Thursday, July 21, 2016

David Vs Goliath: A Victory For Open Government

A major ruling on Wednesday from the Supreme Court of the State of New York found in favor of a challenge by Ms Dorrine Livson, against the Town. The Town had been ordered by a lower court to supply Ms Livson with a copy of the now infamous GBList used by Mr Feiner to only send information he wishes to present to residents. Ms Livson, President of the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association (herein WWCA), had submitted a Freedom of Information Law (herein FOIL), request for a copy of the email list used by Mr Feiner to promote or denigrate proposals, topics of his choice or projects within the Town he either favors or not. He also used it for personal attacks, such as those he made against now retired Fairview Fire Chief Anthony LoGiudice and others. 

Here’s a little history:

WWCA President Dorrine Livson had requested the email list in 2014 so she could counter some of the misinformation being put forth by Mr Feiner regarding the 8-story (83ft) inflatable sports bubble that private investors, known as GameOn 365, had agreed to build on the former Frank’s Nursery location on Dobbs Ferry Road during secret conversations with Mr Feiner. This was the proverbial “back room deal”. Once Ms Livson got wind of these conversations with Mr Feiner and Mr Hewitt, she FOILed emails from Mr Feiner and received one email in particular from GameOn 365 owner, Martin Hewitt. Mr Hewitt asked Mr Feiner to cease all email communications with him and only do telephone calls because phone calls could not be FOILed and emails could! But the damage was already done. After discontinued use of 6 months, the property was no longer grandfathered as commercially zoned and reverted back to residential zoning. Then Mr Feiner promised $5 million dollars in tax revenue which turned out to be another exaggeration. But since he wanted the GameOn 365 project to go through no matter what, he pushed to have the project on a referendum at the upcoming election, asking all residents of Greenburgh to vote on this one project in this one neighborhood. He sent out numerous emails using this same email list to promote its passage. This was exactly what Ms Livson was upset about and why she sought the email list – to counteract these types of actions by Mr Feiner. 

With the elections underway with the “new” voting machines – seemingly crayons and poster board, many people were not voting for the referendum as they didn’t know it was on the back of the voting ballot. He sent out an “emergency” email using the same email list telling residents to flip over their ballots and vote for the referendum. He was out of control. But, he garnered 22,000 votes in favor of the bubble. 

Back to the present:

The Town denied the request on the basis that the Webmaster stated that there was neither a print or extract function with the software that can reasonably create a list of email addresses. Undaunted, Ms Livson contacted Cit-e-Net on or about March 11, 2014, and was informed that Cit-e-Net could provide the Town with a digital copy of the gblist, upon request by the Town! Ms Livson subsequently appealed the denial which ironically gets reviewed by, ahem, the Town Board – the same people already denying her request. Regardless of how absurd this might be, they denied her appeal. Undeterred, Ms Livson filed what’s called an Article 78 proceeding against the Town, the Town Clerk and the Town Board with the assistance of Edgemont Resident and Attorney Robert Bernstein.

The Supreme Court reviewed the Article 78 filing and found in favor of Ms Livson. The Town refused to turn over the email list even after ordered to do so by the Court and appealed. Yet, although the court found in favor of Ms Livson, the Town stated afterwards they were now concerned with the confidentiality of the people on the list. Our understanding is that this argument was not made during the Town’s original court presentations and was without merit as an argument now! 

Mr Feiner’s abuse of the GBList is well known by those who follow Mr Feiner’s shenanigans and not what he writes in his press releases. All of this could have been avoided had Mr Feiner and the Town Board complied with the original FOIL request by Ms Livson. Once again, the court has found in favor for Ms Livson and has ordered the Town to produce the email list to her – again. They have also been ordered to pay court costs as well. Congratulations to Ms Livson and Mr Bernstein on a job well done! While ABG is certain other civic organizations will be filing for copies of this, it remains to be seen how the Town finally responds. It’s another dark day in Greenburgh that did not have to come to pass had the Town done the right thing. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Crane Collapse Confirms Two Injured


Like a scene out of a New York City construction mishap, a crane collapsed while driving pilings for the new section of the bridge being built along side of the current Tappan Zee Bridge. While the likelihood of greater injury existed, only two (an unconfirmed third is possible) people are known to be injured. This was remarkably lucky given the amount of workers and traffic that are regularly on the two bridges. The crane, working from the newly built section, fell across the span between the new and the old bridges and across both the north and south bound lanes of the old bridge.

OSHA inspectors are being dispatched to the scene to initiate an investigation as to what went wrong. There are two people confirmed injured, one construction worker and one motor vehicle passenger. We are still awaiting confirmation on the third possible victim. The County’s Special Operations’ Technical Rescue Team was dispatched along with the Rockland Technical Rescue Team to the scene along with numerous area fire departments and personnel from both sides of the Hudson.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Town Board Threatened, Delays "NegDec" Cancellation Vote

Stating that they have followed the process for over a year and a half, the attorney for Foundation Shelbourne spoke at the Town Board Work Session, stating that taking a vote on the already approved NegDec to rescind it was strictly political! He also stated he would not be able to attend the Town Board meeting Tuesday night but the owners might attend and speak. Mr Sciaretta claimed that this was quite a surprise that the Town would vote to rescind a NegDec that was vetted from the traffic and planning departments. He claimed it was illegal, improper and a slap in the face to them. While we are against the Shelbourne project because it does not meet the zoning code recently adopted, we believe he was right!

The Town voted prematurely to approve the NegDec regarding the proposed Formation Shelbourne Assisted Living Housing facility that would replace the existing Sprainbrook Nursery. Opponents had said that approving the NegDec prematurely was not following the process that Mr Feiner and his Board can’t wait to espouse at meetings. More importantly, opponents stated it would have made everything fall into place more easily for the developer, claiming there was no fact-finding done, no reports of conditions had and no studies performed by those normally engaged in such actions. Because Mr Feiner wanted this project to go through, facts, figures and real information didn’t matter! His compliant Town Board voted the NegDec through. Is it any wonder that residents no longer have faith in the process, the zoning codes or the Town administration?

The real problem is that while the attorney for Formation Shelbourne didn’t say it outright, he alluded to the fact that while this had never been done before, it appeared to him to be setting a precedent and his clients might be prepared to sue the Town over this. We all know Mr Feiner has always said, “If you don’t like what I'm doing, sue me.” And many have. But, as we have said before, this is not about Shelbourne per se, or the Krautter Family who owns the property and operates the Sprainbrook Nursery at that location. It’s about publicity for Mr Feiner as well as leveraging Edgemont from incorporating into a Village and having the Town lose their chunk of revenue for the Unincorporated budget!

We’ve written before about how many in Edgemont are disappointed and dismayed with Mr Feiner’s actions and the actions of his Board toward them. So much so, that there have been talks and meetings about Edgemont incorporating to get out from under the Town’s, and more specifically, Mr Feiner’s control. Many communities feel the same way but are without the resources to act upon it. Regardless of whether or not Edgemont moves to incorporate, the Town Board’s disingenuous acts are now coming home to roost. The Town Board should have waited to make a decision after the Zoning Board of Appeals either granted the variances requested by Shelbourne or not. That would have been correctly following the process. The NegDec they approved was a blatant political move by Mr Feiner and his Board. We still believe it was a setup to appease Shelbourne and then to rescind and appear to be appeasing Edgemont. But all of this may have backfired on Mr Feiner.

There are variables in play here that will have long-term ramifications on Unincorporated Greenburgh. In effect, Mr Feiner has blessed the Shelbourne and consequently, all other commercial projects in all residential neighborhoods. He tried to do this with an 8-story inflatable bubble for his friends from GameOn 365 on Dobbs Ferry Road. Once this is allowed to begin, it sets the precedent to allow it in other neighborhoods. Mr Feiner was successful in doing this in the Glenville section with the Brightview Assisted Living facility. Brightview was the author of the Town's Assisted Living Zoning Code that is about two years old. By allowing them to write the code, they accommodated everything they needed. Now, the Town Board and the Legal Department’s laziness has resurfaced and is creating this issue. 

Shelbourne is too large a facility for the size of the property and it is not within 200 feet of a state or county right of way. Those two conditions were put in the zoning code by Brightview and agreed to by Mr Feiner and his Board when they approved the Zoning Code change. Had the Town written the law, overseen the writing of the law or at least been involved with its authorship, perhaps this wouldn’t be happening. This is more proof that we need term limits to aid us in stopping laziness and unconditional and unchallenged decisions from Town Hall. It's no wonder Edgemont continues to discuss incorporation. This madness has to change. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Embarrassed Town Leaders To Vote To Undo Scam

A campaign was recently mounted against the latest actions of Mr Feiner and his Town Board. You’ll recall they previously pushed through a Negative Declaration statement regarding the proposed Formation Shelbourne Assisted Living Housing facility that would replace the existing Sprainbrook Nursery. Opponents to this scam said that would have made everything fall into place more easily for the developer, claimed that there was no fact-finding done, no reports of conditions had and no studies done by those normally engaged in such actions. Because Mr Feiner wanted this project to go through, facts, figures and real information didn’t matter, what he wants is all that does! Naturally, his compliant Town Board will vote however he instructs them because they know to stay in the position, they must go along to stay along - or be Sonya'd.

Now, finally, after weeks of all of us trumpeting the injustice done, Mr Feiner has acquiesced and decided to undo, at least temporarily, the damage he has inflicted on all those involved. Sneak a peak at the upcoming agenda and you’ll find this:

Opponents of the project cite numerous issues that are no surprise to anyone following this project with the size and scope of this proposal. And, that’s all it would normally be in any other community, a proposal. But in Bizarro-Greenburgh, the Town Board votes themselves in as the Lead Agency, and then either ignores or dismisses any objections to a particular project Mr Feiner favors. But there is another “game” in play here and as such we see Mr Feiner as the Town Chessmaster, who is calculating his closing moves even as he unleashes the start of another publicity sting somewhere else and over something else. By the way, the next step in the process for Shelbourne is a continuation of the Public Hearing before the ZBA on July 21, 2016.

As we’ve mentioned numerous times, Mr Feiner will do whatever the Edgemont Community wants him to do. Edgemont is against this project. Simply, he cannot afford to lose the income accumulated for the Town from the Edgemont section of Greenburgh. If Edgemont were to secede from Greenburgh and incorporate as a Village, Mr Feiner would have no power over them. It’s kind of like when we as a Country went against the British monarchy by declaring independence. The difference is that once Incorporated as a Village, numerous services would need to be established or contracted for. It is unknown what those expenses might be either in total or per household, but the Village of Edgemont would need to accommodate police, sanitation, sewer, water, highway and a Village Clerk’s office, where hopefully the Village Clerk doesn’t speak during meetings unless requested to, to name a few things. Insurmountable? Not at all. But invariably these contracts would be established with the Village of Edgemont’s newly elected Mayor and Village Board, unless they hire a Village Administrator, and Mr Feiner. So they don’t get away “Scott free” with having to deal with him.

Back to Bizarro-Greenburgh. Mr Feiner has been in favor of this project, hands down, all-in! He will now announce at the next Town Board meeting that he has changed his position and is now against the NegDec. Naturally, his Board will be against it as well. He’ll pontificate that he spoke with so-and-so in the whatever office at Town Hall, he got emails from more residents who are slowly convincing him that he was wrong to support this and so on. He may even say we need to follow the process. This was his plan all along. He needed the publicity and what better way to get it than to pit two groups against each other, for and against? One of the Board members, and we’re not sure whose turn it is this time, will comment that he/she too has been getting feedback and realizes now that they were mistaken to move forward with the NegDec, but now we have a chance to undo this mistake, and so on.

In the end, the property’s zoning does not allow an assisted living facility to be built at this location. It is strictly based on the 2-year old zoning law this same Board voted for. To blatantly disregard it and slap the residents in the face with it is wrong. It is also wrong to lead a developer on for his own political gain or publicity. Mr Feiner owes the community, the developer and the Krautters a public apology for stringing them along. Until then we can only strive for A Better Greenburgh.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Shelbourne Decides Not to Sue

Formation Shelbourne finally made a decision to cease trying to sue individuals that were against the assisted living facility they have proposed to build at the current site of the Sprainbrook Nursery location. Mr Feiner claims he intervened and convinced Shelbourne to withdraw the lawsuit. The Edgemont Community Council, residents in the Sprain Road & Deer Hill Lane area as well as the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations were named in the lawsuit. We believe the organizations and the individuals should not have been sued simply because they exercised their right to free speech protestation. Everyone that was served papers has yet to be notified that the lawsuit has been withdrawn, only that Shelbourne has agreed to withdraw the suit. ABG has just learned that Shelbourne says it filed a Notice of Discontinuance today, July 6th.

Mr Feiner favors this development and has gone out of his way to stack the deck on behalf of Shelbourne. To insure a better outcome for the developer, Mr Feiner and his Board unnecessarily advanced through a SEQR study or negative declaration for the proposed parcel. It was his attempt to influence the other Boards, whom he appoints, to follow his lead and approve the project. While many people protested the proposal at various Town Board meetings, there were others who favored it. However, the impression we got was that those in favor didn’t necessarily favor the proposal as much as they did the sale, which would benefit the Krautter family.

You’ll recall that Shelbourne has proposed building their assisted living housing on what will revert back to residentially zoned property once the Sprainbrook Nursery property is sold. The area is zoned residential, but Mr Feiner has given the nod to Shelbourne and that has emboldened them to push forward.

The developer wants to build in a residential zone without having the 4 acre minimum and not being 200 ft. from a State or County Right-of- Way. The Shelbourne proposal is 6,000 ft. from a State or County Right-of-Way (Central Park Avenue). The ZBA would have to grant them a 3,000% variance. The Assisted Living Facility that is being proposed for Frank's Nursery property does not need any variances.

What’s also troubling is that after reviewing the Neg-Dec document, there were numerous errors. Yet Mr Feiner and his Board thought it perfectly acceptable to approve as though there were no problems. Again, they will tell the public to have faith in the process, to trust the process, they are doing their due diligence but then they pull a stunt like this. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to have faith in this Board when they routinely pull these kinds of shenanigans.

James Kane offered an apology on behalf of Shelbourne. He claims Shelbourne didn’t know it was filing a lawsuit against private citizens and that they just received bad advice from its legal team. We find that extremely difficult to believe. He claims Shelbourne has never filed a lawsuit and was able to make its case successfully in other towns.  Court records show Shelbourne sued the ZBA in Waldwick, New Jersey last year when the ZBA denied variances to build an assisted living facility. Apparently, we aren’t the only ones saying, “No” to them. He claims Shelbourne is not a “litigious corporate bully” but just “a small group that provides senior living services.” Shelbourne’s website boasts it has been “involved in the development, operations and ownership of over 180 senior living communities in the United States and Canada with an aggregate value of over $2.7 billion.” This hardly seems to be the resources of a small or even medium sized company!
We are convinced that Formation Shelbourne has been working very closely with the corner office in Town Hall. We’re also convinced the lawsuit may have been at the suggestion of the same corner office. If Shelbourne was actually as small as they claim and do not routinely sue, why would they initiate a lawsuit before “the process” had really begun? There is no developer that Mr Feiner doesn’t like or want to work with. Subsequently, there are probably none that his Town Board wouldn’t work with. This kind of behind the scenes activity is what makes so many people mistrust government. It needs to change. It’s also a proof of why we need term limits. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

Please remember those who have made sacrifices for us so that we may enjoy our freedoms.
Have a healthy, happy, and safe holiday.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Like A Good Neighbor, Formation Shelbourne Sues Everyone Hoping To Stop Free Speech, Then Realizes Their Blunder

About two years ago, of course with Mr Feiner and his Board’s assistance, Formation Shelbourne (Shelbourne) proposed an assisted living facility on the piece of property that is currently owned and operating as the Sprainbrook Nursery by the Krautter Family. Assisted Living, also known to include Senior Living, are the latest buzzwords in the housing development debacle running amok throughout Unincorporated Greenburgh. Sadly, instead of letting the process run its course and either grant or deny the project legitimately, Mr Feiner continues to be the shill for Shelbourne.

Even though it was not time in the process for a SEQR study, Mr Feiner pushed his Board to approve the premature SEQR findings. These findings, known as a Negative Declaration or Neg Dec, were adopted by Mr Feiner and his Board without any studies, facts or information being provided. The intent was clearly to sway the Zoning and Planning Boards into approving this project. The Zoning Board previously found that variances were required under Greenburgh’s zoning code. The building inspector’s determination that no variances were required was objectionable to many, including most civic associations. Bob Bernstein, President of the Edgemont Community Council, led the charge and filed an appeal of the decision. He also paid an outlandish fee instituted in Town Hall as a deterrent for future appeals by civic associations and community groups which were never charged previously.

The Shelbourne lawsuit claims that the zoning board’s determination that variances were required under Greenburgh’s zoning code was arbitrary and capricious and should be reversed. The zoning code requires that assisted living facilities be located within 200 feet of a state or county right-of-way, excluding interstate highways and state parkways. This requirement was put into the Town’s two-year old Zoning Code change to accommodate the Brightview Assisted Living facility at Rt 119 and Benedict Avenue. Additionally, that particular provision was to ensure residents would not have emergency vehicles driving through their neighborhoods with lights and sirens.

Approximately two years ago with the aid of Greenburgh officials Shelburne sought to build an 80-unit, 94-bed assisted living facility at the corner of Underhill and Sprain Roads in Edgemont. The zoning variance point of discussion is that the proposed facility is over a mile from the area where such facilities may be located under the Greenburgh’s zoning code. It is somewhat coincidental that Shelbourne proposed this facility about two years ago and the Zoning Code change was enacted about two years ago as well. And, Mr Feiner is fighting to allow Shelbourne to build their inappropriate facility where it doesn’t belong. What’s next? There will probably be a push by Mr Feiner and Shelbourne to “grandfather” the proposal to a point before the zoning code change was adopted.

Formation-Shelbourne Senior Living Services, LLC., filed a suit in Westchester State Supreme Court on June 9, 2016 against the zoning board, the Edgemont Community Council, the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, and 19 neighboring residents. They went after everyone involved with the appeal because they were united with the ECC in appealing the Town’s former building inspector's decision last July that the Shelbourne facility did not need any variances. Yet, if they follow the zoning code, they do need variances!

In an email blast from Mr Feiner, utilizing the GBList that he was ordered by court decree to release to the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association but refused, Mr Feiner said, “I just learned about the lawsuit today when I received some e mails [sic] from residents who live near the proposed facility. Am very upset.”

In a new twist to this story, we received a copy of an email to Mr Feiner from Shelbourne announcing they were dropping the lawsuit. Perhaps they realized the futility of suing what might become their future neighbors. Perhaps as they realized that the limited support they had in the area was turning against them as neighbors were being penalized for expressing their opinion - still a legal right even here in Greenburgh - that they should change their tact.

Here’s what it said:

From: Jim Kane
Date: July 1, 2016 at 12:01:50 PM EDT
To: Paul Feiner <>
Cc: Mark Maberry
Subject: Shelbourne Senior Living

Attached you will find the follow up response to our discussion of yesterday. As I mentioned we have decided to withdraw the Article 78 proceeding and focus our attention our current application for variances before the Zoning Board.
James W. Kane III|Shelbourne Healthcare Development Group LLC

This is a plausible project for someplace else, not Unincorporated Greenburgh! Ironically, several members of the Feiner administration had insisted after the passage of the new Assisted Living facility Zoning Code change that allowed Brightview to be built, that there were no other locations in Unincorporated Greenburgh that would accommodate another Assisted Living facility. Apparently, if this proposal is approved by Mr Feiner and his Board, which they appear to be ready to do, it will again prove they lied to the public for the benefit of a developer. Sadly, this seems to be a hallmark of this administration. It must end. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Shelbourne Sues Wrong Groups

Below is a letter printed with permission from the Secretary of the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations regarding the lawsuit brought against many organization:

I am writing to keep you informed. In case you haven’t heard, the CGCA as well as the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), the Edgemont Community Council (ECC) and a number of residents living in the Deer Hill Lane/Sprain Road area have been named in a lawsuit filed in Westchester County Supreme Court on June 9, 2016 by Formation Shelbourne Senior Living Services, LLC. Shelbourne is the firm seeking to build an 80-unit, 94-bed assisted living facility on the Sprain Brook Nursery property at 448 Underhill Road.

As you may recall, last August the ECC/CGCA filed an application with the ZBA appealing the Building Inspector’s decision that Shelbourne required no variances to build. The Zoning Ordinance requires that assisted living facilities have a minimum lot size of four acres and be located within 200 feet of a state or county right-of-way. The nursery property is only 3.79 acres and is more than 6,000 feet from the nearest state road, Central Avenue.

At its April 21, 2016 meeting, the ZBA ruled in favor of the ECC/CGCA appeal regarding the 200 feet from Central Avenue requirement but reserved decision on the necessary four-acre provision since Shelbourne was advised it could seek a special permit from the Town Board on that issue.

Before the ZBA even announced its ruling, on April 8, 2016, Shelbourne filed an application with the ZBA seeking variances from both requirements. The ZBA has held Public Hearings on the application at both its May and June meetings and is scheduled to continue the hearing at its July 21, 2016 meeting.

Regarding the lawsuit, the Town has not provided the CGCA with information on when it was served with the legal papers, but we know early Saturday morning, June 25, 2016, neighbors in the Deer Hill Lane/Sprain Road area were served with the approximate three-inch thick piles of papers stating they were named in the lawsuit. Bob Bernstein was served with papers on Monday morning, June 27, 2016. To date, no one from the CGCA has been served with papers.

The lawsuit against the ZBA is premature (not ripe) since Shelbourne is seeking the variances. The lawsuit against the ECC, the CGCA and the individual neighbors who joined in appealing the Building Inspector’s decision is frivolous and meant to intimidate and deny our First Amendment rights of free speech. The ECC and CGCA will respond in court to this frivolous lawsuit. Bob Bernstein has graciously offered to prepare and file the necessary legal papers.