Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Real 2015 Year In Review

Each year Mr Feiner  continues campaigning with his one-sided year in review mailing/email blast/press releases. According to this, a lot has been accomplished. ABG would like to offer a counter-balance and tell you what he will not. His comments are in black and ours are in blue - play on words intended.

Have a healthy and happy 2016. And - A BIG THANK YOU for your help in making 2015 a successful year. Here is a review of some of our accomplishments! Please e-mail me your goals for 2016.
• Town budget complies with tax cap --- lowest tax hike in years. NYS is requiring communities to comply with the tax cap if they want residents to receive a bonus check from NYS. We also had to highlight sharing/consolidation efficiencies.
This is simply a false statement for political expediency. NYS state does not require any community to adhere to the tax cap, and is an incentive only if they want to receive these rebate checks. Nor do they mandate the calculation for the actual tax increase to be stated. So while this year’s increase will be 0.73%, it is achieved by drawing down the Town’s Fund Balance, a trick Mr Feiner and his Board have done since slamming the taxpayers with a 23% tax hike in 2008. Robbing Peter to, ahem, pay Paul. 

• Town built or is close to building 1.6 miles of new sidewalks around Greenburgh. New sidewalk in front of Greenburgh Health Center complete in December. Sidewalk built on Benedict Avenue this fall. 
This is another false statement from Mr Feiner. The Town has not built any sidewalks anywhere in the Town in years! Usually when a sidewalk has been built, it was the fulfillment of the contractual mandate from the Town to build a sidewalk in front of a new project. One exception was the brokered “sidewalk to nowhere” in Tarrytown at Benedict Avenue and Rt 119, which was the construction of a limited sidewalk near the then unknown, unbuilt, unfavorable, unpublicized, except to Mr Feiner and his Board, only now constructed Brightview Assisted Living facility.

• Signed agreement to sell Frank’s Nursery for 3.52 million to Capital Senior Housing (Valterra). 90-100 units of housing on Dobbs Ferry Road. Town responsible for cleanup.
This is true. However, before Mr Feiner acquiesced to the Worthington Woodlands, Secor Homes and Fulton Park Civic Associations as well as the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, he was hell-bent to sell the property to GameOn 365 for a commercial enterprise. With the property zoned for residential use, everyone weighed in that this 8-story commercial monstrosity did not belong in this or any other residential neighborhood. With everyone united, an Abutters Petition that went beyond the required 20% opposition, never had to be used. This change being trumpeted by Mr Feiner would have then opened any neighborhood up to the same change.
Don’t let Mr Feiner simply gloss over the last sentence, “Town responsible for cleanup.” This is important - which is why he is downplaying it. While Mr Feiner was trying to illegally lease and then sell the former Frank’s Nursery property to his friends from GameOn 365, a counter offer from Ardsley’s House of Sports for twice the dollar amount PLUS full remediation costs for the property was turned down by Mr Feiner and his Board! The only caveat House of Sports insisted on was a full study of the property be conducted so they would know what the cleanup would entail. Still, he said, “No!” 

• Greenburgh-School Partnership - a new playground at the Lee Jackson School. Town used non taxpayer dollars to help fund playground (developer escrow funds). Working with the Greenburgh School District.  Initiated a mentoring program for architects/engineers. Working on a technology initiative - training students to learn jobs that will be needed for 21st century careers, especially in high wage, high demand careers including computer coding and programming, applications development, network management and data analysis, robotics. We want our students to learn about cutting edge technologies. 
These are two completely different and separate issues. As for the playground, we think this is a good thing. As for mentoring with any of our schools, ABG believes Mr Feiner should extend to all students in all schools throughout the Town access to these cutting edge technologies, not just one school or neighborhood. Like the fire districts, he has no input or control over the schools or school districts.

• Town maintained, in 2015, our Aaa bond rating from Standard & Poor's and Moody's. Taxpayers to save about $300,000 in borrowing costs because we have the highest bond rating possible (only 1% of communities in the nation have an Aaa rating). 
A good bond rating is a good thing – if we take advantage of it. But, sadly, Mr Feiner and his Board would rather talk about the rating than put it to good use. Our infrastructure is collapsing from at least 24-years of neglect (Mr Feiner's tenure). The Town should look at several capital projects that can be initiated and begun immediately, such as constructing sidewalks throughout the Town. Have you ever noticed that Mr Feiner is the first to say residents should use alternative means to get to and fro but offers no solutions unless someone else will be paying for it? It's political pandering. The Town should undertake building sidewalks and not wait until a developer has plans to overdevelop a speck of land and be required to build them in front of that property. This logic, while effective some thirty-plus years ago, is no longer germane and needs to be revamped.
Flood mitigation, sewer and water piping upgrades are also needed.

• Police start using body cameras.
ABG does not know how many complaints have been lodged against any of our police officers, but believe this can be a good thing.

• Town and civic groups working more closely. We approved legislation endorsed by the Edgemont Community Council to license massage establishments---giving police the tools to shut down illegal massage facilities that had been used for prostitution and other improper activities. We are working closely with three different Edgemont civic associations on a plan to build sidewalks near Edgemont schools (this school district does not have busing).
This is pure pandering. Mr Feiner has gone out of his way to not work with Civic Associations or their members - as witnessed at most Town Board meetings. As for working with Edgemont, what he says is true. However, he is only doing this because Edgemont has repeatedly threatened to secede from the Town, incorporate and become its own Village to get away from Mr Feiner’s bad management. Mr Feiner cannot afford to lose that portion of the tax revenue, which would significantly and negatively affect the Towns Unincorporated and overall budget revenues.

• The New York State Senate and Assembly approved a law that enables the town and villages within the town to charge guests a 3% hotel tax. The revenues could generate as much as a million dollars a year to the town. The Governor has not yet indicated whether he will sign or veto the legislation. Should know shortly!
ABG believes in this fiscally challenging time for corporations, corporate travel and such, most hotels/motels make the bulk of their income from corporate travelers. As the “bean counters” begin to scrutinize their colleagues travel costs, it will contribute to a lessening of corporate travel to our area. That will impact not only the hotels/motels, but the car rental businesses, food establishments, trade show participation and more. In fact, it’s such a bad idea, as we were writing this, Governor Cuomo just vetoed the bill

• Worked with the Greenburgh Nature center on our town wide initiative, working with schools and businesses to introduce and develop conservation/sustainable practices, including food waste management. Introduced community to organic recycling at AF Veteran Town Park this summer.
The fact that the Greenburgh Nature Center is a tenant of the Town, and while these ideas are good ones, they do not originate from the Town Hall corner office, get implemented by the Town or financed by the Town.

• Student intern organized a series of self-defense seminars for college students. One in five girls who attend college are victims of sexual assaults.
As always, Mr Feiner neglects to say how many participants took part in this. Frankly, we wonder why interns need to do this when we have very capable police officers, karate schools, defensive arts teachers that Mr Feiner could have arranged to do this. Regardless, kudos to the interns.

• Town Board approves contract to replace town street lights with LED energy efficient lights in 2015.
ABG is all for using LED lights. In fact, we’ve replaced almost all of our florescent bulbs with LEDs as they fail. This is the problem with Mr Feiner’s approach. He is spending half a million dollars changing light bulbs throughout the Town, incurring more of an expense by throwing away good light bulbs the taxpayers have already paid for and still have more usable life. When bulbs fail, or the fixtures need replacing, that is the time to change out the bulbs.

• Town Board approves using non taxpayer dollars (escrow funds) so that DeSanti Park can be turned into a beautiful new Veteran's Memorial Park in 2016.  We created an index of the names of the approximately 150 veterans who had been interviewed as part of the veterans living history initiative.
While we support recognition of our veterans, we wonder what else those funds might be used for? We also wonder why Mr Feiner would not push a public/private initiative to have private funds pay for this?

• Quick replacement for supermarkets going out of business: Best Markets replaced Mrs. Greens; Acme replaced A & P on Knollwood Road. We still need to encourage a new supermarket to replace the Scarsdale & Hastings A & P.
The supermarket debacle was out of Mr Feiner’s control. Although, when he and his Town Board found out about the first A&P, Pathmark and Waldbaums stores that would be closing, it was former Councilwoman Sonya Brown who held community meetings to try to save those stores. Her reward for that was to be ousted by Mr Feiner. Hence, the term we often use when other Town Board members refuse to oppose Mr Feiner: “Sonya’d.”

• Visits by United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hocul to East Hartsdale Ave.
Really? Every politician will go to any location, meet with any group and press the flesh at any time in hopes they will get a vote.

• Comprehensive Plan Committee presented the Town Board with their draft plan, which will be voted on in 2016 by the Town Board. We currently have no comprehensive plan for the town.
This is not entirely true. There is a Comprehensive Plan for the Town that was adopted in 2003. It just was not a all-encompassing as this latest one.

• Enactment of legislation to reduce Con Ed bills by a few hundred dollars a year. Working with a number of other communities in Westchester on this pilot project that was approved by the NYS Public Service Commission.
Again, this is not entirely true. Yes, there was legislation enacted which forces ConEd to turn your energy information over to an Energy Service Company (ESCO) which will automatically be signing you up to participate in this experiment. 
• Town Board formed a Human Rights Advisory Committee in 2015.
ABG believes this was done strictly because it will garner publicity for Mr Feiner. Sadly the federal government, state government and county government Human Rights Commissions weren't enough for Mr Feiner, who continually bemoans government consolidation.

• Nassau County anti-corruption panel cites Greenburgh's strong Ethics laws as a model for the county to enact.
How interesting that they would adopt the Greenburgh law. Strong ethics laws are only of value if they are followed and enforced. Will Nassau officials ignore and trample their law as our Town leaders have?

• The Town Board authorized the Greenburgh Nature Center to build butterfly arbor at the Nature Center - using private dollars.
As the landlord, the Town must review their request to build on Town property. Otherwise, there is nothing from the Town involved in this.

• To slow down traffic and avoid accidents, new stop sign on South and North Roads.
Sadly, ABG admits that while this is good, it’s too bad someone had to die to get these installed. It’s also sad that when neighborhoods ask for solutions to speeding, they are told that stop signs cannot be installed to control traffic. Huh? Isn’t that what this just did?

• Purchase of digital sign board. Police department use the board to inform residents of number of speeding tickets issued on different streets around town. Hopefully, the digital board will motivate people to be more careful motorists. We also purchased rapid flashing high visibility crosswalk light on East Hartsdale Ave. to advise motorists of pedestrians crossing.
Rather than put more police officers and patrol cars on the roads to enforce existing traffic laws or put officers with radar guns in areas where they can effect a slowdown of traffic infractions, Mr Feiner heralds the use of a speeding sign that indicates how many tickets have been written in that particular location. He doesn’t see how it also advertises to speeders that there are no cops here to catch you, just this sign. Once the motorists have figured this out, the sign will prove to be another unnecessary expense.

• We installed a new supplemental boiler at the Greenburgh Library (the library was closed several days over a year ago due to lack of heat).
The Town Board was the lead agency for the library construction project numerous years ago. They had heat pumps that were to be installed on one side of the property, but the Mr Feiner and the Town Board had them installed on the opposite side. They also only went down half the required depth to be effective, so, they don’t work. The boiler they purchased has been plagued with failures, the roof leaked, as did the windows. In the winter they have heating issues, with the sprinkler pipes bursting more than once due to a lack of insulation in the ceiling area. And, in the summer there is not enough air conditioning forcing the use of huge fans to keep people cool. The only good thing was the designer of the building won an award for it! 
•  Revitalization of Central Ave. - approving zone change to allow car dealerships on Central Ave. Starbucks to come to Central Ave. - to occupy vacant pea pod across from Hartsdale diner. Best Market replaces Mrs. Greens.
It’s been said that the changes Mr Feiner and his Board made concerning car dealerships borders on anti-trust legislation. And, numerous civic associations and their members suggested Mr Feiner and his Board not do this. While Mr Feiner claims he wants to work more closely with civic associations, this is but one more example where he talks the talk but never walks the walk.

• Comptroller Bart Talamini retires. Town looking for new comptroller.[sic]
Mr Talamini retiring is not an accomplishment of the Town or Mr Feiner. We’re sorry to see Mr Talamini go. Our guess is, he knows where some of the bodies are buried and doesn’t want to be around when they get dug up.

•  Student interns worked with the Greenburgh Nature Center promoting organic recycling this past summer.
 Already mentioned this above. 

• Gigi's Playhouse opens in Ardsley - helping families who have family members with Down Syndrome.
This is a good thing, but did the Town do this? Again, there was no Town involvement.

• Initiating program - barber in training program. Training people who are out of work how to be barbers. Program is now located in Tarrytown.
Interesting that schools teaching hair care must be licensed and meet copious health standards. But those standards are not required in the mystical world of Greenburgh. Mr Feiner must have waved his hands and “poof!” those requirements were gone.

• We continued to proceed with the reassessment of town properties around town. The reassessment process should be completed in 2016 and should stop the bleeding of certiorari actions (tax refunds). Similar properties will be assessed fairly for the first time in 60 years.
Yes, we need to have a revaluation to “stop the bleeding of certiorari actions”. But, don’t be fooled by his statement. Mr Feiner is the one who made the conscious decision during his 24-year tenure to not do a reassessment throughout the Town and not enforce delinquent tax collections (millions of dollars).

• 10 year olds are reporters - new radio station sponsored by Xposure. 10 year old students enrolled in the after school program learn how to become journalists. They interview officials, community members weekly!
We wish them well.
•  Using Ridge Hill settlement funds to make safety improvements in downtown Ardsley.
There is a small strip of land being used to “straighten” a short portion of a curve at Jackson Avenue in Yonkers, not in Ardsley.

• Regeneron purchases land at Eastview. They continue to expand.
This is not entirely true. Regeneron is expanding, just not that much in Greenburgh. The expansion is actually in Mt Pleasant. The piece of property that is in Greenburgh is the parking lot for the actual buildings in Mt Pleasant. Those are different taxation fees.

• Pet’s Alive shut down their no kill animal shelter. They tried selling the former Elmsford Animal Shelter. Issued an RFP to other animal shelters in the area. No success. They will be turning over the property to the town in 2016 and we will be turning over the property to Paws Crossed, a nonprofit animal rights group that will be operating the shelter as a no kill animal shelter.
The building would probably be cheaper to have torn down and rebuilt based on what the public was told. Mr Feiner had said it needed to be torn down. John Lucido, the Town Building Inspector says it can be made habitable for about $1.2 million dollars – the amount we lose yearly by Mr Feiner deciding not to renew the WestHelp contract with the County. 

• Greenburgh police successful in locating two missing Greenburgh children who ran away from home.
Great job! 

• Appointed new Veterans Advisory Committee to identify resources for military veterans encompassing Veterans benefits, education and networking.
Doesn't the Federal, State and County governments offer this kind of service? Can you say streamlining government? Mr Feiner is the one who wanted to do away with County government because of the redundancy. So, what changed? Of course, publicity and an appearance of doing something.

•  Formed Health Care Advisory Board to provide residents with information about health care services people are entitled to and to help residents with individual problems. They could discuss problems with other neighbors who experienced similar health scares and help people cut through red tape.
See above.

• We expanded the one arm garbage sanitation truck to other sections of the town. A second truck is now serving the community. And, a third truck is on order. Uses one employee instead of three. And, reduces worker’s compensation claims.
This appears to us as a way for Mr Feiner to “get back” at the unions for resisting him in the past. So, for the last year, there have been two garbage collections - the regular/traditional truck and then a second pass by the one-arm bandit trucks later in the day. BTW, how are we going to pick up recyclables with these one arm bandits that can only use the special garbage cans?

• We hired a firm to conduct a management and operations review of the Department of Public Works. Will review recommendations in 2016. Last year we conducted a similar review of the courts and implemented most of their recommendations.

The above are just a few of the many exciting new initiatives that have been taken since last Thanksgiving to be thankful for.  Would like to also thank the members of the Town Board – Diana Juettner, Francis Sheehan, Kevin Morgan and Ken Jones, the department heads, town employees, volunteers, civic association leadership and appointees to the Boards and Commissions for your advice and help during the year.  It’s a team effort! 
You’re welcome. While we would all like to feel valued and appreciated, there is a lot of mistrust in our Town brought upon us by our leadership’s actions, some legal, much illegal. We want it to be a team effort, but it’s not. While there is no “I” in Team, there’s also no “We,” “Me” or “Us”. That needs to change. Only then will we have A Better Greenburgh.

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