Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino took questions on topics from Glen Island to tax bills to Playland to the housing settlement in a telephone town hall Wednesday night that drew hundreds of participants.
Astorino reiterated many of his existing policy positions on hot button topics including the future of the Tappan Zee Bridge and whether the county should fight the federal government in court over the implementation of the housing settlement. He took questions by phone but also through Twitter, email and Facebook and also asked the call participants to vote on three unscientific polls.
When asked about what can be done to control school costs, Astorino plugged the group Best4NY, which is trying to bring together organizations, politicians and individuals to advocate for mandate relieve from the state. He also sypmathized with a Katonah woman who said she has no mortgage but her taxes are $28,000 a year.
“The number one concern for our seniors in Westchster is exactly what you just talked about to us,” Astorino said. The phone poll also showed taxes as the top concern of the residents on the call.
Astorino said Westchester is in full compliance with the housing settlement between the county and the federal government, which requires the county to build 750 units of affordable housing in mostly-white communities. But he disputed the idea that there was discrimination in Westchester and accused the Department of Housing and Urban Development of trying to abolish zoning in local municipalities.
“I refuse to capitulate on this and allow bureaucrats in Washington D.C. tell you and I how our communities should be developed,” he said.
As part of the settlement, HUD is requiring the county to analyze local zoning codes and identify if they have the effect of keeping low income and minority populations from moving in. If they do, HUD wants the county to outline a strategy to make the towns change the zoning that could include lawsuits. The county has fought that requirement.