Monday, December 31, 2012

Aurora Borealis and SPF-40

We hope many were busy with family and friends enjoying the holidays and this time of year. A recent forage into the wonderlands of Eastchester brought us to an interesting version of their sports bubble, located at the Lake Isle Country Club and run by the infamous bubble kings, Sportime - sans The Paul. You’ll recall how The Paul petitioned his Albany buddies Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Tom Abinanti to covertly get the Finneran Law changed in 2012 in the wee hours of the legislative morning, allowing the Town (really The Paul and his Stepford Board) to install sports bubbles at will. This was a scheme The Paul had been planning since about 2005.

As we ventured southbound on Rt 22, we knew the Lake Isle Country Club would be on our left. Unsure exactly where it was, we were suddenly awed by what could only be considered Westchester’s version of the Aurora Borealis, aka our northern lights! With a marker like this, the space shuttle could have navigated a landing. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Lake Isle Country Club, we couldn’t find a roadway that led to the bubble. We decided to drive to the next street south of the entrance we had entered and see if we could access it from a different side. We could not. But as we got lost in a seemingly well-to-do neighborhood of middle to large sized homes, we were always able to get our bearings from “the glow” of the bubble.

We returned to the Lake Isle Country Club parking lot and decided to walk toward the bubble. The walkway was not illuminated by light fixtures and yet the amount of light provided by the bubble was more than adequate for us to proceed. As we got a bit closer, it got brighter and we discovered the bubble was in fact three bubbles! These were not as large as what has been proposed at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road by GameOn 365 and The Paul. The GameOn 365 bubble will be approximately eight and a half stories high in a residentially zoned neighborhood! ABG is realistic and knows that since The Paul wants this project at all cost, he will make sure his Stepford Board “rubber stamps” the zoning change to whatever GameOn 365 requests – and then some.

You may recall the proposal from GameOn 365 ends if the zoning or planning boards vote against it? Well, don’t hold your breath, especially now that The Paul is touting an unethical, but technically legal, sale of the property without putting it out to bid. He insisted on holding a referendum for the done-deal that many opposed stating that the referendum was needed to see what the people wanted of the property. The Paul’s reality has nothing to do with “the people” and everything to do with what he wants. He wants the bubble and so he’ll find a way to make it happen! Unfortunately for the residents that live in the area, The Paul discarded their opinions and opened the decision to the entire Town. This was an underhanded, low-blow to the Worthington Woodlands communities. The neighborhoods opinion toward decisions that directly affect them should always be paramount and respected by our “elected representatives” and not tossed aside to get the outcome The Paul sought. In a real version of Greenburgh, The Paul would work for us, not developers and campaign contributors!

Once we arrived at the bubble’s entrance, we joked about needing to apply SPF-40. We entered an empty lobby with a receptionist who said hello and went back to what she was doing. We ambled over to a window overlooking two tennis courts with what appeared to be a clay court. A young employee with a Sportime shirt came over to see if he could help us. We asked numerous questions, such as how high is the bubble? “Gee, I don’t know.” We guestimated the height to be between four to six stories at the pinnacle. What are the hours of operation? “It varies.” Do they own this facility? “No, Lake Isle Country Club does.” Do they operate it year round? “No, only during the winter when the bubbles are ‘up’.” Lake Isle operates it during the summer, although their goal is to take over the operation year round.” Do the neighbors complain about the light “No, it’s during the winter when they are inside and don’t see it.” Who owns the John McEnroe Tennis Academy; is it Sportime, Lake Isle, Eastchester, or John McEnroe? John McEnroe “owns” it and Sportime operates it.” As we talked he seemed personable, pleasant and knowledgable about the tennis program but nothing regarding the operational side of the business.

As we exited, this same young man walked with us toward our cars, continuing to answer what questions he could. One of us commented on the brightness of the illumination from the bubbles. He told us because of the transparency of the material, and its ability to transfer light, if the sun is out they don’t even turn the interior lights on because it provides enough light inside. ABG staffers in attendance commented that the luminosity of the bubble would be amplified with a larger-sized bubble.

ABG is not against a bubble if it is in the correct venue. The Sportime bubble in Eastchester is located in the middle of a country club and not surrounded by homes. Rather, it is surrounded by a golf course. Sportime was going to install their bubble model in the Anthony Veteran Park, but has decided not to. The Paul won’t discuss it, but ABG believes it was because The Paul and the Stepford’s placed so many mandates on them that they realized the project would not be cost effective. While The Paul doesn’t understand Return On Investment, Sportime does. It’s why they walked. So while The Paul was able to get his Albany cohorts to amend a law that at one time protected the Towns Unincorporated residents, the change has rendered the amendment counterproductive for the Town but not GameOn 365. ABG believes the property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road should stay residential and be developed as such. If the GameOn deal is so good for the Town, it should be located on Town property, perhaps in Veteran Park. Sell 715 Dobbs Ferry Road through a legitimate assessment, bid process and then take the highest bid for the land, not a deflated price arbitrarily created by The Paul. For once, we’d like to see the Town to do the right thing. We can only hope.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Disaster Preparedness - Talk Is Cheap

What’s been proven with Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Irene along the eastern coast and Hurricane Sandy in the northeast is that local governments, right on up through the state and the federal governments, are not capable of handling emergencies well, if at all! The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is little more than a “front” for the federal government. Their “help” is nothing more than pointing victims to someone else for assistance. Does this sound like any Town Supervisor we know? They, and our politicians, get repeated publicity and in the end, the victims get little or no help at all. We’re reminded of former President Reagan’s famous quote, “I’m from the government and I'm here to help.”

Many in emergency services are used to responding and attacking anything from a small, single incident to something of a larger magnitude, including mass casualty incidents. The Fire Service trains in the routine tasks of hooking up to a hydrant to dealing with hazardous chemical spills. The EMS Service spends time learning to ask the right questions to ascertain whether aid is even needed. 

The emergency services organizations need to be prepared for any type of emergency. Our Town leadership should also be participating and leading the way. Sadly, they’d rather talk about it than actually do something about it. Last year the Town paid a hefty fee to have Jonathan Raser, to work with Police Chief DeCarlo, to develop a Greenburgh Hazard Mitigation Plan. It was adopted (and paid for) only for us to learn it is merely a vehicle to allow the Town to apply for grant money. 

There are several phases to a disaster that include Mitigation, Preparation, Response, and Recovery. This is the order to address emergency planning as well as infrastructure improvements as they relate to flooding, power outages, resident relocation, etc., if and when the Town choses to address our suffering residents during the yearly “100-Year” storms. Our Town Board is anxious to discuss doing something without actually implementing any improvements. Talk is cheap, isn’t it?

Mitigation is considered activities that either prevent the occurrence of an emergency and/or reduce a community’s vulnerability in ways that minimize the adverse impact of a disaster or other emergency. Most communities have done little mitigation in preparation for an upcoming weather event. This was never more apparent in Greenburgh with the onslaught we received from Hurricane Sandy. Individually, many first responders and their departments handled it well. Conversely, many of our respective Greenburgh communities were paralyzed and unable to effectively receive aid. Residents abandoned? No quite. Thankfully, The Paul never missed a beat sending out emails, especially to those offline with no power.

Consolidated Edison, our “private” public service utility was understaffed to respond to all the incidents that befell them. The operational economics constraining ConEd cause them to not have enough staff to address events the magnitude of a hurricane. How should we get past their staffing issues? The Paul knew a Citizens Committee meeting at Town Hall to “bash” ConEd wouldn’t really do anything, but it would make him seem to care. Ah, publicity. Everyone uses ConEd and no one likes paying their bill, so who wouldn’t want to “go after” the big bad utility company? Pure genius. If you insist on a quicker response from ConEd, with more workers, be prepared to pay higher rates!

The Preparation phase involves activities undertaken in advance of an emergency. Response or Normal Operational phase consists of developing and revising disaster plans and hazard analyses; writing operational mutual aid plans; cross training response personnel to wear one or more of any “hats” as dictated by the event; improving public information and communications systems; and conducting exercises (drills) to validate the planning process. Putting all of these together into an implementable plan is all well and good, but if it is never tested before an actually event, it might ultimately be worthless. As with any critique after this testing, it is imperative that the leadership recognizes and honestly evaluates performances. Simply congratulating everyone so the practice appears good on paper will be self-defeating when it comes time to engage during an event. We often see this kind of “atta-boy” backslapping at Town Board meetings, when they fall over each other, becoming a mutual admiration society. 

An increased “readiness” (pre-planning) is also critical before an incident happens. Inspections of critical facilities must be performed and categorized. Reviewing and updating emergency plans and Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines (SOP/SOGs) should be an ongoing exercise for all Town personnel - not just emergency responders. This should enable them to have increased operating knowledge, familiarity of what is expected by different roles they may be asked to perform, an ability to enhance their performance. Equally important will be their ability to critique the operation to offer a different perspective to assist in making improvements. This personnel should also be updating resource lists and becoming increasingly familiar with mobilizing resources, testing warning and communications systems, disseminating accurate, timely, emergency public information as well as recruiting additional personnel and disaster service workers from the community, such as Citizen Emergency Response Teams (C.E.R.T.).

Responding to a disaster will require actions be taken to save lives and protect property first and foremost. From there, other steps must be taken, including disseminating warnings to be issued, emergency public information to be broadcast, and other advice and action instructions to be conveyed to the public. Perhaps dispatching teams to distribute information will be all that is needed. Leaders will need to have boots on the ground surveying and evaluating the emergency situation. ABG has suggested the Town utilize neighborhood civic associations as well as the CERT members for this task. With information at hand, they will be marshaling, allocating, and positioning personnel and equipment and mobilizing necessary resources. If available, they will need to activate their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) using established guidelines. 

Evacuating the public from certain areas prone in communities that suffer may be necessary and need to be implemented in stages for large areas or restricted access areas. In low lying, flood prone areas for example, conditions may be static, necessitating no changes for those people. Or, those same conditions may change swiftly and require decisions that had been contemplated by not initiated to take effect. All personnel should be well versed in what will be required of them to assist in those actions. During Hurricane Sandy for instance, residents were evacuated to the Theodore Young Center, only to need to be evacuated from there due to storm related damage.

During the immediate emergency, emphasis must be placed on saving lives, gaining as much control of the situation as can be controlled and minimize the effects of the disaster to both the public and the responders. Once an Incident Command Post has been established, they can work in or with the EOC. Of course, sustained or long-term events/emergencies may dictate what else must be done. Providing for the care and treatment of casualties, collecting, identifying, and addressing the deceased, are part of the gruesome reality that must be planned for. During that same period, providing for the mass care with food, lodging, clean clothes, hygiene needs of displaced persons becomes a priority. During the Hurricane Sandy, the Village of Elmsford highway department distributed firewood collected from fallen trees, to residents to burn in their fireplaces. It allowed homeowners with fireplaces to heat their homes and dispose of the wood at no cost! 

Once the recovery process is underway, our people or other appropriate agencies must begin implementing health and safety measures for both the short and long term. Additionally, you must begin protecting, controlling, and allocating vital resources; restoring or activating essential facilities and systems, ensuring the enforcement of police powers in controlling the locations and finally, establishing access controls, erecting traffic barricades, etc.

We do know that with proper planning, evaluation and activation addressing everything that is going on should provide a more organized and less chaotic environment for all. Ultimately, it will assist the victims with a level of calm and security during an extremely stressful event. We don’t currently have a pre-plan for major events and hope this article helps guide our leaders in the right direction toward starting one. We can be ready for the next event. We can only hope.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From the staff at ABetterGreenburgh.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Admitting Guilt, Town Offers To Sell Property

In a stunning development just uncovered by ABG, The Paul has attempted to circumvent another guilty verdict by having the Town offer to sell the 715 Dobbs Ferry Road property, formerly the home of Frank’s Nursery, to the GameOn 365 Sports Bubble developer! In learning of The Paul’s reasoning, it cuts to multiple points made regarding the lawsuit currently underway by, the Worthington-Woodlands Civic Association and numerous others that maintain The Paul and his Town Board have illegally signed a lease for the property to GameOn 365. During the last election, The Paul foisted an illegal referendum, judiciously worded, as he colluded to assist the GameOn 365 organization toward getting voter approval for their project.

The Paul has maintained the project has received overwhelming support from the Town’s voters. Technically, it did not. Out of the 9k or so people that voted in the election, a disproportionately small percentage of the Town’s population, the majority did vote in favor of the referendum, claiming the public recognizes the need for and benefits of an indoor/outdoor sports facility. Perhaps. By why hadn’t our sports professionals that run and maintain the TWO Town Recreation Departments recognize this need and act on it? Could it be because someone was offering a buck for an abandoned piece of property that no one wanted to touch because of it’s contamination, until The Paul promised another back room sweetheart deal?

The Paul maintains that by selling the property the Town will avoid unnecessary expense and time by not going to court. He’s right - of course that’s never mattered to him before - so why should it matter now? He maintains that there could be years of litigation. He’s right! The Town would have to continue paying taxes on the property. He’s right again. And the property, suffering from major contamination after being used as an Urban Renewal dump site for White Plains, would still need to be remediated. His real motivation for doing this is that by selling the property instead of leasing it, he negates another lawsuit and moves forward with a project only he sees a need for.

By eliminating the lease, the paradigm shifts dramatically. New Request For Proposals (RFP) might need to take place for a sale to happen. New environmental studies may also be needed. Until the sale is committed to by the Town, the lease is still active and cannot considered “over”, as The Paul would have us think. The issue of zoning also factors heavily into this piece of land. It is currently zoned for single-family residential use and would need to be zoned for commercial usage. It had previously been zoned commercial for Frank’s Nursery but reverted back to residential once the property lay vacant for six months.

ABG would recommend the lawsuit against the Town continue. The only purpose of this ploy by The Paul is to accomplish one thing: get GameOn 365 the deal he promised them! While the entire Town voted on the illegal referendum approving the GameOn 365 deal, The Paul knows the lawsuit will again prove his actions and methods were illegal and wrong. It also hurts one neighborhood that is not being allowed the right to control their destiny as The Paul put it in everyone else’s hands to decide if this neighborhood should get a bubble or not. This too is just wrong! By turning the game on (no pun) it’s heel and going a new direction, The Paul thwarts the will of a neighborhood to stay residential. He and his Board will rezone the property to whatever GameOn 365 asks for - residents be damned! A sale would have been the right thing to do in the very beginning when the Town acquired the property, with real bids after a real assessment. Now it seems a bit moot. Perhaps we should simply develop this property as another Town park and be done with all. We can only hope.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It’s Time For A Mix

Town Board meetings have become a failing display of what’s wrong with our government and an increased waste of taxpayer time and money. We watched this unfold at Wednesday night’s two public hearings, the first about the budget and the second about the zoning change, which will move forward into passage as quickly as our certiorari disbursements. We are discouraged to see the turnout was mostly limited to the G10 “regulars”, and disappointed that more residents aren’t attracted to the Town Board budget hearings given the tax increases being saddled upon it’s shrinking residents. It’s equally distressing that so many questionable actions continue to go unchallenged by an overwhelming group of constituents, emboldening those on the Board to continue their blatant manipulations of the process.

Last week also found The Paul issuing his mid-month press release/campaign, this time about the ills of County government, which he abandoned once he was installed as the “Prince” of Greenburgh. His blathering this time is about, “The past few years there has been too much pettiness, bickering, feuding, fighting and gridlock in Westchester County government.” He speaks of the money wasted by the County’s Board of Legislators by taking the County Executive to court over their differences with policies and the budget. Why won’t he speak of the quantity and dollar amounts of the lawsuits brought against him and the Town that Unincorporated Greenburgh will be forced to pay? His hollow quote, “We want government officials to cooperate with each other – to do what is right for the County” could easily be transposed for Greenburgh, “We want government officials to cooperate with each other – to do what is right for the Town.” We are still waiting for The Paul to do what is right for the Town and it’s residents instead of developers.

The Town Board in Greenburgh all work together – because The Paul told them they would and if they didn’t, they’ll be “Sonya’d”! You’ll recall former Town Board member Sonya Brown, who went against the wishes of The Paul so he had her removed. Sure, it’s a bit more involved than that but the gist of it is she went against the King, was ostracized throughout Town Hall and quickly banished from internal communications, policy meetings and the like. Outside the “loop”, it was difficult for her to get information or be prepared for meetings and votes. She was effectively shut out of Town government.

To ensure she not be able to get back “in” and to help the public be disappointed by her and a lack of responsiveness, The Paul had her Town supplied telephone number maintained so people would continue to call her but not receive a follow-up response. Constituent contact is the lifeblood of a politician. The Paul knows it. He was ensuring people not vote for her again by making sure she angers them. You see, most people don’t follow elections closely and once they have made a connection with a politician, they will keep going back to that person. Unless of course they never hear back from them. Many of those same people probably don’t even realize that Ken Jones has replaced her. Appropriately, he has fallen in lockstep with the rest of the Board. He learned fast. In fact, at one meeting Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan even said the Board was made up of independent thinkers and don’t always agree with The Paul – probably because The Paul told him to say so.

The Town Board needs a genuine diversity of clear and forward-thinking, articulate ideas, and resident-centric members, regardless of their individual qualifications. It would be nice to see more variety than just lawyers and academics on the Board without business acumen or “real world” experience. By the way, we have nothing against lawyers. But this Board is consumed with creating laws, regulations, and fees (taxes) to develop nickel and dime income to payoff multi-million dollar guilty verdicts and bad economic decisions brought about by The Paul. So, while they strangle businesses already struggling just to survive, the economic climate in Greenburgh is manually being worsened by our “leadership”.

While this Board has the audacity to claim to be business friendly, the reality of their actions belie that. Book knowledge is good to a certain point. Again, there is nothing like real world experience to help focus on the big picture along with the requisite “little stuff” to map out a better direction for our Town. Perhaps it’s time for a better mix of Board members. Dare we say include a republican, an independent, a business owner, and yes, even a developer to round out the thinking process? We desperately need an infusion of new ideas into the stale and unidirectional thinking we witness every other week from this feckless Board. It would be a good start. We can only hope.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fait Accompli

The Tuesday Town Board work session finally got underway at 10AM, on time by The Paul’s time-keeping methods and an hour late by everyone elses. The usual players were in attendance as The Paul began with the unnecessary Request For Proposals (RFP) for the WestHelp property. Todays meeting was mostly about hearing these various proposals. ABG says it was unnecessary as we and many others have insisted the Town continue with the contractually prescribed intent and usageof the apartments on the property. The original contract with the County had the Town being paid $100,000 per month ($1.2 million/year). On his own, without Town Board or citizen input, The Paul decided to not renew the contract, costing us roughly 15 months worth of income.

The first presentation was from the HarborView Properties. Their proposal originally included fair market value apartments which their representative immediately stated they withdrew based on feedback they had received but not admitting from whom they received the feedback. Their plan is now keeping the site for low and moderate income as well as seniors. Their intent was to offer them to Greenburgh municipal, firefighter, police employees and teachers. Interestingly, whenever The Paul bemoans the need for affordable housing, these are the same groups he throws into the conversation. If the police and firefighters start at around $50k, do they qualify for these same apartments? No matter, they were gone before you could say, “Certiorari.” The Paul asked about the impact on the Valhalla School District based on their offer and since they planned to consolidate numerous studio units into single bedroom units. It was explained that the impact to the schools would lessen.

Income from HarborView Properties was offered at $125,000 to $165,000 per year to the Town until the year 2032 to operate property. They originally had proposed the project as an eighty percent (80%) Market Rate Apartment Rental Community with twenty percent (20%) of Units set aside and designated as ¨Affordable Housing Units.¨

Next up was Westhab, a company which already has a presence in the Town. Their plan originally included $200,000 per year for 7 years and then it will increase by $5k/year to the Town ($600,000 up front) until the year 2064 to operate affordable housing pursuant to a tri-party lease between Westhab, the Town and the County using Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity for 50 years. They included geothermal power, solar panels, expanding the community room for greenhouse and daycare use along with other green initiatives. They will retain and reuse storm water and plan to increase parking spaces from 59 to 71 with permeable paving. The units will be considered affordable housing assuming the County gives approval to extend the lease’s length. It’s funny, they are planning to take an affordable housing complex and renovate it into an affordable housing complex. Does anyone else see the waste with this?

The Paul was dancing a bit with Westhab as he tried to find out how much money the Town could get up front from Westhab by February. He was told the amount would be $600k but was contingent upon a construction closing; meaning the Town doesn’t get a cent until construction begins. Obviously, with The Paul’s major screw-up of not renewing the WestHelp contract ($1.2 million/year), Fortress Bible’s $8 million settlement, $4 million deficit for the Water Department, he’s a bit sensitive about trying to get some income for the Town. Funny, he no longer offers a portion of his salary back to the Town for non-perfomance.

Third up was Marathon Development Group, who is offering $200,000 initial lease signing payment and lump sum at contract closing of $2 million after the lease signing. This would be a thirty year commitment until the year 2032. Their goal is to convert the existing shelter apartments into 80 units of affordable senior housing (55 and older), with a preference for veterans. They only do affordable housing for seniors so there would be no impact on the Valhalla school system. With a significant “up-front” amount to the Town of $2.2 million, the Town gets all it’s money up front. The Paul wanted to know if that was negotiable and threw out a number of $4 million if it is. Their representative emphatically said no! They too would like to increase parking a small amount and will be spending about $55k per unit for renovation. This is ABG’s favorite proposal, which appears to be a no brainer for the Town Board. But since The Paul wants Ferncliff in that property, we’re not hopeful this seemingly good deal will be accepted.

Community Housing Innovations wrapped up the presentations. Their deal was also for low income seniors would provide the Town with $350,000 per year to the Town until the year 2032. Originally their proposal was to develop the site for use as affordable housing and use the existing administration/school building for community use such as relocation of the Lois Bronz Children’s Center or Ferncliff Manor, Inc.’s. temporary use for a disabled school facility. Their representative also mentioned that if they couldn’t fill the facility with seniors they would use it for Town of Greenburgh education and municipal employees. The affordable housing residents will include people with 60% of the AMI. They certainly mentioned all the right buzzwords.

Buzzwords aside, this is a done deal, a Fait Accompli - Ferncliff will be awarded the bid because that’s the decision The Paul has made. The Paul and his Stepford Board want to get Ferncliff into the site with a school that may or may not get funding to relocate there. Numerous companies have made good faith proposals per the Town’s not in good faith request. Normally, ABG would say this project is going to go to Westhab. But, because all of the players haven’t weighed in yet, specifically the County Board of Legislators, this has been nothing more than an exercise in futility for these companies. These were all good proposals but in the end, it’s nothing more than The Paul’s deflection from the real issues. The County Board needs to put an end to this game – and soon. We can only hope.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WestHelp As A Loss Leader

There are numerous years still left in the WestHelp lease between the Town and the County. The openly professed NIMBY’s of the Valhalla section of Town, are the Mayfair-Knollwood group, lead by The Paul and propped up by County Legislator Michael Smith (R-Valhalla). In a Town Board work session Tuesday morning, the Greenburgh Town Board collectively fell on the sword for their leader. They voted to continue pushing for the County to accept their “sham” deal with the Ferncliff School, making them the official tenant for the now-vacant property. In any other Town, these people would be recognized as racists and run out of Town!

We’ve previously written about the apparent links to the County Executive, the County Legislature, The County Executive’s Communications Director, The Valhalla School District and of course, The Paul. In a concerted effort to drive the unwanted homeless element out of Valhalla, whether combined or singularly, The Paul let the $1.2 million lease with Westchester County lapse, claiming, as he is doing again, that it’s the County’s fault the lease wasn’t renewed. Then to prove his virtue, he manufactured two emails that he claimed were emails he had sent to then County Executive Spano stating he wanted to renew the lease. Everyone who saw the emails said the same thing: they were phonies. 

Monday night The Paul released the RFP’s (request for proposals) submitted to the Town for the County’s former WestHelp property. There were six submissions:

Ferncliff Manor, Inc. 
$500,000 per year to the Town until the year 2031 to operate a residential school for 74 developmentally disabled children. 70% of the children come from families with incomes below $50,000 annually.

Group MRH, LLC & The Richman Group Affordable Housing Organization
$100,000 per year to the Town until the year 2032 to operate an affordable rental housing pursuant to a triple Net sublease agreement with the Town for the remaining 20-year Master Lease term.

HarborView Properties
$125,000 to 165,000 per year to the Town until the year 2032 to operate property as an eighty percent (80%) Market Rate Apartment Rental Community with twenty percent (20%) of Units set aside and designated as ¨Affordable Housing Units.¨

Marathon Development Group
$200,000 initial lease payment and lump sum $2,000,000 at contract closing representing the net present value of 20 year payment streams to the Town until the year 2032 to convert the existing shelter apartments into 80 units of affordable senior housing (55 and older), with a preference for veterans.

Community Housing Innovations
$350,000 per year to the Town until the year 2032 to develop the former WestHELP site for use as affordable housing, primarily for seniors and the existing administration/school building for a community use such as relocation of the Lois Bronz Children’s Center or Ferncliff Manor, Inc.’s. temporary use for a disabled school facility.

$200,000 per year to the Town ($600,000 up front) until the year 2064 to operate affordable housing pursuant to a tri-party lease between WestHAB, the Town and the County using Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity for 50 years. 

The first proposal is his proposal of choice. It’s the reason he has let the WestHelp facility deteriorate with plans of tearing it down once he finally exhausts the County Legislature with his incessant posturing. His deflection campaign of trying to foist his failure to renew the contract as their fault is not working. Fortunately, the majority of legislators are not buying into his convoluted scheme. Is The Paul simply using Ferncliff as a loss-leader or is it just another deflection, cooked up long before this year’s budget debacle and would begin to take attention off of this year’s budget? He couldn’t know a hurricane would strike, bailing him out of another laser-focused critique of his poorly executed budget. In The Paul’s classic form, he just shrugs off the criticisms.

Interestingly, the WestHelp complex of 108 apartments was built under the authority of the United States Housing and Urban Development. That organization was run by then HUD Housing Secretary and current NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo. ABG believes Cuomo will be running for president in the next election, or at least vice-president. Regardless of his future plans, ABG doesn’t seriously believe that Westchester’s lack of affordable housing would find Cuomo endorsing the demolition of these same apartments after championing their creation. Why should that matter?

First, the state has it’s own budget problems and is unlikely and unwilling to come up with to remove affordable housing. Second, Ferncliff Manor is only offering $500,000 with the proviso that New York State pay for what will happen with the property for them. Without the state’s assistance, it is unlikely that the Ferncliff deal can happen nor would the Town actually be making $500k per year. Undaunted, that didn’t stop the Town Board from supporting The Paul’s harebrained idea – no surprise there! Somewhat sheepishly, Tim “Remediation” Lewis, coming off his major mishandling of the toxic site cleanup costs for the GameOn 365 proposal site, cautiously seemed to offer The Paul an “out” stating they should look at all the offers equally. The Paul barreled on.

The County Legislature, and it’s chair Legislator Ken Jenkins, have repeatedly told The Paul and the Town Board they must abide by the contractual obligations of the existing lease. They are not in favor of repurposing the site and giving up much needed affordable housing in Westchester especially in view of the housing desegregation settlement. While The Paul usually can’t wait to install affordable housing in the most inappropriate places, it begs the question of why he would be so adamantly against maintaining the 108 apartments in Valhalla and keeping the affordable housing? In fact, he’s been on record saying there is a glut of affordable housing in Greenburgh! So, what’s in it for him? 

ABG maintains votes as well as county support for The Paul is his motivation since this appeases Astorino, McCormack, Smith et al. This entire episode is loaded with ethical dilemmas, illegal actions and simply more lies. One of these RFP’s might very well be the one the Town signs on with, regardless of the superficial date The Paul has created for a final decision. These games have to stop. We can only hope.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ruining WestHelp to Secure Votes

The Town’s largest source of rental income will invariably continue to stand abandoned and empty, and continue to deteriorate throughout 2013. Regrettably, because of intentional and designed neglect, it will need to be torn down when all is said and finally done. This bill will wind up being paid for by the Town’s Unincorporated residents, victims of The Paul’s lack of management skills and overall incompetence. Of course, we all know this facility as WestHELP, the 108-apartment low/no income housing complex off of Knollwood Road on the Westchester Community College campus.

The Paul had craftily ignored requests from the Spano Administration over three years ago to renew the $1.2 million lease back when Spano was still the county executive. There was obviously an ulterior motive behind his refusal to renew: more votes for himself and even his “opposition”. He knew if he didn’t renew the lease, he could intentionally let the units fall into disrepair, vandalism and destruction and then say despondently, “These units need too much money invested in them to save, they must be destroyed as they are uninhabitable!”

The scheme was hatched. He informed his Stepford Board that they must sing the same song or risk expulsion from The Paul’s Circle of Trust, invoking the Sonya Brown clause. They concurred with the requisite, “Yes, m’Lord.” Seated to the right of The Paul was Kevin “The Henchman” Morgan, who scorned, “You will comply.” Newcomer Jones tendered temporary resistance by abstaining from attendance when a vote was necessary to move the plan forward. One demerit earned.

The Paul, ever adept with diversion, deflection and deceit, then formulated the next part of his plan. He found a likely subject that might be interested in occupying the property once the units were destroyed in the Ferncliff School. We imagine Sheehan might have asked The Paul, “But what of the County rental contract with the Town? Even as a non-practicing attorney you know it’s a breach on contract if we don’t rent these affordable units to people in need of homes?” And with a quick and surprising follow-up, Diana “Sleepy” 
Juettner might have asked “How about our own Greenburgh Housing Authority list of over two hundred and fifty people in need of homes? Can’t we put them in there?” Enraged, we can almost hear The Paul yell at them, “ENOUGH! IT’S NOT ABOUT HOUSING! IT’S ABOUT GETTING VOTES IN THE NEXT ELECTION! Pay attention people. If we get rid of housing the homeless in Valhalla and get rid of WestHelp, we’ll get more votes from that part of Greenburgh. Don’t you get it?”

Ken Jones, may have asked The Paul, “Can you win a fight with the County Legislators or can you get them to go along with this?” The Paul responded confidently, “The only one who will be a problem is Alfreda Williams. She’s still mad because when she wouldn’t play along, I threw her off the Board and put Beville in her place. Astorino is a slam-dunk, he’s in my pocket on this, his guy McCormack and the new legislator, whats-his-name Smith. They’ll all go along because they’ll get the votes too once the homeless are gone. Hell, this was going to be the best payoff ever! It was all working until Bernstein and Rosenberg got in the way. I’m telling you it was foolproof!”

On Monday, December 3, the Town will receive bids for the use of the WestHELP property. It appears that Ferncliff is in the lead as the preferred candidate. While it looks sincere, it’s all moot as The Paul will continue his “tear it down” mantra and insist the Town enter a long-term lease for the property with Ferncliff. Plus, it’s not up to The Paul to decide what can be done with this property. Ferncliff is a for-profit school for developmentally disabled children. They seek to build a new residential school and facility to replace a Yonkers facility which they will be forced to leave. Why wouldn’t The Paul offer the old Frank’s Nursery property on Dobbs Ferry Road. According to The Paul the Ferncliff deal is worth more than the GameOn 365 deal. The operative word here seems to be “deal”.

The Ferncliff proposal was turned down by the County Board of Legislators because the Town's contractual rights to the WestHELP property mandate the 20-year old county-owned apartments be used for low and moderate income housing. After allowing the contractual lapse, a SUNY Purchase representative looked at the facility in hopes of using it for student housing, as it is currently on SUNY property (the WCC campus is a SUNY facility). He found that with the disrepair and now mold conditions, the apartments would require about $20k each for renovation to make them livable by students. Given the state’s fiscal troubles, ABG doesn’t see SUNY or the state stepping up to take these over anytime soon. Although, this would be a great usage for them.

The Paul has made alliances with an overwhelming majority of residents from the Mayfair Knollwood community who have opposed this housing since it’s inception. They claim it’s too close to their homes. Ironically, these “NIMBY-ers” are a mile away from the facility and the housing is secured on the Westchester Community College campus in a fenced-in area that the Town erected. So, by knowingly choosing to not spend any town money to maintain the 108 apartments from September 2011, when the contract expired, The Paul guaranteed the apartments to be uninhabitable and gifted their destruction to the Mayfair Knollwood community!

While the Town has lost the $1.2 million dollars annually by not renewing the contract, The Paul is claiming that if the Ferncliff deal had been approved, “the town would have received about $530,000 a year in rent.” Of course, without New York State agreeing to fund it, the Town gets nothing! The Paul is pushing 
to keep the property from being used for low and moderate income housing regardless of whether the deal happens or not. THAT’s how all the politicians will get their votes.

The Paul and his Board have not posted financial resources in this year’s 2013 town budget for any repairs or maintenance of the facility. This indicates that The Paul isn’t planning on doing anything with this property except tear it down. ABG believes he will continue to bemoan the Westchester County Board of Legislators as resisting his plans to raze the facility and lease it to Ferncliff. The County Board of Legislators threatened to take the WestHELP property away from the Town for violating the terms of its lease and maintained it must be used for low and moderate income housing. ABG believes they should do just that! He’s even challenged them to attend a meeting as a publicity stunt we hope they won’t dignify by attending.

It’s a shame that this has been allowed to intentionally happen right before everybody’s eyes and no one, especially the County landlord, has acted to stop it. ABG believes the County Legislators, the County Legal Department and yes, the County Executive need to get off their vote-purchasing bandwagon and do the right thing! They should initiate an action against The Paul and his Board forcing the Town to renovate the facility to habitable status and either put people in it who are homeless, abuse victims, veterans or students and start utilizing the 108 apartments as intended and collecting rent. If the Town will not do so, the County should immediately take the property back, begin renovations and get it into a ready-to-use condition. By letting this valuable asset decay, nobody but a few politicians, and most importantly The Paul can come out ahead. It's time for everyone to stop playing games with this existing and vital housing, fix it up and get people living there. We can only hope.