Some of the Spotlight contingent arrived early that morning, in order to hand out fliers promoting the Rally and Council Hearing. We began a little after 7 AM and left 90 Church at 8:30. It was amazing how many "well done" and other words of support we received from the NYCHA employees on their way to work. Even some of those who have had extra burdens placed on them as a result of stories in Spotty were surprisingly supportive.
Then, after a quick breakfast, we entered City Hall. We wanted to arrive early for the Joint City Council Committee Hearing (Contracts Committee and the Housing and Building's committee), as Ms. Freed's Counsel had thought that the Committees' might want to hear from the "whistle-blowers" first.
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case.
(More on that in Part 2 in Issue 85.)
Just prior to the Hearing being called to order, we were treated to the arrival of Mike Meyer (DGM Capitol Projects), Sonia Martinez (Director-OEO), Alvin Reinstein (Dep. Dir. OEO), Robert L. Doan (Law Dept.) and other minions.
Once Ms. Martinez recognized a member of our group she quickly began informing her peers of our attendance. As she did so, each member of the NYCHA group would quickly glance our way, shooting a look of fear and loathing before realizing that they no longer frightened anyone. They had become modern day examples of the Emperor who, through the efforts of all of the NYCHA employees who send in tips for the rag, was shown to have no clothes.
It was a moment of change, and they seemed to sense it.
And as bad as that may have been for them, things went progressively downhill for NYCHA through the rest of the Hearing.
Mike Meyer gave a long speech extolling how much NYCHA does for its tenants. He explained that NYCHA was committed to the Prevailing Wage (Contractors must pay their workers at least as much as the Prevailing Wage for the trade in which that employee works) statutes and Section 3 hiring (Federal Regulation mandating that a small percentage of the workers on NYCHA contracts are to be hired from residents of the NYCHA development.) . He gave so many figures covering so many areas that, at times, even he was lost in his own obfuscation. And when he was finished, Council Member Margarita Lopez took pains to lift the obfuscation and force the NYCHA folk to do something startlingly unusual. She tried to force them to answer questions with replies that actually relate in some form to the questions asked.
She never won that battle, but she had everyone in the audience . . . well, she had everyone in the audience NOT with the NYCHA group cheering and applauding. She asked direct and probing questions, and when the answers started straying to some pre-packaged NYCHA claptrap, she did the unthinkable. She interrupted and brought NYCHA back to her original question. It was a thing of beauty to see the tenants pick up confidence as Ms. Lopez took the clothing off the NYCHA Emperor, one piece at a time. By the time she was finished, the Emperor was gone and all that everyone could see was the "naked" lie that Mr. Meyer had tried so hard to protect.
(Sadly, there will also be more on Ms. Lopez and others in Part 2 of this story.)
Other Council Members joined in, particularly Ms. Freed and Ms. Quinn. With the exception of Madeline Provenzano, all were critical of NYCHA's lack of enforcement of the Prevailing Wage and Section 3 regulations. (Ms. Provenzano, who sits on the Council's Housing and Buildings Committee, stated that she hadn't heard of Section 3 and she expressed her reservations as to hiring residents as she believes NYCHA concerns should just be "getting the job done quickly and right" and should not be "running an employment agency".)
Overall, the Council Members put on such a good performance that this Editor found himself beginning to feel sorry for the NYCHA reps. (It was a fleeting feeling that passed so quickly I'm sure it won't return.)
With NYCHA's initial questioning finished, Ms. Freed called for the next panel. As she did so, she called over the microphone to NYCHA, asking that they leave representation to answer questions that would arise from upcoming testimony. Unfortunately, Ms. Freed took a breath between saying thank you to NYCHA and asking for a rep to be left. That breath gave NYCHA the seconds they needed to quickly pull tails between legs and run. They were gone quicker than it takes Finkel to fall asleep at a NYCHA meeting!
The panel immediately following NYCHA included other politicians with some more general NYCHA bashing.
Then the Union panels began. Leaders of the Plumbers (Local 1), Teamsters (237), Carpenters (District Council) DC-9 (Painters, Glaziers) all had facts and figures that refuted NYCHA's feeble attempts to justify its (lack of) enforcement of these important items. Some of their testimony pointed out illegalities on NYCHA's part, as Council Member Archie Spigner pointed out. The unions also brought forward men who had worked for some of the contractors who paid sub-legal wages to their workers.
And to their credit, the unions also sided with the tenants and exposed some of the problems with Section 3 enforcement. They stated that, once NYCHA is forced to comply with the law, the unions would work up plans for having some Section 3 workers entered into union apprenticeship programs, thereby helping to insure training and increasing the chances of long-term employment for NYCHA residents.
Up to this point, it was a thing of beauty. In our next issue, "They came to speak truth to power, but power went to lunch", we'll tell the rest of the story.
LIC Warehouse update
As we were writing this update to the travails at Finkel's Folly (the $100,000,000 lease on the LIC warehouse that now looks like a going away gift from soon to depart, lowest ranking NYCHA Board Member Kalman Finkel -check the Board listing in the NYCHA Journal- to his family's friends), we were contacted by someone who happened to see a memo copied to NYCHA's Frank New. The memo is a timetable for completing the movement of all of NYCHA's Material Management stocks over to Finkel's Folly. It offers "A preliminary master consolidation timetable" that specifies 14 different target dates for the shifting of tons of materials into the warehouse.
What makes this so amazing is that it seems that each time "new" problems are found in this warehouse of horrors, NYCHA decides to test its luck even further.
After all of the other serious safety problems we pointed out to help insure that NYCHA employees be VERY cautious as they toil in the condemned warehouse, new (no pun intended) problems are popping up.
On the 4th floor there is a crack in the floor that gets a little longer each day. The good news for NYCHA is that as the buildings electricity is non-operational-except where a generator is being utilized-so the 4th floor crack is hardly noticeable in the dark.
Added to that are the more apparent problems that are causing much concern for the lower-level employees that must bow to the dictates of Steven Raleigh, even when his commands might cause major problems to the health and well being of the NYCHA employees. Therefore, against both logic and OSHA, the forklift operators are stacking materials so high on their lifts that they are a hairsbreadth away from the lift tipping over and someone being maimed or being killed by something as usually non-threatening as cartons of toilet paper.
And, as space that will satisfy even the very loose "Raleigh standards" is at a premium here, NYCHA will now only have a one (1) month's typical supply of stocked materials, instead of the normal six (6) month's worth now stored at rent-FREE NYCHA storage areas presently in use.
But Finkel and the NYCHA IG HAD to hope that NYCHA would find some way to utilize the warehouse space, or there might have been many questions as to why Finkel wasn't under an IG investigation for throwing taxpayer's money at his friend's crumbling property since Spotty first reported on this deal in 1998!
Execs at NYCHA told us, a few weeks ago, that the NYCHA IG is FINALLY investigating Kalman Finkel. We didn't report it for 2 reasons:
- 1) The only people at NYCHA who trust the IG's office are the crooks, and they trust the IG to be anywhere that corruption ISN'T!
- 2) Without confirmation that the IG is even pretending to conduct such an investigation, there's no sense in getting anyone's hopes up.
In a different memo from April 9 (marked "Sensitivity: Private", as is almost every memo reporting on this warehouse) , which was composed shortly after the Chair's visit to the warehouse, an edited listing of staff complaints is sent to Brian Clark (Dep. Dir. Tech Services). (Click Here) This memo allowed us to see the problems that even NYCHA is willing to put down on paper. And even though Jay Krantz admits editing the "Sensitive" complaint list, the 19 complaints, including fire hazards, lack of electricity and air-conditioning, and the lack of repairs made by Finkel's Friends who own the building, are officially cited. That list confirms what Spotty has been reporting. (The Post should have this story as their "exclusive" as soon as they get their hands on a copy of Spotty!) According to the memo, taxpayers are currently paying NYCHA staff to do the repairs in this building, even though the owners are contractually obligated to do so.
(During this heat wave,
the warehouse is limited to
one hour of air-conditioning
a day as the NYCHA generators
can only do so much in trying
to make up for the
under-the-code electrical wiring.)
April was a good month for Spotty. While we continue to publish a faxed issue, the website is becoming more popular in this new year. In the month of December of 2000, we had 33,619 hits. Our new April 2001 figures are in and we're up to 56, 770 for that month.
Note: While accepting anonymous faxes has brought some important stories to Spotty, some stories are left unpublished due to our having no means of contacting the author. If, after receiving one of these stories, we have a source who can do some checking without being caught, we may wind up publishing the story. But a fax that tells a story that we can't check out will not generate anything. Please keep that in mind if your story never gets published.
© 2001 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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