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The Rotary Club of White Plains is Club 5043, District 7230, Zone 32, Region USCB, Federal tax ID 13-6111471.

Mailing address: P.O. Box 1712, White Plains NY 10602.

Our "Foundation of the Rotary Club of White Plains" is tax exempt, New York State #219346, tax ID 13-6165380.

Website created August 2001.

The Rotary Club of White Plains was chartered October 1, 1919, charter number 540.

Meet Arnold Bernstein

By: White Plains Times
Published: July 7, 2006

By Michael Pellegrin

Councilman Arnold Bernstein took up tennis again not long ago, but not solely for the exercise or to work on his backhand, which he termed “a disaster” in a recent interview. “I don’t have the five hours to spend on the golf course,” Bernstein explained.

Why no time for golf? Besides his work for White Plains-based Avenir Equity LLC, where he serves as director of insurance services, and on the Common Council, Bernstein, a Democrat, holds board positions for the White Plains Youth Bureau (he is the current chair), the United Way, the Cage Teen Center, Northern Westchester Center for the Arts, Congregation Kol Ami, and B’nai Brith’s White Plains unit. He is also a member of the White Plains Rotary, the Westchester Holocaust Commission, and the White Plains Democratic City Committee.

Why keep so busy? Bernstein, 64, believes, “It is at the local level that one can actually see the difference positive effort makes. Public service should not be taken lightly.”

Bernstein believes in speaking frankly and bluntly. After stating that he is currently serving his first term as councilman, Bernstein was asked if this was his first elected office. “First, only, last,” Bernstein replied. Then, to clarify, he added, “I do not have any political aspirations save to serve the people of White Plains as their councilman.” Bernstein will run for re-election to the Common Council in 2007.

Bernstein was also straightforward when asked about the county’s drop-in homeless shelter on Court Street. “I do not want the shelter here,” he said. “It was dumped on us.” When asked if the Common Council could do anything to improve relations between the Business Improvement District, the businesses it represents, and the county and the shelter, Bernstein said that he does not feel this is the Common Council’s responsibility. “Rather,” he said, “I would think we [the Common Council and the BID] share a common interest in having the shelter leave, not co-exist.”

Councilman Bernstein is married to Sandra Bernstein; the couple live on Stewart Place. Bernstein, a 22-year White Plains resident, was born in the Bronx, the only child of Betty and Harry Bernstein. His mother was left widowed and penniless when Bernstein was 12, and Bernstein said that he was the poster boy for the adage “It takes a village to raise a child.” Bernstein said his mother is the biggest inspiration in his life. Armed with only a 10th-grade education but with “an indomitable spirit, always cheerful and upbeat, working six days, 48 hours a week,” Betty Bernstein was fiercely protective of her son, even hiding her breast cancer from him from the time she contracted the disease when he was 18 until her death when he was 25. “My mother ... a very special lady,” Bernstein said simply.

Bernstein with his wife, Sandra Bernstein earned a bachelor’s of business administration degree from Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York. His degree was in personnel and industrial relations, and Bernstein said he is very proud of this accomplishment, “given the effort involved in working full time, army reserve training, getting married, and going to school several nights a week.” Beginning at age 20, Bernstein served six months of active duty and seven years of reserve duty for the Army Reserve.

Though he’s new at holding political office, Bernstein has 35 years of experience in New York politics. He worked numerous campaigns in New York City and the Bronx in the 1970s and 1980s, and he managed Common Council races for John Martin and current Common Council members Rita Malmud and Glen Hockley. He also co-managed Adam Bradley’s first race for the New York State Assembly.

“I entered the local political arena because I believe that we need to be involved in the governance of our lives. Running for office was a natural extension of the leadership roles I played behind the scenes for many years, and with my family grown, I could devote the considerable time required for the position,” Bernstein said. Bernstein has two daughters from prior marriages: Cara, 35, lives in Manhattan and will soon give birth to Bernstein's first grandchild; Allison, 23, a product of the White Plains public schools, is living in Washington, D.C., where she earned a master's degree in special education from American University.

Bernstein believes “the potential for continued budget expense growth represents the biggest threat to our future.” The Common Council is commissioning studies to “come to grips with costs operationally,” including increased costs from pensions and health benefits. Bernstein is mindful of these challenges as a member of the budget and management committee, he said. The city’s budget came up again when Bernstein, who cited the workload of a councilman as one surprise he encountered when he entered office, was asked if the position of Common Council member could or should be a full-time position. (Council members often put in a full week of work, but they are not given an office, staff, competitive salary, or other amenities commonly given to full-time office holders.) Bernstein said that the job could be a traditional full-time job, but that he doesn’t see the furnishing of an office and staff for Common Council members as an “appropriate expenditure given the budget situation.”

Bernstein said the hardest decision he’s faced as a councilman was to vote yes to the sale of the Railside property near Ridgeway and abutting the Greenway nature trail. “While the city has done a superb job acquiring open space,” Bernstein said, “I am reluctant to remove any parcels from our inventory without a very good reason.” In this case, Bernstein said, he was particularly concerned about city residents on fixed incomes, and about the prospect of a 20-percent tax hike, which for him was not acceptable.

Bernstein feels White Plains is a well-run city with adequate public input into local government. When told of recent comments made by a city official that 80 percent of the White Plains residents don’t know what the Common Council is, where they meet, and so on, Bernstein said, “Our great and nationally, if not internationally, recognized city, by and large, runs very well and is looked at favorably by the citizens I speak to. People tend to get involved when an issue arises that affects them. Otherwise being satisfied, they tend to the rest of their lives. If 20 percent of our citizens understand how our city is governed, I am encouraged. That’s more than 10,000 people,” he said. But, Bernstein admitted, Common Council members do have a responsibility to meet with individuals and groups, and residents should get involved if they are so inclined. “All our residents have to do is turn on the TV for a window into our government,” Bernstein added, or read the local newspapers.

“This is their city,” Bernstein concluded. “We are only the caretakers.”


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