It’s Monday. We’ll look at how executives at nonprofits that run homeless shelters earned large salaries, employed family members and sometimes doubled as for-profit vendors who provided services to their charities. And we’ll look at a school in Queens th…
It’s Monday. We’ll look at how executives at nonprofits that run homeless shelters earned large salaries, employed family members and sometimes doubled as for-profit vendors who provided services to their charities. And we’ll look at a school in Queens that counts Japan’s new prime minister as an alumnus.
Credit…Michael Appleton for The New York Times
“A lot of money is going into this place,” said Annabelle Alexander, who lived in Beach House, a shelter in Far Rockaway, Queens, for more than a year. “But it’s not going to us.”
It wasn’t. The nonprofit that runs Beach House has taken in more than $352 million since 2017 for shelters it operates, including Beach House. Its president, Jack Brown III, collected annual compensation of more than $1 million. His mother, his sister, aunt and niece have all worked at the nonprofit. So has his brother, making a six-figure salary.
And, as my colleague Amy Julia Harris reported, the nonprofit — CORE Services Group — has paid millions more to real estate companies that Brown owns.
Her story said that some of the executives who operate nonprofit homeless shelters have paid themselves generously, even as homelessness has surged to record levels in New York.
The seemingly respectable veneer of charity not only masks big salaries, it also shrouds self-dealing and nepotism. Some shelter operators have channeled city money for meals, security and repairs into for-profit companies that they or their relatives control.
Those lucrative services account indirectly for a major portion of the city’s spending on homelessness. One Bronx landlord set up a nonprofit that spent millions on real estate and maintenance businesses that he and his family owned; a Bronx shelter operator was charged earlier this year with laundering kickbacks through a family-run consulting firm.
Brown holds an ownership stake in two companies that have rented buildings to CORE, and he started the security company that polices CORE’s shelters. He also founded a maintenance company responsible for repairs and the catering company that supplies the food, collecting a salary from each of them. The residents at one of his shelters said the caterer often served moldy bacon, undercooked meatloaf and powdered eggs. CORE defended its services and said Brown had disclosed all his financial interests to the city.
The city gave CORE millions of dollars in contracts for the shelters even though Brown had a checkered history. Soon after Brown quit his job at a private prison firm, his former employer accused him of fraud. A Times investigation in 2012 found that Brown started a nonprofit that won a $29 million federal contract to provide housing, jobs and drug rehabilitation services to people leaving prison, but few of those services were actually delivered. An audit by the state comptroller concluded that he had “a disturbing pattern of ethical violations.”
Brown changed the name of his nonprofit, and city officials, apparently unaware of some of Brown’s history, gave CORE contracts to run homeless shelters.
At Beach House, one of CORE’s largest shelters, residents complained of vermin and mold in their rooms. They said that fights often broke out in the hallways and that the security guards rarely intervened.
Alexander said the food provided by the catering company Brown founded made her sick.
Last week, she finally moved out.
“It’s freedom,” she said.
Brace for the chance of showers and thunderstorms during the day, with temps in the low 70s. They’ll drop to the high 50s by late evening.
In effect until Oct. 11 (Columbus Day).
George Floyd statue vandalized in Union Square
A statue of George Floyd, whose murder by a police officer last spring prompted confrontations of police brutality and racial injustice, was unveiled on Friday night. On Sunday morning, a man on a skateboard splashed paint on the face of the statue.
“It’s incredibly disappointing” that it was defaced so soon after the unveiling, Floyd’s brother Terence said in a joint statement with the We Are Floyd Foundation, “and it just goes to show you how far we still have to go to reach our goal of unity.”
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P.S. 13 learns about an alumnus with a big new job
The students at Public School 13 in Elmhurst, Queens, are learning a name — Fumio Kishida, not because he is the new prime minister of a country 6,700 miles away, but because they have something in common with him. He attended P.S. 13.
Evelyn Velez, the principal, emailed the teachers last week after hearing that Kishida — a former foreign minister who is widely considered an uncontroversial moderate in Japan — was all but assured of becoming prime minister. She said Kishida would become a topic in social studies lessons at P.S. 13, a “Leader in Me” school that adapts ideas from the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
“One of the things I tell the kids at the beginning of the year is they are definitely all leaders,” she said.
Kishida gives Velez another famous alumnus to point to. As the principal since 2013, she has repeatedly told students about former Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court, a straight-A student at P.S. 13 in the 1940s. Scalia had been born in New Jersey, but his family moved to Elmhurst when he was 3 years old, and he defined himself as someone from Queens. That’s what Joan Biskupic, the author of a biography about Scalia, told me in 2010.
“He loved that borough,” she told me then. (Scalia died in 2016.)
As for Kishida, he wrote that he had just turned 6 when his father, a government trade ministry official, was posted to New York. He said his language skills were “inadequate” when the family arrived. But after a year, he wrote in the political memoir “Kishida Vision,” “I came to make myself understood in English.”
He was wary of the United States at first — the United States had bombed Hiroshima during World War II. “But I was young,” he wrote, “and to me, the U.S. was nothing but a country that was generous-hearted and filled with diversity. I think it’s no doubt that such experience influenced my political attitude and ideology,” which he described as “pro-America.” (As foreign minister, he helped to arrange President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in 2016.)
He absorbed American culture, going to Manhattan to see “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music,” which were released during the years he attended P.S. 13.
“You may think that we had a very fun life in New York, which was a center of economic activities and culture,” he wrote. “However, the reality was a little different.” He attended the school when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark law that ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination. Discrimination existed “even in elementary school,” he wrote.
“We went to a zoo on a school excursion,” he wrote. “Our teacher told us to hold hands” to keep from becoming separated, “and I tried to do so. A white girl who happened to be next to me blatantly refused to do so.”
He wrote that he wondered why.
“Later,” he wrote, “I learned the words ‘racial discrimination.’”
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In Lower Manhattan
I was waiting for the BM1 near the Custom House in Lower Manhattan. It was pouring rain, and I was completely soaked.
A bus going to Staten Island pulled up alongside me and stopped.
The driver got out.
“Here,” he said, handing me an umbrella. “Take this.”
— Allen Bodner
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Makiko Inoue, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.