Sunday, November 29, 2015

Town Board Caught Napping

Citing a failure to accurately report the news and events of Westchester by the Journal News and other smaller area newspapers, ABG has learned that a new weekly local newspaper will be launched in the near future. “When the Gannett Corporation sucked up all the local editions of our community newspapers and put them under one banner as the Journal News, they created a huge paper with a talented staff but never ran it well. In fact, they ran it into the ground,” our source explained. ABG welcomes this new addition if they live up to their promise of not catering to the status quo with politicians and the like by ignoring the real or underlying story.

Case in point? This Monday night at Greenburgh Town Hall will be a public hearing for the re-striping and a few other minor changes in store for the Greenburgh Shopping Center between under the guise of improvements from the landlord seeking to perform re-striping of the existing parking lot, creating more parking for the disabled (re-striping), new crosswalks (re-striping) and stop signs (to coincide with re-striping), new shopping cart carriages, improvements in traffic flow (re-striping) and pedestrian safety enhancements and new ramps by the cinema for the disabled.

Why would this re-striping take an exhaustive plan and presentation from the landlord to the Town Board at the November 24th Work Session? Because the Town's Building Department and the Town Board dropped the ball! About two years ago the shopping center landlords took it upon themselves to re-stripe the parking lot without Town permits, plans or a public hearing, altering the already awkward and outdated driving patterns originated when the shopping center was created.

In true “Deflection Mode”, Mr Feiner claimed at the Work Session that the shopping center is very busy and cited increased activity because Acme supermarket has opened in place of the previous A&P. ABG estimates the activity to be about the same as it was when the A&P was still open and operating there. The changeover between the stores’ ownership, closing, restocking and opening took about two days. What he failed to pontificate on is that he, his Board and his Building Department completely ignored the new striping the landlord “just did” on their own, apparently during the night. So how did they find out about their blunder?

At a regular Town Board meeting, with the help of Ella Preiser and Madelon O’Shea of the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, Worthington Woodlands Civic Association President and community activist Dorrine Livson brought up the fact that the lot had had been re-striped, possibly creating several driving and pedestrian hazards. The Board remained immobile. Then the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations was made aware of the issue from Ms Livson and got behind her. Together they went to the Commissioner of Community Development and Conservation and the Building Department. Perhaps when Mr Feiner realized the Town might have missed out on a fee or a fine that could be levied against the landlord, the Board began to pay attention.

Ms Livson’s diligence, along with that of the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, should be applauded for being watchdogs of the Town Board and Mr Feiner. Too often we see Mr Feiner cater to developers and favored landlords with their projects. How one slipped by him is, frankly, astonishing. As a note, you may recall Ms Livson went to court seeking Mr Feiner and the Town release a copy of the frequently used GBList to her. They refused and a judge has mandated it. The Town is appealing that decision. ABG believes more information, unfiltered, needs to flow to the residents and taxpayers and residents. To that end, we pledge to continue doing just that. We also welcome this new newspaper and hope they will add another valuable and serious voice to the mix. It’s what will make for A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Best Market Opens To Favorable Crowds

Mega supermarkets seem to be today’s norm. The Super Stop and Shop on Rt 119 near the borders of Elmsford and Tarrytown is the latest testimony of this. While it is certainly huge and offers a tremendous selection, there are days when you just need a few basics or just a bit “more”. The Apple Farm, also on Rt 119 nearer White Plains, is focused primarily on produce, fish and deli items, and always seems to be busy. H-Mart offers a more specified focus to the Asian community and it too is usually busy.

Sustaining what could be termed “regular” supermarkets in our area has proven to be a challenge at the very least for the A&P. Fraught with issues of sustainability and viability for years, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company again filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for its Westchester (and then some) based stores. The A&P franchise included the brand names A&P, Food Emporium, Pathmark, Waldbaums and others. However, the stores at the crux of this bankruptcy were popular in our area and impacted many people when they were closed.

Smaller food retailers seem to thrive when focusing on a specific market. Turco’s in Hartsdale did well for years. After they decided to close and focus on the northern demographic, Morton Williams took over the space. Owned by ShopRite, with several stores of the same name in NYC, they never seemed to catch on as Turco’s had. Having a limited run, they soon closed as well. Finally, Mrs Green’s, a natural and health food store closed their smaller Scarsdale location and opened in this location. Alas, their fate was predetermined as the health food market was not a viable one at this new location.

After a quick makeover of the store, the new owner of the space, Best Market, stocked shelves, cleaned and put their touch onto the facade. They have not only moved into the same space as the previous food retailers, but they’ve made a great first impression! Visiting the store has seen lines at the cash registers as their new employees master the checkout systems. Assisted with senior personnel, the lines kept moving. Walking through the store found a good mix of reasonable prices as well as somewhat higher, although not prohibitive prices for certain items.

Everyone in the store seemed to enjoy that the staff was friendly and seemed interested in helping those looking for assistance. ABG staffers visited the deli department and were asked by a younger employee how we liked the store? Whether this was instructed to the staff or he was genuinely interested didn’t really matter. He came across as sincere and sparked a bit of a longer conversation. Regardless of why the conversation took place, he represented the store and his employer well!

Judging on the crowds, the positive chatter throughout the store and a varied selection with good pricing that should engage the neighborhood, we are hopeful for a long and prosperous run for Best Markets. It’s helping to make A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pepsi Layoffs Affect Us All

A recent announcement by PepsiCo states that they have laid off employees. They have not disclosed the quantity and depth of the layoffs or which of their locations in Westchester County were affected. The announcement came last Thursday when a PepsiCo representative stated it was to make their operating model more efficient and effective. While the company says they are working with the “displaced” employees, we’re sure that offers little consolation during this holiday season. Receiving news about losing your job never comes at a good time, but the practice of many companies to balance their budgets at the end of the year is a common one. So is the end-of-year layoffs. What many company executives fail to realize is that balancing their budgets via layoffs never works in the long run.

Aurora Gonzalez, a PepsiCo spokesperson, had said no employees would be laid off as part of its move from their 1 Pepsi Way headquarters in Somers. More than 900 employees working in Somers it’s said would be relocated to PepsiCo’s White Plains office or to its Purchase headquarters on Anderson Hill Road. PepsiCo also has two office buildings at 1111 Westchester Avenue and their Research and Development facilities in Valhalla. ABG has learned that the renovation of the Purchase location had been delayed and was originally scheduled to be completed this past September of 2015. Our sources are unable to confirm when the renovation project will be complete. However, the R&D facility has seen a significant reduction in office staff at that location. The nine-story headquarters at 1 Pepsi Way had been expected to be completely empty by Feb. 1.

Here’s the real “rub” that seems to bite the taxpayer almost all of the time. PepsiCo received generous taxpayer subsidies to stay in Westchester County and to renovate its headquarters. In 2012, the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency, agreed to give PepsiCo between $6 and $7 million in sales-tax exemptions for the headquarters renovation. Adding insult to injury, the NY State gave PepsiCo $4 million in tax credits and the company negotiated a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Harrison and its school district. While many favor the PILOT program for not-for-profit businesses, a for-profit company such as PepsiCo should not be participating with it.

In exchange for this County and State largess, funded by taxpayers, the company agreed to keep 800 full-time jobs in Purchase through 2017. PepsiCo would only be in default if staffing levels fell below 540 jobs according to a County spokesperson. As of the end of last year, the company had about 1,100 full-time jobs in Purchase. While the number of jobs preserved is questionable, ABG is sure PepsiCo made sure to not drop below the agreed upon number of jobs when initiating their layoffs. Besides bankruptcy, this is one of the inherent issues with Industrial Development Agency’s giving financial subsidies and incentives to private businesses. As always, taxpayers must make up the difference of this same largess that both the County and State see as the panacea for success when the ultimate reality is more likely failure.

ABG staffers agree that we would have less of an issue if PepsiCo, as one example, was forced to reimburse the taxpayers for each layoff by repaying a percentage of the amount of money provided to them. Another idea would be to have an escrow account that the receiver of these subsidies would have to maintain to ensure the taxpayer generosity was not taken advantage of. If PepsiCo, again as an example, was forced to go to a bank or other lending institution for this same money, we’re reasonably sure the conditions would be more stringent. Finally, PepsiCo’s leadership include smart people and know that because of their size, just threatening to leave Westchester would generate a plethora of help from County and State representatives. If only the taxpayers got this kind of attention from their politicians!

Industrial Development Agency’s seem to be the politicians method of giving money to commercial entities they couldn’t otherwise align for votes. They already have what’s called “Member Items” money they can freely distribute to causes of interest. Simply, Member Items are an unaccountable form of financial disbursements up to $5,000 that most politicians have access to for their voter districts. So when you see a press conference featuring any politico standing with a group pronouncing saving this or establishing that, it’s really our money they are giving away that could have been used to fill potholes, build sidewalks, purchase lifesaving equipment, improving infrastructure and so on for our communities. This facade of preserving jobs may look noble, but the reality is that our taxes are high enough and this wasteful “help” costs the average taxpayer too much. It must stop. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Best Market Moving Into Mrs Green's Location

As we have previously posted, Mrs. Green's Natural Market is closing its Hartsdale location. However, the good news for area residents is that the Central Park Avenue store will reopen in only a few days while a new supermarket opens under the "Best Market" name. Best Market is a supermarket operator based in Long Island, opening their first store in the Lower Hudson Valley at this location. The new store is not a natural foods type of store but will offer a full line of produce, meat and deli departments.

ABG staffers took a quick look into Mrs Green's late Wednesday afternoon. They were in the process of a 50%-off liquidation sale. We spoke with one of the store employees whose family had been in the supermarket business for years. He felt the store was too big for what they offered, too limited in what they offered, too expensive for the area and unable to generate the sales volume they needed to succeed.

Mrs. Green's has locations in Rye, Eastchester and Tarrytown and is expecting to lease space in Rivertowns Square, the new development under construction in Dobbs Ferry by the Saw Mill River parkway. 

Best Market touts freshness and value of its perishable foods, with prices described as "middle of the road". They will take over the Mrs Green's store on Thursday when they will undergo merchandising, branding, stocking and general preparation changes. They will be opening by this coming Tuesday. Our source at Mrs Green's told us that Best Markets has offered jobs to many of the Mrs Green's staff.

While not pertaining directly to Greenburgh, but the shift in our area due to the A&P's bankruptcy, a DeCicco Family Market is set to open in place of the shuttered A&P at 132 Bedford Road in Katonah. That store will open in about a year from now.

After a blight of supermarkets having left the area, it's reassuring to see new ones joining our communities. We're hopeful for the success of these stores and wish them well. It's what will help make A Better Greenburgh.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanking Our Veterans

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory”. There were plans for parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11am.

In 1926, the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. The Congress also requested that the president should “issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chef Central Closing

After moving from their established Central Park Avenue location just south of the Hartsdale Four Corners, Chef Central moved to a temporary location in the Crossroads Shopping Center. This interim move was to hold them through the holiday shopping season until they could move into a nearby space especially for them in the same shopping center. The holidays are a make or break seasonal event for many retail establishments.

After only two short years in the Crossroads Shopping Center, Chef Central is calling it quits. Area competition with similar products by Chef City at 65 Tarrytown Road, could not be helping the Chef Central store. Chef Central’s moving into a smaller space than they previously occupied on Central Park Avenue also gave the new store a bit of a cramped feel and an inability to display as many products that had been visible previously. While parking at their original locations almost ensured a visit to the store, the new location’s parking while ample could get congested at times. Although we don’t believe parking was an issue in their demise, multiple moves, internet sales and area competition made survival difficult.

Sadly, here's another business that moved from their well-established area in Hartsdale and it’s taken its toll on them. While a huge banner-like sign in the window advertises ther store is closing, a smaller sign says they will be closing before or on January 3, 2016. ABG just published an article about the closing of Mrs Green’s supermarket. They had been successful in the Scarsdale location on Central Park Avenue.

The fabric of our Town is made through a variety of types and styles of businesses making our Town vibrant. We’re upset to see any business in the Town, Villages and area close. Chef Central is currently selling its inventory off at discounted prices. We wish the employees and owners of these businesses well. They will be missed as they contributed to making A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Greenburgh Supermarket To Close In Hartsdale

There is no good news in Greenburgh when it comes to supermarkets. Predictably, we await Mr Feiner's daily GBList email stating there’s "Good News!" to deflect away from the declining supermarket population from the Town. We’ve written previously about businesses that find it difficult to operate in Greenburgh and of the mounting anti-business environment fostered by Mr Feiner and his Town Board. All of the various taxes, imposed under the guise of fees, registrations, permits, applications, etc., along with ordinances, regulations, and more during the 24 years of Mr Feiner's failed financial incompetence, it’s no wonder businesses cannot survive here. It’s paralleled by the residents’ exodus as well.

ABG has also written extensively about the disappearance of food stores throughout the Town. While some loss may certainly be attributed to internet sales as Mr Feiner will have you believe, most of the loss cannot. When ABG spoke to a Greenburgh A&P store manager under the promise of anonymity, he said that the increased and growing competition has forced smaller margins, the high cost of union labor in Westchester in general and the cost of doing business in Greenburgh with its regulations, fees, fines and intrusions, was forcing not only his store, but others in the same strip malls to close.

Based in Irvington, NY, the Mrs Green's chain of natural and health food supermarkets found a difficult time of it after closing their Central park Avenue store and moving into the former Turco's store. When Turco's closed, it created an area void in the Town for a slightly more upscale supermarket with attractive prices, high quality foods, pleasant employees and a seemingly genuine goal of providing excellent customer service. Primarily featuring Italian foods, they too closed based on a shifting demographic as well as increased costs.

After Turco’s closed, Pathmark on Central Park Avenue and Waldbaums in the Crossroads Shopping Center on Rt 119 followed suit. The A&P had only two stores left in the area: the one on Dobbs Ferry Road and the one on Central Park Avenue in Scarsdale. The Dobbs Ferry Road A&P has been purchased and reopened within two days as an Acme Supermarket. Soon, the Scarsdale A&P will be shuttered. Never known to miss an opportunity for publicity, Mr Feiner insisted he and his 24 years of increased fees and costs of doing business in Greenburgh had nothing to do with these stores’ demise. Once it was learned back then that Mrs Green would be taking over the former Turco’s, his media blitz began.

The final day of operation for Mrs Green's is November 12, 2015. Right from the beginning they have seemed to have a rough time of making the store successful. As a niche store, with what could only be seen as a limited offering and generally higher prices, they were competing with other area stores for the sales of some similar products at lower prices. While we're not trying to be critical of their business model, apparently their slight shift from the Scarsdale area to the current location, and the direct competition of H-Mart right next door, was too much to endure. Sadly, while the store’s management says it will try to find positions for its workers in their other locations, we're sure it’ll be a difficult time for many and wish them all well.

It has also been reported that Mrs Green’s was in arrears for approximately $900k with numerous outstanding advertising invoices as reported by the Journal News in 2014. In fact, the Journal News had a substantial amount of money owed to them for advertising. Perhaps if advertising in the Journal News was cost-effective, Mrs Green's might be staying. 

We hope there will be another food-related store to move into the soon to be vacated space. The area needs supermarkets and other retail business along Central Avenue in particular and the Town in general. It’s funny in a sad way. Mr Feiner continually green lights plans for his developer friends for carbon copy developments throughout the Town. Yet, these plans never include ideas that would help the Town’s residents, such as supermarkets. This has to change. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Election Day - Get Out and Vote

It's that time of year again. Exercise your right to vote and go to your polling area and vote.

We’ve all grown up learning that our founding fathers tried to craft a new government of the people, by the people and for the people. We’ve learned of new voters in other countries who have only recently achieved the right to vote and are going to great lengths to do so. For them, voting felt like a victory!

While many Americans take our right to vote for granted, others cherish it as a privilege and will vote come hell or high water. If you are one of those who find any of these reasons plausible, you may want to take a step back, take a deep breath and stop to realize what you are doing by not voting. Not voting doesn’t solve the problems listed above or even not listed. Not voting contributes to all of the illogical rationale listed above. Complacency is the ultimate gift to the politicos.

What’s sad is that Greenburgh has turned into a One-Trick-Pony, with a single party rule. So we’ll never experience creative and unique ideas, opposition and collaboration for policies and programs. What we will usually get are the same stale, monolithic, boring, rubber-stamped ideas that will not increase the Town’s quality of life, reduce the tax burden, create new and/or varied programs for everyone over special interest groups. Ultimately, as things decline, we’re promised to receive more of the same. Regardless, go vote. If you don't vote because you owe it to yourself, then do it for the rest of us.