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Old Yorktown Car Dealership Site to House State’s Largest Electric School Bus Company

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Effort to ‘convert all school buses on the road to 100 percent electric’

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By Martin Wilbur

The state’s largest electric school bus company will be moving to the abandoned site of a former Yorktown car dealership to provide new buses, maintenance, and charging for districts and to convert gas-powered vehicles to electric.

Bird Bus is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year at 3805 Crompond Rd., the same location that has been empty for more than five years since a Kia dealership left the property. Robert Reichenbach, president of the Plainview, N.Y.-based Bird Bus, said the service portion of the facility will likely be operational by November.

There are currently about 20 of the company’s electric school buses – which it calls Blue Bird – on the road in its territory of operation, which comprises Long Island, New York City, and Westchester, Reichenbach said. That number is expected to steadily rise in the coming years. New York State has mandated that all new school bus purchases by districts must be for electric vehicles by July 1, 2027. All school buses in use in the state must be electric by 2035.

Later this month, Bird Bus will deliver Croton-Harmon its first full-size electric bus, the first Westchester district with one of its busses in its fleet, and a second vehicle by next spring, Reichenbach said.

He said the company is going to have the only facility to service school districts’ electric vehicles in the county.

“Moving up to Westchester provides a great opportunity for us to work with the towns, to work with the local school districts, and convert all school buses on the road to 100 percent electric,” Reichenbach said.

Taking current gas-powered buses and turning them into electric vehicles will be beneficial to districts and private bus operators who are faced with having to start changing over their fleets in the coming years. Reichenbach said currently, a new full-size electric school bus costs about $400,000 to $420,000, but a conversion would be roughly half that cost with a state grant.

He expects the company’s capability to convert buses from gas to electric to start by the end of 2023.

In preparation for the move, the current 16,000-square-foot former car dealership building is being rehabilitated. It will contain five bays and room to store up to 10 buses inside, Reichenbach said. Construction crews are raising the roof by 10 feet to accommodate the height of the buses.

The nearly three-acre property would also be able to hold 55 to 57 buses outside.

For Yorktown, rehabilitating the decaying structure, prominently seen on the busy Route 202 corridor, is a priority, Supervisor Matt Slater said.

“We’re doing everything we can to tackle the chronic eyesores and the chronic blight that we hear about in our community,” Slater said. “This is the latest example of it.”

Attracting Bird Bus to town is also pro-business and pro-taxpayer, in part by initially creating about 40 jobs, he said. When the company closed on the property, it also paid more than $200,000 in back taxes, Slater said. Bird Bus is receiving a 15-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) incentive.

Moving forward, Slater hopes to use additional PILOT programs to entice other companies to town. At Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, Slater proposed the creation of a taxpayer protection fund to use the payment of back taxes from redeveloped abandoned properties toward supplying the fund with money that would pay for future PILOT programs as an impetus for companies to move to Yorktown.

“We’re trying to find ways to provide incentives for them to invest here,” Slater said. “We do that in a smart way that won’t negatively impact local taxpayers.”

Deputy Supervisor Tom Diana said he was happy to see a business make use of the vacant building and parcel and “can’t wait to see the buses out in the lot.”

“It’s going to be a pleasure having something finally occupy this building, number one and number two, we’re going with EV vehicles,” he said.

Reichenbach said the company is also planning to make electric car charging stations available for the general public.

Bird Bus sells about 800 buses a year, he said.

Martin Wilbur is Examiner Media’s editor-in-chief. Read more of our local news coverage at TheExaminerNews.com.

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