By Cindy Goldstein -
As flood warnings lit up the phones of the standing room only crowd in attendance at the January 8th Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting, residents pleaded with the BOT to do something – anything – to help them deal with the more frequent and intense flooding.
Many residents have lost faith in the Army Corps and the now $130 million project they had been promised for years. They believe it wasn’t accurately presented to the community and created false hope. Some of the 27 speakers were more direct than others and begged the BOT for help. Some were regular attendees at meetings who advocate for flood mitigation in Washingtonville and others were new to speaking up at meetings.
None were new to being flooded.
Mayor Torres allowed speakers up to 5 minutes (rather than the 3 minute maximum mandated by former Mayor Murphy) to address the board and asked everyone to be respectful. Many took the full 5 minutes sometimes going over the limit with their impassioned remarks. Emotions ran high and the wounds from flooding were raw.
Tim O’Connor – a frequent face at BOT meetings – spoke about the need for catch basins and stormwater work in Washingtonville before a sidewalk and a stormwater system is installed on Old Post Road. He also criticized the recently acquired river cameras – purchased from a security company – and detailed how they did not help residents. See HERE.
Reverend James E. Taylor of the First Baptist Church on Howard Avenue said “it’s time for us to solve the problem” describing how 25 feet of water destroyed the church sanctuary. Parishioner Nina Jones referred to the expense of constantly replacing church kitchen equipment and how insurance didn’t reimburse the church for the full loss.
Laura Abbate, speaking on behalf of the Washingtonville Neighborhood Association, said the focus should be on flooding, traffic and parking. She has observed the Sheldrake River filled with debris and that “nothing has been done.” She asked the BOT for urgency, dedication, and foresight and to “fix flooding first” before other projects, such as affordable housing.
There was grumbling and shouting from the audience when Jirandy Martinez spoke about the importance of building affordable housing at the Hunter Tier Lot. Martinez, the executive director of the Community Resource Center and a participant in the proposal of the WHA/Westhab proposal to develop the lot, stated that both affordable housing and flood mitigation could be accomplished at the same time.
Most other speakers opposed the Hunter Tier Lot affordable housing project, citing concerns about inadequate parking, increased traffic congestion, overburdened schools that cannot accommodate more students and the need to prioritize flooding issues first.
One speaker, Josh Lanza, asked that the Hunter Tier Lot affordable housing project be put on hold. He stated the Village can’t work on flooding and affordable housing at the same time and the focus should be on flooding. Lanza also mentioned that he believed that Trustee Manny Rawlings had a conflict of interest and should do the right thing and recuse himself from deliberations. See Previous Article “Default Judgment…” HERE).
Two other speakers, Mark Wachsberg and Richard Ferguson questioned the process being used to make the important decisions about the development of the Hunter Tier Lot. They asked for the long-range plan, whether real estate and finance experts have been involved, and whether the schools had been consulted. Ferguson urged the BOT to think more than two months ahead. Deena Incognoli, a NYC teacher, stressed that even one additional student in a classroom at or over capacity makes a big difference for the students, teachers, and parents.