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Public Housing Spotlight

Published on January 26, 2000

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We Need A Little Christmas
Right This Very Minute!

A short time ago, Spotty was contacted by a couple named . . . well, let's call them Roger and Karen "Claus." It seems that they had been participating in the US Post Office's "Secret Santa" program. As Christmas approaches, the Post Office would receivreceive letters addressed only to "Santa Claus". In the spirit of the season, some wonderfully generous people would ask for some of those letters, with the hope that they might help make some child's Christmas a little brighter.

This year, Roger and Karen found that there is some truth in the old saying "no good deed goes unpunished." They had attempted to send a package to a little girl . . . let's call her Sasha.

Everything went well, it seems, until the package was delivered to the front door of Sasha's apartment building. As the building is a 5-story walk-up, the person delivering the package did not relish trying to ascertain the apartment number by trying all the apartments. So, Roger and Karen were surprised when the presents wound up back at their place.

But that would not be the end of this story.

As our benevolent couple do not live anywhere near New York, they did not have the option of jumping in the car and attempting delivery by themselves. So they tried various recourses to locate Sasha's apt. number, all to no avail. However, as Roger had worked for HUD, he had a hidden resource that might be unknown to the general public.

He had Spotty!

Roger had heard of our Spotlight, and he dropped us a note explaining his problem. In turn, we sent a note out to one of Spotty's mailing lists.


One of Spotty's Helpers came through with Sasha's full address with apartment number, the name of her dad and, even more unbelievably, the unlisted number of the family's phone.

Now when I tell you that Ray and Rita Normandeau, from Queensbridge Houses, were the Santa Helper's that wrote back with the info on Sasha, many of you might well say "Of course!"

And yes, if Sasha lived in a NYCHA building, the good Normandeau's are known to have contacts throughout NYCHA that could supply such info. And with Ray's mailing list from his Queensbridge Enquirer site (http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/hudnycha), he also had NYCHA info available from both NYCHA tenants and employees.

But Sasha doesn't live in NYCHA housing, so I was truly amazed at the speed in which they handled this complicated task.

Amazingly, from here on in
everything went great!

We arranged a date and time to deliver Roger and Karen's long-delayed Secret Santa gifts. Ray and Rita Normandeau met with my wife Barbie and I, and they were wearing Christmas garb and pointy red caps. We all delivered the wrapped package to Sasha, who had some relatives and girlfriends over for the arrival. Ray and Rita turned the gifts over to Sasha, and she began the unwrapping process that had occupied many of our own children just a few weeks ago.

When she had opened the unexpected gift, she found a six speaker "Surround Sound" stereo along with her favorite CD!

Then Sasha ran out of the room. I worried as to what could we have done that caused her to leave so abruptly. Her mom quickly left to go talk with her.

When they returned it was obvious what caused the little girl's exit. Sasha had been too embarrassed to allow these 4 strangers to see her shedding tears of joy. But now that she had spoken with her mother, they both re-entered the crowd. Only difference was that they both had those tears flowing, but now they didn't care who saw them.

By the time we left, we all felt great, with one nagging bit of guilt weighing on the four of us. We had all witnessed one of those tender, childhood moments when a little girl was so overwhelmed by the anonymous generosity of two strangers that her emotions had to demonstrate themselves by a show of joyous weeping. But the two who should have shared in that joy, Roger and Karen, were far away from where their gift was having such an effect. While I took photos, and Roger and Karen will be receiving copies, it still feels like too little a return on such a good deed.

For what little it may mean, I now know of another couple who will certainly join the year 2000's Secret Santa program at our local Post Office. And two folks known only as Roger and Karen recruited them.

Thank you Mr. And Mrs. "Claus", and a tip of Spotty's cap to both of you! If other of Spotty's friends would like to feel as if they've made a difference in a child's holiday experience, please join Roger and Karen in this endeavor. I believe you'll find that you actually get more out of it than you put in!

(Contact your local Post Office to get
the details of the Secret Santa program.)

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While I worked as a Contract Inspector, I was often told that reporting a contractor for not paying his workers the prevailing wage would have 2 results. NYCHA would do nothing to the contractor, and some NYCHA bosses would do whatever they could to get rid of the inspector!

If that's still the case, Inspectors might want to just tell the workers to call an attorney (see below.)

New Class Action Strategy Shows Promise
New York Law Journal
Thursday, January 20, 2000

FOR YEARS, contractors on public works projects have ignored the state's Labor Law and underpaid construction crews, carpenters, asbestos workers and plumbers. Thanks to a creative plaintiff class action attorney, Alan Pollack (Ed note: of Pollack & Greene), thousands of those underpaid laborers have been able to recoup millions of dollars in unpaid wages by waiving their right to seek liquidated damages and participating anonymously in class action suits brought under the state Labor Law.

To view the rest of the article,
please check the NY Law Journal web site (http://www.nylj.com/).

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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,
visit the Tenant Net Home Page |

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

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