Sunday, September 28, 2014

Your Vote Is Your Voice

Election Day. It evokes a plethora of emotions for many people. Newly ordained citizens understandably can't wait to partake of the process. Natural born citizens' emotions range from "its my right and duty as a citizen" to "why bother?" to "it makes no difference/its a waste of time". Wherever your sentiments might lie, your vote is your voice. This November promises to be an exciting election in most places except Greenburgh. It won't be exciting here because the result is forgone.

ABG writes often about Greenburgh's "willfully ignorant" taxpayer/resident/voter/OIMBY. Mr Feiner counts on their reticence. OIMBY is a phrase we developed after witnessing a normally apathetic constituency only get riled up when something is happening to their neighborhood. OIMBY, or Only In My Back Yard is a turn of the phrase NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard. ABG has often written about individuals and neighborhoods that have been ignored by the Town and lumbered like a sleeping giant until Mr Feiner and his minions decide to practice their own form of social experimentation where it doesn't belong, favoring developers over residents and existing businesses. Of course, by then, Mr Feiner has already forged the project as a done deal and the neighborhood is left broken. As Mr Feiner attempts to extort "gifts" from developers to ensure application approvals, our Town is held hostage to the highest bidder. And even though he has been cited numerous times for campaign practices, he remains unrepentant and continues his illegal, questionable and despicable behavior. Disappointingly, he has enlisted the help of his Town Board as his political power ensures their re-election as long as they comply with his mandates.

As we enter October, just one month before the November elections, we will be inundated with campaign mailings, garish and an overabundance of yard signs littering our landscape, robotic phone calls (robocalls), some with the candidates voice and some not. All of the candidates and the respective political machines behind them will have loyal volunteers and paid personnel staffing the phone banks in hopes of getting their candidate elected. Sometimes it might even work. Most times promise a hang-up by an angry constituent in the middle of life, preparing, eating or finishing dinner or helping the kids with homework or getting them ready for bed. Our vote is our voice. But our voices need to be respected by those seeking to get elected.

The political climate in Greenburgh is heavily one-sided as 22 years of singular leadership has proven why change is good. The overall atmosphere is one of distrust of our political leadership, a one sidedness that is rarely seen anymore in American politics. The closest thing reminding us of how it used to be is Chicago's Tammany Hall politics. That is unless you maintain an inside view of the Greenburgh/Feiner political machine. But that requires countless hours at meetings, reading documentation, discussions, and the backbone to question what is said. A few brave soles have attempted to run against Mr Feiner in numerous elections. Each time Mr Feiner has his foot soldiers go after their ballot signatures, residency or anything else to get them disqualified to guarantee another win. To quote a Mel Brooks movie line, "It's good to be the king."

Many residents in Town are tired. They're tired of not being respected because their opinions and beliefs differ from the elected elite's agenda. They're tired of double-digit tax increases while being told we're limited to a phony NYS 2% Tax Cap. They're tired of watching their hard-earned money be urinated away on giveaways and phony projects designed for a select few while being touted for all. They're tired of inappropriate subsidized housing in saturated neighborhoods, supermarkets in underpopulated areas that require an automobile to get to and lack a mass-transit option. They're tired of assisted living that segregates and will not allow low-income Greenburgh residents to live there. They're tired of having inequity within the Town championed by Mr Feiner and his Board while having services cut only to be told its helping the Town's bottom line. Their tired of phony issues manufactured to deflect attention away from the real issues or illegal actions of he and his Board.

The real bottom line is costly under Mr Feiner and his Town Board. Lawsuits and verdicts such as the $6.5 million against the Town by Fortress Bible Church are costing us much more than money. The weary, beleaguered taxpayer in Greenburgh expects and deserves more from their government. Its unfortunate that many will vote for the status quo without studying what is really going on. These are the headline readers, content to listen to Mr Feiner say something and because a complicit media publishes it, they assume its true. These are the willfully ignorant. The G10 know better, ABG readers know better. It's time that others throughout the Town know better. Help us to get the word out. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Greenburgh School Superintendent Finally Terminated

After earning a salary of $235,266 per year, the Greenburgh Board of Education has finally voted to fire School Superintendent Ronald O. Ross immediately. He had been on administrative leave for approximately four months after accusations were made by the school administrators and staff of discrimination and creating a hostile work environment. Interestingly, Mr Feiner never complained that Mr Ross' salary was more than his as he will do when he goes after someone he doesn't like.

Accused of discrimination and creating a hostile work environment
in a lawsuit in May 2014, the lawsuit finally forced the school board to place an interim school superintendent in the position during the investigation. As reported by ABG in our article posted on Friday, May 9, 2014, Hypocritical Supervisor – Anti-Jewish: Bad, Racist: Best of The Best
Ross was sidelined in May. 


The lawsuit allegations indicated he was verbally abusive to employees, called them names, humiliating them in public and made it impossible to do their jobs. Our original article detailed some of what he was alleged to have said to employees. We also posted two photographs of Ross. The one that is used as part of the "publicity package" and more current one of him. Both are seen here:

Below is a copy of two emails sent by Mr Feiner to select School Board members when this began, asking the School Board members to not seek to replace Superintendent Ross. He closes the email with the sentence, “If I did not think that Ron was the best of the best – I would not write this note.” The second email (bottom) again finds Mr Feiner is disappointed to learn of an effort to replace Superintendent Ronald Ross, claiming Ross is hard working, and he really cares about “our” children. Mr Feiner does not have children who attend the Greenburgh schools, so “our children” seems a bit contrived. In closing with the second email, he says, “I would be happy to meet with you to discuss why I think it’s important to keep Ron Ross working for our community.” Mr Feiner has a knack of turning opinions when going one-on-one with people.
 

 

On September 19th another lawsuit was filed alleging similar unacceptable behavior by Mr Ross by a teacher formerly working in the Middle School. ABG finds it sad that Mr Feiner, who himself was found guilty of discrimination in Federal Court against the Fortress Bible Church, would endorse Mr Ross and his discriminatory behavior. Ironically, ABG also posted an article discussing discrimination complaints made by a Town Hall employee who was in a meeting and forced during this meeting to listen to a rant by Greenburgh Town Assessor Edye McCarthy. A complaint was filedand subsequently ignored by Mr Feiner and the Town Board, ultimately being swept under the rug by them, even after it was repeatedly brought up at Town Board meetings by the public.
Here’s an excerpt of those comments from that letter:





This letter was submitted and cc’d to Mr Feiner. But instead of addressing Ms McCarthy’s racist comments at Town Hall, Mr Feiner probably felt if he ignored it, he could sweep it away. His previous statement was proven hollow and obviously nothing more than posturing based on the inaction we've witnessed. He previously said, “We cannot, as elected officials, allow discrimination to rear its ugly head” is not only disingenuous, but self-serving and insulting to those who do the right thing on a daily basis. Again, why wasn’t Ms McCarthy disciplined or terminated from her position? 

Greenburgh is a widely diverse Town - its part of what makes our Town so rich. Why has Mr Feiner not addressed the racism within his own administration and with his appointed Department Head? Why has he personally practiced and been found guilty of racism during his 22 years in office and not been disbarred and removed from office? We need honest leadership in Greenburgh. We need change in Greenburgh and a fresh start from what has become a stale and unwelcome status quo. Mr Ross' departure is a fitting start. We need more. Only then can we have A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pending Another Law Suit...

The Hits Just Keep On Coming
How many "hits" can one Supervisor take before the electorate sees through the fa├žade and votes him out of office? Apparently, in Greenburgh, the scorekeepers follow our current society's soccer game mentality, where no one keeps score to protect tender egos. But, how about our tender backsides, raw from the gripping tentacles of the Town's tax collectors persistently assaulting our wallets for more of our hard-earned money? And what of the developers who seem to be impervious to these same tentacles as they grease the wheels of progress, ensuring an unimpeded application process for their projects?

Certs and the 2% Tax Cap
Once the developer's applications are complete, they begin building. When their building is finished, replete with variances and concessions du jour by the Town, they apply for their requisite certiorari adjustments. After the certiorari application is submitted, the Town automatically grants their request. The cradle-to-the-grave-cycle has been completed. The residents? They are forced to subsidize these certiorari refunds with their own taxes being increased, usually by double-digits, all while Mr Feiner touts the Town's adherence to the NYS 2% Tax Cap. The reality is far from Mr Feiner's warped perspective.

What's In It For Greenburgh?
Another tale of woe for Greenburgh residents has been unfolding under the guise of generosity and benevolence of a former developer, Robert Martin toward a civic association leader, Danny Gold, and of course, Mr Feiner. The "deal" was supposedly brokered by Mr Gold with the Robert Martin Corporation, who are well-known for developing corporate parks throughout the region and beyond. They created the template for corporate parks when there weren't any and became one of the largest landlords of commercial property in Westchester, one of the most powerful developers in the state and donated to numerous political campaigns - including Mr Feiner's and possibly others on his various Boards.

The property in question is a tract of land of 28+ acres in the East Irvington/Tarrytown section of the Town, a mile away from the Avalon Green and Avalon Green II apartments and condominiums off of Taxter Road. It turns out the land being considered is actually in Tarrytown and not Greenburgh "proper". It is part of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon Unification Church's 200 acre estate. But this secret land deal, struck in 2009 didn't include Tarrytown. Why not? What's in it for Robert Martin? What's in it for Danny Gold? Most importantly, what's in it for Greenburgh? The Unification Church is already challenging their taxes so regardless of what transpires, they'll win.

Keep Your Mouth Shut
ABG has learned that this secret deal was struck between Mr Gold, the President of the East Irvington Civic Association back in 2009 and Robert Martin before the construction took place for Avalon Green II. The supposed justification for this deal was to mitigate the future impact of the hundreds of apartments built near the East Irvington neighborhood. In fact, the only stipulation for Mr Gold to be able to proceed with this deal was if he kept his civic association's proverbial mouths shut while applications were made for the Avalon Green development. He did and they did. Why, you ask?

Because after he successfully had Mr Feiner declare Mr Gold's "backyard" a park, purchased with State, County and Town monies, it assured him that there would be no affordable housing built anywhere near his home, maintaining his segregated neighborhood. No one has been able to explain how the private land donation scheme mitigates anything for Mr Gold's neighborhood as the Avalon Green complex is over a mile away from their neighborhood. Its a stretch to say this steep sloped piece of undevelopable property is of any real benefit to other residents in the Town, while being "sacrificed" by the Unification Church for a paltry one million dollars.

October 1st Deadline
Knowing he had this secret deal in his back pocket, Mr Gold played nice with everyone at Avalon Green for years while remaining silent. Now that Mr Gold has put his home on the market, it was time for his silence to pay off and expose his deal to the Town, having his good friend Mr Feiner go to bat for him. He did, with Mr Feiner telling the Board and anyone who would listen that this is a terrific benefit for the Town. But, when pressed, he couldn't actually say why - just that it was. We fully expected him to blurt out how great the Town's Bond rating was.

Feigning forgetfulness of the October 1st deadline, Mr Gold stated he simply realized, albeit a bit late, that for the deal to be consummated, he needed the Town to accept a $1million donation from Robert Martin Corporation post haste. Once the million dollars was received, the Town would then need to turn around and purchase the 28+acres of land from the Unification Estate with the donation, ensuring the property be made into a park in perpetuity by the Town. Not advertised as part of this extraordinary deal was the small fact that East Irvington President Danny Gold had previously been the Town of Greenburgh Deputy Supervisor under Mr Feiner! The deal he brokered for himself and his association was performed while he was still a sitting official for the Town! Collusion? Quid pro quo? Unethical? You decide.

Ethics
To decree any potential appearance of wrongdoing, Mr Feiner suggested at the Town Board meeting that the issue be submitted to the Town Ethics Board for review and a decision reached quickly to ensure meeting the October 1st deadline. What wasn't submitted to the Ethics Board was all of the pertinent information they would need to make an informed decision. However, given that Mr Feiner has appointed all of the members of this Board, ABG is suspect that any finding might be tainted from the start. That said, with the limited information that was supplied, the Ethics Board rendered the decision Mr Feiner knew they would. Seemingly more concerned about ethics was Mr Sheehan, who said he would not vote for the donation/purchase if the Ethics Board came back with a negative decision. That was never going to happen and Mr Feiner knew it. Whether Mr Sheehan was going to vote for or against this is unknown. Perhaps he was posturing, perhaps not.

What's Next?
Mr Feiner's Ethics Board may have waved their magic wand to grant the absolution his Board  desperately sought, but this is far from over. While Mr Feiner has again attacked individual residents for being against this, violating his own tenets listed on the Town Board Agenda to not make disparaging comments about others, it is apparently okay for him to lash out at residents. The reality however is that there is an ethical violation with this entire scheme, covertly hatched by a select few Town officials and a developer who continues to have applications before the Town in the process of seeking approvals.

How did the Ethics Board get this one wrong? They didn't actually get it wrong based on the information they were presented. Mr Feiner knew that controlling the flow of information to the Ethics Board, as he so often does, would garner the outcome he desired. While its possible to still get this "done deal" undone, Mr Feiner's warped perspective may be quite different from our reality. We'll have to see what's next. ABG hopes the Civic Associations along with others will petition the County and State to investigate. Maybe they won't be as ethically challenged and do the right thing. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What Can Be Done?

The residents of Greenburgh as well as Westchester County are suffering from political incompetence and malfeasance. We have elected politicians pandering to developers and campaign donors giving money to incumbents like beer flows at an Oktoberfest. We have more specks of Unincorporated land being approved for development, in fact, over development, at an alarming rate. These projects are validated by producing bendable traffic studies, yet incremental increases result in heavier traffic, flooding when we have simple rain storms, increased illegal housing, increased infrastructure abuse and ultimately town-wide failures and over-worked public employees (not the elected ones). More importantly are the beleaguered tax payers who are beaten down year after year. When they turn to their elected politicians, they are "yessed" to death and then ignored as the project of their concern is green-lighted. What can be done?

Job Growth
Too many people in Greenburgh have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Putting people back to work should be all elected politician's top priority. Unfortunately, it's not. Mr Feiner and his Town Board cater to developers and donors. All this while we teeter toward the verge of prosperity that could be unmatched in Greenburgh's history. Yet our biggest obstacle is our own local government officials as they continue to place roadblocks in the way of businesses with new regulations, fees and requirements, These are nothing more than taxes stifling entrepreneurs and businesses under the guise of what, safety? In fact, at the last Town Board meeting, Mr Feiner tried to make one of the larger businesses in town out as the bad guy. Aren't these same businesses the ones that employ our residents? Of course they are. And of course, they are not the bad guys Mr Feiner wants to make them out to be.

Medical diagnostic technology, R&D, gene-therapy, information technology, 3-D printing, new energy methods, transportation advances and more will all impart upon us and our children a standard of living our forefathers could not have even dreamt about. The Landmark at Eastview grand plan was originally designated by the Town Board to be developed as a research, development and technology mecca within the Town. Now that the favored developer for that location promised $5 million dollars per year in taxes to the Town, Mr Feiner is agreeing to truncate the original plan for increased construction of more of the same type of buildings currently vacant throughout our Town with no hope of occupancy. The developer claims there is no market for R&D but rather a big box store (i.e. Target, Costco), some retail stores, a motel and a movie theatre. Apparently we don't have a motel, big box store or movie theatre in the vicinity. Immediately and directly across the street, Regeneron, a pharmaceutical company, can't seem to build R&D facilities fast enough. Somebody's lying to us. Hint: he was found guilty of lying in Federal court.

The responsible development of Greenburgh’s energy resources could produce high-quality engineering, environmental, management and service-oriented jobs that will revitalize the Town's economy for generations. But who will work to ensure that the citizens of Greenburgh have a say in their economic and energy development future and that the federal bureaucracy down to the local levels provides guidance and not more roadblocks? Certainly, this won't happen with this Town Board. They have gone out of their way to be anti-business, all the while professing to be business friendly. Actions have certainly spoken louder than their empty words, but Mr Feiner has taught them well: just say it and the media will quote them, ultimately making it so.

Next, we must fix the paralyzing road-congestion and flooding issues which are discouraging both people and business from locating to Greenburgh and Westchester County. The I-287, Rt 119, Central Avenue and 9A corridors will continue to grow and so will the traffic congestion. Phony bypass lanes along each of the corridors will further congest traffic conditions during construction and already be outdated if and when they are ever finished. We must prioritize road projects which reduce commuting times for residents and even guests who tire of being stuck in the daily crawl. This does nothing but harm any local attractiveness, regional competitiveness and job growth for our Town and region.

Finally, we must reorient our regulatory and fee structures to not be taxing our residents to death! We must have tax policies that encourage job growth rather than encourage tax growth. It is a false argument to state that pro-growth tax policies and a steady, predictable stream of tax revenue are conflicting priorities. As both Presidents Kennedy and Reagan demonstrated, growth-oriented tax policies can provide for vibrant job growth and the necessary revenue to fund the services provided for in our Constitution.

Tax Reform and Cronyism
A simpler and fairer tax code might incentivize both domestic and international businesses to make investments here in Greenburgh, which will lead to job growth. But that's a state and/or federal issue. Locally, however, we must have our Town officials seeking to work with our homeowners and business owners to stimulate growth and most importantly, reinvesting back into their businesses and homes which will ultimately benefit us all. Lowering everyone's taxes would be helpful as opposed to giving tax breaks to the big guys.

This might even increase some workers take-home-pay while eliminating some big-business cronyism here in Greenburgh. Cronyism you say? In Greenburgh? Really? Here's one example. There's a supposed "land donation" happening in East Irvington at the behest of one or two residents under the cloak of their civic association*. Danny Gold, President of the East Irvington Civic Association finagled a deal with the old Robert Martin (Construction) Corporation, who has pledged a donation of one million dollars to Greenburgh to purchase some 28 or so steep slope acres of land from the Reverend Moon estate in Tarrytown. The stipulation is that it be used in perpetuity as parkland. Why choose to do this in Greenburgh instead of Tarrytown? Because Mr Gold has his house on the market and this covert operation through his friend Mr Feiner can only happen because of Mr Feiner's past relationship with Robert Martin, et al. The Mayor of Tarrytown doesn't have this "special relationship that Mr Gold needed to guarantee this deal be consummated. Again, why? Because the value of Mr Gold's home will increase in value even more if the purchaser can be assured no development will take place nearby.

Still don't believe in cronyism in Greenburgh? Well, this same property is also up for a certiorari challenge as well a tax discount if this convoluted deal does not go through. How does it need to proceed for the deal to be done? Mr Feiner and his Town Board must simply accept the donation of the one million dollars from Robert Martin, who has previously donated to Mr Feiner and possibly his Board members and then sign a check for the property in Mr Gold's backyard. Can you say done deal?

Once we see an adjustment to taxation in the Town, it will provide predictability for families and businesses alike. Families will be able to budget more effectively while businesses will be able to map out long term goals and expansion. If the federal government were to initiate a fair tax or flat tax, it would allow the less-fortunate to keep more of what they earn as well as eliminate the proverbial gray and black markets that deal solely in cash. It would seem like a win-win regardless of what your political leanings might be.

Immigration Reform
Immigrants can enrich our lives by bringing their culture and skills to our country, state and our Town. They also add wealth to our nation through human capital and occasionally innovation. However, breaking the law is unacceptable. That is why securing the border on a national level to stop trespassing and narco-trafficking should be a national priority. At the same time, we must cease Mr Feiner's broad-brush "sanctuary town" mentality that puts these same residents in peril by turning a blind eye toward illegal housing throughout our many neighborhoods in our Town. This is a safety issue that has proven to be a killer time and time again. It must stop! And yet we seek to encourage immigration done through an orderly and legal process. We are a country of laws and providing incentives to circumvent those laws will do irreparable damage to our system of governance.

Prioritizing Education
We must commit to education reform and school-choice. Our schools must inspire the next generation of doctors, engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. Email propaganda from Mr Feiner via a Town email list doesn't correct issues or improve our student's educational ability. To be equipped with the knowledge and skills our kids need to thrive in the new economy, we have to ensure that every child, regardless of their neighborhood, has access to quality education. We can provide educational opportunity by expanding parental choice in education and maintaining local control over local schools. Teachers are the bedrock of our education system and they should be rewarded on a merit based system. They should be given the freedom and flexibility to work in an environment that is not stifled by bureaucracy and archaic work rules. Our teachers are the solution, not the problem. Our kids are our future, not a commodity!

Energy
The need to reduce our prices at the pump and regain our independence from foreign oil is not just an economic issue, it is a national security issue. While we can increase our domestic sources of energy through environmentally responsible energy production, this is a much bigger scale than we can tackle alone. Domestic energy production will not only help reduce gas prices, it will also lead to an increase in job creation. Renewable energy sources such as wind, and solar should be allowed to compete in the free market without government involvement or interference. If and when that is allowed to happen, and government subsidies are no longer involved, the market will dictate price and demand. In the meantime, we can assist manufacturers by waiving some fees and bureaucracy issues to make their start up a bit easier.

Mr Feiner has used Town Hall for his own rallies (without paying the rental fees) against nuclear power without providing alternatives beyond the stereotyped suggestions we always hear from the environmentalists. They may be worthwhile additions, but can they replace what we already have? Has he installed solar panels on his home? Does he drive a battery operated or flex-fueled car? Of course not. What's good for you and I never seems to apply to him.

 He claimed to be putting in an electric car charging station at the Greenburgh library at no cost to the taxpayer. Scrutiny of the details proved that not only did it not make sense to put it there, but there would be costs and the Town taxpayer would be stuck paying for them again. When he proposed spending $500,000 to replace all of our current light fixtures with LED fixtures and bulbs, he never studied or completed a Return On Investment or qualified his desires with facts and figures. If he had a more structured and cost effective methodology, his "pitch" might have been substantiated. In fact, if all of this is so good, why hasn't he begun to convert the Town fleet of cars and trucks to battery operated vehicles, with charging stations at Town Hall?

Economics
Greenburgh's economic condition could dramatically improve for our Town and revitalize our infrastructure, schools and public services by cohesively addressing all of our energy requirements, budgeting, growth and development as a comprehensive strategy such as in our oft-delayed Comprehensive Plan. But that would require a genuine ability for our elected politicians to stop pandering for votes, parceling out gifts or certificates to the willfully ignorant and propose decisions that may be controversial but able to be validated and stand up to the scrutiny of the residents. Their validation must not fall under the aegis of Mr Feiner. Mr Feiner and his Board have no problem making decisions against less affluent neighborhoods for his donors and friends and leaving the affluent ones undisturbed. Perhaps its time for all the neighborhoods to unite for a common goal and stop this madness!

Getting our fiscal house in order by reducing overall spending levels must be a top priority. Having double-digit tax increases one year and then claim to stay within the state 2% tax cap is not a fiscal plan. It is not only fiscally irresponsible, it is immoral! Offering various pieces of property to chosen recipients violates the tenets of trust voters have placed in our officials. Jumping from one issue to another because you can get free publicity is an abuse of the position that should only be regarded as a privilege to hold. That privilege has been abused. In fact it has been over-abused! It must change. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

* Read more at https://www.facebook.com/greenburghupdate