Letters: Senior Center Deal

I was very disheartened to read of the Ailes family withdrawing their $500,000 donation for an enlarged and upgraded Philipstown Senior Center. Mr. and Mrs. Ailes have very publicly courted the seniors for years with their promise of this donation. They repeatedly made very public statements that the seniors deserve a greatly improved center here. Unless the Ailes now feel otherwise, the seniors should not be punished for the situation that Mr. Ailes now finds himself in. Nor should residents, now sensibly objecting to the naming, be scapegoated for the Ailes family’s “ungifting.”

I did not hear any comment from the public on refusing the money at the County Legislature meeting on Aug. 2. I myself gave comment against proceeding with the naming of the Senior Center at this point in time. But even Mr. Ailes himself must understand the issue here. He reportedly explained in his resignation letter to Fox News that he did not want to be a distraction to the work at hand. The same principle applies here. This is not a political issue as stated in the Aug. 3 edition of the Ailes-owned newspaper, the Putnam County News and Recorder. Abuse in any form is not a partisan issue. To suggest so is a blatant manipulation of the public’s understanding and trust.

If the Ailes family still feels the same about the seniors, it should make good on their promise and not jeopardize this project. I for one support an upgraded and enlarged Philipstown Senior Center and welcome the Ailes’ donation to help make that a reality. I urge them to reconsider and make their donation to the County, earmarked for a Philipstown Senior Center, with no other strings attached.

Matt Francisco, Cold Spring

The original plans for the Roger Ailes Senior Center in Building 2 of the Butterfield development.

The original plans for the Roger Ailes Senior Center in Building 2 of the Butterfield development.

There’s a lot of talk in today’s politics about deals, both “good deals” (like the ones Donald Trump claims he makes) and “terrible deals” (like the ones he claims our government makes). I’d call the Barbara Scuccimarra-sponsored deal between Putnam County and Roger Ailes over the build-out and leasing of the senior center one of the “terrible” ones.

While the PCNR obfuscates the details of this contract by focusing on the public outrage over the naming of the facility, it continues its pattern of disservice to our community by evading details of the deal — a deal that Putnam County legislator Scuccimarra and Ailes were making on our behalf in total secrecy until the press inconveniently uncovered it. The PCNR’s recent denial of this secrecy contradicts the numerous denied FOIL requests for the draft agreement. Some legislators first saw the document only on the morning they were to vote on it, one of the reasons it was tabled.

The original Ailes “gift” of $500,000 would have gone far in outfitting the $850,000 project, leaving only $350,000 to the taxpayer. A good deal! There’s no explanation for why that $850,000 jumped to $1.5 million. Did it have something to do with the developer suddenly moving the seniors to Lahey Pavilion? Was it because Elizabeth Ailes, photographed in the PCNR with the “design team,” had a design plan as elaborate as that of the PCNR offices?

The public was not privy to this conversation. Almost tripling the public tab from $350,000 to $1 million deserves some explanation, or at least a business plan. When property taxes are added to this equation the taxpayers would have been on the hook for well over $4 million in the next 14 years, and all this for what is a once-a-day senior lunch program for 20 seniors.

Although Scuccimarra was content for Roger Ailes to assume control of the construction, ignoring prevailing wage laws and not getting competitive bids, she knew he offered no warranty on the work, so any disputes with subcontractors that go to court that would normally be absorbed by the contractor would instead be the responsibility of her constituents. Faulty workmanship by underpaid workers? Scuccimarra made this our responsibility. The PCNR’s claim that there was in fact a warranty contradicts the words in the contract “delivered as is.” I ask any homeowner: would you hire a contractor who declares no responsibility for the work they do in your home?

The secrecy of the deal has backfired. The state pledged as much as another $500,000 to the project, but once it saw the terms it politely backed out. If Scuccimarra had brokered that deal on behalf of the taxpayers for whom she works instead of to the benefit of Ailes, that money might still be forthcoming.

Scuccimarra and Ailes have often asserted their allegiance to our seniors and our town. It’s puzzling then that they would subject us to this kind of liability. While the Ailes’s paper so often champions “transparency,” why would Roger Ailes so determinedly conceal details of how he — a private citizen — was spending taxpayer money? And why would Scuccimarra, whom we elected to be accountable for spending our tax money, be the vessel for this secrecy?

Michael Robinson, Cold Spring

One thought on “Letters: Senior Center Deal

  1. Certainly the new senior center is intended to be more than an expensive lunch room for 20 people, yet this misconception seems popular.
    Could someone who has been working with the seniors, Guillaro and the Ailes family please take a minute to outline the ways in which the center will be used?