On June 24, 1998, the first issue of the Public Housing Spotlight was published. At the time, a group of current and former NYCHA employees believed that the only way to remove some of the corruption in NYCHA's contracting and consulting contracts was to "go public" with information that both NYCHA and the New York City Department of Investigation would rather remain hidden.
And it made a difference!
Through that initial group, and through many tips phoned or faxed over to us, things began to change.
There were then many executives at NYCHA who either participated in the corruption or used their power to help conceal the rampant corruption throughout the Authority.
And many of them had to leave NYCHA because NYCHA employee-generated stories in Spotty pointed to their participation and/or incompetence.
Here's a short list of those who were once Spotty's villains, but are now just NYCHA ghosts.
Ruben Franco [Rantin'] (NYCHA Chair), Kalman Finkel [The Fink] (NYCHA Board Member), Paul Graziano (NYCHA General Manager), Mike Myers (Deputy General Manager), Sonia Martinez (Director - Office of Equal Opportunity).
Even Edward J. Kuriansky, the then Commissioner of the Department of Investigation (DOI), has left.
(Tidbit: Kuriansky was married to the TV/Radio sex therapist Dr. Judy Kuriansky.)
Working conditions (read: relations between employee and supervisor) were improving, as the worst offenders (Nora Reissig-Lazzaro, Mike Mastriano, etc.) began to lower the level of harassment their staffs had to contend with.
Things were changing so fast that it looked like Spotty was becoming unnecessary . . . or so we thought.
But NYCHA, being NYCHA, is quickly rebounding . . . in the wrong way. Spotty's receiving more email and fax traffic again. Even Nora is back in our correspondence (see "fries" story below.)
So, we're putting out this anniversary issue.
As already mentioned, Mike Meyer, DGM for Capital Projects has been terminated. His 'Capital Projects Coordinator', Nancy Ostreicher (who we're told has a PhD in Literature or Psychology and no formal training in Construction, Engineering or Architecture) was reassigned to the Construction Department???
We also hear that David ("Contractors, buy your supplies where I tell you!") Burney is on a hiring binge. For Assistant Directors! Meanwhile, the low-level Project Architects, the very ones who do all of the day to day detail work to get NYCHA jobs moving, get no chance to move up whatsoever. (Sometimes, it seems that Directors like Burney become the greatest source of Spotty tipsters, just by the way they mistreat the people who do all the work!
Would you like fries
with your rejection?
Okay! We are all quite aware that if a City, State or Federal agency has any problems at all, they will quickly be blamed on the WTC attack. There are stories every day of some new and highly inventive ways in which officials claim that "the terrorists caused . . . . !" (If Monica Lewinsky's story happened today, the government would probably swear she belonged to Al Qaeda and was wearing Osama's favorite beret!)
So we guess that NYCHA has many Community Operations staff, Social Service staff and other employees working in the old Roy Rogers store beneath 250 Broadway because NYCHA believes it is safer for them to toil below ground.
But the employees see
things a little differently.
They feel bad enough working in front of an unprotected ground floor window that is partially covered in paper. An unhappy client could mow down half the office while standing across the street. Or a brick thrown through the Roy Roger's window could cause severe injuries to staff members.
Worse yet, part of the office is in what was once referred to as the Roy Roger's Dungeon! You go down beneath ground level, into a windowless, stuffy area that reminds one of the horror stories about the famous fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. (To add to this scandal, last week there was a fire in another portion of the basement, and a smell of gas fumes seems to visit whenever Con Ed is working in the streets around 250 Broadway.)
Exiting the dungeon would not be an easy task, according to our sources. (Going to the bathroom is even a chore for these staffers, as they have no facilities near their office.)
But what gets the employees really riled is when they hear their boss, Spotty's constant piñata Nora Reissig-Lazzaro, tell others that the dungeon is "a fine workplace." One wonders why, if Nora believes the basement of this Manhattan Chicken coop really is a fine place, Nora doesn't vacate her 11th floor digs and move down amongst her people?
How's about it, Nora?
Another update on Alasia Co.
As we told you in recent issues of Spotty, the NYCHA IG (under the NYC Dept. of Investigation) had a construction firm named GBE help the IG set up 3 CAD employees. While massive corruption was running rampant at CAD (see our Special Corruption Issue - Click Here), and signs were that the corruption extended into high places at NYCHA, the IG decided to ignore the testimony of a dozen honest CAD employees AND the confession of one of a group of CAD inspectors collecting bribes throughout the 5 boroughs. (I've finally located that admitted Project Manager/extortionist, Richard [Tony] DiAlto. The IG had promised to relocate Tony "after the trials." But there were never any trials. Yet, Tony got moved. He's in Arizona. I have friends there from the 60's, when I was stationed in Arizona. They helped me to finally located Tony, so if anyone needs his address and phone number, please let me know.)
Well. Instead, the IG had GBE change it's name to Alasia. It then used Alasia to set up the 3 employees, leaving the higher-ranking NYCHA execs, as well as the large corrupt group of inspectors, free to go about their business.
Then, after the case was finished, the IG ran into a problem. Alasia suddenly began acting as if it did not need to worry about NYCHA ever causing Alasia any problems. Alasia delayed the contract, and ignored the CAD inspector's directives to get the job back on schedule. 17 months after work began, only 5% of the work has been done. And according to the reports, even that 5% is an exaggeration, as much of the work has not passed any inspection. The inspector and his superiors put Alasia in for a default hearing. The meeting with CAD and the NYCHA Legal Dept. was set. That morning, however, CAD received a call from NYCHA Legal. Legal said that the NYCHA IG (DOI) had directed that Alasia NOT be defaulted, no matter that it was not fulfilling a contract paid through the US taxpayer.
So, the default hearing was cancelled.
The contractor is basically destroying the development. He is performing horribly, not working as per schedules. He is not using skill trade workers, yet NYCHA is paying him the prevailing wage at skill trade rates for his non-skilled workers. (Wanna bet those skilled trades rates don't make it to all the employees who deserve that rate?)
Countless meetings with the Contract Administration Department (CAD) high command have done nothing to improve Alasia's performance, and the IG/DOI will not allow anyone to get rid of this delinquent contractor.
So NYCHA has proven that all you have to do is wear a wire for the IG's office and you get free reign to do what you like. The inspector apparently has no control over the contractor because the contractor knows he is not going to be defaulted. CAD is currently on its third (disgruntled) inspector on this contract.
We also hear that a friend of CAD exec Jim Gleba, has been suspended without pay for apparently running a loan shark operation. He was a 12 year NYCHA Maintenance worker who Gleba put into an Inspector's slot. Within a year, Gleba had this novice moved up to coordinator, then to Area Supervisor?
CAD employees are grumbling about this rise to Area Supervisor, as well as the accelerated promotions of another Gleba fave, a Marietta Piccone.
Others are wondering if the words performance and seniority will ever find a place in Mr. Gleba's lexicon?
NYCHA is NOT the only corrupt
housing entity run through City Hall!
For those in other countries who have written to express disbelief that the corruption we discuss is real, here's something to chew on.
Tom Robbins has written a series of stunning columns in the Village Voice on Russel Harding, the ex-head of the NYC Housing Development Corporation and the son of Ray Harding, head of the Liberal Party in NYC. While reading the whole series gives a clearer picture, here's just three quotes from those articles:
- 1) And he used his computer at home for work as well, billing the agency for the $40-a-month Internet connection. Those bills were among the least dubious of the expenses that Harding and a top aide ran up during three and a half years when they spent more than $250,000 on a whirlwind of travel and fine dining-expenses that the city's Department of Investigation began scrutinizing in March.
- 2) On another occasion, Harding allegedly said that he "made a few extra dollars" from contractors he had helped on a Bronx renovation project funded by the housing corporation.
- 3) "My dad is always helping the mayor with projects for money making," typed Harding. Writing in his characteristic three-dot style, he added, "And the mayor is always helping my dad as well . . . he had my dad go over some contracts a while back about a company taking over the airports here . . . so not only in the long run will the mayor profit from it . . . but my dad already has with doing the contract . . . they both have a wash each other's back thing going."
© 2002 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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