Press Conference in response to 1/29/2021 letter from Glen Cove Mayor and City Council requesting me to step down.
By Mike Conn
Glen Cove Mayor Tim Tenke and other members of the City Council recently sent a letter to Councilwoman Marsha Silverman, asking her to resign if her wife, Roni Epstein, does not withdraw a legal challenge that she filed over the Livingston Villa development.
Silverman held a news conference Jan. 29 to alert the public about the letter.
The letter, Silverman said, stated that she had until 5 p.m. Monday to decide. During the news conference, which began at 4:30 p.m., she said she would not resign, nor would Epstein withdraw her Article 78 proceeding, a legal filing challenging a government action.
The city is arguing that since Epstein, an energy regulatory attorney, is challenging a decision of the city Planning Board, the City Council, the 135 Glen Cove Ave. Corp., the Livingston Development Corp., City Clerk Gaspare Tumminello and City Attorney Gregory Kalnitsky, Silverman’s presence on the council presents a conflict of interest, because she and Epstein are married.
Epstein’s petition is a response to a decision made by the planning board at a Nov. 21 meeting, when it approved Livingston’s proposal to change the 176-unit development from condominiums to rental units. The petition contends that the development’s site plan is not valid because a subdivision was not created.
Tenke said the council’s letter was not intended to instigate a legal fight between Silverman and the council. His main goal, he said, was to avoid spending more city money on lawsuits over the Livingston development, he said, because the last one cost roughly $250,000, although Livingston reimbursed the money.
Silverman and Epstein’s home is adjacent to the development, on Rooney Court. They have legally challenged aspects of the project since 2016, before Silverman was elected to the council in October 2017. But the project was brought before the council again in 2019, and several times since. Silverman has recused herself from all discussions on it, which she said protects her from any accusations of conflict of interest.
The latest petition, filed late last year, is the third by Epstein against Livingston. The first two, filed in 2016 by Silverman and Epstein, resulted in a lawsuit that was dismissed in October 2017. They sought to appeal the dismissal, but Livingston sued them for defamation. That suit was dismissed in January 2020, and Livingston appealed. That appeal has yet to be heard.
Silverman said that the Jan. 29 letter was an ultimatum, threatening that if she did not resign or Epstein did not withdraw her suit, there would be “further escalation of the issue.”
“I have decided to make this matter public because if a strong-arming tactic such as this can be attempted against me, a duly elected official, think about its impact on the average citizen and their willingness to assert their rights,” Silverman said. “Many members of the community have expressed to me their concern about speaking out for just this reason. Any action taken that suppresses meaningful public participation is not supportive of a democratic society.”
Tenke said the letter was not intended to challenge the merits of Epstein’s legal filing, and added that she was within her rights to file a complaint about a decision made by the city government.
“It was basically to inform her of the conflict and provide her with an opportunity to address it prior to the city incurring any expenses with regard to this,” Tenke explained.
He added that the Feb. 1 5 p.m. notice was not a hard deadline, but more an indication of when the council wanted to hear of her decision. This was to eliminate the need for an emergency council meeting on Tuesday night, which ended up taking place, he said.
Silverman recused herself from all discussions during the emergency meeting. Tenke and the remaining six council members voted unanimously to retain Leventhal, Mullaney & Blinkoff, LLP and Chase, Rathkopf & Chase, LLP as counsel for the case.
Epstein spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, arguing that the mayor and the council were saying, essentially, that she could not petition the government. She and Silverman are two different people, she said, so Silverman is not inherently a part of the case. Epstein also said that Silverman’s recusal is enough to satisfy the law.
“If she’s not voting and nobody on the council is speaking to her and she’s not speaking to them about this matter,” Epstein said, “how is she having any impact over it whatsoever?”
The last person to speak during public comment was Frederick Eisenbud, Epstein’s attorney. He pointed to a section of the city ethics code that states that a municipal employee cannot be barred from making a claim against the city or one of its agencies. This, Eisenbud said, shows that the city is violating Silverman’s rights as a citizen by asking for her resignation.
Kalnitsky, the city attorney, said that Article 18, a state law, states that no municipal officer can have an interest in any contract issued against the municipality. Since this is state law, Kalnitsky said, it supersedes city code.
According to Section 800 of Article 18, a municipal officer is deemed to have an interest in a contract if his or her spouse is involved.
After the meeting, Eisenbud said that Article 18 does not say anything about an officer being forced to resign in an instance of potential conflict of interest, and that Silverman’s recusal from discussions about the case is the required remedy. This, he said, means the city does not have a right to ask Silverman to resign. Eisenbud also said that asking Epstein to withdraw her petition violates her First Amendment rights.
Tenke said that all of the legal arguments would be decided by the courts, and he would not act immediately to remove Silverman from office.
Glen Cove Mayor Timothy Tenke and five city council members demanded in a Jan. 29 letter that Councilwoman Marsha Silverman resign from office or get her wife to drop a lawsuit against the city.
The letter said the lawsuit created a conflict of interest that Silverman could not resolve by simply recusing herself from matters related to the lawsuit. Silverman has not resigned and her spouse, Roni Epstein, has not dropped the lawsuit challenging the city’s approval of an apartment building next to their home.
"I ran for office to ensure the city follows local and state law and to bring transparency to how decisions affecting all Glen Cove taxpayers are made," Silverman said Monday during a virtual news conference. "I will not be stopped by the outrageous ultimatum presented to me by the mayor and other members of the City Council."
Tenke said in an interview Wednesday that the letter was not intended as an ultimatum, rather the city wanted to resolve a conflict before hiring legal counsel to defend the city in the lawsuit.
"I am not disputing whether or not Roni Epstein has an absolute right to bring this lawsuit," Tenke said. "What I dispute is doing it while she has a spouse who is a councilwoman."
Tenke and the rest of the council have interpreted the lawsuit as a "contract" under a state statute that prohibits municipal officers from having an interest in contracts that they have the power or duty to approve. Tenke said Silverman’s recusal on matters related to the lawsuit was not enough to resolve the conflict. Silverman said at her news conference that a contract under state law means goods and services, not legal actions.
Prior to her election in 2017, Silverman and Epstein unsuccessfully sued Glen Cove to try to stop the project proposed by developer Livingston Development Corp. Epstein alleges in her new suit, filed in December, that the city improperly approved revisions to the project that allow the developer to build apartments instead of condominiums as originally proposed.
By Jennifer Corr
In an effort to make sure that local families who do not have access to whole and nutritious foods don’t go without, Glen Cove Councilwoman Marsha Silverman and Wells Café & Apothecary in Sea Cliff teamed up with North Shore Food Help, also known as NOSH.
“I am thrilled to connect two women-run organizations, NOSH, a critical resource to feed those in need and Wells Café, a provider of nutritious, organic foods,” Silverman said.
Under this initiative, for every bundle of organic groceries purchased from Wells Café, an equal value will be donated to NOSH.
“It is a privilege to partner with Wells Café to bring organic food to those in need,” said Courtney Callahan of NOSH. “As a vegan, it is particularly important to create access to plant based foods.”
This effort is being done through the Pumpkinseeds Foundation, a private grant-making foundation based in Sea Cliff.
“Food justice has always been an important pillar of the Wells Café ethos and now, more than ever, it is crucial that families in need have access to nutritious, whole foods,” said Lisa Gelsmar, the chef at Wells Café.
Newsday, Jan 2020: Saving Taxpayer Money
By Jennifer Corr
The Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency and Community Development Agency need not pay rent to the City of Glen Cove for office space at City Hall, according to an agreement the outside agencies reached with the city on April 28.
The City Council, including Mayor Tim Tenke, voted 6-1 that day to formalize the arrangement. Council member Marsha Silverman was the lone vote against it.
The two agencies have not paid rent to the city for four years, but rather have provided essential services, so city officials said they thought it only right that they would have office space at City Hall. Until recently, however, that agreement had not been formalized.
“What’s happening right now is that we’re formalizing basically what has been the custom and practice for the last four or so years,” said City Attorney Gregory Kalnitsky. “This is an accounting measure if the CDA or IDA is audited. They’re required to have an inter-municipal agreement in place, formalizing our agreement and showing that they are performing certain services and we’re receiving certain services.”
The CDA, among other services, owns the Glen Cove Senior Center and oversees Section 8 public housing in the city. The CDA issues federal and state grant funding for large-scale projects such as the current waterfront redevelopment.
RXR Realty purchased 44 acres of waterfront property on two parcels from the IDA for $10 million in 2016 in order to construct the $1.3 billion Garvies Point housing and shopping development, which is now under construction. RXR also received a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement.
The IDA had taken over the property in 1999, after the site was contaminated by roughly 47,000 tons of radioactive material and nearly 57,000 tons of chemically contaminated soil. The Superfund site, formerly owned by Li Tungsten, had been a dumping ground for industrial waste since the 1950s.
The IDA worked with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a $28 million cleanup of the property. The IDA agreed to pay the federal government $100,000, plus a percentage of the proceeds from any sale or lease of the two parcels.
The IDA has had an office at City Hall since 2004, but has never paid rent. In 2016, the IDA gave the city the $10 million it had received from RXR for the waterfront property, effectively paying off the rent it had owed for the previous 12 years. It has remained at City Hall ever since, without paying rent.
Not all City Council members said they were comfortable with the agreement formalizing the no-rent arrangement. Silverman said that the state comptroller’s office recently audited the IDA. The findings are expected this summer. “I wonder if this is premature, and if we should maybe wait a few months,” Silverman said of the vote on the agreement.
“We should take no action on any IDA matter until we have the findings of that report,” Silverman emphasized after the meeting. “In addition, our local economy will be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a good chance that our revenues will be significantly decreased.”
Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews expressed similar concerns, and asked if the resolution could be rewritten as a six-month contract instead, putting the relationship between the city and the agencies up for further review down the road.
Kalnitsky said the agreement could be changed, and added that he did not believe putting a time limit on it was necessary, but Stevenson-Mathews said he was unsure if he agreed.
Ann Fangmann, the executive director and contracting officer for the IDA and CDA, said the agencies would likely have to move out of City Hall to another office if they had to pay rent. “We work very effectively in City Hall,” Fangmann said, “because we’re right near the mayor and the deputy mayor and the department heads that we need to get the approvals from and the signatures.”
Silverman said that while she valued the work of the agencies, she did not believe the city needed to vote to formalize the no-rent agreement immediately, because the arrangement dated back to 2016. She tried to table the motion to vote on the agreement, but no other council member supported her.
By Jennifer Corr
A three year contract with Thomson Reuters West Publishing Corporation for a Westlaw Subscription was approved by the Glen Cove City Council at the April 14 Glen Cove City Council meeting. The legal research service would cost the city $850 initially, and there would be a 5 percent increase each year.
Originally, the subscription would have cost $1,458 a month with a 5 percent increase.
“After I raised concerns at the City Council last week, our attorney called to negotiate,” Councilwoman Marsha Silverman said. “We were granted a municipal rate that is less expensive.”
According to Glen Cove City Attorney Gregory Kalnitsky, the Westlaw subscription has many benefits for the city and is in fact used by the state. It has access to a number of local, state and federal legal databases, agency decisions, treatises for government officials, different guidance forms and other products. Westlaw also offers different packages. Packages such as Government Analytics Plus, Westlaw Edge, Litigation for Government and Practical Law for Government will be ordered for the city.
“From law school through my work in the private sector, through all my work in government, I have used nothing but Westlaw and it is a great product,” Kalnitsky said. “It has excellent support and it offers much more than just looking up case laws and such. There are practical commentaries, there are treatises. And there are products that they have on there that are unique to Westlaw.”
Councilman Rocco Totino, who also works as a trial attorney for an insurance carrier, echoed the point that Westlaw, along with another legal research resource, LexisNexis, are the top two services that lawyers and legal professionals use regardless of what area of law they’re in.
“Westlaw is the standard, premiere legal research facility nationwide,” Kalnitsky said. “They have a way or organizing the cases that makes them very easily accessible and allows me to get back to [the mayor’s] office as well as city department heads and the city council much quicker would be able to otherwise.”
Silverman agreed at last week’s pre council meeting that Kalnitsky and other city officials should have access to legal research. However, she was concerned about the original $1,458 a month price tag that came with it, especially after finding other legal research products that cost less.
“If you want to send me the information you have for these other products I will definitely take a look at them,” Kalnitsky said. “If it helps, I will point out what Westlaw has that they do not.”
So Silverman did send an email to Kalnitsky, Totino and other city officials citing four other legal research services; LexisNexis, which has three subscriptions for $125 a month, $170 a month and $295 a month; Casetext, which is $65 a month; Fastcase, which costs $695 a year for the Appellate subscription and $995 a year for the Premium subscription; and Casemaker, which starts at $50 a month.
Over the week, Kalintsky was able to negotiate a lower monthly cost of $850 a month with a 5 percent increase for a three year contract with Westlaw. The original contract would have been $55,152 for three years and the new contract will cost $32,172 over the next three years. This saved the city $22,980 over a three year period.
“Based on the competitive options out there, this is much more in line with other options,” Silverman said. “I’m just really glad I raised it because we’re saving.”
Mayor Timothy Tenke, along with other council members, thanked Kalnitsky for negotiating a lower price for the city before approving the resolution.
“I know you went out and followed the protocol for the purchase of this through the state contract, you piggy backed on that, but you actually took on yourself to get the additional reduction in the monthly cost of this by almost $1,000 a month,” Tenke said. “I want to thank you for that because those savings are good and our residents will appreciate that.”
Marsha Silverman: The most critical issue in Glen Cove is overall good government. My platform for the 2017 election, which continues today, is increased transparency, accountability and fiscal discipline, which are the components of good government. My commitment is to be an independent voice for the public and to ensure all voices are heard. Despite being a minority member of an extremely partisan city council, I am proud to have successfully sponsored and enacted legislation to increase fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability in our government. However, while progress has been made, much more needs to be done to better protect taxpayers and the community, and I am committed to pursue additional legislation in my next term.
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August 20, 2017 The Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency will vote Tuesday on whether to give more than $1.2 million in tax breaks to the developer of a downtown apartment and retail building.
Uniondale-based RXR Realty is asking for the tax breaks to build Village Square on 2.8 acres in downtown Glen Cove. The buildings now on the site are mostly vacant. It would include 146 apartments, retail space and a plaza deeded to the city for public events.
RXR Glen Isle Partners, of which RXR Realty is majority owner, is building Garvies Point — with 1,110 condos and apartments, parks, offices and retail — about a half-mile away. That project received more than $200 million in IDA tax breaks.
For Village Square, RXR is asking for $1.24 million in mortgage and sales-tax exemptions. The IDA also will vote on payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, that would start at $183,062 for the first three years and increase 2 percent annually for 15 years. The value of that property tax break is undetermined.
IDA Executive Director Barbara Peebles said the property, which has languished for years, is “the key to revitalizing our downtown. . . . If they don’t get the PILOT, it stays blighted and it never gets developed.”
Frank Haftel, first vice president of RXR, said the $49 million project wouldn’t attract lenders and investors without financial assistance. RXR has yet to come to an agreement to buy a small parcel of the property, and the tax breaks are contingent on RXR owning that land, IDA attorney Milan Tyler said.
Marsha Silverman, a Democratic City Council candidate and one of 105 plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to halt construction of Garvies Point, said she opposes the PILOTs. She said they should be used to lure new job-creating businesses to the city, not “to financially assist a wealthy developer,” which she asserted could build Village Square without the breaks.
“When they don’t pay their fair share of taxes, the rest of us have to make up the difference, and we subsidize this developer,” Silverman said.
Peebles said current property taxes on the site are $154,422, so the PILOTs will reap far more revenue for the city than if the land were left vacant.
Silverman spoke against the PILOTs at an Aug. 9 IDA public hearing held outside the IDA’s regular meeting schedule, which Silverman said showed a lack of transparency.
Glen Cove Mayor and IDA chairman Reginald Spinello said the date was chosen as part of “an aggressive timeline” for developing the site. No public-comment period is expected on Tuesday, but the board will discuss written and verbal comments about the PILOT and take them into consideration, Spinello said.
The IDA meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of City Hall, 9 Glen St.
Marsha Silverman explains the opposition to the IDA overstepping their authority in granting PILOTS (tax breaks) to RXR Corporation.
FOREXTV INTERVIEW WITH MARSHA SILVERMAN - Part 3
The Glen Cove IDA was planning to have a vote in relative secrecy tonight regarding granting tax breaks to RXR Corp until Marsha Silverman uncovered it and forced the IDA to make a public announcement.In my interview with Marsha Silverman, she explains how tax breaks work, in particular, Silverman discusses the PILOT program
Marsha speaks about her involvement in Glen Cove City Council meetings over the past 4 years
Marsha Silverman discusses the state of Glen Cove Politics with ForexTV News Editor, Tim Kelly
“…Silverman regularly attends City Council Meetings, sometimes asking pointed questions of Mayor Reginald Spinello on city spending, the Garvies Point waterfront project and other issues. Silverman, a financial data analyst, also typically is one of few members of the public to attend council work sessions.”
“I have a financial background and I have something to offer the city…and help move the city forward for all residents and taxpayers”
“Our neighborhood has single family homes on half acre to one acre lots that abut that project, so the change in land use is extreme,” Marsha Silverman said.
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"But Marsha Silverman, 44, a Glen Cove resident who works as a financial data analyst, said the city's assumptions are unrealistically rosy. She fears that, far from benefiting from an expanding city treasury, residents will face tax increases to pay for city services the new waterfront residents and businesses would require. "
"Marsha Silverman, a Glen Cove resident who works as a financial data analyst, asked whether there would be enough safeguards in place so a best-value contract "doesn't go to best friend."
"Resident Marsha Silverman said the city needs to develop three-to-five-year financial outlooks to help rein in expenses and prevent overreliance on borrowing."
"Marsha Silverman, 45, who also lives behind the project, wondered what would happen to residents of apartments and a house on the site. Livingston said about 50 people would be displaced. Silverman also criticized the proposed waiver — granted later in the meeting — to the city’s hillside protection ordinance, which limits development on hills."
"Marsha Silverman, 43, a data analyst who lives on a hill directly behind the property. "The risk of ... foundation damage, soil runoff and destabilization of the hill are not risks that the native homeowners should have to bear."
"But Glen Cove resident Marsha Silverman told council members Nogid is not qualified for the job because he is not a certified public accountant and does not hold an advanced degree."
(Note: Nogid was in the position of Comptroller of Glen Cove for only six months when a new comptroller was hired to replace him )
"A tree-removal company hired by Queens-based Livingston chopped down about 50 trees on a hillside south of downtown until Nassau County State Supreme Court Judge George Peck on Sept. 13 ordered a stop to the tree removal until he could rule on a request for a preliminary injunction against the tree-cutting."