Andrea Stewart-Cousins was born and raised in New York to parents that encouraged a life grounded in education and service. From the very beginning of her public service in government - as the first African American to serve as the Director of Community Affairs in the City of Yonkers, Andrea Stewart-Cousins has espoused the values of empathy, empowerment and service. These values, coupled with her strong belief in advocating for the underserved and championing the needs of working families has distinguished her as a trailblazer in local and State government.
Prior to her election to the New York State Senate in 2006 to represent Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant and Yonkers, Andrea Stewart-Cousins served for a decade as a Westchester County Legislator. During her tenure (from 1996-2006), she was elected Majority Whip and Vice-Chair, and she authored and passed landmark legislation, including: Westchester County’s first human rights laws; living wage laws; smoke-free workplace laws; tougher gun laws; laws that prosecute "predatory lenders"; and laws that have provided tax cuts for seniors and veterans. As Chair of the Health Committee, Andrea Stewart-Cousins brought the "Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program" to Westchester County – after a successful pilot of this program in Yonkers. This model has since become a national cornerstone of enhanced community/medical rape crisis assistance.
Beginning in 1992 as the Director of Community Affairs for the City of Yonkers, Andrea Stewart-Cousins created an internship program for the hearing impaired and for children in working families. She has advocated for and contributed to the revitalization of the City of Yonkers and was a founder of the original "Art on Main Street," as well as a co-creator of "River Fest", which – in its eighteenth year – is a widely attended multi-cultural, ecologically oriented city-wide celebration.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins is an advocate for human rights, quality education, election reform, accessible and affordable health care, empowerment of women, youth development, environmental protections, quality of services for seniors and veterans, and making government more open, transparent and accountable to all of our citizens. In a very short time, Senator Stewart-Cousins and her colleagues have enacted meaningful Rules Reform in the Senate, passed historic Public Authorities reform, expanded public participation and transparency in government through Web-based initiatives, and closed the largest budget gap in State history, while improving government efficiency, creating jobs and protecting our investment in education and health care.
Her belief that creating change locally affects changes on the State level has driven her legislative and policy agenda at home and in Albany. In her first term in the State Senate, she successfully fought to save the Community Hospital at Dobbs Ferry from closure, and worked with her colleagues in the State Legislature to provide additional funds for Yonkers city services and schools, while ensuring that State foundation aid to Westchester schools saw the highest increases in the last decade. As a co-sponsor of "Operation Protect Your Home", she worked to help alleviate the burden that homeowners in Westchester County are facing due to the sub-prime lending crisis - an initiative which provided homeowners with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their own lenders in order to explore new terms for their current mortgages. As Downstate Co-Chair of the Senate Task Force on Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE’s), she sponsored and supported legislation giving MWBE’s greater access to agency contracts and directing the focus toward underdeveloped areas and emerging industries in New York State. Senator Stewart-Cousins also led a working session for small businesses and NYS agencies and corporations to ensure that expansion opportunities are accessible and streamlined for expedited certification.
During her second term, as a member of the Senate Majority, Senator Stewart-Cousins and her colleagues put an end to special interest spending, reckless borrowing and overtaxing those who can least afford it. She has been working to restore public trust, rebuild our economy, and protect New Yorkers through job creation, property tax relief and sound investments in education and healthcare. She introduced and passed a package of legislation to enfranchise voters and to prevent intimidation or deceptive practices in elections. As the Chair of the Local Government Committee, she introduced and passed Attorney General Cuomo’s legislation enabling local government consolidation with bi-partisan support, and she sponsored legislation resulting in shared services, mandate relief, ethics reform, and transparency and accountability. The Local Government Committee, under her leadership, reported out 230 pieces of legislation, and 61% of those bills (141) have been signed into law.
In addition to all of her legislative work and advocacy on local issues, Senator Stewart-Cousins helped bring government to the residents of the 35th District by hosting workshops on education issues, domestic violence awareness, the rights of crime victims, the rights of families applying for student loans, tax assistance, achieving energy efficiency in homes and businesses, and the rights of Medicare enrollees and Kinship Caregivers. Additionally, when residents across the 35th District were outraged by the cutting and removal of large tracts of trees, Senator Stewart-Cousins toured the impacted areas with State agency representatives and residents, and she introduced legislation requiring utility companies to provide community notification and hold public hearings prior to the commencement of a vegetation management plan that specifically includes the cutting or removal of trees.
For her extensive legislative work and community service, Senator Stewart-Cousins has been honored with numerous citations and awards from organizations, including: the American Cancer Society, American Civil Liberties Union, the Hudson River Museum, and the National Association of Social Workers. The Senator was also named, "Woman of the Year" by the Business and Professional Women’s Club; "Legislator of the Year" by the Community Health Association of New York State; "Leader in Social Justice" by Pace Law School; "Champion of Choice" by NYS Family Planning Advocates; and was the recipient of the "Thurgood Marshall Award" from the NAACP. In January of 2009, Senator Stewart-Cousins made New York State history as the first African-American woman to preside over the Senate. As a Presiding Officer, Senator Stewart-Cousins is charged with maintaining order, interpreting the rules and practices of the Senate, and calling on members to debate and vote on legislation brought to the floor. Most recently, the NYS Association of Homes and Services for the Aging honored Senator Stewart-Cousins as a “Partner in Quality”; she received the 2010 “Hearts of ARCS” Award from Westchester AIDS Related Community Services, and she was inducted as an Honorary Lifetime Member of Pleasantville SEPTA.
In addition to the Local Government Committee, Senator Stewart-Cousins is a member of the Banks; Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business; Environmental Conservation; Finance; Health; Labor; Rules; and Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committees. She was also appointed to the Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform by the Majority Leader, and she serves as the Downstate Co-Chair of the Senate Democratic Task Force on Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises and as a member of the Senate Task Force on Government Efficiency.
Senator Stewart-Cousins earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from Pace University and her teaching credentials in Business Education from Lehman College. She is a recent graduate of Pace University (May 2008) with a Masters of Public Administration and is a proud member of Pi Alpha Alpha - Public Administration Honor Society. She spent twenty years in the public sector, and after thirteen years in sales and marketing with New York Telephone/AT&T, she pursued a career in journalism and teaching, prior to entering public service.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins resides in Yonkers, was married to the late Thomas Cousins and has three children and two grandchildren.