By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com June 28 2012 10:41 AM ET
The Bronx Community Pride Center, which serves thousands of LGBT clients, many of them youths in New York City’s poorest borough, will close this Saturday because of financial problems created by the former executive director’s alleged theft of $338,000 from the group.
In a statement Wednesday reported by the New York Post, the center’s board of directors said, “The organization has debts which exceed revenues at this time, and without significant cash infusions from major donors they are unable to continue operations financially.”
The debt equals the amount that Lisa Winters, a lesbian who led the group from 2004 to 2010, is accused of stealing and using for personal expenses such as vacations, meals, clothing, and a dog walker. Winters, 47, was fired two years ago and arrested earlier this month on a criminal complaint from the Bronx District Attorney’s Office charging her with larceny and falsifying business records following a probe by the city’s Department of Investigation. She also had served on a commission for homeless and runaway youths under appointment from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009.
Board chairman Antonio Centeno Jr. told DNAInfo that the timing of the closure so close to Winters’s arrest was “totally coincidental,” although board members were aware of the investigation. The board had been struggling for some time to fill in the gaps caused by the absent funds. It had considered other options including bankruptcy and mergers.
“The board said in a statement that it would work to arrange for other organizations to provide its clients with the services it had offered from its Longwood center, such as HIV testing and counseling, sexuality support groups and case management,” according to DNAInfo.
The Bronx Community Pride Center grew over 16 years from a group of health advocates focused on HIV/AIDS to a cultural and social resource for thousands of LGBT clients of all ages, particularly youths and seniors, in the majority Hispanic borough. Last year the group moved from inadequate quarters in Mott Haven to a new building in the Hunts Point/Longwood neighborhood of the South Bronx named for New York State senator Ruben Diaz Sr., the state legislature’s most outspoken opponent of marriage equality. The senator, who also opposes a transgender rights bill but supported antibullying legislation covering gender identity and expression, hailed the move as “testimony to let others know that the Bronx is open to merchants and businesses.”