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As we began to delve into the depressing implosion of the Bronx Pride Center, which closed after former head Lisa Winters was charged with embezzling $338,000, we remembered how easy it is for non-profits lacking proper oversight (gay and straight) to do grave harm to their communities.
So, we decided to step things up with our coverage of the city’s main LGBT Center, which doesn’t have public board meetings, hasn’t answered a questions of ours in a year, and recently blocked people from commenting on their Facebook wall.
Actually, it seems, they only block the Voice from commenting on their Facebook wall, something we had to show up in the office of their communications person, Cindi Creager, to discover. (And let us tell you, the spokeswoman was none to pleased to have to speak to an actual member of press.)
After a year of never getting messages returned, it wasn’t that hard to speak to Creager, actually. We just walked into the Center, asked where her office was (answering affirmatively when asked if she was expecting us, as she should have been for some time) and walked in.
Creager was not happy to have a reporter unannounced at her doorstep, microphone in hand. She said we needed an appointment, didn’t offer one, and declined initially to explain why she didn’t see fit, as a press flack, to speak to the press. (She did, however, call back up.)
Eventually Creager came clean and said she didn’t think she had to speak to press who were “unfair to us,” and said we were “biased,” “unfair” and a “liar.” Perhaps this is because we put the Center’s Executive Director Glennda Testone on the list of most powerless New Yorkers, pointed out the hypocrisy of board member Tom Kirdahy, and pointed out bizarreness of the Center blocking anyone from commenting on their Facebook wall.
On this last point, Creager did finally break and admit that the Center “only blocked you.” We can’t confirm or deny whether anyone else could post to the Center’s wall before we wrote our post pointing this out, or if the Center only blocked us but allowed others to post after our post went up. Regardless, we called the Center yesterday to inquire about the specifics of the Facebook block. (Of course, our call was not returned, keeping us from giving their side of the story yet again.)
At least they’re “only” blocking pesky journalists who ask questions!
Previously and today, Creager declined to answer any of these questions:
— In light of the Bronx Pride Center closing, what steps is the LGBT Center taking to avoid similar problems and insure proper oversight?
— Why doesn’t the Center’s board ever have to address the public? And why does Michael Lucas influence the board’s decisions so much when members of the public (or the press) can’t even address the board about anything, ever?
— What is the Center’s latest policy on space usage, after the Israel/Palestine flap?
— Why does the Center think it can receive about $2.75 million in public funds (according to the latest publicly available tax filings) and not have their press person return press inquiries?
— Why does the Center think it can pay its Executive Director Glennda Testone (about $175,000 according to the most recent tax filings, at least partially with public money) a shade more than Governor Andrew Cuomo (about $170,000), and yet Testone doesn’t ever have to speak with the press?
In addition to discovering they’d ‘just’ blocked us and don’t like to speak to the press in person any more than they do on the phone or via email, our drop in visit revealed two other interesting facts.
One was when I asked Creager, “Why is it just a one way street of information that is diseminated, that people can’t ask you questions?” she just nodded, as if that’s they way things are and there’s nothing to be done about it.
The other was when Creager’s back up, a young slim guy, arrived, telling us, “The Center doesn’t have an obligation to answer your questions. I get that you don’t like that, but it doesn’t. So this is just highly inappropriate.”
They walked off, telling us we could stay in the Center (“anyone can be in the Center”) but they wouldn’t speak any further.
Coming up next week: a post-mortem series on the late Bronx Pride Center.