May 27, 2016
In this context, the termination of Port Chester’s professional firefighters seems especially misguided. The Village’s Illegal Dwelling/Overcrowding Report (available at
www.portchesterny.com/Pages/PortChesterNY_CodeEnforcement/REPORTS/0238637B-000F8513) shows that inspectors repeatedly find fire safety issues while investigating reports of home overcrowding. Fire hazards were rampant in Gilded Age New York’s tenements as well. Thankfully, for all their faults, Tammany Hall did have the good sense to create and maintain a professional fire department. Why don’t we have the same good sense? By getting rid of our professional firefighters, we are taking dangerous risks with the lives of our most vulnerable residents.
I urge the Board and Mayor to take a lesson from history books. Restore the professional firefighters and do not grant Starwood tax breaks and a lucrative rezoning until the company agrees to replace the 133 units of workforce housing at 999 High Street that it plans to destroy. The Westchester Planning Board, the Westchester Workforce Housing Coalition, the Sustainable Port Chester Alliance, Human Development Services of Westchester and others have all called for workforce housing to be included in the redevelopment of the United Hospital site. Starwood has responded that Port Chester already has more federally subsidized units of workforce housing than the other communities in Westchester. This is an irrelevant and absurd comparison. Not only does Port Chester have the greatest need for workforce housing, as evidenced by our home overcrowding problem, but Starwood compares us to other communities in a county facing ongoing scrutiny and a federal settlement related to its historic lack of affordable housing! Starwood would have us settle for simply being the best of the worst and continue to leave our most vulnerable populations crowded into substandard living quarters. I can only hope the Mayor and Trustees are more far-sighted.