Saturday, December 14, 2013

Feiner Guilty Again

ABG and others have been saying Mr Feiner had violated the terms of the contract the Town entered into back in 1989 with Westchester County regarding the WestHelp “gift” years ago. You’ll recall, then State of New York Governor candidate Cuomo, later appointed to the position of HUD Commissioner, built the facility amidst intense controversy in the area. The Town received the keys to the WestHelp property at no cost and was allowed to collect rent without having to lift a proverbial finger, or spend any real money for the facility. In fact, with the exception of erecting a fence to keep the residents in (others claim it was to keep people out), the property has remained unchanged for years.

The residents of WestHelp were primarily females, some with youngsters, some not. The area residents of Valhalla, along with several community leaders objected to these young families and did not want them attending their Valhalla schools. To reward them for accepting them, Mr Feiner instituted payments to the Valhalla School Board. In 2008 the State Comptroller said Mr Feiner illegally paid-off the Valhalla School Board with these payments. These payments were challenged in court. No surprise here, but Mr Feiner lost and was again found guilty of providing illegal payments and the Valhalla School District was ordered to return the money. This was all due to the successful legal challenge by Greenburgh residents, Robert Bernstein and Herb Rosenberg. They brokered a repayment deal for a return of the illegally expended money by Mr Feiner, and while these two residents won the court case on the taxpayer’s behalf, their efforts will “only” gain the Town a return of about $1.2 million.

Mr Feiner decided to play politics in the last election and use the WestHelp property as a political football for his own endgame. In the election prior to this last one, Mr Feiner began to lay out his plans to get more votes from the Valhalla area by pandering to their elitism. To hedge his bets because he is so disliked by the majority of Democratic leaders in Westchester, especially in Greenburgh, he decided to pander to the Republican leaders, from the top right on down. Having originally been against the affordable housing from the start, they naturally supported Mr Feiner’s folly and the Republicans in the County Legislature, aligned together against anything Democrat, went right along with the County Executive’s endorsement of Mr Feiner’s plan.

Thankfully, our two County Legislators representing Greenburgh and County Legislative Chair Ken Jenkins, saw through Mr Feiner’s charade and sought to stop this travesty. Equally important was their desire to put people in need of housing into those languishing units. Now, however, since Mr Feiner ordered the apartments to be left open to be ravaged by the elements, animal infestation, vandals and so on, the usage of those apartments is on hold until they can be renovated. As the tide against Mr Feiner rose and the defecation began to hit the ventilation, Mr Feiner went into “deflection mode”, blaming this on the County Executive saying the County Executive is against affordable housing. It’s ironic because the County Executive’s entire administration is based on two things: lowering taxes and completion of the court agreed upon affordable housing throughout the County.

Refusing to admit this problem was caused by him and condoned by his Town Board, Mr Feiner began twisting a small bit of truth into one of his “Deflection Mode” lies. He even went so far as to “hire” a non-provened management company, Group MRH. This “company” is comprised of one man who apparently lied on his application bid to the Town Board. He stated dollar amounts to renovate and manage the facility. When it got down to actually doing some work, he asked for all kinds of adjustments from the Town Board at a work session. It was defeating the whole purpose of a bid. All of the other (losing) bidders, with affordable experience, came in close to the same amounts with their bids for renovations, down payment to the Town and management fees. Mr Feiner stayed with his poorly handpicked choice.

Prior to the Group MRH fiasco, we witnessed another Feiner Deflection where he promised the affordable housing property to the Ferncliff School for the Developmentally Disabled. They were ecstatic to finally find a place that might fit their needs. But when residents resisted this flawed plan, Mr Feiner insisted it was the residents (G10) who were compromising his efforts and affordable housing! Not knowing any better, as well as not being used to being lied to by government officials, they believed Mr Feiner and his Town Board’s offer as sincere. The G10 knew better and often stated that the Town was under contract to utilize the property for affordable housing. Mr Feiner didn’t care and continued his ruse with Ferncliff, dealing them a crushing blow once the County finally told Mr Feiner the facility will not be sold, torn down or used for anything but affordable housing. We can only sum up Mr Feiner’s actions as despicable. 

Another part of the lies from Mr Feiner is that he and Town Attorney Timothy Lewis refused to disclose the Environmental Impact Study for the property and the study’s requirements. One requirement was that whomever takes over the project would have the right to renovate and rent all 108 apartments. This is simply not true! According to the 1989 document two units would need to be combined into one, creating one appropriately sized living unit. Ultimately, they would be left with 54 dwelling units, not 108! Fewer units mean close to half the number of residents and occupancy, and the question of parking is another point of contention. Given the change in occupancy, there should not be an increase in traffic. Finally, the gross and net incomes for the facility management will be significantly less than promised. Another Feiner lie.

In the end, Mr Feiner and his Town Board have intentionally neglected the WestHelp property for 27 months. When they learned a County inspection was scheduled to take place, Councilman Morgan instructed Commissioner Carosi to send a cleanup crew to the site to clean up debris, mow the weeds and generally straighten it up. It’s the only time the Town expended any effort toward the facility. As such they are in breach of the contract that had been worth a minimum of $1.2 million a year for the Town. They are also in breach of the taxpayer’s trust. The Feiner-faithful re-elected him to office in spite of this debacle that needn’t have happened – along with Fortress Bible Church and so more.

It remains to be seen what the County plans to do with the property, if there will be fines against the Town, a termination of the contract and possible court action. If the County chooses to go to court against the Town, Mr Feiner’s track record does not provide any level of confidence for our already overburdened taxpayers. Mr Feiner should consider stepping down for health reasons – ours. Then we can focus on A Better Greenburgh.

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