Saturday, October 25, 2014

Candidate Mike Duffy for 92nd Assembly Seat Receives Governor Pataki’s Endorsement

In a statement just released by former New York State Governor George Pataki, he had these comments to say of 92nd Assembly District candidate Mike Duffy:

“I am pleased to endorse Mike Duffy for the 92nd Assembly district in Westchester County. 

Now more than ever, New Yorkers need a representative who has the courage and integrity to take a stand against the business-as-usual Albany cronies and their failed policies. 

For three decades, Mike has served the people of Westchester County in a distinguished career in law enforcement.  

From a police officer in White Plains to Chief Investigator for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Mike has protected the rights and lives of New Yorkers.

As Chief Investigator for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, Mike Duffy and his investigators worked shoulder-to-shoulder with NYPD to keep New Yorkers safe and secure in the aftermath of terrorist attack of 9/11. 

Mike will protect our rights, ensure taxpayer dollars are spent in pursuit of improving the lives of all New Yorkers, not just a select few, and demand integrity and transparency. 

As Assemblyman, Mike will continue his public service. He will make sure that New York is working for its people, and that all voices are heard.

I endorse Mike Duffy for 92nd Assembly and I urge you to vote for him.

George E. Pataki”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“Like Mike” Duffy for 92nd Assembly District

ABG staffers recently had an opportunity to sit down with New York Assembly Candidate for the 92th District, Mike Duffy, to discuss some of the issues and reasons he is running for office against 24-year-long professional politician, Tom Abinanti.

The 92nd NYS Assembly District, which is comprised of the Towns of Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant, also includes the villages contained within those two towns. Currently, the only time you'll see current representative Abinanti is when he is hopping from one event dinner to the next, dishing out NYS Proclamations worth the paper they’re printed on. In fact, Abinanti has done this during his entire 24 years as a legislator and even garnered the nickname Tom “Proclamation” Abinanti.

Mike Duffy is a life-long resident of Westchester County, growing up in White Plains and attending St. John the Evangelist School on Hamilton Avenue and Archbishop Stepinac High School. Following high school he went on to graduate from the City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a B.S. in Criminal Justice. Soon after that he joined the White Plains Police Department, as a member of the Patrol and Detective Divisions, being assigned to the Street Crime Unit and Vice Control Unit. He has received 33 awards for excellent and meritorious police work, including lifesaving. Respectfully, we restrained from asking him if Abinanti ever presented him with a Proclamation.

Mike then went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law. He retired from the DA’s office in 2004, and went to work as an associate attorney in a White Plains. In 2006, Mike began a private practice, focusing on criminal defense and general litigation. He donates his time doing work as a pro bono arbitrator for the City Court of White Plains.

There are numerous points Mike discussed with ABG as to his platform, and we’ll highlight just a few. First is about our Infrastructure. Mike favors opening the top roadway on the Kensico Dam to passenger vehicles. The Village of Vahalla is being choked to death by the excessive traffic that this long-time closure is causing. It is having a negative affect on the small businesses in town and contributing to empty storefronts. Why hasn’t 24-year politician Tom Abinanti done something about this? Obviously, because he doesn’t care.

Mike Duffy is looking to maintain and/or reduce property taxes by addressing unfunded mandates from Albany. Tom Abinanti has penned several laws that have increased our taxes! Mike Duffy says he knows its easy to spend other people’s money but he will spend our money like its his own. Mike Duffy will look to give small businesses tax incentives to allow them to prosper. Mr Abinanti has not done anything to help small business but has partnered with big business. In fact, Mr Abinanti has moved out of Greenburgh probably because of the illegal and costly actions taken by the Town administration. When things get difficult it seems Mr Abinanti runs away. Is this the kind of leaders we want in Albany? Of course not. Elect Mike Duffy in the upcoming election and send a message to our overpaid, ineffective incumbent politicos. Tell them we’ve had enough! Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Monday, October 20, 2014

It Never Ends

While ABG believes Mr Feiner rarely offers cogent and/or thought out proposals, his one about mulching our grass and leaves rang hollow when it was introduced and continues to ring hollow now. He kept insisting the Town would save money if residents mulched their trimming and leaves instead of bagging or creating piles to be vacuumed away by the Town. But in typical fashion he didn't offer tangible figures as to what we could expect to save by doing away with the vacuum trucks or personnel to run them. He didn’t need to. He enlisted several operatives from the Greenburgh Nature Center to beat the mulching drum for him. One question still looms: did we pay the GNC for the propaganda assistance?

Our Town vacuum trucks were in need of repair for several years in a row. It’s one of the reasons we were told leaves placed curbside weren’t being picked up. Another was that the Town leaders didn’t know when the leaves would, ahem, fall to the ground, creating a scheduling nightmare for these leaders. Incredulously, it’s why the season is aptly named “fall”. More importantly, you may be excused the first time around for not knowing when the leaves will need to be picked up, but not every year. In fact, the employees working for sanitation could probably clue them in if asked after one day’s pickup.

We’re more inclined to think this was another initiated deflection because he had cut the repair budget for the Town's vehicles and there was no money available to fix the vacuum truck or simply deflection from the Fortress Bible Church guilty verdict ($6.5M), the WestHelp lease revenue termination ($1.2M/yr), the failed Frank’s Nursery illegal lease/missed sale/ever-delayed auction ($3.5M), the Dromore Road debacle, the automatic granting of property to Brightview Assisted Living, Deli Delicious and others. The list is almost endless.

While the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, individual civic groups and others complained about the added expense to the homeowners and their landscapers, their input fell on deaf ears at Town Hall. One Edgemont resident even performed a cost analysis and found it might cost him upwards of $600 per year to now change over to bagging his trimmings through his landscaping company. With tangible information, Mr Feiner and crew simply ignored the facts and pushed ahead. Then when unavoidable, the claim was changed for safety reasons, to -wait for it - protect the children. Ahh, there you go. You can’t be against the safety of the children. Mr Feiner knew by using the “do it for the children card”, not to be confused with the oft-used “race card” or “handicapped card”, or the ever-popular “2% Tax Cap card” nothing could get in his way. Surprise, surprise, it was voted through. We still would like to know how much money has been saved by the Town by not utilizing the vacuum trucks?

So often in government we see bad ideas implemented even though rational, intelligent and thought out information proves it will be a failure. Such is the case with Mr Feiner’s leaf vacuuming elimination. We’re not against mulching, however it should be a voluntary act and since our taxes have included the vacuuming service, cutting something we pay for should yield results that are tangible and forwarded to the residents. This is not happening from Town Hall. We also understand why it got pushed through in Greenburgh. There are several Town Board members who are dependent on Mr Feiner for re-election and must tow his line or be “Sonya’d”*. They’ve played by their own set of rules for so long that they can’t even realize what they are doing anymore is wrong.

To bolster his costly decision without proof of any tangible savings, Mr Feiner just sent out another email blast utilizing the Town email list he refuses to share with anyone, trying to solidify this mulching move. Apparently he simply wishes to paint more lipstick onto this pig in hopes it will change the facts. One resident told an ABG staffer that he followed Mr Feiner’s suggestion to mulch and claims that his weeds have been strengthened by the composting and re-germination of the weeds back into his dandelion and crab grass farm. He also asked if Mr Feiner had a plan to address the weeds and would it be chemically free from carcinogens or actually something that would work? It’s not that tough a question but it still will not get an answer from Mr Feiner as he never follows through with ideas.

Coincidentally, in the Village of Scarsdale administration has jumped on the mulching bandwagon, they claim they spend about $800,000 annually (really only from October 15 to December 31) on leaf removal. They also claim this will raise the Village's environmental credibility while saving money. Environmental credibility? This is certainly is not an issue in Greenburgh as Mr Feiner doesn't have any environmental credibility. Unfazed, he continues to make irresponsible choices and decisions without regard to environmental anything. The mishandlings of the former Frank's Nursery property is a perfect example of his lack of environmental credibility!

Scarsdale is said to have contracted with the Greenburgh Nature Center to have the GNC teach about and demonstrate mulching to the Scarsdale residents. The fee or donation for this service was just over $9,398. Did the Town of Greenburgh pay this same fee? ABG staffers are inclined to believe we did, whether overtly or through some other mechanism that has yet to be exposed. According to the Scarsdale Mayor, “Putting leaves out in the road is selfish, and is the highest form of sin as far as I'm concerned... It is an unnecessary disregard for your neighbor and the health of the community.” Clearly this mayor hasn’t spent any time in the Town of Greenburgh. Otherwise, he would have a better idea of what the highest form of sin really is and what a real unnecessary disregard for his neighbors is. This mentality is perpetuated with a one-party system that must change. We need a better balance of ideas and actions in out Town. Once it does we may see A Better Greenburgh.

* "Sonya'd" - Referring to former Councilwoman Sonya Brown who decided to publicly stand up to Supervisor Feiner, and subsequently found pertinent information withheld from her and inaccessible, as she was slowly nudged to the outside of his inner circle, no longer able to effectively represent her constituents. When election time rolled around, his newly endorsed choice was now-elected Councilman Ken Jones.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

All Quiet On the Real Estate Front, Just Don’t Get Fooled Again

The property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road has been condemned by Mr Feiner and his Town Board. They have decided to let it languish, contamination and all, and continue to help his favored “paper” company, GameOn 365. As you have read here previously, Mr Feiner has been trying to create a new zoning classification called Recreational. Mr Feiner’s plan, not the plan of the community, especially the surrounding neighborhoods, of both residential and business taxpayers, ignores the wants and desires of everyone but he and his friends from GameOn 365.

Throughout this ordeal that Mr Feiner has manufactured by unethically, although not illegally, acting behind closed doors, Mr Feiner had secret meetings and communications with GameOn 365, well before the Town acquired the contaminated property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road, the former Frank’s Nursery. Almost immediately thereafter, when Mr Feiner announced the Town would (illegally) lease the property to GameOn 365, he began fabricating stories about other possible developers who protested the proposed lease and land usage. But the bully pulpit has always worked for Mr Feiner, his complicit Board and others.

The G10 exposed to the public that the property was contaminated from numerous sources throughout the years while it had been owned by several companies. The back end of the property was used as a dump for construction debris from the White Plains Urban Renewal projects when the original Macy’s and surrounding White Plains area was demolished. Then there were numerous nurseries on the property, with the last two being FlowerTime and then Frank’s. Almost immediately, Mr Lewis started the litany of lies that the remediation would cost under $100k. Mr Lewis is not a noted expert in hazardous material contamination, remediation, litigation and/or related issues. Nor does he have a level of expertise in environmental anything. Mr Feiner continued to claim the Town had a AAA Bond rating. But alas, the two points would never meet and the Town would not remediate the property so as to sell it at a true and fair Westchester piece of property. Rather, Mr Feiner would try to finagle a way to have the new owner/lessee/mark/sap to pay for it.

Since the Town has engaged in an illicit relationship to consistently assist GameOn 365, a for-profit company, we were not really surprised when the venue for their oversized proposal was moved to the Golf Driving Range next door and Mr Feiner supported it. The property, owned by the Vizioli family for years, has a few homes on the property, the driving range office and is flanked on two sides by homes. The Vizioli family had not paid their taxes from approximately 2008 until several months ago. And, they only recently made a down payment and entered a schedule to pay of the rest over several years with the Town. Even though they were known tax cheats, the Town never initiated foreclosure proceedings against them - which is the case with many others as well. It’s interesting that when they didn't have the money to pay their taxes, Mr Feiner and the Town didn’t pursue them for payment and as soon as a buck could be made by them by either selling or leasing the land, they hastily “found” money to start paying the bill. ABG wonders how many other properties have had this preferential treatment?

They say Yonkers is the City of Hills - where nothing is on the level. If that’s the case, Greenburgh is a close second, mostly because of the shenanigans executed with impunity by Mr Feiner and his Board. Mr Feiner and the Town passed a resolution about two months ago promising to sell the former Frank’s Nursery property only to prospective bidders who agreed to comply with existing residential zoning for the property. Now he simply has decided to change the parameters and accept bids instead from anyone, regardless of intended use.

Mr. Feiner said the decision to reverse course was prompted by “legal issues” raised by the Town Attorney that might have interfered with the property’s sale. ABG understands this is all a scam to ensure his friends from GameOn 365 are the (intended) winners of the bid process.  Mr Feiner had naturally declined to say what the legal issues were or why they were not raised before. Previously, he had enlisted the assistance and cooperation of the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association promising “complete transparency” in the upcoming sale. As he is usually wont to do, he changed the "game" in the eleventh hour, changing course and doing so at a work session which ensures no public comment, feedback or repercussions.

After this last rope-a-dope by the leaders, residents are left wondering what is going on behind the scenes and no one has heard anything. Typically, when there is a quiet before the storm, maneuvering by Mr Feiner is taking place behind the scenes. Why does ABG believe this is the case? Like the ads say, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Except in Greenburgh. Something is afoot. The auction has been pushed farther back into November as each month finds a new change that mysteriously “must be made”, typically in a non-resistant Work Session.

The Town is continuing down a slippery slope of poor or non-existent ethical behavior by several elected officials in the Town. While their behavior has intended outcomes for some, it has unintended outcomes for the rest of us. Its time for Mr Feiner to practice what he preaches and start operating openly and without favor to his developer friends and others. Only then will we begin to see A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Board Condones Secret $1 Million Deal With Semantics

Wondering if this Town's administration will ever follow the law, practice true open government of any sort or simply do the right thing is rarely, if ever, in flux. Business as usual in Greenburgh for the select few in Mr Feiner’s “inner circle” seems to be more the norm as Mr Feiner continues to get more and more brazen with his decisions and actions. Case in point is last Tuesday night’s special Town Board meeting specifically held to accept a $1 Million donation from the Robert Martin Corporation. The donated money can only be used for the purchase of an undevelopable twenty-eight acres strip of land currently owned by the Unification Church in Tarrytown and near I-287. The excuse this time is to preserve open space – a common contradiction with this administration.

The “deal” was struck by then-appointed Deputy Town Supervisor Danny Gold. At the time of the secret proposal, he was and currently is, the President of the East Irvington Civic Association. It is well known that Mr Gold is also friends with Mr Feiner and has usually aligned himself with Mr Feiner’s actions and policies. However, his friendship with the Supervisor simply adds to the potential conflict of interest Mr Gold had as the now-former Deputy Town Supervisor and this secret land deal donation with a developer operating in Greenburgh.

Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting was held in the cafeteria as the main hall was previously booked. There were two groups of people in attendance. One group, favoring Mr Gold’s secret deal “sold” as an open space bonanza, were there and spoke in support of it. It is unknown if they were aware of the specifics surrounding the secret deal. The other group, primarily consisting of the G10, were there in hopes of at least postponing this secret deal. Their feeling was the deal was struck in secret in 2009 by Mr Gold, so why the rush to act on this without first vetting the deal?

Also unclear was since the property is actually in Tarrytown, why was Tarrytown left out of the proceedings? Why was the Town only told of this expiring deal when the clock was ticking toward the end of this five-year secret agreement? Why did Robert Martin offer $1 Million and what was the true cost to the Unincorporated Greenburgh taxpayer and to the Tarrytown taxpayer. In fact, why would the Town entertain this secret deal at all?

Before the meeting began, a rewritten Town Resolution accepting this deal was distributed to the attendees. The reworked wording made the proposal appear less controversial for the Town Board as they moved forward, as they always intended, to adopt the resolution accepting the $1 million deal created by Mr Gold. The Town Board Work Session earlier in the day even found Mr Sheehan questioning many aspects of this deal and the possible improprieties of it. However, rewording the resolution apparently quelled any and all reservations he may have had and he voted “aye” with the rest of the Board. Done deal. Or is it?

The Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations had requested legal help to send this information to the State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, seeking an investigation into wrong-doing. Information regarding the secret deal as well as the parties to it were included. Anyone seeking to read more can do so by going to this link: There, you can download and/or read the documents online. Regardless, more came out at this meeting that was hastily convened to accept the $1 million on the last day.

The first speaker during the Public Comment session was Tarrytown resident, Linda Viertel. ABG staffers and others sat during her opening comments, where she listed some of her credentials, stating that she didn’t have a blog and could not counter statements made about her and may go a bit beyond her allotted three minutes. Even though she spoke in favor of the donation, she stated after the meeting that she was shocked to learn, unbeknownst to her, that Mr. Gold had named her in this secret 2009 agreement! Another Tarrytown resident, Dr. Stanley Friedlander, was also included in the agreement. ABG wonders if she had no knowledge of her inclusion in the deal, what of Dr Friedlander?

Another question is the timing of this proposal as well as the additional applications before the Town to expand the Avalon Green property. Wikipedia defines “Quid Pro Quo as ("something for something" in Latin)[1] means an exchange of goods or services, where one transfer is contingent upon the other. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favour for a favour"; phrases with similar meaning include: "give and take", "tit for tat", and "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours." ” So why would Robert Martin offer this money to East Irvington’s Danny Gold? They bought his and his Civic Association’s silence when they were expanding Avalon Green back in its heyday. The payoff/payback has finally come full circle. Sadly, as many developers know, its the cost of doing business in Greenburgh.

Anytime anything is done in secret in government many people pay attention. Such is the case here. A secret agreement made by a Deputy Supervisor with a developer with applications before the Town at the time to remain quiet for a finite number of years is wrong. In Greenburgh, however, its business as usual. This type of behavior must cease immediately. Only then can we have A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Your Vote Is Your Voice

Election Day. It evokes a plethora of emotions for many people. Newly ordained citizens understandably can't wait to partake of the process. Natural born citizens' emotions range from "its my right and duty as a citizen" to "why bother?" to "it makes no difference/its a waste of time". Wherever your sentiments might lie, your vote is your voice. This November promises to be an exciting election in most places except Greenburgh. It won't be exciting here because the result is forgone.

ABG writes often about Greenburgh's "willfully ignorant" taxpayer/resident/voter/OIMBY. Mr Feiner counts on their reticence. OIMBY is a phrase we developed after witnessing a normally apathetic constituency only get riled up when something is happening to their neighborhood. OIMBY, or Only In My Back Yard is a turn of the phrase NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard. ABG has often written about individuals and neighborhoods that have been ignored by the Town and lumbered like a sleeping giant until Mr Feiner and his minions decide to practice their own form of social experimentation where it doesn't belong, favoring developers over residents and existing businesses. Of course, by then, Mr Feiner has already forged the project as a done deal and the neighborhood is left broken. As Mr Feiner attempts to extort "gifts" from developers to ensure application approvals, our Town is held hostage to the highest bidder. And even though he has been cited numerous times for campaign practices, he remains unrepentant and continues his illegal, questionable and despicable behavior. Disappointingly, he has enlisted the help of his Town Board as his political power ensures their re-election as long as they comply with his mandates.

As we enter October, just one month before the November elections, we will be inundated with campaign mailings, garish and an overabundance of yard signs littering our landscape, robotic phone calls (robocalls), some with the candidates voice and some not. All of the candidates and the respective political machines behind them will have loyal volunteers and paid personnel staffing the phone banks in hopes of getting their candidate elected. Sometimes it might even work. Most times promise a hang-up by an angry constituent in the middle of life, preparing, eating or finishing dinner or helping the kids with homework or getting them ready for bed. Our vote is our voice. But our voices need to be respected by those seeking to get elected.

The political climate in Greenburgh is heavily one-sided as 22 years of singular leadership has proven why change is good. The overall atmosphere is one of distrust of our political leadership, a one sidedness that is rarely seen anymore in American politics. The closest thing reminding us of how it used to be is Chicago's Tammany Hall politics. That is unless you maintain an inside view of the Greenburgh/Feiner political machine. But that requires countless hours at meetings, reading documentation, discussions, and the backbone to question what is said. A few brave soles have attempted to run against Mr Feiner in numerous elections. Each time Mr Feiner has his foot soldiers go after their ballot signatures, residency or anything else to get them disqualified to guarantee another win. To quote a Mel Brooks movie line, "It's good to be the king."

Many residents in Town are tired. They're tired of not being respected because their opinions and beliefs differ from the elected elite's agenda. They're tired of double-digit tax increases while being told we're limited to a phony NYS 2% Tax Cap. They're tired of watching their hard-earned money be urinated away on giveaways and phony projects designed for a select few while being touted for all. They're tired of inappropriate subsidized housing in saturated neighborhoods, supermarkets in underpopulated areas that require an automobile to get to and lack a mass-transit option. They're tired of assisted living that segregates and will not allow low-income Greenburgh residents to live there. They're tired of having inequity within the Town championed by Mr Feiner and his Board while having services cut only to be told its helping the Town's bottom line. Their tired of phony issues manufactured to deflect attention away from the real issues or illegal actions of he and his Board.

The real bottom line is costly under Mr Feiner and his Town Board. Lawsuits and verdicts such as the $6.5 million against the Town by Fortress Bible Church are costing us much more than money. The weary, beleaguered taxpayer in Greenburgh expects and deserves more from their government. Its unfortunate that many will vote for the status quo without studying what is really going on. These are the headline readers, content to listen to Mr Feiner say something and because a complicit media publishes it, they assume its true. These are the willfully ignorant. The G10 know better, ABG readers know better. It's time that others throughout the Town know better. Help us to get the word out. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Greenburgh School Superintendent Finally Terminated

After earning a salary of $235,266 per year, the Greenburgh Board of Education has finally voted to fire School Superintendent Ronald O. Ross immediately. He had been on administrative leave for approximately four months after accusations were made by the school administrators and staff of discrimination and creating a hostile work environment. Interestingly, Mr Feiner never complained that Mr Ross' salary was more than his as he will do when he goes after someone he doesn't like.

Accused of discrimination and creating a hostile work environment
in a lawsuit in May 2014, the lawsuit finally forced the school board to place an interim school superintendent in the position during the investigation. As reported by ABG in our article posted on Friday, May 9, 2014, Hypocritical Supervisor – Anti-Jewish: Bad, Racist: Best of The Best
Ross was sidelined in May. 

The lawsuit allegations indicated he was verbally abusive to employees, called them names, humiliating them in public and made it impossible to do their jobs. Our original article detailed some of what he was alleged to have said to employees. We also posted two photographs of Ross. The one that is used as part of the "publicity package" and more current one of him. Both are seen here:

Below is a copy of two emails sent by Mr Feiner to select School Board members when this began, asking the School Board members to not seek to replace Superintendent Ross. He closes the email with the sentence, “If I did not think that Ron was the best of the best – I would not write this note.” The second email (bottom) again finds Mr Feiner is disappointed to learn of an effort to replace Superintendent Ronald Ross, claiming Ross is hard working, and he really cares about “our” children. Mr Feiner does not have children who attend the Greenburgh schools, so “our children” seems a bit contrived. In closing with the second email, he says, “I would be happy to meet with you to discuss why I think it’s important to keep Ron Ross working for our community.” Mr Feiner has a knack of turning opinions when going one-on-one with people.


On September 19th another lawsuit was filed alleging similar unacceptable behavior by Mr Ross by a teacher formerly working in the Middle School. ABG finds it sad that Mr Feiner, who himself was found guilty of discrimination in Federal Court against the Fortress Bible Church, would endorse Mr Ross and his discriminatory behavior. Ironically, ABG also posted an article discussing discrimination complaints made by a Town Hall employee who was in a meeting and forced during this meeting to listen to a rant by Greenburgh Town Assessor Edye McCarthy. A complaint was filedand subsequently ignored by Mr Feiner and the Town Board, ultimately being swept under the rug by them, even after it was repeatedly brought up at Town Board meetings by the public.
Here’s an excerpt of those comments from that letter:

This letter was submitted and cc’d to Mr Feiner. But instead of addressing Ms McCarthy’s racist comments at Town Hall, Mr Feiner probably felt if he ignored it, he could sweep it away. His previous statement was proven hollow and obviously nothing more than posturing based on the inaction we've witnessed. He previously said, “We cannot, as elected officials, allow discrimination to rear its ugly head” is not only disingenuous, but self-serving and insulting to those who do the right thing on a daily basis. Again, why wasn’t Ms McCarthy disciplined or terminated from her position? 

Greenburgh is a widely diverse Town - its part of what makes our Town so rich. Why has Mr Feiner not addressed the racism within his own administration and with his appointed Department Head? Why has he personally practiced and been found guilty of racism during his 22 years in office and not been disbarred and removed from office? We need honest leadership in Greenburgh. We need change in Greenburgh and a fresh start from what has become a stale and unwelcome status quo. Mr Ross' departure is a fitting start. We need more. Only then can we have A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pending Another Law Suit...

The Hits Just Keep On Coming
How many "hits" can one Supervisor take before the electorate sees through the fa├žade and votes him out of office? Apparently, in Greenburgh, the scorekeepers follow our current society's soccer game mentality, where no one keeps score to protect tender egos. But, how about our tender backsides, raw from the gripping tentacles of the Town's tax collectors persistently assaulting our wallets for more of our hard-earned money? And what of the developers who seem to be impervious to these same tentacles as they grease the wheels of progress, ensuring an unimpeded application process for their projects?

Certs and the 2% Tax Cap
Once the developer's applications are complete, they begin building. When their building is finished, replete with variances and concessions du jour by the Town, they apply for their requisite certiorari adjustments. After the certiorari application is submitted, the Town automatically grants their request. The cradle-to-the-grave-cycle has been completed. The residents? They are forced to subsidize these certiorari refunds with their own taxes being increased, usually by double-digits, all while Mr Feiner touts the Town's adherence to the NYS 2% Tax Cap. The reality is far from Mr Feiner's warped perspective.

What's In It For Greenburgh?
Another tale of woe for Greenburgh residents has been unfolding under the guise of generosity and benevolence of a former developer, Robert Martin toward a civic association leader, Danny Gold, and of course, Mr Feiner. The "deal" was supposedly brokered by Mr Gold with the Robert Martin Corporation, who are well-known for developing corporate parks throughout the region and beyond. They created the template for corporate parks when there weren't any and became one of the largest landlords of commercial property in Westchester, one of the most powerful developers in the state and donated to numerous political campaigns - including Mr Feiner's and possibly others on his various Boards.

The property in question is a tract of land of 28+ acres in the East Irvington/Tarrytown section of the Town, a mile away from the Avalon Green and Avalon Green II apartments and condominiums off of Taxter Road. It turns out the land being considered is actually in Tarrytown and not Greenburgh "proper". It is part of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon Unification Church's 200 acre estate. But this secret land deal, struck in 2009 didn't include Tarrytown. Why not? What's in it for Robert Martin? What's in it for Danny Gold? Most importantly, what's in it for Greenburgh? The Unification Church is already challenging their taxes so regardless of what transpires, they'll win.

Keep Your Mouth Shut
ABG has learned that this secret deal was struck between Mr Gold, the President of the East Irvington Civic Association back in 2009 and Robert Martin before the construction took place for Avalon Green II. The supposed justification for this deal was to mitigate the future impact of the hundreds of apartments built near the East Irvington neighborhood. In fact, the only stipulation for Mr Gold to be able to proceed with this deal was if he kept his civic association's proverbial mouths shut while applications were made for the Avalon Green development. He did and they did. Why, you ask?

Because after he successfully had Mr Feiner declare Mr Gold's "backyard" a park, purchased with State, County and Town monies, it assured him that there would be no affordable housing built anywhere near his home, maintaining his segregated neighborhood. No one has been able to explain how the private land donation scheme mitigates anything for Mr Gold's neighborhood as the Avalon Green complex is over a mile away from their neighborhood. Its a stretch to say this steep sloped piece of undevelopable property is of any real benefit to other residents in the Town, while being "sacrificed" by the Unification Church for a paltry one million dollars.

October 1st Deadline
Knowing he had this secret deal in his back pocket, Mr Gold played nice with everyone at Avalon Green for years while remaining silent. Now that Mr Gold has put his home on the market, it was time for his silence to pay off and expose his deal to the Town, having his good friend Mr Feiner go to bat for him. He did, with Mr Feiner telling the Board and anyone who would listen that this is a terrific benefit for the Town. But, when pressed, he couldn't actually say why - just that it was. We fully expected him to blurt out how great the Town's Bond rating was.

Feigning forgetfulness of the October 1st deadline, Mr Gold stated he simply realized, albeit a bit late, that for the deal to be consummated, he needed the Town to accept a $1million donation from Robert Martin Corporation post haste. Once the million dollars was received, the Town would then need to turn around and purchase the 28+acres of land from the Unification Estate with the donation, ensuring the property be made into a park in perpetuity by the Town. Not advertised as part of this extraordinary deal was the small fact that East Irvington President Danny Gold had previously been the Town of Greenburgh Deputy Supervisor under Mr Feiner! The deal he brokered for himself and his association was performed while he was still a sitting official for the Town! Collusion? Quid pro quo? Unethical? You decide.

To decree any potential appearance of wrongdoing, Mr Feiner suggested at the Town Board meeting that the issue be submitted to the Town Ethics Board for review and a decision reached quickly to ensure meeting the October 1st deadline. What wasn't submitted to the Ethics Board was all of the pertinent information they would need to make an informed decision. However, given that Mr Feiner has appointed all of the members of this Board, ABG is suspect that any finding might be tainted from the start. That said, with the limited information that was supplied, the Ethics Board rendered the decision Mr Feiner knew they would. Seemingly more concerned about ethics was Mr Sheehan, who said he would not vote for the donation/purchase if the Ethics Board came back with a negative decision. That was never going to happen and Mr Feiner knew it. Whether Mr Sheehan was going to vote for or against this is unknown. Perhaps he was posturing, perhaps not.

What's Next?
Mr Feiner's Ethics Board may have waved their magic wand to grant the absolution his Board  desperately sought, but this is far from over. While Mr Feiner has again attacked individual residents for being against this, violating his own tenets listed on the Town Board Agenda to not make disparaging comments about others, it is apparently okay for him to lash out at residents. The reality however is that there is an ethical violation with this entire scheme, covertly hatched by a select few Town officials and a developer who continues to have applications before the Town in the process of seeking approvals.

How did the Ethics Board get this one wrong? They didn't actually get it wrong based on the information they were presented. Mr Feiner knew that controlling the flow of information to the Ethics Board, as he so often does, would garner the outcome he desired. While its possible to still get this "done deal" undone, Mr Feiner's warped perspective may be quite different from our reality. We'll have to see what's next. ABG hopes the Civic Associations along with others will petition the County and State to investigate. Maybe they won't be as ethically challenged and do the right thing. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What Can Be Done?

The residents of Greenburgh as well as Westchester County are suffering from political incompetence and malfeasance. We have elected politicians pandering to developers and campaign donors giving money to incumbents like beer flows at an Oktoberfest. We have more specks of Unincorporated land being approved for development, in fact, over development, at an alarming rate. These projects are validated by producing bendable traffic studies, yet incremental increases result in heavier traffic, flooding when we have simple rain storms, increased illegal housing, increased infrastructure abuse and ultimately town-wide failures and over-worked public employees (not the elected ones). More importantly are the beleaguered tax payers who are beaten down year after year. When they turn to their elected politicians, they are "yessed" to death and then ignored as the project of their concern is green-lighted. What can be done?

Job Growth
Too many people in Greenburgh have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Putting people back to work should be all elected politician's top priority. Unfortunately, it's not. Mr Feiner and his Town Board cater to developers and donors. All this while we teeter toward the verge of prosperity that could be unmatched in Greenburgh's history. Yet our biggest obstacle is our own local government officials as they continue to place roadblocks in the way of businesses with new regulations, fees and requirements, These are nothing more than taxes stifling entrepreneurs and businesses under the guise of what, safety? In fact, at the last Town Board meeting, Mr Feiner tried to make one of the larger businesses in town out as the bad guy. Aren't these same businesses the ones that employ our residents? Of course they are. And of course, they are not the bad guys Mr Feiner wants to make them out to be.

Medical diagnostic technology, R&D, gene-therapy, information technology, 3-D printing, new energy methods, transportation advances and more will all impart upon us and our children a standard of living our forefathers could not have even dreamt about. The Landmark at Eastview grand plan was originally designated by the Town Board to be developed as a research, development and technology mecca within the Town. Now that the favored developer for that location promised $5 million dollars per year in taxes to the Town, Mr Feiner is agreeing to truncate the original plan for increased construction of more of the same type of buildings currently vacant throughout our Town with no hope of occupancy. The developer claims there is no market for R&D but rather a big box store (i.e. Target, Costco), some retail stores, a motel and a movie theatre. Apparently we don't have a motel, big box store or movie theatre in the vicinity. Immediately and directly across the street, Regeneron, a pharmaceutical company, can't seem to build R&D facilities fast enough. Somebody's lying to us. Hint: he was found guilty of lying in Federal court.

The responsible development of Greenburgh’s energy resources could produce high-quality engineering, environmental, management and service-oriented jobs that will revitalize the Town's economy for generations. But who will work to ensure that the citizens of Greenburgh have a say in their economic and energy development future and that the federal bureaucracy down to the local levels provides guidance and not more roadblocks? Certainly, this won't happen with this Town Board. They have gone out of their way to be anti-business, all the while professing to be business friendly. Actions have certainly spoken louder than their empty words, but Mr Feiner has taught them well: just say it and the media will quote them, ultimately making it so.

Next, we must fix the paralyzing road-congestion and flooding issues which are discouraging both people and business from locating to Greenburgh and Westchester County. The I-287, Rt 119, Central Avenue and 9A corridors will continue to grow and so will the traffic congestion. Phony bypass lanes along each of the corridors will further congest traffic conditions during construction and already be outdated if and when they are ever finished. We must prioritize road projects which reduce commuting times for residents and even guests who tire of being stuck in the daily crawl. This does nothing but harm any local attractiveness, regional competitiveness and job growth for our Town and region.

Finally, we must reorient our regulatory and fee structures to not be taxing our residents to death! We must have tax policies that encourage job growth rather than encourage tax growth. It is a false argument to state that pro-growth tax policies and a steady, predictable stream of tax revenue are conflicting priorities. As both Presidents Kennedy and Reagan demonstrated, growth-oriented tax policies can provide for vibrant job growth and the necessary revenue to fund the services provided for in our Constitution.

Tax Reform and Cronyism
A simpler and fairer tax code might incentivize both domestic and international businesses to make investments here in Greenburgh, which will lead to job growth. But that's a state and/or federal issue. Locally, however, we must have our Town officials seeking to work with our homeowners and business owners to stimulate growth and most importantly, reinvesting back into their businesses and homes which will ultimately benefit us all. Lowering everyone's taxes would be helpful as opposed to giving tax breaks to the big guys.

This might even increase some workers take-home-pay while eliminating some big-business cronyism here in Greenburgh. Cronyism you say? In Greenburgh? Really? Here's one example. There's a supposed "land donation" happening in East Irvington at the behest of one or two residents under the cloak of their civic association*. Danny Gold, President of the East Irvington Civic Association finagled a deal with the old Robert Martin (Construction) Corporation, who has pledged a donation of one million dollars to Greenburgh to purchase some 28 or so steep slope acres of land from the Reverend Moon estate in Tarrytown. The stipulation is that it be used in perpetuity as parkland. Why choose to do this in Greenburgh instead of Tarrytown? Because Mr Gold has his house on the market and this covert operation through his friend Mr Feiner can only happen because of Mr Feiner's past relationship with Robert Martin, et al. The Mayor of Tarrytown doesn't have this "special relationship that Mr Gold needed to guarantee this deal be consummated. Again, why? Because the value of Mr Gold's home will increase in value even more if the purchaser can be assured no development will take place nearby.

Still don't believe in cronyism in Greenburgh? Well, this same property is also up for a certiorari challenge as well a tax discount if this convoluted deal does not go through. How does it need to proceed for the deal to be done? Mr Feiner and his Town Board must simply accept the donation of the one million dollars from Robert Martin, who has previously donated to Mr Feiner and possibly his Board members and then sign a check for the property in Mr Gold's backyard. Can you say done deal?

Once we see an adjustment to taxation in the Town, it will provide predictability for families and businesses alike. Families will be able to budget more effectively while businesses will be able to map out long term goals and expansion. If the federal government were to initiate a fair tax or flat tax, it would allow the less-fortunate to keep more of what they earn as well as eliminate the proverbial gray and black markets that deal solely in cash. It would seem like a win-win regardless of what your political leanings might be.

Immigration Reform
Immigrants can enrich our lives by bringing their culture and skills to our country, state and our Town. They also add wealth to our nation through human capital and occasionally innovation. However, breaking the law is unacceptable. That is why securing the border on a national level to stop trespassing and narco-trafficking should be a national priority. At the same time, we must cease Mr Feiner's broad-brush "sanctuary town" mentality that puts these same residents in peril by turning a blind eye toward illegal housing throughout our many neighborhoods in our Town. This is a safety issue that has proven to be a killer time and time again. It must stop! And yet we seek to encourage immigration done through an orderly and legal process. We are a country of laws and providing incentives to circumvent those laws will do irreparable damage to our system of governance.

Prioritizing Education
We must commit to education reform and school-choice. Our schools must inspire the next generation of doctors, engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. Email propaganda from Mr Feiner via a Town email list doesn't correct issues or improve our student's educational ability. To be equipped with the knowledge and skills our kids need to thrive in the new economy, we have to ensure that every child, regardless of their neighborhood, has access to quality education. We can provide educational opportunity by expanding parental choice in education and maintaining local control over local schools. Teachers are the bedrock of our education system and they should be rewarded on a merit based system. They should be given the freedom and flexibility to work in an environment that is not stifled by bureaucracy and archaic work rules. Our teachers are the solution, not the problem. Our kids are our future, not a commodity!

The need to reduce our prices at the pump and regain our independence from foreign oil is not just an economic issue, it is a national security issue. While we can increase our domestic sources of energy through environmentally responsible energy production, this is a much bigger scale than we can tackle alone. Domestic energy production will not only help reduce gas prices, it will also lead to an increase in job creation. Renewable energy sources such as wind, and solar should be allowed to compete in the free market without government involvement or interference. If and when that is allowed to happen, and government subsidies are no longer involved, the market will dictate price and demand. In the meantime, we can assist manufacturers by waiving some fees and bureaucracy issues to make their start up a bit easier.

Mr Feiner has used Town Hall for his own rallies (without paying the rental fees) against nuclear power without providing alternatives beyond the stereotyped suggestions we always hear from the environmentalists. They may be worthwhile additions, but can they replace what we already have? Has he installed solar panels on his home? Does he drive a battery operated or flex-fueled car? Of course not. What's good for you and I never seems to apply to him.

 He claimed to be putting in an electric car charging station at the Greenburgh library at no cost to the taxpayer. Scrutiny of the details proved that not only did it not make sense to put it there, but there would be costs and the Town taxpayer would be stuck paying for them again. When he proposed spending $500,000 to replace all of our current light fixtures with LED fixtures and bulbs, he never studied or completed a Return On Investment or qualified his desires with facts and figures. If he had a more structured and cost effective methodology, his "pitch" might have been substantiated. In fact, if all of this is so good, why hasn't he begun to convert the Town fleet of cars and trucks to battery operated vehicles, with charging stations at Town Hall?

Greenburgh's economic condition could dramatically improve for our Town and revitalize our infrastructure, schools and public services by cohesively addressing all of our energy requirements, budgeting, growth and development as a comprehensive strategy such as in our oft-delayed Comprehensive Plan. But that would require a genuine ability for our elected politicians to stop pandering for votes, parceling out gifts or certificates to the willfully ignorant and propose decisions that may be controversial but able to be validated and stand up to the scrutiny of the residents. Their validation must not fall under the aegis of Mr Feiner. Mr Feiner and his Board have no problem making decisions against less affluent neighborhoods for his donors and friends and leaving the affluent ones undisturbed. Perhaps its time for all the neighborhoods to unite for a common goal and stop this madness!

Getting our fiscal house in order by reducing overall spending levels must be a top priority. Having double-digit tax increases one year and then claim to stay within the state 2% tax cap is not a fiscal plan. It is not only fiscally irresponsible, it is immoral! Offering various pieces of property to chosen recipients violates the tenets of trust voters have placed in our officials. Jumping from one issue to another because you can get free publicity is an abuse of the position that should only be regarded as a privilege to hold. That privilege has been abused. In fact it has been over-abused! It must change. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

*

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Consolidation Deflection Plus

Recently there was a private meeting with the self-appointed Fairview Fire Monitors and the Fairview and Hartsdale Fire Chiefs along with Mr Feiner. Why would Mr Feiner be participating? Because they aren't really self-appointed, he is the catalyst behind the Fire Monitor group, pulling their strings, if you will, and making sure all the headlines and faux issues deflect attention away from his mismanagement of the Town. This isn't the first time the Master Deflector has done this.

More scrutiny of the Town and actions of its employees is not only necessary, but imperative given the constant illegal actions of Mr Feiner. The change of venue with the former news website, the Greenburgh Daily Voice has given Mr Feiner carte blanche to write anything he wants directly onto the site with little or no fact checking. So, in spite of an outdated and cumbersome Town website where Mr Feiner has free reign, he now has the ability to amplify his mantra, usually poised to benefit someone other than the taxpayers.

The Fire Monitor group is just another example of his control of the issues behind the scenes and ultimately the media. Case in point, when it was time for the Town Board to vote on the budget, he kicked up the high fire taxes as his deflection to hide the almost $17 million dollars in bonds that passed through the Town Board faster than a bullet fired from an outdoor shooting range. With the exception of the G10, there was no outrage with the budget passage. Nor was there even a mention about the Town's oft-touted superior AAA Bond Rating which Mr Feiner always boasts. This would have been a perfect opportunity to mention it, finally in the correct context. Instead, we get more duplicity from Town Hall.

Mr Feiner "kicked off" the fire tax issue when his own contaminated land sale debacle blew up after being brought to the public's attention by us and others with the former Frank's Nursery property. Mr Feiner desperately tried to gift the contaminated land to his friends from GameOn 365 with an illegal lease. When that illegal action was publicized and a lawsuit threatened, Mr Feiner backed down. When he tried to manipulate the sale to GameOn 365 for half the amount that was offered by Ardsley's House of Sports ($3.5M), an established and full functioning business, he incredulously blamed the public of bid rigging and it was their fault that the land sale fell through. Through it all, Mr Feiner knowingly withheld the fact that the Town never had clear title for the property he was trying to gift to his friends. The Town couldn't sell the contaminated property even if they had followed part of the law!
More recently, he has reneged on his offer with the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association, as well as the public, to enforce the conditions for an auction of the former Frank's Nursery property to only qualified bidders who intend to use the property as residentially zoned. The Civic Association fought vehemently for this one provision. And, while Mr Feiner had actually insisted on Civic Association inclusion, at the eleventh hour Mr Feiner changed the bidding structure.

This latest twist means bidders will no longer be required to comply with existing residential zoning for the property allowing bids from any bidder, regardless of intended use and totally disregarding the neighborhood and its civic association's request for zoning adherence. According to Mr Feiner, it was a legal necessity. ABG believes the real reason is the structure he had originally put in place would have virtually guaranteed GameOn 365 not be a contender or even the winning bidder. More importantly, he wouldn't be able to control the outcome as a favorable one for GameOn 365. And Mr Feiner's end-game, no pun intended, is to deliver the contaminated property to GameOn 365, one way or another.

All of this is nothing more than deflection - period - taking attention away from the Town's budget fiasco(s). A financial source extremely close to Mr Feiner admitted that the next couple of Town budgets promise to be very painful for the Unincorporated taxpaying residents because of impending increases which will border on obscene. This tells us we should expect more deflection, whether it's a high-line park in Hudson River with the Tappan Zee Bridge, regulating gun ranges, developing and delaying adoption of Comprehensive Plans, withholding tax revenues collected by the Town for the fire department fom the fire department, collapsing park pools, or anti-Semitic charges against other Town employees. We're sure there will always be more to come from Mr Feiner to muddy the facts until he gets what he wants.

One final comment about the Fire Monitors sans Mr Feiner. They are in agreement with several civic association leaders and the fire chiefs that it is not necessary to push for a referendum to consolidate the two "cherry-picked" departments. Numerous residents and the Fire Commissioners, the Chiefs and their members proved with facts and figures that any savings that might be had initially would be short lived and ultimately more costly to the taxpaying public. Since both the Fairview and Hartsdale Fire Chiefs have been openly discussing the issues surrounding consolidation, and their efforts to control costs and expenses, the Monitors agree that the dialog is improved and a pause may be warranted. Perhaps a study about consolidation in the future will be requested and even done. ABG hopes it won't be a knee jerk reaction to another one of Mr Feiner's unqualified comments. We'll discuss this more in another post as necessary.

Greenburgh taxpayers take everything Mr Feiner does "on the chin" and more importantly, with their wallets. This must change. It requires a public that is not content to accept the meager bribes from the Town, or with phony certificates at Town Board meetings. It requires the residents to abandon their willfully ignorant status and become involved. It requires a certain amount of paying attention which our current crop of politicians count on the public to not do. Again, this needs to change. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.