Monday, May 25, 2015

A Different Type of Memorial Day

The Elmsford Fire Department, led by Chief David Signor, participated in church services, a parade followed by a ceremony held at Village Hall to honor our fallen heroes. Numerous groups were in attendance and everyone seemed to be enjoying the festivities. Except one couple. They were busy in a different way.

At approximately 1:30PM, after the last hot dog was consumed and the tables and chairs put away, the Elmsford Fire Department received a call for an ambulance to respond to Ichi Riki’s Japanese Restaurant for a woman in labor. Upon arrival, firefighters and police officers found a young woman, who works at the restaurant, moaning with labor pains. Paramedics arrived shortly after and assisted as firefighters put the young woman onto the stretcher and wheeled her into the fire department’s new ambulance, which was recently just put into service.

As the young woman’s labor pains increased she became quite loud. Instructions from the paramedics could be heard between her breathing and screaming. The father who also works at the restaurant, had pulled his car behind the ambulance prepared to follow them to the hospital. Assistant Chief Nelson Diaz suggested he turn off the van and join his wife in the back of the ambulance. Protocol and safety reasons warrant letting the child be born in a stationary vehicle. Since this was her third child, it was assumed that labor might be swift. Just as the husband had gotten into the ambulance and joined his wife, she gave birth to a boy. This is the first birth in the Elmsford Fire Department’s new ambulance and truly a Memorial Day for at least one growing family. Best of luck to them all.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Sacrifice is the theme of Memorial Day. The sacrifice of individuals. The sacrifice of families. The sacrifice of communities. The sacrifice of a nation. Memorial Day is a time when America’s war heroes reminds us of the price for freedom. John Quincy Adams once said, “You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you make good use of it.”

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. It is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. It is often said to be the ultimate sacrifice. Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966. Although,  it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of this day.

Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor the dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).

Memorial Day is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). Sadly, while there were many parades to honor our past heroes, few homes and businesses displayed the American Flag. Let’s hope patriotism is still alive and flourishing in our great country and take pause during the barbecues, beach-going, shopping and relaxation to remember those who have fallen for us so that we can have so much. May God bless them.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Open Letter: Death of “The Process”

May 20, 2015
Supervisor Paul Feiner
Town Board
Town of Greenburgh
Town Hall
177 Hillside Avenue
Greenburgh, New York 10607

Dear Supervisor Feiner:

I am appealing to you in my capacity as the Vice-President of the Fulton Park Civic Association with respect to the application filed on behalf of GameOn 365 Sports, LLC seeking a zoning amendment that will negatively impact the entire Town in the future, initially allowing construction of a prohibitive commercial sports complex on Dobbs Ferry Road in the R-30 Zoning District.

As you will recall, at the Town Board meeting on April 8, 2015, an overwhelming majority of community members attended to steadfastly voice their opposition to GameOn 365’s application. In fact, the overwhelming sentiment was that the proposed zoning amendment should be rejected. Nonetheless, you and Town Board members, Ken Jones and Kevin Morgan, decided to blatantly disregard the will of the residents of the Town of Greenburgh by moving the GameOn 365 application forward by commencing the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act process and referring the matter to the Town of Greenburgh Planning Board for an “informal” review. This belies your collective statements of impartiality and removes all pretext of keeping an open mind! I am writing to advise you that the members of my association, as I’m sure the residents living in the vicinity of the golf ranch property, are greatly troubled by your actions and the actions of Councilman Morgan and Councilman Jones. 

I had written you a letter on April 8, 2015, pointing out a number of deficiencies in the long form Environmental Assessment Form prepared by GameOn 365. Regardless, you, in concert with Councilman Morgan and Councilman Jones, and over the objections of Councilmember’s Sheehan and Juettner, decided to declare the Town Board’s intent to act as Lead Agency under SEQRA and provide notice of this intent to interested and involved agencies, giving GameOn 365 the necessary ammunition to seek real financial investors. I believe this is purely endorsed semantics to move GameOn 365’s proposal forward! I reiterate that preceding any further with the SEQRA review is improper until the errors in the EAF are analyzed and corrected. To continue with the review would create a flawed environmental review process since the involved and interested agencies cannot accurately assess the impact of the zone change or the scope of the underlying project. Or, is that the actual plan? I ask that the Town Board immediately withdraw its intent to act or become Lead Agency, and, at the very least, require GameOn 365 to amend its EAF until the errors I previously pointed out are corrected.

The next troubling aspect of your actions is that you have continually acted as an advocate for GameOn 365. Although you contend that you are neutral and that you are merely following “the process”, there are many examples where you have chosen to proceed in a biased manner.  One example is that you have continually taken the position that the traffic impacts relating to Dobbs Ferry Road are not significant and that the project would not result in excessive traffic.  However, this is substantially different than the position that you took with respect to the Fortress Bible Church.  At that time, you were very concerned about the volume of traffic the Fortress Bible Church would add to Dobbs Ferry Road. The GameOn project would likely add more traffic, on a more regular basis, than the Fortress Bible Church proposal.

Your most recent statements that you were only concerned with site lines with respect to the Fortress Bible Church are directly contradicted by the record in that action and will invariably and rightly be part of any litigation concerning the proposed traffic impacts. Your statement that you spoke with the Chief of Police on occasions regarding the Fortress Bible project is also contradicted by your testimony in that case. These contradictions demonstrate that you are anything but neutral. Past performance has proven when you have a project you support, such as GameOn 365, you will do anything to move the application forward; but where you have a project you are against, such as Fortress Bible, you will do anything to oppose it including destruction of evidence and lying under oath. It is no wonder people have lost confidence in the process in our Town!

You have also continually questioned whether the traffic impacts studied by House of Sports should be considered when analyzing the GameOn 365 project. Despite your assertions to the contrary, the GameOn 365 facility will attract a similar amount of traffic as House of Sports. Furthermore, the number of spectators and participants will not in any way be limited by an alleged lack of seating or otherwise at the GameOn 365 facility. There is no doubt that when children come to GameOn 365, their parents, relatives and friends will attend practices, games and tournaments in large numbers.

The manner in which you have driven this process forward demonstrates bias and that you are acting as an advocate for GameOn 365.  As stated above, you have voted to declare the Town Board as Lead Agency, despite the deficiencies in the EAF and substantial evidence and testimony that property in the R-30 zone should not be zoned for commercial use. The only reason to have moved the environmental review process forward at this time is because you are in favor of the GameOn 365 application!

The formation of a “committee” for the purpose of hiring of a traffic consultant and planning consultant, is also highly suspect, is not typical in a SEQRA review and further establishes that you are treating the GameOn 365 application differently than other applications. The usual process for a zone change petition is for the applicant to submit studies in conjunction with a draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Town professionals can then analyze. It will be at that time that the Town could hire a planning consultant, traffic consultant and other professionals to review the applicant’s studies. The public would then be given the opportunity to hire its consultants to analyze the applicant’s studies and present information during the SEQRA review. It is entirely inappropriate for the Town to conduct studies on its own, prior to the applicant submitting its own studies and draft Environmental Impact Statement. This is true even if the applicant is paying for the studies, which further taints the process. What is even more disturbing is that if the Town’s consultants ultimately conclude that there are not any significant impacts from the project, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Town Board to reject or modify the application during either the SEQRA or site plan review process.

The supposedly “informal” referral of this application to the Planning Board is also not typical of a petition for a zoning amendment. As you are aware, Town Code § 285-64 requires the Planning Board to make a formal recommendation addressing specific areas of concern with respect to any petition for a zone change before the Town Board holds a public hearing. However, there is no provision for an “informal” Planning Board review in the Town Code. If you are seeking an advisory opinion from the Planning Board, I believe such advisory opinions are improper and illegal. Your attempt to somehow sidestep the formal recommendation process by asking the Planning Board to conduct an “informal” review is again contrary to the process and shows that you are taking a biased approach with respect to this particular applicant.

The bottom line is that communities throughout the Town of Greenburgh are against the GameOn 365’s petition for a zone change that will forever change the landscape of Greenburgh town wide. Yet you, Councilmen Jones and Morgan continue to support it at all costs. I insist you all to reconsider the current direction the Town Board has taken with respect to GameOn 365’s application and dismiss it.
Thomas Bock, 
Vice-President, Fulton Park Civic Association

Friday, May 8, 2015

Racism Thrives

We have often written about different racist incidents that have prevailed in our Town government. The most recent is with Greenburgh Police Officer Brad DiCairano. Apparently he posted a picture on Facebook that showed a photo of blacks on a minivan protesting last summers Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Missouri, next to one of baboons jumping all over a white woman's car. The post drew criticism from fellow officers and we understand was then shown to GPD Chief Christopher McNerney a day or so later. But, by the time Chief McNerney learned of the Facebook page, using the name 'B-rad Di', it had been taken down. Chief McNerney had placed DiCairano on modified duty upon his return from vacation. Officers are permitted to express their personal views as long as it does not, among other things, negatively affect the public perception of the Department according to the department's social media policy.

The rest of Officer DiCairano’s troubles can be discussed at a future date. The fundamental questions seem to be whether or not he overstepped the department's protocol and were his first amendment rights being upheld or not? Should a police officer, or any municipal employee be held to a different standard and does this violate his free speech rights? As horrible to some and perhaps entertaining to others as this act may be, should this officer lose his job over this or just be reprimanded? And, does he deserve a second chance if he apologizes and shows remorse?

ABG learned that Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner condemned the Facebook post once he learned of it and said he was confident McNerney was taking it "extremely seriously." Law enforcement people have to interact with all aspects of the community and it's totally inappropriate for them to be encouraging, even privately, any forms of hate or racism, Feiner said. How interesting that he would only single out law enforcement and not other Town employees. 

Then Mr Feiner sent out an email blast about this incident to several thousand people in the Town, stating:
An unpleasant note…a police officer was suspended today and relieved of his duties for the posting of a racially insensitive posting and comments on facebook[sic]. The internal investigation is continuing. The officer faces discipline up to and including termination of employment. I have asked our newly formed Human Rights Committee to review the town’s policies regarding town employees who make racially offensive comments and to come up with policies that would apply to all employees who work for the  town.

In a March 10th Town Board meeting several years ago, Councilwoman Sonya Brown publicly “dressed down” Mr Feiner explaining that he had told her and other candidates running for re-election to not bother campaigning in Fairview because those voters were unintelligent! It seems from what Ms Brown was saying that he was alluding to the minority community there. So, how can Mr Feiner continue to claim to be against racism when he condones it repeatedly? 

In our article entitled “Selective Racism Condoned By Supervisor” on April 8th, 2014, we quoted Mr Feiner as saying, “We cannot, as elected officials, allow discrimination to rear its ugly head.” Yet he sent emails endorsing Superintendent Ross after allegations of racism were made against him and has since been fired from Greenburgh Central School System. His racist remarks were proven to be made over an extended period of time.

Mr Feiner and the Town Board chose to ignore the use of the “N-word” in Town Hall by Tax Assessor Edye McCarthy in a meeting with department employees present. We posted an excerpt of a letter (below) of complaint from the offended party in that same article. The complaint was summarily ignored by the Town. Why was Mr Feiner absent after a complaint of racism was filed against Town Assessor Edye McCarthy? Perhaps Mr Feiner waved it off saying, It’s not that big a deal.

Below is an excerpt from the complaint letter addressed to Town Assessor Edye McCarthy and carbon-copied to the Union President and Supervisor Paul Feiner on October 27, 2008. We have omitted the names and body of the letter to protect the privacy of the victim.  
We forewarn you that the content may be considered disturbing.
Here’s an excerpt from that complaint:

We’re surrounded by double-standards: Recently, Mr Feiner himself was found guilty of discrimination and violating the civil rights of the Fortress Bible Church of Mt Vernon after they sought Town approvals to build a new church and school on Dobbs Ferry Road. Mr Feiner did not want them building in the backyard of his friend, then County Legislator and now NYS Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti and tried to scuttle the Church's application. It was proven in court that Mr Feiner openly practiced discrimination against the Fortress Bible Church when the Church purchased property and sought to construct a new church and school on it just off of Dobbs Ferry Road.

In time, Fortress Bible Church filed suit against the Town after being pushed once too often. It’s believed that Mr Feiner tried to “convince” them into donating a fire truck to the Fairview Fire Department in return for permit approvals. It’s widely believed he did this to the Westchester Meadows (aka Hebrew Home) in Valhalla. They capitulated and amazingly the Fairview FD received a brand new Rescue truck and the Westchester Meadows was able to continue construction. But the Church wasn’t going to be coerced into agreeing to Mr Feiner's alleged demands and questionable behavior. The Church went to court and was victorious. Their victory is the Unincorporated Town’s loss as we will be forced to cover Mr Feiner’s illegal actions to the tune of $6.5 million!

Racism should not be welcome anywhere. Yet it seems to have found a home in Greenburgh, well-known to be a sanctuary Town for issues Mr Feiner decides are acceptable. But due to condoning racism himself, he should recuse himself from any and all conversations surrounding it. He should also not be an adjudicator if Greenburgh Police Officer Brad DiCairano should face disciplinary actions for his post on Facebook via the Town Board. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

2 Workers Die In Hastings-On-Hudson Explosion

Two workers lost their lives while working on what is believed to be a 500 gallon heating oil tank located and buried in the backyard of a home at 65 Hillside Avenue. An unknown quantity of gasoline was also found stored in the adjacent garage and of-loaded into a 55-gallon drum. The multi-family home is owned by Django Morrison. Apparently, the two workers were attempting to cut the tank so it could be removed from the ground and were unaware there was still product in it. As they cut into the metal tank with a saw, sparks from the saw must have ignited the vapors and product, causing the remaining product to explode. Unconfirmed reports believed they worked for Three D Maintenance Corporation of Elmsford.

The Hastings-On-Hudson Fire, Police, EMS and Highway Departments all responded to the scene. Other police agencies assisted including the Westchester County Hazardous Materials Response Team, OSHA, PESH, and others. At one point County Executive Rob Astorino stopped by to survey the aftermath at the scene. Once the explosion happened, witnesses stated the oil tank flew upwards about 75 feet into the air, landing in the woods behind the property some 50 or 60 feet from its original location. The workers bodies were thrown approximately 20 feet from where they had been working and are thought to have died instantly. Paramedics on scene performed CPR on both victims to no avail.

Several helicopters flew overhead filming the activity on the ground and other media representatives were in attendance as well. This tragic event, could have been avoided had proper safety precautions been observed and implemented before the removal process began. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these workers.

5/8/2015 - Addendum: ABG has learned the identities of the two workers: Luis Jacho, 52, and Mora Segundo, 50, both residents of Ossining. We've since learned from unconfirmed sources that the outside oil tank had been used to store gasoline, probably either old gasoline or excess from different pieces of equipment. Modern gasoline additives cause gasoline to have a shelf life and can "gum-up" fuel lines if left to sit unused. Disposal of used or outdated gasoline is cumbersome and sometimes shortcuts are taken. Apparently, Mr Jacho and Mr Segundo were unaware of the tank having gasoline in it and its volatility. Had this tank been used as intended to store oil, the workers might have still created a hazardous condition by cutting the tank with product in it but the outcome might not have been fatal.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee Gets Blasted

The Town of Greenburgh seems to thrive on limiting the access of its residents and taxpayers, allowing developers and our elected officials to almost do as they please. This has been witnessed time and again throughout the Town. Then there are certain developer/law firm/friends of Paul that have unfettered access to the corner office. Once the meeting/phone call takes place, the yellow brick road is magically transformed into gold for them.

Breaking from Town tradition, the Town's Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) offered numerous public opportunities for the residents to raise questions, points, criticisms, and such of the plan. In fact, Mr Feiner wanted the Committee to travel to different areas of the Town doing a dog-and-pony show. The Committee resisted so as to be able to hold the meetings at Town Hall and be both recorded and televised. We applaud the Committee's decision to do this.

Under the guidance of former Town Planning Commissioner Thomas Madden, who has since left our Town to do something in Stamford, CT., and the Chairmanship of Francis Sheehan, Town Councilman, there were many ideas incorporated into this plan that were unwelcome. One such idea of major concern was that of incorporating the use of "nodes"* in the future. During the first round of public sessions, the CPSC heard from many concerned citizens. But did they listen?

Apparently not. Resident after resident, especially from the Edgemont area, which will see beau coup nodes in their area, took to the podium to bemoan that after a year of waiting, little has changed with the unveiling of the revised Comprehensive Plan. Many stated they heard but didn't listen to what was being said. Noticeably absent were two very engaged citizens from the Committee, Madelon O'Shea and Ella Preiser. Could they have been boycotting this meeting? ABG doesn't know for sure. However, we do know that neither favored the "node" conception. That idea was the brainchild of former Town Planning Commissioner Thomas Madden. Many believe he is responsible for many of the negative changes taking place in the Town including the idea of nodes and are glad he is gone.

Town Councilman Francis Sheehan, Chairman for the CPSC, sent out this email following a morning and evening public session to get feedback from the public on the latest offering:

"The Town's Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) heard more than six hours of comments and questions Tuesday (4/28/15) 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. on the Second Draft of the Comprehensive Plan. The turnout at both sessions was terrific. Everyone who wanted to speak was given unlimited time to do so, even after the end time had passed.

Rather than continue the Public Hearing on May 14, 2015, as previously scheduled, the hearing will be postponed to a date to be determined and later published. The Committee wants to consider the six hours of comments in the coming weeks and edit the document to address issues raised. The edits will be made available before the Public Hearing is continued so we may receive comments at that hearing on the Plan as edited.

The CPSC appreciates everyone who took the time to attend the meeting yesterday. The Public Hearing worked as it should: we heard from the public and we will be acting on what we heard.   

Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Chair, Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee"

Mr Sheehan's email is correct about the turnout, although the evening session had more people than the earlier session. To their credit, they let everyone speak for an unlimited amount of time and there was an occasional back-and-forth with speakers and Committee members. Mr Sheehan's email closes with, "we heard from the public and we will be acting on what we heard." We certainly hope so. There is some good information in the Town's proposed Comprehensive Plan. Yet, it might all be for naught if the Committee only heard what was being said but didn't really listen. If they did, this plan may help us curtail Mr Feiner's wholesale gifting of Unincorporated Greenburgh to developers and friends. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

*The Town would create what's known as overlay zones called  "nodes" to allow for retail/multi‐story, mixed use buildings that would include residential units and flexible parking standards (no or very limited parking). Picture 4-corner intersections along Central Avenue and later the Unincorporated Town as a whole as having these nodes. It is claimed that the overlay zone should also include design guidelines or standards to foster a uniform standard of high quality development throughout the corridor.