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AG Letitia James seeks to dissolve Rochester neighborhood groups tied to George Moses

nead_mural_city.jpg
David Andreatta
/
CITY Newspaper
A mural on the exterior back wall of NEAD (North East Area Development) offices.

New York state Attorney General Letitia James is suing to dissolve two once notable neighborhood associations in northeast Rochester.

The action, filed this week in state Supreme Court, targets North East Area Development, or NEAD, and its affiliate, Group 14621 Community Association.

Both are out of compliance with the state for lack of financial reporting.

The move to dissolve the nonprofits is the latest fallout from the fraudulent schemes of George Moses, who stole from NEAD as well as a charitable arm of the Rochester Housing Authority while leading both groups.

NEAD is required to file annual financial reports with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau but hasn’t done so in years. The two groups owe unpaid property taxes and judgements of nearly $580,000, which exceeds the value of the properties those entities own, according to the state.

Messages left at the NEAD office and with the last known leader of the group were not immediately returned.

NEAD has been around since 1966, intended to lift up the neighborhood through housing, arts and economic development. But James argues the organization is “no longer pursuing the purposes for which it was formed,” and its buildings are being emptied of records, furniture and equipment by unknown parties.

"When NEAD and 14621 were up and running, and in their heydays — which didn't necessarily coincide — they were vital resources in the community," said City Councilmember Michael Patterson.

Now would be a good time, Patterson said, for neighbors to step forward, coalesce around new leadership and re-energize the groups. But if that were to happen, it likely would need to happen fast.

The attorney general also is asking that a receiver be appointed to immediately secure the neighborhood groups' assets for creditors. That includes taking control of and selling the business properties on Webster and North Clinton avenues, the Freedom Schools site on North Goodman Street and a house on Garson Avenue.

A local organization wants to ensure that those properties will be used to benefit the Beechwood Neighborhood, not outside investors.

“Those resources that are currently owned by NEAD, we're hoping that they will remain assets to the neighborhood and not be sold off to people who are not in alignment with a comprehensive neighborhood plan,” said LaShunda Leslie-Smith, executive director of Connected Communities.

Connected Communities is a public-private partnership. The nonprofit works with residents in the Beechwood and EMMA neighborhoods on housing, wellness and development issues.

Leslie-Smith said the organization is currently under contract to purchase eight Beechwood properties owned by NEAD, and she said that dissolving the nonprofit could jeopardize those sales. The organization has plans for the properties to be used as hubs that provide resources for residents.

“Given that the AG’s office is dissolving the nonprofit now, there may not be opportunity for the nonprofit to negotiate,” Leslie-Smith said.

Leslie-Smith said Connected Communities is hopeful they can move forward with the purchases and is waiting to hear back from James’ office on the next steps.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.
April Franklin is the local host of WXXI's Weekend Edition and a reporter covering housing and neighborhood issues.