Photo: Jarnell Bonds from IMC Consulting speaks to Yonkers Housing Choice workshop attendees
On February 21, Yonkers city, federal and educational officials, along with housing advocates and public housing residents, held their first official gathering to discuss and tour the proposed revitalization of Cottage Place Gardens and the transformation of the Croton Heights neighborhood, as part of the city’s recent receipt of a HUD Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant of $300,000. The City of Yonkers was one of 17 localities nationwide to receive such funding.
The gathering was kicked off by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, who was followed by Yonkers Municipal Housing Authority Chairman Judge Arthur Doran. The attendees were then welcomed by Yonkers Housing Authority Executive Director Joe Schuldiner, Wilson Kimball from the City of Yonkers Planning Department, and TCB (The Community Builders) Regional Manager Jan Brodie. The meeting began with Mario Caruso from the Yonkers Department of Planning providing attendees with an overview of the city’s demographics, economy, history and geography. Jarnell Bonds from IMC Consulting provided an overview of the Choice Neighborhood Planning grant, including the goals, partners and roles of each. Dr. Linwood Lewis from Sarah Lawrence College spoke next about the methodology that was to be used in gathering the necessary data needed for obtaining a HUD Implementation Grant. Juanita Lewis from Voices Heard spoke last and discussed community capacity building, outreach strategies to engage city residents and community participation. In attendance were also numerous senior level HUD staff from the New York Regional Office consisting of Acting Regional Administrator Mirza Orriols, Luigi D’Ancona, PIH Director, Brodie Hefner, Senior PHRS, and Jenn Cribbs, Region II Sustainability Coordinator. In addition, Kyleen Hashim, Housing Program Specialist and Roma Campanile, Architect Specialist, came from HUD Headquarters to participate in the discussions. The tour followed after a brief question and answer period.
HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative promotes a comprehensive approach to transforming distressed areas of concentrated poverty into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods. Building on the success of HUD’s HOPE VI Program, Choice Neighborhoods links housing improvements with necessary services for the people who live there – including schools, public transit and employment opportunities.
Yonkers will use the funding to work with local stakeholders, such as those that gathered at its initial meeting, to undertake a successful neighborhood transformation to create a “choice neighborhood” that will promote a sustainable, mixed-income community with affordable housing, safe streets and good schools.