On July 20, 2011 Mt. Vernon Mayor Clinton Young, Vice-Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators Lyndon Williams, community and church leaders, and business owners rallied in downtown Mount Vernon in support of Atlantic Development Group’s revitalization project. The project will completely revive downtown Mount Vernon, creating new retail space and housing, renovations to the municipal parking garage, and will enhance the downtown streetscape with lighting, paving, and landscaping. In total, the project will create 305 construction jobs and an estimated 76 permanent jobs in the city with the highest unemployment rate in Westchester County. The final $4 million needed to complete the project is being held up by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.
“This project is so important to Mount Vernon’s downtown revitalization efforts,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton I. Young, Jr. “The development offers numerous benefits to the citizens of Mount Vernon, including jobs, local vendor participation, infrastructure improvements, as well as boosting the tax base. We are not asking for a handout. This is a good business decision for Westchester. In fact, the county will recoup its investment in less than six years. I call on the County Executive to reverse this misguided decision,” said Mayor Young.
“The Westchester County Board of Legislators both Democrats and Republican members overwhelmingly approved this project because of the benefits it brings to the County of Westchester. More importantly, it is imperative that Westchester’s reputation in the business community is not tarnished by holding up a project, which the county had expressly encouraged the developer to proceed with and incur substantial cost and investments. Westchester cannot be serious about economic development when the county government cannot be trusted, due to broken promises,” Lyndon Williams, Vice Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, who represents Mount Vernon in the 13th District.
“Given that the funding for the Mt. Vernon project has already been budgeted, it seems that a project like this would be expedited by the County Executive rather than halted,” said Rev. Dr. Elliott Baisden, Pastor of the Community Church at the Circle. “This will provide needed housing and new retail space that will not only stimulate the local economy, but provide jobs and aid in the re-development of Mt. Vernon’s downtown corridor, and that is just what this city needs.”
“My family and I have invested our lives in our business on Gramatan Avenue with blood, sweat and tears. We would like to be here for years to come and this project will go a long way in making that happen,” said Carla Basso, owner of USA Brazillian and Siminho Meat Market.
“This is the mathematics of economic development: Invest no more public sector capital than necessary to achieve project feasibility — no more, but by no means, no less,” stated G. Lamont Blackstone, Principal of G. L. Blackstone & Associates LLC.
The $120 million residential and retail project planned in downtown Mt. Vernon will take place in 3 phases. The project includes a 14-story residential rental building with 159 housing units; a 10-story, 131 unit market-rate building; and an 8-story 60-unit building for those 65 and older. Additionally, there will be approximately 20,000 square feet of new retail space, extensive streetscape improvements in the immediate area and Hartley Park, and renovations to the municipal parking garage.
The Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the funding for the project, which was later vetoed by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. The Board of Legislators then overrode his veto by a 15 to 2 vote in May 2011. The project is currently being held up by County Executive Astorino, who has refused to provide the $4 million in funding passed by the legislature, which is needed to complete it. However, given the projected sales tax, the $4 million would be repaid to the county in just 6 years.
“This attempt at the second unchecked veto by the County Executive and another non elected appointee undermines the very core of our democracy and County, state and federal laws,” noted Vice Chairman Lyndon Williams.
There are extensive annual economic benefits for both Mt. Vernon and Westchester County. The project will contribute to the overall economy of Mount Vernon through the day-to-day expenditures of operating the buildings as well as the benefits of the creation of new middle income households. The annual benefits to the county from this project are estimated to be around $12.5 million per year.
“For many years, Westchester County has clearly benefited from the low income housing built in the city. Now that we want to build better housing, attract a stronger middle class, it appears as though we’re being punished for all the good work we’ve done all these years in helping Westchester County,” said Mayor Young.