It's been a great month since our last Public Housing Spotlight. Liz Willen of Newsday has had articles pointing to Finkel's sweetheart deal with that Long Island City warehouse.
For those new to this controversy, NYCHA was looking for a building to use as a warehouse. They looked at a couple, and I guess they liked at least one. Because a short time after NYCHA surveyed the real estate in Long Island City, Finkel's friends (FF's) bought one. We then contracted with Finkel's friends to lease that very building. Unfortunately, some cynics believe that paying out over $103,000,000 over 20 years for a building that was just purchased by FF's for a little over $8,000,000 is a rip-off.
So, Ms. Kreisman of WWOR channel 9 has done a TV report on this madness, and now Ms. Willen of Newsday has gone into it a little more deeply. As with bad fish, this deal gets to really stinkin' the longer it hangs around.
Dave Seifman, of the New York Post, mentioned our little old rag in his July 11, 1998 column. He begins with:
"Top officials of the Housing Authority are being driven batty by an anonymously produced newsletter that purports to expose high-level sexual hijinks, bid-rigging and rampant nepotism.
Two issues of the biting 'Housing Spotlight' have made their way into print, and they're among the most-read papers ever circulated at 250 Broadway, Housing Authority headquarters"
Yup, that's us! Mr. Seifman ends our moment of fame with:
"Some insiders say the newsletter is a 'carefully orchestrated' attempt to bring down Housing Authority Chairman Ruben Franco."
"Franco's only worry, however, is if any of the charges turn out to be true."
Well, thank you Mr. Seifman. And, in return, allow me to set some NYCHA minds to rest. (Well, some of the minds I'm about to address have been at rest so long that they will have trouble waking them.)
Hilly Gross is wrong! Or, more accurately, Hilly's Masters are wrong. There was/is no "concerted effort to carefully orchestrated' attempt to bring down Housing Authority Chairman Ruben Franco". The name of the Chair means nothing here, what the Chair does, and what he allows to be done by those to whom he grants authority, are the reasons this rag got started.
If Ruben Franco and Kalman Finkel were removed from NYCHA tomorrow, this rag would continue to be published. If Hilly et al don't realize that we've pointed to a pattern of corruption and harassment that is prevalent at many levels within NYCHA, then they need to begin taking a reading course. If the whole reason behind this effort were to get rid of Franco, we would have printed Franco's mistresses name, her mom's name, their address and some photographic materials in the first issue. It would have been a slam dunk! Goodbye to Ruben.
But what would that have accomplished. A woman who had initially reported being sexually harassed by another NYCHA biggie, winds up in the arms of Rantin'. I think she's had enough crap dealt to her in her life already. Our printing her name would just embarrass her and her family. No need to do that.
As to it getting rid of Rantin' . . . yeah, it would. But, some other little arrogant clone would probably be appointed, and chaos would rule again. If getting rid of Ruben would honestly guarantee changes in the attitude and aptitude of the NYCHA honchos, Ruben's love life would be our lead story, followed by some other equally devastating info. But, for now, we're better with the devils we know. So, we'll just drop one or two items per issue. Eventually, even Franco/Finkel might see that changing the awful working environment at NYCHA is the only thing that will put us out of business. (Or, of course, an honest investigation by someone really seeking the truth. That would put us, AND Franco/Finkel out of business. We'd have more spare time, while Rantin' and the Fink might have to do a few years of weight training, watching TV and becoming CLOSE friends with HUGE roommates.)
On another front, we have Hilly implying that Myrtle Whitmore was behind this palace coup. Well, again let me put some reality into the debate. Myrtle Whitmore couldn't pick me out of a 3 person line-up, even if three different races, heights and sexes were used in the mix. In the last decade, I've spoken to Ms. Whitmore twice. Each time I spoke less than 3 sentences.
Ms. Whitmore never gave this rag any information. As far as I know, she hasn't seen an issue of the Public Housing Spotlight. I do believe she is a true lady, in every good sense of the word. (I believed that based on what I saw of her PRIOR to this mess.) The fact that she smelled a rat in the Finkel-pushed sweetheart deal makes her a hero, in my book. But she has absolutely nothing to do with our newsletter! We're not politically motivated, but God knows that will be hard for any of the Franco/Finkel crowd to understand! Now, on to other items.
So, Hilly? Will you be accepting our challenge? You stated to Mr. Seifman that the Spotlight's charges are untrue! We challenged you to put up or shut up. (Funny, as I write this, Hilly has spent weeks wherein he was muzzled by his bosses!) Use the NYCHA Journal and refute any of the following. And I'll list what we'll do.
If you refute the Norberto bid rig, we'll post the documents, in their entirety, that prove our charge. Refute the Franco and his mistress/tenant story: we'll print the women's name, address and job at NYCHA If you refute that Norberto was arrested and convicted of embezzlement, we'll . . . oops. Almost forgot. You can't refute that, we already printed the proof. Refute that the IG/DOI office has failed to investigate credible info about corruption in NYCHA management, we'll print names and place audio taped conversations with members of the IG's office onto the Internet, where everyone can listen. I'll print my name (you know it already) and beg for an investigation!
Come on, Hilly. As a mouthpiece, you get to talk the talk all the time. We're offering you a chance to walk the walk. Back up that BS you've been told to throw. Refute our charges. Do so in the NYCHA Journal. Sounds like a no-brainer, Hilly. Just call our bluff and you can't lose.
Daddy? Read me a fairy tale, please.
I'm sorry, sweetheart. I don't think so. First, if I turn on the light to read you a story, you become too awake to go to sleep at the end of my reading. Also, Daddy's much too tired to read and explain any complicated tale of dragons and fools, Knaves and Knights. He's been slaying his own dragons and bowing all day at work. But, wait! That gives me an idea. Why don't I just tell you the story of Lord Franco the Rantin', and the way he slayed a once noble agency. It's a simple story that daddy can recite from memory. It is also one that will send shivers through the spine of any sentient human over the age of 6. If you think a scary story won't bother your sleep, I'll tell the fairy tale of "The Rise and Fall of NYCHA-land."
Once upon a time, when this great nation took a look at the plight of many of its lower middle income and poorest citizen's, it was commanded that the King's gold would help in providing a roof over the head of these people. The gold was used to build low and moderate income public housing, throughout the land. In our own little Camelot, called NYCHA-land, the King's compassion helped so many, and was managed by the King's people so well, that it was deemed to be the best in the land! In NYCHA-land, The King's troops that were charged with providing the safe, decent housing that was commanded, called their army NYCHA. As NYCHA, they managed the majority of public housing for low and moderate-income people in NYCHA-land.
For generations, NYCHA 's people did a really good job. It was so good, that when it fell into the hands of a nefarious cabal, intent on razing the housing and raping the treasury, it still took them years before the decline was noted by NYCHA -land's press. The cabal's leader's rampant nepotism and racketeering with the King's funds eventually allowed NYCHA -land's decline to become worthy of some reporter's attention. So much of this sabotage was done in the dark that it took a Spotlight to allow even a brief glimpse at the horrors going on in the nether regions of NYCHA. But the Spotlight story will wait for another day.
Although the NYCHA story began many long years ago, our tale will only cover your daddy's time under two different Mayoral reigns. The Reign of Mayor David "The Showerer" Dinkens followed by Mayor Rudy "The Grinless Rudester" Giuliani. These sovereigns claim no responsibility for the distribution of the King's largess to NYCHA-land. They like to point out that NYCHA, also known as "the Authority", is not under their control. However, the Mayor appoints the Chair and the Board members. Those 3 appointed Board members are totally in charge of NYCHA policy. The Mayor is akin to the man behind the curtain in the land of Oz. (As with the Oz Wizard, just because you attempt to remain anonymous and behind a curtain does not negate the fact that the Wizard is a fallacy and the man/Mayor behind the curtain is running the show!)
Back in the Dinkins' era/error, the Queen of the Authority was a lady named Laura Blackburne. She had a pink couch, a foundation and a vision. The purchase of the Pink Couch, although costing much less than the over $20,000 in personal equipment ordered for Tom Hahn's office (never mind a $103,000,000 sweetheart contract), was to become an important part of the story. You see, honey, Ms. Blackburne was shamelessly kind of smart. Intelligence alone, in NYCHA-land, had become a criminal offense. But the general public was not to know that!
Luckily, for those in the Showerer's Intelligence Police, by feigning anger at the Pink Couch purchase they were not forced to decry NYCHA's lack of intelligence to the citizens of NYCHA-land. Intelligence wouldn't need to be mentioned. They felt that Ms. Blackburne's purchase of a pink couch alone justified cutting off her head.
She was replaced with a new Queen, more acceptable to the oversexed but under brained male (Ig)Nobles. Her name was Sally Hernandez-Pinero. She, and her Chief Lady-in-Waiting Deborah Wright, started to run NYCHA-land in the acceptable, brainless fashion desired by the Reigning Monarch. They brought in fierce warriors-Jerry Salama, Harris Lurtzman, and Marty Levine.
People who thought that they were too good and too smart to deal with the career NYCHA people who, for years and years, had run the best housing authority in the country. Sally was very busy being a mother, and didn't concentrate on what was happening in our land. So her Lady-in Waiting stepped in.
Her Royal Majesty (HRM) Wright, multi-degreed, rude, socially inept and desperately unhappy, proceeded to continue the reign of terror started by Salama/Lurtzman. While Levine did nothing, except bring in his buddies-Rude Raleigh and Out-of-it Oliva, both hacks from other agencies who have made no positive impact on the agency in spite of their inflated salaries. Levine slithered over to NYCHA at the behest of Foaming Norman Steisel. Levine has bragged that, with his connections, he doesn't need to know anything about anything. Hence, when something in the administrative area went wrong, he decreed that some director or some other subordinate should either grace the guillotine or be forced to associate with a lower class of NYCHA-land serf. When 123 Williams Street was left uncompleted for an extraordinary amount of time because Levine couldn't make a decision, Marino got the blame and a demotion. Levine's claim to fame has been that he was the fixer for both the Showerer and the Grinless Rudester. Levine, Oliva and Finkel have each had a field day with placing many of the incompetent political hacks throughout the agency. In fact, how many fingers do you have, Princess? Ten? Good girl! Well think of about 100 times that number. At least that many sinecures have been arranged since Koch left. Think about people being placed into positions that were really supposed to be eliminated. Nobody really knows exactly how many came in because now Franco, The Ranter, has eliminated the flow of information. Within NYCHA, and all through NYCHA-land, information that we serfs had always been able to access has suddenly become impossible to find.
Meanwhile in the Queendom of 250 Broadway, great plans were underway for the re-election of the neat king, David "the Showerer" Dinkins. Everyone who was a lowly provisional serf was expected to participate. Secretaries and Directors were told that their jobs were at stake if they didn't "volunteer" to man the phone banks. Some did, but others said "NO!" They were warned, again, that they were going to lose their jobs. Professor Phil Thompson, a former NYCHA appointee who couldn't close his fly without instructions, was suddenly an important member of the Showerer's Court. Prof. Phil requested and received a printout, broken down into a representation of each of the NYCHA-land townships (projects) of all the registered and unregistered voters. Hazel Dukes and our Lady Debbie continually communicated by phone and fax. They planned strategies, rallies, literature distribution, etc.. HRMs Sally and Debbie provided photo opportunities, and forums. Authority equipment and staff were, surreptitiously, provided to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to help them campaign in the projects. NYCHA Staff members were hounded to attend fundraisers, and participate in this farcical display of uninhibited "support". If you didn't you were threatened, and in at least one case demoted. Debbie's NYCHA office became the pseudo "Showerer's" Election headquarters, with people on the 9th floor making campaign calls all throughout the workday. Others, in the projects, being forced to stuff literature under doors. Many were getting paid overtime to keep campaigning during the last weeks of the Showerer's campaign. Debbie's assistant, a big time Dinkins supporter, got herself a big raise, to the very top of her title, because of her election work. Why even the District Offices were kept open on Election Day, something that had never been know to happen in the history of NYCHA.
Well, you might remember the end of this chapter, dear. The Grinless Rudester Giuliani slaughtered King David the Showerer. Now, without claiming all the credit, many of the NYCHA serfs' thought that they were part of the reason the Showerer lost. The tactics used to force them into indentured servitude to the Showerer's campaign staff offended them. Therefore, even some who had supported Dinkens in the past rooted for Rudy in this election. They now hoped that the new Monarch would put their beloved NYCHA back into it's place of glory it held up to the end of the reign of King "How'm I Doin" Koch! Then, the NYCHA serfs would once again be proud of their employment. But, their wishes were not granted. Instead, the only change was in the faces of the incompetents and corrupt. And, sadly, the corruption grew to new heights, as the Nobility grew more arrogant.
HRM Wright got her own fiefdom to mismanage, The Housing Preservation and Development Department (HPD.)
Excuse me, Pumpkin. Let me interrupt our story to give you a little background on one of the differences between NYCHA and other City/State agencies. While both NYCHA and HPD perform similar functions, HPD is not as prestigious a serfdom to control. You see, dear, Santa HUD restricts most of his gift giving to NYCHA. HPD must deal with monies mostly derived from our local Monarch. As the local Monarch wishes to look like a prudent financier, he doesn't bestow much of his treasury to HPD. NYCHA, however, is a boon to the local Monarch. He can pluck out doubloons from Santa HUD's tribute to use in manners totally unrelated to the NYCHA mission. Building NYPD buildings using HUD funds; paying The Grinless Rudester Giuliani's NYCHA-land treasury to handle NYCHA's payroll without having to go through that pesky bidding process; sending favored NYCHA nobles through extensive, and expensive, college and post-graduate education's and funding a fleet of vehicles that, while making some people VERY happy, actually hamper the performance of one's duties within NYCHA-land-it often takes twice as long to get to where you're going in NYCHA-land if one avoids public transportation. This financial finagling has gotten even easier, as HUD is no longer interested in overseeing its funding. (They appear to have developed an allergy to performing audits! Or, they might just be smart enough to know that an audit would result in embarrassment enough for the Mayor, the City Council AND the Feds themselves! When it comes to bipartisan scandals, this NYCHA mess could be the grand daddy of them all!)
With this flood of unwatched money, NYCHA's Ruler's can fulfill fantastic childhood fantasies. Rantin' Ruben Franco's childhood was, as he constantly mentions, spent in a project. (In a future issue, we hope to give you an interview with a childhood acquaintance of Ol' Rantin'. He will tell us that he and Rantin' were competitors for customers during their teen years. They weren't selling newspaper subscriptions, but we'll leave that whole story for the hoped for future interview.) Now that poverty is long behind him, Rantin's fantasy resolves around his desire to become James Bond. His garage is prepared for any vehicular emergency.
If one of his vehicles is disabled, he can choose one of the other two of his three assigned NYCHA coaches to use as a replacement. And if the lowly serfs rebel, Rantin' can seek comfort and safety in his luxuriously equipped mobile command post. It's armored and allows him to communicate via cellular phone/fax. If in a dire National Emergency the President needs advice from the Chair of a corrupt housing agency, Franco will be available!
Luckily, a fellow named Jerry Hauer was attempting to locate a buyer willing to pay an exorbitant price for just such a used government vehicle that was already eating up more than its share of City funds. And Rantin', with all the Federal, State and City funds that he has available (with the absence of those pesky Federal audits) made Jerry a VERY happy seller. So happy, we're told, that Rantin' may well have found other overpriced items and/or people to take off Mr. Hauer's hands. (Hauer? Where else have I heard that name recently?)
Now, Pumpkin, let's get back to HRM Wright. Following a long respected manner of garnering good press, she immediately began claiming credit for things that were in the HPD pipeline long before she got there. Sally moved on to full-time motherhood, then Directorships of various things throughout NYCHA-land's bureaucracies. Levine cops a plea with Crotty and has a Rabbi come to see Finkel who had already fired Levine at another job.
Finkel is busy tearing up whatever resumes were on file in Norman's papers. The Fink also begins forcing Bruce Gatewood's resumes on unsuspecting NYCHA Directors. As a parting shot at the long time NYCHA staff, Paul Graziano (formerly cast as Sleepy, Dopey, AND the Inebriated dwarf in a psycho-influenced version of Snow White and the seven politically appointed NYCHA dwarfs), is appointed Acting General Manager. The royal ladies, also impressed by David Birney's affected English accent, allow him to enter into an enormous computer contract, which will continue for years to come at ridiculous costs. Another crime gone undiscovered.
Hear Yea, Hear Yea, the new Earl of NYCHA is Ruben "Rantin'" Franco! As Vice-Earl (Vice-Chair) and Minister of Employment and Sweetheart Deals we have Kalman "The Fink" Finkel. Filling in the third slot, that of Member and Personality-by-Proxy for the Board, we have Lady-Lady Myrtle Whitmore. You'd best bow down in the presence of Rantin' or the Fink, because the Franco/Finkel team demands supplication, or "Off with your head!"
A post-election bullshit memo is sent around. It promises that everyone's job is okay in NYCHA-land no matter the election results. Surprise! No matter the memo, people are fired just because they got hired during the 1990-1993 time frame and exist in positions that the team can now fill with their cronies.
And they go about doing so with a vengeance. Every Department within NYCHA is given at least one of Finkel's Friends (FF's) or a political appointment from City Hall. (Yes dear. That's the same City Hall who will swear that NYCHA is independent if the truth of what has been happening ever causes a true investigation. But, as DOI is into Public Relations, and HUD is terrified of what it would find, the chances of a true investigation are about equal to the probability that Finkel has a friend who hasn't monetarily benefited from NYCHA's treasury.)
It's certainly unfortunate that most, if not all, of these folks are highly unqualified for any position within NYCHA (e.g. Izzy Fischer from the Fink's schoolboy chum to Acting Director of Computer Services, Shelly Heitzner from cleaning lady-she claims she worked "catering"-to Borough Director), some are demented, (i.e., the Finkel flasher) and some were facing arrest (Bebe Herman.)
Because of Kalman's personal religious needs, a room on the 21st floor (arranged by the juggernaut Levine) is exclusively used for (men only) daily prayer. A room is removed from any NYCHA use, just so a select group of people can pray for an hour and have a leisurely lunch, either before or after prayers.
(Yes, honey. Religion is important to your parents. But we don't expect NYCHA to provide us with a chapel, or hours to worship and eat with fellow worshippers! In our country, religion and government are supposed to remain as separate entities. And having government funds used to accommodate one man, and his personal religious beliefs, is wrong. Allowing extra time to that man, and his friends, for non-NYCHA related tasks, is also wrong. If it weren't wrong, then we should demand Catholic, Presbyterian, Moslem, Buddhist and all other religions to have special prayer rooms and hours of NYCHA time to use in socializing. Everyone would rightfully demand that they get 2,3 or 4 hours for lunch? As it stands now, other NYCHA employees just get memos from Graziano and Hahn telling them not to go get coffee on NYCHA time. Oh I'm sorry, Honey. I'm digressing again.)
Anyway in the new regime, security was beefed up because a group protested their housing, sod was laid and a full-time police office was stationed at Amsterdam Houses because Rantin' Franco's mother lives there. Cleaning schedules were changed because Franco decided he wanted halls washed down first thing in the morning, in spite of the problem that creates with people leaving the building by walking on dangerous wet floors each morning. Rantin' proclaimed that plastic bags would NOT get caught in trees. This edict caused Superintendents to rush out and rent expensive cherry pickers.
You see, you can't say "no" to Franco, no matter how idiotic the edict. That's because, time and time again, Rantin' has shown that if you hint that you disagree with him, he will try to fire you. Princess, did I tell you the one about the cleaning lady, the cigar, and the cake? Well, the cleaning woman threw out a two-inch cigar butt from his ashtray and Franco wanted her fired. The building manager said "no"! Then one hot Friday evening, after the air conditioning had been turned off for the weekend, the cleaning lady threw out a foil wrapped piece of cake that was sitting on the windowsill. Monday morning, Franco demanded that the building manager call and wake up the night manager so that he could confront him about his piece of cake. Rantin' told the night manager to fire the poor Hispanic woman. Franco was told that she was an exemplary, long time employee. Franco didn't care. Thankfully the manager had courage. He told Franco that he couldn't and wouldn't fire the cleaning woman, as she was only doing her job. Franco proceeded to warn the manager that he could use his power and get the manager fired. The issue was finally settled with the cleaning woman being transferred to another floor. Doesn't this story remind you of Alice in Wonderland? "Curiouser and curiouser", as Alice said!
Meanwhile, while Franco is ordering plastic bags to fly out of the trees, Finkel is trying to fill every vacant position with his friends. Within weeks of Kalman's coronation as a NYCHA Board member, there was not a person who ever met the Fink that remained unemployed. The net is then expanded to encompass friends of friends. Franco and Finkel, NYCHA's Dysfunctional Duo, both paraphrase Marie Antoinette's revolutionary position by making their motto "let them eat crap". They show the sincerity of their philosophy by voting to approve the Maramont food contract. (The fact that this is another friends' of Finkel "sweetheart deal" is no big surprise. Is it? But add to that the fact that a past IG of NYCHA recommended that we NOT do business with Maramont, and she was subsequently fired, and maybe now you're a bit surprised?).
And Lady-Lady Myrtle of the many hats-the only one in the palace who has even the slightest idea of what the Authority is supposed to do-is trying her best, but Rantin' and the Fink pay her no mind.
Morale has been replaced my morass. And as we slogged through it, a thug like Harry Rittenberg, a.k.a. Harry of the many beepers and flashing car lights, convinces Franco that he is the end all and be all of the NYCHA-land press corps (or corpse?). The only decent article has been the thing in the Chief. Beeping Harry became the first of many Ministers of Information. The latest, Hilly Gross, not only has trouble keeping his foot out of his mouth, but would need to be a magician to make this dynasty look intelligent. Franco and Finkel, former fierce adversaries on social issues, are now as thick as thieves. Franco, after working less than six months, takes two and a half weeks vacation.
Finkel, when not attending the leisurely prayer and lunch society, is spending the majority of his time getting people hired. Loads of people, with a majority being placed in NYCHA's Finance and Computer Departments.
Meanwhile, Norberto Caballery, Rantin' Franco's cousin, beats his wife, gets arrested, gets bailed out by Franco (who people say has a Family Court file himself for spousal and/or child abuse) gets the poor dumb wife to take him back and drop the charges. Expensive computer equipment gets stolen. When it's discovered to be missing, NO POLICE are called. Rantin' Franco's Secret Service (Special Investigations) are given the assignment. That gives Norberto time to get some of the equipment back.
These stories are all well known throughout NYCHA. The only question that we all still have is what did the cops find in Norberto's office (the wife claimed he had drugs there) and why did it take four, not one, not two, not three, but four cops to meet behind closed doors with Norberto and Ruben?
Back on the 9th floor, Myrtle changes her hat, smiles, takes pictures, changes her hat, hires Gladys, starts a courtesy campaign and a safety push, and fires Gladys, who was spying for Rantin'-check out the promotion Gladys got! Oh, Sweetheart. Aren't you getting sleepy yet? OK, just a little more. Don't forget. Daddy has to go and polish his sword and shield.
The search for a new General Manager was just like looking for Cinderella. Here's the shoe, now let's force Paul's foot into it. He's so spacey he won't notice our tricks. With the determination of the little train that could, the stealth of the pink panther, and the slime of the ghost busters, Paul Graziano became the General Manager. He almost stayed alert and awake at the meeting where it was announced. So with the powers vested in him, one of his first official acts was to send out the infamous "do away with doggies" letter. Of course, this was at the behest of HRM Franco, since Paul was selected because when F/F say jump, Paul goes to sleep. Each day is a new adventure-what will it be? One day, it's a new alphabetical list on how to address memos? Another day, it's a series of inane memos concerning time and leave policies, to be rescinded at a later date? An idiotic history not only repeating itself, but a past that gets geometrically more idiotic each time we catch up to it. The single constant being that Finkel keeps bringing in resumes to fill jobs that were scheduled to be removed.
Oops! Levine is caught double-dealing and is banished to the Health and Hospitals Corporation, at the same inflated salary he was making here. In fact, he is the only one in that title at HHC making that kind of money. And believe me honey, it has nothing to do with Levine's workplace contributions. Mr. Thomas Hahn replaces Levine, at NYCHA. In a short time, Mr. Hahn becomes better know as the Invisible Deputy General Manager. He was hired as soon as Levine left. Tom has since wrecked the most cars without a valid driver's license; helped the Fink hire more people from Miami, New Jersey, Monroe and other not-from-NY friends (I guess Rantin' and the Fink warned them that the long term and/or native New York NYCHA employees are the most feared enemies. That would help Finkel explain his need to hire so many from so far away.); taken more vacations; taken more leave; taken more religious days; ordered more equipment; made more Workmen's Compensation claims; used the NYCHA free telephone service; played with the over $20,000 in computer equipment that NYCHA/HUD funds bought him; has had authorized special security for his office and has given himself a hefty raise, all in less than two years! Whew! Other than that there is nothing tangible that Tom Hahn has done. (Okay. So it's said that Hahn is a great man to help handle certain types of real estate deals with FF's, if you want to enhance your bottom line. But we can't count that.) He has great hours. From whenever to whenever, and yet he even finds it necessary to lie about that.
The trumpets sound and Roy Sinclair-friend of Dyson-is dropped on us to manage NYCHA's financial end. Roy needs some time so he can retire and get a pension. Roy wants out soon because, "it won't look good on my resume for the Authority to go bankrupt on my watch." But Roy's going to hang around for a while, now that he knows the Authority was always in the black, despite what many had believed. Roy and Finkel's friend, Bruce Gatewood, are real buddies.
They perform a voluntary community service by doing all they personally can to keep the bars in the neighborhood in business. Bruce "the gooser" Gatewood, who took ALL of the computer courses for the conversion to the Year 2000 and is running from sexual harassment charges and has gotten a big raise while doing nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. He has been "feeling" his way around NYCHA. He doesn't worry about any consequences from the sexual harassment. After all, his wife is one of Finkel's wife's best friends. Bruce knows that friends of the Fink or the Finkess have Carte Blanche at NYCHA! Karin "with an i" Feldhamer, who slept through meetings and was dumped on another Director because Oliva didn't want her, is another friend of the Finkess. Karin regularly slept through meetings while Gatewood approved payments to Interboro. Bruce had hopes of gaining employment at Interboro if he was ever kicked out of NYCHA. The time keeping system Bruce pushed is still not up and running, just ticking, ticking and ticking away money. But at least Finkel's daughter and brother got jobs there. And, in some other shameless sweetheart deal, Interboro's poor performance with the NYCHA contract has now led to Interboro gaining other citywide contracts-like the Police one. Other best friends of Finkel/Franco (F/F's) abound. Franco's ex-lady friend, Sonia Martinez, a mortgage counselor, was turned into the Director of Equal Opportunity at the stroke of Rantin's wand (or something stiff) and loudly admitted she knew nothing about EEO and had no idea what the job entailed. Somehow she got "Certified" as an EEO specialist, probably on Authority money and time. (Let's see . . . NYCHA has more than its share of perves in management. This can lead to many complaints of sexual harassment. If, however, the official running the Department charged with investigating such harassment is, herself, one who slept with the Chair in order to move up, the likelihood of any serious pursuit of such charges becomes doubtful.)
Sonia Martinez's staff is made up of Dinkins rejects, making everyone wonder if Franco is planning a run and wants to keep his fingers, feet and cigars in every ring. Speaking of rings, does he still get tickets to Madison Square Garden because he has hired Ms. Beverage, the daughter of one of the Square's honchos. (That reminds me, little doll. Don't ever pull a bank job with Ms. Martinez. For a mistress, her lips were loose with too many people. Whenever Franco couldn't go to one of the games, Sonia'd be walking around whining that "Ruben can't go to the game", as she searched for a date replacement.
Luckily, after Rantin' dumped her and let her remain as the Director of EEO, William Russo-recently demoted Director of the Contract Administration Department-started arranging meetings with her for long lunches. They also began attending classes at Columbia together. All this was done on NYCHA time and money-of course!)
Another of the FF's is Pam Fisher. She was the one time honey of Vito Lopez who helped Franco when he ran for Congress out in Brooklyn. Pam and her Deputy Keith don't know the slightest about what they are supposed to do, and subsequently do a lot of running in place. Pam and Keith had a spat and now she's usually running in place by herself. Hugh's job gets huger and Faith remains faithful and rude.
While we're on New Hires, there is John Martinez, DGM of Asset Management and Private Market Operations. John is a displaced western finance person who lost his job in Albany when the Pataki brigade rode in. So Martinez, whose claim to fame is "privatize, privatize, privatize", makes one of his first moves to be the appointment of Jimmy Miller as Director of Planning. He knew Jimmy and Jimmy's wife back in Albany. Jimmy lost his job up there because of some sexual harassment charges. No one in NYCHA believes he did it since he can't relate to women and he probably wasn't harassing them, but was just treating them like dirt. Jimmy's first move was to rehire Valerie White, Lady Debbie's executive assistant (a.k.a. Dinkins Election Enforcer; friend of Rantin's; classmate of Rantin's D.A. daughter and a vociferous opponent of our current Monarch, Rudy the Grinless.) Anyway this guy Martinez has his own little fiefdom. Planning and privatizing! But who cares? As he puts it "Hey, this is just a stop in my career, I'll be long gone when all this crashes." While all of this is going on the Authority gets decentralized-making it much easier to hide bodies-with no prior planning. The official whisper says that this will do away with a Matthew's fiefdom. Instead, NYCHA has the fiefdom of the Bronx, fiefdom of Brooklyn, fiefdom of Manhattan, etc.
Hallways and people are burning up, and contracts to friends selling paint are being let And Finkel keeps bringing in the resumes and the applications for Section 8 (closed to all of the other peons) for half of Brooklyn. Meanwhile, black and Hispanic Department Directors have become an endangered species. Take a quick look at all the people the Fink has hired, and all those he's pushed for priority handling of their Section 8 vouchers and other NYCHA produced perks, and it would become apparent that the Fink can't even pretend that some of his best friends are minorities!
Couriers cross the Broadway Moat and are immediately given an audience with Reliablenot Randy. They report that all is not well in NYCHA-land. Rantin' appears to be suffering from head injuries. He's acting strangely. Rumors say that his head was injured in: 1) a fall from a mistress's bed, 2) a fall from a tree 3) eating stale cake and/or 4) inhaling the fumes from those things he smokes. Reliablenot immediately selects reinforcements. Henry Coira and Walter Alicea are inducted and quickly become members of NYCHA 's Knights that go Kneep. They charge past the City Council, lances in hand, to help put Humpy Rantin' back together again!
Coira and Alicea become, respectively, Chief Knight and Senior Deputy Knight of NYCHA -land. Coira does his thing, but it is Alicea who becomes the real problem. He is put in charge of the most important part of NYCHA-Management-and strangely enough he is really trying to do a good job. This pisses off those above him, and anyone of the other incompetents that NYCHA has been recently plagued with. Of course, HRM Franco goes paranoid that Walter is trying to show Rantin' up. So Rantin' declares war on Coira and Alicea.
Henry Coira is banned first from the FF's club, and he beats a retreat to the Sheriff's Office. HRM Franco declares a cease, that is he ceases speaking with Alicea. During this period, the private bathroom gets built, they just about finish the stairhall repainting in time to start sandblasting the paint off, and budget cuts hit. Oh me, oh my. We don't have enough money so let's freeze all NYCHA hires.
Ten thousand apartments are not rented, Finkel's hiring friend's of third cousins (twice removed) as executives at high salaries (with assistants who are only needed because the executives can't and/or won't do their jobs) and they wonder where the money has gone?
Fleets of Jeeps are purchased. Joanne Aniello (Carbonetti's mom) gets more assistants and and yet another salary increase, Bebe Herman is found guilty by the IG's office and fined but then gets at least two more raises for sitting quietly in her room. Steve (Rude) Raleigh is banished to a warehouse with a "gradual" salary reduction". Steve's the guy who supposedly purchased the firestarter paint from the friend of the almighty Mayor. Coira's Executive Assistant Tony Pardo is banished out there too, and there's a rumor that Franco owes this guy some money from his Congressional campaign. Bush Terminal seems to be a pretty good place to hide bodies.
Oh, Doll Face, look there's Noach Dear's dear daddy working here at NYCHA along with relatives and friends of others at City Hall. Bruce (The Colorizer) Teitelbaum, (no, I wasn't invited to the Puck Building wedding, the guest list must look like a city government directory,) is the main contributor of the bodies being shipped across the Broadway moat to us. In fact, the Authority's new hires look like they emerged from a morgue, more so as every day passes. (Bruce the Colorizer has, in something akin to the colorization of the old black & white movies, managed to change the color of the City Hall staff.
Only in Bruce's palette, there is a definite lack of the darker tones. So, when Mr. Teitelbaum paints in the Mayoral Staff, there are less dark toned individuals the further along Bruce gets in his work/art. There may be one or two blacks left, but even those from the Koch kingdom were being banished or fired.) It's a fact that the Authority looks more and more like that morgue every day.
There are so many bodies being hidden around NYCHA that soon we're going to have to purchase disinfectant in bulk! City Hall knows all about what's going on over here. Rudy, Randy, and Bruce have all buried people here at NYCHA. But let's not forget! This incompetence, corruption and plain mean spiritedness only really affects 600,000 poor blacks and browns and whites. And who needs them anyway?
In fact, the more you think about it, the more that NYCHA is like the Land of Oz (Ooze). There's lots of smoke, mirrors, mental munchkins, locked doors, cowards, noisy, heartless, brainless leaders, roads of tears leading to the 9th floor. We're only missing the flying monkeys, good witches, ruby shoes and either Judy Garland or Michael Jackson. Believe me, we are tumbling around in the tornado. Wait a minute, wasn't that Atilla the Hun flying by? Maybe he'll be the next Earl of the Authority. . . .
With all of this happening right across the street from the Emerald Palace, wouldn't you think that the Wizard/Mayor would step in to keep order. But no. Instead NYCHA 's corrupt Nobles offer retirement buyouts, severance packages, fear, hats, resumes, Employee Assistance Programs designed by Dr. Jack Kevorkian and other t(h)reats. They'll get rid of us, they don't need our knowledge, our skills, our history. Current events--if they can be used to support hiring of more relatives, friends and favored bartenders-that's where it is. They can rewrite NYCHA history to make it fit any scenario that will allow it to raze the Authority while ransacking the HUD treasury.
So you see, Dear. Once upon a time there was this place called the New York City Housing Authority. It was once a glorious place, where good was done! Then, the new regime took over. It quickly became a great place to pretend to work and collect a decent check, even if you were unqualified for anything else. All you needed was a friend who knew Finkel or Franco. So they came in droves and soon there was no public housing left-we had privatized it all. Single handily these lowest of the low were able to enrich their own families and friends; increase the homeless population; contribute to the infant death rate; allow hazardous materials to remain by accepting bribes from contractors; purchase-sell-repurchase paint that enriches both my friends and themselves; use female employees as if their bodies were job perks; cut the budget for spending on poverty; sign $103,000,000 deals to throw money at some of Finkel's Friends who were already among NYCHA land's richest residents, and generally go about their dirty business in as arrogant a way as possible.
Excuse me, Pumpkin? Oh! Thank you dear, but Daddy's stopped crying. He's going to take his blood pressure medicine, Valium, and aspirin, and then go to sleep. Daddy's really needs to sleep, because tomorrow who knows what new dragons he's going to have to face. Good night, Dear. Pray for me. Er . . . excuse me.
Pray for those who needed the NYCHA of old.
They are the ones who
need and deserve our prayers.
Two Mea Culpas from Spotlight!
First, this issue is toooo big! But, the Fairy Tale was worth it, in our estimation. In future issues, we will try to keep the page total to 8 or fewer pages.
Second, we understand that Rantin' and the Fink were seen smiling during the past two weeks. We're told that they thought we had packed up our trusty fax machine and ridden off into the sunset.
Nothing could be further from the truth! There are only a few scenarios that could lead to our departure.
First, we have no intention of leaving until either NYCHA suddenly becomes corruption free, or, second and even more unlikely, NYCHA management begins treating those under them with common respect.
Or, we will also leave the minute an independent investigation is truly begun on the charges we have brought forward. (One reason for this would be the loss of our entire staff, as they'd be lined up waiting to testify!) However, as the NYC IG/DOI folks can not be trusted, and Santa-HUD and his IG are hiding somewhere north of the North Pole, this scenario is also unlikely.
So, it looks as if we'll be around forever. But our publication dates will be sporadic. We all have lives to lead, and if we allowed the theft of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to interfere with our family life, we'd appear to be eternally obsessed with NYCHA, Franco and Finkel. So, Rantin' and the Fink! You won't be forewarned of when our little rag will be sitting on your desk. But it will be there!!!
© 1998 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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