1051 Yonkers Avenue.
Words have for too long been eviscerated by the lack of follow through by those who would espouse their promise. The deeds that were required to satisfy the inference of their utterance were not to be. That was the case regarding a parcel of land once operated as a Mobil gasoline station. The property upon which the gasoline station stood is 1051 Yonkers Avenue. The “plot," suggested to be a plan by Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone was first espoused by him approximately five years ago. The “no plan plan” had him request the Yonkers City Council approve his request to wrestle control of the property from the owner by insinuating a declaration of eminent domain.
Mayor Amicone’s spin was eloquent in its telling. Mayor Amicone dazzled Yonkersites with his “vision” whereby southeast Yonkers would rid itself of a “long abandoned eyesore for a much needed parking lot.” The parking lot would permit the community at large, Tambolino Ristorante’s patrons, found dining diagonally across the street, and even General Podiatrist Ronald Volino, whose practice abuts the property purposeful development by transformation of his vision. Long known to be a rubber stamp to Mayor Amicone, the Yonkers City Council found merit in Mayor Amicone’s request to take the property for the public good by the statute of eminent domain. The “no plan plan” promised to build 50 parking places on the property. The proposed parking lot was to be operated by the Yonkers Parking Authority.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with these proposals,” remarked then Hyatt Neighborhood Association President Dennis Shepherd. “The area has needed parking for a long time and this is the best possible place to put it, getting rid of this run down lot at the same time.”
On Monday, February 7, 2011, now Yonkers City Councilman Dennis Shepherd, representing the 4th District within which the property is located, called for a Special Committee Meeting for the following day, Tuesday, February 8, 2011, at which he would come to propose that the declaration of eminent domain be lifted from further encumbering the owner, Mr Arora, from developing the property as he saw fit, albeit within city zoning and other parameters.
Councilman Shepherd stipulated the City of Yonkers (CoY) did not possess the financial wherewithal to build the $2 million plus cost of the parking lot proposed; that it further did not have the funds to purchase the property under eminent domain at fair market value; nor could CoY continue to stymie Mr Arora from developing the property.
Dr Volino’s son, Mr Volino, was offended that he was only given 24 hours notice of the Special Committee Meeting called by Councilman Shepherd, as was Larry Wilson, who claimed the Yonkers City Council had given the Hyatt Neighborhood Association assurances that would not allow for the property to revert to development by Mr Arora, whom it was claimed the community did not trust. A likely bigoted euphemism for the fact that Mr Arora is of Indian descent and clings to Sikh religious tenets.
This reporter was taken aback by the tongue thrashing directed by both Volino and Wilson toward Yonkers City Council Minority Leader John Murtagh and Councilman Shepherd. Mr Volino claimed Councilman Shepherd as president of the Hyatt Neighborhood Association had agreed to champion the parking lot and had now reneged. Mr Volino could be seen seething with such anger toward the two Yonkers City Councilmen that he stormed out of the Yonkers City Council Conference Room.
Mr Wilson, a landscaper and friend of Mayor Amicone, was aghast at the 24 hour advance notice given and claimed it was insufficient. A point, when it concerned other issues he flippantly dismissed as not worthy of his attention. Like what you ask? Like the fact that the Charter Revision Commission asked for notice to be made 24 hours after it had occurred. Now that was illegal. 24 hour advance notice falls into the permitted time frame. Mr Wilson claimed the action of the Special Committee Meeting was like having the Yonkers City Council pull the rug from right under the communities’ feet.
The Special Committee Meeting’s purpose was to rescind eminent domain status by placing the issue before the Yonkers City Council that night by reverting the status of the property to be devoid of the threat of eminent domain.
Minority Leader Murtagh pointed out that by not including the funds to purchase the property at fair market value under eminent domain in the Capital Improvement Plain (CIP) over the last three years, and with respect of the precarious financial circumstances challenging CoY, it was prudent to rid the property of the threat of eminent domain.
Yonkers City Councilwoman Joan Gronowski was suspicious of the need to quickly have this five year old project require action that night. She wanted a directive from Yonkers City Hall, that is, for Mayor Amicone himself to rescind the eminent domain statute from the property by written request of the Yonkers City Council. Acid-tongued bloggers advise that by the following day or two, Mayor Amicone did in fact issue a sentence or two statement asking the Yonkers City Council to retract the eminent domain status from the property.
Councilwoman Gronowski further wanted to know what other small parcels of property had language that would cause them to languish under the cloud of eminent domain language and if such status, once declared, continued in perpetuity. Yonkers Corporation Counsel Mark Blanchard, quick to respond, pulled a rabbit from his derriere and claimed he did not know but directed the Yonkers City Council to foil for such concerns.
Eminent domain status does not exonerate or relieve the land owner from paying their taxes. Mr Arora was up to date in making payment on his taxes with regard to this property. Five years worth of paying taxes and absolutely no control over his investment. Priceless.
When Mr Volino was still attending the meeting he insinuated Mr Arora’s lawyer was Jim Castro-Blanco. Mr Castro-Blanco asserted he did not represent Mr Arora but was a friend. Acid-tongued bloggers have learned that it is Mrs Castro-Blanco who represents Mr Arora with regard to the 1051 Yonkers Avenue property now. At one time Andrew Balint represented Mr Arora's interest in this regard.
Ms Gronowski’s question was the most pertinent and pithy, that is, what has changed over the past five years?
The answer not heard at the Special Committee Meeting is nothing changed.
Mayor Amicone had no plan for the property to which he strong-armed a submissive Yonkers City Council to agree to adopt eminent domain status on a property for which the “Friends and Family network” could exact blood from an outsider who they relegated to be less worthy than they despite the equal opportunity America affords everyone to invest and build and develop property for which they have purchased and for which taxes are paid. CoY never had any money set aside to develop this property as described in Mayor Amicone’s “vision.” There was no plan to grow or receive funding to develop this property by CoY. Further, no money was every allocated in any of the CIP budgets for five years; of which two years were squandered by City Hall by their not knowing what to do, and also by their not acknowledging the property for development consideration over the last three years.
Did Mr Arora put his foot down? Did he point out that he could and/or would sue for financial remedy and personal anguish over his property at their hand?
Yonkersites will not likely be afforded an answer.
In juxtaposition to the plight suffered by Mr Arora, Mr Cipriani who now operates a larger facility than his father originally bought for him was afforded a sweet deal so that the original King Fence property could be used to build a ramp onto the Ridge Hill Property and a larger property would permit King Fence to expand. All facilitated by the “Friend and Family Network" working out of Yonkers City Hall. Acid-tongued bloggers have been advised that the present King Fence property is allegedly planned to be purchased by CoY for the purpose of building the Yonkers Firehouse stipulated to serve the Ridge Hill community’s retail and commercial properties. This is to be accomplished at costs for the property to allegedly exceed well over $1 million.
Perhaps Yonkersites will wonder from whose derriere the funds will be excreted?
Will the taxpayer squawk? Perhaps it will be easier to buy a felafel sandwich in Tahrir Square before we will know.