Volume 17 • Issue 4 | June 18 - 24, 2004

Wils wins reelection as C.B. 1 debates funding issues

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Community Board 1 chairperson Madelyn Wils was reelected on June 15 to another two-year term in a 35-10 vote that fueled a heated discussion on the use of funds the board raises through street fairs.

Wils’ challenger, Marc Ameruso, said in his five-minute stump speech that Community Board 1 and Friends of Community Board 1, a nonprofit organization that shares offices and other resources with the board, “should work together maintaining a respectable disconnect between a chartered city agency and a not-for-profit.” Although Wils won decisively, Ameruso’s 10 votes demonstrated a strong showing for a Board 1 election with an incumbent.

The election came before a resolution saying C.B. 1 approved a raise for the C.B. 1 district manager, a city employee, that could be funded in part by revenues from street fairs sponsored by the board or its nonprofit arm.

“The Community Board budget, which is currently $175,758 from the City and $16,000 per year raised by sponsoring several street fairs, can accommodate these raises and other operating expenses,” the resolution read. Paul Goldstein, the long-serving district manager, had not received a raise since 9/11, it added. The resolution also included pay increases for two other C.B. 1 employees who, unlike Goldstein, are union members and thus have fixed salary guidelines.

The board recommended overwhelmingly that these guidelines be adopted for Goldstein’s raise as well. They include a three percent raise retroactive to July 2003, a two percent raise on July 1, 2004 and a one-time lump sum payment of $1,000 per employee.

Tuesday’s meeting revived a long-simmering debate over the appropriate use of street fair funds. Some have argued that profits from street fairs, which cause disruption to the community in the form of closed roads, crowds, and increased police presence, should not be used for the private gain of C.B. 1 employees.

“Paul Goldstein deserves a raise—that’s not the issue,” said Bernard D’Orazio, a former C.B. 1 member. “The issues is that raising funds in this manner for this purpose is wrong.”

Goldstein did not return two calls for comment on Thursday. At the June 15 meeting, Wils called “absolutely baseless” the allegations of impropriety that had circulated via e-mail to board members before the meeting.

An operator who wants to hold a street fair in one of the city’s 59 community board districts typically appears before the appropriate board, whose members then offer the mayor’s office non-binding recommendations on whether the city should issue a permit for the fair. Rick Landman, a board member, has argued that neither C.B. 1 nor Friends of C.B. 1 should hire for its own street fair the same operator who comes before the board seeking its recommendation to hold separate events in the area.

Landman brought his concerns over alleged improprieties surrounding the finances of C.B. 1 and Friends of C.B. 1 before the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board two years ago. He said the board recently told him the matter was still under investigation.

A spokesperson for the Conflicts of Interest Board told Downtown Express he could not confirm that the matter of C.B. 1 and Friends of C.B. 1 was before his agency. Wayne Hawley, the spokesperson, instead referred a reporter to specific decisions by the Conflicts of Interest Board.

One decision ruled that certain employees of the city Parks Department could have their wages or salaries subsidized by a not-for-profit organization, because in each case, the proposed arrangement had been approved in writing by the parks commissioner. The wage supplement was also approved on the grounds that the nonprofit’s primary purpose was to support the city and that the employee work to be subsidized relates to the benefit of the public at large.

One issue that remains murky is whether C.B. 1 or the nonprofit Friends of C.B. 1 was the main body listed on applications for street fairs whose profits would go to either body. The two organizations, while separate, share offices, phones, and some members.

Friends of C.B.1 and C.B. 1 have different accountants and auditors, Wils said at the meeting. Starting next month, Wils said, she will issue a quarterly report to show the recent activity of Friends of C.B. 1, as she does for C.B. 1.

Chris Coffey, a spokesperson for the mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, which issues street fair permits, said, “It’s not often that community boards themselves apply for street fairs, but when they do they’re treated like any other applicant. We’re not responsible for what they do with the profits.”

Some Community Board 1 members defended the board and the Friends. Liz Berger, a member of both bodies, decried the e-mail messages that circulated before the full-board meeting.

“I think it’s had a very damaging effect,” Berger said, to applause from some fellow members.

Landman and Ameruso, meanwhile, stand by their charge.

Said Ameruso, “I’m glad I got the issues out there.”


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