Thursday, December 14, 2006

RESPONSE TO BLOGGERS- EDGEMONT MAY GET MORE OPEN SPACE

Some Edgemont bloggers have posted comments in recent weeks about the failure of the town to acquire more open space in Edgemont. They object to the open space acquisitions that have happened in other neighborhoods around the town.
The town has been asked by some members of the Board of the Greenburgh Nature Center to presrve a former single dwelling residence at 1 Dromore Road as open space. A house on this property has been demolished - the property is included in the Central Ave mixed use zoning area.
It's important to preserve the 3 parcels, totaling 2.34 acres, as open space. It would be an important addition to the Center's 33 acre preserve and would provide a direct link to the Greenburgh Nature Center's open space and the Edgemont Jr-Sr. High School open space. Continguious open space is crucial to preservation of wildlife habitats. If this property were developed for commercial or residential use it would have a very negative impact on the center's functioning as a sanctuary for wildlife in lower Westchester County. Preserving this property as open space is important on the local, county and regional level. I will be reaching out to Edgemont civic leaders, the school district and the Westchester Land Trust - as well as other public officials so we can preserve this precious parcel of land.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where are these Edgemont blogs? I would be interested in reading them.

Paul Feiner said...

Look at the archives. At least one of the bloggers keeps highlighting the fact that the town has acquired open space all over the town- but not in Edgemont. This parcel of open space deserves to be preserved, not because it's in Edgemont --but because it is important to save land that, if developed, would have a negative impact on the nature center.

Anonymous said...

if the commercial development at this property help reduce overall high town tax burden i am all for it
we are any way surronded by this urbanization eg ryonkers raceway casino
wildlife sanctuary is in our back yard-bronx zoo -for smebody that important!

rathi

Anonymous said...

During the feiner reign, the town has acquired alot of useless parkland. If this parcel is to be acquired, an inventory of all town parks should be made to determine which are being used and which serve no purpose. Little used parcels should be sold if possible and the money used to purchase this lot. Town taxes are high enough - lets get rid of what we dont need before we buy more land that leaves the tax rolls.

Edith Rosenblatt said...

This is a wonderful idea and i hope it get off the ground. Contrary to some opinions I read we need to preserve as much open space as possible.
Edie Rosenblatt

Anonymous said...

I'd typically be inclined to agree with the above sentiments - always seek to obtain more tax revenue.

But in this particular instance, I do think it would be wise (and kind) for the town to purchase it.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an excellent idea depending on cost

Paul Feiner said...

A blogger indicated that some of the 400 acres of parkland that we acquired during my tenure as supervisor is useless and should be sold. Once land is dedicated as parkland by the town only the State Legislature can undedicate the land as open space. I am very proud of the Town Board, Parks & Recreation Advisory Board and neighborhood groups for supporting the acquisition of Hartsbrook, Glenville Woods, Taxter Ridge, the Bob Gold parklet on E Hartsdale Ave, Taxter Rd park. Keeping the town green continues to be a priority. Maintaining quality of life is very important. I know that future generations will appreciate the work of the current Town Board if we succeed in preserving this important parcel of open space - and protect the nature center.

Paul Feiner said...

I anticipate that funding for this acquisition will come froma variety of sources: private donations, the town, hopefully the county & state will also contribute (they were partners in the taxter ridge, glenville and hartsbrook acquisitions). I have already received some communications from some individuals interested in assisting in this effort.

vasa said...

I vote for my children's future than Greenburgh Nature center. What has it done for it lately. I agree don't want another Zoo.. If you want open land there is tons 50 miles North. Hate to say it but would welcome the commerical development which would help reduce my Taxes. Forget about open land and start thinking about our TAXes and help preserve our children's future.

Anonymous said...

The problem with paul feiner is he thinks having parkland in and of itself is a mighty good thing. He doesnt care if its used, accessible, or provides any real benefit other than as fodder for his press releases or blog posts. A real manager looks at his inventory and makes adjustments as times change. Edgemont may need more open space, but the Town needs professional management, something a career politico like feiner cannot provide.

Feiner incredibly irresponsible said...

The cardinal rule in private real estate circles is that one never, ever negotiates in public. But in an self-centered attempt to generate some publicity for himself, Feiner has done just that and, in the process, he's screwing Edgemont taxpayers big time.

First of all, the property at issue was sold back in May 2006. The purchase price is public knowledge. In the 7 months since, we haven't heard a peep out of Feiner, the nature center has never indicated any interest,and the developer has not disclosed what he actually intends to do with the property, or whether it is even for sale.

However, under Greenburgh's zoning code, the land could be developed for multi-family housing. It could also be developed commercially, but that is unlikely because it is not visible from Central Avenue.

A multi-family housing development could have crippling effects on Edgemont schools, which are already experiencing some overcrowding.

Edgemont leaders earlier this year asked the Town to impose a moratorium on residential development in the Central Avenue zoning area where this property is located. They wanted the town to study whether multi-family use should still be permitted in this area. Feiner failed to get the town board to act on the request.

So now, all of a sudden, Feiner finds out about the property, says it must be preserved as open space, and he says he's scrambling to get public and private funds to make a purchase.

But there is no better way to drive up the price than having Feiner broadcast to the world how desperate he says Greenburgh is to preserve it as open space -- and how many public and private deep pockets he can turn to pay for it.

All of this was so unnecessary. Contrary to what Feiner says, the nature center hasn't even considered yet whether it wants the property, and the town itself would face enormous political and legal problems if it tried to do in Edgemont what it did for Irvington with Taxter Ridge.

The prudent thing to do, if one were truly concerned with protecting Edgemont's interests, is discretely find out whether the developer would be interested in selling and at what price and then an effort could be undertaken (quietly) to see whether any of the political, legal and financial obstacles could be overcome.

Instead, Feiner blew the whole thing out of the water with this incredibly selfish publicity barrage that serves no purpose other than to promote himself and drive up the cost.

The losers in all this will be Edgemont taxpayers, especially if, as a result of Feiner's actions, the property can't be purchased and new multi-family housing gets put in. If only Feiner had thought twice before shooting his mouth off on this.

Anonymous said...

Dear Vasa,

We will not get property which will reduce your taxes. No one wants retail, unless it is visible from Central Avenue -- this property is not. So as a practical matter, the outcomes are one of the following:

1. Multifamily, which typically does not pay enough proeprty taxes to cover the cost of the resident children in schools;

2. Some form of parkland.

However, given that Feiner will never sit down and discuss this with Edgemont leaders, it is not promising. Instead he chooses to shoot off his mouth instead of trying to get something done.

Paul Feiner said...

To anonymous: I was asked by the nature center to include this as one of my 2007 goals. I have sent letters to Edgemont civic association leaders asking for support of this important initiative. So far - the response that I have received from Edgemont residents has been very positive. Let's all work together to protect the nature center.

Dumb and dumber said...

Paul, if you were serious about protecting Edgemont from residential development, you would have discreetly contacted Edgemont's civic leaders BEFORE you issued the press releases and called the Inquirer demanding all this publicity -- not after.

Edgemont's leaders would have been more than willing to work quietly with you and the Town Board to see what could be done.

Instead, without talking with anyone in advance, you've telegraphed to the developer that we're desperate to keep this land from being developed and that there's lots of money available from all sorts of public and private sources to help pay for it. How dumb was that?

Edgemont residents are not stupid. They'll see this publicity stunt for what it is and realize that with this one, you probably did more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

True that this is a reactive thing and that the idea should not have been publicized.

That said, I still do think that it is a good idea for the town to acquire this piece of land.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the town have the right to acquire the property by eminent domain? If so, the town does not have to negotiate in secret. The town only needs to pay the market value for the property. Any owner of the property knows that. This property is vacant, no one lives on the property. The house was demolished.

Anonymous said...

Glad the town and nature center are working to protect the property bordering the nature center. Smart decision.

Anonymous said...

The town and nature center are not working together to protect any property on the nature center's border. All that happened is that the nature center's director, without consulting his board, made a phone call to Feiner who, without consulting his board, sent out a barrage of not-very-helpful press releases calculated to drive up the market price of the property they'd like to acquire.

The property should be acquired but theirs was not a smart decision. It was dumb. Very dumb.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we all work together to acquire an important parcel of open space? Wouldn't it be more constructive if discussed strategy we could take - starting tomorrow -to preserve the property near the nature center?

Anonymous said...

From what I hear, the strategy discussions have already begun -- they just don't include Feiner. Some don't trust him to be helpful in any such discussions because of the irresponsible press releases he issued - who knows if he'll make the situation even worse by issuing more of them - while others don't think he could be helpful even if he kept his mouth shut.

Keeping this property from being developed residentially is just too important to Edgemont to leave it in Feiner's hands.

But if Feiner really wants to be constructive, he could start by reaching out quietly to the leaders of Edgemont's civic associations, starting with the presidents of the ECC and the civic associations that border the nature center property.

Feiner's been so busy issuing press releases that he's not yet spoken to any of those folks.

Paul Feiner said...

The remarks by anonymous are not true. I have been on the phone and have e mailed community activists from Edgemont promoting this acquisition. I am very pleased that so many people support this acquisition. I am also pleased that people want to help. Let's work together to make this happen. ANONYMOUS: Will you contact the Nature Center and help them raise private dollars to reduce the costs of this parkland acquisition? Be constructive! Positive energy can make this open space acquisition happen.

Paul Feiner said...

PS: I have been forwarding names of people who want to volunteer to help this cause to the nature center. I wonder if anonymous is doing the same?
I'd like to remind anonymous that I have a successful track record acquiring open space.
Hartsbrook--the state paid for half of the property on Ridge Road. A quarter of the costs came from county dollars. I flew to Washington DC and persuaded the national parks service to let Eastchester donate $800,000 to the town. The town absorbed the rest of the costs -less than a third!
Glenville Woods: one third of the costs came from the county, one third from the state and one third from the town.
Taxter Ridge: One third from the state, one third from the county, one third from the town.
We have obtained more grants from the state & county for open space acquisition than most other communities in the state. None of our open space acquisition efforts was done in secret --one of the reasons why we were successful is because the process was open and inclusive. The aggressive public campaign helped generate interest and momentum for the cause --helped us persuade other levels of government to participate in the effort. 400 of the 600 acres of parkland that the town now has was acquired because of the strategy we used. It's been effective in the past-- it will be effective with the nature center.

Cart before horse said...

Paul, has the Nature Center board of directors weighed in on this yet? They're trying right now to raise public and private money for a major expansion of their main building. You're assuming that the board would either toss that priority aside or agree to take on both. I'm not so sure.

Wouldn't it be prudent at least to wait and see what the Nature Center board wants to do before assuming that this is an effort they've agreed must be undertaken on behalf of the Nature Center? You are also assuming that the Nature Center's private donors will support the land acquisition, but those same private donors may have already made commitments for the new building and a dual fundraising effort may not raise enough for either.

And what's your rush? The property was sold 7 months ago; the developer has not filed any plans. So why are you mounting an urgent public relations campaign now -- before anyone's determined whether the developer will sell and at what priee?

Frankly, this whole all-of-a-sudden effort on your part sounds spontaneous, ad hoc and ill-considered. Has this matter even been discussed with your colleagues on the Town Board? Have you even discussed it ye with the Town Board's own liaison to the nature center? I didn't think so.

Furthermore, your track record on those other acquisitions has left the town mired in litigation right now over whether the entire town pays, or just those in the unincorporated areas.

Under these circumstances, because Edgemont really needs to see this property kept from being developed, it might be better off taking matters into its own hands. You might consider how you could help out in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feiner,

Open space is not the end all and be all. Park land is not the same as open space. I am tired of money being spent for land which cant be used for other purposes. Other space which might be less expenseive should be investigated.

which community leaders did you email? your handpicked suppporters?

The ECC? The school board? oh they arnet your handpicked ones

Anonymous said...

Thank you Paul for your efforts. I reside in Edgemont and love the nature center.

Anonymous said...

Edgemont residents thank you Supervisor Feiner for protecting our jewel - the Greenburgh Nature Center. Don't let these loud mouths get you down. They don't speak for most of us.

Anonymous said...

No ECC directors or civic association heads that I've talked to have gotten any calls from Feiner. Nor have any of them heard from the Nature Center about this. When the Nature Center wants Edgemont's support for something, its directors always come to an ECC meeting, make a pitch, and answer questions.

Seems like Feiner's just up to his old PR tricks with this one, which is really too bad.

Anonymous said...

I certainly agree that this matter is reactionary because Feiner is seen as not being particularly pro-Edgemont. Also, his announcement about the potential plan is, as usual, unprofessional.

HOWEVER, let's move ahead with this idea. Seat-of-the-pants management and politics aside, it is a wise idea for the town to acquire this land.

Paul Feiner said...

I believe that I am being criticized unfairly for publicizing the effort to acquire the property. I received a number of calls from representatives of the Nature Center prior to my announcement of this effort. I was specifically asked to include the acquisition of the property in my 2007 goals by the nature center. The goals are announced publicly. In fact, I post the goals in progress on our town web site in December - before the goals are officially announced. In addition, an e mail I received from Bill Lawyer, executive director of the Nature Center, said that "we need to organize a campaign to acquire this property for preservation as open space." One can't organize a campaign in secret. Every open space acquisition that the town has been involved in since I have been Supervisor (more than 400 acres of open space out of our 600 acres of open space) succeeded because of public support and involvement. It would be wrong for the Town Board to finalize plans for the acquisition before we find out if the public supports the initiative.
I do not believe in closed government. Before we spend a substantial amount of tax dollars on any open space acquisition - it's crucial to discuss the reasons with the public and answer questions. I believe that the approach I am taking will enhance our chances of acquiring this property.
I have been in contact with Edgemont leaders - supporters and critics - about this initiative and am very pleased with the response that we are getting.

Anonymous said...

There's no question that the acquisition of this land is important to Edgemont. No Edgemont leader would disagree with that. It sits right behind the Scarsdale Woods condos, it's zoned for multi-dwelling residential development, and its development could be just as harmful to Edgemont as the development of Taxter Ridge would have been to Irvington.

But Feiner's PR campaign seems awfully misguided. He says he's doing it for the Nature Center, but the property does not really adjoin the Nature Center grounds, and is not really part of what anyone would ever think of as Nature Center woods. And Feiner doesn't deny that the Nature Center board has apparently not even met to discuss the matter. All he points to is an e-mail he got from the Nature Center's director, and some unspecified phone calls he claims to have gotten, all of which sounds ad hoc and seat of the pants.

He also defends his PR effort as necessary to galvanize public support. But at this point, no one even knows whether the property is for sale. So Feiner's PR effort, besides apparently annoying the hell out of Edgemont's leaders, is also calculated to raise public hopes without any expectation that he could deliver.

Feiner also says his PR is part of "open government." That's nonsense. Full disclosure is required when a municipality is about to spend public money and there's at least a proposal on the table for the public to evaluate. Here, when all that's being considered is the idea of acquiring certain property that may or may not be for sale, Feiner's full bore PR can only be music to the developer's ears.

That's what has Edgemont leaders so riled up by what Feiner is doing here.

He turns a deaf ear to the ECC's urgent request this fall for a moratorium on Central Avenue residential development, and now that the threat is real, to make matters wrose, he's actually undermining efforts that could be made to prevent this from happening.

don't criticize because you are envious... said...

Why do some anonymous writers object to Feiner's latest proposal? They know it's a good suggestion. THey are angry that Feiner, not them, hAS proposED this acquisition. If Feiner hadn't suggested that the land be saved from development, the same people would be writing that Feiner wasn't doing his job of protecting the nature center. They can't do that because Feiner is paying attention to things that are important to the community. So they have to think of some other reasons to go after Feiner.

Anonymous said...

No one I know is envious of Feiner

Annoyed, angry yes, but not envious

Either his "attempt" is half-baked and so poorly thought out it will only make manners worse, or is a deliberate attempt to keep Edgemont leaders from attempting somehting productive.

Talk is cheap. Feiner consistently puts proposals on the table either without thinking them rhrough, or knowing that they are non-starters.

Anonymous said...

If the super had rejected calls from the nature center to acquire this Edgemont property, my guess is that the previous commentator would have called Feiner all sorts of names. Feiner recommended an action that is good for Edgemont, good for the environment, good for the nature center. Anonymous is so committed to attacking Feiner that he/she resorts to name calling. If you would praise Feiner when he is right, your comments would be taken more seriously when he is wrong. On this issue, there is no question in the minds of the Edgemont community that the nature center needs the towns help. Buy the land.

Anonymous said...

To anon 8:27
You blame feiner for acting too quickly but spelled thinking it through wrong (rhough)! I don't think you reflected on what you wanted to say.

Anonymous said...

To anon at 11:49

If we want to critize spelling, I might also tell you that Feiner should be capitalized. But so what.

The point of these blogs is that as much as Feiner says he contacted Edgemont Civic leaders, no one I know seems to have recieved a call. Edgemont asked for a moratorium -- that would have helped. He did not step up to the plate. I live in Edgemont and I might want parkland, but I do not want open space. Feiner has to stop this my way or the highway approach, and that if you dont want open space you get nothing.

Anonymous said...

Edgemont surely needs to keep this land from being developed, but spinning it as "helping the nature center" -- which is what Feiner is doing -- is likely to backfire because anyone looking at a map would see that it's not really a Nature Center problem, it's an Edgemont problem. Thus, preserving this property as open space for the Nature Center would make no sense because it's not contiguous to any existing trails or any of the other Nature Center facilities. Nor would it make sense (given parking, etc.) for the Nature Center to expand in that direction.

Indeed, it seems to make so little sense for this to be a Nature Center issue that Feiner's steamrolling to make it so is very reminiscent of his ill-fated attempt a few years ago to steamroll the Library Board of Trustees into accepting his predetermined plan for a very modest expansion of the library so he could sell the adjoining old town hall site to the client of his largest contributor at a sweetheart price.

But enough about Feiner. This is about Edgemont and Edgemont's leaders need to think through themselves, perhaps with the addition of more responsible members of Greenburgh's town government, what exactly can be done here.

Getting the moratorium off the ground would be a good first start.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Feiner state that he recommended this at the request of the Greenburgh Nature Center? The center is concerned because the development of this property can have a negative impact on the preserve & on wildlife.
Many Edgemont residents applaud Feiner for his efforts to save this parcel of land. I also am pleased that there is an open discussion about this acquisition and that the views of the community are being considered before the town spends our money.

Anonymous said...

Feiner DID say he did this at the Nature Center's recommendation, but it turns out the Nature Center's Board of Directors has not yet met to discuss it and that all Feiner was going on was an informal e-mail he got earlier in the week from the Nature Center's director.

If the developer is paying attention (it's impossible for him not to be), Feiner's jumping the gun on this will increase the property's price (assuming it's even for sale which no one yet knows) and ultimately harm the interests of Edgemont taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Obviously the only way anything worthwhile will get done is if the Edgemont leaders meet with the Board. Hopefully Feiner has not done too much damage and will get out of the way.

Anonymous said...

I beleive that the space at the Nature Center should be preserved. All Edgemont has is it's school and that awful strip on Central Ave..anything that can be done to possibly help the space and help our children should be done.....How did that 7-Eleven get in? This acquisiton would help our small piece of space.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Paul Feiner for working so hard to protect the nature center. The silent majority of Edgemont residents appreciate what you are doing for our community. We have confidence that the nature center will be protected from unwanted nearby development due to your involvement.

hal samis said...

Assuming that the property is for sale, then it has always been my belief (since the original, proposed town hall purchase) that if a municipality is interested in obtaining a property, it is in its best interest to take out full page ads announcing to the world that they are interested.

Unlike private buyers, a government has the power of Eminent Domain and knowing this and knowing of its interest, another buyer would be nuts to try and steal it away from the Town. If successful, it would surely find itself in Court responding to the ED proceeding.

And should this developer win in Court, the next step is facing a hostile Planning and Zoning Board Review, the Town Building Inspector etc. Developers have other fish to fry and tend to steer clear of crossing swords with the more powerful.

However, the question remains why the Town was unaware of the original sale and only became so after the fact.

Anonymous said...

Hal, that you are a Feiner supporter I would have expected this.

This difference is, until Feiner issued this open statement, the developer presumably thought his path would be negotiate, which could be time-consuming (read expensive), on all issues from steep slopes to a moratorium. Feiner apparently wants to garner public support and drive up the price so that the Land Trust or others would be necessary (if in fact they are interested) and the land could only be acquired for open space, not needed parkland, or even school playing fields.

Thanks for driving up the price Feiner.

You gotta be kidding said...

Hal -- You're striking out again. Last week you told us (presumably on Feiner's behalf since he's your bosom buddy these days) that there was no need for any Central Avenue moratorium on residential development because it would be at least ten years before Edgemont would see anything like that. Whoops, it only took ten days. Strike one.

Now you tell us that it's perfectly fine for Feiner to broadcast to the world the idea that the town might want to buy the property for itself as open space. In fact, you say Feiner should have taken out full page ads.

That won't drive the price up you say because with Feiner involved, prospective purchasers would tremble with fear over the potential exercise of "eminent domain" and turn tail. Oh really?

Eminent domain is used for public improvements like highways and what used to be called urban renewal. It's hard to find a case where a town in New York has ever used it to buy open space - and for good reason. It's doubtful whether such use that would ever qualify for taking under New York's complicated emiment domain law. Among other things, in order to condemn the land, the town would have to justify the need for that particular public project in that particular spot, which ain't so easy to do given the 600 acres the town already has and the plenty of other woodsy acres for sale elsewhere in town.

In fact, the litigation costs to taxpayers would be enormous before one even gets to determining what the market price the developer gets would be, and developers know all this and would gladly do battle (which is why it never happens).

So Hal, if you're batting for Feiner on that one too, that's really strike two.

Whatcha gonna do for strike three?

Anonymous said...

"half-baked and so poorly thought out"

Yes, that is so true, as we've all become so accustomed. Yet this parcel should be purchased, despite the increase in price that the Supervisor has caused.

Anonymous said...

I live in Edgemont, and want it as parkland, not open space. That means it will be harder to raise the money, and now that Feiner has upped the ante, it will be tougher.

Anonymous said...

Paul Feiner knows what he is doing when it comes to parkland acquisition. I am pleased that he has taken on this cause. I hope he is as successful with the nature center property as he was with Glenville, Taxter Ridge and Hartsbrook. I don't believe the crap in these blog comments that his efforts are going to increase our costs. Sounds to me like some people want to criticize Feiner for everything. He deserves to be thanked, not yelled at.

Anonymous said...

And would you consider the litigation a measure of his success? Which to date has been succesful? The only people who consider it a success are people who support the acquisition of open space by any means, including pocket picking

hal samis said...

Well kids,

While I'm still at bat...

Eminent Domain has been used sparingly in the past and it is expensive. Still, communities are beginning to look at it increasingly as the solution to their land use needs as undeveloped property becomes more scarce. However, the power to do so or, even more importantly, the THREAT to do so is why it is not needed to be actually undertaken. This could explain why it is so "hard" to find cases. If the need to employ this measure was removed, then the process need not be initiated.

However, if this process is such a mystery, or even the Town's ability to condemn residences for the "greater need" then hie thee hither, leave the Edgemont womb, and get yourself over to the Crossroads Shopping Center on Tarrytown Road in our very own Greenburgh USA (if you're seeking common ground consider Edgemont and Greenburgh both lack Post Office recognition). The "Fairview" or view of the Fair would be the historic reference but the shopping center is built over what used to be private homes. This was called urban renewal as was most of what has occurred in downtown White Plains.

The persons I opposed on secret negotiations for the two separate purchase attempts (one failed, one successful) got a new town Hall were Paul Feiner and Timmy Weinberg.
My view of secrecy by governments is consistent and runs with the real estate, not the negotiator.
Perhaps you need to be more abreast of events and facts and less concerned about bosom buds.

Eminent Domain is more successful when applied to land versus a building. This current issue is about a land acquisition.

The "ten years away" by me was a SPECIFIC reference to the "fear" of some Edgemont "leaders" that Midway Shopping Center would become residential. I offered no assurances, much less guarantees, that every square inch of Central Avenue in Greenburgh would not become residential. So don't misquote me when it suits your purposes -- this is the kind of thing that makes me mistrust the sensibilities of so-called Edgemont leaders.

What is the size of this parcel, not enormous I assume. One of the anonymous bloggers (5:20 pm) seems to assume that open space is a new category and cannot become parkland or playing fields. By 8:19, an anonymous blogger (Hello, Jimbob) paints a foreboding picture were the Town to embark on the Eminent Domain path, something that was never challenged when once upon a time these words were flying regarding the "proposed" purchase of the Driving Range.

It takes two to tango. What would be the correct analysis is that the costs of litigation are an expense to Developers also. Why the litigation never happens is as much the decision of developers as it is the decision of Town Boards. In Greenburgh, the track record is to hire-hire-hire outside legal advice and fight; so apparently cost is not an issue.

Hal's on kool-aid again said...

Hal, ever hear about the time Feiner threatened to use "eminent domain" to scare off the purchaser at 177 Hillside, which became the new Town Hall? The existing purchaser had a contract to buy at $5.5 million. The eminent domain threat there was so powerful (hint: it wasn't), that the town ended up paying $6.8 million -- that's $1.3 million more -- and that's before the hundreds of thousands in tax cert settlement monies that were used to sweeten the pot.

Maybe the threat of "eminent domain" works in some places, but when Feiner wields it, as he did with 177 Hillside, the message to taxpayers is "Watch your wallets."

Hal, not only can you not identify any cases where "eminent domain" was used to acquire parkland or open space or anything like that, but you can't even think of a single case in the entire state where that's even been tried, can you?

And you want us to believe that Greenburgh's Town Board, litigious souls they may be, want to make Edgemont their test case? Why don't you ask Feiner's pal over in Dobbs Ferry what he thinks about that?

hal samis said...

Dear Mr. Kool,
Although I can't be sure if your Kool-Aid is a reference to a now "disolved" cult or to a book by Tom Wolfe, let me remind you of some footnotes to history.

In the purchase of 127 Hillside, the original seller (One Beacon, a subsidiary of White Mountain Insurance Group - and thereby a publicly owned NYSE company) had agreed to sell the building to another party. That the Town ultimately paid more than the price of this existing agreement was its contribution to a "break-up" fee so that the purchase would close without opposition and/or a costly court trial -- and so that the move out of the old Town Hall would commence sooner than later. Even at this higher price, the building was well under the independent appraisal which in turn was far, far below the inflated number that the Supervisor was promoting.

Eminent Domain was not an reasonable alternative due to the unencumbered by contract but still similarly vacant building across the Avenue (this building being the object of the Town's secret negotiations a year before). The Court would reason, why pursue 127 Hillside and overturn someone else's deal while there was another building available?

But enough of history and making me respond like an attorney, which I am not; let me again say that I believe that nothing is lost when a municipal entity announces that it wants to acquire a parcel. A developer will not force an auction leading to an uneconomic purchase price. Even without disclosure of the bidders, the free market still controls the ultimate sale. On the other hand, most developers would not want to pursue a property that the governing municipality has an interest in acquiring. On the other hand, private parties, having no such clout, other than their financial statements, would benefit from secrecy.

And congrats on using the first triple negative sentence I have ever seen.

Yet another truthteller said...

Hal - who told you that "most developers would not want to pursue a property that the governing municipality has an interest in"? If the property is so valuable to a developer that a municipality is even thinking about acquiring it, the price generally goes up, not down.

Look what happened with Taxter Ridge. A developer wanted Taxter to put up homes and a golf course. Feiner then negotiated an option to buy the property from the Moonies for $10.7 million, and the golf course deal went away.

But Feiner let the option lapse, and the Moonies wouldn't do the deal unless Feiner threw in another $3 million in questionably legal tax abatements, which he did.

Where did the Moonies get the leverage if not from the prospect of competing developers lurking out there?

Anonymous said...

Oh, if only we could have negotiated a deal for a golf course -even semi private

hal samis said...

Dear Yet Another,
Perhaps you need to revisit the fable of the blind men and the elephant, or at least study the structure of an onion. Again, in the desire to condemn Feiner, your ignorance is showing: thus, Feiner, not the Town Board, not the County, not the State. As you know I opposed the Taxter purchase but there is also the truth to contend with, something you don't entertain when you choose to construct an argument.

Developers didn't arrive too late after the door had been locked as you infer.
In the option lapsed deal, how did Greenburgh obtain the original option when developers were drooling?

The sellers raised their price when they had the opportunity. Prices rise and the Trust For Public Land, real estate brokers, were anxious to earn a commission. What you should be questioning is: why not only Feiner but also the County and the State felt that their new, higher offer was justified.
And, more to the point, with the looming changes in steep slope and wetlands laws, was the property still worth even the original price? Even though at least 50% of the total would no longer be developable under the new laws? Furthermore, the County's real estate Czar, Sal (last name escapes me) and Greenburgh Legislator Tom Abinante refused to re-negotiate the purchase price when I brought this to their attention; instead they took comfort in an old appraisal which did not take into account the changing land use laws...even to the extent that when the laws were passed prior to closing, they would not, per my insistence, order an update for the now inaccurate appraisal. Futhermore, I spoke at the County Board of Legislators meeting arguing that even if Greenburgh ignored the realities, the County had a greater responsibility to insure that there would be sufficient parking available so that County residents could use their purchase. I requested that this be made a condition of their funding participation and this too was ignored.

Futhermore, land transactions are really not much different than one most people are familiar with: selling a home. An asking price is established (whether singularly by the seller or with the "assistance" of a broker) and it is offered for sale. Bids are made. Bids generally establish what the property is worth in the real world, the marketplace, not in the mind of the seller. If a sale is to be consummated, the market price (what is bid) will determine the value, not what the seller would like to get. One prospective buyer or one thousand prospective buyers will not cause the seller to agree unless he had received a bid that is satisfactory. Whether the bidders are private or public, the dollar talks louder to the seller who most often doesn't care what happens or who buys if he gets his price. Thus, in a free market, the highest offer is likely to triumph (assuming all cash, not subject to financing, etc.).

However, what a municipality has that a private developer doesn't is the threat or the reality of eminent domain AND the ability to make life difficult for someone who bids against it. On the other hand, what could be troublesome to a seller is that the private buyer can bid without getting approvals from the public ("option" vs unconditional contract) and the various processes and hearings that are common to a large dollar public expenditure. In fact, often the municipal buyer must pay more because of the additional time needed to perform due diligence and this higher purchase price is the enticement for the seller to remain at the table. But, in the real world, even the developers negotiate options instead of outright purchases. They, in effect, are buying the land subject to obtaining needed zoning changes or variances and having the seller, often a resident, as their "partner" (seller won't get his contract price without these conditions met) until closing is a a tactic to limit their risk.

By announcing its interest early on, the municipality puts the private world on notice of its intent, signals that a deep pocket buyer is around, prepares the public (taxpayers) for the prospective purchase and, taken together this tends to discourage, if not lessen, other interested parties.

And for all this blog talk about raising the price, I ask:

Is the property actually for sale?
What is the asking price?
What is the Town offering?
Is anyone else bidding?
Has the price been raised?

Without these answers, there is a lot of smoking blowing and perhaps someone should register a complaint with the EPA.

Hartsdale Home Owner said...

Call me a one issue voter, but since I bid on my house less than 4 years ago, the total property tax package has risen about 30%. I am paying a lot more than I anticipated and it hurts! I support any proposal to acquire land so long as my taxes don't rise $1.

Anonymous said...

I have to ask why Paul Feiner doesn't call the developer before making all these statements. Shouldn't he have brought this up before it was even bought by a developer?

Anonymous said...

Who was the person who said this was an important piece of land to save from the evil developers? It's just a 2.5 acre piece across the street from a big brick wall. Have any of you been to this property? It's a street that has nothing on it but a convent, the nature center and a condo complex. Anyone who thinks the animals are going to use this as a travel route have obviously not seen that huge brick wall. We already have over 30 acres at the nature center that is preserved. What difference is another couple of acres going to make to "open space". Just one more thing, if even half of what is in the paper is true about the dealings with this property, all the players in this should be run out of town. Let's start with the head of the ECC!