George Bianco has done more to preserve land in Bedford than perhaps anyone else
If you were to compile a list of the early indications of a man’s eventual success, you might include being an Eagle Scout, an achievement earned by Steven Spielberg, Neil Armstrong, Sam Walton, and Bedford’s own George Bianco. However, while Bianco may not have the name recognition of these other scouts, it’s probably because he’s quite content to shun the spotlight and distinguish himself on a grass-roots level in service to Northern Westchester and its residents.
In the two decades since moving to Bedford in 1992, Bianco has created a legacy that will outlive us all—and it started with the land. After acquiring the spacious Maple Grove Farm, built in 1757 and one of Bedford’s premiere historic agricultural properties, Bianco restored and enhanced it with authentic details, turning it into an architectural gem.
“Hope Bedell was the last of her family’s descendants to live in the house, and when she passed on it was left to St. Matthew’s Church,” explains Bianco. “They were very gracious about it but as you can imagine, with an historic property that needed repairs and
ongoing upkeep, it was more practical and more in the spirit of Mrs. Bedell’s gift for them to sell the property and apply the proceeds to their ministry. By the time we learned of Maple Grove Farm and bought it, it really wasn’t livable, but the whole property had such great ‘bones’ and potential that we just went all-out and made it our dream, which eventually came true.”
While Bianco admits it seems like a big place for “just one guy,” his three children (Nina, on her way to medical school; Alison, graduating from Bucknell and starting at Merrill Lynch next year; and Andrew, a student at Hotchkiss) also make Maple Grove Farm their home when they’re not in school. “With the kids in and out all the time, the farm stays busy,” he says.
Bianco chaired the Westchester Land Trust from 2007 to 2011 and has since been named its chairman emeritus and received this year’s WLT Preservation Angel Award. On his watch, the WLT acquired an additional 1,096 acres for preservation and launched the innovative Farmers Match Program to pair up fledgling farmers who have no land with landowners willing to let the farmers grow food on their property.
Sam Pryor, an earlier chairman of the WLT, says of George Bianco, “He was always volunteering to do the little odds and ends that needed to be done.”
Friend and Bedford neighbor Peter Hauspurg, who served with Bianco as the WLT’s vice chairman, adds, “Anything George Bianco lends his hand to, he gets serious about, and there is no one more dedicated to this work. Under his quiet, low-key demeanor is a passionate and artful negotiator who understands the preservation of land to be a righteous cause. And if you put everything he’s done, you’d be hard pressed to find a single person who’s done more to advance and secure the quality of life we enjoy here in Northern Westchester.”
Indefatigable in his commitment to the preservation of our local land, Bianco also served as chairman of the Nature Conservancy from 1996 to 2004, affecting the merger of its eastern New York and the lower Hudson Valley chapters into one unit with a common goal; was co-chairman of the Bedford Open Space Committee from 2001 to this year; was a founding member of the Westchester Open Space Alliance; was active in creating the Westchester Agricultural District to legalize local farming; and is currently a board member of the Bedford Historical Society.
At his day job, Bianco, who has been with Merrill Lynch for over 30 years, runs the Bianco Group, managing funds in excess of $1 billion. To unwind, Bianco enjoys a good marathon—he’s run six in New York, Chicago, and Boston. True to his altruistic nature, two of those marathons raised money for a cause—one for a friend with ALS and another for a friend left paralyzed by an accident. It’s what any Eagle Scout would do.