Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Elmsford & Ardsley

Last night the Ardsley Village Board entered into a contract to provide library services to Elmsford. This village of Elmsford had previously had an agreement with the Greenburgh Library system for library services. Elmsford shopped around for a less expensive agreement. And, they got an agreement with Ardsley that was cheaper than they would have had with Greenburgh. The town will lose over a quarter of a million dollars a year as a result of this agreement. Elmsford residents will still have access to the Greenburgh library because under the rules of the Westchester library system a library card from one library is honored county-wide. Although Elmsford residents will have an Ardsley card - the reality is that most Elmsford residents will probably still use the Greenburgh library. Ardsley will get substantial revenue from the agreement and won't have significant additional costs.
The Westchester Library System is looking into the legality of the Ardsley/Elmsford agreement. THis agreement, if upheld by the library system, will create significant policy changes for the library system. Small communities may close down their libraries and shop around for inexpensive library service contracts with communities around the county.
The Greenburgh Library is independent of the Town Supervisor and Town Board. They have a special status under NY State law. Although the Greenburgh Town Board approves their budget the library board can modify the budget. The Town Board, for example, can include funds in the budget for books. After the budget is approved - the Library Board has the ability to reduce the book allocation budget and transfer funds previously designated to books for anything else (salary increases, conferences, etc..). The Town Board approves the total amount of money the library can spend each year - but the library board has total discretion how the total dollar amount can be spent. I had contacted the Greenburgh Library Board many times this summer (I have copies of the e mails on file in my office) requesting an opportunity to participate in meetings with Elmsford. My requests were denied. In fact, a major gripe I had with the Greenburgh Library Board this summer was the fact that the library bd, for a period of time, refused to have contact with Elmsford officials.


vanessa merton said...

When I saw the article about Elmsford's switch, I thought about how four Town Board members were so intent on pushing for a quicker Library referendum last year -- although in the end, holding the referendum several months earlier than the regular election did nothing but incur the cost of a special election -- it certainly did not speed up the building process, which is way behind its original schedule and already over its budget.

I wonder why these four officials, who were so eager to press forward, and who vehemently insisted that there were no other issues to strategize about and discuss, did not anticipate and plan for what seems like a very predictable reaction on the part of Elmsford.

I can't imagine why the Greenburgh Library Board would refuse to allow the Supervisor to participate in meetings about this issue. Obviously, the Library Board did not manage to negotiate very successfully on its own.

General note: I find it odd that most of the people who post to this blogspot refuse to give their names.

Anonymous said...

we dont post names becuae

1. We are unfamiliar with how blogs work or

2. we are afraid are garbage wont get picked up

Feiner is intent on illegally subsidizing the villages at the cost of unincorporated greenburgh.

in the end, no one will win, the litigation costs will be huge and the the courts and NYS will uphold law that prevents what feiner is pushing.

Anonymous said...

The supervisor wants the library to give access at bargain rates -- hopefully WLS will put the brakes on this.

Paul Feiner said...

Response to anonymous: I believe that the Westchester Library System should establish standards and that all libraries in the county should comply with the standards. Otherwise, the future of the library system is in jeopardy.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Merton,

The last person the library needs "negotatiting for them" is Paul Feiner, who has done more to undermine the GPL than anyone. I know it is difficult for Village residents to understand but Unincorporated Greenburgh is tired of having its pocket picked by Paul Feiner, including his forcing the library to enter into sweatheart deals with Elmsford and his attempt to have a temporary lease with Franks -- and expose the Town to environmental liability that could have made the cost of the fallen tree on Central Avenue look like small change

Paul Feiner said...

I would like to respond to anonymous. Since anonymous writes alot of blog responses - it's my hope that one day there will be a name next to the response(s). This way the public will be able to determine if the responses are from one person or more than one person.
Much of what the most recent blogger said is not true. I never wanted to negotiate a sweatheart deal with Elmsford. I wanted a series of meetings with Elmsford. If you treat neighboring communities with respect and have a dialogue with them you get a better result. During the summer months I sent the library board (which is an independent board) numerous e mails requesting meetings with Elmsford. Elmsford officials sent me some responses indicating that the library board, to their disappointment, had not been in contact with them in a timely manner. What happened? A frustrated Elmsford opted out of the Greenburgh library.ELmsford is now contracting with Ardsley. If the Westchester Library System is unable to invalidate the contract the town will be out one million dollar+ over four years. If meetings had taken place it's possible that the town would still be generating some revenue from Elmsford.
Re: Frank's nursery -- the Greenburgh Library advised members of the Town Board that they wanted Frank's as a temporary library location. I indicated that I would support their request provided that environmental tests turned out to be acceptable and that the terms of the lease were also acceptable. I asked that an outside lawyer be retained to help us review the lease document and insisted that the lease be public before the vote. Although there was initially some resistence about releasing the lease prior to the vote- I prevailed. As a result of the additional public scrutiny the lease was not approved. I would never vote for a lease that could jeopardize the town.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feiner,

YOU negotiated the sweatheart deal with Elmsford in 1999 --

now Ardsley will have no one to blame but you if the state revokes their library charter.

Paul Feiner said...

Dear Anonymous: I did not negotiate the lease in 1999. I did not even participate in the negotiations. The Library Board negotiated the lease because they are an independent board. It's a bit frustrating that your blog responses are not accurate.

Anonymous said...


You have always taken credit for getting Elmsford library services in 1999.

Paul Feiner said...

Elmsford residents did not have library services for many years. In fact, prior to 1999 they had no library card. In 1983, when I ran for Legislator, I promised to work hard so they would have access to a library. I encouraged the library board to meet with them (which they did)and to try to come up with a contract that the library felt was fair. I had nothing to do with the terms of the library contract. I was not part of the team of negotiators.I was pleased that children and adults, who did not have access to a library card, finally had a card. Who knows? Maybe the card will help create a future Albert Einstein? Every child, every resident of Greenburgh, should have the same opportunities. PAUL FEINER

Bob Bernstein said...


You say you that tried to get the Greenburgh library board to meet with Elmsford officials this summer, but you fail to mention that -- apparently to give itself bargaining leverage -- Elmsford chose instead to file suit to block the library from proceeding with its badly-needed expansion. You also fail to mention that the lawsuit was based on information supplied this past spring to Elmsford by Greenburgh itself --coincidentally right when you were doing all you could do to block the library's expansion plans by opposing the site plan, insisting on having your own representatives present for all construction meetings, denigrating the oversight being performed by town staff, demanding the hiring of your own project manager, and wrongfully blaming the library board because the old town hall you once occupied turned out to be too contaminated to be used as temporary space, and so on, as part of your continuing campaign to prove to the voters in unincorporated Greenburgh that they were wrong to have disregarded your strong recommendation that they reject the bond referendum.

And then you have the chutzpah to blame the library board and defend Elmsford for doing what it did, while not mentioning that Elmsford officials kept asking the library board for one extension after another -- while the negotiations with Ardsley were secretly underway.

One might well wonder, given the history here, whether you were behind the Ardsley deal all along -- as part of your continuing efforts to undermine the library and its all-volunteer board -- while simultaneously pandering to village voters.

You then insist that you had nothing to do with negotiating the terms of the 1999 deal that gave Elmsford access to the Greenburh library. However, in the June 19, 1999 edition of the Journal News, you did take credit for the deal. The article states:

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he made library services for Elmsford a campaign promise - back in 1983. "I'm glad that 16 years later, it's happening."

If you had nothing to do with negotiating the deal, as you now claim, why did you allow yourself to be quoted as having finally fulfilled a long outstanding campaign promise?

The deal you took credit for in 1999 was a sweetheart deal for Elmsford because the amount being charged was well below what the Westchester Code of Service required. As a result of actions which you seemed to have taken at the time, but which you now seek to blame on others, Greenburgh today may be hard pressed to complain to county and state authorities about Ardsley's own violation of the code of service.

I hope that proves not to be the case.

Paul Feiner said...

Bob: First, thanks for signing your name to the blog responses. It's important that people who have strong opinions have the courage to put their name next to their statement. Unfortunately, you have a habit of making false statements that have to be corrected. Some responses:
You said I opposed the site plan. WRONG! I voted for the site plan -along with the other members of the Board. I did not want to create any delays in the project. Prior to my vote (and after the vote) I expressed some hope that modifications could be considered so that residents get more value for their tax dollar. I want the building to be energy efficient and have suggested some design options that can enhance the library's efficiency.
I did not strongly oppose the referendum prior to the referendum date. I sent out a circular (paid for by Friends of Paul Feiner) providing residents with both sides of the issue. In my mailing I did not express my views. I gave both sides. Having doubts about the referendum does not mean I was against a library expansion. I always expressed support for a library expansion. I wanted the library expansion vote delayed till NOvember, 2005 so more people would vote. A May election generates a smaller turnout. I also felt that the library architect, library board, town board needed more time to plan for the library expansion. I voted against the referendum because I felt that the planning of the library had not been complete. I know I was right-because there have been delays and problems re: library construction since the referendum.
You are correct that I have attended meetings, asked for a project manager, pushed for more oversight. That's my job: to supervise. To make sure that taxpayers get good value from our investments. I'm proud of the fact that the bond rating agencies have complimented the town for our strong fiscal management. I take this job seriously.
The library board, prior to the referendum, said that the old town hall would be used for the temporary library. After the referendum we were told that it can't be used as a temporary library site. Why weren't we told this before the referendum? Bad planning.

Anonymous said...

The problem with your reply, Paul, is that you leave most of Bob’s points unanswered and tell whoppers for the other ones, like

• you favored the library expansion when in fact you favored a very modest expansion costing no more than $5-8 million, along with a sale of the old town hall property to the client of your biggest contributor -- a proposal the Town Council wisely rejected.
• You didn't strongly oppose the referendum, but your public comments at the time were very much to the contrary and the referendum vote in favor of the expansion was widely reported in the media as a major setback for Feiner. Did the New York Times get it wrong?
• Finally, you say you didn’t oppose the library's site plan -- but your vote in favor came only after months of virtual nonstop efforts to prevent the site plan proposal from even coming to a vote, and only after a roomful of people demanded that you stop these shenanigans and start working with the library board instead of against it.

vicweinstein said...

Paul Feiner ask me to represent him with the Library construction project and attend the construction meetings because of my real estate background.He was very concerned regarding the schedule and budget. The library board members, none of whom have real estate or construction background, did not want me present. As a result I could attend meetings but not give any advice.
When it came time to find a temporary location the library board chose to search for a location not only without my help but not even to use a real estate broker.
Paul has never been an obstacle contrary to what Mr Berstein stated. He has been very pro active assisting the library board with suggestions and ideas that would be helpfull to the library. In addition he has pushed for an outside real estate attorney, specializing in construction, to insure that the Town is protected. He is also trying to hire a construction manager to insure that the town is protected during construction

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Weinstein

Not to be negative, but if you’ve got all this real estate expertise and Feiner had you helping why didn’t you anyone that the Frank's lease that Feiner negotiated had terms which would have exposed the town to millions of dollars in untold environmental cleanup costs? And who are you kidding when you say Feiner has "never been an obstacle" to the library. On May 11, 2005, the Journal News reported as follows: "The referendum's passage is a defeat for Supervisor Paul Feiner, who had said the plan was too expensive. Feiner had favored selling the old town hall building to a developer of senior housing before agreeing to allow the library board to use the site for parking." Hell hath no fury like a supervisor scorned. Feiner's been trying to prove the voters were wrong ever since with a constant string of "I told you so's" some of which he just makes up. For example, Feiner says the library proponents promised in writing before the referendum that the old town hall would be used as the library's temporary location. In fact, they did no such thing.

Those of us who actually use the GPL are resentful of a Supervisor who stymies our library every chance he gets.

Paul Feiner said...

Dear Anonymous: Wrong again. A pre-referendum mailing was sent out indicating that the old town hall would be used as a temporary location for the library.

Hal Samis said...

Bob Bernstein has a mission: It is simply to remove Paul Feiner from the position of Town Supervisor -- by whatever means. In pursuit of this goal, he is willing to try and connect any and all dots and make
them into his caricature of Feiner. The pity is that Mr. Bernstein is often capable of doing good work, of getting to the heart of the problem and providing a practical solution to many problems...except for his Achilles heel whenever he places Feiner at the scene. Then he reverts into the Bernstein "Paint It Black" scenario and all of his good works fall victim to his compulsion to victimize. The Bernstein entry on "Elmsford & Ardsley" is such an example of planting half-truths and hoping for a profitable harvest by the end of the song.

According to Bob's version, Feiner is portrayed as an official consumed by the desire to block the Library expansion. There is no half-pregnant in the Bernstein songbook; nor do positions ever change. Feiner was clearly never enthusiastic re the cost of the expansion and it was no secret that he would have preferred spending a lesser amount. However, this was not the basis of his desire to hold the referendum in November rather than early in May (actually it was originally to occur in March). He and others (including myself) saw that the expansion project, as then conceived, was an incomplete and inaccurate depiction of the Library needs. There were many unanswered questions; questions still being answered even after the May 2005 referendum was held so that construction could begin Spring 2006. That it has not yet begun is due not to continued efforts by the Supervisor but because eventually the realities of the project's failings must be faced and the problems are only now beginning to come home to roost.

It may occurred a long time ago but when you read Mr. Bernstein's posting you see that he is critical of Feiner's claim to have brought Elmsford into the world of Library service. And, from what Mr. Bernstein presents from the Journal News, the article does not deny Feiner's claim which may be just that he pushed to have such negotiations occur. Only Bernstein concludes that the persons doing the negotiating were not Feiner and thus Mr. Feiner is denied any right to be the "get the ball rolling" guy. That the result of these negotiations was not the best or yhr most astute contract is undeniable. Perhaps that is why Feiner attempted to join the current round of negotiations and was rebuffed by the Library Board.

Mr. Bernstein uses a lot charged terms to indict Feiner. Apparently, according to Bernstein, there is only one road to take on how the expansion project should proceed and to disagree with the Library Board's direction is also to force a choice to self-incriminate. Thus Bob has Feiner opposing, denigrating, wrongfully blaming, pandering, possessing chutzpah and even (can you imagine the gall)wanting to have his own representative present at construction meetings. These are "serious" charges and Mr. Bernstein, despite his enjoyment of nuance, most be hard pressed to restrain himself from reacting and clamoring for a recall.

Here's an alternate reality than that presented by Mr. Bernstein. Howard Jacobs, Chairman of the Library Board of Trustees, would not allow Feiner to attend the contract negotiations. Feiner, Town Supervisor and Chief Financial Officer (the man who signs the checks) and an elected official was not invited to attend the contract negotiations. Mr Bernstein, no stranger to crying when he isn't himself invited to the table or called upon for his wisdom, is perplexed when some residents (volunteers too) argue that the Library Board is disfunctional and that they are ill-prepared to run the $33 million library expansion project. To be honest, the Library's negotiations with Elmsford were difficult, Elmsford did not act in good faith and Mr. Feiner may not have been able to effect a more positive result had he been present. However, the situation would have not been for the worse if Feiner were present and had agreement been reached, the contract should be executed by the Town Supervisor, not Howard Jacobs. Mr. Bernstein, however, would have readers believe that the failure of the meetings was in some way the result of Feiner's duplicity and an undisclosed, certainly unspecified plot, to curry favor with the the Villages

Since a blog is not a courtroom, Mr. Bernstein can take advantage of this stage upon which to build a case of only allegations. I expect that when in Court, Mr. Bernstein adopts an entirely different strategy.

Hal Samis

hal samis said...

This is a response to the anonymous library user who has a problem remembering what actually happened or didn't read all of "The Journal News" articles.
First, the Library Board originally signed off on the sale of the old town hall site. They said that they (the Library) didn't need the parcel. In fact, the Library's Architect, Todd Harvey also allowed that there was enough room on the site for both projects. Only after some citizens, myself in the vanguard, confronted them with their mistake, did Diana Juettner, Town Board liaison to the Library, wake up and become a Libary advocate...and soon thereafter the Sunrise Project went down in flames because the Town, under NYS Town Law can't dispose of "surplus" property unless it is deemed to be surplus. There is a process for this and if a Town department says that it needs the property, then it cannot be called surplus. When the Library Board said they didn't need the parcel, it set in motion the process toward allowing the parcel to being sold. Only after being subjected to sustained criticism, did the Library Board reverse its stance and thus the parcel was saved and became part of the Library expansion.

As for using the old town hall once the sale to Sunrise was history, The Library Board, the Architect and the Construction Manager always intended to use it as the temporary location for the Library during the construction phase of the expansion. The widely cited figure of $19.8 million which was the goal of the referendum was an amount which came from the Construction Manager, Triton, which had been hired specifically to produce an estimate of the cost of the project. Does anyone believe that the figure came from thin air, from the estimating skills of the Library Board of Trustees? It was necessary to have a dollar amount on the referendum ballot so in October 2004, Triton was hired. Just in time for the first Library "information" session in November 2004, Triton delivered the project estimate. Included in the $19.8 million total (which does not include the interest expense of almost $13 million for the borrowed money) was only the sum of $300,000 being allocated to making the old town usable for the purpose of being a temporary library facility. Nor did this $300,000 include any amount for moving costs. The $300,000 remained intact through the May 2005 referendum and remained unquestioned right up until mid July 2005 when Triton first visited the old town hall and discovered that it would require a great deal more money to make it usable. Thus, 8 months had elapsed after their estimate was first made. Those of us who have followed this project since inception realize that it was not Triton's finest hour to have to acknowledge that their estimate was worthless. And yet again, Ms Juettner had let the Library down because as a member of the Town Board and presumably aware of all the failings and problems at the old town hall which had often been cited as justification during the three year search to secure a new town hall; this time she "forgot" to tell the Library Board that the old town hall did not have an elevator (what a surprise) and that there was mold and that the roof needed replacement and that the heating and air-conditioning was substandard and that the bathrooms were not handicapped accessible. So, faced with a now more likely $500,000+ cost to convert the old town hall (which would afterward be torn down for parking), the Library Board began in September 2005 to seek an alternative. It took a year to end up with Plan B's insufficient space in town owned buildings although Supervisor Feiner has offered additional funding to rent commercial space. It should be noted that rent is not an allowable item with proceeds of the bond funding. Not finding suitable space for the relocation is the major reason the construction did not get underway Spring 2006 which had been the necessity given by the Library Board that the referendum had to be held in May 2005. Now it is Fall 2006 and there is a very slim chance that it will even commence this November. Meanwhile the Library propoganda machine continues to deflect the source of all their problems away from their own door and instead point to the Supervisor as the convenient whipping boy. The Library is a revered institution and serves a vital function within the community. It would be nice were residents able to understand that the Library services are run by professionals with degrees in Library managment. On the other hand the expansion project is being run by a Library Board which is without similar expertise and all the problems, delays and lowered standards of the Library construction project are the result of this lack of knowledge:
120 parking spaces vs the referendum's 160, a single "multipurpose" room of 140 seats vs the referendum's 200, a computer training room being called a meeting room so that the Library Board can say they are providing more meeting rooms and other more subtle degradations.
The Library has many advocates and disciples who are not wrong to love the Library. However, there are also decided missteps being taken and they are being made by the Library Board, not by the Supervisor. And that the Library Board is composed of volunteers is no reason to leave them in charge of the mandated spending of $19.8 million (with interest, $33 million) of taxpayer dollars. The project needs oversight or else Greenburgh will witness another County Courthouse construction boondoggle. Mr. Feiner has bravely remained committed to his obligation as the Town Chief Financial Officer to attempt to see that the "untouchable" referendum dollars are spent not wastefully but spent wisely. It is always dangerous for a career politican to take on motherhood and apple pie but that is what he is doing when he tries to be involved with the expansion project. He has no choice; he is obligated to do this to protect the taxpayers just as he is similarly obligated to see that the bond proceeds get spent on the Library. And he is on his own because the Town Council members Bass, Barnes, Juettner and Sheehan would prefer to see him hang himself rather than join him and acknowledge that there are things wrong with the project. The Town Council lacks gumption, The Library Board lacks guts to admit they are in over their head and the Library's groupies don't make the effort to attend the meetings or find things out on their own. I challenge any reader of these blogs to prove that Mr. Feiner is doing anything other than to see that the intentions and standards of the Library referendum get carried out. Now obligated to the expenditure, he is only trying to see that it gets built on budget, in a timely manner and remain true to what was promised by the Library Board prior to the referendum. Such oversight is not interference; it is expressly his job.