Statement from Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to Yonkers City Council and Education Committee

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Stewart-Cousins_Andrea - closeupYONKERS, NY – March 26, 2014 – “There have been serious lapses of fiscal transparency and accountability within the City of Yonkers school system which must be remedied and reformed. As a representative of the City of Yonkers, I reiterate my call to give the community, parents and stakeholders an opportunity to be part of the process and discussion.
“I continue to work in partnership with Senator Latimer, the State Assembly and the Governor’s office, to help the City out of this current fiscal crisis. However, the discussion about school governance and mayoral control requires much more input from the community. The process that New York City followed when they approved Mayoral control is the only other example we can draw from and we ought to take a page out of their book.

“In the fall of 2001, the Speaker of the Assembly created an advisory committee to analyze and make recommendations on this issue for New York City. The bill that authorized mayoral control reflects information learned through that process and included a sunset provision.

“In 2007, two years before the law sunset, the New York City Council convened a working group on Mayoral control and school governance. The group held public hearings, met with stakeholders and took two years before issuing a report in June 2009.

“In 2008, the New York State Senate created a second task force which held 7 more hearings on the topic throughout that year.

“In 2009, when the law was scheduled to be renewed, there were 5 additional hearings held by the Assembly Education committee where hundreds of people invested in the public school system testified about mayoral control and school governance.

“It is clear there is a need for a broader discussion on reforms to the Yonkers school system, including governance issues, but this discussion must include the people of Yonkers along with those who represent them. The people of Yonkers deserve no less inclusion or respect than the people of New York City.

“Senator George Latimer concurs with this statement.

“Thank you.”

This statement was read on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, to the Yonkers City Council by John Tomlin, Deputy Chief of Staff to Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

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eHeziStatement from Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to Yonkers City Council and Education Committee

Comments 7

  1. One termer

    Who said all political roads in Westchester eventually lead to Yonkers? Maybe I said it.

    But here is an addendum: All roads in Yonkers lead to Nick Spano, the jovial, back-slapping lobbyist and former Republican state senator who is the older brother of the mayor, Mike Spano.

    Last summer Nick was released from federal prison after serving 10 months for income tax fraud — and ever since he’s been working hard to resurrect his business, Empire Strategic Planning, a lobbying concern with many clients in Yonkers.

    Anonymous grumblers love to say that Nick is really running the city. That may be an exaggeration, but questions about the extent of his involvement in day to day decision making are always out there. For when it comes to Yonkers, it’s all in the family for Nick.

    Things big and small don’t just happen by accident in Yonkers. The city works on connections, relationships, the granting of favors and the dispensing of jobs — many of which go to members of the vast Spano family and their cronies.

    Putting together a comprehensive Spano flow chart would be a daunting task.

    It would obviously include City Clerk Vincent Spano, Nick and Mike’s kid brother, who last week married Jaime McGill, the executive director of the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency. McGill was given the $85,000-a-year job after serving in 2013 as the campaign manager for City Council President Liam McLaughlin.

    Then there’s Kelly Olson Chiarella, the sister of Yonkers PBA president Keith Olson. In January, Chiarella was named assistant to the mayor, constituent services, for the Office of the Aging. The $90,000 job amounted to a promotion and a boost in pay for Chiarella who worked for Gail Burns, the former head of the Westchester Conservative Party and a longtime aide to Nick.

    Chiarella’s promotion followed the city’s contract negotiations with the police, which resulted in a 23.5 percent pay raise spread over 10 years retroactive to 2009. Was this merely a coincidence?

    Back to Gail Burns for a second. After she was ousted from her party chairmanship in a 2011 coup, the Westchester County Board of Legislators under then-chairman Ken Jenkins gave her a three-month job of dubious importance for $15,000. In January of this year, the Spano machine made Jenkins president of the IDA, a part-time gig that pays $60,000 in addition to his other part-time job as a $49,200-a-year Yonkers legislator.

    Connecting the political dots in Yonkers is a fun pastime. Somebody should turn it into a Milton Bradley board game — one that includes a get-out-of-jail card.

    Speaking of jail, two months after he was freed from federal bondage, Nick received judicial permission to socialize with Paul Adler, the former chairman of the Rockland Democratic Party. The two men worked together at a real estate company after Nick left the state Senate. That’s not all they had in common. In 2002, Adler pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion and served 17 months in prison.

    Since his release in 2004, Adler has done much to rehabilitate his public image. He has performed numerous acts of charity and became vice president of Rand Commercial Services, a large and distinguished real estate firm.

    Last year, Yonkers put the 87-year-old former city jail on the riverfront on the market for $2.5 million with the idea that it would be re-purposed for commercial use. The dilapidated building was sold for $1 million to Daniel Wolf, an art and photography dealer who enlisted his wife, the renowned artist and architect Maya Lin, to design the space.

    Rand Commercial Services brokered the sale, which was approved by the Yonkers City Council in December.

    Neither Nick nor Adler were directly involved in the property negotiations. They didn’t show up for the photo-ops when the deal was done. Call the whole thing a coincidence if you like — or not. Just remember where all the roads go in Yonkers.

    But the blogosphere has linked them in another important way. Both have reportedly emailed invitations to “friends” to next week’s election fundraiser for Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Tarrytown. Tickets to the event start at $1,000, but go as high as $25,000.

    This is rich sauce indeed for a man who was sipping prison gruel less than a year ago. It looked like Nick was on a road to perdition.

    Ah, but see what happened? Nick took a fork in the road, which led back to where the favors are doled out and the chits called in.


      OMB how many of you posters are going to plagiarize Phil Reisman’s column, actually taken from past columns of the Yonkers Tribune??? Have you no shame?

  2. Union and proud of it

    You expect her to start doing her job now, after almost ten years up in Albany. Name one thing she has ever done for Yonkers. She doesn’t care about Yonkers because she knows she will get re elected anyway. Useless would be too kind of a word to describe her tenure.

  3. harvey

    transparency is just great but how about using your leadership position to secure additional money for our kids ! we have one quidance counselor for 750 kids. we need action and money from you guys in the capitol….the new york city experience has nothing to do with this. Stop making excuses and do your job!!!!!

    1. Service

      Sen Cousins has her flunky in the Yonkers City Council attempting to her bidding-this from a guy who just moved to Yonkers just years ago & gets elected-what does that say for his district.

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