Republican Legislators Take Issue with HUD and HUD’s Monitor on the Most Recent Report

Call Upon Federal Representatives to Take Action
Call On HUD to Release CDBG Funds to Westchester Communities

Republican Minority Leader of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, John G. Testa (Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown) today called upon his Legislative colleagues to stand with their local municipalities and reject any attempt to have the Legislature adopt the latest report of the HUD appointed Federal Monitor in the in the ongoing Housing Settlement.

monitormtgWP“The Monitor’s report is riddled with inaccuracy, inconsistency and injustice,” said Testa. “It fails to accurately count housing zones that permit town houses as multifamily; it lacks consistency in its analysis since some municipalities with existing multifamily zones are given a clean bill of health while others similarly situated are not. This arbitrary and non-objective approach by HUD and the Monitor to the process is preventing a resolution to the issues in contention regarding the settlement.”

Legislator Michael Smith voiced concern about comments the Monitor made at the September 10, 2014 Board of Legislators meeting regarding the 25 municipalities not specifically cited as failing his “test” if a municipality has “prima facia” exclusionary zoning.

“Even though 25 municipalities are deemed not exclusionary in their zoning, the Monitor’s report fails to give them a clean bill of health,” said Legislator Smith. “There were some “should do” and “should consider” for those 25 and the Monitor did not rule out that those municipalities wouldn’t be asked to make changes in the future.  The Monitor declared that determination would be left to HUD.”

Legislator and GOP Minority Whip Gordon Burrows noted that the Federal funds at risk, the so-called CDBG funds, are limited and have minimal impact on the 31 municipalities that are the subject of the Monitor’s report and are part of the Housing Settlement.

“Why should the 31 eligible municipalities sell out Home Rule for less than an average of $10,000 per jurisdiction,” said Legislator Burrows. “HUD shouldn’t be punishing any municipality, but even more egregious is punishing the municipalities that are not party to the suit. Most of the money HUD is withholding was promised to communities that have nothing to do with the settlement.”

Legislator David Gelfarb represents two of the communities that were cited by the Monitor.  “I completely reject the preliminary findings which claim that Harrison and Rye Brook engage in exclusionary zoning practices.  In his report, the Monitor says of and Rye Brook’s multi-family zoning districts are located in areas that are ‘…clearly less desirable and could be considered stigmatizing’.    This characterization is arbitrary and completely inaccurate. The Monitor makes similar baseless statements about Harrison in the report” Gelfarb said. “Both of these communities are extremely welcoming and have ample supply of affordable rental, 2 family and single family homes and the ability to develop future housing that will continue to encourage a robust and diverse community.”

HUDPress2_9_10_14Legislator Sheila Marcotte points the finger for the loss of federal funds squarely at the
County’s Congressional Delegation.

“The real culprit here is not Westchester County or our municipalities – it is HUD and the lack of action by our Federal Delegation,” stated Legislator Marcotte.  “Our representatives in Congress should be demanding HUD release the CDBG funds at a minimum to the municipalities who are not involved with the Housing Settlement.”

“Not one of the municipalities were party to the Housing Settlement, so why is this expense, and unfair burden, now being placed on them to defend their zoning – zoning which one person (a HUD appointed Federal Monitor) claims is exclusionary,” said Legislator Marcotte.

The caucus is calling upon the County Board to adopt a resolution demanding the federal delegation take action to have HUD accept the County’s findings in its series of Analysis of Impediments and to remove the burden on the local government. The caucus members also continue their demand that HUD release the CDBG funds to the 25 communities deemed non exclusionary in their zoning and not mentioned in either of the Monitor’s reports as well as those communities that were never targeted in the settlement in the first place. HUD must stop the arbitrary decision-making that hurts Westchester’s communities.

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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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