Greenburgh Hopes To Complete Search For WestHELP Tenant

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Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, second from left, hopes to choose a tenant for the old WestHELP site in the next few weeks. Photo Credit: Samantha Kramer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Greenburgh Town Board will again take up the search for a tenant for the county-owned WestHELP property when it meets Tuesday.

In September, the Westchester County Board of Legislators rejected Greenburgh's proposal to lease the 108-unit property to Ferncliff Manor, insisting that the new tenant must provide affordable housing. Yonkers-based Ferncliff is looking for a facility that would provide schooling and housing for children with developmental disabilities.

At Tuesday's session, the Town Board will review a second round of tenant proposals for the six-acre site, which sits at the Knollwood Gate entrance to Westchester Community College. The new proposals are due Monday. The WestHELP buildings formerly provided transitional housing for homeless families. Under terms of an agreement with the county, the new tenant must provide affordable housing.

But Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he'd rather find a  use for a site that will earn the town more revenue. Ferncliff Manor could have brought in half a million a year, Feiner said, and he's worried that tenants offering lower incomes could affect taxes. While no new bids are promising as much income as Ferncliff's, they are offering to pay for renovations to the buildings.

"It doesn't seem like we'll have to spend anything on renovations, which was one of the issues that came up in budget," Feiner said. He added that revenue could exceed the $100,000 he's estimated for income in the tentative 2013 budget. "My concern is really revenue."

Feiner would not name any of the potential tenants, saying he wants to wait until all bids are in. The formal request for proposals (RFPs) are the second set issued in just over a year.

Feiner did not say whether tenants who had previously expressed interest in the site had re-applied.

Feiner has invited county legislators to Tuesday's meeting to offer input about potential tenants, but County Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) said the meeting's timing was inconvenient — right in the middle of budget season.

Williams and other legislators, however, do plan to look over the tenants who answered the RFPs when Feiner posts their proposals to the Greenburgh town website. Williams added she's glad Feiner has finally moved off from Ferncliff and is looking into more suitable tenants to provide affordable housing.

"I appreciate that he's now looking at RFPs in line with our agreement," she said. "I'm delighted he finally decided to abide by the terms."

While the county has been in talks with Ferncliff Manor representatives over the past few months, they have not yet found a place for a facility. 

Feiner said the board hopes to choose a tenant for the site as early as mid-December.

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tootired:

The citizens of Greenburgh have been rendered into a stupor and complacency by Feiner's unrelenting proof by assertion. One has to simply google the key words "Paul Feiner", "Good news", "Will generate significant" "will save the taxpayers, and my 2 favorite and most offensive Feinerisms; "I think" and "I believe" to see it all in action. The only time he says " the citizens/people/constitutions think or believe" is prefaced with " I spoke to so and so people and they.....believe/think/it's good news/good for the town......" I have never heard him say or have seen him quoted as saying " The PEOPLE THINK IT'S A BAD IDEA" Google if you dare. It's rather fascinating. We've had so much GOOD NEWS you would think Greenburgh is the most fortunate place on Earth to live. Contemplate this when you pay your next water bill, tax bill or have another valuable service disappear.

halmarc45:

In a parallel universe.
"Great Caesar's Ghost!
You've made the County Board look like terrorists and Feiner the innocent victim."
Perry White's reaction after reading. Here are his notes (***) which got lost on the way to rewrite.

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Greenburgh Town Board will again take up the search for a tenant for the county-owned WestHELP property when it meets Tuesday.

***the hard-working, burdened Board which must keep searching (lol) only because it did not follow the Lease requirements the first time(s) and Feiner's insistence upon pushing Ferncliff which did not meet the requirements.

In September, the Westchester County Board of Legislators rejected Greenburgh's proposal to lease the 108-unit property

***beginning in June the County Board met with the Town and signaled that Ferncliff was unacceptable and did not comply with the County's Lease with the Town so Feiner already knew this outcome. But going back to the WESTHelp lease expiration September 30, 2011 (and even two years before that date when he knew it would not be renewed) what did Feiner do to find a suitable replacement. Writing "In September" is technically correct but it makes the Town Board look like it is on top of things and reacting appropriately and in a timely fashion. The facts, known to The Daily Voice, speak otherwise. The facts are that the Town has had at least two years, likely more, to replace WESTHelp with an acceptable tenant. Feiner is not to be applauded for doing what should already be a done deal and the premises already leased and providing revenue to the Town.

to Ferncliff Manor, insisting that the new tenant must provide affordable housing. Yonkers-based Ferncliff is looking for a facility that would provide schooling and housing for children with developmental disabilities.

***How many times in print do readers need to be confused by their sympathy for what Ferncliff does vs. what the Town's Lease with the County dictates?

At Tuesday's session, the Town Board will review a second round of tenant proposals for the six-acre site, which sits at the Knollwood Gate entrance to Westchester Community College. The new proposals are due Monday. The WestHELP buildings formerly provided transitional housing for homeless families. Under terms of an agreement with the county, the new tenant must provide affordable housing.

***As did the old tenant. The impression left is that this is a new ballgame with new rules while the reality is (again and ala Talking Heads) the same as it ever was. How can you blame Feiner for not knowing the new rules?

But Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he'd rather find a use for a site that will earn the town more revenue.

***Like the similar sized plot (Frank's) which brings in approximately $175,000 in "rent". And both Ferncliff and Frank's being new construction will yield no revenue until built while had Feiner properly maintained the 108 units, collecting rent could commence upon Lease execution.

Ferncliff Manor could have brought in half a million a year, Feiner said,

***Feiner originally showed the public a lease with Ferncliff that showed $980,000 in rent but on challenge backed down and called $980,000 only a "place holder" but intended to blunt criticism for allowing WESTHelp's $1,200,000 to evaporate

and he's worried that tenants offering lower incomes could affect taxes.

***How so? Greenburgh does not collect income tax.

While no new bids are promising as much income as Ferncliff's, they are offering to pay for renovations to the buildings.

***Let's agree that any responses were most likely accompanied by discussions with the Town Attorney or Feiner directly. There are complicated matters needing to be addressed and this is not the same as responding with a bid to sell the Town pencils. Negotiation have already occurred.

"It doesn't seem like we'll have to spend anything on renovations, which was one of the issues that came up in budget," Feiner said. He added that revenue could exceed the $100,000 he's estimated for income in the tentative 2013 budget. "My concern is really revenue."

***Like this is completely a spontaneous quote made up on the moment without any prior knowledge of what he's going to see when they open the RFP envelopes. And of course, my view is that any rent offered will include the future value of the sums laid out to rehabilitate the units. This taken into consideration will make the $500,000 from Ferncliff appear even more attractive and "explain" Feiner's persistence in beating a dead horse.

Feiner would not name any of the potential tenants, saying he wants to wait until all bids are in. The formal request for proposals (RFPs) are the second set issued in just over a year.

***A reporter with time might want to compare the differences between the two for themselves and see how much of a joke the first set was. As funny as the RFP for Frank's was.

Feiner did not say whether tenants who had previously expressed interest in the site had re-applied.

***Why not? And the word is not "tenants" unless the reference is to WESTHelp; otherwise the correct word is either applicants or respondents.

Feiner has invited county legislators to Tuesday's meeting to offer input about potential tenants, but County Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) said the meeting's timing was inconvenient — right in the middle of budget season.

***Which Feiner knows this being year end in both Greenburgh (where the property has been purposely been kept vacant since October 2011) and Westchester County and both entities have year end obligations complicated by the ravages of Sandy added to their full plates. There are also indications that Feiner already knows that the Legislators (perhaps Mayfair-Knollwood's Smith being the exception) are not attending. This is also brings up the question of whether the Town should be summoning four Legislators to its living room when the entire County Board venue should be the "mutual territory" of choice and efficiency. Feiner is attempting to force an immediate reaction from these members because that is how he does business. However, it would be more reasonable for the Town Board to first evaluate the proposals, choose and then present the cream of the crop to the County Board on its turf. The Golden Rule is that he who has the gold rules. Instead Feiner is putting up a show to make the County Board appear unresponsive, unreasonable and unwilling. 'Look what they're doing to me now..."

Williams and other legislators, however, do plan to look over the tenants who answered the RFPs when Feiner posts their proposals to the Greenburgh town website. Williams added she's glad Feiner has finally moved off from Ferncliff and is looking into more suitable tenants to provide affordable housing.

***No one is a tenant until a lease is signed. Again they are applicants or respondents at this stage. And, has Feiner moved off Ferncliff or is he still lobbying? This part is speculative on my part while I'm sure that Alfreda is neither naive nor oblivious to Feiner's "charms".

"I appreciate that he's now looking at RFPs in line with our agreement," she said. "I'm delighted he finally decided to abide by the terms."

While the county has been in talks with Ferncliff Manor representatives over the past few months, they have not yet found a place for a facility.

***Again, why is this article still worrying about Ferncliff.

Feiner said the board hopes to choose a tenant for the site as early as mid-December.

***Feiner can say a lot of things but this is nonsense. The Board will not negotiate with any of the applicants? Not one word of any proposal will be changed. The County will meet and accept the deal. Neither the Town, the applicants or the County has anything else to do in the remainder of the year. This is a throwaway statement intended solely to justify his new "attentiveness" and wrap things up. Whereas readers might be encouraged by "as early as" it is the missing end cap which would serve a useful purpose: where is "but definitely by no later than..."

paulfeiner:

Sorry to give you bad news (just being a little cynical) but there is substantial interest in the WESTHELP property from developers. We will select a developer shortly...expect to come out ahead (revenue wise) and also expect the developer to do all renovations (at their expense).
If the Legislature rejects our first choice, we will have 2nd and 3rd choices so there won't be gridlock. We're determined to put this controversy behind us. The property will be enjoyed by residents.
More bad news for those who don't like good news --we expect alot of good news to report in the months ahead! There are alot of positive things that are happening in the town --that will be great for residents.

halmarc45:

Would one of those good news items be the announcement of your resignation?

I am so happy to learn that there is the potential for leasing gridlock. Earlier this year there were only a few non-deals with little money offered. Now that Ferncliff is out, amazing that there is so much interest, even to include performing the renovations.

Perhaps such similar enthusiasm would be the result were you to cancel the GameOn lease; this might even result in finding a developer willing to perform the renovation (mitigation) at their expense.

interesting what happens when your personal first and only choice is no longer in the picture.

Perhaps I am quibbling but who calls property managers "developers"?
Replacing missing sinks, painting and getting rid of mold is not "development".
And how will residents enjoy the property? Is transversing barb wire now a summer olympics event?

One thing is certain is that putting this controversy behind you is something you are looking forward to in a re-election year. Putting it behind removes those fun posting which place you as the problem creator. But I don't have to worry about a shortage of new material; your ministration is good for at least three new controversies a month starting with

Finally good news is not that a store got leased. I see the responsible parties for this outcome as both the landlord and the tenant -- not the government. Good news is not resuscitating issues which you have mothballed. Reruns are your speciality while the number of ships that get lost in the Greenburgh Triangle continues to grow. Would good news include the arrival of the overdue Comprehensive Plan? Would good news include the launch of revaluation but revaluation without reassessment produces no additional revenue -- it only rearranges the burden. Would good news mean that you are adding $40,000 to the Librarty budget which would allow it to be open on Sunday. Would good news be the payback of the water department borrowings from the Fund Balance? Would good news be the arrival of the electric pumping station at the Library because there are so many residents with all electric cars begging for it.
Would good news be that you have now heard from every anonymous resident in Greenburgh and that you have been "in contact with the office" of everyone in every government everywhere? Would good news be that Greenburgh, after a four year absence, is being considered a swell place to live? Would good news be that you are going to address the decaying infrastructure and turn the bond rating into an advantage? In short, would good news be that you are going to be reborn as a hands-on town manager not a person who would counsel the destruction of evidence in legal actions.

Here's more good news for your reeely big show which we await eagerly:
Alan Hochberg is moving in with your uncle in Buffalo.

Yep there are lots of opportunities to harvest good news. But the letdown is that all you deliver is the chaff, never the wheat.

But do keep us informed when situations crop up for which you can rightfully claim credit and these are IMMINENT. Exclude those which gush "the sun is going to come up tomorrow and tomorrow is only a day away".

WPEyesNEars:

We all know this is a ploy by Feiner to accommodate Co Legislator Michael Smith, the former Knollwood-Mayfair Board of Ed President and Ned McCormack, one of Astorino’s top lieutenants, as well as pretty-boy Astorino - all to garner favors and votes. They were all complicit in the illegal payoffs to the Valhalla School District/Civic Association because Feiner, and they, have no shame. This will get them ALL votes from Valhalla residents if they can get rid of the homeless: , NIMBY, NIMBY,NIMBY. The only way Feiner could pull this off was to force the County's hand all while holding it. Feiner intentionally did not renew the lease and then allowed the units to be pillaged and left open to decay so he could say they need to be torn down or are too expensive to renovate. Shrewd operator. Smith has been going around singing the praises of Ferncliff and saying this is the right thing for Valhalla. OF COURSE IT IS - they never wanted and still don't want the homeless in their neighborhoods. They're all corrupt and they all gotta go!

halmarc45:

continuing from the comment below.
the real estate deal.
Essentially, if Ferncliff were qualified to be the tenant, their need includes both the demolition of the existing structures and their replacement with new improvements -- both conditions executed at Ferncliff's sole expense. Let's say that Ferncliff can afford the rent (not the $980,000 a year that Feiner originally claimed but the $500-530,000 that he now claims) and can obtain funding for the construction, etc. That means that in 2-3 years when the property is open and the rent commences, life in Greenburgh will be merrier.
On the other hand, that means that for 2-3 years until such time, Greenburgh will receive NO income for this property.
Don't know whether $500,000+ is a fair rent? Let's do what appraisers do and look at a "comp". Let's see, where is there a nearby same-sized parcel of land which can be leased? Hmmm. I've got it, how about using the very recent lease that Feiner gave the GameOn folks for the Town-owned former Frank's parcel.
Let's remove the benefit to GameOn of being off a highway at its access and egress points and ignore the value of visibility from this highway (its near 8 story height) which would only help those customers unfamiliar with the area and concentrate on apples to apples. Flat, level terrain, same size, tenant agrees to remove the existing structure at its own expense and the Lease calls for unfettered pure rent of...around $172,000 a year.
Feiner must be a real estate genius and lauded for trying to reel in Ferncliff which is willing to pay at least $500,000 for a similar property and both provide benefits to children, their targeted markets.
Of course there are some dissimilarities. The Frank's parcel is currently contaminated with carcinogens which might be viewed as daunting but for the news that Greenburgh, at taxpayer expense, intends to cure all the problems so that not even one small child will contract cancer from playing on the outdoor playing fields. Problem solver solving problems. Of course, solving the problem may add to the tax burden as well as prevent the collection or rent for...the same 2-3 years.
Wait, this just in. Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way. Like the cart pulling the horse. Maybe I should be asking if Ferncliff (serving a good cause) is paying $500,000 for a similar property, why is GameOn (a for-profit startup that anticipates netting over $1,000,000, after expenses, in its very first year) ONLY PAYING $172,000?
What entitles the for-profit to get such a great deal when, poor, pitiful Ferncliff is being ripped off for $500,000. Readers need to ask their Town Supervisor for an explanation.

But, let's allow that this is all water under the bridge (or over this being Greenburgh) and look at these "new" proposals as though Feiner was completely in the dark as to their details until they are "received". Apparently some of the proposals include rehabilitating the property "at no expense" to the Town. Yes, Virginia there is a Santa and this year he is bringing "free lunch" in addition to gifts. Just like GameOn is contributing $125,000 toward the clean-up but this "gift" is really an advance of the first year's rent due. So, while you sit on Santa's knee and he spins wondrous tales of generous residential property managers, let's allow Scrooge to protest by saying "bah, humbug". Property managers are in the business to ensure first, last and always a bottom line which works to their benefit. What the right hand gives away, the left hand takes back.
Thus, consider Feiner working with prospective bidders to encourage them to submit proposals which won't show the Town having to expend large sums to make the property habitable but instead make it appear that the proposal includes these expenditures. But since no one likes to give money away, real estate professionals least of all, be assured that their initial outlay will be earned back by paying Greenburgh less rent than would otherwise be acceptable. And as a bonus to Feiner, deals which provide less rent would appear to make his original forecast that the Ferncliff deal would be the best one for the Town because $500,000 is a lot more than "affordable housing" rent which appears lower because the property manager is trying to recover the initial outlay.
Simple and unsurprising when you can read Feiner.

halmarc45:

As usual the news story is written by someone looking through binoculars; however the binoculars are being used with the eyepiece on the outside and the lens directly in front of the eye. This produces the opposite effect.

What I am objecting to is the impression given that a new tenant must conform to new terms of the County when the opposite is and has always been the requirement. The County owns the land; the County paid for the consruction of the 108 units; Greenburgh, under Feiner, paid for the barb wire fencing surrounding the facility. The point here is that the County made a gift to Greenburgh by giving it a "turnkey" MASTER lease which allowed Greenburgh to manage the developed site and keep the rent collected. The benefit to the County? It added to the stock of "affordable" housing. The benefit to Greenburgh? It provided an annual revenue which had peaked at $1,200,000 when GREENBURGH's SUB-LEASE with tenant WESTHelp expired September 30, 2011. Since then the property has been kept vacant (Feiner's gift to the nearby civic association, Mayfair-Knollwood), allowed to deteriorate and Greenburgh has not received any income in over a year.

All Greenburgh ever had to do was find a tenant with satisfied the one condition of its lease with the County: CONTINUE to rent the property to an operator of "affordable" housing. Nothing unusual, nothing underhanded, nothing mean or hostile or punitive. Honor the terms of the original Lease with the County is what all this "noise" is about. If not, the County can declare the Lease in default, take the property back, rent it and keep all the revenue.

What about this is so troubling to Feiner that he won't abide by the Lease which no one held a gun to Greenburgh's back and forced it to sign? Again, Mayfair-Knollwood didn't want this use in their backyard even though the facility is set back from the road and not an eyesore when maintained.

The notion that Ferncliff should be the tenant is ludicrous in that it neither qualifies as an operator of "affordable housing" (it currently houses less than 60 students not all of whom qualify on a needs basis) and Ferncliff's proposal requires the demolition of the existing 108 units built (again) at County expense. However, the use is acceptable to Mayfair-Knollwood which is why Feiner has delayed seeking a new, qualified tenant for months; a delay which has cost Greenburgh hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income in the 14 months (so far) it has remained vacant while its "planned" deterioration will only up the ante to get it occupied and back on track. As is the present scenario. Incidentally, Feiner had contrived to give half of the WESTHelp revenue away to appease Mayfair-Knollwood in a deal that was overturned by the State Comptroller. So much for Feiner's concern for Greenburgh taxpayers.

But if this was only about the money and Feiner seeking the highest return (ignoring the sentence just before) so that taxes would be reduced and town programs preserved, let's look at this deal stripped of the labels, the controversy and fight with the County and instead just look at it as a real estate deal.
Something I shall take up in the next section coming your way...right now.
Hal Samis

Bob Bernstein:

Mr. Feiner doesn't deny that his press release last night was false and misleading. And he may say he intends to lease the apartments after all but he is quoted in a front page story in today's Journal News as saying it was his intention all along to allow the WestHELP apartments to deteriorate to the point where they would have to be torn down. He also admits that his deliberately failing to maintain these needed low and moderate income housing units has now created mold and mildew conditions which may require millions of dollars to make the apartments habitable again. The fact that Mr. Feiner keeps referring, even in his post to "developers" suggests that he still doesn't comprehend that what the Town needed here all along -- if it's intent was to honor the terms of the county's lease -- was not a "developer" but a company that can manage and maintain low and affordable housing units.

http://www.lohud.com/article/20121130/NEWS02/311300037/Tax-Watch-Mold-WestHELP-site-brings-blame-Greenburgh-makes-leasing-tougher

paulfeiner:

Bob Bernstein' comments, as usual, contain some inaccuracies. The town has been showing the property to affordable housing developers and managers for months. We expect to receive some good proposals from applicants next week (proposals will be posted on the town website:www.greenburghny.com). We will generate some revenue from the property if the property won't be leased to Ferncliff. The developers (at their expense) will renovate the apartments.
I expect that the Town Board will award a lease to a developer by December 20th--probably earlier.
Sorry to disappoint you Bob. But, we will lease the property.IThe property could be used for affordable housing. We will generate rental income. And, we will work with the county. We hope our legislators will work with us too.
This property WILL NOT REMAIN VACANT.

tootired:

Backpedaling. Muddy the waters. Shift blame. Muck it up. Feigned prudence, mass confusion.......it's a Feiner sport.

Bob Bernstein:

From last night's ECC facebook page:

WESTHELP PROPERTY LIKELY TO REMAIN VACANT AND DETERIORATING FOR FORESEEABLE FUTURE

WestHELP, the 108-apartment complex on Knollwood Road that was once the Town's largest source of non-tax revenue is likely to be remain vacant and will continue to deteriorate through 2013.

On Monday, the Town will receive bids for the use of the WestHELP property, but it is looking more and more likely that Town Supervisor Paul Feiner will once again insist that the 108 apartments be destroyed so that the Town can enter into a long-term ground lease with Ferncliff, a for-profit school for developmentally disabled children. Ferncliff wants to construct a new residential school and facility to replace a facility it has in Yonkers.

The Ferncliff proposal was turned down by the County Board of Legislators because the Town's contractual rights to the WestHELP property are expressly conditioned on the 20-year old county-owned apartments being used for low and moderate income housing.

Mr. Feiner has joined forces with residents of the Mayfair Knollwood area who for decades have opposed having such housing a mile from their homes.

Tonight, Mr. Feiner issued a press release claiming that if Ferncliff had been approved, "the town would have received about $530,000 a year in rent from Ferncliff." However, the proposed Ferncliff lease states that the payment of such rent is conditioned on New York State agreeing to fund it, which the lease says the state may not agree to do, in which case the Town would get nothing. Mr. Feiner, who presumably is aware of this condition in the lease, is nevertheless pushing it -- without disclosing that the rent might not be paid at all-- in order to keep the property from being used for low and moderate income housing.

Mr. Feiner's press release tonight also states in bold face that "[e]very $40,000 the town receives in revenue will enable the town to reduce taxes by an additional 1% in the A budget" and that if the Westchester County Legislature "vetoes a proposal that would generate more revenue to the town it will impact tax bills for residents and businesses in both unincorporated Greenburgh and the villages."

However, because Mr. Feiner has failed to spend any town money to maintain the 108 apartments since the WestHELP lease ended in September 2011, the apartments have become uninhabitable. A representative from SUNY Purchase who recently inspected the apartments as possible temporary dorms for students reportedly said each of the 108 apartments needed at least $20,000 to renovations -- a total of more than $2 million -- just to remove mold and mildew and replace appliances and fixtures that the Town has allowed to go missing.

Mr. Feiner has purposely not put any money into his 2013 town budget for the cost of any such repairs. In fact, even though he has budgeted $100,000 in rent revenue for WestHELP in 2013, there is not even a line item in his budget for maintaining the WestHELP property.

This suggests that Mr. Feiner's plan is not to lease the property at all -- but rather to blame instead the Westchester County Board of Legislators for not letting him destroy the housing.

The county board of legislators, for its part, has threatened to take the WestHELP property away from the Town for violating the terms of its lease requiring that it be used for low and moderate income housing.

To counter that action, the Town is likely to enter into the so-called "sham" short-term lease with the Greenburgh Housing Authority to convey the impression to a court that the apartments are being used for their intended purpose. However, the Housing Authority has no funds to maintain the units and would not lease apartments in any event without a long-term commitment, which the Town won't give.

Lastly, Mr. Feiner has apparently issued an ultimatum for county legislators MaryJane Shimsky, Alfreda Williams, and county board chairman Ken Jenkins to appear at a town board work session on Tuesday at 9 a.m. to discuss the matter. None of the county legislators is expected to attend what is looking more and more likely like a political publicity stunt for Mr. Feiner to shift the blame publicly for his problems to them.

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