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Paul Feiner's Response to Edgemont Residents

Is crime up in Edgemont?  According to Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, here are the actual statistics about area crime and his response to concerned Edgemont residents:

--From Paul Feiner

Reports circulating in some of the media would indicate that crime is out of control in Edgemont. This is not the case. As you will note from the data below, crime actually went down in Edgemont in 2009. In 2007 there were 29 robberies and/or burglaries in commercial or residential properties. In 2008 the number was down to 20 and in 2009 we were at 17.

Although crime in Edgemont is down from 2007 – the Town Board and I are determined to work hard so that Edgemont residents feel safe and are safe. We have advised the police chief that he will have the resources necessary to provide residents with the protection they need. We have authorized overtime, have been increasing patrols, and will be creating an Edgemont community policing post. The Town Board and I are in touch with the police department on a daily basis and will be re-evaluating initiatives taken to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to keep people safe. We also have contacted the school district and have asked the schools if we should make available a Juvenile Officer who can answer questions students may have (stranger danger, other safety tips). Finally, the Police Chief, Captains and other high ranking officers are also spending some time patrolling the streets of Edgemont.

No. of Robberies or Burglaries in Edgemont by Year

2005                                                          17
2006                                                          10
2007                                                          29
2008                                                          20
2009                                                          17

Edgemont Residents Meet the Chief

Concerned about a recent spate of crimes in their area, Edgemont Community Council (ECC) President Bob Bernstein invited Greenburgh's new Police Chief Joseph DeCarlo to attend their regular ECC monthly meeting.  The meeting was announced in the Journal News and over 60 residents attended and reports appeared on Eyewitness News, Fox, News12 and 1010Wins.

Fear has been mounting in the past few months due to three robberies of 7-11 stores and the Chase Bank on Central Avenue. Concern piqued when there was a home invasion in Edgemont on Sunday 12/20, where the residents were tied up at knifepoint and their home was ransacked.  Though police believe that the home invasion was not related to the burglaries, residents are still feeling wary and vulnerable. Sonya Brown, a Greenburgh Town Councilwoman who lives in Fairview, said that due to the high crime rate in her area, she is afraid to be home.

The Greenburgh Police Force has cut manpower by seven percent in the last two years and coverage of Edgemont has been reduced. In fact, at the meeting, Chief DeCarlo admitted that force coverage  has been cut to below the nationally-recognized levels of 2.9 officers per 1,000 residents.  In other incorporated villages of Greenburgh who fund their own forces, such as Irvington, Tarrytown and Elmsford, there has been no increase in burglaries and ECC members speculate that a higher ratio of officers to residents in these towns may prevent crime.

While police protection has been cut, Edgemont town taxes have increased by 55% in the past five years. And where do these funds go? Residents argue that millions are being spent needlessly on a multitude of non-essentials such as two separate recreation departments, each with its own set of commissioners, programs, summer camps and transportation departments. In addition, Greenburgh now has its own SWAT team, while Westchester County already had one, and funds have been spent on a Greenburgh after-school program, duplicating programs in each school district. Some also questioned the wisdom of the town paying more than $100,000 for messengers, a $52,000 annual salary for an Arts Consultant and the formation of a marine unit.

Paul Feiner, and three members of the Greenburgh Town Board attended the meeting and chided the ECC for inviting the press even though the ECC contends the press learned about the meeting in the Journal News. Feiner appeared concerned that negative press about crime in Edgemont would affect his administration.

To address the fact that there have been more that twenty home burglaries in one section of Edgemont in the past two years, police have added one squad car to patrol the area bordered by Ardsley, Fort Hill and Underhill Roads. However, if needed in another area, this extra car will be called away to assist. And since the area is now experiencing a series of armed taxi cab robberies, the extra patrol car could easily be diverted.

The solution? Some leaders are calling for the incorporation of Edgemont so that among other things, residents could fund their own dedicated police force and only pay for services they can use.

Watch the live Eyewitness News report and the Fox report

7-11 Robbed

From the Greenburgh Police: Another Robbery on Central Avenue – The 7-11 at 763 South Central Avenue was robbed again – this time early in the morning on Sunday 11-16.  The masked robbers announced their arrival buy firing a shot from a rifle into the ceiling. They got away with $500 and some items from the counter.  This 7-11 is just a few doors down from the Chase Bank that was robbed last week, and this  same 7-11 was robbed on October 11 and October 26th.  It is the only business that is open all night but police do not know why it has been hit so many times.

Armed Robbery at Chase

On Saturday morning November 7th,   a robber pushed his way into the Chase Bank at 850 South Central Avenue and got away with $150,000 in cash.  The suspect knocked over a bank employee at the door  and kept saying he was “gonna tear the place up.” He rushed at the manager demanding that he open the vault and insisted that both the manager and the teller enter the vault with him, where he made them fill up his bags with money. With approximately $150,000 in his back pack and gym bag he fled the scene. The employees did not see him get into a car.

The suspect is described as a black male with a scruffy beard and a close haircut. He is approximately 5’5” in height and was wearing a brown hoodie, black pants, a black ski mask, and is thought to be in his mid-thirties. He displayed a silver handgun and carried a black back pack and a small gray gym bag.

Invasion of the Hyperlocals

Just before New Year’s Day last week the hills and valleys of Westchester County were invaded by an online hyperlocal news and information franchise run by AOL, Patch.com. Patch landings took place in Rye, Harrison, Larchmont, Bedford. Katonah, Chappaqua -- and one will be coming soon to Scarsdale.  [See www.patch.com].

So while one of the prime attributes of the internet has been to hasten the advent of an increasingly flat world -- where we can interact easily with brethren in China and Australia -- the demise of local newspapers in this country has created a dearth of quality local news and analysis.   This vacuum has served as the catalyst for the development of online hyperlocal sites -- often consisting of lone bloggers endeavoring to create community and impart news and information of local import (such as this site).  The Patch previously ramped up in communities in New Jersey and Connecticut -- and has now entered Long Island and Westchester.  With Patch, AOL is endeavoring to connect to what it perceives to be the wealthier suburban communities ringing New York City.  When AOL acquired the Patch Media Corporation last summer, AOL's CEO Tim Armstrong commented:  “Local remains one of the most disaggregated experiences on the Web today -- there’s a lot of information out there but simply no way for consumers to find it quickly and easily."

At its inception in Westchester, the Patch appears to be a hyperlocal bulletin board -- with organizations', clubs', and schools' schedule of events; a police blotter; and a passing reference to local news events and high school sports scores.  While early, it's not clear that the Patch will fill a gap long needed in the burbs north of Manhattan:  an intelligent, deeper source of news and analysis about government, politics and business.  Promisingly, the Patch editors are well versed in using Twitter -- to break stories and letting followers know that updates have been posted to their site.

What's the current news and journalistic landscape like today in Westchester?  Here's a quick and non-exhaustive rundown:

The Print Realm:

The Journal News:  the Hudson Valley daily house organ of the weakened Gannett media empire.  Over the past decade, the Journal News has pared down its news gathering and reporting efforts. And within the past two years, this decline has picked up speed. In last year's local election cycle  -- there was  slim substantive coverage of local races beyond the County Executive and District Attorney races.   In local mayoral elections in Rye and Harrison for example, the only source of information about the campaigns came from campaign mailings. Nowhere did I find any kind of analysis or digging into issues, claims, charges, allegations, political posturings, etc... The best a local voter could do was read between the lines. The apparently shocking result in the county executive upset of Rob Astorino over 3-term incumbent Andy Spano -- may or may not have been shocking if there was any kind of analysis or coverage of the race. Save some acidic commentary from  Journal News columnist Phil Reisman -- no real issues were brought to bear on this race. 

In the past few years, The Journal News has also dramatically cutback its business news coverage. Two years ago there was a separate business news section -- today it's an afterthought -- on some back page of a tertiary section of the paper. The Journal News also has a website, www.lohud.com,  which essentially publishes all of their content on line for free.  In addition, readers can blog about articles posted -- and many of these postings usually consist of vituperative, inarticulate personal attacks on the subject of the story -- or other bloggers.

While intuitively I would think that the local newsweeklies would be even more endangered than the Journal News -- many seem to be holding their own -- or at least they're still in business:

Weekly Newspapers: 

The Westchester County Business Journal is the only specialized business weekly in Westchester cover news pertaining to commercial real estate and businesses based in Westchester, the Hudson Valley and Fairfield, Connecticut. The publisher is Dee DelBello, wife of the former County executive and current uber-lawyer in Westchester, Al DelBello. The Business Journal website is fairly weak but republishes most of what's in the hardcopy for free at www.westfaironline.com.  

The Hometown Media Group publishes weekly papers for Harrison, Rye, Mamaroneck-Larchmont, Bronxville-Tuckahoe, and New Rochelle.  The stable of papers is run by Howard Sturman, and they have a website where you can access the print editions at www.hometwn.com.  The editors there are also beginning to utilize Twitter for breaking stories.

The Rising Media Group publishes 9 weekly papers for Yonkers, Eastchester, Harrison, North Castle, Mt. Vernon, Pelham, Rye, and New Rochelle-- but editorially is primarily focused on Yonkers.  This is the remnant of the stable of papers founded and run by the late Ralph Martinelli.  The Martinelli publications were less newspapers than vanity broadsheets where Martinelli could spout his conservative beliefs and launch personal attacks on perceived foes.  After Martinelli died, the real estate housing the media company – and therefore the media properties were sold to a real estate developer, Nick Sprayragen (famous for most recently winning a condemnation case against Columbia University).  There's not much original reporting here -- they run with lots of press releases from community groups and elected officials. Their website republishes the printed papers:  www.risingmediagroup.com.

The Examiner Media Group publishes 3 weeklies covering northern Westchester -- Chappaqua, Armonk, Pleasantville -- but they don't have any sort of online presence.

Many Westchester communities have one-off local papers, such as the Scarsdale Inquirer,  the Rye Record , and the White Plains Times, among others --  which all cover their localities with some idiosyncratic personality depending on the owner/publisher/editor.

The Westchester Crusader
is a vanity broadsheet published by a noted Manhattan strip club owner, Sam Zherka – whose journalistic style the New York Times described as shooting first and asking questions later. They are currently pounding away on a story about the legal domicile of the new Westchester County Board Chairman, Ken Jenkins.  If it weren’t for the messenger, the story might have some legs.

The Westchester-Eye -- just when everyone assumed  that the print newspaper is a dying breed, this Westchester start up has emerged  as  the latest entry into the Westchester weekly print news game.  The Eye is published by two veterans of the New York Post, Kenneth Chandler and Peter Moses.  They've been publishing the paper since late October of 2009.  Their website, www.westchester-eye.com republishes print editions and they have no present plans to ramp up an interactive hyperlocal website.  More about their venture here:  The Eye's editor, Peter Moses has been an active twitterer .

As for other hyperlocal sites (in addition to the great one you're reading from), there are a myriad of sites but none right now with the ambition of AOL's Patch.  Larchmont has a hyperlocal site, the Larchmont Gazette which is newsy and detailed. Rye has www.myrye.com, and Croton has www.crotonblog.com.  I'm sure there are others that I have failed to mention.  The New York Times has set up three hyperlocals in New Jersey  and two for Brooklyn-- and is rumored to be looking to coming to Westchester.

The current financial model de jour for hyperlocal sites is to generate its revenue by advertising.  AOL is hoping that aggregating its Patch communities will entice more significant advertising revenue.  None of these can work on any sort of a subscription basis.

The hyperlocal turf in Westchester is ripe for growth and is likely to get more competitive and crowded in the near future. The real question, however, is whether any of these local media outlets have the guts to really take on some investigative reporting and muckraking.

David A. Singer is a former political consultant/campaign professional and political junkie currently toiling as a lawyer in Westchester and managing real estate and media investments.

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