Days after disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer announced his impromptu run for NYC Comptroller, Kermit Eady offered a blunt assessment: “Spitzer is a no good dog.”
“Spitzer never built a damn thing. He didn’t know anything about building a Black United Fund, particularly building Black organizations in the Black community.”
Eady has raw memories of how then- New York Attorney General Spitzer destroyed the city’s first Black- owned and operated employee payroll deduction program specifically targeting African-Americans.
In November 2002, Spitzer launched his attack, claiming that “the charity had shifted its focus in recent years to housing and land development without notifying its donors,” an untrue charge.
Eady publicly notified donors of BUFNY’s initiatives (which BUFNY donors approved) via regular appearances on Gary Byrd’s radio program on WLIB during the 1990’s and other public venues. Spitzer also claimed that BUFNY was “chronically delinquent in filing documents required by law with the attorney general’s office.”
By May 2003 NYS AG Spitzer abruptly removed Eady and his vice president Larry Barton from BUFNY’s Harlem headquarters, denying the men access to the organization’s records and mementos. Spitzer, a Democrat, installed four Long Island Black Republicans to run BUFNY, presumably to help it flourish. Spitzer appointed Briding Newell to head the hostile takeover.
Newell had been fired from her post as a Commissioner of the Nassau Department of Drug and
Alcohol Addiction by Spitzer’s 2006 gubernatorial rival Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi because Newell and her boss were sued by a whistleblower who was retaliated against after the whistleblower accused the agency of financial mismanagement and condoning at least one no-show job.
Newell’s team promptly fired all BUFNY’s employees and stopped payroll deductions.
At the time, BUFNY had direct ownership and control of 98 apartment units in eight buildings.
The fate of one of those buildings – BUFNY Headquarters – leaves many unanswered questions.
Research by Dr. James McIntosh found that in October 2005 — two years after Spitzer displaced
BUFNY founder Eady — BUFNY HQ was sold for $3,435,854.00 by an entity called
BUFNY Houses Associates. The property was transferred via a grant deed to an entity called
2273 Realty LLC. The mailing address of the owner was listed as 1987 7th Avenue. Records show that address is owned by Neighborhood Partnership Housing Development Fund Company with a mailing address of 80 5th Avenue. Records also show that this fund company has over the last few years been involved in over three hundred landlord-tenant cases, most of them eviction cases.
Dr. McIntosh pointed out that at the time of the publication of his research “There has been no mention by Spitzer or any of the Harlem politicians to the public of what happened to that 3.4 million dollars that exchanged hands in the sale of the 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard Building.” McIntosh asked, “What was the outcome of that Spitzer ‘investigation’? Where are BUFNY’s books and records covering 24 years? What about BUFNY’s assets, including buildings? What of priceless personal property, including awards, belonging to Eady and Barton?”
Eady tells a sordid tale of what happened when he attempted to seek help from Harlem politicians.
According to Eady, he attempted to contact then-State Senator David Paterson a couple of dozen times. Paterson finally set up a meeting with Eady in which he outlined a plan to have legislative hearings on what Spitzer was doing to BUFNY. Paterson promised to meet with then-Senate Majority Leader Bruno. Eady said since that meeting “David Paterson has never spoken to me again.”
A few months later, Eady found out why.
Paterson became Spitzer’s running mate for governor despite Paterson’s father, David Dinkins and Charles Rangel support of Arthur Eve’s daughter for the position. Spitzer caused a rift between Harlem’s political elite which deepened when Spitzer forced Percy Sutton off the board of the Apollo Theater after Sutton had invested $35 million in the theater then turned it into a not-for-profit. The shocker for Eady came at an event at City College for Spitzer attended by Harlem’s political establishment when, according to Eady, Assemblyman Keith Wright introduced Spitzer as “the next coming of Malcolm X.”
Eady still believes in the BUFNY philosophy of venture philanthropy: empowerment in terms of jobs and business development, ownership and control of resources, and building institutions and community infrastructure.
“If we don’t build an economic base in this country, we are never going anywhere. You can go to all the meetings and marches you want to, but if you don’t build something economically in this country, Black America is going down the tube,” said Eady. “The Egyptians are building. The Vietnamese are building. The Italians, the Irish are all building something… except African-Americans. We have to have an economic infrastructure in our community. We have got to build it.”
“Employee payroll deductions still remain, for Black and other communities, a relatively untapped and unappreciated source of independent funds to support nonprofit community empowerment initiatives,” said Eady.
Founded by Eady in 1979, Black United Fund New York (BUFNY) used voluntary workplace giving to practice self-reliance. Offering African-Americans an alternative to United Way’s monopoly on payroll deductions was a difficult task, but a BUFNY lawsuit opened opportunities for BUFNY in the local, county and state public sectors. By 1984, employees at IBM, Bell Laboratories, New York Telephone and AT&T gave more than $400,000 to BUFNY. That money was distributed to 3,000 community groups that had not received money from the United Way, said Eady.
During almost two decades of active operations, BUFNY awarded more than $15 million in grants and technical assistance to over 2,000 community-based organizations and programs. BUFNY had developed, and owned and/or managed over 400 affordable housing units in New York City with more than 200 additional units on the drawing board. In 2003, BUFNY acquired AM radio station WCKL.
BUFNY’s housing initiative provided affordable housing to community residents and generated additional funds/revenues for program services, as well as contracts for underutilized businesses.
These contracts affected hundreds to thousands of jobs for the unemployed, including ex-offenders and trainees in the construction industry, college interns and select high school students.
BUFNY took a two-prong approach to the integration of advanced computer and telecommunications technologies at the individual and community levels to ensure equitable access for all. First, BUFNY wired each apartment in its 137th Street property with high-speed fiber-optic cable, with plans to expand in the other apartment buildings it owned or controlled.
“We were going to teach the kids how to do homework at home. We were working on home-based businesses for adults, especially for poor people and people of color.” said Eady. “We believed we were far ahead of the cutting edge. No question about it.”
BUFNY also established two Harvest Information and Technical Centers, one in Harlem and the other in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center which provide a wide range of consumer services.