Legislature banned naming facilities for those still alive
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Desires to affix Roger Ailes’ name to Putnam County’s senior citizens center in the Butterfield redevelopment appear to conflict with a 2008 county ban on naming any county facility after anyone not dead for at least five years.
Naming of the planned center after Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News, was announced by Paul Guillaro of Butterfield LLC, the site owner, at the groundbreaking ceremony July 8. Ailes, himself a senior citizen, lives in Garrison and has pledged $500,000 for the center, expected to cost more than $3.4 million for inside construction, operations and rent for 15 years. The center would occupy leased space in a commercial-office building in the complex.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell thanked Ailes and his wife, Beth, and also lauded former Gov. George Pataki, another Garrison resident for whom a one-acre, (non-county) park at Butterfield will be named. “Two keystones of the property will be Pataki Park as well as the Roger Ailes Senior Center, both improving the quality of life for our residents in the western part of the county and those in the Hudson Valley by providing an opportunity to enjoy open space and a new senior friendship and nutrition center,” Odell said.
A July 10 news release from Odell referred to the event as not only “the groundbreaking” of the redevelopment but as “the dedication of the Roger Ailes Senior Center,” although no new building exists yet and the derelict Butterfield hospital still dominates the tract while awaiting demolition. The news release predicted that the center would open in 2016.
During the July 8 ceremony, Guillaro presented Ailes with a framed drawing showing the building housing the senior center with the name “Roger Ailes Senior Center” inscribed across the front.
Whether the structure will indeed bear Ailes’ name remains uncertain.
On March 4, 2008, the Putnam County Legislature declared that “no county building or facility shall hereafter be named in honor of any living person and any such naming shall take place no sooner than five (5) years after such person’s death.” The text does not demand that the county own a building for the prohibition to apply.
At the time a legislator who served as deputy legislature chairperson, Odell voted for the ban. So did then Philipstown Legislator Vincent Tamagna, now the county’s transit manager and deputy commissioner of planning. Before the legislators approved the ban on a vote of 8 to 1, “Legislator Tamagna stated that there should be great sensitivity in naming a county facility and [it] not [be] done too soon,” according to the official legislative minutes.
No member of the 2008 legislature serves in that capacity today.
The legislature’s present leader, Chairman Carl Albano, told The Paper on Tuesday (July 14) that in an upcoming legislative meeting “we’ll look at” the issue of naming the center after Ailes. “If it shouldn’t be” done, then “we’ll have to address that,” he said. If necessary, the county could ask Guillaro, as the Butterfield owner, to select another name; or, should the county want to go ahead with Ailes’ name, if enough legislators support a change “we’ll amend” the 2008 resolution, Albano added. Overall in regard to the county presence in the Butterfield project, so far “everything is not perfectly in place,” he said.
He also explained that “basically, we didn’t pick the name. It was the owner of the building who came up with that idea” of honoring Ailes that way. Speaking as an individual, “at this point, I have no problem with it. It seems kind of appropriate,” Albano said.
Barbara Scuccimarra, who now represents Philipstown in the county legislature, also spoke in a similar vein. “First of all, it was Paull Guillaro’s decision,” she said Friday (July 17). “I didn’t really know,” until the groundbreaking ceremony occurred and Guillaro presented the Ailes with the drawing, she told Philipstown.info. “It’s his building, if he wants to name it, so be it. “However, I don’t know how that affects the law” and the county legislature will have to review the matter, she explained. “Time will tell” what the outcome is, she added. Scuccimarra said she doubted the Aileses will care either way.
Legislator Dini LoBue, who often questions the Odell administration and clashes with Odell’s strongest supporters in the legislature (though Odell and all the legislators are Republicans), offered a different perspective. “As a legislator, I’m sworn to uphold the law,” which is rather specific about not using a living individual’s name on a county facility, she said Tuesday. “I’m standing behind the county law.” She said that her stance “is not personal” in regard to Ailes and that “it was a complete surprise to me that the building would be named after Mr. Ailes.”
The minutes of the discussion before the 2008 vote on the ban include the statement that the legislators’ Rules Committee had chosen a “broad definition” of county sites affected and wanted to apply the ban to “a building, a street or any edifice.” The minutes further state that Tony Hay, who then chaired the legislature, cited the rationale, declaring that “there are many qualified people who deserve to have a county facility named after them” and thus going forward “there will be a time perspective to determine if a county facility should be named for someone.”
Phone and/or email requests for comments on Monday and Tuesday from Odell, Guillaro, Tamagna and Ailes had drawn no responses by midday Thursday (July 16).