Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

I’m a resident of Valhalla Grasslands Homeless Shelter. The article that was printed on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 was totally untrue. What should have been printed is that how VOA Staff disrespects and belittle residents. We are housed like as if we were in minimum security.

There are community meetings that are held for the residents (which should be for our benefit). The community
meetings are held for the clients to voice their issues and if the issues sound legit, then the staff member that is holding the meeting always voice that, that issue is not negotiable. Allegedly this facility is suppose to be ran by DSS (Social Services) but there is never no representative from DSS to here our issues, so really what good is the meeting. Other issues is that staff is having sexually relationships with clients and amongst themselves, bathrooms never working properly and the temperature in the clients room is always cold, there is always heat in the lobby where staff works.

VOA staff could come to work with personal issues and the clients would catch the wrath from their personal issues. We wish we could get just a little help or assistance, just a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing. The name that the clients was called in that article on Nov. 30, 2006, unscrupulous merchants wasn’t very well appreciated by the residents.

The robbing of the mentally ill SSI residents, also DSS is paying $5,000.00 plus dollars for each individual to reside at the shelter, but DSS will not pay $600.00-$800.00 for an individual to reside in their own apartment. This is nothing but a business. What is really needed is an investigation.

Crying for HELP

Editor’s Note: Apparently ‘Crying for HELP’ misunderstood our reference to “unscrupulous merchants” in our
Nov. 30 issue. We were not referring to the homeless clients residing in the shelter but, rather, to those operators of groceries, delis, and bodegas who were engaged in giving vastly discounted amounts of cash (generally about $90 in exchange for the $155 food stamp allowance), enabling clients to make purchases other than unprepared food.

In Our Opinion...

One can hear the thunderous crash of granite as one-by-one the great, and imposing heads that once adorned Mount Cashmore, overlooking the State Capital, in Albany, come falling down. Guy Velella, Alan Hevesi, Joe Bruno; no telling who will be next. It’s a sad commentary on the politics and the morality of public servants in
New York State that so many icons have yielded to temptation, so many have betrayed the Public Trust for silver and gold. Was it all about image v. reality with these men? After all, we are talking about career public servants with twenty, or more, years on the job, with families and reputations to protect.

Interestingly, the pattern seems repetitious, first denial, followed by admission, and then, often arrogance. Take Velella, a state senator from the 34th District, encompassing part of the North Bronx, and parts of Lower Westchester. Everyone knew for years, before he came tumbling down, that he wasn’t totally on the level. Few, however, could imagine that he would risk his position and his reputation, using his father, a law partner, as a “bagman” for bribes from contractors in the construction industry, not even for $187,000. Fewer still could picture a man of such stature, Republican Number Three in Albany, risking jail, and all of the humiliation that comes with it.

Of course, old stalwart Manhattan DA Henry Morganthau had no problem imagining it, so much so that he reached out of his jurisdiction to do what Bronx DA Robert Johnson apparently lacked either the courage, or the conviction to do. Once indicted, Valella and his elderly dad copped a plea. But the case didn’t end there.

The senator managed to use his residual influence with a City parole agency, shortening his one-year sentence to Riker’s Island to approximately three months. This, after claims of ill health, prostate cancer, failed to shield him. Velella, would show his ugly, privileged attitude, refusing to return to jail, even when ordered to. After months of legal wrangling he finally returned to serve out several more months.

Alan Hevesi, unlike Velella, a man of impeccable reputation, a man whose very career as New York City and State Comptroller, had never been suspect, last week, despite reelection to the State position, announced his intention to step down from office, as part of a plea-bargained agreement with the Albany DA, to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges, and repay several hundred thousand dollars for the use of state compensated employees
of his office as chauffeurs and aids to his ailing wife, over several years. For a number of weeks following his successful reelection bid, Hevesi actually floated the theory that his reelection by the voters constituted an acquittal of sorts, or a pardon, citing case histories.

Simultaneous with Hevesi’s collapse, last week, came the announcement from Joe Bruno, leader of the State Senate, that he is, in fact, currently under investigation by the FBI for possible conflicts of interest between his outside business activities and his position as State Senator, and Majority Leader. And, while there have
been rumors and allegations for some time regarding the impropriety of his son’s former lobbying activities, Bruno, until last week had enjoyed more than twelve years, as Majority Leader, with the respect and cooperation of his peers from both sides of the aisle. He was one of the “three men in a room,” increasingly blamed for the dysfunction of State Government, the other two being Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver, and Governor George Pataki, “the man who would be President.”

At week’s end the scope of the federal investigation appeared wider than originally anticipated, with agents looking into certain land deals, and potential undue influence in the awarding of large state grants to a close business associate. Nevertheless, as expected, Bruno was declaring, “There has never been any conflicts in anything I’ve done.” Honestly, what would one expect him to say?

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