The Town’s much-maligned Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee this week released a third draft of a proposed plan for the unincorporated areas of the Town which, in an apparent effort to quiet critics, this time eliminates all proposals in Edgemont and … Continue reading
Tag Archives: state
EDGEMONT COMMUNITY COUNCIL APPEALS BUILDING INSPECTOR RULING THAT ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY CAN BUILD AT SPRAINBROOK WITHOUT A VARIANCE
The Edgemont Community Council this week appealed a decision by Greenburgh’s building inspector that no variance from the zoning board is needed for a four-story 85-bed assisted living facility proposed for a residential neighborhood at the site of the Sprainbrook … Continue reading
Greenburgh police yesterday arrested 11 women, ranging in age from 18 to 54, and charged them with unlawfully operating as licensed massage therapists without having the requisite state license.
The women worked in six massage parlors — five of them on Central Avenue in Edgemont and one on Tarrytown Road. A press release issued by the police department said all six massage parlors were closed yesterday by the building department.
The closings are all believed to be temporary because, unlike other towns and villages in New York, Greenburgh does not give its police the legal authority to close down massage parlors employing therapists who are not licensed.
A proposal sponsored by the Edgemont Community Council — and drafted by its president — to give the Town that authority was introduced in January, but was then put on indefinite hold after the town attorney questioned whether state law allows towns to give police such authority.
All of the suspects arrested yesterday were transported to Police Headquarters, where they were booked, processed, and released on bail. The unauthorized practice of a profession, which is what they were charged with, is a Class E Felony under the New York State Penal Law.
The six massage parlors are Aroma Spa, 698 South Central Avenue, Charming Spa, 390 South Central Avenue, Dove Spa, 114 South Central Avenue, Green Luck Spa, 791 South Central Avenue, Green Rose Body Work, 455 South Central Avenue, and K’s Angel Spa, 298 Tarrytown Road.
The ECC’s proposal was introduced at a special meeting of the town board in January only after the ECC posted copies of online adult oriented advertisements featuring young scantily clad Asian women announcing “grand opening specials” at two massage parlors in Edgemont, one of which is located directly across the street from the Greenburgh Nature Center. A prior effort to get the measure introduced at a town board meeting failed when Town Clerk Judith Beville objected and would not stop speaking until town board members turned to another subject.
The arrests were made by members of the Greenburgh Police Street Crime Unit and Drug and Alcohol Task Force after a “short term investigation” at “numerous massage establishments” in town, the police said.
Police Chief Chris McNerney told the ECC last October that houses of prostitution fronting as massage parlors in Edgemont had become so rampant that Edgemont had become the “illicit massage parlor capital of Westchester County.”
ECC president Bob Bernstein drafted the legislation to give local law enforcement the tools they requested — based on laws already enacted without any legal challenge in Clarkstown in 1996 and in Farmingdale in 2013 — after Town Attorney Tim Lewis refused to do so. Mr. Lewis has continued to oppose enactment of the proposed legislation because he believes towns in New York are not permitted to enact such legislation.
On February 19, a deputy town attorney sent a letter to the state attorney general asking whether the ECC’s proposed legislation was “preempted” by state law.
Mr. Bernstein said the letter was misleading because, among other things, it failed to state that (i) the purpose of the law was to shut down houses of prostitution fronting as massage parlors, (ii) such legislation was expressly authorized by the state legislature (Town Law Section 130, subsection 11), and (iii) other towns and villages have already adopted similar measures without any legal challenge.
Mr. Bernstein last week asked the town board to withdraw the letter and said if a letter is to be sent at all, it should include all “pertinent facts” as required by rules governing letters requesting legal opinions from the attorney general. The town board this week refused at its work session to withdraw the letter and, as expected, the planning board, meeting secretly in executive session on Wednesday evening, likewise refused to withdraw the letter. The town attorney’s office says the letter is “neutral” and that the state attorney general would have to be an “idiot” not to know the “pertinent facts.”
In a letter to Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, the chair of the Planning Board, Fran McLaughlin, said that her board’s decision to send the letter now means that the measure is on hold indefinitely.
“If the AG says the law is not pre-empted,” Ms. McLaughlin said, “the Town can proceed with its review. If he says it is pre-empted, the Town needs to come at this another way to ensure the shut down of massage establishments conducting illegal activities.”
The Town of Greenburgh may have the highest ranked school district in the entire country, but the Town itself not only didn’t crack the top ten places to live in New York — when nine of the ten were from Westchester County — it didn’t even make a list of the top 50.
According to Movoto.com, the best place to live in New York this year is the Town of Mamoroneck, followed by the Village of Tarrytown, the City of White Plains, the Village of Mount Kisco, and the Town/Village of Scarsdale. Rounding out the rest of the top ten are the Town/Village of Harrison, the Village of Dobbs Ferry, the Town of Ossining, the City of Rye, and the City of New Rochelle.
“In order to come up with our ranking of best places in New York,” Movoto said, “we started out by gathering a list of all the places in the state with 10,000 people or more from the 2010 U.S. Census. This left us with a total of 87 places. We then looked at each of these places in terms of the following criteria:
- Total amenities
- Quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student to teacher ratio)
- Total crimes
- Tax rates (sales tax and income tax)
- Commute time
- Weather (temperature and air quality)
From there, we ranked each place with a score of 1 to 87, according to the above criteria, with the lowest number being best. After that, we averaged each for an overall Big Deal Score; again, the lower the better.”
The site did not specify why certain large towns like Greenburgh did not even crack the top 50.
However, the Town and its government has had its share of problems, ranging from draining 40% of reserves last fall to fund spending needs in an election year in order to keep tax hikes artificially low, to backing efforts yesterday by the town attorney and town clerk to block a community-drafted proposal to give police in Greenburgh the tools they say they need — and which other New York towns and villages have enacted without objection — to stop houses of prostitution from fronting as massage parlors in the town.
On top of that, efforts resisted for years by town officials to build sidewalks to make it safer for children to walk to and from their elementary schools now seem to be moving at a snail’s pace — which is better than not moving at all — while a lack of municipal spending and planning has resulted in the town’s outdoor pools having outlived their 35-year useful life — with no plan to replace them.
Even such basic services as road repaving have slowed to the point where, after a series of terrible winters, many town roads are so rutted with potholes they might as well be located in war-town areas of Somalia or Syria. Even well publicized efforts to sell town property — such as Frank’s Nursery on Dobbs Ferry Road, which the Town acquired more than four years ago in a tax foreclosure sale — collapsed in failure when prospective purchasers learned the property was contaminated with carcinogens.
And Greenburgh taxpayers still have nearly ten years to pay off a $5.5 million settlement with the Fortress Bible Church — believed to be the largest such settlement against a municipality in U.S. history — after town officials were found to have violated the constitutional rights of the church by refusing permission to let the church build a chapel and school on church-owned land based on supposed traffic safety concerns that the court found were baseless.
On the positive side, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and town council members Kevin Morgan and Ken Jones are running for re-election proclaiming that, through their efforts, management of the Town has never been better.
The Edgemont Community Council’s proposed law barring brothels from fronting as massage parlors in the Town of Greenburgh is apparently on indefinite hold, it was learned today, after the Planning Board notified the Town that it will not even consider the measure until state attorney general Eric Schneiderman weighs in on its legality.
The Town’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, which met this morning, was told that the Planning Board will not consider the proposed massage law until the Town receives a legal opinion from the attorney general’s office. This was the first anyone had heard that the town attorney had taken such action, but he presumably did so at the direction of Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and other members of the Town Board.
Even though other towns and villages in New York have enacted similar legislation, Town Attorney Tim Lewis does not believe towns in New York have the legal right to enact such legislation and, for that reason, refused to draft such a measure when he was asked to do so last fall by Police Chief Chris McNerney, and has apparently been working behind the scenes to find ways to block the Town from adopting it.
In October, Chief McNerney told the ECC that Edgemont had become the “illicit massage parlor capital of Westchester County.”
ECC president Bob Bernstein stepped in to draft the measure when Mr. Lewis refused to do so. At its January meeting, the ECC unanimously endorsed the measure and the Town Board held a special meeting to introduce it after the ECC showed on its website that two illicit massage parlors posted x-rated ads on the internet advertising “grand openings” in Edgemont. The “grand openings” were advertised two days after the Town Board had failed to introduce the ECC proposal when the Town Clerk filibustered it.
The Planning Board is required to weigh in on the proposal because a small portion of the draft law requires a change to the Town’s zoning law. Specifically, the proposal calls for the town clerk to license massage establishments, subject to background checks from the police chief, the building inspector and the fire marshal, and then for such establishments to obtain a special permit to operate from the Town Board. Only the special permit requirement involves an amendment to the zoning law and Greenburgh law requires that the Planning Board issue a report and recommendation to the Town Board on that aspect of the law before the Town Board can hold a public hearing prior to a vote on whether to enact the measure.
On February 11, the Town Board held a “public discussion” on the measure during which time Mr. Lewis had announced that the Planning Board would consider the measure at its March 18 meeting. Mr. Lewis did not disclose that he had told the Planning Board that he was seeking a legal opinion from Mr. Schneiderman and that he was recommending that the board take no action on the massage law until after the opinion is received.
It is not known whether Mr. Lewis took these actions on his own, or whether he was directed to do so in executive session by the Town Board. Mr. Feiner has publicly stated his support for the ECC’s proposed law, but has done nothing else to advance the legislation. The Planning Board met Wednesday night.
Specifically, Mr. Feiner said he would not ask the Planning Board to expedite its consideration of the law; he also did not direct the town attorney’s staff to prepare any written changes to the Town’s zoning law so that the Planning Board would know what specific portion of the 11-page proposed law it was being asked to review. Nor did Mr. Feiner inform Mr. Bernstein or anyone from the ECC of the Town Attorney’s plan to seek an opinion from the state attorney general. Nor has anyone from the ECC seen a draft of whatever it is that Mr. Lewis supposedly sent.
Mr. Lewis has a history of asking for legal opinions from the state attorney general or the state comptroller’s office by framing the discussion in such a way that critically important information is omitted. As a result, the opinions he receives are often of little value.
For example, in an attempt a few years ago to block Edgemont from getting town funds for the construction of sidewalks needed to protect children walking to Edgemont’s elementary schools, Mr. Lewis wrote to the state comptroller asking about the application of a state highway law which allowed for the funding of sidewalks and was told that funding under that law would have to be charged to all town taxpayers, including those residing in incorporated villages, which was politically unacceptable to the Town; the alternative, Mr. Lewis was told, was to require that sidewalks for Edgemont children be charged only to Edgemont taxpayers, which is what Town Supervisor Paul Feiner for years said Edgemont taxpayers would have to do if it wanted sidewalks to protect its schoolchildren.
Years later, after receiving the opinion, and examining what Mr. Lewis had actually asked, it became clear that Mr. Lewis had omitted any mention of the state suburban law which expressly provides that sidewalks for public safety in unincorporated areas of a town may be charged to all of unincorporated Greenburgh. Consequently, the state comptroller did not address that possibility.
Here, by not presenting the public with a copy of whatever it is Mr. Lewis apparently prepared on the proposed massage law, there is no way to know whether Mr. Lewis is once again presenting a one-side version of the facts in order to obtain an opinion that would support his opposition to enactment of the proposed law.
At last week’s “public discussion,” Town Clerk Beville also repeated her opposition to any requirement that licensing of massage establishments be the responsibility of the town clerk — even if, as the proposed law makes clear — the town clerk would only be following the recommendations of the police chief, the building inspector and the fire marshal. Repeated misstatements by Ms. Beville as to what the proposal actually says went unanswered by Mr. Feiner and other members of the Town Board.