2010-06-18 / Top Stories

Meeks’ Non-Existent Non-Profit Profits From Public Money

By Howard Schwach

Congress man Gregory Meeks Congress man Gregory Meeks A non-profit founded by Congressman Gregory Meeks and funded by several local politicians took in more than $1.2 million in taxpayer money over the past 15 years with little to no oversight in how it was spent, or even whether the organization was still in operation, a report in the New York Post charged on Sunday.

According to the Post story, Meeks funneled pork-barrel money to the Rockaway Peninsula Civic Association and its David Dinkins Center for Physical Culture.

The news article, written by report - ers Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, says that the center fizzled in 2005, leaving only a skeleton program for senior citizens, but continued to get public funding until 2008.

This is not the first time that the David Dinkins Center has made the pages of The Wave.

In 2006 The Wave reported that Assemblywoman Michelle Titus had provided money to the center although it was no longer in operation.

In 2006, a dozen assembly members, reportedly at the urging of Titus, gave $75,000 to the center for [according to the state website detailing the amounts and earmarks for money provided by member items] “academic instruction, sports and cultural activities for the children and youth of the Rockaway community.”

At that time, a Wave editor contacted Hilda Gross, the head of the center, for a list of programs that it was running.

She admitted that, even though it was already December, three months after school had begun, it had no programs up and running.

“We plan to begin our activities with PS 183 sometime in January,” Gross said then. “Teachers for our afterschool program are very expensive, and we can’t really hire any that we can afford to pay.”

She added that she expected to have 50 students at PS 183, but records show that the program never started even though the funding was received.

In fact, in 2010, at least five years after the David Dinkins Center went virtually out of business except for a senior program that serviced perhaps a dozen seniors, who included Gross, City Councilman James Sanders Jr. gave $3,500 to the organization.

In 2007, Titus once again gave the David Dinkins Center $75,000 for youth programs even though its school programs had not existed for two years.

It is not clear exactly how much Meeks provided over the same period because member items provided by the federal government are more closely held than those of the state or the city, although the Post said that it amounted to approximately $75,000 a year.

The organization’s tax returns for 1996, 1997 and 1998 make reference to the acquisition of a community center site for the Dinkins Center, but the non-profit was founded in Meeks’ Far Rockaway home when he was still an assemblyman and it operated for several years out of “the second floor of a dilapidated Beach Channel Drive home,” according to the Post.

Those tax returns show that the organization spent just over $1.1 million on the Dinkins program from 1996 to 2005, but the forms lack detail on who received salaries and stipends, and just how the money was spent.

Meeks declined to comment for this article and did not comment to the Post for its story last weekend.

Meeks was subpoenaed in April as part of a federal probe into the New Direction Local Development Corp-oration, a non-profit founded by Meeks and State Senator Malcolm Smith.

Both legislators are also under investigation for their role in the Aqueduct Racino fiasco and their dealings with architects and builders in relation to their own homes and to a defunct real estate business run by Smith.

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