Town Supervisor Paul Feiner today announced on the ECC’s Facebook page that the November 5 Wespac-sponsored meeting and fundraiser at Town Hall to oppose a series of anti-Islamic advertisements at Metro North train stations — which prompted pro-Israel groups to call for a protest at Town Hall even larger than the one they held October 19 when a Wespac-sponsored “anti-Israel” meeting and fundraiser was held there — has been canceled.
“This second event –scheduled for November 5th –has been cancelled,” Mr. Feiner said in the ECC Facebook post. “The event organizers will reschedule and hold their discussion at another location in a non government building in another community.”
Mr. Feiner sent a similar message to the ECC itself and to leaders of the pro-Israel groups, which had demanded that the November 5 meeting be canceled, in which he said, “Please be advised that the meeting previously scheduled at Greenburgh Town Hall for November 5th will be held in a non government building in another community. Thought you would be interested in this info.”
Westpac meanwhile announced on its webpage that the November 5 event has been moved to the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester in White Plains. Ethical Culture, a religious organization, was co-sponsoring the meeting and fundraiser.
A proposal to cancel the November 5 event and work with its sponsors to find another non-government venue was made and discussed at length at a meeting Thursday night of the Executive Committee of the Greenburgh Democratic Party; two town board members were among those present who took part in the discussion. Mr. Feiner was not present.
Democrats attending the meeting were surprised to learn that the Town had never previously adopted a building use policy, that non-Greenburgh organizations were routinely given free use of the building, and that instead of adopting content neutral restrictions as First Amendment law requires, the building use policy Greenburgh officials adopted October 20 allowed Wespac free use of Town Hall for a second meeting because officials thought the content of the meeting was “benign.”
Town board members meanwhile said Mr. Feiner never told them before they adopted the October 20 building use policy that he had met privately with a pro-Israel group on October 14 that wanted to use Town Hall and which, as a result of the policy they adopted, would be denied such use.
The ECC reported Friday night that the building use policy hastily adopted October 20 by Mr. Feiner and the Greenburgh Town Board, which allowed the November 5 meeting to go forward, might have exposed taxpayers not only to tens of thousands of dollars in costs for police overtime and security measures — on top of the tens of thousands of dollars in costs resulting from the October 19 meeting and protest, but also to possible litigation for violating the First Amendment rights of a pro-Israel group that had met with Mr. Feiner on October 14 to schedule its own meeting at Town Hall, but which was subsequently denied such use.
Mr. Feiner did not say whether the sponsors of the November 5 meeting canceled it or whether town officials, who faced a barrage of criticism over their actions, had a change of heart and acted to cancel the event themselves.
Mr. Feiner himself was the target of angry criticism from pro-Israel groups who said he had “misled” them about what was transpiring and Thursday demanded that he cancel the November 5 event — and do so in writing since they said he had “proven to be dishonest.”
Mr. Feiner was also the target this weekend of angry criticism from sponsors of the October 19 meeting and fundraiser — which was the same group that was sponsoring the November 5 event — for saying he was opposed to their call for an international economic, cultural and intellectual boycott of Israel — the so-called “BDS” movement, which stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
The ECC had objected to Mr. Feiner’s practice of allowing outside political groups free use of Town Hall where taxpayers who never authorized this expense were now being required to foot the bill for the costs of police overtime and security.
In the meantime, the ECC has filed a Freedom of Information Law request seeking to determine how many other non-Greenburgh organizations have been given free use of Town Hall as of October 2, 2015. Under the Town’s building use policy, all groups that had managed to book Town Hall for their meetings as of October 2 would still be allowed free use of the building.