The black community in the US has a buying power of $1 trillion and is expected to reach 1.3 trillion by 2017. With a number like that in your mind take a look at the businesses currently set up in your neighborhood. While the current administration here in Mount Vernon will boast that there have been millions of dollars invested in this city, one must ask what benefits are drawn from them. A look at the State of the City address from Mayor Ernest Davis details the new buildings going up with over 640+ new housing units and $210 million in development. That sounds promising, but where are the businesses at for these people to spend their money? Yes, Fourth Avenue and Sandford Boulevard are places of business, but they don’t have nearly enough options for the citizens of Mount Vernon who often shop elsewhere for their needs.
As a young adult, I am tired of having to leave Mount Vernon to spend my money. Why must I go to New Rochelle to eat or watch a movie, Cross County to shop, Ridge Hill, White Plains, Bay Plaza or New York City to spend my money? Over the last 15 years, communities around Mount Vernon have seen new developments. Let’s run down a list of new businesses that have set up shop around Mount Vernon lately: Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, in Pelham Manor BJ’s, Lane Bryant, Smashburger, Fairway, IHOP and recently Dave & Busters, in Ridge Hill they have attracted a wide range of stores from Whole Foods to H&M, in White Plains they have expanded their late night entertainment to create a nightlife scene that provides an alternative to the city scene. During this time Mount Vernon has missed out on the addition of these businesses and the attraction they bring to the city. Instead, Mount Vernon becomes a dumping ground for fast food businesses to set up shop and peddle their products that increase obesity and create health problems among residents. In just a small section of downtown Mount Vernon, you have a Papa Johns, Dominos, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Subway, Checkers, Popeye’s, Chicken Hut and other pizza places and chicken spots. Where other communities seem to attract restaurants, clothing store chains and healthier food options, Mount Vernon does not obtain these opportunities.
Some might chop it up to racism, others economics, but what I see is a lack of leadership in this city. Mount Vernon’s motto is “A city that believes” yet it seems that developers only believe in building housing units in this city only to see those residents send their money outside of the city limits. The outsourcing of the Mount Vernon dollar creates an economic gap. Without that revenue, money that we could spend on fixing up place like Memorial Field and the YMCA has to come from other programs and services. The result is a city that struggles to contain crime and quality of life. Many of the problems in our city come from the lack of entertainment and jobs opportunities that force many citizens to look outside of the city or in other cases turn to the streets in order to survive.
With black teen unemployment rates hovering around 32% how can we fault the younger generation and young adults for being up to “no good”? A solution to this is to take a very hard look at the candidates for Mayor and ask them for a comprehensive plan to bring economic development to the City of Mount Vernon. A candidate who will be able to bring in the new businesses that can attract young professionals, families and provide jobs for teens and young adults should be at the core of every candidate’s platform. It seems that our city lacks a clear vision and it shows as businesses circle around and pick off the plate of Mount Vernon residents.