Building Union Plans Protest Over Austin Ave. Development

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A building union plans to protest what officials are calling “political foot-dragging” by Yonkers and Westchester County politicians in regards to an Austin Avenue development near Stew Leonard's. Photo Credit: Matt Bultman

YONKERS, N.Y. – A building union plans to protest what officials are calling “political foot-dragging” by Yonkers and Westchester County politicians.

More than 80 members of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counites Inc. are expected to march in front of the Westchester County Office Building in White Plains on Monday in protest of what they see as a stalled development project on Austin Avenue in Yonkers.

The $115 million plan by Morris Industrial Builders of Rutherford, N.J., would transform a lot on Austin Avenue and Prior Place into three large retail stores, which are said to be a Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Marshall’s, as well as a 400-unit residential building.

Before the plan can move forward, however, developers need to secure zoning changes from the city that would relax certain requirements. The plan is currently in the process of being reviewed by the Yonkers Planning Board.

The developer also has a request pending with the county and the Westchester Industrial Development Agency for an additional 3-acre parcel that is needed to meet the parking requirements for the Target site.

The project, if pursued, would add hundreds of new permanent jobs and create much-needed construction work, union leaders say. 

But the developer and retail tenants are being blocked by “political posturing as public officials, who are up for re-election this November, have refused to take up the matter,” they said in a statement.

In a joint letter sent last month to Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, labor and the building construction industry leaders urged the county executive to “use the full resources of your office to ensure the progress and successful completion of the proposed $115 million Austin Avenue Development project in Yonkers.”

There have, however, been concerns raised by area residents about the negative impact the development would have on the area from traffic congestion, rodent infestation and flooding.

“We want to see development,” Frederick Weaver, president of the Nepera Park-Grey Oaks Neighborhood Association said last month. “We want to see Yonkers be as big or bigger than White Plains.  But we don’t feel they are looking at it correctly.”

City Council Minority Leader John Larkin, who represents the district in which the development would occur, has expressed his concerns with the zoning change, saying a similar exception was made for Ridge Hill developers. but that was supposed to be a one-time thing.

Still, he dismissed any idea city officials were intentionally holding up the project.

“Right now it is before the city’s Planning Board and they are reviewing project,” he said. “So foot dragging, I don’t get what they’re saying.”

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