Lessons Unlearned in the Past May Dismember Yonkers’ Future By Hezi Aris

eHezi Archives 17 Comments

The blood sport that defines Yonkers politics is guaranteed not to disappoint. All within and without our border who know of the City of Hills, will chuckle with derision or thrust their hands as if expecting a helping hand from above. Until that day comes to be, let us examine the protagonists that profess to have a handle on acceding to the second most powerful elected position in Yonkers. We speak of the office of Yonkers City Council President.


Before we begin, would it be too much to assert that each declared and yet to be declared candidate is in their own right a “nice” guy. May we then infer that voting “nice” guys / gals into office in the past has been an abysmal failure in reclaiming our almost forgotten moniker, that of the City of Gracious Living. Are we still in agreement? Good! The next steps will likely whet your political appetite.

Chuck Lesnick, incumbent Yonkers City Council President has completed 3 years and almost 3 months in office. He is expected to seek a second term. He will seek the endorsement of the Yonkers City Democratic Committee in its upcoming late March / early April Convention, fending any challengers to avoid a primary. Yet Dennis Robertson, the former Yonkers City Councilmember who represented the 3rd District believes he has the ability to win the convention. Were that the case, Lesnick would not be deterred to maintain his effort into the primary, expecting to dissipate Robertson’s political energy for lack of funding. Robertson counters that his ability to win the convention will catapult him to being noticed as a viable challenger, thereby garnering an infusion of funding that he believes will carry him to the primary and beyond. 

Both men have much to prove. Lesnick was brought into office by former Yonkers City Council President Richard Martinelli’s receding interest in fighting for his political office, his personal demons, and the lack of transparency in the conduct of his office. 

The demerits of Martinelli’s tenure in office are lost on Lesnick.

Forgetting his foray in government under former Yonkers Mayor Terence Zaleski, Yonkersites feigned senility, and voted one of their own into office. Martinelli proved to be a rubber stamp to present Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone. The promise of Lesnick being a formidable, yet astute counterbalance to Mayor Amicone was tattered into shreds by Lesnick even before he acceded into office. Lesnick’s conduct of alleged duplicity would be overlooked over and over again by his likeable demeanor. No matter how much anyone would be irked by his demeanor, position, or more often lack thereof, all Yonkersites wanted him to prove them wrong. Yonkers wanted him to succeed. More than three years on, Yonkers is tiring of the game. In those ensuing years, Lesnick became known to Yonkers Tribune readers as “Lesnick the Liar.” He would too often back track on his professed positions; angering everyone in the process. His legacy of being allover the map committing too little one could bank on is his Achille’s Heal; he is vulnerable, but has an unknown edge.

Robertson must explain his rubber stamp conduct in unison without question with Mayor Amicone when he was a Yonkers City Councilmember; his past alliance and political direction from former Mayor John Spencer; and his past association with publisher Sam Zherka.

Yonkers City Councilmember Dee Barbato, once persuaded to retreat from her expected challenge of Lesnick, by her very exit destroyed the solid wall of proponents for extending term limits by Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick-D, Yonkers Majority Leader Sandy Annabi-D, and Minority Leader Liam McLaughlin-R for succeeding themselves in office evaporated from their respective radar screens. On a tangential plane, Mayor Amicone believed his vision and legacy for Yonkers was best realized with 3 new councilmembers and 1 new Yonkers City Council President. To that end, the name of Jim Castro-Blanco, first ushered in hushed tones as far back as September 2008 would eventually be divulged to the public by Yonkers Tribune on December 10, 2008.

Jim Castro-Blanco would be first to publicly announce his intention to challenge Lesnick as a Republican. Barbato would pull out within a week’s time. Castro-Blanco is a lawyer, as are Lesnick, and Liam McLaughlin (more about him later). Castro-Blanco exudes an independence, steadfastness, and an ability to communicate. His forte is his potential in expunging the flaw in governance perceived by strategists in City Hall. To that end Castro-Blanco has espoused that his prowess to listen will empower him to lead a City Council devoid of rancor within their ranks and devoid of defiance or challenge to the mayor. Castro-Blanco’s initial rhetoric was met with support but has since waned for his lack of personal control over his own campaign, thereby decrying his ability to be anything but a “rubber stamp.” His political umbilical cord is tied to the financial prowess Mayor Amicone will share or lend to his candidacy. The astute Yonkers electorate is beginning to recognize a nebulous rather than a transparent demeanor by Castro-Blanco by the lack of attention being paid his candidacy. It is simply not visible. That very fact has permitted the public to re-examine the value of the concept defined by our founding fathers, that is, the counterbalance inherent in the separate but equal divisions endowed to the offices of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Castro-Blanco’s message is being translated by the electorate to mean that his conjectured leadership will be at the bidding of Mayor Amicone and not one of an independent, thinking individual. His assertion that his goal is to quell the rancor among the council and mayor is understood to mean that he is already a “rubber stamp” to the mayor. He has time to redefine his demeanor; but not too much time. His only hope is that few know him still.

It has also been suggested that Minority Leader Liam McLaughlin is seriously considering challenging both Lesnick and Castro-Blanco. McLaughlin is also a likeable guy. People love him, hate him, love him. His only hope to conduct a viable candidacy is to win support of the Westchester Independence Party. He has been an insider with Spencer and Amicone. He has grown more astute since his tenure in office. He must also distance his past from his intended future.

Westchester County Conservative Chairperson Gail Burns, employed by Yonkers Mayor Amicone may be pressured to support Mayor Amicone’s choice for City Council President, Castro Blanco.

The battle lines will be drawn. Lesnick or Robertson, endorsed by the Democrats, Castro Blanco endorsed by the Republicans and Conservatives, and McLaughlin endorsed by the Indendence Party, and possibly even the Conservatives if the Yonkers Firefighters who control the Yonkers City Conservative Committee back McLaughlin locally, diminishing Burns’ wiggle room on the county level.

The setup looks chao
tic but in reality the fix is in. Divergent sources reveal that Nick Spano has chosen Lesnick, even bringing Yonkers City Committee Chairman Ken Jenkins to reluctantly support Lesnick. Former Senator Nick Spano’s interest is getting a promise from Lesnick not to challenge his brother and Assemblyman Mike Spano from succeeding Mayor Amicone in office. 

Amicone will cuss for public consumption but eventually submit, and Castro-Blanco may become untethered in the process.

McLaughlin may rise to the top.

Still this is Yonkers. In Yonkers, 8 months is a lifetime.

Each contender has the task of making amends for the past and launching a credible and believable candidacy with future promise. Yonkers wishes each well but with a caveat. That is, they had best be concerned about serving the public. Yonkersites have learned to see through and beyond their elected officials. We will not be fooled. The ball is equidistant to each one of them; but it is our court, and it is our ball. And, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, there are more of us than there are of you.

Play ball! This is not a game. It is our lives, our future; be careful how you tread. 

eHeziLessons Unlearned in the Past May Dismember Yonkers’ Future By Hezi Aris

Comments 17

  1. As for the alleged trumped-up investigation, there is no factual support for the conclusory, implausible and far-fetched allegations that some “complaint” about Zherka was provided to DiFiore, who passed it to her husband, who passed it to a Manhattan ADA, all of whom knew it was false but agreed that a phony investigation of Zherka should ensue for the purpose of retaliating against Plaintiff for her support of Robertson. The allegation that DiFiore’s husband is a friend of the ADA likewise has no factual support But even if that allegation were properly supported, the only factual material about the investigation makes plain that the alleged investigation is of Zherka, not Plaintiff. It is thus hard to imagine.
    Taken from the decision of Judge Seibell in the O’Neil vs. Edelman case recently decided
    at bottom of page 13 an top of page 14

  2. Hezi hit the nail on the head about Castro-Blanco’s allegiance to the Mayor. His campaign is being run right out of the second floor of City Hall with Fleming, Sculti, JC and Simpson running the show. The electorate will not be fooled. Castro-Blanco and Amicone can deny it all they want. It’s a fact! For the remainder of the Mayor’s term – it will be two years of whatever Philly wants Philly gets if Castro Blanco get in. Castro-Blanco will owe him big time.

  3. Everybody talks about job creation from the sfc project,what makes anyone think that the “thousands” of people employed during this farce are Yonkers residents?If they decide to go union,the majority of employees are going to be out of the NYC locals and westchester members(hand-full of yonkers labor).If they go non-union,most labor is going to be our yonkers ave. loiterers,brewster, and Mt.Kisco NON-TAX payer labor.

  4. Okay Hezi, my first ever blog. I hope it doesn’t become an addiction; although you can be sure I will always sign my name.
    You suggest that I must explain my rubber stamp for Phil Amicone, my alliance with John Spencer and my past association to Sam Zherka. Very simple. First of all Phil Amicone and I campaigned on essentially the same platform in 2003 and we both won, therefore, it would make sense that I supported his agenda for my first two years on council. When he changed direction and began taking the city down the road to financial disaster I had the courage to speak up and even had the guts to challenge his re-election. Btw I was right, wasn’t I?
    My alliance with John Spencer is actually called friendship. Many people can’t comprehend this concept, but if you have ever had a true friend then you understand what I mean.
    As for Sam Zherka, well that’s a good question. I didn’t even know this person until I was well into the mayor’s race and he appeared on the scene for me after his candidate, Nader Sayegh, was thrown off the ballot. i think it is fairly obvious he is anti Amicone and was never pro Robertson.
    As for my challenge of the current CCP at the upcoming Democratic convention…well… I think that should be obvious… this city is in dire need of strong, honest leadership. I have been meeting with and speaking to many of my party leaders over the past several months and have been encouraged enough to continue. I, like most good Democrats am only interested in maintaining the majority on the Yonkers city council. If at our convention April 23rd they decide I am their best chance of making that happen I will give them a 100 per cent effort. Quite frankly,as most people know, I love Yonkers and I love politics and if called to serve, I’m there.
    Keep up the good work Hezi. I appreciate always your attempts to get at the truth and trying to get it right.
    Enjoy the parade!!!
    Dennis Robertson

  5. Exactly right 4:32! Lesnick kept throwing SFC under the bus, whispering this way or that as if he had some kind of proper strategy – no – he was sinking the whole thing by his “leadership.”
    We need someone very serious on the council. Time for Castro-Blanco. Perhaps Lesnick can go into theatre productions instead.

  6. Lesnick had NOTHING to do with the approved Finding other than to slooow it doowwnn!
    The lack of lawsuits is because SFC settled things with American Sugar by assuring them the plant can co-exist with develoment and because Scenic Hudson has no traction in Yonkers.
    The vast majority of the city wants the SFC project to be built…and if Lesnick had just led the council to move things along, Yonkers would be the envy of all with construction jobs and business activity during this difficult economic time.

  7. Lesnick has done a good job with all of the large development projects. The fact that 120 days have passed since the council has approved the FEIS and no one has sued speeks well to Lesnick’s position that by crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” and allowing maximum participation the process actually went quicker with no lawsuit. That will diffuse one of Castro-Blanc’s campaign issues since hewould have approved the FEIS instantly with little review.

  8. Today in his Journal News column, Phil Reisman accurately called Zherka “discredited sleaze.”
    So what does that say about those who cozy up to Zherka, like Robertson and Lesnick’s staff?

  9. Lesnick has to go. Castro-Blanco has to come in. As for McLaughlin and Robertson, forget it. Two throwbacks to John Spencer, and in Robertson’s case, there is the BIG Zherka factor.
    Lesnick has a Zherka problem too via his staff.

  10. the above poster has identitified the problem with chuck lesnick..nice enough
    person but he has absolutely no ability
    to lead…castro blanco is a born leader

  11. Lesnick was supposed to be Martinelli
    Joan was suppoosed to be Hallevey
    had that happened the Rubber stamp would have had crains in the air by now & a shovel ready project would be reality 2 yrs ago.
    If the Council president is that important of a Job you CANNNNNNOT let a hump like Lesnick be re-elected. Even Chcuck knows in his little heart of hearts that he has no ability to be a Leader…he can be a good little helper w his law degree or whatever but a face, a leader, a policy make NO SHOT….NO GOOD. NO nothing!

  12. Robersome and McLaughlin, the terrible twins of the City Council.
    Questions must be asked of Robbersome, as to how he got the “cleaning” gig at the racino?
    Ah! the City of Conflicts, where nothing or nobody is in conflict, yet they all get into the same bed!!!!

  13. I don’t think the firefighters will support Liam. They had quite a few shouting matches at city council meetings and it’s on tape. Some support that is. If that is communication…..geez.
    Can’t stand the thought of another Lesnick term! Must have Castro-Blanco. His campaign hasn’t been kicked off yet, so in time we’ll see more of him, and I feel confident the public will like what they see and hear from him. He’s about genuine public service. Lesnick is about self-promotion and tried to rope me into this game, and I’m not playing it. Must have Castro-Blanco, who is serious. Yonkers needs a break from self-serving politicians.

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