Thursday, March 16, 2017
Where the Alliance is buoyed by the inclusion of 36 apartments in the Starwood United Hospital project, we think it’s a stretch to claim them as “affordable workforce” housing. Although the Village staff and consultants called for a deeper level of affordability, the Board decided that the units should be priced for families earning 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) for the County. That equals roughly $78,000 per year for a family of three. Unfortunately, that’s significantly higher than Port Chester’s median family income of about $61,000 — meaning most Port Chester residents won’t be able to afford the “affordable” units.
For some elected officials, workforce housing is a four-letter word. Yet, these same people rely on those who are the workforce in more aspects of life than they realize, and would be paralyzed without them.
Over the course of 18 months, the mountain of facts and figures the Alliance has presented regarding the United Hospital project and its potential impact on our community is a matter of record.
Over the course of 18 months, a broad cross section of our community from working families to professionals, of various background, race and ethnicity and gender identification delivered testimony at Village Board meetings or wrote letters to this paper.
Over the course of 18 months, students, teachers and caregivers; artists, lawyers and architects, community activists, Port Chester residents who are union members, elected officials, and faith leaders have expressed their concerns about the fate of the working class.
They have been a mix of old and young, of longtime Port Chester residents as well as new dwellers. Most importantly they have been grandparents, parents and children — the past, present and future of our village:
They have been those who built a life here and those who are struggling to do so.
They have been those who are safe and those who are not.
They have been those who have access to opportunity, and those who are shut out.
They have been those who are discriminated against and those who are not.
Overcrowding, dilapidated housing and displacement are simply unjust. Having a roof over one’s head is simple justice, and justice is an individual and collective responsibility.
In testifying in no uncertain terms about the need for affordable housing, we have testified for fairness, equality, and compassion.
We have testified for development — as long as it is responsible and sustainable.
We have testified for creating good jobs — as long Port Chester residents receive training so that we can work here or wherever the projects may be, and earn a fair wage and decent benefits. All of which would benefit Port Chester.
We have testified for community power — as long as we recognize the contributions of all communities, especially communities of color, which have traditionally been marginalized.
And at this moment in particular we must recognize the contribution of the Latino community and stand with them as people face the very real threat of families being torn apart and livelihoods being lost.
And as we have stated emphatically to the BOT over the past 18 months, we expect them to lead!
Much as some may hope, the Alliance isn’t going away, unlike Starwood.
We will continue to demand:
That all jobs for constructing and operating the project will be good, safe jobs, offering state-certified training opportunities, and at least area-standard wages and benefits; and that a significant portion of these jobs be made available to Port Chester residents;
That an independent monitor be hired to supervise cleanup and mitigation at the hospital site;
That downtown Port Chester’s restaurants and retail be protected from any rent hikes and/or unfair competition that could be initiated directly or indirectly by this development.
Port Chester is our community. We demand that development in our community benefit people like us and our neighbors — not just the bottom line of developers.
Joan Thomas is a member of the Sustainable Port Chester Alliance.