Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Westchester will keep homeless shelter agreement

I spoke to Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano earlier today about a proposal to place a homeless drop in shelter from White Plains to Hawthorne. This would have violated an agreement the county made with Greenburgh not to build any new homeless facilities within 2 miles of the center of the Grasslands reservation. I am pleased to report that the County Executive will keep the promise that was made to the Mayfair Knollwood community at the time the WESTHELP partnership agreement was made. This shelter would have violated the agreement that had been made.
A promise was made. The promise must be kept. Otherwise no one will ever trust those who were elected to public office.


Anonymous said...

Feiner's announcement creates the impression that the county has changed its mind about locating a new shelter at county police headquarters in Hawthorne because locating it there would violate an agreement the county had with the town.

However, today's Journal News reports that the proposed facility is not in violation of that agreement because it would be located more than 2 miles from the WestHelp facility. The article says:

"[County Legislator]Swanson said the location of the new shelter might violate a 2003 agreement the county made with Greenburgh as a condition for extending the contract of the WestHELP shelter on the grounds of Westchester Community College. The county promised that no new shelter facilities would be constructed within two miles of the center of the Grasslands Reservation.

Susan Tolchin, Spano's chief adviser, said yesterday that the site at police headquarters does not violate that agreement. She said it is about a half-mile beyond the two-mile limit."

So, who is right here? Is the proposed facility actually within the 2-mile limit? Is the county now changing its mind about creating that new shelter in Hawthorne?

Or is Feiner just engaging in political spin by suggesting that, by locating the facility beyond the 2-mile limit, the county was somehow "honoring" its agreement with the town?

And speaking of "promises" made in that agreement between the town and the county, what happened to the county's promise to provide additional police protection around its shelters, and why isn't Feiner insisting that the county honor that particular promise?

confused said...

Okay, I'm confused by the Supervisor's posting.

The County is planning to build its new shelter in Mount Pleasant, at the location off the Saw Mill, which is beyond 2 miles from the WestHELP location, just as initially planned.

Maybe I'm misreading, but what is the Supervisor's announcement about? There was never a plan to build the shelter within the two-mile radius to begin with. What's different/new today that has anything to do with keeping promises?

Anonymous said...

Who is right here? At the County news conference this afternoon Andy Spano admitted his office was wrong and that the proposed new shelter was within the two-mile radius. However, Spano now says he wants to renegotiate the deal with Greenburgh to reduce the ban radius and allow him to do what he wants to do. Another example of this county executive stopping at nothing to get what he wants, when he wants it. He faces big problems with this fight, however, on legal, ethical and moral grounds. Another example of local government going back on its word...a deal is a deal is a deal, Mr. Spano. Find someplace in Yonkers or elsewhere to build your new shelter!

Anonymous said...

Spano says Westchester won't violate homeless shelter agreement
By Richard Liebson and Len Maniace, The Journal News

(Original publication: February 6, 2007)

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano said minutes ago that the county will not move a homeless drop-in shelter from White Plains to Hawthorne if doing so breaks an agreement the county made with Greenburgh not to build any new homeless facilities within two miles of the center of the Grasslands Reservation.

"We are not going to violate that agreement and there was never any intention to violate that agreement,'' Spano told LoHud.com.

Spano said the county was mistaken yesterday when it indicated that the new $2 million shelter planned for a vacant lot at Westchester County Police Headquarters on the Saw Mill River Parkway was outside of the two-mile radius negotiated with Greenburgh as part of a deal to extend the lease of a WestHelp homeless facility on the Westchester Community College campus.

He said the county measured the distance from the existing shelter on Grasslands to the county police headquarters and found it to be 2.25 miles. It was later discovered, he said, that if measured from the center of Grasslands, as called for in the Greenburgh agreement, the distance was actually 1.74 miles.

"If that's the case, it's back to the drawing board, or we may possibly try to renegotiate the agreement with Greenburgh,'' Spano said.

The violation of the agreement was the main focus of a press conference this morning called by Mount Pleasant Supervisor Robert Meehan and County Legislator Suzanne Swanson.

Early indications are that Feiner may be reluctant to change the town's agreement with the county.

"I urge the county to relocated the shelter to another location and to comply with the promises that were made to the community,'' he wrote in an e-mail to Spano late yesterday. Feiner noted that "A promise was made and a promise must be kept. Otherwise, no one will ever trust those who were elected to public office.''

Read more on this developing story later today on LoHud.com and tomorrow in The Journal News.

Anonymous said...

The county did change their mind. They recognized that they were in violation of the agreement they reached with the Mayfair Knollwood neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Forget about putting the shelter in Hawthorne or Yonkers, already overburdened with homeless and poor.

Why not have the County spend the 2 million dollars for the new homeless shelter for men who won't obey the ordinary shelter rules - who are difficult - in Scarsdale, Bronxville, Bedford, Pound Ridge, Chappaqua, Armonk, Larchmont, Rye, Harrison or Pelham Manor.

Since the gov't, and rightly so, is spending to shelter the least privileged among us, why don't rich communities bear their fair share of having the poor in their Towns/Villages. Why won't the politicians even give it a thought? They never have and never will. It's a disgrace.

So let's not have Hawthorne, Greenburgh and Yonkers fight among themselves about this. Use your energy to force the County to equally distribute the burden to the wealthy areas that have no affordable housing, never mind homeless shelters.

Anonymous said...

Good point about not having Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant and Yonkers fight among themselves about this. Greenburgh certainly doesn't need more animosity with either.

At this point, it would be most intelligent for Greenburgh to just sit back and see what evolves.

Anonymous said...

Good point, lets stop fighting among ourselves.

I can understand why this facility must be secure -- and why on the site of a police facility is a good idea -- but is there no space the state could sell/lease the county on the site of the Bedford Correctional Facility -- that would be secure.

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is both Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant already do more than its share to house the homeless and it's time for this county administration to look at a fair and equitable way for this to be a shared responsibility among its communities. The Spano machine, however, continues to bully its way to get what it wants. If they want to spend $2 million to build an overnight shelter, let them go back to the airport location and build it there. After all, their rationale for moving it from there in the first place (after they were caught in a lie when they originally said the FAA was forcing them to close the shelter) was that the building was old, dilapidated and unfit to house the homeless. Well, now they've found themselves a couple of mil to renovate that building.

The Big Lie said...

An illegal promise is not a promise. A contract that is illegal is not a contract. Keep that in mind when Feiner tries to equate himself with Spano regarding WestHelp.

A big lie (courtesy of wikipedia) is a technique of telling a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe anyone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously". The big lie here is the repeated claim by Feiner that to cancel the WestHelp deal is to undo a binding promise. Again, an illegal promise is a nullity.

Anonymous said...

The state comptroller's office has provided the Town Board with a legal mechanism to keep the WESTHELP partnership alive. It's legal. It can work! The Valhalla school district hopes that all the members of the Town Council who voted for the partnership will be men/women of their word.

WestHelp is a scam said...

Why should they if the underlying reasons for the deal were bogus? There are no kids from the shelter in the VSD. There is no evidence of an increase in crime or a decrease in property values. Plus the grant was used for illegitimate purposes. Just be happy if you dont get a bill from the Town for a return of the money you got illegally. You put your trust in Feiner. That was a big mistake. Get the facts and the truth at valhallavoice.com.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 2:37 said "The state comptroller's office has provided the Town Board with a legal mechanism to keep the WESTHELP partnership alive. It's legal."???

They said it was not legal that is why they gave alternative "legal" ways to do it. But those ways are unworkable. Even if Westhelp handed the money directly to Valhalla, it would belong to all the taxpayers of the Valhalla school district. It would have to be used for their legal (school district) budget. Mayfair would no longer control it. It's over. The last thing you want is to give a tax break to Mt Pleasant and North White Plains.

Anonymous said...

It looks like there is no Hawthorne Civic Association trying to extort their share of county tax dollars. Maybe they can hire the Mayfair Knollwood people as sort of mercinaries to do the dirty work. Of course these services do come at a price.

Anonymous said...

I just read the WestHelp sublease on the Valhallavoice.com website. The fact is, if the county put the homeless shelter at that location in Hawthorne 2.5 miles outside of Greenburgh, Greenburgh would be paid $1,000 per homeless person per night. One person would generate $365,000 a year. Not a bad trade off for a "broken promise".

Anonymous said...

Well here is a convenient solution to EDGENOT'S concern about the Central Avenue moratorium and its potential impact about adding school age children to the EDGENOT school rolls.

Have the EDGENOT Civic Leaders give a call on to our friends Susan and Larry in White Plains and ask for some of that Andy Spano-style sex offender housing to be built on Central Avenue.

Now we know there would not be any additions to the school rolls from those residents and it would meet the County's needs. Even might be one of those town wide purposes we hear so much about.

Finally, we know that there are no safety issues because the EDGENOT Civic Leaders have told Mayfair-Knolwood that their concerns about sex offender housing in that neighborhood was over blown.

I guess the same would apply to EDGENOT then too, because there is never a need to worry about sex offenders in homeless housing. They told Mayfair-Knolwood so, and you know that they would never fib to serve their own purposes. Right?

Anonymous said...

These anti-Edgemont comments demonstrate just how bullying and obnoxious some of the Mayfair Knollwood activists can be.

Their gripe is not now and has never been with Edgemont.

Their gripe is with New York state law which does not allow towns to give away town money to school districts unless the money is for a non-educational purpose and the money is used for a program or facility that is open town-wide.

The county's homeless shelter for sex offenders has nothing to do with the present debate. That shelter is not in Greenburgh. It is in Mount Pleasant.

Mayfair Knollwood residents were told in advance about that shelter being located there, and the town's 2001 agreement with the county makes clear that the county will be responsible for providing any additional police protection that may be required there.

By agreement with between the town and the county, Mayfair Knollwood leaders even get to serve on a county police advisory board to make sure they get heard when it comes to police protection.

Mayfair Knollwood thus got all the "compensation" for that sex offender shelter that it was legally entitled to get. And not only have there been no "sex offender" incidents in Mayfair Knollwood since that shelter in Mount Pleasant opened up, but Mayfair Knollwood has never once complained to the town about the county not living up to its police protection obligations.

As for the new shelter that the county wants to open up in Hawthorne, which is also in Mount Pleasant, the county's hands appear to be tied by the agreement with Greenburgh, which limits the number of homeless beds the county can have within a certain geographical region extending into Mount Pleasant, and subjects the county to a substantial penalty -- payble to Greenburgh -- if it does so.

Assuming that provision is enforceable, it seems that the town obtained for Mayfair Knollwood even more protections against the impact of additional county homeless shelters in their vicinity.

So what then is Mayfair Knollwood complaining about -- other than its piggy demand that it and its school district reap as much of the financial benefits from the town's deal with the county -- even if, legally speaking, and as a matter of fairness, it was never entitled to any of that money.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon at 11:01 am:

Thanks for your response, unfortunately lots of verbiage does not always equate to an answer.

That old rube about it being "Mt Pleasant" not Greenburgh is tiresome. Invisible geographical boundary lines do not work like those electronic fences for dogs; they do not prevent someone from walking from one jurisdiction to another. If you can not understand that basic concept, then please refrain from responding.

No "incidents" yet in Mayfair-Knollwood...... might as well wait until the first child abduction and rape from a convicted pedophile. Maybe you will comfort that family who needed to serve as that first sacrificial lamb. Just like Connie in White Plains in July 2005....it's not really a problem until the first person gets killed by a sex offender.

Bullies.....checking.....look up Young Kaminer and the upstanding politician whose ear he loves to whisper into. The Mayfair-Knollwood people, who are way past any point of NIMBYism given the cramdown, are merely trying to protect their families and children. You might learn something from watching them as opposed to the foolish and disingenuous behavior we watch. If you think anyone is being fooled, the joke is on you. The Mayfair Knollwood public presentations are honest and transparent...no hidden agendas...no preening for the cameras (do you get my point?).

Again EDGENOT's false "do the right thing" pompousness turns its tail real quickly when it comes to NIMBY.

Simple question for you, ……. give a simple answer..... will you accept Andy Spano-style sex offender housing in your neighborhood? If it makes you feel any better, you can ask if it can be moved over some invisible political boundary.

That will protect your families and your children from Level 3 sex offenders (i.e. those assessed most likely to repeat their behavior).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 11:01, how dare you inject reasoned arguments and facts into the debate. And no childish retorts?

I read your piece and hung on every word.

Anonymous said...

That Mayfair Knollwood bully needs to get a grip.

Edgemont borders the City of Yonkers, but you don't hear Edgemont residents complaining that the border there doesn't operate like an electronic fence to "keep the dogs out."

The town got the county to agree to give M-K residents additional police protection for the sex offender shelter in Mount Pleasant, they've never complained that the protection was inadequate, and there have never been any incidents. The facility itself is also more than a mile away from the M-K homes.

If the county were to choose to locate such a facility elsewhere in the town, even in Edgemont, we would expect the town to assert the rights it already has under existing state law to demand that the county study the impacts and if any adverse impacts are identified, that it come up with a satisfactory plan to deal with them.

If not, the town would have legal rights to sue - just as the town brought suit against Ridge Hill and obtained a favorable settlement.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you have never done any business with King Andy Spano and his court.

They don't do impact studies and they don't deal with local governments. Monarchies are great for that reason alone!

And the weak politically motivated courts roll over in his favor, so go buy a lottery ticket because you will have better odds.

Anonymous said...

I wish all elected officials would keep their word.

Anonymous said...

Those angry Mayfair Knollwood bullies are giving Andy Spano a bad rap.

Spano was county executive when the county agreed in 2001 to pay the town $1.2 million a year, for ten years, to compensate the town for allowing WestHelp to continue operating the homeless shelter on the WCC campus.

The M-K neighborhood did pretty well under that agreement. Spano was upfront about putting in the homeless shelter in Mount Pleasant, and the town obtained a promise that the number of homeless beds in that area would not exceed a certain limit. In addition, M-K representatives were given the right to participate in a county police advisory committee.

There has been no suggestion by anyone that the county intends to breach that agreement.


Residents of Mayfair Knollwood are not bullies. Just want our elected officials to keep their word. No one asked Bass, Juettner and Barnes to approve the WESTHELP partnership agreement. They voluntarily voted for the agreement. They voluntarily made promises to the community. They voluntarily visited our homes. They voluntarily asked for our support when they ran for office. The community trusted them. No community ever wants to be double crossed by their representatives.

Anonymous said...

The question is, "who doublecrossed whom?

The state comptroller says representations by Mayfair Knollwood leaders that the WestHelp grants were needed to compensate Valhalla for the costs of educating homeless children, an assumption the report says was echoed by Feiner himself, were false.

If those representations were false, as the state comptroller's report now indicates they were, then any promises made by town council members on the basis of such falsehoods should be null and void.

Mayfair Knollwood leaders now claim they never told state comptroller investigators any such thing.

But if the school district was never impacted and, as the report says, "there is no evidence to support the Town Supervisor's cliam that the homeless shelter would have an adverse impact on the community," then why on earth would anyone expect the town council members to make the mistake they made before all over again?

Mayfair Knollwood residents should realize once and for all that the party's over.

Anonymous said...

Councilman Bass, Councilwoman Barnes, Juettner may not be supportive of the WESTHELP partnership today. However, they were supportive of the WESTHELP partnership when it counts--when the agreement was up for a vote. They made promises to the community. They should honor their commitments, provided that the agreement complies with the law. Thankfully, the state comptroller's office provides the Town Board with a mechanism to continue the WESTHELP partnership.