1981 was a year of fear for the northwest Bronx. The epidemic of burned out apartment buildings which had consumed much of the South Bronx appeared to be spreading inexorably across the borough. Something had to be done.
Enter the local development corporation. LDCs were a relatively new concept back then. Enacted under a section of the state’s Not-for-Profit Law, they could be created for a wide variety of purposes, among them relieving and reducing unemployment, offering job training, conducting scientific research to attract or retain industry, or lessening the burdens of government and acting in the public interest.
That last item is a doozy. It basically gives LDCs — like the Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corp. — the leeway to do just about anything they desire. And, according to Oliver Koppell, who was a prime mover in creating KRVC when he was a state Assemblyman, each successive executive director has put a different stamp on the organization.
Koppell recalls that Janet Golovner, who preceded the current boss Tracy Shelton, felt the area’s most pressing need was an effort to stem housing blight. With the aid of political leaders like then-Councilwoman June Eisland, she developed or renovated apartment buildings on Bailey Avenue, Kingsbridge Road and Putnam Place. From the beginning, local politicians have exerted influence on the direction of KRVC.
Today, there’s no longer a threat of housing blight and Ms. Shelton has refocused the organization to become the champion of the area’s retailers, helping them organize into mini-chambers of commerce like the North Riverdale Merchant’s Association.
A showman at heart, she has used her talents to create a series of high-profile cultural and promotional events aimed at bringing traffic to local businesses. She expanded that brief to include management of RiverFest — an extravaganza aimed at keeping alive the dream of Hudson River access for all. Once a modest affair, in recent years the gathering on the campus of the College of Mount Saint Vincent has added big name headliners on a portable stage.
The stage has also been used to present outdoor live bands and movies at venues like Seton Park. In addition, the stage and movie equipment were loaned out to other Bronx groups for use in their own communities.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
We don’t think so, in fact The Press has been a sponsor of many of KRVC’s events. But beginning around the time of Oliver Koppell’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat state Sen. Jeff Klein in 2014, KRVC has appeared to align itself with him. That year, spanking new vendors tents appeared at the organization’s fairs — ones emblazoned with the logo of their donor, Jeff Klein. The stage bore his logo, too. Of course, his legislative-member-item largesse came courtesy of New York taxpayers.
Now KRVC had proudly announced its purchase of a box truck with which it can haul around all of that Klein-labeled material, no doubt to other parts of Sen. Klein’s district. Local corporate sponsors can pay to have their logos on the side of the truck, but guess who’s picture has pride of place?
And a recent “Fun Afternoon of Live Music and Art” in Marble Hill should have been just that and nothing more. But the event had a special guest — state Sen. Marisol Alcantara — a key member of Klein’s insurgent coalition, the IDC.
So we are left asking — what portion of our tax money is going for legitimate development purposes and what portion is actually being used to promote one political leader and his allies?