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Ailes Withdraws $500,000 Donation For Cold Spring Senior Center

WAMC, Allison Dunne
Assemblywoman Sandy Galef addresses Putnam County Legislature

Controversial plans for a senior center in Cold Spring in Putnam County have been quashed after former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes withdrew his half-a-million dollar-donation. Ailes’ announcement came after public outcry from area residents. Meanwhile, the county executive says she is moving forward to provide a senior center in the western part of the county.

Garrison residents Roger Ailes and his wife Elizabeth said they were withdrawing their $500,000 donation for a new senior center in Philipstown and cancelling a charitable donation agreement as it is clear for political reasons their funding is not welcome. The announcement came in an article published Wednesday morning on the web site of The Putnam County News & Recorder, a weekly newspaper published by Elizabeth Ailes.

The withdrawal of the donation followed a heated Putnam County Legislature meeting Tuesday, where a number of Philipstown residents turned out to voice their opposition to a lease agreement and naming of the senior center for Ailes. Ailes is being investigated after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Ailes has denied the allegations and others that have emerged. Ned Rauch of Garrison spoke at the meeting and later summed up his objections.

“My issue was, one, that there hasn’t been enough clarity or transparency in the formation of this deal and, two, that the name that is proposed to go upon this building is, I think, something I’ll have a hard time explaining to my young daughter,” Rauch says.

The all-Republican legislature had intended to vote on a revised lease agreement and charitable donation agreement for the new senior center at the former Julia L. Butterfield Hospital site but tabled the resolution. Speakers held up signs such as “No Means No” and harangued the legislature and County Executive MaryEllen Odell, who was not in attendance, saying they kept the deal secret and accepted a donation from a figure they allege intimidates those who have dissenting views.

And residents repeatedly mentioned a Tuesday article in The Journal News, which published the charitable donation agreement. Democratic Assemblywoman Sandy Galef also referred to the article and questioned the legality of the deal, telling legislators not to count on her for delivering a grant.

“My concerns are, when you’re dealing with trying to get state grants you may have to follow certain procedures in your construction contracts and so on,” says Galef. “And I’m not sure that this contract that they were considering would meet the standards of New York State to be able to get Dormitory, New York Dormitory Authority, money. And, so, if they can’t get the Dormitory Authority money, they may be out a $250,000 grant through my office but also another $250,000 grant through Senator Serino’s office.”

County Executive Odell laments the outcome.

“I think that the seniors in Cold Spring are very upset today to have to wonder whether or not the commitment is going to continue to have the senior center. We’ve worked very hard for many, many years to get this project off the ground and it’s really quite sad that at the final stage, all of a sudden, it becomes an assault, a personal attack on two individuals who have been nothing but extremely generous and very committed, sincere commitment to our seniors,” Odell says. “And the donation was a personal donation. This was something that they felt very committed to and, quite frankly, it’s a shame and it’s an embarrassment.”

A few days before the legislature meeting, Laura Kaufman helped start a petition from Putnam County Taxpayers for Transparency and Integrity.

“We decided to hear from the rest of Putnam County taxpayers and see if they were as enraged as we were about the lack of transparency and the lack of integrity regarding the fiscal responsibility about this decision as well as the real ire that we felt thinking about how a woman would feel walking under… the symbolic gesture of walking under Roger Ailes’ name is really powerful and really disturbing.”

Odell, meanwhile, says she remains committed to providing a senior center at the Butterfield site.

“I spoke with the developer yesterday, Mr. Guillaro. I spoke with the supervisor in the Town of Philipstown, Mr. Richard Shea, and our commitment and our resolve is still there to provide a senior center,” Odell says. “We will be looking at the budget. We will be looking at re-scoping the project.”

Philipstown includes the Villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville and Hamlet of Garrison.

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