C.B. 1 and Friends move toward ending unfriendly dispute
By Ronda Kaysen
Community Board 1 and the fundraising arm created in its name are on the way to becoming friends again, as the two groups agreed to create a fund for Downtown nonprofit groups.
C.B. 1 and Friends of Lower Manhattan, a nonprofit organization created in 2001 to raise money for the community board, have been at odds since Friends president, Madelyn Wils, left her post as C.B. 1 chairperson last spring. The organization changed its name from Friends of Community Board 1 last summer after C.B. 1 members voiced a desire to wield more control over the organization, which has nearly half a million dollars in its coffers.
In September, C.B. 1 sent Friends a proposal requesting, among other things, influence over the disbursement of the $500,000 that Friends raised through fundraising efforts and grants while it was closely aligned with C.B. 1.
On Nov. 4, Friends responded with a proposal of its own. The organization suggested creating a Friends-steered Community Fund comprised of five Friends appointees and five C.B. 1 appointees to disseminate $125,000 to Downtown nonprofit groups. C.B. 1 members responded favorably to the suggestion at a full board meeting on Tuesday night, requesting the group add an additional $5,000 to the program.
The whole mood from both organizations is very positive, C.B. 1 member Bill Love said in a telephone interview. Love is chairperson of Internal Workings of the Board, a task force vested with addressing the Friends dispute.
Were very close to an agreement, C.B. 1 chairperson Julie Menin told board members at a Nov. 16 meeting.
The board also responded to Friends offer to contribute $120,000, which includes a $27,000 Red Cross Grant, to C.B. 1s 2006 fiscal year budget. The board wants more control over how the money is distributed and requested the Red Cross grant in addition to the $120,000 contribution, raising the entire contribution to $147,000. With $125,00- set aside for a nonprofit grant program, the latest proposal accounts for half of the total money.
This is a step in the right direction. It accounts for a substantial amount of the money, said Love, adding that the board would ultimately like to reach an agreement regarding the remaining funds.
The two groups have a long history together. They were steered by the same leader Wils until last March and several board members continue to be members of Friends. The dispute has created tension between the intertwined organizations, tension that many hope to resolve.
There are good, well-meaning people on both sides, said Raymond OKeefe, a C.B. 1 board member and a Friends member. OKeefe also sits on the Internal Workings taskforce. I cant imagine any way that this wouldnt work out to be a very pleasant and mutually beneficial relationship for Downtown.
He declined to comment on the remaining funds.
Wils did not return calls for comment for this story.
Whether the groups will ultimately continue to work together after the remaining funds are spent remains to be seen. For now, both sides seem focused on the current proposal. Both groups are kind of wary right now, said Love. Its just a matter of working together and trying to build up some trust.