- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf Espada Lost $1.77M for Local Groups | Bronx News Networkbronx

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Espada Lost $1.77M for Local Groups

(This story is from the latest edition of the Norwood News, out today.)

State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr., who has spent the past year boasting of the “millions” of dollars he has brought into his Bronx district as one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers, appears to have left the vast majority of that money on the table.

Last year, state lawmakers received nearly $148 million in discretionary funds, also known as member items or “pork,” to distribute in their districts. Espada managed to score just over $2 million of that for his 33rd district—something he’s played up on campaign fliers and elsewhere.

“I have secured $2.5 million in community project funds designated for many organizations in the district whose services and programs have become a vital lifeline to residents during these difficult times,” Espada said in a press release in February.

But after Espada botched his first two attempts to distribute the funds, it looks like a majority of the money he scored last year — some $1.77 million — never made it anywhere but back to the state.

Several calls and e-mails to Espada’s spokesman seeking clarification about his member item allocations were not returned.

Espada’s first attempt to allocate the funds was rejected by Senate officials because the groups he chose were deemed illegitimate by Democratic leaders because of their ties to his own Soundview Healthcare Network. (Two of the groups were registered with the State just a week or so before member item money was handed out, according to The New York Times. The groups were started by employees of Soundview.)

Project Sunlight, a website provided by the state attorney general’s office that lists government expenditures, shows that Espada then gave $276,900 of his $2,050,000 in member items to a variety of Bronx and city groups. The rest of it—$1,773,100—was offered to the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce, an organization that represents businesses in the borough.

But the group turned the money down because it was earmarked for programs and services they don’t offer, like summer youth camps and anti-obesity campaigns.

“It didn’t fit the criteria of what we do,” said Chamber president Lenny Caro. “None of what they proposed.”

So what happened to that nearly $2 million they didn’t accept?

“If a group refuses to take the money, the money just goes back into the state coffers,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic Majority. Last September, Espada said he was researching where best to place the money that the Chamber rejected.

Meanwhile, Espada’s been seen handing out checks at a number of public events over the last six months or so, pledging thousands to several community groups. Ivine Galarza, the district manager of Community Board 6, says they have yet to get word about the $58,000 the senator promised them at the end of April.

It’s unclear where this pledged money would be coming from. Laura Seago, a research associate at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it could be money the senator is expecting to get from member items funds for the upcoming year. Though these have yet to be given out because the state has yet to pass a budget, legislators generally know how much money they’re expected to get, she said.

It’s unlikely that the money is part of last year’s returned $2 million, Shafran said.

“The money that was appropriated for the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce was never actually allocated,” he explained. “I don’t believe that the senator re-appropriated it.”

To “re-appropriate” is to take money that went unused in previous years and resubmit it for another use, usually in the next fiscal year’s budget.

If Espada had tried to re-appropriate last year’s money for other groups, those requests would likely have been vetoed by Governor Paterson, Shafran said.

“The governor has indicated any re-appropriated [member items] will be vetoed,” he said. “You can do a check presentation all you want, but it’s very unlikely that group is going to get the money.”

Paterson nixed thousands of re-appropriated member items this month in an attempt to balance the state’s long-overdue budget.

“At least we won’t be vetoed,” Caro said. “We vetoed it ourselves.”

Other organizations in the Bronx and across the state won’t be so lucky, as 6,709 items requested by legislators were axed by the governor. The list includes a $10,000 grant to the Bronx Arts Ensemble and $60,000 to the Hunts Point Multi-Service Center, among countless others that won’t be getting expected checks from their representatives this year.


  1. It will be incredible if this man is re-elected. In the last two weeks we've seen him take credit for Cabrera saving the senior centers, bribe people with food to get signatures, and now waste member item money that could have helped the community he so vehemently professes to serve. This dude is a joke. We cannot elect this man back in, we are better than this.

  2. I agree. According to the numbers I saw in the Gotham News and other sources Councilman Cabrera brought in more money into the district than Senator Espada. Espada is the majority leader and he brought in less money than the newly elected councilman? This is why we need a new senator. I am voting for Gustavo Rivera.

  3. Of course he did have the small problem that many good organizations don't want to take any discretionary dollar from him - even if it is our tax money - because they don't want to deal with his sleazy self in any way

  4. Which is exactly why he needs to be out...


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