Legionnaire’s Disease, corruption, distrust engulf Co-op City (Part 2)

 

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

As the new election cycle gets underway to choose new directors for the board at Riverbay Corporation, the usual strategy is being employed: Board members have been using the Co-op City Times to cast aspersions on each other’s character, while a 4.5 percent hike in carrying charges are slated to take effect by fall.

With his usual autocratic and arrogant style, Board President Cleve Taylor has denigrated his opponents on the board, hurled insults at them in the Co-op City Times while dismissing every option offered to reduce or avoid the pending carrying charge increase. Also, despite cooperators making it clear in the past that they were uninterested in participating in a bulk rate deal with Cablevision which would include the cost for cable on the monthly carrying charge bill, Taylor has been acting like a de factor agent for Cablevision by trying to shove the arrangement on residents.

Legionnaires

Ronald Hines, Sr, comforts his son, Ronald Hines, Jr, in the hospital when he was afflicted with Legionnaire’s Disease that he contracted during an outbreak in Co-op City resulting from poorly cleaned cooling tower. Hines, Jr has now partially recovered and is suing Co-op City for his injuries. Based on past pattern by Riverbay Board of Directors President Cleve Taylor, Co-op City’s shareholders will be on the hook for the settlement, if Hines wins his case.

Meanwhile, Ronald Hines, Jr, who was gravely sickened with Legionnaire’s Disease after an outbreak in the community that Riverbay’s administrators tried to keep secret until the New York City Department of Health intervened, has secured legal counsel and filed a lawsuit for restitution which, undoubtedly, Taylor will expect cooperators to pay with another carrying charge increase next year.

They cycle is tiresome, dishonest and exhausting for long-suffering shareholders who moved into the community to enjoy a middle class lifestyle at a reasonable price. Sadly, that reality is now a myth that Taylor seems hell-bent on destroying now that he has achieved a major feat in removing the exceedingly corrupt Marion Scott Real Estate Inc.–OnPointPress.net.-

Increased carrying charges/garage fees loom in Co-op City for new fiscal year

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents, who invested a significant amount of money in exchange for an affordable, safe, and comfortable housing environment.

By Carmen Glover

While taking a victory lap for ridding Co-op City of the destructive and corrupt Marion Scott Real Estate Inc. (MSI), the Riverbay Board of Directors, which manages Co-op City, announced in different financial presentations recently that carrying charges and parking garage fees will be increased by 4.5 percent during the upcoming fiscal year.

Aerial shot of Co-op City

Aerial view of Co-op City.

Sandwiched between providing a breakdown of the board’s reasons for settling an employee lawsuit brought against Riverbay Corporation and Marion Scott Real Estate Inc. for unlawful employment practices, board president Cleve Taylor suggested that imposing the increases was the best solution to settle the $8 million agreement and satisfy the cost of cleaning Co-op City’s cooling tower where legionella bacteria, which sickened several residents, was discovered by New York Department of Health.

For many shareholders, the increases add more burden to financially stretched households. However, the 4.5 percent increase will take effect in the fall of 2015, regardless of the disastrous impact shareholders anticipate.  For information about how to voice your concerns about the looming increases, contact Riverbay’s offices at 718-320-3300–OnPointPress.net.

Legionnaires’ Disease, corruption and distrust engulf Co-op City (Part1)

Legionnaires

Co-op City Father attends to his 29-year-old son, Ronald Hines, who was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease in December 2014, spending 9 days in the Intensive Care Unit. He faces a long rehabilitation period to regain normal functioning.

By Carmen Glover

Feelings of rage emanated from frustrated Co-op City shareholders on Tuesday, January 13, during a town hall meeting which was convened in the community by New York City Health Department officials and Riverbay Corporation representatives. The meeting was held to address the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease, since December 2014, in the cooling towers of the sprawling complex which contains 35 residential buildings that house over 50,000 residents.

‘We did find preliminary positives in the cooling towers. We are continuing to investigate and continue to test other sites,” Health Department expert Dr. Sharon Balter said at the town hall meeting. While stating that the disease is “easy to treat,” she explained that the bacteria “lives in water and people generally get it from breathing in mists of water that have it.” Balter was quick to point out that the legionella bacteria has been concentrated in the cooling towers, which are not connected to the water supply for drinking, cooking and bathing .

Co-op City has experienced an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease.

Co-op City has experienced an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease.

Legionnaires’ is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella and the most severe form of the infection leads to pneumonia. The bacteria are found in water, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, large plumbing systems, cooling towers and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems. The disease was named after an outbreak in Philadelphia in 1976 among people attending a state convention of the American Legion. Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headaches, tiredness, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. The elderly and people who smoke as well as those who have compromised immune and lung disease are most at risk of contracting the disease.

“The cooling towers are being cleaned and disinfected,” said Jeffrey Buss, Co-Op City’s General Counsel. “Public health and safety are our primary concern. We are doing everything possible to eliminate any risk that may exist.”

During the meeting, health officials delivered a Power Point presentation and promised to provide an updated report to the community within a week. According to the health officials, 12 cases of the disease have been identified in the Bronx, eight of which have been identified in Co-op City. The eight cases in Co-op City have been diagnosed in shareholders residing at 600 Baychester Avenue, 120 Benchley Place, 120 Casals Place, 100 Darrow Place, 140 Dekruif Place, 100 Elgar Place and 100 Erskine Place. In March 2014, two persons in Building 27 contracted the disease but it was kept quiet by Riverbay Corporation, which manages Co-op City.

Aerial shot of Co-op City

Aerial view of Co-op City, where an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease has been identified in the complex’s cooling towers.

But residents of the complex were skeptical as they listened to the officials downplay the dangers of the bacteria leading to a widespread outbreak, especially because the people who have contracted the disease do not reside near to the cooling towers.

“I do not believe a word of what you all are saying. You are all liars,” said outspoken community activist Frank Belcher, striding to the front of the room to offer his succinct and spicy assessment after the presentation by the city officials. “Who are you to tell me that my drinking water is safe?”

Belcher was not alone in expressing disdain. Indeed, many shareholders expressed a profound sense of betrayal, anger, fear and concern born out of disappointment that when the two original cases of the disease were discovered in the complex in 2012, they were kept secret by Marion Scott Real Estate Inc. (MSI). Eventually, Riverbay Vice President Daryl Johnson disclosed to the public that the two cases of Legionnaires’ existed, and a local newspaper carried the story.

MSI was unceremoniously booted from its lucrative role of managing Co-op City after a series of financial management, corruption and cronyism that has plunged the corporation into debt, attracted lawsuits and pending investigations, while the buildings stumbled into general disrepair. Meanwhile, shareholders find it difficult o accept any reassurances from the complex’s representatives as being entirely truthful.

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

Anguish tinged the voice of a concerned father, Mr. Hines, who described his once-healthy 29-year-old son, Ronald Hines, who was hospitalized for nine days in the Intensive Care Unit in  December 2014 after contracting the disease.

“My son has been through a lot, He lost mobility. He lost his speech. It’s horrible,” Mr. Hines said, while revealing that his once healthy son, who smokes, is still not able to function and perform routine activities of daily living. Discussing the outbreak on a recent newscast, ABC Medical Director Dr. Richard Besser was detailed.

“The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ can live in the slime that can build up inside the cooling tower so if it’s not cleaned properly it can spray and spread.” That could explain why residents in different buildings are affected.

The distrust between the shareholders and the representatives from the Health Department and Riverbay Corporation is rooted in the corporation’s extensive history of corruption, which has systematically traveled with each new reincarnation of the Board of Directors. The complex is awash in lawsuits and investigations brought by various entities including the booted MSI and former employees.

In the meantime, Cleve Taylor, president of the Riverbay Board of Directors, has suggested that shareholders should brace for “carrying charge increases” to offset the cost of cleaning the cooling towers and satisfying the cost of settling an $8 million lawsuit filed by Riverbay employees who alleged that they were routinely robbed of overtime pay and given time off instead.

One constant in Co-op city is that without a doubt, there is always mismanagement, followed by elaborate explanations to justify hefty carrying charge increases that shareholders insist they can ill afford.–OnPointPress.net.

 

 

Co-op City erupts in chaos amid feud between Marion Scott, board, HCR

Cleve taylor

Cleve Taylor, president of Riverbay’s Board of Directors, ousted Marion Scott Inc. and was immediately warned by HCR that his actions were illegal.

By Carmen Glover

Co-op City’s management is in a state of limbo after dueling actions by its board of directors and the NYS Homes & Community Renewal (HCR).

In a move that has taken longer than shareholders expected, the newly elected board of directors of Riverbay Corporation.Cleve Taylor suspended its real estate agency, Marion Scott, Inc. and had law enforcement officials escort some of its employees off the premises, amid pending lawsuits and a swirl of  new accusations of financial improprieties and mismanagement. The office of New York State Inspector General previously cited the corporation for financial improprieties, resulting in prosecution, trial and jail term for former board president Iris Baez.

During an emotionally charged emergency board meeting held in Bartow Center on Wednesday, November 19, Cleve Taylor, board president, led a vote of 12-2 to oust the management company that has been plagued by accusations of theft of services, financial improprieties, cronyism and disregard for state regulations.  In the days leading up to the action by the Board, Taylor sent a letter to HCR Assistant Commissioner Richmond McCurnin, requesting an investigation into Marion Scott Inc. In his letter Taylor wrote that:

“Marion Scott Inc. did not have a fidelity bond in place as required by HCR regulations. In addition, MSI routinely negotiated and contracted for more than $8 million /year in contracts without approval of the Riverbay Board and HCR.”

coop city

Co-op City is the largest residential housing development in New York state, boasting 35 buildings and housing thousands of residents.

Finance Director Peter Mereola and former General Manager Noel Ellison were named co-general managers and have been charged to manage the cooperation on an interim basis while proposals for the management contract are evaluated by the board. However, Taylor’s action was swiftly met with biting rebuke by McCurnin, who wrote to Taylor stating:

“My immediate concern is your unilateral decision to indefinitely ‘suspend’ all of the management agent’s employees at Riverbay, pending a review by the Board and HCR. This action is in violation of HCR regulations and Riverbay’s obligations under their WellsFargo/HUD loan documents.”

Marion Scott Inc. is currently facing a class action lawsuit resulting from financial improprieties, including contracted workers performing duties for which they were not paid since their checks bounced when presented at various banks. Taylor’s decision to act backfired spectacularly and he now faces skepticism from members of the community and the board, whose pleas to remove MSI shortly after the new board took office in June, fell on deaf ears. Week after week, the community’s local paper, The Co-Op City Times has published various reports that point to collusion between HCR and MSI, including HCR awarding of the contract to MSI in 1999 without a formal bidding process.

First vice president of the board, Daryl Johnson, has been vocal on the issue for months, stating that “according to the HCR regulations, we can self-manage and get rid of Marion Scott in 30 days.” Johnson has made reference to HCR’s own regulations to that effect and published the specific regulations in his weekly column. However, Taylor chose a different path. In the meantime, the board named an ad hoc committee to review proposals from management companies and examine backgrounds of applicants for general manager.

Several management companies have toured Co-op City and submitted bids for the contract, including Marion Scott Inc. MSI’s bid  has the community in an uproar that due to its inside knowledge of Riverbay’s operations, the very company that has caused the development public scrutiny and lawsuits, could win the bid. The idea of MSI continuing to  run the development, despite electing a new board filled with members who won office by promising to get rid of the problem-plagued management company, is causing anxiety among the residents. During the recent emergency board meeting, residents expressed their anger and disappointment in the board’s delayed action. Residents stated that they wanted “investigations and arrests,” to deal with the “theft” that has run the development into the ground. Read more as we continue to follow this story.- OnPointPress.net.