Mount Vernon – Westchester County Court Judge, the Honorable Susan Cacace ruled that the City of Mount Vernon had to remove the padlocks off the gate of OK Freddy’s Meat Market, Tuesday afternoon. At 4:45 P.M., Harold Willis better known to most as Freddy, opened his front door for the first time since the city shut down his business seven days prior. Despite Freddy claiming he had never received a violation in the ten years he has been open, Mayor Richard Thomas’ Quality of Life Task Force and it’s get-tough policy included police raids on OK Freddy’s Meat Market at 132 S. Fourth Avenue among other locations.
Mayor Richard Thomas said the action of Tuesday May 17th was the beginning of activity by a task force comprising police, fire, public works and city attorneys. The targets are property and business owners, OK Freddy’s Meat Market and Mega Beverage Redemption Center, located at 121 East Third Street, with a history of violations and unpaid tickets. But BW could not find any violations prior to the May 17th shutdown of OK Freddy’s, and despite accusations no one has furnished any proof to back up claims of a ‘history of violations and unpaid tickets.’ BW is requesting the City of Mount Vernon make public the violations prior to the abrupt closure.
“As developers are flocking to Mount Vernon we want to make sure criminals and those creating a bad quality of life flock out,” Mayor Thomas told Lohud Tuesday morning, May 17th. “We’re looking to crack down on known problems and make it very clear that the city is no longer tolerating the harm to quality of life and the harm to property values.”
Police raided OK Freddy’s because of alleged illegal alcohol sales, missing smoke detectors and significant amounts of trash accumulated in the basement. Several police officials stood outside the market Tuesday morning as merchandise was removed, the Ernie Garcia written Journal News article reported.
Seven days later Tuesday, May 24th, while Mayor Thomas and his new Task Force were holding a presser in front of 25 West Sandford Boulevard, a ‘location gutted by a fire in January and significant damage remained to the structure as well as the adjoining buildings’ according to Mayor Thomas, Judge Susan Cacace said hold up wait a minute and ruled in favor of OK Freddy’s Meat Market and Mega Beverage Redemption Center.
“Earlier today, Judge Susan Cacace vindicated the efforts of the Mount Vernon Quality of Life Task Force and ordered the owners of OK Freddy’s and Mega Beverage to fix the violations issued by the City of Mount Vernon,” Mayor Thomas said in a statement sent to BW by Former First Corporation Council and now Special Assistant To The Mayor, Maria Donovan. “These establishments represented a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the people of our community and we are thankful Judge Cacace has chosen to protect the people… We will work with the owners to grant temporary supervised access to said locations in order to repair dangerous conditions and fix violations; however, these businesses will remain operationally shut until further notice. Unfortunately, attorneys for “OK Freddy’s” and “Mega Beverage” missed an opportunity to work with the city to potentially reopen the businesses on an expedited fashion. Now the closure has been extended even further due to protracted litigation.”
Mayor Thomas painted a picture in his four paragraph statement that the city was vindicated and the businesses represented a clear and present danger to health and safety. What stood out most was the sentence, “We will work with the owners to grant temporary supervised access to said locations in order to repair dangerous conditions and fix violations; however, these businesses will remain operationally shut until further notice.”
BW obtained the court documents and they tell a different story. Once again we are left with more questions than answers. How can the judge have vindicated the city by ordering them to remove the padlocks? What does the mayor mean when he says “We will work with the owners to grant temporary supervised access to said locations in order to repair dangerous conditions and fix violations,” when the court documents say restraining the respondent [Mayor Thomas and the City of Mount Vernon] from restricting petitioners [OK Freddy’s and Mega Beverage] access to their premises by padlock or otherwise?
When the judge ruled in the mayor’s favor, granting him a TRO – Temporary Restaining Order against the Council President from signing checks, he referred to it as an overwhelming victory, but now that a judge granted OK Freddy’s and Mega Beverage a Preliminary Injunction Order, the mayor tells BW via statement that the judge has vindicated the efforts of the Mount Vernon Quality of Life Task Force. Two opposite rulings but the mayor claims victory in both situations. I know what that sounds like to me but I ask you the reader, does that make sense to you? Those are just a few of the questions that come to mind!
For further clarity we reached out to Corporation Council Lawrence A. Pocari Jr, Esq, and he said, “I can’t comment on anything sir” We reached out to Honorary Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Spezio via email and he responded, “Please contact the administration for any comments regarding the City or any actions.” We reached out to Acting Police Commissioner Ronald Fatigate who was not in when we called, and was told he would get back to us when he got back, which he did not.
The last question local businesses might need to consider, if this can happen to these businesses with no prior history of violations, can it happen to you? Community leaders and local business owners have scheduled a “Rally For Justice” in front of OK Freddy’s Meat Market, Friday Morning, May 27th at 11:00 A.M.
BW will continue to follow this developing story!