By Jon Craig – Greenburgh’s supervisor thinks his town is caught in the middle of a feud between the Westchester county executive and the federal government over Community Development Block Grants.
“I’m aggravated,” Supervisor Paul Feiner said. “We are losing revenue that we really need.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently turned down the Town of Greenburgh’s request that the state of New York, and not county, administer the federal block grants.
“I am extremely disappointed that HUD will not provide the grants to any entity other than the county,” Feiner said. “I think communities like Greenburgh are being penalized for a dispute that is taking place between County Executive Rob Astorino and the federal government – something that we have nothing to do with.”
In reponse, George Oros, Astorino’s chief-of-staff, said: “We believe the county is in full compliance with the settlement and HUD should release the funds.”
Oros pointed out that Westchester County also petitioned HUD to release federal money directly to communities, or at least have the state distribute the grants, so that the county/federal dispute did not hold up money for projects approved for local cities, towns and villages.”
The Town of Greenburgh is not among the local communities ordered by the federal government to build more housing. “We have been building affordable housing on our own –voluntarily for many decades,” Feiner said.
According to Feiner, Greenburgh is losing significant grants that were earmarked to help low-income neighborhoods. These include sidewalks and other safety enhancements in north Elmsford where there was a pedestrian fatality in recent years, and street and landscaping enhancements along Manhattan Avenue, near Union Baptist Church.
In a recent letter to Feiner, Dominique M. McCoy, HUD’s general deputy assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental relations, wrote: “Like you, HUD is anxious to gain resolution of outstanding issues regarding the County’s Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, so that the County may move forward with its HUD-funded housing, community development and homeless assistance programs.”
McCoy continued: “Regretfully, the County’s refusal thus far to come into compliance has meant that $7.4 million in FY 2011 funds for housing and community development have already been reallocated or otherwise expired.”
“Additionally, HUD has been unable to approve funding for the County for FY 2012 and 2013 and these funds will also be subject to expiration or reallocation without appropriate actions by the County to correct the noncompliance,” McCoy added. “Should the County resolve the issues, however, the Department will be able to release available funds to the County.”
McCoy said that HUD has considered other alternatives, including whether HUD could grant the money to the State to administer within the County or to otherwise get money to serve intended beneficiaries within the County.
“HUD was able to reallocate FY 2011 Emergency Solutions Grant funds to the State to administer within the County,” McCoy wrote. “Unfortunately, for CDBG and HOME, statutory provisions prevent the Department from providing the grant to any entity other than the County to provide funds within the Urban County Consortium. HUD must ensure that the County’s actions and documents comply with statutory and regulatory requirements as well as the terms of the Settlement Agreement before it can approve its action plans.”
McCoy said for future grants, the Town of Greenburgh could qualify as an entitlement community and receive direct CDBG entitlement grants separate from the County once the current Urban County Cooperation Agreement period expires at the end of the County’s 2014 program year on April 15, 2015.