State and local reps fight for local control as federal reps remain silent
Concerned residents of Northern Westchester packed the Somers library to hear Assemblyman Greg Ball (R, C, I – Patterson) and Somers Town Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy discuss the implementation and implications of the controversial $62.5 million settlement between the United States Department of Justice and Westchester County that obligates northern Westchester taxpayers to build 750 below-market-rate homes, which will be marketed by court order in low-income areas outside Westchester.
“As seniors and working families are being forced out of their homes in neighborhoods in northern Westchester, its unconscionable to think that weak-kneed county insider and big government embracing Federal representatives are going to appoint a Federal czar for the implementation of an unfair settlement,” Ball said. “It is going to be financed on the backs of Westchester’s already beleaguered taxpayers, while unfairly straining the local infrastructure and economy.”
Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy noted that Somers has already been making a good faith effort to build affordable housing.
“Home rule is very important, and we know best how our community should be built,” Murphy said. “We don’t need someone to dictate to us from afar, especially when we are already making a good faith effort.”
The county settled the case that five of seven practicing attorneys on the Westcehster County Board of legislators believed the county would win in court, said Somers resident Greg Kane.
“This settlement is a disgrace,” Kane said at the town hall style meeting. “And it disadvantages people in need. We do not have the infrastructure, septic, water, and transportation, to support this.”
Dr. Ifay Chang of Somers suggested that state and local officials who were fighting for local control of the implementation like Ball and Murphy develop a hotline and website where concerned residents can call to express their concerns and hear the latest information on the plan.
Somers resident Harold Bolton noted that half of the units will be rental units, and according to the settlement terms, no more than 25% can be allocated for senior housing.
“This is economically punitive to our town,” Bolton said. “The Federal government is going to tell Somers how to put housing up. Workforce housing is under normal circumstances directed towards the fireman, and policemen, that work in your town, and this has nothing to do with that.”
The settlement, brokered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development had to be approved by the County Board of Legislators in order to meet a September 24th deadline, and was done so with little public notice or input, which Ball says amounts to little more than judicial fiat on the part of Federal government.
“Northern Westchester is on the front lines,” Ball said. “This settlement will be of no benefit for local residents who want senior housing or workforce housing, and I am stunned by the continued silence of our Federal representatives.”