Iona College President Brother James Liguori has sent a thinly-veiled threat letter to City Council District 3 candidate Peter Parente promising to use “use all means at our disposal” to “make our case” (i.e., defeat Parente if he opposes a proposed dormitory) before the “next general election in 2011”. Liguori described Iona students as “a force to be reckoned with”, a force whose voices “deserves to be heard”.
If elected tomorrow, Parente will fill the unexpired one-year remaining on Jim Stowe’s term. Stowe died unexpectedly in August setting up a special election.
The nakedly partisan political letter sent to a Republican candidate for City Council and cc’d to Noam Bramson, the de facto leader of the Democratic party, shows a picture of Liguori at odds with his public image. He comes off as a bullying cleric engaged in hardball politics more concerned with the bottom line at the college than the quality of life for residents who have endured loud parties, drunken students, open drug use and vomit-stained sidewalks for years courtesy of the Catholic college.
Liguori took issue with a quote attributed to Parente in the The New Rochelle Sound Report:
“That area is overpopulated right now. Building a new dorm would diminish the quality of life for the surrounding area. There are plenty of kids being rowdy coming home from parties (emphasis added by Liguori).”
Claiming that “1,800 Iona College students reside in the district and are eligible to vote” and that more broadly thousands of Iona alums live in New Rochelle, Liguori stated that he intends to “encourage all of these ‘voices’ to be heard before the next general election in 2011”. Board of Election records show that few Iona College students are registered to vote in New Rochelle and even less in District 3 suggesting that Iona College intends to push students to register to vote using their student residence addresses in order to influence the outcome of the 2011 election.
All of this comes at a time when Liguori’s own leadership is under question after his former assistant stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the college.
Iona College, which pays no taxes to the City of New Rochelle, has sought for years to manipulate political outcomes to their benefit, currying favor with City officials including, in one case, a questionable real estate transaction involving a former City Manager. The school’s men’s basketball program has been the subject of various NCAA violations going back many years. Two weeks ago, as Talk of the Sound first reported, Liguori’s watch, Sister Marie Thornton stole $800,000 over a ten year period, something Liguori sought to hide from alums, donors and supporters of the college. The amount reported stolen — which some say is lower than the actual figure — represents just under 5% of the college’s total endowment of $20 million.
The text of the letter is as follows:
(Br.) James A. Ligouri, CFC
October 28, 2010
Mr. Peter Parente
New Rochelle, NY 10801
Dear Mr. Parente:
I read with much interest the article in last week’s issue of The New Rochelle Sound Report. Of particular import was the article about the race to fill the vacated seat in District 3 for the council person’s position.
Some of the quotes attributed to you included the following in relationship to our proposed new residence hall: “That area is overpopulated right now. Building a new dorm would diminish the quality of life for the surrounding area. There are plenty of kids being rowdy coming home from parties.”
You have obviously spent time listening to some of the constituents in District 3. What distresses me is that you did not take the time to reach out to Iona College which has the largest number of registered voters in the district and, therefore, deserves to be heard.
We estimate that approximately 1,800 Iona College students reside in the district and are eligible to vote are, therefore, a force to be reckoned with. In addition, many of the business owners in District 3 also deserve to be heard. Finally, over 2,000 Iona alums live in New Rochelle and also deserve to have their voices heard.
Iona College intends to encourage all of these “voices” to be heard before the next general election in 2011 In order to facilitate this, we are mounting a major letter writing campaign in the near future. The residence hall project is critical to Iona College’s future and we are proposing building it on land that is zoned for that use. It is up to the consultants to determine density and other issues and present those findings to the City Council. Quite honestly, it doesn’t seem to contribute to the usual dialog to rehash old arguments about parties, etc.
I hope that we will be given an opportunity to make our case and that our collective voice will be heard. At the end of the day, we will use all means at our disposal to make that case. If you are elected next week, I hope that you will reach out to me to begin that process.
cc. Honorable Noam Bramson