Thursday, August 14, 2014

Greenburgh Isn't Russia?

A recent article in the New York Times described a fuel shortage is happening in North Korea. Apparently, they are suffering from a burgeoning class of new drivers, elevated from mere bicycles, which had been a staple of transportation for many years, to motorbikes of all sizes and styles. Compared to North Korea, South Korea is light years (pun intended) ahead of them. In fact, looking at the two Koreas via satellite, separated by the infamous "39th parallel", the stark differences between the two countries are readily obvious. In fact, above the 39th parallel, the north is mostly dark at night and the south is well-lit, unmistakenly enjoying their "bout" with capitalism.

While the north cracks down on this somewhat important status symbol of private motorcycle usage to conserve fuel, military and government officials are free to enjoy its usage at will. As government, even communist government is wont to do, it appears the average person suffers the most. These new restrictions, similar to what had taken place previously and not really "new" to anyone with half a memory of the Cold War, highlight their stunted economy and further highlights the pitfalls of government control.

One workaround for those who use their motorcycles, motorized bikes, and scooters for deliveries is to utilize the political bosses as "passengers". Hired to be passengers, allowing the purchase of fuel by the otherwise non-qualifying owner, it's a crafty, gray market-ish economy that has the politicos looking the other way. That is, unless they need fuel, at which point the North Korean Police will stop bikers to extort their fuel while pocketing extra cash.

In Russia, embargos and sanctions from around the world are beginning to be felt by their proletariat, or average person, who was already used to waiting on line for basic items and then some. I'm sure when Vladimir Putin needs a "joy roll", there's plenty waiting for him in the bathroom vanity wherever he choses to "cop a squat." His body guards must finally be happy there's an unintented benefit to putting up with all of his crappola. Who knows, there might even be a waiting list to get on his security detail just for the access to the essentials. Regardless of the select few with unfettered access, there's now a "Buy Russian" campaign for everyone else. ABG is sure many will be harkening back to the Cold War days when plentiful was not something for many in the eastern block. We even have the same thing going on with the New York State’s Empire Zone (EZ) program provides a variety of tax incentives to businesses expanding and creating jobs in targeted areas (known as Empire Zones) throughout New York State.

Our point in discussing this and specifically to government control over anything is how it relates to the average person, not the political elite. In the Town of Greenburgh, Mr Feiner and his Town Board pretty much pull all the strings, apply the grease to the wheels they want to see turn or keep the developers' motors running on all cylinders without regard to what the neighborhoods want. In the meantime, taxpaying residents must spend close to a year just trying to get approvals, permits, etc., to make small to medium changes to the homes they own and pay taxes on. Then their work process is drawn out awaiting approvals from the appropriate division (i.e. plumbing, electrical) within the building department. Its so bad for residents that many contractors refuse to do work in the Town, adding to an escalating cost and frustration for those who persevere. When questioned about this Mr Feiner falls back to his old standby claiming that residents are the perpetrators of bid rigging in the Town. When pushed and asked how residents could do this, he changes the subject, just doesn't answer or rambles on until you forget what the topic even was. he's quite adept at it.

For those who are enamored with our new healthcare system forced upon us by the President and a complicit Congress, we suggest watching what happens around us to see what's in store. One example that always comes to mind in the Veterans Administration that maintains hospitals, health care, and aid for our military veterans and how well the government doesn't do with it. We are constantly hearing of nightmare scenarios playing out for this relatively small portion of our population. Sadly, this is a microcosm of what we have decided to do to our health care system. Still not convinced?

The government runs many programs, most of which typically operate in the red. The Post Office, which was "privatized" in the 1980's, is an abject failure of glaring proportions. So much so that last year there was talk of them going "belly up". Why wouldn't they try to learn from FedEx before they imploded? We're not saying the people are bad, but there is no incentive to improve the service or process once you don the light blue shirt. How many times have you waiting on line to purchase stamps or ship something thinking, "Why is this taking so long? They're only selling stamps for crying out loud."

ABG staffers were in our lobby when the mail carriers arrived with the day's delivery. They opened the doors to the mailbox banks and proceeded to divvy out the mail. Upon finishing, they locked it all up and proceeded to leave without emptying the outgoing mail slot/box. Once might certainly be a coincidence - it happens. A quick query to the front desk personnel verified that not only is it a common occurrence, but they have to request the special key the building owns to open the mailbox!

Social Security, along with the infamous lock box that Vice President Al Gore promised us as the panacea to soothe our aging seniors trepidations as they got close to retirement. While the conversational box may have had a lock, its been raided yearly by politicians on both sides of the isle. And how about the classic example of the infamous Motor Vehicle Department and its lack of efficiency? Have you ever gone just to get an e-z pass? Its amazing the paperwork and identification you need to participate. Any of these agencies require it but some politicians want to allow illegal aliens the ability to vote, drive a motor vehicle, get DSS benefits and so on. Its out of control.

The Town of Greenburgh has a lot of issues. Some of them are important ones although not to the same scale as the federal government. Mr Feiner has made Greenburgh a "Sanctuary Town", meaning our police and fire personnel are not allowed to report multiple dwellers in single family homes, increase water usage, garbage and trash pickup, police services and more. He's turning our once vibrant Town into a mini third-world nation where rules and laws mean nothing to the chosen few. For real change to happen, the uninformed, willfully ignorant and apathetic resident must begin paying attention, attend meetings and be vociferous. The time is now! Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Comedian Robin Williams Dead at 63

Today, August 11, 2014, at approximately 11:55 a.m, Marin County Emergency Communications received a 9-1-1 telephone call reporting a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing inside his residence in Tiburon, CA. The Sheriff’s Office, the Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection District were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnel arriving on scene at 12:00 pm. The resident, actor/comedian Robin Williams, was pronounced dead at 12:02 pm.

An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Division s of the Sheriff’s Office. Preliminary information developed during the investigation indicates Mr. Williams was last seen alive at home, where he lived with his wife, at about10:00 pm on August 10, 2014. He was located this morning shortly before the 9-1-1 call was placed to Marin County Communications. At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made. A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12, 2014 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

When It Rains We Flood

A few months ago, the Fulton Park Civic Association met with our new Police Chief Chris McNerney and County Legislator Alfreda Williams about projected increases in parking and traffic from County Center events in this tiny and already heavily traffic-congested neighborhood. The Chief said he would meet with residents to find an acceptable method to control parking and try to keep the streets as open as possible for the neighbors. He sent a traffic officer to survey the area and discuss what could be done to help alleviate the congested neighborhoods already horrendus traffic congestion by limiting parking. Suggested temporary "No Parking" signs by the Chief were dismissed by the traffic officer as they can be ripped down by those parking their cars with the claim there was no signage there when the parked. So what does a neighborhood do?

In a subsequent conversation with the police chief, he said he would discuss this matter with the officer to attempt a resolution. Since the NY Knicks basketball team's minor league franchise is playing out of the County Center this coming basketball season, in addition to other events held each weekend at the same location, Fulton Park needs real relief. The Town Board, Planning Board, Zoning Board and Building Departments continue to approve and encourage increased development in the surrounding area, choking these residents off from access and egress from their own neighborhood. Let's hope the Police Chief truly can help them. You may also recall at several Town Board meetings during the Westhab debacle Mr Feiner repeatedly professed that he was going to prove to Fulton Park just how much he cared about them and that they were going to change their opinion of him. Not only has he proved how much he cares about Fulton Park, but the residents there anticipate more abandonment from Town Hall and specifically The Problem Solver.

Questions posed to Ms Williams were regarding any progress that might be made on the flooding issue by the County, specific to the Fulton Park neighborhood, but more importantly throughout the length of the Bronx River? She said that major progress had been made cleaning out the Saw Mill River on the other side of Town, but the Stormwater Advisory Committee appointed to address flooding had not even met during the last year. In fact, in a recent article published in the Journal News by Legislators George Latimer and Shelley Mayer, they're quoted as saying, "Unfortunately, to date, little has materialized." Its obvious.

No politician will get much news "cred" holding a press conference saying they were proactive about a problem that is plaguing more and more neighborhoods. Nope. But they will get a lot of press when they are out during and after a storm providing sound bytes, saying what's happening is terrible and we must reach out to blah, blah, blah. It sounds like Mr Feiner writes their press releases. The reality is that all of the Fulton Parks, mostly lower income and commonly ignored communities can forget about getting much help from local, county and state government officials.

This past winter found us experiencing some pretty severe cold and quite a bit of snow. Through it all however, most homes that typically flood made out well with minimum amounts of water in their basements and crawlspaces. So, while the weather has been most cooperative, our elected officials have not. Now would be the time for them to push for remediation throughout the lengths of both the Saw Mill and especially the Bronx River regions. One suggestion furnished to Ms Williams was for the County to begin dredging and clearing the Bronx River of debris, whether man-made or natural, from the south and work north. That way when the river is actually "opened up" at the north end, it won't overwhelm the southern parts as they await the same work. Good suggestion or not, it doesn't really matter. Nothing is happening. Why fix it when we can talk about it? Why fix it when they can ask you to vote for them (again?) so they can help you?

It is incumbent on our Town officials to push for remediation of the river areas since they continue to approve all kinds of developments throughout the Town, paving or filling what had been open space that would normally absorb rain and storm runoff. All of that formerly absorbed water is only being directed into these two overburdened rivers on each side of Town. It's also incumbent on our local representatives, such as our Town Board, to ensure that County, State and Federal representatives stop using member item funds for small-pet-project-vote-getting-purchases and devote their time, energy and resources toward fixing the problems they've help to create. Only then will be see A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Town Hall Suspected of Bid Rigging - Updated!

In a stunning and yet typical closed door, about-face move, our Town Board is unceremoniously moving swiftly albeit effortlessly toward scrapping the entire proposal constructed for the former Frank's Nursery property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road! The multi-million dollar question is why? In particular with this previously passed  proposal was the fact that the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association had participated with significant input into the proposal, actually correcting numerous mistakes pre-final draft. Could the explanation for this move be that Mr Feiner realized he was losing control to gift the property to GameOn 365 and felt he/they needed to move before the "auction" began? Remember, past performance doesn't guarantee future results, but it sure does provide an extremely accurate indicator.

On the Agenda as TB-1 in this Special Town Board Meeting to be held on August 5th at 10:30AM, the Town plans to rescind TB-8, adopted on July 15, 2014 which authorized the marketing plan/budget of GA Keen Realty Advisors related to the sale of the former Frank's Nursery property located at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road. Why?

With the second agenda item, TB-2, the Town Board plans to turn right around and approve the marketing plan/budget, information sheet, information memorandum, non-disclosure agreement and bidding procedures document for the auction of 715 Dobbs Ferry Road (Formerly Frank's Nursery) and authorizing a marketing plan/budget appropriation amount not to exceed $27,000 to GA Keen Realty Advisors, the Town's Real Estate Advisor. What changed and why?

What the Town Board is doing is removing the unanimously agreed upon stipulation that any bids on the property strictly utilize the R-30 zoning requirements to develop the property! Translation: Bid rigging. For example, GameOn 365 would have to follow the permitted uses of R-30 zoning such as residential housing, assisted living facilities, private clubs, etc., if they were to bid on the Frank's Nursery property. Similarly, this would apply to anyone else as well. And, we all know that what Mr Feiner wants is what will happen, regardless of the hoops he or others must jump through to accomplish it.

Mr Feiner's allegations of citizen bid rigging during the lease/sale/auction debacle with GameOn 365 still rings hollow as the Town Board again tries to change the playing field to benefit GameOn 365. They are still only a paper company with a small handful of investors relying on Mr Feiner's back room agreement for them to purchase the property while more significant offers are ignored. Is this just another ploy in Mr Feiner's bag of tricks? Will we see something added into the new proposal that removes the definition of a qualified bidder, or removal of the adherence to the R-30 Zoning?

You'll recall Mr Feiner tried to illegally lease the property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road to GameOn 365 about four years ago. Only after residents and civic associations threatened to sue the Town ala, "If you don't like what I'm doing, sue me," to stop his illegal actions did he back down. Fortunately, their threats to sue was enough to stop the runaway Mr Feiner and his Board from breaking yet another law.

Mr Feiner recently reached out to the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association claiming the owners of the Apple Farm, located in the shopping center on Rt 119, expressed interested in purchasing the Frank's Nursery property after the decision to rescind the proposal. The reply from neighborhood's Civic Association was firm: the only way they would agree to the sale of the property is if any bidder adheres to the R-30 zoning codes for the property. Mr Feiner wasn't happy and needed a way to push the Civic Association aside. In fact, ABG believes this could be why there is a special meeting with new proposals being introduced. By the way, given the amount of items on the Special Meeting Agenda, these should have all warranted a regular meeting. However, it would also have warranted the requisite public comments and slowed down the process Mr Feiner seeks to control, exposing their real motivation.

UPDATE, Sunday August 3rd:
In an email forwarded to the ABG offices, Mr Feiner replied to the query as to why the change. His answer below, is vague enough to appear legitimate but is really Mr Feiner thumbing his nose at the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association and their involvement with the entire process that HE insisted they participate in. Here's his email quote:

"RE: Resolution TB-1  08/05/14

we were advised that this requirement would not be legal and could jeopardize the sale of the property.  My understanding is that the town has more leeway re: decision as to who we're going to sell the property to, after the auction take place.  PAUL"

"We were advised" means that Mr Feiner made a decision and is not providing specifics because by remaining vague, his feet won't be anywhere near the fire, let alone held to it. The "more leeway" dumps the ball he temporarily "lost hold of" back in his lap, allowing him to cherry-pick to whom the Town sells the property after the auction. This will allow him to say no to bidders he wants out of the way until he gets to, for instance, the GameOn 365 bid. Since he can't control the bid, he needs to control the awarding of it. This rescinding of the proposal will allow that control to be his. 

Also on the agenda worth mentioning is AT-1, a resolution authorizing tax certiorari settlement with Westhab, Inc./22 Tarrytown Road Housing Development Fund Corporation for a total of $28,901. It's sad that a) the Town granted everything on Westhab's wish list when they sought to build; b) they utilize the police, fire and sanitation services while being a not-for-profit-but-very-well-paid organization; c) they don't have to contract with a carting company for garbage, recycle and trash removal while all other businesses must and are seeking a refund while utilizing Town services. Is this their idea of being a good neighbor, forcing the other residents to pay their share? And where are the financially concerned Fire Monitor participants and why aren't they looking at these expenses and/or behavior?

Having community involvement is critical for the success of the Town. Open government, real open government should be the cornerstone of how government works. Sadly, while Mr Feiner knows how to say and use the buzzwords about open government, he doesn't practice what he preaches. We'll have to wait and see what the changes are in the auction proposal contracts and learn why after the change takes place. Hardly open government. But in Greenburgh, it is our goverment. Only when the willfully ignorant become involved will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Honest Answers Welcome But Deflection Triumphs

Whenever Mr Feiner's latest guilty verdict is highlighted, he goes into what we've tagged as "deflection mode". You've seen this time and time again and we've written about it as often. The difference between us and the mainstream media is that we see it exactly for what it is. They, on the other hand, will reprint what he says without question or challenge. ABG believes they've abdicated their role as the fourth estate. Knowing he will get them "to play" by simply saying a few media-friendly buzz-words, he stated the Town's fire districts should consolidate. He began his rant to consolidate the Fairview and Hartsdale paid fire departments and deflected attention away from his failing budget, guilty verdict judgements and the general financial distress the Town of Greenburgh has been delivered. His ploy worked, his schemes have worked but his actions are failing. His policies are failing. HE is failing.

Mr Feiner has a small cadre of die hard loyalists who will do his bidding for him, allowing his appearance of being hands-off any hot button topic - such as fire district consolidation. In fact, when a Town Board meeting is not going his way, he will get on his mobile device and rally his troops via text messaging for help. As he stalls the meeting with his ramblings, awaiting his serfs arrival, they are given quick and unfettered access to the microphone. Their standard response might be an iteration of, "I was watching this at home and was so upset I had to come in to speak..." Others, in particular the G10, must sign up early and wait until called, usually after these troops have had their privileged say. Mr Feiner has perfected this routine and utilizes it often.

When Mr Feiner's guilty verdict was announced, the victorious Fortress Bible Church Discrimination lawsuit was almost put to bed. The judge had given ample opportunity to Mr Feiner and the Town to settle the case outside of the courts, but Mr Feiner, a non-practicing attorney, did not take advantage of the golden opportunity before he and the Town Board. His being obstinate, based on how many times Mr Feiner acted against the law and found guilty by the courts, keeps costing us more and more money we just don't have. One question we have been posing for years is why Mr Feiner can be found guilty in Federal Court on seven counts of discrimination, lying under oath, destroying evidence and still not be disbarred? It's business as usual in Greenburgh and for that matter, New York. Chicago has nothing on us.

Mr Feiner knows the taxpayers have deep pockets and brags they're only being zapped with a 3.4% tax increase, well under the NYS 2% Tax Cap, to pay for his illegal actions. We were under the (mistaken?) assumption that Mr Feiner had been personally found guilty and required to pay the penalties associated with the verdict and be forced to personally pay toward the verdict levied.

His latest deflection is to appear supportive of a 9A Bypass to reduce congestion on the 9A corridor. Naturally, like most of his follies, the "best chance of making this happen is now," a statement often made by Mr Feiner for projects he is interested in. This was the recent article in the once-critical and now-friendly White Plains Examiner. Under his hand, he had the Town Board adopt a resolution supporting New York State's pursuing of a 9A Bypass. This is like kissing your aunt on her cheek - it's nice but just doesn't mean anything. Its interesting that now that our Town Planning Commissioner has resigned to go wreak havoc in Stamford, CT., that Mr Feiner comes up with this exercise in futility. Next up? A press conference with his state representative buddies providing them more air time/publicity but producing little more than the promise to draft legislation to investigate the possibility and funding feasibility to study the need to see if there is a traffic congestion problem on 9A. It will go nowhere because there is no funding available for any of this.

Mr Feiner has included the Villages of Ardsley and Elmsford into the fray. Both of these villages are suffering because of the building that has taken place throughout the Town. What he doesn't address is the already congested traffic throughout the Town and the two mega-proposals in the north-end of the Unincorporated Town north of Elmsford at the old Union Carbide property. His press release, dutifully reprinted by the Examiner, says that the Town has $4.3 million dollars in a 9A Bypass Fund collected from new real estate taxes from new developments, but doesn't say what its availability of designated uses might be. We're back to that Aunt you kissed earlier. Its like her telling you she has put money aside for you when she dies, and then doesn't die anytime soon. Its nice but doesn't do you any good.

Saying you're for something is okay. Unfortunately, Mr Feiner is for everything with little action toward anything except providing for his developer friends and donors. Now that the shooting range has been closed, the bloated budget is done, the 10% salary increases for all elected officials complete, the verdict for Fortress Bible Church rendered, WestHelp still unoccupied costing us $1.2M/year, the Frank's Nursery property languishing, Brightview Assisted Living underway, Dromore Road dragging on, the Ferncliff School relocation gone, the Finneran Law changed with no sports bubbles, Midway Shopping Center expansion before the Town, the Trader Joe's expansion painfully lumbering on, the Landmark at Eastview 100+acres proposal starting to see the light of day, the fire consolidation scheme doing its damage, flooding in low lying areas still not addressed, racism at Town Hall unchecked, paving of Deli Delicious' entire property approved, and the Greenburgh Daily Voice turned over to Mr Feiner for his unfettered use, why shouldn't Mr Feiner do what he does best and add to the obsfuscation with a 9A Corridor Bypass to the mix?

 It's time for real leadership in Greenburgh. The stranglehold of political leverage is slowly proving why one-party rule, lack of ideas, and one voice is not good for our Town. The willfully ignorant must change and become involved. Our Town must change. Only then will we start to see A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Town Drags Feet On Equity Taxing Proposal

It started quite auspiciously, even if disingenuous, as an attack against a good man in the Fairview Fire Department. That attack has morphed into a deflection movement that has accomplished what Mr Feiner had set out to do. He needed to take focus away from his newly proposed Town budget and the gaping holes created by Mr Feiner with the $6.5 million fine, $5.5 million not covered by insurance, the lack of $1.2 million per year by the intentional non-renewal of the WestHelp contract, the loss of an offer for $3.5 million plus unlimited cleanup for the former Frank’s Nursery property on Dobbs Ferry Road, Dromore Road, Midway Shopping Center, to name a few. Why hasn’t this fire monitor group expanded their scope and begun a study about Town-wide spending, budgets, largess and lawsuit failures? ABG believes Mr Feiner is behind this deflection move to consolidate only two of the three paid fire departments in the Town, utilizing resident Milt Hoffman as his surrogate, to keep any and all focus away from his failings with Town finances.

While fire consolidation has generated quite a buzz, it is also a disingenuous proposal because it only includes two of the three paid departments. Milt Hoffman, a close friend and confidant of Mr Feiner, continues to bemoan the savings that could be had. Yet, the numbers presented by both the Fairview and Hartsdale Fire Chiefs don’t support Mr Hoffman's claims, nor does the now-outdated fire consolidation report Mr Hoffman helped pen and often refers. Who is monitoring the monitors?

However, ABG believes some good has come from this fire district scrutiny.

One problem that was highlighted is the date of the elections for the Board of Fire Commissioners, which is dictated by New York State law, not local or County law. The Fairview, Hartsdale and Greenville Board of Fire Commissioners elections are mandated by NY State to be held on the second Tuesday of December. The law also mandates minimum voting hours from 6pm until 9pm. The Fairview Board of Fire Commissioners extended the hours from 5pm until 9pm and are currently investigating ways to expand the hours of voting. One issue is the people working the polls are contracted by the Fire District and all work “regular” jobs. In a discussion with a Board member, ABG learned they are addressing the expansion of voting hours and hope to expand them for this years election. ABG believes this would be a step forward for residents and the District.

Another proposal submitted to the Town Board on May 21, 2014 on behalf of the three fire districts has languished since its submission. The proposal was written on behalf of the three fire districts by Hartsdale Chief Ed Rush. It partially addresses high fire taxes for the districts as well as the tax-exempt properties not paying their fair share for services they take advantage of but are not required to pay for. Simply, the proposal addresses the fact that each fire district pays “rent” for the use of fire hydrants and water in the Town. 

The hydrant/water rental charges in 2013 was $163,530 for Hartsdale, $253,590 for Fairview and $137,460 in Greenville. The proposal references NYS Assembly and Senate bills A4086-A and S5278-A, respectively, allowing municipalities that purchase water from private water companies to allocate the cost of maintaining fire hydrant infrastructure to all customers. Translation? Instead of water costs being paid by only the 52% of taxpayers in these fire districts on only their fire protection tax bills, 100% of the residents who use water in the Town (everybody) and receive a water bill would be paying for water usage and hydrant rentals throughout the Town - including the tax exempts! This will not cause a dramatic lowering of the 52%-ers fire protection taxes, but it does begin the address the non-payment for services rendered by tax-exempts. 

In the Fairview Fire District, 48% of the properties are tax-exempt. That means 52% of the resident taxpayers pay 100% of the taxes, allowing for the tax exempts to get a free ride whenever there is a Fire, Police, or EMS emergency. Our paid-for-by-52%-responders go to the scene and perform their jobs as though these people paid taxes. And, no one has a problem with that. The police department personnel respond to police related events; the fire department responds to their respective fire, ems and other events and EMS personnel respond, often seeking aid from volunteer EMS agencies from the villages. One little-known fact is that the Villages pay for paramedic services to the Town provided by Greenburgh Police. Again, the tax-exempts do not pay for this service, the 52%-ers do!

Mr Hoffman’s group seemed surprised when Chief Rush brought this proposal up at a meeting held at Town Hall with the fire monitors. The audience queried why the Town has not acted on this? Chief Rush mentioned he did not know but had just sent a follow-up email to the Town Board asking for a response. The Problem Solver did not reply. In a separate email forwarded to ABG from a resident, Mr Feiner stated to a resident who inquired about it that he had given the letter to the legal department and to the Water Advisory Board to "investigate". While this sounds logical to the willfully ignorant voter, ABG believes it is another rope-a-dope by Mr Feiner in hopes he can continue the ruse of fire consolidation, garnering more headlines and media time. Sadly, while everyone is clamoring for savings for the beleaguered taxpayer in Greenburgh, someone has finally done something tangible and the Town won’t act. ABG believes it is a step in the right direction and should be implemented immediately!

Fairview Fire Chief Reiss also proposed a $10 student fee be attached to Westchester Community College students’ tuition that would help offset costs for all the fire and EMS calls they respond to at the WCC campus. Here, however it becomes a bit more involved because WCC is part of the state university system and this fee would need to be approved at the state level. Why hasn’t Mr Feiner reached out to his two state buddies and ask them for help? Another idea a residents suggested is to have the Fire District charge tax-exempts properties for fire inspections. Charging for false alarms might add another revenue stream for Fire Districts to raise income. The police department charges for burglary/security false alarms after a certain amount of false alarms have been generated. While ABG likes the fire inspection fee idea, we understand the state prohibits charging for fire false alarms because they are considered "life safety" alarms. However, ABG believes this is worth investigating and if the same component failures are what’s generating an alarm, that fines be levied to force compliance to remedy the defect – with the penalty money going to the fire district.

It would seem that equity of payments for services would be something Mr Feiner would be championing for the taxpayers he continues to abuse. Instead, he shrinks away from helping the people he was elected to serve. Perhaps its time to elect someone else who will represent the residents over the developers. Maybe then we will see A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fire Monitors "Facts" Faulty

There’s a deflective move to consolidate services in Greenburgh. In ABG’s opinion it is a disingenuous scheme that was proven out during a meeting held the night of July 16th. According to their email blast, the Fire Monitors were holding an “important meeting” with Fire Chiefs Howard Reiss and Edward Rush of the Fairview and Hartsdale Fire Departments, respectively. Both Chiefs have been meeting often with community organizations, various groups and residents to explain their side of the consolidation debate. Ironically, Mr Feiner has started this phony debate as a means of focusing attention away from himself and the poor job he is doing managing the Town’s finances.

First, ABG supports consolidation of services, purchasing, equipment, and expertise whenever and wherever possible. Second, the Villages in the Town of Greenburgh long ago formed a purchasing consortium back in the early 2000’s. In fact, while the Villages were all trying to control costs and expenses for their residents, the Town, under the now-22 year stewardship of Mr Feiner, simply refused to participate. Why is no one monitoring how the Town is spending money and only targeting one portion of our taxes? Third, a Town-wide consolidation, instead of cherry-picking districts within the Town to possibly consolidate, makes more sense and might produce much more savings and rewards for taxpayers. But since this was a scam to begin with, it isn’t being offered. Politically, Mr Feiner cannot gain as much traction as he can with a few buzzwords and the help of the media so hence, the fire consolidation hysteria.

What was noticeably missing at this meeting were the Fairview Fire Commissioners and the Hartsdale Fire Commissioners. There was one Hartsdale Fire Commissioner present who remained silent in the back of the room listening to what was being said. Why would this group of self-appointed “monitors” only invite the Chiefs and not the Commissioners to this “important meeting”? The Commissioners are the decision makers for anything and everything budgetary for these districts. Plus, the Chiefs work for them and can certainly discuss much, but not everything. They simply cannot answer every question raised. Could it be because these monitors are not interested in gaining real and accurate answers and only propagating their own – vis-à-vie Mr Feiner’s – agenda? How can we be so sure? Any evidence presented was met with resistance.

During the meeting, the group’s leader Milt Hoffman, repeatedly maintained that each Chief could do away with their own secretary/assistant and both could share just one. This would save one of the districts an assistant’s salary. While his statement sounded plausible, Chief Rush sternly interrupted him, stating he does not, nor has he or the Chief before him, ever had an administrative assistant, noting he has told Mr Hoffman this before. Chief Rush emphatically stated if and when he needs administrative help, he turns to his firefighter dispatcher for that assistance when there are no alarms, a position Mr Hoffman also seeks to eliminate. Chief Rush then detailed a number of reasons to keep the dispatching system in place as is and why it works well. Mr Hoffman, like Mr Feiner, threw an unsubstantiated dollar amount out, saying the department could save $400,000 a year by moving dispatching from within the department(s) to Westchester County’s Department of Emergency Service’s Dispatch Center, known in the fire service as 60 Control. Chief Rush, also a Certified Public Accountant dismissed the number as just plain wrong.

Chief Reiss stated that he does not have an assistant and so far does a lot of the administrative work himself. Regardless, Mr Hoffman refused to back down insisting they both had secretaries. Both Chiefs reiterated he was wrong. ABG isn’t sure how many in the room were from this ad hoc Consolidation Committee, but even audience members were correcting Mr Hoffman each time he volunteered incorrect information. It just seemed as though Mr Hoffman had made up his mind, probably with coaching from Mr Feiner, and regardless of any facts that may be presented, would be unwilling to concede on any points.

One resident, a former police officer-turned-firefighter in Town stated to Mr Hoffman and the group that once you put this consolidation referendum out for a vote, it will be a fait accompli. Explaining further, he said if after the referendum passes, we later determine it is too costly, don’t like it, are not saving enough money, whatever it is, we are stuck with it and there’s no going back! Mr Hoffman disagreed at which point almost everyone in the room beyond his two or three steadfast supporters, shouted out that he was wrong. He stammered. Then, he said it can be undone. Again the crowd reacted vociferously against him. Clearly shaken, he began back-pedaling. Then he said, “That’s why we need a study.” A study? That’s never been part of this agenda push.

This was the first mention of a study by Mr Hoffman or anyone else from this committee. The reality however, is that he isn’t interested in any study, which was confirmed by Mr Feiner at the last Town Board meeting when Mr Feiner said there will be a meeting (meaning this one) and then the public will decide, meaning referendum. Mr Feiner is the master at parsing words. Keep in mind that Mr Feiner is not affected by this consolidation because his gated community home is protected by an all-volunteer fire department.

Fire taxes are based on a number of factors, such as the valuation of your home, its location and whether you have a fire hydrant nearby, an installed sprinkler system, a paid or volunteer fire department to name a few of those factors. All of these contribute to how much money per thousand dollars of valuation on your home you will pay in fire taxes. Mr Feiner lives in an area protected by a volunteer fire department. His fire taxes are about $15/thousand versus our $150/thousand. Do the math and you’ll see that with or without consolidation, he loses nothing while he forces the rest of us to pay dearly.

Mr Hoffman made several outlandish statements regarding the fire departments and their assumed largess. Both Chiefs were quick to respectfully point out Mr Hoffman’s inaccuracies as well as his referencing of outdated information from the 2010 fire consolidation study he participated in – which concluded that a consolidation would not generate savings for the taxpayers! Mr Hoffman also tried to describe the inner workings of 60 Control and the dispatch system they use and the service they provide to the fire community. Chief Rush certainly understands how 60 Control works, as his father Chief Raymond Rush, helped create the facility and was the first County Fire Coordinator to run the Valhalla facility when it opened in 1973.

A resident asked how the committee plans to pay for this consolidation study. Mr Hoffman insisted the two fire departments would be getting grants for the study. Chief Reiss deferred to Chief Rush who explained he had looked into grant monies from the state for consolidation studies. And, even though there may be grant money available next year, it would require matching funds and numerous conditional concessions from the Fire Districts. The resident asked what the cost was for the matching funds per district and the answer provided was about $25,000 per district. Several audience members protested. Mr Hoffman again stated the Fire Districts can surely find $25,000 in their bloated budgets. Both Chiefs emphatically stated they didn’t have the money Mr Hoffman believes they have, adding the numbers don't lie. Mr Hoffman denied what they said. Why? Because he’s not interested in facts! They also pointed out that the union contracts, redistricting and more will consume and generate mammoth legal fees for the taxpayers and not yield the results being touted by Mr Hoffman, Mr Feiner and this committee.

The illogical and incorrect information being propagated to the public continues to go unchallenged by most in the media and Town. As this meeting began to devolve with Mr Hoffman babbling nonsense to try to make his ill-conceived and erroneous points, he began alienating portions of his crowd who had come to this meeting sympathetic toward consolidation. They began to leave, effectively ending the meeting lacking cohesion to move their consolidation agenda forward. Interestingly, when Mr Hoffman was the Opinion editor for a daily newspaper, he was always espousing the unions and their cause, especially within the paid fire departments, such as Yonkers, New Rochelle and Mt Vernon. He met with them regularly and unabashedly wrote of their meritorious points. Why now has he changed his tune and why is he going after the Fairview and Hartsdale union firefighters?

This is not over. We’re pretty sure Mr Hoffman will meet or talk with Mr Feiner asking for tips as to how to proceed. If, and its a very big if, there is genuine interest in consolidation, the fire districts can announce they will perform the study next year, put in for grant money and take charge over this debacle. Mr Feiner has stirred another pot of deflection to remove himself from the firing line already poised by his critics. The Fire Districts need to slow down this reckless and costly imposition onto the willfully ignorant before any irrevocable damage has been done. Will the Town kick in any greenbacks since they are the ones forcing this ill-fated fiasco? Probably not. So how can we stop this steamroller from crushing the taxpayers? By getting involved and changing the leadership within the Town. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Feiner Admits To Altering Official Town Recording

Many residents have a love/hate relationship with Greenburgh. On the one hand, we love being proven right. On the other hand, we hate being proven right. Mr Feiner has openly admitted on the website called "Greenburgh Update" that he "just posted an unedited tape" of the Town Board meeting recording. You'll recall we exposed and published what we believed to be was a doctored recording after discovering the deletion of the negative comments made about Mr Feiner by former Town Supervisor candidate and opponent, Robert Bernstein. As seen in the screen capture admission of his post below, Mr Feiner states:

Note: Whenever we catch Mr Feiner in a lie, he'll routinely say what we've uncovered and exposed is not true.

Numerous individuals contacted ABG after we first broke the story about the edited version of Mr Bernstein's public comments. They were wondering if this could be a technical "glitch" or was actually done on purpose? Our rationale was since this has happened before, we were not as forgiving and believed it to be on purpose. By whom? That's the million dollar question. It certainly could have been a glitch. But with our Town Board openly lying to residents, routinely doing back room deals with developers and keeping residents in the dark on so many issues, is it any wonder we're skeptical?

You'll recall a short time back that approximately fifteen or so minutes of Commissioner William Carter's discussion of the Theodore Young Community Center (TYCC) budget were deleted after Mr Carter made an unintended comment about the Lanza Foundation being Mr Feiner's "Golden Goose". While the comment wasn't that derogatory or intended as an insult, deleting the Carter portion of the recording was worse than leaving it uncensored and risk the Lanza's viewing it. After the G10 created an uproar about it, the Town replaced the edited recording with the unedited version. We believe the same thing is happening here.

During the last Town Board meeting, held on a Tuesday instead of the normal Wednesday night, much was said by the public about the altering of Mr Bernstein's public comments in the Town's official video record of the meeting. ABG staffers continued the debate that if the recording was edited, what were those who authorized or did the editing thought the benefit might be? Town Clerk Judith Beville insisted an internal investigation by SwagIt proved that the error had been on their part. ABG has FOILed the report from SwagIt. But from what we heard Ms Beville read at the Town Board meeting, it seems far from over. 

The Town Board meeting seemed contentious as the public wasn't buying what Ms Beville was feeding them. She insisted that the investigation and the matter is considered closed, reading excerpts from the report as Mr Feiner hastily moved to adjourn the meeting while she spoke. As we have all witnessed before with our government officials, they deny everything when caught and as more information is uncovered and the truth eventually surfaces, they begin to change their tune. Will the truth win out? Is Ms Beville hiding something? It'll be hard to find out the truth, after all, this is Greenburgh. We'll forge on and hope to uncover what happened. Until then, resident/taxpayers must remain diligent, involved and critical of what is taking place in our Town. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lies Fueled Media Blitz at Work Session

This was no ordinary Work Session for the Town Board. Quite the contrary. The front of the Town Hall auditorium was jammed with reporters and camera crews. Mr Feiner wanted to take advantage of what would be his media event and he did just that. Normally, Town Board work sessions take place at the floor level but because of today’s circus event atmosphere, the Town Board members present (only three) sat in their usual elevated seats on the dais. When ABG asked several of the other speakers if they had alerted the media, they all said they did not.

Mr Feiner opened the meeting saying the first order would be the proposed legislation known as the Proposed Shooting Range Ordinance. The ordinance was penned by Edgemont Resident and civic leader Robert Bernstein. What was later uncovered by Mr Bernstein when he was questioned about a specific section by Mr Sheehan, was the audience was not given the latest version of the bill nor did the Town Board have the latest copy. When you shoot from the hip too often, you can get used to working in a sloppy manner. This seems to be a common occurrence with our Town officials more and more.

Mr Feiner postured several times and stumbled to exhort a coherent thought that the media might be able to use “on air”. However he seemed quite pellucid after he openly lied, saying he had no desire to close down the Ardsley Road Shooting Range. At the Town Board meeting held on June 26th, he pandered to the residents from Ardsley Chase and said numerous times that he would like to see this shooting range closed! The audience, not knowing how Mr Feiner will say whatever he needs to get by unscathed, or out of a jam applauded voluminously – several times.

At the Work Session, more closely resembling a press conference, media savvy Mr Feiner got his sound byte. He stated that he didn't want to close the shooting rangeand he is only concerned about is “Safety, safety, safety.” That was a lie! Mr Feiner would later capitulate after openly lying to everyone and say both sides need to work together. Actually, that is the one factual piece of truth. Councilman Kevin Morgan said at the meeting that the request to study other areas if the Town came from the Town. Again, not true. ABG is in possession of emails showing the information had been requested of the Town Board, the Town Attorney and Mr Feiner by Mr Bernstein before the draft legislation was to be officially proposed! 

Mr Sheehan raised numerous questions about the draft legislation and was the only Town Board member present to do so. There were only three Town Board members present as Council members Jones and Juettner were absent. Mr Sheehan’s comments also alluded that Mr Bernstein statements were untrue and the emails ABG has indicate this was quite the opposite of what happened. ABG believes it was premature to introduce any legislation before the investigation was concluded, but maintain Mr Bernstein was acting in good faith in spite of being unable to get accurate and truthful information from the Town Board. 

This never should have been allowed to escalate the way it did and become an issue before  this politically challenged Town Board. The residents of Ardsley Chase (and surrounding area), the Range owners, Con Ed and Toll Brothers should have been the only ones holding any meetings and discussions.

Mr Feiner is in Deflection Mode once again and has another hot-button topic that ensures he will get more media coverage and more importantly, media coverage away from the Fortress Bible Church guilty verdict that is costing taxpayers $6.5 million, $5.5 which is not covered by insurance because Mr Feiner, Ms Juettner and the Town were found guilty of discrimination in federal court! This debacle is no where near seeing any light at the end of any tunnel. At the last Town Board meeting, the Board approved spending roughly $17 million dollars through bonds. Light of day? Hah! Darkness is all that can be seen for the beleaguered taxpayers of Greenburgh. Once the shooting range has been forgotten, Mr Feiner will start anew. Its time for the taxpayers to start anew by changing who is chosen to represent us. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Con Ed To Close Outdoor Shooting Range By Terminating Lease

Without facts, without cause and without regard to the livelihoods of those employed at the Westchester County Police Revolver & Rifle Range in Ardsley, Consolidated Edison capitulated to public hysteria and has decided to terminate their lease with the shooting range located on Ardsley Road. In an email alert just sent to constituents, but not the ABG offices, we’ve learned that Mr Feiner has been in secret communications with the Vice President of ConEd. Although, he doesn’t identify this VP by name – a standard ploy used often by Mr Feiner, Mr Feiner claims the following: 

“I received a call from the Vice President of Con Ed a short time ago advising me that Con Ed plans to terminate the lease with the gun range on Ardsley Road, effective in 30 days. They will continue to communicate with local law enforcement and officials during this transition.”

You’ll recall a woman who lives in the new Ardsley Chase development, where home costs range from $1.2M and up, was hit by a fragment of what is alleged to be a bullet. Town Board speculation, as well as some home owners, believe it came from the range. The range is in the bottom portion of what used to be a rock quarry. Anti-gun and anti-shooting activists have not entertained other causes for this yet-to-be-identified piece of metal. Was it fired from the range or somewhere else? A logical supposition could be someone with a small handgun from the nearby ConEd power lines discharged their weapon. Or, could something have landed on this woman’s leg and she bent down and unknowingly picked up a piece of metal instead of what hit her? Possibly. We don’t doubt she was struck by something nor do we believe she is making this up or is not credible.

While the police are investigating this matter, other residents have notified the police that bullet fragments have been found on their property. When were these found? Were complaints or reports filed with the police department? Our point is simple, while we believe the woman in question felt something strike her, Mr Feiner found another political deflection to garner attention away from him and his administration for his failings in Town leadership.

The Town’s budget will have a $3.4% tax increase – under the NYS 2% Tax Cap. The residents are being forced to pay the balance of $5.5 million not covered by insurance for the guilty verdict fine of $6.5 million in the Fortress Bible Church Discrimination lawsuit. The Town has lost $1.2 million per year while Mr Feiner lets the Westhelp property languish in ruin to garner a few more votes from Ardsley. The list is endless.

The Town should not have gotten involved in this case until all the parties had sat down and were unable to iron out the issues. Mr Feiner lied at yesterdays meeting when he said he didn’t want to shut the shooting range down. Not only did he say he wanted it shut down at a previous Town Board meeting, to thunderous applause from the Ardsley Chase residents, but he said it at subsequent meetings as well. In fact, he sent letters out to residents suggesting how they could have it shut down. This way he can continue to say he didn’t want it closed. Lies from our elected officials, guilty verdicts from our elected officials and fines that taxpayers are forced to pay for from our elected officials must end! Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.