Thursday, February 28, 2019

$2M grant for Palm Tree results in call for greater fund transparency 

A mysterious multimillion-dollar state grant for a small town in Orange County has led to a Senate bill aimed at making sure the lawmaker requesting money for the community is known.

It's been a year and still no one knows who gave $2 million in state money to the former village of Kiryas Joel.

Newly elected state Sen. James Skoufis spoke via video messenger to News 12 Wednesday from Albany. 

He says the 2018 Senate grant, for road and sidewalk repairs in the Hasidic community now known as Palm Tree, was the only grant last year that didn't have a lawmaker's name attached to it.

"No one would take credit for it. It was pretty astonishing...an enormous sum of money for the village of Kiryas Joel...everyone was just running for the hills," he says. 

At the time, Kiryas Joel officials said the money would be used to widen roads, install catch basins, curbs, sidewalks and streetlights, but they wouldn't say which senator secured the funds. 

Skoufis' predecessor in the 39th District, Bill Larkin, denied any involvement, although the district represents Kiryas Joel. 

Skoufis is now introducing a bill that would require transparency to any funds given and a lawmaker's name attached.

Palm Tree officials have yet to answer News 12's questions about the location and status of the improvements funded by that state grant.

It's unclear whether or not the money was used properly. Skoufis' bill meantime is expected to be introduced by next week.


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