Yonkers officials dismiss community center operators due to apparent financial mismanagement

The mayor said a September 2022 letter from the Barack Obama Foundation to the non-profit Nepperhan Community Center LLC concerned him and the city council.

Ben Nandy

Apr 19, 2024, 10:18 PM

Updated 29 days ago

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Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said it is time for the city to take over the crumbling Nepperhan Community Center on Warburton Avenue after more than a year of investigation into the nonprofit that had been contracted to operate it.
The mayor said a September 2022 letter from the Barack Obama Foundation to the nonprofit Nepperhan Community Center LLC concerned him and the city council.
The Obama Foundation representative told the nonprofit's former leader Jim Bostic in the letter that the foundation would no longer provide a yearly grant of $250,000.
The foundation rep wrote that NCC failed to immediately provide a full salary to the center's community coordinator, which was required by the grant agreement.
He also wrote that other NCC staff had occasionally received paychecks that bounced because of insufficient funds in NCC's operating accounts.
The Obama Foundation would not provide additional information to curious city officials, Mayor Spano said, so the city council requested an investigation into NCC by the city's inspector general.
"It was clear the city had to make a drastic move," Spano said during an interview at his office Friday morning.
In the IG Liam McLaughlin's report, released Thursday afternoon, McLaughlin wrote that he confirmed the center's community coordinator had not been fully paid, and that he learned of other evidence of financial mismanagement by the NCC.
"Our investigation revealed that in January 2024 the US Internal Revenue Service revoked NCC's tax exempt status for failure to file their 990 tax returns for the organizations exempt from income tax for the last three years, 2020, 2021 and 2022," McLaughlin wrote, adding that NCC is applying for tax exempt status under a slightly different name, the Nepperhan Cultural Center.
McLaughlin also wrote that NCC owes the city more than $204,000 in back rent and utilities, that the NCC comingled funds in one account, and the community center's leadership needs an overhaul.
Spano noted all those points as reasons for terminating the city's agreement with NCC to operate programs at the city-owned building, and added one more: the apparent lack of repairs and neglect of facilities inside and outside the building.
"They've lost their not-for-profit status. There are IRS issues. There are debt issues, and the building is deplorable," Spano said.
Former NCC Executive Director Jim Bostic retired soon after NCC received the Obama Foundation's letter.
Bostic declined an on-camera interview.
He said over the phone that he believes he is being blamed for problems that he could not control, like those that arose during the Covid-19 pandemic .
Bostic said former Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision to freeze grant awards for 10 months from 2020 to 2021 is a good example of cashflow disruption his and other charities faced.
Bostic said he suspects the city simply wanrs to clear out the center and sell it.
Mayor Spano said, unequivocally, that is not true.
"We're going to do a clean break for now, and make sure that the public doesn't feel the pressure of that place being closed," he said, "because it will not be closed. It certainly will not be closed under my watch."
Spano praised the staff and board for providing quality programs at the center, especially programs for children, and said those programs will not change nor will there be any break in programming as leadership transitions.
Spano said the current director and board members are good people who "just couldn't make it work."
The NCC's current executive director and board president were not available for comment.
The board's attorney, Lawrence Sykes, said the board will meet on Saturday, and then issue a response to the IG's report after the meeting.


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