Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Developer connected to Smith's charter school
From the Daily News:
The phalanx of drab trailers ringed by a chain-link fence in a desolate corner of Queens looks more like a prison than a charter school.
The cramped Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School has no science lab, no gymnasium, no playground and no on-site kitchen. Hot meals are trucked in from 3 miles away, and the school's 300 students dodge cars just to reach the front door.
Only two years ago, the charter school founded by Senate President Malcolm Smith was housed inside a spacious public school 3 miles away in Far Rockaway.
The official reason for the relocation was "increased enrollment" - but the Daily News has learned Peninsula Preparatory Academy was moved to land owned and under development by one of Smith's top campaign donors.
Queens developer Benjamin Companies is in a partnership building homes near the school - and started using Peninsula as a selling point to hawk the seaside residences.
While the move may benefit the developer, it certainly didn't help students wedged inside the too-small trailers - with no end in sight.
Peninsula officials did not answer a long list of written questions from the Daily News. But The News found there may be another reason for the move.
Benjamin Companies' employees and several affiliates have contributed $144,500 to Smith's campaign and political action committee, Build New York PAC, since 2002, records show.
The Benjamin Companies is a major builder of affordable housing projects operated by Smith's former boss and political mentor, the Rev. Floyd Flake.
And the relationship doesn't end there. A member of Peninsula's board in 2004 and 2005 is a real estate broker whose clients include the Benjamin Companies' partnership developing the Far Rockaway site.