Do-nothings’ $21M reward: More for Rangel nonprofit

Do-nothings’ $21M reward: More for Rangel nonprofit
Sunday, January 27, 2013

By ISABEL VINCENT and MELISSA KLEIN
Last Updated: 7:49 AM, January 27, 2013

Never mind that no new projects at Charlie Rangel’s favorite nonprofit, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, have been approved in a year — the group will still get $21 million in state funding.

“That is the best news,” Kenneth Knuckles, the UMEZ president, exclaimed at a meeting of its governing board last week.

The New York Empowerment Zone board met for the first time in 13 months and approved three projects for UMEZ worth a total of $3.5 million.

One allocation, a $2.2 million loan, will be used to build a hotel/medical office building in Washington Heights. Another grant for $1 million will go to the Apollo Theater Foundation to hire staff and consultants as part of a new international marketing push. A third grant for $312,061 is going to the Classical Theater of Harlem to hire staff.

Rangel, the Harlem Democrat, wrote the legislation that created empowerment zones throughout the country in order to revitalize distressed urban communities. The New York Empowerment Zone opened in 1995 with $300 million in federal, state and city money, $249 million of which went to UMEZ and the rest to a similar Bronx nonprofit.

New York had been slow to pay its remaining commitment of $21 million, a delay blamed on “fiscal constraints.” With the state contribution. UMEZ has about $55 million left in its coffers.

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