Monthly Archives: February 2015

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TREES FELLED BY AN AX OVERNIGHT ON SCHOOL PROPERTY HAS EDGEMONT OFFICIALS CONCERNED

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At least five medium sized trees on school property have apparently been cut down at night with an ax in the past several days — blocking Artillery Lane —  prompting Edgemont school officials to contact Greenburgh police yesterday and to … Continue reading

TOWN ATTORNEY’S LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL MISSTATES MASSAGE LAW’S PURPOSE

The Town this evening released a copy of the letter a deputy town attorney sent  last week to the Office of the New York State Attorney General asking whether state law bars the Town from enacting the legislation submitted by the Edgemont Community Council that would bar brothels or houses of prostitution from fronting as massage parlors.

The letter makes no mention of the Town’s stated purpose to bar brothels from fronting as massage parlors.  Nor did the letter mention that such purpose is expressly authorized under a separate provision under state law governing towns (Town Law Section 130, subsection 11), or that the license to be issued to massage businesses was based not on existing state law education and training requirements for licensing massage therapists, but rather on a report and recommendation from the police chief, the building inspector and the fire marshal.  Nor did the letter mention that other towns and villages in New York, such as Clarkstown and Farmingdale have successfully enacted similar legislation with no legal challenges whatsoever.

Instead, the town attorney’s letter conveys the impression that the Town is merely proposing to license massage parlors, that such licensing would appear to be duplicative of existing state laws requiring licensing of massage therapists, and that, as a result, the proposal “is preempted by Article 155 of the Education Law, as well as Part 29 of the Rules of the Board of Regents and Parts 52.15 and 78 of the Commissioner’s Regulations as they pertain to “Massage Therapy.”

The Town’s letter nowhere discusses these specific statutes and regulations, which deal only with the education and training required before massage therapists may be licensed in New York.   There is nothing in those statutes and regulations which deal with the authority of towns in New York to adopt its own laws to restrict brothels from fronting as massage parlors.

The ECC had proposed the law after Police Chief Chris McNerney said last October that Edgemont had become the “illicit massage parlor capital of Westchester County.”  The town attorney, who was supposed to write legislation to assist local law enforcement in cracking down on such businesses, refused to do so, claiming that, even though other towns and villages in New York had already done so without legal challenge, he did not believe such legislation was legal.

The proposal was drafted instead by ECC president Bob Bernstein.

The state attorney general’s office issues non-binding informal “advisory”  opinions to assist municipal attorneys in advising their respective municipalities.  Only municipal attorneys may request such opinions and  in issuing such opinions, the attorney general relies on the municipal attorney to “provide us with the facts.”  Therefore,  if a municipal attorney plays fast and loose with the facts, the resulting advisory opinion is not likely to be of much validity.

The letter was sent last Thursday immediately after the Planning Board voted unexpectedly — and without any prior public notice — to have the town attorney seek such an opinion.

The town attorney’s letter to the Attorney General also goes well beyond the Planning Board’s limited jurisdiction, which suggests that the town attorney’s strategy all along was to get a letter written to the state attorney general and have it authorized not by the Town Board, for which Town Supervisor Paul  Feiner would have to take the heat politically, but by the Planning Board which is supposed to be “independent” of the town board.  As far as the town attorney is concerned, it appears that the same letter would have been sent, no matter which board had authorized it.

Under Greenburgh law, the Planning Board is only authorized to report and comment on that portion of the proposed law that amends the Town’s zoning ordinance.  Most of the letter deals with the proposed law’s licensing requirement.

Mr. Feiner said that if it were up to him, the town attorney’s letter would not have been sent, but he says that because the Planning Board is an “independent” board, there is nothing he can do about it.

In fact, as the Town’s chief executive officer, if he felt the letter was misleading, Mr. Feiner could ask his colleagues on the town board to have the letter withdrawn or at least require that it be rewritten to  be fair and balanced.  Neither Mr. Feiner nor any of his colleagues on the Town Board have indicated any willingness to do that.

The letter to the attorney general was made public tonight in response to a resident’s Freedom of Information Law request.  Mr. Feiner had yesterday directed that a copy of the letter be made available “ASAP” to Mr. Bernstein, as the author of the proposed legislation, but the town attorney’s office declined, making clear it was responding only to the FOIL request.

The Planning Board meanwhile intends to go forward with its consideration of the proposed legislation on March 18, as originally scheduled, with or without an opinion from the state attorney general.

However, because the town attorney has thus far declined to inform the Planning Board of its limited role in this matter, it is unclear whether  planning board members will issue any report and recommendation until the opinion they requested from the Attorney General’s office on matter outside their purview is actually received — and without a report and recommendation from the Planning Board, the Town Board cannot schedule a public hearing on the measure which it must do before voting on whether to enact the measure.

If the Planning Board does issue a report and recommendation on the massage law, it may be many months before it does so.  A measure seeking to allow car dealerships on Central Avenue in Edgemont was referred to the Planning Board on October 22 and more than five months later, the Planning Board has still not acted on it.

It is not known why the town attorney and the town clerk are working so hard to prevent the Town from adopting the proposed legislation, or why Mr. Feiner and his colleagues on the Town Board are allowing them to do so.  Mr. Feiner claims to be in support of the ECC’s proposed measure, but his actions have many people in Edgemont and elsewhere questioning whether his support on this issue is really genuine.

Last fall, Mr. Feiner said he backed an initiative to construct sidewalks near elementary schools in Edgemont, then changed his mind in December, and then got the town in January to approve a “request for proposals” to study the matter, thus suggesting he really does support the construction of such sidewalks.  But no such RFP has been prepared, suggesting that the measure approved in January was really intended for show Edgemont he really does want sidewalks, without actually doing anything to get them built.

EXCITEMENT BUILDS FOR OPENING OF EDGEMONT’S PRODUCTION OF “URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL”

Excitement is building for the opening next weekend of Edgemont’s production of “URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL.”

Don’t let the title fool you. This edgy musical is one of the funniest, laugh-out-loud musical comedies known to musical theater. The show tells the story of a world plagued by drought that has caused a worldwide water shortage, thereby making private plumbing completely unthinkable. Citizens must now pay to use public bathrooms, and if they don’t, they’re taken away to a mysterious place called “Urinetown.”

This musical, which originally ran on Broadway from 2001 to 2004, satirizes corruption, the legal system, police brutality, and ironically, several other musicals. While the subject matter may be inappropriate for younger elementary school students, we encourage everyone else to come out and see what is sure to be one of the funniest musicals ever performed on the Edgemont stage.

And in a departure from past practice in which faculty members directed the show, this year’s production is directed and choreographed by musical theater lyricist/composer Danny Bernstein, EHS class of 2010.  Mr. Bernstein is a 2014 summa cum laude graduate of Cornell, where he was named “2013-14 artist of the year” for his original full length musical “Far From Canterbury.” He is currently a lyricist/composer with the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop in Manhattan and a music director with Playgroup Theater in White Plains.

Urinetown will be performed at Edgemont High School (presented by special arrangement with Music Theatre International) on March 5-7, 2015.   Shows begin each night at 7:00pm, and the matinee performance on March 7 starts at 1:00pm.  Tickets are $15, except for the opening night performance, which is $20 (half of which benefits the Edgemont Scholarship Council).  Email tickets@ehs.edgemont.org  for information on purchasing advance tickets.

TOWN ATTORNEY BLOCKS ECC’S PROPOSED MASSAGE LAW PENDING LEGAL OPINION FROM ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Edgemont Community Council’s proposed law barring brothels from fronting as massage parlors in the Town of Greenburgh is apparently on indefinite hold, it was learned today, after the Planning Board notified the Town that it will not even consider the measure until state attorney general Eric Schneiderman weighs in on its legality.

The Town’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, which met this morning, was told that the Planning Board will not consider the proposed massage law until the Town receives a legal opinion from the attorney general’s office.  This was the first anyone had heard that the town attorney had taken such action, but he presumably did so at the direction of Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and other members of the Town Board.

Even though other towns and villages in New York have enacted similar legislation, Town Attorney Tim Lewis does not believe towns in New York have the legal right to enact such legislation and, for that reason, refused to draft such a measure when he was asked to do so last fall by Police Chief Chris McNerney, and has apparently been working behind the scenes to find ways to block the Town from adopting it.

In October, Chief McNerney told the ECC that Edgemont had become the “illicit massage parlor capital of Westchester County.”

ECC president Bob Bernstein stepped in to draft the measure when Mr. Lewis refused to do so.  At its January meeting, the ECC unanimously endorsed the measure and the Town Board held a special meeting to introduce it after the ECC showed on its website that two illicit massage parlors posted x-rated ads on the internet advertising “grand openings” in Edgemont.   The “grand openings” were advertised two days after the Town Board had failed to introduce the ECC proposal when the Town Clerk filibustered it.

The Planning Board is required to weigh in on the proposal because a small portion of the draft law requires a change to the Town’s zoning law.   Specifically, the proposal calls for the town clerk to license massage establishments, subject to background checks from the police chief, the building inspector and the fire marshal, and then for such establishments to obtain a special permit to operate from the Town Board.  Only the special permit requirement involves an amendment to the zoning law and Greenburgh law requires that the Planning Board issue a report and recommendation to the Town Board on that aspect of the law before the Town Board can hold a public hearing prior to a vote on whether to enact the measure.

On February 11, the Town Board held a “public discussion” on the measure  during which time Mr. Lewis had announced that the Planning  Board would consider the measure at its March 18 meeting.  Mr. Lewis did not disclose that he had told the Planning Board that he was seeking a legal opinion from Mr. Schneiderman and that he was recommending that the board take no action on the massage law until after the opinion is received.

It is not known whether Mr. Lewis took these actions on his own, or whether he was directed to do so in executive session by the Town Board.  Mr. Feiner has publicly stated his support for the ECC’s proposed law, but has done nothing else to advance the legislation.  The Planning Board met Wednesday night.

Specifically, Mr. Feiner said he would not ask the Planning Board to expedite its consideration of the law; he also did not direct the town attorney’s staff to prepare any written changes to the Town’s zoning law so that the Planning Board would know what specific portion of the 11-page proposed law it was being asked to review.  Nor did Mr. Feiner inform Mr. Bernstein or anyone from the ECC of the Town Attorney’s plan to seek an opinion from the state attorney general.   Nor has anyone from the ECC seen a draft of whatever it is that Mr. Lewis supposedly sent.

Mr. Lewis has a history of asking for legal opinions from the state attorney general or the state comptroller’s office by framing the discussion in such a way that critically important information is omitted.  As a result, the opinions he receives are often of little value.

For example, in an attempt a few years ago to block Edgemont from getting town funds for the construction of sidewalks needed to protect children walking to Edgemont’s elementary schools, Mr. Lewis wrote to the state comptroller asking about the application of a state highway law which allowed for the funding of sidewalks and was told that funding under that law would have to be charged to all town taxpayers, including those residing in incorporated villages, which was politically unacceptable to the Town; the alternative, Mr. Lewis was told, was to require that sidewalks for Edgemont children be charged only to Edgemont taxpayers, which is what Town Supervisor Paul Feiner for years said Edgemont taxpayers would have to do if it wanted sidewalks to protect its schoolchildren.

Years later, after receiving the opinion, and examining what Mr. Lewis had actually asked, it became clear that Mr. Lewis had omitted any mention of the state suburban law which expressly provides that sidewalks for public safety in unincorporated areas of a town may be charged to all of unincorporated Greenburgh.  Consequently, the state comptroller did not address that possibility.

Here, by not presenting the public with a copy of whatever it is Mr. Lewis apparently prepared on the proposed massage law, there is no way to know whether Mr. Lewis is once again presenting a one-side version of the facts in order to obtain an opinion that would support his opposition to enactment of the proposed law.

At last week’s “public discussion,” Town Clerk Beville also repeated her opposition to any requirement that licensing of massage establishments be the responsibility of the town clerk — even if, as the proposed law makes clear — the town clerk would only be following the recommendations of the police chief, the building inspector and the fire marshal.  Repeated misstatements by Ms. Beville as to what the proposal actually says went unanswered by Mr. Feiner and other members of the Town Board.

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PROMINENT EDGEMONT BUILDER CHARLES WEINBERG DIES AT 94

One of Edgemont’s most prominent and devoted residents, Charles L. Weinberg of Old Colony Road, died yesterday at home.  He was 94. Mr. Weinberg enjoyed a long career as a builder and founder of both Westchester Reform Temple and Westhab, … Continue reading