A Queens nonprofit connected to Assemblywoman Vivian Cook spent $560,500 in cash to buy a vacant lot containing nothing but "a decrepit shed, a beat-up picnic table and a dirty paint can"—even though the property's value was only estimated at $287,000, according to the Post. Using money from the Port Authority intended to win community support for the construction of the AirTrain line, the nonprofit purchased the over-priced lot and spent $255,625 on "street cleaning" and "street maintenance," even though the city already provides street sweeping.
The Rockaway Boulevard Local Development Corp.—which Cook founded and where she currently serves as president of the board—has received $2.5 million from the Port Authority and is expected to receive $5.5 million more. Much of that money is supposed to go towards the construction of a "local business resource center" and improvements for a seven-block stretch of Rockaway Boulevard, but it's not entirely clear where the money has gone, the tabloid notes. Work hasn't begun on the business center, and the man who sold the lot to the charity said he was told it would be used to build a school for children whose parents work at the airport.
Records show that the charity has spent about $130,000 on studies including an environmental report and market analysis, though what exactly was studied remains in question. The group also put almost $38,000 on holiday lighting from 2005 to 2007, and between 2003 and 2008 gave $452,513 to the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York—a nonprofit that would have been involved in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group's plan to bring video slot machines to the Aqueduct Racetrack.