The White Plains Examiner

League of Women Voters Candidates Forum Highlights White Plains’ Issues

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White Plains Common Council Candidates at the League of Women Voters of White Plains Candidates Forum. (L to r) Victoria Presser, Jennifer Puja, AnneMarie Encarnacao, Nadine Hunt-Robinson, Andrew Custodio, Brian Peroni, Kat Brezler.

The seven candidates vying for three seats on the White Plains Common Council answered questions for two hours during last week’s League of Women Voters White Plains Candidates Forum.

John Hessel, a member of the League of Women Voters of New Rochelle, was the moderator.

On a number of issues, predominantly lack of affordable housing for the average White Plains citizen and over-development within the city at large, most of the candidates agreed something had to be done and that these two concerns were their primary issues.

Jennifer Puja, running on the Democratic Party line, said there is definitely a housing crisis in White Plains. She said every single person should be able to stay in White Plains and thrive.

To address the housing crisis as well as overdevelopment, AnneMarie Encarnacao, running on the Republican Party line, said the city’s Comprehensive Plan must be updated.

Nadine Hunt-Robinson, running on the Democratic Party line and the only incumbent candidate for a Council seat, said the White Plains Affordable Housing Program is the most aggressive in Westchester with a substantial set-aside for affordable units in market-rate buildings and a fund to subsidize affordable housing projects. She also said White Plains already engages in “Smart Development.” Her intention is to continue the positive trends.

Andrew Custodio, Republican, said rather than continuing in the same direction, the city needs to find more creative ways of raising revenue and should not rely on residents. High taxes are his priority.

Brian Peroni, Republican, said his main concern is overbuilding. “It’s too fast, too quick. We are creating a transient resident. People come to rent and then they go. People are not staying.”

Kat Brezler, running on the Working Families Party line after losing in a Democratic primary, said the affordable housing floor should be set at 20 percent in all developments and that developers should participate in community development programs that hire students so those not going to college have a plan to work in the city – “while living in the affordable housing.”

Victoria Presser, Democrat, said she was most concerned about sustainability.

The problem of increasing traffic, both cars and commercial vehicles, generated a number of potential solutions from the candidates and also showed how different neighborhoods experienced the increase of traffic and the resulting unhealthy emissions in different ways.

Hunt-Robinson explained that the city is always looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint. “There are more electric vehicle charging stations, an electric garbage truck has been added to DPW, more bicycling within the city is encouraged as well as students walking to school,” she said.

Custodio, who lives on Gedney, said his neighborhood has been trying to get the trucks off of Gedney and back onto Bryant Ave. “We should ask why there are so many trucks,” he said.

Peroni said the increase in traffic was due to over building and increased deliveries to the new projects.

Brezler, who lives off of Bryant, said part of the Bryant Ave. traffic problem is related to school buses waiting to turn into the Mamaroneck Avenue elementary school.

Presser suggested a lower speed limit of 25 mph might be safer and reduce the impact of emissions.

Puja said the traffic issue in the city should be looked at from a wider view. “You don’t want to throw traffic from one neighborhood onto another,” she said.

Encarnacao said she had looked into the traffic on Bryant Ave. and saw that the Postal trucks were not adhering to an agreed upon delivery schedule. “The Post Office needs to address this. They should be driving electric vehicles,” she said.

All candidates agreed that traffic studies of the entire city should be made. It was noted that the Traffic Dept. would come out to neighborhoods to look at specific problem areas if residents make the request.

Regarding the high number of empty storefronts in the White Plains downtown, the candidates were asked if they favored fining those landlords who turned away tenants, deliberately keeping spaces empty to force higher rents.

Presser indicated she had no immediate answer and would have to research the affect of fines in such situations.

Puja felt that rather than fining landlords and leaving the storefronts vacant, they should be encouraged to work with local entrepreneurs, creating pop-up shops and other activities to bring life to the area.

Encarnacao explained that as a real estate broker she has been through many of the empty buildings downtown. They need to be brought up to par, she said, maybe fining them is the answer.

Hunt-Robinson said fines can drive people away. “We have to be careful on what we do with fines and taxes. We are trying to expand the commercial base,” she said.

Custodio was not in favor of fines and preferred forming a committee to look at the problem to find alternative solutions. Peroni agreed that pop-up shops and encouraging entrepreneurs might work.

Brezler said she didn’t see why the city shied away from ticketing landlords when it had no problem ticketing people in the city with fines and parking to raise revenues.

On the issue of cooperation between the White Plains Police Department and government agencies such as ICE, the candidates broke on party lines.

Hunt-Robinson said the city cooperates when someone is wanted for a violent felony, but when dealing with misdemeanors, the police should do their own thing. Regarding immigrants, Hunt-Robinson said they should not be targeted. We need the immigrant population to feel safe and report crimes, she said.

Custodio felt the White Plains Police should work closely with ICE, Peroni agreed.

Brezler simply said, “No.”

Presser said what ICE has been doing has nothing to do with criminal behavior and Puja told a story about a neighbor who had been wrongfully arrested in the middle of the night. They both said, “no.”

Encarnacao said all city agencies should cooperate with whatever authorities are out there. “There should be penalties for illegal immigrants. They broke the law,” she said.

Other issues up for discussion included resident participation in the creation of the annual city budget, further development of a Veterans’ park; whether or not the Winbrook Housing Project update is worth it; population growth and the need to construct another school; what should be done with the FASNY property; updating the Comprehensive Plan; open space; and transparency of statistics of policing activities.

The entire debate can be viewed on Verizon channel 47 and Optimum channel 75 every evening at 5 p.m. through Election Day, Nov. 5; Optimum channel 76 every Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. through Sunday, Nov. 3.; and at:

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