Greenburgh Library Open Despite Heating, Water Issues

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The Fairview Fire Department responded to the Greenburgh Public Library Monday afternoon after the fire alarm was set off, causing more water damage from the sprinkler system.
The Fairview Fire Department responded to the Greenburgh Public Library Monday afternoon after the fire alarm was set off, causing more water damage from the sprinkler system. Photo Credit: Samantha Kramer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Greenburgh Public Library re-opened Monday despite  dealing with water and heating issues that forced the center to close for several days.

The library fire alarm sounded around 1:30 p.m. Monday, setting off another sprinkler system on the library's already water-damaged floors. It was the second time in two days the sprinklers went off. The sprinklers caused an inch of water to flood through the first and second floors of the library on Sunday.

The flooding just added to the list of the library's issues after it was forced to close last Thursday from inadequate heating. Assistant Director John Sexton said he was unsure of whether the pipe burst because it was frozen, but was glad damage was minimal.

"The water somehow avoided all the books," Sexton said. "Now, we have a lot of wet carpet and crews are busy cleaning it up."

The children's library will stay closed for several days as DPW workers dry the carpets and install a new compressor.

Sexton said it's not the first time the library has had issues with its heating and cooling system. The compressor isn't able to handle extreme temperatures, he said, and a new boiler would be necessary for days like last week's, when temperatures fell below 20 degrees in Greenburgh.

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he wants to implement a backup heating system to prevent the ongoing problems. The board will consider a new boiler or geothermal solutions, he said, adding that a boiler would cost somewhere between $50,000 to $100,000.

Feiner said he will also look into the possibility of filing legal action against the library's architects or construction managers, stating that ongoing problems shouldn't be present for a building that is only four years old.

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The Building Inspector has his own methods for interpretation, I think based mostly on dollars although those victimized fear coming forward to validate this statement. His more recent definition of an "as-built" is rediculous but the Town lets him get away with it. Go back and look at "as-builts" before Mr. Lucido took office and you will see what an "as-built" should actually look like.

I don't wish to let the Library Board off the hook but quite honestly, they are an advisory board with little or no experience in construction. They can provide a wish-list if they like but ultimately it's up to our elected officials, Feiner and Town Board, to make sure that only the most qualified are hired to oversee a $20 million project. Feiner pushed for Al Regula, the commissioner of DPW to oversee construction. This is the same guy who supervised the construction of the DPW garage. When all was said and done we ended up with a brand new garage that was too small to house sanitation trucks. It's a nice building for lockers, however. How they determined that a DPW employee had the expertise to oversee the library construction is beyond me. I also question whether additional monies were paid to him for this project as he retired soon after construction was completed. Take the money and run!
I'm not a big fan of the library board, per se. I don't think they advocate well for the library and also believe they don't know much of anything about libraries at all. When you put together a board you should be looking for people who have some kind of expertise and/or experience with the subject before them. While I believe some of their ideas with regard to the new library were hair brained, the bottom line is that the Town Board approved their hair brained suggestions and should have known better. Feiner was so angry that Howard Jacobs pushed through on the referrendum that he went out of his way to make sure the construction failed; he put an inexperienced DPW commissioner in charge of construction oversight. Enough said.

The bottom line is that we spent the $20million and should have learned a lesson. Now that we are faced with repairs and yet more improvements, one would hope that they will hire professionals and not rely on DPW as they seem to be doing once again. They need to hire professionals to determine what went wrong and how to proceed to remedy the situation.

We still have a great library - the staff is professional and they provide a lot of services to our Town with less and less funding. Let's hope the Town does right by us and takes the time to map out solutions before they jump the gun with their famously expensive lawsuits that result in only lost tax dollars.

take another look at the facts department
No, Feiner did not push for Al Regula. Indeed he argued for hiring an independent project manager (a position sought by an unselected RFP responder whose bid was not accepted because it included this position as an essential element and its own higher bid appeared higher because of its inclusion). Meanwhile the winning bid was not the lowest. Triton was chosen because, unlike all other respondents who expected to be paid for pre-Referendum work (providing a cost breakdown -- how the Referendum arrived at $20 million -- and its appearances etc. at various community outreach meetings) but unlike the other bids, only Triton was willing to perform these at no charge. Thus, the $50,000 that others charged for this was money the Library did not yet have (having raised no money on its own in advance) to advance and the reason why Triton was selected despite having little background in building libraries or even being the lowest bidder from a competitor which was upfront about charging for their work.

Furthermore the Library Board is IS NOT AN ADVISORY BOARD but a Board appointed by the Town Board and traditionally made up of persons with backgrounds in education, readers of books but little experience in either construction or finance. Its operations are funded by taxes collected by the Town of Greenburgh and a fixed dollar amount budget is transferred to the Library to be disbursed by the Library Board of Trustees. Thus, the Town Board cannot choose what programs the Library sponsors or dictate what book titles they buy or otherwise threaten, cajole or censor the course of the Library.
However, since the Library Board has control of the pursestrings once the Town Board makes its annual allocation, we are left with the purest example of taxation without representation as the Library Board members are not elected yet choose how taxes are disbursed: the Town Board merely being the in-between transfer agent.

You may remember that during the pre-Referendum neighborhood outreach meetings, it was the Library Board and the Library management who ran the meetings and presumably took the public's input to heart.

What Feiner was responsible for was the notion that the cost of the expansion was unreasonable and that the Library did not have to double in size to serve the unincorporated section. This was not what the Library Board wanted to hear nor did the four Town Council members (Bass, Barnes, Sheehan and Juettner) want to hear because they saw Feiner's attacking a motherhood and apple pie issue as their chance to rebel and perhaps advance their own careers. I sided with Feiner because it seemed odd that the Town Council members would forego caution when dealing with a major incorporated expensive (the $20 million) undertaking and do so with less than a full deck (both the Library Board and Al Regula).

One of Feiner's lesser moments along this road was his offer of the non-paid services of some relative with federal credentials to ride herd on the project but this was rightfully and laughingly ignored. Al Regula was the choice of the Town Council and Feiner overruled had no choice but to go along with it. After all, he was the appointed head of DPW but still lacking successful, repeat successful, construction knowledge.

Finally, even though the Town Board approves all contracts, the choice of the Architect and the Construction Manager was made by the Library Board. The Architect they chose incidentally was the same Architect who saw no problem with using the site (including the portion that was occupied by the former town hall and now comprises library parking -- 34 spaces less than code required) for both an expanded Library AND shared with a then interested Sunrise Assisted Living facility. Clearly an Architect that sought a commission and would do or say anything to get it. Even this was not enough to dissuade the Library Board from their choice. Nor did the Library Board see any red flag waved when Triton under-estimated its OWN fee, $612,000, and after the Referendum immediately bumped it up to $680,000. The unexplained $68,000 difference? The previously unfilled pre-Referendum services!

Borrowing your name tag: Only in Greenburgh.

Hal Samis was for the most part a lone wolf crying out that oversight of the largest construction project in Town history was non-existent. Even the most organized civic group in unincorporated Greenburgh, the Edgemont Community Council, deferred to the Library Board and most importantly to town council members Juettner and Sheehan who steadfastly refused Samis' and to some lesser extent Feiner's requests for proper independent oversight. The view of the ECC is (which appears to remain), that whatever Feiner is for, they are against. Not that they have been wrong (Feiner has made plenty of costly mistakes), but at this time they were banking on Sheehan and Juettner to be a new power center to neutralize Feiner. Along these lines, the ECC felt there was nothing wrong with Juettner, a village resident, who pays no taxes for the Town library, to be the liaison from the Town Board to the Town Library. Not surprisingly, Juettner failed to attend numerous OAT (owner, architect, town) meetings while the library project was underway. Other than Samis, no one else challenged the nonsense spouted by Francis Sheehan that $175,000 had to be spent on a ramp for the handlicapped to access the library from Route 119.

While most of the commentators here seek replacement of the current Town Board members, like the heat that is absent from the library, the problem is the absense of candidates who can run a townwide election in a politically balkanized town which is half village and half unincorporated who possess the necessary skill sets to undo the damage 20 years of having the likes of Feiner and Juettner (the architects of the Fortress Bible disaster) in office.

The site plan called for the placement of five 1500' geothermal wells at the western portion (Elmsford) of the library plot (where the employees park). Unfortunately and known at the time, this was directly over an even deeper right of way of the submerged NYC water aqueduct. Any nearby drilling would require permission from the Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Library's Construction Manager and Architect misled the willing to be misled Library Board into believing that the permit would be forthcoming. It never did due to the fact that no formal application was ever filed by either. This deception continued to the Fall of 2007 when RFPs for the project's separate work areas went out for bid. The geothermal contract went out, was bid and awarded in December 2007. However before the December approval, the truth was outed and it was known to the Town Board that the 5 wells were not to be. Nevertheless the Town Board decided to go accept the inapplicable contract with their consent to rectify the problem by Change Order (this a legal problem; so sue us). In January, this contract was altered subject to the Change Order switching the well count (5) to 40; the location to under the patron parking areas and the well depth to a shallow 500 feet. Upon completion of this work, the area was paved over with asbestos creating the existing parking.

The Change Order, taking additional time to implement, caused another Change Order; this one providing an additional but needless $48,000 cost to the project since the price of asbestos had increased due to the delay before the work could be commenced. Now the Library had a geothermal system differing from the intended in that the wells were further away from the boiler and less depth resulted in less pressure.

Of course, the Library chose geothermal instead of solar panels or a "green roof" because they were sold on buying a "striking' (as in striking out) design (the "swoop") that the Architect was unable to unload elsewhere but one meant to be visible from 287 at night.

Now we have a problem of mysterious origin and everyone is falling over each other to lay off responsibility or even allow that the problem may be in the unpredictability of geothermal benefit at this LOCATION.

While the construction budget suggests that $450,000 was allocated to the purchase of a new boiler, one never knows what "value engineering" wrought.

Should the problem turn out to be well-driven or with the connecting pipes, then this would require digging up the parking areas and possibly, with the return of "active construction site status", require the Library to be closed for the duration.

And you can't let the then composed Library Board of Trustees completely off the hook and blame it all on the Town Board (less Feiner) for thinking that DPW (Al Regula) would be diligent when he was, at best, overwhelmed or, at worst, too "influenced" by agreeing to sign off on a number of crucial checklist points that should never have approved. Mr. Regula is now enjoying his retirement. During construction there were periodic "OAT" meetings held: Owner (Al Regula and Howard Jacobs, Library Board Prez); Architect and Triton, construction manager. The Library Board inputted and approved the Plans.

But then, the $20 million project was hailed as only costing the average taxpayer $68 annually. So don't worry; be happy.

Dear OnlyInGreenburgh,

The issue of "not built as approved" currently may also exist with the new Greenburgh Health Center at 295 Knollwood Road. There are actually two different site plans allegedly both approved by the Planning Dept.. There are also two other site plans approved by the HRSA and the NYS DOH. How can a Greenburgh resident decide whether the facility is atually built as approved by the Town ?

The Town Code requires that an "as built" survey be submitted for all new structures before a certificate of occupancy is issued by the Building Inspector. The Building Inspector allegedly maintains that the "as built" survey depict only the foundation of the structure and need not depict other significant aspects of the newly built structure.

Broadview recently filed a FOIL application for the "as built" for 295 Knollwood Rd. and was provided with a copy which was illegible. Both the Bldg. Dept and the Town Clerk have requested a fee of $20. for a legible copy.

OnlyInGreenburgh could such a rediculous situation occur.

Robert Reninger, Chairman
Broadview Civic Association

FEINER: "Hal: We will pursue the litigation if those responsible for the library construction do not make good and reimburse us for the costs of the repairs and changes we have made and will make."

Hey Paul! Maybe the citizens of G'burgh should sue YOU.

If you go back and research the original site plan, the Planning Board was not sold on the geothermal proposal and so indicated in their recommendations to the Town Board. You can't blame the Library Board - these approvals were made by the Town Board. The Town should be looking at a back-up generator that can be utilized to power a supplemental heating/cooling system during extreme weather conditions. You'll get more for your money as the back-up generator can provide power during outages and provide a heated/cooled location for residents during these situations. The Planning Board approved a plan that differed signaficantly to that which was actually constructed in terms of the geothermal wells. Not surprising since most of the large scale plans approved by the Planning Board end up being constructed much different than what was approved (Westchester BMW - building was higher than approved, Greenburgh Library - layout and construction of geothermal wells were changed by Town staff who determined that since the wells couldn't be constructed as deep as proposed they would simply add additional shallow wells which obviously cannot produce the same results, Ray Catena Lexus - building currently under construction is much higher and bigger than that which was approved) - why have planning board review if the Town staff has no respect for implementing the actual recommendations and approvals? You almost have to think that something else is going on...maybe someone should be checking financial information of Town staff, Town Officials (particularly campaign funds), etc. I don't think this is just a matter of stupidity - I think someone is getting something they shouldn't be getting. When so many things go wrong one has to ask the hard questions.

Obviously making the Town Board, led by Paul Feiner, the lead agency with numerous projects, went to their heads. They believed they knew better (as always) than everyone else (proven correct thru time), and could run a large, major, very involved project. Also obvious, is that they couldn't! It seems that every time a resident makes a suggestion, unless they have a criminal record or conviction, PF digs in and does the opposite. Will the residents, along with the PF faithful, ever learn their lesson and do the opposite of what he says? Sadly, its doubtful. This Town is doomed if he stays in office any longer. I'm off to the Ardsley library to check out a new book as their budget includes purchasing books without a shower.

Hal: We will pursue the litigation if those responsible for the library construction do not make good and reimburse us for the costs of the repairs and changes we have made and will make.

During the preconstruction public hearings and before construction was started on the Library, the Broadview Civic Association repeatedly advised Supervisor Feiner, the Library Board and the Town Board that geothermal as a method for HVAC was ill advised for this site. Even Feiner's own advisors on various committees told him to get a backup boiler.

Feiner, as the Chief Executive of the Town, allowed the Library Board to proceed with geothermal HVAC without any oversight.

Does anybody realize that these actions by Supervisor Feiner were a total waste of taxpayer dollars ?

Supervisor Feiner continues to allow the Library Board to spend taxpayer dollars without adequate oversight.

Because the Library Board is not elected by the taxpayers, this is a gross example of taxation without representation.

Greenburgh taxpayers urgently need new representatives at Town Hall and on the Library Board, and new administrative executives to direct the daily operations of the Greenburgh Public Library

Robert Reninger, Chairman
Broadview Civic Association

Thank you.

Thanks to the Library for putting on an usual program for its patrons. I happened to be there for a look-see at what the situation was already in the children's area since the rest of the library was open.
I should have brought an umbrella.
What we've got in Greenburgh is an unpromoted tourist attraction: let's call it "Old Faithful".
Fire Sprinklers which go off not because of heat or smoke but because???
Yes more problems due to the ineptitude of the Library Board headed by Howard Jacobs and member Estelle Pilevsky (Construction) and a Library Staff run by Damita Gerber (RIP). And no thanks to the Town Board members at the time of construction, Francis Sheehan and Diana Juettner who just didn't care how the taxpayer $20 million was spent; both unwilling to see that some system of professional control was put into place. DPW Head (at the time) Al Regula should have been fired had he not hastily retired just ahead of the opening. And that leaves my favorite Paul Feiner who had the good sense to propose that an independent Project Manager be hired to oversee. But noooooh said the Town Board. And this is what we got (just the most obvious problems in this iteration) for our going with the flow.

And now a costly "back-up" boiler since geothermal isn't doing the job.

But before I let Feiner off the hook entirely, I want to remind readers that last year Feiner said the same thing when the Library was three years old and experiencing leaks and HVAC problems: "Feiner said he will also look into the possibility of filing legal action against the library's architects or construction managers, stating that ongoing problems shouldn't be present for a building that is only four years old."
Does the Town have a case or his he just saying something that will make taxpayers and patrons think he really is interested?
Lawsuit yes or no, Mr. Feiner?

Hal Samis