A number of residents of the Salisbury Gardens elderly living facility are seeking the removal of the superintendent, Brian Derry, because, they say, he has been disrespectful and verbally abusive.
Phyllis Caggiano, the president of the Salisbury/East Meadow Senior Center, which is at the hub of Salisbury Gardens, wrote a letter accompanying a petition signed by 29 residents and sent to the Town of Hempstead Housing Authority.
In her letter, Caggiano wrote that Derry is “disrespectful and inconsiderate of all of the seniors.” She alleged that he refused to turn on the air conditioner in 90-degree-plus weather one day last summer. Caggiano claimed that Derry said, “Let them suffocate.”
The seniors opened the windows, but Caggiano reported the incident to the housing authority that same day, she said. Derry was told to turn on the air conditioning and did so, begrudgingly, according to Caggiano, before slamming the windows and “scaring all the seniors.”
One of them was Rosemary Balerdo, a resident of Salisbury Gardens for 11 years. Last October, Balerdo said, she got into a dispute with Derry during which he pointed a finger in her face and began shouting, “You’re not the boss of me!”
Derry was transferred to a senior center in Wantagh for two weeks that month before he returned to Salisbury Gardens. Balerdo said she spoke with members of the housing authority, and claimed they had “covered for Derry” by telling her it was a misunderstanding.
“They figured I’d forget it and let it go,” she said, “but how could you? Why would I?” Balerdo added that when she enters her apartment, she looks both ways to see if Derry is there because “I’m afraid I’ll run into him.”
Derry has been at Salisbury Gardens for 30 years. When Balerdo asked a housing official why he shouldn’t be removed, the official told her, “It’s his home,” Balerdo said.
“Well, it’s my home too,” she told the Herald.
An employee of the senior center said she wanted to speak with the Herald, but feared she would lose her job if she identified herself. “All I could say is that they’re telling the truth,” she said of the residents who have complained about Derry.
The Herald repeatedly called Derry’s landline and cellphone and left a number of messages. At press time, he called and declined comment.
Balerdo and some of the other petitioners spoke to Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen on April 9 about their concerns. According to Gillen’s press secretary, Mike Fricchione, the supervisor is aware of the issue and has been communicating with the housing authority about remedying it.
Fricchione explained, however, that the housing authority is not under Gillen’s jurisdiction, and therefore she has no say over whether Derry will stay at Salisbury Gardens. “But the supervisor is very concerned about making sure the concerns are being addressed,” Fricchione said.
The housing authority recently hired Robert Miletsky, an independent attorney from White Plains, to investigate the claims outlined in Caggiano’s letter and the residents’ petition.
Miletsky said that he called every resident of the 100-apartment community and spoke with the 90 percent who answered, and found that “the bulk of the residents fully support Brian Derry and do not have issues with him,” he said. “It appears that there is just a small handful, if not less, that have issues. The overwhelming majority is very satisfied with Brian Derry and do not want him removed.”
Miletsky continued, “I think in a complex — in any complex — there are going to be some residents who are just not satisfied with the super or the service . . . but those aren’t the ones who represent the view of the vast majority.”
Miletsky reported his findings to the housing authority, stating in a recommendation that that there is “no basis to remove Brian Derry.”