Whistleblower Punished for Speaking Out

Housing Whistleblower Retaliated Against Drice; whistleblower punished for speaking truth to power By Donald Winkfield for the Black Star News

NEW YORK (RUSHPRNEWS) JULY 8, 2008 -They just want to put Drice out because he is exposing too many problems in here. It is about time somebody said something. Management is asking tenants to spy on other tenants, what’s up with that?”

He has risked his life serving this country as a United States Army Ranger, and now finds himself in a fierce battle with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

“I’m being freaking retaliated against for saving lives and exposing elder abuse at the Shelton House living center,” says Philippe Drice, a Queens’s resident who also lives in the same building.

Drice, a Disabled Veteran, contacted The Black Star News approximately a year ago. Since that time, the conditions have worsened.

Drice complained about several elders who were being mistreated by NYCHA employees; there were verbal abuses, employees entered apartments without notice when the residents were away, they tampered with gas stoves, and in one instance, employees withdrawing over $20,000 from an elderly tenant’s bank account-the money has not been recovered and there has been no arrest.

Many of these complaints have already been reported to NYCHA and Congressman Gregory Meeks’ office; however, the problems still remain. NYCHA managers’ only recourse to address these complaints was to try and evict Drice, dating back as far as June 2006, in five failed attempts.

I was inside Drice’s apartment on the day of NYCHA’s fifth eviction attempt. The bell rang – Drice opened the door and in walked the Marshal accompanied by four New York City Police officers. Drice tried to discuss with the cops the contents of the court paperwork he was holding in his hand when the lead officer stated: “I don’t want to hear anything.” They were there to physically eject Drice from his lawful apartment – NYPD style.

Absent my presence, Drice would have gone to jail that morning for no reason other than city officials abusing their unlawful powers-or things might have even ended up worse for him. Drice served the court’s “Stay of eviction,” on the Marshal, who knew Drice on a first name basis. He looked at the papers, looked at the cops and stated: “That’s it. Everything’s in order.” They turned and walked out of the apartment.

I called NYCHA to speak with Commissioner Tino Hernandez about the complaints at the Shelton Houses; Hernandez is also mentioned as one of the defendants in Drice’s lawsuit.

“It is NYCHA’s policy not to comment on a complaint made by a single tenant,” stated NYCHA’s spokesperson Sheila Green. I made it clear to her there were several complaints from mostly elderly tenants. “We have no comment,” she shot back. I inquired if she was speaking for the commissioner. “Yes; we have no comment,” Green stated.

Congressman Gregory Meeks did not return several calls made to his office; not surprising.

The Black Star News has interviewed many tenants who spoke of horror stories when explaining their living conditions at Shelton Houses. Adult Protective Services (APS) is in walking distance of Shelton Houses and many of the tenants are afraid to make a complaint for fear of retaliation or getting an eviction notice. “They slide notices under your door, then charge you $35 in your next rent, calling it an office expense,” lamented one tenant, referring to management.

I sat in APS’s waiting area for about two hours.

An elderly woman told me she was waiting there to speak with someone and had arrived there an hour and a half before me. No one had asked the woman anything the whole time I was there. When I asked to speak with a supervisor, there was no one available to answer any questions. The service being rendered to the elderly can be graded on a very low scale. There should be better accountability as to how the elderly are being treated and how the money is being spent to care for, the elderly. Right now it’s a free for all.

NYCHA claims in court papers that Shelton Houses is an “exclusive senior citizen center”; which it is not. “I live here for more than 10 years and I’m not a senior citizen,” stated a tenant who will remain nameless for now. “A lot of tenants in here are not senior citizens. They just want to put Drice out because he is exposing too many problems in here. It is about time somebody said something. Management is asking tenants to spy on other tenants, what’s up with that?”

Even as my column went to publication, The Black Star News continued to receive information relating to the ongoing issues at Shelton Houses. Tenants who have been victimized are now learning they can tell their story without being harassed. We will expose any retaliation against any tenants who are willing to speak out.

A new allegation from tenants is that NYCHA maintains two sets of books for the rental payments; we continue to look into this matter.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg must answer to the way city agencies under his command treats the elderly as well as all citizens in this city. There can be no accountability when the public has questions that go unanswered. The public has a right to know – by law.

Bad policing, housing or homelessness issues, and the miseducation of our children; these should always be issues placed at the door step of the mayor; that’s where the buck stops.

On July 10th, at 9:30 A.M., Drice is scheduled to be back at State Supreme Court, on Long Island City, before Judge James J. Golia, for oral arguments pertaining to NYCHA’s “remaining family member succession,” policy.

Drice is a whistleblower who needs protection; he’s advocating for the elderly in need.

The City’s housing court system is broken. The City’s Law Department spends millions of tax payer’s dollars on lawyers to render its Citizens homeless.

More to come.

Columnist’s Note: In a future column, I’ll discuss the case of Rose Peck, another wounded whistleblower. A former Columbia University employee, she held housing forums showing people how to address their eviction in Landlord and Tenant court. She was fired from her job and evicted from her apartment after Columbia University bought the building.

Contact Winkfield for his consideration regarding covering your own story: (347) 632-2272 By mail: On The Spot, Post Office Box 230149, Queens County 11423; Email: Bsnonthespot@aol.com or milton@blackstarnews.com; call (212) 481-7745.

Together we can get the justice everyone just talks about.

To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com

“Speaking Truth To Empower.”

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