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Mayor Bill de Blasio seemed shocked — shocked! — to learn that self-dealing and sexual abuse has allegedly been going on in the city’s $2 billion homeless-shelter network. Yet such profiteering scandals pop up like clockwork, with the city failing to ever set up real safeguards to prevent them.
On Sunday, de Blasio announced a review of nonprofit groups that run the shelters after The New York Times cited accusations by 10 women of sexual assault or unwanted attention from the $306,000-a-year head of the Bronx Parent Housing Network, Victor Rivera — along with reports that he’d used his position to enrich himself, his family and associates.
“Victor Rivera must understand that no, he is not untouchable,” Hizzoner huffed.
Sorry: too little, too late. Rivera and BPHN have gotten more than a quarter of a billion in taxpayer cash since 2017 alone, the Times reported, and the city knew about financial- and sexual-abuse allegations long ago. Yet instead of ending the contract with BPHN, or even demanding Rivera’s resignation at the time, it merely slapped his wrist and skipped merrily along.
BPHN is far from the only nonprofit allowed to operate shelters despite a troubling record: As we noted last year, Childrens Community Services snagged a $600 million contract even as inspectors found unsafe conditions at its sites. Even after the city installed a fiscal monitor in 2017, it continued to shell out bucks to CCS.
Similarly, hotel-shelters run by Acacia Network Housing, which has raked in $1 billion-plus in contracts since 2010, have been cited for assorted hazards. The city admits 10 of its 70 operators are on a watchlist.
Lax oversight and de Blasio incompetence are only partly to blame: Court orders and generous eligibility rules have led to mushrooming demand for beds, but with a limited number of operators, the city says its “first objective” is to “resolve matters collaboratively” with operators. Translation: We close our eyes to problems.
Yet insider dealing is routine, as political machines milk pet nonprofits. Onetime state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) spent years behind bars for embezzling funds from health-care clinics he controlled, for example.
You can tell that de Blasio and the rest don’t truly care about insiders’ abuse of nonprofits by the way it keeps “shocking” them, yet never leads them to set up serious controls to prevent it.