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Laurie Cumbo, this reeks. — Brooklynian

Laurie Cumbo, this reeks.


"35th District Councilmember Laurie Cumbo has contributed $1.4 million of her $5.8 million in capital funding towards MoCADA, according to Capital New York.

The museum, currently residing on the ground floor of 80 Hanson Place (on the corner of South Portland Avenue), is undergoing a $9 million expansion–which will end up being largely facilitated by Cumbo’s funds and a matching contribution from NYC’s executive budget.

Capital notes Cumbo’s history with MoCADA–she founded the museum in 1999 and was its executive director up until winning the district seat last year–but says it is not illegal, technically improper, or unheard of for City Council representatives to give money to organizations which with they have prior ties.

For her part, Councilmember Cumbo told the publication, “This is an African diaspora art institution that is doing valuable vital work, that’s serving tens of thousands of people. It’s the only African diaspora institution of its kind in the district that is serving a vast majority of people of color, and I don’t think it should close because I’m a council member.”

“We’ve been lucky to have the support of so many fantastic foundations over the years, and we are very grateful for their ongoing commitment to cultural arts,” says MoCADA on its website. “Our funders are model philanthropists who continue to stand by our growth and innovation. But it is not enough to rely on foundations and government grants to stay afloat. We are in danger because we are a small, Black organization and wealth inequality continues to be a very real challenge in the community we serve. We operate without an endowment or major individual donors, making us vulnerable to funding cuts. If a funder decides they no longer want to support the arts (as often occurs), we have to cut free programming, or even staff. That’s why we’re asking you to take action now.”

Without attaching any value judgements to the organization’s work, however, one wonders if the only options are to close, or to expand into the new five floor facility mentioned by Cumbo in the article. Personally tied to the institution or not, nearly 25% of District 35′s capital funds are going to one place.



Does anyone know if the prior council member funded MOCADA with a share of their member items? do I get myself a City Council seat?


  • Well, she is in a unique position to help protect her pet project a cultural entity from possibly closing. Why not? Let's for the sake of argument say that even if she were never directly involved with MoCADA, MoCADA would have appealed to her office for assistance anyway.
  • edited July 2014
    In the nonprofits I have worked for, staffers have to schmooze their city council rep and then give them a made up award at an annual gala in exchange for "member money".

    I guess I'm bitter that MoCADA staffers don't have to do this ritual.
  • At least the money is being put to a legitimate use as it doesn't seem like it's being wasted which as we all know, so often happens.
  • True, a fake nonprofit was not created, then funded, and then used to hire former campaign staff and people owed favors.

    It doesn't reek THAT BAD, but it still reeks.
  • Maybe what stinks is that such a large portion of the funding is going to one place. But, where's the other 4+ million going? That's the question.
  • I wonder if every CM received $5.8M to spend on capital funds, and if the funding would be better distributed if HPD awarded it thru an RFP process.

    While such processes cost nonprofits to have to pay for proposal writers and the city to have to pay for the review process, they do a better job at preventing stench.

    Are such competitive bid processes worth it?
  • Depends on how you look at it. You can't make all the people happy even some of the time so no matter where the money ends up someone is going to be pissed about it.
  • Maybe I am annoyed because no proposal writers received work.

    ....and no luke warm chicken was served at an awards dinner, to non profit workers in poorly fitting suits.

    Sometimes, I like traditions.
  • CM Cumbo said that she didn't want to do participatory budgeting because it would be unfair to unrepresented communities. Well, which were the unrepresented communities? The other top organizations who got money were the Crown Heights Jewish community, who is pretty capable of writing grants. 

    In sum, our lovely new CM is full of crap. Legal or not, her choice of spending is self-centered. She concerned with herself, not this district.