In a surprisingly passionate presentation to a packed crowd of Rye residents at the library on Wednesday night, County Executive Rob Astorino called for public support in his fight with an “out of control” Federal Government.
By Robin Jovanovich
In a surprisingly passionate presentation to a packed crowd of Rye residents at the library on Wednesday night, County Executive Rob Astorino called for public support in his fight with an “out of control” Federal Government. Step-by-step, document by document, Astorino explained what the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) was demanding from the County.
“What was an agreement to build 750 affordable housing units at a cost of $51 million has exploded to a demand to build over 10,000 units at a cost of one billion,” explained the County Executive. And more concerning, the Federal Monitor of the agreement has stated in writing, Astorino emphasized that, “there shall be no restrictions on density, height, or number of bedrooms. Effectively, there would be no zoning in Westchester when HUD considers even quarter-acre lots to be discriminatory against minorities.”
The fight between Westchester and the Federal Government has attracted nationwide attention. Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have run several editorials making the case for (WSJ) or against (NYT) Astorino’s position.
“We cannot let this stand,” decried Astorino. He asked the audience to apply pressure on their State and Federal representatives to get HUD to back off. “Capitulating will not help anyone. I will not drop the sword.”
What was scheduled to be an hour’s discussion with the County Executive stretched another 45 minutes as he answered questions on Playland, taxes, the Children’s Museum, State mandates, and many other issues. On Playland, Astorino elaborated the process that included the review by a citizen’s committee, County legislators, the Parks Department, and the Mayor of Rye.
“Sustainable Playland provided the best solution to a problem that has troubled so many of my predecessors: how to stop the losses,” he remarked. Astorino promoted the many features of the plan: saving the historic rides and Kiddyland, opening up views of the Sound, creating year-round amusements, and bringing a national recognized expert, Dan Biederman, who revived Bryant Park in Manhattan, to lead the effort.
The County Executive has approved the initial Sustainable Playland proposal, but the plan requires the approval of the Board of Legislators this summer in order for Sustainable Playland to proceed.
Rye resident Fred Cummings drew Astorino’s attention to the onerous State mandates such as exploding pension costs and asked if “the Governor or State legislators were taking any actions to solve the problem?”
Astorino acknowledged that it was “extremely frustrating” to go to Albany for help and receive none. He recounted a story when he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with the majority leader of one of the houses of the legislature about modifying pension benefits for future employees. Legislator: “I will have to check with the unions about this. They will write any new law.” Astorino summed up: “The State refuses to do anything about pension reform.”