Valhalla settles lawsuit with Greenburgh - town to receive $1.1 million

help usa

The Valhalla School district voted to settle a lawsuit
with the town of Greenburgh last night and will pay the town $1.1 million over a
nine year period (with about half of the settlement being paid during the first
two years).  The lawsuit was filed after the NYS Comptroller's office determined
that the town was prohibited from directly giving  the school district $650,000
a year from revenues we received from the WESTHELP homeless facility--which is
located in the school district.  The Greenburgh Town Board will vote to support
the settlement at a special meeting this coming Tuesday. 

In 2004, when the Town Board unanimously voted to enter into the WESTHELP
partnership with the Mayfair Knollwood community the goal was to persuade the
neighborhood to accept homeless housing in their community. 108 homeless
individuals were provided with transitional services.  Maria Cuomo Cole, sister
of Andrew Cuomo (who built WESTHELP) offered to close the facility (which had
provided services to the community for a decade) UNLESS the neighborhood
supported continuing WESTHELP.  The Town Board, WESTHELP, Westchester County,
Mayfair Knollwood civic association  all agreed that the partnership was a
win/win. The county would be able to help the homeless by keeping a shelter
operational. WESTHELP was able to keep their promise to the community by staying
in the community only if the community supported the facility. Residents of the
Mayfair Knollwood community received benefits for their children and the school
district was able to offer residents programs that they would not otherwise
receive. A non binding vote of residents of Mayfair/Knollwood was taken before
the agreement was signed. 90 people voted yes. 2 voted no.  Attorney's for the
county, WESTHELP and town reviewed the contract. We all thought that the
agreement was legal. This agreement would have been legal if it had been
structured differently--if WESTHELP had sent the school district a check
directly the agreement could have continued. 

Greenburgh, after receiving a directive from the State Comptroller's office
to stop paying Valhalla the annual payments, complied with the directive. The
school district sued the town trying to enforce the agreement. The Town Board
and I authorized Robert Bernstein and Herb Rosenberg to intervenue in the
lawsuit (without compensation). A countersuit was filed seeking reimbursement of
the funds.  Last year State Supreme court Justice Nicholas Colabella directed
that the school district return over $1.8 million to the town.

Although Herb Rosenberg, Robert Bernstein and I have had some disagreements
in the past, I am appreciative of their efforts helping the town and school
district reach a fair settlement.  This settlement is manageable for the school
district. Had the school district appealed the case and lost - their financial
exposure would have been much greater: they could have been forced to pay the
town much more ($1.8 million plus interest).  And, they would not had 9 years to
pay the town the dollars owed to us.  They would also have had to pay
significant legal fees.

I am also pleased that the school district and town will be able to put this
dispute behind us. We can now work together to enhance the quality of life of
children living in our town.





This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Herbert Rosenberg July 29, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Paul Feiner did not authorize Bob Bernstein's and my intervention in the Valhalla litigation. Neither did the Town Board, although four members of the Bolard later filed an affidavit in support of our motion to intervene. Indeed, Feiner opposed our intervention, and we faced opposition and lack of cooperation throughout the case. Feiner is up to his old tricks -- to claim unearned credit for the successful work of others, whule shirking and denying the bad things that happen on his watch. Herb Rosenberg
Paul Feiner July 30, 2012 at 12:44 AM
I disagree with Herb. Prior to the court authorizing the intervention, the Town Board and I met to discuss Herb and Bob's interest in becoming intervenors. The Judge probably would not have authorized the intervention without the Town Board's endorsement. The use of the term "authorization" is too strong. The Town Board advocated for the intervention. I was asked by the other Board members for my views on the request and I told the Board that I had no objections to Bob and Herb intervening. My situation was different from the other Board members since I was one of the advocates for the WESTHELP partnership. I spoke with two other Board members today who recall the discussions I had regarding the intervention motion and my support of the request by Bob & Herb.. They support my recollection. I have also located some e mails that I sent way back in 2010 confirming the fact that I had supported the intervention. Although Bob and Herb deserve credit for the work they did as intervenors, we should also give thanks to the Town Attorney's office. They also worked very hard on the lawsuit--which resulted in a decision favorable to the town. I am pleased that the town and some of our critics (including Bob & Herb) worked together during the process. I am hopeful that we will be able to continue to work together on other issues in the future- for the good of the residents. PAUL FEINER
Terry Williams July 30, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Do not believe the spin. Mr. Feiner is trying to claim victory by playing both sides of the fence. How can he characterize this as a fair settlement? $1.8 million illegally went out the door to Valhalla over a three-year period; only $1.1 million is coming back over nine years. That is an absolute loss of $700,000; the real loss is greater when you calculate that less money is coming in over a longer time period, and no interest will be earned. Greenburgh has essentially made a loan to the Valhalla School District and is willing to accept repayment of 40% of the principal. A bank that made loans on these terms wouldn’t be in business for long. I guess the same rules don’t apply to governments who can cover shortfalls by printing money, i.e. raising the taxes of its residents. It’s time that we call this what it is: Political payoff (Feiner’s exact words in early defenses) to keep the politically active voters of the Mayfair-Knollwood area as supporters of his future re-election/campaigns for higher office. Dropping terms like “social dividend,” “partnership” and “win/win” and the Cuomo name does not give credibility to this debacle. It was an ill-conceived idea and poor leadership, plain and simple; I would argue that it is corrupt. Greenburgh’s financial loss may be more than $700,000, but the loss of leadership is incalculable. -Terry Williams


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »