The building use policy adopted Tuesday by Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and the Greenburgh Town Board was apparently written not only to allow Wespac to hold a second anti-Israel meeting and fundraiser at Town Hall on November 5, which meeting has now been confirmed, but at the same time prevents a pro-Israel group, Americans for a Safe Israel, from using Town Hall and holding any meeting at all – actions which may lead to an even bigger protest when the November 5 meeting is held.
Mr. Feiner’s actions came to light today when emails were circulated showing that Mr. Feiner had met October 14 with two representatives from Americans for a Safe Israel, during which time Mr. Feiner had offered the group use of Town Hall for two programs, a “Judea and Samaria Appreciation Evening,” and an educational program on the teachings of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, an early 20th century pro-Israel “revisionist Zionist.”
In an October 14 email to Mr. Feiner, the group asked him what the “process was for obtaining the room” and said they looked forward to hearing from him.
The group learned October 20 that it would not be permitted to use Town Hall at all because Greenburgh was adopting a building use policy that limited use to groups that had already booked the room and were on the Town’s “building use” calendar as of October 2, 2015. Since they were not yet on the schedule, they were out of luck.
Mr. Feiner and the town board did not disclose publicly that the reason they chose the October 2 date was to allow Wespac, which had sponsored the anti-Israel meeting and fundraiser at Town Hall on October 19 that led the Town to adopt its new building use policy in the first place, to hold a second meeting on November 5 to deal with what it calls “Islamophobia.” The second meeting, like the first, features speakers who pro-Israel groups say are opposed to Israeli policies against Palestinians.
As a result of these events, the Jewish Rapid Response Coalition, which brought around 150 to protest the Wespac meeting on October 19 – resulting in Town Hall closing early that day so that police could conduct a sweep of the building with bomb sniffing dogs, install metal detectors and erect barricades to keep the two groups apart – all costing Greenburgh taxpayers thousands of dollars in police overtime, has now called for an even larger protest for the Wespac meeting on November 5.
Lauri Regan, a lawyer, who organized the October 19 protest, last night formally asked Mr. Feiner to cancel the November 5 meeting.
“I’m going to give you 24 hours to get back to me on whether or not this is going forward,” Ms. Regan said.
“If I do not hear from you, Monday’s rally will be repeated but this time we’ll have the organized Jewish community rallying behind us since they have realized that you misled them about what was transpiring and even if we don’t, we now have plenty of time and lots of press to make this a national story. I want something in writing tomorrow that you have cancelled this event and you can call an emergency meeting or do whatever you have to but this is going to go viral and you have lost all credibility in the community. So I want it in writing since you have proven to be dishonest and I would like a decision by the end of the day tomorrow,” she wrote.
Mr. Feiner last night posted on the ECC’s facebook page confirming that he had indeed agreed to allow Wespac to hold a second meeting and fundraiser at Town Hall on November 5, but insisted that this second meeting, unlike the first, was not an “anti-Israel” meeting.
The principal speaker at the November 5 meeting is Bina Ahmad, a lawyer with the National Lawyer’s Guild which has called for an end to what it calls the “Israeli occupation.” She has also reportedly defended the work of the head of Islamic Jihad in the United States and called Israel an “apartheid state.”
Because Mr. Feiner was not candid in disclosing the names of any of the outside groups who were grandfathered in for continued free use of Town Hall under the Town’s new building use policy, the ECC has filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the Town to obtain a list of all groups that, “as of October 2,” had reserved Town Hall for their meetings.
Mr. Feiner’s actions in allowing Wespac to proceed with its second meeting, while denying the pro-Israel group permission to use Town Hall for any meetings of its own, appears to be consistent with Mr. Feiner’s practice as town supervisor of using taxpayer financed government buildings to promote his own political views, or the political views of his most prominent political supporters, while at the same time denying Town Hall access to those with whom he disagrees.
Following 9/11, Mr. Feiner barred the Town’s Antenna Review Board, with whom he was feuding, from using Town Hall, forcing them to meet for months in a parking lot. In 2012, Republicans criticized him for giving free use of Town Hall to the Obama campaign to conduct pre-election phone canvassing. And just two weeks ago, at a town board meeting, he refused to give residents who had been waiting several hours their five minutes apiece to speak – as required by town rules — on matters he knew would critical of his actions as town supervisor. That same day, an appellate court had ruled that because the Town had acted in bad faith, the Town’s zoning map could not be corrected.
The next meeting of the Town Board at which the public may speak is October 28th.