Worksession 2014-12-02Town Supervisor Paul Feiner today effectively put a hold on sidewalks that Police Chief Chris McNerney had been recommending for public safety reasons in Edgemont for Seely Place, Ardsley Road and Fort Hill Road, pending completion of a town-wide comprehensive review of sidewalk needs in each of the Town’s ten school districts that may take years to complete.

Even the much talked about sidewalk for Seely Place would require a “three season” review of site conditions before any such report could be completed, Chief McNernery said today, which would take a year or more to complete.

Chief McNerney had said last week that he would make a power point presentation at this morning’s town board work session outlining the reasons why he concluded in October that construction of sidewalks on Seely Place, Ardsley Road and Fort Hill Road were needed for public safety.

However, Chief McNerney said Mr. Feiner had directed him not to make any presentation at all until a town-wide study had been undertaken and completed. Seely Place residents opposed to a sidewalk in front of their homes were told in advance that no such presentation would be made.

Mr. Feiner had been touting for the past two months his new-found “support” for sidewalks in Edgemont, saying that he had now been persuaded that public safety concerns for children walking to school should trump inconveniences experienced by homeowners who own property along town rights-of-way where the sidewalks would have to be constructed.

But Mr. Feiner at the same time invited residents of Seely Place to attend this morning’s work session to register their objections to any proposed sidewalk on their street. The last time a sidewalk for Seely Place had been proposed — in 2006 — Mr. Feiner went door-to-door on Seely Place to lobby the residents there to oppose the proposal.

And even though Mr. Feiner had assured ECC directors last night that town board members were now supporting his so-called “sidewalk initiative,” Town board members present for the work session today were just as skeptical about supporting any proposal for sidewalks in Edgemont as they were in October when Chief McNerney first recommended sidewalks for Seely Place, Ardsley Road and Fort Hill Road.

Council member Ken Jones said he saw no reason why sidewalks should be constructed in Edgemont, without first determining whether there were other areas of the Town where there may also be a need, and Mr. Sheehan thought any traffic safety problems on Seely Place could be addressed through other means.

ECC president Bob Bernstein said that without the comprehensive written report that Chief McNerney had promised would be presented today documenting the public safety problem he had found, it would be difficult for the ECC to persuade residents of Seely Place that sidewalks were needed, difficult to persuade town board members to fund the proposal, and difficult to explain to residents outside of Edgemont why they should help pick up the cost.

Mr. Bernstein said he has hoping that the police chief’s report on the Edgemont sidewalks would serve as a “template” for school communities in the rest of the Town so that they would know what to aim for in the event they too needed sidewalks for public safety reasons. There was no support today among any town board members, including Mr. Feiner, for creating any such template. Instead, the police chief was told he must first complete a town-wide analysis.

Mr. Bernstein also expressed concern that, in light of Mr. Feiner’s sudden insistence on a town-wide study, Mr. Feiner’s change of heart this fall on sidewalks in Edgemont was nothing more than a pre-election year publicity stunt, noting that, among other things, the town’s public works commissioner, Victor Carosi, admitted this morning that in the seven weeks since the subject was first raised at a town board work session — indeed since he first took the job in 2009 — no one had ever asked him to look into what the sidewalks the police chief recommended would even look like or cost. The town engineer had also done no work on any Edgemont sidewalk initiative.

At the same time, knowing all along he had received no formal written recommendation from Chief McNerney for any Edgemont sidewalks, Mr. Feiner was looking to get Edgemont’s civic associations in Edgemont to sponsor his leading a community-wide meeting in an Edgemont school where he could tout his support of sidewalks for Edgemont school children, while at the same time knowing nothing would come of it.

The ECC had been asked to sponsor one such meeting at Seely Place School on January 12 — but in light of Mr. Feiner having stopped Chief McNerney from delivering his power point presentation today, it is unlikely that the ECC will now agree to sponsor any such event.

In the absence of any written report from Chief McNerney explaining why he felt a sidewalk was needed for public safety reasons on Seely Place, several residents of Seely Place urged the Town this morning to consider alternatives to sidewalks, and Mr. Feiner asked what they would prefer to see the Town do instead.

However, one such resident, Susan Wolfert, objected to Mr. Feiner and other board members questioning Seely Place residents what they would like to see, saying that they were not public safety professionals, and that such conduct wrongly pits one side of Seely Place against the other, as well as pits Seely Place residents against other neighborhoods in Edgemont, and further pits Edgemont generally against other areas of unincorporated Greenburgh.

She said the Town Board should instead do its own job by consulting with public safety professionals to determine what needs to be done, decide to do it, and then explain why the actions being taken are necessary.

Based on today’s work session, it is not clear what action, if any, the Town Board may take now or at any time in the future.

The other school districts in unincorporated Greenburgh — at least in part — that Chief McNerney will now have to study include Greenburgh Central, Valhalla, Ardsley, Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Pocantico, Elmsford and Irvington. Given the magnitude of the study that will now have to be undertaken, and the anticipated lack of police resources available to do the work contemplated, it is possible that no report will ever be completed.

Mr. Feiner said residents who want sidewalks should not despair because the Town recently constructed an ADA-compliant sidewalk on Payne Street. However, Mr. Feiner was unable to explain who paid for the sidewalk or why that street, which is not located near any schools, was chosen. Town Attorney Tim Lewis lives on Payne Street where the sidewalk was built.

Suggestions were made that Mr. Feiner include money in his capital budget for sidewalks and continue efforts to apply for federal grants to pay for them — but without any written comprehensive plan from the police department explaining why public safety requires the installation of these and other sidewalks, there would appear to be no timetable in place for addressing any of these issues for at least a year or longer.

Furthermore, if and when the police chief ever completes his comprehensive town-wide study, which if it now requires, as he says, as “three season” analysis, will take at least a year or longer, the next debate will be over which school district’s needs in Greenburgh deserve greater priority over what another school district may also require, which will inevitably lead to a debate over town criteria for funding such projects.

The bottom line is that no matter how important sidewalks in Edgemont may be for public safety, it is unlikely, in light of today’s developments, that any action will be taken anytime soon.

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