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Public Housing Spotlight

Issue 88
Published on July 17, 2001

For a printable (PDF) version of any Spotlight articles, please specify the issue and email us at nychaspotlight@netscape.net

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

(Click Here for Directory of Issues)

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Project Kids Can't Get The Lead Out!

We've used the Spotlight to bring many NYC Housing Authority secrets out of the dark in the last 4 years. Ex-Chair Franco's proclivity to pluck female friendship from the NYCHA tree. The "Follow-the-Leader" disaster that followed, with other NYCHA Execs showing that when the Chair treats women working under his title as an employment benefit, people like Bruce Gatewood (past-Director of Computer Services) will not only demand the same "perks" for themselves, some (including Bruce) will become serial sexual harassers. Board Member Kalman Finkel's constant attempts to enrich certain entities and/or individuals at the taxpayer AND NYC Housing Authority tenant's expense have led quite a few of our 88 issues thus far. The overall effect that the increasing politicization of the NYC Housing Authority's management has had in destroying many of the services NYCHA had been proudly delivering in the past has been a recurring theme in Spotty's ranting.

And, in our last issue, we showed that NYCHA cares little about the health of employees when it comes to asbestos. George Contoveros's courage, tenacity and generosity led to his taking the bull by the horns when NYCHA lied about the health danger facing some of the employees. George disbelieved both NYCHA and PESH, so he reached into his wallet and had the dust he faced in Baruch's crawl spaces tested for friable asbestos. ("Friable" in this case means that the asbestos is in a loose form allowing it to be easily disturbed and to then become airborne.)

And he found that the NYC Housing Authority lied. (No exclamation point there. NYCHA lying is nothing surprising, as you know if you've read even just a few of our past issues.)

But when the Mayor has one minion (Richard Sheirer, Director of the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management) crowing about how this City will always put kid's health concerns first, while another trio of City Hall appointees (NYCHA's Board, consisting of Chair Rodriguez, Vice-Chair Finkel and Member Earl Andrews Jr.) shows that the mostly minority, mostly poor children living in the projects are NOT quite as valuable as the kids from the middle-class neighborhood surrounding the Greenpoint tanks, something is terribly wrong.

Don't believe it?

Come with me on a walk through
this week's most publicized local event.

If you watched any local news over the weekend, you're aware that they blew-up (Imploded!) two huge gas tanks in Greenpoint, Brooklyn over the weekend. On many of the news reports, Richard Sheirer, Director of the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, was attempting to smooth things over with the residents who lived near the tanks.

And what was Mr. Sheirer's main point in trying to temper the worries of the neighbors? Simple. He promised that all left over materials would be "vacuumed and swept" to avoid having any dangerous chemicals left on the site. He specifically mentioned lead, and promised that no traces of lead would be left at the site where children might be exposed to the health dangers associated with lead. The construction debris would get Special Handling, in that methods would be used to insure no lead dust would get loose in disposing of the construction debris.

However, if you live and/or work in a NYCHA development, you and your kids are not quite as important as the kids in Greenpoint.

Your lead waste will receive NO special handling.

Your lead-contaminated construction debris will NOT be treated in any special manner.

In fact, at the same time the City is placating folks in Greenpoint about their poisonous trash, the NYC Housing Authority is overriding it's own Design Department's previous instructions on the handling of lead contaminated waste.

No, we're not going to quote some anonymous source on this. NYCHA was kind enough to put this horrendous and blatant bit of prejudicial treatment of 600,000 of New York City's poorest residents into writing.
(Click Here to read NYCHA's own email directing this latest effort to save a few $ by ignoring their tenant's health and general welfare.

For quite some time, the NYC Housing Authority's Design Department has had specifications specifically addressing the safe and effective removal of lead based paint and other contaminated materials. Now those specs are to be totally ignored, with no reason given in this new directive.

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In Issue 86, we pointed to the fact that NYCHA has a severe lack of minority representation in its executive ranks. (Click Here for Issue 86)

In Issue 87, we reported on NYCHA's sending employees into crawl spaces where asbestos is laying in wait.(Click Here for Issue 87)

This issue points to NYCHA's lack of caring for the kids who play in the developments.

So, What does this all add up to?

It seems to be rather straightforward.

Minorities can't break into the the NYC Housing Authority Executive ranks in any significant numbers (see Chart in Issue 86), employees are disposable (asbestos in work areas) and those poor kids you see playing around in front of their buildings may soon be severely developmentally disabled due to NYCHA's refusal to treat the lead-paint disposal as a health priority.

People, it is past time to start
making it known that this crap
cannot be tolerated
any longer!

It is election season. Demand that each candidate, for whatever office, is put on the spot about the NYC Housing Authority.

Don't let them obfuscate the situation by claiming that "NYCHA does not fall under our jurisdiction" Bull! the NYC Housing Authority falls under Federal, State and City jurisdiction, in the way that really counts.

The Mayor appoints the 3 Board Members, who then run the place. And, as anyone who has been with NYCHA through a change in Mayoral Administration can tell you, the Mayor has hands-on control of almost all-important NYCHA positions.
(Years after Giuliani's election, they were still purging Democrats from NYCHA. And a Democratic Mayor will undoubtedly do the same to Rudy's friends.)

So, the Mayoral candidates should be put on the spot with their ideas on how to remove corruption and how they will address other NYCHA problems.

The Federal Government (your Congress and future US Senate candidates), through HUD, contributes the vast majority of NYCHA $, and therefore has much influence in how NYCHA operates. When there is a meeting you attend at which HUD is represented, start pushing your concerns. Your tax dollars pay for HUD, so make them listen to you. Enough pressure delivered can result in a HUD investigation into the people who care little for your kid's health.

The State contributes some $ to the NYC Housing Authority, and thus has some power to affect change. When you are talking with your local Assembly Member, State Senator or any representative of the Governor's office, tell them that when pictures of NYCHA kids playing in contaminated dirt in front of their homes are running on TV or the local newspapers, you'll be one of the on-the-scene witnesses telling the reporters how NYCHA and all NY politicians knew well that NYCHA was going to just treat lead-based paint debris as it had the asbestos at Baruch. It would just pretend it didn't exist until someone NOT charged with doing so finally came forward and did NYCHA's job.

George Contoveros did it, and he therefore saved other employees' lungs.

The person who sent us the NYCHA directive on lead paint has now done his/her part.

It is time that other employees and tenants of the NYC Housing Authority start sticking up for their own health. First by forcing those officials and politicians to open their eyes to NYCHA's problems. Then by either going public with other atrocities, or sending them in to us.

(While we have never, and will never, expose a source who desires anonymity, we hope that you will give us a way to contact you. I have many stories that, for lack of getting one or two questions answered, lie in wait without getting published. So, if you sent in a story and never saw it make it to Spotty, it may be that I needed just a little more info before the story could be published.)

Seniors' Still Screwed!

We're told that Ms. Maristella Kelsey has been stripped of any duties relating to the handling of Senior Services at NYCHA. And both tenants and NYCHA staff tell us that while changes are definitely needed in NYCHA's delivering of services to the seniors living in our developments, they all fear it is way too late to get things back into the once proud operation they had in the past.

To quote someone with direct knowledge of the services provided lately: "They have destroyed a once great office that provided services that REALLY enriched the lives of seniors! We had opera singers, painters, musicians, the whole works & they really helped to enrich & lengthen our lives."

Over the last few years, beginning with Nora Reissig-Lazzaro, the NYC Housing Authority has had those in charge steadily reduce the programs and their effectiveness in what appears to be a slap in the face to those who need those services the most.

Finking Out!

Yes, Finkel is gone. We told you that in Issue 86. (Click Here for Issue 86)

But many of you were disappointed that we didn't pump-up that announcement, as we have long pointed to Finkel's problems with the running of NYCHA.

Well, we had our reasons for downplaying his resignation, and City Hall's wimpish agreement to allow the Fink's name to be placed on a different City payroll in order that Kalman Finkel have enough time to qualify for a City pension.

Hey, the Fink was on the NYC Housing Authority's three-headed throne while Senior Services was being demolished. There's no way he was going to be left relying on any programs like that. So, he told Rudy he wouldn't leave, and Rudy blinked. Finkel knew that he had more political clout than Franco, who never got the job in the Administration as Rudy publicly promised at the time. So with Finkel, Rudy was forced to come up with the job BEFORE Finkel would resign.

I guess the Fink needed a decent retirement package in case he can't get gainful employment as a result of the overly generous NYCHA contracts he initiated . . . err . . . I mean contacts that he initiated.

We hope that we can go more fully into some startling Fink-Facts soon. For now, we hope we've earned enough of your trust that you'll accept our promise that when we next do a Kalman Finkel story, the News will make you glad that we waited!!!

© 2001 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,
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And for a great source of New York City news and
policy information, visit our friends at the Gotham Gazette

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