester Hispanic Coalition Inc.; Board Member La Casa de La Cultura, founder and president; Member of Congresswoman Nita Lowey Hispanic Advisory Committee; helped develop 2025 Westchester Plan, as a member of the Westchester Planning Board
Run for office before: Elected to the White Plains Common Council in 2008; appointments include: White Plains Budget and Management Advisory Committee; White Plains Cable Television Commission; White Plains Open Space Acquisition Committee
Endorsements: Democratic, Working Families, Independence
Why are you running for a seat on the White Plains Common Council?
White Plains is a city with a very diverse population of people. White Plains is the Westchester County seat, and is in a unique geographic location and—as reflected by the city’s economic, cultural and recreational dynamic growth—is attracting a daily population of more than 250,000 people coming from all neighboring municipalities and states.
The permanent residents’ population however is approximately 57,000 people. In the recent years, the national shrinking economy and the effects of a global warming have changed the needs of White Plains residents.
These are all great challenges for any city.
And, of course, our numerous neighborhoods are all unique in their needs and concerns. I have the right professional background and related experience to meet these challenges.
I am running because I do care about the city, and during the four years of my first term as a councilwoman I have proven through my dedication and accomplishments that I am a valuable contributor to the common council.
What makes you the best candidate for a seat on the council? What would you bring to the council as a member?
I bring an action-oriented leadership to the council. I am fiscally responsible and socially progressive. I bring a unique background and 29 years of experience in architecture and urban planning. But most of all, I bring a passion for the protection of our environment and open spaces, and I am happy to share it with the city residents.
Explain your stance on the following issues, and how you would address these issues as a council member?
Parking: The growth in White Plains population demands an update of our public transportation system—car sharing, biking lanes, Zipcars, pedestrian accessibility, etc.—that responds to present and future city needs.
Parking requirements need to be revised to reflect these changes.
The problem is not that there isn’t enough parking; the problem is that there is a need for cars because of the lack of a reliable and efficient public transportation system. I believe that putting parking in downtown areas where traffic is already a challenge is bad planning.
There are ways to manage city-parking demand that doesn’t require big parking structures or large parking lots on valuable city real estate.
The cities I grew up in Europe provide most of their parking requirement underground freeing land for more remunerable and attractive land uses. I understand that underground parking is expensive, but not as expensive as the land values and opportunities that are being wasted.
Property Taxes: A city is a labor-intensive entity that requires different types of services to accommodate large and various type of residents’ needs. Putting things in perspective, 75 percent of the 2011-12 city budget is to pay for personal salaries and benefits, 25 percent is dedicated to services.
Property taxes are problematic because they cannot be levied on non-residents or non-for profit organizations, who consume services. Yes, we taxpayers in Westchester County pay high taxes, but we cannot forget the excellent quality of the services that our department of safety, department of public works, sanitation department and other city departments provide causing neighboring municipalities in numerous occasions to praise White Plains for its well managed city services.
Cities are struggling to balance their budgets. Nobody wants to hear about raising property taxes. We are still weathering what has been called the “Great Recession.” As a member of the Budget and Management Advisory City Committee, and as the fiscal crisis lingers—my objective is to weigh new strategies to get efficient City services while maintaining property taxes at affordable and rational levels and to attract new revenue sources that prevent property tax increases.
The French-American School of New York’s plans for the former Ridgeway Country Club:
FASNY submitted an application for a special permit to develop a K-12 school. The common council has to conduct a NY SEQR environmental review to assess potential impacts of the proposal. On Sept. 6, the council declared itself the lead agency for the environmental review.
The council has taken several actions since June 2011, such as retaining a law firm and a land use consulting firm and has conducting public scoping sessions to study the impacts and to listen to residents’ concerns and recommendations.
The council approved a moratorium on approvals related to amendments to zoning and other approvals to allow the City’s consultants to conduct their studies and resident participation.
We, council members, are legislators and we will make a decision on the permit after our consultants’ studies are finalized and residents concerns are evaluated. By following the due process, we protect the city of White Plains.
As a present member of the council, saying anything different could jeopardize the City’s expected neutrality on approval The council has been taking all the appropriate steps in handling the complicated matter that the change of ownership of such a large and vital open space in the heart of a residential neighborhood represents.
What are other issues facing the city you feel are important, and how would you address these issues?
- The creation of an economic development office
- The update of the White Plains Comprehensive Plan
- Public transportation and pedestrian accessibility that allows residents, especially seniors to be independent.
- Provide biking lanes that connect schools, city parks and the downtown transit center
- Increase our parkland inventory and the City’s energy efficiency
What is your favorite thing about White Plains?
The very diverse and dynamic population of people and all the common interests that we share.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank the Patch for providing the candidates with this window of opportunity to express some of our opinions on City issues allowing readers to get to know us candidates better.
Please vote on Nov. 8.