GovernmentThe White Plains Examiner

Fight Over Hochul’s Housing Plan Simmers as Opposition Swells

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Gov. Kathy Hochul will have a fight on our hands as officials from a wide variety of communities in Westchester and throughout the region are gearing up to beat back aspects of it, particularly the transit-oriented component of the plan.

The North Castle Town Board unanimously approved a resolution last week urging the state legislature to remove Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Housing Compact from the budget process and to protect municipal home rule throughout New York.

In a strongly-worded document that the board hopes will help spur other municipalities around the state to pass a similar resolution condemning elements of Hochul’s housing plan, North Castle officials said the board shares the governor’s goals of increasing housing stock and wants to work with the state on solutions, not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Municipal leaders around the region and the state have pushed back against Hochul’s plan, in particular the transit-oriented development (TOD) component, which would rezone land within a half-mile radius of every MTA train station to allow for up to 50 units per acre. Hochul’s goal is to build 800,000 new housing units statewide over the next decade.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said it’s not North Castle’s intention to necessarily lead on the issue but he wants to communicate the urgency to other local officials as well as state lawmakers about how devastating the Housing Compact could be to local communities.

“The point is we have to be so far ahead on this because if we’re not, then our message isn’t getting across as quickly as we need it to be, and then we don’t want to run the risk of representatives saying, ‘Well, we’re not really hearing enough about this or a strong enough opinion about it,’” Schiliro said.

The resolution stated that under the governor’s proposal, about 125 acres within a half-mile radius of the North White Plains train station would be rezoned, potentially paving the way for more than 6,000 residential units in that hamlet, which would overwhelm volunteer emergency response, schools and other services.

Reaction to the Housing Compact has been strong by local officials in both political parties. In Mount Pleasant, Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi forcefully denounced Hochul’s housing plan, saying it would “effectively obliterate the community structure and identity that is fundamental to creating and protecting the unique character of our town, its hamlets and villages.”

“The governor’s proposal to force communities to add housing where she thinks it should be is a slap in the face to every local municipality in the state,” he said. “I still believe in government by the people, for the people, not something dictated or mandated by one level of government on another. And that is the direction the governor has decided to go in by attempting to force her will through her New York Housing Compact.”

Fulgenzi said within the past few months Mount Pleasant updated its Comprehensive Plan that allows for property owners within proximity of the town’s two train stations, Hawthorne and Valhalla, to be redeveloped with ground-floor retail and apartments on the second and third floors.

During a public forum last Thursday in Greenburgh held by Westchester’s state Senate delegation on the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget, several speakers addressed the consequences of what Hochul’s transit-oriented development plan would mean for communities throughout Westchester and the state.

Greenburgh Planning Board Chair Hugh Schwartz said the governor should appoint committees at the state and local levels to come up with ideas to address the housing crisis, not render local zoning impotent. If the governor’s mandate were to go into effect and fail to achieve the desired results, the state could go even further, he said.

“It will essentially empower the state to supersede all zoning laws and the state Environmental Quality Review Act, endangering the property values of hard-working citizens who in many cases depend on the equity in their homes for retirement,” Schwartz said.

“Expedient solutions like the one being proposed by Gov. Hochul is likely to cause havoc and do more harm than good,” he added.

Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said her city is one of the 20 most densely populated communities in the United States. The four-square-mile community has more than 72,000 residents, according to the last Census, and with three Metro-North stations within its border would be overrun with more development.

“Accessory dwelling units and TOD development being pushed on Mount Vernon would increase our density and really cripple the community to provide the level of services” it needs, Patterson-Howard said.

Of the handful of speakers who addressed the Housing Compact at the hearing, Phil Weiden, the government affairs director for The Building & Realty Institute, was the lone supporter of Hochul’s proposal. He said towns are failing to keep up with the demand, in part because of discriminatory zoning practices over decades that slowed growth.

“The current way that zoning is designed was so that people of color could not move into the suburbs,” Weiden said. “We are going through a housing and affordability crisis because of that.”


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