Saturday, November 19, 2011

valhalla loses WESTHELP lawsuit

On April 26, 1990, Westchester County (County) entered into a 30-Year “Ground and Facilities Lease Agreement” (Master Lease) with the Town of Greenburgh (Town) that would commence upon the expiration of a 10-year lease agreement between the County and the Westchester Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (WestHELP) for a homeless housing facility. At the end of the 10-year lease term the homeless housing program would end and the County would lease the facility to the Town for a period of 30 years. The facility was to be used for low-to-moderate income family/senior citizen housing.

Near the impending expiration of the original lease agreement, the County continued to have a need for the homeless housing facility. The County requested a modification of the “Ground and Facilities Lease Agreement” with the Town, and asked the Town to sublease the facilities to WestHELP for another 10 years. Under the terms of the contract WestHELP would pay rent to the Town. On September 18, 2001, the County, Town and WestHELP entered into a “Sublease and Homeless Housing Facilities Agreement” (Sublease). The Town subleased the facilities to WestHELP for another 10 years. In consideration, the Town would receive rental payments of $1,200,000 for the initial period from September 18, 2001 to September 30, 2002, and $1,222,844 each year for the remaining term of the agreement.

In order to alleviate some of the perceived financial burden supposedly placed on the community in which the homeless housing facility was located, the Town entered into an “Educational Grant Agreement” with the Valhalla Union Free School District (District) to provide up to $650,000 annually for the development and implementation of enhanced educational programs. The “Educational Grant Agreement” stipulates that grant monies may not be used to supplement or pay for the standard educational activities engaged in by the District, but rather must be used to fund academic programs, the purpose of which is to provide educational benefits not otherwise available in the District.

The State Comptroller's office determined that the town agreement with the school district was invalid. The town immediately stopped paying the school district the dollars that had been agreed to--after we were advised that the agreement was not authorized by state law. The Comptroller stated that

The Town can only fund programs that are for Town purposes. The general function of providing education to children is a school district, not a town, purpose.1 Since the 2003-04 school year, the Town has provided more than $1.8 million of funding to the District. The programs funded by the educational grant that the Town makes to the District do not further Town purposes, but rather further the purposes only of the District. Therefore, the grant cannot be made in the manner that the Town currently follows. Moreover, even if the funding had furthered proper Town purposes, none of the funded programs are made available to the surrounding communities within the Town and, consequently, benefit only those Town residents who coincidentally reside within the District.

The Valhalla School district filed a lawsuit in NY State Supreme Court--objecting to the fact that the town was complying with the state comptroller's decision. In a decision just released, a NYS Supreme Court Judge denied Valhalla's claim in the decision--(link to decision is below). The court indicated that the town is entitled to recover monies previously paid to the Valhalla School district. Over $1.8 million had been paid out to the Valhalla schools previously.

link to decision below:


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

new bagel store...popham road closure...budget meetings schedule

Eileen Rivilis of Seville Realty gave me some good news. SUNSHINE BAGEL (they own a great bagel store in Ardsley) has signed a lease and will be taking over the abandoned Dunkin Donuts store at 47 North Central Ave. They are trying to get Con Ed to provide them with gas service. Khangri, a Japanese food store, is going to open at the end of the month on Central Ave. And Chef Depot, a restaurant supply store open to the public will open in early December (perhaps a bit earlier) at 65 Tarrytown Road by the Loehman’s shopping plaza.

Popham Road Bridge Closure Notice FRIDAY

The Village of Scarsdale’s Popham Road Bridge Contractor is scheduled for a complete closure of the Popham Road Bridge and a portion of Scarsdale Avenue to vehicular and pedestrian traffic from 9:00pm on Friday, November 18th to 6:00am on Saturday, November 19th. A traffic detour will be implemented to accommodate those who are unable to avoid this area during these times. Drivers are highly encouraged to use alternate routes and avoid Popham Road, Garth Road, and Scarsdale Avenue areas during the bridge closure period. Efforts to minimize the inconvenience and delays to adjacent home owners and motorists have been coordinated by the Village and other project stakeholders. Additional advisories will be issued in the event of a change in the bridge closure schedule. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and we appreciate your patience during this temporary inconvenience.


Revised Schedule The Town Board met with the Commissioner of Planning and Town Attorney today during our work session to discuss the proposed budget. The following is the meeting schedules with other department heads. A public hearing on the budget will be held on November 30th at 7:30 PM. Meetings are televised live and streamed live on the town website: Work sessions are also archived. Since layoffs are being considered – all personnel discussions will be in executive session.
This is a difficult budget. The proposed budget complies with the new property tax cap (which limits tax hikes). However—cuts have to be made. Your feedback is appreciated.

November 22nd
9:30am – Police Department
11:00am – Tax Receiver
11:30am – Comptroller

November 29th
9:30am – DPW
10:30am – Town Clerk
11:00am – Purchasing
7:00pm – TDYCC
8:00pm – Parks & Recreation

December 6th
9:30am – Courts
11:00am – Building Inspector
7:30pm – Library
Paul Feiner

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


November 8, 2011, 8:13 am
Tapping the Tappan Zee for Wind

Cassi Alexander for The New York Times
The Tappan Zee Bridge, which bears far more traffic than it was designed for and is due to be replaced.Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge, which carries the New York State Thruway across the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland Counties, is expected to be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the New York region in coming years. Some experts have suggested including some green features, like tracks for commuter trains or a bus rapid transit lane.

Paul Feiner, the town supervisor in Greenburgh in Westchester County, also has a green idea: wind turbines.

Mr. Feiner says he wants a bridge that would “generate excitement.” Wind turbines would inspire the thousands of people who use it daily to conserve energy or embrace renewable energy, he suggests. It could even be a tourist destination.

The idea of replacing the bridge has been around for years, but the prospects for getting it done improved significantly last month when President Obama designated it, along with a handful of other projects nationwide, for “fast track” environmental approval.

In theory, that could allow work to start in about a year. Mr. Obama was less concerned with the bridge’s perennial traffic jams, with about 45 million vehicles using it last year, than with the thousands of jobs that the construction project would create.

Adding wind turbines would run counter to the approach supported by some New York State officials, who want to strip the proposal down to the bare bones to minimize costs in this fiscally dicey period, forgoing the addition of train tracks, for example, but leaving open the possibility of adding them later.

Asked about the wind turbine idea, a spokesman for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Matt Wing, simply replied, “We are in the process of taking comments and feedback from the public on the Tappan Zee Bridge project and we will be considering them as they are submitted.”

They might get a large number of comments from an unexpected quarter: Mr. Feiner recently sent a letter to the heads of science departments at high schools and middle schools around the county and to some colleges as well, asking them to have their students evaluate the idea.

He included a photo of a somewhat fanciful design for a viaduct in Italy that incorporates wind machines.

Is it practical?

Probably not, given that big wind machines are generally planted on ridge lines around the United States, not bridges. Their blades accumulate ice in cold weather and tend to shed the ice in great showers, making them unsafe to approach (or drive under) during many hours of the year.

Still, there is a booming business in small wind, meaning machines that generate a few kilowatts – enough, say, to run a house or several houses. The American Wind Energy Association said that sales of such small machines jumped 53 percent in 2010, with about 800 units sold.

Asked about such a project’s practicality, 3TIER, a company that evaluates potential wind sites around the country for their suitability, suggested that the wind might be adequate, although it has no detailed information on the Tappan Zee.

A key factor is how high the wind machine is placed, given that winds 100 or 200 feet above the surface are usually far stronger than those on the ground.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

sports dome at frank's nursery--town to generate revenue


Earlier this summer the Town Board invited developers to submit proposals for the redevelopment of Frank’s nursery (a property we acquired due to foreclosure). We publicized the RFPs in newspapers, on the town website and even placed a sign at the property. Six potential applicants visited the property. Three submitted bids. All the bids will be posted on the town website.

There were two proposals from developers who wanted to purchase the property. The Board is most interested in a third proposal: to rent out the property for the first premier indoor sports dome in Westchester. The proposals are posted on the town website:

The town will receive monthly rent based on an annual amount of $260,000 a year. There will be regular annual increases each year.

The goal of Game On’s plan is to bring world class sports instruction and year round field space to residents. There will be health, wellness and physical activities for residents of all ages (including pilates, yoga, dance, cross fit and cardio). Adult sport leagues, coaching clinics for Greenburgh Recreation, AYSO and WYSL, senior programs, youth rec nights for 5 - 12 year olds and tutoring classes will also be offered.

I think this concept could be exciting—we’re adding recreation to the town at no cost to the taxpayers. Good for quality of life—good for property values, in my opinion.

Feel free to call me if you have any questions. The Town Board hopes to make a final decision before the end of the year. Your feedback is always welcome.

Paul Feiner

Greenburgh Town Supervisor

PS: We will discuss this at our Town Board meeting on Wednesday evening beginning at 7:30 PM.

Friday, November 04, 2011

please be patient..

Please be patient. There are many tree branches and debris all over town. We have crews out every day. I have authorized overtime for tomorrow (Saturday) so we can address storm damage. Bring branches/debris to curb. If you bag the leaves they will be picked up quicker. The entire sanitation and highway departments are working on addressing this problem.
However…it is important to recognize the fact that there is so much out there that it is impossible to clear up everything immediately. We hope that you’ll notice a significant difference next week at this time but it probably will take a few weeks to get all the debris.
Because the phones are ringing off the hook it is better to e mail me or the department of public works ( your concerns. In the event of emergencies call the police.
Again—please be patient. We will do the best we can. I PROMISE YOU THAT WE WILL WORK VERY HARD TRYING TO CLEAN UP THE STORM DAMAGE


The Tappan Zee bridge could be converted into a suburban version of the NYC high line. Cyclists enjoy the bike ride across the TZ bridge annually--the MS bike ride. Let's save the old bridge when the new bridge is built.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

put power lines underground when major road work is being done


Five years ago I recommended that Con Ed put their wires underground (see NY Times article below). Con Ed rejected the recommendation-stating that the costs were prohibitive. Since 2006 there have been numerous power outages in Greenburgh. Many residents have experienced power outages three times a year. Is this a 3rd world country?

The frequent power outages have caused a loss of productivity, financial problems for businesses that have experienced power outages and significant expenses for Con Ed (hiring out of state crews to restore power and paying their own employees overtime during storms. Local governments like Greenburgh have had to assume the cost of cleanup.

At the Greenburgh Town Board work session members of the Town Board discussed whether power lines should be placed underground. A suggestion was made that makes good sense. Whenever the state/county/town is involved in a major road project the government entity that is doing the road project should work with Con Ed to bury the lines on that street. In addition...fiber optics could be placed underground --helping the locality keep up with the latest technology.

An example: NYS just completed a major road/drainage/sidewalk project off of Dobbs Ferry Road and W Hartsdale Ave. There are currently outages in this section of town. If wires had been placed underground during the construction we might have avoided significant outages.

The federal and state governments, as part of a stimulus job creation initiative, could provide local governments and Con Ed with financial help when roads are repaved and milled.

If the above suggestion is implemented we will be moving in the right direction...there will be fewer outages and the cost of placing wires underground will not be prohibitive since the work will be done gradually. Fewer outages will mean that when there are storms- those who experience outages will get their power restored quicker.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor

For Con Ed, It May Be Time to Go Underground
Published: September 24, 2006
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AT first there was something charmingly old-fashioned about it: Dad, Mom and the children gathered around, reading by candlelight and flashlight; people idling with neighbors they scarcely knew before; lunches and dinners cooked on outdoor grills.

But the charm of a plague of darkness like the kind that struck Westchester three times this summer wears thin in today's ultra-wired universe. The children want to watch a DVD rather than turn the pages of a book or play gin rummy. They don't even know what gin rummy is. Husbands and wives need to check their e-mail 24/7, even on lazy holiday weekends. Cellphones and iPods need to be recharged. Trader Joe's frozen jasmine rice goes bad when the refrigerator dies.

The power failures that Westchester had -- from Ernesto on Labor Day weekend, a tornado and lesser windstorm in July and powerful storms earlier in the year -- were not the kind of encompassing grid failures that blacked out New York City in 1965, 1977 and 2003. Lights then were restored in a day or two.

But with Ernesto blowing down 1,300 trees and weekend utility crews spread exceedingly thin, whole neighborhoods had to cope without electricity for five or six days. The romance faded very quickly.

The supervisor of Greenburgh, Paul J. Feiner, who compared the ineffective response with that of a Third World country, has asked the utility to explore the merits of gradually burying power lines underground, where they won't be a subject to the whims of weather. He suggested that overhead lines might be as outdated as rotary-dial phones.

''People have no confidence the power is going to stay on,'' he said. ''I've had constituents who had five, six and seven outages this year alone.''

Mr. Feiner comes up with proposals as often as Mickey Rooney once did, though his are not aimed at prospective brides. But this time he may be right: burying cables may be an idea whose time has come. The suburbs have matured from quaint bedroom communities to places where one-third of Americans live. In 1950, just before Con Edison took over county power, Westchester had 625,000 people, or 1,445 per square mile. It now has 923,459, or 2,134 per square mile. While it once had 25,000 acres of farmland, it is down to 9,900, mostly plant nurseries enabling suburbanites to adorn backyards.

Americans live far differently than they did in the 1950's or even the 90's. More work out of their homes because they can, as long as computers and fax machines keep working. Children raised on Super Mario Brothers cannot spend four days by flashlight.

William J. McGrath, Con Edison's vice president for the Bronx and Westchester electric operations, marshals some compelling arguments for keeping the present system. It costs $100,000 a mile to string a line overhead, but $1 million to bury it, which would mean $5 billion for the entire county. Those figures don't include the costs of repeatedly restringing lines after storms, but Mr. McGrath said repairs on underground cables, though less frequent, are much more expensive and take much longer than lifting workers to the top of a pole in a bucket truck.

Con Edison, he said, runs underground cable in downtowns like White Plains and Yonkers where the density of population and the density of cables required justify the costs. But homeowners in more spread-out villages, he argued, would not want to see their bills raised to pay for burying cables, including the $2,000 to $10,000 per home for new metering equipment.

But what Con Edison doesn't seem to factor in is the cost of lost days of work, spoiled food, hotels for orphans of the storm -- and shattered equanimity. If predictions of global warming and its consequences are to be trusted, Westchester residents can expect more seasons of fierce storms and hair-pulling disruptions -- true inconveniences, not just inconvenient truths.

Yes, less well-to-do homeowners will recoil at the cost of submerging power lines, but discussion can begin with state and local governments about ways to have wealthier homeowners pick up more of the tab, perhaps by tying the bill for construction to the assessed value of houses. The state can also provide subsidies.

Chris Olert, a Con Ed spokesman, said the company would soon evaluate its performance, as it does after every big storm. One question that should be studied is why there were not more crews on call for the Labor Day weekend. But readiness is a management problem; the bigger issue is where power lines should be. Many frustrated county residents are saying that gradually burying them in more teeming suburban areas -- over dozens of years so the bills don't pinch -- should be at the top of the agenda.

Photo (Photo by Alan Zale for The New York Times)

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budget message 2012

This is my budget message for the 2012 budget. The entire budget has been filed with the Town Clerk's office and will be posted on the town website: on Tuesday.


A BUDGET: $15.6 million in 2012 (a $0.1 million increase)

- Tax cap limit met

- Tax levy up 2.0%

- Tax rate up 3.6%*

B BUDGET: $66.6 million in 2012 (a $1.4 million decrease in appropriations)

- Tax cap limit met

- Tax levy up 2.0%

- Tax rate up 3.3%*

Note: Inflation rate in the past 12 months: 3.9%

*The tax rate differs from the tax levy due to changes in assessed property values and the exclusion from the calculation of pension increases over 2%. See the attachments for a full explanation of the tax cap.

Greenburgh complies with NYS Tax Cap Law

The 2012 proposed budget complies with the State tax levy cap approved by the Governor and members of the New York State Legislature earlier this year. Unlike many communities around the State that have or are expected to overturn the cap, I want Greenburgh to operate within the State’s guidelines. The proposed tax hikes are also below the inflation rate.

Fewer Employees if no Union Concessions

One reason there will be fewer employees working for the Town in 2012 is our continuing policy of not filling most vacated positions. In addition, skyrocketing benefit costs are forcing the Town to lay off approximately a half dozen current employees. Benefits add approximately 40% in costs beyond employee salaries. The figure is approximately 50% for each police officer. Further, we project benefit costs will double within the next five years.

I have and will continue to meet with the unions representing the employees in positions identified for layoff. I indicated that I would be able to recommend no 2012 layoffs if the unions will offset the costs by agreeing to concessions similar to that recently approved by New York State union employees.

Painful Cuts

The 2012 budget is personally my most painful. There are Town employees who will have to leave their jobs because of the difficult choices the Town is facing. This is the first time I have proposed parting with valued Town employees in my 20 years as Supervisor. It is heartbreaking to lay off employees.

Our employees are known for their responsiveness and dedication to the Town. I appreciate their service. The positions eliminated are those I determined would have the least impact on essential services.

The layoffs in this budget are additionally painful to me because I have been devoting many hours over the past few years helping to reduce unemployment—not add to it. I pledge to work hard to help the town employees who lose their jobs find other employment.

No Salary Increases Budgeted in 2012 for CSEA, Teamsters, Management and Elected Officials

CSEA Members, Teamster Members, Management and your Elected Officials work hard for the Town, but have not received salary increases for several years. I am recommending that the employee unions agree to contracts that are similar to the contracts recently accepted by state employees.

No Fund Balance Used in A Budget... $1.8 million Used in B Budget

The A Budget, which serves the entire Town (unincorporated Greenburgh and Villages), will spend no more than we take in. No fund balance is being used to balance the A Budget. The B Budget (which serves unincorporated Greenburgh), relies on the use of $1.8 million in fund balance. We are working toward a future point when no fund balance will be used to subsidize programs in the B Budget.

Sacrifices/Preparing for More Difficult Times Ahead

This budget further reinforces the need for government to do more with less. We will continue to rethink government. This effort supports our goal of maintaining the most important quality of life services that residents enjoy, even in the face of cutbacks. So far, Town budget cuts have not reached the more severe levels we see at the National, State or County levels. However, we can virtually guarantee dramatic cuts in future budgets unless we can turn around out-of-control benefit costs.

Budget Cuts/Library Surpluses

Some budget cutting examples include reducing the use of Outside Legal Consultants ($175,000) and funding the Arts Council with private donations ($52,000). Elsewhere, we cut over a dozen positions, both occupied and vacated, reducing total Personnel costs by $1.1 million.

We expect no Library services decrease even though the Town is reducing its annual payment by $320,000. This is because the Library has an excessively large reserve fund (over $500,000) due to significant budget surpluses in recent years. The Library can further reduce costs by bringing its expenditures in line with the other 38 libraries in Westchester.

Revenue Enhancements

I am recommending changes in the way we bill for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). We have improved the way we collect information and pursue health insurers for reimbursement. We have started billing for calls when an ambulance arrives but is not used for hospital transport, which is also reimbursable by health insurers. In addition, I recommend we update billing letters to better prompt payments from individuals. However, the Town will prohibit our billing contractor from communicating with credit agencies about non-payers. The Citizens Budget Commission estimates that these changes could generate about $240,000 or more annually in extra revenue.

Additionally, cost-saving and revenue generation efforts have grown out of a collaboration established earlier this year with Berkeley College. Berkeley has provided seven interns who are paid from a Federal Work-Study Grant, not by Greenburgh Taxpayers. These interns will raise an additional $100,000 in revenue for the Town in 2011 and an estimated $400,000 in 2012 by processing the traffic ticket backlog uncovered in 2010. Additionally, the Court Administrator has spoken so highly of her interns that several other Town agencies have requested them.

Other Ways We May Cut Expenses and Increase Revenue

I am always searching for cost reduction opportunities. For example, we have found significant cost differences between our own EMS and that of outside providers. We are reviewing the suitability of substituting highly trained Emergency Medical Technicians for the much more highly paid police officers. These officers would then be able to increase their direct duties within the Police Department.

We are currently negotiating new revenue possibilities for the WESTHELP property and the old Frank’s Nursery. The Town lost $1.2 million per year after the County recently discontinued their relationship with WESTHELP.

We are also working to streamline the business applications process and spread the word that Greenburgh is business-friendly. New businesses will bring much needed new revenue to the Town.

In addition, we expect significant savings in 2012 as we complete a detailed review of Town insurance costs.

Stronger Fiscal Oversight, Better Cost Controls
The 2012 budget cuts are only the beginning of an aggressive initiative to improve the way we run government. I am proposing to add a part-time budget officer and part-time internal auditor to enhance the monitoring and control of expenses across all departments. I expect this to generate savings far greater than the cost of these positions. We will also create and partner with a new citizens commission that will work with these professionals to maximize the benefits of comprehensive operational reviews.

Greenburgh Needs Greater Flexibility in Managing Its Workforce

Our Town needs relief from stifling State controls over the Town’s business. For example, the State mandates arbitration to resolve impasses between the Town and police unions, forcing the Town to give hefty pay increases while the rest of the Town’s workforce receives nothing. The State also dictates pension costs, which will go up by 25% in 2012.

A New Kind of Relationship with Unions

Employee benefits are the Town’s only significant expense that is virtually certain to continue increasing by double digits every year. This problem is literally compounding our fiscal struggles as surely as high credit card rates drive some individuals into bankruptcy. These costs are accelerating, pushing the cost of municipal employees beyond what Taxpayers can afford.

Until the larger State issues mentioned above are resolved, the Town will face deteriorating choices--unsustainably large layoffs and/or double-digit tax hikes. In the interim, we need solutions to extend the period during which the Town can sustain a workforce sufficient to serve our residents. This challenge cannot be resolved unilaterally. It may be addressable in part through a realistic and serious good faith partnership between the Town and the employee unions. The Town needs to better control costs by increasing flexibility in deploying its workforce and redefining work standards. Our workers want a financially stable and reliable employer. A partnership with the unions is in our mutual interests.

We must act now before unmanageably large budget gaps force the Town to drastically terminate employees and overwhelm Taxpayers. Greenburgh’s challenges are national in scope. We will prepare for the future by addressing them now.

Team Effort/GBOC

I want residents to know that fiscal strength is only possible with the combined efforts of everyone working for the Town. It starts with those on the front lines who provide services essential to our well-being and quality of life. It continues with the agency heads that find and implement innovations and manage their complex organizations. Of course, none of this would be possible without leadership from the Town Council.

In addition, I want to tell you about an innovative and powerful new tool we have added. Early in 2011, I created a commission to do what has never been done before in Greenburgh and was virtually unheard of in government. The Greenburgh Budget Oversight Commission (GBOC) is a group of twenty-five (25) Town citizens formed to analyze the Town’s fiscal matters, evaluate the operations of Town agencies and provide an additional perspective on how to strengthen Greenburgh.

With my backing, support from the Comptroller and exceptional cooperation from each department, the GBOC met with agency heads, analyzed their operations and developed recommendations for improving efficiency and reducing expenses. Their energy helped motivate us to dig even deeper for solutions. The GBOC developed a solid starting point for the development of my 2012 budget. Their longer-term recommendations will serve the Town well for many years to come. I have identified these members on the page that immediately follows this message.


Financial challenges for government are growing at an accelerated pace. Greenburgh will meet and overcome these challenges with one goal in mind – maintaining a strong quality of life for all the residents of our community.