Indian center told to divulge info

Sen. Tony Avella (c.) expresses his opposition to the Indian Cultural and Community Center's plans in September as CB 13 Land Use Committee Chairman Richard Hellenbrecht (l.-r.) and Assemblyman David Weprin look on.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge last week gave the embattled Indian Cultural and Community Center one month to supply the state inspector general with information about the investors who helped purchase part of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Campus in Bellerose for $1.8 million in 2008.

The nonprofit ICCC purchased property, which was later assessed at $7.3 million, from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York under the condition that it would be used solely as a community center.

According to court documents, this term was later modified to permit, under certain conditions, different uses 10 years later, with an additional payment of $1.7 million to the DASNY.

The center is closely aligned with the Floral Park-based St. Gregorios Malankara Orthodox Church, which the center’s officers and board members list as their mailing address, according to state nonprofit records.

The church, which has about 100 members, is one of 60 parishes operated by the American Diocese of the Indian Orthodox Church.

The inspector general started investigating the ICCC after it attempted to purchase additional property on the campus earlier this year. The state Senate introduced a bill in June to allow the sale, but withdrew it after a controversy arose concerning the purchase price and the intended use of the property.

Believing the ICCC promised investors that senior housing units would be built on the property, the inspector general’s office subpoenaed the center July 11, seeking the names of those who funded the purchase of the land and any information provided to them.

The ICCC initially agreed to provide this, but offered only partial compliance through the deadline of Aug. 15, court documents revealed.

During a hearing earlier this month, the ICCC attempted to quash the subpoena, claiming it was being harassed and the investigation overlapped with one being conducted by the state attorney general.

Attorneys for the ICCC told TimesLedger Newspapers that the center was fully cooperating with the attorney general’s investigation and they believed the inspector general had no jurisdiction to investigate a nonprofit.

Mendez disagreed and gave the ICCC 30 days from Dec. 12 to supply the requested information to the inspector general’s office.

In response to the judge’s ruling, Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the ICCC has been misleading the community and withholding information about its true intentions from the beginning.

“Now that their intentions have been unveiled and the legality of how they have obtained this property has come into question, it comes as no shock that they are trying any way they can to derail the inspector general’s investigation,” Avella wrote in a statement.

“The ICCC has become more aggressive and their methods have become increasingly disturbing in recent months. Rather than comply with these investigations, the ICCC has begun a media campaign to paint themselves as falsely accused and unfairly harassed,” the senator continued.

“If in fact the ICCC believes they are being unfairly targeted, they should have nothing to fear from the inspector general’s investigation and should have turned the information over at their first request,” he wrote. “Their actions create more doubt and suspicion as to what shady dealings have already taken place and how much the inspector general’s investigation has uncovered.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Reader Feedback

Rick D from Bellerose Manor says:
Thank you, Senator Avella, for supporting the Eastern Queens communities in this. This organization has been caught in several public lies from their leaders.

For the last several months, this organization and its supporters have started to use the claims of "racism!" when they've been cornered with their own deceit. Nothing is further from the truth. The members of the communities in the surrounding areas want what's best for their areas, not for one group.
Dec. 24, 2011, 6:51 am
Joe V from Bayside says:
You better be careful what you are thankful to Tony for. Tony only looks out for Tony.
Dec. 24, 2011, 8:09 pm
Frank T from Bellerose says:

I am tired of this nonsense. We all know what goes on. Some of the folks say nonsense when a new person moves into the neighborhood. There is more talk when there is a new store.

Why can't we just come together?

The area has folks from all over the world. Why can't we just be?
Dec. 29, 2011, 9:59 pm

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