Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted Monday “it doesn’t make sense” that his administration picked a major homeless shelter operator penalized for self-dealing under city contracts to take over a Bronx golf course from ex-President Donald Trump.
The mayor’s concession came nearly a week after THE CITY reported that the firm had secured a no-bid deal to run the Ferry Point Park links starting next month — and a day after two other news outlets exposed management irregularities and a million-dollar payday for Jack A. Brown, the CEO of CORE Services Group.
“I don’t understand why CORE was in that mix,” de Blasio said.
He was reacting to New York Times reporting finding Brown had steered at least $32 million in government funds to security, food and maintenance firms he also owned — and rented property to CORE, while paying himself more than $1 million a year.
The Times also reported that the city Department of Homeless Services had ordered Brown to shut down the subsidiaries. The New York Post detailed multiple well-compensated Brown relatives on CORE company payrolls.
Meanwhile, Trump is fighting the city’s bid to boot him from the golf course by mid-November — unless de Blasio comes up with a $30 million payoff.
‘Agencies Don’t Communicate Properly’
The mayor’s remarks came less than a week after he defended his Parks Department’s pending deal with a Brown-founded company, Ferry Point Links LLC, to run the Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole course at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge.
After THE CITY broke news of the post-Trump golf course pick Tuesday, the mayor said that Brown’s firm was “only working on some of the staffing.”
De Blasio then announced that Bobby Jones Links, an Atlanta company, was in line to take over the Trump course in partnership with CORE.
Said the mayor: “They are exactly the kind of organization that we were looking for, that has a good track record of running golf courses and can make this one work.”
Brown’s company pulled out of the deal last Wednesday after THE CITY asked why the shelter operator — with hundreds of millions of dollars in city contracts — was Parks’ pick to run the course for 13 years.
Bobby Jones Links did not respond to multiple requests for comment from THE CITY. Neither the golf company nor CORE Services Group has answered questions about how the companies came to collaborate.
Crystal Howard, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said the department followed the city’s protocols when vetting the proposed concessionaire, and “we acted swiftly when we became aware of related adverse information.”
The mayor on Monday said that “sometimes agencies don’t communicate properly and information is not shared properly. That is my suspicion here too, because it wouldn’t have made sense to pursue something with this nonprofit.”
‘Proceed at Your Own Peril’
Details released by the Parks Department Monday afternoon show the department was moving full speed ahead with CORE Services Group until THE CITY highlighted the link to the shelter operator.
Department officials reported in a summary of negotiations that they spoke with 14 firms this spring about possibly taking over the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point after de Blasio announced the cancellation of Trump’s contract in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
On March 21, the Parks Department terminated the Trump Organization’s license, effective Nov. 14, according to court documents. Trump’s Bronx golf course company sued the Parks Department in June, alleging de Blasio has no basis for scrapping the deal. That case is pending in Manhattan Supreme Court.
City lawyers, who claim Trump’s team threatened golf course bidders, have submitted to the court a Sept. 22 letter from Trump attorney Kenneth Caruso to the head of New Jersey-based Morningstar Golf and Hospitality warning: “You proceed at your own peril.”
CORE Services Group Inc., Brown’s nonprofit shelter entity, is listed among the 14 initially interested firms, while Bobby Jones Links is not.
But on July 28, CORE Services Group delivered a proposal in partnership with Bobby Jones Links, according to the Parks Department summary. CORE became one of two finalists, along with Morningstar Golf.
Parks officials reported that they had selected CORE and Bobby Jones on Sept. 24 to finalize negotiations to take over the course.
But on Sept. 29, after THE CITY first reported on the deal, Parks “was alerted to an advice of caution in the City’s PASSPort system,” according to officials’ recap, referring to a City Hall contract clearinghouse.
Specifically, they said, on April 22, 2020, CORE Services Group had entered into an agreement with the city Department of Social Services to address unspecified issues with its city contracts.
“Based on this information, Parks decided it was in the best interest of the city to proceed with the negotiated concession without CORE Services Group, Inc.,” the officials declared.
A copy of the CORE–Department of Social Services agreement obtained by THE CITY shows extensive concerns about CORE’s management of its subsidiaries.
The so-called corrective action plan required the organization to obtain an independent forensic audit of its finances and use of subcontractors, and detail city dollars passed along from the nonprofit to Brown’s for-profit companies.
It also orders the nonprofit to inform the city how it will reinvest any subsidiary profits into its mission-driven work and deliver a plan to begin using outside subcontractors instead of CORE-controlled firms.
In a statement Monday, CORE Services Group defended the organization’s performance on a half billion dollars in current city contracts.
“CORE has always operated with full transparency and in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations, and all of CORE’s operations, expenditures, and contracts were conducted with knowledge of — and in many cases, formal approval from — the NYC Department of Homeless Services and other relevant agencies,” said the statement, which was released following de Blasio’s remarks.
“We are proud of the high-quality service we have provided to New Yorkers in need for more than a decade.”
‘It’s not as simple as just get rid of everyone that does anything wrong anytime they do it, because there would be very few left.’
Responding to The Times’ investigation, CORE stated: “These are old accusations that are being dredged up to question commonly used business and legal practices, as well as the integrity of a successful African-American business leader.”
De Blasio said Monday his administration has little choice but to nudge problematic homeless shelter providers toward better performance, because of the demands of New York City’s right to shelter for all in need.
“It’s not as simple as just get rid of everyone that does anything wrong anytime they do it, because there would be very few left,” the mayor said of the contractors.
On Monday, the Parks Department revised and reissued a notice first posted one week earlier for the proposed golf course concession agreement, paying the city at least $300,000 a year for the exclusive right to run the course.
In place of Brown’s Ferry Point Links LLC firm, Parks stated its intention to award the franchise to Affiniti Ferry Point LLC, a brand name associated with Bobby Jones Links.
A hearing on the agreement is scheduled for Oct. 12.
The proposed concession agreement posted by Parks Friday shows Affiniti intends to charge slightly lower greens fees than Trump, with city residents paying $140 on a weekday and $167 on a weekend. The agreement also shows the course will shutter starting Nov. 15 for as long as four months.
Parks officials continue to stress the urgency of getting a new operator in place by the time Trump is scheduled to vacate.
They told the city board set to vote on the Ferry Point course deal: “It was neither practicable nor advantageous to award this concession by competitive sealed proposals or competitive sealed bids due to the existence of a time-sensitive situation where the existing concession has been terminated.”
A competitive bidding process would take “more than a year,” the Parks Department claimed.
A lawyer for the former president’s company says the Trump Organization has every right to remain in the Bronx.
“The city’s termination for ‘breach of contract’ has no legal merit,” said the attorney, asserting that the city would have to pay about $30 million as a “termination fee” to make Trump go away.
The attorney, who requested anonymity, added: “At a time when homeless and violent crime are at an all-time high in New York City, instead of addressing these critical issues, Mayor de Blasio is instead using taxpayer money to appease his constituents by ‘cancelling’ Trump for his own political gain.”