The Times They Are a Changin' By Hezi Aris
The Yonkers City Council Real Estate Committee Meeting came to order before a an interested crowd of citizens, lawyers representing one concern or another, various City Hall officials and the entire City Councilmembership, but for Councilman John Murtagh who was introducing Jim Castro-Blanco at his first fundraiser at Dunwoodie Golf Course. There was a sense of foreboding about the evening. One could not fathom how it would play out. The issues before them were of great importance. The Real Estate Committee was to discuss the Land Disposition Agreement with respect to the SFC Yonkers Inc. Project that it was learned the week prior was diminished by 2/3 rds from its original buildout. On top of that, the request by Fidelco and Cappelli, respectively and as partners, to be authorized to receive a $4.2 million 108 HUD loan.
The proceedings opened as they usually do. Yonkers City President Chuck Lesnick cajoling the councilmembers to move the equation forward, the councilmembers exhausted at the pace of issues that come before them. Yet Thursday night proved different than other nights. I can’t remember who came out of the gate first with a staccato like barrage of questions that would begin to pierce the veracity of the answers given. It hardly matters who asked the first question. It was respectfully asked, as if metered and balanced by some orchestrated formula.
The first questions would be asked. The answers were not
forthcoming. Another question would be asked; the response was not complete. Opportunity
Dan Marsh, who it was said conducted some or most of the
negotiations that took place with the SFC
The quiet, methodic questioning continued. As it did, a
subtle sense of losing one’s sane composure clouded ones mind. Jaws were seen
to drop, eyes became droopy and glazed, jowls sagged; we were in unchartered
territory. The tables had been turned and none may have been wise to it.
Some of the councilmembers thought they might have been too shrill; in reality they were stern. Some would ask exacting questions, only to retreat; garnering more strength, they would return invigorated and demanding straight-forward responses.
The Yonkers City Council membership had become one, shocked
by being promised one thing, that is a $1.6 billion project, and now learning
that is was diminished to $300,000,000; $200,000,000 was taxpayer subsidy for
what was once called the TIF
There were many whys that went unanswered. Still, Peter
Klein mustered the courage to challenge the city councilmembership. As his
complexion turned waxen and yellow, his hand shaking, he admonished the city
councilmembers that if the $4.2 million 108 HUD loan was not approved, SFC
That did not sit well with the august body. They shot back
wondering why the developers needed to borrow a paltry $4.2 million from Yonkers
When Mr Klein was asked for a delineated list of what the $4.2 million loan would be used for, he divulged that he had sent a copy to that end to Yonkers City Council Democratic Counsel Christian DiPalermo. None of the councilmembers acknowledged having seen that information.
The questions seem unimportant now. What transpired that
Thursday night was the emergence of an empowered City Council, no longer
cowering under threat of alleged lawsuits, suggested wrong doing, suggestions
of an inability to grasp complex issues, or of comprehending the complexity before
them. They had each individually and collectively kept abreast of all the
issues. Smoke no longer created a nebulous atmosphere for them. The mirrors
that glittered were broken that night.
The Yonkers City Council can be proud of their conduct because they demanded respect; they demanded follow through by the developer, city officials, and other minions, and they intend to get it all.
They each made Yonkers
In the meanwhile, Mr Klein hasn’t caught on, but he will.
The lone character still carrying someone else’s water remained Yonkers City
Council President Chuck Lesnick. No longer seduced to get along to get along
were Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Sandy Annabi, Minority Leader Liam
McLaughlin, Councilmembers Dee Barbato, Patricia McDow, and Joan