If you happen to take a stroll down Main Street in Peekskill with its new mayor, Andre Rainey, it won’t take you long to realize he’s something of a local celebrity.
Roughly a dozen passersby stop for a handshake, a hug, a quick hello during the 5-minute walk, including a group of off-duty firefighters and a man who leans out the driver’s side window to call, “Andre!” Some even greet him by his longtime nickname, “Noodle” or “Noo.”
If he has something scheduled in the city, Rainey said, he makes sure to budget extra traveling time in order to greet his constituents.
“I love it though,” he adds quickly. “My goal is to be that face that’s friendly, that’s happy, so anyone who’s watching me wants to come see what’s going on here.”
That love is apparent in the ever smiling, outgoing Rainey. And while he took up the mayor’s post in January, don’t make the mistake of calling him a politician.
“I’m nowhere near a politician,” he said, laughing. “I’m an elected official.”
In November, Rainey ousted two-term Republican Frank Catalina to secure the seat, making the then 33-year-old the youngest person to be the city’s mayor, according to the city’s Democratic Party.
“I think people get lost in realizing the role of a mayor,” he said. “We’re supposed to be the face of our city. I think other mayors have gotten to the point where they think they’re not just the face of the city, but they are the city.”
Rainey previously ser-ved as a member of the city’s Common Council, a position he was elected to in 2015. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he decided to try his hand at politics “for all the
“I feel like a lot of people who get into politics either don’t have or have forgotten the morals that they’re supposed to have to conduct business in these positions. And I feel there are so many people who should be in politics,” he said.
Rainey said he was persuaded to run for office because of what he saw as a negative political climate in Peekskill.
“There’s someone who’s supposed to be where I’m at right now who wouldn’t do it because of what they’ve seen in politics. So when people say things about me or talk about me, I take it and I smile, knowing that I’m not the best mayor in the world but hoping that the best mayor in the world actually watches what I’m going through and steps up to the plate,” he said.
Rainey considers Peekskill his hometown, though because of his father’s occupation in the Air Force, his childhood included residences in New York, Germany and Las Vegas. Rainey graduated from Peekskill High School in 2002 and has lived in New York since.
Along with his elected position, Rainey is also president of NOO Moves Entertainment, which he founded in 2010.
“I’m an M.C., a hip hop lyricist, a writer,” he said.
Those skills were showcased in a 2011 video he posted to YouTube, “My City Peekskill,” an ode to the city he calls home.
“When I would tell people I was from Peekskill, they’d say, ‘What? Where’s that?’” he recalled.
In the video, Rainey — or “Noodle” as he is referred to in the video — takes viewers on a tour of the city and raps about life in Peekskill.
“That video opened doors for me,” he said. Garnering more than 34,000 views, the video led to Rainey working as an opening act for musicians touring across the country.
In addition to music, another strong passion for Rainey is education, something that stems from his very first job as a teenager.
At 14, Rainey worked for a summer youth program that would offer free lunches to Peekskill students each weekday. On Fridays, the students would venture to various attractions in the area: the Bronx Zoo, a movie theater, a day at the roller skating rink.
“Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot for kids.”
Rainey, who also worked as a program instructor at The Kiley Youth Center on Main Street in Peekskill, added that he hopes to work closely with local school systems in the future.
“When your education’s reputation goes up, everything goes up,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that there are people who are in higher positions that don’t have the priority of education on their radar. To some people, they just say, ‘Let’s just bring in new development.’”
While Rainey said his administration will continue to work to attract new development to the city, he said he will pay closer attention to how that new development will impact the local community, particularly the school system.
“You don’t want people to feel like they can come here but they can’t live here, because the education is not that good,” he said.
He will also focus on working to improve parking in the city, something he said “is an issue we’ve consistently had here.” He said the city will soon release a parking study that will outline how those issues could be remedied.
“I don’t want us to be like Manhattan in the sense of parking. I don’t want people to not be able to drive from the train station to the store because they can’t find a place to park.”
With his background in music and entertainment, Rainey looks forward to the recently announced economic development initiative, Art Industry Media. A division of The Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, the initiative aims to promote Peekskill and the surrounding area as a media hub for the lower Hudson Valley.
“As an artist, I was so excited,” he said.
He is also enthusiastic about the city’s Common Council, which includes three Democrats that were also elected in November.
“They look at these projects as, ‘That’s great, but is it healthy? Is it environmentally safe? Is it going to benefit our city?’” he said.
Rainey said he will approach new developments proposed for the city with “caution and care.”
“If you come here with a plan, pretend you live here. What would you want to see here?” he said. “When you come here, you have people who actually care about this city.”