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Greenburgh Petition Aims To Slow Edgemont Incorporation Campaign

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June 8, 2021

By Sue Treiman—

Greenburgh officials fired off the latest salvo in the battle over Edgemont’s proposed incorporation Saturday when political leaders unveiled a petition calling for assurances that creating a new village won’t harm other Town of Greenburgh unincorporated communities.

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The petition would slow the incorporation by placing new conditions on any transition from its current unincorporated status to self-governing village. Over the last five years, Edgemont incorporation advocates have twice tried and failed to become the seventh free-standing village in Greenburgh, alongside Hastings-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Elmsford, Ardsley, and Tarrytown. This third Edgemont Incorporation Committee’s (EIC) effort follows the February New York State Supreme Appellate Court rejection of their own petition that sought a referendum on the issue.

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and New York State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant) were joined by other Greenburgh officials at a Saturday press conference held to formally introduce the new petition.

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner

“Today’s press conference is really the beginning of an education progress, because we have to help the entire town recognize there are ramifications for all of us,” said Feiner.

Incorporation opponents contend that establishing Edgemont as a separate village within Greenburgh would slash funding for the town’s public projects, leaving less prosperous areas critically short of resources, a decision the petition dubs “morally and socially wrong.” Rep. Abinanti labelled the incorporation move “selfish.”

“It’s very dangerous to say you’re going to form a village solely for the purposes of self-interest;” he complained. “If you break up the town on the basis of wealth, on the basis of class, you are having a disparate impact on the people that need help the most, while segregating people by class and that’s not the America we want.”

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti

The petition asks the New York State Assembly, now in the final week of its session, to fully consider “the social and economic impact on those vulnerable residents left behind in several ways.”  Specifically, it spells out three actions that should accompany any call for incorporation, beginning with a state comptroller review of the impact villagehood would have on surrounding areas for the subsequent five years; a town-wide public vote on the issue; and public hearings allowing all interested parties to share their concerns about the potential impact of incorporation. The Greenburgh petition seeks to pressure Albany lawmakers to reinstate a previous version of pending State Law 5223 that included those provisions, all of which mysteriously disappeared from the bill’s latest iteration sometime last week.

“The Bill has now been ‘gutted,’ removing the Comptroller’s decision-making authority, ending any potential protection for those most vulnerable in Greenburgh and providing no additional regulatory requirements for incorporating a Village,” the petition states.

“We have to help the entire town recognize there are ramifications for all of us if Edgemont is incorporated and that our town will be better together.” said Feiner.

.Underlying the incorporation tug of war are critical financial, equity, and voting considerations, as well as not-so-subtle questions of classism and racism.  Edgemont, also known as Greenville, was ranked as the 22nd wealthiest area in the U.S. and the third wealthiest in New York State by Bloomberg in 2018.

The EIC counters that the community accounts for about 17 percent of Greenburgh’s population but contributes a far greater percentage of monetary support to township-wide programs, without enjoying the autonomy and self-direction available to the six Greenburgh villages. EIC members want to acquire similar jurisdiction over their own services, including zoning and development decisions, rather than turning control over to similar the town. They also complain that they are disproportionately affected by land-use judgements placed against the town of village. That’s a particularly sticky problem following an embarrassing recent $9.5 million property dispute settlement where the bulk of the cost, about $6 million (after insurance kicks in) will come from unincorporated Greenburgh. Villages are not held liable.

The legal action was caused by a “mistake” in Greenburgh zoning provisions that left an area of undeveloped Edgemont available for multi-family and low-income housing development, rather than for limited density use.

The settlement could be a particular threat to the reelection bid of 30-year Greenburgh Supervisor Feiner, who faced another large financial settlement following a contentious property dispute. Feiner is being challenged in the Democratic primary later this month by Tasha D. Young, a lifelong Greenburgh resident who currently works as Chief of Staff to New York City Coun­cil Ma­jor­ity Leader Laurie A. Cumbo.  Young attended the Saturday press conference but declined an invitation to speak. Instead, she made a brief statement immediately afterwards again calling for the “open and transparent” leadership that a new town supervisor’s administration would bring. She has hinted that she would not necessarily block the Edgemont incorporation, but would work instead to bring all sides together to arrive at mutually agreeable solutions.

As of Sunday evening, the petition had received 572 of the 1000 signatures required to achieve “recommended” status.

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