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Public Housing Spotlight

Issue 1
Published on June 24, 1998

(Click Here for NYCHA "preliminary" Audit
by NYC Comptroller Alan Hevesi)

(Click Here for DirectDirectory of Issues)

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As this is our inaugural issue,
let me explain what we hope to be
and what we never wish to be mistaken for.

We hope to be your voice.

As we all know, working in Public Housing can be a rewarding but often perplexing experience. Helping to provide housing for low-income families should be a means of garnering much internal satisfaction as, for example, we help a single parent family move from the streets into a dwelling that provides shelter along with some minimal comforts.

All too often, however, office politics can cause us to face each day with dread. While our corporate contemporaries also complain about internal office politics causing them undue angst, they benefit in that their bosses are, in reality, just amateurs at this game. Within our organization however, politics is practiced at its highest levels. Master politicos-people who cut their teeth on long ago campaigns-directly control our management. When we face office politics, we face big time OFFICE POLITICS!

So, what else is new?

Short answer: We are! We are new, and hope to make your workday a little brighter. We don't expect to make big changes in your life, just allow you to see things a little differently. For a change, we want you to scrutinize your bosses, instead of having the scrutiny always facing downhill.

For far too long, worries about "behavior" were limited to the lowest levels of employees. We were the one's subjected to being "written-up", as if we were school children. Often, all it took was for you to be in the wrong place when your superior was in a bad mood. And your only realistic defense was to write a response to be placed along side the counseling memo in your personnel file. Well, the worm's just turned. While this newsletter can not place derogatory letters in management's personnel files, we can allow the regular hard working employees to become knowledgeable about their bosses peccadilloes.

With your help, we'll publish reports on the lapses in professionalism committed by management. As the weeks pass, we will be listing ways for you to get items over to us. Within months, we hope to triple our staff and become a more comprehensive publication. It is our goal to print separate editions covering every major city agency. Of course, we can't and won't publish every rumor written on a bathroom wall, but if we find enough confirmation that we believe the story to be credible, it will appear.


IMPORTANT: We don't want you to believe every word you read here: Much will be gossip and we will attempt to label that as so. Other stories will be based on supportable facts. Much information can be gathered today through public sources. Arrest records, liens and all manner of news stories can be accessed through the local library or by taking a trip to a local court house. Ironically, much of what you'll read here came directly from the person being profiled. Attending a Housing Authority affair can be an illuminating experience: Some people will tell you everything about their life after 2 glasses of wine.

Should we be sticking our noses
under management's tent like this?

Well, why not? If they wish to use their powers to chastise employees about everything from lifestyles to the choice of friends, we should be able to do likewise! When you see something labeled as a "fact" in our little rag, you can bet that the accompanying documentation was gathered from public access areas. The comments between such documents are ours, and you should realize that they are subjective.

As previously mentioned, some items will be based on reports from fellow employees. If there is no way to produce supporting documentation, the report will be labeled in a manner that will attempt to prevent anyone from confusing the gossip inspired report with factual reporting. If something is labeled as gossip, we believe our readers to be intelligent enough to accept it as such. So, please sit back and relax. I hope that this short reprieve from the daily grind provides you with both moments of thoughtful reflection and segments that bring a little smile into your day.

nycha, Public Housing, spotlight

Musical Chair

Gossip! Gossip! Gossip! Gossip! Gossip!


Yours' truly has been hearing the tom-toms of discord being beaten loudly on the 9th Floor of 250 Broadway. Words such as spousal abuse and arrests are liberally spiced into water-cooler conversations about the Chair and his marital woes.

And, as if that weren't eye-opening enough, a rumor of a femme fatale has entered the picture. The Chair is said to have one "spouse" at work and another at home. Of course, this mixture can be more dangerous than Viagra and a copy of Victoria's Secret at a home for the aged. As would be expected, problems have arisen. The current Mrs. Franco has cried "Enough!" So our Ruben is heading for bachelor-hood again. Sort of.

This is what your intrepid reporter has gathered by keeping her ear to the tiles in the ladies room. Quite often this highest of the NYCHA high picks up his new love for the drive to work. "So what?", you may ask. When a divorce is imminent hasn't our society just about sanctioned dating while waiting? Yes, I'd agree. If dating were the only thing I heard about, this would be a no-go for a story. But follow along. It does get interesting!

No empty nest here! If those with the loose lips are to be believed, this divorced lady has been granted some quick promotions/raises in the short time in which she has been granting her charms to our head Mucky-Muck. (No, this woman hasn't captured a Directorship. Yet!!!) Fortunately, she works on the same floor as her Romeo. Therefore, she can be certain that she's never far from his mind, or any other organs.

In what some may see as a tender show of concern and familial loyalty, after her divorce our heroine moved in with her mother. This not only allows for more quality time with her mom, it is also very cost effective. From what we've heard, it appears that the woman has forgotten to inform the Authority that her mom's apartment now has a well-paid NYCHA employee residing in it. Luckily, her boyfriend's hormones have apparently clouded his reason. That would appear to be the only way to explain how Ruben has failed to relate the relevant Authority regulations to his paramour. Of course, as the mom is on a very limited budget, mom's rent is kept remarkably low. If, however, the daughter/heroine were forced to 'fess-up about her tenancy, major adjustments would need to be made to the rent. With her daughter's (new & improved) salary, her mom's rent would suddenly become the thing most likely to see a raise.

With luck, City Hall's recent request that Ruben keep his pants on may allow them both to clean up this one small portion of their three-ring circus. By getting this problem out of the way, the High Supreme Mucky-Muck may be able to be more productive in his (rumored) new job hunting during his upcoming extended vacation.

Anonymous Investigator!

Well, this is a stunning bit of news. It seems that the New York City Housing Authority has chosen a convicted embezzler as its guardian of Data Security. Norberto Caballery, according to public records, was convicted of embezzling $800,000 from a past employer. As copied below, Mr. Caballery pled guilty to the offense. He had been an un-bonded messenger for Hayden Stone, and was delivering "bearer bond" securities when he was supposedly beaten and robbed.

When the FBI later discovered $200,000 worth of the securities in the luggage of a Mr. Vitti (member of the Franchese Mafia family), they quickly assumed that the Franchese family had robbed poor Norberto. According to detectives who worked on the case, Norberto had been bruised and had soiled his underwear. Those facts lent credibility to Norberto's tale. However, after digging a little further, they found that Mr. Vitti was Norberto's uncle. As more info developed, the scheme became obvious. Norberto, as reported below, now chose to plead guilty to the crime. As far as can be discovered, the rest of the haul was never recovered.

While Norberto was tried as a juvenile, and his records were sealed, the fact that he chose to appeal any punishment for his failure to fulfill the terms of his parole led to the public record below. If Norberto hadn't been able to get free legal council to mount this VERY unusual and expensive appeal, his name would never have shown up in the Court record. (In a possibly unrelated article, we note that a Ruben Franco was promoted to be the head of the Bronx Legal Aid office a couple of years later.)


On December 30, 1974, Norberto Caballery pleaded guilty to a charge of embezzling bank funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. @ 656. On March 17, 1975, he was sentenced as a youth offender under the Youth Corrections Act to a term of six years, the maximum permitted by that Act. See 18 U.S.C. @ 5017(c). On May 5, 1976, approximately 14 months into his six-year term, Caballery was conditionally released from prison to serve the remainder of his term under parole supervision. He apparently complied adequately with the conditions of his parole for about three and a half years, until October of 1979 when he stopped reporting to his supervising parole officer

From: July 13, 1973 The New York Times

FBI agents on July 11 discover nearly $1.7-million worth of counterfeit and stolen securities in suitcase carried by A F Vitti at LaGuardia Airport, NYC, as a result of surveillance following informant's tip; they also arrest J T De Simone, whom they charge with possession of $100 counterfeit bill; agents report they found stolen securities hidden in Vitti's suitcase and that more than $200,000 worth of them were part of $800,000 theft last Nov from Hayden Stone messenger.

While this offense was long ago, it should have made a bit more of an impression in Norberto. We're told that, as of June 4, 1998, Norberto's personnel file did not mention this trip to a rather unique summer camp.

More recently, we're told, Mr. Caballery was arrested for spousal abuse. Luckily, his cousin, Ruben Franco, who is no stranger to these type charges, was able to raise bail for Norberto.

NYCHA's $100,000,000 Building!

The Authority's Board has passed a plan to lease warehouse/office space in Long Island City (LIC). Kalman Finkel excused himself from any vote, as he has admitted that this real estate deal was put together by friends of his.

In short, taxpayers will pay well over


for a twenty year lease of office space in a building purchased just months ago by Finkel's Friends (Hereinafter referred to as FF's, for Finkel's Friends) for


FF's formed a Limited Liability Group, Bridgedale LLC, just this past December. Armed with a $7,000,000 mortgage loan from the Dime Savings Bank, they purchased a warehouse in LIC for a little over eight million dollars. Although this building will not even pass code as it stands today, NYCHA is lusting to pay FF's wheelbarrow loads of $ for the right to renovate the entire building. Although two of the floors will NOT even be used by the Authority, the entire building will need to be upgraded. Boilers, windows, elevators and the entire heating system will all need replacements.

Obviously, this building will be worth much MUCH more after NYCHA finishes with its ambitious rebuilding plans. FF's will be able to rent out the top two floors to other tenants, at a much higher rent than possible in the buildings current state of disrepair.

Also, let's remember that this $103,000,000 warehouse is only one of the buildings the Board is currently looking at to replace our current locations. Even if this deal goes through, there are buildings at 195 Broadway and 90 Church Street that we're currently in negotiations to lease or rent space within. And we have offices at 123 William. To paraphrase a favorite old saying, when you have a hundred million here, and a hundred million there, pretty soon you're talking about real money!

After the item was tabled at a prior Board meeting, Myrtle Whitmore sent a memo to all New York City Housing Authority officials at the level of Director and above. In it, Ms. Whitmore explained that she was adamant in believing that the deal should not be passed. She believed that if we were to be doing business with Mr. Finkel's Friends, that Kalman should be forced to vote on the proposal. Kalman is abstaining from the vote. He claims this is his because it would be unfair of him to be involved in a contract with friends, as it could be a conflict of interest. On the contrary, according to our sources. Once Mr. Finkel has acknowledged his relationship with the hidden owners of the Bridgedale Limited Liability Corp., he should then be forced to vote.

Only by doing so would he be making himself equally liable should his friends ever be proven to have done something underhanded in their dealings with NYCHA.

Something smells a little fishy, here!
Our little rag sides with Myrtle on this.

Our tenants' funding
is being miss-spent!

Is all of CAD corrupt?
Is the rest of NYCHA Saintly?

No to both questions!

Polly Kreisman, of the WOR-TV Channel 9 I-Team, has been doing a series of reports on corruption in the Contract Administration Department, among other NYCHA related shenanigans. Some CAD Inspectors feel that they are being tarred by Ms. Kreisman's broad brush. Well, they have a point. As most people had never heard of a NYCHA Contract Inspector, they will certainly be influenced by such a shabby introduction. Also, as tenants are the people who lose the most when bribes allow contracts to go unfulfilled, Inspectors may be met with trepidation when encountering tenants. In other words, some honest and hard working Inspectors may suffer.

And that really sucks!

But, is it Polly Kreisman's fault? Of course it's not. But she makes an easy target for what appears to be justifiable anger. And that also sucks.

When we blame the messenger, we help both dishonest employees and lazy or dishonest management. Those Inspectors who are still taking graft, but haven't yet been named, are amongst those most vocal in their anger. I have spoken to members of the group of "honest" CAD Inspectors who worked with the IG's investigation, and to other employees who have supplied information to Ms. Kreisman. The honest Inspectors have listened to those corrupt ones who have not yet been named as they denigrate Ms. Kreisman's reports. They also hear the managerials, who were part of the chain that controlled the dirty inspectors, as they too whine about the unfairness of it all.

Honest Inspectors should be glad that someone is finally doing something to at least halt the spread of this dirty clique. For a long time CAD employees have complained about unfair treatment that was tied in some unfathomable manner to job performance. Inspectors complained that they were expected to be really tough on some contracts, but also very lax on others. And they weren't often clued in as to which contractors were "friends" of management, and which were not.

So, when an Inspector stepped on the wrong foot, he was transferred or denied promotion. If he didn't harass a different contractor, he could expect the same punishment.

Ms. Kreisman's reports are making it obvious enough for anyone to see what was going on. And she promises she has much more to come. She doesn't deserve our blame, she actually deserves our gratitude.

Also, while the initial reports centered on the Contract Administration Department there will be reports touching on many other areas of New York's Public Housing. The Monday, June 22 report on a $103,000,000 building (mentioned elsewhere in our little rag) was one example, and others will soon follow. Much will depend on you. According to the reports, employees and Supervisors, Tenant Association leaders and vendors/contractors who have done work for the Authority have called Polly directly at WWOR (1-800-CH9-NEWS or 1-800-249-6397 Extension 2207 ).

Let me make a suggestion. Instead of wondering whether the future reports will make someone look good or bad, why not have some influence on the outcome. Come forward and place more truth on the table. Don't let those who have the dirty hands, be they your fellow employees or your supervisors, play some childish psychological game on you. If they can make you believe that those who have come forward are the bad guys in this morality play, then you deserve to be treated with the same disrespect you've complained about in the past. The next time you are unfairly transferred, denied a well-deserved promotion or watch as overtime is accrued by certain employees while the honest ones get none, pat yourself on the back. Because your complacency or, God help us, your compliance in this "kill the messenger" ploy has placed the credit/blame for the eventual outcome squarely onto your shoulders.

Or, you can help! Contact the Inspector General and give them any information you may have. If, as is the case with some of the inspectors, you have some trepidation about dealing with the IG's office, contact Ms. Kreisman. Confidentiality is the coin-of-the-realm as far as Investigative reporting goes. She will promise confidentiality under the Reporter's Shield law. Freedom of the Press allows her to get the story out while keeping you, her sources, secret. Or, if you'd rather, you can avail yourself of the WWOR Channel 9 fax number (201) 330-3844. That way anonymity is assured. (But you should clearly label the fax as being for Ms. Kreisman, to insure that it reaches her. You can also send it without your name, if you must.)

Another suggestion would be sending your information to other law enforcement agencies. The NY Attorney General (Dennis Vacco), the US Attorney General and the HUD IG are all available to you for the price of a phone call or a stamp.

Airing dirty laundry is never fun. But now that the wash is being collected, let's make sure it all gets done. That way, if our friends and/or our children look for employment at NYCHA in the future, they may look forward to working at not only America's largest Public Housing Agency, but also the BEST!

© 1998 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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Contact Jack Ballinger at nychaspotlight@netscape.net
for a Real Audio sound clip containing a
conversation wherein DOI Investigator
John Kilpatrick discusses how he learned
that 2 NYCHA execs attended
a Mafia connected contractor's funeral .

Contact Jack Ballinger at nychaspotlight@netscape.net
for a Real Audio sound clip containing
the (3 Meg) confession of Tony DiAlto.
Tony was a member of a group of
corrupt Contract Inspectors working at NYCHA.
Neither Tony nor the person he confessed to
sharing his bribes with (Richard Penesi)
were ever charged, let alone prosecuted, by DOI.

For a great source of general tenant information,
visit the Tenant Net Home Page |

And for a great source of New York City news and
policy information, visit our friends at the Gotham Gazette

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