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Feiner vs. Critics: Greenburgh's Endless Debate

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – It has been said the only things certain in life are death and taxes. In Greenburgh, however, constant debates between two outspoken sides is no less certain.

On one side is the town supervisor, Paul Feiner, who is known for his out-of-the-box ideas. On the other is a group of civic leaders who say Feiner's proposals often put the town at legal and financial risk.

What Feiner proposes, they will oppose, the supervisor says. And when they make suggestions, Feiner attacks, they say.

Whether the issue is WestHELP or Dromore Road, the town pool, leaf collection, cellphone antennas or Fortress Bible, the debate in Greenburgh goes back and forth like a ball in the sure-to-be contested tennis bubble.

“It’s almost like they are rooting for the town to go bankrupt,” Feiner said. “I don’t get the sense that they want the town to be successful.”

“They” would be a pair of town residents: Hal Samis, a retired commercial mortgage broker, and Bob Bernstein, an Edgemont lawyer. The back and forth between the two sides has simmered into the public eye recently at board meetings and on the Web.

“Bob & Hal are against everything I'm for. And, for everything I'm against. It's frustrating,” Feiner wrote in the comment section of the Greenburgh Daily Voice on a recent story about property revaluation .

Samis and Bernstein say they are simply trying to help the town avoid costly mistakes and, as a result, have become the targets of personal attacks by the supervisor and his allies for all things wrong in the town.

“What he (Feiner) does when faced with bad news, he goes on the attack and attacks individuals personally in an effort to draw attention away from his own failings as a government official,” Bernstein said.

The supervisor’s Web blasts haven’t been limited to the critical pair though. Feiner has also criticized the Edgemont Community Council for what he calls constant negative posts on its Facebook page . Bernstein was once president of the council.

“I encourage Bob and the ECC to have a more balanced page – report the good and the bad. You are hurting the community you claim you want to help,” Feiner wrote on his blog .

The critics say they have watched the town make too many mistakes and there simply isn’t much good to report. They point to things like the continuing Fortress Bible lawsuit, Dromore Road zoning issues and the now-abandoned WestHELP lot as examples of Feiner’s mismanagement.

“He has never learned anything,” Samis said. “He keeps making the same mistakes.”

This month, Samis wasn't allowed to speak at a Town Board meeting after he asked board member Kevin Morgan, “Are you Irish?” when Morgan spoke in favor of serving alcohol at the Greenburgh Nature Center.

Samis, who admits to being “rough around the edges” at Town Board meetings, says he was targeted because of his constant criticism of Feiner and the board. Feiner says the Town Board was simply enforcing a hard and fast rule – no personal attacks.

But Feiner's going after those who oppose him is nothing new, Bernstein says. In 2007, Feiner wrote letters to Bernstein’s partners at his law practice, complaining about his public behavior.

“He is obsessed with people who disagree with him,” Bernstein said.

Feiner says his obsession is with making Greenburgh a better community.

“If people would work with us instead of against us, I feel that everybody would win,” he said.

In Greenburgh, there is sure to be another side to that argument.

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