Build Up New York activist Joaquin Vallejo urged the Port Chester Village Board of Trustees on Monday to consider schools, local businesses and homeowners,
as well as services like police and firefighters before giving tax breaks to wealthy real estate investors like Starwood Capital Group.
The United Hospital site for which Starwood is seeking zoning change so it could develop it into a mega hotel-retail complex would be the single largest
development in the history of Port Chester, he said. Adding that it could generate good jobs as well as tax revenues to fund village services such as schools
and the police and fire departments.
But, instead, the board is considering giving Starwood steep discounts on taxes even as it recently fired all eight professional firefighters because the
village wants to save money and turned the department into a volunteer unit. The decision has caused much bitterness and a board vote on a resolution to
reinstate the firefighters failed by a 4-3 vote.
A couple of dozen BUNY members joined firefighters who rallied and protested outside the village hall before the meeting. Vallejo has lived in Port Chester
for 39 year and sent his children through the village’s public school system. He had grandchildren in Port Chester schools now.
He told trustees he was worried at the bitterness generated by their decision to dismiss the firefighters.
“Starwood Capital Group won’t commit to providing good, safe jobs or paying its fair share of taxes. It rejects affordable housing as a component of this
development and has insisted on extracting tax benefits that should go to local businesses that are the backbone of our community,” Vallejo told members of
the board at a packed meeting on Monday.
“We need to put real resources in place for the good of our village,” he added. “Good funding of our schools will make a real difference. We shouldn’t have
to make a choice between having professional, career firefighters and volunteer ones. What’s next? Getting rid of our cops?”