Mount Vernon — Community leaders, elected officials and supporters gathered in front of OK Freddy’s Meat Market, 132 South Fourth Avenue for a press conference and Rally For Justice. Dressed in white tee-shirts with black letters that read #BlackBusinessesMatter supporters and community leaders stood with Freddy in defense of the process and demanding an investigation of the Mount Vernon City Government, who shutdown and padlocked the business. Despite the mayor’s claim that the business was ‘A Clear And Present Danger to the community’ and has a ‘history of violations’ no violations have manifested.
I’m concerned about what looks like an obvious land grab,” states Karen Edmonson, former Yonkers NAACP President. “and I’m questioning the motive of the city in exercising this illegal shut down of this business.”
Speakers included former Yonkers NAACP President Karen Edmonson, Councilwoman Roberta Apuzzo, Councilman André Wallace, 36th District State Senate Candidate Que English, Blacks In Law Enforcement NY Rep. Damon K. Jones, community activist Dr. Robert Baskerville who all addressed the need for local, state and federal intervention to investigate Joseph Spiezio for impersonating an officer of the law by representing himself as a Deputy Police Commissioner of Mt. Vernon Police Department when illegally closing OK Freddy’s Meat Market and Mega Beverage Redemption Center.
After inquiring about Deputy Commissioner Spiezio’s position they found out that Mr. Spiezio was never sworn in as Deputy Police Commissioner or in any law enforcement capacity in the City of Mount Vernon. There is no information recorded in the Mt. Vernon City Clerk’s Office that Mr. Spiezio holds any position.
“I was official sworn in sir so again misleading,” Joe Spiezio tells BW Editor-In-Chief AJ Woodson via email. “You can’t tell the truth if you wanted to. The document was my copy of with from the day taken.”
City Clerk George Brown gave BW a document that says, there is no record of Spiezio ever being sworn-in anywhere in the clerk’s office. We called Brown for clarification who stated, “Every person sworn in brings the oath of office to the clerk’s office to be filed and then I put the city seal on it and give a copy to the person sworn in, but we have no record of Spiezio being sworn in.”
The thing to remember is if the Mt. Vernon City Government can come in, shut down and padlock a business with no previous violations, they can do it to any business next. All business owners need to come out and stand against this injustice, the press release read. Even though the padlocks were ordered to be removed by the judge, the city came through and told them to get out again yesterday afternoon.
“This is the United States of America, where we are entitled to due process and fair warning,” says Edmonson. “The rights of the owner of OK Freddy’s has been violated. I am Jamaican, and I personally travel to Mt. Vernon to purchase my traditional Caribbean meats and foods. This is simply unacceptable!!! I am standing with this hardworking community-minded young man and his customers and the community against this local government’s unconstitutional tactics.”
“Our local government operates by rules, laws and standards that protect working citizens of Mt. Vernon,” says Damon K. Jones, NY Representative, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America (BLEA). “When our elected officials and appointees violate these laws and violate the people that they are sworn to protect it creates distrust in the community in the process of a true Democracy, that was promised by these same elected officials.”
Councilman André Wallace called the shutting down of OK Freddy’s domestic terrorism.
“I just want to say I’m standing here in support of OK Freddy’s and the other businesses in the community to actually get rid of this form of domestic terrorism, that is actually being placed upon our community,” Councilman Wallace says at the presser. “I think it’s wrong, I think this administration has stepped over its boundaries, I think they are threatening people in this community, scaring people into what they want them to do. It’s a form of intimidation and it has no place in our community.”
“What we’re really dealing with here is unjust, unlawful practices…,” adds community activist and State Senate candidate Que English. “I think the message that we want to send is we’re not going to stand idly by and not bring this to light over and over again until justice is served.”
Even those who passed by stopped and showed their support for OK Freddy’s. And the major question is why did the city illegally shut down the business.
Councilwoman Apuzzo agreed, “Let me just say that the shutting down of business is very very serious. It not only affects the business owners, it affects their families, their employees, with most employees living day by day… All I can say is I question, seriously question the due process. Had there been violations given and they went undone then maybe I could think about this twice. But this has not been the case, there has not been due process.”
When we reached Mayor Richard Thomas he repeated his previous statement, which you can read below in its entirety.
“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. 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.”
“The Supreme Court decision vindicates the City of Mount Vernon’s actions to stop crime and grime. 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.”
“With respect to Mega Beverage, they never possessed a valid certificate of occupancy. Additionally, they operated in a neighborhood that is not zoned for that type of business. Should they choose to reopen, they must identify a site which is properly zoned for that type of business and obtain a certificate of occupancy.”
“As we continue to address issues of crime and grime, we remain committed to working with responsible business owners and landlords to ensure establishments in Mount Vernon are in compliance and operating safely at all times. Our restoration process is designed to assist those that fall short and help them get back on their feet within two weeks of shutdown, or citation. The bottom line is the exception is no longer the rule. Negligence and willful ignorance of the law are no longer tolerated in Mount Vernon.”
The community, elected officials, the owner and the employees all want to know why OK Freddy’s was unjustly shutdown. Like Freddy himself, so far BW haven’t been given any clear-cut answers to our questions and have been shown no proof of a history of violations. We haven’t even been shown any violation prior to the shutting down of the business. We have found nothing to back up the mayor’s statement and will continue to follow this developing story.
BLEA and community stakeholders informed BW they plan to go to the Westchester District Attorney’s office to follow up on their letter sent, requesting an investigation of Joseph Spiezio for impersonating an officer of the law. It’s their position if proven, he was never officially sworn in, he should be arrested for impersonating an officer of the law.
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.