Leading Westchester housing advocate has “no position” on WestHELP demolition


Rose Noonan, who is one of Westchester County’s leading voices on affordable housing, said she had no position on whether Westchester County should demolish 108 units at the former WestHELP complex in Greenburgh.

The county administration and the town of Greenburgh are seeking approval to tear down 108 apartments so Ferncliff Manor can build a complex for developmentally disabled children.

“I have no position on this,” said Noonan, executive director of the Housing Action Council.

Joan Arnold, who chairs the Westchester Non-Profit Housing Coalition, said that “in principle,” the group opposes tearing down affordable housing, but neither she nor her organization has yet to take a position on the WestHELP plan.

“On a personal basis, I’m always in favor of preserving affordable housing,” said Arnold, executive director of Allied Community Enterprises, and former executive director of AHome. “There is such a need for affordable rental housing, and I would never advocate for tearing down existing affordable housing.”

Arnold said her organization doesn’t know enough about the WestHELP agreement to take a position on it.

Under an agreement struck in 1990, the WestHELP organization would use the apartments for the homeless for 10 years, and then turn them over to the town of Greenburgh to rent for 30 years to low and moderate income tenants. WestHELP served the homeless for a second decade, but since Greenburgh won control of the apartments in October, 2011, it has refused to rent them, and instead have focused on tearing them down.

The region’s affordable housing movement has failed to mount a campaign against the demolition.

Noonan leads an organization that has a contract with the Astorino administration to provide technical assistance to non-profit affordable housing developers. While saying she favors affordable housing, she has yet to analyze the WestHELP situation, she said.

“I haven’t been involved in the analysis of the particular site,” she said. “We take the position that we support the development or preservation of affordable housing, and in that sense, we support the conversion of transitional housing to permanent housing. But I’ve not looked at the site recently nor seen the plans to continue it as affordable housing, or at what rent levels.”

One proposal made to the town by Community Housing Innovations would invest $3 million in private money to rehab the 108 units into one-bedroom apartments with new kitchens. They would rent for $895. She warned that spending $3 million might not be enough to bring the 20-year-old complex up to snuff.

“$30,000 a unit sounds a little low,” she said.

Noonan said that the site – on the campus of Westchester Community College – was “an excellent location” for affordable housing.


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