Municipal Leaders Applaud Astorino Plan To Provide Direct Funding For Communities “Held Hostage” By HUD



The mayors and county legislators for Peekskill and Port Chester are applauding the new program announced by County Executive Robert P. Astorino last week that will replace the federal community block grants that Department of Housing and Urban Development has been withholding from their communities.

In his State of the County Address, Astorino proposed that Westchester County start its own $5 million block grant program for the communities being “held hostage” by HUD. The new program solves a number of problems.

• It will get money to local communities for revitalization projects.

• It will be affordable to county taxpayers. Financing a $5 million program will cost each household in Westchester about $1 dollar a year.

• And most important, it will remove the stranglehold that HUD has been using in its attempt to dismantle local zoning as it unilaterally tries to expand the terms of the county’s 2009 affordable housing settlement.

“HUD is currently unjustly punishing the municipalities that were not even part of the County’s federal housing settlement reach in 2009 by the prior administration,” said Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina. “Peekskill has lost over a half million dollars in CDBG funding even though it is not part of the settlement because it already has a very diverse population and plenty of Affordable Fair Housing.”

Mayor Neil Pagano of Port Chester added: “The program that County Executive Astorino is rolling out is innovative and exciting. From 2011 through 2013, the Village of Port Chester was awarded in excess of one million dollars in CDBG for municipal infrastructure projects related to homeless prevention; sidewalk, sewer, and streetscape improvements; and youth development. But because of the impasse the CDBG funds were never released. I wholeheartedly support this very creative initiative.”

Both Peekskill and Port Chester combined were slated to receive $ 1.85 million in CDBG funding before the faucet was turned off by HUD due to its claim that the County has not complied with the 2009 settlement.

Astorino cited HUD’s “behavior over the past four years” as proof that HUD seeks to “erode local control over land use”.

“CDBG have been HUD’s prime weapon,” said Astorino. “Withhold the money and wait for the county to capitulate on zoning. But that didn’t happen and that won’t happen while I am County Executive.”

The new county program calls for $5 million to be set aside for projects similar to the projects done under CDBG. Eligibility of projects will mirror the guidelines used by HUD but without the bureaucracy and pre conditions imposed by HUD.

Board of Legislators Minority Leader John Testa (R/C Peekskill) and Legislator David Gelfarb (R/C Rye) both expressed support for the measure.

“This fund will help the City of Peekskill move forward with much needed downtown improvements to sidewalks and the gazebo while protecting the local zoning from intrusion from bureaucrats in Washington D.C.,” said Testa. “I am urging my colleagues on the Board of Legislators to support this initiative and help our local communities complete previously approved projects that have been put on hold due to HUD’s arbitrary decision making,” added Testa.

Gelfarb expressed similar sentiments. “Thanks to Rob and the Administration for putting together a program to benefit our local communities and their residents who have nothing to do with the ongoing problems with HUD,” said Gelfarb.

Both Catalina and Pagano pointed to various projects their municipalities want to undertake that can now be funded. They include improvements to parks and streetscapes in downtowns.


About John G. Testa

Former District 1 County Legislator, John G. Testa is served five terms at the Westchester County Board of Legislators, spending the last 3 terms as BOL Minority Leader. John G. Testa is a lifelong resident of Peekskill who first entered elected public service as a member of the Peekskill Common Council in 1998 and then served three terms as Mayor. He previously served on the Conservation and Parks Advisory Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. John became an elected official eager to improve the City in which his family has lived for more than a century and quickly earned a reputation as a strong, independent, nonpartisan voice for fiscal responsibility. John received a BS degree in Technology from SUNY Oswego, where his academic achievements gained him induction into Epsilon Pi Tau, the International Honorary Fraternity of Technology. He earned his MS degree in Technology from the City College of New York. He began his teaching career in 1980 at Peekskill High School, his alma mater, as an instructor in Technology and Social Studies, retiring in 2013 after 33 years teaching. John has been a leader in support for the Arts Community in Westchester. He presided over the construction of the Peekskill Art Lofts, the establishment of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, and the complete restoration of the Paramount Center for the Arts, originally a 1930’s movie house and helped bring critical funding to many Westchester programs. Legislator Testa received the “Advancing the Arts in Westchester Award” by ArtsWestchester. John has a been a leader on environmental issues for two decades and has a long record of initiatives he has supported and spearheaded. His active involvement in developing and promoting environmentally friendly policies began as mayor and continued throughout his time as Westchester County Legislator. His efforts consistently earned John the endorsement of the NY League of Conservation Voters. John’s most recognizable accomplishment has been his promotion and preservation of local history and historic landmarks, bringing an unprecedented focus on the region’s rich history, and its legacy of historic Victorian architecture. His roots in historical preservation stem from his experience as a Revolutionary War re-enactor and member of The Brigade of the American Revolution for 50 years. John was instrumental in securing the preservation of the Lincoln Depot, now the Lincoln Depot Museum, where he now serves as President. The museum was recognized in 2015 as one of The Best Museums in Westchester. He also secured the preservation of historic Fort Hill as parkland, a 40-acre parcel that was originally a Revolutionary War encampment site. Under his leadership, the United States Dept. of the Interior declared Peekskill a “Preserve America Community.” John was able to establish a record number of National Register designations of local structures, including the first Downtown and Neighborhood Historic Districts and supported the preservation of the historic Miller House in North White Plains. In 2017 John was named a “Champion of History” by the Lincoln Society in Peekskill. John and his wife of 37 years, Nancy, live in Peekskill and have two adult children, John, Jr. (fiancé Courtney Kelly) and Katy (husband Mike Mearon). John and Nancy recently welcomed the arrival of their first grandchild, Lacey Mae, in 2019.
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1 Response to Municipal Leaders Applaud Astorino Plan To Provide Direct Funding For Communities “Held Hostage” By HUD

  1. Tom Pisani says:

    nice work, John. Local control is best

    Date: Wed, 7 May 2014 12:10:53 +0000 To:

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