The Bloomberg Administration is poised to give the youth charity founded by Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani more city aid in the form of a tax free bond deal for the All Star Project's 42nd Street Headquarters – this one for $12.5 million.
The cost to city taxpayers is $200,000 and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer says he'll try to prevent that.
“Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani have participated in a cult-like organization for too long and has actually gotten away with it,” said Stringer. “We should not be putting public money into their pockets.”
Stringer testified at a hearing of the city's Industrial Development Agency. Its board, controlled by the mayor, will vote on the financing plan next week. The city comptroller and all five borough presidents have an appointee on the board. Stringer says he'll advise his board member to vote ‘no.’
Stringer says he's outraged by what he's learned about Newman and Fulani. In an interview on “Inside City Hall” last year, Fulani refused to denounce anti-Semitic comments she made years ago. Then, in a NY1 investigation, people once involved with Newman charged they were brainwashed into joining a cult he leads. They told NY1 he lures vulnerable people though All Stars, his psychotherapy practice and the New York City Independence Party, which has been trying to chip away at Newman's power.
That's where the Mayor comes in.
In 2001, Bloomberg got Newman's blessing to run on the Independence Party line. It provided his margin of victory. The mayor took the line again when he ran for re-election last year.
Critics say Bloomberg has been rewarding Newman, Fulani and their supporters. There were donations to their political party and the initial bond deal that let them acquire a 30,000 square foot space. But, recently Bloomberg has publicly distanced himself. Here's how he responded Thursday when asked about the new bond deal:
“The All Star Project can go and make their case. They'll have to have the same criteria that everyone else has,” said Bloomberg.
All Star's President Gabrielle Kurlander says her organization has been a positive influence on tens of thousands of inner city kids. She calls Borough President Stringer's comments untrue saying: “It’s just this kind of politicized posturing that hurts our kids and causes so many educational programs to fail."
In addition, Newman and Fulani no longer have staff positions with All Stars.
Independence Party activists, who have tracked Newman and Fulani for years, say it's a smoke screen and claim they still run it.
“There's no community benefit to this bond at all, unless you want to be brainwashed, and want to hate Jews, blacks and America,” said Independence Party Activist Michael Niebauer.
But the bond vote is scheduled to go forward on Tuesday.
NY1 reached out the four other borough presidents and the city comptroller. Staten Island borough president James Molinaro says his appointee will abstain. Bronx President Adolfo Carrion says he's needs more time to review the details. The others did not get back to NY1.