The Town of Greenburgh is embroiled in another legal battle, this one surrounding the leasing of property on Dobbs Ferry Road, formerly occupied by Frank’s Nursery, to Game On 365 to build and operate a $6.9 million, 94,000 square foot, indoor sports facility. After much discussion of the terms of the lease, on Monday night August 14, the Greenburgh Town Board approved the 15-year lease, subject to a town-wide referendum on November 6th. The terms of the lease require Game On to pay the Town of Greenburgh $260,000 to $325,000, including payment for property taxes for the first four years of the deal and after that the rent will rise 1 percent annually. The lease also calls for the company to pay $125,000 for an environmental clean-up. But some contend that the remediation will be far more costly and cause Greenburgh to incur additional expense.
And why is a referendum necessary to approve the lease of town-owned land? According to Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, a referendum would allow residents to “partner” on this important decision and, “provide Town Board members with the opportunity to explain why we think the proposed lease is a good deal for the town.” It would also offer residents “the chance to hear both sides of the issue: from Game On and from House of Sports (which according to Feiner is leading the fight against the Game On application) and provide the Planning Board with feedback from thousands of residents.
However some argue that the Town does not have the right to lease land as Westchester County Code stipulates that the Towns must sell land acquired via tax foreclosure. This point is in dispute with the Town’s Attorney arguing that the Westchester County law requiring the land sale has been superseded by a NYS law enacted in 1993 called the Uniform Delinquent Tax Enforcement Act that “authorizes” the county to sell such properties but does not “preclude” as lease. Lewis argues that the 1993 law “supersedes any inconsistent general, special, or local law,” unless such local municipality “opted out” by adopting a local law and filing it with the State Board of Real Property Services no later than August 1, 1994.” Since Westchester did not opt out, Lewis argues that the County code is no longer valid and that Article 11 of the New York State Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) does not preclude the Town’s short term lease of surplus property to Game On 365, LLC or another entity.”
Representatives from The House of Sports , who already have approval to build a similar facility less than 3 miles away off Route 9A in Ardsley, have also raised objections to the Game On lease. In an August 15th email to Scarsdale10583 they contend that, “This development is riddled with so many issues due to the Town’s actions ranging from a tainted RFP process, entering into a financially irresponsible deal at the expense of residents, the drafting of a lease lacking standard commercial terms and protections for the Town and lastly not realizing after 1½ years of work that the Town doesn’t even have the authority to lease the land and any such lease is illegal.”
They argue that Greenburgh is favoring Game On over the House of Sports and fear that the Town will again be tied up in litigation and use their tax dollars to foot the bill.
“The House of Sports is a family owned business that is making a very large investment in Greenburgh. We will be paying hundreds of thousands in taxes, hiring over a hundred employees and providing a fantastic asset to the community. All we have asked for is that the Town not favor one business over another. We are more than happy to compete on a level playing field. But it is very reasonable for us to demand that our tax dollars not be used to subsidize a competitor. The Town’s recent actions of favoring one business and disregarding the law will deter other new businesses from coming to Greenburgh."
They also call for Feiner to seek out a lawful use for the property.
“We would have no grounds to object to the Town’s actions if they were doing everything properly and legally. It is shameful for Feiner to blame a local business for his own errors in judgment, incompetence in execution and illegal actions. The likely litigation on the legality of the lease will take many years during which Game On will be unable to raise money (since the lease will be found to be null and void) and the Town will not be able to monetize this property. It’s time for Supervisor Feiner to look for a lawful use for this valuable town asset.”
A public discussion on the referendum, and a vote by the Town Board to schedule the referendum for November 6, will take place on Wednesday, August 29th at 7:30 PM at Greenburgh Town Hall.