Even though it hastily enacted a building use policy yesterday that would prohibit any outside groups from using Town Hall through the end of 2015, the Greenburgh Town Board apparently failed to mention that it may have made an exception for a group calling itself the “Westchester Coalition Against Islamophobia” to hold a meeting and fundraiser at Town Hall on November 5 from 7-9 p.m.
Flyers for the event, which have been circulated online by its sponsors since October 15, nowhere suggest that the meeting has been canceled or otherwise rescheduled for a different venue, so the only information that is public right now is that the November 5 meeting at Town Hall is still going forward.
One of the groups sponsoring the meeting is Wespac, Inc., the same group that sponsored the anti-Israel meeting Monday evening at Town Hall that sparked an angry protest from pro-Israel supporters who organized a rally with their own speeches which led Greenburgh police to close Town Hall early, call in bomb sniffing dogs, set up metal detectors and install barricades to keep the peace.
In enacting its building use policy yesterday, the Town Board made an exception for “any group that was already on the town’s meeting calendar as of October 2, 2015” but never explained why it chose that particular date.
Nor did Town Supervisor Paul Feiner or any other member of the board disclose what other outside groups were on the calendar as of October 2 and will be allowed to meet for free at taxpayer expense in Town Hall, notwithstanding the policy banning such use.
Nor was it disclosed what outside groups, if any, may have asked to use Town Hall after October 2, but before the policy was announced, who will now not be able to use the facility.
Because the Town does not make its “meeting calendar” public, only town officials and, assuming the meeting is still on, the pro-Islamic group that originally booked the room knew that, in enacting its building use policy, the Town Board was expressly allowing the pro-Islamic group to go forward with its meeting on November 5.
In addition to Wespac, the Nov. 5 meeting is also co-sponsored by the American Muslim Women’s Association, the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester, the lower Hudson Valley chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Westchester County Human Rights Commision,and the Westchester chapter of the Jewish Voice for Peace which also played a role in Monday’s anti-Israel meeting.
Speakers for the November 5 meeting include Bina Ahmad, a human rights attorney who serves as national vice-president of the National Lawyers Guild, which is a political action group that advertises on its website that it is a member of the “U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.”
Other speakers include Alan Levine, a civil rights lawyer who advocates on behalf of “victims of Islamophobia,” and Arlene Popkin, a retired legal aid lawyer who serves on the NY Civil Liberties Union Board.
Flyers for the event, which have been posted online in several venues, say no admission will be charged, but “contributions will be gratefully accepted.”
It is not yet known whether pro-Israel groups, such as the “Jewish Rapid Response Coalition” which called for Monday’s protest, intends to protest this latest event at Greenburgh Town Hall.
The Town Board today posted a copy of the building use resolution which was adopted without prior disclosure to the public yesterday.
It limited use of Town Hall to all outside groups, except those already on the calendar as of October 2, 2015, because of certain unspecified “legal issues,” because “the Police Department has identified certain safety and security issues with respect to having town Hall used in the manner in which it has been used, and because “there have been a growing number of incidents at Town Hall which have resulted in an increased concern for a formal change to the manner in which Town Hall is used.”
Neither Mr. Feiner nor any other town official has disclosed what the cost to taxpayers was for the additional police presence and security measures that had to be implemented Monday. A number of residents complained about Town Hall being closed early Monday with no prior notice given to the public.
In their flyer, which was first posted October 15 or four days prior to the event that took place Monday night — organizers of the November 5 meeting said “[t]he appearance of anti-Muslim ads on public transport in cities across the country and efforts to control speech on college campuses” were provoking “roiling debates” over the First Amendment and “the government obligation to protect vulnerable minorities.”
At the meeting that took place on Monday, some protesters were permitted to attend the event, which prompted the principal speaker that night, Gideon Levy, an Israeli columnist calling for an international economic, intellectual and cultural boycott of Israel, to dismiss them all as “brainwashed.” The demonstrators responded by heckling him, and the angry exchanges by supporters of both sides were captured by videos posted online from each side.
Mr. Feiner, who was criticized by the pro-Israel group for allowing an anti-Israel meeting and fundraiser to be held at Town Hall, had irritated Jewish groups in the past when he publicly criticized Metro North for allowing billboards to protest Islamic terrorism, but never raised any objection when pro-Islamic groups purchased billboards criticizing Israel, which some labeled a “blood-libel.”
The pro-Israel group also criticized Mr. Feiner for asking local Jewish organizations to urge their members to stay away from Monday’s protest so as not to draw attention to the anti-Israel meeting.