GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Westchester County board legislators are calling on community groups to take a stand against Greenburgh Town Board members, who are pushing to fill the old WestHELP property with Ferncliff Manor.
Greenburgh signed a contract in 1990 with the county, promising to keep the 108 apartments at 1 WestHelp Drive designated for affordable housing after WestHELP's lease ended. But county board legislators say Town Supervisor Paul Feiner is breaching the contract by trying to enter into a lease with Ferncliff Manor, a Yonkers-based facility that provides schooling and housing for children with developmental disabilities.
Ferncliff's plan to raze the existing buildings for a new school would be a waste of a county asset, County Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson) said at a White Plains-Greenburgh Branch of the NAACP meeting Monday night. It would also hurt the county's "crying need" for affordable housing, she added.
"This is a valuable public asset that under no circumstances we can let go to waste," Shimsky said. "There's obviously a need for affordable housing in our community."
Shimsky joined Feiner, County Board Chairman Ken Jenkins, County Legislator Alfreda Williams and attorney Bob Bernstein in a panel discussion at the Mt. Hope AME Zion Church in White Plains on the future of the WestHELP property.
Williams (D-Greenburgh) asked NAACP members to keep the community aware of the issue's history.
"The NAACP can serve the White Plains and Greenburgh communities to make sure the property is used as it's intended to be used," Williams said.
Ferncliff could be classified as affordable housing because 70 percent of its patients are referred by the Department of Social Services, Feiner said. But the panel and some attendees criticized Feiner, saying he should live up to his promise in the contract.
"Just because a lawyer says we breached the contract doesn't mean we breached the contract," Feiner said.
But NAACP President Lena Anderson wasn't convinced, reflecting on Jenkins' words that "we have a lease, and in that lease it's very clear what's supposed to be done."
"We have to land on the side of justice," Anderson said. "I'm getting the feeling that if we want to see this facility available, we need to see the town uphold its agreement."