Group Claims To Have Burst the Bubble
With the Town of Greenburgh expected to approve leasing the former Frank Nursery’s site to Game On 365 last night, a group opposed to the lease claims the deal is illegal.
Town officials say that leasing to Game On 365, who would build the Westchester Fieldhouse, complete with a dome bubble, would create revenue, help lower taxes and allow for much needed field space, while opponents have questioned the speed in which the town is entering the deal and how much traffic would be created.
The town took over the Dobbs Ferry Road site after Frank’s Nursery was foreclosed.
The town board was expected to vote on the lease Monday night, though the vote has already been pushed back five times. On Thursday, Simon Cohen, who runs “Help Burst the Bubble,” sent out an e-mail claiming that the lease is illegal.
“Section 283.611 of the Westchester County Code (Purchase and Sale of Tax Lien Property) states that the Town Supervisor shall (meaning “must”) sell any property acquired by the town by reason of any tax lien,” Cohen said. “As such, the land cannot be leased. This would be illegal.”
Cohen called it “unbelievable” that Supervisor Paul Feiner, a lawyer, and Tim Lewis, the Town of Greenburgh Attorney, among others, were not aware of the law and were about to sign an illegal lease.
“Even more shameful is the amount of time and money that was wasted on an invalid RFP process and numerous lease negotiations/drafts over these past 18 months,” Cohen said. “This is truly another Feiner fiasco.”
Feiner said he doesn’t think the deal is illegal, but he said the town will check it out.
“I don’t think there is a prohibition in leasing,” Feiner said. “This is not a permanent lease, this is a 15-year lease. I would be very surprised if this is illegal, I don’t think it’s a requirement that you have to sell it.”
The supervisor believes that this is a ploy by House of Sports, a similar sports complex in Ardsley. Cohen has been dogged by allegations that he is affiliated with House of Sports and that they are funding his campaign. Cohen has repeatedly denied those allegations.
“I think they are grasping for anything to stop the project,” Feiner said. “The reaction I am getting from the public is much more positive. Just because somebody says it doesn’t mean it’s illegal. We’ll go through it and double check.”
Feiner said that if their attorneys tell him that the deal is illegal, than they would not vote for the lease.
The section that Cohen is quoting in the Westchester County Code fully states:
“The supervisor shall sell, either at public or private sale, as the town board may by resolution direct, and upon such terms and conditions and for such sum or sums as the town beard shall by resolution approve, fix and determine, any property or any part or parts thereof acquired by the town by reason of any tax lien or transfer of tax lien and convey title thereof in the name of the town.”
Critics have charged that the rent is too low and there is no cap on what the town must spend on cleaning up the site, among other grievances.
In the first year, Game On 365 is expected to pay $260,000 and in Year 15 will pay $335,000. The property taxes on the property are part of Game On’s lease. As the town continues to work on the lease, those terms could change.
According to the town, Game On 365 has also committed to paying $250,000 in cleanup costs, including $125,000 upfront.
Feiner said that the town is going to be doing a further analysis and said that approving the lease is just the first hurdle, Game On 365 must still be approved by the Planning Board and undergo the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Assessment) process.
Monday night’s meeting took place too late for this edition.
Adam has worked in the local news industry for the past two decades in Westchester County and the broader Hudson Valley. Read more from Adam’s author bio here.