It looks like the town of Greenburgh’s long-awaited auction of the contaminated Frank’s Nursery site on Dobbs Ferry Road will be delayed.
Town Supervisor Paul Feiner told Tax Watch Monday that interest in the contaminated seven-acre site is so high that he’d like to delay the sealed-bid auction until February or March. Feiner said two potential purchasers have told him he’d pay more than the minimum bid of $3.5 million.
The Town Board will meet Tuesday morning to discuss the matter.
“These offers are from substantial developers,” Feiner said. “But they need more time to do their research. Because there’s so much interest, if we give it a couple of more months, we’d get the best offer we could get.”
Feiner’s latest delay comes six months after the town rejected an offer of $3.5 million for the seven-acre site. Greenburgh foreclosed on the property in 2011 after Frank’s failed to pay $1.4 million in back taxes. Since then, Greenburgh taxpayers have covered an estimated $50,000 a year in county and school taxes.
Edgemont attorney Bob Bernstein, who lost to Feiner in the 2013 Democratic primary for town supervisor, said Feiner has unfairly inserted himself into what was to be a sealed-bid auction to skew the bids. He also doubted Feiner’s assertion that the developers had pledged more than $3.5 million.
“If it’s supposed to be secret, why is Feiner having a conversation about what someone wants to bid?” Bernstein said. “It looks like he is conducting his own private negotiations, even though the town agreed it would be done by secret bid.”
Feiner insisted that he wasn’t trying to influence the sealed bid process to touting the arrival of two new suitors for the land, which was contaminated by Frank’s leaking oil tanks, and never cleaned up.
“I’m saying they were offering more than $3.5 million, and I didn’t say how much more they were offering,” Feiner said. “I’m not saying who the property owners are.”
But Bernstein said Feiner should butt out.
“Paul can’t sit still and just let the auction happen,” Bernstein said. “He needs to interfere in the bidding process when it is supposed to be secret. If you are having a secret bid, you can’t one guy know what the other guy is bidding. He’s corrupting the process. ”
Feiner said the offers were made in meetings he had with the developers and town planning staff. The parcel is currently zoned for single family homes. But the offering sheet for the land mentions that the town is considering changing the zoning to allow recreational uses. Feiner said that
The Frank’s sale has been mired in controversy for the 12 months. In November, 2012, Greenburgh voters approved a townwide referendum that backed a plan to lease the site for 15 years. But critics pointed out that state law required that property taken in tax foreclosure be sold, so that taxpayers are made whole for the back taxes they had front during the years when the property owned skipped payment.
Then in May, Feiner held a press conference at the abandoned site, announcing it had a deal to sell the land to Game On 365, a company that planned to erect a sports bubble on the site and build fields for youth recreation clubs. But a competitor, House of Sports, of Ardsley, offered $3.5 million. A loud shouting match broke out at the press conference. And Greenburgh decided to set aside the Game On deal.
They’d settle it with the sealed auction.
Now Feiner is seeking delays. He also interested in exploring a change in the auction process as well. Under the current rules, the parties will submit sealed bids, with the land going to the highest bidder. Now Feiner is considering having the auction be held in public, with the bidders bidding against each other.
“Maybe there is more interest than we thought,” Feiner said. “Maybe we will do better if people bid against each other. I’m not sure. But that’s another option.”