So our own Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer is running for borough president of Queens. Is that good news or bad news? That depends on how you look at it. She has the blessings of Borough President Claire Shulman. A pat on the back, a nice warm handshake, I wish you well, and all that good old stuff. Claire and Audrey go back a long way together. How can we forget Audrey’s predecessor Gerdi Lipschitz being taken out of her office in Albany in handcuffs? How quickly some of us forget. Gerdi had a woman, Mary Robles, on her payroll for years who never showed up for work. Gerdi claimed she never knew the woman. Audrey was Gerdi’s chief of staff at that time. It was around the same time that the Borough President of Queens, Donald Manes, was caught by police with a hooker in his car. He was so upset about getting caught he went into a state of depression and started to spill beans all over the place. A prominent attorney by the name of Michael Dowd met secretly with Daily News columnist, Jimmy Breslin. Michael Dowd spilled plenty of beans at that meeting. He told Breslin about delivering envelopes to Manes stuffed with cash from the Parking Violations Bureau. Shortly after, Manes was found dead in his living room from a stab wound to his chest. Dowd came down with a dose of "kill the messenger syndrome" and his license was suspended for five years. Claire Schulman was Donald Manes’ chief of staff during those years. She sat six feet away from Manes for six years and, when prosecutors asked her if she ever overheard any of Manes’ conversations on the phone, she said "no."
Hard to believe? You bet, but even harder to believe is the way Audrey and Claire seem to be practicing all they learned from their predecessors, Gerdi and Donald. While Audrey and Claire both have publicly renounced the idea of additional low-income housing projects in the Rockaways, they seem to be working hard behind the scenes to ensure that certain projects get funding. The tradition of deception continues.
On February 26, 1997, District Manager of Community Board 14, Jonathan Gaska—an appointee of Claire Schulman’s--sent a letter to Joseph Lynch, commissioner of New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal stating that, at its February 11, 1997 meeting, Community Board 14 affirmed its support for the recent application by Goldfarb Properties to build 122 low and moderate income apartments under the Low Income Housing tax credits and Trust Fund Program. That was not true. The minutes of the February 11 meeting show that the issue was not even brought before the board members, never mind voted on or approved. In March of that year, Audrey Pheffer wrote a letter to Commissioner Lynch stating that she joined Community Board 14 and other elected officials in support of the Goldfarb Properties’ project plans for the construction of 122 affordable low and moderate income rental units in the Rockaways. On March 21, 1997, Borough President Claire Schulman wrote a letter to Commissioner Lynch. Here is some of what she wrote:
"Dear Commissioner Lynch:
I am writing in support of Ocean View Associates’ application to secure Low Income Housing Credit for the proposal to build 122 units of low income housing on Seagirt boulevard at Beach 24 street in the Rockaways. I understand that certain developments in Far Rockaway have long waiting lists of people who are seeking rental housing in the price range that is proposed for this project. This proposal will make an important difference in bringing housing opportunities to people most in need. I urge your favorable consideration of this project."
I would like to ask Claire, where are these waiting lists of homeless people, and what projects are you talking about?
On March 28, 1997, Mary A. Bolton, representing the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, responded to a letter written by Richard Libby, representing Atlantic Beach Associates, regarding Wavecrest Gardens application for low income tax credits. Here is some of what she wrote:
"We encourage DHCR (Division of Housing and Community Renewal) to fund as many projects as possible in New York City rather than single out any one project. However, we believe DHCR should especially recognize those projects that, in addition to providing a significant number of new units for these populations, have obtained the support of the local community where the project would be built. The project you are proposing for Wavecrest Gardens certainly meets this criteria as evidenced by the letters of support you have received from the local Community Board (Queens CB 14) and the Queens Borough President."
I have in my possession a regulatory agreement between Ocean View Associates, LLC, and New York City Housing Development Corporation. In the agreement, Ocean View Associates intends to rent all the units in the project to low-income tenants.
If it wasn’t for the fact that the project in question is being built over an easement and is now in court, forcing the complainants to obtain all the records, we might never have known about this. How many more projects are out there that we don’t know about? Can we count on our local politicians for an honest answer? I don’t think so.