By abruptly ending and then leaving the public hearing held Tuesday to hear objections to the legal sufficiency of the petition submitted by the Edgemont Incorporation Committee, Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner sent a clear message that he was not interested in hearing from both sides of the community.
If approved, the petition will lead to a referendum on whether Edgemont will become the Town of Greenburgh’s seventh incorporated village.
Feiner used legalese to deny a previous petition, which led to a court battle that ultimately was decided in his favor.
Once again the supervisor is using legalese, but this time he’s using it to stifle voices at a public hearing.
It’s absurd to consider one set of objections but not hear from those who take exception to the validity of those objections.
Feiner and his legal advisor are relying on a section of New York State’s Village Law that is totally confusing and should be amended.
Feiner called the hearing based on Village Law Section 2-204, which governs public hearing notices. But he seems to have ignored a key portion of Section 2-206, which governs procedures for those hearings.
The Section states, “All objections must be in writing and signed by one or more residents qualified to vote for town offices a town in which all or part of such territory of the proposed village is located. Testimony as to objections may be taken at the hearing which shall be reduced to writing and subscribed by those testifying.”
Huh? Any English teacher would give that language an F.
And now, “as to” has become a subject of debate between incorporation proponents and former New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert A. Spolzino, who was representing Feiner in the hearing.
In a 2017 public hearing, Spolzino said, in his opinion the wording of the law limits testimony to objections only.
According to the dictionary, “as to” specifies “as for” or “about.”
Therefore, one could argue, the wording allows testimony to be heard from those wishing to speak in opposition to the objections submitted in writing, and conversely, allows people to speak in favor of the objections.
Unfortunately, the lawmakers who wrote the Village Law didn’t think that each word, phrase and preposition would be picked apart so a politician could deny citizens the right to speak. To rectify this situation, the meaning of the phrase “as to” needs to be clarified. The law should be clarified and amended.
There is little to lose in hearing from those who object to the objectors. The community would be better able to formulate opinions about incorporation if it could hear the objections by one side and also hear objections to those objections.
Feiner apparently has already made up his mind about the petition and doesn’t want to hear from anyone on the pro-incorporation side. See for yourself. Go to the Greenburgh Town website and watch the video of his handling of the meeting, which, by the way, was posted only after a reporter from this newspaper asked if it would be posted.
The proponents of incorporation knew it would be a struggle to get the town supervisor to accept a petition that would lead to a vote on the issue. They knew he would welcome objections, and they are angry they were not able to have a say at the hearing.
This kind of posturing is part of what’s motivating the EIC in the first place. Feiner has a lot to lose should Edgemont break away from unincorporated Greenburgh. But assuming Feiner prevails, how can he govern a constituency when he has clearly told them he doesn’t care what they think?
Next week Feiner will decide whether the petition is legally sufficient. He has heard from the objectors, but not from those who object to the objectors.
If he decides against the petition, the EIC will surely take the matter back to court. Let the judges sort it out.