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Westchester Stands Ground on WestHELP Lease

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – A group of Westchester County legislators soundly rejected Greenburgh’s proposal to transform a vacant homeless housing complex into a school for the developmentally disabled, then told town officials they have no one to blame but themselves for the lack of support.

Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner and representatives of the town met Tuesday with the county’s Committee on Community Services, to discuss whether the county would amend a 30-year lease and allow Ferncliff Manor to occupy the former WestHELP lot on the campus of Westchester Community College.

Feiner's proposed agreement with Ferncliff violates the terms of a county’s existing agreement with the town, which states the property must be used for low and moderate income housing, legislators said. They chided the town for not approaching the county in serious discussions about the proposal before Tuesday.

“You went very far down that road with Ferncliff before talking with the other party of that lease,” County Legislator Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining) told Feiner. “Now there are a lot of problems because of the decisions you made and the actions you took.”

Earlier this year Feiner proposed razing the 108-housing units on the campus of Westchester Community College and granting the Ferncliff Manor school a 50-year lease for the lot. The property has been empty for over seven months.

Committee member Mary Jane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson) said the need for affordable housing was too urgent for county legislators to even consider amending the lease.

“We need low and moderate income housing,” Shimsky said. “There’s a demand for it in the county.”

After the meeting, tempers flared in the hallway as Feiner told Shimsky “This is the worst county government I have ever seen.”

Feiner and Greenburgh representatives agreed to meet again with the committee May 15 for further discussion.

Edgemont resident and civic activist Bob Bernstein, however, said the Ferncliff proposal would never work within the terms of the agreement.

“He doesn’t have any plan,” Bernstein said, referring to Feiner. “Everything he is doing is ad hoc and whatever pops into his head. The real losers here are taxpayers in Greenburgh.”

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