Writings by Sandra Harrison including published and unpublished works of poetry, essays, children's and adult fiction and non-fiction work..
This is the letter I emailed the City’s Mayor, Common Council and City Clerk:
I would appreciate you reading and putting in the record my objection to the development for 70 Westchester Ave and the subject of tonight’s public hearing:
I strongly object to the project proposed for 70 Westchester Ave as I was with The Collection (and that project also seems to have stalled).
I know it really doesn’t matter what I think and unlike most of my neighbors I have spoken up and reported issues to the City. Most people have given up because they believe the City will do what it wants to do regardless of what its residents want. City, property owners and developers make money so it just doesn’t matter anymore what the residents affected by these developments think or what they will have to put up with not only during construction but after construction. Our quality of life in this neighborhood has diminished for decades as a result of overdevelopment and will continue to be a problem for those that live here.
For the sake of the hundreds who live on Franklin and thousands that live in the Eastview neighborhood, please reconsider and require the developers make changes to the present plan.
The buildings planned for Franklin are too high and take up too much of the properties space. They will over power the street’s other structures including mine that sits on the top of the hill. We will no longer see anything from our windows and the development will block our morning sun.
The remaining greenspace on the street will be in the shadows and could be affected by less sun. With the addition of more cars parking in the garages and going out of The Collections lot for residents there will be more noise/ traffic/air pollution. There will be the increased threat of flooding on Franklin and Amherst due to the construction of underground garages. There will be a big increase in the number of people living on the street and more pets that now do not have enough spaces to be toileted and walked. Many people are not picking up after their dogs, toilet their dogs on others property (on the grass and onto plantings), and sometimes are walked without leashes and ones that expand to more than 8 ft. These pets are being brought into shops selling or serving food when this is illegal. Many of the buildings in the area are now no smoking and so the smokers use the sidewalks and few greenspace areas we have and the smoke goes up into the apartments.
We will have three multi-tier garages right near each other with 2 on Franklin in addition to one on top of Stop & Shop parking lot. This means more cars entering the street, more car alarms going off, bright lights all night long and more air/noise pollution. Building alarms at Stop & Shop go off all the time (with a loud noise and flashing lights) and endlessly unless someone calls the police. This is just too many garages in such a small condensed area.
Now, that Toll Brothers owns both areas being redeveloped, I am not sure why they do not modify the plan for The Collection so that there is only one exit/entrance to the properties with the light at Paulding. With a separate entrance for The Collection, this new Development will complicate the intersection at Paulding with vehicles including trucks wanting to go over to the left lane while others are waiting to go north. These vehicles will want to turn left at light or will make u turns to go the opposite direction.
By putting another tall building on Franklin Otherwise, you are creating a wind tunnel on Franklin. There needs to be setbacks for these building on Franklin just like the rest of the buildings already there otherwise you have changed the street design forever. I hope they can put the tall structure and garage away from Franklin and closer to Westchester Ave. I hope they put in new sidewalks and do not remove the mature trees growing along the road. Trees help harness the wind, absorb water and anchor the soil. And, Franklin is very windy. Will they be putting the telephone and electric lines underground as promised?
We don’t need more shops/restaurants especially empty ones and if the dealership stays it is going to continue creating issues for the area especially with the delivery and storage of hundreds of cars in the garages (above Stop & Shop, at The Westchester and every other parking lot in the City) and might even take up spaces in the garages planned for this development. Moving these cars all the time, is another contributing factor to noise, pollution and traffic.
More people will compete for the few parking spaces on Franklin. And there is little enforcement of the 2-hour limit and no parking overnight. Many people park on Franklin to avoid parking fees City Center area and The Westchester. The shops along The Westchester near Franklin do not have parking lots. There are now empty shops at The Westchester. We need a delivery area at the top of Franklin since that is where the deliveries are made. I have asked for this to change with the one at the bottom by Amherst but this was turned down twice. Deliver trucks often block traffic on Franklin and park on sidewalks on side where parking is not allowed. Cars/trucks often block entrances to driveways and even the crosswalk at top of street. Vehicles/stop often park on Westchester Ave in crosswalks and in the traffic lane.
Area is blighted due to the neglect of not just the present owners of the two properties who do not maintain or use the property without regard to those living in the near areas but by the other neighbors in the area that will be staying including the City. Those old buildings at Key Fords were falling apart for years and yet it took complaints from people like myself to see them leveled. The owners of the former Key Ford dealership do not maintain their sidewalk on Franklin and during the winter this was a difficult place to walk as it is not flat. I cleared an area of weeds and litter that was on the sidewalk during shut down where the entrance was on the street. So much dirt had accumulated there, that it was growing weeds. The property that had been a parking lot for Key Fords looked more like an overgrown forest full of litter, shopping carts storing the bottle collectors’ hoard.
These new developments will not erase urban blight but in fact they will just create more. As time goes on, the owners of the newest properties often neglect them and fail to maintain their sidewalks as required by the City. And, then the City fails to enforce its ordinances. These new developments will not be the Gateway into the City but the areas that are there now. They are not well maintained and weeds overgrown onto the sidewalks. There is the City building next to a gas station that has been under construction for like 5 years, the unmaintained Stop & Shop property with lots of carts, Hyundai dealership and Avis. The sidewalks here have been horrible for years and the area by Westchester Burger needs a redo.
Some of the bad neighbors in the area are The White Plains Coach Diner, Avis, Enterprise, Stop & Shop and now the building at 26 Franklin Ave. They have contributed to the decline of the neighborhood and are the reason for our urban blight, bad smells, pollution and noise. The wind carries dirt up the hill of Franklin and the areas between my window’s screens and the inside window is filled with dirt. The top of the garage for my building outside my window is filled with dirt and it settles in the drain and weeds are growing out of it.
White Plains Diner does not maintain its frontage area very well. There is a tree out front by Westchester Ave that is full of weeds overgrowing onto road. Litter is not cleaned up and goes into the storm drain they have at the entrance. During the pandemic they even strung a banner advertising beer along the street between two of the trees along the sidewalk. The Diner stinks up the neighborhood and this summer there has been an awful grease smell. And, because this diner is open 24/7, the smell is at all hours. Cars often make U turns from Westchester Ave going down the hill from Armory Place at the Paulding light and head north on Westchester Ave. Many are taxi drivers picking up passengers or letting ones out at Diner. Diner noise from garbage trucks at 5 am.
Enterprise does not maintain their frontage area and has a bush that over extends to the small sidewalk area. They do not always clear the sidewalk area and it becomes ice in colder months. They clean their cars with water and it freezes. The overgrown bush in front is filled with litter and is never cleaned or trimmed off sidewalk. During the pandemic I actually trimmed some of this bush because it was very difficult to go by on foot.
Stop & Shop property areas along Westchester Ave and S. Kensico are just horrible. They do not always clear the snow like after a big storm last year. There is litter and shopping carts all over the property and they are often taken off the property and left in the surrounding community. Many are left on sidewalks and in the streets. Pedestrian entrance to Stop & Shop should be redesigned. Most people cut through where the vehicles enter. The parking lot is filthy and the lot that was supposed to be for residents in Eastview is now not being used. Neither is the entrance for the upper lot on S Kensico but the walk sign there is still running and barriers there are an eye sore. The store posts signs on S. Kensico and they are not regulated or appealing. The litter and garbage left there attract vermin including rats, mice and feral pigeons.
Chrysler Dealer leaves entrance to service area open so there is often lots of noise. They have a very loud machine going all day and night that is very disturbing at night. They decided to have a party Sept 21 with a loud music and a strove light that started earlier at 3:30 pm blasting so loud that noise vibrated off my building. Often cars are delivered in early mornings and too many cars are stored at Stop & Shop and the mall that need to be transferred to dealership all the time. Too many people make u turns on Franklin and area should be shut to truck traffic except for those having business on street.
Avis doesn’t clean up its green space and there is a lot of litter there by sidewalk. I cleared a shopping cart during the shutdown that was there for years. Cars/trucks coming out of Avis and Westchester Burger sometimes cross into the intersection of Bloomingdale Rd and Westchester Ave causing confusion for cars turning left from Bloomingdales on to Westchester Ave.
Pet store (Doggies City) at 30 Westchester Ave near Franklin has fencing that goes right to sidewalk, has a filthy yard often with feces and its plants go onto the sidewalk. The area is usually not cleared of litter and the pet owners allow their pets in yard barking at cars and people walking by. This noise is very disturbing and can be heard more than 50 ft away.
The storm drains on Franklin, Amherst and Windsor Terrace in street are often filled with litter. This area accumulates water/ice and during IDA parts of the street on Amherst got ruined with chunks are either at the drain or have gone in. If this area continues to flood and gets worse, the fields for Eastview will be at risk for flooding. Because of the lack of parking enforcement on the street the street has been filthy with the same litter there for weeks and washing down to the storm drains during heavy downpours.
Carts often accumulate at the Franklin Lot and they are often filled with litter and garbage. Litter ends up in the school playing fields. Pollution has blackened the parking lot overhanging the school’s field. Franklin Parking Lot is used by not just residents but Youth Bureau. It has many cars parking there that are not even permitted. A person is feeding a feral cat near the falling down fence for Westchester Burger. The sidewalk is not well maintained and needs replacing.
Twenty-six Franklin Ave has become a hazard and a noise problem for the neighborhood. They often use a blower in the evening and other gardening equipment after 6pm and into the evening after 7pm. The building dates from around 1924 and the back stairwell is being used as a terrace. Too many things are being stored there that should not be and a dog is allowed to be on the stairs barking all the time very loudly. There is smoking and tenants were barbequing under the covered stairs this summer. They now have more cars in their lot and moved their garbage to the other side of the building and there is a lot of things there like a mattress and one car on Oct 2 was on the sidewalk during the night. There is a young man living there who has two dirt bikes now taking them for runs doing wheelies in the middle of Franklin’s hill but also in my building’s parking lot. The person does not wear a helmet. The noise is terrible and dirt bikes are not allowed on the street or in my building’s lot. I think they are parking a van for a business in the lot. The overgrowth from the trees/vines at the property border with the dealership is growing on the telephone lines. The front yard is not well maintained either and there is overgrowth on to the sidewalk.
We need a light at Franklin and Westchester Ave not just to allow pedestrians to cross but to allow traffic from Armory Place to come in Westchester Ave safely and be able to go into Franklin Ave At times with traffic backed up it is impossible to get from Armory Pl to Franklin and even get out of Franklin to go north on Westchester Av. With the increase of people living on Westchester Ave there is going to be the need for a safer crossing. It would also be nice to put back a crossing area from Tibbits across Armory place to where The Westchester is. Many cross here anyways.
Parking should be brought back to areas along Westchester Ave where the City has greenspace so Franklin does not bear the burden of cars parking for shops on Westchester Ave but also for people going to City Center area, S Broadway and even the Westchester. This area could then be used by cars breaking down on the busy Westchester Ave and for City trucks to park for maintenance of the area across from Tibbits that is not designated park land. Area is used by dog owners and now smokers since many of the apartments have now gone smokeless.
Apartments on Franklin have set backs from the street and these two projects will not be so they will be right up to the sidewalks. I hope they will fix the sidewalks without taking out the mature trees and at least maintain them by clearing litter, garbage, carts and snow. This is not the case now on any consistent basis. Sidewalk for the City lot should also be redone. City does not do a good job of maintaining this property as well with green overgrowth and removing the shopping carts.
Flooding has become an issue as the City redevelops large lots. My building has flooding in the lobby since the City Center went in. Water goes downhill and goes to the lowest areas and ones that are vulnerable to flooding. Underground garages are vulnerable and the lowest area on Franklin is with Amherst though there are 4 drains there. Because the street is not cleaned properly litter from the street goes into the drains. Amherst was damaged near the intersection with Franklin during Ida and pieces of the street are scattered in the road and by one drain. Clearing the drains on street level is not the only areas that need clearing but below where the water goes into pipes.
The Collection and the addition of this project for 70 Westchester that extends to Franklin is not only going to add to urban blight issues but change Eastview completely. Maybe that is the intention to block the view of the neighborhood that the City is ashamed of though it is the home to thousands of residents. Many businesses and apartments are maintained well but there are some bad ones that this development will not change. Rewarding property owners for their bad practices is just beyond me. The area is going to be like that on Martine that is across from the City Center Parking lot though the difference is the street there is much wider. The parking lot is still a parking lot and the areas by the sidewalk will just gather litter and become dog toilets. Pollution from the many cars will just travel elsewhere.
With all the planned development, City is not increasing its services (fire, police, public works). This puts everyone in City at danger from the increase in crime, mental illness, drug use, air, water and noise pollution, spread of pandemics, water pollution and flooding. No new parks or open space for the public has been planned and this only puts more stress on the community. Crowding more people into the same small areas is not healthy and there will be a decline in the quality of life for all its residents. Homeless, vagrants and bottle people are frequent.
Our roads are in horrible condition in many places because of the traffic and the lines for dividing streets and crosswalks are not painted often enough, so are fading or are completely wiped out.
Developers and Lawyers representing the owners might claim they have reached out to residents, but I was never informed or any of the neighbors I spoke to. Most of the apartments on Franklin are Cooperatives like mine and if the Property Management knew or Boards knew they are under no obligation to notify residents. My Board not only did not do this but ignored my request for information about the Brownfield application. City owns the senior apartment building at Windsor that borders Franklin and Amherst. Did the City notify those residents? I did ask one man who lives there that is blind and he did not know of the new plans for 70 Westchester. We DO NOT HAVE a neighborhood Association and Tenants Associations are Boards; do not represent tenants/residents or citizens. They run the buildings. Shops in the area might love the new developments because it might help bring in customers, but these owners do not live in this neighborhood.