Notwithstanding what Mr. Feiner and the ECC received from the police at 10:58 p.m. -- after the ECC posted a story earlier this evening about an armed robbery that was reported to the police eight hours earlier at 2:50 p.m. -- just minutes prior to the dismissal of kids from Seely Place Elementary School -- a resident received the following email (earlier this evening) from a Greenburgh police detective: "He robbed the Shell station at gun point and ran up Clifton. When we arrived he was not in the area. He did leave a personal article behind and the detectives might be able to get evidence off of it. I believe there was a video surveillance system too." This is not an incident that lends itself to sugarcoating. There was an armed robbery within minutes of the dismissal of a nearby elementary school, a suspect with a silver handgun ran into a residential neighborhood with kids, and the police went after him with their own guns drawn. In this day and age, public safety and common sense dictate that police and elected government officials have a duty to inform school officials and residents when something like this involving a gun used in a crime occurs -- not eight hours after the fact -- but in real time so that everyone can take the necessary precautions. View Comment
Your story provides a false and misleading account of an extremely troubling incident in Edgemont that has parents extremely upset. First of all, you state that the armed robbery took place at "3:30 p.m." This is false. According to Police Chief DeCarlo, Greenburgh police responded to the report of a robbery at "2:30 p.m." The robber, brandishing a silver hand gun, fled on foot on Clifton Road into the Cotswold neighborhood just prior to dismissal of students from Seely Place School. Police immediately converged on the neighborhood looking for the gunman, but at no time appear to have ever informed school officials or parents of what had occurred. One Cotswold parent tonight contacted the ECC to say what when she came home from picking up her daughter at 3:20 p.m., "there were four cop cars in front of my house, and two cops on foot in my driveway, headed into my backyard -- one of them had his gun drawn. Yikes." Edgemont residents looking for true and correct information are urged to read the ECC website or its facebook page. View Comment
I don't know what Paul Feiner is talking about. I did not "organize an aggressive campaign to defeat the referendum."
What I do know is that in Edgemont, where I live, the Game On referendum failed by a wide margin. I think the reasons it failed had to do with the fact that unlike the rest of the Town, Edgemont residents were informed BEFORE the vote that the Town's consultants had discovered cancer-causing carcinogens on the site where Game On, a startup with no assets other than the sweetheart lease Mr. Feiner was offering, was planning to build indoor and outdoor athletic fields for children, that Mr. Feiner had secretly met with the consultants and deliberately concealed the results of their study for at least a week in the hope residents of the Town would not find out about it -- Mr. Feiner said that because of the hurricane, he was too busy to release it -- that as a result of committing unwitting taxpayers to the Game On proposal, Mr. Feiner was creating a huge unknown and unknowable financial obligation for Greenburgh taxpayers to fund the cleanup, and that, as a result, Mr. Feiner's cynical "$5 million for Greenburgh" campaign to support the Game On referendum was at the end of the day false, misleading and disingenuous in the extreme.
This is not surprising given that earlier this year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld findings in Fortress Bible that Mr. Feiner violated the constitutional rights of a church, lied under oath, and destroyed evidence -- a finding that, because of Mr. Feiner's antics, will likely cost Greenburgh taxpayers more than $6 million in damages.
I agree with Mr. Feiner that there is a lack of soccer fields in Greenburgh and in Westchester, but even though Greenburgh is the only town in New York (and possibly the country) with two separate town recreation departments, he has done nothing to remedy that situation. Even the Town's Webb Field, which is ideal for a soccer field, is unused.
The reality, of course, is that, Mr. Feiner's personal attacks against me notwithstanding, Game On has still not signed a lease, has therefore still not funded a penny of the environmental costs that the Town has committed to spending, and in all likelihood, Game On may not even have the resources to consummate the transaction. Thus, like the failed Tennis Bubble proposal that Mr. Feiner was touting earlier this year, for which Mr. Feiner demanded and received a legislative change in Albany, it is possible that without any financing to support it, the Game On proposal may face a similar fate. View Comment
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 View Comment
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. View Comment
From today's Edgemont Community Council Facebook Page:
CONSULTANTS SAY COSTS TO CLEAN UP FRANK'S NURSERY FOR 'GAME ON' ARE UNKNOWN ARE THIS TIME
The environmental consultants that the Town has hired to study the contamination at the former Frank's Nursery site on Dobbs Ferry Road, which the Town has agreed to lease to a startup company to construct athletic facilities for children, yesterday said cleanup costs are unknown at this time and would only be determined after consultation with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The news that the cleanup costs are unknown was a sharp rebuke to the representations made by the town attorney throughout the summer and fall, when the lease was being considered, that total study and remediation costs were not expected to exceed $100,000.
An engineer for Woodward & Curran, the consulting firm, told the Town Board at its work session that based on the studies it has completed thus far, and based also on the Town's intended use of the site for both indoor and outdoor athletic fields for children, it is much too early to say how much the clean up of the site will ultimately cost Greenburgh taxpayers.
Residents had accused Town Supervisor Paul Feiner of deliberately withholding publication of the consultants' Phase II report documenting their discovery of cancer-causing carcinogens on the site until the November weekend before a town-wide referendum on whether the Town should approve the 15-year lease Mr. Feiner had proposed for "Game On," a startup company that wants to build the athletic fields.
The referendum was approved by a substantial margin, although it was defeated in Edgemont, where word of the environmental findings was widely publicized.
The consultants yesterday said that indoor athletic fields would probably be less problematic for environmental remediation than the proposed outdoor fields because they believed indoor fields would be constructed over an impermeable seal to prevent the carcinogens in the soil from leaching and thus causing children to be exposed. The same could not be said, they said, for the proposed outdoor fields unless a similar impermeable seal was also placed where the fields are to be built.
Under the terms of the 15-year lease that Mr. Feiner committed to, town taxpayers will now have to foot the bill for the installation of these impermeable seals as part of the property's remediation costs so that "Game On" can build its fields.
The consultants yesterday said they were aware of the multimillion dollar costs of remediation that were being proposed for the athletic fields in Briarcliff Manor where athletic fields were constructed over untested landfill containing carcinogens which have been blamed for causing fatal cancer in several children over the past few years.
However, they assumed that the cost of the remediation would not be as high for the Frank's site provided the athletic fields were indoor-only. They were unaware until yesterday though that the "Game On" proposal also called for the construction of outdoor fields.
The consultants yesterday also said there would be additional costs involved in testing for airborne contaminants at the site, which has not been done. A residents suggested at the Town Board meeting on November 14 that there might be airborne contamination from dust and other particles that could affect neighboring properties now and during any construction or disturbance of the ground.
The consultants also strongly recommended yesterday that the Town not approve Mr. Feiner's suggestion to lease the Frank's property in the interim, while the environmental studies are underway, to a company that wants to park cars and trucks on the site because of the risk of further contamination of the property, particularly in the absence of any approved stormwater management plan.
In an unannounced town board meeting on November 1, the town board had approved an additional $69,670 to conduct more investigation of the Frank's site, this bringing the total cost thus far of the study to more than $113,000. A tape of the November 1 meeting was broadcast on the Town's cable channel, but was not made available, as is normally the case, on the Town's website.
The town attorney this summer had assured residents the investigation and remediation of the site would together cost no more than $100,000. Residents had accused the town attorney, who has no expertise in environmental matters, of playing politics with children's health, in order to support Mr. Feiner's stated goal of getting residents to approve the lease.
In approving the additional $69,670, the town board's resolution said a portion of the money would actually be used for remediation. In fact, the only remediation proposed at this time was the removal of a leaking underground storage tank which would have cost another $22,000 that the town did not approve spending.
Under the terms of the proposed lease that voters were asked to approve, Game On agreed to pay the first $125,000 in investigation and remediation costs. Game On has agreed to front the second $125,000 of such costs, subject to a reduction of its rent in that amount, and the Town agreed to spend up to $150,000 more, for a total cost of $400,000.
If costs exceed $400,000, either party has the option of terminating the lease in which event all monies paid by Game On would have to be refunded.
Residents can view the town board work session yesterday on the town's website. View Comment
From the ECC Facebook page:
FEINER PROPOSES 3% HIKE IN TOWN TAXES FOR 2013
Town Supervisor Paul Feiner is proposing a 3% hike in town taxes for 2013. If approved, total town taxes (unincorporated and town-wide) would rise from $181.02 per thousand dollars assessed to $186.43 per thousand dollars assessed.
For an average Edgemont home assessed at $30,000, the increase in town taxes will be around $150 to around $5,593.00. Since 2007, when total town taxes were only $120.75 per thousand dollars assessed, town taxes have increased by 54.39%. In terms of unincorporated area taxes only, the increase since 2007 comes to 49.5%.
Mr. Feiner purports to come within the state's 2% tax cap because even though the hike is 3%, the town tax levy (in terms of actual dollars collected) is being increased by no more than 2%.
Despite promises last year that he would begin implementing budget reforms to end, among other things, the Town's duplicative departments and services, the proposal for 2013 contains no such changes. Thus, Mr. Feiner proposes to continue maintaining two separate recreation departments, each with their own commissioners earning six figure salaries, separate staffs, summer camps, adult programs and separate facilities. The Town also continues its SWAT program even though the county already has one and the Town continues to maintain its own after school program, even though every school district in the Town already has one.
Mr. Feiner's proposed budget also includes no provision for the expected $6-8 million judgment against the Town for the Fortress Bible case, in which a federal appellate court earlier this year affirmed a judgment finding that Mr. Feiner violated the constitutional rights of Fortress Bible Church in refusing permission for the church to build. Because none of that judgment will be covered by insurance, the cost will be paid for entirely by taxpayers.
Mr. Feiner's proposed budget also does not include any expenditures for the environmental cleanup associated with the former Frank's Nursery site, which was recently found to be contaminated with carcinogens. The town agreed to lease the property for 15 years to a startup company which intends to build athletic fields on the site for children to use. Because Mr. Feiner insisted on going forward with the lease without knowing what the cost might be, town taxpayers may now have to pay millions of dollars to make the site useable.
As is usually the case each year with Mr. Feiner's budgets, there are a number of questionable entries. First, he states upfront that his own budget for operating the supervisor's office has been cut by $80,000. In fact, the budget shows no such cut in spending.
For the first time in history the proposed budget states that "financial aid" in the amount of $70,000 is being offered for programs run by the Town's Department of Community Resources, which is one of the Town's two separate recreation departments, while Parks and Recreation, the other town recreation department, is offering "financial aid" in the amount of $10,000. The Town had been offering such "financial aid" in the past, but had never disclosed how much it was costing taxpayers. However, Mr. Feiner has inexplicably included the $70,000 and $10,000 in such "financial aid" as "town revenue" for 2013, thus creating the impression that the financial aid is cost-free because Mr. Feiner lists it as both an expense and income.
Another questionable item in Mr. Feiner's proposed budget is $100,000 in WestHELP "rent." Until September 2011, the Town was receiving $1.2 million a year in WestHELP rent, but because Mr. Feiner twice refused in 2008 to extend the WestHELP lease, the lease expired and Mr. Feiner is keeping the 108 one-bedroom apartments there vacant (and allowing them to deteriorate). How Mr. Feiner came up with this $100,000 figure for "rent" on a property he is deliberately keeping vacant is unknown.
Mr. Feiner is once again relying on the Town's fund balance to keep taxes down, and thus taxpayers are not paying the true cost of the Town's diminishing services. In the B budget, Mr. Feiner is proposing to balance the budget with a drawdown of $2.2 million in fund balance which, at around $500,000 a point, is equivalent to a little more than a four percentage point tax decrease. In other words, had Mr. Feiner not chosen to rely on fund balance, the tax increase he is proposing for 2013 would be not 3% but 7%.
Mr. Feiner is also projecting to use around $200,000 in unclaimed tax refunds as revenue for 2013. This is money that taxpayers overpaid in town taxes, but which was not claimed. In prior years, the Town was criticized for not notifying taxpayers that they overpaid their taxes.
The Town is proposing to hold several public hearings on the budget, which must be adopted by by the Town Board no later than December 20, 2012.
Several Edgemont residents have asked whether Mr. Feiner's budget includes money for any kind of organized town-wide disaster relief program, which would involve setting up community-wide alerts, a hotline to call for aid, identifying residents at risk, and coordinating and communicating power, cable, and phone outages, as well as flooding and road closures. The answer is no, there is nothing proposed to address that. And, as residents now know, the Town does not have any kind of disaster relief program in effect. When disaster strikes in Greenburgh, residents are on their own.
Mr. Feiner's proposed budget for 2013 also does not include any revenue for the so-called "Tennis Bubble" lease at Veteran Park. Residents will recall that at Mr. Feiner's insistence, state legislators Abinanti and Stewart-Cousins succeeded last June in getting the state legislature to pass an amendment to the so-called Finneran Law to permit the Town to lease the tennis courts at Veteran Park to a private vendor without requiring that access be limited to residents of unincorporated Greenburgh as Finneran requires. Mr. Feiner assured the public that the change in law would permit the Town to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in rent. However, no proposals were ever made public, no deal has been entered into, and, not surprisingly, the budget reflects no such revenue.
Mr. Feiner's plea for residents to call so that he may explain his side of the Fortress Bible fiasco is both desperate and pathetic.
After 26 days of trial, a federal district judge not only found that Mr. Feiner had intentionally violated the constitutional rights of Fortress Bible Church, but the judge also found that Mr. Feiner had lied under oath and destroyed documents (for which the Town was fined an additional $10,000). In a scathing opinion that ripped Mr. Feiner's arguments to shreds, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the lower court's judgment at trial in all respects.
One would think that, at the very least, after all the damage he has caused, and the shame he's brought upon the Town, Mr. Feiner would take this opportunity to apologize for his behavior and ask residents to forgive what he did. But no.
Mr. Feiner's first response was to blame what happened not on his own gross misconduct, but on the federal laws (including the First and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution) which he argued wrongfully interfere with his right to do as he pleases as Town Supervisor.
And now he begs residents to just call him so that he can tell them his side of the story -- as if to suggest that if he couldn't prevail in the federal courts, he could at least prevail in the court of public opinion. Then again, who would anyone believe: the federal judges that heard Mr. Feiner's arguments and unanimously rejected them -- or a politician who was found to have testified falsely under oath?
Residents and political leaders of all parties should understand that these pathetic reactions on the part of Mr. Feiner are neither healthy nor constructive and instead provide the best evidence yet of why Mr. Feiner is no longer suited to hold public office in Greenburgh or anywhere else.
Mr. Feiner's statements are all false and misleading. In the Fortress Bible ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously rejected Mr. Feiner's supposed "traffic safety constraints" as "not sincere" and "motivated solely by hostility toward the Church." Taxpayers, who will be paying the millions of dollars in damages caused by Mr. Feiner's outrageously inappropriate behavior are advised to read the court's 31-page opinion. See http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16989909/Second%20Circuit%20decision%20-%20Fortress%20Bible_.pdf
Mr. Feiner's comment concerning WestHELP and Ferncliff is equally misleading. The Ferncliff lease offers the Town only $500,000 a year, and only if New York States reimburses that amount to Ferncliff, a for-profit school, and if the state does not, the Town has no recourse. By contrast, housing experts agree that if each of the 108 efficiency apartments were leased at $800 a month, the Town would receive $1 million a year in rent, with perhaps management costs of about $100,000 a year. Mr. Feiner's hostility to affordable housing at that location has thus cost taxpayers in Greenburgh more than $1 million by his deciding, as a sop to the residents of Mayfair Knollwood, to deliberately keep the WestHELP apartments vacant for more than year.
Ferncliff was never a realistic opportunity for the Town and Mr. Feiner knows it, and has known it now for a long time. View Comment
The memo from the Town attorney appears to based on a faulty understanding of the law, as explained in the following post this afternoon on the ECC's facebook page:
TOWN ATTORNEY ASSUMES COUNTY LAWS WERE SUPERSEDED
When the Greenburgh Town Board voted last night to approve entering into a 15-year lease with Game On 365, it did so on the basis of a memo written by the Town Attorney which concluded that a county law mandating that property acquired in tax foreclosure sales be sold had been "superseded" by a state law enacted in 1993 which merely authorized towns to sell such properties.
However, the 1993 law, entitled the "Uniform Delinquent Tax Enforcement Act," merely states (in Section 1104 of the state's Real Property Tax Law) that it supersedes only those provisions of law in county charters that were "inconsistent" with the 1993 law.
Here, the Uniform Delinquent Tax Enforcement Act merely authorizes towns to sell such property. (See section 1166 of the RPTL). It is silent on whether such properties must then be sold. However, when a NY state statute is silent, and where as here, that gap is filled in by a county law, the county law is seemed to be not "inconsistent with" or "contrary to" but rather a "supplement" to the state law, and fully enforceable.
Assuming that is the case here, then the Town's authorization of a 15-year lease, instead of a sale of the property as required by county law, would appear to be plainly illegal.
Nor would such illegality be cured by a referendum, as Town Supervisor Paul Feiner has declared the Town will hold on the issue during the November election. In fact, it is illegal for the Town to hold a referendum that is not provided for by law. Here, if the property cannot legally be leased, then allowing a referendum on whether such property should be leased would be plainly illegal.
The problem for the Town is that having embarked on this path, the courts will now have to rule on whether the lease was legal. If the court upholds the Town's position, which looks to be unlikely, the matter will almost certainly be appealed, which means the matter won't get decided for at least another year or two. But if the Town loses in court, whether initially or on appeal, the Town's taxpayers will have to pay not only the Town's legal fees, but all costs incurred by Game On to date for having entered into a lease which the Town was not legally permitted to enter into.
That may prove to be a very high price to pay for callous indifference to the law on the part of the Town's elected officials.
Because of the importance of the action taken by the Greenburgh town board tonight, readers are entitled to a more balanced and accurate report. Enclosed is the ECC facebook post:
TOWN BOARD APPROVES GAME ON LEASE, PLANS 'PUBLIC DISCUSSION' ON WHETHER TO PUT LEASE TO PUBLIC VOTE
Despite arguments that their actions were plainly illegal, four of the five members of the Greenburgh Town Board voted tonight to approve a resolution authorizing Town Supervisor Paul Feiner to enter into a 15-year lease of the former Frank's Nursery Property to Game On 365, a startup entity that plans to erect an eight story high bubble on the property to support an indoor recreational facility.
The fifth member of the board, town councilman Ken Jones, was absent. Mr. Jones is the only practicing attorney on the town board. No explanation was given for his absence.
The alleged illegality stems from the fact that the Westchester County Tax Law expressly requires without exception that all properties acquired by towns in tax foreclosure proceedings be sold. Leasing such property, as opposed to selling it, would appear to be plainly illegal.
Mr. Feiner and the town attorney Tim Lewis have defended their actions on the ground that state law generally permits towns to lease property, subject to "permissive referendum." And in this regard, Mr. Feiner tonight proposed that the town board authorize a referendum to be held at the time of the November election to "ratify" what the Town has done.
However, nothing in the Westchester County Tax Law appears to permit a town to circumvent the county law by holding a referendum. Westchester requires properties acquired by towns in foreclosure proceedings to sell such properties in order to make sure that sufficient monies are raised to cover delinquent taxes owed to various taxing districts, including schools and the county itself.
Westchester's tax law is part of the Westchester County Charter which was originally approved by voters in the 1930s. Under state law, the county charter and its tax law provisions would appear to trump any state law provisions authorizing towns to lease properties.
Mr. Feiner's actions tonight in getting the town board to approve the lease threaten to embroil the Town once again in litigation over an apparent disregard for state law.
Within the past five years alone, Mr. Feiner has been found to have violated state law in giving away millions of dollars in town revenues to the Valhalla School District, in refusing to comply with the state charter requirements of the Hartsdale Public Parking Commission, in illegally entering into a lease with Sportime for the tennis facilities at Veteran Park, and in refusing to comply with state laws mandating fair calculation of sewer taxes.
At present, the Town is also facing millions of dollars in potential damages arising out of Mr. Feiner's also having been found guilty of intentionally violating the First Amendment rights of the Fortress Bible Church. A ruling on the Town's appeal of that judgment is expected any day now.
On top of that, because of Mr. Feiner's failure to renew the $1.2 million a year sublease for WestHELP, the Town is losing as much as $100,000 a month by deliberately keeping the 108 apartments there vacant and deteriorating in violation of the Town's lease with the county -- and county law itself -- which requires as a condition of the lease that the Town lease the apartments to low and moderate income tenants.
It is not certain whether and when "Game On 365" will execute the lease. Any legal challenges to the Town's actions tonight will have to be brought within 120 days.
Assuming legal actions are brought, the legal status of the lease will likely remain in dispute for at least two years, during which time the Town will be incurring legal costs while at the same time receiving no revenue from the lease. View Comment
I cannot defend Town Supervisor Paul Feiner's illegal giveaway of millions of dollars in Town revenues to the Valhalla school district in order to buy himself political support from Mayfair Knollwood any more than I could defend Mr. Feiner's having placed an eight-foot high barbed wire fence around the WestHELP facility on the campus of WCC in order to keep the homeless unwed mostly African American mothers and their pre-K children from wandering a mile through the woods to the Mayfair Knollwood neighborhood which so vehemently opposed their mere presence for two decades.
What I can do, however, is defend (i) my having intervened, at my own personal expense, with Herb Rosenberg, to prevent collusion between Mr. Feiner and the school district which (after the state comptroller said it was illegal) inexplicably sued for breach of contract to enforce Mr. Feiner's illegal gift (and together with the Town attorney) left out the most important part of the grant, which was the Town's right to get back money wrongfully disbursed, and (ii) my having negotiated, with Mr. Rosenberg, a settlement with the school district which, if the $1.8 million judgment we obtained for the taxpayers of Greenburgh were affirmed on appeal and enforced, would have penalized the children of a school district who would have been made victims by the actions of politicians like Mr. Feiner who should never have engaged in such illegal conduct at our expense in the first place.
Every taxpayer in Greenburgh should know that Mr. Feiner's actions cost us much more than the $700,000 (plus much more in interest) that we agreed not to collect as part of the settlement. And anyone who wants to know just how morally reprehensible Mr. Feiner's conduct was in this matter should visit the former WestHELP facility, whose 108 apartments have been purposely kept vacant since October 1, 2011 by Mr. Feiner's refusal to allow them to be leased to low and moderate income tenants as the Town's lease with the county -- and county law -- both require, costing the Town hundreds of thousands of dollars more in lost revenue, and take a look at that 20-year old rusted barbed wire fence that surrounds the facility. It is a symbol of the ugly racism that underlies this entire shameful debacle. View Comment
Paul Feiner just doesn't seem to get it. He claims I'm against everything he's for, and for everything he's against, but if I read his public comments correctly, we're both FOR reassessment, the only difference being that many of us in Edgemont are frustrated by his lack of leadership on an issue that is of tremendous importance to the largest component of our property tax bill, which is our school taxes. And Mr. Feiner is hardly one to complain about a failure to work together. He specifically asked last year that the ECC draft a resolution supporting tax reassessment and we did exactly what he asked -- I'm the guy who wrote it -- only to find that Mr. Feiner dropped the ball and did nothing with it, which is what we've come to expect from Mr. Feiner and what it means to "work together" with him.
So too we find that whenever the goes gets tough, and Mr. Feiner faces criticism for the many financial problems he has created for the Town, be it Fortress Bible, the WestHELP fiasco, the water department debacle and the Dromore Road fiasco, to name just a few, Mr. Feiner's response is not to apologize for his mistakes, or try to do better, but rather to launch personal attacks against his critics, myself included. This lack of maturity on the part of an elected official who has spent his entire adult life in public office seems to be a problem peculiar to Mr. Feiner, which is especially unfortunate for us and for the Town, because we in Edgemont have no problem dealing with our elected officials at the county level, be they Democrat or Republican, or at the state level with state senator Andrea Stewart Cousins. View Comment
Mr. Feiner may say he's not playing games, but residents of Edgemont may have reason to disagree. First of all, Mr. Feiner has been promising reassessment for years now. In fact, he made it the centerpiece of his 2011 budget -- two years ago in October 2010 -- but allocated no money toward the effort in either 2011 or again this year in 2012, and when his town-wide committee unanimously recommended it two years ago, he promptly appointed a new committee of residents from Irvington who are opposed to revaluation presumably to come with a different recommendation, which if it's ever been completed, has never been released. In the meantime, while other municipalities such as Scarsdale and Mamaroneck are moving ahead on their own with reassessment, Mr. Feiner seems to find new excuses not to proceed, whether it's because he wants to "condition" reassessment on the willingness of Yonkers and other municipalities to "partner" with Greenburgh in reducing costs or because he wants to "condition" reassessment on ability to the Town to reduce adverse financial impacts by shifting the burdens on those who will have to pay more to those burdened taxpayers who've been subsidizing them, because he feels the county should assume responsibility for the effort.
Two weeks ago, the chairman of the county board of legislators, Ken Jenkins, said the county had supplied the county's municipalities with 75% of the data they need to conduct their own reassessments. Yet, when told this was the case, town tax assessor Edye McCarthy said it didn't matter because the Town couldn't use the data until the Town's data became "digitized" and because no money has been asked for or allocated for that effort, Mr. Feiner has managed to come up with yet another excuse for not doing reassessment any time soon - even when the county steps up to help.
Edgemont residents saw that 40% of their school tax increase this year was because of tax cert obligations and the overall reduction in assessed property valuations in Edgemont. Edgemont is, of course, not the only school and fire district in the Town that is losing millions of dollars annually by the failure of the Town's elected officials to take the lead in getting reassessment underway. Schools and fire districts can't legally do reassessment on their own. The Town's villages can legally do reassessment but because school districts overlap into the unincorporated areas of the Town, village reassessment won't solve their problem.
But unlike every other taxing entity in Greenburgh, Edgemont is the only school and fire district that can legally solve this problem on its own -- but only by incorporating as a village. This is because Edgemont's school and fire districts would have the same borders as an incorporated village of Edgemont. If Mr. Feiner's promises of reassessment "on the horizon" continue to be empty and disingenuous, Edgemont may find that incorporation is the only way to save itself from the financial destruction that the Town's failure to do reassessment on its own is creating for us. View Comment
Mr. Samis is correct that the RFP for the Frank's Nursery property is a sham, and that the Town really has no idea what the market value of the property actually is.
The Town had apparently settled on Game-On as the favored tenant as of the spring of 2011 when, without telling the community why, the Town Board held public hearings on whether or not to exempt itself from the zoning requirements for the Frank's Nursery property. The property was in a single family residential zone and the Town was looking to find a use for the property without being tied to that zoning restriction. No one except Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and perhaps one or more members of the Town Board knew the truth: that the Town had already secretly decided to lease the parcel to Game-On and that such a lease would of course require a zoning change. But rather than go through that process, which Mr. Feiner knew might prove troublesome, Mr. Feiner thought he could do an end-run around that by simply getting the community to accept an "exemption" to the Town's zoning law.
Mr. Feiner's proposal, however, was met with outrage. Numerous civic associations, including the Council of Greenburgh Civic Association and the Edgemont Community Council opposed Mr. Feiner's proposal as unfair and highly prejudicial to neighboring properties which, in this case, were mostly residential.
That the Town was considering leasing the property all along to Game-On became obvious when, on May 19, 2011, months before the Town issued any RFP for the property, Mr. Feiner issued a press release calling for a "community meeting" for May 25, 2011 at the Frank's Nursery site for the purpose of considering proposals to Frank's, including leasing the property to a company that intended to erect a "recreation bubble for recreation uses." That, of course, was Game-On -- the entity for whom Mr. Feiner had been shilling for all along.
In the teeth of opposition from residents to the Town exempting itself from its own zoning regs, the Town decided instead in late August 2011 to issue an RFP for the Frank's property, with the understanding that all decisions with respect to Frank's would be made by December 31, 2011. The rationale was that if the Town could enter into a lease with Game-On prior to December 31, 2011 or shortly thereafter, it could include some of the rent as revenue for the 2012 town budget.
All of this is reflected in town records which are available online. The reality though is that because the Town's RFP process for the property was a sham, there is really no way to know what the true market value of the property is.
Proceeding headlong into a long-term lease without knowing the true market value of the property being leased is a hallmark of incompetence. That Mr. Feiner would do so without even putting a copy of the lease on the table for all to see is likely a further indication that the lease is problematic. Thus, there is also the problem of who bears the cost of any environmental cleanup at the site. Based on Mr. Feiner's efforts in the past, including his last attempt to lease the Frank's Nursery site for a temporary library location, we know that Mr. Feiner may well shift that risk to Greenburgh taxpayers.
The devil, as they say, is always in the details, and Mr. Feiner, unfortunately, doesn't pay attention to the details, and his colleagues on the town board don't seem to either. View Comment
The story also states, incorrectly and without attribution, that "[t]he rent from the school [Ferncliff] would be more than any revenue from affordable housing." Who says?
In fact, the proposed rent from Ferncliff, which was originally reported to be $900,000 a year, turned out to be illusory because the rent was contingent on state aid, the amount of which is uncertain. As has been reported elsewhere, according to Ferncliff, the $900,000 figure in the Town's proposed lease was merely a "placeholder" and thus not a real number. In other publications, Mr. Feiner conceded that the rent from Ferncliff was uncertain. Why not here?
As indicated in an earlier post, and has been widely reported elsewhere, HUD believes that the existing apartments, as is, could rent for about $1000 a month which, if fully rented, would generate for the Town much more than the rent it would receive from Ferncliff.
It would appear that the only expense the Town would incur would be the expense of hiring an entity or company to manage the units. The Greenburgh Housing Authority, which has a waiting list of 200 families looking for affordable housing, may be able to supply that service, but so could other entities, but the cost to the Town of hiring a company to manage the property would be a fraction of the rent it receives.
The Town is legally required to use the WestHELP property for "low and moderate income housing" and for no other purpose. Mr. Feiner, Mr. Smith and the Mayfair Knollwood Civic Association have made clear that they do not want -- indeed have never wanted -- the WestHELP property used for that purpose, and they will use every ruse in the book, including misleading gullible reporters, to try to convey the false and misleading impression that it should be up to Greenburgh to decide how the property should be used, and if Greenburgh doesn't want affordable housing there, that is Greenburgh's choice to make. So gullible reporters are told that Ferncliff is the better choice, that it will generate more revenue to the Town than housing, and that county officials who won't consent are hurting local governments.
The real reason for their opposition to affordable housing in that area, however, is the same reason the federal government brought suit against Westchester County in 2005 for impeding affordable housing in the county's mostly white municipalities.
It is a matter of public record that Mayfair Knollwood tried to incorporate as its own village in the late 1980s in an effort to block WestHELP from being constructed and that Mr. Feiner's predecessor, Tony Veteran, refused to go along with that effort, thereby establishing the precedent in the Second Circuit, aided in part by the NAACP, that forming a village in New York for the purpose of excluding racial minorities is legally impermissible. Mr. Feiner has aligned himself with Mayfair Knollwood in this dispute and residents of Greenburgh need to know that when Mr. Feiner and others talk about "affordable housing" at WestHELP not being the "right fit" for the neighborhood. These are racial code words.
The Daily Greenburgh does a disservice to its readers when it gets so many easily verifiable facts wrong. View Comment
First, contrary to what she story says, the Town's 30-year lease agreement with Westchester County was NOT "signed in 2001." It was signed in 1990 by Tony Veteran, Paul Feiner's predecessor, and by Andrew O'Rourke, the Republican former county executive. Second, contrary to what the story says, Westchester County owns both the land AND the 108 apartments on the site. It was paid for by taxpayer funds. It is not an asset of the Town, which has very limited discretion in terms of how the property may be used. Third, contrary to what the story says, the lease does NOT requires that "affordable or senior citizen housing be available on the lot." The county's lease with the town gives the Town a 30-year lease of the property, commencing in September 2001 -- ten years after the original 1990 lease document was signed -- only on condition that the Town of Greenburgh use the property for "low and moderate income housing." Such housing could be used for anyone meeting that criteria, including veterans and seniors, among others.
According to HUD, each individual unit could currently rent for $1000 a month which means that, by deliberately keeping the units vacant for the past seven months, Mr. Feiner has cost Greenburgh taxpayers thus far as much as $700,000. The Greenburgh Housing Authority currently has a waiting list of more than 200 families looking for affordable housing. Mr. Feiner should explain to taxpayers and county officials why THAT is not the best use for the property. Using the property instead for student housing would NOT be in the best interests of Greenburgh taxpayers because, when the Mayfair Knollwood Civic Association recommended this option a few years ago, it was determined that student housing will generate much less in revenue for the Town than leasing the units to those most in need of affordable housing. View Comment
In my comment earlier today, I said Edgemont was larger than Dobbs Ferry. I had meant to say Edgemont was larger than Elmsford. Edgemont will ultimately do what is in Edgemont's own best interests both politically and economically. It will not turn on what village residents or town Democrats or town officials may want us to do; nor should it. Indeed, "alliances" are laughable. Nor will it turn on on dissatisfaction with any elected or appointed town officials. It will turn instead on whether Edgemont feels that it can provide the municipal services we need better and more efficiently than the Town. Most village residents in Greenburgh tend to be happy with their own village governments and do not seek to consolidate with the Town, This is because they place a premium on local control. Given the huge success that Edgemont has had operating its own school and fire districts, I believe most Edgemont residents, if given the opportunity, will agree with the Town's village residents -- that village government, while not perfect, works best. Incorporation doesn't turn on what life might have been like in the 1920s and we'll all know how Edgemont really feels about the issue when the matter is put to a vote. View Comment
Edgemont is not a "small community." it has a population in excess of 8,000, which makes it about the same size as the Village of Hastings. It is larger than the villages of Ardsley, Irvington and Dobbs Ferry. It has it's own school and fire districts, for which it pays around $60 million in taxes a year. Edgemont pays nearly 25% of unincorporated Greenburgh taxes. Therefore, when the town government continuously ignores Edgemont and thumbs it's nose at its civic leaders, which it seems to do on a regular basis, they do at their own peril. View Comment
It's not me you can't win with Paul, it's every single person who spoke out against what Paul was doing here, except of course, for the one person, who spoke in favor, which was the lawyer for Cumberland Farms. Paul was told time and again that the requirement that Cumberlnd's competitors get special permits within six months was misguided and would result in gas stations in Edgemont being forever boarded up, but he refused to listen. In fact, he refused even to allow his fellow board members even to discuss it. Nor was he or any of his colleagues willing to explain why this six month requirement was being imposed or why it made any sense. This failure to listen , to pay attention to detail, to think through the ramifications, is what residents see all too often from Paul and his colleagues. If Paul would spend even a quarter of his time reading through his proposals, and thinking about residents' comments and criticisms, as he does issuing press releases congratulating himself on what he thinks he's accomplished, he may well win thanks even from his staunchest critics. But he won't and he doesn't. View Comment