“I’ve never really had the support of the political leadership but I do very well with 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 total access to me; they can call me on my cell during the day, on the weekend. We’ll have town government officials make house calls to them, to a neighborhood. The town is super responsive to the voters.”
For Feiner and Greenburgh, businesses both large and small as well as professional practitioners are important as part of the constituency and the town’s economic engine.
“I’ve been driving around Central Avenue and a lot of the small stores that were vacant are now being replaced with small stores,” Feiner said. “We have exceptional services and I want people and a business that comes here to know that if they have a problem they’re not going to get an answering machine or have to wait on hold for an hour. We’re creating a culture in the town where we want people to feel that we’re going to be responsive to their concerns.”
Feiner had taken notice that Greenburgh does not have a Chamber of Commerce, which he believes can be an important vehicle to lobby on behalf of its business members and permit networking while enhancing a sense of community among businesses. So, he proposed launching just such an organization and issued an open invitation to a meeting.
“Greenburgh to my surprise over the years never had a Chamber of Commerce. They tried it maybe decades ago and it never worked,” Feiner said. “One of the goals that I have for this year is to have a very active Chamber of Commerce. I posted a notice and we now have about 30 volunteers.”
Feiner’s chamber-in-formation had its second organizational meeting on Jan. 9.
“We’re going to reach out to the businesses and I hope that we’ll be able to help the local businesses survive, take advantage of programs that can help them,” Feiner said. “There may be tax breaks; there may be marketing efforts. We may try to get students with marketing skills to help with social media. Maybe we could even create student opportunities to help students set up their own businesses. You can’t survive as a small business if you don’t use e-commerce. We’re going to have programs, meetings, social events. We’ll organize street activities. We may have programs where residents get discounts.”
Feiner noted that many of the villages in the Town of Greenburgh already have a Chamber of Commerce presence serving the local community.
“The Rivertowns Chamber is excellent. The Sleepy Hollow-Tarrytown Chamber is excellent,” Feiner said. “We’ll look at what they are doing and try to do the same thing for businesses in unincorporated Greenburgh.”
Feiner underscored that economic development in the town has been happening 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 a Complete Streets Study and the planned start of construction of new affordable housing, senior housing and market-rate housing projects.
“Greenburgh has a lot of land that potentially could 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 the Four Corners in Hartsdale, which could be developed for mixed-use. There’s a lot of potential development.”
Feiner envisioned the possibility that some future multifamily developments might take shape as condominiums or co-ops rather than rental buildings. With that in mind, Greenburgh last year worked with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti for passage of legislation they sponsored allowing Greenburgh to assess condos and co-ops at residential property tax rates rather than lower commercial rates as has been the practice. Gov. Hochul signed the bill affecting only Greenburgh into law on Dec. 23. Existing co-ops and condos in Greenburgh will continue to be taxed at the commercial rate.
“We want to make sure if there’s going to be development that we’re able to keep taxes as low as possible. This year we reduced the tax rate by 6%,” Feiner said. “If we can get more revenue (from new developments) it will help all taxpayers.”
This marks Democrat Feiner’s 32nd year as Greenburgh Town Supervisor. He’s the longest-serving public chief executive in Westchester County. He previously served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators and began in politics at age 12 as a volunteer on the successful 1968 Congressional campaign of Ogden Reid.
“The world is changing and we have to be willing to adapt to the changing business climates,” Feiner said. “Greenburgh’s location is really amazing. We’ve been able to reduce the tax rates but the ratables are going up. We have a triple-A bond rating, the highest rating. It’s not a community that has fiscal problems.”