Thursday, December 8, 2011

Group Handling Columbia Cash Spent $300K on Consultants With Political Ties

Group Handling Columbia Cash Spent $300K on Consultants With Political Ties

December 8, 2011 9:41am | By Jeff Mays, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer


HARLEM — The West Harlem organization charged with doling out $150 million in community benefits for Columbia University's expansion into the neighborhood has spent more than $300,000 on politically-connected consultants with ties to former Mayor David Dinkins, DNAinfo has learned.

The West Harlem Local Development Corporation (WHLDC) is under investigation by State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after DNAinfo reported the group had spent more on consultants than it had on programming while also failing to successfully organize itself as a nonprofit, hold a public meeting or hire an executive director in the 2½ years since it was created.

Now, DNAinfo has learned that close to half of the organization’s expenditures so far have gone to two top-earning consultants who have already left the WHLDC.

"The idea was that it would be a community-based group and the community would control it," said Walter South, a Community Board 9 member who helped create the idea of a group like the WHLDC to provide a check on Columbia's 17-acre project in Manhattanville.

"They've paid these people $300,000 and what do we have to show for it?" South said. "The money should go for community improvement, not hiring the politically connected."

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