The following is a letter submitted by Greenburgh resident Simon Cohen:
I’d like to make you aware of a development project in the Town of Greenburgh near my home that is not only fraught with issues, but also has me wondering what is really going on.
Supervisor Feiner and the Greenburgh Town Board have decided to lease Town-owned land located at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road (the former Frank’s Nursery) to a start-up company, Game On 365, to build a sports bubble facility (161,500 sq. ft and 8 stories high) in a residential zoned area.
In typical Feiner fashion, the proposed lease is terrible for Town residents and the Town will lose money on this lease. Here are some of the major issues:
· NO TAXES TO BE PAID BY TENANT: The Town has decided to personally pay any and all taxes owed by private business Game On (Lease p.2). After the $6.9M facility is assessed, the Town will pay taxes of around $250K or more. The Town will collect $260K in rent from Game On. The amount the Town will pay in taxes each year will almost equal what is collected in rent. This doesn’t even include the likely increase to the Town in community services from such a huge facility. The Town will NOT MAKE ANY MONEY OFF THIS 7 ACRE PROPERTY FOR 15 YEARS. Game On, however, boasts that they will have a gross income of $2.4M in year 1 and $5.1M in year
· GAME ON TO COLLECT MORE SUBLEASING 7,500 SQ. FT. TO RETAIL TENANTS THAN THEY WILL PAY THE TOWN IN RENT FOR THE ENTIRE FACILITY (161,500 SQ. FT. ON 7 ACRES): Game On has projected to earn $300-330K in annual rental income from 5 subtenants who will be using approximately 7,500 sq. ft. (less than 5% of their entire square footage) of their Clubhouse building. Game On will be paying the Town $260-335K in annual rent for the entire facility. When the economics of a deal don’t make sense, it is a clear indicator of something else going on behind the scenes.
· TAXPAYERS TO PAY FOR UNKNOWN ENVIRONMENTAL CLEAN-UP: The Town will use taxpayer money to pay for an environmental clean-up (Lease p.14) on this site that is known to be contaminated and they have been keeping this fact (that taxpayers will pay for it) from residents.
· NO RENT PAYMENT DURING DEVELOPMENT OF UP TO 3 YEARS: Game On won’t pay a dime until after Town approvals, which could take up to 3 years, and they can walk away at any time (Lease p.16-17).
· NO FINANCES REQUIRED FOR LEASE FROM START-UP COMPANY: The lease doesn’t contain any standard provisions for finances, guaranty or security. This is because Game On plans to raise the $7.5M for the facility construction and operation AFTER they sign the 15 year lease with the Town. The Town bears ALL the financial risks.
· NO ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STUDIES HAVE BEEN DONE: The Town has illegally decided not do any traffic, parking, noise, EMF, aesthetic or community services studies (SEQR) PRIOR to entering the lease (which is considered to be an action under SEQR). With the Fortress Bible Church and School is built just 2,500 ft. east on the same road, environmental impacts need a hard look. Residents will not be protected from potential harms without these studies being done prior to the lease, as the law states they must.
· TOWN REJECTS MUCH BETTER OFFER: The Town has an offer of $1.5M to buy the property “as is” and the adjacent property (2 acres smaller) is on the market for $3.5M. If sold, the Town can immediately add this property to the tax roll for hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, which is hundreds of thousands more each year than they will receive with the current lease.
Does this all sound crazy to you?
What’s even more insane is that the whole RFP (Request for Proposals) process (issuance and developer selection) was tainted and predetermined. The RFP was designed around Game On and Game On tailored their proposal to fit things that others had no knowledge of. BEFORE issuing an RFP on the property, the Town spent NINE MONTHS negotiating with Game On. This included several presentations before the Town Board and countless meetings, emails and phone calls.
For example, the Town put forward a resolution solely to change the zoning of the property for an “indoor sports complex” use months before the RFP was even issued, Feiner admitted speaking to “tons” of people about the Game On proposal prior to the RFP being issued, and the other proposals received were never even looked at by the Town Board (this is all on video). This sham RFP process was detrimental to other interested parties and contrary to public interest in getting the best deal for the property. (I have documents and video links to illustrate all of this, as well as a timeline of the RFP process.) The Town will also receive a lower than market rent payment.
The Town never assessed the property to learn fair market value. The tainted RFP process led to only 3 proposals on a rare 7 acre site in southern Westchester off major highways. And just hours after having “opened” the proposals, the Town immediately agreed to the rent that Game On suggested in their proposal without negotiating. The residents of Greenburgh have been shortchanged on a bad deal for a below market rent.
The Town officials have done whatever they can to hide things from the public and mislead residents. What is really going on here?
The lease is available on the Town of Greenburgh’s website.
There will be an informal meeting on July 18th at 7pm at Frank’s Nursery and then the Town Board will vote on July 25th at 7:30pm at Town Hall.