Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NAACP Continues Fight Against Feiner, Sends WestHelp Support Letter to Cuomo

Steeped in controversy, the housing facility known as WestHelp languishes while people in need of a home wallow in despair. There was controversy when the facility was proposed and ultimately built, as there still is now, many years later. Back in the day, it was so bad that the racist NIMBY’s in Valhalla fought the low income housing tooth and nail. It got so bad that residents in the Mayfair area of the Town threatened to secede from the Town of Greenburgh, and form their own village. And while the residents fought hard to stop the facility, then HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, now our governor, persevered and succeeded in getting the housing built. Tough love aside, the facility was erected on the campus of the Westchester Community College campus. 108 new apartments were then made available to people within the DSS system. Some were single women and others had kids. In the end, 108 families were living in their own apartments thanks to Andrew Cuomo (and others)! To keep Valhalla residents safe from the hoards of roaming single women from entering other neighborhoods, The Paul had a chain link fence installed, topped with barbed wire to contain them. Perhaps The Paul used the same company that installs fencing at our corrections facilities?

Between New York State and Westchester County, the housing was built and then the Town was assigned to collect rent from the County to the tune of $1.2 million dollars per year. Greenburgh has the Greenburgh Housing Authority whose function is to work with and maintain existing housing as well as those in need of housing. They currently maintain an active list of about 250 people in need of shelter.

Imagine everyone’s dismay once The Paul decided to not renew the housing contract with the County and cost the Town $1.2M per year! Many, including the G10, went to Town Board meetings and asked The Paul and his Town Board why he would not renew the lease. The Paul stated it was County Executive Andrew Spano’s fault. He said that Spano never sent a lease for him to sign. Residents quickly proved this was a lie! ABG has learned two Lease requests were sent to The Paul. Spano’s office claimed it was The Paul who didn’t respond. In a desperate attempt to cover his butt, The Paul then fabricated fake emails he claimed were sent to the County Executive requesting a lease. It’s shameful that not only would The Paul lie to everyone, but that he would fabricate emails to compound his lie.

Things were going well for Greenburgh while the County kept using WestHelp. But once they claimed to not need it as temporary low/no income housing facility, The Paul decided to break the lease and hatch a plan to get Valhalla votes. Whether this was done with or without a complicit Town Board is moot, as they went along and continue to go along with the charade. As mentioned earlier, the Greenburgh Housing Authority has clients that could have moved right in after the apartments had been vacated by the previously homeless women tenants. It would have almost halved their client list in need of a home! But this wasn’t part of The Paul’s grand vote-getting scheme. He wouldn’t be collecting any where near the rent he was getting from the County he needs to offset the year and a half loss relying on the Greenburgh Housing Authority.

There were two meetings hosted by the White Plains Chapter of the NAACP to discuss the WestHelp property and it’s fate with legislators and concerned citizens. We’ve written about this previously and won’t rehash what we’ve said before.  NAACP President Lena Anderson, has just sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to maintain the apartments. ABG has posted a copy of her letter below:

When everything is said and done, this is still a landlord/tenant issue. The fact that The Paul’s racism has been exposed, along with Rob Astorino, Michael Smith, Ned McCormack, Matt Richter, and media sap Phil Reisman (of the Journal News), doesn’t come as a surprise. The fact that so many other “leaders” would go along with it all, does surprise us. Actually, it disappoints us more than surprises us. ABG understands that the electorate has short memories. The Paul and the other politicians realize this too. They are assuming when the next election comes around that this will all be forgotten and they’ll get re-elected. Since that is what has happened for the last twenty years for The Paul, he figures he has a lock on being re-elected. ABG hopes not. Then again, we can only hope.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Et Tu?

As the saying goes, everything that goes around, comes around. It’s finally come around to The Paul. After abusing the trust placed with him by the electorate, he continually, routinely and cavalierly tossed their concerns aside and has done what he wanted. He spot-zoned numerous properties throughout the Unincorporated Town without regard to input and concerns voiced by the neighborhoods. He granted whatever any developer asked for and continues to do this today. As part of the 1%-ers, he was able to nestle his family quite comfortably in the gated community of Boulder Ridge at the edge of the Hastings-on-Hudson border near Costco, Home Depot and Stew Leonard’s.

There are discussions underway for a proposed commercial and residential development in Yonkers on the back side or northern cap of the Stew Leonard’s, Home Depot and Costco property. This property abuts the gated wonderland that The Paul lives in and would ultimately stunt the view of the Boulder Ridge homes. How? The proposal is to build a multiple use retail building encompassing 255,000 square feet of space by the retail giant Target and 400 residential apartments. This is exactly the right place for this type of combined project for Yonkers. Unless you are The Paul. It’s a bit complicated and yet so very simple. The Paul and his neighbors cannot complain that this will hurt their cherished view, or that these apartments may become low-income or even Section 8 housing (well practiced in Yonkers), and supposedly lower the value of their million dollar homes. So, they are saying that the increase in traffic will be a big issue for the area.

Really? Traffic as a problem? Nah! Every project that has been proposed in Greenburgh and come in front of the Town Board where the issue of increased traffic was a concern has been ignored by The Paul and his “go-along” Board. Add to the woes of increased local traffic due to the never-ending and over-budgeted I-287, 15-year debacle and you have significant traffic issues. This 15-year project has caused an upheaval in traffic on local roads as well as created massive traffic jams on the highway. But every traffic study supplied for every project, regardless of the scope or results were ignored by The Paul and his Stepford Board. Several projects where these results were ignored were the super Stop and Shop on Rt 119, the Greenburgh Health Center on Knollwood Road, WestHab in Fulton Park, Brightview Assisted Living Center at Rt 119 and Benedict Avenue and Dromore Road. All neighborhood pleas were ignored.

Interestingly, when the traffic study for Fulton Park was released and discussed, the report stated that the traffic in the area was already at an “F” rating. This should not be misconstrued as an “F” that a student would receive on a test. It is part of an alphabetical rating system that has a different meaning, and yet in this case had the same result! We all know that any report and its figures can be presented to deliver the results the presenter desires. Westhab’s traffic “expert” stated that the forty or fifty car increase in traffic at rush hour and during the course of the day in an already overburdened roadway system would be “negligible”. The Planning Board ignore these findings but the Zoning Board voted against the Westhab project and actually validated the neighborhood’s complaint and voted to recommend against a zoning change and halt the project. ABG believes The Paul told his Board, in a closed-door Executive session, to ignore this recommendation and vote for the massive zoning change. Ignore the traffic report details, the nay vote from Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, the neighborhood’s collective voices, and push his pet project through – which they did!

When the Worthington-Woodlands Civic Association complained to The Paul and the Town Board against the sports bubble that GameOn 365 wanted to build at the old Frank’s Nursery property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road, they soon found that The Paul not only supported the 83 foot, 8-story tall sports bubble, The Paul brokered the deal! Since when does a public official get involved with pushing a private sector deal through the governmental maze for developers? Since they came to Greenburgh. ABG cannot prove collusion but indeed wonders why The Paul and his minions would do this?

The shoe now appears to be on the other foot. The Paul’s position as Supervisor, already in double-overtime and in rapid decline, cannot stop the City of Yonkers from moving forward with developing their industrial area by the Yonkers toll booth/Stew Leonard’s/Home Depot/Costco’s. Like Fulton Park, the industrial area is right next to a residential area and Greenburgh’s forefathers intent was to allow a buffer from light commercial to residential and preserve the integrity of the residential neighborhood. But not The Paul. Rather than leave a buffer for the transition into Fulton Park, a much less affluent neighborhood than Boulder Ridge, The Paul decided to build and build big.

Yonkers and their developers have decided to do what is good for them, within their city and unfortunately, ignore the surrounding neighborhood. We recognize that Yonkers is in dire straights. The Paul has created the same environment in Greenburgh as we’ve experienced a decline in our quality of life throughout the Town. Perhaps the Boulder Ridge residents will not only view these stores and apartment buildings from their back windows, but will recognize this same decline other residents throughout Greenburgh have endured for years at the hands of The Paul. Et Tu? We can only hope.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The 3R’s: Racism, Republicans, Reisman

There has been a synchronal campaign created and executed by The Paul before this upcoming election season. It focuses on vote-getting and re-electing several incumbents, namely The Paul (D), County Executive Rob Astorino (R), his Director of Communications political payback appointee Ned McCormack (R), County Legislator Michael Smith (R). In a minor power struggle are this year’s Greenburgh Town Board candidates, Diana “Sleepy” Juettner (D) and Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan (R then D). And, in for a penny, in for an untold amount, is the Journal News as well as their featured columnist/employee/front man, Phil “Angry Man” Reisman. Another Astorino appointee to a “do nothing” position serving the FAS* Koolaid is Matt Richter (R), who will post the Ferncliff cause on Facebook and elsewhere. At least this is a non-partisan racist attack.

Once a week the listening public gets to hear the “Angry Man” from the Journal News, columnist Phil Reisman, on his WVOX low-intensity talk show. He received the “Angry Man” moniker from the Journal News years ago when the paper was trying to create some buzz about his column. His written words are usually more entertaining than his vocal ones, with monotone droning-on with topics of minor interest, proving why he is a better columnist than talk show host. This show was a discussion with two Ferncliff School representatives, a mother and daughter combination who apparently run, or are involved in teaching at the Ferncliff School.

Reisman has written several “columns” supporting The Paul’s racist and this long range, Valhalla vote-getting scheme. ABG believes The Paul purposely did not renew the WestHelp lease and intentionally let the 108 affordable housing units degrade. His plan is to destroy them by leaving windows and doors open in hopes of developing mold and mildew, animal damage and theft. So far, his strategy is working. The Paul is hoping to hand the County owned property over to Ferncliff in a coup for Valhalla votes. It’s a skewed plan as he thinks as the lessee he can turn the WestHelp property over to Ferncliff for use as they wish. While this plan may seem flawless in The Paul’s own warped mind, more rational Greenburgh residents know otherwise. Fortunately, they have fought this illegal and immoral attempt by The Paul. But the conspirator and his cohorts plot on.

Reisman spoke with the two women representing Ferncliff, Pat and her daughter Kristen, and collectively tried to paint their current circumstances as bleak, bordering on desperate with no hope in site. No hope except for the only one plot in Westchester County - WestHelp’s! They came upon the WestHelp site from a recommendation of an acquaintance. They again explained their facility is too small, too old and needs to be vacated post haste! Reisman at one point had the audacity to say that he was asking questions and trying to remain impartial. Could it be he’s taking lessons in lying from The Paul? He is anything but impartial or objective about this issue. He, under the wink and nod of his masters at the Journal News, supports and has written multiple “advertorials” on behalf of the Ferncliff School.

Two or three callers dialed into the one hour long show after the half hour break. Naturally, they were all unfamiliar with the property, The Paul, but knew that Ferncliff needs the WestHelp property. One even referred to the property as in Elmsford and another said he didn’t know where it was situated as he was from New Rochelle. Whether regular callers, “plants”, or concerned citizens, these calls seemed too contrived and sounded like a setup! Regardless, the smokescreen that The Paul and his commiserating crew have concocted is being believed by many.

Finally, the money-maker phone call got through: County Legislator Michael Smith (R), whose connection with the Mayfair-Knollwood School Board and their illegal use of illegal payments from The Paul have become somewhat of a bit of political lore in Greenburgh and now Westchester County.
As if nothing has transpired, Smith began his onslaught as to why Ferncliff should get this property. ABG won’t list the entirety of his call, but he did state that the existing housing was full of mold and mildew and uninhabitable. As such, the apartments need to be torn down. Simply, this is a lie. What he did not state was that The Paul’s recent RFP request for the property garnered six proposals. One was from Ferncliff. The other five were plausible senior and/or assisted living proposals that would combine some smaller apartments into larger units. Smith stated these units were all very small and couldn’t understand using them as apartments as they were the size of a dorm room. Obviously, Smith has never been homeless or even worked with homeless people. If he had, he would recognize that living and sleeping in a small single room apartment (even dorm) with a bathroom is much more preferable to a cot in a shelter or even a cardboard box outdoors. Although it is possible Smith has hurried by a box on a sidewalk no realizing there might have been a homeless person inside. Add in the responsibility of a child or two and his position becomes even more incomprehensible!

While speaking on behalf of Ferncliff, Smith, stated that “we can no longer bury these children away.” Nobody is saying we should bury anybody anywhere. However, it’s exactly what he and his cohorts are trying to do to the seniors and veterans in need of this existing housing. Smith, Astorino, McCormack, Reisman, Richter et al, are trying to disguise their racism while pretending to be helping another “less fortunate” group. Both groups are worthy of support and help. But pitting one against the other is morally reprehensible! The issue is that The Paul violated and broke the contract the Town had with the County. For that reason and that reason alone, the County must terminate the contract with the Town of Greenburgh and utilize the facility as intended - for low income housing!

It would be nice to pick and choose who moves next door to you, but you can’t. It would be nice if we had representatives who represented the neighborhoods and their interests. We don’t. Yet, Valhalla has a small group of NIMBY, racist politicians looking to do just that. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to block WestHelp when the HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo had them built – over a mile away from any other Valhalla homes or neighborhoods. They were able to ostracize these single mothers with children on an island-like campus with no ability to “escape”. Then The Paul had the Town pay to install a metal fence with a barbed wire topping, to “keep them in”. Unbelievable!

If The Paul, Astorino, Smith, The Journal News, Reisman and Richter wish to continue their illegal and immoral behavior, so be it. There are many others who are also interested in the outcome of this facility and helping the Ferncliff School find a location while maintaining the apartments for low income housing. In fact, County Executive candidate Ken Jones said that the County Board of Legislators is trying to help Ferncliff find another location even though they are a for-profit business.

The County has offered numerous sites to Ferncliff at numerous locations, which Ferncliff refused. There is also additional property on the Westchester Community College Campus that ABG is told can accommodate Ferncliff. Let’s see what Ferncliff’s answer will be. It seems like this is another Greenburgh fiasco induced by The Paul that will unfortunately end up in court. ABG would rather see it get worked out without going to court. Maybe we can offer sensitivity instruction to The Paul, Astorino, Smith, Richter and Reisman and hope it sinks in. We can only hope.

* Feiner-Astorino-Smith

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Town Will Pay Extra

Last Thursday The Paul decided to announce the work that would be performed on the pool at the Theodore Young Community Center. Recent work was completed on the gymnasium hardwood floor after flooding from Hurricane Sandy to make it a concrete floor. This should allow better cleanup and endurance after the next flood and over the long haul. It’s interesting that residents received little or no help from any municipal entity but money was apportioned to this Fairview center almost immediately after the flooding! ABG appreciates the value the TYCC plays in the community. ABG also believes helping the residents recover from devastation from Hurricanes might be considered more worthy as these residents are often times unable to continue to live in their homes after these events. That is, if you believe government’s role is to protect it’s people.

The latest infrastructure failure from The Paul and his Stepford Board has been ignoring is the Town’s pools. After kicking the can down the road for the last several years, the Board in it’s flawed wisdom decided to instead of repairing the pool at Veteran Park, they would add a huge pool liner to it to stave off more costly repairs. Why not borrow the money necessary to make the repairs needed by utilizing our AAA Bond Rating The Paul consistently touts every change he gets and do the repairs? Could it be he’s saving up to pay the approximately $12M in fines, penalties and judgements against him and his deficient Board after being found guilty numerous times? You decide.

Now we read and hear of the pool at the Theodore Young Community Center needing “emergency” repairs! Here’s an excerpt from his blog:

“The TDYCC Pool has been closed for nearly 4-weeks for repairs... Starting on January 14, the pool was drained so an inspection could be performed by a contractor familiar with the pool. It takes several days to drain the pool. Once the pool was drained to an appropriate level, the technicians inspected the pool, located potential leaks, and made the repairs.”

While the pool was drained – and not mentioned, was that they determined the pool’s pump needed to be replaced or repaired. The work was put out to bid. The original low-bid contractor was unable to perform the repair for the pump and now the Town was stuck. They went to the next bidder, Westchester Electric Motor and Pumps (W.E.M.P.) of Elmsford, a vendor within the town for many years which has often helped many local communities at no charge, and asked them to take on the repairs. They agreed. Then The Paul threw them the curve ball as he usually does: The Paul asked that they work through the weekend to rush the repairs so they could get the pool back in service! Of course, working through the weekend requires additional charges not included in the bid! So while seeking prices for the repairs was legal, changing the parameters of the request for repairs was not. The Town will now pay extra for a repair that would have only taken two days longer had The Paul done what the bid called for. ABG is not surprised – The Paul routinely does this. True to his word, ABG learned the owner of W.E.M.P., did work through the weekend and delivered the pump as requested. 

So two of the Town’s pools have been neglected for years. ABG questioned a W.E.M.P. employee who told us the pump in the TYCC pool appeared to be the original pump as far as they could tell. ABG won’t recommend routinely changing pumps in pools but recognizes that preventative maintenance, investments in our infrastructure and a willingness to spend taxpayer money on valued equipment, buildings and yes, some programs, requires a leader willing to do the right thing. We desperately need that leader in Greenburgh. We can only hope.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pleasantville Follows Greenburgh’s Wrong Course

In an article ABG found online from the White Plains Examiner, entitled, “Changes to P’ville Assisted Living Plan; Zoning Request Submitted(, we found an eery and disappointing similarity to the zoning law change The Paul trumpeted through the Town Board’s phony approval process, aka “rubber stamp” for Brightview Assisted Living. In a move to to create an assisted living community behind Pleasantville’s United Methodist Church, a senior housing developer has proposed to officially request a zoning text amendment and map change as of last week.

The Wellesley, Massachusetts based Benchmark Senior Living representatives explained their plan at Monday’s Pleasantville Village Board meeting. They’ve proposed a plan for a 3.5-acre parcel of land from the church if their proposal receives approvals from the village. Benchmark is seeking approval for a new “floating zone” called the Eldercare Community District. This is the first in a series of steps necessary for the applicant to eventually build on the land. The “floating zone” would allow the village board the ability to approve assisted living facilities in areas that meet certain criteria, such as the requirement to develop the project on at least three acres with frontage on a state or county road. Sounds familiar.

Benchmark’s plan includes a four-story, 87-unit building in a residential area. Similarly, the Brightview Assisted Living Center facility is proposing to build a 90-unit four story building on a 4 acre parcel of land. They wrote the zoning law change and gave it to The Paul to rubber stamp to have their proposal move forward. Interestingly, Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said the board has yet to receive the text of the amendment because Benchmark is still “tinkering” with it. Wow! Does anyone else see a problem with a developer drafting the zoning change they need to proceed with a for-profit proposal? Sounds familiar.

ABG has previously posted that our Town Board, Planning Board, Legal and Building Departments should be capable of writing an amendment to Greenburgh’s existing Zoning Law for Assisted Living Facilities within the Town. We would certainly hope for all the money Greenburgh taxpayers are losing under The Paul’s tenure that our own people could capably handle this and not the applicant! Although, when questioned before about another building proposal in Fairview, Councilman Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan stated it was not unusual for contractors and developers to write zoning changes for their projects in the Town where one does not exist.

“The idea is to make it possible to allow certain kinds of uses, in this case assisted living, in various other zones without changing the underlying zoning,” Scherer said. “When we get it, we’ll have the option to accept it, reject it or to say we want to change it some way.” While we certainly appreciate the intent of what is being crafted to address Assisted Living facilities, it should be taken out of the hands of the developer. In fact, in Greenburgh, we have a Comprehensive Steering Committee that has been trying to develop and introduce a comprehensive plan for the Town. They should be writing the zoning amendment for the Town. The Paul has stalled their movement by adding more tasks for them to perform before the Comprehensive Plan can be introduced and even adopted. Once the Comprehensive Plan is adopted by the Town, The Paul’s wholesaling of the Unincorporated Greenburgh will be severely stunted. It’s probably why he won’t allow their mission to reach consummation!

Whether or not a good, usable, zoning change is offered or another developer gets to take advantage of this Village remains to be seen. We hope their elected officials are less yielding than Greenburgh’s and will focus on what is right for the Village and it’s residents, not the developer. We can only hope.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Town Approves Assisted Living Zoning Change; Disregards Residents Input – Again!

In an unsurprising and calculated move to assist yet another developer, the Town Board ignored countless amounts of input by residents warning of the numerous pitfalls of adopting the proposed zoning law change written by the developer, to assist them in building the Brightview Assisted Living Center. The developer apparently wrote the zoning amendment and gave it to the Board to vote upon. Can anyone say collusion? Also apparent is that the Town’s Legal, Planning and Building Departments are collectively incapable of working with our Zoning Board or crafting an addition to our Zoning Laws and thus left the “heavy lifting” to the developer’s attorneys. The facility will be a 3-story building off of Tarrytown Road, opposite the Sheraton Hotel at Benedict Ave with a Tarrytown mailing address in the Unincorporated Greenburgh. Now that the Town has approved the law, Brightview will be unimpeded to proceed with their project. Let the variances begin!

By the Town Board approving and amending this local law at the Town Board meeting on February 13, the zoning ordinance for the town was changed by adding a definition of assisted living facilities. It also creates a special permit criteria for such facilities. The problem with allowing the zoning change is that it will carry throughout the Town and allow buildings that would otherwise be inappropriate for residential neighborhoods. While the zoning map has already been amended to reflect the change, the result of this zoning change is that it will allow up to 100 bedrooms to be constructed in an “assisted living facility” on four acre sites within 200 feet of a state or county road. This should not be confused with a Senior Living Center or Senior Assisted Living Center.

Brightview will not accept those on Medicaid needing an assisted living center’s help. To cover that blunder that went unnoticed by Town Board members until residents pointed it out at one of the hearings, the town altered the conditions that will allow them to issue permits for facilities that accept medicaid. This was the Town Board’s appearance of being concerned that they want to help the poor. But those Greenburgh residents who are either poor or on Medicaid will never see the inside of Brightview unless they are going to visit someone there. We’re sure The Paul will have a bus readied at the Theodore Young Community Center for any seniors, poor or Medicaid recipients wishing to tour what they cannot afford.

The Board also factored in their right to deny permits to facilities if they will have an adverse impact upon the town. This is the “scapegoat clause” they put in place to placate everyone who objected to this zoning change that has now became Town-wide. Since we have yet to see The Paul say no to any developer, we doubt there will ever be any activity with this clause. It’s only there so they can say, “Look, we have the right to say no to any project.” Like that’ll ever happen.

Brightview, an assisted living facility, is going to overwhelm the small little neighborhood in the Glenville section of the Town because the zoning law The Paul and the Brightview developer crafted allows it. The Paul doesn’t care. The Town Board had many public discussions/hearings on the proposed zoning change before the new law was adopted. They’ve ignored every point that was made and passed the law the developer needed to proceed.

This was never about protecting a neighborhood for The Paul. It was never about creating a Town-wide assisted living provision in the zoning law for The Paul. It was never about trying to house our aging, less fortunate residents in a facility that can help them for The Paul. It was only about The Paul getting past any restrictions, limitations or laws that would keep one of his developer friends from getting to build what they wanted. They got it! This must change. We can only hope.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

State Study to Waste $50K

Every couple of years state or federal money becomes available to conduct consolidation studies usually between two diametrically existing entities for some convoluted idea that someone suggested. The last time this happened was for the proposed consolidation of the Town of Greenburgh and the Dobbs Ferry Police Departments. Out of the seven departments that could have participated, ABG still doesn’t understand how Greenburgh was picked to consolidate with Dobbs Ferry? ABG believed part of the reason was that the grant money available for the study was specific to those two police departments – and that’s it. Ironically, once former Chief of the Greenburgh Police Department John Kapica had retired, he confirmed our suspicions that the only reason the study was performed was because the grant money was there and it didn’t cost “us” anything to do. ABG begs to differ as our tax dollars, at any level, shouldn’t be urinated away as “found money.”

Now the consolidation is for two river towns’ Departments of Public Works. Again, the favored Dobbs Ferry, with new candidate, Hastings-on-Hudson. Ironically, Dobbs Ferry DPW has a brand new, state of the art highway garage and Hastings has a dilapidated garage on highly desirable real estate that the Village believes it could sell for a sizable profit. But then what? Before they sell the property, the land would need some type of remediation performed to make it “whole” again. They need to find a new location for the garage, float the necessary bonds to construct a new building, and even if the various neighbors agree to it, relocate everything to the new location. It seems a daunting task that would certainly see an interruption of service. And that’s assuming everything goes correctly.

The savings that consolidations produce are only talk right now. Greenburgh residents are promised to see a press release almost any day now from The Paul, stating the value of this. However, the $50k to study will require the hiring of a consultant “expert” who will come back to say the two Villages will save hundreds and possibly thousands by consolidating. The posturing will create a bit of news buzz with the weekly newspapers, one article in the Journal News and then it will be over. Hopefully, the people will see the futility of this after wasting the $50k from the state and say no to this fantasy study.

The Villages within the Town already participate in a purchasing consortium and work extremely well together with equipment cross-utilization, purchasing, mutual aid, etcetera. The Town of Greenburgh does not. When ABG asked one Mayor why the Town doesn’t participate, he couldn’t say. He excogitated that ego may be a factor. ABG believes it’s more arrogance than ego. Regardless, we’re disappointed that purchases of asphalt used for blacktopping can be had more inexpensively by the Villages than the Town; or that specialized equipment already owned by one Village may be lent to another but not the Town.

There is certainly room for collaboration between the Villages and the Town of Greenburgh. There may even be room for consolidation. But by picking departments out of thin air to “consolidate” is disingenuous whether the state supplies the funding for it or not. The Consortium of Villages proves that inter-agency savings can be had if done right with leadership that “gets it” and are trying to do the right thing for their community. The Paul isn’t interested in doing the right thing for the Town anymore. It’s time for him to go. We can only hope.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Floating Dollars & Bronx River Flooding

ABG offices sit high atop Greenburgh overlooking the beautiful landscape covered in the proverbial blanket of white as Town vehicles appear to be about the only ones on the road. There seems to be a calm enveloping the area. Our copy of the daily newspaper may have been delivered but promises to remain undiscovered for weeks. We had received our copy of The White Plains Examiner before the storm which featured an article about the County’s move to address flooding with the Bronx River within the Town of Greenburgh. It a topic ABG has often posted about.

We’ve heard and seen the posturing before, so it remains to be seen if this time will be any different. County Executive Astorino announced the County is ready, “with an $800,000 capital project to restore over three acres of wetlands and riverbanks just north of Fisher Lane and east of the Bronx River Parkway in Greenburgh.” Translation? The County will throw a pittance toward an issue that needs addressing from at least the Kensico Dam southward into the Bronx, where the water continues it’s final exit. This will be nothing more than “photo ops” and press conference “attaboys” garnered to get political points, press coverage and accomplish little else.  This was exemplified by County Executive Rob Astorino, who said in a prepared statement, “It is important that we target achievable projects in problem areas in order to reduce and prevent future flooding.” Translation? As an “achievable” project, they mean they know they won’t fix the problem, but will be able to say upon the project’s completion that they completed the project. Government double-speak? You decide.

Last year the Astorino administration chose this site in Greenburgh as just one of the seven capital projects as part of a $9 million effort to address chronic flooding along the Bronx River and Sound Shore. The bond act has been sent to the Board of Legislators for approval. And while we assume the bond will be passed, the effort may all be moot if the entire river corridor is not attacked as a global entity. An inspection of the river from the Greenburgh area into the Bronx shows too numerous an amount of blockage to document. 

An effort made in Westchester that will contribute to creating a better and/or increased water flow, without participation from all points south of Westchester County, renders the money spent, the effort of little consequence and tantamount to floating dollars down the river. The people who suffered from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene have finally given up any hope of receiving funds from FEMA even though they are mandated to pay flood insurance to them; all the while new applicants hammered by Hurricane Sandy are just learning this lesson.

What’s needed is a consolidation of bipartisan leaders who run the length of the Bronx River to establish a plan with a concerted effort to tackle this vexing problem. We also need leaders which are willing to begin upgrading everyone’s aging infrastructures to help increase water flow created by all the development from the last twenty or thirty years. It’s not an easy task but one that will reap huge rewards for every community. We can only hope.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pedestrian Struck on Knollwood Road

Sure, there’s a snowstorm happening as we post this and we expect accidents to happen. As we sit in our offices looking over the Town, our police scanner is busy with all the usual calls plus those created by the weather. Numerous police and fire departments along with ambulances have been scrambling about the County as well as the Town to accidents of various degrees of severity.

The Broadway Civic Association has long complained that the Town is shirking its responsibility by not insisting to install sidewalks in numerous places, but specifically leading to the newly built and just-opened Greenburgh Health Center on Knollwood Road. In fact, the Town Planning Board approved a sidewalk at 275 Knollwood Rd, the location of The Knolls at Pinewood, a 15-unit luxury condominium, of which 13 are complete. But ‘The Knolls’ doesn’t want sidewalks built – neither does The Paul! And, of course, since The Paul doesn’t want it, his Town Board doesn’t want them either.

Interestingly, when The Paul, his Town Board, County Executive Rob Astorino, his aide Ned McCormack and County Legislator Michael Smith were all pushing to destroy WestHelp for Valhalla votes, Kevin “Henchman” Morgan suggested the need to build sidewalks on Knollwood Road from WestHelp’s property toward Rt 119 because it would be unsafe for Ferncliff residents to walk on Knollwood Road without them. The irony is that the Ferncliff residents and day students would never be walking anywhere. They would have a van transporting them wherever they might be going. The Henchman must have misspoke.

The point? At about 2PM today, Friday, a pedestrian was struck by a car walking on Knollwood Road at the entrance to the Westchester Community College. There is no sidewalk. At the other end of Knollwood Road, the new Greenburgh Health Center has opened. It’s only a matter of time that a pedestrian gets hit by a car at this new address. The old Community Health Center on Rt 119 across from the former A&P in the Crossroads Shopping Center, found many of it’s clients crossing Rt 119 with kids, strollers and shopping bags, etc., in all kinds of weather and traffic. The dangerous situation that existed at one area has been shifted to another. Even though it is a different area, the same risk still exists for the health center’s clientele, just at their new home. There is no sidewalk.

The Paul had championed the illegal sale of the old Cooke’s Florist property to the Mount Vernon Medical Group that runs the medical center doing business as the Greenburgh Health Center. He spot-zoned the property and has trumpeted not installing sidewalks for this location. While we hope no one ever gets hurt coming or going to this new location, the amount of traffic that frequents the area almost guarantees it. Many will recall how The Paul continually bragged about the Town’s AAA Bond Rating some months ago. Perhaps if we utilized some of it by borrowing the necessary funds and building sidewalks throughout the busy streets in our Town, we can save people from being involved in an unnecessary accidents and injuries. We can only hope.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Town Votes To Object To State Against Group Home

After another presentation from the Richmond Community Services, the state agency seeking to build a group home on 88 North Road in the Parkway Homes section of Fairview, the neighborhood made their case again for the over-saturation and changing landscape this project would cause if built. ABG noted previously that Councilman Ken Jones neglected to inform his neighborhood of this proposal. ABG isn’t sure if he was feeling guilty for that or truely believes what his neighbors were saying, but he made the motion today for the Town to officially object to the State to this group home being constructed at 88 North Road. As expected, and clearly unable to recognize and vote for adhering to Town law, The Paul voted against the motion. His reasoning was that he was for group homes. Unable to see that this was not what the motion was about, Councilman Jones explained that he heard the neighborhood speak and is following local Town law about having a minimum distance of at least 2000 feet between group home facilities. Councilman Sheehan concurred, saying the nearest property was just over 1,000 feet away. Had this been 2001 feet, he would have not voted in favor of the motion to object.

At this point, proceeding with the home is temporarily put on hold until there is a hearing with the State. There is an agreement in place to purchase the property assuming the State gives the green light for this project. While the arrogance of the State representative at the last Town Board meeting should shed no light on the possible outcome, we can only hope that the State sees the error in choosing this property and looks to situate near similar sized homes where there are no group homes or facilities – say in Boulder Ridge. The residents got their message across to enough Board members this time. The Paul clearly insisted that he wasn’t interested in representing the constituents, only his own personal views towards group homes. Sometimes, as a representative, you must go against your own beliefs and do the right thing. This would have been one of those times as the four to one vote to object was based on Greenburgh law. We can only hope.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Assaulted From Every Level

The Paul decided a previously thought-to-be untouched neighborhood should have a group home for the developmentally disabled located in it at 88 North Road. He also decided to keep his goal from the neighborhood he was about to punish. Had he included the Parkway Homes neighborhood with his plan in the beginning, he would have learned there were other group homes in the immediate area. The Paul’s actions highlights why we need term limits. The Paul has been in office for so long now, he’s in his 21st year, he has forgotten that he is there to serve the public, not himself, his developer friends, the county or the state! And since the electorate cannot seem to stop reelecting career politicians after a few terms, mandatory exiting through term limits would keep the abuse from perpetuating.

So while The Paul “ghettoizes” Fairview (Alfreda Williams, January 14, 2013, WestHelp Forum in White Plains) with more and more not-for-profits, building homeless/affordable/low-no income/Section 8 and any other type of housing that will not pay taxes, the State has decided to implant it’s own housing in Greenburgh. Why aren’t our elected Greenburgh officials standing up for what our residents want? Did The Paul invite the State to purchase 88 North Road or did the owner of it seek them? Could the State merely have been stumbled upon it? Doubtful. ABG believes The Paul reached out to the State agency and “suggested” 88 North Road to them, promising they will sail right through the approvals/zoning changes, et al, once he makes his Board the project’s lead agency.

In another seemingly shady move, this time from Westchester County and CE Rob Astorino, the County has entered into a deal with a church in Mount Vernon, namely the Friendship Worship Center, on Lincoln Avenue to create a homeless shelter in their basement. The hours of operation for this “warming center” are 9PM until 6AM each day. There are four schools in the nearby vicinity. So once the homeless are asked to leave at 6AM, they will probably be running into teachers, students and their parents arriving at school. It seems we are being assaulted at every level of government with low income and homeless housing. We have the Federal HUD mandate, NY State building out of place group homes in residential neighborhoods, this “paying of churches” by the County, and The Paul saying we should tear down the 108 units in Valhalla that were built specifically for the homeless population. Why so much? Because everyone knows where the money is and simply needs to form a not-for-profit company to jump on the government gravy train.

The homeless problem has lessened a bit in Westchester County, although the frigid weather brings the reality of it right back to our doorstep. Legislator Lyndon Williams made several excellent points in his letter to the County Executive. Here’s an excerpt:

“Addressing the homeless problem is a County obligation that requires a comprehensive long- term, county-wide solution, not a patchwork of fixes in which the homeless population is targeted for tolerant communities like Mount Vernon. Moreover, many of the homeless persons are in need on mental health services, and yet your Administration has closed the County’s mental health clinics that provided such services to this vulnerable population.

Perhaps more than any other community in Westchester, Mount Vernon has done its part in cooperating with the County to address the problems of the poor and vulnerable. However, this City cannot continue to be the dumping ground for all of the social problems of Westchester County, especially when considering that your Administration has eliminated from the 2013 County Budget many of the worthwhile programs that benefit Mount Vernon, like funding for at- risk youth initiatives that have been proven to be quite successful.

I do not want to simply point to the problem without proposing a solution. Therefore, I suggest that the $120,000 awarded to Friendship Worship Center to house the homeless be used instead by the Church to run programs that serve at-risk youth in Mount Vernon.

The shelter program for the homeless, in turn, should be located in the county-owned housing located adjacent to the Westchester Community College campus in Valhalla. This facility consists of 108 units of housing that are presently available and unoccupied. The fully equipped facility, which was constructed under the administration of former County Executive Andrew O’Rourke, was intended to house the homeless and that intention should be fulfilled by using it to solve the homeless problem in Westchester County.

It is truly a disgrace that housing specifically constructed to address the problem of homelessness remains vacant while these most vulnerable members of our communities are left to wander the streets, sleep in doorways of buildings and even die in cars in which they reside by necessity. Mr. Astorino, you have an opportunity to change the plight of the homeless by implementing this solution.”

ABG agrees with Legislator Lyndon Williams and hopes the County Executive will heed his plea to not pay off his friends and cronies, use the County taxpayer money properly and reopen the WestHelp housing that sits hostage under The Paul. We can only hope.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mayor Ed Koch Passes

After battling numerous illnesses for some time now, iconic New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch succumbed to congestive heart failure while at New York Presbyterian-Columbia Hospital. He was 88. He is perhaps one of New York’s best known and perhaps beloved Mayors. Having spent three terms in office, he was known by his standard question, “How’m I doing?” When he lost his bid for a fourth term, he turned to radio and other interests to stay active. He maintained a terrific sense of humor and an honesty that we lack with most of todays politicians. Callers to his radio program would often ask when was he going to run for mayor again? His answer was always the same, “The people threw me out and now they must suffer!” We are all suffering a bit today with the loss of “our” Mayor Ed Koch.