Wednesday, January 10, 2007

RIDGE HILL LAWSUIT SETTLED- TOWN TO BE REIMBURSED FOR LEGAL/CONSULTANT FEES

The Greenburgh Town Board joined Yonkers, Ardsley & Hastings in voting to settle the Ridge Hill lawsuit. Yonkers will reimburse Greenburgh $450,000 as reimbursement for legal/consultant costs incurred with fighting the project. Yonkers will make available to Ardsley, Greenburgh and Hastings $5 million to be used for road improvements. A task force will be created to explore the feasibility of direct access from the Sprain.
I would have preferred density reduction. We were told that our chances of winning a lawsuit were slim. We were also advised that if we had pursued litigation we would be spending another $300,000+ or more on legal fees. Does it make sense to spend $800,000 on legal fees for a losing battle? Now, we're getting reimbursed for our legal costs - and getting 5 million for traffic improvements. I also hope that the task force will result in more regional planning/dialogue between Yonkers and Greenburgh.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad the town came out ahead. Not glad that the project is so big

Anonymous said...

This has shades of governmental sloppiness which appears to be a constant of feiner's regime.
How will ardsley, hastings and "greenburgh" now just get along? And if they don't, then what? The devil is in the details and there are no details here, just wishful thinking. The last time millions were put in front of feiner, he gave them away in an illegal manner to Valhalla. But hey, his attorney is Chase Caro (alas - the hiring of which is another illegal act by feiner). We cannot trust feiner to be in charge of the settlement fund.

Anonymous said...

The settlement funds can be used solely for traffic and roadway improvements specifically related to the Ridge Hill development. So, while I agree that the Town Supervisor is the last person I'd ever want to manage those funds, at least it's less likely that these funds can be misappropriated since a task force must be in place.

Anonymous said...

The supervisor did a great job getting a decent deal for the town and legal fees reimbursed. Our dollars are in good hands with Mr. Feiner in charge.

Anonymous said...

Paul Feiner had nothing to do with negotiating the settlement.

The negotiations were conducted by outside counsel working with Hastings resident Mary Jane Shimsky and Edgemont resident Rod O'Shea.

Rumor has it the most difficult part of the Ridge Hill experience was having to deal with Feiner's public statements condemning the project while at the same time he was cozying up to executives at Forest City Ratner who might be counted on at election time to write big campaign checks.

Anonymous said...

from the journal news

County: Ridge Hill settlement disingenuous
By HANNAN ADELY
THE JOURNAL NEWS
Related Media
Parks Board Minutes (.pdf)
County Letter (.pdf)
County Planning Board Resolution (.pdf)



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(Original publication: January 12, 2007)



A top Westchester County official yesterday strongly criticized a settlement that ended a lawsuit between Yonkers and three of its neighbors over the proposed Ridge Hill project, saying the county would never allow an access road to be built through a park.

In a letter, Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz accused Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick of raising false hopes for an access road that would connect the Sprain BrookParkway to nearby Ridge Hill. The road - sought by project opponents, but frequently rejected by county officials - is a component of the settlement.

"Your efforts to put the Sprain Road 'flyover' back on the table are disingenuous," Schwartz wrote in the letter. "You moved to effect a settlement when you knew full well the county's position was not going to change."

Yonkers, Greenburgh, Ardsley and Hastings-on-Hudson will sign the settlement today, after their respective councils approved the pact earlier in the week. Greenburgh and the two villages alleged in the lawsuit that Yonkers' environmental review was inadequate.

Opponents of the project had long lobbied for such a road as a way to move the project's anticipated traffic off local roads, but the county's opposition, a steep slope and Consolidated Edison power lines complicated the effort.

The settlement includes $5 million for traffic improvements for Greenburgh and the two villages and money for the formation of a task force to lobby for the road.

Brooklyn developer Forest City Ratner agreed to commit $10 million toward constructing the road if the remaining obstacles were to be cleared in the next five years. Greenburgh and the two villages, however, did not get the concession they had sought most from Yonkers and Forest CityRatner - a reduction in the size of the proposed 81-acre development.

The county opposes the road because it would mean giving up parkland to a private developer, would cost $30 million and would harm the environment of Sprain Ridge Park, among other reasons cited in Schwartz's letter.

Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Lee Kinnally said he was surprised by the county's statements.

"I was not aware that they had previously foreclosed on the possibility (of an access road),"he said. "I thought it was still open to discussion."

But Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner and Ardsley Mayor Jay Leon said they knew the county's position and still viewed the settlement as the best option.

Feiner said Greenburgh would benefit from the traffic improvements and that he doubtedGreenburgh would ultimately prevail in court. Feiner also feared lengthy litigation would cost the town too much money. Under the Ridge Hill settlement, Yonkers agreed to reimburse $450,000 in legal costs that Greenburgh already spent.

In its lawsuit, Greenburgh charged that the City Council's two-year environmental review did not appropriately consider the effects that Ridge Hill would have on traffic. The project, located between the New York State Thruway and the Sprain Brook Parkway, includes 1,000 residences, restaurants, a hotel and movie theater.

Forest City Ratner and the city were unwilling to make concessions on the size of the project.

Despite the county's harsh words, Feiner still held a shred of optimism that the access road might be built.

"Just because they (county officials) said they'll never settle doesn't mean they won't in the future,"he said. "There could be different officials in office or there could be a change in policies."

Lesnick, on the other hand, was brimming with optimism that the road would become reality.

"The access road will happen," the Yonkers council president said. "We have five years to make it happen."

Reach Hannan Adely at hadely@lohud.com or 914-696-8285.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rumor Has It...are you a councilman whose first name starts with f? do you like to hide behind a name that says anonymous?

Anonymous said...

The story that Feiner had been cozying up at one or more lunches with check-writing executives from Forrest City Rattner, while at the same time publicly complaining that Ridge Hill should be stopped, has been circulating around town for months.

The story didn't originate with anyone at the town council, and it would be wrong to blame them.

If Feiner fans want to point fingers, there were a number of people from Yonkers who knew about it and thought Greenburgh residents should know that their supervisor was a world class hypocrite.

Paul Feiner said...

I read the false rumors on the web site about me cozying up to Ridge Hill executives. I have never had any meetings with Ridge Hill developers or representatives on my own. I have always invited Mary Jane Shimksy, co-chair of the citizens committee opposed to the Ridge Hill project-to all meetings that I have attended with Ridge Hill (there were only 2 or 3 meetings). For years I have placed a stop Ridge Hill sticker on my car.

not another joe mccarthy in greenburgh said...

The rumors some of you are circulating against Paul Feiner regarding his cozying up to Ridge Hill remind me of the days when I was growing up - scared about Joe McCarthy. The tone of these comments could have been written by Senator Joe McCarthy. Please don't use this blog to slander someone without providing readers with facts.

Not buying it Paul said...

Paul - I'm troubled by these allegations. Mary Jane Shimsky is a completely straight shooter. You admit you had meetings with Ridge Hill executives, but say you always "invited" Mary Jane to come with you. Okay, but was she present with you at each of those meetings?

Your carefully worded statement seems to suggest that she was not. And where were these meetings held, who else was there, and what was discussed?

This is beginning to sound very fishy coming from a guy who had a "stop Ridge Hill" bumper sticker on his car.

Why weren't we told about these meetings?

Anonymous said...

Paul, I'm very troubled to read that you admit having had two or three private meetings with Ridge Hill representatives, while the town was spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in litigation over the Ridge Hill project.

I'm feeling very uncomfortable about this. Please come clean about these meetings.

Paul Feiner said...

I would like to emphasize that I did not meet with Ridge Hill developers or representatives alone at any time since their application was filed. The last meeting I had was a number of months ago. Other members of the Town Council and Mary Jane Shimsky were present. We were discussing some compromise options. That meeting was held at Yonkers City Hall. Our attorneys were also present.I recall 2 previous meetings with representatives of Ridge Hill and Mary Jane Shimsky. I have also indicated to Town Board members that I would not have supported the settlement if Mary Jane and her committee had objected to the settlement offer. I continue to believe that the Ridge Hill development is too large. However, the entire Town Board, Mary Jane Shimsky, other village officials felt that pursuing the litigation would have been costly --and the chances of stopping the project slim.
I am very upset that people are spreading false and totally inaccurate rumors about my views regarding Ridge Hill. I have devoted hundreds of hours fighting the Ridge Hill development. I'm sure that the anonymous rumor creators will try to think of some other false statements to spread about my views.

Anonymous said...

Well it's hard to know what to believe.

Feiner admits he had two or three meetings with the developer that we never knew about, but says there were others present.

However, these meetings were all held behind closed doors and, unless someone is willing to go on the record about what Feiner said or did at these meetings, it all comes down to Feiner denying the rumors.

It's funny he says more about the last meeting at Yonkers City Hall, but doesn't have much to say about the prior meetings. Why is it so hard for him to be candid?

So, should we take Feiner at his word? The state comptroller sure didn't on WestHelp.

Why should we believe him here?

Anonymous said...

Feiner is clear. He had no meetings with an Ridge Hill representatives without Mary Jane Shimsky being present. What more do you want? There is no ambiguity here.

Anonymous said...

I think the people of this town are entitled to know a lot more about these meetings about which we previously knew nothing.

Obviously someone who attended them felt that Feiner used the time to cozy up to the folks from Forrest City Rattner, or we never would have heard word one about them.

And who knows what private communications between Feiner and the developer took place before and after.

Others who were there will have to come forward with firsthand info. I expect that they will.

All Quiet at Ridge Hill said...

article in today's NYT ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/14/opinion/nyregionopinions/WE_Yonkers.html

Paul Feiner said...

I have never had any private conversations with Ridge Hill developers -before, during or after meetings. Please don't make things up! I have always felt the project, as proposed, is too big. I continue to have the same feelings. I only joined the Town Board in settling the case because it's clear that we would not have won the litigation.

Anonymous said...

The town doesn't seem to have gotten very much out of the settlement, particularly with the county being so much against an access road the developer would have paid for.

That could be because the town didn't have much of a leg in court, which is hard to believe if the impacts were what the town said they would be.

Or it could be because those generous politically-minded folks at Forest City Ratner cozied up to Feiner, or vice versa, as has been suggested.

We didn't know about these meetings Feiner had before. He didn't mention them when he gave his anti-Ridge Hill speech the other day.

Since Feiner's staying mum about who was there and what was said, we'll have to wait and see if any other attendees will come forward.

Anonymous said...

how come francis sheehan voted for the settlement?
how come diana juettner voted for the settlement?
how come steve bass voted for the settlement?
how come eddie mae barnes voted for the settlement?
how come ardsley, hastings voted for the settlement?

Anonymous said...

They all voted for it because it was probably the best deal they felt they could get under the circumstances.

And what were those circumstances?

Rumor has it that Ms. Shimsky was NOT invited to that first meeting Feiner had with the execs from Forest City Ratner, but found out about it and showed up anyway.

Someone should ask Ms. Shimsky what she knows about this.

Because with criticism mounting that Greenburgh and its villages settled way too cheaply, the question is did we really get the best deal we could get, or did someone on the team pull up short?

Anonymous said...

Feiner never advocated that the lawsuit be settled. He did not negotiate or push for the settlement. He seems to have followed the recommendations of the town's lawyer --just like Sheehan,Bass,Barnes,Juettner,Shimsky,Ardsley & Hastings officials did. In fact, at the last meeting of the Town Board Bob Bernstein got up and praised the approach the town took regarding Ridge Hill. Watch the meeting on tv

Anonymous said...

So Feiner never advocated that the lawsuit be settled?

That's absurd. He was quoted in the Journal News saying the town would have lost the lawsuit if it hadn't settled. If that's not advocating a settlement, I don't know what is.

If Feiner had been leading the charge, I can't imagine we'd have done as well as we did.

As for Bernstein, I saw him on TV. He praised the town's Ridge Hill committee co-chairs Mary Jane Shimsky, a Hastings resident, and Rod O'Shea, an Edgemont resident, and said it showed that it was possible for village and unincorporated area residents could work together for the good of the community.

Can't hardly argue with that.

But can't imagine Bernstein knew anything about any private meetings between Feiner and Forest City Ratner executives.