2008-05-09 / Front Page

$1 Million Plus For Seniors' Organization

By Nicholas Briano

In the past 15 years, a senior citizens' transportation program run by Democratic District Leader Geraldine M. Chapey has drawn more than one million dollars from the public coffers, public records on the city's website reveal.

While $950,000 of the money came from the Department for the Aging for her transportation program, an additional $121,262 in public money was provided to Chapey for youth development programs, bringing the total to a mind-boggling $1.1 million.

In the past three years alone, Chapey has wracked up more than $238 thousand in public funds.

The bulk of the money was earmarked for Chapey Trinity Seniors, a non-profit corporation that provides transportation and cultural activities for senior citizens.

Records show that the corporation owns a van used for that purpose. And, although Chapey Trinity Senior Services maintains a public office at 104-02 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Chapey's city contracts all list her address as being 107-10 Shore Front Parkway, Suite 9H, which is her home address.

The same city records show that her husband, Eugene Pasternak, maintains a business called Special Security at the Rockaway Beach Boulevard address and that Chapey maintains another business, Gateway Protective Alarm at that address as well.

It's not clear what percentage of the rent and other amenities for 104-02 Rockaway Beach Boulevard are paid from public money, but records show that at least a percentage of the cost is borne by the taxpayers.

As part of an ongoing investigation into the use of public funds, The Wave revealed in last week's edition that Chapey was granted a total of $120,000 for 2008 in City Council member item money from both Councilman Joseph Addabbo and the Queens delegation. This money is in addition to the contract money she receives from the city.

According to city records, Chapey started receiving government money for her senior transportation service more than 15 years ago.

Five years ago she began to receive monies from the Department of Youth and Community Development for youth programs as well, eventually receiving more than $121,000 although it is not clear what youth programs she is involved with.

The front page article in The Wave last week sparked interest in the community and one source provided to this paper the website on which the information for this article was found. Those records revealed that over the past several years, she has received a total of 21 contracts from New York City totaling $1,115,269,

For example, on March 14, 2006 Chapey was awarded her largest city contract, for $242,029 to provide what the city described in its contract description as "funds that will pay for transportation services."

The Wave has contacted both the Department for the Aging and the Department of Youth and Community Development for clarification as to just how the money is being spent.

We attempted to ask Chapey that question by contacting her by telephone for comment both on the original story last week and on this week's revelations.

Early on Monday morning, Chapey left a message on The Wave's answering machine saying that she was too busy to write her column and would not submit one this week. She made no comment on last week's story at that time. On Wednesday, The Wave again contacted her office for comment. Chapey answered the phone but declined to comment because, she said, she was "in a meeting and had no time to talk."

While a few of the contracts are for more than $100,000 each, the great majority of the other contracts range from $20,000-$80,000 and are mostly from either the Department For The Aged for finances associated with the van service or the Department of Youth and Community Development for "educational support and youth leadership."

In her position as Democratic district leader, Chapey approves and supports political candidates. Local political watchers, who asked not to be identified while speaking about sensitive community issues, say that there is nothing illegal about Chapey receiving the money for her organization, but that the city money may be provided more for her political duties than for the transportation program she runs.

"There certainly is a perception of impropriety when she gets more than a million dollars from the city to run a relatively small van program for seniors," said one political operative who asked to remain anonymous when speaking about a sensitive political subject. "She should not be getting city contracts or member item money unless she gives up her political party duties."

The Department of Youth and Community Development spokesperson, Michael Ognibene says that Chapey was paid by the city to provide intergenerational activities.

"The contract falls into certain intergenerational categories, and the funds were awarded to provide homework help, activities, and dinners," Ognibene said.

He is specifically talking about contracts awarded in 2003, 2004, 2005, and the summer months of 2006.

The money was also part of the Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention Program (YDDP) designed to provide a range of resources that are to respond to the specific needs of the community. Ognibene said that the funds were a community allocation to each community board.

An official from Community Board 14 told The Wave, however, that its youth committee once interviewed local groups before deciding who would get the allocated funds for youth development programs, but that was no longer the case, and has not been so for several years.

"We were upset because we knew that there were groups receiving a lot of funding and weren't doing a good job," said Jonathan Gaska, the community board's district manager. "The mayor took away our right to decide what local groups get funding, so we no longer know what groups receive funding."

The Department for the Aging was also contacted for comment about this story. A spokesperson indicated that the agency was working on a response, but that it would not be available by press time.

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