Friday, June 8, 2007

Day Laborers' Hiring Site Redux

In a kind of end game to the successful lawsuit brought by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) against the Village of Mamaroneck after the closing of the day laborers' hiring site at Columbus Park, the Hispanic Resource Center (HRC) is in discussions with the Straight Gate Church, on Madison Street at the corner of Old White Plains Road, about establishing a hiring site at the church.

The village, itself, is not party to the arrangement. Indeed, at the trustees' May 31 meeting, at which Washingtonville residents expressed concerns about the increased traffic the site would bring to their neighborhood, Trustee Tom Murphy stated, "What we can say is that there is a discussion going on between the Hispanic Resource Center and the Straight Gate Church about the HRC opening a day laborer hiring site at that location. It is a private discussion between the church and the HRC."

Mayor Phil Trifiletti later reinforced Murphy's statement, saying, "The Village of Mamaroneck has nothing to do with with setting up a site where laborers will be picked up. That will be done by the Hispanic Resource Center and any private organization that chooses to set up a site."

However, if a site is set up at the church, it is likely that PRLDEF would not insist that the village pay the legal expenses that Federal Judge Colleen McMahon awarded the plaintiffs after ruling that the village and its police department had violated the laborers' 14th Amendment rights.

Prior to the closing of the Columbus Park site, the Straight Gate Church had been considered as an alternative, but then, as now, neighbors objected, fearful of the danger of increased traffic in an area with a lot of children.

At the May 31 meeting, a Madison Street resident repeated that same worry, but went further, saying that, because of the April 15 flood, which most severely impacted Washingtonville, "All our house values have gone down, and now that they're putting day laborers in the area. . .it's going to worsen." She asked if compensatory tax reductions would be an option for homeowners in the area. "If my tenant leaves," she asked, "how can I get someone to help pay the high taxes? No one willl want to come into a flood zone, no one's going to want to come in and go out the front door and see day laborers.. . ."

She also asked, "Where are these trucks [of contractors picking up laborers] going to go?. . They'll be coming in from all over, as we know. . . What's going to happen on Saturdays, when there isn't a crossing guard because. . .the kids aren't going to school, they're just going out to play?. . .I think it's an accident waiting to happen."

Murphy assured her that trucks will not be allowed onto side streets, like Madison and Washington, and will have to enter and exit the church parking lot via Old White Plains Road.

"Like, you're promising me that?" she asked.

Murphy responded that the village had refused a request by the organizers of the hiring site that trucks be allowed on the side streets. He added that, if they do use those streets, "they'll be
ticketed and stopped. . .there'll be enforcement.. . .There is no way we envisioned trucks to go down those streets.. . .It was something that they wanted, and we said no."

And Trustee Tony Fava noted that traffic problems could be alleviated by making the Waverly Avenue bridge one-way so that cars could not go from Fenimore Road onto Waverly Avenue and "filter through the whole area." He said the proposal had been submitted to the Traffic Commission.

Madison Street resident Cindy Casterella suggested that, once an employment center is operating there, the church, would, in effect, be "a business". She asked if, like other new businesses that open in the village, it would have to submit a traffic study. "When the day care center opened over at Barry Avenue and Grove Street," she pointed out, "they did a whole lot of studies for traffic, and everybody had input.. . .So, are you asking them to do that?"

"They'll do what they're required to do under the law," Murphy responded. "I have no intention of putting anybody in a situation where they're unsafe. If it doesn't work, we'll make it work."

Murphy went on to point out, "Most of the people on this board weren't involved in decisions that caused the problem that we're now trying to fix. So, what we're trying to do is. . .get the village out of a difficult situation without causing any more negative feeling in the community."

At its May 22 meeting, the Rye Town Council approved a resolution offering taxpayers whose homes are in a flood plain and were severly impacted by the April 15 nor'easter the opportunity to request the town assessor to revise their assessments downward.
Those who think they are eligible should contact the assessor's office.

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