Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dear FBI: Letter No. 7




Letter From Carmelo

GA received this today from HHA Director Carmelo Garcia.  

Here it is, copy-pasted in its entirety:

Hello Nancy and good morning,

first let me say thank you for the retraction and correction on the misinformation originally reported. I have always respected your opinions and never reacted to any antics or knocks, I always try to maintain high standards and the utmost professionalism. As I am not a hypocrit, the truth and respect for me is always the most important. I want to share with you some more facts so that you understand my role during an emergency and recognize what I did to help the city perform its emergency management tasks. I directed my HHA team to prepare for this Hurricane starting Thursday as we have our own emergency preparedness plan for our properties. Please understand that during a state of emergency the city OEM is in charge and is responsible to distribute information to all stakeholders whom are a part of their OEM plan which we are one of the annexes. This means that they would post notices in all our properties.  Also note that I oversee and manage 52 buildings with 6 scattered sites through out the city equaling 1353 units so sometimes I may be mid-town or uptown like fox hill checking on that building and its residents.  On Friday I was in communcation with Mayor Zimmer late at about 7:45pm going over the plan. I shared with her that I had not received the promised flyers that day and she was concerned. We agreed that in the morning they would get me the flyers and I volunteered to help by having my staff distribute them in the buildings especailly once it was noted mandatory that all 1st floor units should evacuate. I had spoken to Leo Pelligrini, Daniel Bryan and Councilman Mello who personally came to bring me the flyers at 400 Harrison st.  I told took the flyers and gave them to my maintenance people to go post. You can ask Daniel and Dave who will confirm this fact.

    The Mayor and I spoke again on Saturday as I recommended to her since we were concerned about the seniors who were dependent of oxygen tanks to send a uniformed police officer or representative from OEM to visit them and convince them to go to the shelter or hospital which we had 2 seniors go to the hospital and one to the shelter. As I was running through my checklist with my team on Staurday in preparation for Irene we have to perform over 25 steps for all those buildings when securing all mechanical rooms, deploying additonal sum pumps, clearing of rooftops for any potential flying articles/debris etc. I spoke with Joel Mestre on Saturday to review the plan regarding transportation and I didn't end my day till 10pm with my staff. On Sunday I was in the authority that morning over the assessment reports I received from my emergency resident persons for each building and its surrounding areas for instance I reported to the FD a 20ft branch that snapped on 6th st. I was walking in the flood on Harrison as residents along with myself were amazed. We had two back generators that the flooding tripped. We had unplugged all drain caps so the water wouldn't back up into the 1st floor units which worked effectively as we didn't have any back ups into the units. Immeidately the power was shut down by PSEG and we then decided to once again check on those senior/disabled persons identified for having a medical apparatus. Later we gave out water, ice and I was in contact with OEM and Mayor. I met up with Leo Pelligrini, spoke to Capt. fitzsimmons and asked if they could get us some more water and ice as there were folks who needed to maintain insulin chilled that suffered from diabetes.  As for Claire's misquote she failed to report my comment of "We distributed the information and gave them their option, "I can't force them to evacuate,". The Mayor was outstanding and ensured that these items would be delivered and they came through to help our residents, but understand that as the Executive Director my primary function is always like any other landlord to perform asset management as whatever I do extra to help the city or its residents is because I'm a caring, passionate public servant at heart. It is always an OEM function to provide governemnt services to its residents during any declared crisis or state of emergency. Also note that many residents did stock up.  I was very grateful for Joe Branco as you know who was amazing in helping me throughout the day as he donated all the ice. I'm know dealing with the aftermath of water damage and feel great about our recovery so thank you for listening and for doing the right thing. I appreciate it!       

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Look Who Brung the Pizza

pic posted on Beth Mason's Facebook page

GA doesn't Facebook (social networking creeps me out) so I rely on others to send me or tell me what others have posted on their pages.

Several readers sent me the above pic from City Councilwoman Beth Mason's Facebook page. It's captioned with something like (not verbatim):   Freeholder Anthony Romano and I delivering some dinner to our First responders, police and fire departments, and Wallace workers .  Thanks for all you've done.

Well, GA found this image interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, the photo was spliced.  Can you see? Let me put Mason where she was before she had the image cut.


Oops... too many Masons.

Here is what the original pic was before spliced:


Does anyone else think that's weird?  Why splice the pic? 

Unless Romano didn't want to be next to the Councilwoman or she didn't want to be next to the Freeholder.

But why not?

Then, GA noticed another curious aspect about the pic.  

But since it may be in bad taste to point out, I'll leave it to my readers to find it.

In any event, GA is interested in any and all pics of what our elected officials were up to before, during and after Hurricane Irene came to town.  If anyone's got pics they'd like to share, please forward to: grafixavenger666@gmail.com.   And if you'd like to remain anonymous, that's fine by me.

Carmelo on the Scene

Yesterday GA received word from Joseph Branco, local business owner and friend of HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia, regarding Carmelo's whereabouts on Sunday:
I spend the entire afternoon with him making trips to each building checking up on the generators and being the ice from both of my bars literally emptying out both bins and giving it to anyone that wanted ice.  

And he sent these:




Now we know where Carmelo was on Sunday.   PROPS to Carmelo and to Joe for helping with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene at the HHA. 

Unlike some members of the City Council who went MIA in their constituents' time of need.


Truly, Garcia stood by the HHA residents the day after.  But his actions the day BEFORE are in question.

From a comment GA reader greengarnet posted yesterday: 
There are any number of places where dynamic information could have been made to (HHA) residents: notices in the lobbies, elevators and communal areas, on the "website", and via information disseminated by employees on premises to residents. It is unconscionable that Mr. Garcia would convey a sense of safety to residents by letting them think that unplugging drains would keep them safe instead of helping to inform of the mandatory ground floor evacuation.

Patch noted one HHA resident whose daughter became frightened at the power outage and wanted to know why 'common rooms' weren't reserved for residents who wished to evacuate their apartments.

The mayor warned of possible 100mph winds blowing out windows on Thursday.  And told residents to prepare a 72-hour supply of food and non-perishable food.

Some in the HHA are without land lines and access to the internet. They would have needed a piece of paper in their had or a notice  somewhere in the building where they would have seen it.

  • Why didn't Executive Director Garcia have this done? 
  • Why didn't he disseminate the information about emergency preparedness?   
  • Why did he suggest unplugging drains instead of mandatory evacuation (the city shelter was a Wallace school) for first floor apartments?
Executive Director of the Housing Authority Carmelo Garcia said in a phone call on Sunday he did not tell people to evacuate their apartments. For ground floor apartments, he said, drains were unpluged to try and prevent flooding.
Carmelo was there for the HHA the day after, but what of alleviating some of the misery there the day BEFORE?

And as of 8:30 am this morning, the 4th Ward City Councilman Tim Occhipinti is still MIA.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Where was Tim?


Councilman Tim Occhipinti, who represents the area in and around the Housing Authority, made the flooding problem one of his main campaign issues.

On Sunday afternoon, agitated because of the situation, longtime HHA resident Margie Biart wondered where the councilman was during the storm. "I haven't heard from him," Biart said. "He should have been here with us."

Occhipinti did not respomd to multiple attempts for comment. 
-Patch

Flood POLITICS Screw HHA Residents

Well folks, now we know that the war on the Zimmer  Administration is hurricane-proof.

The Mayor's multiple advisories about preparation for Hurricane Irene were IGNORED by HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia who failed to disseminate the most basic warnings about storing food and water to HHA residents.  Residents were also NOT warned by Garcia to evacuate first floor apartments, first a recommendation then made mandatory.  The HHA buildings have 'common rooms' which could have been utilized for emergency shelter.  Were these 'common rooms' used in emergency planning for HHA residents flooded out of their apartments?  NO.  

Here's what City Hall told residents last THURSDAY, 48 hours before the flood.
As Hurricane Irene approaches, residents are strongly urged to take precautions and consider leaving Hoboken. Governor Chris Christie has declared a state of emergency for the State of New Jersey and is urging residents to leave shore areas.

Emergency Supply Kit
It is imperative that residents prepare now in case of an emergency. This means having your own food, water, and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least three days. FEMA recommends the following items to include in a basic emergency supply kit:
• Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
• Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
• Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• First aid kit
• Whistle to signal for help
• Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
• Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
• Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
• Local maps
• Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
 
Here are HHA residents waiting in line for food and water, in a gripping report by Claire Moses of Patch.

HHA residents waiting for water and food brought by the City

Mayor Zimmer on the ground with the National Guard, who assisted Hoboken in deliveries of food and warater to the HHA.   


The Mayor, the HPD and the HFD were on the ground, working day and night to warn residents about the severity of the incoming storm.   
  • Where was Carmelo?  
  • Where was 4th Ward City CouncilmanTimmy Occhipinti?  Was Timmy busy reading Grafix Avenger?  Looking up the big words in his dictionary?
The Star Ledger reports what others were doing on Saturday:

The police station set up cots for officers to stay overnight, as did the fire station. The mayor, along with some of her cabinet, will sleep over in City Hall a few blocks away from the city's only shelter, The Wallace School on Willow Ave. 

"I wish there were more people heeding these warnings and getting out of town," Zimmer said. "Families in buildings where the windows could break ­— their children will be exposed to that. There's 100-mph winds."

And then there is Zimmer, who has been going door-to-door throughout the day to urge the residents of Hoboken to leave their homes and come here. If the shelter becomes full, they will transport people to the landlocked Union City, where most of Hoboken's evacuated senior citizens were sent.

If the shelter in Hoboken floods, which is possible, those inhabitants will be shipped to Union City as well.

Outside, the charcoal sky dimmed further as the rain picked up around 6 p.m.

Zimmer and her crew piled into a green Jeep Wrangler to head back to the "Command Post" at City Hall.

"Evacuate or come to a shelter," she said. "I'm trying to get that word out."
Here's what HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia told Patch:
Executive Director of the Housing Authority Carmelo Garcia said in a phone call on Sunday he did not tell people to evacuate their apartments. For ground floor apartments, he said, drains were unplugged to try and prevent flooding.
Why did Carmelo ignore City Hall?  On Saturday, evacuation of first-floor dwellings became MANDATORY.
  • Why didn't Carmelo "TELL" residents to seek shelter at Wallace school?  
  • Why didn't Carmelo "TELL" his residents to stock water and non-perishable food in case of a power outage?
  • Why didn't Carmelo order the HHA's 'common rooms' to shelter residents fleeing flooded apartments?
A question asked by at least one HHA resident, as reported in Patch:
What prevailed mostly on early Sunday afternoon, was a sense of being isolated in an area of town nobody can get to, residents said. Locked inside an area with streets that are unable to cross, without power, most residents said they weren't sure what to do. 

HHA resident Dynasty Steed, 24, said she would have liked to have a shelter in one of the common rooms of the Housing Authority. Steed's 8-year-old daughter Alyssa, said she was scared when the lights went out around 4 a.m. on Sunday, which woke her up.
 And WHERE was Councilman Tim Occhipinti, reliable VBM  harvester at the HHA?

MIA as reported on Patch:
Councilman Tim Occhipinti, who represents the area in and around the Housing Authority, made the flooding problem one of his main campaign issues.

On Sunday afternoon, agitated because of the situation, longtime HHA resident Margie Biart wondered where the councilman was during the storm. "I haven't heard from him," Biart said. "He should have been here with us."

Occhipinti did not return multiple attempts for comment.

What a DISGRACE.

Public officials willfully ignore the City's  advice, its mandatory emergency procedure, forcing HHA residents to be REACTIVE than PROACTIVE, at their own expense... and in the end it's City Hall who comes to their aid.

But the situation didn't have to be DESPERATE, if the guardians of the HHA and 4th Ward weren't playing politics with the safety of their constituents.

How disgusting.

National Guard assists City Hall at the HHA
Emergnecy provisions
HHA residents wade through sewage
credit for all photos: Claire Moses of Patch

GA gives PROPS to Claire Moses for her fine report.


(Update 11:45 am)
A GA reader made these fine points:
I think one point that many more affluent people miss about many folks in the HHA: they don't read the blogs nor check up on the city website(s) as often as we do. They need paper in their hands, a cell phone call, or a bullhorn to provide emergency instructions.

This is also where Carmelo failed.

I saw that Horsey got some guff that EVERYONE in town was informed about preparing for the storm, so the HHA folks should have had more of a clue - valid point. But, they were informed on land lines by City Hall (I don't think many have land lines in the HHA) and doubt they access the internet as much as we do.

Church Towers bottom floors were evacuated, but not the HHA? WTF?!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waterworld

No, not the cheesy 1995 Kevin Costner flick; our Mile Square City this morning as captured by the artful lens of GA reader Gary Holtzman. 

View his entire gallery here.












City Hall: Hoboken Residents May Return, Suggest Waiting Until Evening

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 28, 2011



RESIDENTS MAY RETURN TO HOBOKEN; SUGGESTED WAITING UNTIL AT LEAST SUNDAY EVENING


Residents may return to Hoboken, however, thousands of homes are still without power and flooding is widespread, so it is suggested that they wait until at least 6pm on Sunday. Due to flooding, a very large number of streets are inaccessible and barricaded. Flood waters may not recede for many hours. It is unknown when power will be restored.

“It’s business as usual in at least half of Hoboken,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “I thank all the residents who heeded the call to evacuate and ask that they strongly consider waiting before returning to flooded areas.”

Residents may drive only through areas that are not flooded or barricaded. Bars without flooding may reopen. As a reminder, it is dangerous to walk through water in flooded areas, which consists of rain water and sewage.

Non-emergency calls should be directed to 201-239-6643/6644. The Fire Department cannot respond to false alarms in flooded areas until the water recedes.


URGENT UPDATE from City Hall

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 28, 2011


URGENT UPDATE FOR HOBOKEN RESIDENTS

Residents are very strongly urged to completely stay off streets. Live electrical wires are down in flooded areas and electrocution is possible. Do not walk your dogs.

Especially dangerous conditions exist along the waterfront, where the high tide and storm surge may cause the Hudson River to rise over the walkway.

According to PSE&G, an estimated 8,800 Hoboken residents will soon lose power. We urge residents to charge phones, fill bathtub, sinks, and pots with water. Turn refrigerators to the coldest setting and keep them closed.

Phone lines in the Fire Department are currently down and not operational. For emergencies, call 911. For information and less urgent matters, please call the Emergency Operations Center at 201-239-6643/6644. Fire Department communications should be restored shortly. An update will be provided.

STAY INDOORS, people.

Update: Jersey Journal on the power outage:

Because of serious flooding at the PSE&G power generating station on Duffield Street in Jersey City, the station will be taken offline at 8 a.m. until emergency repairs can be made, Jersey City officials said.

It is unclear exactly how many people will be affected, but city officials estimate most of Jersey City will be without power and also other surrounding towns that are powered by the station.

Also, the Marshall Street substation in Hoboken will be taken offline, affecting some 8,800 customers in Hoboken and parts of Jersey City.

Hoboken Irene Impact Update

Hoboken Storm Update from City  Hall:
As of 7:00am, driving of personal vehicles is still not permitted in Hoboken.

At this time, flooding has occurred at:

• Willow Ave from Newark St to 1st St
• Newart St from Bloomfield St to Park Ave
• Park Ave from Observer Hwy to Newark St
• Madison St from 9th St to 11th St
• 10th St & Monroe St
• 1st St from Marshall St to Harrison St
• 9th St from Monroe St to Madison St
• 6th St from Monroe St to Jackson St
High tide will occur around 8:15am, rain is expected to continue, and flooding may worsen.

Trees were reported down on power lines at 6th & Jefferson and 5th & Grand. Power outages are reported along 5th Street from Adams to Jefferson and at 501 Marshall.

The shelter at the Wallace School, 1100 Willow Avenue, remains open. All 52 residents initially in the shelter were relocated to the Izod Center as a precaution. After an additional 13 residents appeared at the shelter, they were also bused to the Izod Shelter.

Da Horsey BREAKING:  PSE&G says that 8,800 Hoboken residents may lose power.

Oh,no!

Good Morning, Irene


Smith, that is.   As for  you Hurricane Irene: GO AWAY!

GA slept like a baby through the night... and woke up at around 6:30 am to find some water in my Willow Terrace basement- less than 1"- normal runoff for this amount of rainfall.  The water is seeping in through the rear concrete wall from the saturated ground above and beyond. 

Not to get all gloomy and doomy on you, but the SURGE will follow high tide at around 8 or 9 am...

Which means NO ONE knows yet what Irene's true punch to Hoboken will be. If you are reading this from areas beyond, you can be  comforted we have power, the plumbing is working, the water is running.

Now, if I were a REAL journalist and not a lowly blogger, I'd throw some shoes on, walk around and take pics for you.  But am I?

Hell, NO. 

I'm not leaving my house until the surge situation is determined.  In an hour or two. Besides, these homemade sandbags are frigging heavy.  Am I supposed to hurt my back to drag them out of the way?   No, if you are still in Hoboken, stay  indoors because the worst is yet to come. A storm surge is a rush of water, a wall if you will.   If you want to play Vasco da Gama wait until this afternoon. 

It is very dangerous to go out now. Don't be a schmuck.

Please click here for the latest National Weather Service advisory.  And Channel 12 television coverage is excellent.

GA tip: forgo the national media; they treat New Jersey like a  pimple.

I'll post any worthwhile updates, etc.  Stay safe, people.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Home for the Hurricane

Click HERE for the latest National Weather Service advisory

So, did you do the wise thing and heed the  mayor's advice to get out of Dodge?

If you're reading this, probably not. Unless you plan to skidaddle before Hurricane Irene blows into town.  I would advise you to do so.  

I'm not. 

Which goes to show you I don't take my own advice. Well, not in this case.  The reason being to mitigate property damage inasmuch as one can bitch-slap a hurricane.

As many know GA lives in a Willow Terrace 3-story rowhouse; the lot size is 12' wide x 50' deep. I call it 'vertical living'. Minus wall-construction thickness, we're looking at a wall-to-wall clearance of under 12 feet. (Don't ask me to measure it, please; I  don't want to know)

Funny, my sister lives on 7 1/2 acres in a very large house across the Bear Mountain bridge (Putnam County, NY), and barely pays more in property taxes than I do.  Actually, not funny.   Sad. That's another topic.

Back to vertical living.

Yesterday I began the relocation of my 1st floor interior to the 2nd floor.  Ever try to do that in a 12-foot wide house?  The precious, personal stuff has been moved up.  Next... what does one do with LA's (Little Avenger's) piano? The stove and refrigerator?

Well, those ain't going anywhere.  But whatever  else can move up, will.  Today. Did you know that an ant can carry 800 times it's own weight?  GA is not an ant.

Which means turning over one's fate to G-d.  Do you believe in G-d?  I do.  But that's no protection. Bad things happen to good people.  Good things happen to bad people.  It's called 'G-d's will' or fate or destiny or chance.  Whichever you may subscribe to.  Will your windows blow out tonight?  Will you lose access to electricity, fresh water and plumbing?  Will your perishables perish?  Will your living quarters turn into a fish tank?

Who knows.  I call it chance.  Perhaps if I took the G-d's will route I would have left town.  But I think somehow human intervention can change outcome in this case... maybe from worse to merely bad.

In any event, do not follow my advice.  Get the hell out. Be safe.

It's hard to believe with the realization of what may (or may not) change our Hoboken landscape, even lives, the 'Hurricane Irene' party I was planning with my friend Irene Smith a few days ago seems delusional.  A direct hit on Hoboken seemed improbable back then.

Now's no time for partying.  It's time for prayer. And human intervention.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane

The first time I went to New Orleans I fell in love.

With a drink.

Hurricane- New Orleans Style

1 oz white rum
1 oz Jamaican dark rum
1 oz Bacardi® 151 rum
3 oz orange juice
3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 oz grenadine syrup
crushed ice

Combine all ingredients, mix well (shake or stir). Pour over crushed ice in hurricane glass. Best enjoyed through a small straw. Garnish with fruit wedge if desired.

16% (32 proof)
Serve in: Hurricane Glass

Oh, my.... sooo good.

A few of these (or just one) and you will forget all about the REAL Category 2 hurricane, Irene, that's predicted to slam Hoboken between late Saturday and Monday.

Now, while GA would advise  you to grab a loved one, snuggle under a blanket and watch a bad horror flick, City Hall is offering much different advice.  They're suggesting residents leave town.  That's you!  And me!

But where do we all go?  Paramus? 

Anyway, this is serious. So buy your Hurricane ingredients in advance, because you won't be able to get out to the store for your rum and pineapple juice once the 'fun' begins.

By the way, boys.  Just because the drink comes with a pretty pink umbrella and a fruity cherry-topped toothpick, don't be afraid to order one.  Real Men drink Hurricanes.  Just because you're 6-feet tall, muscular and subscribe to Popular Mechanics doesn't mean you can't stand at a bar with a girlie-drink.  I mean, get real.  If  you're secure in your own sexuality you should be able to grab that glass with the pink umbrella and fruity toothpick and chug the whole thing down, fruit cubes and all, in one manly gulp.

Here is the City's advisory:

HOBOKEN URGES RESIDENTS TO PREPARE FOR HURRICANE IRENE, CONSIDER LEAVING TOWN IF POSSIBLE

The City of Hoboken is making preparations for the potential impacts of Hurricane Irene, which is currently forecast to reach the Northeast as a Category 2 hurricane between late Saturday and Monday. Residents are strongly urged to be prepared.

“If we are hit by a hurricane – even a Category 1 – the flooding can be very widespread and severe,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “Even areas of Hoboken that don’t normally flood could be under many feet of water, so residents need to prepare now and be ready to move their vehicles to higher ground or out of town if necessary. We will continue to monitor the situation as the storm progresses, and if conditions warrant it, will call for an evacuation, but at this time we are asking residents with family or friends in the area or the ability to stay elsewhere to consider leaving town early for the weekend. This is a threat that residents must take seriously.”

Emergency evacuation shelters at the Wallace School and Hoboken High School are stocked with water and cots. Generators are in place for running emergency operations if needed. North Hudson Sewerage Authority is inspecting pumps and clearing catch basins. Evacuation plans have been reviewed and are in place if necessary.

Residents are advised to monitor conditions and be prepared for the possibility of severe flooding, high winds, and loss of electricity. Residents should seriously consider moving their vehicles outside of Hoboken and should be prepared to evacuate if an evacuation order is issued. At this time, the City is asking residents with the ability to stay at another location outside of Hoboken to consider doing so.


·         A hurricane or tropical storm will result in very severe and widespread flooding in Hoboken, including in areas that do not typically flood during heavy rains. Vehicles parked on streets or garages may be inaccessible for several hours or days until flooding recedes. Residents are urged to park their vehicles on higher ground or in upper levels of garages, however in the case of a tropical storm or hurricane, the safest option to avoid flood damage to vehicles is to park outside of Hoboken. Residents who are able to stay with friends or relatives are urged to consider leaving town early for the weekend.

·         Due to the possibility for high winds, residents should bring in unsecured objects from patios and balconies and secure outdoor objects such as lawn furniture or garbage cans that could blow away and cause damage or injury.

·         Residents are suggested to maintain 72 hours of non-perishable food and water in their homes and any necessary medication in the event of an emergency.

·         Senior citizens and others with special needs (such as the need for electrical medical equipment) who many need assistance with evacuation are asked to notify the Emergency Operations Center as soon as possible by calling 201-239-6643/6644. The EOC will be open 24 hours a day as of 9am on Thursday, August 25th. For emergencies, residents should call 911 or the Hoboken Police Department at 201-420-2100 and Hoboken Fire Department at 201-420-2005/2007.

·         Residents may sign up for email or text updates and alerts from the City of Hoboken by visiting: http://local.nixle.com/city-of-hoboken/

·         The Federal Emergency Management Agency has additional information on preparing for hurricanes: http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html


Zimmer Steps Up for the Boys & Girls

Recently,  GA and her friend, the talking horse, have been airing the sad saga over at the Boys & Girls Club.

The needy children served by the Boys& Girls Club of Hudson County, most from the west side of Hoboken but some overflow from Jersey City, have been harshly affected by the sublease of their space, primarily to HoLa Charter School, but also Hoboken and Elysian Charters.

During the school year, the B&G Club provides after-school services for children who would otherwise have no where to go, be without adult supervision or be 'on the streets', from 3pm until 8 pm.  The HoLa day, as outlined in the HoLa Charter Application, was to use the Boys & Girl's Club facility from 8:15 am until 2:30 pm.  Somehow, HoLa's hours of occupation were expanded by adding an after-school program to coincide with B&G Club operations.

Somehow.

How?

This was not addressed in HoLa's Charter Application.  HoLa was awarded their charter based on an agreement to occupy 123 Jefferson when the building was not being used by the B&G Club.

Yet the B&G Club gave away their space during hours it was supposed to be available to the B&G children.  And violated its lease agreement with the City.

The lease violation was reported by that intrepid horse on MSV on August 3:
The Lessee agrees to use the facilities for the sole purpose of conducting youth programs and the Lessee activities. It will not rent or lease the facility for commercial purposes without first obtaining City permission nor will any commercial activities be conducted at the facility.
Um, is anything about that not clear?

And here's what that horse had to say yesterday, regarding tonight's City Council agenda:
There's numerous funding items on the agenda, mostly regular business but among them, the Boys & Girls Club.  The organization providing support to Hoboken's neediest children has not provided a required annual report on services to the City in over a decade going back to the original agreement in 1994.    

Can you approve funding when the contractual agreement providing a building to the organization for a paltry $2 a year remains unsatisfied?
Good question, Horsey. Sometimes it takes a horse to get to the bottom of the haystack.

Well, it looks like this attention may be reaping some assistance to the Boys & Girls Club children who'd been shut out of their 2,000 sf gym space for all but 1 day per week (they used to have it everyday) because it was subleased to Charter Schools.

Enter Mayor Dawn Zimmer.

In yesterday's memo to the City Council she said this:
We are also entering into a shared service agreement with Hoboken Charter and Elysian Charter to allow them to use the gym in the Multi-Service Center, and we are providing funding for the Jubilee Center, United Cerebral Palsy, HOPES, Nuestros Ninos, Miles Square Funding, Day Care 100, Hoboken Family Planning, and the Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County.

Folks, this is big.

To the displaced children of the B&G Club.  Particularly the teens who were able to enjoy the gym facilities in the evenings, until 8pm.  I am told that the loss of this sports and recreational space  impacted teens particularly harshly. GA hopes Mayor Zimmer has restored use of this critical area for the B&G kids by executing a shared space agreement with the Multi-Service Center gym.

GA is thankful that our Mayor stands with the kids of the Boys & Girls Club who've been failed by so many.

This is a step in  the right direction.


Update2:50 pm-
GA may have uncorked the champagne bottle too soon. 

A reader has told me that Elysian and Hoboken Charter Schools use the B&G Club gym during the day. Which does not alleviate the after-school issue; apparently the HoLa after-school  program has sole use of the gym all days except 1.  Which will be unaffected by the Charter's move to the Multi-Center gym.

Unless there is a larger strategy in the offing or HoLa to  give back the gym during the day so the B&G Club can use it in the afternoon.

Can't both after-school programs share the space until an agreement is reached?


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake Info from City Hall


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 23, 2011

Contact: Juan Melli

EARTHQUAKE INFORMATION

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Northern Virginia at 1:53pm. Tremors were felt in Hoboken. Residents should be mindful that aftershocks may occur over the next few hours. Residents with concerns or reports of damage can call the Police Department at 201-420-2100.

Earthquake?



GA and LA (Little Avenger) were just in the middle of making a pizza- pulling the dough- and my kitchen shook from side to side.... for maybe 10 seconds... it was probably 1:50 pm. I grabbed her and we ran outside to the front of our Willow Terrace house.  I yelled in through my neighbor's open screen door if the contractors in his ouse were doing anything that might make mine shake.  They said "No!" and all 3 of them (2 contractors and my neighbor) felt the side to side motion... we all think it was a small earthquake (tremor).

In Hoboken.  Back to making pizza..... I hope that doesn't happen again.

I experienced 3 earthquakes when I lived in Japan, none serious but all scary.  Did anyone else feel it?

Update- 2:04 pm

callico11, a poster on nj.com, is reporting that a 5.8 magnitude earthquake just happened in Virgina.  Wow, a rare event on the east coast.  Maybe G-d is telling us something?

 Oh my... watching on CNN it was a 5.9 magnitude earthquake... oh my goodness, folks in downtown Va. standing our in the streets...


Monday, August 22, 2011

Dear FBI: Letter No. 5




Cage Filler

Vacancy at the U.S. District Courthouse in Newark

At least one birdie emboldened by the stillness of summer has forgotten there's a federal bird-collector on the loose, and a holding cell um.. I mean 'bird cage' waiting for him at the U.S. District Courthouse in Newark.

Once this bird gets collected, he'll fill that empty cage in Newark while awaiting his bail hearing and arraignment.  If the judge, um... I mean 'federal pet shop manager' determines he's not a flight risk (and what bird isn't?) he'll set bail... of course the birdie may not have enough birdseed to make bail, in which case it's BACK in the cage!

SLAM.  

I wonder what kind of bird seed the Feds serve?

Again, the 'federal pet shop manager' may decide the birdie can't be released on his own recognizance... 

SLAM. 

So before this birdie flies too close to the sun he may wish to take a flight path to a lawyer instead.

Message to the 4th Ward

from your Councilman Timmy Occhipinti:


Get serious about losing weight.

He's trying to help you, folks.  He think there are too many fatties in the 4th Ward.  Just lying around waiting for the next flood, where Timmy will be thinking about you from his table at the Pilsener Haus. He's beseeched you to get your fat asses off the sofa and into a gym.

Timmy enjoys a beer with Ruben Ramos at the Pilsener Haus while his ward floods

To the Sky Club, perhaps?   That's in the 4th Ward. So while he's putting you on a path to fitness, he's promoting a 4th Ward business.  

Send those 4th Ward blubber-butts to the Sky Club, Timmy!   

But you'd best be careful yourself, Councilman:  beer is a high-calorie beverage.   Too many pints at the Pilsener Haus will give you that 'muffin top' over your belt, and you'll be off to the Sky Club yourself.

Pray for Tim: that it doesn't flood too often in Hoboken's southwest,  so the 4th Ward Councilman needn't seek refuge at his Pilsener Haus sanctuary.

Are we clear?  

Now, Tim.  Your next message to your constituents got me a little confused.


Wow, that's a lot of loose change.   

GA is certainly happy for you and grateful that you wish to share your good fortune, but don't you work full-time at a business?  So you make $800 at night?  When do you sleep?

Thank goodness, you have a business partner to help you.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Mama Wants Steak


I just heard from a friend/GA source about the surprise attendance of Michelle Russo and her acolytes at this week's School Board meeting, and found his take interesting.

Here it is:
I’ve always told you the Russos and the Old Guard are not going away easily;  that you'll have to pry every one of their claws one at a time off the levers of power.  And just when you think you might have might have made some progress – watch out.  If you think you've knocked one down another pops up somewhere else. Like the Callichios and Mama Russo at the BoE.

City Hall has been shut off as a source of patronage and jobs. The only real opportunity with a big budget is the School Board and for years it was a patronage mill. The new Board (Kids First) shut that patronage mill off after the audit in 2009 and has reduced the budget to the point where there’s a million dollar surplus. That million dollars is like dangling a a raw porterhouse steak in front of a hungry lion. Or lioness- Mama Russo. 

Of course, they’re going to be scrambling for that porterhouse steak.  And it can feed a lot of people.

And if they’re scraping the  bottom of the barrel and throwing the Calicchios out as their voices, they really are on the run.

Obviously the heat of the FBI investigation has gotten to people and scared people away. Because no way the powers  behind the scene would have ever allowed the Calicchios such a prominent face.

The Calicchios think they’re great politicians because they’ve participated in 2 elections they won because they stole them, and they think that makes them political geniuses.  They think they’re going to pull off this recall, but they’re buying their own press.  They're too stupid to realize how much trouble they’re in. 
So you know, this guy is one of the people I've tapped for information on the FBI investigation, and he is privy to some below-the-radar 'activity'.  Which he doesn't tell me, although I got this much from him- it is still alive, very much so.

Which is perhaps why my source can view Russo & Co.'s attendance at the BoE, their renewed effort to seize control of the BoE via 'recall' a sign of desperation.

And the lure of that million dollar BoE budget surplus irresistible.

They've been chased out of City Hall- at least for now.   

Ruben's Sangwich

In Joe Pantoliano's homage to his Hoboken upbringing, Who's Sorry Now, he talked about the local dialect which he called "Hobokenese".

In Hobokenese, a sandwich was a sangwich.

Which was sorta how my Dad said it; he was raised in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and had the classic "Bowery Boys" accent:  girls = goils,  work = woik, thirty = thuy-ty, and so on.   Wish I could have put it in a bottle.

Pantoliano did the next best thing to a bottle; he preserved his Hoboken sangwich in a memoir.

Well, my Dad loved sardine sangwiches.   Here's the conversation we had at least once a week for twenty years:
Dad (chewing): Would you like a sardine sangwich?
Me:  You know I hate sardines.
Everyone's got their favorite sangwich.  Now had my Dad offered me tuna salad....  

What's yours?

What got me thinking about sangwiches, anyway?

Ruben Ramos. 

I know, I know.

But I was hungry when I read MSV  yesterday and his big juicy headline, "Ruben Ramos relinquishes Holdco connected $5,200 campaign donation" got me thinking about a big juicy sangwich.  
 

A big, juicy Reuben sangwich. 

Here's the Hoboken recipe, which GA calls Ruben's Sangwich:
2 slices rye bread
2 slices Swiss cheese
1/4 lb sauerkraut
splash of Russian dressing
5,200 Benjamins

Discard the first four ingredients and take the Benjamins.
Now, the great thing about Ruben's sangwich is that the chef could make you more of them if you are especially helpful to him/her.  It's possible.

A fair exchange, no?  You make my sangwich, I'll make yours.

But, if others do not see it that way, then you must give away your sangwich. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Follow the Roaches


Have you ever lived with cockroaches?

I have.

When I lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn my first floor apartment was next to the trash chute, above the basement.  The fact the place was infested was a secret kept by the landlord, who rented it to me on-sight one August afternoon.  The place looked nice, clean and was a convenient commute to the East Village where I was attending college, Cooper Union.  Picture perfect.

Until the lights went out.

Then the roaches took over. Crept from dark crevices, beneath appliances, cracks in the wall, hidden interiors, to assert ownership of my domain.  They scampered about- an army of them, seeking bits of food as roaches do- their mouths searching for sweet crumbs and sticky spills- running up walls, over  cabinets, on the floor...

How do I know this?

Because I turned on the lights.  Roaches can't stand it.

Light.

As soon as the lights came on, the insects scattered, running back to their dark crevices.  Blech.

The problem was so bad in fact, that one day I cam home to find a note on my bed: my room mate had moved out.  The roaches had won.

In Hoboken, we have our own kind of roach problem.

They buy elections, invade our institutions of government to gobble public resources for themselves and their friends, scamper through the City's computer network,  trash Hoboken small business community in the mainstream media, and on and on... now they've got a new target.


This Tuesday a swarm descended on the Board of Education monthly meeting.

They signaled an intention to replace several Board members with some of their kind.

This switcharoo labeled a 'recall', was announced by one of the junior crawlers who apparantly hopped over a long waiting list to get an apartment in the HHA. Carmelo Garcia, a BoE member whom he advocates for,  is the Executive Director of the HHA.  (And did you know this same creepy crawler had served as a legislative aide to Assemblyman Ruben Ramos?)

No less than the Queen Mother of the entire town's infestation got up to rail against those whom her species wishes to 'recall',  Leon Gold, Irene Sobolov and Rose Marie Markle, and the rest of the Kids First majority, Theresa Minutillo and Ruthy McAllister (absent).

Among the Queen Mother's grievances, that Kids First had spent "too much" by hiring a replacement athletic trainer at 53K, neglecting to mention the hiree replaced a person making 103K- that's a teacher's salary plus a stipend- although that person never actually taught.  The Queen Mother did not thank the Board majority for the 80K taxpayer savings.

Nor did she congratulate Kids First for hiring a gifted young theatre arts treacher-- a former television actress,  who has the proper certification, and a background of working on professional productions, has put on productions in elementary schools, is a dancer and dance instructor... no this Queen Mother came to deride her for lack of experience, as HHS would be her first year of teaching.

Hmmm.... I understand the Queen Mother is under consideration for a County job as the 'Head of Housekeeping' for Hudson County Plaza which begs the question (to her): how many years experience do you have as a "Head Housekeeper"?  None?  Should that disqualify you?  And if you are hired, does that mean you'll do a crappy job because you're not 'experienced'?

One wonders WHY this swarm scampered with its leader to a meeting where nary a one of them has a child in enrolled in Hoboken's public school system, and who rarely ever appear at BoE meetings.

One GA reader and regular BoE meeting attendee, likewise amazed at the 6-legged invasion, posited this:
BA Davis stated at the last meeting that there was a 1,016,000. surplus, placing us inline for another flat tax levy next year and possible 2013/2014  year. That money could be used for anything.

However he cautioned: 913k of that money should be used to replace the (rolling) 913k surplus we currently have OR tax levy would have to be raised to match (rolling) surplus.

The Russo's would like to get their claws on the money to give away jobs and get that budget bloated once again. After all, not one of them pay taxes NOR attend public schools.  But, they do need jobs with benefits.....

The thought that GA had was that with the FBI investigation's seeming focus on City Hall, the brightness over there has caused these roaches to flee.

Uptown.

What municipal entity has the second largest budget next to the City's?

The BoE, of course. Where prior Boards were infested with those same roaches that awarded jobs and contracts to friends... until Kids First brought in the exterminator... um, I mean the "auditor' in 2009.

Anyone remember THIS   (nj.com, Nov. 20, 2009):

Auditors released a scathing audit of the Hoboken Board of Education Tuesday that cited more than two dozen irregularities, including the misuse of candy-sale funds, incorrect approval of overtime and the payment of administrators out of funds meant for instructors.

“It was just shocking,” said Board of Education trustee Maureen Sullivan.

In a random sampling, auditors found two cases in which funds raised by students through candy sales and other activities were used to reimburse teachers for stolen iPods – to the tune of $400 each.

In addition, overtime was being improperly approved by consultants,
instead of employees, auditor Dieter Lerch said at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Auditors also found that stipends to several employees were either not approved by the board or did not have other necessary documentation.

Sullivan said in most of those cases the work was likely being done, despite the lack of documentation, but that interim Superintendent Peter E. Carter said he would conduct a thorough investigation to make sure.

Parents at Tuesday’s board meeting reacted with horror.

“I am absolutely shocked by this audit. This is unacceptable. Stipends given for people who are not working -- this is our children’s education,” said parent Liz Muholland.

Asked about the report, Carter said, “All I can say is it’s BC – Before Carter. It is beyond my comprehension how such a thing can occur and we will fix it and no such thing will occur again,” said Carter who was named interim superintendent in July, replacing Jack Raslowsky, who resigned in June to head Xavier High School in Manhattan.

That audit showed what happens when roaches take over our Board of Education.

The crawlers were in charge in the years prior to and including that audit of 2008 operations. Prior to Kids First takeover.

Kids First brought in the auditor in 2009, and have since worked to undo damage and run the district properly in accordance with the rule of law, with certified licensed teachers paid for teaching, and in the best interest of the CHILDREN.  Including mine, who attends public school.

People, we cannot let the roaches have our schools back.  We've got to focus the light on what's  happening down there.

Or as the saying goes:  Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BoE Hijinks Update

GA's trying to get to the bottom of what happened at the BoE last night regarding the '2-color' QSAC letter that was given to Jean Marie Mitchell by Teresa Burns. 

I left a message at Superintendant Tobacks's office and am waiting for a call back now.

Meanwhile, with regard to current custody of the '2-color' letter, Mitchell provided this:
I saw (redacted) walk over and talk to Toback, and at the Diner, (redacted) said she gave the letter to Toback.  I did not see her hand it to him.

At the Diner, I asked (redacted) if she had the copy with the blue signature.  I said there was one original.  She said "I gave it to Dr. Toback."   
So the question of why a 2-color letter was given out is out there, while the letter may be back where it belongs- in Superintendant Toback's office. 

Will post any updates that come in.


EXCLUSIVE: Hijinks at the BoE

This  is for our FBI friends to ponder. GA is nt saying anyone is guilty of anything, but this is all very curious.

How did Teresa Burns obtain a the QSAC results letter she passed out at last night's BoE meeting which is not available online?    Did Burns file an OPRA request or... was it improperly obtained?

But more troubling...

GA spoke to the woman handed the ORIGINAL letter directly from Burns, , former BoE member Jean-Marie Mitchell.  

Check this out:

Mitchell stated the sheet Burns handed her was on ORIGINAL letterhead- a higher grade of textured paper NOT standard laser or color xerox paper.  Further, the letter was all in black print signed in BLUE ink.  It was the only one of it's type; the other copies were printed on blue stock.

Presumably this exchange was recorded by the BoE videographer and will be televised in a few days. 

Burns addressed the color controversy this way on Patch:


So Burns used an ink jet color printer for a two-color result?   Maybe.

But that doesn't get her off the hook, because it still means that she copied it from a two-color original.  It had to have been in her custody to get a two-color COPY. Simply put, your copy doesn't appear in more colors than the original it's copied from  .And, by the way...

OPRA'd documents are BLACK and WHITE copies.

IF Burns had the original document in her custody, how would she have gotten it?   

From someone at the BoE.

If true, this may be mail theft.  Or just plain old hijinks, a hit job on the Kids First majority. 

GA doesn't have the answers- yet.  Only questions.

A Nutty Cautionary Tale


Have you ever gotten your nuts get caught in a vending machine?  Both of them?

It happened to me last night.

I ran out for a meeting without eating dinner and sometime around 9 pm, starved, took my last 2 dollars to a vending machine and chose the 'healthy' snack- a cashew-almond mix.   So I fed one of my dollars to the machine and waited for the bag to drop down.

It never did. It got stuck and was dangling down, taunting me from it's metal holder.

Nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah... you can't eat me!

"My nuts are stuck!"  I cried,   "my nuts got caught in the vending machine!"

I was in the basement of  City Hall.

A gentleman hearing my cries, gallantly bought a Snickers bar adjacent to my suspended nut-sack, expecting to knock it down.

Nope.  The Snickers bar fell but my nuts were still squeezed tightly.

Have you ever had your nuts squeezed?  It was awful.

"F*ck!"  I hissed.

This was my dinner.  I had to have it.

So I fed my last dollar to the machine for a second bag of nuts. This caused the first to drop, but then the second got stuck-- half-in,  half-out of it's metal holder.

"My nuts are stuck AGAIN!",  I wailed.

Another gentleman came to my aid and grabbed the vending machine like a sumo wrestler , tipping it maybe 5 or 10 degrees forward.

Voila!    Thank you, Sir Isaac Newton!

Gravity dropped my nuts, and thank goodness they weren't busted!

Have you ever had your nuts busted?

Anyway, I'm bothering to recount this for you as a warning: if you're ever in the basement of City Hall, DO NOT mess with the vending machine because it'll grab your your nuts and squeeze them.

Get the Snickers bar instead.