City Mayoral and Council Candidates offered unique solutions and stark differences at the old Battle Hill Elementary SchoolThursday. Here are the first rushes of the “highlights.”
Democratic candidates criticised the Delfino Administration record Thursday evening. They addressed issues raised by 30 Battle Hill residents. Candidate Robert Greer ratcheted up his campaign performance in his strongest and most cogent presentation to date, announcing some specifics, and promising commissioners of all creeds, races and genders.
Mayor misses the boom by moving too slowly
Greer found fault with the Mayor as having not gotten things going soon enough in the city, and therefore had missed the “90s boomtimes.” Greer charged the administration had not been responsive and aggressive in tackling traffic and illegal housing concerns and championed “affordable housing” as an issue he would pursue if elected.
Champ with opening flurry, sticks, moves, shuffles, and piles up points with judges
Delfino, in the leadoff spot, rattled off his impressive list of 31 accomplishments, and at the close of the night, defended his administration taking a look-at-the-record approach. At evening’s end, he deflected Democratic criticism, by saying, he has always been a consensus politician in his 30-year career: “We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric. The city gets into trouble when issues are looked at in terms of Democrat and Republican politics and agendas.”
Mayor endorses bipartisan approach
The confident Mayor dismissed the “Greericism” that he had not done enough soon enough, charging that from ’93 to ’97 “nothing had been done” in the city. He said that he was a believer in bringing persons together to solve problems working together. He humorously suggested that by voting for him for Mayor, the city would get to keep the combination of both himself and his opponent, Mr. Greer working for the city. “Otherwise, you just get him,” the Mayor said, indicating Greer, a playful bit that amused the audience.
Greer: a careful look on each new project.Will infrastructure handle it?
Mr. Greer said he was very concerned about the city infrastructure being able to handle what he described as “up to 6,000” new residents downtown, and promised a careful look at each new project in the next four years (“We better make damn sure as a community we’re able to absorb it.”)
Greer raised the specter that office vacancy rates had now climbed to 20% in the city.
He claimed the Democrats were responsible for the supermarket project on Westchester Avenue by rejecting the Shoprite project the Mayor had backed, and opting for Stop N Shop instead. He did not credit the Mayor for convincing Nick Pepe’ to work with Stop N Shop for a more convenient, better designed project that was ultimately approved.
Sees value in the “questing” approach as adding value to projects
Greer said his Democrats “asked more questions” and were responsible for “adding value” to the Cappelli City Center project by demanding a better-designed building at the last moment. He also raised a question whether the Cappelli financing was going to come through. “We have a questing approach to development. We ask questions.”
Democrats to push for affordable housing with special committee.
Democrats promised a mission for more affordable housing for professionals such as firefighters, police, and teachers, and our young people within the city limits. Greer said more affordable housing was the way to combat the chronic illegal housing problem raised by Battle Hill residents. However, it should be pointed out that illegal residents often lack the income levels necessary to rent affordable housing.
To combat the illegal rooming house conditions in Battle Hill and around the city, Greer promised to form an “affordable housing commission.” Greer said its mission would be to identify sites where affordable housing is possible in White Plains, and study a means of funding and building such housing. He took pains to say this was not moderate-income housing, but housing for professionals, police, teachers, firefighters, and “our young people.”
Rita Malmud said she would stipulate that such affordable housing be made available to White Plains residents on a right-of-first-refusal basis. Malmud and Greer both said they advocated more buildings inspectors to identify illegal housing where it existed.
City performance defended as not that easy.
Mayor Delfino said that his administration had stepped up enforcement with ‘Night Operations’ around town whereby police and sanitation persons put alleged illegal rooming houses under surveillance, counted cars parked, noted excessive garbage and unusual activity. He said the city had identified 32 alleged violators (22 on Battle Hill, 10 elsewhere) within 3 months, and time-consuming investigations and care preparations were under way.
He requested more building inspectors, and was pleased at Malmud’s pledge to legislate more.
“IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE!” cautioned Larry Delgado Thursday night at the Battle Hill Association Candidates Night, as he defended the efforts to remove illegal housing from areas of Battle Hill. Delgado pointed out the $1,000-a-day fines judges impose on each violation, and the city ability to jail incorrigible landlords. Delgado said exhaustive investigations and inspections are necessary to prove illegal residency violations. To the left of Mr. Delgado are, Mayor Delfino, Rita Malmud, Robert Greer. To his right, Mike Amodio, and Robert Tuck and, partially hidden, Battle Hill Association President Virginia Falzarano.WPCNR PHOTO
Greer promises open administration
Greer and Glen Hockley both hammered on alleged lack of communication from city hall. Greer returned to his theme of Mayor’s Nights, harking back to the Schulman administration. Greer added that his commissioners would be available once a month to listen and act upon citizen concerns on such nights. Hockley said people were his main concern and that their needs and helping them were the reason he was running, “I’m not a friend of any developer, and I’m for people and their needs.”
Ms. Malmud pointed out that as a legislator she could not order city commissioners to do anything, but promised to pass on all complaints to the Mayor’s office, as she has been doing.
Traffic: more enforcement, more rerouting suggested.
Mr. Greer said he would opt for more stop signs in Battle Hill, speed humps, and traffic rerouting, even though he admitted that in 1996, traffic rerouting did not solve the problem in Battle Hill, but simply transferred traffic to other streets.In 1996, Greer and the majority of the common council voted to discontinue and not fine tune a traffic management program that had aroused much protest in the Battle Hill area.
Mike Amodio presents proven solutions in effect elsewhere.
Each Democratic candidate advocated strongly for strictly enforcing illegal housing rules, and candidate Hockley said the key to removing illegally parked vehicles in Battle Hill was strict enforcement.
Only council candidate Michael Amodio actually made two suggestions that have worked on affordable housing and residents’ commercial vehicle parking problems similar to those plaguing the Battle Hill area.
Amodio suggested White Plains establish a Revitalization Commission such as exists in New Rochelle, to purchase dilapidated housing, refurbish it and then resell it to new homeowners at a profit. The commission, Amodio said, was very successful in New Rochelle in providing housing for “affordable income” residents (by this WPCNR assumes $60,000 to $80,000 incomes) and was funded by federal and state grants.
A Battle Hill resident asked what could be done about commercial vehicles owned by residents being parked in driveways throughout the Hill area, when this was expressly prohibited by law. The Mayor said his administration was awaiting discussions with the Battle Hill Association on how the neighborhood wanted to proceed against such violators, (residents who park their commercial vehicles, taxis, vans, trucks in their driveways). because they are all neighbors, and he considered this a sensitive issue. “It’s their livelihood. You don’t want to take his livelihood away or do that to your neighbor.”
Evidence of how talking about problems, may solve them
Mike Amodio, candidate for council, presented another thoughtful solution to this resident-owned commercial vehicle parking problem based on a policy in effect in Pelham. Amodio suggested the city designate a central garage location city residents who owned commercial vehicles could use overnight, where residents could park their commercial vehicles and thus comply with the city parking law. Amodio said Pelham is much smaller than White Plains, but that the policy of a designated garage works very well there for the residents who own vehicles like trucks, taxicabs and vans they use in their own businesses.
Traffic: Everybody Talks About it.
Traffic, a traditional issue in Battle Hill, was taken up big-time by Mr. Greer. He advocated much more aggressive enforcement and control devices, including speed humps.
The Mayor said his traffic enforcement initiative with radar signs, and 19 radar-trained officers, was making a difference in enforcing the limits, saying that within 4 months last summer in the Battle Hill area, police had written up 188 traffic tickets, 25% of the violators being from White Plains, and 10% actual residents of Battle Hill.
The Mayor cautioned that the city could not arbitrarily raise or lower speed limits or install stop signs without state approval, pointing out that “it’s not that easy.”
Individual candidate statements will be forthcoming in a follow-up report.