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Superblock Grant Sought Without Proper Approval

Trustee Doug Foster unilaterally sends grant form without permission, public meeting

Nyack was recently chasing down an $11.8 million grant to help finance the budding .

But the grant application has been withdrawn—not because Nyack doesn't meet the criteria, but because the application was submitted without proper approval and without the knowledge of several village officials.

Doug Foster, a Nyack trustee who , sent the application on Nov. 1 unilaterally and without other legislators' consent, a violation of village procedure.

"Any grant application has to be approved by resolution of board" in a public meeting, explained Walter Sevastian, Nyack's village attorney.

"The board all knew he was working on it—we just didn’t know he was going to submit it without resolution," added mayor-elect Jen Laird-White. Laird-White and Foster both support the , a major downtown renovation that current mayor Richard Kavesh is opposed to.

"I made a choice I thought was best for the village," Foster said Friday morning. "I didn’t want to give up the opportunity for $12 million for the village."

The application Foster sent in seeks close to $12 million in funding and states the village will provide a $5 million land contribution for the project, which will cost around $80 million in full. Foster also noted on the application that the project's expected construction start date is spring 2013, and that the Superblock's service life clocks in at 75 years.

Once other trustees learned of Foster's submission, they were quick to withdraw the application, redacting it unanimously on Nov. 3 during the board's executive session.

"We withdrew every part of this grant at the end of the meeting," Kavesh said.

But board members also defended Foster.

"There was no intent by Foster… to make any kind of secret [maneuver]," said trustee Steve Knowlton, who added the misstep was not an issue of character, but a decision made under time constraints.

"I have no issue whatsoever with his intergrity or service to his board," Knowlton continued.

Knowlton added the Superblock project remains in its early stages; the village has only with possible developers.

Faith Elliot, a South Nyacker who has been involved with the Riverspace property for years, said she was shocked by the news—and said the board is too forgiving.

"It was jarring," she said of the controversy. "I raises ethical questions. There are policies and procedures in place."

Matthew Ciuccio November 18, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Why was it under time constraint and not planned for properly, so that the appropriate channels could be followed? The timing seems very poorly planned.
JC Brotherhood November 18, 2011 at 02:20 PM
The entire project stinks. Why would the VB create the so-called Downtown Partnership in such a way as to obviate the need to comply with New York States open meetings law if they didn't think they had or would have something to hide? Knowlton and Foster are the only two officials on this committee that neither publishes its meetings nor keeps any minutes. Such a glowing recommendation from Trustee Knowlton should not be a surprise to anyone. Its the politics of mushroom farming, "keep-em in the dark and feed them BS" . Anyone who has followed the Riverspace boondoggle should recognize the tactic. The only reason they pulled the application was because they got caught. If there is a better example of private interest influencing public policy I'd like to see it. With everything else that needs doing in the Village, sidewalks, drainage, infrastructure etc why are they spending so much energy on this boondoggle? The answer lies in the $16 million dollars of "developer fees" and financing. Just follow the money folks.
John Whitley November 18, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Foster should resign his position immediately. He and Laird-White have worked so closely together for the past few years - she didn't know what he was doing??? Yeah, right.
JC Brotherhood November 18, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Downtown Partnership does publish minutes on the Nyack website, I recently wrote that they don't. My bad.
worriedaboutnyack November 19, 2011 at 01:18 PM
After seeing Urban Renewal come in and take down the old Main Street stores and build that 'white elephant' on Main Street, I can only cringe when I think of the emptiness which will be the 'Superblock'. I think it's a bad idea. Over the past 5 years or so, I have heard and seen some plans for it. I also know that some groups were asked and tempted to go in there to establish the idea (like an 'anchor group') even before the building was approved, let alone built. It's a good thing that they didn't jump in feet first into this unknown pool. They would have sacrificed everything they had for something that STILL is not there, as they were told it would be there by now. Wasn't it so that Helen Hayes/Riverspace couldn't make a financial go of it there even with their rent paid for them for all those years? If there wasn't enough support for them, what makes them think that it will be SOOOO much better and supported with this new idea? We have 2 other smaller theaters in our Village, as well as many others in the County. There's plenty of other places to go for entertainment rather than erecting a monument. And that property could be developed for other ideas besides this one that we don't need and obviously can't support. I wish this project would just go away.
elizabeth November 19, 2011 at 02:49 PM
I agree with the sentiments of the other comments; basically that there are so many more pressing concerns in the village that attempted development of Main St won't solve. The absolute biggest concern, that keeps other businesses away, is the BARS, and the absurdly late hours that they are permitted to stay open. I don't care what the State Liquor Authority permits, this village could, and should, apply for a waiver of the closing hours, and apply for 1:00 closing of bars, like they do in NJ. A spokesperson for the SLA said he had never received such an application before from a village, but it would be considered. Also, the village could definately cap the number of these establishments, and stop permitting more and more of them to open, indiscrimately. Nobody in their right mind is going to make a major investment in this "Superblock," when there are drunks, and all their noise on the streets until the morning hours. One final thought: how about an independent film theater, like Jacob Burns?
JC Brotherhood November 19, 2011 at 02:55 PM
@ Worried All good points. All made before and all ignored by the the "true believers" who would have us accept the premise that the solution to the problem of vacant retail space in Nyack is to build more retail space. Strip Malls are antithetical to Village development. This should be clear from the history of the existing strip mall. Strip malls are buildings, usually with one facade of storefronts surrounded by acres of parking. Villages provide smaller buildings with traditional blocks and neighborhoods, on street parking, street corners and community access and social communication. Strip mall development does not create any new markets but predates upon existing markets, sucking the air out of the room, and are usually predated upon in turn by the next sparkly thing that comes along. Consider the history of the Nanuet Mall as a good example. The Nanuet Mall by the way is being re-imagined as "The shops in Nanuet" apparently coming full circle and trying to emulate the feeling of a Village of shops and community. What is going to happen to the old shops on the north side of Main St which will now be in direct competition with new retail spaces across the street that will (according to the application) be subsidized with public money and undoubtably tax breaks for the developers who will be long gone before any new stores opens for business? This is as crazy as believing that the projected rise in our property values will result in lower property taxes.
Pat November 19, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Agreed. This project has been suspect from the start, and this is simply one more example of that.
Pat November 19, 2011 at 04:27 PM
I agree. The bars are a constant problem. And as JC mentioned above, how can we justify more retail space when there is empty retail space?
JC Brotherhood November 19, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Interesting to note, no comments in support of this project so far however White, Foster Knowlton et al will still claim a consensus and ram it through. They all must be channeling St Lawence.
Maggie24 November 19, 2011 at 05:09 PM
Uhhhh...don't you think that independent theater needs a space to live in? Have you actually been to the Jacob Burns? Does that look like anytbing in Nyack? The fact is, that's exactly what Nyack needs--a flim center--something that would balance out that horrible experience at the mall and drive business to the restaurants and shops. Every urban planner / real estate developer understands the value of a good movie theater. New movies every week (alternating in two or three small theaters, like Jacob Burns) means return attendance. And no, the existing Riverspace theater doesn't offer that experience. That place is drafty, leaky and smells, and has been like that for decades now. I'll drive to Pleasntville before I'll sit in there--oh, and eat dinner at the Iron Horse, as well. But given the comments posted here, I can't see how a theater center will ever come to Nyack. Nyack seems too focused on committing suicide by narrow thinking.
Maggie24 November 19, 2011 at 05:22 PM
PS: Simon's plan for The Shops at Nanuet is fantastic news. As a long-time member of the Urban Land Institute, I can tell you that Simon will do a grat job of creating something really terrific out there, in that sea of sameness. Hold on to your hats, Nanuet. This is going to get really interesting. For an idea of what a town center can look like, check this out: http://www.bayshoretowncenter.com/ The Bayshore Mall was a dying strip center on the outskirts of Milwaukee. It is now a vibrant, exciting destination with a real town-center feel. No, I don't work for Simon. I've just been in the destination development arena long enough to have seen what works and who has the ideas and abilities to pull it off. This is GREAT news. and yes, wouldn't a Whole Foods be a great addition?
JC Brotherhood November 19, 2011 at 10:23 PM
@ Maggie No question about it, but Nyack doesnt have to reinvent itself as a Village as does Nanuet which has no downtown. Look around, there's lots of opportunities in Nyack that would expand its retail base without resorting to the "strip-mall" mentality the Goldbergs offer. Look at the top of main st for a start. you have underutilized property and abundant parking. The problem is narrow thinking as you suggest which is not served by feckless leadership willing to mis-represent themselves in favor of private interest over public policy. If this were such a good idea then let the private sector do it on their own with their own money. 50% of the respondents to the RFEI says its not feasible in this economic climate even without building the theatre or the parking.
JC Brotherhood November 19, 2011 at 10:27 PM
PS and thats another thing. Parking. Solving 21st century problems with 20th century solutions. Not only are they ethically bankrupt, as planners they have absolutely NO imagination when it comes to transportation issues. Doug Foster is supposed to be this great planning expert. Has he even read Jane Jacobs or Howard Kunstler? I have no confidence he has even the most fundamental understanding of the issues confronting Nyack.
Peter Klose November 21, 2011 at 09:15 PM
The Constitution allows you to throw hand grenades, but your comments are becoming salatious, unsupported defamation. You intentionally obfuscate the truth by saying "Foster chose to misrepresent his authority, certifying an application" The truth is that he acted without board approval and under a time pressure. When the vote came, the Board rescinded the applicaiton and he apologized. There was no "representation." You have no proof of any untoward motive, and will never have any. You impune his character and integrity by suggesting "Again, Foster flunks ethics 101" which intimates that he did something like this before-- Again, no proof, only a wizard sitting behind his curtain hurling epithets. You say,"This is not the first time a questionable application has been made for public monies for this project. Recall the $11 million Mayor Richard Kavesh allegedly turned down last summer." Again, you don't set forth the true facts behind this unfortunate action by one person. Given the criminal investigation here, "If you liked the process for building a baseball stadium in Ramapo, you've got to love this one," your allegation is defamatory. There have been plenty of open meetings and public meetings so, your comment "it obviates any need to abide by New York state's open meetings law" is devoid of merit. To have any shred of credibility I challenge you to prove your last innuendo that the Board is being controlled by a private entity.
Stewie November 22, 2011 at 07:31 PM
All you bar haters must realize that they are paying a large share of the taxes and operate mostly at night. Try to fill these locations with other profitable businesses and you would be hard pressed. There is already a parking situation during the day that it would add to it. On that note, if there is no where to park you hence have no one who to patronize a business.
DLS November 22, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Doug Foster should not have submitted this application, plain and simple. The fact that he usurped his responsibilities as a Trustee - (look at the word "TRUSTee) - means he lost the trust that he represents for the Village. He should resign and/or be removed from his position. He should never be trusted again. Sorry, this is completely unforgiveable. He acted as if he was making decisions for every member on the board. There is no excuse for this action and he put the Village at risk, since there is pending legal action with Riverspace. Those making excuses for him should take another look at why they are doing so. We should take a look at why they are doing so.
Matthew Ciuccio November 22, 2011 at 08:19 PM
This sounds like a good opportunity for some real investigative journalism. It would be great to know what is actually going on.
elizabeth November 22, 2011 at 09:30 PM
The bars cause more money and problems than their tax contributions are worth; specifically speaking: money on the overtime police presence, money spent on extra cleaning up services, money spent on the costs of all the firefighters and their trucks, chasing false alarms pulled inside bars, money lost by non-drunken establishments, whose customers and tenants get scared away by the noise,drunkedness, and filth from the bars. Finally, when the bars are the only establishments that can afford to pay inflated rents, and we restrict the closing time to 1:00, instead of 4:00, than the economy would adjust to accomodate the non-drunken establishments.
JC Brotherhood November 23, 2011 at 12:24 PM
by the responses I have received in my email, voicemail and elsewhere it would seem I hit a nerve. They'd pepper spray me if they could no doubt.
HNR November 28, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Does anyone know if the theater portion of the Superblock is supposed to be a Jacob Burns-style theater or a Cineplex-type theater? Also, does village code allow for a referendum on the the Superblock project? It would seem that if this is such a controversial, a vote by Nyack Village citizens would decide the best way to proceed. Thank you for the information.
JC Brotherhood November 28, 2011 at 02:30 PM
HNR, there are several theater configurations in the study. None of them is a Jacob Burns type of space. Also Its my understanding the only thing subject to a referendum would be a municipal bond offering to support the project, not tax incentives or apparently the contribution of five million dollars of public property.
HNR November 28, 2011 at 04:08 PM
Thanks so much, JC Brotherhood. I appreciate the information.
Kevin Zawacki (Editor) December 01, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Hi HNR, you can read up on some possible Superblock theater options here: http://nyack.patch.com/articles/nyack-superblock-how-big-whos-paying-and-where-to-park These are far from set in stone, though.

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