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YONKERS, NY — January 1, 2021 — RoundupNewswires.com and hyperlocal YonkersNewswire.com Publisher/Editor Brian Harrod (BriadHarrod.com) and Yonkers Tribune Publisher/Editor Hezi Aris engage in discussion over the issues and concerns that revealed themselves during 2020. From 10am – 12Noon EST.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Yonkers Faced and Weathered Challenges and Witnessed Milestones
Yonkers, NY — December 31, 2020 — On the first day of 2021, YonkersRoundUp.com / YonkersNewswires.com Publisher/Editor Brian Harrod and YonkersTribune.com Publisher/Editor will look back to the last 12 months and mention the stories that moved and shaped the. City of Yonkers (CoY).
The past year is one that will certainly not be forgotten. The City of Hills was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. It has changed the way we live, demands change in conduct and demeanor with respect to mitigate racial disparity among Yonkersites, as well as asking for Yonkers Police Department conduct and reform.
2020 has brought seemingly insurmountable obstacles that demanded we adapt coupled with complex issues problems that are not likely to depart the City of Hills anytime soon. The time frame is unknown.
Never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate that 2020 would be dominated by the uncontrollable spread of the COVIC-19, the coronavirus, which gave rise to words that are now commonplace: social distancing, contact tracing, and pandemic fatigue.
Despite the injustice of the pandemic Yonkersites rose to meet the pandemic with mitigating innovation in some respect, while still contending with the beginning of vaccination in the near future. Throughout 2020 Yonkersites showed their resolve to beat the injustice of the pandemic, they refuse to succumb to defeat, focused instead on their collective desire to move ahead to build society with new norms.
Here is a list of the top stories in the “dumpster fire” that was 2020.
In 2019 the City Council and the Mayor of Yonkers changed term limits for the mayor and themselves by passing legislation permitting three (3) four year terms rather than the previous maximum of (2) four year terms.
Democrat Tasha Diaz (District 3) joined the Yonkers City Council which now had a 5-2 Democratic supermajority, since former Republican John Rubbo (District 4) switched parties last year from Republican to Democrat.
Mayor Mike Spano appointed Judge Brendan McGrath to fill a vacancy on the Yonkers City Court. He and Elena Goldberg-Velazquez, who won a seat in November were sworn into office.
The 65th Annual Yonkers St. Patrick’s Day Parade on McLean Avenue named Pat McCrudden as Grand Marshall of a parade that would not take place because of the wrath of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (YIDA) reported providing multi-millions in financial tax incentives to nearly a dozen projects in 2019 representing a total private investment of $851 million, but critics complained about the loss of tax revenue; perhaps prematurely, or due to ignorance.
Showtime’s hit series “Billions” now in its fifth season was once again filming in Yonkers City Hall and among other venues in Yonkers.
Mayor Mike Spano demanded that New York City stop sending homeless individuals to Yonkers. New York City’s controversial Special One Time Assistance (SOTA) program provides homeless individuals or families who have been in a shelter for at least 90 days with one year’s prepaid rent into housing outside of the big apple.
In February 2020 the Yonkers City Democratic Committee designated Yonkers City Court Judge Tom Daly, who had served for 20 years on the Yonkers City Court, as their near-unanimous choice to serve another 10 years, to succeed Chief Judge Michael Martinelli. The entrenched Democrats failed in their effort to get their choice of candidates elected. Only 3 positions were open. Judge Tom Day, as well as Judge Brendan McGrath failed in their bid while Democrats Dan Romano, Karen Best, and Verris Shako, all new to the bench stunned the “machine”.
Administrative Law Judge Karen Best strongly questioned the manner that Yonkers Democratic Chairman Tom Meier ran the local convention and challenged his preferred candidates in a primary that she ultimately won.
The Yonkers Board of Education unanimously gave Superintendent Edwin Quezada a new five-year term extension despite his having 2-years in his contract. He is now under contract for 7-years.
The Board of Directors of the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency gave preliminary approval of financial tax incentives for construction of the $60 million first phase of a studio complex for Lions Gate, the motion picture company. The approximately 109,000-square-foot development, which would be built on the parking lot of the iPark complex next to the Riverfront Library has yet to begin the development.
Saint Joseph’s Medical Center opened the hospital’s new physician-supervised outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at its Cardiovascular Center at 530 Yonkers Avenue.
On March 20, 2020, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a shutdown and social isolation to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus that brought commerce in Yonkers to a halt.
In compliance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Yonkers DMV New York State office was closed until further notice.
Newly posted pension data at SeeThroughNY.net also posted retirement benefits that showed two-thirds of the 39 newly retired Yonkers police officers eligible for annual pensions greater than six figures. Leading the pack was YPD officer Edmund Leahy ($177,778). The one unanswered question from this list is: Why are there little or no retired cops or firefighters on the list of top pensions outside of Yonkers? What are these communities doing right to control their pension costs.
Also highlighted on the SeeThroughNY.net list was Dr. Bernard Pierorazio, former Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent, @$205,423 in NYS Teachers Retirement System benefits.
Yonkers City Councilwoman Shanae Williams proposed legislation that would increase the percentage of affordable housing units in new development projects be required to set aside 20 percent, double the current 10 percent discount.
David Nahmias, owner of Nahmias Distillery at 201 Saw Mill River Road started to switch to manufacturing hand sanitizer during the pandemic.
The Board of Trustees of the Yonkers Public Library has appointed Jesse Montero to be the library director. Montero joins YPL as library director after a 15-year career at Brooklyn Public Library,
Students at the Charter School for Educational Excellence, CSEE, in Yonkers have begun home learning, something that all students will have to transition to in the City of Yonkers Public Schools District.
The Yonkers Public Schools initially started mailing instructional materials via the U.S. Postal Service to students.
Mayor Mike Spano released his Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget proposal, which stays within the property tax cap, contains no reductions in City services and, once again, provides its largest contribution to Yonkers Public Schools.
Governor Andrew Cuomo set up a Yonkers COVID-19 test site at 2 Park Avenue (Ashburton Avenue) in Yonkers, at St. John’s Riverside Hospital’s Parkside Pavilion.
Yonkers Parking restrictions at meters will now be enforced between the hours of 10am-6pm, and alternative side of the street parking regulations were rescinded as residents were forced to stay home during the pandemic. There was a compromise between Mayor Mike Spano and members of the Yonkers City Council with regard to the total suspension of parking enforcement. Parking meter revenue was said to bring in over $13 million a year.
WCBS-TV took some video of the empty Sprain Lake reservoir which is located off of Jackson Avenue in Greenburgh and continues along the Sprain Parkway to Tuckahoe Road. Repairs are being made at the lake and sometime in 2021 the lake will once again be a great community asset.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano revealed that an antibody test for COVID-19 that he recently took resulted in a positive test result.
Mayor Mike Spano issued an emergency order suspending the City’s zoning and building codes which will allow restaurants to provide outdoor dining for patrons.
Ribbons of Remembrance, dedicated to Westchester County residents who have lost their lives to COVID-19 were placed at the Lenoir Preserve in Yonkers.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been praised for his handling of the Coronavirus in the Empire State, but he has also been criticized for the astronomical Nursing Homes residents, who died from COVID-19. For some critics it was a mistake to send virus positive patients back into nursing homes after hospital visits. The reality is that when Governor Cuomo asked the nursing homes if they were equipped to take care of infected elederly patients they advised they could. It turns out they were not.
The Yonkers Police Department partnered with local law enforcement agencies once again to address numerous community complaints of drag racing, speeding, and excessive noise from motor vehicles and motorcycles on local roads and the effort continued throughout the summer but to no avail.
Yonkers Public School Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada presented his proposed budget for the 2019-20 school year to the Yonkers Board of Education Trustees and it called for 106 staff cuts and $3.8 million in program cuts for the upcoming school year that starts in September.
1,000 Black Lives Matter protesters marched in Yonkers along Yonkers Avenue and on South Broadway and in Getty Square. Westchester Jewelers and Merk Pharmacy on McLean Avenue, and the Zales jewelry store at Cross County Shopping Center were looted by criminal elements. Yonkers PBA President Keith Olson took a knee in support of the protesters seeking police reforms. Former write-in mayoral candidate Prince Robinson was arrested as he tried to lead marchers onto a highway.
The City Council voted 6-1 to approve a $1.2 Billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1st. The adopted budget also increases the Yonkers Public School (YPS) District’s budget, totaling the city’s contribution to the YPS to the tune of $269.6 million. Councilman Anthony Merante was the lone “no” vote on the council against adoption of the budget.
Yonkers got a new member of Congress who lives in the City. Jamaal Bowman beat Eliot Engel in a landslide in the democratic primary. Engel had spent 32 years in Congress.
Former federal prosecutor and MSNBC commentator Mimi Rocah received 68% of the vote to Scarpino’s 32%, a more than 2 to 1 margin over a sitting, incumbent Westchester County District Attorney. Rocah’s campaign had been extremely aggressive campaigning against Scarpino’s record, and/or lack of prosecution of some cases involving police corruption.
Dan Roman, Karen Best, and Verris Shako won the primary for three seats on the Yonkers City court bench in the order listed and won the November 3rd General Election. Judge Tom Daly, who lost out in the primary, vowed to fight on with the Republican and Conservative lines, but his effort failed in November on Election Day.
Yonkers Democratic City Party Chairman and DPW Commissioner Thomas Meier, along with the city’s powers that be were frustrated that the candidates that Zehy Jereis’ advised repeatedly won by huge margins that upset the status quo. Judge Tom Daly’s and Judge Brendan McGrath’s campaigns said Jereis’ insight into rapidly changing demographics and ability to motivate new voters was key to their losses.
New York State announced a planned summer payment of $97 Million to the City of Yonkers in AIM funding (Aid to Municipal Governments) has been cut by 20% to $77 Million. The decision was reversed in September and the funds were sent at the end of that month.
Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Edwin Quezada released a “hybrid learning plan” to educate the YPS’ 27,000 enrolled student body. The plan called for most students to attend in person schooling 2 days per week, with 2 days of remote learning. The fifth day of the school week will be used for special education, and multilingual learners, who will get a half day instruction, with the remainder of students learning online.The Yonkers Federation of Teachers, (YFT) was opposed to this plan.
A Black Lives Matter street mural was proposed for a roadway across from the daylighting at Van der Donck Park, formerly Larkin Plaza, but was rejected after business and resident objections were presented to Yonkers City Hall.
City Councilman Anthony Merante organized a car rally for neighborhood residents to let their voices be heard against Unite Parcel Service’ (UPS) expansion plans in Yonkers.
A Black Lives Matter mural was created by Ray Wilcox in downtown Yonkers in front of City Hall by hundreds of volunteers and 17 different organizations who came together over a weekend.
Efforts to Save St. Paul’s School in Yonkers failed as the Archdiocese of NY said $3 Million is needed in three weeks or else.
The Yonkers Board of Education (YBoE) held a special meeting on August 26, and approved the furlough of 414 bus monitors for a period of five weeks, until October 5. The bus monitors, members of CSEA Local 9169 complained loudly as expressed by President Dulani Turner.
Several Yonkers residents in downtown Yonkers have complained to City Hall and the Yonkers Police Department about repeated Saturday night parties at O’Boyle Park on Buena Vista Avenue. The parties have been taking place between Midnight and 4AM, with hundreds of cars, and more than 1,000 noise violations as people tie up Buena Vista Avenue as promoters illegally sell tickets to the events.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano announced the city has partnered with Bird to launch New York State’s first-ever electric scooter pilot program.
The City of Yonkers’ partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Target created the City’s first mini-pitch soccer field at Stefanik Park on Nepperhan Avenue.
The City’s annual “Backpack to School” school supply donation drive went forward. The 9th Annual Donation Drive provides backpacks and school supplies to Yonkers Public School students most in need. The Yonkers Rap Trio The LOX, made up of Jadakiss, Sheek Louch and Styles P also gave out book bags at Juices for Life on Nepperhan Avenue.
Yonkers Police officers and FBI agents, pulled over Darren Smith, of New Rochelle, in Getty Square, Yonkers. After law enforcement officers attempted to stop Smith’s car, he fled on foot with a handgun. As officers, including an FBI Task Force Officer, attempted to arrest him, Smith fired his handgun into Getty Square in Yonkers.
Yonkers Public School’s parents complained that there was a lack of laptops and tablets available for students forced to learn online at home. School Superintendent Edwin Quezada said priority for available devices was given to high needs students, which includes Special Education and Multilingual learners.
The New York State Board of Elections has launched an online Absentee Ballot Application Portal, through which registered Yonkers voters could apply for an absentee ballot during the pandemic.
The Board of Directors of the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (IDA) gave approval of financial incentives for a $72 million project run by developer Conifer Realty LLC that will feature a mid-rise building with approximately 120 income-restricted one- and two-bedroom affordable housing rental units
Yonkers’ Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, actress, producer and philanthropist, Mary J. Blige released a new wine called “Sun Goddess” and to recognize Mayor Mike Spano and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Spano declared September 17th, Mary J. Blige Day.
Former City Councilman John Larkin was named the Yonkers Republican City Committee Chair replacing Justin Tubiolo, who for several years failed to keep the Republican brand in Yonkers viable. John Larkin retired from a career as a Senior Systems Analyst with Verizon. He holds masters degrees in Education and in Human Resources from Lehman and Mercy Colleges.
Target and H&M announced that they had signed new retail leases at the Cross County Center in Yonkers. Target signed a 40-year retail lease to occupy over 130,000 square feet of retail space at what was once home to Sears. H&M signed a 10-year renewal to occupy 28,000 square feet.
City officials joined with Erin Construction and Development Co. for the groundbreaking of 9-11 Riverdale Avenue, a nine-story, mixed-use residential and commercial building to be built near Getty Square.
The group Yonkers Parents Seeking Solutions (YPSS) and Civil Rights Attorney Michael Sussman, Esq. complained of gross disparities faced by many vulnerable students who currently lack computers and other resources from the Yonkers Public Schools.
The New Main Street Community Garden, located at the corner of New Main Street and School Street officially opened. Pedro Álvarez Marin, Liver Sanchez and a Latin American Youth Group created the new community space from a trash filled empty lot.
Early voting kicked off in Yonkers at the Will Library (1500 Central Park Avenue) and the Riverfront Library (One Larkin Center)
Once again the Yonkers Police Department issued a citywide curfew for children 16-years of age and younger on Halloween night.
Three democratic candidates for City Court Judge, Dan Romano, Karen Best and Verris Shako, won election on November 3rd
State Senator Shelley Mayer won re-election on Nov. 3rd, defeating Republican Liviu Saimovici.
State Senator and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was re-elected without opposition, as was Assemblyman Nader Sayegh
Once again Yonkers political adviser Zehy Jereis was the biggest winner of all as Yonkers Democratic City Party Chairman and DPW Commissioner Thomas Meier, along with the city’s powers that be tried to figure out where they went wrong.
Pat Quinn, co-founder of the Ice Bucket Challenge, died at the age of 37 on November 22, after a long, heroic struggle with ALS.
Parts of Yonkers were declared a COVID-19 Yellow Zone, by Governor Andrew Cuomo, as Westchester County Executive George Latimer said that the “Second Wave” of a spike in virus cases and hospitalizations was hitting the county hard.
Concerned residents and seniors who attend the Bernice Spreckman Community Center at 777 McLean Avenue stopped a planned dog park, behind the senior center at Coyne Park.
Westchester Board of Legislators unanimously approved a plan to make substantial improvements to Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers.
Former Yonkers Police Department Deputy Chief Tim Hodges announced a Democratic Party run for City Council representing the 6th District against first term incumbent Councilman Anthony Meranti, who is taking heat from constituents for repeatedly raising taxes though he was the lone 6-1 vote against this year’s approved budget
Yonkers City Councilwoman Shanae Williams spoke to the committee and announced that she will be running for Westchester County Clerk challenging incumbent Tim Idoni, who is running for re-election to a fifth, four-year term.
Four teenagers were killed in a fatal police involved car crash three days before Christmas in Yonkers. Brandon Sierra, Randy Brisbane, Tamari Jamal “TJ” Watkins and Anthony Cruz, all 18-year-old Yonkers Public School graduates. Fundraisers for the funerals of four teenagers killed in horrific crash raised more than $100,000 from saddened residents. Devon Haywood, killed four teenagers and himself fled the YPD after an officer on patrol saw his 2009 Infiniti sedan had an “equipment violation” and initiated a pursuit.
A Yonkers Police vehicle was involved in a car crash on the New York State Thruway. The crash happened around 2 a.m. as officers were pursuing a stolen vehicle with people inside. Police said the suspects’ vehicle slammed into the back of a sergeant’s squad car and escaped on foot.
Brian Harrod is the publisher and editor of the RoundupNewswires.com news website, as well as, the hyper local YonkersNewswire.com news and social media pages. You can learn more about Mr. Harrod at BrianHarrod.com.