During its May 4 meeting the White Plains Common Council voted unanimously to adopt a new local law in the form of an amendment to the White Plains Municipal Code by adding a Section 9-6 to be titled “Historic Preservation.”
The law sets a base for the creation of a new commission comprised of members appointed by the mayor that will make recommendations and establish policy for the protection, enhancement and perpetuation of landmarks and historic districts within the city of White Plains.
The first speaker at the public hearing was White Plains resident Jack Harrington, former president of the Westchester Historical Society and the White Plains Historical Society. Harrington is known for his work as an activist protecting historic sites and open space within the city for decades. Looking back to the 1980s when research was initiated by the city and proponents of historic preservation to possibly enact a law at that time, Harrington said it was about time something was being done to get protection in place.
Harrington spoke about the sense of place that is White Plains as the birthplace of New York State and a major player during the American Revolutionary War. He recommended that residents visit Purdy Hill to view the sunrise or walk along the city’s Greenway to get a sense of the “presence” of the city.
Robert Hoch, a trustee of the Westchester County Historical Society and current president of the White Plains Historical Society urged the Council to further historic preservation in White Plains.
“What’s gone is gone,” Hoch said referring to the loss of many of White Plains’ historical sites and buildings during the big urban renewal that took place in the 1980s and beyond. “This new law will allow the protection of the best of what is left,” Hoch added. “It also opens the window on possible grants and tax credits. It is a great step that is long overdue.”
White Plains resident Mary Ann Balco-Berry spoke about the historic property at 52 North Broadway, owned by the Sisters of the Divine Compassion that is up for sale and, which as an historic site should be one of the first sites considered by the new Commission.
Paula Piekos of Reynal Road, noted that there are many other types of historic landmarks such as stone bridges that are not as noticeable, but which should also be protected.
The Council vote in favor was unanimous, all agreeing that such a law should have been enacted long ago.