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Bellerose biz district frustrated by Albany

But the Joint Bellerose Business District Development Corporation must first put up $130,000 of its own money Ð something it says it doesn't have Ð before getting the state funds known as member items, the group and the state comptroller's office said.The not-for-profit organization, founded in 1995, is comprised of business owners and civic leaders from both the Queens and Nassau sides of Bellerose. The group aims to improve area's commercial strip Ð Jericho Turnpike Ð so local residents will not have to travel outside the neighborhood to shop, according to its Web site. Kay Payne, the president of the organization, said New York either changed or started to enforce a rule about two years ago that said state grants are considered reimbursements. She said the method was put in place as a safeguard against fraud."The grant says it has to be a reimbursement. Well, we don't have the money to put up," Payne said.Jim Trent, the district's vice president, said the group has $11,000 in working capital and was able to get the state to earmark $130,000 in the past two years in member items for the district through state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). Trent said the organization first had trouble receiving the funds about two to three years ago.A spokesman for the state comptroller's office denied Payne's account."That rule has been in place for a long time," the spokesman said, "in order to prove that (the grants are) for" the groups listed on them.He said there were exceptions depending on the nature of a project, but "in general that's the rule. State law says you cannot gift state dollars. The way that the system works is you're required to show paperwork that the money was spent.""What is the sense of getting grant money..." said group board member Angela Augugliaro, noting that the organization would not have asked for state money if it already had the funds."I'm willing to go to Albany and fight for this," said Trent at the Creedmoor Civic Association meeting earlier this month. Trent is also the civic's treasurer.Padavan said the state Legislature solely secures member item funds for not-for-profits and that most are able to receive the money because they have enough cash on hand."It's a problem for some organizations, but that's the way (the process) is," he said. "Unfortunately, this is a problem but it is not a problem that I can solve unilaterally."The state gives a one-year window of opportunity to use the grants, but the district was able to apply for extensions, Trent said. But he said he is concerned that one day New York will deny the extensions.He said he laid out $27,000 in the form of a credit card cash advance to help the Bellerose group, but the organization would still be far short of $130,000.The group seeks to use $90,000 in state funds to erect an antique clock on Jericho by 242nd Street. It also wants to rebuild a dilapidated triangle and upgrade its lampposts. Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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