What do City Hall, Crown Heights,
the Manhattan DA's office,
the LIC Warehouse
US taxpayer $
have in common?
In our last issue, we crowed a bit about the mainstream media (the Daily News, click here) finally catching up with the LIC Warehouse story . . . a story we published in Issue #1, four years ago. The News confirmed that NYCHA had signed a lease that costs the taxpayer over $113,000,000 (yep, that's one-hundred and thirteen million dollars) for a building that was purchased for just over $8,000,000 by a group named Bridgedale LLC.
They also confirmed that Kalman Finkel's son was a close friend with the family of one of the principles in this deal. And, finally, they confirmed that this deal was put together rather quickly, within weeks of NYCHA turning down the Maspeth warehouse they had been in negotiations to lease
We mentioned that the Daily News really had nothing new in their story, as the facts above were in our 1997 issue #1. A second reading found our mistake! In the News' story, they do have one item that I had failed to catch. That item was the name of Bridgedale's representative that spoke with the News. His name is Frank Snitow.
For those who don't know who Mr. Snitow is, let me enlighten you. (Politicians can skip all this, as, according to a politically connected friend; "Everyone knows who Frank Snitow is. He basically evicted Dinkens and gave Rudy Giuliani the keys to City Hall.")
Frank Snitow and Crown Heights Mr. Snitow did a great job for his client(s), and he deserves nothing but credit for his role as legal advocate. Here is what the Orthodox Union (Click Here) mentions in a piece about Mr. Snitow:
"During the 1990s, he served as the lead attorney in the federal civil rights class action suit filed by the Chassidic Jewish residents of Crown Heights against the City of New York for damages sustained during the anti-Semitic violence in Crown Heights in 1991."
On the official NYC website (Click Here) we find that Mr. Snitow performed well for his clients:
"Under the settlement, the claims of the remaining plaintiffs in the lawsuit are being settled for $1.1 million. This sum will be allocated among the 29 remaining original plaintiffs, as well as 62 additional individuals who were added by stipulation to the action. An additional sum of $250,000 is being paid as attorney's fees to plaintiffs' counsel, Snitow & Pauley. Prior to today's settlement, the claims of two other plaintiffs, Issac Bitton and his son, Yechiel, were settled for a total of $200,000."
Orchestrating all the elements that surrounded such a politically charged case can require talents as diverse as attorney, friend, publicist, psychologist and/or political lobbyist. Mr. Snitow's clients won not only the monetary settlement. They also garnered an apology from Mayor Giuliani on behalf of all New Yorker's.
So, Mr. Snitow had surely learned his way around NYC politics.
And, we'll assume such knowledge may have helped him in representing those Bridgedale people (Ruben Schron, et. Al.) in their stunning bargaining with NYCHA. When Mr. Snitow was dealing with Mr. Giuliani's 3 Mayoral appointees that form the NYCHA Board, he did a magnificent job.
But it was close.
Myrtle Whitmore courageously balked at signing this huge lease, and demanded, in writing, that Mr. Finkel publicly acknowledge anything he knew about this lease or those who would profit from it. Mr. Finkel refused.
At the last minute, the Board meeting at which Ms. Whitmore's vote would have killed the lease was cancelled. Mr. Ruben Franco, whose vote would be for naught had Ms. Whitmore voted "No" on the lease, called off the meeting, pleading illness. The meeting was not rescheduled until Ms. Whitmore retired.
Then, within about a week of Earl Andrews appointment to Ms. Whitmore's seat, the vote was called and Mr. Andrews voted with Franco. Finkel's Friends' had a deal!
What a decade for Mr. Snitow. Here he is involved with one of the largest cases in NYC in a decade. The murder of Yankel Rosenbaum had put this city on edge. Mr. Snitow was handling the class-action suit that was seeking millions of taxpayer dollars for his clients. Mr. Dinkens and Mr. Giuliani were on different sides of the issue, and the whole mess had become more of a political crusade then the societal warning of racial fault lines some hoped would be studied and fixed.
But Mr. Snitow's timing/luck was fortunate. As was Mr. Giuliani's. Mr. Giuliani had almost no minority support in his first race for Mayor, and he definitely needed to obtain the support of the Hasidic community. Mr. Snitow needed a friend in City Hall, if he hoped for the best settlement for his clients. Rudy got elected. Mr. Snitow got a large settlement for his clients.
Coincidentally, Mr. Snitow's other clients, Bridgedale LLC, did fine under the new administration.
They bought a building for $8,000,000. They then offered to lease it to NYCHA for twenty years at over $113,000,000. The 3 Giuliani appointees that compose the NYCHA Board were split on the vote, one for it, one against and one abstaining.
After that one reluctant Board member was allowed to retire, Mr. Snitow's clients had their deal.
One other odd coincidence.
I had been called to the Manhattan District Attorney's office and I met with various attorneys working there. I had 3 meetings.
I believe that Mr. Morgenthau is as independent an elected official as can be found in NYC, so I answered any questions and provided whatever info on NYCHA corruption and/or problems that I could. At one of these meetings, there were about eight or ten people from the DA's office in attendance.
That was months ago, and I haven't head anything since. The skeptic in me cringed when I read another section of the biographical info on Mr. Snitow from the Orthodox Union site. But maybe I'm being too skeptical. You be the judge.
Here's what they report on Mr. Snitow:
"Prior to entering private practice, he was an Assistant District Attorney in the Rackets Bureau of the New York County District Attorney's Office under District Attorneys Frank S. Hogan and Robert M. Morgenthau."
The complaint we're hearing most now is not about the lack of computers, the poor conditions, the unsafe rack storage system in the materials portion or the nearly non-existent bathroom facilities for the same area.
It's the rather large rodents that greet people as they arrive to work.
ATIS (Timekeeping System)
This long-running, costly boondoggle still has many problems, and is not yet operational after all these years (even after the company put Finkel's daughter on their payroll.) Now NYCHA bemoans that timecard problems can't be cured beyond a two-week window. Here is the text from a recent CAD memo:
- To: All Field Staff
- From: Hallima Ali, Chief of Administration
- Date: February 14, 2002
- Re: Kronos System (Timecards)
Please be advised that your timecards should be received on a weekly basis. If your time is not entered in the system within the week, Your annual leave balance will automatically be reduced- The Kronos system does not allow timekeepers to adjust any missing data after two weeks. The timekeepers need to enter the information weekly for those employees who are unable to swipe. Please make every effort to send in your time cards on a weekly basis. This will enable the timekeepers to adjust your accrued annual leave properly.
© 2002 Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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