10/27/2009 4:42:42 PM


Westchester County Legislator John Nonna is hosting a town hall forum on the state of health care today


Westchester County Legislator John Nonna with the following guests:

  • Mr. Joel Seligman, President of Northern Westchester Hospital Center

  • Mr. Keith Safian, President of Phelps Memorial Hospital Center

  • Dr. Arthur Fass, Cardiologist
  • Dr. Richard Strongwater, Internal Medicine

  • Eunice Serton, NWHC nurse

  • Margaret Rafferty, Professor of Nursing at CUNY 


Mount Pleasant Library
350 Bedford Rd (btwn Sunnyside and Romer Aves)
Pleasantville, New York


Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. SHARP


This town hall meeting is to provide community residents with the opportunity to  hear  health care professionals, hospital administrators and physicians   discuss the state of health care today and possibilities for health care reform .  This is a non-political event and no current legislation will be discussed.  Residents will also have the opportunity to ask questions.


Click here to watch the town hall meeting.


President Obama Announces $3 billion in grant money for residential smart meters

10/27/2009 10:02:22 PM



(Somers, NY) ~ Over the past 5 years Westchester County Legislator and Vice-Chairman of the Board Michael Kaplowitz (D, I – Somers) has repeatedly lobbied for smart meters on behalf of residential ratepayers – including at the state level in Albany and before the New York City Council, an initiative today reinforced by President Obama in a press conference where the President announced $3 billion in grant funding for residential smart meter installation.


“‘Smart meters’ offer consumers the ‘three E’s; economic advantage, environmental benefit and energy efficiency,” Kaplowitz said. “Imagine there’s a gas station where it normally costs $4.00 per gallon but if you go after 11 PM, it’s only $2.00 per gallon. Wouldn’t you want the option to go out at 11 PM to save money on a commodity you use so much of? It’s all about providing the rate payers with a choice.”  Kaplowitz, a certified financial planner and immediate past chair of the legislature’s Budget & Appropriations Committee, continued by saying this will also create jobs and stimulate the local economy.


According to Kaplowitz, technology known as ‘smart meters’ has been available, although residential consumers have not been able to elect to have a ‘smart meter’ installed in their homes. “Smart Meters” are home energy monitoring systems that enable ratepayers to see their “real time usage” along with the corresponding “real time prices” in 15-minute intervals. Smart meters also have the ability, in the event of an outage, to automatically notify the power company of a power outage without the consumer having to report it.  “Consumers deserve choice. Individual home energy meters and real-time pricing would not only provide ratepayers with a choice, but would revolutionize electricity consumption by saving consumers real dollars and conserving energy, which, in turn, contributes to a cleaner environment.”


In October 2005, Kaplowitz, the immediate past chair of the Environment & Energy Committee, led the County Board in calling on the Public Service Commission to permit residential “smart meters,” enabling consumers to take advantage of “real time pricing.”  “Under the current system you pay an average of the various prices of a watt for each of the 24 hours.  What we want is to have consumers benefit from the lower, off-peak rates that keep that average down during the day and have the information available to them so they can make choices when the rates are high.  That’s the benefit of RTP,” Kaplowitz said.









Ryan and legislative leaders discuss governments responsibility to find lasting solutions

10/30/2009 10:39:46 AM



Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman William Ryan (D, WFP-White Plains) hosted a roundtable discussion on domestic abuse, “Stopping Family Violence Where It Starts” with the County’s leading domestic violence advocates today.  This was an initiative that will seek to promote a collaborative effort and coordinated strategy between service providers, law enforcement and government to provide domestic violence victims with the services they need to escape violent relationships.  Ryan, along with Majority Whip Judith Myers (D-Larchmont), the Board’s Chair for the Committee on Public Safety and Security Legislator Vito Pinto (D-Tuckahoe) and the Board’s Chair for the Committee on Community Services Legislator Lois Bronz (D, WFP-Greenburgh) invited advocates to the discussion so they could give substantive updates on their work in the service area and to hear from them about the current challenges. "Not long ago, domestic violence was considered a family problem," Ryan said. "Today, thanks to such legislative gains as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and a renewed commitment by government to help fund community-based agencies to address the concerns, it is recognized as a threat to the entire community.  My goal today is to bring together a diverse group of leaders that represent government, the judicial system, the education community, domestic violence victim service providers, faith-based organizations and many others, to talk about local domestic violence issues, learn more about existing programs, and identify ways county government can best partner with community stakeholders to effectively take on the challenges of a growing domestic violence problem.”


At the roundtable held at Michaelian Office Building, Chairman Ryan and legislators heard from advocates and service providers. Participants included Barbara Egenhauser, an Assistant District Attorney with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Camille Murphy, Director of the Westchester County Office for Women, Karen Cheeks-Lomax, Director of ‘My Sister’s Place’,  Eileen Lambert, a representative of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Carla Horton, Director of Hope’s Door, Maribel Rivera of Mental Health Association of Westchester County, Lisa Winjum of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, Cindy Kanusher, Assistant Director for the Pace Women’s Justice Center, Beth Thompson, program manager for ‘Margaret’s Place’, an initiative between the Joe Torre Safe at Home project and Safe Horizon, Sylvana Trabout, Assistant Director for Trauma & Abuse at the Westchester Jewish Community Services, Mary Krukiel, Director of Victims Assistance Services—West COP and Eva Dolgin, LGBTQ Programs Coordinator at Victims Assistance Services.  They stressed the importance of expanding domestic and sexual assault services and the need for a national healthcare strategy to address domestic violence.  “We, at the Board, know how much needs to be done to take meaningful steps to end domestic violence and sexual assault. We need tough law enforcement, aggressive prosecutions, effective prevention programs and available shelters for families in distress,” said Legislator Bronz.  “Most importantly, we need to insure that more people know and understand that domestic violence is not a private matter. It is a critical national problem that affects us all -- in every community, in non-traditional sites, in every work place and in every school. Let’s begin to engage service organizations in the education process.”


“As we observe National Domestic Violence Awareness Month this month, we also mark the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act -- a tremendous achievement that significantly highlights efforts to address domestic violence. Unfortunately, the anniversary occurs amid news of significant state and local cutbacks to domestic violence programs across the country, just as reports of violence are increasing,” said Legislator Myers.  “Government must continue to prioritize the life-saving emergency services that aid the most vulnerable among us.  Women who need to escape their abusers, figure out how to provide a safe home for their children and get themselves back on their feet financially simply cannot do all this alone.”


Ryan also emphasized the Board’s legislative initiatives around domestic violence:


  • In 2005 the Board voted along with the County Executive to make it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire or fire, or discriminate against a victim of domestic violence, or to act in a way that would cause a person to not be hired by another agency, due to their victim of domestic violence status. The same law also made it illegal for public business from hotel to store to amusement park, to refuse their services to a person based on their status as a victim of domestic violence.
  • It also became illegal to deny the rent, sale, or lease of housing accommodations to a person based on their status as a victim of domestic violence. In 2008, the Board voted to amend this law again (under the Human Rights Law)
  • In 2008, the Chairman of the Board of Legislators approved contracts to the Child Abuse Prevention Center, My Sister’s Place, and the Northern Westchester Shelter in the total of $110,000 to support prevention services, provide case management, overstay services at the shelter, and to provide domestic violence hotline services

Beyond these legislative improvements, Ryan announced an long-term commitment to work with advocates and leaders to identify creative and innovative ways that the Board of Legislators can support and help those agencies that are "on the ground" in an environment where resources are scarce. “While reports of domestic violence are on the rise, state and local funding for services to its survivors is down everywhere.  That means efforts to end domestic violence and aid its victims have more hard times ahead.  Government must work collaboratively with agencies to find additional support that will promote lasting solutions,” commented Ryan.


Click here to watch Roundtable Discussion.


More on Westchester County’s resources for Domestic Violence.


Click any image above to enlarge.












Statement by County Legislator Tom Abinanti

10/30/2009 4:40:22 PM




Click here to watch Tom’s speech at the Ardsley Village Forum Re: Housing Lawsuit.

I have been repeatedly asked about the recent settlement of a very significant federal lawsuit against Westchester County.  I would like to share with you some of its details, my reasoning for voting against it and where we go now.


Contrary to media hype, the lawsuit was not about racism or affordable housing.


This lawsuit was about a monumental mistake by the County Executive branch.  Earlier this year, a US District Court Judge found that the County Executive in applying for federal grants “made a claim, to the United States government, that was false or fraudulent, seeking payment from the Federal treasury.”


The Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York (ADC) sued Westchester in 2006 under the 1863 Federal False Claims Act which allows private parties to recover triple damages from anyone who fraudulently takes federal monies.

In a pre-trial ruling, a federal Judge found that the County Executive falsely certified that the County met the preconditions for some $52 million of federal grants – when, in fact, the County had failed to meet an important requirement, that it analyze impediments to fair housing based on race.  The Judge left for the jury to determine whether the certifications were intentionally false.


After the Judge’s decision, the County Executive negotiated a settlement which the Board of Legislators approved.  Five of us – all lawyers – voted no.

The 38-page Settlement Stipulation aims to eliminate “discrimination, including the present effects of past discrimination and…de facto residential segregation …”

A. Implementation Plan
The Stipulation requires the County to create an implementation plan using all means appropriate to accomplish the Stipulation -- including changing County and local government planning, housing and zoning policies and, possibly, legal action against uncooperative municipalities.  The County must prepare an acceptable analysis of impediments to fair housing and take appropriate actions to overcome any impediments identified.


B. 750 Housing Units/ $51.6 million/Targeted Marketing
The County must ensure construction of 750 housing units within 7 years in 31 specified communities (those with minimal African-American and Hispanic populations).


The housing is targeted for those with 50%-80% of median income (singles $36,850-$59,000; families of four $52,650-$84,200) with a maximum 25% reserved for seniors and maximum 25% renovation of existing housing.

The County must set aside $51.6 million to subsidize this construction.

The County and developers must market the housing in Westchester and in “geographic areas with large non-white populations …within close proximity to the County.”  For example, NYC, Rockland and Connecticut.

Click here for Guide to Area Media Income (AMI).


C. Local compliance
The Stipulation provides that municipal land use policies must consider regional housing needs, be amended to implement the Stipulation and ban all local housing preferences for municipalities to qualify for County funds and resources.  This would include workforce and senior citizen housing.


D. Monitor
The Justice Department appoints (and may remove) a monitor to review all County programs, policies, procedures and relevant documents to insure compliance.


E. Penalties
Failure to achieve 750 units or specified interim benchmarks triggers $60,000-per month penalties for additional affordable units -- with double penalties if failure exceeds 50%.

The County doesn’t build housing. It subsidizes others to bring down construction costs to produce “affordable” prices.  The County’s $51.6 million equals an average $68,000/unit subsidy -- far below the average current $400,000/unit construction cost.  These 750 units will compete against market rate and other non-deed-restricted moderate-priced projects for responsible developers, limited available financing and scarce land.


Already the County cannot meet its first two deadlines: adopt a new housing policy statement (November 5 deadline) and present an implementation plan (December 5 deadline).

3. Founded on wrong priorities
I disagree with the Stipulation’s underlying policies


a. Uses Westchester taxes to meet tri-state needs
Westchester taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize housing for those from outside Westchester, especially when it is needed by so many Westchester municipal workers, seniors, young families, low-income residents and those now in substandard housing.  We pay federal and state taxes to meet tri-state regional needs.


b. Impedes local / workforce-housing 
The income limits for the 750 units are too low for many local municipal workers. The Stipulation bans preferences for local residents or workforce – not just for the 750 units but for all housing.   Regional marketing will further minimize availability to Westchester residents and workers.


c. Unfairly burdens some middle-class and low-income taxpayers 
The income limits are high enough to be unfair to other taxpayers: middle income subsidizing those with similar incomes; low income (some in substandard housing) who are too poor to qualify!


d. Disadvantages non-target communities
The Stipulation impliedly prohibits the County from further assisting affordable housing in the non-target communities (Unincorporated Greenburgh, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, etc.) -- as an impermissible intensification of existing patterns of racial segregation.


Further, legalities aside, it is fiscally impossible to fund the Stipulation and continue financially aiding those communities which we have traditionally helped that need redevelopment.


e. Unfair target-community selection
Target communities were selected without any study of whether additional affordable housing opportunities are needed. Each Greenburgh village is a separate target area even though each has a small population and land area.  Villages should be treated as part of the town like other “neighborhoods” in cities and towns.


4. Federal interference with County and local home rule
The settlement imposes a federal monitor to oversee Westchester.


5. Too costly
Proponents of settling argued strenuously that the risk of loss at trial was too great –$180 million or more.


The County’s liability is not limited but could exceed the feared loss. The Board has already approved $36 million and promised $30 million more. $10.5 million went to ADC and their attorneys, but it is doubtful that $66 million will cover the other costs: the monitor and his staff (an anticipated $1.375 million), an implementation plan, a new analysis of impediments, new long-term planning and housing plans, several new laws, legal defense fees, etc.


And, there are many uncalculated costs to local governments.

6. Lacks clarity on significant points
This Stipulation is so unclear in so many respects that it would be too burdensome to outline them here.

In spite of many concerns, the Settlement Stipulation was approved. We now must make it work as best we can.


I have already met with some of our village officials and will meet with others over the next few weeks. We need to be sure that they have input into the implementation plan and be sure that the implementation plan produces the necessary number of new housing units and does it in a manner that complements our communities.


This County has done a good job in voluntarily placing affordable housing throughout the County. We need to work on the implementation plan to be sure that we will be able to continue those same efforts to promote affordable housing appropriate to the setting and needs of each Westchester community – to be sure that we will not have a one-size-fits all set of rules that tells us what to do and how, taking away the discretion of the County and local governments.


If you have comments or suggestions, please contact me.


Thomas J. Abinanti


I believe that the negatives of the Stipulation outweigh the risks of continuing to defend.

A. Viable alternatives
Legislators who voted “yes” argued that they wanted to avoid losing some $180+ million at trial.  I believe that there are viable alternatives.  We could win at trial…win on appeal … or achieve a better settlement along the way.

B. Unacceptable Settlement terms
Too many Stipulation terms are unacceptable. While the goals are laudable, the “devil is in the details.”

Note that the County Executive negotiated, signed and presented the Stipulation to the Judge without the Charter-required prior Board authorization. The County Executive deprived the Legislators of their Charter-guaranteed opportunity to use their knowledge of local community concerns to shape the priorities in negotiations. 

1. Raises serious environmental and planning concerns
The Stipulation requires amending the County’s planning policies that have long encouraged “downtown” development near transportation.  The Stipulation also ignores carefully-conceived local master plans designed to preserve our environment and prevent overwhelming school districts.

2. Full compliance unlikely – penalties likely
It is likely that the County will not fully/timely comply and will face $60,000 per month penalties and mandated additional units.

11/4/2009 10:12:45 AM



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