The Hezitorial: A Cry for Blood By HEZI ARIS
The federal corruption trial of former Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Sandy Annabi and former Yonkers GOP Chairman Zehy Jereis with regard to the political shenanigans that surrounded the Forest City Ratner for bringing about the Ridge Hill Development is telling.
While many in the media have drawn the conclusion that both Ms Annabi and Mr Jereis are guilty of corruption, among other charges, the Yonkers Tribune / The Westchester Guardian have not. The facts have yet to be fully presented. The government is still in the process of making their case. It is not yet completed. The defendants have not had their turn at fully responding to the charges promulgated against them. It would be irresponsible to steer toward one possible conclusion over another. Yet a cry for blood is heard throughout many sectors of the city.
The lust for blood intensifies with greater passion after one witness or another utters an expression of so-called “fact.” Why should any community be so quick to cry for blood when many years have elapsed since after these alleged situations happened? Are the witnesses now being called rewriting the “facts” and why have they been silent in their telling of the “truth” all these years?
In the case of Ms Annabi having changed her initial non-support of the Ridge Hill Development project to eventually casting the deciding vote to move it ahead, let’s look at what transpired so far, assuming the “facts” are on target.
Forest City Ratner (FCR), having been incapable of persuading enough Yonkers City Councilmembers to endorse the project, are now labeled and recognized as political manipulators who incorporated lobbyists who were alleged to cajole or coerce their target, in this case, Ms Annabi, to have her capitulate to endorsing their project by casting her vote for the project.
Among the allegations are Mr Jereis’ professed infatuation with Ms Annabi and his being approached by FCR and other lobbyists to direct Ms Annabi’s attention to resolve to endorse the Ridge Hill Development project. Only a man, would believe another man, that he has sway over the conduct of a woman. Ask a woman that, and she will laugh in your face. The reality is that every woman, just as every man, can be reasoned with; most people are not manipulated. To imply otherwise besmirches those who suggest it.
For FCR to devise a plot that would undermine the Yonkers City Council by extorting a vote with bribes of money and jewelry, among other so-called “benefits,” is outrageous, no matter who the conduits to this ploy were. Why is FCR, the developer that may be regarded as too big to not get their way be afforded “rights” outside the parameters expected of all individuals and corporations that are permitted access to the representatives of The People?
Why does the system we have created nationally, not just here in Yonkers, be permitted to continue unabated in its ability to allegedly “corrupt” elected officials? Why are lobbyists permitted access and favor when they are presumed to only be permitted to give expression and voice to the project they promote? Can any project be presumed valuable to a community if every aspect of the project is not met? Does society suffer flawed projects by permitting developers access to those in government expected to speak for the public good? The physical imprint of a project must be judged, as well as the financial investment, and the return on investment validated. Nowhere should lobbyists, special interests, or political agendas be permitted to intrude. What should or should not be is the reality whose world we inhabit. It seems little is as we thought.
On the face of it, we expect a fair and level playing field. We expect developers to be open with the facts and we expect elected government officials, and the surrogates under their charge, to scrutinize facts and proceed when everything has been verified. Reality is different. In Yonkers and elsewhere, heads are often turned by the assumed clout of politicians, lobbyists, elected officials, and those that can afford to pay for someone’s dinner, purchase them a car, or adorn them with jewelry.
Will the “facts,” as they are “told,” redefine the manner by which society accepts these processes? Is the task of changing the methodology and the people permitted access be curtailed to bring the process in line with what may be accepted as a ”norm” we can abide? Do we begrudge these two defendants because of their youth, ethnicity, religion, success, or cerebral prowess?
Why is former Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone not on the witness list? Didn’t the “buck stop” at his office? Didn’t he bring the likes of FCR, Melio Management, and Capelli Enterprises to Yonkers? Aren’t they “his” boys?
Will Phil Amicone answer for all the corruption surrounding his tenure in office? He had his hand in everything that transpired over 16 years of governance. He is getting off without a word. He is not on the list of expected people to testify before the federal court.
The reality is that it is easy to focus on Ms Annabi and Mr Jereis because they seem too weak and too inconsequential to matter if they are thrown in as sacrificial lambs to those who scream for their hide. Judge as you please while reflecting that many will be burned at the stake to deflect attention from the likes of former Mayor Phil Amicone who created a distorted environment and culture within Yonkers City Hall, which was, and still retains much of the corruption that is spoken about but to which little attention will be paid. There is simply too much to cover up and protect.
I pray that the construct, tenets, and regimentation of the law, as it is decreed for us to abide by will be a comforting overlay to the common sensibilities of The People for which the court will rule.
Until then, I will believe that the two defendants are innocent. Should they be found otherwise, I will submit to a reality that does not wish to delve into the complexity of this “mess,” because it is easier to make a show of those we shunned for what I believe are the wrong reasons. The verdict they receive will give wider berth to those too big to tackle and diminish the value of those caught in the backroom connivances. Those that plot will continue to have their way unabated; the rest of us will be singed by their greed and lawlessness.