Downtown Agency Boots Julie Menin Off Panel
By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — A downtown agency has booted Julie Menin off of a panel that will distribute $17 million in community and cultural grants.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. previously announced that Menin, an LMDC board member and chairwoman of Community Board 1, would help decide how to disperse the last remaining LMDC grant money among local nonprofits.
But then Menin found out this week that the panel has already started meeting — without her.
Menin has clashed with LMDC leadership before and has frequently called for the agency to sunset. In March, Menin was the sole LMDC board member to vote against the agency's annual budget, because she was concerned that the LMDC did not have a sunset plan and was taking too long to release the $17 million in grants.
Menin said Tuesday that she was upset not just because she was unceremoniously dumped, but also because now the six-member panel does not include any local advocates.
"I've never heard of a community enhancement panel that has no community representation," Menin said. "This is the wrong way to go about things."
"I think it will have a chilling effect on people's willingness to serve on public authority boards if when they speak out and vote on principle, they are penalized for their votes," Menin added.
Community Board 1 passed a resolution Tuesday night demanding that the LMDC include Menin on the grant review panel.
The board was originally going to "strongly request" Menin's reinstatement, but they changed the wording to "demand" at the suggestion of Linda Belfer, chairwoman of CB1's Battery Park City Committee.
Belfer and other board members appeared shocked by Menin's explanation of what happened.
"That's totally outrageous," said Peter Braus, chairman of CB1's TriBeCa Committee.
An LMDC spokesman did not contradict Menin's account, but said she would have input into the process as an LMDC board member and community board chair. The LMDC's board, which includes Menin, will have the final say on authorizing the grants.
However, Avi Schick, chairman of the LMDC, previously said that Menin would serve directly on the grant selection panel, according to the minutes of the LMDC's Oct. 6, 2010 meeting.
Since then, Menin said she has spoken to Schick and the LMDC's staff about the panel, and they never indicated that she was no longer part of it.
At an LMDC meeting March 31, Schick announced six members of the panel, which did not include Menin. Menin had left the meeting early for a family obligation and did not realize until this week that the newly announced members would be the only people serving on the panel.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg each appointed half of the panel, according to the LMDC.
The mayor's appointees are Kate Levin, the cultural affairs commissioner; Nanette Smith, chief of staff to First Deputy Mayor Patti Harris; and Amy Stursberg, executive director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The governor's appointees are David Emil, LMDC president; Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corp.; and Cheryl Effron.
The mayor's and governor's offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.