We have two NYCHA related items that need clarification this month, and we're happy to do so.
First up is a letter that takes the Spotster to task. An anonymous critic writes:
"The Spotlight takes credit for revealing that a NYCHA executive was sexually harassing females at 250 Broadway. It states that the women complained to NYNYCHA's Office of Equal Opportunity but were ignored, and that later, NYCHA retaliation ensued.
Aren't you a little too full of yourself! Your pamphlet keeps harping on this subject although it has never been acknowledged that such harassment ever took place. And so you've never shown that anything was ignored by Chairman Franco. Do you ever look for that thing called proof before you print slanderous charges against individuals who our system presumes innocent? Or do you just throw stones at NYCHA when they can't fight back? I guess it's easy for you to attack decent people like Mr. Franco while hiding behind your wimpish screen of anonymity!"
Well!!! Imagine someone attacking our integrity? I have never been so . . . so . . . so AMUSED!
Taking the last charge first, I'll guess that our uninformed critic has not gone to the trouble of viewing the Internet Corruption Issue of the Public Housing Spotlight. In that web-based issue, I do print my name, as Editor. One of the reasons I did so was to answer some critics who have made this same charge about my "screen of anonymity" in the past. I did not name all the Authority's employees who are the real force behind our little Public Housing rag. And, this same critic might ask "Why?". Simply because of that self-same retribution the critic denies. So, let's get into that "unacknowledged" sexual harassment and the charge, reported here, that it was ignored by the powers-that-be* at the New York City Housing Authority.
From the Wednesday, December 30, 1998 issue of Newsday (by Dan Janison)
As previously reported, Franco has been under pressure over his handling of sexual-harassment complaints from several female agency officials. While word of his likely ouster broke after a blaze in an authority project that killed three firefighters, Giuliani has insisted that coming changes are unrelated to the fire, in which a sprinkler system was found shut off.
From the Tuesday, January 19, 1999 issue of Newsday (by Robert Polner)
Giuliani insisted Franco's departure wasn't linked to the fatal housing project fire last month. Mayoral aides said that in recent months, Giuliani had lost faith in Franco, and was frustrated by the authority's lack of accountability and internal squabbling. Another issue involved allegations that Franco had failed to follow through on sexual harassment complaints filed three years ago by six female employees against a Housing Authority manager. Franco, however, said the charges had "no merit and "had absolutely nothing to do" with his resignation.
If I understand this right, Franco was agreeing with our critic. The sexual harassment charges had "no merit." That's as of January 19, 1999.
So, if one had only begun reading the news AFTER December 30, 1998, I could understand their believing that Franco continually denied the Women's charges. I submit, that the reason for those VERY cleverly worded denials was just so that it would sound like denials of the sexual harassment, while in actuality Franco never denied that harassment at all. Read it again, AFTER you read the next, earlier, story.
From the Thursday, December 24, 1998 issue of the NY Post (by David Seifman)
In an interview with The Post several weeks ago, Franco insisted he did everything possible to look into the charges and even placed a letter of reprimand in the executive's file. Franco said he couldn't do anything more because some women refused to file charges and others provided evidence that was inconclusive. Myrtle Whitmore, ousted as a member of the Housing Authority board by City Hall after getting into confrontations with Franco, told The Post that when she asked about the harassment charges, Franco told her they were "unfounded."
"I don't believe they're unfounded," Whitmore said. "These are career people," she said of the alleged victims.
Hmmm? Here we're told that "several weeks ago" Franco states that he had placed a letter in the harasser's personal file. Obviously, when the Chair of our Housing Authority decides to place a letter in the official file of the Director of Computer Services, Bruce Gatewood, the Chair must have been satisfied that the sexual harassment charges had merit. (Yet, Bruce, a friend of Kalman Finkel's, was not canned? It was the ladies who suffered firings, demotions and punitive transfers??? Some "decent" Chair?)
So, when our critic claims that we are taking pot-shots at the Authority with no corroboration of our charges, I'd advise him/her to read some New York newspapers prior to launching his/her mistaken missives.)
Also, when it comes to our credibility, I'd place it against the Authority's Execs any day.
For example, in theSaturday, December 26, 1998 issue of Newsday ( by Dan Janison), we read that the Authority's spokesperson, aptly titled Mr. Gross, stated that Franco "has no intention of resigning."
On January 7, 1999, two weeks and one day after the denial of any intention of resignation, Franco rode off into a polluted Housing Authority sunset.
Under the FF (Franco/Finkel) reign the sexual harassment victims were retaliated against by the very authorities whose job it was to protect them.
Under the FF reign the Authority located and viewed a building in Long Island City that was being sold. Our leaders liked the building. Within weeks, Finkel's Friends bought that building for a little over $8,000,000 and leased it to the Authority for 20 years for what will cost the taxpayers well over $100,000,000 (even using the Authority's own figures!)
Under the FF reign rampant contractor and inspector corruption proceeded in the field.
Under the FF reign some brave firemen lost their lives due, at least in part, to faulty sprinkler systems. The Authority admits to lost inspection records on those systems???
Under the FF reign Design Dept. execs formed alliances with vendors doing millions in business with NYCHA, and nothing was done about it.
Under the FF reign HUD funds were used to build PSA's, that were then given to the City for a token payment, while much of the funding that should have gone to our tenant services were cut.
Under the FF reign the use of HUD funds, no matter how well that use was hidden, were allotted to pay for the installation of Closed Circuit TV in our Housing Authority's developments. (More on that in an upcoming issue.)
But most disgusting of all, it was Franco who by his own admission, decided that multiple and credible charges of sexual harassment against an Executive merited such a minuscule punishment as a letter in the executive's personnel file!
Wow, what a tough Chairman!
I'm hoping that at one of the new Chair's morale-boosting meetings Mr. Martinez will state, loudly enough so that all may hear, that sexual harassment has now become a more serious charge with a more serious punishment in the Authority than it was under Mr. Franco. If not, and it remains as non-serious as it was under Ruben, the employee who arrives late at work for 3 days will be punished equally with a Housing Authority executive who expects his female employees to be his personal playthings.
What say you, Mr. Martinez?
Our second clarification concerns the attempt to withhold some retirement bonuses, as reported in the graffiti cartoon in Issue 20. Sources tell us that Sal Conte DID get the bonus, and that makes his friends in NYCHA happy. We also hear that there will be no future attempts to punitively deny retirement bonuses. If you retire while a bonus is being offered and you meet all the qualifiers for that bonus, you will get it.
(At time of the publication of this Issue, we had not confirmed the bonuses for the other two employees mentioned in the cartoon. When we get the full story on those bonuses, we'll include it in a later issue of the Public Housing Spotlight.)
© 1999 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
Issue links are at page bottom
or click here for a Directory page with Issue overviews.
Click on the mailbox to send us your thoughts!
Or Message/Fax us with info at 718/745-0170