Well, it looks like we struck a nerve in those who might have something to fear from anyone taking a close and honest look at the way Public Housing is run in New York City.
If what our friends tell us is true, Vice-Chair Finkel and the Public Relations flack, Mr. Gross, spent most of our initial publication day (Tuesday, June 24, 1998) "bunkered-in" at Hilly's office. It must be hard to figure out how to explain giving your friends over One Hundred Million Dollars to get a 20 year lease on a building they just bought for eight million dollars. Then add the fact that the Authority looked at the building months before Kalman's friends did, yet didn't make any bids of its own until Finkel's Friends (FF's) had the building in hand. Sweetheart deal!
But that's old news now. What we're VERY happy about is the reception we've gotten from the true members of the NYCHA Family. These are the employees who made a career out of serving the tenant's of Public Housing. From Groundskeepers to Directors, we have found some sympathetic fans. My phone's been busy, and others who offer up their time to help with this newsletter have been contacted--both at work and at home. If our experience can be used as a guide, I'll guess that Channel 9's phones were rather busy these past few days. That is good news!
The morale boost was quite welcome
and we sincerely thank you for it!
Even more amazing, without any apparent identification of members of our staff, people reached out to us with information. The column on our last page came from someone who had an idea, and needed a place to have it displayed. If a story finds its way to us, we hope we can publish it. If we accept a story, we edit it as lightly as possible and pass it on. So, if you have a tale that you believe would interest others, send it over.
For now, we choose to remain anonymous in order to protect those who still toil every day at the Authority. Soon, we hope that our staff will be entirely out of NYCHA's control. Then we'll give a number to call.
Now, back to what other people have been telling us. That's the bad news. They confirm that your tax money could do with better safeguarding. Nests have been feathered at taxpayer and tenant expense. (Remember, if a nest is feathered with money that comes in the form of a "present" from a supplier/contractor to a NYCHA biggie, that money will always come from the taxpayers pocket in the long run.)
Sad to say, none of this surprised us. Even the reports from employees of harassment tied directly to good job performance and/or using honesty at the workplace were no surprise. If you honestly report on something that, without your knowledge, would endanger a "business" arrangement between a contractor/supplier and someone above you in the chain of command, you WILL suffer! That has been obvious to most of us for years.
What did floor this writer was that blatant sexual harassment seems to be a most popular pastime at the highest levels of the Authority, and has even become a spectator sport in the wee hours after some NYCHA authorized parties.
So, in light of this week's US Supreme Court ruling, which makes it easier for the aggrieved party to press a suit, we decided to put a small spotlight, let's call it a flashlight, on those who think that they deserve more than a day's work for the paychecks given to those who work for them.
As I write this, I haven't taken the time to "remove the fingerprints" from the reports I've gotten of our aging leaders' attempts to use their authority to force themselves onto lower-ranking female employees. As most of you already know, if the identity of anyone telling tales to this rag becomes known to the perpetrators of these offenses, those perverts will go to great lengths to make that person's life hell. Therefore, I won't give specifics on past offenses, until I can insure the author can't be identified and unless then authorized to print the story by the injured party. I can say that one report we received mentioned that more than a half dozen women reported being sexually harassed by the Ex-Director of Computer Services. Yet, those woman were not given anything resembling justice. Mr. Gatewood was allowed to quietly resign. He can go on to assault woman at other workplaces, as he does not have to live by the same rules as most NYCHA employees.
Suffice it to say that from this moment on, by any means available, we will try to unmask the abusers. With luck, this may force resignations and help prevent further molestation of women in the workplace. If the Execs won't do it, we will!
I'd be lying if I pretended that having a newsletter like this to use as a means to "even the playing field" for those considered powerless isn't a kick. But I promise that we will also do everything within our power to verify any items appearing as "facts" in this publication. While we don't aspire to be The New York Times, we also hope to be a step above the supermarket tabloids. We will do everything possible to protect the identities of anyone providing information used by this newsletter. I can't fathom a scenario in which I could give Housing Authority officials anybody's name. I've even kept the name of Franco's latest girlfriend private, as all she is guilty of is a lack of taste in men.
We will also not just print someone's attempt to get even for some perceived slight from someone above her or him. On the other hand, having an office on the 9th Floor of 250 Broadway no longer confers immunity from being called to task when an executive fails to act within the margins of common decency.
Sexual harassment season is over! It only takes a stamp to
get this rag into your home!
Bruce Gatewood may have been
allowed to resign, because his
and Finkel's wives are friends.
But the other demented friends
he left behind will soon be
under our Spotlight.
In The Spotlight
Hello again, Ladies and Gents.
We're back! And it feels good!
Now, let's move onto the center ring of this issue's circus. For our Main Event, we will astound you with breathtaking displays of Nepotism, Fantabulous shows of money manipulation that would shame the greatest of the 3 card Monte dealers and, for a brief moment, we will touch on an act from our previous performance and add some spice to it! Please take your seats while we dim the lights and the fun begins . . .
Our Monte dealer at tonight's performance is now known far and wide as "Rantin Ruben". Old Rantin dealt a hand to the Bronx District Attorney's office that benefited Rantin in two ways. First, after finding a way to make the transfer of almost $400,000 in HUD delivered funds to the DA's office look like a community-beneficial deal, he was one happy dad when that same DA, just months later, hired Rantin's daughter, Dolores, right out of law school.
Of course, having given the DA's office enough money to pay for 10 Assistant DA's might have helped. And, as if the God's had delivered a bonus, Rantin finds that when charges of spousal and child abuse are brought into the arena, having friend's at the DA's office ain't a bad thing!
Meanwhile, not to be outdone, we have Kalman "The Fink" Finkel entertaining us with an illusion called "The Never-Ending Interboro Shuffle". This legendary prestidigitator has taken the arts of nepotism to its highest levels. His progeny does not even toil in NYCHAland, but still finds a way to drink from the common well. The Fink was instrumental in having the New York City Housing Authority contract with Interboro Computer Services to automate the NYCHA time keeping system. The contract specified that Interboro was to be finished with the system by June 1996, over 2 years ago.
Now here's where the magic really begins. Interboro is still not finished. Our sources tell us that the Legal Department has advised the Board that Interboro has breached the contract, but Fink and the Board have made a "business" decision to keep Interboro's contract alive. This has made a Ms. Shulamis Levi very happy, as she works for Interboro. Of course, when Shulamis is happy, so is her daddy, the Fink!!! There will be MUCH more on Interboro, its related companies, its other Authority connections and related Campaign Finance issues in future Spotlights!
In another ring, we find William "Ravin" Picciano. Ravin is Rantin's Special Assistant in NYCHAland. Rantin and Ravin have some common traits, as they're both Family men. (Boy, can one word have such different meanings!) Ravin takes $90,000 clams home each year, not counting perks. But Ravin's got people who depend on him, and he tries to deliver.
His Daughter, Maid Jodie Ann Picciano-Swenson deals with the serfs in NYCHAland as an Administrative Community Relations Specialist. Jodie Ann's work has earned her the appreciation of Rantin and Ravin, to the tune of a salary that started at $45,000 on March 11, 1996 and had risen to $50,000 by March, 1997 Jodie Ann's hubby, Timothy G. Swanson was hired as a Construction Project Manager in NYCHAland, 1 month after Jodie, and earns $45,416. Finally we encounter Ravin's son, Anthony Picciano. Anthony has not fared as well as the rest of the family, as he toils as a Maintenance Worker earning a piddly $37,652.
Now, we promised you an EXTRA-ADDED attraction! A blast from our (rather short) past! Well, we're now going to unveil the evil Sorcerer of NYCHAland. (Every good tale needs a true man of magic, a shaman, a wizard or a fool. Unfortunately, we are forced to deal with what NYCHAland offers.) This act is brought from the bag of tricks belonging to Norberto "The Fool" Caballery.
Norberto wanted all to know that his hold on Rantin could not be surpassed. So he not only drank from the NYCHAland well, he then poisoned it for those who follow. His greed, as partially portrayed here, will force future Nepotismatic desires to be very hard to fulfill. The Fool on this hill has surrounded himself with family members. His wife, one Gladys Morales, works as a Staff Analyst, level 2. Gladys has reconciled with Norberto and has dropped the spousal abuse charges against him. (This after Rantin bailed the Fool out.)The weapons charge could not be dropped, and, unless having friend's in DA's Offices places one above the law, those charges are still pending. (Gladys had also told police that Norberto had drugs on the job. The police forced Bat-Sheva Horodniceanu to open Norberto's office so they could search it. We don't yet know the results of the search.)
Gladys's daughter, Kim Morales also worked briefly for NYCHA, but accepted a recent buy-out.
The Fool's son, Norberto Caballery Jr. is a "Caretaker P" in NYCHAland, earning $25,226. He has been having trouble getting along with some of his supervisors, but having the Fool as a dad can help in making many problems disappear.
The Fool's brother-in-law, Antonio Pardo, is doing time at the outskirts of NYCHAland, in the Bush Terminal. Antonio was once the Treasurer of Rantin's losing political campaign. Antonio had lived the good life, working in the Executive Office of Henry "The Sheriff" Coira. But, the grapevine tells us that when Rantin and the Sheriff got to feudin, and the Sheriff was run out of town, Rantin kicked Antonio all the way to Bush Terminal as punishment. Although we're told that Antonio has no real job function, he does earn $47,741. The same political grapevine states that Rantin keeps Antonio on the NYCHAland Payroll, as Rantin still owes Antonio some cash from that long ago losing campaign.
! ! ! Pop Quiz ! ! !
Now do you know why the above mentioned
Nobility of NYCHA
refer to our Agency as a "Family"?
(If you're smiling, you've just passed this quiz!)
No, we're not starting a new newsletter.
The logo above results from the plethora of information about this man that keeps coming over the transom. From every corner of 250 Broadway people pop up to take pot shots at our failed embezzler. While we appreciate any and all information, we can't run all of the Norberto tidbits in one issue. Believe it or not, we're told that Norberto's been bragging that he loves being mentioned in connection with spousal abuse, embezzlement and other felonious activities in our rag. If that's true, Norberto has some happy month's ahead.
In this issue alone, Norberto has already been mentioned more that the newsletter's name. If this keeps up, we wanted to be ready to start a separate newsletter dedicated to covering this prolific generator of interesting, if rather shady, tidbits. It had been decided to cover the scavenging of computer parts from NYCHA by, believe it or not, our most popular Spotlight personality again, but then fate stepped in. We now intend to publish that story in a future issue. In this augment to the newsletter, we'll cover charges of bid rigging by this kissin' cousin of the Rantin' Chair. Now, when one thinks of bid rigging at an agency such as ours, one figures that millions of dollars must be involved. And there may well be amounts of that nature involved in other contracts. But in this specific case, we are talking about less money than many of us spend while food shopping.
"Then why are you printing it?", you'd be justified in asking.
Well, unlike most felonious activities of this type, there exists a document laying out a map of this attempt. And we received a copy.
Back on March 3 of 1997, Norberto needed some data retrieved from a Western Digital Hard Drive. (Someday, NYCHA will provide backup devices with the stand alone PC's???). This data must have been rather important, as Mr. Caballery called a Florida firm, Data Retrieval Services, Inc., and, as the Manager of Information Systems Security, agreed to pay up to $2,400 for the retrieval of the data. We say up to $2,400, as the cost would depend on the percentage of data recovered. Ninety percent, or more, would cost $2,400, with lesser amounts charged for less data retrieved.
Anyway, Norberto gave verbal agreement that the Housing Authority would pay an initial $200 for Data Retrieval to do an initial evaluation to determine if recovery should be attempted. If Data Recovery then recommended that retrieval should be tried, the $200 would come off the total bill.
On March 17, 1997, Data Recovery received the hard drive from Norberto. They immediately sent an invoice for the $200 evaluation fee. (Invoice #6831) On March 21, 1997, Data Recovery spoke with Norberto and sent NYCHA a contract for recovery of data, with a top limit of $2,400. After weeks of phone tag, Norberto called Data Recovery on May 21, 1997, and gave verbal confirmation that they should proceed with the recovery and asked that they fax him another copy of the contract, as he had lost the original one. Data Recovery faxed another copy to NYCHA and proceeded with the recovery attempt. A week later, on May 28, 1997, Norberto called Data Recovery and requested the names of two competitors in recovering data from hard drives. He said that he now needed to put the job, which had already progressed, out for competitive bidding. However, Norberto told Data Recovery that they had nothing to worry about. He assured them that neither the pricing of the work nor the "approved contract" would change, but that as a formality he had to record two other bids.
The next time Norberto contacted Data Recovery, he had a small request. He asked them to drop their price by $200, as another company had bid the job at $2,200. Norberto denied that he had given verbal approval before, and told Data Recovery that either they drop their price by the $200, or they'd lose the contract. Of course, as Data Recovery had been working on this drive since March 17, and it was now May 29, they had little choice but to accept the drop in price. They faxed a revised contract to Norberto. As of June 17, 1997, Data Recovery had heard nothing back from Norberto.
Now, $200 may not look like much when compared to NYCHA's overall budget. But, if bid manipulation is done so blatantly on a piddling $2,400 contract, shouldn't we worry about the numerous multi-million dollar contracts that NYCHA enters into so often? When reports of gift giving between large vendors and members of NYCHA's management cause little more than a yawn, and no investigation, by the IG (Part of the NYC Dept. of Investigation-DOI), what should one think? When reports of a vendor taking a Managerial on vacation garners a response from the same IG office of "we can't afford to investigate bribes that take place in other states", why would anyone not succumb to vendor largess?
So, yes! You can bet that being able to document ANY bid rigging is important. Unless I've been misled, Bid Rigging is illegal. If so, it should be prosecuted. If not, then everyone of you are fools for not jumping on that same gravy train.
Those examples given above are NOT fictional. The only reasons more facts aren't provided is to give the IG's office a little more time to reflect on whether it might wish to start going after felons, or if catching someone on a prolonged coffee break is a better use of their investigative time. (Every item mentioned here had been reported to NYCHA's IG many months ago. So, in a future issue, we will provide you with more details.)
Where have all the dollars gone . . .
HUD's Mission A decent, safe, and sanitary home and suitable living environment for every American Fighting for fair housing Increasing affordable housing and home ownership Reducing homelessness Promoting jobs and economic opportunity Empowering people and communities Restoring the public trust
(Please keep that last line in mind when recalling
the $100,000,000 building lease NYCHA had to drop!)
The New York City Housing Authority provides decent and affordable housing for low-income City residents. The Authority currently manages and maintains 339 public housing developments with 181,000 apartments, housing nearly 560,000 residents. In addition, through the federally funded Section 8 Existing Housing Program, the Authority uses certificates and vouchers to assist an additional 71,749 families in private apartments. The Authority manages new construction and rehabilitation of public housing buildings and units. While continuing to maintain a safe and secure living environment in its public housing developments, the Authority also focuses on providing social services for the needs of its residents.
I'm a tad confused. Until recently, I was under the mistaken impression that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gave out huge chunks of cash to outfits like ours with the stipulation that the funds be used ONLY to help house those who could not afford the prevailing rents in the area being serviced. By reading the two mission statement's above, you might come to the same conclusion.
This seemed to be both a charitable endeavor and one relatively simple to police. If the money were being spent in a manner not consistent with the outline in the preceding paragraph, then HUD would come in kicking ass and taking names.
But is HUD money being used in the manner prescribed?
That depends on your point of view. Let me explain a little.
Until fairly recently, NYCHA had their own police force. Not Franco's "Special Investigations" Secret Police. I'm referring to the Housing Police that were recently incorporated into the NYC Police Department. The incorporating effort was led by Mayor Giuliani, who continually stated that by combining the police forces, money would be saved and resident safety improved. Many now question the "improved safety" argument, but I want to look at one method by which the city is saving money.
NYCHA is using HUD funds to build police stations for New York City. That's right, and it ain't the only shell-swapping confidence game going on with Santa HUD's bag of Federal goodies, but it's in our spotlight today.
PSA's! We built them for years, and our Housing Police needed them. Now, with the CITY taking our police away from the Project Only patrol status and using them in any manner the Mayor desires, the City still wants the HUD funds used to give shelter to New York City Police. From our sources, we're told that the scheme goes something like this. NYCHA uses HUD funds to build the PSA's. When the buildings/offices are completed, the Authority sells them to New York City for a single dollar! Not bad! (And here I thought that sly usage of public funds involving ridiculously priced real estate/buildings was something that only NYCHA's Board would be arrogant enough to try. Instead, I find it's nearly pandemic throughout the city.)
We will have more on HUD money shell games in future issues, as our people are collecting examples as you read this. However, should you have something of interest to add on this subject, and don't have easy access to our people, please fax it to WWOR Channel 9, at the numbers given in Issue 1.
Hasta La Vista, Baby???
It could happen!!!
Out here in the real world, the crew from Central Office is something often heard about, but rarely seen. However, my friends at 250 Broadway tell me that things were hopping since Issue 1.
Desks were raided, rumors of phone log retrievals were floating around, and NYCHA's leadership was once again showing us that their heads are so far up there that they're probably sucking on their tonsils. They threaten firing for anyone connected to the Spotlight. I don't think they have the slightest clue that it's just this type of behavior that forced this newsletter to be born. And they're so sure they can shut us down. Have they ever heard of Freedom of Speech? If anyone of the storm troopers are listening, let me loan you a clue. This isn't Riker's, and you're not Wardens nor Guards. (And, for those who need reminding, you're certainly not Gods, either.)
Mull on this. Do you really think that the Caretaker J wonders about your real estate dealings. Is the Word Processor 2 spending hours trying to find out if you've put a relative on the payroll. Of course not. Even you must know that! The Assistant Super would normally rather read the Daily News or El Diario. But these aren't normal times anymore. Hence, the inception of the Spotlight.
So then, what made a poorly written, awful looking newsletter so popular?Especially as it is one that could get someone in hot water for just being caught with it in their possession. If it just points to those boring items, why would nearly everyone working for NYCHA in the 5 boroughs be able to quote from the pages?
Because it was the first defensive kick back at those who had begun to make people feel as if they were worthless, stupid or just there as playthings for some failed politician. If the employees weren't so damned fed up with the way that office politics has been allowed to geometrically progress at a frightening rate, we'd have had no reason to publish. Be it in the Project, a Field Office, A Management Office or across from City Hall, things have gotten to a point of silent rebellion. Until now. That silence is obviously over.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Employees just want a voice. Someone needs to listen, then we can close up shop. Suggestions as to how to change things would be welcome. Until some are made, I'll start the ball rolling. But I haven't thought this out, so forgive me if it's full of holes.
1) At the next Board Meeting, enact a By-Law empowering an Ombudsman, as they now have in many large corporations and other Government agencies. The Ombudsman would be elected by employees below the managerial levels. She/he could be a NYCHA employee, or, like other Board Members, she/he could come from outside the Authority. Any person who received over 100 nominations, from the same employee levels mentioned above. A month after nominations were announced, have an election.
The Ombudsman would sit at Board meetings, where he'd have a voice, but no vote. There would be office space and secretarial help assigned to said Ombudsman. There would be a page of the Journal for an Ombudsman's column, in which complaints and how they were resolved would appear, along with ANY comments said Ombudsman might deem necessary. The Ombudsman would also advise the Board of unfair or vindictive demotions and transfers, should he so desire. Of course, the Ombudsman would be assigned a vehicle and driver, and be charged with spending a portion of no less than three days a week visiting employees outside of 250 Broadway. Every 2 years, there should be another election, with no more than 2 consecutive terms to be served by any person.
Believe me, while the Ombudsman may appear to be powerless, having the power of publishing a column in the Journal, wherein grievances can appear, can become a force to keep people on their best behavior. If you think I'm wrong, remember how the biggies are reacting to even as small of a publication as this.
2) Sexual Harassment charges will be dealt with in as speedy a process as possible. A committee, having equal representation of male and female, and equally representing managerials and persons below the managerial level. If this committee finds the charges to be credible, NYCHA will FIRE the guilty party, and take the chance of being sued.
3) If the Chair requires Secret Police, how can we trust the IG's office?. The IG's office, if removed from the obvious political muzzling, should be able to police the Authority quite well! Free it now!
4) When you run out of lazy relatives and friends for make work jobs, ask others beneath you in the chain if they have a lazy brother-in-law , the husband of a wife's friend or a daughter's boyfriend who could use a decent NYCHA pay check.
(Okay. For now we'll forget #4!)
© 1998 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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