Scuccimarra says no plans to remove name
By Holly Toal
The Putnam County Legislature is finalizing its lease agreement to operate a senior center named for former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes at the former Butterfield Hospital in Cold Spring in space the county will rent from developer Paul Guillaro.
The latest change to the lease involves a commitment from the county to provide transportation services for seniors to and from the site, although at a July 19 meeting of the Physical Services Committee, Barbara Scuccimarra (R-Philipstown) noted that transportation services have always been available to seniors at all county senior centers. “It’s something we’ve been doing for 20 years,” she said.
As part of the lease agreement, the county officially accepted a $500,000 donation from ACI Senior Development Corp., a tax-exempt organization created in 2013 by Ailes, a Garrison resident, to renovate the space.
Roger Ailes walks with his wife Elizabeth as they leave the News Corp building, July 19
in New York City. Ailes resigned as chairman and CEO of Fox News on July 21.
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
By accepting the donation, the county agreed to name the facility “The Roger Ailes Senior Center” with a sign in the lobby. That move required a change to county law, as in March 2008 the legislature voted 8 to 1 to ban any county building or facility from being named in honor of a living person or after a deceased person within five years or his or her death. The text does not specify whether the county must own or lease the building for the law to apply.
On May 3, the legislature voted 7 to 1, with one abstention, to essentially negate the law, which now reads that “no county building or facility, or portion thereof, which is either owned or leased by the County, shall hereafter be named after any person or entity unless and until same is approved by the Putnam County Legislature.”
Last year, when speaking to The Current, Scuccimarra seemed to interpret the ban then in place to mean that the county couldn’t name a facility after a living person, but that the developer could. “It’s his [Guillaro’s] building, if he wants to name it, so be it,” she said at the time, adding that she didn’t believe Ailes cared either way what the center was called. However, the name is specifically required as part of the county’s agreement with the developer.
County Executive MaryEllen Odell, then a legislator, voted for the ban in 2008, as did Vincent Tamagna, who represented Philipstown. According to the minutes, Tamagna stated “that there should be great sensitivity in naming a county facility” and that it should not be “done too soon.”
Ailes has been in the news this month because of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a former anchor. He has denied the accusation and others raised by former and current Fox employees to the media and during an internal investigation by Fox. He resigned on July 21.
Asked on July 19 if the reports had caused any legislators to reconsider naming the senior center for Ailes, Scuccimarra said, “No. We’re going forward as planned.”
After changing the naming law, the legislature in May approved the leasing of 6,000 square feet of space in the Lahey Pavilion over the course of 15 years at a cost of about $3.5 million. County Attorney Andrew Negro declined to provide a copy of the proposed lease, saying it was not public information until it was executed. There is also a “charitable donation agreement” between the county and Ailes.
Legislator Carl Albano (R-Carmel) said any renovations to the property done by the developer and paid for with the Ailes donation is a savings to the county — as the renter — because it means the county won’t have to bear those costs. “Indirectly it comes back to us,” he said.