Shea calls Ailes offer generous
By Kevin E. Foley
The ongoing Philipstown civic discussion over how best to serve senior citizens has taken a new turn as Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea and Fox News chairman and Garrison resident Roger Ailes hold private discussions regarding the creation of a new senior citizen center at the American Legion post on Cedar Street just down the street from the Town Hall Building and other town-owned property.
For two years senior citizen advocates and elected officials have argued that an imperative for approving the proposed Butterfield development was the opportunity to house a senior center at that Route 9D site conveniently across the street from the Chestnut Ridge complex, which provides subsidized senior housing. The Butterfield project itself would also contain market rate senior housing.
“There’s not a lot to report at this point,” said Town Supervisor Richard Shea, who acknowledged when asked by The Paper during a telephone interview that such talks had taken place. “There is a generous offer on the table and we are looking at the feasibility of making something happen,” said Shea referring to Ailes’ previously announced (in the PCNR) offer of $500,000 toward assisting the elderly in the Philipstown community.
Reminded of the general consensus among senior citizen advocates and elected officials that a senior center located within the proposed Butterfield project was considered a central reason to move that project along, Shea said: “Yes, I know. People have been talking about Butterfield as a site for seniors for a decade. We have an opportunity here to see something done for seniors now.” Shea also emphasized that “we are speaking about existing services at an existing address,” referencing the current county nutrition program that provides lunch for seniors and a few recreational activities at the American Legion building.
Shea described his role at this point as a facilitator of talks among Ailes, the American Legion and county officials. “The town isn’t funding this project,” Shea stressed. The town does not own the American Legion building.
A local American Legion official on Wednesday confirmed accounts – first heard spoken at the Cold Spring senior citizens picnic (Saturday Sept. 7) – that the talks were underway.
American Legion Post 275 Commander Earl Gundersen told The Paper in a telephone conversation Sept. 11, that he spoke with Ailes about the possibilities and that Ailes, Shea, and another Legion member, Terry Lahey, of Cold Spring, had further discussed the matter. “I think they all got together” in person, Gundersen said.
“It’s kind of hard to say” what the upshot might be, Gundersen explained. “It’s in discussion. There’s been some interest and discussion. I have no idea” when it might get resolved, he added.
“We own it,” Gundersen said, referring to the Legion membership and the building. “I don’t think we are willing to sell it.”
Shea said he believed there was already informal agreement that a nonprofit group to be formed by Ailes would lease the space from the American Legion the same as the county does now.
Shea has long been an advocate for enhanced senior services and at times has supported the location of a new center in the proposed Butterfield complex but he has also publicly urged alternatives (such as the American Legion post) when consideration of the Butterfield project bogged down.
Shea also said he thought some of the current town services for seniors might also be relocated to the new center.
Adding another dimension to the story, Shea pointed out that the American Legion building is located in the Village of Nelsonville and that any approvals or permits needed to change the existing structure would have to pass muster with the appropriate boards in that village.
When it was suggested to Shea that the Ailes project might be controversial or be a difficult issue for him to handle, he resolutely declared that wasn’t true at all. “What you have here is a demonstrated need and a generous offer to provide space to meet it. I don’t see a problem. I see a solution going ahead.”
Additional reporting by Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong