Proving that it is always too early to predict who should win the Bronx Schemer of the Week Award, the Times today produces a strong bid for City Councilman Larry Seabrook.
The veteran pol, reports Ray Rivera and Russ Buettner, somehow managed to parlay a nondescript, one-story office building on White Plains Road that he rented for $40,000 over three years into $157,000 in rent expense reimbursements doled out by the city. The reimbursements went to several nonprofit groups created by Seabrook and his crew, and which received city contracts courtesy of the dapper lawmaker. The groups, the Times explains, conveniently sub-let space from their founding sponsor who seems to have set rent levels somewhat north of his own costs.
Dollar-for-dollar, Seabrook’s feat falls slightly short of yesterday’s strong Schemer entry — the indictment of Bronx state assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo’s grandson, Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, for the Amex credit card rip off of $180,000 from a nonprofit housing group long controlled by the Arroyo clan.
It’s also not as audacious as the award front-runner and still heavy favorite to win, Bronx state senator Pedro Espada Jr., who on Monday bolted over to the Republican side after Democratic majority leader Malcolm Smith hesitated about awarding $2 million in grants to two brand new nonprofits created by Espada cronies.
Still, Seabrook makes a strong contender on several counts: He didn’t let the fact that prosecutors have already investigated him three separate times get in the way of another innovative ploy; he kept up the scheme even in the face of a devastating 2006 audit by the city’s Department of Small Business Services; and he has not even tried to punch out Rivera or Buettner like he did the Voice‘s Bill Bastone and Marc Asnin back in 1986 when they took the first look-see at his enterprising operations.
Note to possible late submissions for Schemer of the Week Award: Entries must be received or postmarked no later than Midnight, Saturday June 13.