More Investigation of Indian Nonprofit’s Land Deal

Questions persist about a politically connected Indian nonprofit’s controversial land deal involving purchase of 4.5 acres of state land for a community center and senior housing in Queens, reports the Queens Tribune. Some have raised concerns that the housing will only be open to Indians.

The Indian Cultural and Community Center received another blow last month when a New York appellate court ruled that the Inspector General’s office may continue to investigate the land deal, which has angered some in the Bayside neighborhood of Queens.

Now, the ICCC is seeking an appeal to the State Supreme Court, ensuring that the battle over the proposed construction of two nine-story senior residence towers on a 4.5 acre parcel of Creedmoor Psychiatric Facility will continue to simmer. Detractors of the ICCC believe that the Indian Orthodox Christian group acquired the land for far less than it was worth in 2008 and have since misled the surrounding communities about its intentions to build inclusive senior housing. Civic leaders, Community Board 13 and State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) have led the charge, alleging the ICCC’s proposed buildings are too big, “out of character” with residential Bellerose, and will be built for Indians only, not the entire community. Critics have also charged the housing plan is not in actuality a nonprofit venture.

The ICCC has insisted that the housing will be open to seniors of all races, and blamed the objections on racial tensions between predominantly white civic associations and the South Asian community.

In 2008, the ICCC originally purchased two pieces of land at Creedmoor for $1.8 million with the intentions of building a community center. When the land’s value was later assessed at $7.8 million, a deal fell apart to purchase a third parcel of land.

The land deal has been under investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for the past year, which was later joined by former Inspector General Ellen Biden. The ICCC questioned the IG’s jurisdiction over the the case and called the investigation a waste of taxpayers money.

Avella has accused the ICCC of meddling in the redistricting process. The New York Post reported last year that Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens) and former Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Queens), who had backed the Creedmoor land deal, received thousands of dollars in campaign cash from ICCC members.

If Avella, perhaps the ICCC’s most strident critic, is re-elected this fall, his redrawn district will not include the Creedmoor Psychiatric Facility. Avella called the redistricting process “shady” and argued that parties influenced by the ICCC purposely ensured its land would no longer lie in his district, though he could not offer concrete evidence to prove this assertion. The contested 4.5 acres are now in the district of State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis).

“It’s common sense, if you look at my new district, you can see why Creedmoor was cut from it,” Avella said. “It looks like a little balloon. That’s why I called for a federal investigation.”

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