YONKERS, NY – July 4, 2012 — Yonkers Inspector General Kitley S. Covill issued her initial report about the Yonkers Board of Education Board of Trustees after they had cast their vote extending Yonkers Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio's contract illegally. She took office on June 11, 2012, and her report, issued July 2, 2012 was her first official finding. In that report, she revealed the substantive errors first divulged by the Yonkers Tribune to have transpired by a vote of 7 trustees for and 2 abstentions by the Yonkers Board of Education Trustees. That vote, under the aegis of YBoE President Paresh Patel, in which Yonkers Public School Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio’s contract was extended beyond the legal constraints of law, among other concerns, would, Yonkersites were advised be revisited. Mr Patel’s conduct was telling and exposed by the ethical standards upon which I.G. Covill's guidance was afforded the Board of Trustees. Yet subtle guidance did not dissuade or diminish the temerity of the YBoE Board of Trustees and Mr Patel who advised the Board would revisit their illegal vote by conducting an updated resolution in the future that will conform to protocol and law noted by I.G. Covill. I.G. Covill not only noted the illegal passage of the first resolution by the votes cast but also for it not being publicly noticed. She further questioned why the rush to extend the contract when Superintendent Pierorazio’s contract does not expire until 2015. Mr Patel, long ago served former Mayor Phil Amicone’s Kool-Aide advises the Board will vote again, not once acceding to their illegal vote having been devoid of public input. Mr Patel is focused on correcting the vote by reducing the six (6) year illegal contract terms to five (5) years. Again, what is the rush?
The rush is the Public-Private Partnership (P3) <http://www.yonkerspublicschools.org/public-private-partnership.php>, being promoted as one of the world’s 100 most innovative urban infrastructure projects. KPMG, one of the top four most respected auditing firms in the world, revealed the P3 project at the World Cities Summit <http://www.worldcities.com.sg/> in Singapore on July 3, 2012.
The KPMG Global Infrastructure practice, in conjunction with Infrastructure Journal, published the top programs in the 2012 Infrastructure 100: World Cities Edition <http://www.kpmg.com/au/en/issuesandinsights/articlespublications/pages/infrastructure-100-world-cities-edition.aspx> . A distinguished group of industry judges selected the projects based on their scale, feasibility, complexity, innovation and impact on society. KPMG's press release announcing the top programs worldwide summarized Yonkers' selection:
"The Yonkers, New York Schools PPP – described as "gutsy" by one of the North American judges – is the first social infrastructure PPP for a public school district in the United States. It will involve the upgrade of 38 schools for the Yonkers Public School District. The US $1.7 billion project is truly unique in the United States, and if implemented correctly could be a real pathfinder for American education in an era of increasingly constrained public finances", reads the press release.
The above paragraph does not mention the North American judge. Worse, the $1.7 billion project “if implemented correctly could be a real pathfinder for American education…” The press release is devoid of how this concept may be realized, much less implemented correctly!
YPS Superintendent Pierorazio chimes in with a self-promoting paragraph noting, "We are in the business of educating children, not managing facilities. The P3 allows us to transfer the responsibility of building management to the private sector, who can do it more efficiently and, frankly, more effectively. In turn, we can concentrate on what we do best – preparing students to achieve."
The graduation rate under the erudite Mr Pierorazio's tenure is less than 50 percent. Yet Mr Pierorazio has much to say about and promoting the P3 project. He could go either way on the project. He could be for it; he could also be against it. For the YBoE Board of Trustees to cast 7 votes in favor of such an unproven, gargantuan project without revealing the numbers that will substantiate such an undertaking and the entities that will be responsible should this “gutsy” project falter is not revealed and suspect at best.
Has anyone noticed that former Mayor Phil Amicone’s guy, Andy Api, who sits on the Board is the Manchurian Candidate on the Board? Add the recently appointed John Jacono to the mix, designated so by Mayor Mike Spano, and you come to realize every “Family and Friend” scion is there to protect his interests. Mr Jacono works for Prudential Rand Commercial Real Estate. Do I hear privileged information learned and disseminated to the chosen few? Personal opportunity abounds for those connected.
The press release then enters into substantiating the need for rejuvenating the education infrastructure long neglected by one administration after another. It states, “Despite receiving high marks for school quality and program initiatives, Yonkers school buildings have fallen into a state of critical disrepair. The District's buildings are the oldest in New York State; the average age is 73 years old, nine are over 95 and the oldest is 117. Ninety five percent of the buildings are deemed "unsatisfactory" by the State, and the majority were built to educational standards of a previous era – they are dark, poorly ventilated and uniformly too small. Exacerbating the problem is Yonkers' growing enrollment, currently over 25,000 students. Presently 4,000 seats short, the District is projected to grow by an additional 3,000 students within the next ten years, totaling a 7,000-seat shortfall.”
“The P3 is dedicated to the development and maintenance of the District's capital assets using a design-build-finance-maintain model.” At issue is how! The press release continues to state, “Availability payments provide a strong motivation for the private partner to make the renovations and ongoing updates necessary to deter emergency situations and provide for innovative advancements.” Did anyone understand that?
"The P3 model is a viable solution to the ongoing financial constraints that have limited our ability to provide our students with the modern, well-maintained learning environments they deserve," said Yonkers Board of Education President Paresh Patel.
How sweet, Mr Patel again. Explain how the P3 model is a viable solution. Where are the figures to substantiate his thesis? Mr. Patel continues to emphasis "We have outlined a three-phase, 15-year Educational Facilities Plan to refurbish our schools, and the P3 is critical to its success." Where is it? Was it publicly disseminated? Where is the three-phase plan? Who paid for it? Out of what line in the budget was this authorized? What fiscal year? 2011? 2012? Earlier? Later?
The press release then goes on to state, “As the fourth largest school district in New York, Yonkers provides a unique opportunity for private funds looking for long-term investments.” Interesting thought, yet this same rationale has stood at a standstill with regard to economic development projects? Why has it failed there and will supposedly work here?
The sweetener is the statement that follows next, “Furthermore, as currently planned, Phase I of the District's $1.7 billion Educational Facilities Plan will create 13,000 jobs. And you guarantee this how? Lies, lies, and more lies. When will the liars shut their mouths. Promise them anything and everything and deliver on nothing is the mantra even Mr Patel, among others, have learned to loquaciously state. Shame on you? This is not a Madison Avenue marketing exercise. This is the lives of Yonkersites who have been played for years. Trying to sell another bill of goods? Show us the numbers. Trash the hype? Who will pay the bills should this fail? How much is public and how much of an investment is private?
The press release advises, “In March, Yonkers Public Schools completed the initial step of the P3 project, selecting the team of Macquarie Capital, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, and URS Corporation as financial, legal, and technical advisors. The team is highly experienced in US P3 transactions and has been involved in every major US P3 transaction with similar financing to Yonkers' project. The advisors will use their extensive expertise to assess the feasibility of Yonkers' plan.”
Let’s decipher the above. Three months after the intitial step of the P3 project was completed, Macquarie Capital was chosen. The bank has a great reputation. They are an international bank whose origins are Australian and Canadian. I won’t bother to look it up further. What is their role?How much did Yonkers spend to get them? What are the contractual agreements with Macquarie Capital? What is their cut?
Who are Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP? Who is URS Corporation? These are not familiar names to most people. Why no resume and proof of integrity? What is their cut? Where is an explanation of this deal? Where is the financing? Who are the private investors / developers?
Superintendent Pierorazio asserts he is optimistic about the P3 project but he has yet to work out the figures. Why is that? How can you be sure of success when you do not possess the rationale to prove the concept? "For as education goes, so does the City of Yonkers", said Mr Pierorazio.
How right he is. When will the Yonkers BoE educate Yonkersites to the integrity and veracity of this unproven folly? Let’s see the figures? Could they be right? If so, it would be a "first".
At issue now is only whether Yonkersites will approve the dog and pony show to which one may infer by the “revelation” that phase one is ready to move ahead and that the deal is done. No one has a clue yet as to who will be taking off with the money? Yonkersites are wise enough to know someone will! Isn't that right? Can anyone say differently? Let’s hear it. And please, facts and figures only; no heartaches, whining, or sob stories. Just the facts. Numbers please!
I understand the rationale for searching for a solution(s) to the neglected infrastructure. We must equally expend and validate the so-called solution the YBoE calls P3. Is it real or is it another pipe dream doomed to failure and a fiasco destined to break the back of Yonkersites? Without the figures to substantiate the P3 initiative, Yonkersites are scratching their heads in wonder if this is a Pierorazio-Patel Ploy or a Private-Public Partnership in spirit, intent and execution. Do I hear a quack, quack?