Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

ABG would like to wish our readers a healthy and
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Hanukkah!

ABG wishes our readers a healthy and Happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Opaque Transparency

The Merriam-Webster definition of transparency is shown below. We purposely decided to show it rather than type it out so as to, ahem, be transparent.

A screen capture of the definition of the word, transparent, from
the Merriam-Webster digital dictionary.

























Staffers at ABG thought the most accurate definition was #2a: free from pretense or deceit :frank. As in the nursery? Seriously though, free from pretense or deceit accurately sums up the machinations taxpayers have been punished with as Mr Feiner seeks a way to steer the multi-contaminate property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road to his chosen beneficiary GameOn 365.

Mr Feiner routinely espouses transparency whenever the topic is broached, usually at a Town Board or similar meeting. His online “go-to” guy is Councilman Francis Sheehan. You’ll recall during Mr Feiner’s preliminary attempt to remove his then-opponent for Town Supervisor Democratic Primary candidate Bob Bernstein, he threw Mr Sheehan under the proverbial bus. Mr Feiner alleged Mr Sheehan’s listed home address on the ballot signature petitions was a lie. Mr Feiner went forward with this accusation knowing that Mr Sheehan and his family had moved into a temporary residence while his home was being remodeled to make it handicapped accessible for his aging mother, who has since passed away. While its unfortunate that Mr Feiner engages in such unscrupulous behavior, this time his wrath fell upon Mr Sheehan. Mr Sheehan’s more recent actions and conversations have caused speculation by some that he might be positioning himself to run for Supervisor against Mr Feiner in the next election. Although at last night’s Town Board meeting he reverted back to saving Mr Feiner from himself as he spoke. The answer might become apparent if Mr Sheehan gets “Sonya’d” by Mr Feiner.

The previous Town Board meeting found several topics discussed by the G10 and others. Mr Feiner and crew also let everyone know that he postponed the Frank’s Nursery “auction” from the previously posted date of December 3, 2013 until some time in 2014. He declined requests to specify a date or explanation as to why he has delayed this again. Ah, transparency. He subsequently mentioned that two other parties have expressed interest in possibly purchasing the property for more than the Town-stipulated minimum bid of $3.5 million. This means he is in communication with others, possibly affecting the outcome of any sale. But what of Mr Feiner’s goal to create a recreational zoning category to ensure limited bid participation for 715 Dobbs Ferry Road? He needs a way to ensure delivery of the property to GameOn 365 and this would certainly keep the amount of participants to a minimum. Ah, transparency.

Residents and taxpayers have said if this property’s sale were properly advertised and marketed we might get more than the paltry $1.7 million (with the Town “carrying” $1.3 million spread out over 13 years at a rate of 2.6%) from Feiner-annointed developer GameOn 365. Ardsley’s House of Sports upped the ante by offering $3.5 million dollars for the property, thwarting Mr Feiner’s easy gifting of the property to GameOn 365. In fact, numerous FOILed emails between Martin Hewitt, a principal for GameOn 365, and Mr Feiner, found them agreeing to cease sending emails and only have verbal contact to avoid having their communications FOILed by outside parties! They agreed to that strategy. Ah, transparency.

One concern highlighted by several residents was that they repeatedly asked for a Request For Proposal (RPF) for the property after Mr Feiner attempted to illegally enter into a lease with GameOn 365 for the 715 Dobbs Ferry Road property. Why an illegal lease you might wonder? Any law Mr Feiner doesn’t like is simply ignored under the old adage to beg forgiveness rather than seek approval. Under Westchester County and New York State law, any property acquired by a municipality must either be developed for the municipality’s use, such as a park, office or other facility (police station and library being the most obvious). If that is not done, the municipality is required to sell it. Mr Feiner’s excuse for the lease was so the Town could keep the property and fifteen years from now be able to “take it back” when it is worth more and do what they will with it. That’s simply not legal to do. We often heard, “If you don’t like what I’m doing, sue me!” from Mr Feiner. So, once again, several neighborhood organizations sued Mr Feiner to stop another illegal action by him. Days before scheduled to go to court Mr Feiner, realizing he would be losing yet another lawsuit, dropped the lease scheme.

Needing to deflect attention away from his illegal actions, he made an announcement that he would put the property up for a referendum and let the voters decide what should be done with the property. Knowing the predictability of Greenburgh voters, he worded the referendum in such a way that would almost guarantee passage. He was right, it did pass. He followed up with a non-stop barrage of hallelujahs that the voters had spoken. What he always purposely avoided saying (as in the truth) was that only the minuscule portion of voters who voted in this election favored the referendum. Disingenuous? Sure, but it took the focus away from Mr Feiner’s illegal lease deal with GameOn 365! Ah, transparency.

So now there is a new sign on the property that says the property is For Sale. No other information is posted, such as whom to contact if one is interested in purchasing the property. The sale has been purported by Mr Feiner to be sold “as is”, referring to the known multiple contaminations on the property from a heating oil spill, carcinogens from being used as a dump for the White Plains Urban Renewal, herbicides, pesticides and whatever else. The fill was placed near the rear of the property, where the property historically floods. Concerns have repeatedly been made about water runoff and the spread of contaminates and carcinogens. Town Attorney Tim Lewis, the “unofficial expert” repetitively informed concerned citizen taxpayers that the contamination was not that bad without conveying specifics. Ah, transparency.

A forthcoming surprise announcement of the sale of the property by Mr Feiner should be entertaining if nothing else. Many have bandied about different ideas and directions the Town might take to make the favored GameOn 365 sale happen. Mr Feiner has often displayed his own brand of shrewdness and misdirection to get what he wants and is probably working on a new plan without input from the Town Board to ensure GameOn 365 success. Unfortunately, this is what we have often come to receive from Mr Feiner.

We’re hopeful, but not confident, that the Town Board will do the right thing and abandon the scheming to ensure only one purchaser for the property. Having an auction with sealed bids is not the spirit or intent of an auction, although legal. Postponing the sale to have time to change the zoning is not the spirit or intent of doing the right thing for the taxpayers and the Town.

The Town Board and Mr Feiner have a fiduciary responsibility to get the largest amount of money for this property. Period. He should abandon these games - pun intended - to award GameOn 365 the property and figure out how to pay back the money he has continued to cost the taxpayers: $8M (Fortess Bible Church), $1.2M/yr (WestHelp), $21M (tax arrears), $3.5M (Frank’s Nursery property), $4M (water meters), 10% salary increases, the list goes on. Mr Feiner rarely respects what is right for the neighborhoods, ultimately degrading the quality of life in those neighborhoods. He should embrace honesty and tell the truth about why he is doing what he does and maybe we can start to see transparency in A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

3.44% Tax Increase Is Under the 2% Tax Cap!

Mr Feiner continually touts our AAA Bond rating and how the Town has stayed within the NYS 2% Tax Cap instituted by Presidential candidate, Governor Cuomo. And yet, the bond rating means little since no bonds have been issued beyond current amounts previously borrowed. Our infrastructure is crumbling throughout the Town, but not to worry, our bond rating is solid. One can almost hear Nero fiddle. 

In his latest rant Mr Feiner has complained that Moody’s downgraded Westchester County’s bond rating from AAA to AA1, after Westchester has maintained a AAA bond rating for years. He bemoaned the point that the same thing happened last year. While a downgrade has some significance, he raids our Town’s Fund Balance to balance the budget and pay operating expenses. This duping of the public with a pseudo 2% tax cap adherence is charlatan politics. His ultimate point, of course, was to trumpet Greenburgh’s AAA Bond rating regardless of how and why it remains in tact.

The 2% Tax Cap is not really a 2% cap, accentuated this year as Mr Feiner proposes increasing Town taxes by 3.4% for Unincorporated Greenburgh. In a parallel and shameful move, he has chosen to increase his, Ms Beville’s and the other elected officials salaries by 10%! Is a 10% salary increase across the “Board”, literally, staying under a 2% Tax Cap or another political example of parsing words and cronyism? We’d ask the Ethics Review Board for their opinion, but their word-craft makes Mr Feiner almost seem illiterate. These 10% raises will undoubtedly be approved, hoisting Mr. Feiner’s salary increase from $127,618 per year to more than $140,174. And, don’t forget the handsome $10k payback for not participating in the Town’s medical program by himself and others. 

We believe asking Town employees to pay into their medical coverage benefits is actually a good thing over the long term. Interestingly, Mr Feiner doesn’t abide by the same rules as other Town employees as he rides the gravy train on his wife’s fully paid, NYS medical benefits, ensuring collection of the $10k opt-out “bonus” he receives from the Town. It seems only yesterday that he used to return part of his salary if he didn’t fulfill a particular years’ promises. Perhaps the cost of living in Greenburgh has risen so much that he can no longer play those parlor games. Factor in the guilty verdicts from Fortress Bible Church, the loss of WestHelp rent, the non-sale of 715 Dobbs Ferry Road property, and his dismal job performance and its no wonder he’s gunshy to promise any return of money.

Town Clerk Judith Beville will also have a hefty salary increase from $73,686 to $80,936. And, the Town board members, who have the best part-time job in the Town, will also get 10% raises, allowing them to make more than some of our full-time employees! Whether they choose to opt-out of the medical insurance remains to be seen, but our other Town employees who are now forced to pay into their health plan, only want what’s fair to them. This administration’s blatant abuse of power, bastardization of the system, justified with lame excuses that they haven’t received a raise in years, is contemptible. Instead of milking the flawed system, they should seek to reform it, benefitting the taxpayers they profess to represent. Taxpayers may never gain control of the Town’s runaway spending and abuse unless they start to pay attention.

Increased expenditures throughout the budget will mostly be due to salary increases for our employees, commissioners and their assistants. One unnecessary example of waste is highlighted by Mr Madden, who bargained for his position to the Town as a “one-man-band” as the Planning Commissioner, and said he didn’t need other people to perform his position. Now, however, he and Mr Feiner are seeking to add a Deputy Planning Commissioner who would be paid a salary of $90,000 per year, which will more likely be closer to $130,000 with benefits, retirement costs and possibly a $10k opt-out medical “benny”. What they should do is create a Planning Executive position for an amount of about $30k to work with Mr Madden. It would allow room for growth, raises, contributions to their medical insurance, assistance for the Planning group, and parity to some of our other Town employees – all while giving Mr Madden the assistance he claims to need. In this economic climate, we’re sure the position will easily be satisfied. We can’t help but wonder if this position was already promised for a particular person (read: crony) and is the proverbial “done-deal”? As Mr Feiner creates new top-tier positions such as this and annually raids our reserve funds to balance his over/under tax-cap budget, this year’s tax increase should more accurately be estimated at 10 to 12%! The reserve fund exists because taxpayers have been over-charged on taxes, thereby creating an excess fund. How about returning some of that to the taxpayers?

The proposed budget shows no income from the “gifting” Mr Feiner struggles with for his latest real estate beneficiary, GameOn 365. He’s been trying to find more and more creative ways for them to get the property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road (Frank’s Nursery). He has discussed leases, RFP’s, auctions, sealed bids, open bids, but still hasn’t figured out a way to “get one over” on the G10 or for that matter, House of Sports. Whatever his creativity to give the property to his favored GameOn 365, he keeps hitting wall after wall. The proposed budget doesn’t show any revenues from this property’s sale, or the small amount from the rental of the WestHelp property should the County approve the contrived lease deal with his unproven vendor of choice, MRH Group. You’ll recall the Town was given WestHelp’s rental facility from the County years ago, yet sits languishing because Mr Feiner has chosen to play politics with it for Valhalla votes. This not only costs the Town a minimum of $1.2 million per year, but more importantly keeps 100+ people in need of housing out of a place to live.

Playing games with numbers, playing games with taxpayer money and playing games with taxpayer properties seems to be the burgeoning legacy of the Feiner administration. Gone is the “open government” once championed by a young politician who has morphed into a grizzled and seasoned politician, now adept at how to trump the system for his own benefit. We would love to be surprised by our Town Board as they announce at the budget hearings that they will all refuse the raise and keep their already generous salaries at current levels. We’ll also sit by the window to check to see if any pigs fly by. 

Gone is the honesty of balancing a budget through thrift, constrained or reasonable spending and moderate tax increases. Gone is the hope of a “no tax increase” budget in this Town. Gone is the ability for our seniors to stay in their homes, having supported the Town for 30, 40, 50 or more years. Gone is a Town that welcomes young people who seek to live in a suburban atmosphere as developer’s requests are routinely granted to build larger and larger projects, marginalizing their greatest investments. Gone is a Town where less affluent neighborhoods are helped and even treated with respect. The only thing not gone is our Town’s failed administration and the rut we find ourselves getting deeper into. Until residents start paying attention and thinking differently, we may never see A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

New Police Chief Sworn In

Greenburgh Police Captain Chris McNerney was sworn in as the Police Department's new chief prior to the start of the Wednesday evening Town Board Meeting. He will be replacing current Police Chief Joseph DeCarlo, who will retire at the end of November.

Captain McNerney, is the Commanding Officer of the Detective Division of the Greenburgh Police Department. He was sworn in by Judge Les Adler, a former Town Councilman (pictured below).



“We thank the Chief DeCarlo for his dedication, hard work and professionalism,” Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said, “Crime, under his watch, has been at historic low levels.”

McNerney was joined by his family and about 50 friends and fellow officers for the brief ceremony.

Chief DeCarlo briefly addressed the crowd before the swearing in ceremony.



Once seated, Mr Feiner asked if he would continue to attend the Town Board meetings. The Chief quipped back, “Remove me from the email list!”

ABG thanks Chief DeCarlo for a job well-done and wishes incoming Chief McNerney well in his new position.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Under the Guise of Revitalization


When the politically powerful and not the competitive marketplace, determine winners and losers in the Town’s business decisions, taxpayers take on all of the risk and crony companies extract the profits. The cycle of political profiteering was established once our politicians began to exchange public money in return for campaign contributions. This method of using the government to find a profit has become a trademark in our Town. Having an open door policy for developers, our Supervisor responds favorably to developers and law firms representing them while discarding the wants and needs of his constituents. 

Under the guise of some type of revitalization, their methods promise local governments that its development projects will generate desperately needed jobs, housing, economic development, and tax revenues. Utilizing well-funded public relations campaign teams, politically-connected and well-paid lobbyists, and campaign contributions to local politicians, they acquire subsidies, tax breaks, and property through eminent domain. However, they’ve received public financial support, renegotiations are the first order of business once they’re “in”, with implementation delays for the promised benefits quickly superseding the original promises. In short, they lobby, profit, and then bilk the taxpayers by breaching its public promise to the community and simply smile to our officials once again.

There are companies doing business in our Town that most taxpayers have likely never heard of, even though they, the public taxpayer, finance much of their revenue. Their business model is dependent upon political profiteering, relying on public money and government influence to reap millions in profit. Oft times operating as a Not-for-Profit organization to elicit a favorable context of helping the less fortunate, they thrive with highly paid personnel, lobbyists, back-room meetings and handshakes, cultivating political connections via campaign contributions, and even strategic hiring of local officials. The results? They obtain lavish public money, tax-exempt financing and seize desired private land from eminent domain, condemnations, spot-zoning and the like.

Contributing to the morass that escapes the average taxpayer, are the deal-making meetings, dinners, “winks and nods” and assurances that the public will never learn of, or find out about: the predestined outcome. In meetings unseen by the public, key personnel make directional and developmental decisions for an unsuspecting populace. The revamping of the Rt 119 corridor in the Unincorporated Town is a classic example of this change, as is Westhab’s latest future slum in Fulton Park. Under the guise of revitalization, Mr Feiner has sought the participatory nod of Town Planning Commissioner Thomas Madden to develop every parcel of land currently undeveloped. When broaching the topic of a building moratorium or a plan from the Comprehensive Steering Committee to better assess the increase in impervious space, Mr Feiner’s boilerplate response is a mere flick of his hand, similar to brushing an inconvenient piece of lint from a shirt, condescendingly brushing away those pesky taxpayers looking out for their best interest. What is his?

Collecting and assimilating data, utilizing news reports, studying specific cases, Town departments, and well-crafted press releases is not enough to expose the collusion in our Town – a hallmark of the Feiner administration. Controlled data can sometimes be found on our Town’s website although the average person’s detective abilities may often fail them as they seek answers. Without better transparency from our local government on the funding deals, it will remain difficult if not impossible to figure out how much public money developers are getting for their projects. Mr Feiner knows this and thrives on it. Financial benefits, such as full value, tax-exempt bonds, prime real estate giveaways, spot-zoning and the like, ensure continued revenue producing developments in his desperate hope of staving off million dollar guilty verdicts, acquiring new voters from the uninitiated, questionable campaign contributions and well, the list is almost endless.

Residents within the Town’s villages elect a mayor and village board to represent them and seemingly protect them from the Town’s overreaching wallet gorging. Unincorporated Greenburgh should have this same protection with our supervisor and town board but sadly, do not. The old joke about “kiss me first” comes to mind as the G10 publicly go against the town overlords twice a month. What we do have is a developer driven golden gate with Mr Feiner working the tollbooth! Accessing campaign contributions is said to be as transparent as Mr Feiner’s government and yet unarmed with specific information, even the Federal Election Campaign’s obscurity and subsequent searchable information will cloud legitimate efforts to uncover information. Between late filings, fines, political action committees, etc., searching money trails would challenge the seasoned tracker. How can the taxpaying public stay ahead?

Political diversity, term limits and vibrant citizen scrutiny are just three methods we can utilize. In a study spanning from 2002 through 2012, one organization we learned about spent $23 million on lobbying and campaign contributions, which returned $2.6 billion in subsidies and $533 million in net profits. A good return unfortunately proving its worth. Private real estate development shouldn’t be driven by political connections that are systematically purchased with campaign contributions. Yet, they are, bastardizing and compromising an already broken system. Taxpayer money shouldn’t replace the role of the market in ensuring what’s best for consumers, nor should it be used to line the pockets of real estate executives, developers and their law firms. Combined there are few public benefits on the amount of subsidies they receive.

If the Town is to improve, we need to rid the well-cultivated campaign system Mr Feiner has built of patronizing willfully ignorant voters. If a candidate can run unopposed garnering 10,000 votes, how can we ever expect to inject new ideas and better execution of more diverse programs into our Town? These same 10,000 voters, whom we believe executed their right to vote, need to become more learned as to Mr Feiner’s, his Town Board’s and our Town’s crafty manipulations of a broken system. Only then will they see the duplicity, lies, and back-room deals our stalwart G10 have come to decry bimonthly.

Term limits would be a long overdue benefit for the costly and sometimes extreme mismanagement of our Town. Arguments pro and con regarding term limits are futile. Yes, we will lose some good politicians when they are term limited out of office. Yet the system would also ensure bad politicians be shown the door before they can wreak too much havoc on the beauty of our Town and its finances. Our house of cards is wobbling and soon to collapse. What then? Will we return to our traditional yearly double-digit tax increases?

Variety beyond single party rule, regardless of which party it may be, would also contribute to a healthier decision making process and an infusion of fresh ideas beyond the fungus producing decisions to which we have been subjected. Tax increases every year, disguised as being within an arbitrary tax-cap that ultimately is not being adhered to through verbal chicanery, are open proof of why a change is needed. It’s as if Mr Feiner believes as long as he can say he has stayed within the NYS 2% tax cap, all is well. It’s not.

Open government, and dare we say good government, should be the goal of every resident, Town employee and elected official. Only then will be rid of illegal GameOn 365-like back room deals. As Mr Feiner struggles to maintain his upper hand in gifting the property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road to his favored beneficiary, public diligence and a lawsuit crippled his blatant disregard for the law. But its not enough. It’s time to seek and deliver a major change to the Town Board, it’s decision-making policies and integrity. Only then will we start to see A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Rebuttal to: Ethics Anyone, or Foxes in the Henhouse?

ABG posted a story on November 3rd regarding a number of people we felt were in collusion with Mr Feiner seeking a pre-ordained outcome for a building expansion. Collusion seems to happen often in the Town and ABG finds ourselves writing about them quite often – more often than we would like. Regardless, ABG received a letter from Mr Nicholas DeCicco refuting much of what we had posted about his participation of what took place. He asked for an opportunity to set the record straight and after discussing the events with him, feel it is only fair to do so.

After discussing the entire issue with Mr DeCicco, we feel he has presented a compelling argument. While the past cannot be changed, we applaud Mr DeCicco’s efforts to help improve our Town and look forward to hearing from him in the future. Here are Mr DeCicco’s points in their entirety:

Thanks for your time and willingness to make some corrections and hopefully allow the facts to be presented in an accurate context.

Despite my best efforts to comply with every rule during my campaign in 2011, I missed something. Yes I was thrust into my first election with only 4 weeks left to go, BUT NO MATTER HOW ODD OR UNIQUE THE RULE WAS IT WAS STILL MY RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW IT. I took accountability and reimbursed the host of the dinner party in question. Allowing the situation to be represented as anything more than an honest oversight which I took responsibility for and fixed is all together unfair and inaccurate. I believe it is fair to point out that:

1) I was RECUSED from the Deli Delicious Zoning Board application several weeks BEFORE the “fund raiser” and vote, and thus had no ability to vote on or discuss it. The Ethics Board specifically found that I properly and immediately recused myself and abided by said recusal.

2) I had no prior relationship at all with anybody associated with the Deli and recused myself IMMEDIATELY upon a potential conflict arising. Once Mr. Pateman called me to propose the event I called Mr. Belasco* the very next day to tell him I was recused from the Deli case (Mr. Belasco sent an email to the Ethics Board verifying this).

3) I did not “resign” from the ZBA. While I was not consulted about moving to the Planning Board, there was no gap in service from my 6 years on the ZBA through my appointment onto the PB.
4) No “settlement” was negotiated with the Ethics Board. At the very first meeting I explained the situation, offered to reimburse the host, and asked the complainant to withdraw – he refused. After the second meeting, I submitted sworn statements attesting to all of the above and checks showing repayment – The complainant again refused to withdraw.

5) The EB dismissed numerous frivolous accusations.

6) At the complainant’s insistence the board was forced to issue a decision dismissing all but one violation (for which they imposed NO PENALTY) based upon an obscure rule which stated a board member could not accept a political contribution from an associate of a person who had an application before the Town within the past 12 months. Once confronted with this odd rule, my contention was that it was not intended to “get” somebody who properly recused beforehand (as I had done) but to “get” somebody who actually votes for an application and then several months down the road accepts such contribution. But the “look back” was there, without qualifiers, so apparently applicable.

7) Even a member of the Ethics Board stated this rule was unique to Greenburgh, and that my action of immediate and prior recusal would have been more than sufficient in any other municipality.

8) I did not say I was unaware Mr. Pateman had a professional relationship with the Deli – such awareness was the reason for my immediate recusal once the dinner was presented to me. I did not realize that attending such would still be prohibited even though I was previously recused from the matter. I fully believed I was in compliance because of my prior recusal and such belief was more than reasonable as Greenburgh's rule prohibiting such is unique (see #7).

9) I reimbursed the host on my own accord after only two meetings with the EB. This was exceptionally fast as in comparison “Cookie-Gate” took 3 years, and most other complaints typically take several months or years.

10) The Ethic’s Board imposed NO PENALTY, only asking me to verify the reimbursement checks were cashed and state I would not accept a future contribution to make-up for the reimbursement.

For proper context I think it is important to note the complainant was a financial contributor to, political district leader for, close friend to, political advisor to, and main proponent of my then opponent. Perhaps all that played a role here when the simple gesture of a phone call prior to filing the complaint could have resolved any issues without dragging our Town through the mud and hurting so many people.

If the integrity of the system and holding officials accountable was truly the purpose of this complaint, then when it was clear the integrity of the vote was upheld because of my prior recusal and nonexistent relationship with the Deli, that through my history, actions, and sworn statements my only intent was to be in compliance, that the rule in question was obscure, and I was nonetheless holding myself accountable by reimbursing the host – why be importunate for a written decision which will last in perpetuity? Why go for blood?

Perhaps the ulterior goal was to make me look bad and deter me from running in the future? Perhaps that’s why out-of-context information was continually posted on the complainant’s public community Facebook page, which never acknowledged my prior recusal or all the dismissed allegations, and my replies to relevant postings were always deleted but the complainant’s comments remained? Bottom line, if the Ethics Board didn’t believe I was being open and honest they could have issued far more serious repercussions than “verify the reimbursement checks are cashed.”

ABG - There are plenty of bad things going on in this Town and I FULLY support your efforts to call them out. If I ever step out of line intentionally I would expect to be called out too. If I ever do so inadvertently, I would hope to be given a chance to take accountability and fix the issue, and not be wrapped up in the same package as those who continually do wrong on purpose and try to get away with.

My integrity and desire to help our Town be a better place is always paramount and the filter through which all decisions are made.

Thanks,
Nick

* Steve Belasco was the Chair for the Zoning Board of Appeals and has since passed away.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Don’t Wait For Another 100-Year Storm

It’s been several days since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines. The level of destruction and the quantity of lost lives is devastating. Approximately 4 million people (and counting) were affected by the storm, the national disaster agency said. Compounding this disaster is the lack of resources in the general vicinity, blocked or reduced access, one airport with limited use, no water and no food. This will make any relief effort imperative and difficult. While authorities had evacuated approximately 800k people before the typhoon struck, it wasn’t enough. Death tolls continue to rise with numbers exceeding 10k. Many of the buildings used for shelter were not built to withstand extreme weather conditions and water surges and their failures added to the loss of lives.

We cannot compare the affects of Typhoon Haiyan to Greenburgh, although it generated a conversation with our staff about storm preparations and what hasn’t been done in the Town for us to be prepared for the next storm. There were several general observations that would be similar regardless of where an event took place. One is that the Police and Fire departments are reactive agencies. They cannot do much in advance preparation for individuals. They will pre-place traffic control “horses” in key locations that are known to flood in preparation of closing those roadways. They have a list of people with special needs and their locations and will attempt to ensure everyone’s well-being during an event, but frankly, they wind up being busy with much more. As all sorts of wires come down (charged or not), flooding begins, burglar and fire alarms get activated, trees get uprooted or come down, automotive accidents happen and so on, they’ll get busier and busier. Focusing on one person becomes increasingly difficult.

The Greenburgh Police Department has volunteer Auxiliary Police officers that will help out with manning certain locations to prevent pedestrians and motorists from entering unsafe areas, directing traffic, coordinating information and free up regular officers to respond to more serious requests for assistance. The Fire Department has volunteer Firefighters that will assist with firefighting activities, road and building closures and give the fire department an added boost in manpower while saving taxpayers overtime money. All of the Villages have volunteer fire departments. And, when any and all of these agencies respond, they will all be limited as to what they can do if electrical wires are involved.

The highway departments will ready themselves too. They will get their chain saws, assorted cutting equipment, vehicles and other tools ready to be deployed as required. The difficulty for them is that while they can assume they will be called out, they are also limited as to how much they can actually do if electrical wires are involved. In a post Hurricane Sandy meeting at Town Hall, our favorite campaigner held a meeting to openly complain about Con Ed’s “poor” response with the restoration of power. He felt it took longer than he thought it should, claiming the workers should have worked around the clock and through the night. ConEd officials we spoke with say they will allow workers to respond to emergency requests but that working at night/in the dark is just not safe and discouraged. Mr Feiner’s session was not constructive at all and turned into nothing more than a “bash ConEd” event. Mr Feiner also ensured no resistance and nothing productive come of the meeting by not inviting ConEd to participate.

Those assaulted by Hurricanes Irene and Sandy received a respite this year because of a relatively dry season. So as we approach 2014, we query what changes have our leaders implemented to reduce flooding and local devastation for the next storm? The Highway Department has repaved a number of roads, improving water drainage for normal amounts of rainfall. Flash flooding remains an issue. They’ve cleared many of the culverts, blockages and areas known to be problematic during storms. According to Highway Superintendent Victor Carosi, “We may not be able to make any improvements, but we can certainly make sure everything we do have is working properly.” These simple steps are what the routine maintenance from the Town and its leaders should be. But was has actually been done to prepare for next year’s 100-Year Storm? Frankly, nothing.

Mr Feiner began touring the Town and the damaged areas several days after receiving word it was safe to leave the comfort of his luxury home in the gated Boulder Ridge sanctuary in Hastings. He arrived just in time to Fulton Park as the News 12 mobile TV unit arrived. Neighborhood residents converged around him, demanding answers and help. He told one woman that FEMA would purchase flooded homes in the neighborhood. He also said that FEMA flood insurance would help those who were flooded. What he didn’t say is in order for FEMA to purchase their homes, the Town would need to take a number of critical steps first. He also didn’t discuss the $5k deductible that all FEMA flood policy owners would be socked with. One resident said the FEMA adjuster, from Alabama, offered $700 to replace his furnace because that’s what they go for in Alabama. In a follow-up phone call to that resident, the cost to replace the furnace was $7,000!

Mr Feiner next went to the perennial flood favorite, Babbitt Court. We understand that several higher ranking politicians such as Nita Lowey and Chuck Schumer arrived there to be rebuffed by flood-weary residents. Ever the camera gadfly, Mr Feiner began his repeat performance of pointing fingers at everyone else, insisting they do something to help their constituents. He didn’t say to help his constituents, but their constituents. Once the camera lights went out, so did Mr Feiner’s interest. Ironically, after being presented photos of collected debris and strainers in the Saw Mill River, Mr Feiner continued to say someone should do something. Someone did. Then Elmsford Village Trustee William Zimkin, organized a Saw Mill River cleanup just beyond the Elmsford Little League baseball fields on 9A and those involved removed multiple dumpsters filled with debris. Too little too late? Perhaps, but at least one Village Board acted locally to help their residents. The Bronx River blockages and strainers remain untouched and continue to get worse! Why isn’t Mr Feiner and his Town Board doing something while the weather is cooperative?

A concerted effort needs to be made by officials at all levels of government to start to address a number of issues plaguing our river communities and help reduce flooding. Our local representatives need to not only be the strongest voice for this, but not be afraid to lead from the front and commit resources to improve the situation within the Town’s boundaries. While much of this is simple and straightforward, it will be a significant investment. By not doing anything, the resultant costs in damage, property loss, roadways, and surrounding areas will continue to degrade and decline. We pray there will not be a loss of life that might have been able to be prevented had an effort actually been made.

First, our local representatives need to draft the request. Second, Mr Feiner should go to the Westchester County Legislature and County Executive and New York State’s representatives, tell these representatives what’s needed and ask for a serious and sincere pledge to act. Not just talk about it, but to act. We’ve had decades of talk – we need action. Third, they need to draft a plan that will address the congested debris and the need for dredging in both the Bronx and Saw Mill rivers. It needs to begin from about the Pleasantville region all the way down to the end of each respective river to where they feed into. Fourth, once everybody is onboard with the effort, we should approach the federal government for additional funding and resources. All stops should be pulled out to make this happen. It needs to start on Hillside Avenue. If they act, we may finally get A Better Greenburgh.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank A Veteran


On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory”. There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11am.

In 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. The Congress also requested that the president should “issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

A heartfelt, “Thank you!” to all our Veterans.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fast and Furious

A previous post discussed the interweaved collusion between our Town Supervisor, his Town Board, his various committees which he has appointed as his hand-picked favorites in order to further his agenda. The business owner of Deli Delicious, sought numerous variances and approvals to make major alterations to a business which has now been voluntarily closed for two years by its owner, Ernest Tartaglione. Now, he is back seeking more variances to attempt again to add a drive-through window in his small deli. We believe his goal is to “flip” the building, allowing the purchaser to have the drive-through window be grandfathered into the sale.

Two years ago, when Mr Tartaglione was refused his zoning variance requests from the Zoning Review Appeals Board, he quickly placed plywood over the windows and front doors and spray painted the word “Closed” on them. He continued to use the basement office after posting the illegal signage on the building without permits. The building department left him alone. But when a neighborhood homeowner temporarily closed in his garage door with a wall, the Town inspectors were there immediately issuing violations and taking him to court. Back then, Tartaglione claimed he was losing $4k a month by not having his requested drive-through window. While he might have been losing money and was willing to spend an estimated $100k to add this window, closing the business to make that point is like cutting your nose to spite your face.

His claim of hardship just didn’t ring true. He said his business was down tremendously. Meanwhile, other eateries in the immediate area were thriving! His decision to board up the business could only be interpreted as spiteful! A case in point for a successful eaterie is the new Smashburger directly across the street from his deli without a drive-through window. We’re reminded of the old saying, “Give the people what they want and they’ll beat a path to your door.” Perhaps Mr Tartaglione didn’t offer the public what they wanted and they’ve beaten a new, more tasty path, to another non-drive-through eaterie.

Moving beyond the collusion at 22 Tarrytown Road, is the desperate manipulations by our Supervisor with 715 Dobbs Ferry Road, the former Frank’s Nursery property and his desire to gift the land to his latest, favored beneficiary, GameOn 365. This property has been vacant since the Town acquired it through foreclosure in 2011. With no taxes generated from foreclosure as the property becomes tax exempt, the Town’s residential and business taxpayers are forced to cover the school and town taxes. The property altogether and indefinitely ceased to generate tax revenue for the Town.

It was eventually revealed the site was contaminated with chemicals, spilled heating oil and urban renewal debris from White Plains. All suggestions to use the property as a new location for our Police Department and Courts, as well as a temporary location for our library during its construction, were abandoned by those parties once the hidden contamination factor was exposed. Almost immediately afterwards, the property was simply ignored. Still, Mr Feiner never failed to find an opportunity to tout the Town’s AAA Bond Rating. Rather than remediate the site, properly market it, and sell it, the Problem Solver entered an unadvertised, private, covert deal with a startup company called GameOn 365.

The deal Mr Feiner made with GameOn 365 was to offer them an illegal lease for the property. As we’ve previously posted, Westchester County and New York State law states that foreclosed upon property must be sold by the municipality acquiring the property unless they choose to use it for Town use, such as a park, new Town facility, etc. But Mr Feiner chose not to go down Honesty Street and turned onto Corruptible Drive, once again in violation of the law. Having taken an oath to uphold the laws of the state of New York, he should be removed from office.

Once Mr Feiner’s illegal lease plan was exposed he switched gears and announced he would offer the property for sale to GameOn 360 for $1.66M. The neighborhood lawsuit challenging his illegal lease deal with GameOn 365, was screwing up his plans. Before he was due in court, he offered to hold a public referendum in what would be the then-upcoming elections and finally dropped the illegal lease idea, negating the lawsuit. His new scheme was to offer the public a referendum to see what they would want done with the property. This might have been a good and legal idea had the referendum been crafted properly and not slanted toward a predetermined outcome. But the wording was so biased to generate approval, it was quickly viewed by everyone as a farce.

Ever the shrewd politician, Mr Feiner knows that voters only pay attention to the headlines and not the real story. He also knows there is a core group of Democrats who will blindly vote for him and any of his propositions, giving any of his convoluted ideas “legs”. So he directly or indirectly had yard signs posted and probably suggested to the involved party to plant signs throughout the Town and place advertisements in area newspapers, stressing the need to promote the bogus fact that the Town would get $5M by passing the referendum. But wait! The “new” 1800’s-style voting system had an unintended flaw: the referendum was on the back of the voting sheets and were ignored by voters! Every the quick thinker, Mr Feiner did an email blast, Facebook post, blog post, phone calls and news releases to remind voters to flip the ballot over and vote for the referendum. His quick scrambling worked and the vote passed.

We suspect this saga unfolded with Mr Feiner learning behind closed doors that GameOn 365’s “offer” to purchase the property also had no “legs” as their finances were nil. Based solely on an offering by several stockbrokers seeking investors, the GameOn 365 corporation could not afford to purchase the property because they had no money. Mr Feiner needed another plan to stall long enough to allow GameOn 365 to get some cash for at least a down payment. But there was now another wrinkle. Not only had the G10 attempted to stop the deals Mr Feiner was trying finagle into being with logic and legal footings, but House of Sports, an already established sports facility based in Ardsley, doubled the amount of money offered for the property and would address the necessary remediation!

Many people in Greenburgh have learned over the years that when Mr Feiner likes a project(s), he will go above and beyond normal channels to make it happen, regardless of legality, ethical concern, or neighborhood impact. The Worthington-Woodlands Civic Association persisted on meeting with Mr Feiner and his Town Board only to be completely rebuffed. Several emails and verbal requests were made of The Problem Solver to meet and discuss the situation with the 715 Dobbs Ferry Road property, but Mr Feiner had already committed his decision to sell to GameOn 365. Mr Feiner could keep the Worthington-Woodlands Civic Association as bay indefinitely, but the cash offer of $3.5 million plus all remediation fees was a major roadblock to his plans. Not to be outdone, he began a campaign to discredit the offer from the House of Sports as not being genuine. One of the principals of House of Sports, said he is always serious when it comes to money and the offer was sincere!

To give the appearance of being forthright, and while being challenged by Edgemont’s Bob Bernstein for the Supervisor position in the upcoming Democratic Primary election, Mr Feiner announced that he would follow Hal Samis’ suggestion and auction off the property to the highest bidder. He was obviously believing his own tripe that the House of Sports offer was not genuine, thinking only GameOn 365 would bid. Regardless, the right thing might finally happen with this property in Greenburgh no less. Ah, not so fast. Once Mr Feiner won the Democratic Primary nomination, he switched gears and now the auction became a sealed bid. If there were truly an auction, Mr Feiner would not be able to control the outcome for GameOn 365. In fact, there were numerous ways the auction might not work out for GameOn 365, the Town, and the neighborhood. As time ebbed, slowly approaching the “auction” date, Mr Feiner kept attempting to change the “bid” dates without advertising the property, hiring a Real Estate broker, or doing the remediation.

His plan wasn’t working, so it was time for Mr Feiner to enter deflection mode. He decided to mandate his Town Board to officially request the Town Planning Commissioner, Thomas Madden, to look into developing a new zoning category for Recreational Zoning. Mr Feiner’s new plan for Dobbs Ferry Road is for it to be developed from a R-30 Residential zone to a re-zoned recreational corridor. This would ensure GameOn 365 have virtually no opposition for the property and limit other bidders from seeking a different use for the site –with or with remediation. Well, almost. Was the House of Sports offer sincere or not? Could this be the solution to his dilemma to ensure GameOn 365 be awarded the winning bid or not?

As ABG was preparing this article, it was learned that Mr Feiner will announce a postponement of the Frank’s Nursery site “auction” originally slated for December 3, 2013! While no reason was given, we’re pretty sure it could only be due to one of the following reasons below. You may recall the few “ground rules” Mr Feiner laid out for the auction/bid/sale. The minimum bid would be $3.5 million, sold “as is”, would require 10% down and the balance at the closing. G10 member Hal Samis, retired from the real estate industry, detailed several real estate publications and methodologies that should be utilized to ensure optimum advertising, bidding and results for the property. While the Town Board hasn’t followed his advice yet, there is still time – especially with this newest delay. Can you say fast and furious, or will this just crash and burn?

The first reason we believe for postponing the bid/auction/sale is that GameOn 365 approached Mr Feiner and informed him they don’t have $3.5 million for the bid. The second reason might be that Mr Feiner realized by making the corridor limited to recreation, in hopes of ensuring only GameOn 365’s seat at the table, he incorrectly assumed they could afford the buy into this high-stakes game, only to learn they couldn’t and get no bids. The third reason is that Mr Feiner finally had his epiphany and realized House of Sports would be the only real bidder, thus proving their offer was always sincere, real, tangible, actual, factual and the best deal for the Town. The fourth reason might be by changing the zoning other developers whom Mr Feiner claimed have shown interest in the property have withdrawn their interest.

You may also recall once House of Sports made their original offer, Mr Feiner repeatedly tried to discredit them with the mantra that the House of Sports offer was not sincere. The Town Board even picked up that ball and began purporting that as well. When it failed, he tried to say House of Sports was only trying to eliminate competition. While ABG doesn’t believe this to be the case, even if it were, so what, who cares? One business outbidding another business happens all the time. This isn’t the proverbial soccer game with no winners or losers. This is real life and real business, of which Mr Feiner has no practical knowledge. The goal of the Town, which Mr Feiner even said after the G10 asserted it numerous times, is that the Town has a fiduciary responsibility to get the most money it can for the Town as well as what is suitable for the neighborhood. GameOn 365’s offer was half of what House of Sports offered. It appeared to be a no-brainer.

It remains to be seen if the truth will be told as to why the postponement is happening. Regardless, we hope it’s discussed openly at the next Work Session at Town Hall. Don’t hold your breath. In the meantime, we’re sure there’ll be some “strategerizing” going on in the next Executive Session. This property has always been a ¬™done-deal gone wrong”. The Town Board has the opportunity to do finally the right thing even though it took too long to get there. Let’s hope they do and honestly work toward A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, November 8, 2013

In For A World of Hurt

Almost everyone now knows what the results of this election were. For Greenburgh, with a Town Supervisor that brags about recycling, we’ve simply gotten more recycling with a return of the same old politicians, disappointing policies and tax increases. Some claim voters get what they deserve. There’s some truth to that claim. To another degree, many voters are pleasantly and willfully ignorant, returning the goresome foursome of the Town Board to their underperforming seats: Feiner and Juettner, both found guilty of discrimination against the Fortress Bible Church; Sheehan, thrown under the bus by his own Brutus, Mr Feiner, during the Democratic Primary challenge against Edgemont’s Bob Bernstein; Beville, who suffers from verberhea when sitting at the dais, oft times struggling as the official time keeper for speakers. Not visible was another winner, Anne Povella, our Receiver of Taxes. Sadly, one of the real assets, Janet Malone lost her bid for court justice.

Slogan-run campaigns, individual accommodations by Mr Feiner, party-line voting, willful ignorance by the majority, mob-like mentality and party politics are only a small number of the poorest of reasons to return the same players to office. Spot-zoning, an illegal activity, is routinely practiced by Mr Feiner and his Board to accommodate his developer friends. It has a negative, far-reaching affect throughout the Town. Openly practicing discrimination, destroying evidence, lying under oath have become the hallmarks of Mr Feiner and Ms Juettner’s behavior, germinating its way through our feckless Board. We’d like someone to explain why Mr Feiner and Ms Juettner have not been removed from office for dereliction of duty and violating the oath they swore to uphold. Their ability to remain in office merely highlights the “anything goes” mentality by these politicians. And, the ten thousand or so voters who actually came out and voted for them even though they ran unopposed is even more telling!

It’s difficult to try to think beyond the election as so much still remains amiss in Greenburgh. Mr Feiner has continually bragged about our AAA Bond rating and staying within the NYS 2% Tax Cap. And yet the bond rating rings hollow given our lack of bond use. The 2% Tax Cap is not really a 2% cap, proven again this year by Mr Feiner as he proposes increasing Town taxes 3.4% in 2014 for Unincorporated Greenburgh, and increases his and Ms Beville’s salaries by 10%. If approved, and there is no doubt it will be, Mr. Feiner’s salary will increase from $127,618 per year to more than $140,174. Do you remember his publicity stunt when he used to return part of his salary? Town clerk Judith Beville will also have a hefty salary increase from $73,686 to $80,936. And the best part-time job in the Town, the Town board members, will also get 10% raises, allowing them to make more than some of our full-time employees! Our concerns with this blatant abuse of power, an almost unstoppable train wreck barreling down the tracks, means at some point, the residents may never gain back control from the overlords.

Increased expenditures throughout the budget will be mostly due to salary increases for our employees, commissioners and their assistants. When Mr Madden began, he said he was a one-man band and didn’t need other people. Now, however, he and Mr Feiner are seeking to add a deputy planning commissioner who would be paid a salary of $90,000 per year, which is more likely to be about $130,000 with benefits and then retirement costs. As Mr Feiner creates new top-tier positions such as this, he quietly intends to pummel our reserve funds to balance his under-the-tax-cap-budget. If he did not, the tax increase is estimated to be around 10% or higher!

There is no money budgeted from the “gifting sale” he intends to finagle to GameOn 365 for the former Frank’s Nursery property at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road. He has discussed leases, RFP’s, auctions, sealed bids, but still hasn’t figured out a way to “get one over” on the G10 and give the property to his chosen beneficiary, GameOn 365. There are no revenues mentioned from this property’s sale and a small amount from the rental of the WestHelp property. The Town was given WestHelp’s rental facility from the County years ago. It sits languishing because Mr Feiner has chosen to play politics with it, costing the Town a minimum of $1.2 million per year as well as 100+ people in need of housing, a home.

Finally, for now, there is no money budgeted for the impending Fortress Bible Church’s guilty verdict judgement against Greenburgh taxpayers thanks to the actions and poor decisions of Mr Feiner and Ms Juettner. ABG has been saying all along that this could cost the Town about $8 million and new estimates seem to be bearing out our prediction. Add to this the Town-wide revaluation costs, infrastructure repairs that keep getting “kicked down the road” along with other expenses, and it appears the Town is in for a world of hurt. ABG is not sure if fund balance money can be used to pay the Fortress Bible judgement and wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Feiner secretly tries to find a way to do so. Even if he could, there won’t be enough left to pay off the Fortress Bible judgement. Mr Feiner has continually raised our taxes and will need to keep doing so just to keep his head above water. We need a change.

The Town will have a minimum of two hearings on the proposed budget. By law, the budget must be adopted by the Town Board by December 20, 2013. Please review the budget, come to the hearings and hold this Town Board’s feet to the fire. It may be the only way to get A Better Greenburgh.

Monday, November 4, 2013

It’s Election Day, Please Vote










We’ve all grown up learning that our founding fathers tried to craft a new government of the people, by the people and for the people. We’ve learned of new voters in other countries who have only recently achieved the right to vote and are going to great lengths to do so. For them, voting felt like a victory!













While many Americans take our right to vote for granted, others cherish it as a privilege and will vote come hell or high water. Yet, many will sit back with numerous excuses as to why they don’t vote, justifying their abdication of it. Some of their reasons might be:
• My vote doesn’t matter.
• My party never wins.
• I’m not into politics.
• The candidates are all the same and it doesn’t matter who gets into office.
• I didn’t have time.
• I don’t know anything about these candidates.
• They all lie.
• They do what they want after they get elected.
• We need term limits.
• They’re just going to raise taxes anyway.
• They’re all jerks.

The list goes on but you get the idea. If you are one of those who find any of these reasons plausible, you may want to take a step back, take a deep breath and stop to realize what you are doing by not voting. Not voting doesn’t solve the problems listed above or even not listed. Not voting contributes to all of the illogical rationale listed above. Complacency is the ultimate gift to the politicos.

What’s funny is that Greenburgh has turned into a One-Trick-Pony, with a single party rule. So we’ll never experience creative and unique ideas, opposition and collaboration for policies and programs. What we will usually get are the same stale, monolithic, boring, rubber-stampable ideas that will not increase the Town’s quality of life, reduce the tax burden, create new and/or varied programs for everyone over special interest groups. Ultimately, as things decline, we’re promised to receive more of the same.

With this election, the Republicans have determined that Greenburgh might be a goner. So the Town elections are all but over for us. But, there are 6 NYS Constitutional Amendments requiring a vote. The media has presented them in such a way to ensure passage – a trick Mr Feiner used during his phony referendum for the 715 Dobbs Ferry Road property. ABG, on the other hand has written about them and suggested you vote “No” for the first 5 changes and “Yes” for the last one regarding extending the number of years a judge can serve on the bench. Regardless of whether you believe your vote counts or not, ABG would still like to urge you to go out and vote. Its still your civic duty.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ethics Anyone, or Foxes in the Henhouse?

It seems residents and taxpayers are repeatedly treated to more and more questionable, and in fact illegal, actions through Mr Feiner’s seemingly untouchable administration. Since we know we cannot curtail these actions, we’re forced to seek remedy through other means. On the surface, one might think the Ethics Board would be an avenue worth pursuit for this satisfaction. Once traveling down that avenue, you will soon find the well-honed and notorious roadblocks craftily set in place to dissuade your pursuit of justice, remedy or anything close to it.

In September of 2013, Town resident Thomas Bock submitted a registered a complaint against Town Attorney Timothy Lewis for several ethics violations relating to the Democratic Primary election petitions. Simply, he lodged an Ethics Complaint against Town Attorney Timothy Lewis because of the actions Mr Lewis took for getting Democratic Primary ballot petition signatures for Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Town Clerk Judith Beville and swearing to their legitimacy as Town Attorney. Without fear of being found guilty of an ethics violation by an Ethics Board appointed by Mr Feiner, the preordained outcome for Mr Lewis was no surprise to anyone, especially Mr Lewis.

If you read our post, “Ethical Challenge Dismissed By Ethical Challenge” of September 24, 2013, (http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6521092612847585726#editor/target=post;postID=4973448450613789264;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=17;src=postname)  
you can see some of the disingenuous bloviating that takes place by members of the Ethics Review Board. In fact, several members of the Ethics Board brought up Chicago politics as though to compare Greenburgh to the worst political model in hopes of validating a foregone conclusion for “one of their own”. Interestingly, the Ethics Board is chaired by Jack McLaughlin. The Planning Board is chaired by his wife, Fran. He should recuse himself with any claim involving planning, zoning, departments, or employees. Ethical, unethical? Your call. 

As can be found on Mr Feiner’s blog during the waning days of his still practicing open government, there are numerous statements validating other violations, specifically Mr Feiner’s violations, such as what’s listed below from his 2007 blog (ABG has added the bold highlight):

Feiner has been caught lying to the Town's Ethics Board about lawyer Mark Weingarten's involvement in a March 2004 fundraiser that netted Feiner tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from developers with applications pending before the town. 

In his October 6, 2004 letter to the Ethics Board, Feiner made no mention of Weingarten when he described the $1000 Feiner picked up that night from Michael D'Allessio, the developer who had an application pending before the town to cut trees in Edgemont. Feiner wrote as follows: "Mr. D'Alessio attended a fundraiser that William LoSapio of Gregory's Restaurant in White Plains hosted for my campaign account on March 29th."

Here’s another quote from that same post:

“See The Scarsdale Inquirer, "Residents Question Feiner on Campaign Contributions," September 17, 2004. Mr. Feiner also omits to mention in his letter that Mr. Weingarten was then representing Mr. D’Alessio and that, in addition to Mr. D’Alessio’s $1,000, his law firm contributed another $500."

On Wednesday, August 1, 2007, the Town made public the actual invitation to the event. The invitation, dated March 4, 2004, was on the letterhead of Weingarten's law firm and says as follows:

"On Monday, March 29, 2004 . . . Bill Losapio and I will be hosting a fundraiser for Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner." Weingarten cited Feiner’s “strong support for economic development within the Town of Greenburgh” and said, “I know you have been helpful to Supervisor Feiner in the past. . . A minimum contribution of $250 is recommended. Paul has earned our support in the past. . . .” Contributions were to be mailed to Weingarten’s law firm, to Weingarten attention, care of his secretary.

The invitation was mailed to numerous developers with applications pending before the town.”    

William LoSapio’s reward for his fund raising efforts was to be appointed by Mr Feiner to the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. He raised money for Mr Feiner and thereafter gets appointed to the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. How much do the other seats usually cost?

In 2010, community leader Bob Bernstein brought a verified ethics complaint against two residents, Jordan Glass and Nicholas DeCicco, both attorneys, who were both serving as volunteer members of the Zoning Board of Appeals. For Glass, he represented Deli Delicious’ Ernest Tartaglione’s brother and at the time leased space in Valhalla from Tartaglione’s real estate corporation. Tartaglione was an applicant before the Zoning and Planning Boards. For DeCicco, it was about attending a fund-raising event held for him by Irvington developer Chuck Pateman, and sitting on the Zoning Board as he ran for the vacated County Legislative office against Hastings-on-Hudson’s Mary Jane Shimsky. Pateman, an area developer, hosted the DeCicco fund raiser at his home in Irvington, NY. while representing Zoning Board of Appeals applicant Ernest Tartaglione and owner of Deli Delicious in Fulton Park pursuing expansion. 

Mr Bernstein’s persistence with the verified complaints against these two residents (Glass and DeCicco) exposed the web of deception. The Board of Ethics had no choice but to negotiate a settlement which resulted in Glass and DeCicco’s “voluntary” resignations.

There was a third person involved in this deception appointed to the Town’s Ethics Review Board, Mark Constantine, also a local Attorney with an area practice and a resident of Tarrytown. Mr. Constantine filled the vacant “Republican seat” and has served ever since. Mr Constantine was the co-sponsor with Pateman of the above fund-raiser! 

Concerned citizen/activist Hal Samis lodged a Verified Complaint against Mr. Constantine on February 15, 2011 on similar grounds to those cited by Mr. Bernstein. Mr Samis’ complaint was in reference to Mr Constantine’s involvement as a sponsor with Mr Pateman of the fund raiser. Again, there were overlapping connections among these persons and all with direct or indirect involvement with an Applicant before the ZBA, Ernest Tartaglione owner of “Deli Delicious”!

Read more at: (Thursday, March 17, 2011); Paul, You Have Some Explaining To Do!
(http://abettergreenburgh.blogspot.com/2011/03/paul-you-have-some-explaining-to-do.html)

The Ethics Board properly referred Mr Samis’ complaint to the Town Board, citing a conflict of interest as Mr Constantine is a fellow Board member. While the Town Board has been repeatedly reminded of the need for a decision, they have refused to take any action. The charges against Mr Constantine are for three violations of the Town's Ethics Code: 570-7, 570-4(D) and 570-4(L)(2) relating to/with Prohibited Political Activities and Standards of Conduct. By definition, Mr. Constantine is an Agency Member and thus subject to the Code. Without any action by the Town Board, whether to clear or indict him, Mr. Constantine has been free to continue unrestricted to advocate and to vote on the Ethics Board since 2011. This is Mr Feiner playing fast and furious by his own rules. Who on any of these appointed Boards will challenge him?

So, to review, Mr Feiner appoints LoSapio, Constantine, DeCicco and Glass to maintain control of the various Town Boards. Tartaglione has a numerous zoning applications (appeals) before the Zoning Board of Appeals (LoSapio, DeCicco), the Planning Board (Chairwoman Fran McLaughlin – not that we’re accusing her of any impropriety) and the Building Department by Tartaglione to approve his building changes. When it is discovered that these players are implicated in Pateman’s fund raising efforts, it seems like the collusive players just dig in their heels preparing for the seige. To be forthcoming regarding Mr DeCicco, he did return the money collected and given to him from the Pateman fund raiser, claiming he had no knowledge of the relationships between Pateman and Tartaglione and stepped down from his Zoning Board position when everything came to light.

Another appointed and non-voting member of the Ethics Review Board, Mr Joseph Malara, whom we understand is a Somers, not Greenburgh, resident. He too, “serves” on the Ethics Review Board, providing the unpaid service of Council to the Board. Even so, he regularly tenders his (albeit Mr Feiner’s) point of view without being asked for a legal opinion, participating as though he were a “regular” Ethics Board member. His actions remind us of Town Attorney Tim Lewis’ constant input during Town Board meetings. He is there to render legal opinions if requested by the Board. Ironically, when they do ask, he typically suggests not giving an answer and to seek outside council. 

ABG has stated before that having Mr Feiner and his Town Board being reviewed by a Board appointed by Mr Feiner creates a host of new ethical challenges in a Town bereft of ethics. How can we have a Ethics Board rule on complaints against the same people who appointed them have the public expect a fair outcome? We can’t and probably never will. 

Mr DeCicco resigned from the Zoning Board but was appointed by Mr Feiner as an alternate to the Planning Board. Mr Pateman is no longer representing Ernest Tartaglione although Tartaglione is currently before, and trying the get approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals for the same project they turned down 2-years ago. The exception to this offering is he has increased the impervious surfaces, seeking to pave the entire property. Mr Malara continues to be the Council for the Ethics Board while living far beyond the Town line. Mr McLaughlin has not recused himself from Ethics Board decisions involving other Boards. Mr Constantine continues to be in property tax arrears with numerous properties he owns within the Town. He desperately needs the flawed “Tax Amnesty” program Mr Feiner seeks to initiate as another Feiner Folly to collect over $21 million owed the Town – and accrued during Mr Feiner’s tenure. The other Board members sit unscathed by all of these ethical issues – for now. The Town needs some major overhauls or we will never have A Better Greenburgh.