Saturday, December 7, 2013

Westhab Retirement

There was a newspaper article in the only daily newspaper left in Westchester that announced the retirement of Robert Miller, the President of Westhab. Frankly, we’re happy to see him and his “backwards newsboy cap go. His replacement doesn’t promise to be much better. Given Mr Feiner’s desire to further Westhab’s presence in the Town, we wonder if he isn’t the heir apparent as his political career becomes more and more mired in corruption, deals and guilty verdicts?

The article about his retirement quoted Miller saying the Tarrytown Road project was the greatest success of his Westhab career. “It replaced a homeless shelter on that site that we ran for 15 years. Just to replace an emergency housing site with permanent, affordable housing is poetic justice.” Poetic justice? Really? It smacks more of arrogance and neighborhood contempt as they continually ignored or dismissed the residents’ concerns. During all of the public hearings, meetings where Mr Feiner and his Town Board routinely said the decision hasn’t been made yet and they haven’t voted yet. But the decision had been made and they were just placating the residents until they felt the time was right to move forward with their project. Oops, did we say their project? We meant the project.

Fulton Park did resist the Westhab project, although the majority of who would be their residents were of lesser concern. The only real objection was to not have sex offenders and child molesters living there as they are unwelcome in most neighborhoods for obvious reasons. They are a client staple of Westhab. The proposed 7-story apartment building on .7 acres of land had no flood mitigation considerations. In fact, while they may have installed water cisterns under the facility, they will quickly fill with almost any rainfall. To ensure their building doesn’t flood, they raised the overall height of the building, forcing water to run off into the already flood-ridden neighborhood. The spot-zoning by the Town Board, the cornucopia of variances requested, a building design that does not blend with the neighborhood, among other issues, were of similar concern. 

A huge issue for the Fulton Park neighborhood was the loss of Fulton Avenue, a two-way roadway adjacent to the property. It has been illegally taken over and used by Westhab as a private parking lot, eliminating a viable exit from Fulton Park. It is viable because the traffic light at Old Kensico Road and Rt 119 only allows three-cars to exit once it turns green. Another major concern was Mr Feiner and the Town Board’s misdirection that this entire project was going to be workforce housing for Greenburgh Municipal employees and Greenburgh residents. Mr Feiner and the Town Board never intended to be and knew so even while they were trying to convince residents otherwise. The Civic Association and its residents constantly unearthed new information, cumulatively proving Mr Feiner and his minions lies. The Fulton park Civic Association was in favor of Greenburgh municipal employees, veterans, teachers and such living there. To date, no Greenburgh residents, Greenburgh municipal employees or veterans have moved into the facility as promised. 

During the entire time Westhab and Mr Feiner tried to “railroad” this project down everyone’s throat, Mr Miller fired and replaced Robert Sanborn, his condescending Vice President of Real Estate. He had failed to get the Westhab project going after two years and was jettisoned when he couldn’t deliver! The Town’s building and zoning codes were the real heroes with this project. Fulton Park neighbors as well as others in the Town worked diligently to utilize the Town’s building and zoning codes to prevent this debacle from happening. In fact, when claims were made that residents were simply practicing NIMBY-ism, it was often pointed out that many Fulton Park residents previously worked hand-in-hand to help better the lives of the King’s Inn Motel residents, all managed by Westhab. Regardless of the resident’s circumstances, they were invited to celebrate holidays with Fulton Park residents, were coached by them and more. What was the payback for Fulton Park? Toward the end of Westhab’s tenure of “managing” the facility, they housed transitional prison-released men. The violence from those residents escalated, with County and Greenburgh police having a daily presence there. The noise and debris increased as well as drug use and illegal sex in cars in the immediate area. Ultimately, Westhab ceased to “police” the location as promised and let it degrade, violating their commitment to the neighborhood and Town.

Mr Miller will enjoy a very handsome retirement paid for by those who believe as a not-for-profit he is doing noble work. Hardly. Management is well paid and make sure they do not show a profit at the end of the year to be considered a tax-exempt not-for-profit. If there is a profit, bonuses abound, balancing their profit/loss statements to be -0- dollars. The story the newspaper should have highlighted was various Fulton Park neighbors’ work performed at no-charge while helping the Westhab’s original clients and how that was thrown back in their faces. Our leadership relies on their warped perspectives to treat our residents with disregard and contempt. Conversely, they treat developers in the highest high regard. Could it  be because of donations? When this changes, we may start seeing A Better Greenburgh. 

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