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The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City

Grantee:        Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City
Ranking:       19th highest grantee, 2005 — 2009
Received:     $5,000,000
Type:             Public-Private Foundation
Issue:             Poverty, Crime, Minority Youth, Growing Bureaucracy

About:  The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is a non-profit organization established in 1994 to “serve[] as an important vehicle for foundations, corporations and individuals to contribute to public programs that enhance the lives of New Yorkers.”1  The fund boasts that its public-private “vehicle” delivers benefits to the taxpayers by using private donations to nurture the growth of innovative public programs while “evaluating their effectiveness and feasibility for future funding.”

In other words, the Mayor’s Fund plants and nurtures new public benefits programs until they’re big and established enough to be funded solely by the city’s taxpayers.  If this sounds like a formula for increasing dependency, it is.  It’s also a formula for increasing the influence of a small group of wealthy philanthropists, community leaders, representatives of ethnic groups, and the academic/expert classes over the politics and purse-strings of the entire city.  This is the Open Society model of giving.

The Mayor’s Fund tends to support two types of high-profile projects, each with their own built-in constituencies: arts and public-space enhancements, and poverty programs.

The former are visible, aesthetically pleasing “bread and circuses” initiatives that appeal to progressive voters, such as:

  • MillionTreesNYC, “the City’s ambitious plan to plant and care for one million new trees.”
  • Green Carts, a program to “increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables” by issuing permits and providing assistance to subsidies to 1000 mobile produce vendors.
  •  NYC Cool Roofs, another “green” program to paint rooftops with white reflective material to reduce cooling costs.

“Bread and circuses” programs engage the middle classes, but the big money resides in the poverty programs, which are designed to: maximize enrollment in existing state and federal benefits programs, invent new benefits, or re-brand and boost funding for existing, terminally failing poverty bureaucracies.

Poverty programs generally fail at the goal of lifting people out of dependency, but they are tremendously successful as patronage machines, fostering loyalty and political quid pro quos from beneficiaries, community activists, and the city employees and non-profits paid to provide the services.  It should be noted that many of the programs being touted as initiatives of the Mayor’s Fund are already subsidized primarily or almost entirely by taxpayers: the “private partnership” aspect of these programs do not supplant the bottom line so much as create new or invigorated support for spending it:

  • Earned Income Tax Campaign, a program to encourage more New Yorkers to claim this government benefit — in other words, to maximize the transfer of federal tax dollars to low-income New York City residents.
  • Summer Youth Employment Program (Department of Youth and Community Development) — like many of these programs, the SYEP of the DYCD operates like a simple slush-fund: politically-connected non-profits, daycare centers, and government agencies gain clout by receiving funds to re-distribute to youth, while keeping a percentage for their “administrative costs,” in the name of creating temporary jobs for youth.
  • Financial Empowerment Centers (Department of Consumer Affairs) “provide strategic referrals to other public and private resources” to “help families stabilize their finances.”  In other words, Empowerment Centers are another vehicle for maximizing public benefits enrollment.

Other grants spread around modest funding to special interest groups embedded in government agencies, such as domestic violence and sex trafficking coalitions, AIDS activists, and green jobs proponents.

The Mayor’s Fund programs thus operate on the same axis as Soros’ Open Society programs: they maximize demand for government expenditures through non-governmental activism that benefits the activist and the bureaucrat, at the expense of businesses and taxpayers.  These public-private partnerships, structured as they are to “test” new and revamped programs, also maximize involvement by the expert and academic classes so central to Soros’ Open Society: there is an unusual emphasis throughout on the “testing” and “innovation” aspects of programs.

Such vetting actually depends on setting very low or even dysfunctional standards to define program success.  These standards generally measure numbers of “clients served” and their subjective feelings, rather that measuring objective markers of reduced dependency.  In some cases increasing, not reducing, dependency is even the goal being measured.

If “success” means planting a million trees that will then need to be tended by city workers, or spending a million dollars to recruit more people for the welfare rolls, it is not difficult to find the clients and academicians to loudly proclaim their satisfaction.

Meanwhile, the grocery store owner paying taxes to subsidize “green carts” that might (if by cosmic accident they actually “sustain” themselves) compete for their customers, is thus being forced to pay taxes to provide free capital to their competition, while the members of the Mayor’s Fund Board, the modern Tammany Hall, gain only power and influence through their entirely voluntary involvement.

Mission Statement: The Mayor’s Fund is committed to facilitating innovative public-private partnerships to support innovation and emerging needs, while evaluating their effectiveness and feasibility of future funding.

Soros Funding: In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg announced a joint initiative with the OSI (and, involuntarily, taxpayers who would be paying the lion’s share) to enhance services for young black and Hispanic men.  “Bloomberg uses own Funds in Plan to Aid Minority Youth,” the headline in the New York Times read,2 though the Mayor’s $30 million, and Soros’ $30 million would be dwarfed by the $70 million in additional funds taken from taxpayers, an amount that will multiply every time one or another “initiative” is proven “effective” by some social scientist writing from one of the Soros-or-government-funded academic programs that will be called upon to endorse instances of success.

The Times used an accidently accurate description — “overhaul” — to describe the efforts being touted by the Bloomberg/Soros intitative: job training, mentors, fatherhood classes, computer classes, anger management: all have been tried, and abandoned, repeatedly since the advent of Truman’s Great Society programs in 1965.  All also already exist, funded by endlessly replicated and overlapping subsidies.  The Soros/Bloomberg initiative, for example, will pay “900 mentors” to “recruit” others to clean graffiti.  That will pull in the community leaders and civil rights activists eager to supervise mentors and provide spaces for programs, and then boast about the program’s successes to the sociologists evaluating the programs’ efficacy.  Even the programs newest initiative has been tried before.  The Family Rewards program is merely handing out “conditional cash transfers” on top of other welfare subsidies, the condition being that the families try to save some of the money they are given.

The Mayor’s Fund initiative recently tapped into another layer of public funding: the fund received a $5.7 million grant from the Corporation for National And Community Service (CNCS), the controversial federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps and other leftist community action programs.3  The $5.7 million will be used to “replicate” mayor’s Fund programs in other cities.

This is “building Open Society,” Soros’ overarching philosophical mission, administered from the pulpit of the Mayor’s office and the inner circles of both men.  It perfectly embodies the contradictions and ironies of a philosophy that claims to empower people and challenge government by disenfranchising productive and business classes while growing nothing so much as government bureaucracy.

Board of Directors:

  • Patricia E. Harris, Chair
  • Nanette Smith, Secretary
  • Anthony Crowell
  • Megan Sheekey, President
  • Victoria Metzger, Treasurer

Board of Advisors:

  • Rob Speyer, Chair
  • Edward A. Ames
  • Bruce Bendell
  • Leon D. Black
  • Ronald E. Blaylock
  • Kevin Burke
  • John S. Chalsty
  • Diane M. Coffey
  • Anita Contini
  • Cheryl Cohen Effron
  • Victor Ganzi
  • Martin Geller
  • Joel A. Getz
  • Robert Wood Johnson IV
  • Deborah Krulewitch
  • Kenneth Langone
  • Gerald Levin
  • Carol Sutton Lewis
  • Ellen Liman
  • Mary McCormick
  • S. Christopher Meigher
  • Nancy Missett
  • Thomas S. Murphy
  • Laura Pomerantz
  • Bruce Ratner
  • Keith Reinhard
  • E. John Rosenwald, Jr.
  • Laura Ross
  • Susan Rotenstreich
  • Steven Rubenstein
  • William Rudin
  • Mary Sansone
  • Stanley Shuman
  • John Simons
  • Liz Smith
  • Daisy Soros
  • Jerry Speyer
  • Stuart Match Suna
  • Keith Thomas
  • Jonathan M. Tisch
  • Daniel R. Tishman
  • George Walker
  • Harvey Weinstein
  • Vaughn Williams
  • Frederick Wilpon
  • Zulema Wiscovitch

1 http://www.nyc.gov/html/fund/html/about/about.shtml

2 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/nyregion/new-york-plan-will-aim-to-lift-minority-youth.html?pagewanted=all

3 http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/programs/innovation_grantees.asp

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