Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Open Letter: Death of “The Process”

May 20, 2015
Supervisor Paul Feiner
Town Board
Town of Greenburgh
Town Hall
177 Hillside Avenue
Greenburgh, New York 10607

Dear Supervisor Feiner:

I am appealing to you in my capacity as the Vice-President of the Fulton Park Civic Association with respect to the application filed on behalf of GameOn 365 Sports, LLC seeking a zoning amendment that will negatively impact the entire Town in the future, initially allowing construction of a prohibitive commercial sports complex on Dobbs Ferry Road in the R-30 Zoning District.

As you will recall, at the Town Board meeting on April 8, 2015, an overwhelming majority of community members attended to steadfastly voice their opposition to GameOn 365’s application. In fact, the overwhelming sentiment was that the proposed zoning amendment should be rejected. Nonetheless, you and Town Board members, Ken Jones and Kevin Morgan, decided to blatantly disregard the will of the residents of the Town of Greenburgh by moving the GameOn 365 application forward by commencing the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act process and referring the matter to the Town of Greenburgh Planning Board for an “informal” review. This belies your collective statements of impartiality and removes all pretext of keeping an open mind! I am writing to advise you that the members of my association, as I’m sure the residents living in the vicinity of the golf ranch property, are greatly troubled by your actions and the actions of Councilman Morgan and Councilman Jones. 

I had written you a letter on April 8, 2015, pointing out a number of deficiencies in the long form Environmental Assessment Form prepared by GameOn 365. Regardless, you, in concert with Councilman Morgan and Councilman Jones, and over the objections of Councilmember’s Sheehan and Juettner, decided to declare the Town Board’s intent to act as Lead Agency under SEQRA and provide notice of this intent to interested and involved agencies, giving GameOn 365 the necessary ammunition to seek real financial investors. I believe this is purely endorsed semantics to move GameOn 365’s proposal forward! I reiterate that preceding any further with the SEQRA review is improper until the errors in the EAF are analyzed and corrected. To continue with the review would create a flawed environmental review process since the involved and interested agencies cannot accurately assess the impact of the zone change or the scope of the underlying project. Or, is that the actual plan? I ask that the Town Board immediately withdraw its intent to act or become Lead Agency, and, at the very least, require GameOn 365 to amend its EAF until the errors I previously pointed out are corrected.

The next troubling aspect of your actions is that you have continually acted as an advocate for GameOn 365. Although you contend that you are neutral and that you are merely following “the process”, there are many examples where you have chosen to proceed in a biased manner.  One example is that you have continually taken the position that the traffic impacts relating to Dobbs Ferry Road are not significant and that the project would not result in excessive traffic.  However, this is substantially different than the position that you took with respect to the Fortress Bible Church.  At that time, you were very concerned about the volume of traffic the Fortress Bible Church would add to Dobbs Ferry Road. The GameOn project would likely add more traffic, on a more regular basis, than the Fortress Bible Church proposal.

Your most recent statements that you were only concerned with site lines with respect to the Fortress Bible Church are directly contradicted by the record in that action and will invariably and rightly be part of any litigation concerning the proposed traffic impacts. Your statement that you spoke with the Chief of Police on occasions regarding the Fortress Bible project is also contradicted by your testimony in that case. These contradictions demonstrate that you are anything but neutral. Past performance has proven when you have a project you support, such as GameOn 365, you will do anything to move the application forward; but where you have a project you are against, such as Fortress Bible, you will do anything to oppose it including destruction of evidence and lying under oath. It is no wonder people have lost confidence in the process in our Town!

You have also continually questioned whether the traffic impacts studied by House of Sports should be considered when analyzing the GameOn 365 project. Despite your assertions to the contrary, the GameOn 365 facility will attract a similar amount of traffic as House of Sports. Furthermore, the number of spectators and participants will not in any way be limited by an alleged lack of seating or otherwise at the GameOn 365 facility. There is no doubt that when children come to GameOn 365, their parents, relatives and friends will attend practices, games and tournaments in large numbers.

The manner in which you have driven this process forward demonstrates bias and that you are acting as an advocate for GameOn 365.  As stated above, you have voted to declare the Town Board as Lead Agency, despite the deficiencies in the EAF and substantial evidence and testimony that property in the R-30 zone should not be zoned for commercial use. The only reason to have moved the environmental review process forward at this time is because you are in favor of the GameOn 365 application!

The formation of a “committee” for the purpose of hiring of a traffic consultant and planning consultant, is also highly suspect, is not typical in a SEQRA review and further establishes that you are treating the GameOn 365 application differently than other applications. The usual process for a zone change petition is for the applicant to submit studies in conjunction with a draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Town professionals can then analyze. It will be at that time that the Town could hire a planning consultant, traffic consultant and other professionals to review the applicant’s studies. The public would then be given the opportunity to hire its consultants to analyze the applicant’s studies and present information during the SEQRA review. It is entirely inappropriate for the Town to conduct studies on its own, prior to the applicant submitting its own studies and draft Environmental Impact Statement. This is true even if the applicant is paying for the studies, which further taints the process. What is even more disturbing is that if the Town’s consultants ultimately conclude that there are not any significant impacts from the project, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Town Board to reject or modify the application during either the SEQRA or site plan review process.

The supposedly “informal” referral of this application to the Planning Board is also not typical of a petition for a zoning amendment. As you are aware, Town Code § 285-64 requires the Planning Board to make a formal recommendation addressing specific areas of concern with respect to any petition for a zone change before the Town Board holds a public hearing. However, there is no provision for an “informal” Planning Board review in the Town Code. If you are seeking an advisory opinion from the Planning Board, I believe such advisory opinions are improper and illegal. Your attempt to somehow sidestep the formal recommendation process by asking the Planning Board to conduct an “informal” review is again contrary to the process and shows that you are taking a biased approach with respect to this particular applicant.

The bottom line is that communities throughout the Town of Greenburgh are against the GameOn 365’s petition for a zone change that will forever change the landscape of Greenburgh town wide. Yet you, Councilmen Jones and Morgan continue to support it at all costs. I insist you all to reconsider the current direction the Town Board has taken with respect to GameOn 365’s application and dismiss it.
Thomas Bock, 
Vice-President, Fulton Park Civic Association

Friday, May 8, 2015

Racism Thrives

We have often written about different racist incidents that have prevailed in our Town government. The most recent is with Greenburgh Police Officer Brad DiCairano. Apparently he posted a picture on Facebook that showed a photo of blacks on a minivan protesting last summers Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri, next to one of baboons jumping all over a white woman's car. The post drew criticism from fellow officers and we understand was then shown to GPD Chief Christopher McNerney a day or so later. But, by the time Chief McNerney learned of the Facebook page, using the name 'B-rad Di', it had been taken down. Chief McNerney had placed DiCairano on modified duty upon his return from vacation. Officers are permitted to express their personal views as long as it does not, among other things, negatively affect the public perception of the Department according to the department's social media policy.

The rest of Officer DiCairano’s troubles can be discussed at a future date. The fundamental questions seem to be whether or not he overstepped the department's protocol and were his first amendment rights being upheld or not? Should a police officer, or any municipal employee be held to a different standard and does this violate his free speech rights? As horrible to some and perhaps entertaining to others as this act may be, should this officer lose his job over this or just be reprimanded? And, does he deserve a second chance if he apologizes and shows remorse?

ABG learned that Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner condemned the Facebook post once he learned of it and said he was confident McNerney was taking it "extremely seriously." Law enforcement people have to interact with all aspects of the community and it's totally inappropriate for them to be encouraging, even privately, any forms of hate or racism, Feiner said. How interesting that he would only single out law enforcement and not other Town employees. 

Then Mr Feiner sent out an email blast about this incident to several thousand people in the Town, stating:
An unpleasant note…a police officer was suspended today and relieved of his duties for the posting of a racially insensitive posting and comments on facebook[sic]. The internal investigation is continuing. The officer faces discipline up to and including termination of employment. I have asked our newly formed Human Rights Committee to review the town’s policies regarding town employees who make racially offensive comments and to come up with policies that would apply to all employees who work for the  town.
PAUL FEINER

In a March 10th Town Board meeting several years ago, Councilwoman Sonya Brown publicly “dressed down” Mr Feiner explaining that he had told her and other candidates running for re-election to not bother campaigning in Fairview because those voters were unintelligent! It seems from what Ms Brown was saying that he was alluding to the minority community there. So, how can Mr Feiner continue to claim to be against racism when he condones it repeatedly? 

In our article entitled “Selective Racism Condoned By Supervisor” on April 8th, 2014, we quoted Mr Feiner as saying, “We cannot, as elected officials, allow discrimination to rear its ugly head.” Yet he sent emails endorsing Superintendent Ross after allegations of racism were made against him and has since been fired from Greenburgh Central School System. His racist remarks were proven to be made over an extended period of time.

Mr Feiner and the Town Board chose to ignore the use of the “N-word” in Town Hall by Tax Assessor Edye McCarthy in a meeting with department employees present. We posted an excerpt of a letter (below) of complaint from the offended party in that same article. The complaint was summarily ignored by the Town. Why was Mr Feiner absent after a complaint of racism was filed against Town Assessor Edye McCarthy? Perhaps Mr Feiner waved it off saying, It’s not that big a deal.

Below is an excerpt from the complaint letter addressed to Town Assessor Edye McCarthy and carbon-copied to the Union President and Supervisor Paul Feiner on October 27, 2008. We have omitted the names and body of the letter to protect the privacy of the victim.  
We forewarn you that the content may be considered disturbing.
Here’s an excerpt from that complaint:






We’re surrounded by double-standards: Recently, Mr Feiner himself was found guilty of discrimination and violating the civil rights of the Fortress Bible Church of Mt Vernon after they sought Town approvals to build a new church and school on Dobbs Ferry Road. Mr Feiner did not want them building in the backyard of his friend, then County Legislator and now NYS Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti and tried to scuttle the Church's application. It was proven in court that Mr Feiner openly practiced discrimination against the Fortress Bible Church when the Church purchased property and sought to construct a new church and school on it just off of Dobbs Ferry Road.

In time, Fortress Bible Church filed suit against the Town after being pushed once too often. It’s believed that Mr Feiner tried to “convince” them into donating a fire truck to the Fairview Fire Department in return for permit approvals. It’s widely believed he did this to the Westchester Meadows (aka Hebrew Home) in Valhalla. They capitulated and amazingly the Fairview FD received a brand new Rescue truck and the Westchester Meadows was able to continue construction. But the Church wasn’t going to be coerced into agreeing to Mr Feiner's alleged demands and questionable behavior. The Church went to court and was victorious. Their victory is the Unincorporated Town’s loss as we will be forced to cover Mr Feiner’s illegal actions to the tune of $6.5 million!

Racism should not be welcome anywhere. Yet it seems to have found a home in Greenburgh, well-known to be a sanctuary Town for issues Mr Feiner decides are acceptable. But due to condoning racism himself, he should recuse himself from any and all conversations surrounding it. He should also not be an adjudicator if Greenburgh Police Officer Brad DiCairano should face disciplinary actions for his post on Facebook via the Town Board. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

2 Workers Die In Hastings-On-Hudson Explosion

Two workers lost their lives while working on what is believed to be a 500 gallon heating oil tank located and buried in the backyard of a home at 65 Hillside Avenue. An unknown quantity of gasoline was also found stored in the adjacent garage and of-loaded into a 55-gallon drum. The multi-family home is owned by Django Morrison. Apparently, the two workers were attempting to cut the tank so it could be removed from the ground and were unaware there was still product in it. As they cut into the metal tank with a saw, sparks from the saw must have ignited the vapors and product, causing the remaining product to explode. Unconfirmed reports believed they worked for Three D Maintenance Corporation of Elmsford.

The Hastings-On-Hudson Fire, Police, EMS and Highway Departments all responded to the scene. Other police agencies assisted including the Westchester County Hazardous Materials Response Team, OSHA, PESH, and others. At one point County Executive Rob Astorino stopped by to survey the aftermath at the scene. Once the explosion happened, witnesses stated the oil tank flew upwards about 75 feet into the air, landing in the woods behind the property some 50 or 60 feet from its original location. The workers bodies were thrown approximately 20 feet from where they had been working and are thought to have died instantly. Paramedics on scene performed CPR on both victims to no avail.

Several helicopters flew overhead filming the activity on the ground and other media representatives were in attendance as well. This tragic event, could have been avoided had proper safety precautions been observed and implemented before the removal process began. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these workers.

5/8/2015 - Addendum: ABG has learned the identities of the two workers: Luis Jacho, 52, and Mora Segundo, 50, both residents of Ossining. We've since learned from unconfirmed sources that the outside oil tank had been used to store gasoline, probably either old gasoline or excess from different pieces of equipment. Modern gasoline additives cause gasoline to have a shelf life and can "gum-up" fuel lines if left to sit unused. Disposal of used or outdated gasoline is cumbersome and sometimes shortcuts are taken. Apparently, Mr Jacho and Mr Segundo were unaware of the tank having gasoline in it and its volatility. Had this tank been used as intended to store oil, the workers might have still created a hazardous condition by cutting the tank with product in it but the outcome might not have been fatal.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee Gets Blasted

The Town of Greenburgh seems to thrive on limiting the access of its residents and taxpayers, allowing developers and our elected officials to almost do as they please. This has been witnessed time and again throughout the Town. Then there are certain developer/law firm/friends of Paul that have unfettered access to the corner office. Once the meeting/phone call takes place, the yellow brick road is magically transformed into gold for them.

Breaking from Town tradition, the Town's Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) offered numerous public opportunities for the residents to raise questions, points, criticisms, and such of the plan. In fact, Mr Feiner wanted the Committee to travel to different areas of the Town doing a dog-and-pony show. The Committee resisted so as to be able to hold the meetings at Town Hall and be both recorded and televised. We applaud the Committee's decision to do this.

Under the guidance of former Town Planning Commissioner Thomas Madden, who has since left our Town to do something in Stamford, CT., and the Chairmanship of Francis Sheehan, Town Councilman, there were many ideas incorporated into this plan that were unwelcome. One such idea of major concern was that of incorporating the use of "nodes"* in the future. During the first round of public sessions, the CPSC heard from many concerned citizens. But did they listen?

Apparently not. Resident after resident, especially from the Edgemont area, which will see beau coup nodes in their area, took to the podium to bemoan that after a year of waiting, little has changed with the unveiling of the revised Comprehensive Plan. Many stated they heard but didn't listen to what was being said. Noticeably absent were two very engaged citizens from the Committee, Madelon O'Shea and Ella Preiser. Could they have been boycotting this meeting? ABG doesn't know for sure. However, we do know that neither favored the "node" conception. That idea was the brainchild of former Town Planning Commissioner Thomas Madden. Many believe he is responsible for many of the negative changes taking place in the Town including the idea of nodes and are glad he is gone.

Town Councilman Francis Sheehan, Chairman for the CPSC, sent out this email following a morning and evening public session to get feedback from the public on the latest offering:

"The Town's Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) heard more than six hours of comments and questions Tuesday (4/28/15) 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. on the Second Draft of the Comprehensive Plan. The turnout at both sessions was terrific. Everyone who wanted to speak was given unlimited time to do so, even after the end time had passed.

Rather than continue the Public Hearing on May 14, 2015, as previously scheduled, the hearing will be postponed to a date to be determined and later published. The Committee wants to consider the six hours of comments in the coming weeks and edit the document to address issues raised. The edits will be made available before the Public Hearing is continued so we may receive comments at that hearing on the Plan as edited.

The CPSC appreciates everyone who took the time to attend the meeting yesterday. The Public Hearing worked as it should: we heard from the public and we will be acting on what we heard.   

Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Chair, Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee"

Mr Sheehan's email is correct about the turnout, although the evening session had more people than the earlier session. To their credit, they let everyone speak for an unlimited amount of time and there was an occasional back-and-forth with speakers and Committee members. Mr Sheehan's email closes with, "we heard from the public and we will be acting on what we heard." We certainly hope so. There is some good information in the Town's proposed Comprehensive Plan. Yet, it might all be for naught if the Committee only heard what was being said but didn't really listen. If they did, this plan may help us curtail Mr Feiner's wholesale gifting of Unincorporated Greenburgh to developers and friends. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

*The Town would create what's known as overlay zones called  "nodes" to allow for retail/multi‐story, mixed use buildings that would include residential units and flexible parking standards (no or very limited parking). Picture 4-corner intersections along Central Avenue and later the Unincorporated Town as a whole as having these nodes. It is claimed that the overlay zone should also include design guidelines or standards to foster a uniform standard of high quality development throughout the corridor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee Invites Phone Calls

In addition to the opportunities to speak about the Second Draft of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 1:00-4:00 p.m. and 7:00-10:00 p.m.at Greenburgh Town Hall, the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) has arranged for 914-989-1538 to be staffed during the hearing for those interested in calling in questions or comments instead of attending.  

We hope everyone who can attend the April 28 meeting attends either the afternoon or evening session so we may hear the comments and begin considering them.  However, today we were able to relocate a scheduled group and free up the Town Hall auditorium on May 14, 2015, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m., at which time the Committee will continue tomorrow's hearing to accommodate those who have scheduling conflicts on April 28.  

Written comments are also welcome up to two weeks after the Public Hearing is closed.  They may be sent to PlanZone@GreenburghNY.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Chair, Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee

Monday, April 27, 2015

Public Hearing on Draft Comprehensive Plan

A Public Hearing will be held to discuss the Draft Comprehensive Plan at Greenburgh Town Hall on Tuesday, April 28th at 1:00-4:00 PM and 7:00-10:00PM.

One of the guiding principles in the Draft Comprehensive Plan is to “preserve the character of existing residential neighborhoods”.

This is important because the Town's zoning codes must follow the Comprehensive Plan according to New York State law.

Please attend the Public Hearing and ask the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee to protect our residential neighborhoods. This is your opportunity to offer input toward the direction we want our Town to proceed with zoning, development, “flavor”, etc.

If you cannot attend, you can email your opinion to the Steering Committee:
planzone@greenburghny.com 
or call (914) 989-1538 on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 1-4PM or 7-10PM.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I Can Do This Forever

Do what? Jerk the tax-paying residents around until they get exhausted? Mr Feiner may not say this, but he certainly practices it. He continues to hand-hold any developer interested in building in the Town as they submit their project(s) for approval. He does this by having his Town Board vote to be the Lead Agency on every project put forth that he favors. We imagine he gets fed up at times and says to himself, “When are they going to learn and stop interfering with my plans? I can’t be voted out of office because no other party will put up a candidate to run against me. Hell, even the Democrats couldn’t beat me! I just wear them all down. I can do this forever!”

Two years and five months ago, as well as five years ago, issues came to the forefront that Mr Feiner has still not acted upon. Nor has the Town Board. These issues, completely unrelated and very different, highlight the tenacity of Mr Feiner when he wants something and meets with resistance. He will fight whomever is against him simply because they are against him. Think rope-a-dope.
 

Two years ago, ABG attended an Edgemont Civic Association (ECC) meeting at Edgemont High School. An Edgemont resident in attendance got up and voiced his opinion about how many massage parlors were opening in the Town of Greenburgh and Edgemont in particular. He asked for that Association’s assistance in helping to close them. Some of the reasons included the clientele, possible sexual slavery, prostitution, unlicensed massage “therapists” as well as other issues were highlighted and made for a compelling argument against them. More immediately, he was concerned for his young daughters being exposed to this when they went to a nearby or adjacent business.
 

Robert Bernstein, an Edgemont resident, attorney and ECC President, along with Community Activist Ella Preiser and others, drafted a bill that would give the Greenburgh Police Department real teeth in going after these establishments. If they were legitimate, they would have nothing to fear. If not, the Police, Fire and Building Departments would have the ability to close them down. Publicly Mr Feiner said he was against the massage parlors. But is he? His actions, or lack of, belie what he says. Another Feiner tactic.

We imagine he told Town Clerk Beville to slap together some kind of meeting about sex trafficking, invite the usual suspects and he’d send it out on the GBList to make it seem like they really cared. We wonder if anyone has questioned his use of the GBList since Worthington Woodlands Civic Association President Dorrine Livson had sued the Town under an Article 78 for access to the GBList and won? We also imagine his response to be, “Just do as I say and let me worry about the GBList and Livson.” Emails sent.
 

So did he line up the players in a closeted session, possibly including Town Clerk Beville, Town Attorney Lewis, newbie Commissioner of Planning Garrett Duquesne and maybe a Town Board member or two? We imagine he gave them their marching orders: “Anything Bob Bernstein submits must get lost, discarded, proven useless or simple fought to stall for time. I need this to go away and if you all value your jobs, you’ll do as I say!” Hence, the apparent unending opposition by Attorney Tim Lewis, in particular, as he protects his meal ticket against Mr Bernstein’s proposed bill.

We believe the relentless verbal pounding Mr Lewis was receiving at every meeting by residents regarding his resistance to Mr Bernstein's bill probably forced Mr Feiner to develop an alternate plan or two (or three) in case Mr Lewis caved. The next step was to have the bill delivered to the Planning Board, who we’ve now learned are unqualified to write legislation. ABG wonders if Town Attorney Lewis instructed the Planning Board to "take their time" and stall this bill by formally asking the NYS Attorney General’s office to review it. That request was rejected by the NYS Attorney's office but succeeded to stall the bill for another 5-months, providing the Town Board the ability to say they are awaiting an answer from the state and cannot discuss the matter further. T
he Planning Board created their own law so now there are two versions to be decided upon. Mr Bernstein keeps asking to meet with the board members to discuss it but they keep ignoring him. ABG believes this was nothing more than another stall tactic by Mr Feiner. Remember, he can do this forever.

Then we come to the Zoning Change Proposal that will negatively impact the entire Town. The Town Board is split on the request made by Mr Feiner's friends from GameOn 365. This started five years ago when Mr Feiner sought to illegally hand the property over to Martin Hewitt, project manager for GameOn 365, for the proverbial “song”. When a threatened lawsuit halted that folly, Mr Feiner announced a referendum, which was carefully worded to ensure its passage. In the meantime, the Federal Courts rendered a guilty verdict 
against Mr Feiner and certain people on his Town Boards of violating the civil rights of the Fortress Bible Church, including Ardsley’s Diana Juettner, a current Town Councilwoman.

So with all of the back and forth about how to get the former Frank’s Nursery property to the GameOn 365 paper organization, Mr Feiner has launched his campaign, being their most committed cheerleader. The property is still suffering from numerous contaminants and requests by residents for the Town to remediate it were met with blank stares and Mr Lewis’ assurances that the remediation would cost no more than $100k. Hah! The study alone cost more than that and it was a truncated one at that. The auction specialist the Town hired to auction off the property ultimately said the Town must make the property whole before anyone would bid on it. Huh? That’s exactly what the residents had said!

A number of years ago the Town, under Mr Feiner, tried to take over the Visioli’s Golf Driving Range on Dobbs Ferry Road. Now he professes that he is trying to save it. Our guess is he suggested to Mr Hewitt that he try to purchase all of it or at least some of the Visioli property as they were in tax arrears and instead of a bubble, offer a fixed structure. Whether or not this conjecture is true remains a mystery, but the relentless actions by Mr Feiner to try to make GameOn 365’s proposal come to fruition are alarmingly suspect. However, the issue isn’t about GameOn 365’s proposal, per se. Rather, it is about changing the zoning to allow commercial entities to invade residential neighborhoods. Remember, he can do this forever.

It is truly a difficult thing to start and even sustain a business. We see area businesses shuttered in Greenburgh, the County and the State all too often. In fact, ABG staffers were at a meeting where the owners of Smashburger were seeking additional signs for an "under-performing" location. We thought they were in good shape. Apparently not. It’s the one in the shopping center with Shoprite on Central Avenue. You know the one, they want to add two more buildings utilizing existing parking spaces - the latest craze from town and urban planners. Could it be that Smashburger is under performing (read: losing money) because it is already so difficult to find a parking space anywhere near your intended location unless you were born into it? We don’t want to see this zoning change. We want to see businesses operate in the appropriately zoned area for it. Only then we will see A Better Greenburgh.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fairview Golf Driving Range To Close


It has been known for months but Mr Feiner has chosen not to use the information as ammunition in his goal to help his friends, GameOn 365, but we’re confident he will. He’s fought the urge to blurt out at a Town Board meeting about the other golf driving range in Town closing. Instead, he’s tried to put the onus upon the Dobbs Ferry Road area residents, claiming the Visioli’s Golf Driving Range on Dobbs Ferry Road could close. GameOn 365 and Mr Feiner, with Board members Morgan and Jones, are ignoring the area neighborhoods and simply brushing aside their concerns. They are still, after five years, seeking to build something, anything, on Dobbs Ferry Road in hopes of “cashing in” on the lucrative sports market. Their building can be inflatable, fixed, it doesn’t matter. But, according to Mr Feiner, it must be there and it must be now.

As has been well known in the community circles, the Fairview Golf Driving Range, with two miniature golf ranges, is scheduled to close its 300 Waterside Drive location, this Friday on April 24th. It was located in the industrial complex since 1994 across from the Westchester Skating Academy ice rink facility – a commercial entity in a commercially zoned area. The Dobbs Ferry Road driving range facility has been in existence longer. One notable difference is the Fairview Golf Driving Range facility always paid their Town taxes. 

Sporting a double-decker structure with a pro shop inside, the heated “booths” provided a year-round practice facility with practicality and comfort. While we are always sad to see any business close their doors, we see this as Mr Feiner’s next argument at future Town Board meetings as he continues to stump for GameOn 365, but not for the Fairview Golf Driving Range. We envision the argument to almost tearfully be, perhaps performed by character actors from a nearby deli, “We must not lose this treasure, this icon, this multi-generational business as we attempt to completely pave this area into a sports corridor. We must save the driving range. GameOn 365’s proposal does that.” Actually it does not.

Fed Ex, located behind the Fairview Golf Driving Range facility, has submitted an application to build a new distribution center. The Town Board has already approved the FedEx expansion onto the 27-acre site occupied by the golf driving range. Variances were granted in February to increase the height of the building and outdoor lights. Situated here, it will not interfere with any residential neighborhoods. The application also involves subdivision approval from the Planning Board and a special permit from the Town Board so that a new road can be built within the industrial park. The road would be deeded to the Town and connect to Fieldcrest Drive to the north.

In part, this FedEx expansion onto previously unpaved surface, will increase the amount of impervious space for that area and cause more water to drain off into the Saw Mill River and the businesses and homes along the Route 9A corridor. Additionally, just north of this location will be the 100-acre development of a box store, strip mall, movie theatre and whatever else is planned at the Landmark at Eastview. It only promises to increase the amount of water flowing downhill. Not much concern is given by our Town Board and Mr Feiner’s hand-picked appointees sitting on his other Boards to the over-development of every inch of land in Unincorporated Greenburgh. It has to stop before unincorporated Greenburgh resembles the worst of the Bronx. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Game On 365’s Plans Set a Dangerous Precedent in Town of Greenburgh

On April 8 the Greenburgh Town Board held a meeting to hear the views of residents (and nonresidents, as it happened) about the proposal by Game On 365 to build and operate a large sporting facility on Dobbs Ferry Road, on the golf-driving range property that, Game On has an option to buy.

The proposal is to build a large building (for indoor sports), which was described by Councilman Francis Sheehan as being the size of the Sam’s Club structure in Elmsford, but more than 60 percent higher. In addition Game On will build an outdoor field and operate other facilities, including physical therapy rooms, a party room, a cafe and a retail store. Readers will remember that Game On had previously tried to build an 80-plus-foot high sports bubble on the Frank’s Nursery site, with Paul Feiner’s strong support, but that proposal failed for a number of reasons, primarily because the town did not legally own the site and the grounds were chemically polluted.

The meeting was emotional and contentious. Residents of the area were angered at the thought of such a commercial behemoth being foisted on them, in the middle of a neighborhood that consists of single-family homes of rather high quality. The golf driving range property is situated on land that is zoned residential single-family housing and operates as a legal nonconforming use because it predated the applicable zoning law.

Game On has requested that the residential zoning be changed to permit a commercial use in order to accommodate the sports facility that it wishes to build. As was to be expected, the neighborhood erupted in opposition. Such a facility - open during the day and into the late evening - with its noise, its late-night lights, its traffic, its appearance, its physical impact on the nearby homes, etc. - would destroy this quiet residential neighborhood and decimate the value of the homes there.

The meeting consisted of arguments pro and con the Game On facility. Those in favor, primarily soccer moms and dads and coaches, cited the benefits of it year-round sports facility. Those opposed cited the very real destructive consequences to the community,

But these were the wrong arguments.

The question of whether this large facility should or should not be in the Dobbs Ferry Road location is the second question to be considered. The first question is whether a 32-acre site in the middle of an area zoned residential should have its zoning changed to permit commercial use. That is a question of great consequence, with enormous implications. And that is a question that needs to be addressed before one considers the impact of a sports facility in that neighborhood. A zoning change is permanent. Game On’s proposed facility is temporary.

Suppose, as one example, that the proposed Game On sports facility is not successful, and has to close. And at some point it will close. Greenburgh, and the neighborhood, are then left with a huge building that allows a number of commercial uses in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The possibility - no, the inevitability - of this building and associated parking being used for other commercial purposes is self-evident.

Or consider another example. If the 32-acre site is zoned to permit cornmercial uses, its value multiplies by several orders of magnitude. The land Game On has an option to buy will immediately greatly increase in Value. Suppose that the Game On owners decide (or have already decided) that instead of risking the investment in a business, they can sell all or part of the property and make a huge windfall profit. They have the power, and perhaps the incentive, to do so.

In either of these eventualities the town will be essentially helpless. It is not difficult to stop a commercial development in a residentially zoned area. But it is difficult to stop a legitimate commercial development on a property already zoned to permit commercial uses. There is no hindsight available. To refuse a commercial developer in an area already zoned to permit commercial uses invites litigation that will be extremely expensive and probably unsuccessful for the town. And it is worth noting that the town board cannot prohibit an applicant from seeking variances horn the Zoning Board of Appeals to expand the permitted commercial uses.

And so I repeat. The question for the town board at this time is not whether the Game On proposal is good or bad. The question is what are the consequence of a change of zoning permitting commercial uses in a residential area, and should the town risk them?

It may help the town board to realize that a change from residential to commercial use is virtually unprecedented. If my memory is correct, it has happened only once in the past 50 or more years. That was when the old Union Carbide property (now Landmark at Eastview) was rezoned from commercial to residential in the 1980s. The property was never developed. At the April 8 meeting the town board held a public hearing on rezoning the property again to commercial.

It was obvious that the residential zoning was inappropriate since the entire area is commercial and therefore the zoning should correspond. But that is the opposite of the Game On situation - there the area is primarily residential except for some old legal nonconforming uses (and as to those. When they discontinue operations only residential development will be permitted) I urge the town board to consider what I call the first question - namely, what are the consequences of a rezoning and can the town risk those consequences? As an afterthought, there are other places in Greenburgh where Game On can build its facility. Landmark at Eastwood representatives have requested, and the town board is prepared to adopt, a zoning change that Would permit indoor/outdoor recreational facilities on the Landmark site, and Game On can easily build their sports facility there, only a short distance away from the Dobbs Ferry Road site. The only reason that Game On persists on the Dobbs Ferry Road site is because Paul Feiner is their advocate. It is past time to do right by the neighborhood of the proposed site, and most of all, do right by the town.

– Herb Rosenberg, Judge, Retired.

This article originally ran in the Scarsdale Inquirer and was submitted by the author.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

JPI Proposing 296 Multi-Family Apartments Jefferson at Saw Mill River


Photo from JPI website

Greenburgh, NY, April 13, 2015—JPI is currently proposing Jefferson at Saw Mill River, a new amenity rich, high quality multifamily apartment community located at One Lawrence Street in Greenburgh. Prior to the submission of an application to the Town, JPI will host an informational Community Open House event for area residents to learn more and provide input about the Jefferson at Saw Mill River. Additional information about the apartment community will be posted on Jefferson at Saw Mill River’s website and will arrive in mailboxes this week as a precursor to the Community Open House.

“JPI looks forward to becoming a welcome neighbor in the Greenburgh community,” said Stephen Hutto, JPI’s Vice President of Development. “We understand the importance of working with the community to develop a project that meets a growing need for a wider variety of housing choices and generates significant revenue for the future benefit for the Schools, Town and County residents.”

The Jefferson aims to bring new energy to a corner of Greenburgh by complementing the Town of Greenburgh Draft Comprehensive Plan’s overall vision for a vibrant Southern Research and Development node. To help facilitate this vision, JPI will spend several million dollars cleaning up environmental contamination left on the site as a result of its historical use as a chemical plant by Azko Nobel and others. By bringing this property up to the highest residential standards, the long dormant, contaminated land will provide much needed access to diverse rental housing to those working for target STEM and biotech employers in Southern and Central Westchester County.

“We want the community to know that we are listening,” Hutto remarked. “We invite area residents to attend our Community Open House to learn about the data supporting the fact this apartment community is a win-win for Greenburgh and the surrounding community.”

Jefferson at Saw Mill River’s Community Open House event will be held on Wednesday April 22, 2015 at Life…The Place to Be (2 Lawrence Street, Ardsley). All community members are welcome to stop by anytime during the event hours of 6-8 p.m. to learn more about the traffic improvements, environmental cleanup, new streams of revenue and more that will result from Jefferson at Saw Mill River.

For more information about Jefferson at Saw Mill River, please visit www.jeffersonsawmill.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jeffersonsawmill.

About JPI

JPI is a national developer, builder and investment manager of Class A multifamily assets in select US markets headquartered in Texas with offices in Arizona, New York and California. With over a 20-year history of successful developments throughout the major US markets and an unparalleled depth of industry specific experience, JPI stands among the most active privately held real estate companies in the country. JPI's executive leadership team has an average of 25 years of comprehensive experience in multifamily developments ranging from low density garden apartments, mid to high density wrap and podium projects, student living housing projects and mixed use high rise developments. The firm offers investment management, pre-development, underwriting, marketing and asset management services as well as construction, financial and administrative services. To learn more about JPI, please visit www.jpi.com.


Contact: Greg Belew
Managing Regional Partner-Eastern Region
Phone: 212-660-0250
info@jeffersonsawmill.com