Sunday, August 30, 2015

Brownfield Application 5 Years Overdue

In the latest daily press release by Mr Feiner, he states that his Town Board has, "authorized the submission of an application to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up contamination found at Frank's Nursery on Dobbs Ferry Road." What does this mean to the overburdened Greenburgh taxpayer, the auctioneer of the property, the Town, and whomever the purchaser winds up being? Quite a bit actually.

Mr Feiner also claims, "We are also  making good progress regarding our efforts to sell Frank's nursery to an assisted living facility (the property is currently zoned for that purpose) but all the details have not been finalized as of yet." That's because NO details have been finalized. As Mr Feiner continually used the former Frank's Nursery property as a political football and media bonanza, it appears that he never had any intention of selling the property to anyone. By not selling the property, it allowed him unfettered access to the media for self-bloviation as well as self-publicity. The irony is that he needs to do neither, what with his own website, the Town website, the Town's energy website and the Daily Voice's website. Ever the political huckster, he remains fervent in his self-promotion without actually accomplishing anything (other than said self-promotion).

The gist of the Brownfield Application is italicized below:

Brownfield Cleanup Program Public Notice

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has received a Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) application from the Town of Greenburgh for a site known as Frank’s Nursery, site ID #C360151. This site is located in the Town of Greenburgh, within the County of Westchester, and is located at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road.

Comments regarding this application must be submitted no later than September 25, 2015. The application can be reviewed at: Greenburgh Public Library, 300 Tarrytown Road, Elmsford, NY 10523; 914-721-8200.

Information regarding the site, the application, and how to submit comments can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/60058.html or send comments to the Project Manager, James Candiloro, NYSDEC, Division of Environmental Remediation–Bureau C, 625 Broadway-11th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-7014; james.candiloro@dec.ny.gov; or call 518-402-9662.

The difficulty with this application is that it is just that, an application only. It does not ensure the Town will receive any monies to apply toward remediation of the former Frank's Nursery site. Nor does it mean there might even be some relief for the beleaguered Greenburgh taxpayer. If any money is acquired, and is applied toward remediation of the site, only that amount will benefit the taxpayer. All other costs will be assumed by the Unincorporated taxpayers!

What Mr Feiner has not said, which typifies his email publicity campaigns, is that he and the Town should have applied for the Brownfield grants when they originally acquired the property through foreclosure in February 2011. At that time, there were many more residents and more importantly, Town employees who knew about the arrangement with the D'Agostino property being used as an urban renewal demolition dump by the City of White Plains! What he didn't say, is that the Town could be approaching the City of White Plains for aid with the property's cleanup. What he didn't say was what will happen if the application is denied.

At one point several years ago, Mr Feiner attempted to initiate an illegal lease with GameOn 365 for the property for 15 years. You'll recall that GameOn 365 are the friends of Mr Feiner that he bent over backwards trying to gift the property to at an undervalued price. Fortunately, many in the Town objected and the deal was killed only after Mr Feiner was threatened with legal action. Municipalities cannot be landlords nor can they lease property acquired through foreclosure. They are required by New York State and Westchester County law to sell any and all such property. You all know that Mr Feiner routinely ignores any law he doesn't like, knowing that no one will go after him.

In the end, ABG hopes the Town gets the long overdue Brownfield funding. Even the Town's auctioneer informed the Town that no one would bid on the property because of its contamination and the costs associated with cleanup. Sadly, Mr Feiner thumbed his nose at a $3.5 million dollar cash and all remediation/cleanup expenses offer because it would have taken the property from his friends at GameOn 365. We continue to wonder why he would do this? It was also about the same time he and his Town Board began parroting the phrase "doing their due diligence". Later, it was "faith in the process" and then they included "fiduciary responsibility" among others. And whenever possible, they utilized the expressions as conjunctives, trying to get more bang for their buck. What they really wound up exposing according to many is their lack of transparency and collusion with a would-be developer.

It's time for this administration to do the right thing - sort of a foreign concept in this Town. We have a lot of great employees in the Town of Greenburgh. Yet, it seems not from the elective process. Knowing how to scam the voters this well has taken over 22-years worth of effort. Alas, it has paid off, making Mr Feiner a millionaire and then some, through his salary alone. It's time for the electorate to pay attention and stop these shenanigans. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee Releases Comprehensive Plan 3rd Draft

Press Release:
 
The 2015 Comprehensive Plan for the unincorporated area of the Town of Greenburgh (unincorporated Greenburgh) is a document that builds on both the Town’s historic past and its present strengths to direct the future.  The Plan is a blueprint that addresses foreseeable challenges, recognizes new opportunities, protects the environment, and fosters a vibrant economy with a good quality of life for its residents.  It is a community-based document which presents a long term plan for the future.  The document has evolved in response to comments we have received from the public.  The document is now in its 3rd draft and the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) seeks your input.

SUMMARY OF THE EVOLUTION OF THE 3RD DRAFT OF THE PLAN

CPSC SOUGHT PUBLIC COMMENT ON FIRST DRAFT
Following the release of the 1st draft of the Comprehensive Plan on March 21, 2014, the CPSC held five outreach meetings (Tuesday, April 29th at 7:30pm; Saturday, May 10th at 10:00am; Thursday, May 22nd at 7:30pm and Monday, June 2nd at 7:30pm, and Monday, June 16th at 7:30pm) in the Greenburgh Town Hall auditorium for the purposes of soliciting public comment.  After each meeting the CPSC met to consider all comments for potential incorporation into the next revision of the Plan.

CPSC SOUGHT PUBLIC COMMENT ON SECOND DRAFT
Following the release of the 2nd draft of the Comprehensive Plan on March 24, 2015, the CPSC held a public hearing (Tuesday, April 28th at 1:00pm – 4:00pm & 7:00pm – 10:00pm) in the Greenburgh Town Hall auditorium for the purposes of soliciting public comment.  After this public hearing, which was adjourned until now, the CPSC met to consider the additional comments received for potential incorporation into the Plan.  The wide range of public comments received contributed to the current 3rd draft of the Comprehensive Plan. 

THIRD DRAFT OF COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AVAILABLE
The 3rd draft of the Plan is available on the Plan’s website (www.GreenburghComprehensivePlan.com) and also as a downloadable PDF on the homepage of the Town of Greenburgh (www.GreenburghNY.com).  Each map of the Plan is also downloadable as a separate high resolution PDF with zoom-in capabilities.  Hard copies are available at the Greenburgh Public Library and the Town Hall in the offices of the Town Clerk and in the Department of Community Development and Conservation. 

SUMMARY OF MAJOR CHANGES TO 2nd DRAFT LEADING TO 3rd DRAFT 
A majority of the changes reflected in the 3rd draft of the Plan were made in Chapter 12.0, Land-Use and Zoning, in response to public comments.  These changes include: 
  • the removal of the “Mt. Joy/Henry St. Traditional Hamlet District;” 
  • the removal of the potential for residential uses as part of mixed-uses in the planning areas and rescinding the related draft 2.0 CA-District multi-family use recommendations; 
  • the removal of charrettes from the Plan and as a planning policy; 
  • the removal of the potential for infill redevelopment on the library property; 
  • a consolidation of the future land-use maps into one map, depicting all the planning areas and study areas; 
Related references to the changes noted above also were made in other chapters of the Plan. 

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU.  THE PUBLIC HEARING HAS BEEN SET FOR THE THIRD DRAFT.
On Thursday, October 1, 2015, 7:30pm, the CPSC will continue the March 24, 2015 adjourned public hearing, this time seeking comment on the 3rd draft of the Plan.  Written comments may be sent to PlanZone@GreenburghNY.com anytime up to two weeks after the public hearing is closed.  

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PUBLIC HEARING?
Following the conclusion of the public hearing and comment period, the CPSC will make any necessary changes and forward its recommended Plan to the Town Board.  The Town Board will discuss the Plan during its public meetings, ensure compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), and consider adoption of the Plan.

After reading the document, we hope you come to the Public Hearing on October 1, 2015, at 7:30pm, or write to us at planzone@greenburghny.com or at Town Hall (177 Hillside Avenue, Greenburgh, NY 10607), and comment on the revised document.  We again look forward to your comments.

Francis Sheehan
Councilman, Chair, Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN STEERING COMMITTEE
Francis Sheehan, Town Councilman and CPSC Chair
Fran McLaughlin, Planning Board Chair and CPSC Vice Chair
Madelon O’Shea, Historic and Landmark Preservation Board Chair
Ella Preiser, Community Representative
Walter Simon, Planning Board Vice Chair
Theresa Mae Tori, Conservation Advisory Council Chair
Lou Klein, Commercial Real Estate Liaison
____________________________________________ 
Garrett Duquesne, AICP, Commissioner, Community Development and Conservation
Viola Taliaferrow, Residential Real Estate Liaison

 For further information on the Town of Greenburgh Comprehensive Plan, please contact: 
Garrett Duquesne, AICP, Commissioner, Community Development and Conservation 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

WestHelp Agreements Violated Again

At  the last Town Board meeting they proved once again that it lacks integrity, transparency and honesty with their skewed methods of governance. This latest move belies Mr Feiner’s often used canned phrases of ‘due diligence’, ‘transparency’, ‘faith in the process’ and others. This time the Town Board held a special meeting, a covert meeting if you will, to change the tenets of the previously agreed upon use of the WestHelp facility on the Westchester Community College campus and negate the agreement that had been developed for the property. Originally created and used as an affordable housing facility for mothers with under school-age children, you may recall Mr Feiner chose to leave the vacant facility open after the County ceased using the facility for homeless families. Its original intent and design had been as an affordable housing facility.

With a seemingly veiled public disclosure at the ending of last Wednesday nights Town Board meeting and without any public session, or any public discourse, Mr Feiner and his Board skirted their elected obligation entitled to by the public regarding the WestHelp property. It highlights Mr Feiner’s contempt and low regard for the Greenburgh taxpayer. He and his Board members voted in a hastily contrived “special meeting” to change the determined use for the now degraded WestHelp facility. You may recall, after the lease with the County expired due to Mr Feiner’s twice refused contract acceptance, the facility was vacated by the County’s Department of Social Services (DSS). Mr Feiner took it upon himself, condoned by his Board, to not only leave the facilities unsecured, but to accelerate its degradation so it would need to be torn down, appeasing the residents of Valhalla who were mostly against the site in the first place. The reason? Votes.

The site was the brainchild of the HUD Chair Andrew Cuomo, who was appointed by then President Bill Clinton after Cuomo’s political aspirations were halted when he insulted New Yorkers with several negative comments when he was running for governor. Knowing what short memories voters have, he was whisked away to Washington to wait out the furor. Once his past history was forgotten, he began his anointment to the Albany throne. As governor, he disagreed with Mr Feiner’s newest proposal for the WestHelp site to sell the property to the Ferncliff School for the disabled. County Executive Astorino, as well as other County Legislators, disagreed as well but chose inaction over The Town’s violation of the in-place and still active contract. ABG conversed with County Legislator Alfreda Williams, who said the County Board would need to address any contractual violations and decide how to proceed. Nothing was done.

So, after languishing for four years at the mandate by Mr Feiner, the County finally agreed to let the Town submit a proposal for the site or lose this gift-horse property completely. The facility had generated $1.2 million dollars a year in revenue to the Town. Had the Town continued to receive those funds, we would have had $4.8 million that could have been used toward paying down the $6.5 million guilty verdict fine levied against Mr Feiner after being found guilty by a Federal Court for discrimination, destroying evidence, not being a credible witness and more. In the meantime, Mr Feiner keeps insisting the Town remained within the 2% NYS Tax Cap while raising our taxes 3.4%. More political posturing aided by Cuomo’s 2% Tax Cap hype.

After the NYS Division of Human Rights granted the Town permission to impose age restrictions toward the property’s usage, it was decided to create a Senior Living Facility on the WestHelp site in accordance with the terms of the original lease with the County. They would reconfigure the 108 efficiency apartments into 74 apartments to be rented out to senior citizens. The facility would then be managed by a previously denied management company, Peekskill’s Marathon Development Group. Mr Feiner originally tried to award the contract to a developer with no background or experience in property management. In fact, the deal  that Mr Feiner originally refused to award to Marathon is the same deal as before with two major and costly changes. First, the deal will only bring in $127,000 per year, down from the original proposal Mr Feiner killed. Second, the Town, in particular the Unincorporated Taxpayer, will wind up paying for the remediation to the site! This was another decision made behind closed doors, possibly in an elusive Executive Session and never a posed to other bidders. Faith in the system? Transparency? Due diligence? Hardly.

Messrs. Morgan and Jones “brokered” the same deal that was laid out initially and are now bragging of this “new” deal as though they are master negotiators. They’re not. Because of Mr Feiner and his Boards actions, the Town not only lost the $1.2 million a year in revenue, they knowingly and arbitrarily decided to cost the Town even more by dragging out this process and agreeing to what had already been proposed, less the four year reduction of income for the Town, income for Marathon and most importantly income that would have helped the resident taxpayers. Now, however, the taxpayers will be “on the hook” for the remediation costs, no matter what they amount to. Additionally, Marathon will wind up managing 54 apartments instead of the originally agreed upon 74 and the seniors that might have been afforded homes will still be left wanting.

If Mr Feiner and his Board were truly interested in providing affordable housing and not just posturing about it, they could have assigned the 108 apartments to some of the 250 families on the Greenburgh Housing Authority’s waiting list once the County ceased their operation of WestHelp.That would have amounted to about half of their waiting list of Town residents being helped. This would have alleviated the blight of Greenburgh residents and probably others seeking a home. There was no stipulation in the original contract about who the Town could place in the apartments once the Town took it over. But since this administration is not sincere about addressing the problem, those people continue to wait - over four years later.

Another connivance by Mr Feiner means more delays and another possible rejection for the use of the WestHelp property from the County. We’re pretty sure that Mr Feiner did not make the switch from senior to affordable housing to help County Executive Astorino in the County’s fulfillment of the federally mandated housing agreement in Westchester. Although, given Mr Feiner’s history of guilty verdicts in court, we have to wonder if he has had any experience with those judges and cut a deal? Regardless, after rejecting proposals from bona fide housing management companies, turning down a cash sale with all remediation costs included, trying to change the use from housing to a school, being found guilty in paying funds to the Valhalla School District, after accusing residents of undermining his (illegal) deals, it will be no small task to see anybody living at the WestHelp facility. That is, unless they are in tents. This must end. It’s the only way we’ll get A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pit Bull Put Down After Attacking Boy

While we are still trying to get more information, ABG has learned that a pit bull dog in the Manhattan Avenue area attacked a young boy, biting him in the ankle late Friday afternoon or early evening. Our information stated the boy was about eight years old and that the dog broke the boy's ankle. Police were called to the scene and were forced to put the pit bull down. Additional information filtering in to us state that a crowd began forming in the area and police called for backup. Our understanding at this point was that there was no violence. ABG will report more when we learn it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tax Revenues Down, No Relief In Sight

We wonder how Mr Feiner will work around the NYS 2% Tax Cap and still be able to go unchallenged about raising taxes? He recently sent out an email (we're awaiting the snail-mail version) stating, “The town of Greenburgh is committed to complying with the tax cap - which limits tax increases. Unlike some government entities in the region and state our tax increases have been below the tax cap every year since the cap was enacted.” This is only partially true as the politicians have provided numerous "outs" for them to be able to say they adhered to the tax cap when they really didn’t. Case in point, while Mr Feiner says he and his Town Board stayed within the tax cap of 2%, our taxes increased this year by 3.4%. It hardly seems they're adhering to the cap!

Another way around budgetary constraints is to avoid the budget completely. An example of this would be the “special meeting” held by the Town Board to covertly approve $1.5 million to rehabilitate the Glenville Water District storage tank. “In the near future,” Mr Feiner said, “We will rehabilitate additional water tanks located around the town.” Then he added, “We're reviewing another contract to address other tanks. I anticipate extensive infrastructure work to take place in the coming years. . . .but don't have costs yet.” Of course he doesn’t have costs yet - those pesky details. Nor will he. What he has figured out this time is by holding unscheduled, almost ad hoc, “special” budget votes under the guise of time constrained emergency decisions needing to be addressed for unplanned problems, he gets to skirt the typical scrutiny of this expense. As we’re witnessing this time, it’s water tank refurbishing. By doing it this way, he avoids the budget process, the planning and a real public hearings process and of course, the 2% tax cap limit.

All this was done on the cusp of learning that sales tax revenue for the Town is down by 2.4% for the Town, or $152,000. The reality is its not a huge amount of money. It’s a bit funny that sales tax revenue is down, and yet Mr Feiner and his Town Board continue proving they are anti-business by increasing fees, taxes and costs to local merchants. Their actions belie their words. His latest  coup de grace was the hotel tax that he personally insisted Legislators Stewart-Cousins and Abinanti push into law on behalf of the Town and our “destitute” financial condition. The convoluted thought process espoused by Mr Abinanti is that this is a victimless tax because it only effects out-of-towners. Hardly. And, Mr Feiner, a vociferous proponent of the tax, is the one who single-handedly created the Town’s financial crisis. Oddly, he never mentions those points. What eventually will happen is corporations will begin to trim their travel to the area because of costs, which will create a domino effect with other industries whose products and services coincide with corporate travel and expenses.

Those who subscribe to the theory of big government assuming the local cost burdens by the County, State and ultimately Federal government must realize that they too are experiencing lower sales tax revenues. In fact, the actual report that Mr Feiner used to publicize our minor drop in tax revenue stated that Westchester County also saw a drop in sales tax revenue of 2.59%. Rockland County stayed about the same and Putnam saw a 3.15% drop from the first half of 2014. “There has been a general downward trend in sales tax collection growth over the last several years and that is continuing in 2015,” said State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in a statement. “The slow growth in sales taxes could pose fiscal challenges for local governments across New York, especially for counties who rely heavily on sales tax collections to pay their bills.” ABG doubts Mr Feiner really cares about the loss of money, but enjoys more the opportunity to use it for yet another campaign piece through email and snail mail. It’s all about publicity.

Part of the decline in revenue is driven by online shopping and higher gas mileage vehicles purchasing less gasoline which is causing the drop in the local state and federal governments revenue. We looked at a chart of taxes per state. Simply, New York gas stations charge over a dollar in taxes per gallon. Here’s a blurb we found on one of the websites we accessed trying to learn about the gasoline taxes. It reminded us of when we try to decipher the costs and taxes on our phone bills.

Excerpt from report:
Petroleum Business Tax (13-A) - requires annual adjustment (gasoline $0.178/gal, diesel $0.1605/gal).  Petroleum Testing Fee (gasoline): $0.005/gal. Additional sales taxes apply: State Sales Tax: $0.08/gal ($0.0875/gal in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD)); local sales taxes also apply (some counties levy this in a cents-per-gallon manner.) Prepaid Sales Tax rates (see Publication 790, “Chart for Prepayment of Sales Tax on Motor Fuels”): $0.175/gal, $0.21/gal, $0.16/gal for Regions 1, 2, 3, respectively. Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Compensation License fee: 0.08 cents per barrel plus a surcharge of $0.0425 cents per barrel, all petroleum products ($0.0029/gal). 

The costs from lawsuit guilty verdicts against Mr Feiner are crippling the town’s taxpaying residents. We all need relief. But imposing new taxes onto visitors to our area is not the answer. Westchester County has the highest taxes in the nation. Greenburgh’s taxes go up consistently every year, tax cap or not. The NYS Tax Cap, while a great PR stunt for the politicos, is not helping provide relief to the beleaguered taxpayers. Greenburgh residents and businesses need help from inane decisions such as this recently passed hotel tax by agenda-driven politicians. We need actions of character, moral compass and decision-making that reflects what the majority is interested in achieving, such as more open space, lower taxes, less development and congestion. We need elected officials who represent the constituency, not the developers and others with little or no “skin in the game.” Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Veterans Eligible For Free Trip to DC

Hudson Valley Honor Flight has announced its Fall 2015 Washington, D.C. flight schedule and is inviting Greenburgh veterans to participate.

Two flights will take veterans to visit the nation’s war memorials on daylong trips scheduled forSaturday, Oct.10 from Stewart International Airport in Newburgh and Saturday, Nov. 7 from Westchester County Airport in White Plains.

Hudson Valley Honor Flight (HVHF) is a nonprofit organization honoring American veterans for all their sacrifices by bringing them to Washington, D.C. to visit their respective war memorials at no cost to them. Each veteran is accompanied by a volunteer, personal “guardian” who is responsible for ensuring that veteran’s trip is a memorable one. Guardians are responsible for covering the cost of their trip.

Applications for veterans can be found on its website: www.hvhonorflight.com and veterans are encouraged to apply quickly as applications will be processed on a first come, first served basis.

To learn more, or apply to participate, call 845-391-0076 or visit: http://hvhonorflight.com.

About Hudson Valley Honor Flight
Hudson Valley Honor Flight (HVHF) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization which “Honors American Veterans” for all their sacrifices. HVHF transports these heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit their memorials at no cost to them. Top priority is given to those of the Greatest Generation, that of World War II, and terminally ill veterans from other wars. HVHF plans to take ALL veterans from other wars on future flights. Applications are kept on file. For more information, visit http://hvhonorflight.com