The Outrageous and Illicit Secrecy Surrounding the PS 109 Land Grab

In withholding documents pertinent to the giveaway of PS 109, HPD is engaging in arbitrary and capricious abuse its authority and distorting the law to serve its own at-best suspect purposes.

They, in the person of HPD counsellor John Fiocca is quoting out of context a snippet of a court decision in a way that would allow government agencies to totally ignore their responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Law.

But even according to the snippet cited, the HPD is required to turn over all materials or portions thereof which are "instructions to staff that affect the public."

Of course, the FOIL law contains a Catch-22 conflict of interest. A counsellor in the employ of the agency refuses to release or blocks out material. Since the documents are not made available to the public or the requestor, the requestor is prevented from inspecting what may be withheld, or how the grounds for withholding may apply.

An implied promise to satisfy the need for unbiased and impartial decisions are the reason that disinterested and materially detached courts exist.

In the matter of PS 109, the HPD is not only withholding the information, but refusing to explain the specific reasons that supposedly justify keeping it all secret. Thus, the public is being deprived of its rights to know what the government does with its tax dollars, and with any democratic spirit. The Declaration of Independence says that governments justly have to earn their powers by the consent of the governed. But the governed cannot give consent without being informed of what it is to which it is consenting.

Anyone who imagines that the people of East Harlem/El Barrio are disposed to consent to have their school given away for conversion into real estate in the name of supporting artistry, is dilusionally out of touch with reality.

The public school giveaway is only the beginning. A conversion to 64 apartments will require 64 bathrooms with toilets, washstands and showers, and kitchens with sinks. This plumbing, unitemized in the papers and plans we have been given, along will cost a fortune to the taxpayers. Then, the housing can only be made affordable to the chosen residents by the taxpayers permanently subsidizing their rents. Can anyone in their right mind really believe this is what the taxpayer wants?

The obvious reason these expenses remain overlooked is that the developers and bureaucrats want to low-ball the costs in order to hook in investors and public finance, such as HDC.

There is one additional cost, perhaps more enormous than the finances: The neighborhood people will lose a school to which to send their youth. Eventually, people who cannot afford to pay for private schools would be faced with overcrowding and ultimately driven out, while a new class will replace them to gentrify the neighborhood, much to the benefit of mega-real estate.

The excuse for the whole project is that
this would somehow be cheaper than refurbishing the building into the school that it was designed and always intended to be.

That is why everything in relation to PS 109 is on the sneak, and everyone involved exhibits the furtive behavior of a thief.

However, even under this constraint, the truth shines through like blades of grass that insist on growing through the cracks in a concrete sidewalk: We can extrapolate from the readable material furnished that at least some of what is being hidden is exactly what the legislators and courts had in mind when they established Freedom of Information laws.

We will continue to fight, and we will win because of overwhelming opposition by East Harlem/El Barrio residents, which has yet to express itself in full fury, and because of endemic corrupted thinking that twists the bureaucratic mind into many unsound plans, profitable and beneficial to the politically and financially privileged.