District 1, Yonkers NY, is a unique sector on the political map of polar opposites.
The northern border at Hawley Terrace merging at Hastings on Hudson, is the gold coast of glam glitz hi rise buildings. It is home to well known sports players and tenants that effortlessly renew their $4000 per month leases.
The southern tier of District 1 at Ludlow street, is a densely packed cauldron of African Americans and Latinos struggling to survive in the non stop encroachment process of gentrification. Their days of subsistence level rent are numbered.
However, what everyone has in common is their current City Council representative, Shanae Williams. The second term City Councilwoman has recently declared her candidacy for Westchester County Legislator. She will be challenging long standing Westchester County Legislator, Christopher Johnson.
Her current legislative aide of six years, Deana Robinson, has stepped up to fill William's role in an upcoming political contest for the District 1 council seat. Robinson, seen in a video interview on January 19th, 2023, details her political views and plans should she win the City Council seat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiNU13fWq_M&t=942s
In a district of approximately 35,000, with a median income of $40,000, the task is daunting. As developers continue to build housing for six figure white collar professionals, affordable apartments for people of lesser means are slowly fading away.
Although developers have vowed to set aside ten percent of their rentals for affordable housing, the competition for those rentals is staggering. Not only are teachers, uniformed service personnel, and blue collar workers qualified for consideration but undocumented persons also.
Undocumented persons are eligible for affordable housing and low income housing if the head of household is a US citizen. The increase in migrants seeking a better life in the area increases the demand and shortens the supply. The affordable housing lottery is open to them if they have a birth certificate, passport, and/or social security number.
The lack of housing has increased the homeless population, particularly in District 1. “We know that there is a huge homeless population in the City of Yonkers, most of which is concentrated in the first district,” said Councilwoman Williams. “But there are many unanswered questions, and until we can openly ask and address those questions, we cannot move forward.”
In her interview, Robinson is quite clear in regards to the placement of a homeless shelter in an area that constituents might object to,citing it as "hypocrisy."
The City of Yonkers sheltered homeless population accounts for 43.3 percent of all homeless families in Westchester County. Approximately 800 men, women and children, form the homeless population of Yonkers and space is limited. Banks have closed ATM access after dark due to homeless people sleeping in the vestibules. In 2020, the Yonkers City Council passed a ban on panhandling to curb beggars from harassing pedestrians. https://ecode360.com/36614336. That did little to alleviate the problem.
There are thirty registered sex offenders in District 1. Many of those men are homeless. Although a shelter is needed, the proper placement is crucial. The southern border of Yonkers at W.263rd street and Broadway is battling the inevitable build of a homeless shelter. The protestations of Riverdale residents and the trepidation of the Yonkers Police Department, has resulted in the recent withdrawal of the designated operator for the project. NYC officials are pondering their next move, possibly in search of another contractor for the proposed shelter.
NYC reps cannot guarantee that there will not be sex offenders in the shelter population as stated at a community meeting with home owners. Homeless persons are not required to divulge their status. It is the job of the district city council person to ensure that the community will be protected and to keep the community advised.
Ensuring the safety of constituents is not only the job of the City Council person, but the job of the Yonkers Police Department. And they have been busy in District 1.
Statistics for 2022 indicate the following:
Felony Assault 148
Stolen Vehicle 47
The numbers are not overwhelming, but they are sufficient to cause alarm among the Yonkers River front community. https://news.hamlethub.com/swyonkers/publicsafety/2719-yonkers-waterfront-woes
In the absence of any assistance from their District 1 City Councilwoman, there is a mass exodus from 23 Water Grant Street. The property is located in proximity to the Apex but with fewer apartments. There are 39 units. Thirty percent of the units are presently for sale. (see photo) The river view in exchange for the summer mayhem, vandalism, drugs and loud music has lost it's luster.
This matters because the projected number of waterfront rental units is closing in on 4,000. Developments such as Avalon are expanding rapidly In this district of 35, 000 people, the average voter participation in City Council elections is 16,000. Four thousand people are twenty five percent of that voter base. They hold the ability to tip the balance of power.
Both Williams and Robinson are pro bail reform. However, in a city where the crime statistics can easily tip into the red zone, Robinson owes an explanation of her position.
Where Robinson lacks clarification of her position on bail reform, she is clear in regards to school funding. She reiterates the politician's mantra of more school funding, after school programs and tutoring.
The City of Yonkers has multiple after school programs for students. They vary from ESL to online tutoring https://www.ypl.org/onlinelearning/. The Police Athletic League and the Yonkers Police Department are rich in resources that aid Yonkers youth. https://news.hamlethub.com/swyonkers/publicsafety/2722-free-programs-for-yonkers-youth
As of 2018, the Yonkers public school system offers free lunch to all students regardless of income. The federal government is subsidizing the school meals. On the other hand, the benefits could be in jeopardy due to parents being non compliant.
"Although the free-meals-for-all policy may relieve some of the district's cash hemorrhage, parents' unwillingness to return forms will still be a problem because the district needs to collect income data to remain compliant with other state and federal programs." Lo Hud
In 2017, the Yonkers Public School system lost $800,000 in revenue do to unpaid lunch bills. Careful monitoring of school spending can yield dividends in the long run.
Dividends are not abundant with City Council jobs. Elected City Council members earn $48,000 per year. Yet, the details are in the benefits.
Robinson operates a Public Relations firm https://www.deanaetc.com/. The City Council position lends itself to a roster of potential clients. The Trump presidency is a prime example. And let's not forget the allure of Lionsgate Studios a.k.a. Hollywood on the Hudson.
Although Lionsgate has no jobs, https://jobs.lionsgate.com/go/View-All-Openings/8023300/, it offers lots of photo ops with City Council persons who promised those jobs to Yonkers residents.
The job of City Council person in Yonkers District 1 is an important one in this election cycle. It requires more than vague promises with no plans. It requires experience and the ability to navigate the headwinds of an increasing homeless population, and the demands of parking, policing, and displacement due to the expansion of water front rental units.
The growing pains of progress require a steady hand. Without it, the music will blast and the people will leave.