Putnam Finalizes Ailes Senior Center Deal

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.

The new senior center at Butterfield will be named after Roger Ailes, center, who pledged $500,000 to the project. Also pictured are his wife, Elizabeth, and developer Paul Guillaro.

The new senior center at Butterfield will be named after Roger Ailes, center, who pledged $500,000 to the project. Also pictured are his wife, Elizabeth, and developer Paul Guillaro. (File photo)

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.


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11 thoughts on “Putnam Finalizes Ailes Senior Center Deal

  1. If one was determined to name a public facility after the most polarizing and divisive figure they could find, you would be hard pressed to come up with a better choice than Roger Ailes.

    The local franchise of the Donald Trump party, the all-Republican Putnam County Legislature, has seen fit to to use public tax monies to establish, by virtue of its name, what amounts to a Republican senior center in the heart of Democratic-majority Philipstown.

    In particular, voting to name this county facility after the vindictive and divisive hyperpartisan media operative – and now accused sexual predator – is a betrayal by our county legislative representative Barbara Scuccimarra. It’s disappointing that self-interest and partisanship seemingly compel her to turn a blind eye time and again to the harassment and abuse visited on scores of her constituents and neighbors and vote to honor a man and his wife who use their local “newspaper” as a weapon to defame and smear local residents who are perceived as political threats or personal enemies. Next time, how about we elect a county legislator who actually represents the people of Philipstown?

  2. I am reminded of the Welch rebuttal to the infamous McCarthy: “Have you no shame?” Barbara Scuccimarra and County Executive Mary Ellen Odell have dragged Cold Spring and Putnam County into the muck and mire surrounding the allegations of sexual harassment against Roger Ailes and smeared a town and its residents, especially its senior citizens. Forever emblazoned in the history of Putnam County and the United States will be this act of reprehensible betrayal of the hard-fought fight of brave women to attain dignity and equality. I repeat: Shame!

  3. Given the current sexual harassment scandal regarding Roger Ailes, it appears inappropriate to name the senior center in his honor. Yet the dilemma is that a $500,000 major gift ordinarily deserves such public recognition. Under the current circumstances, I suggest that consideration be given to renaming the senior center in honor of his wife, Elizabeth Tilson Ailes.

  4. There is no dilemma. If there is any sense of responsibility to the Cold Spring/Philipstown senior community, Mr. Ailes and his wife should honor their commitment without any strings attached. The Ailes name is besmirched and no amount of whitewashing can cover it up.

  5. If Mr. Ailes’s “gift” is determinant on his name being on the building, it should not be regarded as a gift. It’s a transaction; he’s paying $500,000 to put his name on a building and get a large tax write-off. This latest scandal that has forced Mr. Ailes from his post at Fox News is only one in the many disgraces that can be associated with his name. If the deal is done and the residents of Cold Spring have no choice but to drive by a building emblazoned with his name, our best hope is that the building will stand longer than Mr. Ailes’s historical significance.

  6. I would prefer to see this new public facility named in honor of beloved and widely respected life-long resident, Betty Budney. Betty served our community with constant commitment for decades on the Philipstown Town Board. She sponsored myriad initiatives for the public good, giving generously of her time and experience so that the whole community may benefit. Betty’s commitment to community is an inspiring model for all of us who share her love for our Village and Town. I can think of no better way to honor Betty’s legacy now, than by naming Cold Spring’s new, state-of-the-art senior center after her.

  7. Women are still for sale to the highest bidder. That is the message conveyed by the disgraceful Odell/Walker/Scuccimarra Ailes-naming scandal. Leibell’s name immediately disappeared from the streets and building for committing far less than moral turpitude.

  8. Here’s my suggestion to avoid any controversy about sexual harassment or other depredations: why not name the center after former President Bill Clinton?

    • Possibly because Bill Clinton is not involved with this project. Roger is.

  9. Betty Budney’s name would be great, as would any of the old doctors who donated years of their lives and thousands of their dollars: Drs. Clark, Hall, Luisardi.