Friday, September 16, 2016

Formation Shelbourne Case Adjourned By Zoning Board of Appeals

As seen on the Zoning Board of Appeals Agenda:
Case No. 16-06 – Formation Shelbourne Senior Living Services, LLC, for property located at 448 Underhill Rd., (P.O. Scarsdale, NY).  Applicant is requesting variances from Section 285-10(A)((4)(f)(1) of the Zoning Ordinance to decrease the minimum lot area from 4 acres (required) to 3.79 acres (proposed); and from  Section 285-10(A)(4)(f)(14) to allow the site to be more than 200 ft. from a state or county right-of-way, in order to permit development of an assisted living facility on the property.  The property is located in an R-40 One-Family Residence District and is designated on the Town Tax Map as Parcel ID: 8.330-242-9

As Chairwomen Eve Bunting opened the meeting, she explained that Formation Shelbourne was the first case on the agenda. She continued that because Formation Shelbourne has an Article 78 case challenging the decision of the Town Board's decision to rescind their original Negative Declaration ruling stating there would be no negative environmental impact to the area due to this project, that upon advice from Counsel, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Board decided to postpone their case. She said they would adjourn this case to see what other actions might have to be taken by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

You'll recall we previously wrote about this case stating that the average taxpayer was unaware Formation Shelbourne initiated and then withdrew their original law suit against the Town, several civic associations and numerous residents who took positions against the project. What most would also not know was that Formation Shelbourne’s representative threatened Mr Feiner and the Town Board with another lawsuit at a Work Session if the Board rescinded their NegDec. Regardless of that threat, the Town Board rescinded it and soon afterwards, 
Formation Shelbourne's attorney, Mr Lino Sciarretta did in fact bring suit against the Town on August 18, 2016!

Ms Bunting asked if there was anyone in the audience who would be unable to return at a later date when she believed they might be hearing this case. Apparently only one audience member would be unable to attend but agreed to submit their point of view in writing to the ZBA. At that point Ms Bunting allowed Formation Shelbourne's attorney, Mr Lino Sciaretta to speak. He protested the fact that the ZBA refused to hear this case and that the owners of the Formation Shelbourne organization had flown here from Atlanta specifically for this meeting. Ms Bunting further explained that upon advice of Counsel, a decision was made in executive session by the ZBA members to postpone this case only prior to this meeting.

The ZBA postponement is constraining Formation Shelbourne from proceeding based on assurances made by Mr Feiner behind closed doors. The added difficulty for Mr Feiner and his Board was Formation Shelbourne’s admission that Greenburgh officials had secretly agreed to support the Formation Shelbourne application with the Town Board’s issuance of the NegDec as part of their agreement! These types of backroom deals were thought to be eliminated after the abolition of the Tammany Halls days of old. Apparently, not in Greenburgh. This latest setback for Formation Shelbourne was initiated by Formation Shelbourne when they chose to sue the Town. It remains unclear what their next move might be?

If Formation Shelbourne withdraws their suit against the Town Board, the ZBA may be in a better position to make a determination on the Formation Shelbourne case. If they proceed with the suit and it proceeds through the holidays, the Article 78 lawsuit may drag this out for months. Mr Feiner and his Board have tormented this Town again by not following the process, the rules that should apply to all or abide by an ethical and moral compass. Sadly, the Unincorporated Town taxpayers are the real victims. And yet, every election finds these same people running unopposed and getting re-elected. This is further proof of why we need term limits. It must end. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

“If You Don’t Like What I’m Doing, Sue Me!”

On Saturday, July 2, 2016, ABG posted a story about Mr Feiner and his Town Board working, and we believed even then in secret, with Formation Shelbourne, a developer looking to build a 94-bed assisted living facility at the current Sprainbrook Nursery location. That article was titled:
Like A Good Neighbor, Formation Shelbourne Sues Everyone Hoping To Stop Free Speech, Then Realizes Their Blunder. This article explained that Formation Shelbourne decided to sue numerous groups, individuals and of course the Town for rescinding their NegDec ruling which would have easily opened the doors to “the process” for Formation Shelbourne to proceed with their project. After rescinding the NegDec, Formation Shelbourne would be forced to start the process over again. 

On Wednesday, July 6, 2016, in our article entitled:

Shelbourne Decides Not to Sue, we explained that after the furor we and others created, Formation Shelbourne issued a press release stating that their initiation of lawsuits against the citizens and civic groups questioning their project was a mistake and they would withdraw their lawsuit – without apology.


On July 9, 2016 we wrote another article entitled Embarrassed Town Leaders To Vote To Undo Scam, explaining the move being contemplated by Mr Feiner and the Town Board to reverse the NegDec vote that had foolishly made to push the Formation Shelbourne project forward as promised. You see, promising constituents and taxpayers something and then doing something else can usually be done with little or no consequence. But when you go up against a multi-million dollar entity whose resources are almost immeasurable, the consequences can be severe. 

On Saturday July 16, we posted yet another article entitled: Town Board Threatened, Delays "NegDec" Cancellation Vote and described how Mr Feiner and his Board had decided to reverse their NegDec ruling. While this was brought about by public pressure as well as websites such as this one and others, Mr Feiner cleverly decided to explain his improper actions as a mistake and that the Zoning Board of Appeals should be the one reviewing this, not he and the Town Board. 

Unbeknownst to the average taxpayers was that Formation Shelbourne initiated and then withdrew their law suit as we had written earlier. What most would also not know was that Formation Shelbourne’s representative, threatened Mr Feiner and the Town Board with another lawsuit at a Work Session if the Board rescinded their NegDec. They rescinded it and soon after Mr Lino Sciarretta did in fact bring suit against the Town on August 18, 2016! 

Not only did most residents and taxpayers not know another lawsuit was brought against the Town because of Mr Feiner and his Board’s (illegal?) actions, the Town officials intentionally kept it under wraps and did not inform the public of this action! Ironically, Town Attorney Tim Lewis had informed the Town officials that they had been warned there would be a lawsuit even after he explained to them that he believed they had acted improperly by rescinding the NegDec. Mr Feiner always says, "If you don't like what I'm doing, sue me." So they are; now for a second time!

In reviewing the lawsuit, the petitioners state numerous times when a NegDec can be reversed or withdrawn. Those would be a) substantive changes to the plans; b) newly discovered information, or, c) changed circumstances that the rescission could be based. Added difficulty for Mr Feiner and his Board was the Formation Shelbourne’s admission that they and Greenburgh officials had secretly agreed behind closed doors to support the Formation Shelbourne application, the Town Board’s issuance of the NegDec as part of their agreement!

Apparently, the ethically challenged Mr Feiner and his Board believe they can do whatever they want without consequence. Perhaps because they always seem to run unopposed at election time feel invincible? Perhaps they believe their own hype that they have the toughest ethics law on the books and revel that other communities want to emulate it? Perhaps it’s because Mr Feiner appoints and his Board approves all members of the various Boards, including the Ethics Board? Following the Town’s ethics law is a whole other story. Actions such as these prove of why we need term limits and engaged constituents. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

September 11th Reflection

The summer has unofficially come to an end. Labor Day barbecues have ended. Summer homes are being shuttered. And to some, a new school year has begun. But sadly, that's not all. Next week will mark the 15th Anniversary of the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001. Politicians will make every attempt to get some “9-11 exposure”, traveling in haste to different ceremonies making speeches and shaking hands. For those who responded on that awful day, well, they will be introspective, pray silently, hug love ones and yes, also go to the 9-11 ceremonies.

Many have consistently said, “We must never forget,” these attacks made upon all Americans on that fateful day. We must never forget those who were killed. The emergency services personnel who fought so valiantly to go in to “do their jobs” did so knowing it could always be their last alarm. For many, this time turned out to be just that. Yet, they went in anyway. Critics have continued to find fault. The command center should not have been where it was; the building could have been fireproofed so it wouldn’t burn: President Bush didn’t react quickly and so on. But, as they sat in the comfort of their easy chair, the naysayers have proved one thing: actions do speak louder than words and on this day their words are not welcome.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, killed 2,996 people immediately. This number includes the 2,977 victims and the 19 hijackers who perpetrated the attacks. 246 people died on the airliners that flew into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. The attack on the Pentagon claimed 125 lives, and the attacks on the World Trade Center claimed 2,606. Victims at the World Trade Center included workers in the building, emergency first responders and people fleeing in the streets. The attacks have also claimed the lives of a number of people who helped clear the wreckage afterward, as cancer and other conditions caused by toxic smoke have begun to emerge. Those heroes continue to struggle every day with the 9-11 attacks.

At 8:46 AM the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower. One hundred and two minutes later, the tower collapsed. Of course, we all know that the south tower was also struck and it too collapsed, only in forty-six minutes. The naysayers who complained that the buildings should have been better constructed allowing people in there to escape, need to give pause and realize what they are saying. The buildings were just that, buildings. They were not conceived, designed or built to be a landing area for jumbo jets traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. More remarkable however, was the fact that these buildings remained standing for as long as they did with jumbo jets inside both of them.

In 2004, three years after the attacks, The Victims Compensation Fund finished its work processing death and injury claims from families and relatives of September 11 victims. Families of those killed had until December 22, 2003, to apply for compensation. Families who agreed to get compensation from the federal fund agreed not to sue the airlines. In 2007, New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner ruled numerous deaths were due to toxic dust exposure and for the next few years continues to make more of the same diagnosis.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund operated from 2001 to 2003 and received 7,408 applications for both death claims and personal injury claims. The fund made awards in 5,560 of those cases. After much public outcry, President Obama signed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, reopening and expanding the scope of the Victim Compensation Fund because so many other responders continue to be sick and suffer ailments caused by the attacks.

Beyond helping our first responders, the estimated costs of 9-11 is huge:
• $500,000 - Estimated amount of money it cost to plan and execute the 9/11 attacks.
• $123 billion - Estimated economic loss during the first 2-4 weeks after the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York City, as well as decline in airline travel over next few years
• $60 billion - Estimated cost of the WTC site damage, including damage to surrounding buildings, infrastructure and subway facilities.
• $40 billion - Value of the emergency anti-terrorism package approved by the US Congress on September 14, 2001.
• $15 billion - Aid package passed by Congress to bail out the airlines.
• $9.3 billion - Insurance claims arising from the 9/11 attacks.

It isn’t or shouldn’t be about the money. It should be about our heroes, our loved ones, friends and relatives who responded. It should be about those who perished in those buildings. Many were reminded of the 1993 bombing and escaped when they felt their respective buildings shudder after the first plane crashed into the tower. No one knew why the attacks took place, but they knew they must respond. They proved why our first responders are referred to as The Bravest and The Finest.

There will be many September 11th ceremonies in upcoming days. We urge you to find and participate in any one of them. We also urge you to reflect on those we have lost and give thanks to those in uniform, any uniform and let them know their efforts are appreciated, respected and a valued part of our communities.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Do It Anyway

In yet another unsolicited campaign mailing at $.46.5, Mr Feiner bemoaned the vacant store fronts throughout our Town on our commercial streets in Fairview. He continues on that that’s why many are pleased with the economic development on Rt 119 in the Fairview section of the Town. What he doesn’t mention is that his policies have helped to create the suburban blight we see in many sections of the Unincorporated portions of Greenburgh. And, in particular to the Fairview section of Town, he has purposely created a specific area within the Town that will always remain depressed by being choked with an over-abundance of those requiring assistance for the homeless, DSS, prison release re-entry, and others in distress and need. And, while we feel compassion for these people, perhaps Mr Feiner has avoided putting them in more affluent neighborhoods as a means to control votes?

The former Greenburgh Health Center on Rt 119, actually owned and run by a Mount Vernon, NY, based agency, has remained closed and unoccupied for several years now after moving into their newer and larger facility on Knollwood Road. The building remains just as lifeless in appearance as it had when it was being used. The difference now is there are fewer women with strollers and kids-in-tow trying to cross Rt 119 in a suicidal attempt to get to the other side as well as dodging vans pulling in and out with patients.

The Greenburgh Planning Board, with all its appointees approved by Mr Feiner and his Board, recently granted site approval to demolish three existing buildings in the area, including the Greenburgh Health Center in October 2016. Demolition of the site should begin in October 2016 and building construction completed in July 2017, when a new store, Harbor Freight plans to open. Apparently, with all of these vacant stores in our commercial areas, Mr Feiner was unable or unwilling to provide Harbor Freight with a suitable alternative and recycle/reuse existing buildings. And, while the former Joyce Lesley facility has been vacant for some time, they will be getting a facelift without a new or confirmed tenant. Might this have been a viable site for Harbor Freight?

Next in this campaign mailing was his confession that he has been unable to convince supermarkets to move into the area, while ABG believes he has been successful in making them leave. How? When Pathmark, owned by the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) closed its doors, we spoke with a representative who said it was about the high cost of union personnel and the lowest of margins on their products coupled with high rates of theft. He continued that other stores in their chain had success with non-grocery items such as picnic sets, beach chairs etc., but that this particular store’s clientele did not have the spendable cash from which the others benefitted. Consequently, their low profits, theft, utility costs, taxes and fees made it impossible for them to continue at that location. As an aside and blame not cast on Mr Feiner, in the 1970’s the A&P Distribution Center on Warehouse Lane was closed in the north Elmsford section of Unincorporated Greenburgh with that operation transferred to a New Jersey facility in an effort to break the union. 

Now there are also discussions to raze the current housing off of Manhattan Avenue and create a new senior housing facility in its place if the Housing Authority can acquire the necessary funding. So, in classic Feiner-speak, this is not something that is going to happen, just be talked about. He also speaks of this housing being incorporated into a mixed-use development which would include a small supermarket. Not a bad idea, but with rents, taxes, fees, permits and health codes in abundance, anything small would probably not survive.

Another suggestion he made in tandem with creating a small supermarket is to have the Theodore Young Community Center create a training program for young people and out of work residents as to how to start and manage a business. This is also a good idea and need not be dependent on any of the above taking place. Although, Mr Feiner only suggests starting the program if there is a supermarket built with this senior housing. We are concerned that there are already too many programs run at the TYCC and they may be hard pressed to be able to accommodate another, no matter how good an idea it may be. Also at issue is what is required to start a business. There is a lot of paperwork involved and the need for money to proceed with permit fees, applications, incorporation, attorney and accounting services to name a few – can be staggering. While we understand that Mr Feiner is hoping to throw out many ideas in this campaign mailing and hope something “sticks”, his sincerity to create any of these is suspect if past performance is an indicator of future results. Start the business start-up program now and help those people before worrying about future funding, demolition and construction. Once we do, we’ll begin to see A Better Greenburgh.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Town's Largess Is Costing All of Us

There are several bulk mailing rates that the Town uses for their snail-mail mailings. One piece of mail in a business envelope goes for $.23; another goes for $.46.5. This costs all tax payers a lot of money during the course of a year each time a mailing is done. Why are these mailings done and why so often you may ask? Simply, it’s politics. It’s a cost free way for Mr Feiner, albeit the Town Board, to campaign without using his/their own money, campaign funds or donations. As long as it can be done under the pretext of providing information to the public, there are no campaign finance laws broken nor are any election bank accounts emptied, drained or depleted.

When there is an issue Mr Feiner wishes to promote, you might receive almost daily mailings arriving to you at either rate. We witnessed this numerous times in the past. One recent proposal has been Mr Feiner’s push for the ill-conceived and zoning deficient assisted living facility by the Formation Shelbourne organization where the current Sprainbrook Nursery sits. They are seeking to build a four-story, 94-bed facility on less than four acres of property and roughly 6,000 feet from a County of State right-of-way roadway – requirements under the two-year old zoning law recently adopted by Mr Feiner and his Town Board.

Mr Feiner has taken to endorsing projects that are primarily commercial by nature, regardless of whether they are built in a commercial or residentially zoned area. There are several examples that come to mind. The first was Westhab which he suggested to then County Legislator Lois Bronz be built on the former Kings Inn Motel site in Fulton Park. That was a transition parcel of land that was zoned half commercial and half residential.  But he didn’t care about zoning. By making the Town Board the lead agency for the project, they were able to disregard any and all legal standings previously maintained and allowed building to proceed. Mailings were done throughout the Town seeking support of this project. People sympathetic to Mr Feiner in the neighborhood also received these mailings. The rest did not. However, the multiple mailings cost us a significant chuck of money. Shouldn’t the Supervisor remain neutral about any projects?

Another project was the GameOn 365 proposal in the former Frank’s Nursery property on Dobbs Ferry Road. Emails acquired under the Freedom of Information Law confirmed Mr Feiner promised in private meetings with the GameOn 365 principals that he’d push the project through. When the area neighborhoods learned of the proposal, they revived their civic association to fight the 8-story sports bubble Mr Feiner felt was okay to build in this residential neighborhood. You see, the zoning had been allowed for a commercial establishment years ago. When Frank’s Nursery defaulted on the mortgage, they went into foreclosure and the Town acquired the property. Instead of selling it within the first 6-months of acquisition, as required by County and State law, Mr Feiner decided to hold onto it. Consequently, the zoning for the land reverted back to residential zoning. Had he not begun playing politics with the property and simply sold it, it would have been “grandfathered” to remain commercial. Not only were there multiple mailings supporting this project, he did separate mailings about holding a referendum, poorly written by his administration, in hopes of getting a passing vote. It worked but he ultimately lost because all of the neighborhoods stood united to only have residential housing built there. There were so many mailings for this project it’s actually hard to tally it all up.

Next up was the Brightview Assisted Living facility at Rt 119 and Benedict Avenue in the Glenville section of Unincorporated Greenburgh. This small tight knit neighborhood would soon be overwhelmed with a building that a) doesn’t fit the neighborhood; b) looms over Rt 119 and the beginning of Benedict Avenue; c) does not allow the average Greenburgh senior citizen on Medicare to live there; and d) could wind up following suit as so many other assisted living facilities and go bankrupt and need to repurpose itself into a condominium or co-operative apartment. Could this entire assisted living facility be a pretense to build an assisted living facility where apartment buildings would not be allowed due to zoning? We don’t know but wonder. There were numerous mailings from the Supervisor pushing the Brightview project. All we wonder is at what cost was all of this done and why was the Supervisor so invested in promoting it?

Beyond the major projects such as mentioned above, and there are more, he goes out of his way to do mailings vis-à-vis advertising for private companies and corporations. The latest recipient of Mr Feiner’s largess is the Hartsdale Kumon Center. While this may be a terrific business doing great work with kids needing additional help with their schoolwork for a fee, it is not the job of the Town to do a mailing or advertising blitz throughout the Town for private, for profit businesses. At $.46 per piece mailed, this is an unnecessary expense for taxpayers to bear and must stop. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Town of Greenburgh's National Night Out

The Town of Greenburgh Police Department is proud to announce the hosting of this year’s Town Of Greenburgh National Night Out 2016 on Tuesday, August 2nd, starting at 6:00 pm and ending at 9:00 pm. We encourage you to come out to our Greenburgh Town Hall, 177 Hillside Avenue, White Plains, NY and join your neighbors in participating in this community partnership about crime and drug prevention event.

National Night Out involves over 15,325 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases around the world. In all over 37.1 million people are expected to participate in this year’s National Night Out.

National Night Out is designed to:
- Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships;
- Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
- Generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs; and
- Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

Along with the traditional display of outdoor lights on front porches, cities, towns and neighborhoods 'celebrate' NNO with a variety of events and activities such as: Cookouts - Parades - Youth Programs - Vehicle Larceny Prevention- Burglary Prevention - Fire Prevention. There will be local vendors donating food and activities for children.

During the event, residents in neighborhoods throughout the Town of Greenburgh and across the nation are asked to turn on their porch lights, lock their doors and spend the evening outside with your neighbors, police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

National Night Out is a great crime prevention tool that encourages you and your neighbors to get together. When neighbors know each other and pay attention to their surroundings, they are more likely to recognize and report suspicious people or vehicles to law enforcement. The more you know about your neighborhood, the more you can do to keep it safe.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

David Vs Goliath: A Victory For Open Government

A major ruling on Wednesday from the Supreme Court of the State of New York found in favor of a challenge by Ms Dorrine Livson, against the Town. The Town had been ordered by a lower court to supply Ms Livson with a copy of the now infamous GBList used by Mr Feiner to only send information he wishes to present to residents. Ms Livson, President of the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association (herein WWCA), had submitted a Freedom of Information Law (herein FOIL), request for a copy of the email list used by Mr Feiner to promote or denigrate proposals, topics of his choice or projects within the Town he either favors or not. He also used it for personal attacks, such as those he made against now retired Fairview Fire Chief Anthony LoGiudice and others. 

Here’s a little history:

WWCA President Dorrine Livson had requested the email list in 2014 so she could counter some of the misinformation being put forth by Mr Feiner regarding the 8-story (83ft) inflatable sports bubble that private investors, known as GameOn 365, had agreed to build on the former Frank’s Nursery location on Dobbs Ferry Road during secret conversations with Mr Feiner. This was the proverbial “back room deal”. Once Ms Livson got wind of these conversations with Mr Feiner and Mr Hewitt, she FOILed emails from Mr Feiner and received one email in particular from GameOn 365 owner, Martin Hewitt. Mr Hewitt asked Mr Feiner to cease all email communications with him and only do telephone calls because phone calls could not be FOILed and emails could! But the damage was already done. After discontinued use of 6 months, the property was no longer grandfathered as commercially zoned and reverted back to residential zoning. Then Mr Feiner promised $5 million dollars in tax revenue which turned out to be another exaggeration. But since he wanted the GameOn 365 project to go through no matter what, he pushed to have the project on a referendum at the upcoming election, asking all residents of Greenburgh to vote on this one project in this one neighborhood. He sent out numerous emails using this same email list to promote its passage. This was exactly what Ms Livson was upset about and why she sought the email list – to counteract these types of actions by Mr Feiner. 

With the elections underway with the “new” voting machines – seemingly crayons and poster board, many people were not voting for the referendum as they didn’t know it was on the back of the voting ballot. He sent out an “emergency” email using the same email list telling residents to flip over their ballots and vote for the referendum. He was out of control. But, he garnered 22,000 votes in favor of the bubble. 

Back to the present:

The Town denied the request on the basis that the Webmaster stated that there was neither a print or extract function with the software that can reasonably create a list of email addresses. Undaunted, Ms Livson contacted Cit-e-Net on or about March 11, 2014, and was informed that Cit-e-Net could provide the Town with a digital copy of the gblist, upon request by the Town! Ms Livson subsequently appealed the denial which ironically gets reviewed by, ahem, the Town Board – the same people already denying her request. Regardless of how absurd this might be, they denied her appeal. Undeterred, Ms Livson filed what’s called an Article 78 proceeding against the Town, the Town Clerk and the Town Board with the assistance of Edgemont Resident and Attorney Robert Bernstein.

The Supreme Court reviewed the Article 78 filing and found in favor of Ms Livson. The Town refused to turn over the email list even after ordered to do so by the Court and appealed. Yet, although the court found in favor of Ms Livson, the Town stated afterwards they were now concerned with the confidentiality of the people on the list. Our understanding is that this argument was not made during the Town’s original court presentations and was without merit as an argument now! 

Mr Feiner’s abuse of the GBList is well known by those who follow Mr Feiner’s shenanigans and not what he writes in his press releases. All of this could have been avoided had Mr Feiner and the Town Board complied with the original FOIL request by Ms Livson. Once again, the court has found in favor for Ms Livson and has ordered the Town to produce the email list to her – again. They have also been ordered to pay court costs as well. Congratulations to Ms Livson and Mr Bernstein on a job well done! While ABG is certain other civic organizations will be filing for copies of this, it remains to be seen how the Town finally responds. It’s another dark day in Greenburgh that did not have to come to pass had the Town done the right thing. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.