During his 22-year tenure as town supervisor, Paul Feiner has survived several challenges to his reign from members of his own political party. Now Feiner is gearing up for another fight against an adversary backed by the Greenburgh Democratic Party.
Bob Bernstein, an Edgemont civic leader and attorney, received the party’s endorsement for supervisor during a convention in May where district leaders picked their slate of candidates for town and county offices. Bernstein, who launched his campaign three days before the event, earned 54 percent of the weighted vote while Feiner got 35 percent.
“The election for town supervisor is not about my running,” said Bernstein, who recently started collecting campaign contributions. “It’s really about you wanting a change. After 22 years of rule by the current supervisor, we need a progressive candidate who can help Greenburgh out of the legal muck and mire it is currently buried in.”
Now party leaders will carry petitions and solicit signatures to get Bernstein and several other candidates on the primary ballot in September. Feiner said he will circulate his own petitions to achieve the required 1000 signatures from Democratic voters in Greenburgh.
In a town where Republicans are heavily outnumbered by their political counterparts, the winner of the Democratic primary traditionally wins the general election in November. The race typically kicks-off when party leaders endorse a candidate.
Bernstein formally announced his candidacy Wednesday night during a rally at the former Frank’s Nursery. The property remains embroiled in controversy as Feiner pushes a proposal to sell it to a sports developer and bypass a higher offer from another company.
Bernstein criticized that plan and several of Feiner’s policy decisions, including his handling of the WestHELP complex, which was once the town’s highest revenue generator aside from property taxes. The county-owned apartment complex — intended to provide affordable housing — has sat vacant for nearly two years as Feiner pursued a plan to raze the units and build a residential campus for the developmentally disabled, a proposal rejected by the state in April.
The Town Board has since selected a housing developer for the property, but that company is now being investigated by the Westchester District Attorney’s office. Richard Harris of Group MRH admitted to providing misleading information in his application to the town, but Feiner is sticking with the developer’s promise of $500,000 a year in rent — an offer that beat out two affordable housing companies.
Bernstein also castigated Feiner’s role in violating the constitutional rights of a Mount Vernon church with plans to move to Greenburgh, a blunder expected to cost taxpayers millions of dollars after the church won a lawsuit against the town. Feiner has maintained there are still legitimate concerns about the organization’s plans to build a sanctuary and school.
Despite the rejection from his own party and the emergence of a longtime rival as an opponent, Feiner is optimistic about his chances heading into the September primary, predicting he would even carry the vote in Bernstein’s community. The supervisor doesn’t typically perform well at his party’s convention, and he said it’s encouraging to see more district leaders voting for him than in previous election years.
Now Feiner is preparing for battle, armed with about $136,000 in campaign contributions and the name recognition that comes with serving 11 two-year terms in a town with roughly 90,000 people.
“Having contested elections is democracy at its best,” said Feiner, who last received the Democractic endorsement in 2011. “I’ve had a couple of competitive primaries against party leaders in the past. It’s very important for voters to decide what vision they want for the town. I honestly believe the policies and initiatives we’ve decided on are great for Greenburgh.”
The supervisor cited his approachability, the town’s financial stability and its “superior” services as reasons to support his candidacy. Feiner also criticized his challenger for supporting Edgemont’s bid to incorporate as a village, to which Bernstein responded: “I am not running for town supervisor to incorporate Edgemont as a village. I am running for town supervisor to give Edgemont a reason not to incorporate as a village.”
The primary election is September 10.
Photo 1: Bob Bernstein officially announced his candidacy for Greenburgh supervisor Wednesday at the former Frank’s Nursery.
Photo 2: Paul Feiner has served as town supervisor for 22 years, winning eleven consecutive elections.