Monday, December 21, 2009



Mayor Clinton Young may be trying to pull a fast one in order to sway public opinion back his way. Last Wednesday his office put out a frantic press release emphatically stating that he is against any proposal increasing tax liability beyond 3.99 percent for fiscal year 2010 and accused the Comptroller and the City Council President of obstructing the budget process progress.

By now most citizens have heard or read that City Councilman Bill Randolph did a 180 during last week's Board of Estimate and Contract meeting. After voting in favor of the 2010 Proposed Annual Budget for the City of Mount Vernon only weeks before, he suddenly decided that the document needed further study before the Board of Estimate and Contract officially voted in favor of it in so the document could hurredly go to the City Council for Public Hearing and approval. Both Councilman Randolph and Comptroller Walker refused to vote on Mayor Young's revisions to the original document presented at the Public Hearing of December 16, 2009. The revisions failed to restore some positions that are needed by departments or could expose taxpayers to liability from lawsuits. 

According to the mayor's press release, 10 positions were restored to the budget. Of the 15 not restored, RoadRunner has identified the following positions that may trigger legal action by affected employees. Citizens need to fully understand that funds to defend current and potential claims have been under budgeted and the city's reserves have been tapped, maying any potential claims financially burdening. 

A1420.101            1st Assistant Corporation Counsel
Employee removal from budget is said to be in retaliation for employee running a campaign against the Mayor's choice for City Court Judge. Although employee is alleged to be one of the most productive attorneys in the Law Department and is responsible for saving taxpayers millions of dollars, Mayor Young considers employee untrustworthy.

A1315.101            Chief Accountant, Department Finance
Retaliation against Comptroller Maureen Walker's refusal to transfer one of two Chief Accountants (Civil Service employee) to the office of Mayor Young's sister, Mary Young in the Department of Management Services.

A1410.101            Deputy Registrar, Office of the City Clerk
It is alleged that appointed employee's significant other had harassment charges filed against him after attempting to speak with George Brown regarding harsh treatment of employee by Mr. Brown. The City Clerk is now said to have an order of protection in effect against him by the gentleman in question.

A3640.101            Typist, Civil Defense
Employee is senior citizen nearing retirement who was assigned work for Civil Defense Department and Veterans Service Agency in Civil Service position.

A7020.101            Senior Clerk, Recreation
Employee, Civil Service Union officer, allegedly retaliated against for addressing alleged improprieties occurring within the Civil Service Commission.

Any revision to the Proposed 2010 Budget must be made available for public inspection once those changes are made. The public has to be given the opportunity to review any and all revisions that the City Council will vote upon after its public hearing. There is no doubt that the City of Mount Vernon has failed miserably in advising to the public on the 2010 Budget process and has failed to post timely notices regarding meetings. RoadRunner has been unable to obtain a copy changes because no revised document seems to have been made for public inspection.

Sudden commonsense thinking on the part of Councilman Bill Randolph, whether the result of the large turnout of citizens and employees at the Public Hearing of December 16th; the upcoming court appearance on a citizen filed Order to Show Cause on Budget meeting notification; rumors of the Councilman being considered for the City Clerk position or as the new head of the Democratic Party has worked to the advantage of citizens. Councilman Randolph finally shut up and did something in the best interest of the citizens of Mount Vernon. He said, "No" and the mayor went ballistic. Something is seriously wrong when a mayor refuses to do the right thing because his feelings have been hurt, he can't get what he wants or because he is so vindictive that he doesn't care about anyone other than himself.  

Mayor Young, in predictable fashion, is said to be appointing one of his faithful followers to the Mount Vernon Board of Water Supply, which coincidentally doesn't have a cash register connected to the Comptroller's Office. It has been suggested that the mayor's loyal assistant Brian Bochow will be heading off to that position straight from his Mayoral Assistant job. Mr. Bochow certainly holds a favorable position with the mayor. His trip to Italy was paid for (through reimbursement) from Young's campaign funds. The rumor that Yolanda Robinson may be going to the Police Department is so ridiculously unbelievable that it may very well be true given the comedy of errors being written for the last two years at city hall.  Bochow, along with Robinson, have quickly moved up the city hall executive ranks. Prior to their city hall jackpot win they were both legislative aides at the County Board of Legislators. The two of them worked hard on the County payroll to get Mayor Young elected. The old adage, "it's not what you know but who you know" and possibly what tidbits you and others know but nobody else needs to know, may be the reason for their meteoric rise.

Councilman Randolph's sudden spate of bravado carried him to the Mount Vernon Democratic City Committee meeting of Thursday December 17th where he stood before membership and echoed David Ford's call for the resignation of Mayor Young's Party leadership. The Councilman must steel himself in order to face the mayor's double dose of wrath. The good councilman will now feel the sting of unjustness from Young's retaliation for doing that which he has a right and responsibility to do; disagree on behalf of that which is in the best interests of the people he was elected to serve. Councilman Randolph surely experienced some kind of humiliation when Mayor Young sent out his negative press release accusing him of hindering the budget progress. His disappointment cannot feel as bad as that of employees written out of the budget for reasons unrelated to cost effectiveness.

The current 2010 Budget Proposal has so stripped recreational services to constituents of all ages that there needs to be strong outcry from the community. Mount Vernon has seen an explosion in fatal crime over the last 24 months.  With little hope and even less constructive activity, residents can only pray that things don't get worse since the little Mayor Young offered youth after promising them so much more, is gone. Mayor Young finally stopped whatever cultural and social programming remaining under the jurisdiction of city hall. Although citizens and private groups can work together to offer some structured social programming, city government should not fail in its duty to the people. Organized recreational activity offers constructive outlets for young people and seniors as well as promotes positive social interaction amongst residents of all ages. Citizens deserve more than just offices open to pay bills.

The mayor, with budget axe in hand, unwisely cut, not trimmed, the budget to the extent that one has to wonder what services the city will be offering for residents in 2010. There is no money to transport young people to any events, free or otherwise. There seems to be no appropriations for summer camp opportunities for children of families struggling to survive. There little to no money for program supplies or for park repairs. It appears that recreational social programming, one of the most essential expenditures for a city full of young people and seniors is not a priority for this administration. What we see as priority are consultants and opportunities for individuals not employed by taxpayers to take money out of the city till. Residents will get little or nothing in return for their tax dollar.

RoadRunner continues to question why the Law Department needs to increase its Labor Counsel expenses by $50,000 while a capable attorney will be removed from the budget and why the Department of Management Service needs $90,000, the Inspector General needs $40,000,, and  the Planning Department $125,000 for Outside Contracted Services? There can be no doubt that the City Council's appropriation for Contracted Services was reduced as a politically based cost saving measure. The City Council will undoubtedly need triple the $20,000 granted them in order to protect citizens from the shenanigans of the mayor.

Citizens must carefully watch budget developments and be prepared to stand before the City Council at its Public Hearing and demand that they review the document not with political eyes but with those of representatives elected by the people to serve in their best interests. The people should accept nothing less.

The mixed-use development project being planned for Gramatan Avenue and Oakley Avenue is getting a lot of attention because of the sudden hurry to get as many things started before new City Council members are sworn in. RoadRunner has done a little research and feels that the community should have as much information as possible on the organization developing the project.

Atlantic Development Group has grown into one of New York City's largest developers of affordable housing since 1995. Co-founders, Marc Altheim, former Chief Executive Officer of H.E.L.P. USA and Peter Fine, the son of a New York City cab driver, have made themselves millionaires by tapping into the affordable housing construction market. They have been quite adept at securing any number of financial enticements offered through governmental entities and are also highly skilled at saving costs by employing nonunion and immigrant workers on their construction sites.

Last April the company was the target of a raid and investigation orchestrated by the Manhattan District Attorney's office. Although the exact details of the investigation still remain sketchy, it is suggested that investigators were looking into such alleged bribery tactics as using expediters to pay off city officials to move projects along. Atlantic drew a lot of heat and had the DA's office looking at them for allegations of bribing construction companies to use nonunion, cheaper labor. Atlantic Development Group LLC has a documented history of paying to play. They specialize in tapping into greedy politicians for support of their projects by offering money hungry elected officials pennies to grant access to millions.

The youthful Marc Altheim and Peter Fine have the distinction of being some of the most politically generous developers in New York City, meaning they don't have a problem spending a buck to take the bank. According to the New York Village Voice, as of the end of April 2009, "Atlantic has also been a virtual cash machine in recent years for Bronx politicians and others. City campaign finance records show that Atlantic and its officers and family members have anteed up more than $160,000 to city pols in the past four years." Atlantic and Mr. Fine have also contributed nearly a half million dollars to state Democrats during the period late 2006 and late 2008, according to the New York Observer.

With the financial crisis creating problems for affordable housing developers in New York City and politicians being leery exposure for accepting contributions from developers willing to buy "friends," smooth operating big city boys have found more agreeable territory. Some would call Mount Vernon the perfect location to keep a business floating until the scrutiny wears off.  The city has all of the right ingredients; citizens  who don't question, ill-informed and greedy politicians and even less informed monitoring agents. What makes the situation even better for agents of gain is there the impression of Mount Vernon having a local government interested in only one thing; getting paid.

RoadRunner's research revealed an interesting campaign contribution to Mayor Clinton Young's 2007 Campaign Fund. One Peter Fine of 220 Riverside Boulevard), New York City, contributed the amount of $1,700. Could this possibly be the same Peter Fine, principal of the Atlantic Development Group? Is it also possible that allegations may be true about a group of Clinton Young connected individuals are working to move this project along for their own personal gain?  Why is the city moving forward with a developer embroiled in scandal, political bribery, union busting and employment of undocumented workers?

Development in the city stopped as soon as Mayor Young took his seat. The city had completed a number of projects that brought new life and pride into Mount Vernon as well as new sources of revenue. Citizens should be reminded that this development project was not the brainchild of Mayor Clinton Young but that of his predecessor. It was meant to compliment the work already started in the downtown area. The mayor's sudden interest in "sealing the deal" should cause citizens to think long and hard about why the mayor is adamant that this particular developer is the best choice.

Given Atlantic Development's widely publicized controversies in the City of New York, and the current administration's continual reference of wrongdoing by the previous administration, citizens need to recognize that all may not be as aboveboard with this deal as they may be led to believe. When the mayor's associates who are not paid by the city lose their cool and challenge members of the public who question the proposal or speak out in opposition then something is very wrong. It is then that citizens should pay attention to the probability that these individuals and the mayor have something to lose.  Mount Vernon needs leadership that has citizens' best interest at heart; leadership that recognizes the needs of the people, not only the things that serve their own personal best interest.

If this deal is aboveboard, then the deal can wait for further study with newly elected City Council members who have pledged to operate in the best interest of the all of the people, all of the time.

FYI -        Project Location:        Gramatan Avenue and Oakley Avenue. The Project further contemplates acquisition and/or improvement of certain property owned by the City of Mount Vernon, as follows: (i) Atlantic's acquisition of certain real property in which the City is the record owner, including, property currently used as a surface municipal parking lot, Lot Number 1; and (ii) improvements by Atlantic to the City's Municipal Garage ("Municipal Parking Garage") located at 61 Gramatan Avenue and 30 North 3rd Avenue.

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