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Public Housing Spotlight

Issue 89
Published on August 25, 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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Ever since Term Limits have become the law, the NYC Media has told us that major changes in this City's power structure would soon be a'coming.

They were right, but not just because of the slew of new, and somewhat inexperienced, politicians who would have a hand in the future of New York City.

I'm predicting that when historians look back on 2001, the larger story will concern the recent Demonstration and March over the Brooklyn Bridge in support of Section 3 hiring and against the punitive Community Service requirement that NYCHA has decided to enforce on the poorest of the residents.

And the Media will look back on their short-sighted non-coverage of the event with chagrin and a realization that they not only missed an opportunity to allow their viewers/readers to be introduced to this nascent coalition of disparate groups in a show of unity that was unthinkable only a few short years ago.

As Editor of the Spotlight, I was invited to meet with the Organizing Committee. Now I come from a family that included a Vice-President, Business Agent at Large, Business Agent, Organizer and even the attorney of a construction unions (Steamfitters, Local 638), so I was shocked to see the makeup of the committee. It reminded me of stories told at Xavier High School when I attended night labor courses offered there.

Let me explain.

When I joined the union, in 1964, the big news was that members of minority groups were in court trying to get books in the local unions. Blacks and Hispanics were trying to crack the father/son preference that had kept them out of any skilled trades work.

For the next 25 years, unions and minority groups (such as "Fight Back") were often in the news, with reports of violence perpetrated by both sides. Court costs for legal battles were depleting both union treasuries and the funds of the minority groups. The major winners were the lawyers and some lowlife politicians who used the racism exhibited by both sides in order to advance their own careers, while the very communities they had pledged to serve were hurt by the inflammatory rhetoric.

And, like many an unaware bystander throughout history, I just assumed that this was the way it was then, is now and was always going to be.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

I sat at the table with male and female union leaders and "militant" minorities, Black, Hispanic and White, Tenant and Community leaders.

You could just feel that there was something special being conceived here. (One of the union leaders admitted that he was suddenly getting goose-bumps at the realization of what was occurring right in front of him. I won't use his name, as I don't think his fellow members view him as the goose-bump type! :>)

Discussions ranged from NYCHA's continued atrocities to song lyrics for the March, from how big a rubber Rat should be used outside NYCHA's headquarters to how to coordinate the politicians who had asked to speak.

Other areas wherein the unions and the community/tenant groups stood on different sides of an issue were discussed, and, after some back and forth, there was agreement to disagree on a couple of items. But even here, the discussion brought about some amazing agreements on ideas and actions that wouldn't have been deemed possible before.

The Tuesday August 21st Demonstration and March was the first "event" for this new group. There were two items on the agenda. Section 3 work and Community Service requirement. The community leaders wanted Section 3 to be enforced, as it forces some contractors to hire a portion of their "New hires" from the NYCHA residents. And, as the purpose of Section 3, as with other well-meaning government regulations, was to help people 1) get a job on a particular contract 2) get job training and 3) parlay that into long-term employment. Currently, 1) few NYCHA contractors ever hire Sec. 3 residents 2) the few residents that are hired get no training beyond how to get the coffee order right for the "real" workers and 3) as the fly-by-night contractors have no certified apprenticeship programs, the residents find that when the job they were on finishes, so does their opportunity to earn a buck!

It's obvious what the community gets if a coalition succeeds in getting NYCHA to play by the rules on Section 3.

So what do the unions gain?

The union contractors are currently at a big disadvantage when it comes to bidding on a NYCHA contract. Even if the prevailing wage law was adhered to by all of NYCHA's contractors (which it isn't, as any honest NYCHA contract inspector can verify), the union contractor still has a major expense not shared by the other contractors.

You see, these union contractors also fund expensive certified apprenticeship programs.

It costs a lot if you want to give a man the skills needed to safely and efficiently build or modernize a high-rise apartment complex.

If NYCHA followed Section 3, and ALL contractors were forced to honestly give training to these residents, the union contractor would be playing on a more even field. And that field would then have well trained and well paid NYCHA residents as part of that team.

Resident's and union contractors would BOTH make out. And as that helps the unions by providing a larger pool of work, the unions have agreed to have Journeyman books (or Union Card) for those resident's who successfully complete the apprenticeship program!

Let's remember, these unions have gone from battling against the government's trying to force them to open the books to minorities to now, where the unions are battling the government [NYCHA] to allow minority members to obtain good jobs AND union books!

I don't know if my pride in the unions is equal to my distaste for the government in this. I guess it's a tie!)

What motivates NYCHA to refuse to enforce Section 3 while it continues to contract with people who give nothing back to the community in which it makes it's money is anyone's guess.

Even residents who have no intention of applying for Section 3 jobs make out. As a NYCHA inspector I remember well how many of us would visit the only boiler replacement job being done by a union contractor. We'd go there and stand in awe of the craftsmanship you could see on display. The inspector for that job was the envy of many of us.

In fairness, there were a couple of other contractors who did good work. But many of the modernization jobs were done with little care. At least once a week, the Spotlight phone rings with another report from some NYCHA skilled trades person telling me of a horror story brought about by a contractor who, having received the final payment from NYCHA, refuses to "fix" problems that had somehow been missed on inspection. Between fixing problems that should have been done by the contractor, and Joanna Aniello's fixation on getting closed-circuit cameras covering every project prior to the upcoming Mayoral Election, many Skilled Trades people have maxed-out on overtime and can't work an extra hour even when it is needed.)

Community Service

Another area where agreement came easy. First off, Community Service is a sentence for criminal acts. Robert Downey Jr., who has been arrested more times than Kalman Finkel slept through meetings, received some Community Service for his recent sentence. Other examples are numerous.

The union leaders realize how this works. The City starts assigning no-pay jobs to NYCHA residents. Now, unless these are nonsense make work jobs, these unpaid workers will be performing tasks currently performed by "paid" folks. So, these "paid" folks will no longer be needed.

They will soon find themselves looking for public housing, where they will soon be doing their same old jobs. Only difference will be, THEY WILL NO LONGER BE PAID!

Or, the people now out of work will be preyed upon by unscrupulous contractors and hired as workers, but not paid the prevailing wage.

Either way, both the community and the local unions lose!

So, these disparate groups returned to a rhetorical constant that has been the driving force behind the expansion and enrichment of an American middle-class unlike any found before in world history . . . "In Unity there Is Strength!"

And that is where it stands.

Next week, I've been invited to another meeting of these intelligent and optimistic individuals who are swallowing hard on a few items in order to have the strength to make a difference on items in which they agree.

If NYCHA residents and employees
get behind this AWE/TRADES coalition,
things can, and will,
change for the better.

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PLACE: CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 16, 2001 )
OFFENCE: Assault
SENTENCE: Community Service
FROM: Associated Press

Vernon Maxwell was sentenced last Wednesday to 500 hours of community service, two years' probation and ordered to continue anger counseling after being charged with assaulting a woman last fall.

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PLACE: Oakland County
OFFENCE: Man convicted of horse neglect
SENTENCE: Community Service
FROM: Associated Press

A man convicted of neglecting his five horses has been sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service. Ricky Flury, of Oakland County's Independence Township, told the judge during his sentencing Thursday that the only thing he was guilty of was not taking the five horses he bought for his daughters to the veterinarian, The Oakland Press of Pontiac reported Friday.

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PLACE: KENT, Washington
OFFENCE: Peeping
SENTENCE: Community Service
FROM: South County Journal (Online)

Federal Way man sentenced in voyeurism charge
by Kathleen R. Merrill

A Federal Way man was sentenced to community service yesterday for peeping into his neighbor's bedroom while she was undressed.

James Lee Hart, 54, pleaded guilty June 14 to one count of voyeurism. Superior Court Judge Cheryl Carey sentenced Hart to 40 hours of community service and one year of community custody, a probation program.

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PLACE: New York City, NY
FROM: Public Housing Spotlight
OFFENCE: Poverty
SENTENCE: Community Service

Thousands of NYCHA families have had members sentenced to Community Service for not having fat enough wallets!

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© 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.

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