Gov. Hochul Friday announced a $150 million and a precedent-setting three-way partnership with Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and Westchester County Executive George Latimer to immediately advance work to address longstanding water infrastructure and related public health challenges that have plagued the city of Mount Vernon for decades.
“This truly is a new day for Mount Vernon, long overdue,” Hochul said Friday morning to a standing room only crowd in the City Council Chambers. “You have been through enough, no more Band-Aids.”
It’s been well documented that the entire sewer system needs a complete overhaul as it’s collapsing beneath residents’ feet. The century-old sewers are notoriously bad and have led to decades of flooding, backups into people’s homes and long-term pollution problem affecting the Hutchinson River and the Long Island Sound.
“In too many communities of color like Mount Vernon, critical water infrastructure has been left to fall into disrepair, but today we are setting an example for the nation by advancing environmental justice, improving quality of life for residents, and addressing decades of disinvestment,” Hochul said. “When I met with Mayor Patterson-Howard and heard about the seriousness of this crisis in her city, I immediately directed my administration to coordinate with the city and the county and right this systemic wrong. I am so proud of our collective and collaborative efforts to deliver this transformative environmental justice victory.”
The governor vowed that planning work would begin immediately on a $7 million project to overhaul the city’s Third Street Sewer system, eliminating a makeshift pump system that serves more than 500 households.
Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said the city could be a beacon for majority-minority cities nationwide that have suffered disproportionately from environmental degradation.
“What a GOOD FRIDAY it has been so far! This is what government working together for the people looks like. I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul for this historic investment of $150 million into the City of Mount Vernon. Rebuilding our infrastructure is critical to the economic, social and physical health of the community. Thank you to the Mount Vernon, Westchester and NYS teams that have worked tirelessly and collaboratively for the past few months to make this happen. This is what government working together for the people looks like and we’re excited to be moving forward together on this monumental sewer project.
“I want to thank Governor Kathy Hochul for her leadership in addressing this longstanding challenge that has plagued the City of Mount Vernon for decades,” County Executive George Latimer shared. “The significant investment in Mount Vernon’s aging sewage and wastewater infrastructure is absolutely necessary, as thousands of homeowners are directly suffering from sewage backup problems and related health issues, and sewage flooding is inevitably making its way into the nearby Hutchinson and Bronx rivers. Mount Vernon’s pipes are old, corroded and overburdened, and I am eager to begin this three-way partnership between the State, the County and the City to fix it.”
The innovative State-County-City partnership was memorialized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to expedite priority projects and outline roles, responsibilities, and available funding for this city-wide effort. The memo formalizes the three-way partnership between the city of Mount Vernon, Westchester County, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), representing multiple state agencies, including the use of $7 million in Clean Water Infrastructure Act funds to immediately launch engineering, design, and construction of the Third Street Sewer Project. Work on projects across the city will take place in phases over five to seven years after a comprehensive assessment of the city’s current infrastructure.
The State’s Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) will provide $8 million to fund emergency repairs and jump start long-term planning for future projects, including lead pipe replacement. Funding includes a $5 million interest-free emergency loan and a $1 million grant to survey lead service lines in this community and to develop a replacement plan. EFC will also dedicate $2 million for engineering consultant services to accelerate work in this community. Additionally, Mount Vernon, DEC and EFC have committed to undertake an asset management program that will inventory, assess and track the city’s clean water infrastructure and help create a plan to fund and maintain Mount Vernon’s water quality infrastructure over the long-term.
The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery will supplement the public infrastructure improvements with a $3 million pilot program to mitigate environmental hazards and make resiliency upgrades to private property. Participating homes will be eligible for rehabilitation of damaged pipes, replacement of lead service lines, and other needed environmental remediation.
“I am thankful to all who heard the plea for help and responded. Today’s announcement in Mount Vernon is exemplary of the state’s commitment to sanitation justice for all,” said White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Vice Chair, Member of the National Resource Defense Council Board of Trustees, and Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice Catherine Coleman Flowers.
It was a great day for the City of Mount Vernon.