WESTHAB told: “People don’t welcome development”

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Using a ten minute power point presentation, Bob Miller, President and CEO of WESTHAB, showed photos of housing properties they have developed and manage in categories such as workforce, special needs, affordable and townhouses. These developments were located in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Greenburg, the Bronx and Manhattan. In New Rochelle the 41 Clinton Place building is the first one by WESTHAB. They will be constructing 40 units of senior housing at the Shiloh Baptist property site using HUD money tax credits. WESTHAB according to Miller is interested in community development, but he felt there was no sense in building in a place where there is a lot of crime outside. They would like to be more active in New Rochelle.

Programs of WESTHAB were described. In Yonkers on Elm Street they turned a home into a youth center with after school activities and trips. They took over a project when a developer had walked away. In Yonkers and White Plains the have a youth police initiative but New Rochelle has an Explorer Program. Working with police and youth the goal has been that neither would think the youth had done something wrong. Identifying empty lots is one way they work with municipal planning departments. Job development is another thrust and they helped 240 people get jobs at $8.50 an hour. A New York State subsidy program reimburses employees for 3 months for a new employee which Miller said is enough time to train the employee. They have helped 200 people make the transition from welfare to work. They also have volunteer programs.

The Planning Department must review the WESTHAB credentials and must certify them to satisfy HUD requirements. WESTHAB is one year old in New Rochelle and wants to identify projects. Questions followed. Nerissa Taitt had to leave work early to take Esther Taitt to the WESTHAB meeting at New Rochelle City Hall, 2 p.m. Both were upset about the housing and claimed no one knew about this meeting. Esther Taitt asked if WESTHAB was aware that “people don’t welcome development.” At Cress Street where the Shiloh housing is planned, her neighbors felt a four story sprawling development was “taking away from our residential peace.”

Charles Morgan of the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority asked if they would structure projects for youth in public housing. He said, “39% of the people in public housing were 18 years old or younger.” Miller replied, “We’d love to do that.”

Suzanne D’Amato of the City of New Rochelle’s Department of Development described the Residential Rehabilitation Program. Single family owners with incomes from $59,000 to $97,000 household income would be eligible for various home improvements such as plumbing and electrical work. Ten to fifteen projects could be funded.

Some local needs were identified. Jobs are needed for youth. Individuals recently released from incarceration in the age range of 25 to 35 years old need programs for re-entry into the community. It was felt skilled construction jobs would be too costly, but even if unskilled workers were given laborers’ jobs it would be meaningful.