The lands are ancient; steeped in history, religion, civilization, and social impact. It is among those lands that my parents chose to have children. I am one of their progeny. Many years after that birth, recently celebrated 61 years later, my focus has attended to Yonkers. Still the connections across the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea tug as tightly as ever. The self-immolation by Mohammed Bouaziz in the city of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, on December 17, 2010, was emblematic of the frustration of the unemployed university graduate who came to symbolize government abuse, lack of economic opportunity, and little choice that took place in Tunisia. Bouaziz’s final protest over the official harassment of his street-side produce business was the catalyst that has since embroiled the en
tire Middle East, from Morocco to Yemen. As distanced as we may believe we are from the desperation our Arab brethren, whether Coptic Christian, Zoroatrian, Bahai, or other faith have endured, we are not that far removed.
The arrogant role played by the now former dictator of Tunisia, Egypt’s present autocratic leader, among others within and without the Arab world, is such to have caused its people a state of psychological crisis.
The seething mental anguish Bouazizzi endured to have committed the act of suicide is but one step removed from the robbery portrayed by many who profess their benevolence to us for our vote while shunning us upon accession to office.
How can the theft of salt from the Yonkers DPW warehousing facility being conducted for what some have said to be over 5 years duration be excused? The People are seething over the theft of their taxpayer dollars. How does one explain or excuse the lack of payment by Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Pat McDow having shown no interest to make payment for services rendered in her favor for seven years by the financially precarious Yonkers Parking Authority? The People are seething over this outrageous quid pro quo scenario which brings into question every vote cast on issues concerning the public good cast by Ms McDow. The People are seething over this travesty and many others told and untold.
The People are seething over the cozy deals between Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone and those that have supported his past election efforts and those of his friends. The King Fence dilemma denied for three days by City Hall validates the seething anger that has simmered below the surface only to be expunged by another, more sexy, deflection from issues that concern us as a city. Refer to: Investigative News Breaking Report: Edward Maier Fired for Embezzling Salt Sale Proceeds By Hezi Aris
The People are seething over the promise of savings claimed to be distilled from consolidation of effort, services, or supplies that have yet to become reality. Seven years into Mayor Amicone’s Administration it is still only talk.
These concerns have hindered Egypt for three decades. Yonkers has suffered likewise even longer. We suffered by buckling under the promise for change. We were taught to believe, to be patient for those we elected to do the right thing for The People. They promised the world and delivered for themselves or their progeny and their “friends.” They learned to dismiss The People because they could. We were patiently awaiting the “change” to take place. It has yet to be revealed.
In December we were told to drop our collective jaws in awe over the Daylighing Project now taking place in Larkin Plaza. The deal was not an effort to create a travel destination as claimed for years but a vehicle by which Cappelli Enterprises, and specifically Louis Cappelli personally, can afford to pay his signature only guarantee for the HUD loan permitted him over 2 years ago and now due worth over $2 million. Should he not pay, the City of Yonkers (CoY) will have to cough up the money that will exact another 1 percent tax hike upon a burdened populace.
Mayor Amicone’s departure from office is pressured to codify by contract(s) economic development projects that serve the “Family and Friends” network. At issue is why The People are seething. Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone has shown himself and those he has instructed to be ill equipped to sit across a negotiating table proficiently adept and knowledgeable to contest for the benefit of The People of the City of Yonkers (CoY). A “deal” of benefit to The People of Coy and a “win” for the “developer” is realized every day. Haphazardly, seemingly every “deal” signed by Mayor Amicone’s Administration in the name of The People has come up wanting. He has robbed the promise and potential fir Yonkers by signing it away.
The continuing shame of it is that Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick is complicit in siding with the mayor over seemingly every development issue by his inability to ask and demand answers to salient concerns. Mr Lesnick has become the enabler to Mayor Amicone by his “non aggression” camaraderie. That is why we have relegated him “Lesnick the Liar.” Mr Lesnick asserts one thing yet invariably does not abide by his own word(s).
The seething anguish we recognize in Yonkers is the duplicity of saying one thing and having something else done in our name. There is but one on the Yonkers City Council that has shown the spunk and the intestinal fortitude to question the Emperor with no clothes. She is Councilwoman Joan Gronowski. The rest of the Yonkers City Council may find it prudent to change their course to kowtow to an inept mayor hurtful to The People they all claim to represent.
The duplicity of learning by form of a comment after the fact on the Yonkers Tribune of Yonkers Superintendent of Schools Bernard Pierorazion having his contract extended for an additional yearly sum of $30,000, now exceeding $300,000 inclusive of benefits annually is unconscionable. Yonkers Public Schools have not shown educational progress, having only decreased the number of potential pupils likely to survive to graduation.
How did we get here? Simple. We believed. We did not criticize. We waited patiently for change. Our complacency intimated weakness and non-involvement to those who we elected to make the changes they have yet to deliver.
Some have waited too long. The many examples of self-immolation attest to that fact. Others are no longer fooled by the game. Others await the winning side to become evident.
al Jazeera, the Qatari based satellite news channel that claimed to have introduced debate dominated by timid, self-censoring state media revealed itself to be restrained in its first days of coverage of the flame lit protestations in Egypt.
Similarly in Yonkers, when the embezzlement of salt from DPW facilities was revealed by the Yonkers Tribune / The Westchester Guardian on January 25, 2011, news media was played by Yonkers City Hall until January 28, 201, when they finally found they could no longer play City Hall’s game. It was that blatant. Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone and his administrative staff were besides them selves. The story we revealed was timely and factual devoid of any concerns other than to inform The People. The Yonkers Tribune / The Westchester Guardian trust in their readers, listeners, and viewers to measure the facts and deduce their own conclusions. There is no greater challenge to reporting than to bring the facts to our readers.
While the Yonkers Tribune / The Westchester Guardian extol the tenets by which they conduct themselves, we have been saddened to learn The Yonkers Insider, whose publisher / editor is Delfim Heusler, has been relegated a pariah by Mayor Amicone’s administrative action. The Yonkers Insider blog can no longer be accessible through the Internet server at Yonkers City Hall. The Yonkers Tribune has been similarly not accessible for over 6 years. When Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone left the microphone of WVOX-1460 AM radio years ago, access to www.WVOX.com was no longer permitted to be heard through the government server. Fresh in many people’s minds is the fact that the theft of The Westchester Guardian newspaper boxes at the order of Mayor Amicone was a failed unconstitutional action to which Phil Amicone is personally liable $8 million. Mayor Amicone’s retribution for critical discourse is a lesson he has yet to learn. I wonder if the WestchesterGuardian.com website is accessible through the government Internet server? Media must further step up their game of telling it like it is.
Yonkers City Councilman John Larkin when told of The Yonkers Insider being no longer accessible through the city Internet server said it was appropriate that city employees not waste their time on concerns other than government business. Were that the case and Mr Larkin did not shill the administration's line, he would need to advise why every online shopping mall in the world is accessible for shopping through the city's Internet server. Besides, how effective can government representatives be when City Hall lies to the public and its fellow employees through its own sanitized press releases that omit the truth. How can anyone search for the truth through a Google or Yahoo search for the facts. We laugh when China cuts the cord to Google from being accessible on the mainland; we abhor the denial of social media, like Twitter and Facebook in Iraq, and Egypt, and elsewhere. Mr Larkin abides by it in Yonkers. Perhaps there is no hope when our elected official can be so lacking in comprehension to what he agrees that is contrary to every tenet in America.
Must Yonkers await the seething anger to percolate to the surface for an act of self-immolation to wake us up?
Will Inspector General Dan Schorr scrutinize the Yonkers Board of Education's financial books as he was instructed to do by the Yonkers City Council? Will anyone speak up before the City of Hills is made to suffer even greater indignities by the Amicone Administration and its lackeys?
A special thank you to every acid-tongued blogger, to every person who discarded fear by trusting we would not reveal their involvement in the telling of any happenstance unless they chose to be so named. Our word is our bond! It cannot be bought. Fear must no longer govern Yonkers. Fear has been relegated to the scrap heap in Tunisia and will likely win the day in Egypt. Will fear be kicked to the curb in Yonkers?
Insha Allah (shā' Allāh); G_d willing democracy and respect of The People will come to rise in the City of Gracious living to which we all aspire.
Hezi Aris is the editor / publisher of the Yonkers Tribune and the editor of The Westchester Guardian.