Saturday, April 21, 2007


WELCOME HOME 180 EAST HARTSDALE AVE RESIDENTS....I just received a call from our Building Department advising me that the residents of 180 E HARTSDALE AVE can move back home. The residents have been homeless since Sunday night when they were evacuated as a result of the flooding on E Hartsdale Ave.
I'm asking the Commissioner of Public Works to present the town with a report and recommendations analyzing the cause of the problem on E Hartsdale Ave. Most important of all-- we need recommendations so that we can make sure that this kind of significant flooding never happens again.
Residents of 170 E Hartsdale Ave will most likely be able to move back home on Monday or Tuesday.
Mobil gas station has re-opened. So has the drug store. Some of the other stores will be reopening in less than 2 weeks. The restaurants and food establishments could take longer.


Jim Lasser said...

Have you considered hiring a professional engineering firm to prepare an in-depth, objective report on what happened, why it happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again? I am suggesting a paid professional -not getting volunteer help, not bringing in student interns, not adding to the duties of existing staff - because I believe that amateurs teach amateurs to be amateurs. The issues are serious and I think money would be better spent on getting help with this issue than on events for singles, doggie parks or other "enhancements".
Pointing fingers of blame won't prevent recurrences. Careful analyis and responsible management will mitigate, and perhaps prevent future damage. An objective, professionally prepared report by an independent third party followed by the non-partisan adoption of the engineering recommendations would be an excellent response to the current situation. I am assuming that the Town would accept the responsibility for fully funding, on an ongoing basis, the recommendations. I am suggesting that rather than ask the State, the County or the Federal government for money to do what needs to be done, and then waiting around for years until someone else decides it is time, that the Town go ahead and do the work. This is exactly the kind of situation for which one creates reserves and has a capital budget. Once our residents have been made secure, go after the external funding sources for reimbursement. Do not hold Greenburgh residents hostage to the political ambitions of anyone - do what is right. And do it right now!

Paul Feiner said...

I have already asked Al Regula to prepare a report highlighting the reasons why the flood problem happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. If the commissioner feels that the town could benefit from a professional engineering firm study, I certainly will support the request. I agree that the issues are serious. I never intended to use volunteers for this analysis or study. Volunteers are being recruited to help individual businesses.

Jim Lasser said...

Al Regula is a very fine human being - but I fear you are stretching his abilities to far. His day job is heading the Town's Department of Public Works, which is a full-time, hands-on operation. You have also tasked him to oversee the library construction - another serious, hands-on project. If he is to prepare a careful, meaningful report on the East Hartsdale Avenue drainage issues, one of his other tasks must necessarily suffer. Asking good people to do more than is reasonable is bad management. Beyond the time and energy requirement of writing the report, does he have the professional expertise? I am unaware of his having a degree in civil or hydraulic engineering. Don't you think it is about time Greenburgh started to act like the second largest political entity in Westchester rather than the simple semi-rural town it was 40 years ago? No other community of more than 85,000 would consider burdening a man with two jobs with yet another. Hire the professional engineer now and let Al Regula do the job he was hired to perform.

hal samis said...

To Mr. Lasser,

I don't get it.
Jim, you are so nice to someone like Mr. Regula and so critical of Mr. Feiner. The Town Supervisor does not run each and every department. We pay very good money in salaries, stipends and other perks to those that head these Departments. If any criticism should be levied against Mr. Feiner is that he is not agressive enough in weeding out the dead wood.

Mr. Regula has held his job too long. He may yet be found to be not such a very fine human being either. He has managed to survive numerous assignments which have turned out badly. With time permitting, a review of the staffing at DPW will unearth some revelations. As for how DPW runs things like garbage collection and even cleaning sewer drains on an ongoing program basis, the DPW is at best getting mixed reviews. As for how Mr. Regula hides the problems at the Library, A+.

However like some other Town Departments, the people heading them seem to be able to hold on to their jobs as though they themselves were an endangered species. The departure of Mr. Iagello represents the high water mark but there are others who just shouldn't make the cut, much less hired at levels above their capabilities. Tim Lewis, the Town Attorney, Jim Heslop, the Town Comptroller and Mark Stellato, the Planning Commissioner are the three others that I would be most happy to see find positions elsewhere. Unfortunately, in addition to Mr. Regula, the fifth wheel is the Town Clerk, Alfreda Williams is elected, albeit, running unopposed.

However putting Al Regula in charge of investigating the cause of the flooding is like hiring flies to protect the flypaper, or sending Ms. Woods out to fix the tape recorder. There have been allegations that the flooding may be the result of blockages which would be the responsibility of the DPW. While this may or not be the cause, or even just one event in a long chain, I believe in allowing Fifth Amendment rights and suggest that having an independent engineer conduct such a study would be a most judicious use of Town funds. Since there apparently will be a "windfall" from recaptured already allocated funds and those amounts which will no longer be directed there, the Town has the opportunity to direct those excess Valhalla dollars for items which were not part of the 2007 budget. This "mad" money need not take away from the dog parks and singles programs which are enhancements but what would Greenburgh be without all kinds of enhancements.

The Town does not run on the prestige of the Edgemont Schools alone.

Thus, I would expand upon your idea of just hiring an independent, professional engineer to look into the Hartsdale flooding. I argue that an extensive management review of the entire DPW be conducted with the objective of splitting it up into separate operating units. Too much power and too much control is given to one man. There is much more to be looked at in this Department, much more to be looked at than just holiday garbage collection schedules. The Hartsdale flooding although not a regularly occuring event merely highlights that when everything seems to be operating tolerably, it only takes one loose screw to show that the well-oiled machine is really hiding serious problems.

At for those of you who are concerned with the Tappan Zee Bridge predicament, Al Regula is the Town's man on this as well.

Anonymous said...

Paul get rid of Regula,can't you see that he only answers to Sheehan. Since Sheehan came on to the town board,Regula has become a two and so. You don't even exist,You ask him a question and the answer is given to Sheehan's backup question. Check the previous meeting tapes,and you will see what I have noticed.

Paul Feiner said...

I do not believe that we should look for scapegoats. We need to find solutions to problems. We had a problem on E Hartsdale Ave. We will address the problem. We will conduct a review and come up with recommendations so that merchants can be assured of the fact that there won't be a repeat of this disaster.

Anonymous said...

You don't believe in scapegoats?! You certainly did some finger pointed very early on suggesting that there was a blockage cause by the Parking District's debris.

Not true.

Is the a blockage? Yep. Did the town know about it? Yep. Did they do nothing about it? Yep. Did it cause the flood? Not sure. Has there ALWAYS been an issue with the stores that the landlords, shopkeeper & managing agents knew of? Yep. Always? Yep.

One who knows.

hal samis said...

Dear Mr. Feiner,

Butting goats is a preventative measure against their next failing turn in the batter's box.

These Department heads earn big bucks and they haven't learned their jobs yet. Mr. Regula has already been discussed.

Tim Lewis advised you that the Library contracts had to be signed by you forthwith or the Town would suffer the consequences. Even though the winning bidders had unlimited time to sign. Now, after the fact, we know that Tim Lewis had given you incorrect advice. This is not the first time that Tim Lewis has reversed himself when it no longer matters. Firing him now will prevent these things from happening still another time.

Mark Stellato never looked at the number of parking spaces required for the Library. It is right there in the Town Zoning Code. Similarly Mr. Stellato, responding to the "panic" from Edgemont, never advised those concerned, those professional "leaders", that you can't have a moratorium on just one road, for one use, for the benefit of one part of town and directed at one owner. Despite all the "concerns" for their School system, the moratorium ruse disappeared when the target of the moratorium encountered mapping problems. Mr. Stellato directed his Department to "red alert" response status merely to placate the two leaders.
Similarly Mr. Stellato has been wrong and wrong and wrong again regarding the Greenburgh Health Center application.

Jim Heslop has tolerated the false placement of a non-existing $310,000 of the repairs and maintenance item in the Library budget because that is what was always done in the past. However, without a building to allocate these items to and despite being aware of this before the final budget was adopted, Mr. Heslop has allowed this and other basic accounting principles to be ignored. These errors are missed by Auditors because when they come in they are unlikely to question items like repairs or maintenance (a normal expense and consistent with prior years) or to question whether the building, a town library, actually exists. There are more serious charges to be made but it would be better for all concerned were this alone be presented as the grounds to accept his "resignation".

Alfreda Williams has done everything possible to slow the FOIL process down. Perhaps it would move faster if she, herself, were actually present at her desk on any morning before 12:00 to 1:00. Greenburgh deserves a full-time Town Clerk. Furthermore at the Democratic monthly meeting she actually responded to criticism regarding FOIL processing by lying to those attending. She said that FOIL requests received when Town Hall was closed were not valid. How can we have a Town Clerk/Records Access Officer who either lies or is unfamiliar with the laws regarding FOIL requests.

If the Town Supervisor/Town Council cannot hire professionals and/or see that those in service perform their jobs honestly, fairly and rigorously, then perhaps Mr. Lasser's comments about hiring a Town Manager should be revisited.

Greenburgh cannot continue to look the other way when Department heads screw up. No organization can function when the "buck" doesn't stop somewhere. When it should stop in front of the "usual" suspects, it does not; instead it pursues its journey toward the horizon leaving the conclusion that these Department heads are only tolerated because they "know too much".

Hopefully that is not the case.

Anonymous said...

Question - in 17 years at the helm, has feiner ever fired anyone for poor job performance?

If not, then its more evidence we need someone new.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Feiner has driven competent people out for insisting the law took precedence over Feiner's political objectives. Those who left did so with outstandingly good severance packages, some additional financial compensation and non-disclosure agreements to keep them quiet. Want names? Start with Heslop's predecessors as controller,continue with a couple of Town attornies and see how many more you can find.
Political loyalty and willingness to make it happen for the Supervisor are the key job requirements for employment in the Town of Greenburgh. If Samis is coming around to Lasser's view, you can be sure something major is about to show up and it ain't gonna be pleasant.

Diogenes said...

Feiner has only fired people for cause - his being frustrated by their honesty.

Jim Lasser said...

Hal -
I said only that Al was a fine human being. He has always been polite to me and I was trying to return the favor.
I said nothing about his competence - or the competence of the rest of the gang on Hillside Avenue. If we are discussing competence, you may simply take your last set of remarks and add my name to the list of those subscribing to your view of the named individuals. I didn't attack anyone because I hoped the plea for bringing in a professional manager at the start would allow the town officials involved to save face and that they might respond by gracefully retiring. I will not make a snide remark about their pensions being fully padded after 16 years...
I'll settle for a complete change in the administration at Town Hall. Once that's accomplished, we can see about getting back the missing funds from the Town's liability policy - or from the outside auditors' insurers. Simultaneously we should insist future budgets and financial statements meet the standard of "presenting fairly and accurately the financial condition" of Greenburgh. The quote is from the independent auditor's statement certifying the Town's financials. They certainly haven't even come close to that standard - and I'd like to see them refund their fees as a consequence of their failure. If I sound cranky its because after re-reading the "capital budget" I'm firmly of the belief that it is neither.

Anonymous said...

The Town Supervisor can't fire anyone under NYS law. Only the Town Board can.

hal samis said...

Dear Jim et al,

There really is no mystery. The wagons are again being drawn in a circle because the Town fears that one of these merchants and apartment building occupants -- or all of them -- will wake up to the idea that they may want to sue the Town. All the concern for their well-being is really the concern over potential litigation. If not only from the merchants and apartment residents, but perhaps from their landlord as well.

Al Regula's job right now is to put out the fire and thus he will offer lots of reasons to exonerate DPW, himself and the deep pockets of the Town.

Al Regula will again be canonized because to hold him responsible is to hold the Town responsible. Does anyone believe that Mr. Regula is going to say "we goofed" or the more familiar colloquial version?

I will acknowledge now that following the rains, on my walk to the train station I noted that instead of the usual lake opposite Duane Reade and the torrents of water submerging pedestrian access to the Station Plaza area, the situation had been completely neutralized. Eureka! I was so pleased with arriving at work with dry feet and unsplashed that I sent a congratulatory email off to DPW. The clearing of the storm drains had succeeded! But soon after posting, I had a second thought: why had this never been done before, every heavy rain always produced the same result.

There will always be bloggers who applaud the fine job that DPW is doing. However, when the reality sets in, they too will understand that plowing and picking up the garbage is the DPW raison d'etre. The Department is (or should be)staffed and equipped to meet the demands of the job. It is the taxpayers who are doing a fine job in paying for these services. And if there is inadequate staffing or equipment for those tasks which repeat year after year, season after season, then that too is the reponsibility of Mr. Regula to argue for; just like Chief Kapica of the Police Department does.

And perhaps taxpayers need to understand where the work of the DPW ends and the work of the Parks Department begins -- and where they overlap.

"Everything is ok" however is what Mr. Regula really knows how to say and to all of you who were present for the Library reports but were unconcerned when he said regarding that project, that "everything is ok" are really arriving late for the show, you missed the overture and the curtain has already gone up.

The common thread connecting: garbage pick-up, sidewalk repairs, leaf collection, snow removal, the blocked drains, roadside litter, the Library construction, (don't forget the flawed sanitation garage and the multipurpose center construction problems) while waiting in-the-wings is the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Court/Police expansion, is DPW and its head, Al Regula.

And those of you who are alert may remember a few years back, an unfinished review of the DPW Department which was done by an outside consultant. Unfortunately it was never completed and the "draft" remains unFOILable. Anyone curious?

Like I say when discussing the Library, but you may conclude that the problem runs deeper, is "Don't worry, be happy".

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 11:23PM -
Is it also the sole priviledge of the Town Board to hire department heads? I think not, Mr Feiner. As with a Cabinet Secretary, doesn't every appointee give you a signed and undated letter of resignation? You appoint the department heads and you are not so stupid as to appoint them without recourse should they displease you. Date Mr. Regula's letter of resignation and begin a real reform effort - or face the consequences in November. No More Mayberry!

Jim Lasser said...

The last commentator makes a good point. Department heads are appointed by the Supervisor - I don't know whether the Town Board needs to approve the appointments or not. Whether or not the Town Board is the only body that can actually terminate an employee for cause, one would think the Supervisor would insist on having a letter of resignation from each appointee in hand before the appointee started work...
That brings us to an extension of Hal's point. The Supervisor appoints a department head. The Supervisor has, in effect, certified that the individual is capable of heading the department in question, has the necessary and appropriate paperwork attesting to his/her competence from whatever licensing authority, and HAS THE SUPERVISOR'S CONFIDENCE. Presumably the Supervisor has done at least a modicum of due diligence. The Supervisor is a full time employee of the Town and his job description includes the responsibility for filling those vacancies. The part-timers on the Town Board should be able to rely on their colleague's judgement when he makes a recommendation. When the Supervisor's appointee makes a mistake - say, for example, he oversees the building of a town garage for garbage trucks and the final garage is several inches too short to accomodate the trucks - the Supervisor has a choice. By not insisting the employee resign immediately, the Supervisor is endorsing the result of the mistake. Most of us would take the tacit endorsement as an acceptance of responsibility for the outcome. Further, when the Town Board doesn't insist on the employee's resignation they too would seem to be acquiescing in the result. Apparently in the world of Greenburgh politics this is not the case. In Greenburgh the public accepts the responsibility for the mistake by re-electing the Supervisor, and both the Supervisor and his direct, hands-on choice of subordinate are insulated from any adverse consequences. When re-elected after such a fiasco, the Town Board members also acquire the magic political "cloak of invincibility and omniscience."
Sorry - none of that washes. Serious mistakes should have serious consequences - that's not scapegoating, that's acting like a grownup and accepting responsibility for one's actions. Toughing it out after some mistakes is acceptable - if the responsible party apoligizes and promises to do better next time. It is NOT acceptable to constantly shift the blame to someone else - especially if the appointment of that someone else was your direct act. It's time to get it right - hold the appropriate people responsible and stop finding excuses for inexcusable behavior.

Anonymous said...

SHEEHAN'S AID GETS$50,000.00 DOLLARS AS A SALARY WHY NOT LET HIM DO A MANS JOB,LIKE CLEANING OUT THE STORM SEWERS.tHIS WAY HE WILL REALLY BE EARNING HIS PAYCHECK.The taxpayers are paying for his salary,why not put the money to good use. Hey Bass he could be an apprentice.