Westchester Watch Graphic

White Plains, NY — At its regular Board meeting on Monday night, the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) conducted two public hearings and voted on some of the most innovative legislation of the 2024 term.

Board Chair Vedat Gashi (D - New Castle, Ossining, Somers, Yorktown) said, “At Monday night’s meeting, we addressed some of the most impactful legislation to date for 2024. Legislators David Imamura and Emiljana Ulaj championed a critical measure to increase safety in their homes for survivors of domestic violence, which we passed unanimously. Following the public hearing, we voted to strengthen the existing law, which protects the County’s schoolchildren by making reckless drivers liable for failing to stop for a school bus when it is picking up or dropping off students. In addition to these items, we increased our affordable housing inventory in New Rochelle, initiated a study to assess culverts County-wide to decrease flooding, and are funding a major improvement project for Mountain Lakes Park.”

Safety Measures for Survivors of Domestic Violence Act

The Board voted unanimously to pass this Act to provide no-cost installation of new home locks and security cameras for domestic and gender-based violence survivors. The Act aims to enhance safety for victims and their families, inspired by previous fatalities despite pleas for security changes and a supporting New York City ordinance. Data shows significant domestic violence incidences of 17 cases per 10,000 residents in the County in 2022, excluding the many unreported ones due to fear of retribution. Developed collaboratively with the Westchester County Office for Women and the County Executive’s Office, and influenced by the Pace Women’s Justice Center, the Act allows documented survivors to start the application process post-enactment.

Legislator David Imamura (D – Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington) Legislation Committee Vice Chair said, "Domestic violence in all of its forms is completely unacceptable. Today, Westchester takes needed steps towards ensuring the safety of domestic violence victims by providing them with free lock changes and ring cameras. Your safety should not be at the sufferance of your landlord, nor should ability to pay prevent you from protecting your family. I am proud to have co-sponsored this bill and am proud to have joined with my colleagues and with the County Executive in making this program a reality."

Legislator Emiljana Ulaj (D - Cortlandt, Ossining, Croton, Briarcliff, Buchanan) Labor and Human Rights Committee Chair said, “Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home, but what happens when your abuser has the key to the front door? This initiative will be an invaluable help to domestic violence survivors and their families. It’s a great day when we can do something this substantial to help some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Thank you to the Bill Sponsor, Legislator David Imamura, the County Office of Women, and the Pace Women’s Justice Center for all of their work and advocacy on this legislation. Thank you also to County Executive George Latimer and Board Chair Vedat Gashi for their wholehearted support of the proposal and figuring out the logistics to make the program work.”

Stop Arm Law Amendment

The Board voted unanimously for a Local Law amending Chapter 705 of the Laws of Westchester County to implement a demonstration program to impose liability on the owners of vehicles who fail to stop for school buses displaying a red visual signal and stop-arm when they are picking up or discharging schoolchildren. In addition, the law expanded the enforcement tools available in the County to further address this issue, with the hope of significantly lessening the numbers of violations that continue to compromise the health, safety and wellbeing of students. The amendment added a new requirement that any photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images evidencing a violation shall include an electronic indicator or indicators showing the flashing red signal lamps were active

Majority Whip Legislator Terry Clements (D- New Rochelle, Pelham, Pelham Manor) Public Safety Committee Chair said, “As an educator, as well as in my role as Chair of Public Safety, nothing is more important to me than the safety of Westchester’s schoolchildren. With driver inattentiveness on the rise, children and their parents need to feel confident that when traveling by school bus, we will do everything in our power to ensure their safe journey to and from school. Reckless drivers who refuse to obey the law by stopping for a bus when the stop arm is extended need to be identified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson (D - Elmsford, Greenburgh, Tarrytown, White Plains) Budget & Appropriations Chair said, "The passage of this law represents a critical step toward ensuring the safety of our children. By holding vehicle owners accountable for failing to stop for school buses, we are addressing a serious threat and taking necessary measures to protect our students. This is a responsibility that all adults in our community can easily uphold to contribute to the well-being of our children. Ensuring that we comply with this law will help prevent tragedies and create a safer environment for everyone in our County."

Affordable Housing

The Board unanimously voted to pass a Bond and Land Acquisition Act to support the creation of affordable housing in New Rochelle. The Land Acquisition Act authorizes the purchase and conveyance of property to WBP Development LLC for the development of affordable condominium units. The Bond Act will fund the acquisition and planning for this project. The affordable units will be marketed to households with incomes at or below 100% of the area median income and will remain affordable for at least 50 years. Additional funding is expected from various sources, including state subsidies and tax credits.

Legislator Judah Holstein (D - Eastchester, New Rochelle, Tuckahoe) said, “Affordable housing has been a priority for Westchester County and New Rochelle for a long time. I'm thrilled that, together with my colleagues, we've passed a bill that brings affordable condominiums to New Rochelle – a first-of-its-kind development in Westchester County. This is more than just increasing housing options; it's about empowering our workforce, including teachers, firefighters, nurses, and many others to achieve homeownership. It's also about creating opportunities for young people to build a future here in our vibrant community. I am incredibly excited about this project.”

Legislator Shanae Williams (D – Yonkers) Housing & Planning Committee Chair said, “Affordable Housing is a top priority for us at the Board of Legislators. It’s important that all Westchester residents have the opportunity to invest in home ownership so they can remain here and raise their children here. Therefore we are proud to support this development of creating 126 affordable condominiums in the City of New Rochelle.”

Public Works Highlights

The Roadway Culvert Rehabilitation and Replacement Bond Act to finance a capital project for inspecting and evaluating roadway culvert structures along County roads. The study will determine necessary maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement and establish a priority-based schedule.

Budget & Appropriations Chair Jewel Williams Johnson said, “The new plan to inspect and evaluate all roadway culverts in the County is essential for maintaining our infrastructure and preventing future flooding. By proactively identifying and addressing potential issues, we can safeguard our communities, reduce the risk of damage, and ensure the safety and reliability of our roads. This initiative underscores our commitment to proactive maintenance and the well-being of our residents."

The Mountain Lakes Park Infrastructure Project Bond Act to cover costs for planning upgrades to the park's potable water system and replacing aging yurts. The water system currently requires significant maintenance and has experienced leaks, threatening temporary shutdowns of seasonal camps. Upgrading the system will conserve water and reduce repair costs. The yurts have exceeded their useful life and need replacement.

Legislator Erika Pierce (D- Bedford, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers) Public Works & Transportation Chair said, “Both of these projects are necessary infrastructure improvements. The culvert assessment project will create a much-needed process for identifying, documenting, mapping and prioritizing work on the 70+ culverts for which the County has responsibility. Not only will this allow us to better manage repairs, but it will give us the critical information we need to address flooding in these areas.”

“The Mountain Lakes Park study will lay the groundwork for a much needed update to this 1000+ acre park’s aging potable water system. This 1.9M project will look to add new wells, update the piping system and include back-up generator power, all needed to guarantee clean water to park users. Mountain Lakes is home to multiple camp programs, including Camp Morty, a free sleep-away program for some of our most at-risk youth and this project will also replace the yurts used by that program. The end result will be a better experience for all park visitors as well as for the campers who call Camp Morty home.”

Watch the Board Meeting Recap HERE