Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Please post your comments about town issues.



Anonymous said...

(as previously stated)

I do not support changing the sidewalk sale law. But I do support allowing Greenburgh merchants - individually or as a collective - to request an exception to the law for summertime weekends. It's important that they request specific dates in advance because additional police presence is needed for sidewalk sale events. No fees or bureaucratic craziness; just clear, professional, simple communications and expectations in advance for all parties (merchants, police, etc.)

hal samis said...

Is it too late to submit a TONY nomination for this year's awards?

If not, then I would like to nominate the Special Town Board Meeting, today's afternoon performance as best dramedy with Francis Sheehan up for best Actor award.

Please read carefully because this is emblematic of how things get done badly, maybe even by good people, in Greenburgh.

The Agenda for this meeting promised the vote to allow "granting an amendment to the Special Permit for the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center (what we know as the Greenburgh Health Center, GHC) property located at Knollwood Road".

The assembled cast included Paul Feiner (Supervisor), Steve Bass, Eddie Mae Barnes, Diana Juettner, Francis Sheehan (Town Council), Tim Lewis (Town Attorney), GHC, the Applicant represented by Mark Weingarten, Mark Stellato (Town Planning Commissioner), Alfreda Williams (Town Clerk), Gil Kaminer (Town Puck) and the Public, represented by Ella Presiser, resident at large; Ivan Sargent, representing Broadview Civic Association (across the street) and myself, representing freedom, justice and the American way.

FIRST ACT: (lights go out on Board)
The meeting scheduled to begin at 5:00 did not due to an over-the- top Executive Session (no witnesses, no loose lips) which featured the Town's outside Counsel, no... not the State Comptroller. When the Special Town Board meeting was finally called to order, it was already fast approaching the Supervisor's downstage exit (long-standing family obligtion) so after a few minutes of minor Agenda items, the top billed act was "on" or "off". "Off" because they quickly called a recess since the Attorney for the Health Center (GHC) had to discuss a change to the approved resolution. Mindful of consistency, had they allowed Weingarten to discuss it during the meeting, this might invite comments from the Public -- all three of us. So they recessed in order to allow Mr. Sheehan to leave the meeting and caucus with Weingarten. This took about 30 minutes and produced a new (if you knew) paragraph to the existing Resolution. By the time Sheehan returned with new copies of the Resolution, Mr. Feiner had long since left so he can say whatever he wants, but he was not part of the vote.

Now the issue is this, the GHC site on Knollwood derives a Clientele, the bulk of which arrive by public transporation or on foot. This attested to by the GHC so as to not run afoul of onsite parking requirements. The Public Transportation could be taxis but it is more likely the County Buses which stop on Tarrytown Road at Knollwood. To get to and from the bus stops requires a walk past the Church on the corner and the next door office building (also a Weingarten client). However Knollwood is a State Road and there is no sidewalk since there is little remaining right-of-way, having already been exhausted for road widening. This means that Clients of the GHC would have to walk along the road shoulders unprotected and encounter not only the cars on Knollwood but also those entering and exiting the next door office building as well as the eventual new Library traffic on the other side.

The intersection of Knollwood and Tarrytown Road is likely to receive some review and action by the State DOT but when and what is not yet known and this may all be put on hold until the denouement of the Tappan Zee Bridge is resolved (Knollwood being a four way, entrance/exit to 287). The State has not in the past honored commitments and there is no indication that this time will be any different.

What the State allows is that the situation is unsafe but they would, until the intersection is resolved, tolerate a multi-modal facility (painted yellow stripes along the road shoulder) until a sidewalk was built BUT the TOWN would have to assume ALL responsibility for any legal consequences should an accident or death occur. Remember it is the Applicant/Town which is requesting the suspension of belief because the GHC has powerful friends. The GHC is a venerable and much needed local institution but this does not mean the the Town should tolerate Townwide liability for a known and determined hazardous situation. And the Town's Zoning and Planning Boards conditioned a permit to build based upon construction of a sidewalk. These conditions came about after numerous Public Hearings (the matter has been going on for four years because the GHC bought the site without first obtaining the proper zoning) but their Attorney was "well-connected".

So with transcripts, decisions and State conditions of record, you would think that the Town Board would act sensibly and say, build the sidewalk first and we'll talk. No, said the GHC, we can't commit to that because we don't own the adjacent properties, the State doesn't have adequate frontage remaining and it is likely that some sort of eminent domain may have to occur. And we are non-profit so after we pay our high salaries, we may not have enough money to fund the sidewalk. Please, please Town Board, we need to get this project moving and, by the way, it is an election year and our Clients vote.

So the Town Board, lead agency under SEQRA, has decided that the Applicant under its own cost (should the State not include it in their intersection planning) should provide a proper sidewalk.
Or did they?

What the Public requested and got was the Resolution first shown to the Public this afternoon (but lacking the two letters of the approved "multi-modal facility" plan from the State despite the Resolutions stating that "Copies of the letters are attached to and made part of this Rsolution". Well you can't expect the Town Clerk and Gil Kaminer to do everything after all...and besides who is going to look at them.
Only those who then have to FOIL for them.

But when you read the intended Resolution, you see that the intent is to allow the GHC to proceed with construction and, by 2010, if the State has done nothing then the Town would commence eminent domain if a right-of-way cannot be otherwise obtained and the GHC would be responsible for all the costs relating to acquiring and constructing a permanent sidewalk. While this was underway, the GHC could open under a temporary C of O (not uncommon) and should they not comply, they would not get a permanent C of O and would be forced to close. (not only uncommon but unlikely)Right? The Town would shut them down after they moved out of their old space and into their new. But, as you can detect my skepticism, let me say this that marks only the "first act closer". Which brings us to the intermission. House Lights on

ENTRACTE (offstage)
Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Stellato and Mr. Lewis and Mr. Weingarten go outside to talk turkey based on some new revelations of Mr. Weingarten who was not allowed to share them in view of the Public.
That leaves Bass, Barnes & Juettner to chat because they are happy to follow the script and show that "they" are not concerned by what they may vote on -- or that they have any knowledge of what my yet be writ. Francis will explain it in due time.

SECOND ACT (even dimmer)
Ok, take your seats and here we have a new version of the Resolution; this one is off a different word processor and the font is of smaller size. It is announced that the word "accept" of this new version should really be approve" and now let's vote. No discussion among the four Town Council members (Feiner, long gone) of any other differences between this version and the old version. "Come on kids, let's vote on the Amended version" and vote they do. Now before I tell you what the ADDED paragraph states, let me make this observation: Imagine a world without Paul Feiner, a world in which the harmony of the Town is preserved and the Town Council, left to their own devices, has the opportunity to show Residents what they can do -- on their own and without the Supervisor to poison their thoughts...just the votes of the GHC clients to weigh on their minds.

The new paragraph inserted in the NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED section conditon B.1 of the Special Permit is modified as follows: flip to the new paragraph written by Mr. Sheehan with the help of Lewis and Weingarten; B (ii)

*** "In the event that the Town Board does not "approve" the petition,

[my brackets to explain this earlier reference ("the Applicant shall PETITION the Town Board to condemn such parcels of private property as shall be sufficient to permit a public sidewalk to be constructed by the Applicant) now back to the new paragraph]

*** "the Applicant shall be required to obtain any easements required to construct the sidewalk at its own cost and expense. The Town Board, the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals have determined that a sidewalk is necessary for safe pedestrian access and the Town Board has conditioned this approval to ensure a sidewalk will be built to protect the pedestrians and the town. However, after the Applicant has exhausted all efforts, to the satisfaction of the Town Board, to obtain the required easements and has been unsuccessful, the Town Board then in effect may be petitioned by the Applicant to have this condition re-considered."

And what did Mr. Sheehan give the Applicant? If they can't get the easements, then the Town Board can make the required conditions go "away" and a permanent C of O would be granted. What Mr. Weingarten gave Mr. Sheehan, in return, is unknown. What the other members of the Town Council really know or understand regarding this paragrpah; or even that it is a new paragraph, they just being told to focus on changing the work "accept" to "approve". But you don't really expect them to take the time to read the new document they are being urged to vote for? Hey, they're only part-timers. This Fall, let's let the first two, Steve Bass and Eddie Mae Barnes, be released from enduring the rigors of these part time jobs (at a pay scale that is full time for many residents).

So while acknowledging that the sidewalk is necessary, they allow that there is also a good possibility that it will not be enforced. If so, that would disregard the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals, a supposedly independent Board and I don't think that even the Town Board can overturn their decision.

So would things be different in Feiner were present? Likely not, he wants the GHC to get underway too. And on hand as support would be Tim Lewis to assure him that in his legal opinion, everything is kosher. But the point is that the Town Council, as much as their advocates would argue that when it really counts, you can depend on the Town Council to do the right thing. Right?

The right thing is not to fall prey to the pressures of allowing the GHC to proceed with an acknowledged hazard. The GHC's business is to save lives not to create new emergency room patients.
In the four years the GHC has been struggling to overcome the liabilities of an improper site, the sidewalk issue (easements, eminent domain) should have been cured by the construction of the appropriate permanent sidewalk BEFORE site work and construction of the facility begins.

So with four votes present to say "aye", the Town's residents (both A and B residents) find themselves back to square one (fallen tree on Central Avenue) and now awaiting the next "accident" to happen. What is different this time is the pages of transcript of Public Hearings, the language of this Resolution, itself, the Town Council's year long quest to provide sidewalks for reasons of safety (like the sidewalk gaps on Central Avenue and Tarrytown Road) and then to pass this Sheehan drawn but, unread by the others, Resolution so that the project can commence...the difference is that this time EVERYONE knows or should know but the liablilities are being swept under the rug.

Get the broom out this November. The Town Council is not Feiner's invention; they have taken great pains to show how much better they are than him. And this is the result.

I would add that if you can't countenance voting for the candidate(s) running against Steve Bass and Eddie Mae Barnes, and I say they can be no worse, then just don't vote for anyone for Town Council and let the incumbents win with just their own votes tallied.

FINALE (stage lights flicker then fade to black while offstage chorus repeats: "just need three but four no more, just need three but four no more")

Anonymous said...

The Town Council should have allowed everyone who wants to speak at work sessions the opportunity to speak.

Michael Kolesar said...

Unbelievable !!!! Hal, tell us you made all of that up. Please.

Even if you are 50% wrong, wow!

To be continued ....

Jim Lasser said...

Forewarned is forearmed? Well, the four have at least been warned - even if they weren't armed to deal with it. So, in this case the sign of the four should probably read,"Greenburgh Health Center - We offer both Physical and Fiscal Therapy. Suits to fit all sizes."

hal samis said...

Dear Jim,

Or one could say that this is another example of FOURplay, what happens before the public gets screwed.

Anonymous said...


I think a TONY would be a disservice, so I'm thinking about getting nominating forms for the Pulitzer, Nobel Peace Prize and a Peoples Choice award!

I am fascinated with this character you call: Gil Kaminer (Town Puck).

Brilliant casting and playwriting.

But I must ask, this fabulous story that you craft surely could not represent what goes on in our fair hamlet of Greenburgh.

I would expect the gallant Sir Francis to be much more chivalrous and ride to the rescue of all the citizens needs.

Or is it that this Francis character is indeed some dark force that casts a shadow over our fair town?

If we were to transpose this tale to the Wild West, I would probably say that it is time for a shootout at the Greenburgh coral.

While Darth Francis will survive for yet another day, it may be time for his less than ably bodied henchmen (Steve & Edie) to exit stage left.

Hey isn't that what happened to Silvio & Bobby B. from Tony's crew?

Hal, just let us know when the box office opens. I'm ready to get me a seat!

Anonymous said...

I hope there is a publisher for the collected writings of Hal Samis. It might be in the political science section, but definitely non-fiction.

Anonymous said...

Why do we deal with the Steve & Edie show when there exist at least some people in this town who can think, talk & speak like Hal.

hal samis said...

Dear 12:35,

Do you think that's why Greenburgh needs a larger Public Library?

12:35 said...

I am afraid that your collected works would be banned from the Greenburgh Library, more's the pity.

Anonymous said...

I am writing to talk about the upcoming school budget vote. Though I am a supporter of public education, have campaigned in another district for increased state funds, have written grants to help at risk students and have worked as a teacher and administrator in urban districts for over thirty years, I was not able to support the first proposed budget and am also unable to support this second proposal. The board has merely divided the budget into two parts, placing the cuts no one wants on the first list, hoping people will foolishly vote yes to both parts, giving them the largest tax raise in the county. Every child - rich and poor alike deserves an opportunity for a good public education. Unfortunately, when we read in the district's newlestter about our least able students, instead of reading about a tenacious approach to helping every child achieve a high school diploma - the ticket to any possible future employment - we are reading about a guidance program for those students who have been deemed unable to earn a diploma. When we look at our middle school, we are reading about a gang of studnets breaking another student's leg. I fully understand why those parents who can afford a private education choose that route. They are right not to trust their children's education to our schools. Our schools have not proved that they can provide a safe and enriched education. Though we have an IB Early Years Program, I have seen no sign of Middle Years or High School Program, and it is only the upper grade program that places rigorous demands on students. I understand that when some people vote no on a school budget they are voicing their frustration about other government agencies, or about inflation or the price of gas. That can happen because the school budget is the only separate, discreet budget residents get to vote on. Mine is a no vote because I believe the proposed tax rate poses a burden on new families who choose to move into Greenburgh despite the poor reputation of our schools, on empty-nesters and seniors who may be close to or living on a fixed income and on anyone already paying the high home prices and taxes in our town. Mine is a no vote because I have no confidence in the board of education and its employees to use the money effectively to improve education. It is a no vote, because when the district had an opportunity to use grant money to restructure, this was not done to improve education for all potential students. I urge everyone to vote no and send the message that we want value for our money. We support public education, but the board needs to be realistic in its request and visionary in its proposals.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Greenburgh Board of Education needs to begin to act respectfully in public and in private with the Superintendent. They get upset when the students fight in the school, but what type of example are they setting?

It is disgraceful the way that in particular Mr. Williams acts towards her.

What chance does this district ever have to attract a talented superintendent when they see how they will be publicly disrespected?

Anonymous said...

It is no more disgraceful than the district's ludicrous attempt to convince voters that the district is not spending more money per student than many other districts.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we have a place just for board of ed postings... especially with the budget vote coming up????

Greenburgh 7 -- from Sundays NY times said...

According to the US Census Bureau -- listing of expensive school districts --

"Leading the list in Westchester is Greenburgh Central School District, at $25,664 per student."

Anonymous said...

That's pretty embarrassing, especially with a big cause being transportation of district students to attend private schools. Edgemont is the lowest in Greenburgh, probably because there's less out-of-district transportation since people are happy with those schools? Perhaps a valuable lesson for Greenburgh Central - improve quality of instruction and transportation costs will go down?

Link to data:

Anonymous said...

Oh please, the difference is not all due to transporation. Look at the NY times link -- cost of salaries and benefits per student -- BUS COSTS DO NOT ENTER INTO THIS -- G7 is at the top of the chart

cost of salaries per student

13.8 -- G7

10.6 -- Edgemont

Anonymous said...

And transporation costs include two components -- first, transportation of district students to G7 schools, and second, transportation of residents students to private schools.

Lets not pretent that this crazy arrangemnt of not having two K-5 schools isnt costing money. More students would not require bus transportation.

Anonymous said...

The cost to bus C7 children to private schools is about 50K. The contribution by way of school taxes from these families is about 2.5 million.

If you ask me, the District has, by far, the better end of the bargain as that 2.5 million and how its used is never questioned by these families.

The next time the C7 board threatens (extorts) to pull the bus service of kids in private schools because these families don't vote their budget in, they will find their hands full with a whole host of other issues.