County Legislators Urge Greenburgh NAACP To Take Action

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From left, Bob Bernstein, County Legislators Alfreda Williams and MaryJane Shimsky, County Board Chairman Ken Jenkins and Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner talk about the future of the WestHELP property at an NAACP meeting Monday night. Photo Credit: Samantha Kramer

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."

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Comments (9)

Pat McGuire Leavy:

Right and wrong. Rules, obligations and law.

As adults it is assumed that we understand these things. Certainly we expect our elected officials to not only understand but abide.

Put an end to the nonsense we have been consumed with debating in Greenburgh, not only on this matter, but many, many other past, present and future matters to come.

Let's elect a leader who understands right, wrong, rules, obligations and law. Mr. Feiner has had a hold, commands his audience through divide and conquer. Let's stop the madness and put forth a candidate to abolish this egocentric manipulation which spells WRONG for the citizens of Greenburgh!

halmarc45:

This is getting so tiring.
The issue has been dragging on for so long and the reason is that everyone has been sucked into playing Feiner's game, not the County's game.
This is a Landlord vs. Tenant dispute regarding the Tenant being in default of its contractual obligations which logically should be adjudicated in Landlord-Tenant Court. Fat chance!

Instead, the dispute per Feiner is being tried in the Court of Public Opinion. L & T Court would not require Ferncliff to be present or even mentioned because it is NOT ABOUT FERNCLIFF.
Rather it is about the sanctity of a Contract: in this case a Lease which is a basis of law being an AGREEMENT IN WRITING.
No one forced either the County or Greenburgh to sign this Contract.
The Contract clearly states that the Consideration to Greenburgh is that it gets to keep the rent; the Consideration to the County is that it gets more units toward fulfilling its obligation (and negotiated settlement) to build and maintain a required number of housing units dedicated to serving those less well off.

The County owns the land, paid for the construction of the units and turned them over to Greenburgh under its only obligation: to comply with the terms of the Lease. A Lease which also specifies that Greenburgh maintain these units so that they are re-rentable.

Greenburgh (Feiner) paid for the barbed wire fence surrounding the property.
Greenburgh (Feiner) collected $12,000,000 from its sub-lease with WESTHelp.
Greenburgh (Feiner) tried to funnel half of this revenue to the Mayfair-Knollwood, got his face slapped by the Court for doing this and Mayfair-Knollwood not only lost its big payoff but was required to pay back what it had already illegally collected.

Last night's meeting was different in that it was not Feiner's meeting. Unlike meetings at Greenburgh Town Hall where Feiner controls the Agenda and public comment, this meeting, held on neutral territory, a Church, Feiner did not have the upper hand. The result was that those attending insisted that he answer the questions put to him which he still did not. Feiner refused to answer and those present were not buying his usual only answering the questions he wished he had been asked instead of those he was asked.

Since the media insist on playing into Feiner's game of answering an unasked question, here's an example of it.
Read the Feiner quote again: "Ferncliff could be classified as affordable housing because 70 percent of its patients are referred by the Department of Social Services, Feiner said." Is a Social Services referral to Ferncliff a measure of family income or is it a determination of who can provide service (assisting the developmentally disabled) matching the need?

What we do know is that but 56 clients reside at Ferncliff -- not all of them qualify for affordable housing. Ferncliff's plans for a new facility provide for 64. If Feiner gets his way, 108 EXISTING units ALREADY PAID FOR BY TAXPAYERS can house up to 150 persons, certainly at least 108. This is the math taught in the Valhalla School District which is where the parents of Mayfair-Knollwood send their children.

Last night's meeting proved one thing: that had GameOn signed the Lease with Greenburgh, by Feiner's reckoning, they would be permitted to operate not a sports facility as agreed to but a target range for gun owners insofar as Feiner regards the enforceability of Lease conditions.
However on one point he remains clear: the Frank's Nursery site is not to be leased to Ferncliff.
Hal Samis

WPEyesNEars:

Read more at www.ABetterGreenburgh.blogspot.com.

WPEyesNEars:

Thanks for mentioning it. Republican shill Reisman’s “article” is nothing more than your press release. The Urinal News supports you and PR wants to keep his job so he tows their distorted liberal agenda. This isn’t about Ferncliff. It’s about County owned property that they gifted to the Town and you screwed up. It has all the talking points you’ve created to defer the issue of your illegal actions by violating the contract with the County. Your gig is almost up. Wait and see.

OnlyInGreenburgh:

This is so bad on so many levels. First of all, Phil Reisman is hardly objective - he'll support anything Feiner proposes. The issue here isn't Ferncliff. They are a wonderful facility and they provide an excellent service. They are in an unfortunate situation thanks to Feiner and now Reisman.

You need to go back to the beginning to understand what is happening. Whether you like Feiner or don't like him doesn't change the fact that this man simply refuses to follow laws, regulations, deeds, leases, etc. He will not stop at anything to get his own way.

This is just another effort on his part to placate the local neighborhood. And to be clear, the neighborhood is taking a bashing thanks to him as well. There are a handful of residents who protested the original lease with WestHelp because they didn't want homeless people in their neighborhood. The majority of the neighborhood understood that this was not a homeless shelter. It was affordable, transitional housing for those in need.

In order to get that "handful" on board, Feiner negotiated what the NYS Supreme Court has deemed an illegal contract to pay off the Valhalla School District, thus reducing the school tax for that same "handful." I believe there were less than 3 students at any one time impacting the Valhalla School District but somehow that equated to a multi-million dollar pay-off. The money wasn't used for eduction however. It was used for retreats, cruises, meals, etc. The Court ruled and Valhalla and the Town made a pennies on the dollar settlement to reimburse Greenburgh tax payers.

Feiner dragged his feet in renewing the lease with Westhelp two years ago. While he denies doing so, correspondence relating to that delay have surfaced. Liar, Liar...Anyway...Westhelp walked away due to the delay which cost the Town taxpayers $1.1 million dollars in rental income from this property. So what does he do next? He finds a tenant that will be less offensive to the "handful" - Ferncliff. Again, they're the victims in this. He went to them, they didn't come to him. But, they are a private for-profit agency and don't fit the protocol for the use intended by the lease with the county which was that this site shall provide affordable housing and if not, the lease would end and the use would be determined by the County, not Paul Feiner. Ferncliff would have to demolish the existing buildings (which by the way are the hallmark for what affordable housing can and should be). The taxpayers paid for the construction of these affordable housing units but somehow Paul Feiner and Mr. Reisman thinks it okay to demolish housing that is less than 25 years old in order to make way for a private for-profit use.

The County said no to do this proposal and demanded the Town, specifically Paul Feiner, respect the spirit of the lease. So now what? Paul Feiner decides that the Town will no longer maintain the structures while they stand vacant even though the lease requires that he do so. The units were abandoned by the Town - no maintenance and left unsecured. Units were flooded and are now moldy. Appliances and tubs and sinks have been stolen from most of the units. If he wasn't allowed to raze the structures to make way for Ferncliff in his effort to placate the "handful" he would let the property fall into disrepair so there would be no alternative but to demolish it.

This is who he is and this is what he does. He does it at the expense of all Greenburgh taxpayers except for the "handful" who don't care about the rest of us. So, Mr. Reisman can write all the lovely articles he likes about Ferncliff - how about writing the truth about Paul Feiner?

tootired:

HOW IN GOD'S NAME DOES FEINER REMAIN IN OFFICE?

paulfeiner:

Phil Reisman (www.lohud.com) wrote an excellent column today supporting Ferncliff.

WPEyesNEars:

Thanks for mentioning it. Republican shill Reisman’s “article” is nothing more than your press release. The Urinal News supports you and PR wants to keep his job so he tows their distorted liberal agenda. This isn’t about Ferncliff. It’s about County owned property that they gifted to the Town and you screwed up. It has all the talking points you’ve created to defer the issue of your illegal actions by violating the contract with the County. Your gig is almost up. Wait and see.

WPEyesNEars:

Dave Wilson of the Journal News was the moderator for the night. He asked Feiner one question, “ Why did you support the WestHelp affordable housing when you were a county legislator but now as Town supervisor you don't support it?” He read from a piece of paper all the points HE wanted to make, but never answered the question. The audience was not happy. The NAACP members were mostly in agreement after Feiner claimed that the DSS referred people mostly of color to affordable housing. One gentleman took offense to Feiner’s statement and asked why Feiner would say that and his response was because he was at a meeting held by the NAACP. He’s such a lying, manipulative piece of s#%@! We need to vote him out.

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