On June 24, 1998, we began publishing this little rag.
That first Spotlight brought forth a story about how someone with friends in high places could invest a little over $8,000,000 and, within weeks, sign a 20 year lease deal with NYCHA that costs the taxpayer over $100,000,000! (Click Here to view Issue #1)
We apologize for getting that story wrong!
The taxpayer's were ripped off for much more than we knew at the time, as today's Front Page Daily News story reports.
Almost 4 years from the day we reported that story, I received a call from Larry Cohler-Esses, the Daily News reporter who put together today's News' story. Since that time, Larry has spent many hours piecing together the puzzle that is the LIC Warehouse deal. I supplied him with any documents I had used in our research, including tax documents on the property that showed the taxes paid on the sale to what readers of Spotty know as "Finkel's Friends."
(Click Here for Daily News Cover story)
Larry needed Spotlight sources that he could question. That wasn't too hard. But he also needed sources that would identify themselves to him, to verify their stories and so that Larry could honestly report that he "knew" the people he spoke with.
That was much harder.
As we all know, fear of job retaliation would once cause employees to refuse to meet with anyone connected to the media. However, the morale at NYCHA has reached such a low that the fear has been overcome by indignation.
People came forward, introduced themselves and began telling their stories.
So now, nearly 4 years after Spotty's birth, we feel vindicated. Having this story on the front page of the Daily News should cause our local politicians some worry, as they all received Spotty for 4 years, and they did NOTHING, with VERY FEW exceptions. !
So few were the exceptions, let's list those who at least gave a listen to the problems effecting 600,000 NYCHA tenants and the 15,000 employees who keep NYCHA going.
Kathryn Freed, a term limited City Council Member, deserves some recognition. She called and asked if I could bring any people with me to testify on NYCHA corruption at a City Council Hearing. Unfortunately, the folks then running the Council (Vallone, Spigner etc.) weren't as happy as Ms. Freed that NYCHA corruption was going to be examined. So, the Council meeting was sabotaged and wound up as a huge meeting with hundreds of people wanting to be heard on a panoply of NYCHA subjects. And, when our group of 4 current or retired NYCHA employees took the stage, every one of the Council Members had left the stage, with the sole exception being Ms. Freed.
She deserves some credit, if only for trying to shed light on NYCHA's dirty dealings.
Assembly Member Joan Millman (Assembly District 52, Brooklyn) and Assembly Member Edward C. Sullivan (District 69, Manhattan) are on our "good politicians" list, and it hardly caused them any work. All they did was send letters to the NY Attorney general asking that the charges in Spotty get a looking at.
Of course, the NY AG's office never contacted us . . .
Congressman John Sweeney bucked the trend of politicians to ignore the Spotlight. He had the guts to invite us to participate at a forum on Public Housing he held in his Catskill District.
There are also a couple of members of the City Council (past, present or both) that called with messages of support. The fact that they presaged each call with requests for anonymity shows just how pervasive the fear of being punished by our corrupt system has become.
But the same shield of anonymity that protects them from retaliation by their less-clean peers makes it impossible for them to get any credit when the corruption becomes visible.
(That might be Justice!)
Luck has thus far been on our side in our quest to keep sources hidden and to prevent them from being harmed by NYCHA in retaliation.
We can confidently say that we've never had a source fired by NYCHA. That is our proudest claim.
We have bemoaned NYCHA's treatment of innocent people. But we received word of these stories from people other than the person who was at the center of NYCHA harassment.
But that doesn't mean that NYCHA is all bark and no bite. So please insure that you don't let on to others if you've sent in material to Spotty. NYCHA, or those corrupt individuals who use NYCHA as a parasite draws the life from its host, can and will strike out at anyone it can identify as causing attention to the corruption.
Others who (God forgive us for our stupidity) helped the IG's office in their farcical investigation of NYCHA's Contract Administration Department's (CAD) were harmed. Not the type of harm easily proved: More the stab-you-in-the-back type of harm commonly practiced by corrupt politicians and law enforcement gone bad types.
While we're happy with our record of protecting sources, the same protection of NYCHA sources can not be said of NYCHA's IG. Without much thought, I can name 5 people who are no longer with NYCHA due to their being honest and coming forward with info to the NYCHA IG. They soon found that their bosses knew exactly what they discussed with the IG investigators, and they found that their career paths had ended at cliffs.
For myself, aside from the threats and being run off the road once, my main "suffering" has taken economic form. For the past couple of years, I've sent resumes and made the calls. I've had some good conversations with prospective employers. However, as soon as my references (NYCHA) are checked the employers somehow lose interest.
While becoming the "Manager of Computer Operations" for one of the largest Construction Management entities on the planet (NYCHA's CAD) might be a decent sounding title, I'm guessing that prospective employers don't hear much good about the publisher of the rag. (No, I can't prove anything. If you believe that NYCHA would never do such a thing, there's nothing I can write that will open your eyes.)
So, if someone else wants to start another newsletter pointing out NYCHA problems, I'd advise that the Publisher/Editor remain as anonymous as everyone else. It's just safer that way.
Boy, I hope the Enron whistle blower is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame, because she's in for a rude awakening after this honeymoon is over.
© 2002 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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