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Greenburgh Pitches School Idea to County

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – Town officials have submitted a proposal to Westchester County legislators that would transform a former transitional housing complex into a school for developmentally disabled children.

On Monday, Greenburgh presented the county with its plans to award Ferncliff Manor a 50-year lease for the former WestHELP lot on the campus of Westchester Community College.

If the county approves the plan, Greenburgh will be home to a residential school for 35 severely developmentally disabled children and adults.

“Ferncliff is an outstanding nonprofit organization that provides help to the developmentally disabled,” Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said. “They have a terrific program, have an excellent reputation.”

The six-acre property was left without a tenant, and $1.2 million in annual rent, in September 2011 after WestHELP’s 10-year lease expired.

After months of negotiations, the town settled on leasing the lot to Ferncliff for nearly $1 million in annual rent.

But before any deals are finalized, county legislators must sign off on the move, as the former WestHELP land is county property. It was leased to the town in 2001 on the condition the town would use the lot for affordable housing or housing for senior citizens.

Now, town officials are asking the county to amend that lease and allow the school to be built.

Legislators could say no, Town Attorney Timothy Lewis acknowledged Wednesday. But it’s worth a shot, he said.

“We forfeited nothing, but we have an opportunity to bring in significant revenue for the town and help a portion of the community that really needs help,” Lewis said.

If the county were to shoot down the proposed Ferncliff development, the town is poised to lease the lot to the Greenburgh Housing Authority and offer affordable housing, Feiner said.

If that were to happen, however, the town wouldn’t stand to gain as much in annual rent, he said.

On Thursday, Feiner sent a request to county legislators, hoping to get a lead on whether they will support the Ferncliff agreement.

“The Town Board and I want to be able to generate revenue from this property as soon as possible,” Feiner wrote. “If the county is not receptive please let us know so we can advise the housing authority to move forward on creating affordable housing opportunities.”

The county is expected to make a decision in the coming months.

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