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Robust Discussion Is Important: Responses to readers on the Clinic

responding to readers' concerns re the Methadone Clinic

I agree with Tina that citizens must pay close attention to their public officials and that robust, public, fact-based discussion generally leads to best outcomes. 

Ruth consulted the Corporation Counsel on recusal.  She was advised that she need not recuse, but should disclose the relationship between C.H.O.P. and Renaissance, which is informal and does not involve exchange of funds.  Jan Peek will not be, and never was considering, sharing the Corporate Drive building with Renaissance.  C.H.O.P.’s only relationship with Mr. Miller, the former owner of 3 Corporate Drive, is that he is the owner of the building in which C.H.O.P. rents one floor, at market rates.  Appearance is a factor to consider, but as in many legal issues, one must look at the situation from the point of view of a rational and prudent person would do/think.  I imagine the corporation counsel looked at all the facts and decided no rational and prudent person would think there was a conflict.

The skateboard park is in a separate industrial park on the other side of Highland Ave, not “right next door.”

What definition there is for ‘professional office” can certainly include medical offices.  According to the search engine provided with the code on the city website, the word “medical” appears nowhere in the code.  The code draws no line between medical office and clinic.  Professional offices are permitted in the C2 and C3 commercial districts as well as the M1, 2, 2A, and 3 industrial districts.  Given the lack of clear definitions in the code, one could argue that Hudson River Health Care, and possibly all private medical practices have no more or less right to be located in Peekskill than the methadone clinic.  As I understand it, the fundamental disagreement between the corporation counsel and the mayor’s attorney is how to interpret this aspect of the code.  That is why I expressed the hope that the mayor will take this issue to court, which is the appropriate place to settle such disagreements.

It’s too bad that disagreements with the EAF were not forwarded to the Planning Commission and the Planning Department during the public comment period, which did not end until 10 Oct.  It may still be useful to send any thoughts on this aspect of the application to Mayor Foster and the Common Counsel. I urge Tina to do so.

As I stated, the one thing I think we can all agree on is that the best possible scenario is the clinic staying in their little building on the hospital campus (which, by the way, is in Cortlandt, adjacent to a veterinarian practice and very near a nice residential neighborhood).  Unfortunately, that seems not to be an option, as the hospital’s spokesman has made quite clear (“The Journal News,” 24 July, page 7A).

Ruth received legal guidance that commission members can be liable for “punitive damages”  if they overturned their original decision in the face of the corporation counsel’s opinion that the clinic was an as of right use.  Our city’s insurance does not cover punitive damages against city officers.

My Patch profile has always stated that I sit on Peekskill’s Zoning Board of Appeals.  This matter never appeared before the ZBA, and is highly unlikely ever to appear before us, as the ZBA’s jurisdiction is quite narrowly defined (see my August post http://peekskill.patch.com/blog_posts/get-the-facts-before-you-complain  for a more detailed discussion of the ZBA’s powers and duties).

I'm thinking that it's time to let the courts look at this and decide which lawyers are correct.  I assume, and certainly hope, that the city will soon file an Article 78, which is an inexpensive way to pursue an appeal of the Planning Commission's decision.  It seems like the only way to get some clarity on this difficult and controversial issue.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tina Bongar October 19, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I'm glad to know you're opposed Michael. Is there any way you can encourage the Mayor and Council to file an Article 78? I'm getting the impression there are some who don't think they will go through with having their attorney file an Article 78. Is there any influence you carry through the Democrats to encourage them to do this? When you challenged the Parole Board next to the Ice Cream shop, which I'm assuming is zoning issues, was this through a City-hired outside attorney or the Corporation Counsel?
Liz Claire October 19, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Tina, I hate to bear bad news but you deserve the truth. Let me preface my remarks by saying that society has an interest in combating heroin addiction & methadone treatment is the only known effective treatment however imperfect it is. The hope to help addicts is enough for the public to fund methadone treatment. If you look at the Renaissance Project's audits and 990s, you'll see that that nearly all of their revenue comes from government grants, Medicaid, & Public Assistance. If you look at their statement of functional expenses, more than three-fourths of the money they spend goes to salaries and benefits. Typical mismanaged not-for-profit. It's managed as poorly as Foster runs the City. Simply put, the methadone clinic is less a project to help addicts change their lives than a way to provide plum jobs to loyal Democrats. And that is why the Common Council will do nothing about it. The methadone clinic is about Dem patronage jobs and votes, and not the recovering addicts who deserve our support. Morey is about to leave town, he doesn't care. He's leaving because he won't put his children through Peekskill schools. It doesn't cost him anything to triangulate the issue by giving lip service to stopping it. That's what he & Foster are doing. Triangulating the issue to save face and wash their hands with the dirty water of partisanship. See http://www.charitiesnys.com/RegistrySearch/show_details.jsp?id={87779074-0C43-4291-971C-218EC2C2C919}
Liz Claire October 19, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Tina, You might quibble that the Dems can deliver their plum patronage jobs closer to the Hospital, which is true. But Renaissance used taxpayer money to buy property from the Dem loyal who owned 3 Corporate Drive, someone everyone knows is a heavy contributor to Foster and the local Dems. This is the ultimate patronage con, paying off a contributor holding undesirable property in a down real estate market and at the same time delivering plum patronage jobs to the Dem faithful. Ain't politics great?
Leslie Lawler October 19, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Tina, years ago, as Mike correctly notes, many of us indeed advocated against the Parole Board being located near the ice cream store upon on Main. However, that was a different time with a different administration and different Planning Commission. No attorney was involved because the community outrage was such that the administration listened and ultimately knew it was wrong, therefore it never went forward. Liz is also correct that one of the differentiating factors this time around is the political contributor that is involved, and I might add, with this administration it's not the first time campaign contributors get rewarded and awarded.
Tina Bongar October 21, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Well, there's no way I want to let anyone off easy on this. These partisan, I mean patronage, jobs and property-buying is exactly why I believe Ruth should have recused herself. Over one-thousand voters, I mean VOTERS, signed against the Methadone Clinic going to Corporate Drive, and a majority of Democrats, I imagine, see the Clinic next to the Hospital -- where it belongs. A GREAT STORY here -- hint hint Patch -- would be what would to take to keep the Clinic project there. I still don't want to lose faith in them hiring this outside attorney. I think the key is in challenging the Planning Commission's decisions and City's EAF (Linda Puglisi, a neighboring Town Supervisor, wants a DEIS for goodness sakes, this has to mean something). The key may also be in our vague zoning ordinances, and the need to articulate "clinics" more clearly. (Jim didn't understand that I'm saying the Vet clinic use near Corporate Drive doesn't bode in this argument's favor. But I imagine that Vets are regulated differently than our clinics based on some of the scary lack of cleanliness in Vets offices I've seen.)

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