WASHINGTON HEIGHTS - Former employees and supporters of the beleaguered non-profit Alianza Dominicana held a rally Thursday calling for the social services organization to be saved.
Miriam Mejia of the Committee of Friends for the Defense of Alianza Dominicana organized the noon rally in front of the nonprofit's newly built home, the Triangle Building on W. 166th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.
"Since Alianza opened its doors, it's been supporting [anything] our neighborhood needs," she said.
The non-profit was a cornerstone for social services in Northern Manhattan, providing everything from youth employment services to daycare to domestic violence programs.
But it lost its momentum In 2010, when the group and its then-leader, Moises Perez, was investigated by the city and the group had trouble paying staff and staying afloat. Perez resigned from the organization.
On Thursday, with his election-year boss, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) at his side, Perez tried to remove the shadow hanging over him and the organization following city and state investigations into the group’s finances.
“It would have been one thing to punish Moises Perez, unjustly or not, but in which forum can you possibly justify the collective punishment of an entire organization and deny its workers their very livelihood and existence by withholding the pay they have earned,” Perez said.
“What crime did they commit to be so punished by the city and State of New York?”
The investigation did not result in formal charges, but In a July 5 statement the Department of Investigation said it had "revealed a lack of board oversight and weak internal controls" at Alianza Dominicana.
"After (Perez) left two years ago, it keeps getting bad," said Mejia, who worked for the group for 20 years. She added that she worries the non-profit could close. "That possibility exists," she said.
Perez said the group only had 12 employees left, and some had not been paid for approximately five months.
The group’s executive director, Robert Espailat, recently resigned, and Perez said only three board members remained. None of them attended the rally.
The doors to the Triangle Building were locked Thursday.
“It is no secret that this agency is struggling financially, but we can assure you that as a team we are committed to the survival of Alianza Dominicana,” the organization said in a statement.
Perez denied he ever engaged in any corrupt practices and said the investigation was “reckless and politically motivated” and that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Contract Services forced him out of his job.
“The Mayor’s Office of Contracts threatened to eliminate all city contracts and the attorney general threatened to kill the Triangle Building project unless I was separated from the agency,” Perez said.
“Years later these investigations remain open yet there have been no accusations or evidence that I or anyone at Alianza has committed any illegal acts.”
Requests for comment from the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services were not returned in time for this report.