By Jananne Abel
February 21, 2019
Sustainable Port Chester Alliance supporters gather carrying signs like “Stay and Thrive,” “Gentrification in Process” and “Protect Small Businesses” in front of the Port Chester courtroom at 350 N. Main St. Tuesday night, February 19th.
Desiring to send a message to the Port Chester Board of Trustees, Sustainable Port Chester Alliance staged a press conference in front of the village courtroom at 350 North Main St. an hour before the board’s scheduled meeting Tuesday night. They passed out “Stay and Thrive: A Blueprint for Fair Rezoning and Development in Port Chester,” and speakers highlighted its fine points on the bitter cold night.
“We have sent a copy of our report and statement to the mayor and trustees and all the candidates,” said Zeltzyn Sanchez. “We want all the trustees and mayor to sign on to this. We want the ability to stay in Port Chester and to live in a good apartment without paying $3,000 a month. We want green spaces and cultural spaces. We want housing that is affordable to Port Chester residents. We are kind of upset the meeting is cancelled. There was no notice.”
Tuesday night’s meeting was cancelled at the last minute due to the lack of a quorum. One trustee was out of the country and two out of state. One of those out of state was scheduled to participate in the meeting via Skype but did not make it to the spot he had designated for Skyping and which had been noticed in time for the meeting. The three remaining board members did not comprise a quorum.
In the background, about 20 supporters, mostly young adults, chanted: “Stay, thrive, stay and thrive.”
“The rezoning will affect us really bad or really good,” continued Sanchez. “I want to move out of my mother’s house.”
Of the new zoning code, she said “they are not taking it seriously, are not explaining it and it is not in Spanish.”
Martin Martinez, a member of Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he was there on behalf of other members of the union and other building trade members and their families living in Port Chester.
“This rezoning is going to bring more construction to Port Chester than this village has ever seen,” he said. ‘All of this is likely to be subsidized in some form by Port Chester taxpayers. This construction will give the village an outstanding opportunity to make sure taxpayers get a real return on their investment in the form of life-changing careers in the building trades for local residents.”
The blueprint, he said, lays out a set of policies that would ensure this happens. These policies would require developers and contractors to hire local residents and partner with unions to make sure these residents get the training they need to thrive in the building trades for long, well-paid careers.
Joan Grangenois Thomas, an independent candidate for Port Chester trustee and volunteer executive director of the Sustainable Port Chester Alliance, speaks to those gathered.
Joan Grangenois Thomas, an independent candidate for trustee in the Mar. 19 village election on the Port Chester Action Party line and volunteer executive director of Sustainable Port Chester Alliance, then took the floor. “I am a 30-year resident and am also one of the candidates,” she said. “I am supporting this policy.” She spoke about the proposed form-based zoning’s impacts on residents and small businesses. “I’m signing the pledge as a candidate. It is the least we can do for Port Chester and residents who can’t afford the rents. Most make less than $51,000 per year. Listen to the young people and folks who have revitalized Port Chester.”
“We want Port Chester to move forward,” said Gregg Hamilton. “We want to make sure everyone derives benefits. Small businesses play a vital role.”
“The zoning code calls for 10 percent of units to be affordable,” Hamilton added. “We would like to see 20 to 30 percent, and for developers to sponsor apprenticeships for new hires. Instead of tax breaks, make contributions toward the schools and set-asides.”
“Joan has pledged to support these conditions,” he concluded. “Will others pledge their support as well?”
“Stay, thrive, stay and thrive,” chanted the throng.
Mayor Richard “Fritz” Falanka arrived along with Trustees Frank Ferrara and Greg Adams at the appointed 7 p.m. hour for the meeting to greet anyone who didn’t get the word about its cancellation.
Falanka said he and the other board members would have to study the pledge and consider it before signing.