Urban Blight in White Plains

Began hearing the term “urban blight” in the 2000’s in White Plains (WP) when Mayor Delfino was promoting two large projects to redevelopments two areas in the Business District (BD). Called “The City Center,” the plan called for 2 tall apartment buildings and one smaller one, and a large mall of shops and restaurants in addition to redoing the city parking garage. Along with this was a nearby complex of the Ritz with a combo of residences, a hotel and a few businesses. These buildings in contrast to the first were done in lots of glass. And they were built near the intersection of Main St and Mamaroneck Ave that connected too busy roads of commerce. The Park at the end of Mamaroneck Ave with Main was to be fixed up basically connecting the two complexes with a fancy fountain and an outdoor plaza.

But the two complexes failed to bring in prosperity to the rest of the city. High rents drove retail stores out and many office buildings stood mostly empty. The city’s biggest mall, the Galleria with Simon as its owners did little to maintain or even improve the inside of the complex and the city that owned and operated the garages and open space around the mall did little to improve or maintain that area. And so, the decline. The Galleria lost its anchor stores. Many of WP structures containing offices were still looking for tenants. The telephone building (now Verizon) due to high tech mostly functions without workers and they have let their land deteriorate and decline as well over the decades. Without the county government seated in WP, the city would have declined further.

Mayor Delfino said the developments would bring in prosperity and erase the urban blight that was actually caused by urban renewal of the 60’s and 70’s. Back then, the city saw a declining BD though it had been a busy place and home to many residents. First, they built the White Plains Mall, followed by the Galleria mall, built numerous office buildings and a new Court House, Public library and a new County Building. They took away most of the housing except for Winbrook (public housing).

What the City Council and our Mayor do not understand is that new development might erase for a time some of the urban blight but after the construction is completed things just start to deteriorate again. City has ordinances that required property owners to maintain their properties inside and out, but some do a much better job than others. When one property fails to maintain its property, others suffer and sometimes decline as well. It is not just private owners but government ones on city, county, state and federal level.

In my neighborhood of Eastview, Stop & Shop’s complex brought in revenue, but it rarely does anything to maintain its parking lots and the surrounding area. It is a litter mess with shopping carts, signage, and poorly maintained green space that there is little of.

When developers make proposals to redevelop a property, they often mention urban blight but instead of the owners being accountable for the decline of the property they get rewarded with tax incentives, making zone changes and in some cases getting city property for one dollar. Many times, businesses did not just leave but were forced out by Developers who did not wish to renew leases so it looks like there should be a redevelopment to bring back the stores.

This has been the path that the city has been on for over 20 years. Much of the development is done without much input from the community and complaints about the projects are largely ignored or challenged in court.

Urban blight is now a way of doing business in WP and I am sure it is the same in others.

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