The virtual face-off April 12 between town supervisor candidates Paul Feiner, a three-decade incumbent, and challenger Tasha Young, wasn’t framed as a debate. The event’s sponsor, a student-run activist organization called the Westchester Youth Congress, had provided questions in advance, allowed no rebuttals, and was strict about time limits.
But despite the lack of spontaneity, the candidates, both Democrats who will compete in the June 22 primary, carved out clear positions on major issues, from term limits to fiscal management to diversity.
What Feiner, 65, sees as an asset — his many years in the same job —Young, 49, sees as a liability. “We need term limits,” she stated. “They serve to counterbalance the advantage of incumbency, and they put pressure on incumbents.”
Young, who grew up in Elmsford, now lives in Tarrytown. Until February, she was chief of staff to Laurie Cumbo, a New York City Council member in Brooklyn. Her job included land use and policy, and involved negotiating with developers. Previously, she worked for several social service agencies, such My Sisters’ Place, a shelter for domestic abuse victims in White Plains, and the North American Family Institute, a foster care agency based in Elmsford.
She accused Feiner of putting off problems that became “more ingrained in the system of status quo.”
Young concluded, “I support at least a six-term limit. I look at term limits from an economic development perspective. Good government requires a turnover with fresh ideas and equity.”
Feiner stated that his experience “had made him aware of the complexities of the town of Greenburgh,” and expressed admiration for the long political career of President Joe Biden.
“My decades of long experience has been put to effective use,” he said, citing examples such as the COVID Angels program the town established to help residents make vaccine appointments, and the measures he put in place to facilitate early voting and help voters avoid long lines.
Feiner is also running on his record in fiscal management, citing the town’s AAA bond rating and its zero-percent tax hikes in 2020 and 2021. “We employ excellent outside consultants for bond purchasing,” he noted.
Young jumped on that statement, saying, “If the current supervisor needs a consultant, fine. But my plan is to put together a plan on Day 1, and source funds and grants for economic development.”
She said her background in building and managing teams would be an asset. “We are incredibly diverse,” she said. “In a Tasha D. Young administration, we would bolster outreach ... learn where fresh talent is found and recruit them.” She said the town should have a clear and limited process for hiring consultants. “But first, we should search through government entities for providing that service,” she said.
Diversity is a hot-button issue in Greenburgh. Young discussed the diversity factor in police reform, stating it should be renamed “public safety for all.” She said there should be a coordinated response among Greenburgh government departments “to mitigate profiling, mitigate harm and danger.” She promised to form a consortium of volunteers and advocacy groups to work on issues such as post-pandemic plans and racial literacy. “I have relationships and know how to get this done,” she said.
Feiner went straight to specifics, talking about the broadband services he secured for low-income Greenburgh Housing Authority residents, the internships and after-school programs the town offers students, and the Greenburgh Police Summer Youth Camp. He announced the creation of a mural on Black history that will be visible from an Interstate 287 overpass, and talked about the town’s recently approved plans to increase diverse hiring, make police more accountable for misconduct, and provide sensitivity and mental health training to officers.
Feiner said the town had a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and bias issues, and was working to improve that policy. Feiner, who is Jewish, was himself the target of an anti-Semitic threat in 2017; the man, who had sent hate mail to Feiner’s home in unincorporated Greenburgh, was sentenced in 2019 to a year of community service on a “conditional discharge.”
“It’s important that we track down every single incident and highlight publicly every punishment that was made,” he said.
Young said the town should follow Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines as a blueprint for a safety plan to protect employees from harassment. “The town should partner with entities like Hope’s Door and My Sisters’ Place, and the town should give trainings annually to be literate on issues like sexual harassment,” she said. “There should be a written document on resolution, so survivors aren’t left in limbo.”
Both candidates outlined their vision for economic development. Feiner cited projects such as the development of Hartsdale Four Corners, and projects to mitigate traffic and flooding on Central Avenue.
Young said the town needs to retain workers by making it affordable for them to live here, and said the town’s merchants need more support. She said she would push for “enterprise zones” to encourage small business formation, and would find ways to utilize empty buildings that are a blight on the town.
On Edgemont incorporation, the candidates’ attitudes diverged. Feiner has twice won lawsuits over his challenges to the validity of petitions for Edgemont incorporation, and he believes incorporation would be financially “devastating to the rest of the town.” “What I would like to do is ask for state legislation that would allow the entire town to vote on whether or not [Edgemont] should be allowed to break away,” he said.
Young called the continuing controversy “an unfortunate situation.”
“What is happening is preventing their petition, and people feel their voices are suppressed,” she said. “It is my goal to try to keep the town whole. I would never drive a wedge. Divisive leadership is passé. The supervisor must lead and be accountable to all Greenburgh residents.”
To watch the debate replay, visit www.westchesteryouthcongress.org.