2011-04-29 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Lew Simon Does Not Represent Us
By Jennifer Grady President, D ayton Beach Park Cooperative

I am writing to you as a matter of great importance to my cooperative, Dayton Beach Park.

The recent appalling actions of Lew Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B, has compelled me to publicly denounce his continued antics to climb Rockaway’s political ladder, this time at the expense of Dayton Beach residents.

To be clear, Simon does NOT represent Dayton Beach Park’s district, but has decided to politically grandstand against Dayton Beach and its Shareholder/ Residents for the benefit of the huge and powerful Local 32BJ SEIU, the union that represents Dayton Beach Park’s maintenance workers.

As your readers may be aware, Dayton Beach is a Mitchell Lama co-op and home to thousands here in Rockaway, the same people Simon purports to represent.

Despite being under the supervision of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (NYC HPD), Dayton Beach Park residents recently suffered through an astounding SIX (6) increases of their monthly maintenance fees in just a few short years, the most increases of any Mitchell Lama in the city. These increases are due widely to the mismanagement of Dayton Beach by its former managing agent and ousted Board of Directors.

On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, Mr. Simon led a “rally” comprised mostly of Local 32BJ SEIU Building Workers who ARE NOT Rockaway residents, and disgruntled former Dayton Beach board members, all of whom he let onto Dayton Beach grounds. While Mr. Simon postured for The Wave cameras on his bullhorn and screamed for fairness for the Local 32BJ SEIU, I can only wonder if he bothered to consider fairness for the residents of Dayton Beach. While the average Dayton Beach resident earns just $22,800 per year, the average Dayton Beach Park Maintenance Worker earns nearly double that at $44,000 per year.

Dayton Beach maintenance workers’ hourly wages range from $25 per hour at its highest to $15 with mandated time and a half overtime pay, fourteen (14) PAID holidays, ten (10) PAID sick days and 100% PAID medical, dental, vacation and pension benefits. In comparison many Dayton Beach residents struggle to make ends meet and keep their jobs with no benefits whatsoever.

Instead of appealing to the Local 32BJ union to consider the recent and continued hardships of the Dayton Beach residents (his purported constituents), Mr. Simon would rather force the increase of maintenance fees for Dayton Beach yet again.

With the smallest bit of effort to research, Mr. Simon would have learned every dime of the 10% wage and 20% benefit increase the Local 32BJ union demands will come directly out of the pockets of Dayton Beach residents PERMANANTELY. With a number of serious repairs still sorely needed and our budget stretched to its limit, there is no other place for the money to come from but another rent hike. Dayton Beach residents are comprised of working families, seniors and retirees on fixed incomes. Just WHERE does Mr. Simon propose Dayton come up with the additional rent to give the Local 32BJ SEIU each month?

It was in The Wave and other local publications that Dayton Beach residents learned their co-op was the second largest non-payer of water bills in the city (over $1.2 million in unpaid bills over three years), had accrued over a million dollars in State and City issued fines for non compliance, in addition to other large previously undisclosed debts. Dayton Beach residents were forced to face harsh realities in learning their hard earned money was squandered and buildings were left in various states of disrepair. Many sacrifices were made to keep Dayton Beach afloat and our homes in the threat of being taken over by the city or the banks. These are all facts Mr. Simon has been made intimately aware of by Dayton Beach residents pleading for his aid, for which they still wait. Never could I have imagined that in his desperate grab for community attention, Mr. Simon would so uncaringly betray those who have supported him. But who could imagine the levels to which Mr. Simon would stoop for political clout with a large and powerful union? Does it not matter to him he’s hurting Rockaway residents in the process? Or do they only matter when they can produce a press clipping in his favor?

Simon should be aware, despite efforts to the contrary, I categorically oppose any effort to raise maintenance fees on Dayton Beach residents and will continue my refusal to support an unjust additional burden on them in any way.

More residents than he realizes stand with me in this position and support the ongoing efforts to save Dayton Beach physically and financially. Personal attacks, intimidation or harassment from Mr. Simon, Local 32BJ SEIU or former disgruntled board members won’t change that. In these tough times, there are many unions giving back to their employers to prevent lay-offs and salary reductions. A concerted effort to demand (not negotiate as Mr. Simon and the Local 32BJ SEIU claim) astronomical pay/benefit increases, without considering the hardships that will be put on Dayton Beach residents, will be vigorously opposed and fail.

Dayton Beach residents have suffered enough and deserve better than to be pawns in a shameless politically motivated game. Just as Mr. Simon chooses to rally for the Local 32BJ SEIU and their interests, I’ll continue to rally for Dayton Beach and the well-being of its residents. I won’t be wavering. No bullhorn or paparazzi required.

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