If Elm Street Sports Group’s CEO Donald Scherer has his way, his lawsuit against Game On 365’s project in Greenburgh will force the project to be delayed for more than five years.
Scherer, who filed a lawsuit Oct. 1 on behalf of Elm Street Sports Group L.L.C., which runs Ardsley’s House of Sports, says that Game On 365 L.L.C.’s lease of the former Frank’s Nursery property is illegal and a violation of Westchester County law.
County law states that a town must sell any property acquired via tax lien, though Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner has said that state law, which allows the town to lease the property, supersedes county law.
Game On 365 plans to build the Westchester Fieldhouse at Dobbs Ferry Road, replacing Frank’s Nursery, which foreclosed and the town took over the property.
Though Game On 365’s proposals have generated opposition in the town, a referendum to allow the town to lease the property to Game On 365 passed 66 percent to 34 percent, 7,734 votes to 3,863.
Supporters have said that it would create revenue, help lower taxes and allow for much-needed field space. Opponents have questioned the speed in which the town is entering into the deal and how much traffic it would create.
While the lawsuit is in the early stages with only motions being filed, Scherer said it will be a seven-year process, and that as long as the project is being litigated, the Westchester Fieldhouse will not go forward.
“Seven years is a long time to keep the property open especially in a lawsuit that they will lose,” Scherer said. “It’s time for the town of Greenburgh to go in a different direction.”
Feiner has disputed Scherer’s claims and said that the Westchester Fieldhouse will not begin construction for a while due to necessary land use reviews, traffic studies and site plan approvals that must be granted.
“He keeps tying this up in frivolous legal minutia,” Feiner said. “He’s trying to postpone competition. I think it’s unfair; it’s capitalism at its worst. The voters decided they wanted a sports facility.”
If House of Sports offers a good product, then they shouldn’t be afraid of competition, Feiner believes. The supervisor also said he doesn’t foresee the lawsuit dragging as long as Scherer claims.
“I could see delays because of the lawsuit but we are taking steps to expedite the process,” Feiner said.
Scherer’s comments follow the discovery of massive amounts of carcinogens at the Frank’s Nursery site, further delaying the project. Woodward & Curran, an environmental agency the town hired to look into the property, plan to meet with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in February, after they collect more samples.
Once they meet with DEC, it could take the department four months to decide on how to proceed with the site.
Under the terms of the lease between Game On 365 and the town, Game On 365 will pay up to $125,000 for cleanup. Money spent on cleanup will be reduced from Game On 365’s lease. If cleanup costs exceed $400,000, Game On 365 can back out of the lease.
Feiner said he feels the cleanup is manageable and doesn’t think this jeopardizes the property.
“The results were expected,” Feiner said. “We expect Woodward & Curran to do an honest assessment.”
Feiner said he plans on seeing if the town can receive state funding for the cleanup.
“It would be nice if they could start building tomorrow, but we’re doing what we have to do,” Feiner said. “Frank’s Nursery walked away because of contamination at the site. It was never a secret.”
Martin Hewitt, CEO of Game On 365, said he also wasn’t surprised by the news, and that he knew the property had a history of contaminants.
“We understand our options,” Hewitt said. “We want Game On to build at that site. We’ve had a resounding level of support. We’ve worked very hard.”
Scherer said he thinks it is improper for kids to be playing on fields that were full of carcinogens.
“It’s probably not a good idea,” Scherer said. “It’s why established operators did not look at this land. Everyone has known that this was used for a landfill when White Plains had factories. It’s the Three Mile Island of Westchester.”
Scherer has also filed a tax certiorari against the town, hoping to get his property taxes reduced.