Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wishing Our Readers...

Bluff and Blink

The latest go-’round with the WestHelp property and the proposed Ferncliff takeover has reached a new low in bluffing. It’s like the card game that has two players vying for the pot waiting for the other to blink.

The Paul began this house of cards-like scheme around 2009 when he decided to not renew the WestHelp lease with the County for the WestHelp property. Whether his Town Board was complicit is of no consequence as they would have gone along with anything he told them to go along with. We can only speculate of his decision to why he wanted to do this? ABG maintains the primary reason would be votes in the upcoming election. He’d remove the homeless from not only WestHelp, but Valhalla, and return this bucolic hamlet into the enclave it had been prior to the now-Governor’s housing initiative was ever built. Might another reason be The Paul was approached by the County Executive himself or a representative or even a County Legislator requesting an alliance of sorts in a tit-for-tat arrangement to be determined at a later date?

What good would all of this be if the County Board of Legislators didn’t buy in to The Paul’s diversion and deflection? After all, he is the master of deflection. Amazingly, no County Legislative oversight committee, the County DSS system or body of inspectors was monitoring the WestHelp property. This transpired for over roughly two years while the County continued to ignore The Paul’s (vis–à–vis Greenburgh’s) contractual violations to not continue to house low and no income people and ignore the maintenance of the facility. Why? Could it be that the County Executive garnered enough bipartisan support to “break” the contract the County has with the Town? Or, could it simply be that a number of County Legislators are from the Yonkers area, and Ferncliff, a for-profit business, is Yonkers based and they are stepping up for their constituent?

This deal ultimately playing out well for the Ferncliff School still seems like a long shot. They essentially have no money to purchase or do the demolition work to destroy the 108 viable apartments others could be using. They then must rely on state funds for construction and then rent! The majority of their residents are from NYC, even though they claim that these children are coming from what is considered low income families. It seems justifying why they should be allowed to move to the WestHelp site is a different kind of bluff. The Ferncliff School has offered to pay $500K a year in rent to Greenburgh yet have no money to secure, demolish and rebuild and are solely dependent on state funding to proceed, if they can proceed at all. It’s been nothing if not a bluff perpetrated by The Paul this entire time and causing unnecessary pain and suffering for everyone!

Until the County Board of Legislators can get County Executive candidate and Chairman Ken Jenkins, Greenburgh County Legislators Alfreda Williams and Mary Jane Shimsky to concede, the County Community Services Committee has introduced items for discussion and a vote by their committee. Another part of the bluff. Ironically, the Chair for this committee is Alfreda Williams, who has been against this move by The Paul. Also on the committee and against this change is MaryJane Shimsky. But the other side includes Legislator Michael Smith of Valhalla. The rest of the Republican legislators will stand side-by-partisan-side with Astorino and Smith. The several Yonkers Democrats who favor of the Ferncliff deal will continue to push for The Paul’s rouse. ABG wonders what will be offered to these Jenkins, Williams and Shimsky to get them to go along?

There has been much ballyhoo about who is more deserving of the property and are homeless people more important than developmental disabled? The answer is simple: it is not a competition and both are in need of our attention and assistance. The issue for ABG and many others, including the Westchester N.A.A.C.P., who helped get the apartments built, is that The Paul took it upon himself to not renew the lease while we still need affordable housing in our area. He chose to violate the tenets of an enforceable contract which his Town Board condoned (naturally) and subsequently endorsed, and remain in violation of that contract for the last 18 months. Again, why hasn’t the County taken action against The Paul and The Town’s contractual violations?

Below are two pages showing the actions of the Community Services Committee meeting. ABG believes it is a bluff because we know they believe if they profess it enough and act as though this were really happening for Ferncliff School, it will. It seems like the old “beg forgiveness rather than ask permission” routine. There are several reasons they should not be doing this. One, it’s unfair to taunt the Ferncliff School like this. Two, Chairman Ken Jenkins, has worked to try to find a suitable location other than the WestHelp site even though County government is not obliged to do so! In fact, there is additional space near WestHelp on the Westchester Community College campus that has been suggested/offered as suitable. Remarkably, we haven’t heard a peep from anyone about this parcel. Three, while ABG believes it will be next to impossible for the County to bring an action against the Town because not only do Astorino, Smith and McCormack live in the Valhalla area, Astorino appointed County Attorney Robert Meehan, lives nearby! Finally, when the lawsuits do start, don’t you think those “aiding and abetting” will be named as well?

The Ferncliff School does great work for a small portion of the population. But their portion of the population should be treated as equally as the others. They need help finding a new location and we wonder why The Paul has never offered them 715 Dobbs Ferry Road, the old Frank’s Nursery property? He could have sold the property to the Ferncliff School for $1 if he truly cared about them, had the Town do the site remediation and kill two birds with one stone. 

Others have been helping them in their quest and will continue to do so. We truly wish them success. At the same time, the one property they seek as ideal is committed to another equally important purpose. While we wish we could snap our fingers and find a solution for the Ferncliff School, their needs will be better served if they abandon The Paul’s bluff and look in earnest for another location that is actually attainable. We can only hope that the Ferncliff School is successful in their relocation and that WestHelp gets renovated as soon as possible and it’s 108 apartments be put to good use again. We want to see people in desperate need of housing move into their new homes. Again, we can only hope.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Go For Broke

At the March 27, 2013 Town Board meeting, the G-10 representatives were the only participants willing to show up and speak. The topics du jour were the WestHelp debacle where Valhalla’s racist NIMBY’s and the Town Board continued encouraging The Paul to allow the degradation of the WestHelp facility in hopes of purchasing Valhalla votes in the upcoming election. Next was the former Frank’s Nursery at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road, replete with contaminated soil, back-room deals, unanswered environmental concerns and “confidential information” the Town Attorney deemed inappropriate to discuss. ABG believes any offering to purchase Town property should be put on the table for scrutiny and review by the public. It’s our property! Ideally, an RFP should be proposed. Lewis’ opinion did not stop the G-10 from further questioning and comments. The third discussion topic was the never-ending, never-performed, town-wide revaluation plan (hereafter: reval). The Paul has talked about this for years and but never acted upon it . His motto might be, “Why fix it when I can talk about it and still get re-elected.”

Why is the Town reval such a hot, scary and hands-off topic? Why has The Paul stayed away from it for so long? Because it’s a politicians worst nightmare. Certiorari challenges are how taxpayers within the municipalities typically counter the seemingly high and unfair tax assessment for their property. There’s an explanation of why and how revaluations affect homeowners that is somewhat simple, yet effective. One-third of the properties that are revalued will see their property taxes increase, one third will remain the same and the final third will see a reduction. Senior citizens seem to get clobbered by revals most often as they have purchased their homes years earlier, paid ever-escalating property taxes, retired and live off of a fixed income in the same home. Once their home is revalued, it invariably increases in value and winds up costing them more in property taxes. Increasingly, there are  companies more available willing to assist a large number of businesses and a growing number of residential owners to get certiorari adjustments as a means to a lower end in the Town of Greenburgh. Each Town Board meeting sees a non-stop increase in certiorari adjustment payouts. The March 27th Town Board meeting saw the Town expend $719,240 in tax certiorari adjust payouts! And, that’s not the highest one to date!

Adding up the amounts of money The Paul and the Town Board routinely drain from the wallets of the Unincorporated residents on a bimonthly basis is staggering. Each twice-monthly Town Board meeting the focus on larger and larger amounts of certiorari adjustments, fines, settlements, etc. In fact, one recent certiorari payout several months ago was about $1.2 million dollars. Couple the Town Board bimonthly events with the monthly $100K in lost revenue from the County contract for the former WestHelp property, the impending guilty verdict from the Fortress Bible lawsuit for up to $8M, and one has to wonder if the Town will soon face bankruptcy under The Paul’s administration? Join us as we sing, “I hear the train a-comin’...”

One easy example to eliminate unnecessary and controllable expenses is to combine the two Recreation departments The Paul insists on maintaining. As an example, both recreation department’s pool chemicals are not purchased for both pool facilities by one department. It makes no sense but it continues as the Veteran’s Park pool purchases are made by “their” recreation department and the Theodore Young Community Center’s pool purchases are made by the other recreation department. It’s been publicly alleged at an open Town Board meeting that maintaining the two recreation departments as separate but equal is racist by nature. It’s also costly.

This despicable behavior fits The Paul like a glove. He has openly flaunted this demeanor as part of the “goresome foursome” with County Executive Rob Astorino, County Legislator Michael Smith and County Executive Communications Director Ned McCormack. How do we know about The Paul’s racism? ABG witnessed it at an NAACP meeting held in White Plains several months ago when he publicly slipped and put his foot in his mouth*. We also know because he was found guilty of discrimination, destroying evidence and more in the Fortress Bible case. A subsequent appeal of his guilty verdict by The Paul and Diana “Sleepy” Juettner was struck down by a Federal Appeals Court, validating the guilt of The Paul and Diana Juettner.

Running the Town requires basic management skills. ABG believes the department heads (Commissioners) are qualified to run their own departments. If they are doing their jobs well, the running of the Town becomes a bit easier. But even with qualified individuals at the helm, The Paul and his Board manage to screw things up. Morale is at an all time low. Teamster-member Town employees are forced to wait four years before The Paul will negotiate their contract. There’s a hiring freeze in place unless it’s a position The Paul wants to fill with one of his cronies. It was pointed out by one speaker that the Town Board maintains its vacancy of moral actions because they lack a moral compass. ABG believes this is mostly because they wish to be re-elected and helped by The Paul. Subsequently, they blindly and unconditionally follow The Paul’s mandates and lead – contrary to Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan’s pronouncement of independent thinking on behalf of the Board members. Could a contributing factor be that the Town Board consists of only one political party? Possibly. Regardless, ABG is of the mind that it may be time to vacate the holder of the Town Supervisor position for someone with management experience and the ability to judge right from wrong instead of whether they are gaining a vote or not. Maybe it’s time to go for broke! We can only hope.

* See: 
Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - Feiner Insults NAACP:
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - Feiner Insults NAACP - Part 2:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Paul Feigns Capital Plan

The Paul’s latest stenographer, Greg Shillinglaw, recently “took a letter” from his other boss, The Paul. ABG believes he was probably guided to merely rewrite The Paul’s carefully worded press release and submit it as his own story for the Sunday edition of the newspaper. No harm, no foul, right? So while The Paul is touting his “most significant capital budget of his 20-year tenure” to the tune of $11.9M, the reality is that his budget is a large as it is due to his actions and a good number of illegal actions.

After continual prodding by the G-10 and others, The Paul has finally acquiesced and said he would have the Town perform a revaluation. The last time the Town had a revaluation was in the mid-1950’s. Once he started that mantra, his Stepford Board hopped onto the bandwagon and talked often about it. That was all they did was talk about it. The Paul claimed they were shopping for the best price, hoping to combine the cost with other communities, most notably the City of Yonkers. So even though the entire onus may not have originally been on The Paul, had he done his due diligence when he was first elected, we wouldn’t be in such a sorry state of financial straights as we now find ourselves with certiorari refunds. The Paul has been teasing us with a revaluation/reassessment for several years now. He even formed a committee. You know how that goes: form a committee to make sure nothing happens. As long as we‘re at it, let’s appoint convicted felon Alan Hochberg to head it. So with all of The Paul’s talk of “price-fishing”, Yonkers went ahead without us, Bronxville has completed theirs and Scarsdale is wrapping their revaluations up. Once again, The Paul is all talk, no action.

In a different press release, The Paul obviously bypassed the Town’s accounting department and began advertising the Town could save $4+M over twenty years by spending a small fortune in LED light bulbs for Town light fixtures. Forget that his math was fuzzy by about half the actual amount we might save. Forget that disposing of currently working light bulbs that have already been paid for makes no economic sense. Forget that he felt the inflated savings warranted a major press release and got his news media surrogates to go along with him. Slow news day perhaps? Nope! When The Paul speaks, they are obliged to regurgitate it. Curiously, why didn’t they challenge his incorrect numbers before printing the press release? More importantly, why is Shillinglaw just going along with whatever The Paul spews?

Continuing, the article quotes The Paul saying, “These are major policy issues – not just infrastructure improvements.” The Paul is right that they are policy issues. But to try to combine them even indirectly into infrastructure improvements is just wrong. The Paul has not allotted money toward any infrastructure improvements during most of his tenure as Supervisor. And spending $500k to save $300k is merely reckless wasting of Town resources and money. What he should be doing is replacing existing light bulbs and light fixtures to newer LED ones only when the old bulbs or fixtures fail and as necessary. Otherwise, this is simply a campaign stunt.

The Paul claims to be losing money with the existing installed water meters and has championed the Town to spend (with residents ultimately reimbursing) $3.5M to replace every household and business’ water meter to a new digital, remote reading one. While technology may be great, do we really want our Town’s water meters constantly broadcasting homeowner’s information? Given that so many of us are using wireless networks in our homes and businesses, how might this open us up to a hacker? How easy might it be for a 14-year old to hack into our information? Or, how about the 30-year old professional hacker and thief? And even if they cannot break in, will it wreak havoc with our wireless networks and compromise everyones security? Who will install these new meters and does it now need a power source? There are too many unanswered questions that need to be answered before we proceed.

A while back, 19 laptops were stolen from the Theodore Young Community Center. The police refused to question everybody and the culprits were never apprehended. Nor were the computers recovered. To improve security at the TYCC, The Paul is proposing spending $25k to beef up the security system. Forget that we are closing the barn door after the laptops were taken. But, with every other possible expenditure in the budget, this was what The Paul chose to focus upon? This is what Shillinglaw chose to let The Paul focus on as well! This is nother less than an abdication of responsibility on the part of both of them. We expect this kind of chicanery from The Paul. Since the editors at the Journal News allow Shillinglaw to publish this as news, its apparent they condone the lack of journalism emanating from their new offices of the Journal News. It’s time for their reporters and our politicians to be held to a higher standard and stop allowing this lazy effort to be considered reporting. We can only hope.

The Silence of Free Thought, Free Actions and Free Will

It’s no secret The Paul lies to his constituents and ABG has frequently illustrated examples of it. It’s also no secret that his Stepford Town Board goes along with whatever he demands of them. And, on occasion, he’ll let one of his charges “sound off” and appear to go against the flow – but we all know better. Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan did this a few months ago, claiming at a Board meeting that the members acted independently and didn’t just blindly follow The Paul. Then he voted in the affirmative along with The Paul. Recently, we witnessed Diana “Sleepy” Juettner take a stab at a faux protest where her one vote didn’t matter. ABG believes they must first get permission from The Paul to be able to openly protest, giving the appearance of being a independent thinker, and then can cast an opposing vote especially if its a minority one. After watching the machinations of this Board, even with Ken “Newbie” Jones, it’s apparent that free thought, free actions and free will do not exist in The Paul’s Town Hall. To ensure compliance, The Paul keeps much information close to the vest and only shares information with his Board when it is convenient for his agenda, shielding them from what could be helpful in the “free thinking” decision making.

The Fairview residents of Fulton Park found out by accident that The Paul had volunteered the former Kings Inn Motel property to Westhab to build a 7-story apartment building on .7 acres of land. If this was such a good idea, why not invite the residents into the fold, including their participation and input? Instead, he kept the deal secret for as long as he could, intentionally not forging a cooperative effort and ultimately screwing this neighborhood for another developer friend. The old saying, “Kiss me first,” comes to mind. 

After making the proverbial “done deal” with Westhab, he met with neighborhood leaders. There he openly and unabashedly lied to them saying they might be able to move the project to another location. This was just as he had lied to them 25 years earlier when County-placed homeless were living in the former Kings Inn. The Paul promised the neighborhood during that time if the county were ever to remove the homeless from this location that he would support a senior living facility at that location. When push came to the proverbial shove, he continued to lie, claiming he never said that. Numerous long-time residents challenged The Paul claiming he was lying so he demanded they show him in writing when he ever said that. And, Westhab wouldn’t budge from the location since the property was purchased at an inflated price and turned over to them with county and state funds. Why would The Paul do this to another Fairview neighborhood and leave others such as Boulder Ridge alone? Is it that he doesn’t respect the neighborhoods or their residents? Is he looking for more awards and proclamations from these not-for-profit and very handsomely funded organizations? Is it that they contribute to his campaigns, college and retirement funds? And why would his Stepford Board go along with his wholesale allocation and distribution of neighborhood properties? ABG is sure you can deduce the answer. 

Moving on, ABG can only wonder if the residents of the Mayfair-Knollwood area knew about the arrangement The Paul had with several “major players” from that neighborhood? NIMBY’s all, the goresome foursome* decided to let the WestHelp lease lapse to hasten the degradation of the apartment facility. The Paul instructed his minions to leave the windows and doors of the facility open to encourage looting, animal destruction, mold , mildew and more. Perhaps he turned to his proven “Henchman” and suggested he take care of it? Unguarded and cloaked from traffic and watchful eyes, the apartments began their decline two years ago. Pretending to care about others, The Paul asked for RFP’s to refurbish the facility to be used for housing any number of deserving people: veterans, seniors, abuse victims, etc. Six agencies submitted legitimate proposals to this illegitimate request, including the Ferncliff School whose disabled clientele were the intended recipients of the property all along. But The Paul misjudged (again). He underestimated everyone involved and while he believed this would be a done deal for Ferncliff, there were unintended results: the agencies all came back with good plans and a willingness to refurbish the facility at their cost which was estimated at about $3M. This is almost the amount of money The Paul has cost us by not renewing the lease with the County. But again, nobody knew The Paul was doing all of this until the damage had literally been done. Why the secrecy and what are The Paul’s hidden agendas?

Why wasn’t the public made aware of the secret back-room deal The Paul struck with GameOn 365 years ago when Frank’s Nursery was approaching foreclosure and not yet acquired by the Town? Under the guise of another great deal brokered by The Paul, he secretly met with the owners of GameOn 365 and offered them the sweetheart of sweetheart deals that would be theirs once the Town acquired the former Frank’s Nursery through foreclosure. It was just a matter of time for them and they would need to be patient. What The Paul never advertised was why Frank’s Nursery went into foreclosure and why they were so eager to let the Town have the property? A number of years ago during the library construction, there was talk about temporarily housing the library at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road, the old Frank’s Nursery. Once talks to relocate began, Frank’s got nervous because they knew the location was not a safe one.

After the illegal lease deal The Paul and his complicit Town Board attempted to execute with GameOn 365, a lawsuit was initiated from the public. The Town was once again on the wrong end of another losing lawsuit battle caused by The Paul. After way too much time, someone had finally gotten through to The Paul and he withdrew the illegal lease deal with the excuse that the lawsuit would tie the Town up in court for a long time and cost the Town unnecessary money. The Paul knew from experience this was correct. But he or someone else recognized they were simply in violation of County and State law as it relates to foreclosed property. Legally, the Town Board can sell the foreclosed land to whomever they want because it was a piece of foreclosed property**. 

Regrettably, nobody knew the foreclosed property was up for sale or even available except for GameOn 365. Why? The Paul and the Board kept it well under wraps and from the public because the fix was in. Inconveniently for The Paul, a better offer to purchase the land was tendered by the owners of The House of Sports for almost double what The Paul was trying to gift to GameOn 365. This was quite the conundrum for The Paul! Continue to pursue the sale to the preferred customer who doesn’t have the money needed to purchase the property or sell to an “outsider”, who not only has a successfully similar facility operating in Ardsley but has the cash to not only purchase the property at double the amount but pay for the site’s contamination remediation. We’re written extensively that the Franks’s Nursery site was used as a 
debris dump for the remnants of downtown White Plains’ urban renewal projects. Add the years of chemicals from three nurseries (D’Agostino, Flower Time and Frank’s) and a heating oil tank leak, and god knows what else (paging Jimmy Hoffa), and it’s no wonder The Paul kept the deal a secret! We imagine his whispering to the Board when they finally got wind that the public knew this, “Shhh, nobody has to know...”

Only a few short months ago and one week shy of the opposition filing date, the Parkway Homes neighborhood got the shock of their lives when The Paul announced, “Oops, I forgot to tell you, the state is purchasing property at 88 North Road to build a three-story, ADA compliant group home on a small residential plot of land.” Paperwork foiled from the Town shows The Paul received the notification of intent to purchase and build communication from the State in December of 2012! ABG believes The Paul must have then promised to spot-zone and approve whatever the group home needed through the entire process. He’s done this repeatedly throughout the Town. One would believe all the Board members knew about this. 

The Paul is no stranger to low/no income, Section 8, and other types of housing facilities in only one section of Town but his own and willing to trample the rights of any neighborhood in Fairview to build it. County Legislator Alfreda Williams said it best when she accused The Paul of “ghetto-izing Fairview”. The sad part is one week before the objection period was about to expire and the residents found out about it, they packed the Town Hall with standing room only to object! The Paul was being proven wrong again. The Parkway Homes officer and representative who should have told his neighborhood about this, didn’t. Why wouldn’t Town Councilman Ken Jones, blessed for the office by The Paul, remain silent against his own friends and neighbors going along with his fellow Board members? Again, we think you know why.

Jones screwed up by withholding the group home information from his neighbors and needed to save face. The Board members postured at a Tuesday work session about the facility being built where it was proposed, the neighborhood’s complaints about saturations of group homes, the arrogance of the states representative’s position that the state never loses and so on. Jones was on the hot seat as we’re sure the Parkway Homes neighbors let him know how displeased they were with his lack of representation. We imagine his response as, “B-but you don’t understand. The Paul told me not to say anything. There was nothing I could do.” Wrong! Jones is a representative of the people of Greenburgh, and should act as such. It’s his primary responsibility as an elected councilman. He failed them. So, at the end of the discussion, he made a motion to submit a letter of opposition to the group home on the grounds that it violated the Towns 2,000 foot encroachment law. Having allies to jump on the bandwagon with, Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan practically groveled on how he was in favor of group homes but it violated the encroachment law residents had pointed out. Undaunted by this Greenburgh encroachment law, The Paul stated he was in favor a group homes and he used to live across the street from one. Of course what he didn’t mention is how he’s insulated against group homes in his gated Boulder Ridge community. Jones explained he’s making the motion to object to the state building the home based on existing Greenburgh law, not because he’s against group homes. Unfazed, The Paul rambled on for a few more minutes as to why he was in favor of group homes continuing to miss the point of the objection motion. Simply, the objection is being issued based on this group home’s violation of a well established Town law. In a true act of defiance (preordained?), the Board voted against The Paul’s one vote authorizing a letter be submitted to the state opposing the group home. We’re still waiting to see how this plays out, but since Mr. Open Government rarely tells anyone when controversial projects are happening, our guess is we’ll be told as the Town Board members are on their way with The Paul for the ribbon cutting ceremony opening the new group home at 88 North Road. Maybe the state will see the error of their ways and build in the gated Boulder Ridge. We can only hope.

*The Paul, Rob Astorino, Michael Smith, Ned McCormack

** ABG believes GameOn 365 will be awarded the sale by The Paul & his Board, stating they believe this is the only fair thing to do as GameOn 365 was the only interested party from the beginning. A bogus argument, but then again The Paul has rarely made good ones.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Taking Away The Welcome Mat

Greenburgh has had the same leadership for twenty-two (22) years. Greenburgh has also been suffering with stale thinking and convoluted actions which negatively affect the well being of our Town. We have seen lawsuits each year against the Town due to The Paul’s illegal and unethical exploits. The Fortress Bible guilty decision against The Paul, Councilwoman Diana Juettner and of course the Town itself, comes to mind as one of the immediate examples. Also coming to mind is the willful sabotage of the 108 housing units at the former WestHelp facility, isolated on the Westchester Community College Campus and built many years ago through the efforts of now-Governor Cuomo, the NAACP and many others who recognized a need in the area. Then there’s the former Frank’s Nursery at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road to the tune of what could be $3.5M to the Town now that an illegal lease for said property has been eliminated through the threat of yet another lawsuit. These are just a fragment of examples from within the last year or two. Could the same flawed thinking of the Town administration be permeating outward?

Now it seems Scarsdale, of all places known for their traditionally deep pockets, is in desperate need of money! Al Gatta, their Village Administrator is claiming they are looking to increase parking fees into the night time hours to raise revenues and be more in line with what other communities do. Interestingly, no other Villages within the Town enforces metered parking after 6PM. The only places we see this happening is in the cities. Scarsdale may realize about $15k from the 455 metered parking spaces before paying the parking enforcement officer(s) by one estimation. Is it even enough money to offset the effort and the impact on their business community? According to local retail experts with businesses in the majority of the metered parking area, it is not!

ABG has written before about the negative affects increasing the cost of metered parking throughout the Town by The Paul and others would have on our businesses. We believe his is simply another effort to offset fines and bad decisions incurred toward Greenburgh by The Paul and the Town Board. Coupled with losses of guaranteed money for the Town by his refusal to renew the WestHelp lease for $1.2M per year, the Fortress Bible Guilty verdict that will cost us upwards of $8M, the Water Department fiasco for about $4M, Frank’s Nursery for $3.5, the Library heating and air conditioning system, Dromore Road and well, you get the idea. Unfortunately for Town residents, The Paul’s business acumen is limited to models used by insurance companies: make us spend thousands to get back hundreds! Beyond The Paul’s lack of business experience in the free enterprise system, is his Board, equally as lacking. Their anti-business maneuvers antagonistically have a negative, rippling effect throughout the Greenburgh business community – unless you’ve chosen to donate to one of the free publicity events/scams he repeatedly offers.

Most communities raise their parking rates by either overtly escalating the rates or by lessening the time allotted. The latter effectively raises the rates by the need to pump more money into a meter initially or repeatedly returning to feed the meter. Adding insult to injury, many areas have a one-hour limit in the same parking space, forcing drivers to move their car from the coveted space they have found. It does keep business owners and employees from monopolizing the limited street spaces. Examples that come to mind when feeding a meter is not convenient would be when one is waiting their turn in a barbershop or salon for a haircut, grocery shopping, or having a meal in a restaurant.

One colleague shopping for a big screen television recently ventured to downtown Scarsdale, visiting Value Electronics, formerly on Garth Road (metered, limited parking) and now located in the heart of Scarsdale’s “downtown” (also metered, a bit more parking). After a brief introduction and explanation that they had numerous questions about big screen televisions and sound systems, the owner asked where they parked? He suggested they keep track of the meter expiration time as the Village parking enforcement officer was diligent about ticketing expired meters. They spent almost two hours with him and one of them left twice to feed the meter. Even though parking enforcement is important for the community, ABG is skeptical as to how this presents the village to potential patrons? This promotes a negative business climate for those businesses that have decided to locate there. It may eventually influence their decision to leave.

Another example of a unintended hardship will manifest itself during the summer months – specifically in the heart of Scarsdale’s business community at Chase Park. Every year the volunteer members of the Westchester Band offer the public free Concerts In The Park by performers young and old. The crowd averages about 150 listeners who enthusiastically enjoys these shows under the direction of Maestro Alan Hollander. Each concert is usually about two hours long. The audience members are comprised of a wide range of ages and physical conditions. Many of the seniors who attend, show up early, find a seat after navigating the uneven landscape of the small park and don’t move from their location until the show concludes. Will this new increase force the audience members to continually race to feed the meter before the parking enforcement officer arrives with their “gift”? And what of the performers who must also park on the streets? Will Hollander be forced to choose songs that don’t require certain instruments, allowing those musicians not playing to run off to feed their meters? There’s an estimated $3K for the village coffers in this two hour period of time. Is the ill will worth it?

In the end, Towns and Villages need to be more communicative and cooperative with their business partners. The Town and the Village are a sum of its parts. For most government officials, business is an abstract concept. They see their ever expanding budgets increasingly difficult to manage because most lack real budget knowledge and expertise. They routinely do what’s been done before thinking it must be the only way. So when it becomes time to do something different, they’re stymied. Their knee-jerk reaction is simply to charge more for something they cannot comprehend or is beyond their insulated world. It’s been stressed by many that this simple act of extending parking fees into the night, to whatever time is determined, will negatively impact businesses and restaurants that remain open into the evening hours.

The major ammunition a retail or service operation can do to increase revenue is to be open. If customers are afraid to venture to them, owing to increase fees and a higher likelihood of being ticketed, they will go someplace else to shop or dine and abandoned their own community resources. The business owners have spoken. It’s time for their representatives to listen to these experts! This would be one more punishment against the life of the business community, it’s residents and take away the welcome mat to shop locally. Do we really want to hurt our struggling business community during this already tenuous economy for a possible $15K? ABG believes small business is truly the engine of our communities. Do our politicians? And if so, how will they prove it? Politicians are becoming more and more of a burden to our economic survival and it must end before our downtown areas resemble the depressed upstate New York region. The Town and the Villages must do the right thing for our business partners. We can only hope.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A 225th Historical Supervisor Past

As most Greenburgh residents deal with their daily lives in a Town with questionable leadership, games and wastes of time and money abound. Case in point? Thursday night found our Town Board and The Paul dressed in period costumes as they greeted and mingled with visitors to reenact a Town Board meeting in celebration of the Town’s 225th Anniversary. Many of the visitors were politicians seeking favor with The Paul, probably by humoring his latest merriment and hoping for some press exposure. They recognize that he is one of the favored politicos in the Westchester media and can go far by rubbing elbows with him. Not sure? Just pick up any daily or weekly newspaper and you’ll find his press releases published verbatim. Pick up a copy of the Journal News and you’ll find their frontman, Phil Reisman and the editorial board verbally tripping all over themselves to put The Paul in a positive light – no matter the guilty verdict rendered or law that was broken! And now we have Astorino’s own Republican shill Matt Richter (formerly of the Journal News), following instructions by continuing to do the same in the social media outlets.

The evening of fun and games at the Town Hall was abruptly suspended when someone began shouting, “Here ye, here ye, the Town Board meeting is about to begin. Please take a seat inside.” The crowd filed into the main hall and the Board went to their usual seats at the dais. Trying to retain a “feel” for the period while making light-hearted comments, the reverie continued as the meeting was called to order. Several non-period inaccuracies also took place with several “players” who would not have been part of the Board back then. But we’re all having fun so we can ignore those facts. Supervisor Present certainly knows how to ignore facts! The issue at hand was Supervisor Past was tasked with finding a missing goat - said to be a common occurrence back then. Finally, there’s something our Supervisor Present might be able to do without costing the taxpayers money, incurring a lawsuit or relinquishing property endorsing some personal cause. At least this meeting started on time, without the poetry readings, musical performances, proclamations to the then non-existant Cub, Girl and Boy Scout troop members, slide shows, videos, student movies and the like.

At what cost to the taxpayers was all this frivolity taking place? There were a number of Town employees “working” the event. We don’t know if they were mandated to participate (and forced to accept overtime dollars), or if participation was voluntary? It certainly costs money to keep Town Hall open even though it may have been kept open anyway for other meetings. How much did that cost? Several vendors provided “free” refreshments – ABG always wonders what the real cost might be when vendors are solicited to help The Paul? How were these costumes paid for and by whom? Finally, as the token event of the evening was for Supervisor Past to find a missing goat, a representative from the Greenburgh Nature Center trotted in Linden, the resident actor goat of the Center, and walked him up to the center of the dais. Supervisor Past saw the goat and delivered a result to a resident without the fanfare Supervisor Present would embody.

Another fun time had by all. This meeting had no certiorari adjustments, lawsuit payouts, spot-zoning, developer gifts, or new “fees” initiated. Supervisor Future risks offering more silly and costly media events for more feel-good publicity that makes everyone around him want to burst into singing Kumbayah. Having the Journal News complicit by ignoring the illegal actions of The Paul is disingenuous and does it’s readership a disservice. It also explains their slow demise while other newspapers flourish (i.e., assorted Westchester weeklies, Wall Street Journal, NY Newsday, NY Post). The Paul’s actions with so many questionable projects throughout the Town, his mismanagement of Town affairs, his pandering to extremists and injection into projects that do not concern the Town prove one thing. No matter whether we have Supervisor Past, Present or Future, it’s time for him to go. We can only hope.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Urban, Suburban, Exurban

Thomas Madden, our Town Planning Commissioner/Commissioner of Community Development, and Chief Bottle-Washer for Anything Planning, was recently interviewed about Greenburgh’s participation in a mid-Hudson sustainability planning consortium made up of Greenburgh and Orange County. Yes, that’s right, Orange County. It seems like another scheme that he, along with The Paul, will be participating in to be able to say the Town is concerned about sustainability.

This move reminds ABG of when the Town investigated combining the Town’s Police Department with the Dobbs Ferry Police Department. It makes no sense to combine these two departments. The only reason it had been done was because there was funding money made available for this specific study. A more realistic study for a combination of police departments would be of the Hudson River towns into one department, or all of the Village police departments joining the Greenburgh Police Department. Regardless of the best departmental combination plans, these obscure studies are thought to be “free” because it’s either state or federal grant money. And who pays the state and federal taxes that fund these wastes of time?

Madden said that, “The diverse geography and topography made it a unique model for sustainability studies. It has urban, suburban and exurban areas, open space, agriculture, mountains, river valleys and coastal regions.” For those of you who don’t what ‘exurban’ is, two definitions explain it as “A region lying beyond the suburbs of a city, especially one inhabited principally by wealthy people,” or “A region or settlement that lies outside a city and usually beyond its suburbs and that often is inhabited chiefly by well-to-do families.”

ABG wonders if the city Madden would be referencing could be White Plains or Yonkers for suburbs beyond the city? But what of the rest of Madden’s definition? Greenburgh is not an urban town or region, in spite of his and The Paul’s best efforts to overdevelop every square inch of it and turn it into an urban area. We no longer have agriculture in the Town as a “sustainable” business model. Open space in Greenburgh has become a thing of the past. As for the well-to-do-families, would he be referring to the people in the Villages or in other areas such as Boulder Ridge?

Yes, there are mountains, river valleys and “coastal” regions (Hudson?). Unfortunately, The Paul has relinquished most of this formerly open space to developers who routinely request spot-zoning changes, which he and his Board routinely grant, and then move forward by building oversized developments where they shouldn’t be. The Brightview Assisted Living Center in Glenville is another glaring example in this long list of abuses! There is also severe flooding throughout areas in Greenburgh that had never experienced any water problems until The Paul’s wholesale overdevelopment of Unincorporated Greenburgh took place.

The Town Board has made sure that there are regulations and fees for just about every little thing any business might want to do, discouraging business growth or even inception in our Town. Now Madden is endorsing a plan of proactive environmental initiatives promoted in the region, saying, “ No population should be disproportionately burdened by impacts of pollution.” Translation? He and The Paul will be looking for ways to fine businesses under the guise of environmental correctness whenever and wherever they can. This is nothing more than a smokescreen to try to raise more money in the Town instead of correcting the problems The Paul has created for taxpayers.

This Sustainability Consortium, created by Thomas Madden with his friend from Orange County, also touched superficially on how “climate change” has contributed to rising flood plains. Flood levels predicted for 2050 are happening now. Local governments would use zoning laws to prevent residential and commercial construction near flood prone areas and require that building be done at higher ground levels. Storm water runoff can be alleviated by efforts to propagate more permeable surfaces where it accumulates. Translation? Nothing will be done in Greenburgh under The Paul’s administration! The Town has stalled every effort to move forward with a Comprehensive Plan, which would fix current zoning in place and stop The Paul from his routine spot-zoning changes developers have come to rely upon. Most of the flooding has been created by The Paul and his Board’s disregard for the current zoning and the reasoning behind it, their lack of infrastructure maintenance and improvements, and The Paul and his Board’s unyielding and blatant disregard to the communities and taxpayers they are supposed to serve.

The Sustainability Consortium that Madden has created by utilizing $865,000 acquired from power companies’ cap and trade fund is nothing more than a spending spree to favored vendors. $780,000 of the $865,000 went to Ecology and Environment, Incorporated, headquartered in Lancaster, NY, to create this sustainability study and consortium. That left about $85k for the Consortium to utilize for environmental purposes. It’s enough money for Madden to get more pet projects that secure his planning position and get his consortium off the ground. Then he’ll need to have more government funds allocated to keep it “sustainable”. Pun intended. He and The Paul will use this consortium to pander to a few and validate changes they wish to control throughout the Town as the Comprhensive Plan makes their spot-zoning increasingly difficult. We don’t need our planning department going after The Paul-like slights-of-hand. There’s been enough Three-Card-Monty’s played by The Paul and his Board. This consortium must be stopped before the residents and businesses are required to pay for it after the funding ends. We can only hope.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Still No Comment on 715 Dobbs Ferry Road

Wednesday night’s Town Board meeting was met with the usual questions and the typical non-answers from the Board and The Paul. Numerous residents queried the Board when they had their turn at the podium as to what was being done with the former Frank’s Nursery property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road (as well as other issues). Each speaker specifically suggested the property be advertised with a Request For Proposal (RFP) and not limit the property to only two choices, either House of Sports or GameOn 365. But The Paul stated he wants (not that the public’s opinion matters) to keep it as a recreational use. Francis “Back Pocket” Sheehan said he didn’t want to necessary go with the highest bid. This is the Board’s “tell” that the property will go to GameOn 365!

For some unknown reason, The Paul stated the Board would make their decision in March, after doing their “due diligence”. One speaker actually said the last time he heard this was discussing 
with The Paul and several Board members the proposed Westhab project that no one in the neighborhood wanted and the Town’s Zoning Board voted against. The Paul said the same thing back then and that no decision had been made and they were doing their “due diligence”. Surprisingly(?), The Paul and his Stepford Board approved the project, became the lead agency and voted every proposal Westhab made through the system faster than ever before seen. ABG believes this “due diligence” is simply another of The Paul’s classic stall tactic. In March they will turn around and say they are ignoring the larger financial amount the Town could receive to hand over the property to GameOn 365. This is about the only real transparency in this administration’s government.

The Town certainly has the right to sell the property to anyone it choses because this property was acquired through foreclosure. GameOn 365 apparently has never had the funds nor currently has the funds to develop their proposal into anything substantial. On the other hand, House of Sports does. Regardless, The Paul did backflips trying to get GameOn 365 to be the (illegal) leasee of choice. A lawsuit filed against the Town to stop the illegal lease has now been met by a counter-lawsuit. It’s seems now GameOn 365’s principals are down to, “Nah, nah, na-nah nah!”

House of Sports, in Ardsley, has recently opened an indoor sports facility that already has about 1,000 members. They have offered $3.5 million for the property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road. The only thing House of Sports has requested would be a change for the zoning from residential to a commercial one. Since the property is currently zoned only for single family homes, and it’s highly unlikely The Paul and his Board will put the property up for an RFP and hand the property over to GameOn 365, it’s likely we’ll never see housing at this location.

Currently, without an RFP, there are only two competing offers for the property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road. What the speakers at this meeting continued to drive home was that there might be more we can do with this property if only the Town would expand the scope from two recreational companies to include other types of businesses. Actually, wouldn’t this be an ideal spot to locate the Ferncliff School? It’s the same amount of acreage The Paul has been illegally trying to give Ferncliff with the WestHelp property on the Westchester Community College campus. It’s an even flatter piece of land, which they claim is an important requirement for them. 

The Town owns the property and The Paul is no stranger to cranking the approval process right on through every back door known only to developers. Why won’t The Paul direct the Ferncliff School to 715 Dobbs Ferry Road if he is so interested in helping them? Because this is just another of The Paul’s misdirection scams. Ultimately The Paul won’t get any Valhalla votes if he doesn’t help the Mayfair neighborhood remove the low income housing they vehemently fought to keep out years ago!

Every time a resident asked The Paul what he was going to do with the property, The Paul hemmed and hawed and didn’t answer. Nor did his Board. This tells ABG that he still prefers to do a flawed deal with GameOn 365, and is willing to discard the higher offer from House of Sports. The Town has a fiscal responsibility to the Town residents to garner the most money for this property to pay down the back taxes, gain a profitable sale for the property and start generating tax revenue as quickly as possible. Our “go-along” Town Board and The Paul, whose seemingly only interest are padding their developer friend’s pockets, are clearly not looking out for the best interest the residents. This is a clear-cut issue that requires little thought or justification. Either The Paul and his Board should put the property up for an RFP or accept the highest amount of money for the sale of this property and do the right thing by the residents. We can only hope.