Public Comment

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner last night refused to hear from residents who had signed up to speak for five minutes at the conclusion of the Town Board’s regular meeting — even though there was at least 45 minutes remaining before the Town’s 11 p.m. curfew on public comments — after a prominent resident said earlier in the evening she wanted to use her five minutes to speak about yesterday’s Dromore ruling against the Town.

A unanimous panel of the appellate division, Second Department, yesterday dismissed an appeal filed by the Town that, because of bad faith by town officials, effectively gave a developer the right to build multifamily housing on property along Dromore Road in Edgemont that the Town had zoned only for single family homes.

Ella Preiser, the secretary of the Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations, had announced during the three minutes she was allowed to speak that she planned on using her five minutes at the end of the meeting to address the Dromore ruling and what she referred to as a “another Dromore case in the making” — referring to the controversy over a last minute change in the wording of the Town’s assisted living ordinance which another developer is citing as the basis for approval to build a 90-bed assisted living facility at a site in Edgemont which is nearly a mile from the nearest state or county road.

Prior to Ms. Preiser speaking, the town clerk had interrupted a public hearing to announce that anyone wishing to speak had to sign up in advance and said no one would be allowed to speak if they didn’t follow her instructions.  Ms. Preiser had signed up, as had several others.

But when Mr. Feiner came to the end of the official Town Board agenda last night, he asked out loud if anyone wanted to speak, and without waiting for an answer from members of the public who were waiting to speak, or from the town clerk, who had the names of several speakers, including Ms. Preiser’s, he abruptly called the meeting to a halt.

This is not the first time that Mr. Feiner has played fast and loose with town board procedures to stifle dissent from the public.  When facing harsh criticism a few years ago, he opened and closed a town board meeting with multiple public hearings scheduled in an astonishing seven minutes — before the public even had a chance to arrive, and even though town board meetings run by Mr. Feiner rarely start on time and are then preceded by a series of what many regard as politically self-serving “presentations. (4/10/2013 Click for Story)

Click to watch 4/10/2013 meeting – 2 Public Hearings were opened and immediately closed without any public comment.

At other times, Mr. Feiner will “filibuster” until the Town’s 11 p.m. cut-off so residents who wanted to speak would be denied the opportunity.

Edgemont residents are waking up today to discover that unless the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, a group of cloistered nuns living in a monastery on Dromore Road, are successful in defending a suit by a developer to bar the enforcement of a restrictive covenant barring the construction of apartment buildings on neighboring properties, a new multifamily housing project will be built on land zoned only for single family homes.

Mr. Feiner years ago sided with the developer who claimed that town officials acted in bad faith — in response to “pressure” from Edgemont — when it corrected an error in the Town’s zoning map that mistakenly showed the property in question was in the Central Avenue mixed use zone — where multifamily housing is permissible — instead of in the R-20 zone for single family homes.

One third of Edgemont’s housing stock consists of multifamily housing along Central Avenue.  Edgemont residents were concerned that expanding the area in Edgemont where multifamily housing may be built would upset the balance that allows Edgemont to serve its diverse population, provide a first-rate education, and remain economically sustainable.