Concerns have resurfaced over the finances surrounding the nonprofit Coney Island Generation Gap in the wake of several charges brought against its former Executive Director, Assemblymember Pamela Harris.
Harris, who is facing 11 charges ranging from defrauding government agencies to making false statements, allegedly took roughly $34,400 from City Council funds that were specifically allocated to the nonprofit. According to the indictment, she started stealing when she was still the executive director of the nonprofit and then continued to do so once she became an assemblymember, a time period that spanned from 2014 until 2017.
Coney Island Generation Gap could not immediately be reached for comment regarding the charges. It is not immediately clear whether the nonprofit was aware of misused funds.
Public records show the Coney Island Generation Gap has repeatedly landed money from City Council, even into FY 2018, despite years-old allegations of corruption tied to Harris’ involvement in the nonprofit. The money also flowed in despite the existence of vetting processes designed to carefully examine allocations.
In FY 2018, Coney Island Generation Gap Reunion Committee Corp landed $33,500 from City Councilmember Mark Treyger to offset “the costs of a youth program in Coney Island, including but not limited to space rental fees, equipment, and other operating expenses,” and $16,250 from the Brooklyn Delegation (Treyger was named co-chair of the Brooklyn Delegation in 2015).
Treyger, who has been a close ally of Harris for years and shares many of the same constituents, has pumped thousands of City Council dollars into the nonprofit, which is geared towards fostering development opportunities for underserved children, seniors, and families in Coney Island, according to its website.
- City Councilmember Mark Treyger speaks at a Community Board 13 meeting. Photo by Matt Tracy/Coney Island News
In 2017, Treyger shelled out $20,000 to the Coney Island Generation Gap Reunion Committee for a Digital Inclusion and Literacy Initiative and another $28,500 to the same place for youth funding. The year before that, Treyger allocated $25,000 to the Coney Island Generation Gap Reunion Committee and the Brooklyn Delegation gave $10,000. Treyger also distributed $20,000 that year to The Coney Island Generation Gap, which differs in name from the reunion committee. Treyger gave a total of $34,705 in FY 2015 while the Brooklyn Delegation allocated a whopping $38,750.
Furthermore, the City Council Speaker allocated $20,000 to the nonprofit in FY 2014. Interestingly, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn now heads the shelter provider Women in Need (WIN), which recently moved forward with a not-so-popular plan to open a shelter in Harris’ district, as Coney Island News reported. The shelter’s slated location is also on Neptune Ave., which is just down the road from the Coney Island Generation Gap’s former location at 2904 Neptune Ave. In FY 2018, the Generation Gap then shifted to 2704 W. 36th St.
Treyger’s predecessor, Domenic Recchia, also regularly handed out City Council funds to the nonprofit. Recchia gave $5,000 in 2013, $14,000 in 2012, and $10,000 in 2011.
Amid the news of Harris’ arrest, Treyger expressed concern over the breaching of public trust.
“The allegations against Assemblywoman Harris are serious and troubling, and are deeply disappointing if true,” Treyger’s spokesperson said through an e-mail. “As elected officials, any breach of the public trust is a serious offense and must be fully investigated.”
The renewed concerns over Harris’ ties to her former nonprofit came more than a year after former Republican candidate Lucretia Regina-Potter, who ran against Harris in 2015, slammed her opponent during a debate. “I don’t have to hide behind a not-for-profit that perhaps charges—collects—charges rent and pays it to myself,” she said, according to The Observer.
Harris, 57, is facing 30 years in prison for one charge of lying to FEMA; 20 years apiece for a series of other charges including wire fraud and witness tampering; and five years for bankruptcy fraud or other charges of making false statements, according to the indictment.