Former Lindsay Park co-op president sentenced for corruption
by Benjamin Fang
Jan 30, 2018 | 110420 views | 21 21 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The former board president of the Lindsay Park Housing Cooperative in Williamsburg was sentenced to a minimum of one to three years in prison last week for her involvement in a corruption scheme.

Cora Dix-Austin, who was first elected to lead the seven-building, Mitchell-Lama affordable housing complex in 2002, was accused of taking bribes from January 2011 to July 2015.

During that four-year span, Austin participated in a kickback scheme involving $500,000 of co-op money meant for services, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

In addition to her prison sentence, Austin was also ordered to pay $110,000 in restitution to the 2,702-unit co-op.

Last Wednesday morning in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court, the resident group Shareholders for the Betterment of Lindsay Park rallied in celebration of the outcome. Along with advocates, the shareholders spoke out about the practices Austin engaged in that ultimately hurt the housing co-op for 15 years.

In an interview, Gregory Louis, deputy program director at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A and an attorney representing the shareholders, said residents had been complaining about their co-op president to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for a decade-and-a-half, only to be ignored.

“The signs of all these problems were evident, and HPD ignored them,” Louis said. “HPD should feel ashamed.”

The list of grievances from residents run the gamut from lack of repairs to weakening the democracy at the co-op board.

In a January 23rd letter from Nelson Jaime, president of communications with the shareholders group, to Judge Chun, the Lindsay Park resident said maintenance fees have increased 75 percent during Austin’s 15-year reign as president.

According to Louis, in the 37 years prior to Austin’s leadership, the Mitchell-Lama co-op had only increased maintenance fees by $300. For an affordable housing development that Louis called a “bastion of diversity” in the neighborhood housing African-Americans, Latinos, Jewish and Eastern Europeans from nearby neighborhoods, the growing costs were alarming.

In the letter, Jaime also detailed how Austin cut off access to community rooms used by seniors for activities and children for tutoring. He accused Austin of retaliating against shareholders who opposed her by issuing “bogus by-law violations” and even initiating eviction proceedings.

The buildings themselves still face ongoing issues. Jaime said the roofs are in “horrible shape,” and 28 elevators are in such disrepair that residents are constantly trapped in them. The facades of all seven buildings are also in dangerous condition, he said.

The housing co-op now faces a $110 million debt, $70 million of which had been incurred during Austin’s presidency, Jaime wrote. Louis added that Austin applied for a state loan that could have added up to $60 million more to the debt total, but did not get it.

Lindsay Park also dealt with oil spills because the tanks were not maintained, which added remediation and tank replacement costs to the debt.

“I can go on and on about the sad state of affairs, but they all highlight the core reality: while Cora was receiving thousands in a kickback scheme, our cooperative was falling apartment,” Jaime said. “We are literally paying for her crimes through the increased maintenance.”

There have also been long-standing allegations that Austin “bought votes” for the co-op board presidency by giving away apartments to allies, Louis said. Rather than putting her “proxies” on a long waiting list, Austin bypassed the waiting list for the highly coveted affordable housing units, he said.

As a result, Louis said shareholders have run for the co-op board presidency and lost.

“They’ve run against the board knowing they would lose because the fix is in,” he said. “They won the in-person vote but lost to the proxies.”

Though the list of accusations is long, Austin was ultimately brought down for corruption. According to Louis, she made a deal with maintenance workers who usually go into people’s apartments and tell residents they needed to fix two or three things.

Instead, Louis said, the workers would make up to seven repairs to “pad the bill,” and charge the bill to the co-op. The vendor would then give a share to Austin.

According to court documents, Austin was caught when a police investigator used a confidential informant. The informant, the owner of a company that had contracts to provide services for Lindsay Park, gave money to Austin in exchange for an agreement that the company “continued to receive such contracts.”

The shareholders organization has been highlighting the “financial hot mess” and other issues at Lindsay Park for years, Louis said.

They sued the co-op to get records and documents about its management. They hosted town halls to inform residents of their shareholders’ rights. They organized writing campaigns to HPD to bring their issues to the agency’s attention.

Louis said the city agency has been “asleep at the wheel” the entire time. The only reason why Austin was locked up is because prosecutors, starting with former Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, listened to the shareholders and hosted meetings with them.

“The real core ask for the shareholders is ensure HPD stops being asleep at the wheel, stop being part of the problem and exercise enforcement,” he said. “If all that came of this is Cora Austin was arrested, this would be a waste of time.”

Louis demanded that HPD follow the district attorney’s lead, listen to residents and take their concerns seriously moving forward. Every other person involved in the scheme, including the management company and other vendors who participated, should be brought to justice, he said.

“If you take one elderly African-American woman and throw her in prison and think that’s a solution, it’s not,” he said. “They’re going to put pressure on HPD and the mayor, the city government, to make sure they don’t lose affordable housing because of corruption. If that does not happen, none of this matters.”

In a statement, Councilman Antonio Reynoso said the sentencing of Austin proves that the lack of democracy and transparency at Lindsay Park is a reality.

“Although we applaud the work done by both Thompson and Vance, we must continue fighting for democracy and transparency,” he said, “knowing that Cora’s criminal actions represent only a small link in a long chain of corruption that has occurred at Lindsay Park.”

A HPD spokesperson said the agency takes the oversight of its Mitchell-Lama portfolio seriously, and that it has been cooperating with the district attorney during the investigation.

“HPD is also actively working with the board of directors to secure a much-needed loan to address the physical needs and secure the financial integrity on this coop,” the spokesperson said.
Comments
(21)
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anonymous 2
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February 17, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N
Link to story
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February 07, 2018
Go to this link for more comments

http://www.queensledger.com/pages/full_story/push?article-Former Lindsay Park co-op president sentenced for corruption &id=27537861

MAD AS HELL
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February 06, 2018
what in the hell is wrong with this board, Cora D Austin was just like Queens BEE she ran this like if she was the JIM JONES of LPHA, AND ALL MINIONS DRINK THE KOOLAIDE THEY JUST DIDN'T DIE YET. HOW CAN YOU BE SO NAIVE TO PULL A STUNT BY STEALING FROM PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN YOUR STUPID ASS, SHE WAS NEVER A PRINCIPAL, IT WAS HER LOVER. CORA IS LIKE DONALD TRUMP IF YOU DON'T DO WHAT SHE SAID SHE FIRED YOU. THIS IS SAME WOMEN THAT GOES TO CHURCH I GOT JESUS BUT STEALING PEOPLE MONEY SHAME ON YOU. BEDFORD HILL IS WHERE YOUR LOCATED FOR RIGHT NOW. I'M SURPRISE AT JAY. VINNY YES, MARVIN ABSOLUTELY, let's NOT FORGET HER SEED THAT WAS IN INSURANCE FRAUD, AND A FELONY, TAMEKA AUSTIN NEVER PAID FOR HER EQUITY AND THOSE NEW CABINETS IN HER APARTMENT. SHE WAS PAID 45,000.00 A YEAR SALARY FOR COUPLE OF SUMMER MONTHS. WE WANT OUR MONEY BACK AND THEY SHOULD BE EVICTED FOR STEALING LPHM.
SHAREHOLDER ?
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February 06, 2018
I AGREE, HPD SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE AS WELL
get on point
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February 25, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption
anonymous
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February 05, 2018
and who returns to me the money that I have invested in my apt for all the violations that I had spent more than 15 thousand dollars in fixing my apt.los gavinet all rotten and full of. cucarachas.yo called maintenance. And they never came, while they stole the money,
get on poit
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February 25, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption
comments
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February 04, 2018
go to this website for the same article but over 65 comments. LP shareholders, act now to get the crooked Cora cronies on the board out. We need new elections.

http://www.queensledger.com/pages/full_story/push?article-Former Lindsay Park co-op president sentenced for corruption &id=27537861
get on point
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February 25, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption
Rid LP of theives
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February 03, 2018
We need a town hall meeting and the new board is dead silent. Is Cora's daughter Tameka working at LP? She lives in building 1. Where is all the money stolen? Does Cora have it hidden for when she gets out of jail? She needs to be evicted and everyone associated with her. The word is that she cut a deal with the DA to get a lesser sentence by ratting out others. This was not Cora, Jay and Vinny alone. LP needs to recoup as much of the money as possible and evict all from LP that were part of this theft.
get on point
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February 25, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption
Cora at Rykers
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February 02, 2018
I heard Cora is at Rykers and Jay and Vinny pleaded guilty and their court hearing is 4/11. Folks, you have to stay on top of this. We need a new board that is free of corruption. Enough with our money lining the pockets of crooks and all we get is maintenance increases.
bldg 2
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February 03, 2018
we have to deal with the families of those arrested they should be put out of the co op and not allowed to step on property. it should be assumed they benefited from the corruption. also those who served along side of Cora must step down and never be allowed to serve on the board again. she did not work alone.
LINDSAY TENENT
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February 03, 2018
WE NEED CLASS ACTION SUITS FOR CORA HER DAUGHTER AND GIRLFRIEND WHOM SHE SPARED BECAUSE SHE MAY HAVE HID THE MONEY STOLEN IN THEIR NAMES SAME FOR JAY AND VINAH WE THE TENANTS HAVE A RATHER LARGE BILL BECAUSE OF THEM. WE ALSO NEED TO SUE THE SECURITY COMPANY IM SURE WHOEVER SITS AT THE TOP WAS APART OF IT ALL ASWELL ...............
anonymous
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February 08, 2018
for how many years anyone? I missed the sentencing.
get on point
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February 25, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption
get on point
|
February 25, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption
get on point
|
February 25, 2018
A Memo went out by Scott M. Smiler, Esq. from Gallet Dryer & Berkey, LLP on February 14, 2018 regarding the District Attorney's Investigation to all shareholders stating that there is NO active investigation into any other Board Members.

The Board takes any form of bribery, fraud, malfeasance or abuse of power very seriously. We ask all of you to do your part and report any suspected corrupt activity by calling the Department of Investigation at 212-825-3502N

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption

Read more: Brooklyn Downtown Star - Former Lindsay Park co op president sentenced for corruption
LP resident
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February 02, 2018
Go to the Greenpoint star for more comments. Same story but you will get more information on Cora, Jay, Vinny and others pleading guilty.
Resident of Lindsay.
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February 01, 2018
Finally, her days are over of her abusing and taking advantage. There so much corruption here it's sad. Every year they want another loan or grant to do improvements that we never see.
Dayton Beach Park
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February 12, 2018
We have the same exact issues at Dayton Beach Park, a ML in Rockaway Beach. We are all waiting for the DOI report to come out. But HPD is the criminal in all these situations. HPD tells us our board is doing a great job. We have proof of election fraud and ballot tampering and they still say they are doing a great job. We support ALL LP shareholders and what you are doing!