Unsafe uninhabitable Havana | Mt Kisco Real Estate

HAVANA — Rafael Álvarez was up at 6:30 a.m. to warm milk for his baby daughter when he heard the sound of pebbles falling.

“That’s when the floor below us came loose. We were left hanging in the air, then fell into the abyss.”

Álvarez, 41, a baker, was buried in rubble to his waist. His mother, daughter and two others were killed when the 101-year-old building collapsed.

“Save the babies!” were his mother’s last words, he said.

In Havana, some of the same architectural gems that draw tens of thousands of American tourists crash to the ground every year. Causes range from weather and neglect to faulty renovations and theft of structural beams.

Carlos Guerrero, 45, said he and his family live “like scared dogs” in a crumbling building along Merced Street.

Neighbors tell them, “Get out of there! It’s going to collapse!”

“It makes you feel like going and living under a bridge,” said Guerrero, who vows to grab a machete and seek revenge on housing officials if anything happens to his wife and three children.

Some 3,856 partial or total building collapses were reported in Havana from 2000 to 2013, not including 2010 and 2011 when no records were kept.

The collapses worsened an already severe housing shortage. Havana alone had a deficit of 206,000 homes in 2016, official figures show.

The housing crisis is one of the most pressing challenges facing Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who vowed to improve housing after taking charge of the communist nation of 11 million people in April.

Havana, a city of about 2 million people, had a shortage of 206,000 homes in 2016, official figures show.

Havana, a city of about 2 million people, had a shortage of 206,000 homes in 2016, official figures show. (Photo: Tracey Eaton, Special to USA TODAY)

Havana officials have won dozens of international awards for their work to restore the historic sector known as Old Havana, with styles ranging from Baroque and neoclassical to Art Deco.

UNESCO calls Old Havana one of Latin America’s “most notable” historic city centers and named it a World Heritage site in 1982.

Havana officials use tourism revenue to renovate many architectural treasures, but can’t keep up with the decay.

Unsafe, uninhabitable

Officials estimate 28,000 people live in buildings that could collapse at any moment. Some residents refuse to leave structures that authorities have declared unsafe.

“Of course we’re scared but what are we going to do?” said Yanelis Flores, 42, who rejected a government offer to move into a shelter.

“I will wait for a house,” said Flores from the eighth floor of the former Hotel Astor, which had American management and 200 rooms in the 1930s.

Today, daylight shines through terrifying cracks in the walls.

“This is worse than a pig pen,” Flores said. “It’s rotting.”

The third-floor staircase collapsed in April 2017.

“It was a tremendous explosion – boom!” second-floor resident Yuslemy Díaz recalled. “People on the third and fourth floors were stranded because they couldn’t get down. It was a madhouse.”

Workers brought in a truck-mounted crane to deliver meals to stranded residents.

They built a makeshift wooden staircase. Authorities began relocating residents on the 9th and 10th floors.

Díaz, 32, a manicurist, is eager to move.

‘You live with fear’

“The moment it starts to rain and a little stone falls next to you, you think it was the building. You live with fear. A building doesn’t tell you, ‘I’m going to fall tomorrow at 3 p.m.’ It falls – boom! – at any time day or night. It doesn’t warn you.”

Before the stairway failure, residents say, people had been prying valuable marble tiles from the walls, weakening the staircase.

Yunier Angulo, 31, a butcher, left the building seconds before the stairway crumbled. A man just behind him was seriously hurt.

Angulo’s friends told him he was lucky. “You were born that day,” they said. But he doesn’t feel any safer and said he sleeps “with one eye open and the other closed.”

“The building could collapse tomorrow. It gets worse every day.”

Across town, Leydis Castro, 77, has a leaky ceiling, but refuses to ask for a handout. “The government doesn’t have a duty to fix everyone’s house.”

Her neighbors disagreed and wouldn’t pay a cent when the city offered repairs in exchange for a monthly fee, she said.

Fidel Castro promised to demolish “hellish tenements” and build safe, modern housing when he took power in 1959.

Today, Magaly Marrero, 65, said her apartment is so bad that she showers in the kitchen and relieves herself in a bucket.

“Sometimes I say, ‘God, how long will I live in these conditions?’ This is no life,” she said. “What can I aspire to? To die buried because one day the roof comes down and crushes me?”

No deaths, injuries data

Cuban officials don’t release figures on those killed or injured in building collapses.

Álvarez, the baker, said before his second-story apartment came down on July 15, 2015, workers on the ground floor had been using a jackhammer to strip the walls to the brick. He said cracks from below began inching toward his apartment. His mother complained, but city inspectors said the workers weren’t to blame.

Álvarez said his wife, Lizbett, 41, fell head first into the rubble during the building collapse and was in a coma for 22 days. She recovered, but doesn’t like talking about the episode and won’t walk past 409 Havana Street where her home once stood.

Álvarez fractured his spine in three places, but dismissed his injuries and praised the victims.

Rafael Álvarez said his mother who was killed in the building collapse taught him “to be strong, to persevere. To be a good person, to get along with everyone.”

Rafael Álvarez said his mother who was killed in the building collapse taught him “to be strong, to persevere. To be a good person, to get along with everyone.” (Photo: Tracey Eaton, Special to USA TODAY)

He said his mother, Mayra Páez, 60, shouted “Save the babies!” until her voice grew silent.

Rescuers told him she suffocated. She was a former nurse, “much loved in the neighborhood,” her son said.

She taught him “to be strong, to persevere. To be a good person, to get along with everyone.”

No one could save his daughter, Genolan, 3. She was “a happy girl,” her father said. “She talked all the time and danced a lot.”

His nephew, Jorge Álvarez, 18, wanted to be a welder.

“He was my life,” his uncle said.

The teenager’s girlfriend, Glendys Kindelán, had just turned 18. Her mother, Yaima Kindelán, said she frantically searched for her daughter at hospitals before finding her body, wrapped in gauze at a funeral home.

“I couldn’t see her face,” she said.

She said her daughter “a very respectful girl, a student” who dressed as a nurse for a photo shoot on her 15th birthday. Her mom joined her as a police officer.

The teen had two dogs, Yonky and Princesa, who rarely left her side. “Having those little animals that she loved so much, she wanted to become a veterinarian,” Kindelán said.

After the accident, authorities investigated an architect and four others who had planned to open a fast-food restaurant at the site.

This summer, authorities told Álvarez they didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute anyone.

“I started to cry. I expected that justice would be done. They said, ‘Calm down, sir. Calm down. Do you want some water?’

read more…

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/12/02/havana-cuba-collapsing-buildings-housing-unesco/1998606002/

Bedford Town News | Bedford Real Estate

We are coming up on our last Town Board meeting of 2018 on Tuesday, December 18 at which I expect we will adopt amendment
to the 2018-2027 Capital Plan and adopt a new wireless telecommunications facilities law.
Coming up at the December 18
Town Board Meeting
Proposed Wireless Telecommunications Law –
Public Hearing
As I reported last week the Town Board held a public hearing on December 4 on the proposed law to replace the Town’s existing 19 year old law.  Please see link for a discussion of the proposed law and the reasons the Board intends to take action on it.  Working with members of the Communications Committee and the Town’s counsel, we have incorporated revisions to reflect comments which we received at the public hearing or in e-mails or other communications.
The Town’s counsel prepared a memorandum dated December 14 which summarizes the law and changes since the version considered at the December 4 public hearing. Here’s the link for the memorandum.
The Board will resume the public hearing at 6:55 PM on Tuesday, December 18.
Amendments to 2018 through 2027 Capital Plan
The Board met on December 4 in Work Session to further discuss the proposed amendments to the Capital Plan. This session followed a work session in November.  As I mentioned last week, the Board considered amendments which increase the proposed Capital Plan spending but by a lesser increase than the version considered in November. The Board will consider on the 18tha change since the proposed amendments the Board reviewed on the 4th.
The change responds to suggestions made by Deputy Supervisor Lee Roberts and Councilman Don Scott and does not affect the total amount.  It is to combine the proposed capital expenditures for Zema at $100,000 and Indian Hill at $328,000 and apply the combined amount of $428,000 funds to be available for Indian Hills, Leatherman’s Ridge, Vernon Hills and Zema. Open Space reserves would provide $214,000 of the $428,000.
The priorities would be addressing the pervasive invasive plants in Zema (and to some extent Vernon Hills); clean-up of rubbish and debris (all areas except Indian Hills, which presently is not easily accessible); and planning, engineering and, if possible, creation of an access drive off of Indian Hill Road.  The Recreation and Parks Department would be responsible for the work and would engage neighbors, the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, Conservation Board, Wetlands Control Commission, neighbors and other stakeholders.
 In addition, Bill Heidepriem will consult with Kevin Winn and Jeff Osterman in planning and carrying out the work.
The Board plans on taking action on Tuesday with the adoption of the amendments to the Capital Plan together with corresponding bond resolutions.  The Board will not authorize the actual expenditure of funds until it has followed its required process of seeking quotes or bids, reviewing contracts and deciding whether or not then to proceed.   Read the proposed amendments here.
OTHER NEWS & UPDATES
Update from the Traffic Safety Working Group
The Traffic Safety Working Group (TSWG) held its last meeting of 2018 on Wednesday, December 12.
As some residents have requested, I prepared with the help of staff a summary of actions the Town has taken on traffic, passenger and pedestrian safety in 2018:
  • Police Department Enforcement Actions – The Police Department has issued 3371 summonses for moving violations (including 511 commercial vehicle, 739 speeding, 467 Seatbelt, 152 Cell Phone/texting, 56 Stop sign violations, and 12 DWI arrests. January –November 2018).
  • Child Safety Seats- 81 Seats were installed and/or inspected
  •  I-684   The Town Board has been working with our elected officials and with the Regional Office of the New York State Department of Transportation to secure the repaving of the concrete portion of I-684 running through Bedford.
  • Planned Reconfiguration of Intersection of Harris and Babbitt Roads   the Town has applied to Westchester County for a Community Development Block Grant which would fund in part improvements to this intersection, which would be designed to improve safety exiting Babbitt Road onto Harris Road.
  • Variable Message Boards   Upon recommendation of Police Chief Melvin Padilla the Town Board authorized the purchase of two additional variable message speed boards.  With the purchase, the Town now owns and deploys 10 variable message boards to announce events affecting traffic flows and to calm traffic.
  • Sidewalks   To improve pedestrian safety, the Town installed new sidewalks along Valley Road between Cottage Place and New Street, and along Church Street near Babbitt Road. We also modified the sidewalk near the Katonah Elementary School in order to install a new crosswalk.
  • Emergency Backup Power for Traffic Lights   The Town Board has authorized in its Capital Plan the purchase of emergency backup power systems to automatically start in the event of a power outage which cuts the power for the traffic lights at the intersection of Route 35 and Route 22 and at Route 35 and I-684 overpass.
  • Pedestrian Activated Lights – Route 117 and Haines  On petition from the Town, the NYS Department of Transportation has agreed to install pedestrian activated signaling for the cross walk near Haines Road over Route 117 in Bedford Hills. This portion of the road is four lanes in width and poses pedestrian hazards.
  • Raised Cross Walk and Speed Humps – Cherry Street The Town replaced the crosswalk in front of 425 Cherry Street with a raised crosswalk and installed a speed table at Kelly Circle near the stop line and a speed table near Quicks Lane.
  • LED Light Conversion  The Town is proceeding with the conversion of 571 street lights in NYSEG service area to LED lamps. LED saves energy and reduces electricity costs.  It also provides more uniform lighting for greater safety for pedestrians and motorists, and has much less frequent equipment failures than the lighting which is being replaced.
Increase in Shredder Events in 2019
One of the services which we hear the community uses a good deal is the shredder events at the Recycling Center and in May at the Crusher Road Highway Facility during Clean Up weekend.
The Town Board included additional funding in the 2019 Town budget to enable the Public Works Department to increase shredder events from quarterly to monthly.
The following is the schedule:
Saturdays
1/5, 2/2, 4/6, 6/1, 7/6, 8/3, 10/5, 11/2, 12/7
Town Recycling Center
343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills 10507
11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Tuesday
3/5
Town Recycling Center
343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills 10507
11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Thursday
9/5
Town Recycling Center
343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills 10507
11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Saturday
5/4
Crusher Road Highway Yard
1 Crusher Road Bedford Village 10506
9:00 to 12:00.
Further Update on Route 117
As I mentioned last week, Con Edison’s resurfacing of the Route 117 south of Green Lane and on Green Lane will not occur before winter, but rather in the Spring of 2019.
The reason is that the precipitous drop in temperature and sustained low temperatures over the past few weeks has not made the work feasible.  Very low road surface temperatures imperil the durability of the resurfacing.  On a positive note, as we’ve requested, DOT is requiring Con Edison to perform a curb to curb resurfacing as early as practicable in the Spring of 2019 and also to repair unsafe surfaces.
The Town is requiring the same with respect to Green Lane between Route 117 and the tracks.
Notice of Flag at Half staff:
This notice from the was sent to the Town via Town of Bedford Police
Sgt. Nicolas Fusco#111:
click link below for notice:
PRIOR POSTS OF CONTINUED RELEVANCE
2019 Town Budget Adopted
The Board held a public hearing on the 2019 Town budget following which we adopted the budget. The budget is within the New York State Property Tax Cap with approximately a 2.8% tax increase and continues to provide for a high level of services. Comptroller Abraham Zambrano forecasts an increase in fund balances (reserves) for 2018 which will add to already strong balances.
my budget message (portions of which are excerpted below).
The following are key features of the budget:
The final budget is the same as the Preliminary Budget which the Town Board adopted last month and provides as follows: The appropriations for all funds is $39,076,643 and the projected non-tax revenues total $13,825,511, leaving an amount of $25,251,132 to be levied as taxes; this amount is $12,308 below the calculated allowable tax cap of $25,263,440.  The total General Fund’s Preliminary budget is $22,530,845 which requires $13,012,139 to be raised by taxes at a tax rate of $22.0477 per $1000 of assessed valuation. The proposed rate is $0.60 higher than the rate for 2018, which represents a 2.81% tax rate increase. The General Fund Appropriations will increase $1,143,030 or 5.34% higher than for 2018.
The budget includes the following increases:
  • Personnel expense: $119,444
  • Health insurance and dental: $726,753; note that we do not have the final percentage increase for our health insurance plan. There is some possibility that the increase may be lower than we used for purposes of adopting the budget.  To the extent it is lower, any decrease in funds required will be added to contingency.
  • Contingency of approximately $458,000 – as noted above, this amount may increase.
  • NYS retirement system in the amount of $132,494
  • The restoration of a maintenance position in the Building Department at an estimated annual cost including benefits of $90,000
  • Recreation & Parks Programs of $81,450
  • Paving budget: $75,000 to $1.3 million.
  • Hiring of a part time Parking Enforcement Officer: $22,000.
  • Open Space Fund in the amount of $59,454 (the first year of the one-quarter percent increase authorized by voter referendum and capped at a total of 2.0% in 2022)
  • Recycling center: $32,000
  • Libraries in the amount of $33,000 ($11,000 per library)
  • Senior Advocate Program: $16,000 for full funding
I wish to thank Comptroller Abraham Zambrano and our department heads for their diligence and prudent fiscal management.
Reusable Bags
The Reusable Bag law provisions become effective on April 1 when for large retailers (Shop Rite, DeCiccos, Key Foods, Kohls and CVS) will be required to charge 10c for paper or plastic check out bags where the customer does not his/her own bag.
Ellen Calves of the Reusable Bag Task Force presented an update on the work of the Reusable Bag Task Force.  She reported that the Task Force has completed its surveys to establish baselines of present reusable bag use. The Task Force also is working with smaller retailers regarding their use of reusable bags with the goal for greater use among all merchants.
Post March Storm Actions Regarding Utilities
On September 4, the Town Board adopted a resolution asking the Public Service Commission for an independent assessment of NYSEG’s performance
NYSEG’s record of poor service, inadequate storm preparedness, and inadequate storm response prompted the Town Board in September to call upon the Public Service Commission (PSC) to open an investigation on NYSEG’s service quality and other issues which the Town Board raised in its resolution. I received a letter from the PSC on October 30 notifying me that the PSC agreed to open a proceeding (Case 18-E-0650) to investigate these matters.
Though I can’t say for certain, it does appear that our action has gotten NYSEG’s attention. Two weeks ago Public Works Commissioner Kevin Winn and I met with a senior official at NYSEG who acknowledged the need to “harden” its infrastructure in Bedford including three circuits whose performance has been poor.
In addition, NYSEG is weighing our request (as supported by other Town supervisors) to accelerate NYSEG’s tree trimming cycle from five years to three years (tree trimming is one of the most effective measures to reduce storm-related outages). I should note that Con Edison has a three year tree trimming cycle and at the property owner’s request, will remove the wood.
NYSEG’s representative identified other actions regarding its Bedford infrastructure that will be addressed. He also acknowledged that NYSEG’s communication with the community during the March power outage left much to be desired and pledged to significantly improve communication.
Be assured that we will continue to press NYSEG on these points. We have been having parallel conversations with Con Edison
Vacancies on Blue Mountain Housing Development Board
The Board is accepting applications for vacancies on the Blue Mountain Housing Development Board and Bedford Housing Agency. Background in residential real estate construction, planning and design, architecture or engineering is sought. If you are interested in serving, please e-mail your resume with a cover letter to supervisor@bedfordny.gov. You also may mail it to me at Supervisor, 321 Bedford Road, Bedford Hills, New York 10507.
Leaf Pick Up
Please be reminded that the second round of leaf pick has not been completed in all leaf pick up areas, however, the date has passed for putting leaves out for collection.
Once final collection has occurred in your area, all leaves must be bagged. Your cooperation is appreciated. Any questions please call the Highway Department at 666-7669
LED Project Moving Ahead
We are delighted that the Town’s LED project is underway with the conversion of some 571 street lamps in NYSEG service area to energy efficient (and cost efficient) LED. $250,000 of the project cost is funded through a grant from NYSERDA.
The following is further information from Public Works Commissioner Kevin Winn regarding the project:
BEDFORD STREET LIGHT UPGRADE PROJECT
PUBLIC INFORMATION NOVEMBER 2018
The Town of Bedford has purchased from New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) and intends to convert all of the existing 571 utility pole mounted streetlights to light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures. The purpose of the project is to improve the quality of street lighting in our lighting districts while utilizing less energy, reducing the Town’s carbon footprint, and reducing the Town’s annual electricity cost. LED fixtures provide a better quality of light, enhancing safety and visibility at night. The existing street lighting infrastructure, consisting of high pressure sodium and mercury vapor lights, is inefficient in terms of power usage per lumen, poorly focuses the light, and has much shorter bulb life, leading to more frequent light outrages. Installation of efficient streetlights is also a demonstration of the Town’s commitment to resource conservation that can be seen and emulated by Town residents and business owners.
The proposed streetlights will be a warm white color, on the yellow side rather than blue side of the color spectrum, in order to avoid the glaring aspect that can be associated with some LED lights. Light output levels are being selected to provide uniform, appropriate levels of light in both residential and commercial areas in the lighting districts. The new fixtures are designed to focus light on roads and sidewalks, and will result in much less stray light than the current fixtures.
The Town intends to complete the majority of this project between December 2018 and April 2019. The project is funded through a $250,000 grant from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and through the cost savings that will occur from reduced energy use. There will be no cost increase to properties within the lighting districts.
Please contact Kevin Winn at Bedford Department of Public Works at 914-666-7669 or kwinn@bedfordny.gov with any questions or comments on this project.
Possible Cell Tower at Town Property at 425 Cherry Street
Homeland Towers, a company which builds towers for wireless providers, including Verizon, has submitted to the Planning Board an application to erect a cell tower on property on Haines Road (past Dunkin Donuts) owned by Petre Glass & Mirror. Homeland has stated that the tower is required to provide needed capacity for the provision of personal cellular service.
The Town has also had discussions with Homeland for an alternative site, which would be to construct a cell tower at the Town’s property at 425 Cherry Street. As such, only one of these locations will be necessary to address the providers’ concerns. Each application provides for collocating up to four carriers, obviating need for another tower in the area.
The Planning Board will be responsible for reviewing the application for the Petre Glass site and the Town Board will review the alternate site at 425 Cherry Street. We will ask Homeland to provide balloon tests for both sites and will notify the community when these tests are going to be performed.  In the event the Tower is located at 425 Cherry Street it would allow the Town to significantly improve police and other first responder communications and equipment.
The next steps are the Town coordinating the review process between the Town Board and the Planning Board to allow sufficient due diligence while also avoiding duplication of effort.
Update on Westchester Power Program
Jenna Amundsen of Sustainable Westchester provided an update on the Westchester Power Program Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). The Town of Bedford is a member of the not-for-profit Sustainable Westchester and has participated with other Westchester County municipalities in the CCA bulk purchasing program.  As you may have read in this space, Bedford was the first municipality to renew its participation in CCA for the Con Edison service area in town. We did so based on the new fixed rates for a second contract term beginning January 2019 and ending December 31, 2020. The new rates, effective January 1, are 7.96 cents/kwh for 100% renewable energy, with standard supply a fraction of a penny less at 7.71 cents/kwh. To learn more read here.
Ms. Amundsen reported that the results for NYSEG service area customers have been favorable with both cost savings over the NYSEG rates since the inception of the program while promoting renewable energy.
Early next year Westchester Power will be seeking bids for the renewal of the CCA program in the NYSEG service area. The same requirements will hold:
  • Bids must be lower than the NYSEG benchmark
  • Bids must include separate rate quote for renewable energy produced in New York State.
  • No “teaser rates”, but rather a fixed rate for the entire period
  • Customers may opt out at any time without penalty or premium.
Limitation on Trash Collection Hours
in Residential Areas
Following a public hearing, the Town Board adopted an amendment to the Town’s law regarding trash collection in an effort to cut down on the noise and disturbance of very early morning collections in residential neighborhoods.
The revision simply provides as follows:
“No pick up of refuse is permitted on Sundays or any federal holiday. Any pick up of refuse in an area within the Town zoned residential is permitted only on Monday through Saturday between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.”
Energy and Cost Efficient Electric Car to Be Purchased
The Town Board approved the recommendation of Comptroller Abraham Zambrano to purchase an all- electric Chevrolet Bolt – which will be the second Bolt for the Town.
Comptroller Zambrano’s recommendations was set forth in a memorandum to the Town Board as follows:
“Consistent with the Town’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint by 2020, on October 3, 2017, the Town Board adopted the ZEV Gold Tier Pledge committing to replace aging light duty vehicles with Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV’s), which include battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrids.
On December 19, 2017, the Town Board approved the 2018-2027 Capital Plan which included the purchase of two (2) ZEV, in keeping with the Town’s pledge.
On April 3, 2018 the Town Board approved a resolution authorizing going out-to-bid for the purchase of an electric vehicle; a Chevy Bolt. Upon confirmation that the Town could purchase the Chevy Bolt using NYC DCAS bid number 1600409, the vehicle was purchased piggybacking under the terms of the NYC DCAS contract 20171201156 AUTOMOBILE, ELECTRIC CROSSOVER.
The vehicle was delivered on August 1, 2018, it is currently being used by Town staff and it has proven to be economical, perform well and it adheres to the Town’s commitment to a cleaner environment and ZEV Gold Tier Pledge. As funds become available for rebates for electric vehicles, an application will be submitted to the NYS DEC as authorized by resolution of the Town Board on May 15, 2018. If the rebate is granted, the Town could receive up to $5,000.
Based on the Town’s commitment stated above and the proven performance of the vehicle, authorization from the Town Board is being requested to purchase a second (ZEV); a Chevy Bolt. Depending on availability from the authorized dealer, the cost of the vehicle will not exceed the Board approved $35,000 capital project.
Additionally, once the vehicle has been received and registered, the Town will once again be able to apply for the Zero Emissions Vehicle Rebate offered by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.”
Pickup Trucks for Police Department
A resident recently asked me why the Town Board authorized the purchase of pickup trucks for the Police Department, understandably concerned that the vehicles might be unnecessary and an extravagance.
I thought I might share with you the following e-mail which Police Chief Melvin Padilla provided to the resident:
Hello [name deleted]
Supervisor Burdick brought to my attention that you expressed some concerns about current vehicles in the Police Department fleet. Specifically pickup trucks and the cost associated.  You may be surprised to learn that the State Contract (pre-negotiated pricing for municipal purchases) cost for a 4×4 Crew Cab (4 door) pickup from Ford, Dodge, or Chevy averages approximately Five thousand dollars less than a comparably equipped 4×4 Chevy Tahoe.
The Department has always maintained at least three 4×4 Chevy Tahoes for their towing, cargo, and severe inclement weather capabilities (prior to 2002 the department purchased the larger Suburban).
The Department owns two large enclosed trailers and also borrows a large open platform trailer from Parks and Recreation Department to tow our Police Motorcycle and/or Utility Terrain Vehicle(UTV).
Our current Tahoes are 8 years old and have approximately 150,000 miles on them. With repair and maintenance costs rising, fleet wide, using those older, high mileage vehicles for towing or 24 hour use is not the best idea. All three major manufacturers of police vehicles have released Police versions of their pickups (Ford, Dodge, and Chevy).
As a cost saving measure to maintain the capabilities and durability of the Tahoe at a price within budget, I decided to give the pickup trucks a try as a replacement for the Tahoes. The Ford Explorer which is the predominate vehicle in our fleet is NOT rated to tow the types of trailers we own or use and does not perform very well on many of the unpaved, rough terrain back roads (nor does the explorer have the same cargo capacity, versatility, true 4×4, or durability as the pickups, or Tahoes for that matter).
At this point I am happy with the choice as it has proven to be a far more versatile vehicle than the Tahoe (for cheaper price and within budget) and has been useful for our needs as a department countless times already in the short time we’ve had them.  My goal is to have the mix of vehicles in our police fleet to be as diverse as the calls for service that we respond to.
Thanks for your inquiry, and please feel free to contact me directly if you have any further questions.
Melvin Padilla
Chief of Police
Bedford Police Department
307 Bedford Rd
Bedford Hills, NY 10507
(914)241-3111
It’s OK to Use the Gas Blower
Leaf Blower Information – Leaf Season is Here
I’m hearing confusion.  It’s leaf season.
Relaxed rules apply during leaf season which began on September 16, 2018 and runs through May 14, 2019. It’s OK to use a gas blower, just not on Sunday and in the hamlet zones not two at a time and no push behind. For your convenience the Leaf Blowers Task Force created a palm card with the information you may want to keep handy.
They can be found in our local libraries, or you can pick one up in my office. You also can access it here Leaf Blower information where you also can find the law, Hamlet Zones list and other helpful information.
Questions or comments? Please e-mail the Leaf Blower Task Force at LeafBlowers@Bedfordny.gov
Supervisor’s News & Notes:
Updates on the Development of the 2019 Budget
Proposed Wireless Law
Councilwoman MaryAnn Carr
The Supervisors monthly report for November
FOR THE COMMUNITY EVENTS CALENDAR click here 
FOR THE TOWN CALENDAR click here
TO SIGN-UP FOR NIXLE ALERTS click here
A Holiday Reminder from the
Drug Abuse Prevention Council:
Highlights of the November 8
 Town Board Meeting
Special Work Session on I-684
The Board held a special work session to discuss the unacceptable lack of progress in getting New York Department of Transportation to repave the concrete portion of I-684 running through Katonah – the original road surface nearly 50 years old.
We are pleased that Regional Director of the NYS DOT Lance MacMillan and members of his staff participated as well as State Senator Shelley Mayer, Assemblyman David Buchwald, County Legislator Kitley Covill and representative of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney joined us
Katonah resident Peter Nardone presented a compelling case, as an engineer with significant experience on major highway projects (he was part of the team overseeing work on the FDR Drive and the Gowanus Expressway), on the deterioration in the surface and the significant safety risks.  Police Chief Melvin Padilla presented accident data obtained from the State Police.
We also shared with Mr. MacMillan letter from the Katonah Fire Department and the Katonah Bedford Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps citing accidents and safety hazards.
We expressed our continued frustration that of the approximately 30 miles of I-684, the stretch running through Katonah is the only portion of the road which is the original road surface and has not been re-paved. We have been petitioning NYS for nearly 20 years that the paving be carried out. Especially upsetting is being advised last year that funds were in place for repaving only to learn that the funds vanished for an emergency project (collapsed wall of a bridge carrying the Sprain Brook Parkway).  While we certainly understand the need to attend to emergencies, it is incumbent on DOT to work with us to find funds.
What emerged is as follows:
  • Mr. MacMillan stated that paving the project is a top priority for his Region of the DOT.
  • The project should not await the years’ long corridor study and subsequent project funding for 684 from Exit 5 north to 84 and 84 east to the Connecticut line.
  • The DOT Regional Office needs to very soon identify the cost of the project
  • The DOT Regional Office needs to persuade DOT Commissioner Paul Karas to put the project in his budgetary request to the Governor which is submitted this coming January. Senator Mayer and Assemblyman Buchwald were adamant in this regard to enable them to advocate for the funding during the budget negotiations.
  •  Mr. MacMillan stated that design work for the project was well along and that if the funding were in place for the budget, the paving could take place in 2019.
Please see below under “I-684 We’re Not Letting Up” for contact information for our elected representatives. Please let them know you want it fixed. Writing or calling them truly helps.
Veterans Memorial Fund for WWII Veterans
With November 11, 2018, Veterans Day approaching, we ask the community to remember to honor our veterans.
Please click here for a message from one of veterans, Clark Petscheck.
DRIVERS: A SAFETY REMINDER
Pull over for emergency vehicles
This reminder came from our Bedford Fire Chief, Shawn Carmody, who has noticed that the disregard for the rules of the road regarding emergency vehicles has gotten worse since school has started.
Please be mindful:
“We have seen many drivers lately not pull over for emergency vehicles. We’re not sure of the reason, whether they are distracted, don’t hear or see the emergency vehicle or just feel they can stay ahead of the emergency vehicle at their current speed. State laws — and common sense — dictate that vehicles yield to emergency vehicles that are operating their emergency lights and siren. Emergency vehicle drivers are taught to pass on the left whenever possible and safe to do so when responding in an emergency mode. When it’s safe, drivers should slow down, pull over to the right and come to a complete stop, no coast or ride the shoulder.
However, there are circumstances where that may not be possible:
  • If your car is already stopped, and you don’t have anywhere to pull over, simply stay put until the emergency vehicle goes around you
  • If you are blocking the route of the emergency vehicle, and you are able to pull ahead and over into a clear area, use your turn signal to indicate your intentions and proceed at a safe speed
  • If you are on the crest of a hill or a bend of a curve, proceed through until oncoming traffic is visible for the emergency vehicle behind you
Other considerations:
  • Never slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the road when you see apparatus approaching
  • Make no sudden moves
  •  If an emergency vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, you should pull over and come to a full stop
  • You have no idea if the emergency vehicle is proceeding down the road or are planning on turning into a driveway or intersection right in front of you
  • Do not tailgate, “draft,” or follow a responding apparatus closely, not only is this illegal, you run the risk of a collision as vehicles pull back out into traffic after the emergency vehicle goes by
  • You are not required to slow down or pull over for emergency vehicles that are responding in the opposite direction on a divided highway or interstate
  • When a driver pulls over and then drives on the shoulder at a slower speed, they lengthen the distance in which the emergency vehicle must navigate before fully passing the vehicle. A vehicle travelling at 20mph on the shoulder is covering 29.3 feet every second and that adds to the passing corridor. This also provides less room for the emergency vehicle to pass and navigate oncoming traffic if they haven’t fully pulled over.
  • When you see a personal vehicle operating a flashing blue or green light, those are volunteers responding to a call, they do not have the right of way like emergency vehicles do. These flashing lights are known as courtesy lights and we ask that people pull over if safe to do so, but you are not obligated to do so. These volunteers must stop for all traffic control devices and obey all traffic laws when responding.
Please consider this the next time you encounter an emergency vehicle on the road. Help us get to our destination safely and efficiently. You never know, we may be heading to help someone you know.”
Westchester Power Program
Secures Rate Cuts & More Green Power for Customers
Sustainable Westchester (SW) today announced its Westchester Power Program Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) has negotiated new fixed rates for a second contract term beginning January 2019 and ending December 31, 2020. The new rates, effective January 1, are 7.96 cents/kwh for 100% renewable energy, with standard supply a fraction of a penny less at 7.71 cents/kwh. To learn more read here.
I-684 We’re Not Letting Up
With the further deterioration of the concrete portion of I-684 that runs through Bedford (the same original surface from the late 1960s), safety concerns have become paramount. We are compiling accident data from emergency responders and local and state data. We also are working closely with a professional engineer in the community with significant experience in major roadway projects to document the safety issues.  We continue to work with Assemblyman David Buchwald and State Senator Shelley Mayer who are working with the NYS Department of Transportation both in Albany and with its regional office.
For my part I am working to explain our concerns to the new Acting Regional Director Lance Macmillan. In the past the Department has asserted that any work on that stretch of I-684 should await a study of the interchange at Exit 5. We argued and Mr. Mac Millan’s predecessor agreed, at least in concept, that given that the completion of the study and funding of its tens of millions of recommended capital improvements would take upward of a decade, a sensible interim measure would be a 3” asphalt resurfacing with an anticipated life of 7 to 10 years.
 In a recent meeting with the Mr. MacMillan and members of his staff, he reported that the scope of the study has been expanded, is broader than the Exit 5 interchange and now includes the 684 corridor from Exit 5 to Exit 9, at the 84 interchange, and east to the Connecticut state line. He said that the study is funded, and the next step will be awarding the consultant contract this fall with the delivery of the completed study to be in 2019.
We now are working to persuade NYS DOT that especially in light of the expanded and more ambitious scope of the study, the interim measure is appropriate, the Department should be support it and be receptive to our state legislators working to secure funding for it.
Many in the community have asked me for contact information for our elected representatives and NYS officials involved in the process so that they can reach out to them to let them know the concerns:
1-518-474-8390
DOT Albany office: 518-457-6195
DOT Region 8 Acting Regional Director Lance MacMillan: 845-431-5750
State Assemblyman David Buchwald: buchwaldd@assembly.state.ny.us,
914-244-4450
State Senator Shelley Mayer: smayer@nysenate.gov
518-455-2031
If you send an e-mail, please consider copying me and our legislators
Safety First
Rules of the Road for Cyclists;
Safety Tips for Walkers;
Tips for Crossing the Street
First, thanks for the comments on Facebook regarding last week’s post regarding road etiquette.
Let’s all be safe and be mindful and considerate of others sharing the road – whether we’re motorists, cyclists, walkers or joggers.
Motorists: please be patient – with Fall offering wonderful riding opportunities for cyclists, we’ll see cyclists enjoying our beautiful roads and lanes.  Yes, many of the roads are narrow.  And yes, some cyclists are riding three abreast, but most understand and observe the rules of the road.  That said, some motorists are not considerate (or worse). (My guess is it’s not you who are reading this).
Cyclists – please observe the rules of the road. While you are permitted to ride two abreast, oftentimes, it’s not safe and results in stacking of traffic behind you and, as may apply, your riding group.  (My guess is it’s not you who are reading this).
The information below re-publishes and re-orders prior posts which certainly continue to be relevant. Thanks to all for helping us all be safe and sound.
Motorists – Sharing the Road
Sharing the road with bicyclists.
When parked on the street, check for bicyclists approaching from behind you before opening your car door. Always exercise due care to avoid colliding with any person walking or bicycling. Always be vigilant when pedestrians are present, especially those with visual or physical impairments.
Bicyclists are fully entitled to use the road and have the right to “take the lane” by positioning themselves at or near the center of the lane when needed to avoid hazards or if the lane is too narrow to safely travel side by side with motorists.
Pass bicycles only when necessary and safe: pass to the left of the bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear. When in doubt, wait until you can pass at a safe speed. Before making a right turn, let bicyclists clear the intersection. When turning left or entering a roadway, yield to oncoming bicyclists as you would to any vehicle.
Some of you may have heard of the tragic death earlier this year of a cyclist in Stony Point.  We also are concerned about the safety of walkers and pedestrians. While we implore drivers to observe speed limits and other rules of the road, we also wish to share with you rules and tips for cyclists and pedestrians some of which a Bedford resident compiled and sent to me.
Cyclists – Sharing the Road
New York State law mandates the following related to cyclists:
  • Travel WITH traffic (i.e. on the same side of the road) and obey all vehicle laws (stop at stop lights, etc.)
  • Are not allowed on sidewalks
  • Helmets (protective head gear) are required
  • No headphones, ear buds, or other noise cancelling devices are allowed in more than 1 ear
  • Horn/bell audible for 100 feet
  • Lighting required a half hour before dusk until a half hour after dawn
  • Cyclists are required to use appropriate hand signals.
Safety Tips for Walkers
  • Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk always walk facing traffic.
  • Dress to be seen. Brightly colored clothing makes it easier for drivers to see you during the daytime. At night, wear special reflective material on your shoes, cap or jacket to reflect the headlights of cars coming towards you.
 Tips for Crossing the Street
  • Cross only at corners or marked crosswalks.
  • Stop at the curb, or the edge of the road.
  •  Stop and look left, then right, then left again, before you step into the street.
  • If you see a car, wait until it goes by. Then look left, right and left again until no cars are coming.
  •  Keep looking for cars while you are crossing, and remember, walk, don’t run. If a car is parked where you are crossing, make sure there is no driver in the car. Then go to the edge of the car and look left-right- left again until no cars are coming.
Stop the Bleed
Paramedics are trained and prepared to operate with law enforcement in active shooter situations. This additional stop the bleed program is intended to provide a level of basic quick action from the public before help arrives.
We have certified trainers in this program and want to start offering it up to various public institutions such as schools. Click here for the booklet.
After Hours Rules for Commuter Lots
Town of Bedford Residents that do not have a commuter parking permit are allowed to park for free in the commuter lots Monday to through Thursday from 6:00 pm to 5:00 provided that they have a resident parking decal.
Parking is free on weekends to everyone starting on Fridays at 6:00 pm and on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Single Stream Recycling
Bedford 2020 has been enormously successful in promoting Single Stream recycling having advocated its establishment and helped the community embrace it. As noted below under “Further News on Recycling”, Westchester County awarded Bedford its “Eco Award” for Bedford’s having the highest recycling rate in the County. We strive to further increase recycling rates. To that end representatives of Bedford 2020 and I met earlier this week with representatives of the carters serving Bedford.
We are pleased to enjoy a strong partnership with the carters, without whom Single Stream would not be successful.  We discussed various strategies for making further progress.  I also explained that some residents had contacted me about disturbance from very early morning collections in residential neighborhoods.
The carters are amenable to a simple change to the Town’s law providing that there be no pick-ups on Sundays and federal holidays and that pick up in residential neighbors be limited to Monday through Saturday between the hour of 7 AM and 7 PM. I will propose this change to the Town Board.
Town Facilities for recycling, yard waste and E-waste
Most of the following services are free to Town residents:
The Railroad Avenue Recycling Center is located at
343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills, NY 10507.
Hours are 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Carters are obligated to collect single stream recyclables
at your property along with trash for all customers.
For those who wish to drop off recyclable materials,
the Railroad Avenue Recycling Center accepts single stream recyclables
(metal, plastic, glass, cardboard and paper).
Ewaste, Metals, Textiles; Trash Drop Off for Seniors
Residents may bring electronic waste to the Recycling Center, but please note that for CRTs (TVs and old monitors), residents first must obtain from the coupon from the Town Clerk after paying a modest fee (to cover the costs to the Town).
In addition, the Railroad Avenue Recycling Center accepts e-waste of all kinds (see below for details), bulk metals of all kinds, textiles, and trash for seniors (60+) who purchase Senior Refuse Coupons (book of 5 for $25) at the Town Clerk’s office. Each coupon can be used for up to a 33-gallon trash bag of household refuse (do not include recyclables in the refuse bag).
Town Clerk Hours
8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Monday – Friday
321 Bedford Road, Bedford Hills
Beaver Dam Yard Waste and Compost Facility
The Town of Bedford Beaver Dam Compost Facility processes recyclable wood waste and leaves from the Town and provides beneficial reuse of the waste as compost and mulch. The facility provides an extremely cost effective method for this recycling as well as an environmental benefit of local recycling with minimal transportation requirements. It is open for residents to dispose of recyclable wood waste (logs and branches up to 6” diameter, brush, and leaves), as well as pick up wood mulch and leaf compost. This service is free to Town of Bedford residents between 7:30 AM and 3:00 PM Monday to Friday, excluding Town holidays.
FOR THE 2017 ANNUAL REPORT click here
Looking for an emergency volunteer opportunity but
Fire Fighting or Medical Tech not your thing?
Emergency communications might be for you.
Click here for the flyer
Katonah Fire Department under-18 Recruitment Program
Are you interested in a terrific community service opportunity? Would you like to receive state-of-the art lifesaving and firefighting training?
Katonah Fire Department eagerly welcomes applications from 16-year-olds for its Under 18 Program. Interested candidates can fulfill their John Jay High School Community Service obligation, as well as service hours required for other organizations, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Membership in the department as a firefighter is a great way to have your college application stand out as well!
Any person who is between the ages of 16 and 18, who is physically fit, morally and mentally sound, and who, having met with the membership committee and satisfactorily passed the committee’s investigation (as established in the Katonah Fire Department, Inc. Constitution and By-Laws), may be selected for membership status.
The goal of this program is to carefully instill, enforce, and monitor the practices that lead to well trained, respectful, hardworking members once they reach their 18th birthdays and/or the conclusion of their first year of membership.
In addition, it creates a culture in which these members both realize their age- and experience-related limitations, but also feel as though they are learning and being prepared for taking on the duties of full-fledged, non-probationary members of the Katonah Fire Department.
An oversight committee and a training coordinator act as a resource to these members – in all aspects of KFD membership: firefighting, training, rules and regulations, etc. – and set example for the types of behaviors expected from our entire membership.
Applicants who join receive all training and equipment at no expense to them. They also become eligible for various scholarship opportunities. If you’re interested in finding out more, please sent an e-mail to chief2211@katonahfd.org
The Town’s Website is now available in Spanish
We have added a plug-in allowing for the website’s automatic translation to Spanish. Please note that this does not apply to linked PDF documents. http://www.bedfordny.gov/
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
In case you missed them, please refer to
my most recent monthly reports:
Previous e-news issues
Much is repeated in each newsletter, but to reduce the length each week, here are the past few complete newsletters.
REMINDER
For information on parking at the Town of Bedford Offices During Police Department Construction click here 
A regular reader of this weekly newsletter asked why I repeat certain posts from week to week. I do so because not everyone reads my newsletter on a weekly basis, much information provided remains relevant and I wish to continue to alert the community about it. In response to the comment, however, you will see that I’ve divided the newsletter into two sections “New Posts” and “Continuing Posts”. Both sections are relevant and, I believe, worthy of review.
I wish to thank readers for making suggestions and comments; over the years, I’ve not only changed format but added content based on them (for example, why the flags are flown at half-staff.

Homeowner Optimism Still Among Record Highs | Waccabuc Real Estate

As the year is coming to an end, homeowners are more optimistic than ever that their home is worth more than they owe on it, and they expect that value to keep rising through 2019.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 69% of American Homeowners now say the value of their home is worth more than the amount they owe on their mortgage, up from May’s previous nine-year high of 66%. Just 21% now say their home’s value is not worth more than what they owe on it, but 10% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The survey of 720 American Homeowners was conducted on November 20, 2018 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

read more…

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/housing/november_2018/homeowner_optimism_still_among_record_highs

Mortgage rates average 4.63% | Katonah Real Estate

Mortgage Rates Drop to Lowest Point in Three Months

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that rates dropped significantly after several weeks of moderating.

Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “The 30-year fixed fell to 4.63 percent this week – the lowest it has been since mid-September. Mortgage rates have either fallen or remained flat for five consecutive weeks and purchase applicants are responding with an uptick in demand given these lower rates. While the housing market softened in response to higher rates through most of this year, the combination of a low unemployment and recent downdraft in rates should support home sales heading into the early winter months.”

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.63 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending December 13, 2018, down from last week when it averaged 4.75. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.93 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 4.07 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.21 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.36 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 4.04 percent with an average 0.3 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.07. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.36 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey

Trulia: Here’s what will happen in housing in 2019 | Cross River Real Estate

Crystal ball

It’s the trillion-dollar question that everyone’s looking for an answer for. What’s housing going to do next year?

Earlier this week, we took a look at Zillow’s 2019 forecast, which stated that mortgage interest rates are going to keep rising next year, which will drive an increase in rents as people hold off on home buying.

But how much of an impact will that really have? Zillow’s sister company, Trulia, provides an answer in the form of its own 2019 forecast, which is backed up by some interesting survey data.

Trulia contracted The Harris Poll to ask 2,021 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, earlier this month how they felt about housing right now and in the future.

And the results of the survey show that people want to buy a house, but they may not be able to afford it right now thanks to a combination of rising rates and rising home prices.

The bad news is that it’s likely only going to get worse in 2019.

According to Trulia, worsening housing affordability will slow down home buying activity next year.

“Over the past several years, home price growth has largely outpaced income growth, making for an increasingly unaffordable home-buying environment,” Trulia noted in its report.

“And next year, even as growth in home prices cools, limited supply will continue to help push prices up to some degree,” Trulia continued. “The financial impediments of homeownership are acutely felt among renters who wish to buy: 53% say that saving enough for a down payment is the number one obstacle to homeownership, while 36% cite rising home prices.”

Another issue, as stated before, are rising interest rates, which are projected to continue climbing in 2019. According to Trulia, rates will rise throughout the year, eventually reaching 10-year highs.

And that’s going to hurt renters who want to become homebuyers.

“Mortgage rates on 30-year, fixed rate loans have been less than 5% since the end of the recession, helping to buoy housing demand and keep monthly payments relatively cheap even as prices themselves rose,” Trulia said in its report. “But those record-low rates will come to an end in 2019. Rising mortgage rates will take a bite out of affordability on top of an already supply-constrained and high-priced housing market.”

According to Trulia, nearly 20% of renters who want to buy say that rising interest rates are their biggest obstacle to buying a home, which is up from 13% who made that claim back in April when interest rates were lower than they are now.

Also impacting potential buyers is “tight” nationwide housing inventory.

“Inventory has fallen almost non-stop for the past several years, and while several pricey coastal California markets saw an increase the number of for-sale starter and trade-up homes last quarter, they’re likely to be the exception and not the rule,” Trulia said.

“And even if inventory begins to pick up in more markets, it will be rising from multi-year lows and will take a long while to get back to a more balanced level between buyers and sellers,” Trulia continued. “With the construction industry facing significant headwinds from the higher cost of materials and labor as well as rising interest rates, we do not expect much if any growth in new construction starts in 2019 to help alleviate inventory woes.”

Despite all of that, Trulia expects more Millennials to become first-time homebuyers in 2019.

“Younger Americans will continue to drive homeownership. After dropping to multi-decade lows in the years following the recession, the national homeownership rate is steadily rising and is currently at the same level it was in 2014,” Trulia said.

“The largest gains in homeownership rates in recent years were among those under 35 years old,” Trulia concluded. “And more of these younger Americans say they intend to buy a home soon. Of Americans aged 18 to 34, 21% say they plan to buy within the next 12 months, up from 14% last year.”

read more…

https://www.housingwire.com/articles/47536-trulia-heres-what-will-happen-in-housing-in-2019?utm_campaign=Newsletter%20-%20HousingWire%20Daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=67937354&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–ojj2JR5goBpPaKlIih2HHMqRYf-rLBOMYgDlEg454UAruGuifci9ZZz9sUVjUfW4HeNpm8VYBfYFuu-dcW76_rrh07w&_hsmi=67937354

Westchester spending out of control | Bedford Hills Real Estate

Wall Street rating agencies gave a collective thumbs-down to Westchester County this week, downgrading its bond rating, based on its past two years of deficit spending and the use of the county’s reserves to balance its budget. 

Whether the downgrade will drive up borrowing costs — and higher county spending — will be determined by market conditions when the county sells $200 million in bonds next week.

But one agency warned it could drop the rating several notches more if the county continues its practice of including phantom revenues in the budget and raiding its rainy day fund at year’s end to erase the red ink.

The downgrades by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings come as the county Board of Legislators reviews County Executive George Latimer’s 2019 budget, which would be balanced by having a county-affiliated agency borrow $22 million in a one-shot deal to pay for day-to-day expenses.

It’s not exactly the sustainable revenue stream that S&P was looking for to assure municipal bond investors. 

For Latimer, and for homeowners, it is a case of pick your poison.

Go with his complex parking-lot deal to glean the $22 million one-shot, or increase county property taxes by 6 percent this year to pay the bills, and cover $98 million in new spending.

There’s also a possible move in Albany to seek an increase in the county sales tax.  

Westchester County Executive George Latimer, left, speaks with Leslie Gordon of Feeding Westchester, John Ravitz, Executive Vice President of the Westchester Business Council, and Susan Fox of the Westchester Institute for Human Development during the annual breakfast of the Westchester Business Council at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown Nov. 28, 2018. Latimer was the guest speaker at the breakfast.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer, left, speaks with Leslie Gordon of Feeding Westchester, John Ravitz, Executive Vice President of the Westchester Business Council, and Susan Fox of the Westchester Institute for Human Development during the annual breakfast of the Westchester Business Council at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown Nov. 28, 2018. Latimer was the guest speaker at the breakfast. (Photo: Seth Harrison/The Journal News)

The downgrades are the results of seven years of tax austerity under Latimer’s predecessor, Rob Astorino, who held the line on the county property tax-levy from 2011 through 2017. Latimer’s response to the Astorino era, however, has caught the bond rating agencies’ eye as well.

During his first year in office, Latimer settled the Civil Service Employees Association contract, to which no funds were appropriated in the 2018 budget. So the county expects to dip deeply into its reserves to pay for the labor settlement.

“The honeymoon is over,” declared Joe Markey, market president of KeyBank, at Wednesday morning’s Business Council of Westchester breakfast at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown.

How low?

How low can Westchester’s rating go? Certainly much lower than the AA+ rating issued on Tuesday, and the negative outlook issued by S&P. Moody’s Investor Services that downgraded Westchester in 2017.

Lower bond ratings can raise the interest rates because the investment is seen as riskier. Higher rates drive up borrowing costs on obligations that remain on the backs of taxpayers for 20 years.Exactly how much a lower bond rating increases rates depends on market conditions at the time of issuance. 

“We remain concerned over the county’s ability to sustainably align revenue and expenditures and rebuild reserves to a level consistent with that of similarly rated or higher-rated peers,” the report said. 

In other words, Westchester’s rating could go lower if it continues to rely on speculative revenues, and then is forced to backfill the shortfall with reserves.

Here we go again 

That could happen again in Latimer’s first budget.

It remains to be seen whether the Democrat-controlled county board will back Latimer’s one-shot sale of several acres of land, located in the Bronx River Parkway Reservation, Westchester County’s first park. Latimer wants to sell the parking lots that serve patrons of the park’s Westchester County Center and provide spaces for White Plains commuters.

The Westchester County Local Development Corporation would pay $22 million for  the park’s parking lots, which generate $2.5 million a year in county revenue. The LDC would sell tax-exempt revenue bonds to raise the $22 million.

It seems certain that the deal won’t be concluded by year’s end. The county has yet to make an application to the LDC for the sale. The LDC needs to change its charter to allow the deal, which requires approval by the state Attorney General.  And the parkland sale must be first recommended by the Westchester County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Board, which meets Thursday to discuss the issue.

The Latimer administration wants to remove the parking lots at the Westchester County Center from a county park, and sell them to a public nonprofit.

The Latimer administration wants to remove the parking lots at the Westchester County Center from a county park, and sell them to a public nonprofit. (Photo: David McKay Wilson/The Journal News)

S&P warned that including the park sale in the budget could create problems if the Board of Legislators fails to approve the final deal.

“Should this transfer not occur as planned, management may be required to fill the gap with expenditure reductions, an additional property tax increase above the planned 2 percent, or fund balance,” the report stated.

The report also warned about the Latimer administration’s rosy forecast for a 5 percent increase in sales tax revenues for 2019.

 Latimer has so far said he’s not willing to raise property taxes more than 2 percent for 2019.

Sales tax could be next to go up

The S&P report notes that the county plans to seek an increase in the county sales tax during the 2019 session, though no revenue from the increase was included in Latimer’s budget plan.

The county’s sales-tax rate, which is now 1.5 percentage points – is part of the combined sales tax that’s charged in Westchester. The overall sales-tax rate includes New York state sales tax of 4 percent, 0.375 percent for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; 2.5 percent for the cities of Mount Vernon, White Plains, and New Rochelle; and 3 percent for Yonkers.

Winning an increase in Albany could provide a revenue stream big enough to right Westchester’s fiscal ship and return S&P’s outlook to stable. But if that doesn’t happen, and Westchester does another year of deficit spending, the outlook could grow even dimmer.  

“Should the aforementioned risks to the fiscal 2019 budget materialize and reserves continue a downward tend, providing limited cushion to insulate the financial position from disruptions related to tax reform or economic downturn, we could lower the rating, potentially by multiple notches,” the report said.

read more..

https://www.lohud.com/story/money/personal-finance/taxes/david-mckay-wilson/2018/11/29/how-westchester-credit-rating-downgrade-affect-homeowners/2140494002/

Plogging to clean your neighborhood | Katonah Real Estate

Many athletes have been doing it for a long time without even knowing it is now a fitness trend. It’s called plogging, a combination of jogging and picking up. And what is being picked up is trash. The Swedes are credited with starting the trend and now it’s spreading in the United States.

A sunny and breezy day is perfect for plogging. Jeff Horowitz, a personal trainer at Vida Gym in Washington, is plogging with a couple of his friends. To him, nothing is new about this routine.

“This is just my personal ethics, where I would go for a run and if I happen to see a piece of garbage laying around and it’s within my reach,” he says. “It was a kind of a little test for me to see if I can grab it and throw it in a near trash can without stopping. That way I thought it gave me a little bit of exercise, a little focus for my run and helped clean up the neighborhood.”

Now, he knows he’s one of a growing number of people worldwide who are plogging. He often organizes plogging events.

Rules of Plogging

Getting ready to plog is similar to getting ready to jog. You have to warm up by doing weight squats, some calisthenics, some balance exercises. Then, grab a trash bag and you’re ready to go, but not before wearing a pair of gloves.

Like other athletes, ploggers have to warm up first. (Jeff Horowitz)
Like other athletes, ploggers have to warm up first. (Jeff Horowitz)

“Gloves are important,” Horowitz says. “You want to make sure this is going to be healthy for you. Even if you’ve good intentions, you never know what you’ll find. It might be broken glass, medical waste.”

Like any other fitness routine, plogging has rules. The first of these rules one shouldn’t suddenly bend over in front of someone else, which seems like common sense.

“You can’t do that.” Horowitz explains. “It becomes like a three stooges’ event and you’ll end up falling over.” So, when plogging with a group a runner usually calls it out, stops and bends, so other members of the group become aware of his move.

Ploggers also need to cover all different territory.

“People kind of naturally follow that rule,” Horowitz says. “So, if I’m a little bit more to the curb side, I’ll look toward the gutter and someone else a little bit closer to the hedges they’re going to pick up there. So, you get a rhythm going between people without sometimes agreeing to it.”

Organizing plogging events encourages more joggers to try it. (Jeff Horowitz)
Organizing plogging events encourages more joggers to try it. (Jeff Horowitz)

Running with Purpose

Sports event organizer Dana Allen finds plogging interesting. Like other runners who consider themselves environment custodians, she likes it when streets are trash-free and clean. That’s why she plogs, but admits she doesn’t do it all the time.

“When I’m running seriously, in training for a marathon, I probably wouldn’t be as inclined to stop regularly because I’m focusing on a certain goal,” she says. “But then there are other days, where I’m out and into sort of a more relaxed running that would be a situation where I might do it.”

On other occasions, a group of runners gets together early on a weekend morning, and goes plogging.

“We go for run, pick up some garbage, then we go for brunch. We kind of make a little bit of event of it.”

Plogger Azell Washington says participating in such events makes him feel better. “It would clear a lot of space for me. And I’m rewarded myself.”

Washington DC: Clean and Fit

Encouraging more people to plog helps raise awareness about Washington’s litter problem, says Julie Lawson, who works with the mayor’s Clean City Office.

“When the street looks bad and it’s dirty, you’re going to feel bad about the neighborhood, about the community. You may even feel less safe because of that,” she says. “So if we’re all doing our part and picking it up, it’s very easy to help beautify it, help build those social connection, you get to know your neighbors, you get to feel some social responsibility and community feel, when you do this.”

Plogging also helps advance a city-wide fitness initiative.

“FitDC is Mayor Muriel Bowser’s initiative to get DC back to number one in the country as the fittest city in the nation,” Lawson adds. “And as part of that our Department of Parks and Recreation put up a couple of plogging events combining fitness activities with beautifying the city. We look to continue to support that.”

Participants of all ages are welcome to plog. (Jeff Horowitz)
Participants of all ages are welcome to plog. (Jeff Horowitz)

Plogger Allen hopes one day there won’t be a need for plogging.

“I would just hope people around would think twice before dropping a garbage on the ground,” she says. “We have receptacles, seems like on every block. So, it’s easy to put your garbage in the trash can. So, I just think people should think about it a little bit more and be cognizant of keeping the city as beautiful as possible.”

read more…

https://www.voanews.com/a/plogging-around-the-us/4673842.html?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=today-at-voa-t46&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=2018-11-27

New apartment rentals are getting smaller | Bedford Real Estate

Apartments are getting smaller in much of the U.S., even as rents are rising.

The average size of newly built apartments in 2018 is 941 square feet, which is 5 percent smaller than it was a decade ago. For studio apartments, the change is more pronounced — they’re 10 percent smaller. Rents, on the other hand, have jumped 28 percent during the same time period, according to RENTCafe, a nationwide apartment search website.

“Changes in renters’ living habits are literally redrawing floor plans,” wrote Nadia Balint, senior marketing writer for RENTCafe. “The largest share of apartment dwellers, millennials, prefer living in locations close to restaurants and entertainment, rather than having a large kitchen or living room to cook or entertain at home.”

Higher rental costs today, however, have millennials looking for savings by renting smaller units, and developers are clearly responding. Micro-units are becoming more popular, following on the tiny-house trend, as millennials tend to be more environmentally conscious than previous generations. Apartment developers are supplementing the smaller units by adding more common spaces to their buildings, in which residents can both work and entertain.

“Across our 72,000-unit portfolio we have seen an increasing demand for relatively smaller units,” said Toby Bozzuto, CEO of apartment developer the Bozzuto Group. “We attribute this to a lifestyle shift that is based on our residents’ desire to be less encumbered by things. Our residents value flexibility and convenience, and appreciate a thoughtful approach to unit design.”

Despite an apartment construction boom in the last several years, occupancies remain high, and rents are still gaining. Yet rents are rising fastest for those who can afford it least. Rents for low-end properties, defined as those with rents less than 75 percent of the regional median, are gaining faster than luxury rentals, according to CoreLogic.

“We’ve seen a slight uptick in rent prices over the past few months as strong employment growth continues,” said Molly Boesel, principal economist at CoreLogic. “The strength stems from the low-to-middle price tier, which has seen monthly average growth of 3.2 percent since January 2018.”

All real estate is local, and so are size trends, apparently. Overall, including old and new apartments, the Southeast has the largest units in the nation, while California has the smallest. The average apartment size in California is 837 square feet, compared with 975 square feet in the Southeast.

California saw the biggest size decrease for newly built apartments, an average decline of 12 percent over the past decade. The Pacific Northwest as well as the Northeast are next, seeing 10 percent decreases. Only in the Midwest, where rents and demand are lowest, are apartment sizes increasing, up 1 percent in that time.

Of the nation’s largest cities, Seattle has the smallest apartment units, with an average size of 711 square feet. Manhattan and Chicago are second- and third-smallest. Tallahassee, Florida, boasts the largest units on average at 1,038 square feet. Marietta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina, come in second- and third-largest.

While all types of floor plans are shrinking, new studio apartments are minimizing most at an average of just 514 square feet this year. Studios also represent a shrinking share of the rental market, just 5 percent of all units nationwide. One-bedrooms lead at 43 percent of the market, but their size is down 4 percent over the last decade. Two-bedroom apartments have not changed much, just 0.5 percent smaller on average.

read more…

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/27/renters-pay-more-for-less-space-as-apartments-shrink.html?__source=newsletter%7Ceveningbrief

Westchester loses AAA bond rating | Pound Ridge Real Estate

  • County used reserves to pay retroactive salary increases
  •  S&P cuts Westchester rating to AA+ and it could go lower

New York’s Westchester County, home to the wealthy suburbs of Scarsdale and Bronxville, lost its AAA grade from S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings after drawing down its cash reserves to cover retroactive raises given to government employees.

The county, which borders New York City to the north, had its grade cut one level by both companies Tuesday to AA+. S&P said there’s a one-in-three chance that it will downgrade the county’s bonds again in the next two years as the government contends with budget shortfalls, given how “narrow” its reserves were at the end of the 2017 fiscal year.

The downgrades came ahead of the county’s planned auction of $200 million of general-obligation bonds on Thursday.

“We remain concerned over the county’s ability to sustainably align revenue and expenditures and rebuild reserves to a level consistent with that of similarly rated or higher-rated peers,” said S&P analyst Nora Wittstruck.

Westchester’s general fund balance could fall to less than 4 percent of spending at the close of fiscal 2018, about half the level of reserves the county had previously maintained, S&P said.

The new federal limit on deductions for state and local taxes and mortgage interest could further strain the county’s budget. That cap could make it harder for residents who pay the the highest property taxes in the U.S. to sell their homes, while others could challenge their real-estate tax assessments, potentially weakening Westchester’s biggest source of income.

The average property-tax bill in the county last year was $17,179, the highest in the the U.S., according to a report by Attom Data Solutions. The federal tax law changes set a $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local levies and capped the mortgage-interest deduction to loans of $750,000.

There are some signs that high property taxes and the federal shift are having an impact.

The median price of single family homes in the county dipped to $675,000 in the third-quarter of 2018, a 3.6 percent decline from the previous quarter, according to an October 11 report by Miller Samuel Inc. and and Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Luxury homes prices fell even more, with a 6.4 percent decline to $2.1 million.

Westchester is New York’s third-wealthiest county by median family income, after Nassau and Putnam and has the second-highest per-capita income after Manhattan.

The county’s new executive, George Latimer, has proposed selling parking lots in White Plains to plug a $22 million hole in his 2019 spending plan, according to the Journal News.

If the parking lot sale falls through, the county would have to cut spending, raise property taxes above the planned 2 percent increase or tap reserves again. The county’s $1.94 billion proposed budget includes $453 million in sales-tax revenue, 5 percent more than the year end-estimate of fiscal 2018, based on the expectation that the state will allow collections on Internet purchases.

“We believe the revenue forecast assumes a couple of significant risks,” Wittstruck said.

In a statement, Latimer said the downgrades weren’t a surprise.

“As we have said these past few months, the county is in serious financial stress,” Latimer said. “Regardless of the many steps we are taking to improve our footing, these problems were not created overnight and they will not be solved overnight.”

read more…

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-27/westchester-county-loses-aaa-rank-after-using-reserves-for-pay

Freddie Mac real estate predictions | Bedford Corners Real Estate

Freddie Mac November Forecast: Expect Modest Housing Market Growth in 2019

According to Freddie Mac’s  November Forecast, the biggest unknown about the housing market next year is whether current negative trends, such as lack of housing supply, will persist or the market will adjust to the shock of higher mortgage rates and resume modest growth.

Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “Almost all the trends in the U.S. housing market have been negative in recent months as housing market activity continues to adjust to higher mortgage rates.”Khater added, “If new home sales are to resume growth in 2019, builders may have to shift their focus to more modestly priced homes and smaller sized homes to help offset housing affordability concerns. But with cost pressures pinching profitability, this will be a significant challenge.” 

Forecast Highlights 

Expect GDP growth to average 3 percent in 2018 before slowing to 2.4 percent in 2019 and 1.8 percent in 2020.

Expect total home sales to decrease 1.6 percent to 6.02 million in 2018 before slowly regaining momentum and increasing 1 percent to 6.08 million in 2019 and 2 percent to 6.20 million in 2020.  

Expect home prices to increase 5.1 percent in 2018 with the rate of growth moderating to 4.3 percent in 2019 and 2.9 percent in 2020.

Expect single-family mortgage originations to decline 9.9 percent year-over-year to $1.63 trillion in 2018, falling slightly to $1.62 trillion in 2019 and dropping once more to $1.60 trillion in 2020. This is the result of shrinking refinance activity.Adjusted for inflation in 2017 dollars, an estimated $14.2 billion in net home equity was cashed out during the refinance of conventional prime-credit home mortgages in the third quarter of 2018, down from $18.3 billion a year earlier and substantially less than the peak cash-out refinance volume of $102 billion during the second quarter of 2006.