Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner has stooped to a new low in his bid to hand a $25 million contract to an inexperience Greenwich builder who wants to operate Westchester’s WestHELP affordable housing complex.
In a taxpayer-financed mailing to town residents, Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner touts the Richman Group Affordable Housing Corporation’s involvement in property management at the 108-unit WestHELP affordable housing complex.
The Richman Group, wrote Feiner, had been asked by Group MRH, which was selected by the Town Board to run the 108-unit project through 2032, to provide property management and tenant compliance oversight at the affordable-housing complex.Feiner lets residents know that Richman is one of the nation’s leading investors in affordable housing, with a portfolio in 49 states, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Guam. He notes Richman has provided affordable housing for 115,000 families.
While Richman was asked to participate in the WestHELP project, its answer was a resounding, “No.”
The Richman Group, in no uncertain terms, has denied any involvement in the WestHELP project. In a May 2 letter, the company demanded that Richard Harris, the president of Group MRH, “cease and desist” from disseminating any information that the Richman companies were involved in the project.
“The purpose of this letter is to demand that you and any and all employees, agents, and/or consultants of your company cease and desist disseminating any information to the effect that either The Richman Group Development Corporation and/or The Richman Group Affordable Housing Corporation is your partner, consultant, or joint venture in the Project,” Richman legal counsel Joanne Flanagan wrote. “We have received several press releases concerning the Project indentifying our clients as your partner. This is totally false and we demand that you correct this erroneous information.”
The letter was obtained in May from the town of Greenburgh under a Freedom of Information request. Town Attorney Tim Lewis had been copied on the letter sent Harris.
Longtime Elmsford resident Ella Preiser said she was stunned to receive Feiner’s taxpayer-financed newsletter. The letter, dated June 10, arrived at her home on June 21, she said. The address on the letter had the same address label used for tax bills she receives from the town. She taped the label to the letter she provided to Tax Watch.
“I think it’s outrageous,” said Preiser, who has lived in Elmsford for 49 years. “It’s just more of the same. We don’t seem to get out facts straight in this town. I am quite troubled by the fact Mr. Feiner puts out false and misleading information.”
Feiner, in a telephone interview, told Tax Watch that Richman was not involved in the WestHELP project. He said newsletter section about Richman may have been written earlier.
“That was something that I wrote, but I’m not even sure when I wrote it, or whatever,” he said. “Maybe it was taken from an old thing and I forgot to delete it.”
Later, Feiner said that he apparently pasted the old copy onto the new newsletter, without properly reviewing the material.
“I wasn’t really looking at the Richman stuff,” he said. “That probably was a mistake. I should have cleaned it up and done some proofreading.”
The town needs approval from Westchester County for its contract with Group MRH.
Feiner and the Town Board have come under strong criticism for choosing Group MRH because the out-of-state developer had no experience in the affordable housing field. In its proposal to the town, Harris had asserted that Group MRH was a partner with Richman. But Richman legal counsel Flanagan wrote that Richman had only held a preliminary discussion with Harris that was ended before any business relationship was established.
Richman’s cease-and-desist letter to Harris, however, didn’t stop Feiner from continuing to spread the misleading information.Dated June 10, Feiner wrote the newsletter 19 days after the Greenburgh Democratic Town Committee endorsed Edgemont civic leader Bob Bernstein over him for town supervisor. Bernstein has challenged Feiner repeatedly for selecting Group MRH to run WestHELP. They face off in a Sept. 10 primary.
“I think it’s appalling that an elected official would disseminate information he knows to be false and misleading,” said Bernstein, an attorney. “To do so at taxpayer expense in an election campaign is even more appalling. Feiner was put on written notice that what he sent out was untrue. And he uses tax dollars to repeat it.”
Neither Harris nor Town Attorney Tim Lewis returned phone messages. A secretary in the office of Richman counsel Joanne Flanagan hung up on me when I sought a comment on Feiner’s latest WestHELP move.
Photo: The Richman Group of Companies, in the Glenville section of Greenwich, Ct. / David McKay Wilson