Monday, February 29, 2016

Passing of Theresa Orlando of Fulton Park

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of our friend and neighbor, Theresa Orlando of Fulton Park. 
The obituary is below:

Theresa Orlando, 87, of White Plains, passed away Friday February 26, 2016. She was born August 10, 1928 in Bridgeport, Ct to Christina (Sannino) and Peter Rousso. On April 12, 1953 Theresa married the late Nicholas Orlando at the First
Methodist Church in Bridgeport, Ct. For over 50 years Theresa worked as a legal secretary with the Law Firm of Smith, Ranscht, Connors, Nordell and Mutino.

Theresa graduated from Central High School, having completed the Secretarial Curriculum in June 1946. She was a loving wife and mother devoted to raising her family. She was involved with the Fulton Park Civic Association for many years. In her later years she was a member of the Sacred Heart Leisure Club. She also enjoyed her many outings with her friends and their weekly gatherings to play Canasta.

Theresa is survived by her sons Peter Orlando of Thornwood, NY and Nicholas Orlando Jr. of Wallkill, NY and three grandchildren Christopher, Brittany and Gina Orlando. She was predeceased by her brother George Rousso and sisters Florence D'Elia and Roselyn Salvio.

In honor of her being 40 years cancer free after surviving breast cancer, in lieu of flowers please send donations to Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation.

Visiting hours are Wednesday 2-4 & 7-9pm. Funeral Mass will be Thursday 10am at St. John the Evangelist Church. Interment Mt. Calvary Cemetery.

McMahon, Lyon & Hartnett
491 Mamaroneck Ave.
White Plains, NY 10605
(914) 949-7777 - See more at:

Administration Raises Taxes Without Public Input

At the last Town Board work session, Mr Feiner championed raising taxes for the residential-only taxpayers in the Town. ABG assumes that after instructing his Board to vote with him, they arbitrarily took it upon themselves to not adopt the Homestead Tax for condominiums. What that means is condo owners will pay a lesser tax rate for ownership than would single, double and triple family homeowners. While ABG has come to expect and recognize disparities and special treatment from this Board and especially Mr Feiner, we had hoped that the revaluation of all Town properties currently in its final wrap-up, would create a more even taxation throughout the Town. But they said no, let the residential homeowners shoulder more!. Sadly, they will continue to be re-elected because the willfully ignorant refuse to get involved and stop this kind of irresponsible behavior.
In a number of places in New York State, assessments of residential property frequently have been at a lower percentage of market (full) value than other types of property, such as commercial and industrial property. This is true of the Town of Greenburgh due to the lack of reassessments performed during Mr Feiner's tenure. It's why every tax certiorari challenge submitted had to be paid. More recently, however, condominiums have not been included into this. When a town or city with this situation decided to conduct a property revaluation to achieve correct and fair assessments, the residential properties, as a class, would bear a much larger share of the tax burden. Any additional tax monies collected should be used for paying down Town debt, such as the $5.5 million judgement we incurred after his being found guilty in Federal Court.

This shift in tax burden has discouraged other municipalities with similar situations from conducting their own property revaluations. By the way, Greenburgh hasn't had a revaluation done since the 1950's. Nor has Mr Feiner addressed it during his 24-years as Supervisor. As a result of this concern for tax-burden shifts to homeowners, a State law was passed in 1981 establishing the Homestead Tax Option. 

This local option prevents any large shift of the property tax burden to the residential class of property owners after a revaluation. In a revaluation, changes are made to individual property assessments so that they are correct and uniform -- as the law requires. These changes result in increases to some individual residential property owners whose properties were under-assessed before the revaluation. However, the homestead tax option prevents any large shift to the residential class of properties.

Then there is the Homestead Tax Option to establish two separate property tax rates: a lower rate for residential property owners (Homestead tax) and a higher rate for all other property owners (non-Homestead tax). This is strictly elective by each taxing community's leaders. Not surprisingly, Mr Feiner and his Board opted to not do adopt the Homestead Act during their work session when the public is not allowed to comment, criticize or question their decisions. This is a serious issue as to why they would not bring this up at a Town Board meeting and allow the public to weigh-in on this! After Mr Feiner schemed and plotted ways to stall the revaluation, we're not that surprised.

The primary benefactor of Mr Feiner and his Board's decision is that condominium owners will not see a tax increase based on this decision. Concurrently, that means that half of the taxpayers will assume their tax burden. Half, you ask? Yes. Only half of the Unincorporated portion of the Town, actually 48%, is taxed. The rest are tax exempt. The homestead tax is based on the share of property taxes paid by the residential class of property owners in the year before the new assessments from the revaluation project are used. 

For example, assume that residential properties paid 40 percent of all town taxes in the Town. Now, as a result of the revaluation, the residential class represents 50 percent of the town’s total taxes. As an “approved assessing unit” that has opted to use the “homestead tax option,” the Town can “freeze” the residential class share of town taxes at the previous 40 percent. Thus, the town will have two tax rates: one for the residential class and another for all other property classes, such as commercial property and industrial property. The difference is that the tax rate for the residential class will be lower than the tax rate for all other property classes. For example, the town tax rate for the residential class might be something like $25 for each $1,000 of assessed valuation, while the tax rate for the nonresidential class might be $30 for each $1,000 of assessed valuation. By passing a local law, approved assessing units can phase in the new revaluation assessments over a five-year period.

To opt out of the Homestead Property Tax system, localities have three options in relation to changing the homestead property tax system. They can make the incremental changes in each class’ share based on their market appreciation subject to the five percent cap as allowed under the law. Or, they can ask the State Legislature to limit the increase in a class’s share. This is generally done to minimize the increase in homestead properties’ class share. Finally, they can opt out of the system by adopting a local law or resolution before the next levy of taxes. Technically, Mr Feiner and his Board followed the letter of the law. We believe, however that he didn't follow the intent. Had he opened this issue up to the public for discussion, the results may have turned out to be the same. Unfortunately, since this is about political expediency, control and re-election, we will never know. These types of subterfuge must end. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Motorist Tests Drive-Thru

At about 7:15PM on Saturday night, a car being driven northbound by an unknown male came down Aqueduct Road from Central Avenue. Apparently, the driver had some sort of seizure or cardiac event and crossed Rt 119 and went up the grassy area in front of the former Deli Delicious. From there he continued across the lane that circle the building and struck the building (see photo above and below).

Thankfully, even though the driver of the Denali SUV lost consciousness and struck the building, he did not hit any other cars or pedestrians on Rt 119, Aqueduct Road or Old Kensico Road. Witnesses at the scene said a Greenburgh Police Department ambulance took the driver of the car to the hospital. There were no other passengers in the vehicle. The deli remains closed during construction.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Death of The Solana

Much has been said about the Sprain Brook Nursery property. There have been two suspicious fires within the period of time the owner, Al Krautter was looking to retire and/or sell the property. The fires may have been coincidental, but they highlighted the lack of water supply for the area, according to fire service representatives. In fact, he closed the nursery in 2012 to put the property on the market. When he was unable to sell it, Krautter reopened the business as a more scaled down operation focusing on organically grown products..

Enter Formation-Shelbourne, a company interested in developing the 3.7 acre parcel of property into an 80-bed assisted living facility. ABG is convinced that once the assisted living concept gets all the Town approvals, it will get built. Once built, it will flourish as most assisted living facilities appear to do. Then, characteristically, profits will shrink, costs will rise and after all kinds of hullabaloo, their management will announce Chapter 11, Chapter 13 or something threatening the bankruptcy route. Then they will say they need to change their model and become either a co-operative apartment or a condominium complex. We’ve seen this in White Plains (which has lower city taxes) with the former assisted living facility, The Esplanade. We’re also experiencing this currently with the Hebrew Home next to Westchester Community College on Grasslands Road.

Regardless of how Formation-Shelbourne proceeds (or not) with their proposed assisted living facility called The Solana, they will need a number of variances as well as clearing a number of hurdles created by Mr Feiner and his Town Board. You’ll recall when the Brightview Assisted Living management team was pitching their mega-building at Rt 119 and Benedict Avenue, they wrote the ordinance for allowing assisted living facilities in our Town. Never heeding complaints from the G10 or other residents, Mr Feiner and his Board unanimously passed the new ordinance.

Several issues in the new ordinance were specific to Brightview, including size, location and various other requirements. Never to be swayed by public opinion, logic, facts or qualified information, Mr Feiner and his Board did as they always do, ignored valuable information from residents, and plowed through the new ordinance for assisted living facilities. It never mattered that the ordinance restricting the building height matched exactly the  Brightview specifications. It didn’t matter that the footprint was on 4 acres of land – the exact size Brightview purchased. Nor did the need for proximity to a state road of 200 feet. That’s because their building was thought to be 200 feet from Rt 119, a state road. It was discovered in the eleventh hour that the site was actually more than 200 feet from Rt. 119, and wording of the ordinance was changed by the Thomas Madden behind the scenes to read 200 feet from a state right-of-way. Much to the disappointment to many residents, passage of this new ordinance also created a major change throughout the Town by now allowing Assisted Living Facilities to be built in residential neighborhoods. There’s more to this, but let’s go back to The Solana.

The proposal for The Solana, which would be constructed on the current Sprain Brook Nursery property, is required to be located within 200 feet of a state or county “right-of-way”. That does not include parkways and interstate highways as qualifiers of this “right of way”. This requirement was put in place to ensure emergency medical vehicles could get to these types of facilities quickly, and not have to travel through residential neighborhoods at all hours, since assisted living residents are apt to need emergency medical services often.

The Formation-Shelbourne management balked and stated a small strip of land owned by NY State constituted the requisite “right-of-way”. A challenge from the Edgemont Community Council’s President Bob Bernstein to the Building Department’s Building Inspector disagreed, saying only a state or county roadbed or a proposed roadbed, not a small parcel of state-owned property constituted a “right-of-way”.

The building inspector had also ruled last summer that no variances were needed. However, the ordinance states that these type of facilities must be at least four acres in size. Finally, after four public hearings in as many months, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) took a straw vote which is unofficial, yet reasonably representative of the final vote and ZBA members present unanimously agreed that the building inspector was wrong. Now, while everyone was relieved to learn that the ZBA got it correct, the Formation-Shelbourne attorneys and management company can still apply for variances and proceed with their project. Since the approval will fall to the Town Board, and Mr Feiner favors the project, he could instruct his Board to approve it. If it should get approved, the other issues raised can easily be mitigated as well.

While this project can easily be fast-tracked through the process, which many believe have failed them, there is another perspective this time that is in play. Mr Feiner has been exhibiting quite a bit of sympathy and empathy towards the Edgemont Community. In fact, he has gone above and beyond to placate them, even going so far as to apply and receive grant money for sidewalks in Edgemont – something he will not do for less affluent communities! So, he may go to bat for Edgemont again to allay any thoughts they may have about seceding from the Town and incorporating into a Village. It remains to be seen. These kind of shell games must end. All neighborhoods deserve the same treatment from Mr Feiner and his Board. Allowing this type of discrimination, something Mr Feiner has been found guilty of doing in the Fortress Bible Church case, must end immediately. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Beware of the Utility Bill Payment Scam!

The crooks continue to get more and more creative as the find new ways to steal your money. This time we've learned that they are going after small businesses in an attempt to steal money from them.

Several local businesses have recently been contacted over the phone by persons claiming to be representatives of Con Edison and telling the business that their utility services are going to be shutoff if they don’t make payment right away. The caller then instructs the person to go to CVS and wire a specific amount of money to prevent the utility service from being turned off. It's a scam.

While the focus seems to be on business customers, residential customers of Con Edison should be cautious as well. If you receive such a call, it would be wise, prior to making any payment, to contact Con Edison on your own first to confirm the call actually came from the company.

This is similar to other scams, such as the Grandparent Scam, where they call senior citizens pretending to be a grandchild of theirs and that they were arrested. If you question their "voice" as not sounding like their grandchild, they usually say they have a cold. They'll proceed to explain they've been arrested somewhere distant and don't want to tell their mom and dad, and that's why they're calling them. They'll continue to explain how they need money wired to them for bail (or a lawyer) and instruct the grandparent to withdraw several thousand dollars, go to CVS and send it to them so they can be released from jail.

Most grandparents are loving and unsuspecting and their initial impulse is to comply. There are several things you can do. First, call that loved one directly and ensure they are okay. Call the police and ask for their assistance or call your child, the child's parents and confirm everyone is okay. Never, under any circumstances, should you comply with their request. Many seniors wind up wondering how these people knew so much about the grandchild to be able to sound legitimate? It's as easy as going on Facebook and reading about their next mark.

Additionally, if you have any cause for alarm, doubt or nervousness, you should contact your local Police Department. If the person telling you they are from ConEd or a utility, call Con Edison directly and verify the claim at 1-800-752-6633.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mayor: "Why We Voted No!"

We’ve posted numerous stories about Mr Feiner and his Town Board's insistence on moving forward with Sustainable Westchester’s Community Choice Aggregate plan. This plan offers to save utility users money by purchasing the energy supply through Sustainable Westchester, a 3-year experimental program that appears to be set to begin as a not-for-profit and changeover to a for-profit entity once they can prove out the concept using our money.

ABG is against this plan for several valid reasons: 1) all taxpayers are being entered into this plan and must opt-OUT if they don’t want to participate; 2) it has “big brother” written all over it; 3) the resolution adopted by the Town Board (presumed per Mr Feiner’s instructions) forces ConEd to release your private information from them to this company; 4) There is no guarantee that participants will save money. In fact, it’s been said that we may wind up paying even more; 5) Many have said since this is an experiment, let them prove it out with other communities and if it winds up being a good thing, let us opt-IN; 6) Many of the Sustainable Westchester’s Board of Directors are community leaders, Town Supervisors, Mayors and such. This seems like a conflict of interest to ABG staffers.

Here’s the letter from Croton-On-Hudson Mayor Dr Greg Schmidt as it appeared in the Gazette:


SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT - This letter by Mayor Greg Schmidt was published in this week’s (2/4/16) issue of the Gazette.

To the Editor:

Here in the village over the last two weeks, there has been a significant amount of discussion about a pilot program in New York State called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). A good bit of this discussion has included inaccurate or outright false information. I’d like to set the record straight.

At the January 19, 2016 Village Board meeting, our board chose, as other communities in Westchester have similarly done, to decline to participate in this pilot program at this time. While all of the board members who voted against participation generally agree with what we believe are the goals of such a program, we voted against participation in the program at this time because of our principled concerns about the lack of public outreach regarding the details of the program in the months after the enabling law was passed by the prior village board, the uncertainty about whether residents and small businesses would actually save money, and the lack of transparency and accountability of Sustainable Westchester (SW), the not for profit corporation which will be the administrator of the program.

In addition, there was another, overarching concern. Our approval of the CCA as an opt-out program would change the relationship between Croton residents and Con Ed by inserting the Board of Trustees in the middle. This is unprecedented in New York State. Since most people pay no attention to the details of their Con Ed bill, we knew it was likely that many busy residents, senior citizens, small business owners, or anyone else who didn't respond to or understand the significance of the communications they received about the program – which in many cases would be their first and only direct communication from the village about it – could end up paying more for their energy costs because we opted them in without their express consent or understanding.

Although the NYS Public Service Commission approved the opt-out plan SW requested for the pilot program, it also stated that “the Commission has had a longstanding policy, underlying the Uniform Business Practices and implementation of retail choice programs, that affirmative customer consent is required in order for a customer to change suppliers.” We have made the decision that the village will not be joining the initial round of the CCA. However, to serve those village residents who wish to participate in such a program on an individual basis, we will continue to work with SW to prioritize the implementation of an opt-in option for Croton residents, and residents of the many other municipalities in Westchester which have chosen, as we have, to decline participation in the first round.

Dr. Gregory Schmidt

Finally, as we continue to research this issue, we found another community that decided to opt-OUT. See what we uncovered below:


BREAKING NEWS: Cortlandt Declines to Approve Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Memorandum of Understanding. According to two separate sources the Town of Cortlandt declined to approve the CCA MOU at their most recent meeting, citing a need for additional information. It is not known whether that additional information will be forthcoming before Sustainable Westchester's newest deadline of 2/16 to enroll.

Many communities are voting to not participate and the list is growing. This is a tell-tale sign that leaders in other communities are doing their due diligence and letting the taxpaying residents remain confident that the process is working - for them. We believe that as other communities line up to oppose Sustainable Westchester, it requires a hard, laser-focused second look by Mr Feiner and his Town Board. In fact, it would prove that they have our best interests at heart should they come back and admit that they acted too hastily and are withdrawing their original approvals and endorsements. And, as many have stated, let them prove to us that this will work. Finally, let us opt-IN instead of having to opt-OUT! Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pound Ridge Joins Croton and Says "No" to ESCO

ABG recently learned that Pound Ridge's leadership reviewed the proposal from Sustainable Westchester and voted against adopting it in their February 4th meeting. In watching the Board's meeting, the Pound Ridge officials expressed serious concerns about their program, some similar to those expressed by the village board majority and in Mayor Schmidt's recent letter to the Gazette (which ABG is trying to locate).

Additionally, new information has surfaced - in which it is detailed that Sustainable Westchester may not go with the lowest cost provider when narrowing down the bids list and is looking at solely "renewables", which one Pound Ridge official categorized as a "bait and switch". We also learned that Sustainable Westchester's CEO Mike Gordon was present during the meeting.

Watch the meeting here:

Concerns about the administrative costs have also risen versus any alleged benefit, etc., given the fact that taxpayer funds would be utilized. Comments by Mr. Gordon about how other communities have joined this ESCO were essentially dismissed by Pound Ridge officials who described those decisions as having been made "will-nilly" given the obvious concerns about the program. 

The Pound Ridge board voted unanimously NOT to participate at this time, waiting to see if the initial roll-out goes well--if need be "18 months down the line". The Sustainable Westchester representative indicated that bids would go out on February 22, offering another "new" deadline, should the Pound Ridge Board could decide to re-vote before then. These officials clearly declined but apparently Sustainable Westchester is holding out for a last minute "hat-trick".

Please also note that on Sustainable Westchester's website, Croton on Hudson's approval of the program is still being shown as "pending" 
as seen in the screen capture image below. That is simply untrue. The vote was taken and the answer was no.

It remains to be seen how this will play out, especially given the volatility of the fuel industry of late. But it is refreshing to see politicians who have their constituents best interest at heart and not looking to merely ride the publicity wave. We can only hope to see this kind of concern someday in Greenburgh. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016

Elmsford FD Hosts Safety Seminar

It started as a simple, indoor, winter drill for the Elmsford Fire Department, in January. Limited by the severely cold weather, it was decided to have a guest speaker come to teach the department’s members in the Alexander Hamilton High School’s auditorium. That was sixteen years ago, when Lieutenant Andy Fredericks, a member of the New York City Fire Department, became the first speaker for what would become a department tradition.  

On Saturday, February 6th, approximately 410 firefighters from primarily the New York metropolitan area, as well as out of state, attended the Annual Lt. Andy Fredericks, FDNY, Memorial Seminar and Exhibits. All of the attendees, firefighters, EMS and some police personnel were treated to an excellent presentation by Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle Fire Department with his “Go/No-Go” presentation, about decision making on the fireground: interior versus exterior operations.

Captain Gagliano focused his presentation on a number of different scenarios, which included numerous action videos and involved a lot of audience participation. Attendees also visited a large number of vendors, including Firefighting and EMS equipment, medical screening, FD communications equipment, FD jewelry, FD t-shirts, Firefighters for Christ, Con Edison, The New York State Firemen’s Home, Burn Care Everywhere, etc. Members of Andy Frederick’s company, FDNY Squad Company 18, were in attendance, as always, selling company t-shirts and interacting with the seminar attendees.

In addition to the training and vendors, substantial funding was raised for the four charities that the all-volunteer Elmsford Fire Department support:  Lt. Andy Fredericks Scholarship Fund, Lt. Tyler Rush Scholarship Fund, the New York State Firemen’s Home and Burn Care Everywhere. All proceeds raised are donated after expenses. The Marriot Hotel graciously allows the use of their Grand Ballroom for this event. Steve Rossi of AAA Emergency in North White Plains said, “Elmsford has set the bar for all seminars for the New York Fire Service.” Walter Ferguson, of Burn Care Everywhere said, “This has become the premier firefighting event in New York State.”

Next year’s 2017 Seminar will be with Battalion Chief Jim Silvernail, of the Metro West Fire Protection District of St. Louis County, who will be speaking on “Suburban Firefighting.” Congratulations to the Elmsford Fire Department for all they do and to helping these other organizations.

An Experiment With Your Money

ABG was recently contacted by another concerned citizen through another blog to bemoan the actions taken by their previous Village leaders. Their blog site, EveryThingCroton, has posted about the Feiner-like shenanigans with the Sustainable Westchester organization in their community. Apparently, we are not the only lucky ones. But things changed for them when a new administration was elected, replacing the old guard. We’ve posted links (below) to two of their posted stories that seem eerily familiar. Initially, our first concern was that Mr Feiner and his Board were enrolling all Greenburgh residents into this program - whether they wanted to or not. Secondarily, there were no guarantee of savings, only guesstimates for savings (if any), and too many unanswered questions before undertaking this experiment.

EveryThingCroton has raised many of the same questions, issues and ethics of how Sustainable Westchester’s Board of Directors are operating. Croton’s new administration seems to have similar concerns.

ABG has raised the issue of Sustainable Westchester’s Board members being Town and Village leaders throughout Westchester County. The unanswered question for ABG staffers is when and if Mr Feiner and his Town Board will become ordained by Sustainable Westchester and join the ranks of the paid non-producers? ABG also wonders how and why these other government leaders have been allowed to sit on a Board of Directors that their respective communities are actively doing business with? Or, maybe doing business for? Regardless, something downwind doesn’t smell like flowers.

The list accessible on the website for Sustainable Westchester shows the following Board members. We’ve highlighted in bold the community servants that we take issue with being Board members as their communities are utilizing Sustainable Westchester’s energy experiment. It seems very much like a conflict of interest.

We also have provided common-knowledge information about the others below (when we could find it). As always, you should come to your own conclusions.

- Noam Bramson (Mayor, New Rochelle)
- Chris Burdick (Supervisor, Bedford)

- Joe Carvin (President, One World United & Virtuous): a hedge fund lawyer, was the former Rye Town Supervisor who recently ran against Kristin Gillibrand for her Senate seat and lost.

- Dan Chorost (Environmental Attorney): He is a law partner who regularly litigates complex Superfund matters. Dan blocked construction of a natural gas pipeline through critical environmental areas of Westchester County on behalf of Cortlandt. ABG wonders if he does this to foster more returns for Sustainable Westchester?

- Sara Goddard (Founder, Rye Sustainability Committee): She authored the report on sustainability for Rye.

- Mike Gordon (CEO, Joule Assets): He is responsible for conceptualizing and developing products and services for Joule Assets. He specializes in serving end users in deregulated wholesale electricity markets.

- Peter McCartt (Media and Marketing, Business Development): Peter sits on the environmental committee for the Town of Eastchester.

- Herb Oringel: Is the Treasurer and one of the founders of the Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium as well as Sustainable Westchester.

- Camilo Patrignani is the CEO of Greenwood Energy. Greenwood is in the U.S. and seven countries in Latin America. They are part of the privately owned international Libra Group which controls over 30 subsidiaries operating across six continents. Libra has substantial renewable energy interests as a prime operator in Europe. Greenwood has a strategic relationship with EuroEnergy which undertook the Libra Group’s first solar investment in 2005 through the acquisition of a local developer. Other Libra subsidiaries are involved in shipping, aviation, hospitality and real estate as well as a range of diversified investments.
- Tom Roach (Mayor, White Plains)

Laura Rossi: is the Executive Director of the Westchester Community Foundation. Prior to her career in philanthropy she practiced law in New York City and Westchester, and worked for local and statewide nonprofits on behalf of women’s rights and farmworker rights.

- Nancy Seligson (Supervisor, Town of Mamaroneck)

- Mike Spano (Mayor, Yonkers)

Another article, linked below to the EveryThingCroton site, was subsequently posted as this article was being written. It is from the Croton Mayor detailing some reasons as to why they voted against Sustainable Westchester for their Croton community. Read about it here:

While there is rarely any resistance to cavalierly going against a proposal with any scrutiny, if any, the Greenburgh Town Board usually seems to find themselves on the wrong end of many decisions as the abjectly follow Mr Feiner’s mandates. We believe this to be the case with Sustainable Westchester, especially, now that fuel and energy costs have plummeted for whatever the reason. It should be incumbent upon this administration to not jump into every suggestion put before them. Obviously, leaders from communities such as Croton are capable of doing their due diligence and making good decisions for their taxpayers!

Isn’t this the kind of politics most people complain about in disgust and why politicians are thought of so poorly? Of course it is. People are fed up with government and politicians being on the inside track and claiming this is just business as usual. It’s also very possible that while no one is technically breaking any laws, the appearance of impropriety is enough to question their motives. 

We seek to have these handsomely funded businesses with well-paid employees not be given an easy pass simply because they have the not-for-profit moniker. Many not-for-profits do legitimate and worthwhile work. This not-for-profit, during this upcoming three-year experiment, promises to become a for-profit business when this experiment concludes – on your dime! ABG is pretty sure this was never the intent for not-for-profit businesses. However, having lawyers and politicians working the system to their advantage until they can “prove out” their business model is just wrong! It must end. Croton is seemingly on the right path. Some day Greenburgh may follow. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

ESCO Approved! Cheaper Energy?

We’ve again received the daily campaign email from Mr Feiner, this time alluding to potential savings by mandatory participation in an ESCO or Energy Savings Co-Operative. He states you could save money up to 8 to 14%. What he doesn’t tell you is that it is 8 to 14% of your energy supply fee, one of the smallest portions of your energy bill. And, the claim is based on four New Jersey communities who are participating in an ESCO, not necessarily the same company he and his Town Board are forcing all of us into. The delivery charge is what is highest and Con-Ed just asked the Public Service Commission (PSC) for another increase of 1.8% of your current rate or about 4 dollars or per month. Mr Feiner needs to fight with the PSC if he really wants to help.

He also recounts the last Town Board meeting from Wednesday where, “...the Town Board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the Town Supervisor to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") affirming that the Town and Sustainable Westchester, Inc. agree to participate in a Community Choice Aggregation program ("CCA") to procure energy supply from one or more Energy Service Companies ("ESCOs") for the residents of the Town of Greenburgh.”

In Mr Feiner’s email he repeats the same information multiple times, almost trying to convince everyone that this is a good deal. In fact, Ken Stahn of the Sprain Road Civic Association, met with, studied, and presented his findings to the civic associations’ umbrella organization, the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, the Town Board and others. However, despite Mr Stahn’s pleas to slow down the process to acquire answers before jumping into this, he was summarily thanked and dismissed by the Town leaders. It’s ABG’s belief that Mr Feiner told his Town Board how to vote and they did as they were told.

While Sustainable Westchester has a cool sounding, environmentally friendly name that would evoke a feeling of energy conservation and environmental friendliness, the reality is that this is an experimental program being started by a group of hedge-fund attorneys looking to initially do their testing as a non-profit and if they are successful, change to a for-profit venue. With Mr Feiner and other elected leaders blessing this operation without answers to important questions, people may be lulled into a false sense of security. Simply, Mr Feiner has made us all guinea pigs for this test program!

ABG, Ken Stahn and others have all questioned the logic of people having to opt-OUT of this scheme because Mr Feiner and his Town Board want it that way. What we and many others have been saying is that residents and taxpayers should have to opt-IN to this experiment. After all, government should not have the right to decide on what and how you spend your money. Opt-IN, not OUT should be the standard. Some of the community leaders that Mr Feiner has referenced that are participating in this experiment have been appointed to Board of Director positions on the Sustainable Westchester Board of Directors. Does this sound like a conflict of interest to you? What’ next, telling us which cell phone or television service we can buy?

Mr Feiner states that Sustainable Westchester is “leading the way...” and “Their application to form the first pilot community aggregation program has been granted, and the rest of the state is watching and waiting.” Mr Stahn had expressed reservations about being the first, again guinea pigs, and that we have the ability and luxury of waiting until this model is proven elsewhere and can supply real numbers instead of projected guesses. He also stated that the falling costs of energy around the world is making the entire project even more suspect and asked Mr Feiner and the Board to not rush into anything. A three year minimum commitment is mandated to all residents. ALL residents, you may ask? Yes, Mr Feiner has signed up all residents in the Town to participate. They must opt-OUT to be excluded. How will you know? The Town will mail you a postcard that you must return to be opted-OUT. Maybe he has another plan to improve post office performance.

The language used in the contract was boilerplate at best and wrought with mistakes and inaccuracies. Mr Feiner had no problem at that time accepting it until Mr Sheehan decided to slow that runaway train down. After rewording the contract, there were still problems and Mr Stahn remained vociferous about it. Yet, each time Mr Stahn sought to rectify issues and get clarity and answers, the ESCO representatives provided little if any. Mr Feiner, supposedly with our best interests in mind, did nothing to assuage these fears and questions.

Mr Feiner has stated in his campaign that he, “Will keep you updated on the company that Sustainable Westchester will enter into an agreement with and will advise residents how to opt out of the program if you do not want to participate. It's our hope that program will start later this year.” Mr Stahn had contacted Mr Feiner and said, “One last thing Paul is on the air waves pushing something that he has no idea yet what pricing the RFP has generated.”

Mr Stahn has told ABG that he is willing to discuss with anyone the details, strengths and pitfalls of this project if they reach out to him. Feel free to contact him if you have questions.

Kenneth G. Stahn; e-mail; cell 917-642-7516

This is a sketchy plan without any real safety net for residents. It’s also sketchy because we are all being forced in without having a say-so. The postcard option seems flawed. You may recall when you received the notice to have your home re-evaluated for the Town revaluation project. It looked like junk mail and many residents simply threw it away! That might be what these people are counting on to keep their enrollment numbers up to what they need. Time will tell. Until then, tell Mr Feiner and his Board that you will make your own decisions, not him. It is how we will get A Better Greenburgh.