Friday, April 06, 2007


A former homeless shelter on 119 (near the county center) that closed down about a year ago may become affordable housing. WETHAB is pursuing plans to tear down the old homeless shelter and replace the 61 unit shelter with 43 apartments for working families. Rents will range from $800 a month for a studio to $1300 a month for 2 bedrooms. Income requirements: $47,950 to about $76,720.
I have already conferred with the head of the local civic association and intend to meet with additional residents in the Fulton Park neighborhood in the coming weeks. My personal feeling is that affordable housing for working people is a good use for this location. The application has not been submitted as of yet.


Anonymous said...

For the complete info, see Friday morning's The Jorunal News:

Anonymous said...

I think this location is a very unsafe place to build affordable housing.too too much traffic. think it over ,before you start having meetings.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a good location for affordable housing. We lived with a larger homeless shelter for years at this location. If the town says no the county may build another homeless shelter at this site.

Anonymous said...

excellent location ... close to highways, public transportation

Anonymous said...

Close to the new Greenburgh library, which Elmsford wont pay to use.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear of this.

Jim Lasser said...

Dear Mr. Feiner -
Affordable housing is an important public policy decision - I'm not sure that you and your colleagues on the Town Board have publicly discussed its desirability and memorialized a Town policy for affordable housing. Please take the first steps at the beginning of this important opportunity.
Your initial post contains the seeds of future controversy - and presents an opportunity to prevent it. You say you will be meeting with neighbors and the local civic association.
Will those meetings be open?
Will they be scheduled so that other members of the Town Board can attend?
Will those who cannot attend be kept up to date about the status of the proposal?
If you make promises, will all of the people in Greenburgh be informed of the exact nature of those promises BEFORE they are sealed? Will there be ample opportunity for members of the Town Board and the rest of the Town's taxpayers to review and comment on the commitments you are about to make which we will be called upon to fulfill?
Will you share your thoughts about ownership of the proposed units?
Will there be proper construction cost estimates?
Now is the time to sit down and think through all of the lessons learned from the Town's myriad of construction projects - and get it right this time.

Anonymous said...

Wise points made by Mr. Lasser. Greenburgh tends to start projects at Step 5 and jump around haphazardly from there.

While this particular project is pretty straight-forward and won't require much from the town, as a general rule, I'd like to see more intelligent, systematic, long-term, comprehensive planning in Greenburgh.

I don't know who this Jim Lasser guy is, but he sure sounds like a what I'd like to see in our new Town Supervisor (just based on this posting and a couple of others I've read).

Anonymous said...

The affordable housing proposal is not a town proposal - the affordable housing proposal is a WESTHAB initiative. the town has to approve the application. All construction costs will be assumed by WESTHAB.

Jim Lasser said...

To Anonymous at Midnight -
WESTHAB deserves the benefit of a consistent and carefully thought-out policy on affordable housing. The Town and its Town Board and Supervisor should still be responsive to all of my earlier points except the issues of ownership and construction cost estimates. In fact, the promises made to the surrounding neighborhood become even more germane if the project sponsor is not the Town itself.

hal samis said...

Dear Mr. Lasser (Jim),

Your dawning of the age of aquarious comments contain one minor section of which I am compelled to weigh in on. That is your concern that the meeting be scheduled so that the Town Council can attend.

There are two aspects of this which concern me.

One is that the office of Town Supervisor is a full time job and the Town Council members hold what we allow to be part time jobs, although I do not expect that Town code has required them to be such.
The pay and benefits for the Town Council members is more than many residents of Greenburgh earn for full time employment, so I cannot feel sorry for them on a pay basis that they hold full time jobs elsewhere. Town Council is a voluntary position and I would assume that those who seek it are familiar with the responsibilities. Probably the best office holder would be someone who has retired from their business career.

Nevertheless, to bind those in full time government by the schedule of those who only work part time government is foolish. And, as is usually the case, these meetings often include Town Department heads presence to address questions or hear firsthand.

Rather, I would argue that the Town Council send their "legislative assistant" to attend in their place and "report" what transpired.

The second part of my reply to you shapes my attitude regarding the first part above.
The Town Board holds a weekly work session on Tuesday afternoons. The Supervisor has a long-standing commitment to pick up his daughter on this day and to do this (yes he could hire a worker but think about spending "quality time") it has become customary for him to leave the work session and return later. The other members of the Town Board do not have a similar obligation. However, in their ongoing campaign to embarrass the Supervisor, they often bring up publicly that Feiner wasn't there for some topic that was discussed during this absence. This gives the appearance that he is shirking his duty. The remedy for this is to discuss the most important matters when he is likely to be present. Or, this perhaps an even better solution would be to schedule the work sessions earlier in the day (within normal business hours which would be easier on Department heads also) or at 7:00 when the Supervisor has returned AND the public can attend after their own work day. Since the work sessions have traditionally been scheduled for the convenience of the part-timers and since the Council does not have the decency to acknowledge this and the hardship this creates, perhaps they could not use their self-generated problem as a weapon against Feiner. Meanwhile, whatever criticisms residents have with the Supervisor, putting in the hours is not on anyone's list other than how the Town Council would paint it.

The conclusion: The Supervisor should not bear the problem of scheduling meetings around the schedules of four Council members.
He should announce the meeting date and time and they can attend or not attend, or send their delegate.

Anonymous said...

Having read yesterday's article in The Journal News, this project seems even more important.

Greenburgh should expedite the approval of the application once submitted and should put up no "roadblocks" whatsoever.

Jim Lasser said...

Dear Mr. Samis (Hal) -
I think you have hit upon a significant truth, though you refuse to say the words. The exact formulation of the magical incantation to achieve good, honest, thoughtful and effective government in Greenburgh can be discussed endlessly. The core concept is that Greenburgh has outgrown the existing structure. This has nothing to do with specific personalities - the individuals are immaterial in this discussion. The 18th Century institutions of Town Council and Town Supervisor are no longer suited to the task of governance in the 21st Century. The 1789 Town of Greenburgh map drawn at the behest of the then Supervisor shows only a handful of farms scattered through the unincorporated area. Today there are more households in Edgemont alone than were reported in the census of 1790 for the entire Town. When it took a full day for news to travel from New York City to Greenburgh's Town Hall, part time public officials were perfectly suited to the tasks of rural government. When it was "woman's work" to care for and raise children there were no familial time commitments a male supervisor needed to meet. When the Town's roads were unpaved and falling trees provided potential heating not lawsuits, Town Board members needed little more than common sense and inherent decency to do a credible job. When one's word was one's bond, lawyers were superflous to the process of government. Well, those days are gone - both the good and bad aspects have disappeared in modern life. We expect the kind of leadership and services that can be delivered only by a full-time government. A Town Board which meets but twice a month (in public session) and must, because of time constraints imposed by their need to earn a living and maintain some semblance of personal lives, rely on "executive summaries" delivered to them in lieu of their actively researching topics cannot do the professional job we expect of them. A Supervisor is but a single human being - she/he will have particular strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately in our modern world, we expect depth and expertise in an incredibly broad range of areas. Superman has not chosen to run for office. We need a Town Controller who is politically independent - it's his job to be the fiscal watchdog for the taxpayers. By definition there must be a degree of tension between the Town's administrators (Board and Supervisor) and the Controller. The job of the former is to propose spending plans and the job of the latter is to enforce discipline as the funds are spent. It is also his/her job to apply stringent standards to the Town's accounting practices - which can cause conflict with elected officials. The list of reasons for moving from an 18th century model to 21st century model goes on and on - and should be the subject of extended public discussion as a transition plan is created. But change the nature of our governmental model we must; time moves forward and so should we.
How about it Hal? Rather than employ your intellect solely to analyzing the current situation, how about developing a framework to move us forward? You started to do it with a request for a list of things a professional manager would do better than a political one. I propose that a professional will do a better job with fiscal management. Further, I propose a professional will have the time and training to look at long term policy issues like affordable housing. I also suggest that a professional will have the luxury to completely outline an idea rather than just float an endless series of interesting but potentially unworkable trial balloons. Your turn.

hal samis said...

Dear Jim (Lasser),

Once upon a time sliced bread was the bon mot to signify the be all, end all. And sliced bread led directly to toast which caused toaster traffic jam and this led to the 4 slice toaster. So even in the world of breakfast, we face increased traffic. Consider this an abused allergory for Central Avenue.

Klatu nirado nichtu which does not translate as wet birds don't fly at night or Are we not human.
Just a little late night pop culture jog.

And this brings to mind:

In a cell phone, answering machine, fax, internet and blackberry world, the technology is truly astounding. And they have led to even more astounding phone bills at the same time the cost of long distance has virtually disappeared.

And what does Marshall McLuhan have to do with John Naisbitt or Douglas Coupland? Or are stars the campfires of our departed ancestors?

These are just a few of my favorite things that come to mind when I am asked by bloggers to employ my intellect, if I am not pondering raindrops or warm, winter mittens.

But since you want to eke out my thoughts on the supervisor vs manager issue, let's run this up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.

Since I am still stumbling about in the void of not knowing what a professional manager costs, let me ponder on the realities of executive recruitment and do so in a somewhat stream of consciousness format. Read on and rejoyce.

Good people are always tempted to leave jobs, even move, even take their kids out of schools, for the chance at more money. Corporations offer equity or stock options in addition to perks, not to mention a big pile of money, just to retain a valued employee. What can Greenburgh do when a larger or wealthier municipality comes knocking at our door to steal away our Manager. Are we the stuff that can demand a "no compete" clause in a contract? And with the portability of these professionals, as they wave goodbye they leave with their version of long range planning.

But do we really need long range planning? In 1790, maybe? By 2007, perhaps not. Unless you want to get on the road that leads to saying affordable housing is a good thing, a better thing than parks. Therefore we shoud un dedicate parkland and build affordable housing because from 2007 forward, with the small number of undeveloped parcels remaining, the only place to build is in our parks or UP (higher). Most residents would say not in my lifetime and likewise professional managers suffer the same mortality rates as residents.

If politicians are bad and managers are good, why stop with town government. This idea should be embraced right up to the top. Does the President know any better than the Supervisor? And, if everyone realized this at once, how many "certified" professional managers are available for work?

If professional managers are immune to pleadings, influence and votes, wouldn't this also be the end of civic associations? If decisions are made by the "book", then what would be the purpose in public comment, public hearings and a Town Board.

Lots of professionals do their job without discussion or committees.
What I am suggesting is that life as we know it at Town Hall would likely change and that might not be such a good thing. Ever attend a Fortune 500 annual meeting? With professional management running the Company, it doesn't need the input of single share stockholders. So, why should our little piece of the firmament be any lesser, Mr. Lasser?

And if you have studied the fortunes of these professionally managed companies, the earnings grow, a desirable thing, year after year until once every decade or so they charge a write-off to current earnings. This write-off equals the earnings of the last ten years but in accounting terms it is a one time extraordinary event. However the paid out year-end bonuses and exercised stock options are not rescinded. With a professional management running the Town, why would it be different?

And more important. Even if it were possible to prove that a professional manager would do a better job (lack of empiric proof, quantities of qualitative analysis, etc.), the only way it would be possible would be via a referendum of the entire town. An expensive mounting to meet extensive indifference. You would need an infomerical on the Greenburgh equivalent of the Superbowl to build awareness and interest.

But standing solidly in the way would be every politician running for any office, be they incumbent or pretender. No one in office or running for office supports this proposition.

So, if you want to build support for this proposal, you've got to go further than just holding the mirror up to the incumbent. And at the end of the tunnel, there remains this question? How does one go about choosing a professional manager? If the Town Board can't select a good Town Attorney or good Comptroller, picking the person who, to be effective would be their boss, seems to be the equivalent of sending the flies out to buy the flypaper.

Hope this doesn't puncture your travail balloon, but instead of theory, you need to introduce some facts to support that it really is a round world. Because a square deal won't fit in a round whole.
Service out.

Anonymous said...

Who says the Town can't select a good attorney or a good comptroller?

Is the problem the employees, or that no one can work for Feiner??