Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Why Fix It When We Can Talk About It - Some More

Five years ago, post-tropical Storm Sandy struck at high tide, driving catastrophic storm surges into coastal New Jersey and New York unlike anything seen before. Thirty-four New Jersey residents lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, causing over $62 billion in damage. Five years later some areas have recovered. Some have not.

But we don’t live on the coastal area and yet are equally impacted by storms. Newly re-appointed Town Councilman Sheehan discussed Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene and its impact to Greenburgh specifically and the region in general as a 500-year storm. Sadly, his account was skewed for those residents and businesses that have suffered with just about every storm. But how could this 500-year storm happen?

Some say it’s simple. Development and over-development of our suburban communities has allowed and in Mr Feiner’s case encouraged over-sized buildings on every speck of undeveloped land. Where it is apropos, such as the super Stop and Shop on Rt 119 in the Glenview section of the Town near the Marriot and Sheraton hotels, it is conversely not apropos directly across the street with Brightview Assisted Living, and their oversized behemoth sized building smack dab in the middle of residential homes. Similarly, the proposed apartment building on Dromore Road and/or the Shelborne Assisted Living facility on Underhill Avenue, the site of the former Sprainbrook Nursery. There are more examples, but we’re sure you understand the point.

Many community leaders believe super storms are the new norm, and are increasing efforts to make communities more resilient—a critical component of all recovery efforts. NOAA points to two examples:

· New Jersey’s Brigantine Island community used the recovery phase as an opportunity to elevate the road off the island, strengthen barriers along the oceanfront and bayside, and improve zoning and floodplain ordinances.

· New Jersey’s coastal management program developed a Getting to Resilience program to help communities improve hazard preparedness. As a result, many communities instituted new policies that keep people and infrastructure safer, and also resulted in cost reductions for flood insurance premiums.

This information, while germane to New Jersey and possibly other coastal areas, does little to ameliorate the issues for those Greenburgh residents as well as others who, by proximity to the two major rivers used by the entire county for drainage, are routinely ignored unless a news crew is broadcasting from a flood victims home. And, if you read the various governmental agencies websites, specifically about flooding, they mention risk and vulnerability assessments, public outreach and engagement, planning integration, disaster preparedness and recovery and even hazard mitigation implementation. All of these are things a taxpayer can do after they are flooded and the literal and figurative damage has been done. Yet, the one real solution is missing.

The Bronx River and the Saw Mill River are the two rivers that every community within their confines drain into. As more and more development is squeezed onto any undeveloped property, their storm drainage is guided to one of those rivers – maybe not directly, but ultimately. Hence, with more impervious space unable to now absorb previous rain waters, the runoff is pointed to these two rivers. Ultimately, the lower lying regions that never used to flood before are now inundated by water. Many of those same residents have been flooded so many times that they are forced to sell their homes at a fraction of their original worth. So what’s the solution?

Most flood victims know that FEMA is a pathetic and bloated bureaucracy that is incapable of helping those already affected by flooding. Having lived through numerous hurricanes, we’ve watched FEMA shrug their federal shoulders and walk away from helping those in need. As a response, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer sponsored and had passed legislation to increase FEMA flood insurance premiums to those in newly districted flood zones. So basically, the people needing help the most get walloped again after not being helped the first time.

The elections are over. The Democrats claim they came out and voted against President Trump. The Republicans are utilizing the same excuse while ignoring the country’s mandate for change by electing President Trump. Sadly, this is the state of politics in our state, county and municipalities. All of the newly elected candidates that won promised to “fight for you” or offered “a new direction.” Really? Not one of them, whether it’s County Executive-elect George Latimer or any County legislator that has one of the two rivers in their district will do anything about flooding because those constituents are too few and far between to be needed for their election/re-election.

The solution? First, a buy-in from every community. They need to participate in cleaning out the river in their community on a regular basis. Second, both rivers need to be dredged and their width and depth increased. Hopefully, the environmentalists will have more compassion for the taxpaying residents than the ducks and other limited wildlife in the rivers’ immediate path. Third, the storm water infrastructure must be upgraded and more importantly, maintained. Fourth, any new, expanded or additional construction must incorporate significant drainage solutions from that location that will not add significantly to the rise of either river during a storm that cannot be controlled. Fifth, variances, a key tool used by Mr Feiner, his Board and others, cannot be allowed for the benefit of developers. Finally, the storm water path to the rivers and the rivers themselves must be allowed to flow unimpeded. This will reduce flooding, damage, accidents and more. It’s time for some new leadership to step up and not bail on the river corridors. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Celebrating Our Veterans





















Veterans Day is celebrated every year on 11th November to give honor our military veterans, who have served and are serving in the US Armed Forces. It is also known as Armistice Day. Veterans Day 2017 to be celebrated on Saturday 11th November 2017.

Friday, November 10, 2017

When Will Your Property Tax Rebate Check Arrive?

ALBANY – This year’s property tax- rebate checks will start hitting mailboxes in New York in mid-November, state officials said.

The latest round of checks will be for a portion of homeowners’ school taxes and average about $179 per household. The tax department said it will take several months for all 2 million checks to be issued, so the distribution will run into early 2018.

“The property-tax-relief credit directly reduces your property tax burden if you are a qualifying homeowner,” the state Department of Taxation and Finance said on its website.

The checks supplant “property-tax freeze” checks that had gone out the past three years for the annual increase in school and municipal taxes.

What will you get?
The program —called the property tax- relief credit — applies to homeowners with an adjusted gross household income of $275,000 or less. Also, the local school district had to stay under the state’s property-tax cap.

Last year, the four-year, $1.3 billion program started with a flat amount: $185 for upstate residents and $130 downstate. This year it provides larger checks to homeowners with lower incomes.
Now it’s a rebate based on a percentage of what you get back each year through STAR, the $3 billion state program that provides a savings on school taxes.

For those making under $75,000, the rebate will be equal to 28 percent of the STAR savings.
If you get $1,000 a year off your school taxes through STAR, you would get a check for $280.
The percentage drops for higher incomes: Between $75,000 and $150,000, the check is for 20.5 percent of the STAR break; and 5.5 percent for between $200,000 and $275,000.
In the last two years of the program, the checks will get larger: In 2019, it will get as high as 85 percent back for those earning less than $75,000.

Senior citizens receive Enhanced STAR, and they will also get a check: for 12 percent of the STAR rebate, growing to 34 percent in 2019.

What about STAR checks?
The tax-relief checks come after the tax department last year starting mailing out 195,000 STAR rebates to new homeowners, which went out as checks for the first time last year.

Those who bought their homes after August 2015 get a STAR check for the savings on their school taxes, rather than seeing the savings upfront in their tax bills.

STAR is available on homeowners’ primary residences for those with incomes of $500,000 or less.
The program struggled last year, but improved this year as the tax department better adjusted to it.
“Those property owners who have registered should have received a check or a letter from us at this point,” said tax department spokesman James Gazzale. “If they have not and if they believe they are eligible, they can contact us.”

People should have received their check in time to pay their school taxes, which for most of the state is Sept. 30. Last year, checks went out late, leaving people struggling to pay their full tax bill.
But tax assessors said the state didn’t have the same problems this year.

The tax department “should be commended for making this a priority and fixing what was a broke system they were forced to put into place in such a short time frame last year,” said Jay Franklin, the tax assessor in Tompkins County, who was critical of the situation last year.

What do I have to do?
The tax department will automatically mail the property-tax-relief-credit checks to you.
But be patient, the process will take a few months, and the state hasn’t said when each area of New York will get them first.

For more information, visit tax.ny.gov/pit/property/propertytax- relief.htm.

If you’re a new homeowner, you should have applied and received a check for your STAR rebate. That’s if you’re income eligible and if your school taxes were already due.

To register or for more information, visitwww.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/star /default.htm.

This year it provides larger checks to homeowners with lower incomes. In the last two years of the program, the checks will get larger: In 2019, it will get as high as 85 percent back for those earning less than $75,000.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Clarification On A NYS Constitutional Convention (Con-Con)


A lot of people have been discussing the Constitutional Convention in order to make an educated vote! Here’s our take on both sides of the issue.

For – Vote Yes
A Constitutional Convention only comes along once every twenty years. Many people say it’s the public’s opportunity to change what they don’t like in the NYS constitution. The attraction of this idea suits those who are proponents of a constitutional convention, believing the constitution is a living document. As is typical, there are those who do not believe it to be a living document.

It is said that potential improvements from a Con-Con could include a reform of election law, achieve nonpartisan redistricting, setting term limits and mandating budget-making transparency. A big gripe that many New Yorkers have against the state is the amount of unfunded mandates New Yorkers are saddled with as the current crop of politicians cannot seem to stop themselves from creating a new tax, fee, requirement, statute etc. that someone mysteriously comes up with, claiming, “It wasn’t me,” but costs us more in money, businesses, residents fleeing and so on. As everyone is fond of saying, New Yorkers are voting with their feet and leaving.
If the proponents of “Yes” were to win, it will set off a year of primary and general election voting to choose Con-Con delegates. There would be three per state Senate, plus 15 at-large ones. Rest assured that many, if not all of our current representatives would be actively seeking one of the positions – the same people who have either put us in this predicament or are contributing to it! 

One aspect is the great pay they would receive in addition to their existing salary. The other is they would be able to change the constitution to further allow whatever their own agenda might be. They could also “gang up” together with other legislators to ensure minimal resistance. The convention would meet in Albany with an expectation that would either offer individual amendments or one package with everything lumped into it. Then it would go to voters in 2019 for either passage or rejection. And, as voters have proven time and time again, they vote not knowing what both sides of an issue might be.

Need an example? In 2012 Mr Feiner wanted the GameOn 365 project to be built against the wishes of the entire neighborhood.  He tried to virtually give them the property on a very favorable lease to only meet resistance from that neighborhood, civic associations and other residents who recognized why this was so wrong on so many levels. What did he do? He delayed everything so he could have a referendum on allowing the proposal. Twenty-two thousand people in the Town who were not given all the facts, voted to allow it, superseding the neighborhoods desires. Fortunately, the residents prevailed on a technicality as foreclosed property has to be sold, not leased; but the lack of trust was now out in the open. By the way, Mr Feiner will get relected this Tuesday as the Republicans and other party’s have abandoned Greenburgh as a democratic stronghold not worth using resources on.

Against – Vote No
At least $350 million in taxpayer dollars will be spent on a Constitution Convention. Delegates will pocket $80,000 each! Delegates who hold NYS office[s] will get their full salary and their convention paychecks at the same time. That’s double dipping for hundreds of politicians. Delegates get paid every year, for unlimited years. Plus, they can hire family members and cronies for their staffs, and pay them, too. Delegates don’t have to accomplish anything to be paid. Sort of sounds like a politician, doesn’t it?

At the last convention in 1967, 4 of 5 delegates were Albany insiders. No person can seriously expect a convention of Albany insiders to take on Albany’s culture of corruption. They never have. Voting NO stops greed, corruption and insider politics. 

The NYS Constitution can be changed at ANY time through amendments. There is no need for a long, costly, inefficient convention. The Constitution has been amended over 200 times since 1894. After the last Convention in 1967, voters rejected every single change that the delegates proposed. After spending tens of millions of dollars, the convention accomplished nothing! Voting NO stops waste and inefficiency. 

Here are some of the changes wanted:
Article 5 protects cops, paid firefighters, nurses, and other first responders by guaranteeing the retirement safety they’ve earned on our streets. PBA’s and NYSP reject the Constitutional Convention. NYSPFFA, the statewide firefighters organization rejects the Constitutional Convention. NYSNA, the statewide nurses organization rejects the Con Con. UEMSO, the statewide EMS organization rejects the Con Con.

Article 14 promises places like the Catskills and Adirondacks “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” Constitutional Convention would expose lands to clear cut logging, hyrdro-fracking, and development. Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, Adirondack Council, Friends of the Forest, Protect the Adirondacks, Environmental Advocates of NY, ADK Mountain Club - these are just some of the environmental groups that oppose Con Con. Voting NO on Con Con would preserve wildlife, trees, parks, and open space.

Article 11 guarantees all children the right to free public education. Advocates of vouchers, religious schools, privatization, and charter schools want a Con Con so they can diminish our constitutional right to public schools. One of the changes adopted at the last convention in 1967 allowed public monies to be used to pay for religious schools. If voters hadn’t rejected it, our entire public education system would have changed drastically. 

Article 5 protects teachers’ safe retirement after decades of service to children. Voting NO to Con Con will defend kids, public schools and teachers.

Article 17 protects the vulnerable by guaranteeing the “aid, care and support of the needy.” Mental health, public health, SNAP, veterans’ services, HEAP and elder care are just some of the programs operated under the umbrella of Article 17. Voting NO on Con Con shields the vulnerable.

Article 1 promises that labor, like electricians, steelworkers and plumbers, can form unions. Right-to-work predators want to use the Con Con to turn NY into an anti-worker state like Wisconsin or Alabama. Article 1 guarantees workers comp for people injured in the job. AFL-CIO, CSEA, NYSUT, IBEW, and unions across the state oppose Con Con. Voting No on a Con Con is standing for working people.

In addition to all the organizations noted above, here are just a few more of the 100-plus coalition partners that have formed New Yorkers Against Corruption to oppose the Con Con: 

LEFT: Working Families Party, Equality NY, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, LGBT
RIGHT: Conservative Party, Council of Churches, NYS Rifle & Pistol Association, NYS Right to Life, NYS Republican Party. Voting NO to a Con Con will sustain political diversity.

An informed voting decision and an informed and engaged voting electorate is the key to making changes to New York, Westchester County and the Town. This is not the only information about the Constitutional Convention and we encourage our readers to research and learn more before Election Day. Do we really want our current crop of politicians, who have made us the highest taxed, highest regulated and highest intrusion into everything we do the stewards of changing their own bad behavior? We hope not. Regardless of your position, we encourage you to vote. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Edgemont Kobayashi Maru Scenario

Star Trek fans will recognize the Kobayashi Maru scenario reference instantly. For non-Star Trek fans, the Kobayashi Maru scenario was an infamous no-win scenario that was part of the curriculum for command-track cadets at Starfleet Academy in the 23rd century. It was primarily used to assess a cadet’s discipline, character and command capabilities when facing an impossible situation, as there is no (legitimate) strategy that will result in a successful outcome. The protagonist of the show, Starship Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk, played by actor William Shatner, was the only cadet in Starfleet history to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru — by reprogramming the simulation so that it was possible to win. This should sound familiar to Greenburgh residents.

While we never would expect Mr Feiner to be torn between an ethical or moral dilemma, he has repeatedly tried to bend, change, alter and scrap the rules. When the Edgemont section of the Town began openly discussing the possibility of incorporating into a village to pursue their goal of self destiny and better financial control, Mr Feiner worked feverishly behind the scenes to thwart their efforts. And, throughout it all they continued to post their thoughts, findings, questions, points and counter-points online and express them at many assorted meetings. At no point did it appear, at least to ABG staffers, that there was ever anything “going on” or any ulterior motives. 

Many of Mr Feiner’s sycophants, committee appointees and supporters as well as Mr Feiner himself claimed that the Edgemont Community Council and Robert Bernstein were behind this move that would cripple the Town's budget and services. While operational changes could certainly happen to Greenburgh, there were far too many people stepping up, becoming involved and seeing Mr Feiner’s attacks as hollow. His public reasoning for not being willing to meet with the incorporation members was that the group was not an official entity and could not enter into a binding contract with the Town. We believe the real reasons are quite different.

By refusing to meet with residents, taxpayers and constituents of the Town regardless of their philosophies, intent or goals, Mr Feiner was already taking a position against incorporation and intentionally alienating some who may have been on the fence about incorporation. His steadfast anti-incorporation position very definitely worked against him. Mr Feiner, who as Supervisor is supposed to remain neutral according to NYS law, continued to rail against incorporation going out of his way to make his anti-incorporation position well-known through other media outlets friendly to him. In fact, emails publicized by many residents and civic associations from Town Hall repeatedly proved this point out time and again.

Once the petitions were finally accepted at Town Hall, another in a series of calculated missteps by Mr Feiner's crew, probably under his orders, he waited until the end of the allotted time period to render his incorporation decision, saying, “No!” Undeterred, the incorporation members forged ahead. But next would be the unauthorized expenditure of Town funds to hire a retired judge so he could shift any ownership of decisions Edgemont incorporators found unfavorable away from himself saying, “It was the judge’s decision, not mine.” Next were the subsequent private investigators sent to homes to invalidate the petition signatures that had been submitted even while NY State law says these expenditures were illegal. Even though Mr Feiner’s illegal position and actions were trying to win a no-win scenario, albeit Kobayashi Maru, he forged on – continuing his alienation of others who may have been amenable to his view but had now changed sides.

An Article 78 is a form of objection for the public against a municipality's decision they believe unfair, unjust or wrong. The Edgemont Incorporation Council (EIC) filed an Article 78 against Mr Feiner once he said no to their incorporation referendum request. On October 31, 2017, New York Supreme Court Judge Susan Cacace rejected Mr Feiner and the Town's motion to dismiss the suit. In the Dromore Road case it was also no surprise when Judge Cathy Siebel referenced the Fortress Bible federal discrimination case, noting Mr Feiner and the Towns guilty verdict for federal discrimination, lying under oath, destroying evidence and more!

With each apparently hapless misstep, and we know each move was very calculated by Mr Feiner, both sides seemed to dig their heels in deeper. Now Mr Feiner has a new ploy. He has offered the Edgemont community the ability to control its own zoning and planning without incorporation to thwart their movement. The argument from the EIC has always been about having better control over their own destiny. Mr Feiner has claimed incorporation will cause the Town budget to have a $17 million shortfall. While that number is questionable, other residents in the Unincorporated Town have pressed Mr Feiner and his Board to explain why they are not doing everything possible to ensure minimal budget disruption? Their answers are hollow as they follow Mr Feiner’s mantra that incorporation will fail and there’s no need to plan ahead. This lack of planning, whether over incorporation, sidewalks, infrastructure, or flooding, etc., is another on the list of hallmark shortcomings of the 24-year tenure of the Feiner Administration.

Mr Feiner’s latest idea of allowing only Edgemont to have control over its planning and zoning is not the only issue at play. ABG believes this latest offering to placate the EIC is just another desperate and illegal move to segregate Edgemont from the rest of the Town by Mr Feiner. It smacks of spot-zoning – illegal, yet still practiced with impunity by Mr Feiner and his Board. This move harkens back to his other discriminatory practices in the Fortress Bible Church discrimination case which we are all paying for to the tune of $6.5 million dollars (of which $1 million was paid by the insurance company). Instead of trying to work in good faith with everyone, Mr Feiner has chosen to alienate just about everyone - the EIC, most of Edgemont, the Unincorporated taxpayers, and the courts. This must end. 

Whether you are for or against the incorporation, this haphazard method of governance calls to mind of the same old political games that turn people away from participating with their government. Maybe that’s what Mr Feiner is hoping for. But, these kinds of shenanigans, back room deals, subterfuge, lies, discriminatory efforts and Kobayashi Maru scenarios have no place in our Town and must end. Only then will we see A Better Greenburgh.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Predictable Incompetence

Predictably, Mr Feiner and his Board voted unanimously to adopt their ill-conceived zoning district change. This move, again predictably, promises to embroil the Unincorporated Greenburgh taxpayers in yet another discrimination lawsuit. The new zoning amendment creates what will be known as a M-SH62 district. Simply, this represents what will be know as Multifamily Senior Housing for 62 year old people and over. Commissioner Garrett Duquesne claims this will create much needed new senior housing.

The zoning change is being made for a specific intent, affecting specifically, the housing structures located at 48, 50, 54, 56 and 58 Manhattan Avenue. This housing is currently considered part of a low-income scatter-site housing complex that is next to the Theodore Young Community Center. Many people who spoke at the Town Board meeting endorsed scatter-site housing as well as low-income housing. Many also endorsed the rebuilding effort as neglect and a lack of maintenance, a hallmark of the Feiner Administration for over 24-years, have cited the need for improvement.

During the Town Board meeting, one younger woman who stated she lives in one of the apartments, begrudgingly got up to speak after she and her neighbors did not receive an accurate account as to what was happening with the project or exactly what was going to happen to their place of residence? Then she stressed while she had concern for her neighbors, she wants to know how she, specifically, would be affected. Again, different answers abounded with Town Attorney Tim Lewis seemingly having the final, although apparently not correct, word in the matter.

During the meeting, Mr Feiner requested Raju Abraham, Executive Director of the Greenburgh Housing Authority, to come to the podium and clarify a few points. Yes, 4 families will be moved out as they won't qualify to be a resident there under the new zoning code. He also acknowledged that the tenants will be moved to a newly renovated apartment with new appliances in a different Greenburgh Housing Authority facility in another part of Town. This sounds like they are being bribed to just shut up and go along with their eviction. He also stated they could move anywhere in the Country as they are Section 8 voucher recipients and they can use the voucher anywhere. Section 8 requires a tenant to spend 30% of their income towards rent. Simply, this is nothing more than subsidized housing.

Commissioner Duquesne has stated the plan is to demolish the currently occupied five buildings and ultimately relocate four of the five families as they are under 62 years of age. Clearly, this is another form of discrimination once this bill was voted through! So much so, in fact that several speakers (of the G10) reiterated the point several times during both comment periods and the hearing itself. Ignoring the advice of attorneys and other well-regarded residents, the Town Board went along with the flawed bill and adopted it anyway, virtually ensuring a lawsuit for $25 million. 

What does this mean? Several things. 

First, this new spot-zoning change is more of the same throughout the Town. We’ve been witnessing spot-zoning by Mr Feiner and his Board with wanton regularity. They've done it with Westhab in Fulton Park, Brightview in Glenview, Shelbourne in Edgemont and so many more locations. Virtually every neighborhood, except Mr Feiner’s gated community of Boulder Ridge, has felt the spot-zoning wrath of Mr Feiner and crew. So, with this new zoning code change specifying by law an age restriction, the Unincorporated Town should expect to be in court again.

Second, is the illegality of creating a law that restricts people of a certain age from being able to move into a neighborhood. In fact, replace “62-year olds” with any other group and see if you can more easily understand why this is wrong on so many levels. Had the Town left out the “age of 62 and older” from the bill now passed into law, and left the onus on the Greenburgh Housing Authority or the group the Town is contracting these apartments with to build, we would not have to worry about going to court for another discrimination lawsuit. In fact, zoning guru Ella Preiser suggested at numerous times that the bill could easily be changed and the liability eliminated. Instead, Councilman Jones took to the bully pulpit to berate and rudely shout down Ms Preiser. Shortly thereafter, Town Councilman Sheehan would jump on the bully pulpit and attack Ms Preiser as well when she got up to speak again. 

Immediately before the rudeness by Mr Jones, Bob Bernstein explained in great detail why the change in this proposal could easily be corrected, but must be done before its adoption. He further explained why this will wind up in court and expose the Unincorporated Town taxpayers to a $26 million dollar discrimination lawsuit. An interesting aside witnessed here again was several audience members, new to the sham known as open government , were actually engaged in a back and forth discussion by the Board members. These same Board members usually refuse to discuss anything with their critics and detractors. And, as we witnessed this night, chose to be rude to regular attendees instead.

There’s already a lawsuit against the Town from S&R (Steven and Richard Troy) Development, who changed their original proposal from luxury houses (2 or 3 McMansions) to an affordable housing proposal on Dromore Road in Edgemont. In an effort to halt the Town from going deeper into the discrimination hole the Board was digging for themselves, Mr Bernstein suggested Mr Feiner and his Town Board hold off passing the “neg dec” for another project after Mr Bernstein warned them not to, as their motion to dismiss the discrimination lawsuit by Dromore Developer's S&R, would be going in front of Judge Cathy Seibel, who cited when reading her decision not to dismiss it, that the Town, Mr Feiner and Board had already been found guilty of discrimination, destroying evidence and lying under oath in the Fortress Bible law suit.

Since the motion to dismiss the S&R lawsuit against the Town was, ahem, dismissed, and the lawsuit moving forward, the Town should tread carefully when they make such decisions as to zoning with the intent to limit who can and cannot move into a specific area of the Town. While decisions like these are terrible for the Town financially, they're embarrassing to the taxpayers who support developing various types of housing throughout the Town. It's also completely understandable why Edgemont residents are actively pursuing incorporation. Who would want to be part of this circus at Hillside Avenue? The numbers are growing. At least the villages are insulated from a good part of this. It has to end. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

More Flooding = Lack of Preparedness = Leaf Blower Regulations

Houston’s drinking water system is being stressed by overflowing water reservoirs and dams, breached levees and possible problems at treatment plants and in their water distribution system. Failure of drinking water systems could lead to real water shortages. Raw sewage, dead bodies (human and animal) in the water and release of dangerous chemicals into the floodwaters could lead to the spread of disease through contact with contaminated water and to infection through open wounds. Most flood and swift-water first responders, such as our County’s all-volunteer Technical Rescue Swift Water rescue technicians, all wear dry suits to protect themselves from these types of contaminants in the unknown waters they will be in to perform rescues, searches and other related tasks.

Houston has at least a dozen sites that have been designated environmentally hazardous and at risk of petrochemical contamination. Indeed, companies have reported that pollutants from refineries have already been released. As if those are not bad enough, the “unprecedented” amount of water leads to the perfect breeding opportunities for mosquitoes, which bring us Zika and many other infectious diseases. Hurricane Harvey has already led to deaths by drownings and the destruction of many homes and businesses. Most in Texas, specifically in the Houston area were caught in a false sense of safety as the experts had indicated they were not in harms way.

Flood impacts can hit hardest on the most vulnerable and exposed people, especially low income and ignored neighborhoods, the elderly and frankly, already known flood-prone areas, such as the Bronx River and Saw Mill River corridors. And yet, after several years of relative calm when action could have been taken, the politicians did nothing and moved on to more critical issues. Specifically, in our Town, the major concern between lawsuits and guilty verdicts against our Supervisor has been over leaf blower noise. While an inconvenience to some, nobody has ever lost their possessions or been forced from their homes because someone was using a leaf blower!

In fact, Mr Feiner asked his Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) to review and report back to him about regulating leaf blower usage. And, the CAC issued no less than four reports to the Town Board, and recommended that the Town Board regulate the periods of use of blowers in the residential areas of Unincorporated Greenburgh for part of the year – from May 1 - September 30. Interestingly, the Town stopped using the vacuum truck to pick up leaves during the fall because they did not know when the leaves would fall. Huh? So, how can they now know that September 30th is the correct date to go by for this proposed bill?

The Edgemont Association sought this legislation, along with the 50 or so Edgemont, Cotswald and Hartsdale residents, and even passed a resolution in support of the CAC findings. They also agreed with the exemptions that practically negate the bill, should it become law, and only restrict residents from leaf blower usage. We quote here from Section XXX-4.  Exemptions, about who will be exempted from this:
B. The restriction provided by Section 3 shall not apply to: (1) commercial properties, (2) privately-owned golf courses, (3) properties owned by a religious institution, and (4) properties owned by the town. Perhaps the only valuable portion of this bill comes down to the permissible hours of use: “...after 9 am and before 2 pm on weekdays and after 12 noon and before 5 pm on weekends and holidays.” Our non-legal interpretation is that homeowners’ landscapers or maybe even neighbors helping each other with their leaves are restricted unless they purchase a new electric blower and all businesses are not. Ironic that most businesses utilize landscaping companies and some of the complaints leading up to this request for legislation have been from those adjacent to golf courses, which are exempt. 

Whether every community has similar issues or not, does not diminish the merit of their concerns. However, if less affluent neighborhoods do not utilize these landscaping services as do these other communities, is this necessary for the entire Town or just a few neighborhoods? Likewise, these non-flood zone area residents might make a similar argument about the Town's resources being committed to the flood corridors. Regardless, no Town monies have been expended toward either effort.

In reading the proposal for a leaf blower bill, it almost seems to make the case for having a law based of flimsy reasoning. We quote in italics: 

     The basis for the CAC's recommendation were the adverse environmental and public health effects of blowers, principally the degradation of soils and the involuntary exposure of residents to air-borne particulate pollution. Soils are the foundation of plant life.The hurricane level wind forces generated by blowers, regardless of how powered, disrupts soils and soil regeneration. Moreover, those wind forces also involuntarily expose residents to filthy particular matter thrown into the air, some of which are toxic. Children, the elderly and residents exercising or walking outdoors are particularly at risk.  

As incredulous as the above statement is to believe, it seems like nothing more than the CAC trying to give Mr Feiner the cause celeb that he asked for proving (however weak) that another law is needed. He’s even said the Town is in need of a new law since it only has a noise ordinance pertaining to gas leaf blowers which is hard to enforce. We fail to see any enforcement improvements, only additional limitations on homeowners. In fact, placing the dates of use as well as time restrictions in the new law, won't offer any more enforcement opportunities unless Mr Feiner plans to have a cadre of interns patrolling landscaper-friendly neighborhoods on Segways to alert the police of an infraction.

A disaster involving a hurricane cannot happen unless people, infrastructure and communities are vulnerable to it. People become vulnerable if they end up being ignored by their political representatives. Where is the committee that was formed to address flooding by County Legislator Williams, or co-chairman Victor Carosi and most importantly, Mr Feiner and his Town Board? Now that it's hurricane season, we should be more concerned about flooding, toxic waste in the flood waters and the health effect it all has on our neighborhoods than leaf blower noise. 

And, what about the deadly leaf blower problem? Kill the suggested bill and go back to the table to develop a Town law that gives the affected communities the ability to regulate when and how loud a leaf blower, whether gas or electric, can be used. Wait a minute..., isn't that why Edgemont is trying to incorporate? The issues are clear, as are the motives from the corner office. It has to stop. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering Those Lost on September 11, 2001





















Many were lost during the attacks against us on September 11, 2001. Many continue to suffer. Let us never forget those lost, those injured and those continuing to need our prayers and help.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day

























This call to action was not published in a periodical, but rather distributed as a single-sheet broadside in and around Lowell, Massachusetts, during a strike in 1834. The factory workers were reacting to an unprecedented wage decrease of roughly 15 percent across the board. The goal was to have beleaguered workers sign a petition and essentially unionize on the spot and then to strike until the three resolutions on this page were met by the mill owners.

Labor Day is more than just an excuse to BBQ. It is a day to honor labor and to remember that our rights as workers were won by those who came before us.

Happy Labor Day 2017!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Believability

Is believability for a politician necessary to govern successfully? We think it should be. That’s why we were a bit dismayed when our local daily paper had an article about “Tackling The Flood.” It went on to discuss the efforts of three communities, Scarsdale, Eastchester and New Rochelle, and how they’ve begun to execute a plan to alleviate flooding along the Hutchinson River in their respective communities. Each signed an agreement, entitled the Hutchinson River Flood Mitigation Project, to try to do something about flooding in their communities. Will they accomplish their goal? We’re not sure, but we believe they will try. Welcome to hurricane season.

The same issue has been brought up at countless meetings for the town of Greenburgh, by different people as well as different organizations. Sadly, with all of the talk about flooding in Greenburgh, nothing has ever been done nor changed to improve the situation during 24-years of the Feiner administration. Taxpayers, both commercial and residential, continue to get flooded. The continued flooding actively forces people to seek higher ground, ultimately with the driest solution being to move out of our town. After all, if Mr. Feiner continues to do nothing but provide lip service what other recourse is there?

Several years ago Mr. Feiner asked to create a task force to address flooding. A task force was formed. Greenburgh Commissioner Victor Carosi and the White Plains Public Works Commissioner were named co-chairs for this committee. County Legislator Alfreda Williams, is also on this commission. There may be several other people on this task force that are also of no consequence and contribute nothing to the flooding problem still being experienced by residents and businesses. Why have they not done anything after having an initial meeting, offering no subsequent plan for relief for these beleaguered taxpayers? And, now it’s hurricane season again with no solutions.

It’s easier to talk about flooding than it is to do something about it, such as coming up with a plan of attack similar to what we see with this Hutchinson River flood mitigation project. The dormant task force has not met in over two years since they were founded. We’re sure if they had they would have said there is no money or there are too many boundaries to try work with to clean the river spaces out, or to dredge them, or to somehow open them up to get a better flow of water. It’s easier to talk about it, to listen to us complain about it, than it is to fix it. After all, these elected officials and subsequent appointed officials know they will be reelected, typically without any opposition, and will reappoint their favorites once again. Losing a couple of hundred collective votes is nothing for Mr Feiner when he receives 7,000 votes running unopposed!

Whenever there is media focus either on a politician visiting the scene of a flood, or the media interviewing the flooded residents, the politicians all say that something must be done and then they point fingers at other politicians either uninvolved, not from the area, or are totally inappropriate for the problem at hand. Previously, Mr. Feiner has passed the buck to County legislators, State legislators or FEMA and the federal government. In fact he told one resident from Old Kensico Road that he would reach out to FEMA on their behalf to see about purchasing their flooded property. He knew that was a lie because the municipality must first perform a number of steps before FEMA will even entertain involvement. It made for great TV sound bytes but little else. Finally, after receiving no help for assistance of any kind from Mr. Feiner, specifically the Town, the County, State, or Federal government, especially FEMA, those same residents sold their house at a loss and moved to another area!

Mr. Feiner went to great lengths to appear on News 12 to bemoan the lack of action by other politicians for his valued constituents. These so-called valued constituents quickly realized that they were mere pawns in Mr. Feiner’s attempt to gain more publicity for himself. While he was successful in beating the drum getting publicity for himself, he threw a small portion of his constituency, literally, down the river along with many of their prized, ruined or irreplaceable possessions. Now that hurricane season is upon us the proverbial barn door has already been closed as the flooding begins once again. With all the development that has taken place in the region there are only two outlets for rainwater to go. The first on the west side of Greenburgh is the Saw Mill River. The second is on the east side of Greenburgh and that is the Bronx River. After the flooding caused by hurricane and tropical storm Irene, the Village of Elmsford mounted a campaign to clean out the Saw Mill River after a resident videotaped the debris blocking the waters flow causing some of the flooding in the area. Mr Feiner jumped on that bandwagon and received all kinds of publicity, but actually did nothing while the flooding continues.

During all the hype that Mr. Feiner and others utilized for their advantage, they ignored the Bronx River corridor and the residents that live near it. They too were severely flooded during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Sandy. At no point beyond the TV cameras did Mr. Feiner or other politicians offer to do anything to remediate the problems in the Bronx River corridor and the flow of water, especially during even minor storms. Mr. Feiner remains dry and aloof in his gated community in Boulder Ridge. Other politicians also remain dry during storms and bad weather. The role of government is to protect its people – all of its people! That hasn’t happened for those that live along the two corridors that parallel the only two rivers out of the Town and County. Both the Bronx River and the Saw Mill River need attention and residents need relief!

Every community that has the river passing through it needs to take ownership and responsibility for keeping the river clear. 
Individuals must participate as well. One simple thing individuals can do is simply don’t litter – it clogs our storm drains and ultimately our rivers. By collectively doing this it will help to allow the flow of water to better reach the sound shore waterways and other outlets and not back up into our neighborhoods, homes, and businesses.  By investing in our infrastructure and maintaining all of our wetland areas, we will be helping everyone enjoy a better quality of living in our towns and villages. This needs to happen sooner rather than later so we can have A Better Greenburgh.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sprain Brook Repairs To Kick Off Back To School

Preliminary work on the Sprain Brook Parkway in preparation for the traffic shift and the bridge work will begin as of August. This is according to Paul Tirums of the NYS DOT. The work will be performed at night on the Sprain Brook Parkway to repair the section of the Sprain Brook bridge that failed last year. Emergency repairs had been made to keep the Sprain Brook parkway open as well as Payne Street below it. The DOT repairs will utilize temporary lane closures during the repair period.

On August 21, a traffic shift will begin on the Sprain onto the northbound bridge reducing the number of lanes in each direction from three to two according to Mr Tirums. The traffic shift and lane reduction is anticipated to last 90 days and could be completed by November 20th. During the lane shift, significant traffic delays are anticipated and motorists are advised to seek alternate routes, avoid travel at peak hours when possible, and consider alternate transit options. Additional, temporary lane closures on the Parkway at this location are expected to occur before the full lane reduction is planned to go into effect.

Drivers are asked to use caution when traveling through the work zone area and pay particular attention to all traffic control devices, including signs and flaggers.

Payne Street between Bryant Avenue and South Montgomery Avenue will be closed for about 180 days. Due to these closures, we believe there could be residual traffic delays on Routes 9A,119, Knollwood and Grasslands Road.

Spring 2018 may include the completion of some items of work both along Payne Street and the Sprain Brook Parkway and is likely to include final asphalt paving, concrete sidewalks, street lighting, northbound bridge deck overlay, topsoil and seeding and any other miscellaneous items of work that could not be completed in 2017.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hartsdale Day Needs Volunteers

Hartsdale Day


The Hartsdale Beautification Committee (HBC), with support from the Hartsdale Neighbors Association and the Town of Greenburgh, is planning a celebration of our hamlet: Hartsdale Day for early October. The event is open to all and is designed to celebrate Hartsdale and help make this a more welcoming, charming and inclusive place for shopping, living and visiting.

Over the course of the last few months, volunteers from HBC have worked with the merchants in the downtown area of Hartsdale to create a vision for the day itself.  The main theme of the festival is "Travel the World - Come to Hartsdale" and the day features cuisine from China, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Turkey & America - all available in the downtown area of Hartsdale. In addition to the cuisine, there will be refreshments, musical entertainment, community outreach and exhibitions by local clubs and organizations.

We are seeking volunteers to help make this day a success. Specifically, we need in the following areas:

  • Planning Committee
  • Social Media, Advertising, Graphic Design
  • Fundraising
  • Setup & Cleanup Crew
If you or someone you know is interested in helping, please reply to this note and let us know where you think you can help out!
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The Hartsdale Beautification Committee (HBC) is a volunteer-based organization that works with merchants and residents to improve the quality of public spaces in the neighborhood. For more information on the HBC or to volunteer, please contact Barbara Brennan by email:brennanb910@gmail.com.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Candidates Skate Real Issues

Being an incumbent candidate has its advantages, especially when it comes to being re-elected. Except in the Town of Greenburgh. In Greenburgh, as we’ve been witnessing almost forever, the incumbent’s position is a guaranteed-for-life position unless the candidate or Mr Feiner chooses otherwise as in “being Sonya’d”. Such is the case with Francis Sheehan and Diana Juettner.

The Hartsdale Neighborhood Association, which prefers to not be known as a civic association, hosted a meeting for its neighbors at the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church’s basement on Central Park Avenue. It was known that the two Town Board candidates would be there “campaigning” as well as other topics being discussed. As usual, the candidates arrived late. We wondered if it is because they are running unopposed or just felt entitled enough to not worry that they might lose their seats, again as they are running unopposed?

Regardless, an update briefing regarding the status of the Edgemont Incorporation began the meeting. One member spoke as to the incorporation effort, the Article 78 appeal by the EIC, the latest Article 78 by “another group” which we interpret as Feiner sycophants, in hopes of negating the EIC Article 78 appeal. Apparently, even though this second appeal is underway, the EIC is prepared to address it as well. There wasn’t much subsequent discussion at this point about incorporation – although it remained the 800 pound elephant in the room.

Next, a discussion took place about the planned upcoming “Hartsdale Day” event. Many residents had questions while others had suggestions about what should be done. Some questioned why a more widespread effort to encompass more of Hartsdale wasn’t being done. The response was that this was the first attempt and that the hope was to build off of the initial effort and have it grow year after year. A future goal was to turn this into the event that Dobbs Ferry does every year. What we didn’t hear was more than one or two people offer to help with it. We wish them well and are happy to advertise it here if they choose to send us information.

Finally, we got to what some believed was the main event. The first candidate to speak was Councilwoman Diana Juettner. She decided to discuss various properties throughout the Town and infrastructure. When you speak about things that are not the topics many wish to discuss, and are allowed to go on unencumbered with questions, you can spin an effective tale about how difficult these issues are and why it is such a challenge for the Town Board to address and what she is specifically doing about it. What she didn’t discuss is the Edgemont Incorporation or why she participated in the voter suppression effort spearheaded by Mr Feiner and his friend Mr Abinanti. Smug and content, she sat down to a faint smattering of applause.

Mr Sheehan decided to take a different tact and relate how he had moved to Greenburgh and slowly gotten involved in an issue of zoning. This tale took about ten minutes as he discussed several particulars, making him the hero and champion of the people. While we admit Mr Sheehan is knowledgeable about zoning issues, he too avoided the pachyderm in the room and did not mention the Edgemont incorporation and his vote to suppress voter rights either!

One audience member asked why the Town was so unfriendly to businesses. Ms Juettner remained silent and Mr Sheehan did a Feiner-like rope-a-dope. He also obfuscated his answers enough to make it difficult to stay on topic. We’re sure if one of his students did this they would be chastised for it. But this is Greenburgh politics and the goal of this administration is to not provide information or answers. Mr Feiner would be proud of his two semi-independent appearing minions.

Mr Sheehan also took the lead when they were finally asked why they endorsed the Feiner created, Abinanti and Stewart-Cousins’ sponsored, voter-suppression bills in Albany. An audience member pointedly mentioned that the administration claimed the bills were not directed against Edgemont. And, almost everyone was against it, but according to Mr Feiner, the bills were directly aimed at Hartsdale residents as it was suggested numerous times that they might also be interested in incorporating. Mr Sheehan claimed that was not true and his political answer almost made it sound like the voter suppression move by these two candidates and their co-conspirators was a good thing! Fortunately, the audience knew better and grew restless.

Know that the 800 pound elephant was in the room and out in the open. Several informed audience members began to vociferously pepper the candidates answers with interruptions, facts and real information. Several Feiner-friendly people tried to quiet them and encourage the candidates to answer. But the damage had been done. Fortunately, the clock would save them. So while the two candidates didn’t need to be there, the real issues were avoided with fluff. No matter. Both candidates will be re-elected as the Democrat party condoned their actions of voter suppression, as did its members. If things do not change, we may never see A Better Greenburgh.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Abinanti is the real problem in Greenburgh

This letter to the editor was originally published in the Scarsdale Inquirer, June 29, 2017 edition on page 6. We are posting it here with permission for those who do not receive the Inquirer and because it highlights the actions of Paul Feiner and Tom Abinanti. It is unedited by us. 


To the Editor:

Your editorial “A desperate man,” in the June 23 edition, about Paul Feiner’s attempt to use legislation to stop the Edgemont incorporation effort, was right on target.  There is nothing new about Feiner using devious and anti-democratic methods to get his way, and his self-righteous protestations have about as much credibility as Donald Trump’s tweets.

But Feiner is not the villain of this story.  The villain is Tom Abinanti, the assemblyman from hell.  He was the one who devised and suggested this legislation that would make village incorporation virtually impossible.

Abinanti has the habit of inserting himself into everything and screwing the residents when it suits his, or his friends’ purposes – in this case, Feiner’s purposes. 

Here are just two highlights. 

About 20 years ago one Town Court judge sued the other Town Court judge over the hiring of a junior clerk, and Tom Abinanti advised his friend, the suing judge, and drafted the complaint in the lawsuit, an act that humiliated the Town Court for several years.

A couple of years ago Abinanti proposed an Assembly bill that was an anti-vaxxer’s dream. It would have required schools to admit to the general school population children whose parents had refused to have their children vaccinated against smallpox and other diseases. Why?  Because Abinanti believes the disproven nonsense that vaccination causes autism.

There are other situations in which Abinanti meddled contrary to the residents’ interests, but space limitations do not permit more examples.

And Abinanti never stops.  He has stated that in the next legislative session he will try again to enact legislation that will destroy the right of residents to vote for self-governing villages.

The remedy?  Make certain that Abinanti is not endorsed for reelection next year, and if he does get on the ballot, organize to defeat him. 

Greenburgh is an enlightened community.  It deserves an assemblyman who listens to his constituents, and is responsive to their concerns.

Herbert Rosenberg
Dobbs Ferry