GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The bubble will soon be in the hands of the voters.
After weeks of pouring over lease details and delaying a vote, the town board, minus a vacationing Ken Jones, unanimously approved a 15-year lease Monday that will likely bring a sports complex to Greenburgh – pending voter approval.
Supervisor Paul Feiner said the town board will hold a public referendum on the controversial plan for Game On 365’s “Westchester Field House,” hoping it puts to rest any uncertainty surrounding public support for the plan.
“I think this will take a lot of the controversy out of it,” Feiner said after the meeting. “My feeling is people want to have their voices heard and feel like they are a part of it.”
For weeks the proposed 94,000-square-foot domed sports field has been the center of attention in Greenburgh. Town officials have said the deal to bring the complex to the abandoned lot at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road would generate more than $5 million for the town over the course of its lease. It would also provide much needed athletic field space for area children, Feiner has said.
Critics, however, have attacked the plan, pointing to what they said are problems with the financial and legal aspects of the deal. On Monday, many said it was simply a bad business deal and there were too many flaws within the lease.
They cited things like undetermined remediation costs to clean up the site, the fact the area is zoned as residential and what they called "basement-bargain" rent being charged to Game On.
“Every time I look at this lease I see something that is bogus,” Tom Bock said. “It’s like a piece of Swiss cheese – there are so many holes in it.”
Ed Krauss agreed and said the lease is curtailed to benefit the developers, not the taxpayers.
“We have a lease that was pretty much written by them (Game On),” he said.
Others have suggested the lease may simply be illegal. Just hours before the scheduled vote, Irin Israel, a principal in the Elm Street Sports Group – part owner of Ardsley’s House of Sports complex – circulated a letter sent from Elm Street Sports’ attorneys to the town.
In it, attorney Ethan Strell wrote that leasing the property would be a clear violation of Westchester County law. He warned the town that if they went forward with a vote, Elm Street Sports was prepared to fight it.
“Should this Council continue down this illegal path and approve the lease with Game On 365, our clients will pursue all available remedies, including referring this matter to the New York State Attorney General,” he wrote.
Feiner dismissed any threat of legal action, citing state laws that allow the town to move forward.
“They didn’t read the law correctly,” he said referring the Elm Street Sports’ attorneys. “They messed up.”
The town board is expected to have a meeting Aug. 29 in which it will vote to approve a public referendum on Game On’s proposal to be added to the November ballot.