- for further information go to our publication page for the steps for the repair/replacement program and for the application.
Thinking about Affordable Housing in Northern Westchester
“I learned about the need for affordable housing in our nearby communities through a parishioner at church who had volunteered and been on the board of A-HOME. Since that time I have served on the boards of both A-HOME and ACE and been pleased to see that other friends and family members have continued to volunteer for these non-profits important for our communities. Through board service and other activities in support of the mission of these organizations, I have also gained an understanding of the critical and on-going contributions of other groups such as the Housing Action Council and Community Capital of New York. I have been inspired by the opportunity to meet and in some cases get to know staff and the residents and first-time home buyers of homes created with support of these groups. I remain interested in the public policy dimension of affordable housing. I am disappointed and perplexed by the limited level of governmental support for the creation and maintenance of affordable housing. The official support available relies excessively on the initiative and constrained finances of non-profits, and it is further limited by overly complex approval and financial assistance structures and procedures.”
Meet Betsy Weir. Betsy lives in Katonah and is active in the Katonah Bedford Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps and sits on the Town of Bedford’s Conservation Board. Betsy is a member of the Ethical Culture Society in Ossining.She is retired from Westchester County and is ACE’s treasurer.
When I was looking for a place to live, I told the real estate agents that I hoped to find a neighborhood like New York City’s Upper West Side, where there were old people and young people and rich people and poor people; someplace where everyone was not just the same. Mixed neighborhoods feel right to me. Worth maintaining and worth creating!
HENRY V. KENSING (HANK)
Meet Henry V. Kensing. Henry (Hank) was the former mayor of Mt. Kisco. He served at corporate counsel for a major corporation, and now is in private practice in Mt. Kisco. He is married to the lovely, Eileen. Hank is the Vice President of ACE.
My introduction to affordable housing began when I was a member of the Mt. Kisco Village Board and we needed to build low income and middle income housing to accommodate the people being displaced by the village`s urban renewal project in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After I left office in 1981, I began to try to assist my wife Eileen`s first cousin, the developmentally disabled only child of Eileen`s aging and infirm uncle and aunt. Itwas obvious that we had to find a place for Bernie to live in anticipation of his parent`s passing which was affordable and also would provide some level of care for Bernie. Someone [I have forgotten whether it was Albert( Marchigianni) or Peg(Normann) or someone else] invited me to attend a meeting concerning A-HOME and I showed up mainly to see what they might have to offer Bernie. I joined the A-HOME board in the mid-eighties and Bernie ended up in A-HOME`s house at 114 grove street well in advance of the death of his parents. In the course of all this, it became obvious that our communities had to find a way to provide housing for our less fortunate neighbors. That need continues to this day…
We would like to introduce, to all of our ACE Allies and friends, the new owners of 602 Route 22, Croton Falls, Natalia and Josh ( pictured above)and their two children (ages 5 and 2).
Natalia, a NICU nurse and Josh, a writer, are exactly the kind of people affordable housing is designed to serve. These are the young families who will build and strengthen our communities and ensure a vibrant continuity of commitment to our towns and villages.
Natalia works at Northern Westchester Hospital, the hospital many of us consider our hospital; I know that I do. My three children were born there, hip replacements and most recently two grand children born and celebrated there. Over the years I have asked the nursing staff where they live and how long their commutes are. Nurses and other critical staff have reported longer and longer commutes because there is no affordable housing in northern Westchester. We all know this is a big problem. Thankfully, ACE was able to come up with a solution for one family. But there are many housing needs remaining.
Somethings about this house: We brought it back to life in a loving way: restoring wood floors, replacing woodwork and doors because there might have been lead paint (there used to be lead abatement program handled by the County, that money is no longer available with cuts in HUD funding). Because of drainage issues we terraced a side lawn. We put on a new roof, gave the house new siding and all new windows. Unfortunately when replacing an underground oil tank, a leak was discovered and we paid a high price for remediation. And, to make this house habitable, we installed a state of the art septic system using new technology. The house’s system had failed and ACE piloted a newly developed system from GeoMetrix. This not only makes the house livable and up-to-date, but also makes it environmentally sound.
Making all these improvements has depleted our funding, including the generous funding provided by our donors.
ACE made an inhabitable house livable and provided housing for a member of our hospital’s medical team, an appreciated and needed member of our community.
Please help us continue our work by contributing to ACE today. The next family we help just might change your life for the better!
Great group on Earth Day. Many thanks to speakers — Burdick, Eichenger, Harckham, Kalin, Lewis and Potts. To view and download the powerpoint, please go to our publications.
ACE’s Croton Falls property fondly called the Mustard House has a ground breaking new septic system; a SoilAir compressor and a GST — gravel, sand trench.
The Mustard House started with a non working, aging under-sized conventional septic system that was leaking and in obvious failure. The house was unable to be used as a residence or even a commercial endeavor. This is not an unusual case for septic systems that are 20-30 years old. There are systems out there that are non-functional with sewerage going into the ground, and systems that are marginally functional with non treated effluent going directly into the ground ( i.e. ground water). There are many systems that are undersized, and not many that are oversized, except of course when it comes to the full Monty or big pipe sewer systems. Suffice it to say there are many existing systems that are functioning poorly.
“Functioning poorly” means that untreated effluent from those systems is going into the ground, the groundwater aquifers, into culverts and streams, into lakes and eventually into drinking water reservoirs. Sadly, the untreated effluent can go into the drinking water locally, and those drinking NYC drinking water. The effluent also goes into our wetlands where they contaminate the flora and fauna that live there.
Whatever the problem with the existing system, the components of an alternative decentralized system would greatly improve a system’s sustainability and level of treatment.
ACE proposes the use of the very modular and flexible decentralized system components. These are simple components: the standard tank, an air exchange compressor like a SoilAir, effluent going into a distribution box and into a dispersal area like the condensed system of a Gravel Sand Trench (GST). Conventionally, the system would have a tank, a distribution box and many fields/trenches/galleys
There are a number of SoilAir systems installed in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties. SoilAir systems have been in use for the past 15 years. There are literally thousands of them installed with the most installations in Connecticut where the company is headquartered.
SoilAirs are most commonly installed where there are existing problems including small under-sized dispersal fields, failed dispersal (leaching) fields, difficult soils with significant clay content and properties located next to sensitive bodies of water. The system significantly extends the life of existing dispersal fields by consuming the excess organic waste that “plugs” up the dispersal fields. SoilAirs are also used for commercial sites especially restaurants with high-strength wastewater.
SoilAirs are small (2′ x 1.5′ x 2.5′) green plastic boxes that are only partially buried for installation. The top half is visible and accessible above ground for easy access. SoilAirs contain an air compressor and a programmable timer. The introduction of additional air (oxygen) on a time-controlled steady basis provides high levels of food for the beneficial healthy bacteria that consume organic waste. The system has a small footprint for easy installation and is also able to reduce excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the wastewater.
Gravel Sand Trench (GST)
The GST system by Geomatrix installed at ACE’s Mustard House in Croton Falls is the first such component installed in the Westchester County. The gravel, sand trench (GST), takes up far less room on a site. The system provides the highest possible surface area for beneficial bacteria to reside while they consume organic waste. GST provides 6X the surface area of conventional dispersal fields. The unique installation and design allows for enhanced oxygen transfer within the GST which provides a higher level of treatment and removes more organic waste.
The additional oxygen supply and transfer is the “food” healthy bacteria needed to then consume organic waste. GST can be gravity fed or time-dosed with or without a SoilAir installed in front of the GST. GST’s are installed throughout CT and are increasingly being installed in New York. GST’s are highly effective for both residential and commercial systems.
What does this mean? A gravel, sand trench or the equivalent saves needed space on a site. In the case of a development, be it residential or commercial, this component allows the developer to get better lands use while making a sound environmental decision.
We’ve often thought that putting together an affordable housing development is akin to putting together a large jigsaw puzzle. Many different pieces that alone mean nothing, but once put in its proper place show a larger picture, and once assembled and solved is an accomplishment.
We are puzzle solvers. We look at different pieces of affordable housing and see what pieces are missing, what needs to be put together with what. We solve, we assemble, and we create affordable housing.
One of the puzzle pieces that we are working to solve is the lack of sewers in northern Westchester. There are solutions. Thanks to funding by the Westchester Community Foundation, we are pleased to publish on the website, “Septic Solutions: A Way Forward” [Click here for full report]. Additionally, we have just published our “Septic Brochure: Decentralized Systems” [Click here for full report]. To highlight this work, ACE will host a Septic Solutions Symposium on Earth Day, April 22, 2015 7:30 p.m. Katonah Village Library.
This year we are saluting the small house and developing one house at a time. This takes resources. You can make a Donation to ACE to help us achieve our goal.