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Peekskill Housing Residents Told To 'Stay Confused' Over Leadership

Thursday's Peekskill Housing Authority meeting at Bohlmann Towers was the last for executive Director Harold Phipps.
Thursday's Peekskill Housing Authority meeting at Bohlmann Towers was the last for executive Director Harold Phipps. Photo Credit: Art Cusano

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Thursday's meeting of the Peekskill Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners was the last for controversial Executive Director Harold Phipps, but residents still have questions about the board's leadership.

Before going into a two-hour executive session for what housing authority attorney Bill Florence called resolution and personnel matters, tenants asked about the status of the board with Phipps' departure set for April 30.

Tenant association council leader Bernadette Holliday asked vice chair and acting chair Leyla Ditterlizzi why Phipps was still leading the meetings even through it was not his role to do so. Holliday also said she was confused as to why the public forum portion of the meeting was being pushed to the end of the meeting, which she said violated meeting bylaws.

"Stay confused," Ditterlizzi told her before the commissioners exited the room.

Ditterlizzi and fellow members Pauline Gilchrist, Mary O'Connor and Michael Kane as well as new member Nancy Vann spent several minutes deciding to approve minutes from last month's meeting. Diana Burress was absent due to a family issue. The board's city representative and City Councilman Donald Bennett has stepped down from the board, and the city manager has not yet appointed another councilmen to the board.

Phipps was seen leaving the building at about 8:20 p.m. while the executive session was still ongoing.

After the executive session, board members reiterated to residents that Phipps would not be working at the Peekskill Housing Authority "in any capacity" as of May 1.

Kane said Friday that the board was conducting interviews to fill the position and hoped to have a new executive director in place by May 1.

"The process is moving quickly," Kane said.

However, board members declined to give an exact date to residents for a tenant election that was promised several months ago. Residents who asked if having Florence and O'Connor, who they alleged is his cousin, serving together was a conflict of interest were told by Florence that it was not an issue.

Before going into executive session, the board heard a report from Phipps about the authority's budget, which he said is now expected to lose 25 percent more money due to the federal budget sequester. The authority is expected to have $509,000 in operating revenue, he added.

The authority is moving forward with plans to switch over to natural gas use through Con Edison to save an estimated $65,000 a year and will be stepping up rent collection efforts to bring in more revenue, according to Phipps.

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