top of page
  • Mamaroneck Observer

Emails Confirm Suspicions

by Cindy Goldstein -

 

Mayor Sharon Torres began the July 8th Regular Meeting of the Board of Trustees (BOT) in the regular way but then she veered unexpectedly with a statement regarding the Hunter Tier Project.  She read a shortened version of a statement that brought to light a series of disturbing emails about the Hunter Tier Parking Lot affordable housing project.  It appears she shortened her remarks due to the late start of the meeting and the crowd that had assembled to discuss safety issues.

 

The Mamaroneck Observer previously published an article on May 24 that included some of these emails and raised questions about the process to choose a developer for the Hunter Tier parking lot (see HERE). 

 

Torres began her remarks stating that many residents have questions about the process (or lack thereof) regarding the Hunter Tier RFP and why one of the two responders had more access and community support than the other.  She acknowledged that although housing affordability is a major problem across the state and county she stressed that dealing with it must be done legally and through multiple paths and strategies.  (See Torres’ full statement and timeline HERE.)

 

Torres described the information uncovered as “disturbing” and made it clear she was not accusing any current member of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of wrongdoing.

 

Evidently there are thousands of documents going back to 2021 in which Village officials and/or staff were working with only one of the two responders to the RFP – Westhab/Washingtonville Housing Alliance (WHA) – on many fronts.  WHA is a strategic partner of Westhab.

 

Picking Hunter Tier

In July 2021 the Village gave Westhab staff a tour of 3 municipal parking lots where Westhab identified the Hunter Tier Parking lot as “far and away the number one choice.”  Issues regarding parking, traffic and safety were not a priority according to Torres in her statement.

 

Stacking the Planning Board

At the same time Andrew Germansky, Senior Vice President of Real Estate at Westhab, asked “if they could put forward someone for the Planning Board spot.”  Germansky went on to describe a couple of people he had in mind.  (A former Planning Board Chair resigned in June 2021 creating a vacancy.  The term of another planning board member - a professional planner - was up in December 2021.  He was ultimately reappointed.)

 

An email from a resident who was all-in for Westhab also promoted changes to land use board members to “accommodate affordable housing changes.”

 

Intensive Follow Up by Westhab

Throughout the email outline Germansky reached out regularly to Village Manager Jerry Barberio to check-in on the progress of the RFP and to do a technical review, offering his professional expertise as an affordable housing developer.  It was very clear that Westhab/WHA would respond to the RFP once it was issued.

 

Political Calculations

In January 2022 Germansky emailed they still wanted to make this work and refers to not wanting for “time to run out on the Mayor’s time in office.”  Former Mayor Tom Murphy’s term was up in December of 2021 when he won re-election.  Murphy lost to Torres in 2023.

 

There were also several emails in which Village proponents of Westhab (including the Village Manager) made clear reference to the upcoming change in two members of the BOT.  Manny Rawlings and Leilani Yizar-Reid had won the June 2022 primary and were evidently expected to win in November – which they did.  It seems clear they were expected to be inclined toward Westhab.  Barberio wrote “The changing of the composition of the BOT will make things clearer.”

 

Once the two new board members were sworn in, Trustee Manny Rawlings was often invited to and joined meetings with Westhab/WHA representatives, the Village Manager and Mayor Tom Murphy.

 

Rawlings Lived in a Westhab/WHA Building

According to court documents, Rawlings lived with a family member in a WHA building and signed a statement documenting his residence under oath in March 2022 when he was gathering petition signatures to run for office.  See prior article HERE.)  An Ethics Board Advisory Opinion was issued on February 7, 2024 advising Rawlings to recuse on all matters dealing with the Hunter Tier development (see HERE).  In a follow-up article (see HERE).  Rawlings stated he disagreed with the Ethics Board and would not recuse.

 

Email Inquiries Forwarded to Westhab Supporters

Evidence indicates that some emails from members of the public asking pertinent questions about the project were forwarded to members of the Mamaroneck Coalition for Affordable Housing (MCAH) with statements like “This won’t be easy” when addressing concerns from a Mamaroneck School Board member about school enrollment resulting from the new units.  Throughout the process there were efforts by Village officials and Westhab to rally supporters to put pressure on the Village.

 

Note:  According to their website (see Mamaroneck Coalition for Affordable Housing’s website HERE).  MCAH is a non-partisan coalition of nonprofit organizations and neighbors co-founded in 2020 by the Washingtonville Housing Alliance (WHA) and the Community Resource Center. 

 

Influence on the Final RFP

Some significant differences emerged after Westhab’s “technical review” of the January 2022 draft RFP (see HERE) and before the issuance of the final RFP in August 2023 (see HERE).  Both documents were annotated by Mayor Torres.  These differences include:

 

·      The requirement for government offices in the new building was eliminated

·      They added “weight will be given to firms with experience developing affordable

housing in the Village.”  Note: Westhab/Washingtonville was the only firm who had

that experience

·      The requirement of increased public parking was also eliminated

 

In the fall of 2023 while Murphy was campaigning for re-election, he incorrectly stated the Village was asking that the new building provide approximately the same number of spaces as the current Hunter Tier lot and the number of apartments expected was between 30-40 units.  These statements did not reflect what was in the final RFP issued in August 2023 (prior to his statement) or the responses from the two developers (Westhab for 77 units and Luna for 187 units).  Neither proposal includes as many parking spaces as are currently provided by the Hunter Tier.

 

What’s Next

After coming out of their Executive Session the BOT voted unanimously to instruct the Village Attorney to seek outside counsel to review the thousands of emails uncovered so far.  Torres extended her appreciation to the BOT for their cooperation.

 

Meanwhile, Village staff start negotiations with both developers this week.

 

Stay tuned as we follow this story.



Kommentarer


Kommentering har blitt slått av.
bottom of page