Awaiting a Plan of Purpose, Resolve, and Transparency
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s FY2012-2013 Proposed Budget engages the sitting Yonkers City Council in a methodology meant to scrutinize the budget line by line, and in so doing, extrapolating purpose and credibility of each defined designation. The purpose of the Yonkers City Council toward that end is for all intent and purpose consuming of their time. The Yonkers City Council of 2012 installed three new members. Christopher Johnson (D-District 1), and Michael Sabatino (D-District 3), and Michael Breen (R-District 5, expressed their individual resolve to bring leadership to their role. They each advised that the City of Yonkers demanded leadership and each believed they had the maturity and the wisdom to infuse government with the needs, demands, and wherewithal required in serving the public good transparently. Mike Spano, during his election campaign effort for Mayor of Yonkers, impressed the electorate with his effervescent personality, desire to serve, and his promise to retreat from the dysfunction that has exhausted the City of Yonkers and its citizenry. Despite the facts, the tales told were nothing more than bold and simply self-delusional. At issue is who is being served? It’s your money; shouldn’t you be in the know?
Mayor Mike Spano’s FY2012-2013 Budget earned the support of each Yonkers City Councilman. Not one of them questioned from what source an $89 million shortfall was derived. When an additional $20 million addendum was added to the final budget, no explanation was given as to how these funds materialized. Nick DeDantis, of the accounting firm of Bennett Kielson Storch DeSantis & Company LLP of White Plains, New York, scrutinized the budget for the benefit of the Mayor of Yonkers and the Yonkers City Council. He may best be referred to a “magician” with the clout of a Certified Public Accountant that serves to fan the smoke and mirrors that sustain hiding the true financial standing of the City of Yonkers (CoY) from the public. Mr DeSantis has become adept at maintaining an opaque demeanor of the numbers that are the People’s business from ever reaching those governed by this administration and city council and those from the past.
Worse still is that the Yonkers Board of Education (YBoE) who consume over 50 percent of the budget are afforded the ability to transfer “their” percentage of the funding using CoY as a conduit to that end. How could the Yonkers City Council agree to fund the YBoE whose budget requests are not yet fully defined in their budget requests of CoY? They claim to still be putting numbers to paper. Did someone say “convoluted”?
No matter, a 7-0 unanimous vote of support for an unsustainable budget was celebrated with a private party for Mayor Mike Spano and the Yonkers City Council membership at Giulio’s Restaurant, located at 53 Park Hill Avenue. Giulio’s is a haunt of the Spano family dating back decades. The cost of dinner had to exceed $2,000.00. Under what line in the Yonkers budget does this extravagance fall? What were they celebrating? To a man, did any of them comprehend the scam formalized by their vote? Without hesitancy, it can be said that not one of them understands the budget over which they cast a vote of approval. Let’s see the bill paid Giulio’s Restaurant? On whose credit card was this bill paid?
What are the revenue sources by which a “repeat” of the dire fiscal constraint Yonkers presently suffers will not again insinuate itself on Yonkers financial circumstances? We have not collected one cent from those businesses delinquent in paying their respective real estate taxes; some for as much as 40 years? The 2012 Yonkers City Council had Yonkers Corporation Counsel engage an outsourced firm to collect those arrears. Nothing has yet been garnered. Vendors who have employed services rendered to their benefit have also not paid. CoY has picked up the cost of paying Yonkers Police Department personnel to that end. Vendors continue to be served at the taxpayer’s expense.
Yonkers Tribune years ago advised that the Yonkers Parking Authority engaged in practices that served select businesses with perks denied others. Zuppa’s Restaurant was afforded the ability to park as many cars as they chose at the Buena Vista Parking lot and also to use Main Street as their private parking lot at no cost, and no Parking Violations Bureau personnel were permitted on Main Street to ticket any offenders. Zuppa’s cost to the YPA was a total sum of $250 per month. An individual parking contract costs about $100 per month. Based on the cars that arrive at Zuppa’s every day on calculations devised four years go, Zuppa’s earns over $100,000.00 on parking benefits alone. Now Yonkers Tribune has learned that Zuppa’s no longer pays the $7,000 per month rental to CoY since the city took back ownership of The Gazette Building within which Zuppa’s operates. By affording Zuppa’s Restaurant such subsidy will the payoff be two or three fundraising efforts at Zuppa’s Restaurant without cost to Mayor Mike Spano and his friends? Think about it.
Has the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce also earned such a sweet deal? They are also tenants at 55 Main Street. Why aren’t these “deals” divulged? Why are they hidden from the public? What subsidies do they get?
When Yonkers Tribune exposed Cappelli Enterprises having not paid a $391,000 installment payment overdue to CoY based on a HUD 108 loan to which they were threatened to receive a default judgment for lack of payment, they relented and paid. Yonkers Tribune has learned that every developer in Yonkers is in arrears. When questioned to that end, Yonkers Communications Director Christina Gilmartin advised she is too busy to respond with facts preferring to insist that the issue is being addressed; that patience is requested. Six months later, the answers are yet to be parsed. The amounts developers owe is obscene. It’s time Yonkers City Hall put up or shut up.
Cotter owes the city money. He hasn’t paid. When will CoY delineate the sums owed Yonkers. Collins owes money. City Hall claims it does not want to embarrass the developers. Does City Hall exhibit such empathy when Yonkersites are demanded to pay their taxes, rents, mortgages, etc.? Why is Mayor Mike Spano protecting the likes of former Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone and John Spencer. Was he ever engaged in those deals? If not, let's find out what the past administrations did once and for all. It's time to protect The People, not those that stole, extorted, or benefitted by keeping the public in the dark!
Will New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli fall for this shabbily put together budget approved by those incompetent to judge its veracity? Is he part of the problem? He has yet to go beyond threats of admonition. Even his bark has become weak and monotonously redundant.
The protagonists that ply the public with false promises and hope serve themselves, not the public good. The patronage jobs have exceeded the ability of Yonkers to pay. Yonkers will continue to be raped by each who claims to serve an image that has become tattered by those who assert they serve The People. At issue is the result; not the personalities that impose visions of deceit upon a trusting public who are exhausted by the subterfuge and the drama and blood letting that seems to maintain Yonkers in stasis. No matter the demeanor, the protagonists believe they have done their best. The pity is they do not know they have missed the bar of excellence the public expects them to deliver. The perception is wanting, so is the self-congratulation.
The prognosis is more of the same. The economic crisis will likely endure, economic development will produce few jobs, unsuspectingly paid by taxpayers, without their knowledge. The Yonkers Industrial Development Agency will pay with funds commandeered from the city coffers without reference to their source(s) despite the funding to have been taken from private sources. We are talking over $700,000.00 out of the city’s coffers. Yonkers Tribune has inquired about this since the first days of the administration and has yet to get a lucid and succinct response. The harangue is that they are working on it.
Six months on, Yonkers is in dire straights. No remedy has been found, much lest contemplated. The benevolence of leadership Yonkers needs has proven itself non-existent.
When New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo came to The Polish to endorse the candidacy of then NYS Assemblyman Mike Spano’s campaign effort for Mayor of Yonkers, Governor Cuomo said he knew the people who speak of Yonkers in negative terms were wrong about the city. He was on the mark. Lost on him is the fact that Yonkersites are not negative about Yonkers. Yonkersites are negative about those who stand for office, offering Yonkersites little choice between one inept character and the other.
Yonkers needs leaders who know the difference between good enough and excellence, can weather criticism with pertinent and respectful discourse, and have attuned themselves to the intent of the American democratic process that is the envy of the world on paper, rather than focusing their attention and energy to skirt its tenets. Is there one among those who reside in Yonkers worthy of the task at hand? The mediocre need not stand.