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See How Your South Bronx Councilmember is Spending Discretionary Funds

By Eddie Small | July 14, 2014 8:42am
 A breakdown of how your Bronx Council Member is using his or her poverty-based discretionary funds.
Poverty-Based Discretionary Funding for Bronx City Council Members
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BRONX — A new City Council initiative that doled out discretionary funds based on poverty netted an extra $100,000 for several Bronx council districts.

The council members are using it to support organizations ranging from the Food Bank for New York City to The Gambian Society in New York.

A full breakdown of how Bronx Council Members are spending all of their discretionary funding can be found here.

All members received a base $400,000, along with $110,000 for aging initiatives and $150,000 for youth initiatives, but council members also received an extra $25,000-$100,000 depending on the poverty in their districts. Poverty levels were determined using data from the 2012 American Community Survey.

All council members who received the $100,000 in additional funding represent the Bronx: Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Fernando Cabrera, Vanessa Gibson, Melissa Mark-Viverito (the speaker) and Ritchie Torres. Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma received $75,000, while Bronx Councilmen Andrew Cohen, Andy King and James Vacca received $50,000 each.

Torres was extremely happy with the need-based distribution system.

"I commend the speaker for distributing member items not on the basis of political favors but on the basis of objective need, as measured by the number of residents in your district who live below the poverty line," he said.

Torres allocated funds for organizations such as the job placement group Wildcat Service Corporation and God's Love We Deliver, which brings food to people who are too ill to shop or cook for themselves.

His district, which includes Belmont and Tremont, is one of the largest recipients of food from God's Love We Deliver, he said.

The organizations with the largest single contributions from Bronx council members out of the additional funding were the Bronx Parent Housing Network, a social services organization that received $40,000 from Cabrera, and Per Scholas, an IT workforce development nonprofit that received $40,000 from Arroyo. Per Scholas also received $15,000 from Palma.

Per Scholas plans to use the money for student materials, training costs and alumni services, said Angie Kamath, executive director of the New York site.

"We’re grateful," she said. "The Council has been really incredibly generous and long-term loyal partners with us, and we appreciate them for it."

Gibson gave discretionary funding to groups including affordable housing organization The Crenulated Company, also known as the Settlement Housing Fund, and Garifuna Coalition USA, a nonprofit meant to support and advocate for the Garifuna community, made up of descendants of Africans and indigenous South Americans living in Caribbean countries like Honduras and Belize.

Dividing up discretionary funds is an extremely difficult task, Gibson stressed.

"I probably got over 400 requests," she said. "My No. 1 priority will always be district services first, and then Bronx services that have a particular service in my district."

Vacca donated the largest portion of his $50,000 allotment to the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway.

"They run my only full-time food pantry, and more and more people are calling about that, about the food-scarcity issues," he said, explaining his $18,000 contribution. "I wanted to do the best I could for that food program."

Cohen distributed his funds based partially on his position as chairman of the committee on mental health and development disabilities, according to his chief of staff Daniel Johnson.

The Jewish Board of Family and Children Services, to which Cohen gave $25,000, has a strong track record of providing services to low-income people with mental health issues and disabilities, Johnson said.

This is the first year the Council gave out additional discretionary funds based on poverty, and Torres was pleased with the results, emphasizing that districts with the most poor residents were entitled to the largest amount of funding.

"We’ve taken the politics out of distribution," he said.