Thursday, August 13, 2015

Local Politician seeks Hillary's take on Affordable Housing in Chappaqua, NY

Outside Clinton Home, Astorino Seeks Hillary's Take On Affordable Housing

by Tom Auchterlonie




Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino holds a press conference in front of Hillary Clinton's home in Chappaqua. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie



CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino held a press conference in front of Hillary Clinton's Chappaqua home on Friday, calling on the presidential candidate and former secretary of state to weigh in on a Justice Department filing related to an affordable-housing proposal for her community.

“Now, I have a question for Hillary Clinton, who’s in her home today right behind me: does she think she lives in a discriminatory town? I don’t," Astorino said. "Does she think that the Obama administration is being very unfair in attacking her own community? I do, but we need to know where Hillary Clinton stands on this issue and she needs to speak up today.”

Astorino's remarks were in response to a filing earlier this week in which United States Attorney Preet Bharara, through an assistant, asked a federal judge to impose more than $1.6 million in fines on Weschester. The Justice Department claims that the county is in violation with a 2009 affordable housing settlement, which calls for the construction of 750 units over a seven-year period in 31 predominantly white communities.

The filing claims that Westchester failed to meet a 2014 annual benchmark for housing units with financing secured because its approval of funding for the 28-unit Chappaqua Station apartment proposal was conditioned upon state approvals that weren't granted until January 2015.

The approvals were for building and fire code variances, which were authorized by a state review board.

Astorino disputed the claim, arguing that Westchester is in compliance and accusing the government of unilaterally changing settlement terms.

Chappaqua Station's developer, Conifer Realty, is seeking to build on a site that is roughly a third of an acre and located at 54 Hunts Place. The location, which is by railroad tracks and the Saw Mill River Parkway, has drawn opposition from some residents, who have expressed safety concerns about the project. New Castle town officials have also expressed safety concerns.

The filing also sides with a report from the settlement's monitor, who argued that Westchester should have gotten more involved in New Castle's review of the project. Not doing so, the filing argues, contradicts a settlement provision that names litigation against municipalities or offering financial incentives as available measures.

Astorino argues that Westchester suing New Castle would only slow down progress towards getting housing and that the town is not being discriminatory, a point he sought Clinton's comment on.

Astorino approached Clinton's front gate and corresponded with her through an aide. He told reporters that she was on the phone and was heading out, but asked for his personal phone number, which he provided.

Moments later, a black van, dubbed "Scooby" by Clinton's campaign and the national press, exited the property and was driven away. It was not clear if Clinton was inside the van, which has tinted windows.

Conifer Realty filed a building-permit application to the town earlier this month, Astorino spokesman Ned McCormack told Daily Voice this week.

In May, the New Castle Town Board voted to renew a special permit for the project, which was originally granted in 2013 by a previous Town Board. The vote came weeks after a state judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the developer against the town, which contended that the permit was good for 25 years instead of the usual 18 months.

Astorino also reiterated his longstanding allegation that federal officials, through their conduct in the settlement implementation, are trying to override local zoning control
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Monday, August 10, 2015

Toxic Waste concentration is 2000 times legal limit at Marinwood Village (01:37)



This brief clip is from the full hearing on the Toxic Waste cleanup for former Prosperity Cleaners site at Marinwood Plaza. It is alleged that Prosperity Cleaners dumped Toxic Waste (PCE)  behind their store in Marinwood Plaza, creating a massive environmental problem.  The PCE has migrated through the soil under the 101 Freeway and is heading straight for the water well located on the Silveira Ranch. The well provides drinking water for the for the residents and the dairy herd.  Potentially thousands of people including pregnant women and children could be affected by the toxic contamination of their milk if the site is not cleaned up immediately.

Supervisor Susan Adams and Assemblymen Mark Levine lobbied the RWQCB to remove the current clean up order and extend the date for compliance so that it will fit their financing and construction schedule.  Supervisor Susan Adams has a PHD in Nursing and we are shocked that she would protect the development interests over the public health.  She ran on "Cows not Condos" to protect Marinwood from over development in her initial campaign for Supervisor. She is running for re-election in 2014.

Read more on PCE environmental cleanup HERE


Time is running out. 

Toxic Waste Cleanup of Marinwood Plaza- Renee Silveira speaks



Renee Silveira describes the shock of discovery that a toxic waste spill had spread perilously close to the Silveira Dairy Ranch well water. She did not receive notification until years after the initial discovery of the problem by Hoytt Enterprises.


Marinwood Plaza Toxic Waste Problem " Dry Cleaners: The Scourge of Commercial Real Estate"

Dry Cleaners: The Scourge of Commercial Real Estate

Real estate professionals are generally aware of the risks posed by gas stations and tend to exclude these parcels or implement risk management strategies prior to acquiring title or control over properties containing these businesses. In contrast, the environmental risks of dry cleaners are often overlooked. Worse yet, dry cleaners tend to be small business with limited resources and usually do not have environmental insurance. As a result, dry cleaners are the leading source of environmental liability at commercial retail properties.
Real estate professionals are generally aware of the risks posed by gas stations and tend to exclude these parcels or implement risk management strategies prior to acquiring title or control over properties containing these businesses. In contrast, the environmental risks of dry cleaners are often overlooked. Worse yet, dry cleaners tend to be small business with limited resources and usually do not have environmental insurance. As a result, dry cleaners are the leading source of environmental liability at commercial retail properties.
pce_source_schematic_for_webHow Prevalent are Contaminated Dry Cleaner Sites?
Dry cleaners generate relatively large volumes of hazardous substances-EPA estimates the average dry cleaner generates 660 gallons of hazardous wastes a year. Moreover, due to poor housekeeping, dry cleaners have historically had a high frequency of spills and discharges. Some notable facts:
  • Studies by EPA, the State Coalition for Remediation of Dry Cleaners (SCRD) and others have estimated that 75% of the approximately 30,000 dry cleaners currently in operation have contamination (i.e., 22, 500 actively contaminated sites);
  • Over 150 dry cleaners are listed in the EPA CERCLIS and over 200 dry cleaners appear in the New York environmental remediation database;
  • EPA estimates there may be an additional 9,000 to 90,000 former dry cleaner sites that likely present a significant risk of contamination;
  • Studies by California Water Boards in 1992 and 2007  found that dry cleaners are a major contributor to groundwater contamination;
  • A  1992 California Water Board study found that the leading cause of dry cleaner contamination was wastewater discharges to sewers and septic systems;
  • 1999Montana study found dry cleaners discharges to sewers were a leading cause of groundwater contamination;
  • 2002 Florida study found that dry cleaner contamination had migrated off-site at 57% of the contaminated sites;
  • 1999 Lawrence Livermore National Lab study the median dry cleaner plume length was approximately 1600 ft while SCRD found the average; plume to be 1270 feet. EPA reported that the 90th percentile plume length was 2585 feet and that 89% of dry cleaner plumes exceeded 100 feet.
To see maps depicting long dry cleaner plumes, click here;
  • The dry cleaner cleanup is between $400K to $500K but can range up to $3MM. EPA estimated that the total national cleanup cost for dry cleaners could approach $7.6 billon.
Toxic Tort Liability
In addition to remediation costs, contaminated dry cleaner sites can expose property owners to significant toxic tort liability because these business tend to be located in densely populated areas, the contaminants do not easily degrade, are highly volatile and can migrate considerable distances so that the contamination can pose a risk of vapor intrusion to residences, schools and other buildings located above the plumes.
.Due Diligence Challenges
Historic dry cleaners pose a particular risk to property owners because the former operations used considerably more solvents and the equipment in use at that time resulted in numerous spills. However, it can be challenging to determine if dry cleaners operated in the past much less determining which one was responsible for the contamination.
Click here for information on where spills at  dry cleaners commonly occur.
Click here for more detail on the diligence challenges involved with historic dry cleaners
Click here and here for blog posts discussing recent cases involving historic dry cleaners.
Dry Cleaner Funds- Do Not Be Fooled!
A dozen states have established dry cleaner programs that will fund investigation and remediation of dry cleaners. Program eligibility, the scope of liability relief and funding is highly variable. Indeed, SCRD estimates that these state trust funds will only be able to finance cleanups at 5,000 sites.
Purchasers, lenders, environmental consultants and real estate lawyers often find false solace if a site has been enrolled in a state dry cleaner program and has been assigned a low priority. However, most state programs prioritize sites based on impacts to drinking water and do not take vapor intrusion into account when ranking sites for funding priority. Thus, while owners may be sitting back waiting for their sites to receive funding, vapors from the migrating plume could be wafting into residential neighborhoods or in into other sensitive tenant spaces such as day care centers or schools.
Click here for more information about state dry cleaner programs
While current dry cleaners use significantly less solvent and equipment that is less prone to leaks, improper maintenance and operational practices can still result in releases to the environment. Property owners should ensure that dry cleaning tenants use best management practices such as having solvent-grade epoxy floor coating and secondary containment for the drum storage areas as well as the dry cleaning equipment.    

First it was a ban on plastic bags. Then came the workplace prohibition on e-cigarettes.

L.A. maps out sweeping transportation overhaul




Traffic calming measures such as this red-painted crosswalk are part of L.A.'s Mobility Plan 2035, which backers say puts a new priority on road safety and expands the options for people who don’t want to drive. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
By DAVID ZAHNISERcontact the reporter


First it was a ban on plastic bags. Then came the workplace prohibition on e-cigarettes.

Now the Los Angeles City Council is embarking on a new and controversial exercise in behavior modification: Getting more Angelenos to give up, or at least reduce their reliance on, the automobile.

Council members are on the verge of approving a sweeping new transportation policy, one that calls for hundreds of miles of new bus-only lanes, bicycle lanes and "traffic calming" measures over the next 20 years. The initiative, dubbed Mobility Plan 2035, has sparked a debate over the ramifications of redesigning major corridors such as Van Nuys Boulevard, Sherman Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Backers of the mobility plan call it an "aspirational" document, one that puts a new priority on road safety and expands the options for people who don't want to drive. Opponents say the city's own environmental analysis shows the plan will significantly increase traffic congestion by subtracting car lanes from an array of major boulevards.

"Cars are just going to sit there," said Don Parker, a board member with Fix the City, an advocacy group fighting the plan. "So labeling it a mobility plan is just not reflective of what the plan actually does."

The plan represents the city's most significant update of its transportation policy since 1999, a time when the city had considerably fewer rail and rapid bus lines.


The document, which goes to the council for a vote later this month, calls for an additional 300 miles of protected bike lanes, which are separated from traffic by curbs or other physical barriers. It also identifies 117 miles of new bus-only lanes and another 120 miles of streets where bus-only lanes would operate during rush hour.

Some corridors — including Sunset, Venice and Lankershim boulevards — would get both bus-only lanes and protected bike lanes under the plan.

Canoga Park resident Brent Butterworth, who frequently uses a bike to get to his appointments, welcomes those types of improvements. Newly installed bike lanes in Northridge have made Reseda Boulevard a much more appealing place to visit, he said.

If the mobility plan's projects are completed, "you'll have a little bit more congestion," the freelance writer said. "But people will look for alternative means of getting around."

In recent weeks, critics have zeroed in on the city's environmental impact report, which concluded the mobility plan's projects would increase not just congestion but also noise and cut-through traffic in residential neighborhoods.


Brent Butterworth rides his bike on a protected bike lane on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge. Butterworth supports the Mobility Plan 2035 effort. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The city's report also warned of "inadequate" access for emergency vehicles. And it found that during the evening rush hour, the number of major streets operating at an E or F level — the lowest so-called Level of Service ranking available — would double.

Level of Service, a long-used and often-criticized measure of traffic congestion, examines the number of vehicles that move through an intersection during a particular period.

Using that standard, officials concluded that the percentage of major street segments with E and F grades during the evening rush hour would grow from 18% to about 22% in 2035, without the proposed mobility plan. With the plan, the percentage of streets with the lowest grades would climb to nearly 36%, the analysis says.

That figure raises "very serious first-responder questions," said Richard Katz, a planning commissioner who spent eight years on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board. If the number of congested intersections grows significantly, firefighters and ambulances will have a more difficult time reaching their destinations, he said.

"Taking away lanes, which creates congestion, to try and force people to choose a different method of transportation other than the car, is a horrible way to solve a congestion problem," he said. "Why? It creates more congestion … and people don't respond well to being forced to do things."

Planning officials say they relied on "conservative, vehicle-centric" projections in evaluating the mobility plan's potential effects. Put another way, they assumed that the percentage of drivers who choose to give up their cars and start bicycling, walking and taking public transit will remain in line with current traffic patterns.

Westside Councilman Mike Bonin, a key backer of the plan, says he does not believe the worst-case scenarios used by the city will come true. Instead, he pointed to figures that indicate the mobility plan's projects will increase walking by 38%, transit use by 56% and bicycling by 170%.

"We've seen plenty of evidence that behavior is changing and will continue to change," Bonin added. "You have generations of people under the age of 35 … who are choosing to live car free and car-lite."

Not every bus and bike project listed in the mobility plan will be built, said Senior City Planner Claire Bowin. And those that are considered will be subject to additional scrutiny, including more environmental reviews and input from public safety officials to make sure emergency vehicles have the proper access, she said.

L.A. officials say the mobility plan is an acknowledgment the city can't build its way out of congestion problems. Widening streets is no longer feasible or even desirable, they say. And new freeways are out of the question because of the cost and space involved.

"A paradigm shift of this kind often causes growing pains," said Connie Llanos, spokeswoman for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who supports the mobility plan. "But the long-term benefits outweigh the impacts."

City officials say an alternative method of evaluating traffic projections, Vehicle Miles Traveled, resulted in a more favorable analysis of the mobility plan. That approach estimates total vehicle miles traveled in a city or neighborhood during a specified period.

Under that analysis, completion of the mobility plan would result in about 35 million miles per day being traveled on L.A. surface streets in 2035. Without the plan, that number would grow to more than 38 million, the city found.

State officials are in the process of eliminating Level of Service as a tool for measuring traffic in the state's environmental review process, said Juan Matute, associate director of UCLA's Institute of Transportation Studies. The Vehicle Miles Traveled system is a more accurate way of assessing the environmental impacts of major construction projects, he said.

Regardless of the tool used to assess the city's plan, Matute expects some drivers will face added delays as the city shifts its emphasis to alternative modes of travel.

"There are going to be people who are going to be worse off as a result of implementation" of the plan, he said. "And those are going to be the people that continue driving the same or greater distances as they do now."

david.zahniser@latimes.com