YONKERS, NY — April 17, 2017 — My name is LaMont OyeWale’ Badru and I’m a community organizer in Southwest Yonkers. I’m also the executive director of CGDC, a community organization fighting to transform Southwest Yonkers through urban planning and community leadership development.
Our organization started as a grassroots campaign called #FreeSchool19 back in 2012 to transform an abandoned school building in our community into a community center and neighborhood school. The city ended up Sending a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the building and selecting a developer from Long Island to build market rate apartment units with no affordability requirements or community benefits offered. The rational for selecting the developers proposal over the community proposal was that the developer had the capability and finances in place to complete the project within 2 years. We fought to have the city council block the sale and land disposition agreement, but we lost by one vote. (Dramatic footage from that night)
Fast forward to today, almost 5 years later, the project still hasn’t broken ground, and now the developer is coming to the Yonkers IDA (Industrial Development Agency) asking for $1.6 million in tax breaks. When we found out, we were told that there would be a public hearing, but they didn’t publish the date on the website until Thursday and it’s set for this coming Monday.
We are asking community members to show up at the Public hearing on Monday April 17th at 5:30pm, which will be held at Yonkers City Hall in the Mayors Reception Room. Click to RSVP on Facebook.
We’re demanding a NO vote on the tax breaks unless the developer is willing to sit down with our organization to negotiate a community benefit agreement for the local neighborhood. Mayor Mike Spano is the Chair of the IDA and Ken Jenkins is currently the President. We are asking for their leadership, and we want them to engage with the developer to bring them to the table. Councilwoman Pineda who represents the districted where the development is located has voiced her support for our call for a benefit agreement to be negotiated.
Right now our primary asks are:
1) An investment in the implementation phase of the Highland Hill Project, our grassroots community planning project where we trained youth to survey the needs of the neighborhood surrounding the development site, with the goal of creating a neighborhood plan that will address the needs identified. We will be releasing and moving into the implementation phase of the 1st part of the plan that deals with creating economic opportunity in Southwest Yonkers. An example of a project that came from that plan is our community business incubator, ThePowerLab. We are also working to create a more cohesive and effective training and workforce development eco-system in our neighborhood by leveraging technology and best practices. Lastly we would also like to see local policies put in place that make it common practice for our city to hold developers accountable to the communities that they want to build in. These are the primary components of the 1st phase of our neighborhood plan.
We will also reinvest funds with partner grassroots initiatives that we work closely with and that serve the community like #100sistas and Yonkers Sanctuary Movement.
2) We want to be able to place 10-15 local OSHA trained community members on the job site. We want to use this as an opportunity to build a construction training program for formerly incarcerated young adults.
3) We want the developer to include 10% affordable housing within the project in line with the city’s Affordable housing ordinance.
We would definitely appreciate your support by spreading the word and showing up on Monday.
This is the last stand in a protracted fight for the future of this development site, but the beginning of a bigger fight for the future of our community and how economic development should should be approached in Yonkers.