Village of Pelham Mayor’s Update from Albany: The Governor’s Housing Plan
Mayor Mullen with Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado
A couple of weekends ago, Village Administrator Scelza and I had the opportunity to attend the Winter Legislative Meeting for the New York Conference of Mayors in Albany. This convention is an opportunity for local officials to get briefings on impending legislation that could impact our communities, share knowledge and expertise about various municipal topics, and advocate for state legislation that can support local priorities. It was a very busy and productive time and I’m writing to share some of the work we’re doing with our counterparts around the state.
This year, I was invited to present on the Village of Pelham’s local development work as part of a panel with fellow mayors Kathy Sheehan (Albany) and William Barlow Jr. (Oswego). The session focused on local government strategies for fostering affordable and market-rate housing, and it was designed to highlight local success stories. I must admit, it felt great to share our achievements with mayors from around the state. Our downtown revitalization work – and Pelham House, in particular – got very positive reactions from those assembled, and many have reached out directly to learn how they might be able to replicate our success. It’s exciting to know that so many New Yorkers are now looking at the Village of Pelham as a leader and model for sustainable growth.
The panel was very well-received, and not surprisingly, well-attended. Housing development was the topic on everyone’s minds this year, given the Governor’s recently released budget which includes a plan to build 800,000 new homes in the next 10 years. There are many aspects of the Governor’s housing goals that are laudable and long overdue, and I was thrilled when the Governor first announced her intentions to tackle this issue. New York’s failure to meet housing demand is artificially driving up home prices, hurting our environment, creating poverty, exacerbating tax burdens, and preventing us from attracting new business to the state. It’s a crisis. I’m on the housing committee for the Westchester Municipal Officials Association (WMOA) and we’ve been tracking the Governor’s plans closely, given the need to make progress and the potential impact of taking the wrong approach. While I’m cautiously optimistic that New York can achieve its goals, I’m sad to say that there are provisions in the current draft of the Governor’s proposal that are simply unacceptable.
To catch you up, the Governor’s goal is to have communities like ours increase their housing supply by 3%. The proposal includes penalties for those who fail to meet their targets, many of which are extraordinarily harsh. The Village of Pelham is currently on track to easily exceed the 3% threshold, so rest assured, the targets will not be an issue for us. The downtown development work we’ve done these last few years has put us in a very enviable position relative to other suburban communities.
The cause of concern for us, specifically, is contained in the provisions related to “transit oriented development.” As currently drafted, the Governor’s proposal would require communities within 15 miles of New York City to adopt zoning that could achieve an average density of at least 50 housing units per acre within a half-mile radius of any transit station. The zoning would need to be adopted without following the State’s environmental review process, and if a community failed to comply, future developers could avail themselves of a fast-track approval process that would bypass our local zoning altogether. To give you a sense of the enormity of this: the density formula would apply to nearly every residential parcel south of Sergio’s, and we’d be contemplating the potential addition of over 5,000 new homes and apartments in a village that currently has about 2,500 total households. It’s absurd on its face, and clearly the product of trying to create zoning without consideration of the local context. It was deflating to see just how many state officials expressed genuine surprise when presented with the basic math of it all. If I’m being honest, I don’t understand how a provision like this made it into the proposal to begin with.
Fortunately, I was able to discuss these and other issues in depth with Pelham’s excellent state delegation, Assembly Member Amy Paulin and Senator Nathalia Fernandez. They spent time with us at the conference and are both very committed to representing our interests as the proposal is debated and revised in the coming months. My WMOA colleagues and I will also be meeting soon with RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. HCR is the agency responsible for creating the final plan, and the commissioner was eager to partner with us on more reasonable solutions. In our interactions so far, I’ve been pleased to see that our community’s development work has earned us credibility in the conversation and a very important seat at the table. I’ll share more as this work continues.
On a personal note, I’ll just share that I walked away from the conference feeling incredibly proud to be representing the Village of Pelham at the state level. We live in such a unique, vibrant and beautiful community, and there’s no other place in New York I’d rather be. It was an extraordinary time, but I have to admit, the best part of the trip was coming home. It’s good to be back, Pelham.
Village of Pelham Mayor Chance Mullen
I serve on NYCOM’s Finance Policy Committee, and our legislative priorities this year include:
• Increased state funding for highways and road paving
• Dedicated annual funding for sewer and water infrastructure
• Administrative fixes to the tax cap to avoid disincentivizing economic growth
• And increases in municipal aid, which has been flat for 14 years. State aid is the most straightforward way to reduce property taxes, pave roads, strengthen emergency services, and ensure regular investments in core infrastructure – all of which has been systemically underfunded throughout New York.
You can read the full list of legislative priorities for New York’s Mayors on the NYCOM website here: