Westchester legislators press Astorino on capital projects in light of court opinion

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The Westchester County Board of Legislators is trying to pressure County Executive Rob Astorino on a variety of stalled capital projects in light of a court decision this week that went against the board but supported the board Democrats’ position on its role in the capital planning process.

The board has put out statements on projects in Yonkers and Mount Vernon asking Astorino to move ahead. The Yonkers project involves $2.75 million in county funds to help build a parking garage for cars from the Warburton Riverview affordable housing project, among other uses. The board overrode Astorino’s veto of the bond funding.

“This important capital project is part of the re-development plan for downtown Yonkers and an integral factor in the economic growth of the city,” said board Chairman Ken Jenkins, D-Yonkers, in a statement. “Although the work is completed, Yonkers officials are waiting for the County to reimburse them for the project. There is absolutely no reason other than political posturing why the County Executive has not moved this project through. The City should be paid for its work, as promised by the County—period.”

Yonkers has issued bonds to make up the money the county reneged on, said a spokeswoman for the city.

The Board of Legislators added the project to the capital plan in late 2011 while preparing the 2012 budget, Jenkins said. But the Astorino administration had said the board did not have the authority to add projects to the capital plan during the budget season and instead had to propose them in the spring like any other county department.

Acting Supreme Court Justice James Hubert said in his decision that the board is not just another department.

“As a matter of logic and reason, it cannot be seriously argued that the county Board of Legislators is a ‘department, institution, office [or]agency of the county government … anymore than it can be argued as to the Office of the County Executive,” he wrote. His overall decision on the case over the board’s capital project additions, however, dismissed the lawsuit against the county executive on the grounds that the 2011 challenge was moot and the 2012 challenge was not yet ripe.

After the decision, a spokesman for Astorino said the projects should be negotiated between the board and the administration.

In Mount Vernon, the board is calling for movement on the LaPorte project, part of the Atlantic Development Group’s planned $120 million downtown revitalization project for the city. The board approved $4.4 million in funding in May 2011. The money is now stuck in the Board of Acquisition and Contract. Jenkins said he will seek to put the project on next week’s A & C agenda.

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