Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) has offered a second account of what happened to money he helped raise for Hurricane Katrina victims who apparently did not receive the aid. But this latest explanation — that it benefitted Katrina victims who came to New York City — is proving as flimsy as his original.
On New York’s Channel 1, Meeks was actually being interviewed about Rep. Charles Rangel’s downfall when the interviewer shifted gears to questions about the Katrina charity. Meeks has ducked interviews on the topic since NLPC first raised questions on January 31 about a nonprofit called New Direction Local Development Corporation, which sponsored an effort known as New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families (NOAH-F). The “charity” is now being investigated by federal prosecutors.
According to its own tax filings, New Direction took in more than $30,000 in contributions for Katrina relief but expended only $1,392 for that purpose. As pointed out in today’s New York Post:
First, Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks claimed that “every dime” raised by a charity he co-founded would go to 30 impoverished families who lost their homes and all their possessions in Hurricane Katrina.
But now — as those victims say they never got a dime — Meeks is suddenly insisting that the charity focused on Big Easy transplants who relocated to a hotel in his district after the killer storm.
The Post decided to contact some of the alleged beneficiaries who Meeks said on Channel 1 lived in a Raddison hotel for several months, and found:
One organizer of the Radisson effort, the Rev. James Pullings, never even heard of NOAH-F.
And Mindy Carpenter, a former Red Cross worker who worked there for months, remembers the charity’s name but can’t recall anything it did.
Several evacuees interviewed by The Post said they never got anything from NOAH-F, which Meeks founded with state Sen. Malcolm Smith.
“I never heard of the group,” said Pullings, a Queens clergyman described by victims and other relief workers as the leader in organizing assistance efforts at the Radisson.
“I was there from September until April or May. I was there almost every day,” Pullings said in a phone interview from Haiti, where he is helping earthquake victims. “I basically knew who gave what to the people.”
The questions about New Direction morphed into a larger controversy over the awarding of a lucrative gambling franchise to Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) by New York Governor David Paterson. AEG’s “investors” included former Rep. Floyd Flake, whose protégés include Meeks and state Senator Malcolm Smith, another “co-founder” of New Direction. Smith’s former partner, a contractor name Darryl Green, was involved in the AEG bid. Greene is a convicted felon who embezzled $500,000 from New York City during the nineties. His wife was a founding director of New Direction.
Three days after the franchise was awarded On January 29, Paterson met with Flake to discuss Flake’s support for his (now cancelled) re-election campaign. The resultant media coverage shed light on a highly irregular process under which the AEG bid was accepted, leading Greene, Flake, and rapper Jay-Z to withdraw as “investors.” It became such a hot potato that New York state withdrew the AEG award altogether on March 11.
During the Channel 1 interview, Meeks claimed he would “love to come back” and address not only the New Direction imbroglio, but also AEG, even though he had previously avoided questions on these topics. On Rangel stepping down from his post as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Meeks claimed it “was not a good day for me personally,” and that Rangel is a “great American” and a “great patriot.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said nothing on Meeks’ problems, or the federal probe of New Direction.