Categories
News

NYC Mayor’s Fundraising Arm Stops Working with Investigators

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, has been investigated for the conduct of the fundraising arm of his political campaign. The Campaign for One New York is currently being investigated by several entities, including the Joint Commission on Public Integrity (JCOPE). For the last year or so, the state ethics panel has been working closely with the Campaign for One New York but as of April 6th, that organization has stated that they will no longer be replying to JCOPE subpoenas.

Although neither the Campaign nor de Blasio have made things entirely clear, there seems to be some concern on their part that the independent, non-profit JCOPE is actually a political tool of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a political rival of de Blasio. They have implied that JCOPE has overstepped its legal purview, and has the wrong motivations in conducting the investigation.

The Joint Commission on Public Integrity was formed back in 2011 as an independent monitoring organization. Coumo has been quick to point this out, though he himself is responsible for appointing the groups chair and seven of it’s fourteen members. That does paint a picture of a group which is heavily influenced by the governor, whether or not he directly “pulls the strings.”

In response to the letter, JCOPE has asked the courts to force Campaign for One New York to comply and continue submitting to the investigation. That decision should be interesting, as it could establish precedent for de Blasio’s group to shrug off other current and future investigations, and may push other non-profit groups to do the same.

Regardless of whether JCOPE is a political tool of Coumo, the Campaign’s reaction this late is the game does seem like a political move, since they’ve been cooperating for so long already, it seems unlikely they didn’t know about Coumo’s alleged influence.

Categories
Organizations Resources

A Shot at the Ivy Leagues

Ivy League
IMG: via Shutterstock

New York City is a hotbed for creative, talented minorities who may never make it out of Brooklyn.  This is a shame because everyone else could benefit from their immense talent.  The problem is that there are not enough resources to supplement ordinary schooling.

A Harvard and Stanford study that came out this year emphasized the inadequacy of how low-income students are represented at selective colleges and universities.  What it showed was that “only 34 percent of the highest-achieving high-school seniors whose families fell in the bottom quarter of income distribution – versus 78 percent in the top quarter – attended one of the country’s most selective colleges, based on a list of nearly 250 schools compiled by Barron’s.”

However, the good news is that there are scouts in New York City seeking out the best and brightest.  In 1978, Gary Simons, a teacher from the Bronx, founded Prep for Prep.  His goal was to find talented students of color and prepare them to go to private schools.  So far, hundreds of his students have gone on to law, medicine, and business schools and work at some of the most prestigious firms.

Feeling that Prep for Prep was not enough, Simons and others later founded Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, or LEDA.  Their aim was to seek out and advance the best students from public high schools from around the country regardless of race.  Yet, almost all the students come from families who earn less than $55,000 per year.

Another popular program is Sponsors for Educational Opportunities, or S.E.O., whose mission is to provide “supe­rior edu­ca­tional and career pro­grams to young peo­ple from under-­served com­mu­ni­ties to max­i­mize their oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lege and career success.”

When you look at the success rate of students who have attended programs LEDA and S.E.O., you can see why wealthy donors would want to contribute funding.  Recently Henry Kravis pledged $4 million in matching funds to S.E.O., which must have surely been a happy surprise.

The training they provide goes side-by-side with regular schooling to give exceptional students a shot at success.  S.E.O. was started by Manhattan lawyers and advertising executives over 50 years ago, yet it is still as successful as ever.

Categories
Organizations Profiles

Margarita Lopez to Serve as Executive VP of NYCHA

Margarita Lopez of NYCHA
IMG: via NYC.gov Margarita Lopez of NYCHA

NYCHA named Margarita Lopez to a new role this month: Executive Vice President for Community Programs and Development. Ms. Lopez, who previously served as a NYCHA board member and environmental coordinator, will now report to General Manager Cecil House.

Though her title has changed, her role will remain much the same within the authority. She will be in charge of community outreach and development coordination. In a time when funding from Washington has been continually cut, Margarita Lopez’s work on NYCHA land development will be essential to the survival of the housing authority. Currently, Chairman John Rhea has proposed a series of private-public partnerships to lease land and raise money to keep NYCHA on its feet.

Ms. Lopez’s previous work within NYCHA saw her leading sustainability initiatives, helping to create Plan NYCHA, and assisting greatly with recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy in late 2012. Projects like the New York City Planter’s Grove were made possible only through Ms. Lopez’s work.

According to Crain’s, one department source said, “Her experience makes her an ideal leader in these important times for NYCHA and public housing residents.” We suspect that, even without being appointed to this new role, Ms. Lopez would have continued to be a source for good within the NYCHA community, promoting change and improvement—it’s what she does best.

Margarita Lopez has a long history of being active within the community. She has been an activist for a number of causes, including women’s rights, LGBT equality, sustainability, ending domestic violence, and more.

Categories
Organizations

Robin Hood Foundation Gala Raises Over $80M

jessica biel robin hood gala
IMG: Helga Esteb via Shutterstock

On Monday, May 13th, the Robin Hood Foundation hosted a gala to raise money to help fight poverty in New York City. Over the course of the evening, the foundation raised over $80 million. The event was chock-full of celebrities, business leaders, and other well-known faces, many of them donating significant amounts of money to the cause.

Mary J. Blige, Bono, Elton John, and Brian Williams were among the entertainment for the night, as were comedians Louis C.K. and Jerry Seinfeld. Newlyweds Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel also attended the event, stopping to chat with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Paul Simon and Sting performed together on stage.

In 2011 the event raised about $47 million. In 2012, that number was beat by an impressive haul of $59 million. This year’s $80 million knocks both those numbers out of the water. The event was co-chaired by Timberlake and Biel, as well as by Paul Tudor Jones II and his wife Sonia; Henry Kravis and his wife Marie-Josee; and Leslie Moonves and his wife Julie Chen.

This event certainly isn’t the first time the Robin Hood Foundation has brought in big names, though. Last December, the foundation put on a benefit concert entitled “12-12-12,” with proceeds going to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Musicians like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones performed at the concert.

Funds raised and distributed by the Robin Hood Foundation have been used to install libraries at public schools in NYC, feed homeless and hungry New Yorkers, provide for victims of 9/11, and support victims of Superstorm Sandy—to name a few.

Read our profile of Henry Kravis here.

Categories
Organizations Resources

Prom Goes On for Sandy Victims

prom
IMG: via Shutterstock.com

For victims of Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York City and much of the east coast in October 2012, saving up money for a prom dress is likely an unrealistic goal. Many families had their homes and lives shattered when the brutal storm hit, leaving them with nothing but their lives and the clothes on their backs. Homes and possessions were not among those spared, and rebuilding from the ground up has made life hard for many.

But for teenagers trying to move forward, prom isn’t something that is likely to be forgotten. Though they may be struggling through a personal hardship at home, that doesn’t take away the fact that for many, attending prom is a rite of passage. Girls who are juniors or seniors may have dreamed for the past few years about getting the perfect dress and having the time of their lives before they head off to college or work. But for the tens of thousands of families who are just trying to get their lives back together, being able to afford a prom dress isn’t likely to be something they can do.

That’s what the nonprofit group Where to Turn has decided to do something about. The group collected over a thousand prom dresses this year—and they plan to pass them all out to teens who had homes and cars destroyed during the storm. The dresses were collected not just from generous givers (individuals and businesses) in the New York area, but were also sent in from around the country.

And now that prom season is here, the group has started getting the dresses to those who need them. They held a free dress expo on Saturday, April 6th at a Staten Island high school. About 125 teenagers came to the event, perusing the gowns and choosing one to take home. There were also about 250 pairs of donated shoes and $5,000 in donated hair items from Conair. The dresses (all 1,000) had all been dry cleaned for free by a Staten Island dry cleaning company.

“Right now, people are rebuilding and they don’t have enough money to take care of the normal day-to-day things… things that, you know, kids really shouldn’t miss out on,” said Dennis McKeon, who is the Executive Director at Where to Turn. With hundreds more dresses to give away, McKeon says the group is working on organizing other free dress expos in hard hit areas like Queens and the Rockaways.

Categories
Organizations Profiles

Mayor Bloomberg Performs Final Inner Circle Charity Dinner

Inner Circle Charity Dinner
IMG: James Keivom/New York Daily News

On Saturday, March 23rd, Mayor Michael Bloomberg performed his final rebuttal during the annual Inner Circle charity dinner. The show, which began in 1923, is a yearly roast of City Hall journalists and politicians put on by 100 of the top New York reporters (retired and active). It began as a five-act musical parody, and though these day’s it’s down to two acts, it’s still just as wild.

In a 2005 article, Shelly Strickler described it as “an elaborate musical parody written, produced and performed by members of the media—otherwise serious characters who get to let their hair down just once each year… It is a major charity event and a must-see production for New York’s political players.”

At the end of every show, the Hizzoner—an irreverent translation of the title “His Honor,” given to mayors of large cities and NYC in particular—has his/her say, too, though. The mayor appears, generally in an outlandish costume, and gives a “self-deprecating rebuttal.”

This year was Mayor Bloomberg’s twelfth and final performance in his three-term run as Mayor of New York City. He appeared on stage with four separate Broadway show casts: “Rock of Ages,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Annie,” and “Phantom of the Opera.” For the show, Bloomberg put aside his suit and tie in favor of various costumes that included jeans, sneakers, a blue zip-up hoodie, an embellished leather jacket, and an electric guitar.

The charity dinner raises money for over one hundred New York City-based charities. This year’s show was titled “Last Gulp” and featured the character Mayor Mike, who time travels through history to meet important figures looking for the right successor for him. Check out some pictures from the NY Daily News here!