Homeless services provider blew city money on staff booze cruise, fast food: audit

New York Post
New York Post
Homeless people sleeping on the floor outside of the Bowery Residents' Committee office inside of Penn Station. An audit found the shelter and services provider spent money on a booze cruise and fast food among other things. Jacob Henry

An embattled shelter and services provider that has been repeatedly lit up for failing to address the homeless situation at Penn Station blew city money on a booze cruise, fast food, and movie tickets for its staff, according to an audit.

Bowery Residents’ Committee charged the city at least $2,653 for the $36,510 catered boat ride, along with $1.4 million in other expenses that were either unsupported or not allowed, the audit by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found.

“It’s a cause for concern when the non-profit hired to address the growing homeless crisis has so many red flags on the expenses it bills to the city. Charging taxpayers for a booze cruise is inappropriate at best,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

BRC’s work at MTA hubs including Penn Station was previously called “very expensive” and “minimally effective” by the MTA Inspector General.

The non-profit held $527 million in city homeless service contracts as of 2019. DiNapoli’s audit covered its contract to operate the 200-bed Jack Ryan Residence on West 25th Street for mentally ill and chemically-addicted homeless adults.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli called the BRC’s spending “inappropriate.”

Auditors found hundreds of thousands of dollars of personnel and facilities expenses like rent and utilities were incorrectly allocated to BRC’s Jack Ryan Residence contract, instead of to other BRC programs located in the same building.

BRC also claimed reimbursement for $3,482 at AMC Theaters and $1,500 at Wendy’s, the audit said — but could not provide invoices or other documentation for nearly half of that money. The rest had been filed as “staff appreciation.”

The organization allocated $2,653 for the cruise to the Jack Ryan contract, which was ostensibly for “staff training and recruitment,” the report said. BRC officials declined to tell auditors if the rest of the cruise expense had also been charged to the city.

The State Comptroller’s audit is the latest black eye for de Blasio’s Department of Homeless Services, whose oversight of $16 billion in contracts over Hizzoner’s tenure has come under repeated scrutiny.
The audit found hundreds of thousands of dollars were incorrectly allocated to BRC’s Jack Ryan Residence contract, instead of to other BRC programs located in the same building.

BRC is one of a handful of scandal-tarred shelter operators who The Post reported in October received $4.6 billion in city tax dollars over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s eight years in office — one out of every four dollars spent on contractors by the Department of Homeless Services.

Other groups are accused of using city money to pay for their director’s “lavish lifestyle.”

DHS was forced to yank contracts from one of its biggest providers, Brooklyn-based CORE Services Group, after twin investigations by the Post and The New York Times exposed rampant nepotistic hiring practices and self-dealing that enriched its CEO, Jack Brown, as well as several of his friends and relatives.
A homeless man inside of Penn Station where the BRC’s work was called “minimally effective” by the MTA Inspector General.

BRC Executive Director Muzzy Rosenblatt did not return a request for comment.

DHS did not respond to the audit’s findings. Agency spokesman Isaac McGinn called the report “flawed,” “inaccurate” and an “attempt to find fault where there is none and politicize our vital work with BRC.”

“BRC is an excellent homeless services organization that does extraordinary work,” McGinn said in a statement. “Jack Ryan shelter is a mainstay in the Manhattan community and has served as an lifeline for thousands of New Yorkers in need for many years.”

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