The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York


AUGUST 5, 2011

‘Talks will continue dot-dot-dot’

This week’s (temporary) resolution of the congressional budget crisis must give some hope to those involved in trying to resolve Westchester’s housing settlement dispute. After all, if members of Congress, from Tea Party members to progressives, could concur at least enough to pass a budget bill, maybe the players in the county’s housing deal with the nonprofit Anti-Discrimination Center and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development can equally work out their dispute.

This unpleasant business was prompted by former county executive Andy Spano’s acceptance of millions in federal housing funds without observing the terms of the financing. A New York City-based watchdog group called the Anti-Discrimination Center brought a suit in federal court against the county for failing to market new housing to minorities, which led to a $50 million settlement deal to create fair housing stock throughout the county, including parts of northern Westchester.

While working to carve out a plan that will be acceptable to federal monitor James Johnson, HUD and Craig Gurian of the Anti-Discrimination Center, both County Executive Rob Astorino and County Legislature Majority Leader Peter Harckham have found that, as legislators did in Washington, D.C., this week, the devil is in the details.

The latest news, according to the county executive — vigorously denied by Mr. Harckham — is that this could balloon by another $50 million in construction costs.

“The bottom line is that HUD is asking us to spend money that we don’t have, pick fights with our own municipalities, do things we have no power to do and in fact may violate the New York State Constitution, local zoning and a host of environmental laws,” said Mr. Astorino last week.

Mr. Harckham says this is hooey, and in fact, out of the $50 million settlement, only $30 million is county money; the rest, $21 million, comes from HUD and Community Development Block Grant funds.

Despite Mr. Astorino’s warning, Mr. Harckham says there is no chance that the county will threaten to sue local governments as a result of the settlement. “I cannot under any situation see a legislator suing a municipality,” said Mr. Harckham this week.

Mr. Harckham accuses Mr. Astorino of “an ongoing insistence on politicizing the issue.”

Before risking what some say could be hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars should the county lose in court, the county executive and Mr. Harckham should revisit this in a nonpartisan and practical manner — or is that impossible in an election year?

There are some areas of agreement. Both Mr. Harckham and Mr. Astorino vigorously oppose new legal action brought by the ADC two weeks ago; both agree on the scope of the housing projects pursued so far, including a home on Wildwood Road in Katonah.

Just as Congress will be working with a nonpartisan committee to resolve the budget crisis, we propose a nonpartisan committee to bridge the communication gap between Mr. Astorino and Mr. Harckham. As in Washington’s “supercommittee,” the county should draw on its considerable wealth of expertise to help resolve the thorny, disputed aspects of the settlement. A nonpartisan panel, working in concert with mediator James Johnson, could facilitate communication and help end the bickering that will only stall the settlement and lead to lingering costs and wasted time. Neither the Legislature or the county executive can, or should, decide this on their own.

In addition, stakeholders such as the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Environmental Conservation, and county and state health departments must be brought into the mix. Residents of Westchester must be assured that the costs of this deal are fixed; that there is an end in sight; and that the backs of taxpayers won’t be broken in a race to nowhere.

On Monday, Donna Greene of Mr. Astorino’s press office said that talks will continue. “Everyone wants to settle it without going to court,” she said. “There are continued talks with HUD staff and the county to clarify the issue. It’s a process. We can be hopeful.”

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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

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  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

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  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


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  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

  4. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  5. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

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  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    

South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
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Cross River

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  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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