A letter from five Common Councilpersons requesting open space aid from County Executive Andy Spano was faxed to a Journal News Reporter Wednesday without notifying the Mayor and a sixth Councilman before it was apparently leaked to the reporter..
The Mayor’s office was shocked Wednesday when, according to Executive Officer George Gretsas, Journal News City Hall Beat Reporter, Susan Elan, contacted him asking him for City Hall comment on a letter she had received sent Spano by five Councilman.
Ms. Elan, Gretsas said, told him she had received a letter, faxed her by Robert Greer, signed by five Common Council members including Greer, asking County Executive Andy Spano’s office for aid in funding the $1.775 million purchase of the long-sought D’Elia property off the Greenway approved by the Capitol Projects Board Tuesday.
The Council takes over.
Gretsas told WPCNR he had no idea what she was talking about, and he asked her to fax the letter over to him so he could comment on it. She faxed it to him at 2:45 PM.
According to Gretsas it was the first time the Mayor’s office was aware of the maverick Council initiative.
County spokesperson Donna Greene told WPCNR: “It (the letter) came up here in a letter form (I think hand delivered) addressed to the county executive, signed by the 5 council members at about 2 PM. (Precise time not known.)”
She said she did not think the County Executive had examined the letter immediately upon its arrival.This raises the possibility that the reporter may have known about the request before Mr. Spano did.
Letter does not “cc:” Delfino
A copy of the letter obtained by WPCNR has five Councilmen signing the letter which is written on Robert Greer’s City Council stationary. The five are: Robert Greer, Rita Malmud, Benjamin Boykin II, William King and Pauline Oliva. The letter formally calls for the County Executive to step in and supply county aid for the D’Elia property, in effect, (since the Mayor was not carbon copied or informed to Gretsas’ knowlege), behind the Mayor’s back. It also raises the question whether all five councilmembers met privately which is forbidden by the City Charter, to sign the letter.
Friday, Paul Wood, spokesman for the Mayor’s office said, Mayor Delfino had indeed met with County Executive Spano on Wednesday but they had not discussed any open space aid package.
If Spano knew of the letter, it could be assumed he might have mentioned it to Mayor Delfino. This raises the question of whether the reporter knew of the five councilpersons’ request before the County Executive.
The council still has to vote officially to authorize the $1.775 million expenditure on the D’Elia property. It is on the agenda for approval for the September 4 Common Council meeting, along with the Council resolution to establish the Open Space Acquisition Advisory Committee and adapt as city policy the Mayor’s Environmental Protection Initiative.
Can Council Acquire Land working within the Trust for Public Land model?
WPCNR learned from a key city environmental officialwho spoke on condition he not be identified, that the Wednesday letter is the first time since the Open Space Acquisition Advisory Committee was formed last spring), that the Council has raised the question of going to the county for aid to fund the $5 million acquisition fund. They have not done so, even when the Council has voted to approve a Home Rule Request to Albany to release pension fund money to fund partially the $5 million earmarked to spend on open space properties.
Susan Habel at the Tuesday CapitalProjects Board recommendation hearing said the Mayor engaged the New York Trust for Public Land to negotiate for the D’Elia property because it had long been suggested strongly by Open Space advocates that the city use the Trust services.
Now, in the first negotiation the Trust has conducted for the city, successfully, the Council may, in its concern for city expenditures,may be showing it is unable to work within the parameters of the way The Trust for Public Land works: agreeing to a negotiated deal within a tight time frame.
If the council does not have the stomach for a $1.75 million bonding, can they abide with a multi-million dollar purchase down the road?
Council knew Tuesday county, state and federal sources would be explored
The Mayor’s Executive Officer was puzzled by the council need to appeal to the County Executive for aid.
What troubled Gretsas most was that Robert Greer had been explicitly assured by Mayor Delfino at the Tuesday afternoon Capitol Projects Board meeting when the $1.775MM expenditure for the D’Elia piece was agreed upon by all council members in attendance, that aid would be sought from the county, state and federal levels.
WPCNR, covering that meeting, heard Delfino tellGreer explicitly he had a meeting with Spano “in about 10 days” to discuss the possibility of direct county aid.
Gretsas expressed disappointment with the letter the council five wrote to Spano, because, he said, the Mayor said Tuesday that if the city depended on the county to approve some aid, the 90 day contractual period the New York Trust for Public Land has to close the deal with the D’Elia owners might be missed.
City will bond for a year, seek aid which could reduce bonding need
Gretsas said Greer’s fears were unfounded. He pointed out the city financial interest was protected in case aid could be secured. He said in cases like these when federal aid might be anticipated, the city executes a short-term bond in anticipation of future aid.
He said the city was going to bond for the 1.775 million purchase price for just one year:
“This one-year bond gives the city time to apply for grants, seek aid from the county and the federal level, yet by bonding now, the city secures the D’Elia property during this brief window because the New YorkTrust for Public Land only has 90 days in which to close the deal. If we receive aid within one year, we can rebond for a lesser amount, but we lock in the deal, now.” (See WPCNR earlier story).
Ryan to the Rescue
Coincidently, aid could be forthcoming. County Legislator William Ryan, (of District 5), was reported in the Journal News as saying he would introduce a bill in the County Legislature to acquire $500,000 in county aid towards the D’Elia purchase, at the County Board meeting September 10.
Interestingly, this move has Ryan supporting two different positions toward “woodsy” open space within White Plains.
Ryan currently supports a $1.9 million county purchase of wooded, Silver Lake-adjacent land in Woodcrest Heights in White Plains to build low cost affordable housing for lower and middle income persons, an ongoing Andy Spano initiative, while only asking for $500,000 to preserve the D’Elia property.
The $1.9 million funding has not been moved to the Legislative Budget committee yet, its next step.
Corcoran to the neighborhoods: Reynal Parkers for it: Greenway not used much now.
Candyce Canelstein Corcoran, an outspoken advocate for open space, Ryan’s rival for the Legislative post in District 5, reported on her walking tours of the Reynal Park area Thursday and Friday. She and her companion Republican candidates for Common Council, Larry Delgado and Robert Amodio have found the neighborhood eager for the D’Elia purchase.
Corcoran made the walking tour, to get a sense whether the neighborhoods were against the purchase if it were open to county residents. Talking with over thirty persons door-to-door, Corcoran reports:
“They feel it is important for the city to acquire the land.They are not concerned who pays for it, and believe even if the county contributes, that it will not see increased use because no one uses it now. They would prefer it to be owned by the city of White Plains for city use only, but at this point they do not seem to care whether it is a combination of city and county money that acquires it. There were 2 residents who expressed resistance to the county helping pay for the property because of the ramifications of it.”