The Mayor’s administration for possibly his last term seems to be shuffling old allies amongst various departments. With former Deputy Mayor Jim Cavanaugh recently tasked to lead the Planning Department, Deputy Mayor Anthony Landi has now become the Interim Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Buildings. What’s more, former Deputy Mayor Sue Gerry returns to replace Landi as the “new” Second Deputy Mayor alongside First Deputy Steve Levy.
Borelli bows out
In 2021, the City Council controversially eliminated the requirement for the Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Buildings to be a Professional Engineer. After the exit of Commissioner Vincent Pici, P.E., Mayor Mike Spano appointed Sam Borrelli as the interim Commissioner. Borrelli worked at the Department of Public Works, and was not a licensed engineer. Therefore, City Council Minority Leader Mike Breen proposed legislation to remove that license requirement. In public remarks, Breen drew a parallel with hospitals, emphasizing the need for a manager over an engineer. However, critics argued that removing this requirement lowers the bar and potentially compromises public safety. They contend that Professional Engineers are expected to prioritize ethical and competent engineering practices. But, the arguments for safety and training were not enough to maintain this standard, and Borelli was fully appointed to that leadership role.
Now after just two years on the job, Borelli is out. And what continues to remain absent is a leader with a Professional Engineering license. Like plugging holes with only so many fingers, Mayor Spano transferred Second Deputy Mayor Anthony Landi to become the new Interim Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Buildings. This is likewise only a couple of years after Landi himself moved into the Mayor’s office after leading the Parks Department. At that time in 2021, Landi replaced Deputy Mayor Jim Cavanaugh who went to lead the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency. But, now even he is back to run the Planning Department. So, with two former Deputy Mayors running two departments, a new Deputy needed to be appointed. Or perhaps, an old one?
Everything old is new again
Mayor Spano appointed Susan Gerry as Yonkers’ first female Deputy Mayor at the start of his tenure in 2012. She played a pivotal role in consolidating administrative functions between the Yonkers Board of Education and the City. This necessary work came as the budget for Yonkers Public Schools moved under the Mayor’s control for the first time. Gerry was furthermore a board member of various organizations, including the aforementioned YIDA. Gerry served as Deputy Mayor until 2017 when Mayor Spano replaced her with Cavanaugh.
But, now, Gerry is back again in her old role. While certainly experienced, Gerry lacks a requirement for her new job. Namely, she does not live in Yonkers. Per the Yonkers City Charter, an officer is, “required to maintain a place of permanent residence in the city.” However, Gerry is likely to receive a waiver from the Mayor to overcome this requirement.
Speaking on both personnel changes, Mayor Spano conveyed the familiarity he has with their experience.
Sue and Tony have already made lasting contributions to our City’s legacy, playing critical roles in the revitalization of Yonkers. I am confident their knowledge and expertise will continue to make a positive impact on the quality of life of our residents.Mike Spano – Mayor of Yonkers
With so many familiar faces simply swapping positions at the start of the new term, it’s begs the question if City Hall intends to implement any substantive changes. Will the Planning Department take into consideration residents’ concerns regarding rapid development? Will the Buildings Department improve its systems to better serve small businesses and property owners? Or, will the municipal government in the third largest city in the state of New York behave more like a game of musical chairs?