As part of his campaign against Edgemont’s incorporation, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner has arranged for the White Plains-Greenburgh chapter of the NAACP to sponsor a panel discussion this Thursday at Seely Place School between 7 and 9 p.m. to discuss the impact of Edgemont’s proposed incorporation on the Town of Greenburgh.
Mr. Feiner originally tried to book school facilities for the meeting, but was told that his use of school property for an anti-incorporation meeting was not consistent with the district’s building use policies. Mr. Feiner then persuaded the NAACP to book the room instead of him.
The school district last week notified Edgemont Community Council president Bob Bernstein of the NAACP request and he offered to have the ECC sponsor the meeting so that the group could hold its meeting on school property without first having to enter into a formal contract with the school district for such use.
When the NAACP learned of the ECC’s sponsorship, it agreed to allow panelists to speak both for and against incorporation. The NAACP leadership said it had been told to arrange an anti-incorporation meeting because the ECC itself had been holding pro-incorporation meetings for months on school property. In fact, the ECC has not yet held any public meetings on incorporation.
The NAACP said it wanted to meet in Edgemont because of concern that Edgemont’s incorporation would result in a loss of funding for the Town’s Department of Community Resources, which runs the Theodore D. Young Community Center.
Besides arranging for the NAACP meeting at Seely this Thursday, Mr. Feiner is holding a rally Tuesday evening at the community center to encourage residents there to attend the meeting at Seely. He also arranged for the social activist group WESPAC to publicize it.
At Mr. Feiner’s invitation, WESPAC last year sponsored anti-Israel meetings at Greenburgh Town Hall that led to a ban on all outside groups, including the NAACP, from using Town Hall for any further public meetings. Mr. Bernstein said he did not know of WESPAC’s involvement when he agreed to sponsor the NAACP meeting.
The Department of Community Resources and the community center have for decades provided needed services to those families most economically at risk in both unincorporated Greenburgh and in Greenburgh’s six villages, many of whom are African American.
The Town, however, refuses to charge any of these costs to taxpayers in Greenburgh’s six villages.
In 2008, Mr. Bernstein filed suit against the Town to get these costs charged to the entire town, including its villages. The Town argued in opposition that all such costs were “recreational” and therefore covered under the Finneran Law, which allowed such costs to be charged only to residents of unincorporated Greenburgh.
The Finneran Law was enacted in 1982 to protect taxpayers in the Town’s villages from having to pay for parks and recreational facilities in uincorporated Greenburgh because the villages have their own parks and recreational facilities.
In 2009, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled in the Town’s favor.
Because the Town took the position to protect village taxpayers that the Dpartment of Community Resources is a recreation department, the Town effectively now has two recreation departments, one which serves those economically at risk who are mostly African American, and the other, the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department, which serves everyone else (except those in Edgemont, which for years has had its own privately run recreation department).
In an email sent to the NAACP last week, Mr. Bernstein said, “That the Town of Greenburgh, in the year 2017, should operate with TWO separate recreation departments, serving two distinctly different populations divided largely along raical lines, is morally reprehensible. That the Town takes that absurd position, in order to protect village residents from having to pay their fair share of the costs of the Town’s Department of Community Resources, is just as outrageous (particularly since the average additional cost to the village taxpayers in paying their fair share is nominal).”
“I therefore think the NAACP, as a matter of social justice, and to do everything it can to preserve funding for the Town’s Department of Community Servivces, should support the Town making its Department of Community Services a town-wide charge, so that even if Edgemont incorporates, it will still be required to pay its fair share of the costs of TDYCC.”
The Town Board could end this practice by passing a resolution shifting the costs from the unincorporated area to the entire town. If it did so, Edgemont’s incorporation would not result in the loss of any funding for the Department of Community Resources and the community center.