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Proposal Would Let Greenburgh Lease WestHELP site

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino submitted a proposal to the Board of Legislators on Monday to allow the Greenburgh Town Board to lease the WestHELP property to Ferncliff Manor.

Last year, the WestHELP property was contracted by the Greenburgh Housing Authority to keep the complex classified as affordable housing after WestHELP closed. Leasing to Ferncliff would violate the terms of the county's agreement, said County Legislator Alfreda Williams, who represents Greenburgh on the county board.

Astorino's proposed amendment would add WestHELP to a list of properties to which "the county shall not execute any leases either as lessor or lessee for a term exceeding 30 years," allowing Greenburgh to lease the property to Ferncliff.

Astorino's proposal has been long-awaited by Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, who said Ferncliff would bring in twice as much income as any affordable housing project. But the proposal still needs a majority of the county board's votes to take effect, which board press secretary Tom Staudter said is not likely to happen.

"The majority of the board is sticking by the commitment they've made initially, which is to keeping the property dedicated to affordable housing," Staudter said. "There's an end run that's trying to be accomplished, and it's not going to happen."

Both Williams and County Board Chairman Ken Jenkins still support affordable housing at the site, especially since Greenburgh's homeless population has increased over the past few years, Staudter said.

"This facility was built years ago when there was a problem, and the problem hasn't changed," he said.

In addition, the county board is against Ferncliff's plan to raze the existing WestHELP apartments and built new facilities on the property because it would eliminate a perfectly good stock of affordable housing, Williams said.

"WestHELP site is fully usable as it is," she said. "To tear down and rebuild — it doesn't make too much sense to me."

The Greenburgh Town Board stated on Sept. 14 that if Astorino didn't send the proposal, it would issue a request for proposals from other willing tenants. Though Astorino's proposal has been received, a Greenburgh Town Hall spokesman said the Town Board still plans to discuss the RFPs at Tuesday's work session at 9:30 a.m.

Ferncliff Manor , based in Yonkers, is a private residential school for children with severe developmental disabilities.

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