Hurricane Ida Exacts Damage in Yonkers’ “Sewer Department”
By Hezi Aris

eHezi Culture, Governance, History, People, Politics 19 Comments

The  “Sewer Department” Hezitorial 

Yonkers Tribune Publisher/Editor Hezi Aris

YONKERS, NY — OCTOBER 13, 2021 — Warnings of Hurricane Ida’s pending ferocity was unequivocal. What was certain was that Ida would arrive; the exact location was unclear. As Ida meandered along the path of her choosing many communities more often prone to the horrific aftermath of hurricanes took whatever best practice precautions available. Yonkers was but just one of the many communities in the southern part of Westchester County to suffer her gargantuan prowess. Ida unleashed rain soaked winds, floods, and mud slides. Each aspect of her capacity would bring about flooding, as well as resultant mud-damaged homes, garages, business locations, and government facilities.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and Commissioner Tom Meier celebrate DPW Day. Archival photo.

Yet the Yonkers Department of Public Works was silent about what they didn’t do, and worse still, they never divulged that there was any damage to the department’s equipment. Based on their silence, one could conceivably surmise that the equipment and facilities were not damaged, but alas there was much damage.

DPW Commissioner Thomas Meier, and Deputy Commissioner Sam Borelli, remained and still remain mum despite the fact that they have written of “Our Mission” as noted on the City of Yonkers Website.

Under “Our Mission” the following is expressed:

“The mission of the Department of Public Works is to protect the public health, safety, and welfare through proactive planning and implementation of policies designed to provide high levels of critical services and to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of the City of Yonkers.”

Sadly, they engaged in no “proactive planning” as will be noted herein. So far, no accounting of any equipment damage has been forthcoming.

They have also declared “Our Goals”. The salient and pertinent issues in this telling is that despite what they have written:

To provide quick and efficient communications for all citizens inquiries and requests.” No Communication was ever publicly disseminated. Were it not for some concerned Yonkersites, the Yonkers Tribune would be unaware and the financial burden to replace and fix damaged equipment would be unknown. The financial burden will eventually come to pass when the budget will need to be defined without ever an admission of incompetence from the department’s hierarchy.

To provide all City Departments with maintained vehicles and equipment vital to providing critical city services.” Interestingly, because neither the Commissioner nor the Deputy Commissioner either did not have a plan, nor upon learning of the warning of Ida, no plan was ever devised. But the wording is part of the subterfuge and cannot be tolerated any more. It has been going on for years.

Then we learn further that their mission is “To constantly strive to efficiently apply the best possible management and technology, at the lowest possible cost, to achieve the most effective results.” The audacity here is that the commissioners assert that they will engage in “the best possible management”. The warnings were pronounced. There was no timidity in the telling of Ida’s enormity. The Commissioners were absent, or simply never took the time to plan in advance, and certainly they did not plan for the pending hurricane. As for costs, their lack of advance planning and/or emergency planning has been the cause of damage that should never have transpired.

Yonkersites who informed the Yonkers Tribune were on target. The equipment that was damaged was never validated in all its  entirety by City Hall. Instead, City Hall’s response was dismissive and obtuse in language and derisive in attitude as was evident in the language by which they admitted obtusely that “something” did happen without ever advising what damage was caused except for one item. That item was that a specialized truck suffered water damage to the mother board. When City Hall was approached we suggested that the one damaged truck we were aware of suffered damage that may amount to a cost of $500,000. They adamantly denied that was the case, but they never informed of the cost for that mother board, nor if any other vehicles suffered similar damage.

The basis for this telling is quite simple, despite the warnings Hurricane Ida might cause, the simplest “plan” to avoid damage was to first move all vehicles from their low lying home, known as the “Sewer Department” which is located at one of the lowest points in Yonkers, along Saw Mill River Road. Flooding was fierce and yet could have been avoided had the equipment been moved to high ground. Where you say? Easy! Take the equipment and park it along Central Avenue! Simple but effective.

The takeaway is simple, The DPW Commissioners believe their silence will mitigate any inquiry and thereby be forgotten in time by their lack of response. Perhaps that was true in the past. Perhaps it was that the Yonkers Tribune tried to cover more than it should instead of sticking to one story a day, perhaps two. The YT is a one-man operation and I cannot be everywhere and cover every place. To my failing our readers, my sincerest apology.

The reason this telling is important is because when Governor Kathleen Hochul came to Yonkers she advised that she came prepared. She publicly announced that she had made a call to President Joe Biden and that he had agreed to offer financial aid, and FEMA’s capacity and expertise. She was prepared! Have DPW/City Hall filed for financial aid with this regard? Not a word!!!

Who will review the verbose eloquence but meaningless “mumbo jumbo” of DPW’s mission statement.

DPW and other departments must not cower to cover up a circumstance such as Hurricane Ida caused. What DPW did was cover up their lack of advance planning, and emergency planning. That is to their shame. The taxpayer will have to pay for their delinquency and lack of management skills which has been known for years.

It seems incongruous to me that after all these years on the beat in Yonkers, 21 years so far, that Yonkers has not learned to contend with crises on the one hand, and yet is equally incapable of celebrating its success.

Were it not for Yonkersites who love Yonkers as much as they do, we could not deliver the issues that are relevant to every resident, whether positive or negative.

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This Hezitorial may sound angry to some but it is in reality simply my disappointment in the never ending saga and conduct of deceit!

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It’s quite simple, if you know something, say something. Direct email to WHYTeditor@gmail.com

eHeziHurricane Ida Exacts Damage in Yonkers’ “Sewer Department”
By Hezi Aris

Comments 19

  1. Everyone always assumes that the private sector would get things done cheaper…I manage contracts for a government agency (not the City of Yonkers), and in my experience you may not save the money you think you would by putting companies with a profit motive in charge. Some functions may make sense to shop out but some can be done way cheaper in house assuming you hire qualified staff. I think the real issue in the public sector is oftentimes a lack of oversight/accountability for employees, or putting unqualified people in important positions. Just my two cents…go ahead and yell at me now…

    1. COY should put out RFB for trash pick up,street cleaning, cleaning schools .They don’t have to go with it unless the price is right.

  2. Hezi I usually respect your reporting, but in this case, I think you should be ashamed. Where the hell did you get this supposed information from? You say that the Yonkers DPW leadership knew what Ida was bringing. That is patently false. Prediction at 4pm was 3-4 inches of rain, not 8 or more. No one had an inkling of how bad it would get. And maybe you didn’t happen to see the news following the storm, and see the massive destruction and death caused by this storm. There was absolutely nothing that could have been done by anyone to hold back that volume of water, absolutely nothing. So, Hezi, for you to intimate somehow that things were mismanaged, is not only wrong, but petty as well. You’re better than this. It must have been a slow news day at The Yonkers Tribune.

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      youndon’tbgetbit. The remedy before Ida’s assault was and will always remain to move from low ground to high ground. Kindly, Hezi

      1. Hezi, I think that’s a little presumptuous in the City of Hills. (Also note that many of the most dense, and poorest parts of the city are in the lowest-lying areas.) You’re right that from a practical perspective, you want to be on the highest ground possible, but that simply isn’t an option for much of the city. Cities down south get flooded every year by hurricanes, despite the Army, local and state government, et al’s best efforts, in the full knowledge that they get hit every single year by hurricanes. Flood preparedness is important, particularly in light of global warming, and you raise good points, but to say that the solution is for everybody to just get to higher ground is simply wrong.

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  3. How would you like to park these vehicles somewhere to keep them safe when anything that was damaged was working on the issue at hand?

    1. Joe Nolan should be off city of Yonkers pay roll. One day he works ,the other he’s in his army suit drinking at Murphy’s law

      Proud army mom

  4. I thought Sam Borelli was directly responsible for what goes on in the sewer department. I guess Tara`s bar was to noisy to make a phone call to move the equipment to higher ground

  5. DPW Commissioner Meier is a shill. He can play his political games against Khader. That’s how he keeps his job. He endorsed Lapesha Collins-Belomy to make the mayor happy, even though incumbent Mike Khader received 86% of the district leader vote. He will keep his job because he is teh mayor’s political flunky, like the rest of the council

  6. This is so on point Hezi, everything you point out is so true and obvious. We really need an independent audit of all City of Yonkers departments, and I really mean” INDEPENDENT”. To watch them “work” around the city at times can be maddening. Once again the buck has to stop with the Mayor, and he obviously does not hold anyone accountable, including himself.

    I would love a cost analysis of how much it would cost to farm out much of the work. I bet we could save a fortune, but of course that would end the friends and family club. A friend talking about Yonkers many departments asked me why is it that they all have attitudes that he didn’t get in other places throughout the county. I told him ask the Mayor….and explained it’s the culture…. He laughed!!!!

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