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Stink Grows Stronger in SE Queens

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The stench grows worse with each passing day in southeast Queens. Serious questions have been raised about the New Direction Development Corp., a nonprofit created by state Sen. Malcolm Smith and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks.

The organization has been under federal investigation after it was reported New Direction raised $150,000 for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but gave out only $1,300 in relief. To this day, Meeks and Smith have not offered anything that comes close to an explanation of how this could happen.

The investigation has now reached the doorstep of Borough President Helen Marshall. According to published reports, a connection exists among Meeks, Smith and Jamaica-based architect Robert Gaskin, who was hired by the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. to do work at John F. Kennedy International Airport and on the AirTrain.

Last week, Smith’s attorney and political consultant, Joan Flowers, announced she was resigning her $145,000-a-year position as counsel to the Senate majority conference. Flowers had also served as treasurer at New Direction. Despite all this, Smith’s spokesman said her resignation had nothing to do with the ongoing investigations and turmoil in Albany politics.

Gaskin was the architect who built Flowers’ law office and designed the Merrick Academy charter school in Jamaica, where Smith was once a member of the board of directors. The academy board also included Darryl Greene, who was one of the investors in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group, the organization that originally won the bid to install and run a video lottery system at Aqueduct Race Track. Questions have been raised about Gov. David Paterson’s involvement with this decision.

We suspect readers will need a scorecard to trace all the links in this web, but the politicians have nothing to say.

The investigation may take years. In the meantime, we urge Meeks and Smith to take a step in the right direction by clearing the air about what happened with the funds collected for the Katrina victims.

The public has the right to know where that money went.

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