L to Ed: What went wrong with the Train Station process, and what we can do about it

Monday, June 9, 2014
by Carla Gambescia, Erin and Peter Chase

A request for proposal, typically referred to as an RFP, is a formal solicitation made by a governmental entity or company interested in procuring a product or service or valuable asset through a competitive process.

An RFP is created upfront in the procurement cycle and is designed to bring structure to competitive process and the procurement decision. 

Think of it as both a yardstick and goal post –  making it clear to potential providers what specific product or service is being sought and the standards by which the various proposals can and will be compared.

The RFP presents preliminary requirements for the product or service and may dictate (to varying degrees) the structure and format of the supplier’s response. Effective RFPs typically reflect the strategy and short/long-term objectives of the issuing governmental entity or business, providing detailed insight upon which suppliers will be able to offer a matching perspective.

In principle, an RFP:

• informs suppliers what an organization is looking to procure in general terms (in this case the Town is looking for a food service tenant in the train station)

• requires the company to specify what it proposes to procure (e.g., a destination food and dining concept, grab-and-go commuter-oriented take-out, etc.)

• alerts suppliers that the selection process is competitive (a closed or open bid)

• is generally expected to follow a structured evaluation and selection procedure so that an organization can demonstrate impartiality—a crucial factor in public sector procurements

We feel strongly that the station lease selection process the New Castle Town Board conducted this year did not remotely conform to what would be considered standard or good business practice, and was neither transparent nor “fair and open to all applicants” as promised by the Board.

It was conducted in a “cart before the horse” manner without objectives or evaluative criteria, resulting in a decision and potential 15-year commitment for the Town that defies business sense.

Here’s a snapshot of the process, the decision, and what went wrong:

• The Town clandestinely scheduled meetings with new candidates who learned of the new process either by personal invitation or by chance from mid-February to early March—during a time when, as far as the public knew, the station lease had already been awarded to a food-service operator.

• Presentations were scheduled and conducted March 11 and March 18 prior to issuance of the RFP—the complete reverse of what is standard and sound practice.

• The RFP issued March 19 failed to state objectives, priorities and decision criteria; instead it was open-ended and non specific (apart from insurance coverage requirements and the like), thus enabling the Board to justify whatever decision might suit them.

• This inadequate RFP was made public only on the Town website on March 20 and had a due date for written submissions of March 28th … only 8 days later.  A classic case of “too little too late.”

• The 8-day time frame provided insufficient time for interested and qualified food service operators (that had not otherwise known of or been personally invited by the Board) to learn of the opportunity and to submit a thoughtful proposal. Not surprisingly no new candidates came forth.  Not a single one. 

• Once proposals were submitted, the Board then engaged in negotiations with only the low bidder, ignoring the other two proposals—both of which, among other things, offered higher rents and substantial capital improvements to the station itself without compromising its landmark features and charm.

• The selected proposal offered residents the least in terms of a dining amenity and offered nothing in the way of capital improvements. 

• Even after 7 weeks of negotiations and extensive legal fees for the Town ($9,000+ for the first 4 weeks only) the final agreement exceeded the monthly rent of one candidate by only $50 and was $300 below the other (including the value of capital improvements); bottom line – the decision did not make financial sense!

• Further, the selected candidate was granted an additional 5-year extension option for a total 15-year commitment even though that option was not stated as part of the RFP term; such an add-on would only make financial sense to the Town if the winning proposal had included substantial capital improvements which the winning bidder would need to amortize over a longer term (with such capital improvements accruing to the ultimate benefit of the Town as owner of the property)

Most Town Board decisions cannot be challenged. Since the Chappaqua train station is owned by the Town of New Castle, concerned residents have a powerful tool with which to speak: Permissive Referendum, a legal mechanism for a community to vote down a resolution authorizing the sale or lease of town-owned property … which is your property as taxpayers!

The Permissive Referendum now underway may be the only opportunity residents have before the next election in November 2015 to send a strong “official” message to Supervisor Greenstein and the Board that their actions have not lived up to their promise of transparency and ethical conduct.

Deadline to sign the Petition – June 18, 2014
Where to sign: Kent Home – 77 S. Greeley Ave and Via Vanti! – Mt Kisco Train Station
Contact us: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (let us know if you want to sign, we will come to you)
Stay up to date: http://ourstationourtown.squarespace.com and www.facebook.com/OurStationOurTown.

We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Thank you .  This letter certainly does a fine job of clearing up the poor performance and decision by the town board. 
I have already signed the petition and urge other residents to do so.  It is, as the Chases and Gambescia say, a good way to voice dissent to the town board on this and other matters.  If we do not, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

By resident on 06/09/2014 at 12:05 pm

Thinking out loud here, if Carla & the Chase’s are so confident that there has been an injustice why do they have to cart around town and drive to someone’s house to try and get their petition signed? I would imagine after the press they have received about this if the town truly felt that there was an injustice that they would have thousands of signatures! Instead- every day there is a new article to try and get signatures? Confident people do not beg-

Perhaps members of the town are aware of how much money this is costing the tax payers, and even worse- how much the rest of the battle may cost us.

My advice would be if you wanted to be in Chappaqua this badly, simply find another location in town. The town board has been verbally abused every single day on these boards- why would you even think that they would want to do business with anyone causing this much trouble? Who knows, if it went to a permissive referendum maybe they would decide against no one coming in to the station and just take the potential rental income as a loss for the town. Are you really thinking of the town’s best interests by pursuing this?

By By Melissa on 06/09/2014 at 8:40 pm

By Melissa,

Perhaps members of the town should be aware of how much money the town is losing by selecting the lowest return on the train station lease.

Absurd for you to be concerned about the town board.  Unless you are a member and then you should be embarrassed.

Are you really saying that the t.b. would decide to not rent the space at all ?  Now it is you who is absurd and should be embarrassed.

By really Melissa on 06/09/2014 at 9:51 pm

One week for the public to respond is ridiculous.  It does not appear that this was decided on the merits.. One wonders what exactly happened.  Sadly we seem to have a Board who think they can act imperially and with impunity .  Chapin did not vote with the majority on this matter either.

By Stephanie S. on 06/09/2014 at 10:48 pm

Actually, with a permissive referendum the approach has been identical in other communities to what is happening here.  It is very short window to get signatures (this one ends om June 19th) and the standard approach is to pursue all options to get the word out and the signatures. Look it up. Ramapo did it in 2010 exactly the same way including driving petitions to homes if need be. Nothing unusual at all.

Also, the law expressly states that a town can withdraw the resolution at issue “at any time.”. This means the board can legally decide to withdraw the resolution, either now or after the petition has been filed (and then reopen the RFP process for a standard period of time).  It is up to the board whether it will proceed with vote The statute is completely clear on this.  So far this petition should not have cost the town much at all. It may have consulted with counsel but they are municipal law experts and this issue should have been easily addressed by them. It does however cost the petitioners a tremendous amount of time and effort as well as cost. I am fairly sure they have more costs by far than the town.

These are clearly committed people working very hard to effect a change with a board that has gone off the rails. The opportunities to do so are few and far between. If you remain silent nothing will ever change.  Our community has become a farce.  Let’s do something about it.

By Local esq on 06/10/2014 at 9:24 am

Yes, the town board should withdraw the resolution and charge Lampert for the town’s $10,000 in legal fees, or at least explain to the tax payers why the large bill.

By withdraw the resolution on 06/10/2014 at 10:42 am

Yes, let’s do something about it. Boycott Via Vanti!

By bob on 06/10/2014 at 10:43 am

The problems are with the board not the referendum people. The board easily could have done things so differently and avoided this situation. This is what happens when you have a supervisor who does what he wants and never thinks anything he does is wrong.  Ramapo is mentionef above. That town supervisor has gotten the town in a pickle time and again. Town hall was even raided by the FBI last year.

By MB on 06/10/2014 at 12:58 pm


I bet that Via Vanti’s business has improved measurably because people like yourself are so vile.  It is a great restaurant and that is why we support it.  We will always support it.

By bob, wrong again on 06/10/2014 at 2:18 pm

Dear By withdraw the Resolution. Are you kidding me? Bill Lampert for the $10,000 in legal fees and ask the board to withdraw their resolution? You must be kidding- seriously- after all the slamming that has been done against the board why would anyone think that either Carla or the Chase’s would ever be welcome in the train station?- the same people which have attacked the board are going to ask for mercy and have them throw out their decision? Now, I know the people chasing signatures must be living in a fantasy. Have you even thought about the damage and insults that you have caused the board? Never mind people insisting that they never said something- only for it to be proven that they did! Boy cott Via Vanti is right- why would anyone support a place created by someone who has disrupted a entire community!

By R U KIDDING ME on 06/10/2014 at 2:26 pm

Vile? You people are so neighborly. Enjoy your (overpriced) dinner my friend.

By bob on 06/10/2014 at 3:44 pm


No, not at all.  No one is asking for mercy.  My, my, the words you use. The lease that Lampert and the town board signed has an out if there is a Permissive Referendum.  It can be done, legally done.

Carla and the Chase’s would most certainly be welcome at the train station.  They would be welcomed by the residents of the town.  The voting, tax paying residents of the town.  Why would you think otherwise ? 

Damage and insults to the town board ?  Disrupt the community ?  Now it is you who must be kidding.  Come out from your bubble.  You do not know what you are blabbering about.

By proof of what ? on 06/10/2014 at 3:47 pm

What makes the board think that a “grab & go” is the way to proceed? That’s great for commuters to pick up something on the way home, but what about the rest of us who would like a place (like Via Vanti) to sit in and enjoy a meal? Very few would drive to the train station just to pick up something to bring home.
But, this petition is not about the choice of restaurant, it’s about the (lack of) process. What else is this board going to do to get us in an uproar? We’re only in the first few months of their administration and look what they’ve done! I’m surprised that they even show their faces in public. If I was one of them, I’d seriously be thinking about moving.
I’ve lived here for almost 40 years and have never been involved in town politics before, but I am one of the people carrying the petition around. This has to stop!!

By Long Time Resident on 06/10/2014 at 6:17 pm

Bob, you have got it right.  There should be a boycott.  We should boycott Ladle of Love and Ladle at 10514 for being complicit in this rather irregular RFP.  I, for one, plan to try Via Vanti just to show my support.  Thankfully people like the Chase and Gambescia have the guts to stick up for their principles

By Toby L. on 06/10/2014 at 6:48 pm

House of mirrors, house of glass- they both say the same thing, it is now over.

Rob just sent an amazing letter which clearly shows that the town did nothing wrong with it’s process for the RFP. Kindly pay attention to the last paragraph- this process can keep continuing and wasting the tax payers money. The continuance would also mean the lack of rental income obtained by the town while this ridiculous process were to go on. The town board has a vision of who they do not want at the train station and Carla and the Chase’s should simply just end this once and for all.

House of mirrors, house of glass- they both say the same thing, it is now over.

By Dear long time resident and others on 06/10/2014 at 10:08 pm

To “Dear long time resident and others” –

The last paragraph (like so much else) in Rob’s “amazing” letter is remarkable only in how it attempts to mislead.  Allow me to quote: “If the Town receives a valid petition for a referendum, the Town will be required to make arrangements to conduct a town-wide vote, similar to what it does for general elections. The Town estimates that the cost of holding the referendum will run approximately $5,000 – $10,000.”  So a referendum is the board’s only option when it receives a valid petition, right?  WRONG!  The board can instead choose to rescind its illogical decision, and that would obviate any referendum and its attendant cost.  It’s entirely up to the board. 

Just another example of obfuscation from the folks who ran on sanctimonious promises of transparency.  House of Mirrors indeed.

P.S.  You may have gotten one thing right in your note: “The town board has a vision of who they do not want at the train station”—hmmm, that’s some “vision” from our town leadership (so much for business friendliness)…

By House of Mirrors Indeed on 06/11/2014 at 1:19 am

‘In an email sent to former Town Supervisor Susan Carpenter on November 28, 2013, Carla stated that keeping the restrooms open to the general public after 11:00 a.m. on weekdays was “not a workable condition for us as it will be disruptive for our guests and an ambiance killer.” ‘

It’s a biggie folks.

By bob on 06/11/2014 at 10:35 am

Sadly, many long time residents have been duped.

By bob on 06/11/2014 at 10:54 am

Carla, “not a workable condition for us as it will be disruptive for our guests and an ambiance killer”…how could you have A. said those words and ever consider yourself being community oriented- and B. stand up in front of the camera on live tv and said that you never knew about the restroom requirements?- and C. think that the town would be behind someone who has proven to misrepresent the truth and stare the public in the face and deny they did it?

Come on- puleeze as many of the posts are labeled… puleeze stop wasting the towns time and money. The Town Board made their decision and the any Town member that might have been in your camp will now cross over to the Town Board’s Side. Why keep wasting the town’s money on something you cannot win? Puleeze!

By Via Ambiance Killer! on 06/11/2014 at 2:03 pm

I almost thought that the above read, ambulance chaser.  nuff said.

By nuff said on 06/12/2014 at 10:42 am

Fair play and a level playing field matter.  Transparency matters.  Honesty, honor and integrity matter.  These are value we seek to impart to our children each and everyday. So sad our Town leadership sets such a poor example does not practice what the preached. The process, tedious though it can be, really does matter.

By Dana D. on 06/12/2014 at 11:52 am

Via Vanti has great food.  We eat there all the tome.  I was looking forward to spending some more time in the evening when she opened her business here.  I guess I will continue eating in Mt. kisco.  Bad move from the Board.

By I am eating at Via Vanti on 06/12/2014 at 5:20 pm

Love Via Vanti’s. food.  Unusual and always delicious.

By love via Vanti on 06/14/2014 at 5:54 am

Yesterday at the farmer’s market I heard Leslie Lampert saying that she would do whatever the town wants her to do at the train station.  If Rob/bob thinks that he and Lampert can now change the terms of the lease in another underhanded deal, he is mistaken.

By resident on 06/15/2014 at 11:32 am

You didn’t attack Leslie there and then? What’s a matter? Not enough New Castle Democrats there is back you up?

By bob on 06/15/2014 at 12:38 pm

Rob is kIng of HIS New Castle.  Get used to it.  What he decides goes.

By Serf on 06/15/2014 at 2:37 pm

… and his Majesty has declared: “Everyone in the land will eat warmed up soup.”

By King Green on 06/15/2014 at 4:53 pm

Who cares?

By Silly on 06/16/2014 at 1:31 am

The children are following or even care about this issue?

By Dear Dana D on 06/16/2014 at 8:17 am

And his majesty has declared…“the ambiance killer will forever eat their words”

“In the kingdom of chappaqua everyone is entitled to use the restrooms! May one’s selfish and thoughtless decisions haunt them forever”!

By Resident on 06/16/2014 at 6:47 pm

It is telling that Team New Castle in their paltry attempt to defend their process and decision fail to acknowledge and address any of the critical areas of concern that have been raised, including: why the RFP was public for just 8 days, why the Board chose to only negotiate with the low bidder, why those negotiations took so long and cost the Town so much why 5-year lease extension option – not a part of the RFP.  15 years is a long time.  That’s 7 1/2 Supervisor terms. Why?

The BS about the bathrooms and now the millwork (has anyone ever noticed have truly ugly the inside of Le Track is?)are just cover your you know what distortions and distractions.  They can’t and /or won’t explain themselves.

By Why not tell us why? on 06/17/2014 at 12:16 am

If the bathrooms were non-negotiable, why was Greenstein working with local architects to add bathroom to the taxi stand and looking at changing the doors to the restrooms in the station so they could open from the outside?

By Not-so-non-negotiable? on 06/19/2014 at 7:30 am

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