Area Mayors Discuss Affordable Housing, Commercial Development, Community Safety
Mary Prenon | September 16, 2022
WHITE PLAINS—Affordable housing, commercial development, energy resources and community safety were among the issues discussed recently at a live “Meet the Mayors” panel held by the Women’s Council of Realtors on Sept. 12 at HGAR’s headquarters in White Plains.
Moderated by Leah Caro, Co-Chair of HGAR’s Legislative Committee, the panel included the mayors of White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers, as well as the Supervisor of the Town of Cortlandt.
Dr. Richard Becker, the newly-elected Town Supervisor for Cortlandt, noted that the Village of Buchanan and hamlets of Montrose and Verplanck have always offered more affordable housing options in Westchester County. In addition, the town is reviewing the possibility of a 250-unit rental development on land in the northwest corner of Cortlandt.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said the city is continuously adding new housing and earmarking a percentage of all new developments for affordable housing. “There’s still a great undersupply of housing in Westchester,” he said, “and purchasing a home can be a big challenge for first-time home buyers.”
White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach echoed Bramson’s concerns. “Like New Rochelle, we’re seeing a lot of new rental units going up in our city and making certain that there are portions allotted for affordable rents,” he added. “The bigger communities are certainly doing their share, but there are some other Westchester communities who are not as involved with these efforts.”
Mike Spano is the Mayor of Yonkers, the third largest city in New York. “Keeping housing affordable is a difficult issue to deal with and we are working hard to maintain a good share of affordable housing so that people who grew up here can still stay here,” he said.
Regarding the question of preserving green space in Westchester’s cities, Mayor Spano revealed that plans are on tap for a new three-acre park along Warburton Avenue in Yonkers. Mayors Bramson and Roach also agreed that keeping open space is essential for attracting people to their cities.
To concerns about crime rates, Spano reported that Yonkers’ crime rate is down so far this year. “Of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t have crime—especially in a city as large as Yonkers,” he said. “But compared to other cities about the same size—such as Rochester—our crime rate is way lower.”
Reminding everyone that White Plains is the county seat, Mayor Roach indicated their crime rate is also on the decline. “As county seat, we’re always the venue for protests of some sort. We’ve had 45 to 50 of them last year and had no arrests or injuries,” he added.
While the crime rate is always typically lower in suburban areas like Cortlandt, Dr. Becker reported that the town has hired Community Resource Officers to work with the town to enhance safety and security.
Concerning future commercial development, Dr. Becker disclosed that the Cortlandt Town Center on Cortlandt Boulevard (Route 6) is more than 90% occupied. “There are plans currently in place for a new business to take over the old Shop Rite on Route 6, as well as development of the former Quarry area by the Hudson River for outdoor entertainment and a restaurant,” he noted.
Mayor Bramson indicated that in New Rochelle, commercial development is still lagging behind the city’s booming residential development. “We’re all very confident that it will catch up because with 15,000 new people who have money to spend, businesses will see the opportunities,” he said. There are already a number of new restaurants and coffee shops opening in the downtown area.
Mayor Roach touted the continuing emergence of new storefronts along Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains and Mayor Spano agreed on the same for Downtown Yonkers. “In fact, this year is the 30th Anniversary of Riverfest in our downtown, as we continue to grow and redevelop our downtown,” Mayor Spano noted.