Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Anti-Semitic Board Offers Hamas Town Hall

In a stunning and yet typical fashion of double-speak, duplicitous actions and definitively controversial, Mr Feiner and his Town Board unanimously allowed the use of the Greenburgh Town Hall last week for an anti-Israel rally at Town Hall. The pro-Palestinian hate-rally Mr Feiner supported was sponsored in part by the Jewish Voice for Peace, a clever name that belies its mission. They bill themselves as “a leader in the American anti-Israel movement”. Also involved was Westpac, another group that sponsors anti-Israeli hate speech.

Westpac had not only enlisted the help of Mr Feiner and his Town Board for the use of the main room at Town Hall, but they have booked Town Hall's main hall for use again on November 5th. Fortunately, Mr Feiner has caved to public pressure and this meeting has been canceled. In another stunning move, Mr Feiner and his Town Board not only allowed the anti-Semitic group the use of Town Hall, but then they called a very hastily conceived special meeting to draft a document for future Town Hall usage. This move would purposely exclude any pro-Israeli groups as well as other Westchester-based organizations from using Town Hall. Typically, rather than barring any outside groups or allowing all of them, they have "grandfathered" already scheduled organizations.

More importantly, there was already a statute on the books that details the use of Town Hall by different groups, including civic associations, Boards, etc. At this first anti-Israel meeting, protesters interrupted the meeting when Ha’aretz’s Gideon Levy got up to speak. He began by saying he hated the occupation and he hated racism, and brainwash which makes those ignorant people... (obliterated). His was an obvious slight toward one pro-Israeli woman, Lauri Regan, who continually held up a sign that said LEVY = HATE. While she was heckling Levy, one man said she should "Go out, we will brutalize you, we will murder you!" Why was nothing done after this threat was made? 

You may recall a number of years ago Mr Feiner decided to refuse use of the main hall to his own Antenna Review Board, who was fighting with him with their position about cell towers throughout the Town. He essentially locked them out of using Town Hall and forced them to meet in the Town Hall parking lot! In 2012, Mr Feiner let the Town Democratic Party use the Town Hall meeting room for their Democratic Nominations without paying any usage or rental fees to the Town. The Westchester Republican Party's Douglas Colety complained about it but since this is Greenburgh, nothing happened.

Mr Feiner has a history of racism for both himself and at Town Hall. He was found guilty of discrimination in the Federal case against him with the Fortress Bible Church Discrimination lawsuit. Employee charges of racism at Town Hall against Town Assessor Edye McCarthy were ignored and eventually buried by Mr Feiner. A number of years ago ABG had access to an email of racism in the police department. When ABG applied for a copy of the email through the Freedom of Information Act, it was refused. 

Mr Feiner also has a history of prejudice with himself and members of his inner circle. He is also known to flip-flop, lie when convenient and "forget" when opportune. His testimony under oath was rebuked by a Federal judge and he was found to be a non-credible witness. So, even though Mr Feiner claims the Town Board is reviewing its meeting room policies, it's nothing more than a diversion to deflect attention away from his anti-Semitic stance due to pressure against him. This must end. Only then will we have A Better Greenburgh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Must Someone Else Die?

Many residents have indicated that speeding is an issue on their neighborhood streets. Occasionally, the police department will send a car to monitor and maybe even write a couple of tickets. But the fact is, there are too many streets, too many cars and too few police officers to stop them. We won’t bother discussing whether or not ticket quotas exist because most people already have an opinion about that. What we will discuss is that common, small infractions seem to either go unnoticed or unticketed because they are a nuisance to the police. Infractions such as illegal lane changes, using a cell phone while driving, failure to signal and so on are the ones routinely excused - unless if there's an accident. 

An officer we spoke to said he was doing speed control but only issued one ticket and about half a dozen warnings after radar-checking one particular neighborhood for an hour. He said he gave warnings to those speeding between the posted 30mph speed limit and up to 40mph. His hope was it might filter back to family and friends, with word ultimately getting back to them to slow them down. He also said that every neighborhood he does this in finds the residents are among the many speeding culprits! Either we don't have enough police officers doing traffic enforcement or enough resources for them - or both. It all comes down to money.

The Town’s Police Department budget is controlled by the Town Board. The Police Chief submits his budget request to Mr Feiner and his Town Board. Then the dance begins. Actually, the dance happens with all of the assorted Town Commissioners each year at budget time. The past several budgets have been trumpeted by Mr Feiner as being below the New York State 2% Tax Cap. Sadly, the public is being scammed by Mr Feiner’s well-honed lie originated in Albany and perpetuated here in Greenburgh that while we stayed under the 2% Tax Cap, our tax increase (this year) was 3.4%. Caveat emptor or willfully ignorant.

Regardless, the Police Chief submits what he needs and during the subsequent dance, perhaps even before and after it, Mr Feiner tells the department head to find something to cut so he can issue multiple press releases about how he found fat and made cuts in the budget. Then there's several other press conferences and releases about the budget being under the tax cap again, once upon a time Greenburgh was the 80th best place to live, essential services were maintained while staying under the 2% Tax Cap and so on. Publicity Paul will use a host of press releases, interviews and physical mailings. He'll also use the illegally held GBList. That's the email list that he and the Town are stalling the release of to Dorrine Livson of the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association after going to court and being court-ordered to give it to her under the Freedom of Information Law.

Mr Feiner's latest folly is a new traffic sign that announces how many tickets have been issued on a particular street supposedly for speeding. The issue at hand with this is that the Town is abdicating their responsibility for traffic enforcement by relying on a sign, crossed fingers and the hope that drivers will slow down. This very definitely compromises our residents and guests' safety and well-being. Also, Mr Feiner has over-advertised the new sign as his panacea for publicity, informing speeders town-wide that there are no cops nearby and speed away! So as drivers barrel on down the road,we have Publicity Paul (aka Pinocchio Paul, Posturing Paul, Federal Felon Feiner) to thank. If speeding is to be controlled by a sign, what's our next policing move? Another traveling sign to announce how many break-ins a particular neighborhood has had? By posting a sign and advertising there are no police nearby, will crime now rise?

Another conversation with a Town police officer said Feiner's sign publicity has started a firestorm of requests at police headquarters. Apparently, since Promising Paul has been asking for suggestions on its placement, the police have been inundated with requests for the sign. While we tip our hat to Preposterous Paul for another great deflection and latest the publicity coup, these requests indicate the seriousness of the speeding problem throughout the Town and the residents' desperation for relief. The Town Board has green-lighted almost every project for the last 22-years, the tenure of multiple Feiner Administrations, without having a coinciding traffic plan to control flow of traffic, speeding, parking and the like.

Similarly, many neighborhoods ask for speed bumps/humps, stop signs, rumble strips, even red light cameras to try to slow speeders. Each time the subject is broached with Town leaders and police representatives they are given a plethora of reasons as to why their requests cannot be delivered. They're told speed bumps can't be used to control traffic, they hold water and increase flooding on our already flood-prone streets. They're told you can't put in rumble strips, you can't have an officer doing speed control because of budget constraints. They're told they cannot install stop signs to control traffic. We can't do this and we can't do that? But what can they do? Apparently, more they tell us.

In one of his almost daily campaign mailings, Mr Feiner said the following:

"Speeding on South Road and North Road has always been a concern of residents of Parkway Gardens and Parkway Homes. The Greenburgh Town Board will vote on Wednesday, October 14th to accept the Police department’s recommendation to add an “all way” stop sign at South Road at the intersection of Jackson Place and at North Road at the intersection of Jackson Place.  Earlier this year there was a fatal hit and run accident on South Road. It’s the desire of the Greenburgh Police department and Town Board to make all of our roads safer and to improve the quality of life for residents. Greenburgh Police Chief Chris McNerney and his traffic safety officers deserve our thanks for their follow up on this important safety initiative and for meeting with community members prior to making this recommendation."

It appears that stop signs can be installed to control traffic flow. This is exactly what residents from several neighborhoods have been asking for. It's just so sad that a death had to occur for this to happen. The real point however, is while the stop signs may help control traffic in the future, would they have prevented this unfortunate death? Must someone else die before we see the installation of stop signs, traffic lights, controlled pedestrian crossing areas and other solutions? 

With elections approaching, this will be one of the best pieces of campaign fodder Mr Feiner has dreamed up. He will have the signs installed, send out multiple press releases, have several press conferences at the sight, posture about it at numerous Town Board meetings and lament that they cannot do this in more neighborhoods because he's limited in spending due to the NYS 2% Tax Cap - which his Town Board could vote to ignore. He'll continue on that he is committed to safety and improving our neighborhoods. Look for another sign saying that since the stop signs were installed, "X" amount of tickets have been written and "X" amount of lives have been saved.

There are serious traffic issues growing with every development Mr Feiner and his Town Board approve. Coincidentally, corresponding traffic control is noticeably absent. As our budget resources dwindle, our police department is being pushed to do more with less. Let's see how many more of the signs Mr Feiner plans to distribute throughout our Town affecting your safety and the safety of your families and visitors. Must someone else die to get action throughout our Town? This has to change. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No Sympathies Expressed, Only Posturing

It goes without saying that our sympathies go out to all of the families and friends involved in the Oregon College shooting rampage. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

We often write about Mr Feiner's shameless pandering and posturing for publicity regardless of the issue. This time, in one of his daily press releases, he says, "The tragedy in Oregon highlights the need to ban gun shows at government buildings." Not what we would have expected from someone in a leadership position. A more fitting comment would have been something to the effect of, "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and friends lost in the shooting in Oregon. Before any of us begin discussing causes, root problems and the like, let us give these families some privacy and time to mourn their losses."

His statement is nothing but pure pandering to his base. There is no correlation to gun shows being an easy way to purchase guns, especially from legitimate gun resellers. The laws already in place in New York make sure of that. It's a statistically proven fallacy perpetuated by anti-gun advocates. In fact, research shows that the Oregon shooter's weapons were purchased legally. Statistics for the sale of guns purchased from gun shows indicate that only 1.8% of crimes committed nationwide with guns are acquired from gun shows. This is for all crimes, not just shootings such as this one.

Totally ignored by Mr Feiner are the financial issues related to this in that the County charges/collects a fee for exhibiting; taxes with that fee are paid for; additional expenses, such as electrical connections are paid for; background checks are performed and fees and taxes are paid relating to those. Then there's the actual weapon and ammunition sales/sales taxes, registrations/fees and taxes, etc., for the weapons. Also conveniently ignored is parking, food, lodging (along with Mr Feiner's new occupancy tax), gasoline sales, etc. In a Facebook post by Andrew L. of Hartsdale to Mr Feiner, ABG believes he correctly states that, “the constitutional argument isn't a Second Amendment one, it's a First Amendment one, a “public accommodation” and “freedom of assembly” one. The government owns the venue. It cannot discriminate against the usage of that venue based upon a difference in political beliefs.”

The shooter had six weapons on him and seven more at home. One weapon could be interpreted as an argument for self-defense. And, not all of the weapons in the shooter's possession were owned by him. One of the problems that may be a mitigating factor in this latest of these shootings is what is called "gun free zones". It's a significant issue because it creates a pocket of defenseless people who cannot stop a person with a gun who decides to shoot helpless victims. In this case at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, even the security officer was unarmed! So the biggest challenge of his career went unanswered.

The issue is less about controlling gun sales to law-abiding citizens and more about providing mental health care to those in need of it. As a society we have abandoned institutionalizing and closely monitoring the mentally ill in some part for political correctness and another part for economics. While many parents have guns in their homes, not all of them practice safe storage of their weapons. That's another issue that needs improvement. But of all the pundits who say we need tougher gun laws, they never actually say what their tougher gun laws would do or how their tougher laws would stop another shooting such as we just witnessed in Oregon.

Without picking only on the President, gun deaths and crime in his Chicago are setting records and they have some of the toughest gun laws around! Apparently, the tougher gun laws mean little. No, this appears to be more about the anti-gun lobbyists pushing their agenda than trying to find a real solution to a problem. By the way, the Fairview Fire Department’s members had bullet-proof vests with them for responses in the Manhattan Avenue area because of a high volume of guns and shootings. It's local.

Let's also not rely on politicians, who by the way, have created all of our existing gun laws, regulations, fees, background checks and waiting periods. All of these are proof that they don't have the answer! The real question is how do we stop these shootings? So let’s investigate it thoroughly and with an open mind. Let's not come to a foregone conclusion that we must eliminate guns to solve the problem. If that winds up being the solution, and that answer was come to fairly, then so be it. But politicizing it to push an agenda, one way or another is wrong. Fair discussions, fair evaluations and fair answers will help. But these need to begin locally. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Comprehensive Plan Offers Little Foresight

Rather than making political statements, such as global warming is a threat and fostering a position on a subject that can be subjectively argued for or against, the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee (CPSC) should have stated simply that they wish to support all forms of what is today considered alternative energy sources in new and remodeled construction. Instead, they devoted an entire chapter on making environmental statements that only acknowledge what is being said by some. Golden opportunity missed.

During the third and probably final hearing, suggestions were made by residents as well as more questions raised. One resident asked why we have three fire districts and spend so much on them and how can we consolidate them to cost less? Chair and Councilman Sheehan politely explained that this was not the venue for that discussion. Obviously, this resident had been absent approximately a year ago when Mr Feiner deflected attention away from being found guilty in Federal court of discrimination, lying under oath, destroying evidence and four other counts in the Fortress Bible Church discrimination case, while going after the Fairview Fire Chief and touting fire district consolidation.

Another resident suggested having a "resident component" through a Civic Association that has one vote on all zoning changes.  When the the members of the CPSC questioned how he would implement it, he said he hadn't thought it through but was willing to meet with others to try to formulate a plan. The proper time to develop this is while the plan is in the formative stage. He also stated that the members of the Zoning and Planning Boards are handpicked and appointed by Mr Feiner and voted in confirmation through the Town Board, controlled by Mr Feiner. There should be one equal community vote that gets cast at a Town Board zoning change decision vote. In the event of a tie, only then would Mr Feiner vote.

Theresa Mae Tori, Conservation Advisory Council Chair and long time Hartsdale resident, stated the CPSC struggled with how to include the public and that was the goal with charrettes. A charrette is a supposed collaborative meeting with all stakeholders: Town, Developer, Neighborhoods. The problem that was pointed out by many is that a developer has the resources to meet anytime and members of the community do not. As such, a couple of meetings without public participation simply due to other obligations, lack of publicity or advertisement, etc., would almost guarantee a developer's project go through as they wish. We see this today with the archaic posting of notices on telephone poles.

Another deletion to the proposed Plan was the use of nodes. The Edgemont Community Council and others protested the "corner-nodes" throughout the Central Park Avenue corridor. Simply, a four-story building would be constructed with retail on the bottom floor and three floors of residential (probably low-income) housing. No parking would be provided for those retail or residential apartments. Shoppers to the retail establishments would use limited on-street parking. Prospective residents, discussed mostly as "Millennials" typically do not own cars so parking for them, their visitors or guests would not be an issue. Also, not accounted for is the change in the retail environment as brick and mortar establishments counteract the difficulty of maintaining any kind of retail presence given that same generation's proclivity to purchase via the Internet. Again, no input in the Plan to address adaptations for shifts in the future.

One resident spoke at length about how the Plan actually lacked little, if an,y real planing for the future of our Town. He lamented that the CPSC never reached out to many qualified residents for input to help shape a plan that addresses the Town's future design. In fact, of all the work done to this point, this was merely a report of how the Town exists now, highlighting more the status quo than projecting into the future. Sadly, while it may already be too late to change this multi-year offering into a real tool for shaping the Town's future, the reality is that the CPSC is probably content to accept it as is and be done with it. Perhaps the problem with having leadership that comes from the existing leadership committees is a culmination of the failures of Greenburgh's leaders?

We are appreciative that many agreed to work on this committee. Noticeably missing was it's chief architect, our former Town Planning Commissioner, who bailed to take a similar position in Stamford Connecticut. It was he who insisted on the "Nodes" and "Charrettes" ill-fated concept. Perhaps we are better off without the urbanization ideas of what he and Mr Feiner see as the "next" phase for Greenburgh. Perhaps there is still time for this committee to revamp what they have put together and truly offer a future vision for Greenburgh. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Special Meeting Held To Enact Flawed Plan

On Tuesday, in a special Town Board meeting, possibly to occlude the public from interfering with their pesky facts, the Town Board unanimously pushed Mr Feiner’s latest publicity stunt forward. They approved a local law enabling the town to procure energy on behalf of residential and small commercial energy customers in the town. They claim that this legislation will enable the town to help residents reduce their utility bills. Claims by Mr Feiner in particular, and others, have been made stating the ability to garner savings of up to $600! However, no statistical proof verifying this claim has ever been presented, nor details of how long it would take to recognize such savings, even following multiple queries. This is strictly an experiment by Sustainable Westchester which will last for three years. At the end of three years, if successful, we could see the not-for-profit company change into a for-profit company and the previous savings evaporate. They have even stated that this will become their model if it is successful and they will look to expand their program nationwide.

Against vehement opposition from members of the public, Civic Associations and others, the Town Board discarded their many questions and automatically signed up every Greenburgh resident for the program-without their consent! Only those already participating in an ESCO would be exempt as well as the Town itself, who gets its power from PASNY (Power Authority State of NY). Those against this plan were concerned that residents were unknowingly being automatically enrolled into the program. The rationale by Mr Feiner and his Board was that anyone can opt OUT if they don’t wish to participate. Residents who spoke questioned the consequences of a program that automatically opts someone into something without their knowledge or consent. It should have been set up to opt IN, not opt OUT.  

The Town Board held 3 public hearings: on June 24, July 8 and August 19th regarding this legislation. ABG believes this was purposely consummated during the summer or vacation months to minimize opposition. It’s interesting to note when Mr Feiner wants something to go forward, such as the illegal lease for his friends at GameOn 365 for example, he pulls out all of the stops and puts up yard signs throughout the Town, holds press conferences, does press releases, email blasts and so on. Similarly, when he wants to avoid controversy the Board holds special meetings, executive sessions and the ever-popular closed door meetings! 

The taxpayer/residents’ problem is that Mr Feiner and his Town Board know that they can hold hearings and regardless of the information presented or the arguments made, can move their agenda forward because the politically lopsided Board usually doesn't have much, if any, voting opposition. When there is disagreement, it’s usually two against and the other two in favor, siding with Mr Feiner as the third vote and tie-breaker. This juggernaut passing the measures in question and ensuring their continued political futures winds up short-changing the public.  

Mr Feiner has said the potential benefits of this ESCO deal are price stability for a fixed contract term, lower prices, more favorable terms and preference for cleaner power sources. What's interesting is that he never provides any tangible definitions or statistical data to back what he says. Simply, the prices will be fixed and only provide lower rates for a while. If energy costs go up, and they always do, your prices may also go up - even though you were entered into this program at a fixed contract term. Amazing how those conducting this experiment don’t get hurt. 

More favorable terms is a misnomer. The terms are the terms and you will now see the delivery charges as a separate billing charge on your ConEd bill. While you will continue to make your payments the same way you always have, if you have trouble paying your bill, you’ll still be dealing with ConEd and not the ESCO. They get paid regardless. Any preference for cleaner power sources is a lie. Whatever ConEd does for energy is what you will be using - period. So, while you may prefer solar or something else, it will be up to ConEd as to how they purchase and resell power to you. The ESCO will be charging you for the transmission of the energy and the “moving” of it to you. 

This deal is fraught with many more questions than answers. Ken Stahn of the Sprain Road Civic Association repeatedly met with Sustainable Westchester and the Town Board seeking answers. As of the last meeting of the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, he still had unanswered questions and was not satisfied with the minimal and generic answers that were provided. Mr Feiner claims that other Towns and Villages have adopted the plan. While the plan they adopted had numerous typos, some of which were significant, Town Councilman Francis Sheehan stated they had reworked the boilerplate contract the others had signed to be a bit better for Greenburgh. There is still no timeline when “Opt-OUT” postcards will be mailed to residents. There is also no confirmation if there will be a fee to opt-out after the postcard program is over. ABG research shows there has been a fee in other places where this was tried. 

Regardless of how much lipstick gets smeared on this, it’s ugly and still not a deal we can have confidence in. Greenburgh residents will be on the hook for any “hits” this program takes. That’s right. If the opted OUT residents don’t participate and something goes wrong for the opted IN residents, the Town has no direct liability, per se. But, as we’ve seen before with the Fortress Bible Church guilty decision, the Unincorporated residents will have to bankroll whatever financial problems the program experiences. It shouldn’t be this way. If this was a well-vetted program, we might endorse it. It’s not. We should not be the guinea pigs for this energy experiment unless we wanted to opt IN! But again, that’s not the case. Until it is, this idea should have been tabled. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.