Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Unconscionable: A 102% Rate Increase!

Last year our Town “leaders” raised our water rates 72%! The traditional media was nowhere to be found and not only ignored this exorbitant rate increase, but gave The Paul and his Stepford Board a pass with this outrageous increase. What’s worse, soon after that increase The Paul said there would probably be another one in the next budget. Why? Why punish our beleagured residents numerous times instead of just having one increase? Does The Paul and his Board think it will be better received by saying the increase will only be 72% instead of 102%?

Victor Carosi, the Town Public Works Commissioner we had high hopes for, had stated earlier that the rates would need to rise to cover numerous costs: the increased cost of water, additional operating expenses (we were unable to find out what “additions” there are), capital expenses to replace components of the water infrastructure, and amazingly, to pay back money it borrowed to cover expenses in 2010 and 2011 from the Town. The Paul was negligent yet again and didn’t tell us about this in 2010 when the borrowing began? More importantly, why didn’t he do something about it then?

The public hearing on a proposed increase in water rates will be continued and has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 20.

 ABG believes The Paul and his Stepford Board of guilty of malfeasance, negligence, incompetence and deceit. 

Another guilty verdict rendered against The Paul, was with the Dromore Road case and the incorrect Zoning maps the Town has been using for decades. In fact, now that they were found guilty in court, the Town Board has asked the Comprehensive Plan Committee, not the Building Department or Zoning Board, to inspect the existing town zoning maps and correct any errors it may find. Really? Why bother? The Paul and his feckless Board change zoning at his whim or at the request of any of the The Paul’s favored developers!

The Comprehensive Plan Committee was tasked with coming up with a Comprehensive Plan for the Town. They didn’t volunteer to fix all the ills of the Town or The Paul. We respect the work the Comprehensive Plan Committee has done so far and are supportive of the work they will continue to do. The difficulty with constantly increasing their tasks list is that they’ll never get the Comprehensive Plan finished and the Town will continue to operate with haphazard and poorly planned proposals. The biggest issue we see with them doing all of this work is that they have no authority to implement any changes, and that they can only make recommendations. So the Town is under no obligation to adopt any of their recommendations, which will continue to help The Paul and his the developers over Town residents; all the while continuing to abuse our Town and it’s residents.

While we would like to see the Comprehensive Plan Committee offer a final rendition and an ultimate proposal, it will apparently take a bit more time. ABG wants the proposal to be the best it can be and are confident that’s what the Committee will submit. What The Paul does with it remains to be seen. We can only hope. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Proving Incompetence, Collusion or Time To Go?

The Supreme Court has decided that Richard Troy of S&R can proceed with the development of a multi-family housing complex on his property on Dromore Road, between Greenburgh Nature Center (GNR) and the Edgemont Schools, based on an inaccurate map! The Paul’s defense? An Edgemont resident doesn’t like him. Yes, it’s so sad it’s almost laughable.

The courts have again decided against The Paul proving incompetence. While public opinion finds him guilty of many things, this time the case was the Dromore Road decision. There is a parcel of land between Central Avenue and the GNR that was purchased by S & R Development Estates LLC (S & R), at what is considered 1 (and 62?) Dromore Road in Edgemont. The property valued by S&R at $10.2 million in 2005, was purchased for $1.4 million! It is approximately 2.25 acres and is located right off Central Avenue between the Greenburgh Nature Center and the Edgemont High School campus at 99 Dromore Road.

Knowing that the Town maps incorrectly represented the area in question, The Paul and his feckless Board chose inaction regarding the property over correcting the issue. This was something within their purview and should have been addressed with the utmost diligence, yet was left ignored. ABG is forced by previous actions of The Paul and his incompetent Board, to wonder if S&R approached The Paul, waving a campaign donation(s) or something else as an incentive to look away, asking him to ignore the entire situation so their project could proceed? Given the benefactors The Paul has, and given how the developers dump their mega-projects on the Unincorporated Town, the developers always seem to prosper and neighborhoods lose. Hmmm. 

The Fulton Park neighborhood, recently lost their three or four year battle against Westhab, ironically, as decisions against them were based again on faulty mapping of the area. In their case, Westhab used the incorrect map as the reason to proceed with the neighborhood’s overwhelming project because the Fulton Park Civic Association couldn’t substantiate traffic issues as incorrect zoning maps showed no traffic circle in the area! Some lifetime residents have attested that the traffic circle has been there since the development was created back in the 1930s. Ironically, the law firm representing Westhab in the Town is lead by former Democratic County Executive Alfred Benedict DelBello, where his website states he represents major corporations, developers and property owners in connection with all types of commercial and residential real estate and economic development projects and related government incentive programs. Hmmm.

Based on the extremely tedious court decision, with all of The Paul’s “ums”, “I don't recalls” and “it wasn’t me-s”, it’s understandable to the staffers in ABG’s office why the judge made the decision he did. However, ABG believes the court should be the arbitrator for right and wrong as well as deciding between two parties in court. ABG believes the correct decision here would not be based on an incorrect zoning map of an area, or the seemingly incoherent testimony of the Town Supervisor. Rather, the decision should be based on what the map should be corrected to and what is right and just. And, part of the judgement should also force the Town to correct said map immediately for Dromore Road and the other areas suffering the same negligence. In fact, it should mandate the Town to review all of it’s mapping and it’s mapping procedures. They may also want to provide an investigation of The Paul and his Stepford Board’s finances - just to be positive that everything is corrected.

We understand that there will be an appeal from the Edgemont group that initiated the original lawsuit. They seem to be on the right track toward a more fair and correct decision. We can only hope.

Read The Paul’s testimony here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No Cost Overruns Should Be Allowed IN GREENBURGH

The King of Greenburgh, aka The Paul, reported on his blog that the Town pool at the Anthony Veteran Park will finally be repaired after a big to-do and several years of inaction. Back then, The Paul reported that the condition of the pool was so bad that it must be destroyed and rebuilt for the guestimated fee of five to seven million dollars. This, coincidentally, is the  amount of the federal judgement against him and his Town Board for discrimination and destroying evidence (among others verdicts) in the Fortress Bible Decision. While a favorite tactic of The Paul is to throw out ludicrous numbers and/or information when there is an opportunity for press coverage, he hardly ever nails a good idea. Fortunately, other cooler heads prevailed and after being ignored for about five years, a decision was finally made to utilize pool liners at a much lower cost.

Commissioner Gerard Byrne, of Parks & Recreation along with members of his staff decided that repairing the pool shell, such as filling in cracks, failing concrete, etc., along with the installation of a PVC pool liner, would suffice. So, at the February 7th Town Board meeting, they awarded Ray Palmer Associates a contract for $110,850 to make the necessary repairs as the lowest bidder. The bids listed were for the contractor submitting the bid, the bond percentage amount and the bid amount itself as follows Ray Palmer Associates, 5%, $110,850.00; Aquatic Dynamics Inc., 5%, $124,974.00, Norberto Construction Inc., 5%, $129,000.00.

Also on The Paul’s blog as well as in his various free daily and weekly press campaigns, picked up by a media system no longer capable of actually reporting news, but simply and perhaps more cost effectively reprinting his blatherings, is the headline and a portion of his text below in orange:

… Some of the companies that are planning to bid on the Tappan Zee project have histories of millions of dollars in cost overruns and months of construction delays on high profile projects. Two of the companies that are bidding have reported $42 million in cost overruns on the I-287 reconstruction project.
SUGGESTION: Before qualified companies submit bids - why can't NYS advise potential bidders that no cost overruns will be allowed on this bridge construction project? If there are unanticipated additional costs - the company … should absorb the costs of the additional work. In addition, there should be penalties if there are delays in the construction.
Companies that win the contract on a high profile bridge must not be allowed to manipulate the bidding process by coming in with a low price and ultimately getting paid much more. When they submit bids they should be realistic.

Are the same considerations he insists on having applied to the Tappan Zee project being applied to the Town Pool Renovation project? Are these bids for the pool renovation realistic? There seems to be a significant disparity between the highest and lowest bid with the three submissions the Town received. The difference between the two high bids is only $4,026. To ABG, this indicates they are about the correct amount for this project. The difference between the highest and lowest bids is $18,150. This begs the question of why such a wide disparity? We’re not saying or even alluding that Ray Palmer Associates is doing anything wrong. But we wonder if The Paul, so active in issues that don’t concern the Town to garner him media focus, is applying these same principles to Town contracts?

Another question raised by an ABG staffer is whether or not the Town insists on requiring unionized help? A way around this for the vendor is to have one union member on the project with a bunch of non-union laborers and “subcontractors” participating. Was this a consideration or not when the Town went with the significantly lower bid? What other parameters might have been ommitted? When dealing with the Stepford Board, Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan is the default contract expert, since he is a criminal justice instructor. Yes, we know, there’s no correlation. But with the Town’s non-participatory legal department, ABG believes it’s probably helpful to have someone look at these documents, whether qualified of not.

Another consideration along the lines of what The Paul espoused for the bridge, is whether or not there are penalty dates for failure to complete certain steps by certain dates, penalties for missing those dates, using non-union labor, missing opening day for the pool, carrying all the regulatory insurances (social security, FICA, OSHA, PESH, etc.). Does any of this work require standby safety crews? Will the vendor be required to absorb any changes, additions or requirements if they run into something unforeseen? The Board hasn’t provided answers to those questions. We can only hope.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Monte Would Be Proud: The Library Shuffle

In an online article about the Town of Greenburgh Library’s Funding, the writer reported on the financial struggles of the Town’s official library and whether or not there should be a long-term solution for their financial needs. This issue arises almost every time there is a new budget and their funding affected.

At a recent community councils meeting at the Virginia Road Elementary School, which slid under most community council’s radar very nicely, Councilman Kevin “The Henchman” Morgan and The Paul campaigned under the guise of fielding questions about the library. ABG believes they were softball issues. We attended many a meeting by The Paul and his Stepford board where the discussed topics never address serious issues in the Town, such as layoffs (and subsequent suicides), double-digit tax increases, infrastructure failures, illegal appointments, unethical actions, The Paul’s winks-’n-nods to developers and friends, campaign contributions and so on.

Regardless, the deceptive duo responded to questions about cuts to the library budget by maintaining the popular library may be better off in the future directly presenting its annual spending plan to voters. Excuse us? Isn’t there a Town budget process in place? Don’t they present their budget to the Town Supervisor? Shouldn’t pseudo-Mr. Open Government be releasing that information to the public, say a month before the proposed budget gets it two-day pre-release before it is voted on? The information is there but The Paul chooses to do nothing with it. Why deal when he can ignore?

One issue, as with all municipalities beyond it’s major cost of personnel, is it’s other fixed expenses. But the main goal of a library, should be to supply reading material. It’s not there to provide after-school day care, tutoring, entertainment, etc. With all the programs our limited-hours library offers, perhaps its time to do some real trimming. Funding discussions, a yearly topic that the Library Board will superfluously discuss but not act upon, can take one of two forms. They can continue to be under the auspices of the Town and funded by them, dealing with the whims of our fickle and increasing bereft and even vindictive supervisor. Or, they can become a library district that becomes another taxing entity over which we will have little, if any, control. How does that work for them and for us? It’s simple really. The library would  no longer have it’s purse strings pulled by the Town. However, as a taxing entity, they would be more directly answerable to the residents. The Town currently buffers them from the public they profess allegiance to. ABG is sure the residents would enjoy yet another taxing district.

When the topic was broached about being better off in the future, Morgan responded, “At some point that may become a reality. The library is important but if they become an independent library perhaps they could raise more funds.” Ahh, politics and non-answer answers. Morgan knows the answer to that one but still chose to follow his master and straddle The Paul’s political fence. The Paul explained that with the state imposed 2% tax cap, all town departments were forced to cut expenses. The library was anticipating a $320,000 decrease but the town board slashed an additional $250,000 in mid-December. This move has been reported in a previous post by ABG. And, even though he touts adhering to the 2% cap, he raised taxes by about 3.5%, utilizing the unpublicized exemptions that are available under the tax cap “mandate”. To quote a well-heard Congressional member, “You lie!”

“We’re not anti-library. We’re trying to live within the tax cap. Everyone on the board appreciates what the library does. It’s a terrific library. We’re trying our best to work cooperatively. Maybe this will turn out to be a win-win. Maybe changing the way the library gets its funding will make it a stronger library.” Doubtful. The library board also knows not to really bite the hand that feeds them. While Morgan stated they (the Board) hated cutting the library funding, he insisted they were being fiscally responsible. Ha! When did that policy start? (“Psst, Kevin. Stick to my script! Eventually the papers will pick it up and you’ll be a shoe-in for supervisor – of course, after I’ve said so.”) The Paul felt the library should use their reserve funds for the monies slashed in his budget and that’s why the Board cut more from the library’s budget than every other department!

The Paul claims the library serves approximately 44,000 individuals annually, about half of which Feiner said don’t live in Greenburgh. How does he know that? With the lack of resource availability in our library, coupled with being closed on Sundays, when most families and students are available for it’s use, we see a number of trends evolving. One will be a decline in overall usage when the library is open as residents adjourn to other more accessible ones. Another is that once users attend other libraries, they will be amazed at how much more they can avail themselves to as these other communities aren’t playing the games The Paul and the Stepford Board does with our library.

Library Director Eugenie Contrata said the library had to lay off three part-time employees and eliminate the budgets for books, DVDs, music, CDs, audio books and an online, live tutoring service for high school students. Tutoring service? Online? While an online, live tutoring service is more evidence that the library is spending money where it shouldn’t be, it is after all, always “for the children”. Really? How about serving the larger majority of children who can read and don’t need the library for tutoring? Rather, they attend because they want access to the books, reference material and other multi-media resources? Perhaps cutting tutoring for high school students, clearly a Central 7 School District system failure and function, and focusing on delivering their core competencies would make more sense. How can Director Contrata, director since 2006, justify any expense prior to that of purchasing core essential materials. Ironically, ABG felt the part-time employees did the lions share of work, but were the expendable fodder for the library.

When asked about becoming a library district, which would require legislation approved by the New York State Legislature, Contrata said it is an option that a long-term planning committee established by the library board just started studying. She said she couldn’t imagine anyone would opposing it if the library board asked for it. ABG believes Ms. Contrata needs to pay closer attention. The people are finally realizing what transpires in Greenburgh and are no longer offering carte blanche just because you ask for it. One of the greater faux pas for the library elite was the design of the library addition, which is a constant source of contention with most residents.

The Paul recently sent a (campaign) letter to residents on the Town’s “dime” asking for funds and specific books for our downtrodden library from residents, whom already pay taxes for our library. In it, he points out in recent years the Villages of Irvington and Dobbs Ferry were successful reaching out to the public for financial assistance for their libraries. Comparing the Town to two of the smaller Villages in the Town is not a fair comparison. Perhaps if The Paul stopped sending his weekly and sometimes twice-weekly (campaign) letters to residents, he could probably reinstate the library’s money back into the budget. He insists a community fundraising letter is planned to be sent out in April. ABG believes it is simply more waste. The Paul should see if the library offers a Management 101 course. He should take the course and learn how to better run the Town without the theatrics. We can only hope.

Monday, February 13, 2012

NIMBY - But Yours Is Okay!

The Paul has publicly bragged about proving how much he’s going to do for the Fulton Park neighborhood in Greenburgh. He sent letters, broadcast it on News 12, Town Board Meetings and to any Paul-leaning media representative nearby. The Feiner Media Group was in high gear.  Originally built in the late 1930s, the single family homes in the Town’s Fulton Park neighborhood have been part of the established base from entry to retirement level homes. But with twenty years of mostly double-digit tax increases, severe flooding, burdensomely excessive and speeding traffic, massive surrounding growth without corresponding infrastructure changes, this little jewel of an area is literally and figuratively drowning.

The Town has given the Green(burgh) light to Westhab to build an oversized, poorly designed, contestable apartment building at the gateway to an otherwise beautiful, albeit abused, little neighborhood, Fulton Park. There’s not enough votes for The Paul or his servile lackeys on the Town Board to worry about losing, so they’ve sold them down the river (pun intended). Interestingly, when the Ridge Hill proposal saw first light, The Paul was against it, citing an increase of traffic in the surrounding area - where he lives. When the Fulton Park Neighborhood Association decried the already horrendous traffic conditions with their one road in and out, The Paul referenced the flawed traffic study, provided by Westhab, and how the increase to an already F-rated area would have little impact to traffic in the surrounding area. How bad is it? If you’ve you ever been stuck on Rt 119 on a Friday or after an accident happens on the Tappan Zee bridge, you know! And The Paul brags about helping them.

When the neighborhood petitioned the Town, citing the traffic backing up around their traffic circle and down Old Kensico Road, Westhab with the Town’s Planning Department and others, aptly referred to the Towns flawed engineering maps, citing there was no traffic circle where the residents claim it is. Can you say Dromore Road? If this were an affluent neighborhood they might be able to challenge the decision. Unfortunately, they’re not - the neighborhood lost that argument! Take a look below. It certainly seems to be a traffic circle to ABG.
If this was a discussion about moving a stop sign or installing a traffic light, ABG is sure the area would be recognized as the traffic circle. So why does Westhab get to ignore this? What’s really in it for The Paul? Incorrectly maintained zoning maps throughout the Town are allowing collusive decisions to be made all the while developers are personally wined and dined by The Paul and his Stepford Board. And The Paul brags on.

When the FPCA sought relief from then New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, they found that the incestuous relationship of The Paul went farther than even they knew. The Paul’s wife works for the Attorney General’s office, short-curcuiting any attempts for justice against her husband. And The Paul bragged on that he would prove to this neighborhood that he would change their opinion of him.

When the FPCA and the Greenburgh Council of Civic Associations all stated opposition to the Westhab project, The Paul pushed on, actually shouting at a resident who challenged him at a Town Board meeting who begged for an answer as to why he would support this project, which will fundamentally change the neighborhood by bringing the homeless population back into the neighborhood. His response? Because he wants to! Residents be damned! This is really about pandering and catering to developers.

When hurricane Irene, downgraded to a Tropical Storm, blasted our region, the otherwise ignored neighborhood was ravaged. The police department sent cars, they looked at the water and left. Some time later the fire department arrived and blocked the south side of Old Kensico Road. The residents on Old Kensico Road were literally underwater - again. They had previously gone to Town Board meetings decrying the increased flooding they were suffering from with all the added homes and condominiums that had been built in the area, the renovations and rerouting of runoff water from I-287 and the Bronx River Parkway, not to mention the need to dredge the river. The Paul and his Stepford Board didn’t even respond to their pleas. And The Paul is going to prove to this neighborhood how much he cares. He’s going to change their opinion of him. Really?

While the media was nearby filming and talking to flooded residents during and after Irene, The Paul made sure he arrivied in time to get on the air or in the interview. He said the Town would work with the Village of Elmsford, whose Village Board initiated a cleanup effort of the Saw Mill River. And, amid much media hype, The Paul inserted himself into an event he had nothing to do with creating, making it sound like he came up with the idea, when it was actually Elmsford Village Trustee William Zimkin. Once the media left, The Paul went back to his Ridge Hill McMansion in Hastings and forgot about helping Fulton Park.

The Paul’s latest battle cry is to save the Tappan Zee Bridge from demolition and create a park out of it, similar to what NYC has with the Highline Park. First, he should be dealing with Greenburgh issues, not NYS issues in the Hudson River. He acts like they will just blow up the bridge and dump it in the Hudson River. Second, he should be dealing with Greenburgh issues and leave the bridge to people in the know about bridges. The Highline Park in NYC works because it was an overbuilt, on-land system designed to support trains on dry land. It doesn’t have water related rusting, maintenance and cost issues. How will all the people get to this park? Where will they park their cars if they drive to it? How much additional traffic congestion will it create? Ironically, it may be the only space left in Greenburgh for a park as The Paul has personnally taken to developing every square foot of unoccupied space in Greenburgh. None of this really matters, if The Paul wants it, the media machine will endorse it.

Greenburgh is long overdue for a change in our government. Illegal actions, yearly double-digit tax increases, outdated records and maps, theft, poor management, missing funds, anti-business decisions, fees, taxes and rules are causing the decline of a once beautiful and prosperous Town. The social experiment The Paul has undertaken is failing. The Paul has to go! We can only hope.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Scott Uzzo's Body Found

We posted on December 28th the disturbing suicide of former Town of Greenburgh employee Scott Uzzo, who, distraught after being laid off from his Town job by Paul Feiner, jumped to his death from the Tappan Zee Bridge. His body had not been recovered until yesterday.

Yesterday, rail inspectors with the MTA saw a body floating against the shore and called the Irvington Police, who called the Irvington Fire Department who called the County's all-volunteer Technical Rescue Team to see if they would affect a recovery of the body from the rail tracks. The County’s Tech Rescue Team recently acquired a set of electric rail cars and trailers to be able to do rescues of people from stranded trains. While the equipment is “in-house”, our information is that they don't go live until this Sunday. We’re also told they would have gone if the MTA would shut down the trains on one track for them. They would not.

Uzzo, a one-time star football player at Westlake High School who graduated in 2005, was a popular student who never displayed any signs of trouble.

The family asked those wishing to honor Uzzo to make a donation in his memory to the Holy Rosary Church Outreach Program, 170 Bradhurst Ave., Hawthorne.

Rest in Peace Scott.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Purchasing Ethics

The Town of Greenburgh Supervisor decided to forego ethics (no surprise there) and pay the Village of Valhalla a substantial amount of money, yearly, to the tune of about a million dollars a year! It’s never about doing the right thing for The Paul, just doing what he either wants or feels will be expedient for his means to his end. In an article in Thursday’s Journal News, the Valhalla school district announced their plan to appeal a court ruling requiring it to repay up to $1.9 million back to the town of Greenburgh, insisting an agreement between them and the Town to fund education programs is valid. The county closed the Valhalla shelter in question in September because the housing need is no longer necessary.

The $1.2 million dollars a year would have been a good thing if it had been done legally - but it wasn’t. Town of Greenburgh residents Robert Bernstein and Herb Rosenberg sought relief for the Town against this illegal action and won the current decision! We so tire of hearing The Paul say if we don’t like something he does, sue him. Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Rosenberg took him to his word and did sue him - and won. Well done gentlemen! 

The exact size of the judgment, which is meant to reimburse Greenburgh taxpayers for money the town paid the district for its programs, hasn’t yet been determined. ABG can only hope it will be for the full amount. State Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Colabella had ruled that the 2004 agreement, which called for Greenburgh to pay the school district $6.5 million over 10 years, was an improper gift that did not benefit the majority of town residents. Valhalla had sued Greenburgh for breach of contract after a 2007 state audit determined the agreement was illegal and the town stopped making payments.

The Valhalla School District’s attorney, Mark Rushfield, noted the district has filed a notice of appeal but Rushfield said it will formally appeal after a judgment is set. The district believes the judge made a mistake with his verdict. The Town’s attorney, Timothy Lewis, disagreed with Valhalla’s interpretation and claims the town will continue to press for repayment. ABG wonders how long and hard his press will be once The Paul, who negotiated the deal with the district as a way to compensate the community for the operation of a homeless shelter on the Westchester Community College campus, tells him to back off and just let it go.

ABG is hopeful the appeal will not stand and the Town will receive the monies it never should have paid out. Buying cooperation is not a viable way to run a Town, get your way or receive compliance. It’s time for a change with a new administration. We can only hope!