“I’ve never had the support of political leadership, but I relate well to the average voter because I’m always looking for ways to help any constituent,” Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner told the Business Journals during a discussion of a number of new town initiatives. “They have full access to me; they can call me on my cell phone during the day, on weekends. We will have city government officials visiting them, in the neighborhood. The city is very responsive to voters.”
For Feiner and Greenburgh, businesses large and small, as well as professional practitioners, are important as part of the constituency and driver of the city’s economy.
“I was driving down Central Avenue and a lot of the small stores that were empty have now been replaced with small stores,” Feiner said. “We have exceptional service, and I want people and businesses that come here to know that if they have a problem, they’re not going to get an answering machine or have to wait an hour. We are creating a culture in the city where we want people to feel that we will be understanding of their concerns.”
Feiner noted that Greenburgh does not have a Chamber of Commerce, which he believes can be an important vehicle for lobbying on behalf of its business members and allowing for networking while fostering a sense of community among businesses. Therefore, he proposed the launch of just such an organization and issued an open invitation to a meeting.
“Greenburgh, to my surprise, has never had a chamber of commerce over the years. They tried that maybe a decade ago and it never worked,” Feiner said. “One of the goals I have for this year is a very active Chamber of Commerce. I posted the notice and now we have about 30 volunteers.”
The Feiner chamber had its second organizational meeting on January 9.
“We’re going to reach out to businesses and I hope we can help local businesses survive, take advantage of programs that can help them,” Feiner said. “Maybe there will be tax breaks; there may be marketing efforts. We may try to get students with marketing skills to help us with social media. Perhaps we could even create opportunities for students to help them start their own businesses. You can’t survive as a small business if you don’t use e-commerce. We will have programs, meetings, social events. We will organize street activities. We may have programs where residents get discounts.”
Feiner noted that many villages in the Town of Greenburgh already have a Chamber of Commerce presence serving the local community.
“The river chamber is excellent. The Sleepy Hollow-Tarrytown Hall is excellent,” Feiner said. “We’re going to look at what they’re doing and try to do the same thing for businesses in unincorporated Greenburgh.”
Feiner noted that economic development in the city has taken place in many ways, including Regeneron’s $1.8 billion expansion project, the opening of a new ShopRite supermarket in a few weeks, planned improvements to Route 119 as a result of the Complete Street Study and the planned start of new affordable housing, apartments for the elderly and housing projects at a market price.
“Greenburgh has a lot of land that could potentially be developed,” Feiner said. “You have country clubs that are either selling like Elmwood or selling parts of their property like Metropolis did for assisted living. You have office space on Route 119 that could be redeveloped for mixed use. You have Four Corners in Hartsdale, which could be developed for mixed use. It has a lot of potential for development.”
Feiner envisioned the possibility that some future multifamily developments could take the form of condominiums or co-ops rather than rental buildings. With that in mind, Greenburgh worked with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Rep. Tom Abinanti last year to pass legislation they sponsored that would have allowed Greenburgh to assess condos and co-ops at residential property tax rates instead of lower commercial rates, as was the case with practice. On December 23rd, Governor Hochul signed legislation that applies only to Greenburgh. Existing co-ops and condos in Greenburgh will continue to be taxed at the commercial rate.
“We want to make sure that we can keep the taxes as low as possible if there is development. This year, we reduced the tax rate by 6 percent,” said Feiner. “If we can get more revenue (from new development) it will help all taxpayers.”
This marks Democrat Feiner’s 32nd year as Greenburgh Town Supervisor. He is the longest serving public administration executive in Westchester County. He previously served on the Westchester County Legislature and entered politics at age 12 as a volunteer in Ogden Reid’s successful 1968 congressional campaign.
“The world is changing and we have to be willing to adapt to the changing business climate,” Feiner said. “The location of Greenburgh is really amazing. We have been able to reduce tax rates, but rates are going up. We have a triple A bond rating, the highest rating. It is not a community that has fiscal problems.”