County Legislator John Testa has a been a leader on environmental issues for two decades and has a long record of initiatives he has supported and spearheaded. Testa’s record is well documented starting back from when he was Mayor of Peekskill. His active involvement in developing and promoting environmentally friendly policies continues to the present during his time as Westchester County Legislator for Cortlandt Manor, the City of Peekskill and the Town of Yorktown.
Testa was a high school teacher of Technology for over 30 years at Peekskill High School and used his interest in alternative energy sources as part of his curriculum. Before solar and wind energy use became commonplace, Testa used his classes to design, build and test various prototypes of alternative energy. “It was a very exciting time for the class because students would actually test their designs to see how well they generated power,” Testa said. “It became a friendly competition to see whose prototype worked best, whether it be a solar hot water unit or oven or a wind driven device. It was a way to have fun and learn at the same time,” Testa said.
Once becoming an elected official Testa was determined to use his position to advance pro-environmental policies. Let’s look closer at some of the major environmental successes Testa has had while in office.
As Mayor of Peekskill, John Testa…
• instituted a comprehensive solid waste removal program with an emphasis on increasing citywide recycling;
• initiated a project to construct a new state-of-the-art water treatment facility;
• worked jointly with Scenic Hudson on a 4.5-acre former industrial waterfront property called “Peekskill Landing” to clean up the land, the shoreline and preserve open space;
• worked closely with the DEC to develop a remediation plan for a 4-acre area originally utilized as the city landfill;
• secured a grant from The NY State Power Authority to replace 10 city owned fossil fuel vehicles with electric cars;
• worked with representatives in Albany to establish a Conservation Easement with the State of New York that will permanently assure that the 500 acres of Peekskill owned property surrounding its reservoirs would be undevelopable;
• secured an agreement to have a 45-acre parcel known as “Fort Hill” declared historic parkland;
• instituted a Certified Local Government Landmarks Board that has helped to ensure the preservation of buildings within the Downtown Historic District;
• encouraged adaptive re-use of buildings throughout the city resulting in a record number of preserved structures and National Register designations which led Peekskill to be recognized by the US Department of the Interior as a “Preserve America Community;”
• Secured an agreement with the NYS Power Authority to install over 600 energy-efficient traffic and pedestrian signals within the Peekskill Business District.
Since January of 2010 Testa has been a county legislator and has continued his dedication to presenting and supporting environmentally sensitive policies. During each term as legislator, Testa has been a member of the Environment and Energy Committee, which has recently been reconstituted as two separate committees, “Energy and Regional Efficiencies” and “Environment and Health.” Testa is an active member of both.
As Westchester County Legislator, Testa…
• sponsored a County Resolution to oppose oil barge anchorages in Hudson River. Westchester was the first county to officially oppose with neighboring counties following suit, causing federal representatives to oppose the plan;
• worked closely with the county’s partner, Energize NY, to complete major energy upgrade project for Drum Hill Senior Living Facility in Peekskill and solar panel installation at St. Christopher’s Church in Buchanan;
• supported county law to eliminate #4 and #6 heating fuel;
• developed and implemented land-use plans, stormwater and runoff management plans, public infrastructure standards and building codes to adapt to climate change risks (i.e., severe weather events, rising waters, extreme temperatures);
• participated in creating a program to survey all county owned buildings to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels and the incorporation of alternative energy sources to any building projects and upgrades;
• supported legislation that decreased the cost and simplified the process for small plumbing and electrical businesses to become solar installers in Westchester;
• supported the implementation of a hybrid vehicle policy for county vehicles;
• supported the implementation of an extended recycling law;
• promoted home energy audits and tax breaks for solar panel installation in homes;
• supported law to prevent the use of hydrofracking fluids in Westchester;
• supported a County resolution regarding the Algonquin AIM Gas Pipeline project calling for various safety and risk assessments to be conducted by numerous Federal agencies involved in the project approval process;
• secured the funding to totally rehabilitate close to 5 miles of county owned roads in the district. These roadways are the key east-west corridor for Northern Westchester and had not been brought up to standards for many decades. Now, these roads are up to 21st Century ADA and pedestrian safe standards;
• directly involved in the review and approval of local farms and the expansion of the availability of locally grown and produced foods. He supported the creation and expansion of local Farmer’s Markets, including the recent addition by the City of Peekskill to establish an indoor market during the winter months and also the initiative by the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortlandt Manor (now known as the NY-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital) to create the “Harvest for Heath” program which includes a weekly Farmer’s Market, organic garden and a teaching kitchen;
• supported the recently passed county legislation prohibiting the sale of toxic children’s products;
• called for a full environmental assessment study on the effects of the plan to close Indian Point. In addition to no credible plan to replace the lost energy generated by the plant, the over $40 million in local economic devastation to municipalities, school district and small businesses was never considered;
Despite his long and consistent record in the area of environmental protection, Testa is not ready to slow down. “Yes, I am proud of my record protecting the environment but there is still much more to do,” Testa said. “I am very interested in the continuous advancements in solar and electric related power generation and how we can expand their use in homes and vehicles. Sustainable development initiatives are critical to the future of our communities,” Testa added.
We are fortunate to have John Testa as a representative in Westchester County government as a strong advocate for policies focused on environmental protection, especially at this crucial time. There are always issues of concern regarding the environment but none larger than the two issues facing Westchester: the closure of Indian Point and the proposed Barge Anchorage sites along the Hudson River. Testa is in the forefront of both of these issues fighting to protect the communities he represents and the environment surrounding them.