Residents Advocacy Group–United Yonkers–Announces Challenge to City Officials

At a press conference Sunday in front of the site of a proposed luxury apartment development, new residents’ advocacy coalition, United Yonkers, called on local officials to consider the needs of the community first in city planning.

Composed of twelve local associations, United Yonkers is “a new voice in the Yonkers community.” Their mandate advocates for improving the quality of life for current Yonkers residents.

The press conference was held to bring attention to what United Yonkers describes as an “immediate, urgent concern about the unprecedented level of high-rise construction and development proposed for small, residential neighborhoods.”

Terry Joshi
Terry Joshi – credit: The Yonkers Ledger

In their introductory press release issued last week, United Yonkers outlines a list of Core Community Principles for future planning and development in the city.

Undersigned by each of the twelve member groups of United Yonkers, the proposed principles include general concepts like, “development should improve society, not harm it” and more specific restrictions like, “development must not create dangerous traffic and congestion in already crowded residential areas.” Sites like this one on Woodworth Avenue served as an example of these traffic issues as cars piled up on a Sunday afternoon. Residents noted that this small, but busy street would clearly not be able to handle traffic from an additional thousand-plus neighbors.

Traffic on Warburton
Traffic on Woodworth – credit: The Yonkers Ledger

Concerns Over High Rise Development

As residential development in Yonkers continues to soar, United Yonkers is calling for a moratorium on new multi-unit housing. This would be until the city can impose quality-of-life standards for its current residents.

In a letter to the city administration, spokespersons Jeannette Garcia and Nicole Waite pointed to a recent example of what they call “destructive planning.”

“The city spent millions of dollars to daylight the Saw Mill River and create Van Der Donck Park, but permitted a new building at its corner which casts shadows across the river and the grounds of Philipse Manor Hall. Yonkers citizens have said many times that they do not want tower blocks where they are not appropriate. But you, the city leaders, do not seem able to partner with us on this – destructive planning continues.”

No tall buildings sign
Yard sign outside of resident’s home – credit: The Yonkers Ledger

We want to stay here

Jeanette Garcia
Jeanette Garcia – credit: The Yonkers Ledger

Common amongst the numerous residents who spoke, was their desire to stay in the neighborhood. Event organizer Jeanette Garcia lives across the street from the “twin towers” proposal on Woodworth. Garcia, whose home was almost destroyed in a fire last year, worries that an overcrowded street may result in delayed emergency response times.

One resident also worried that the concentration of new development, particularly affordable housing, proposed on the west side was reminiscent of the past. They questioned whether Yonkers will again be held liable for civil rights violations by concentrating certain populations in a single area.

Judith Garan further worried that our tax dollars are being misspent in continuing to lure developers to Yonkers. She said, “developers don’t need to be coaxed. They want to come here. Stop giving them abatements.”

Meeting with the Mayor

Robertson
Joanne Robinson – credit: The Yonkers Ledger

The letter sent by the group to the administration received a three-page response from Mayor Mike Spano.
Read the full letter here.

In it, the mayor respectfully contests most of the residents’ concerns. For example, the conversion of formerly industrial waterfront areas to luxury residential towers has created public waterfront promenades and greenspaces. He also asserts that the schools are not overstrained, only old and in need of upgrading. Lastly, and common for a politician in Yonkers, the Mayor lays blame at state government in Albany.

United Yonkers says they are in negotiations with the mayor to schedule a meeting within the next two weeks.

Current Officials and Candidates Show their Support

In addition to the dozens of residents in attendance that were there to defend their neighborhoods and quality of life, many current and hopeful elected officials also came to show their support.

County Legislator Christopher Johnson echoed group’s sentiment of the need for officials to speak with their constituents. His potential Republican opposition in November, Debbie Kozak, raised concerns about overcrowded and underfunded public schools.

City Council candidates Hector Santiago and Shatika Parker raised policy issues like the lack of community benefit agreements and the below-average 10% set-aside in the Yonkers’ affordable housing ordinance.

Current city council member and mayoral hopeful Anthony Merante stressed the importance of communities and home-ownership so that Yonkers does not become, what he called, “a transient city.” Lastly, contender for the Democratic nomination for mayor, Margaret Fountain-Coleman, hit at her incumbent opponent, Mayor Spano, for being beholden to the real estate developers that have heavily funded his four election campaigns.

Contacting the Group

United Yonkers is a community organization focused on promoting contemporary urban planning that prioritizes residents’ quality of life. You may contact them via email at [email protected]

Their members currently include:

  • Armour Villa Neighborhood Association
  • Downtown Quality of Life Committee
  • Hudson River Community Association
  • Hyatt Community Association of Southeast Yonkers
  • Lake Avenue Association
  • Ludlow Park Residents Association
  • Nodine Hill Association
  • Park Hill Residents Association
  • River Communities Coalition of Yonkers
  • Rockledge Neighbors
  • Sunset Green Tenant Association
  • Van Cortlandt Crest
  • Yonkers Committee for Smart Development

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