Andrea Stewart-Cousins was born and raised in New York to parents that encouraged a life grounded in education and service. Since the very beginning of her tenure in government, Andrea Stewart-Cousins has espoused the values of empathy, empowerment and civic engagement. These values, along 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.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins was elected by her colleagues to serve as Leader of the Senate Democratic Conference in December 2012, becoming the first female leader of a legislative conference in New York State history. She was first elected to the State Senate in 2006 and currently represents Greenburgh, part of White Plains, part of New Rochelle, part of Yonkers and Scarsdale.
Senator Stewart-Cousins is a strong advocate for human rights; quality education; accessible and affordable health care; and making government more efficient, transparent and accountable to all citizens. Her belief that creating change locally affects changes on the State level has driven her legislative and policy agenda at home and in Albany.
Senator Stewart-Cousins has sponsored and passed transformative legislation that has become law, such as the landmark Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act. This law empowers communities across the State to consolidate local governments, which reduces overlap of municipal services and saves taxpayer dollars. She also sponsored and passed Jimmy Nolan’s law, which was enacted into law in 2009. This law extends the time by which 9/11 responders can file compensation claims for injuries sustained from the World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations. Finally, she sponsored and passed the Child Health Plus and School Meal Enrollment Coordination Law, which was signed into law in 2010. This law allows families to use their proof of eligibility for Free or Reduced Price School Meal Programs as proof of income to enroll their child in Medicaid and Child Health Plus.
Senator Stewart-Cousins has created a number of valuable community programs to support the youth in her district. For instance, she developed the JAM (Just About Me) Program in conjunction with The Yonkers Municipal Housing Authority and the Mary J. Blige Center for Women, in February 2010. This monthly speaker series acts as a way to reach out to young women in municipal housing and directly address issues that they face. Topics have included self esteem, healthy relationships and career development. In addition, Senator Stewart-Cousins was instrumental in bringing “Operation SNUG”(which is ‘guns’ spelled backwards) to the City of Yonkers. This front-line anti-gun and gang violence prevention effort helps local law enforcement and anti-violence community groups create innovative programs to steer at-risk New Yorkers away from the culture of gangs and illegal drugs. The program is based on a successful initiative in the city of Chicago.
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. In January of 2009, Senator Stewart-Cousins made New York State history as the first African-American woman to preside over the Senate. In that role, she was 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.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins also 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.
In 1992, Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first African American to serve as Director of Community Affairs for the City of Yonkers. While there, she created an internship program for the hearing impaired and for children in working families and also advocated for and contributed to the revitalization of the City of Yonkers. She was a founder of the original “Art on Main Street,” as well as a co-creator of “RiverFest”, which is a widely attended, multi-cultural, ecologically oriented city-wide celebration.
Senator Stewart-Cousins earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from Pace University and her teaching credentials in Business Education from Lehman College while raising her children as an adult. In 2008, she earned her Masters of Public Administration from Pace University, and is a proud member of Pi Alpha Alpha – a Public Administration Honor Society. Prior to entering public service, she spent twenty years in the private sector, working in sales and marketing for New York Telephone/AT&T for thirteen years and also worked as a reporter and teacher.
Senator Stewart-Cousins resides in Yonkers, was married to the late Thomas Cousins and has three children and two grandchildren.