Astorino's State Of County Proposals Include Opting Out Of HUD Grants

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Rob Astorino delivers his State Of The County (Part 2) Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
County Executive Rob Astorino delivers his 2014 State of the County.
County Executive Rob Astorino delivers his 2014 State of the County. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Legislator Catherine Borgia responds to the 2014 State of the County Address by Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino. Photo Credit: westchestercountybol
Rob Astorino addresses HUD in his 2014 State of the County Thursday in the Westchester County Court in White Plains Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Rob Astorino addresses HUD in his 2014 State of the County Thursday in the Westchester County Court in White Plains Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino proposed several initiatives in his 2014 State of the County address Thursday night in White Plains, including a $5 million county-run fund to replace federal money for homeless prevention and affordable housing construction currently being withheld from Westchester.

Astorino, who pledged to deliver a fifth straight budget with no tax increase, said the county would use bonds to fund its own community development block grant (CDBG) program and that it would cost each household about $1 more a year on its taxes.

This would replace the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding, which is being withheld from the county until it complies with the 2009 affordable housing settlement. Astorino has refused to do so, saying HUD is trying to dismantle local zoning.

“The Community Development Block Grants have been HUD's prime weapon,” he said. “The strategy was simple. Withhold the money and wait for the county to capitulate on zoning. But that didn’t happen and won’t happen while I am county executive. Westchester is not for sale, not for $5, $5 million or $5 billion.”

The county has already lost $7.4 million in 2011 CDBG money and could lose another $5.2 million in 2012 money.

“Mr. Astorino decided to irresponsibly and recklessly take on the federal government in the county’s housing discrimination suit,” Westchester Board of Legislators Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) said in a prepared video response.

The administrative processes for the HUD money are already handled by the county, Astorino said, adding that his proposal would get money for to the communities that need it, and do it quicker by removing the extra layer of bureaucracy. 

The county executive also proposed the County Road and Bridge Urgent Restoration Program, which would put $25 million aside during the next five years through bonding.

“The bonding will gives us the flexibility to jumpstart new projects as road conditions dictate, and not to be constrained by slow-moving budget schedules,” he said.

Legislation will be handed down to the Board of Legislators in the next few days, he said.

“On behalf of all the tires and axles screaming for mercy, I ask that we act on this legislation as soon as possible,” he said.

In the Democratic Caucus’ video response, Borgia charged that “Astorino has laid off people who have had years of experience and skills in order to outsource work to high paid consultants while our roads and bridges are crumbling.”

Another initiative Astorino announced Thursday night is the expansion of the county’s Para Transit taxi service to Yonkers in June. The pilot fleets in New Rochelle, White Plains and Peekskill have saved near $500,000 since it started in 2013. 

He also announced the creation of the Immigrant Services Liaison position to help connect new immigrants to county services and entrepreneurs start new businesses.

In Astorino’s first State of the County in 2010, he said his guiding compass would be the Three Ps: protecting tax payers, preserving essential services and promoting economic growth.

“Time has shown that the three Ps have us working on the right things. But that’s not enough. You also have to deliver results, which brings us back to collaboration,” he said.

Borgia disputed Astorino’s commitment to preserving services.

“The bottom line is this. Mr. Astorino has put our communities at risk in order to advance his own political goals. Child care subsidies, youth programs, bus services and after school programs have all been cut. Foreclosure prevention and nutrition programs are also on the chopping block,” she said in the video.

While the county has restructured its day care program, Astorino said it has provided 3,500 kids with full-day care, an increase of 300-plus since 2010. He also cited Social Services rooting out fraud and saving $20 million in 2013 by reducing paperwork backlog from 45 to two days. 

"The broader point in all our efforts is that good management is our safety net's best protection," he said. 

Astorino once again called on the CSEA, Westchester's largest union, to contribute to its health care, as has the other six county unions. 

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The County agreed to the terms of the decree and we are bound by it. The County agreed to provide information from which HUD could further the terms of the agreement but the County has failed to do so, thereby leaving HUD to punish individual towns which are now complaining that HUD is poorly informed. It appears that a political agenda is hurting our towns. The only thing that can be done is to work this out with HUD. It cannot be litigated again since we have agreed to its terms!

You are correct when you state that a political agenda is hurting our towns. Of course, that political agenda belongs to HUD. The County has adhered to the agreement, and is ahead of schedule on providing the required number of affordable housing units. HUD is going beyond the literal terms of the agreement in an attempt to engage in social engineering. They are trying to equate economic discrimination with racial discrimination.

Good that Astorino is standing up for Westchester; he is protecting Westchester from HUD bullying. HUD is the villain, holding back funding for towns like Port Chester, Peekskill, etc. who need the money; HUD is cutting off their noses to spite their faces. HUD even held back money for lead level testing in children whose parents cannot afford the testing on the grounds that Westchester has exclusionary zoning; just sickening. And to think Cuomo was HUD chief and he sits there silent letting this happen!

Taking money from any government agency makes you subservient to their demands which may not align with local needs or wants.

HUD, a nurtured child of Governor Andrew Cuomo, is WILLFULLY punishing the very people they claim to want to help in name of Government control over all of our lives.

BEWARE OF PEOPLE BEARING GIFTS !

Yes - taking money from any governmental agency include state, county and city / town will set up a destructive dependency. Stepping back from the HUD grants is a very sane act as it would start to wean Westchester County off its federal government aid habit. It does, though, give the democrats a club with which to beat Astorino, et al, in the form of saying either a.) you're hurting the poor in Westchester (garbage because of the alternative funding) and b.) you're passing up "free" money. Well both those arguments should only appeal to those too simplistic to understand what's really going on.

Astorino proposes opting out of Federal money that would help fund infrastructure projects here in Westchester, while also opting out of doing his job do run for Governor. funny how that works. Affordable housing is offered first to our firefighters, emergency responders and police officers, guess they are not good enough for Astorino and his political agenda, there is no reason not to accept these funds accepts for political posturing

HUD money isn't for infrastructure. Its supposed to go to affordable housing. What you propose is what Andy Spano did and he got caught and that's why we're in the mess that we are.

I say give up the money, its not healthy to live under the control the Feds.

and, yes, part of the money can and would be used to build things like Sidewalks and other public infrastructure projects that are already approved

GreenburghDad, you're referring to sidewalks directly in fron of the affordable housing projects. The infrastructure expanding outward will not be repaired with HUD funds.If you're so concerned about infrastructure repair and upgrade, why not ask Paul Feiner what he's been doing with the millions of dollars he's been shuffling around? Also, ask George Soros why he doesn't want any low-income people living in his wealthy white community of Katonah.

Bill as a teacher I believe we never stop learning. School me, how can this particular affordable housing morph into public housing. Also, I'm not advocating a Democratic position or a Republican position, I've been a registered Independent for over a decade. Sure Spano kicked it down the road, unfortunately for our little Napoleon it can't be kicked any further. I live in Peekskill and we have a disproportionate amount of the county's affordable housing and it's time the lily white self important people of Katonah and Chappaqua get some. Who knows a little stirring of the gene pool just may benefit their communities down the road.

this is nothing new and it will always be a hot topic

the real issue is how close do the uber-class want the "affordable" residential areas to encroach into the schools and parks of bronxville and harrison and scarsdale from mount vernon and yonkers and port chester

growing up and still familiar with tuckahoe and eastchester i can today say my community managed to piece together harmony among ALL people - maybe simply staying small with metro-north station access is the answer (both rich and poor avail themselves of NYC access) and the station depot and surrounds was a mix of business that served the entire community keeping it vibrant and relevant

Good. I have seen first hand what affordable housing has done to good neighborhoods, brought the property values down, the people don't take care of

their property or houses and the neighborhood that once was clean and safe

turns into a high class slum. We don't want affordable housing in Mt Pleasant or any where in Westchester.

Affordable housing and housing projects, ie. public housing are two different things. I am a teacher and my home in Westchester would have been considered "affordable" but is well outside the reach of the type of person you've been taught to fear. Affordable housing has become another not so subtle buzz word for African America and Hispanic. Many of my neighbors fall into one of those categories and I assure you, they are pulling out of their driveways at 6:30 and headed to work just like me. Their houses are manicured and well maintained. Mr Astorino should be ashamed to be wasting county money and resources in order to pander to fear and racism of the 1%.

Bob Hechler, you're right in that most people don't differentiate between affordable housing and housing projects. The former is for working people with low incomes, and the latter is for nonworking people (welfare recipients) who contribute nothing for their upkeep. But the fact is, the super wealthy known as the one percenters don't want even the low-income working people anywhere near their wealthy mostly white communities (such as George Soros' Katonah or the Clinton's Chappaqua).

But the Feds aren't talking about the workforce housing you describe, they want affordable housing, meaning putting people into housing that they cannot afford. Big big difference.