It's not often that public opinion pieces submitted by residents are responded to personally and fervently by elected officials. It seems that my opinions in particular have really hit the mark based on the tone of and to my Op Ed about on the Four Corners.
To Trustee Keyes:
I submitted my Op Ed not to offend you, but to express my views as a resident and taxpayer. I stand by them.
You and the newly appointed Deputy Mayor can patronize me if you want, repeatedly and chauvinistically referring to me as the "Judge's Wife," but what you don't mention is that I was a former Patchogue Village Trustee, Zoning Board of Appeals member, Community Development Agency member, Chairperson of Patchogue First (twice), and Paul Pontieri's Campaign Manager (2004 – his first victorious Mayoral campaign in a highly contested 3-way race). All of these things I did long before you became involved in our Village Government. I won't go into my professional accomplishments outside of the Village, but I will say that the taxpayers don't pay my salary.
I too was an appointed trustee at one time, and I know how difficult it is to stand up to a Mayor that appoints you when you disagree with him. Early in my term, I voted against a former Mayor on one of his proposals, and did so despite the fact that I was a very young and newly appointed trustee. At the time I voted against the Mayor's position my husband was the appointed village prosecutor who served at the pleasure of the Mayor. That is what leadership is all about--standing up for what is right even when it is difficult and may come with a price. Despite what you say, you have never voted against Mayor Pontieri’s position on anything.
I also felt a great deal of pressure last winter when acting as Co-Chair of Patchogue First in planning the Community Forum on the Four Corners. The Mayor continually tried to sabotage the event by sneaking the vote on the agenda multiple times before the forum, threatening not to show up at that forum, and seeking to change the venue to Tritec's offices at the 11th hour.
He left members of our group and the Chamber of Commerce scrambling to get information about the new Tritec plan, trying to keep everything as quiet as possible. That seems to be the way the Mayor operates, and you support him, unconditionally.
High Density Rental Housing
Although you were not involved at the time, one of Patchogue First's major platforms was that we would oppose additional high density rental housing. I was there in the beginning, and I fought alongside others against the slumlords in south Patchogue who were destroying our quality of life. I walked the streets with literature and withstood the taunts of those slumlords as they used minivans to transport their tenants to the voting booths in order to oppose our position on high density housing.
Paul Pontieri signed on to our platform at the time and promised to fight high density rental housing. He has broken that promise by becoming high density rental housing’s biggest proponent. You have supported the Mayor’s Tritec plan for 291 rental apartments, unconditionally.
The Mayor’s Car
You mention that you supported the sale of the Mayor’s car to his relative, and then to his directing a Village employee to immediately purchase it back at a profit to that relative. The Mayor did all of this without Board knowledge or approval and in violation of the law. You said in your response to my Op Ed that you think that was a “good idea.” I don’t. Again, you supported him unconditionally.
Artspace: Illegal Loan
Regarding my attendance at board meetings, I work in Manhattan and travel extensively, but I go when I can. I am not an elected official, and it is not the residents’ job to go to Board meetings. It is yours.
I was, however, at a board meeting on August 22nd when Trustee McGiff, an attorney and former prosecutor, advised you that that the Mayor’s unilateral $150,000 loan to Artspace was illegal. He also advised you that unless the Village rescinded the illegal loan you would be personally obligated on the debt and be guilty of a crime.
I watched as you ignored his warnings and voted to unconditionally support the Mayor’s illegal loan without any deliberation or sufficient inquiry, and before receiving an official legal opinion from the Village Attorney or a lawyer of your choosing. Again, you supported him unconditionally.
Mayor’s Cousin as Full Time Custodian
The Mayor hired his cousin (on a deficient 3-2 vote - 4 votes are required to pass a resolution by law) to be a full time custodian with health benefits, despite the fact that the Village had utilized outside contractors for decades at a fraction of the cost. That hire alone will cost us residents more than a million dollars over the life of his relative’s employment.
The Mayor claimed in the Advance that the reason he hired his cousin was that the contractors were being eliminated by “attrition.” That is not true. We now pay his cousin’s salary and still pay the contractors. The Mayor told former Deputy Mayor McGiff, “I know it is wrong, but I have to do it (hire his cousin) for my family.” The Mayor has never denied making this remark. With all of this in mind, you voted to hire the Mayor’s cousin, unconditionally.
Following the Mayor instead of the Law
As a Board member charged with writing laws, I find it disturbing that you fail to take the time to learn the law and seem disinterested in following it.
While I have no doubt that you believe you are acting in the best interests of the residents, I am equally certain that you have failed miserably to represent our interests as taxpayers because you can’t say no to Mayor Pontieri. Ever.
To Deputy Mayor Krieger:
Your claim that I cannot be trusted by the public is ironic and amusing because I am a member of the public; you are our elected representative. It is we, the residents, who look to you to earn our confidence. Instead, you have violated it.
You ran as a member of Patchogue First, promising to follow our platform and to oppose high density rental housing. You broke that promise, and the residents will decide soon enough who can be trusted.
Tritec and High Density Housing
You mention that Trustees McGiff and Crean voted in favor of other developers’ projects in Patchogue. You neglect to point out that those projects were owner-occupied developments. Tritec’s plan is for 291 rentals, and Patchogue is already saturated with rentals. You argue that working families will fill up all of those units (Tritec’s rendering has everyone dressed to the nines and driving a luxury vehicle), and you unconditionally supported the Tritec plan. I am skeptical, given the fact that Tritec currently has rental listings for commercial space that are overpriced and unoccupied, and because Mr. Coughlin, Tritec’s CEO, is in charge of 2,000 Section 8 housing units with the CDC.
I find it more than a coincidence that, given his position with the CDC, his plan has morphed from a mixed-use development with a hotel into the biggest apartment complex this side of Hempstead. You overlook this fact, putting tremendous faith in Tritec’s representations. I have little faith in Tritec’s promises based on its track record. You are rolling the dice with our future.
Carnegie Library: Demolition?
is absolutely not the Carnegie Library's biggest proponent. Although Tritec was awarded a $1 million grant to move the library, and promised to do so, Mayor Pontieri has been advocating its destruction. Recently he had taken to calling it the “Briarcliff Library” in order to lessen its importance, and he has told Board members and several residents that the library cannot be moved because the building "is structurally unsound."
When he realized that argument was unpersuasive because he had previously claimed the building was in good shape, and because engineers recently agreed, he came up with another reason. He is now changing his tune because supporters of the library have begun to mobilize to save it. I am only hoping he will relent to the public pressure he is feeling now and that the library eludes the bulldozers he and his developers had lined up.
Loyalty and Trust
I recognize that you are Mayor Pontieri’s cousin and that he secured your position with Mr. Lesko in the Town of Brookhaven as a Public Information Officer. I suppose that is why you are unconditionally loyal to him and support the Mayor on everything. You should not have been loyal to a person, but to the law, and to the taxpayers and residents who trusted you to represent our interests.
I was surprised that you reacted in such a vitriolic and disrespectful manner towards me simply because I voiced my opinions. It is not surprising that people are hesitant to speak up in this Village. The fear of retribution and retaliation is too great for many. I for one will not be bullied or intimidated into silence by you or anyone, and I will continue to voice my opinions and to stand up for the community I live in and love.
It is my strong opinion that trustees Keyes, Krieger and Devlin have all supported Mayor Pontieri unconditionally, and they have all said "Yes" far too many times when it would have been in our collective best interests had they said "No" when we needed them to.