Town Supervisor Paul Feiner today shocked many Edgemont residents by launching a lobbying effort on the town’s website and email list on behalf of the owners of privately-owned Midway Shopping Center who have offered to make long overdue safety and parking improvements – but only on condition that town leaders allow the Town’s oldest and most crowded suburban strip mall to remove more parking spaces and expand even further.
Mr. Feiner today used the Town’s email list to send a 970-word message, presumably drafted by one of Midway’s lawyers or consultants – purportedly asking for “citizen feedback” to help Mr. Feiner decide what to do.
Mr. Feiner’s email blast today alarmed many in Edgemont who thought that consideration of the project had been put on temporary hold until September while the developer considers whether to first make needed safety improvements – as the developer had repeatedly been asked to do at the June 24, 2015 public hearing before the Town Board.
Instead, the choice today, according to Mr. Feiner, is either “compromise” and allow the shopping center to expand in exchange for needed safety improvements, or not allow any expansion at all until safety measures are implemented and are found to work, and risk the shopping center’s owners deciding not to make any improvements at all.
“Mr. Feiner’s email today presents a false choice, does a tremendous disservice to Edgemont, and has needlessly upset a lot of residents,” ECC president Bob Bernstein said today.
“The owners of the Midway Shopping Center, which is already enormously successful financially, know they can make a lot more money per square foot in Edgemont if they can expand their retail footprint, which is why Midway has been pushing so hard to expand for the past two years,” he said.
“Town authorities therefore have plenty of economic leverage to ‘go bold’ by refusing to consider any expansion plans at all unless and until Midway implements improved safety measures and builds a structured parking facility so that Midway can serve the greater community safely and efficiently and profitably for many years to come,” Mr. Bernstein added.
By asking the public to decide the matter for him, instead of exercising leadership by telling the shopping center’s owners what they must do instead, Mr. Feiner today effectively thumbed his nose at the detailed majority report of the town’s planning board, dated April 13, 2015, which twice rejected Midway’s expansion plans over the past two years, which Mr. Feiner’s email today nowhere mentions.
His actions today also fly in the face of opposition expressed at public hearings by numerous civic groups, including the Edgemont Community Council and the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations which strongly oppose any proposal in which needed safety measures are held hostage while the shopping center bargains for permission to build more retail space.
Mr. Feiner’s efforts on behalf of Midway today made no mention of the community opposition to Midway’s plans.
Instead, he suggested that because the Town may not legally be able to force Midway to make needed safety improvements, the only way for them to occur is by agreeing to let Midway build a new 3,500 square foot restaurant next to Smashburger.
Allowing Midway to construct any additional retail space will result in the elimination of parking spaces in a shopping center that is already without sufficient parking.
Mr. Feiner’s summary of the proposed plans today made no mention of that issue or how Midway proposes to address it.
At its June 24, 2015 meeting, The Town Board adjourned until September a public hearing on Midway’s application to expand, after resident after resident spoke out in opposition to the proposal and civic leaders said it was unconscionable both for an applicant to hold needed safety improvements hostage to a demand for approval to expand its retail space – and for the town supervisor to even engage in such bargaining.
Mr. Feiner said he agreed with community representatives that plans for amy expansion should be put on hold until after needed safety and improved parking measures are implemented and found to work – but then proceeded at the meeting to do precisely what he was asked not to do, which was engage in bargaining with the developer’s representatives. The town attorney also indicated at the public hearing that he too wanted to participate in any such give-and-take with the developer.
However, this is not something Mr. Feiner and Midway can decide to do on their own.
Any changes to anything in Midway’s parking lot would require first receiving amended site plan approval. That means going through the process again of submitting plans for the changes Mr. Feiner desires to improve safety, such as changes to ingress/egress from Ardsley Road or internal traffic circulation.
The Town Board would refer the plans to the Planning Board for its review and recommendation, and then the Town Board would have to hold a public hearing.
Mr. Feiner suggested that the hearing on Midway’s expansion application be adjourned to September so that Midway could decide what to do over the summer. However, nothing can happen over the summer.
If Midway tried to make changes to the parking lot without first getting Town approval, which is what Mr. Feiner’s comments Wednesday evening suggested it do, a stop work order would be issued as well as possible violation notices answerable in court.