NEW ROCHELLE, NY — A local tree service has been disposing of tons of debris at New Rochelle public schools going back at least three years, Talk of the Sound has learned. Piles of wood chips, often loaded with chemicals, termites and other insects, have been routinely dumped behind Albert Leonard Middle School and Ward Elementary School, sources tell Talk of the Sound.
Piles of wood chips, typically 6 to 8 feet tall, anywhere from 2 to 20 piles on a give day, are then spread around by school district grounds staff, often working overtime on weekends. Two such piles were dumped at Ward Elementary School in the past 48 hours. The wood chips are not used for decorative purposes.
Benny’s Tree Service was never contracted to deliver wood chips to New Rochelle schools. No such contract was ever put out by the District and Benny’s Tree Service is not an approved vendor. This appears to be simply a matter of a New Rochelle company illegally dumping on school district property with the connivance of employees within the District’s notoriously corrupt Buildings & Grounds department.
Sources tell Talk of the Sound, the dumping deal was overseen by former Buildings and Grounds Director John Gallagher, an Aramark consultant working for the District and James Bonanno, a working-foreman supervising the District grounds crew out of the Cliff Street yard.
Time sheets filed by District employees routinely indicated overtime pay for “spreading wood chips”, approved by Gallagher and signed for by Bonanno. No one above Gallagher, including his immediate boss former Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn, appears to have questioned why these two schools required hundreds of hours of overtime to spread wood chips over a three year period.
Gallagher was removed from the New Rochelle schools by Aramark over the summer at the request of the District. Quinn was fired by the school board in June.
Bonanno, currently under a 30-day suspension with the anticipation of termination, has been involved in a variety of similar schemes including running waste hauling businesses using district equipment, a scrap metal business and others.
The most recent dump — two six-foot piles of wood chips – was made over the past 48 hours at Ward Elementary School, left near the back play area of the school. Complaints are about the piles were brought to the attention of the Ward school administration after children were observed climbing on the piles.
Bernardo F. Rivera, the owner of Benny’s Tree Service of 49 Park Place in New Rochelle, NY, was hostile and uncooperative when reached for comment by Talk of the Sound.
“We didn’t do anything that wasn’t requested,”, said Rivera. “They [the District] have their own maintenance, you should get in touch with them”.
“their own maintenance” appears to be a reference to Gallagher and Bonanno.
The District did not immediately respond to a request for comment.