Rebuild transparency?

Letter: Hoboken “rebuild” charity missing vital information

Whenever tragedies like Hurricane Sandy take place – the flurry of charities that pop up can be mind-numbing. And while people are kind and generally vulnerable during those times, and more than willing to donate, transparency is important.

While most people blindly donate – it seems that we need residents who are paying attention to the details (or lack thereof).

And some charities seem to be at the forefront of almost all Hoboken catastrophes (even tweeting about fundraisers while buildings continued to burn). While nice on paper, the interesting trend of their “eagerness” to be involved every time, should also be equal reason to ensure that everything is in order.

Hoboken Charities need more clarity after Hurricane Sandy

One resident sent Hoboken411 some straight-forward questions that MUST be answered by the “Rebuild” Hoboken charity, as well as any new charity group that pops up after a disaster:

  1. Who is on the board that manages this money? Will these names be listed on the website?
  2. Is it being overseen by a real financial group or accounting firm? Will this be listed on the website?
  3. Who will receive funds from this charity and what are the qualifications or requirements to be a recipient? Businesses? Homeowners? Renters? Who makes the final decision on the delegation of specific funds to a specific person, business, or organization? Is Tisha Creative exempt from receiving any of the funds – due to conflict of interest since they’re managing the marketing and receiving the money via PayPal?
  4. Is there an application process to request funds? When does it open? Where are the forms?
  5. Will the financials be made public? How often will they be updated?
  6. Are donations tax-deductible? Do 100% of donations go towards victims/applicants or are there administrative costs being covered? If so, how much and to whom? Can the public see those expenses and receipts?
  7. When this charity closes down will they liquidate and put the money back into the community and how so? (Some charities have stated they will give the money to the Red Cross. That is a national organization that has a reputation of red tape at the local and state level and more than 30% of their donations go towards salaries and administrative costs which is a reason for many people not to donate to them.)
  8. Transparency is critical because too many fake charities pop up after a tragedy has occurred for the sole reason of capitalizing on the the goodness of others who are eager to help.
  9. This is apparently a “partnership” with the City of Hoboken. Is that legal?

If you think this reader is being too harsh – just take a look at the number of fraud charges discovered after Hurricane Katrina. These are legitimate questions that any sensible person should ask – and has the right to have answered.

Stay sharp, Hoboken!

12 Responses

  1. beyondee7 says:

    Why not investigate / report on the answers rather than list the potential problems?

    • hoboken411 says:

      As of now, 11/27/2012, the city has not provided any of the information above even though the charity was set up several weeks ago and members of the public have requested information (and their inquiries were promptly removed from the city’s facebook page).

      Hopefully, this letter to the Editor post will prompt the city and other charities to be more transparent.[quote comment=”218397″]Why not investigate / report on the answers rather than list the potential problems?
      [/quote]

      • bexxx says:

        How about transparency for hoboken commuters???? Many of us have been able to use our smartlink cards to gain access to the bus. Yesterday I and very many confused commuters were surprised with a curveball on our nightly commute that smartlink cards were no longer taken. There were no announcements, noone or signage at the terminal to warn us thus resulting in a bus line that went through every barricade and then around in circles through the main terminal. It was complete chaos at 7:30 at night. When I tweeted at NJ transit they tell me Smartlink was never taken. This is a blatant lie. Every single Path commuter I know used their card for this.

        As an alternate to the shady NJ transit bus business I took the emergency ferry today to find out it may or may not run after tomorrow per their employees. We need answers!!! It is our right to know how to prepare for the next day’s awful commute. Why are there no answers for Hoboken commuters and lies from the companies??[quote comment=”218399″]As of now, 11/27/2012, the city has provided any of the information above even though the charity was set up several weeks ago and members of the public requested information (and their inquiries were promptly removed from the city’s facebook page).Hopefully, this letter to the Editor post will prompt the city and other charities to be more transparent.[/quote]

      • whineanddineinhob says:

        The same can be said for the sign at the gate for the #126. Before going up the escalator, the sign clearly reads that you can ride the bus with a pre-paid ticket OR exact cash. Some driver are STILL allowing only riders with tickets. I imagine steady riders using the bus will have monthy passes or buy tickets. But many now are PATH riders who don’t ride regularly and this adds to the confusion.[quote comment=”218404″]How about transparency for hoboken commuters???? Many of us have been able to use our smartlink cards to gain access to the bus. Yesterday I and very many confused commuters were surprised with a curveball on our nightly commute that smartlink cards were no longer taken. There were no announcements, noone or signage at the terminal to warn us thus resulting in a bus line that went through every barricade and then around in circles through the main terminal. It was complete chaos at 7:30 at night. When I tweeted at NJ transit they tell me Smartlink was never taken. This is a blatant lie. Every single Path commuter I know used their card for this.As an alternate to the shady NJ transit bus business I took the emergency ferry today to find out it may or may not run after tomorrow per their employees. We need answers!!! It is our right to know how to prepare for the next day’s awful commute. Why are there no answers for Hoboken commuters and lies from the companies??[/quote]

      • ktbc says:

        Wait – so the 126 from Port Authority DEFINITELY does not take smartlink cards anymore? So you MUST have a ticket?[quote comment=”218406″]The same can be said for the sign at the gate for the #126. Before going up the escalator, the sign clearly reads that you can ride the bus with a pre-paid ticket OR exact cash. Some driver are STILL allowing only riders with tickets. I imagine steady riders using the bus will have monthy passes or buy tickets. But many now are PATH riders who don’t ride regularly and this adds to the confusion.[/quote]

      • whineanddineinhob says:

        Your best bet would be to purchase a ticket in advance. I have seen people turned away without a ticket by one driver, and another driver would wave passengers on without a payment. If you get the driver who wants a ticket, you’ll only have to go back down to purchase one and get back on a line.[quote comment=”218411″]Wait – so the 126 from Port Authority DEFINITELY does not take smartlink cards anymore? So you MUST have a ticket?[/quote]

    • GlennEsq says:

      Here is their Board:
      The Mayor; The Monsignor; a State Senator who replaced Bob Menendez, a woman in Financial Services, a Retired J&J employee who works in charities, and the guy that runs Tisha Creative.

      They are sending money to Hoboken Rotary Foundation.

      Rotary International is very ethical and reputable, but chapters are given a lot of leeway. 😕

      I would ask that the Mayor, as a board member, publish some data on the organization’s proceeds, and that the treasurer, the woman in financial services, disclose the nature and management of the fund.
      [quote comment=”218397″]Why not investigate / report on the answers rather than list the potential problems?[/quote]

  2. 212transplant says:

    I noticed the lack of specific details on the website too, and have reservations about it until something changes. Just using photos and a donate button isn’t enough to convince me.

  3. spiffy says:

    Want to be disgusted? Anyone remember the Haiti earthquake a few years ago? Talk about mismanaged: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/03/haiti-after-the-quake/

  4. animal_lover says:

    Reminds one of other Zimmer ploys. Exactly my thoughts reguarding priorities, disclosure and accountabilities. AM glad to see someone else calling BS on this.

  5. GlennEsq says:

    PS – I sent a message to Dawn Zimmer’s office asking all of the questions above, and if I get an answer I will post it.

  6. GlennEsq says:

    Here’s the response from Dawn Zimmer’s office, along with the text of my email:

    I wrote –

    ” Mayor Zimmer,

    I would like to make donations to your organization rebuildhoboken.org, but before I do so, I would like to know more about exactly what the nature and structure of this charitable organization is.

    Can you kindly provide some information regarding the fund which the donations are being directed to, as well as the tax filing information for this organization, and its structure beyond the board of directors?

    I would like to know about the following as well, please:
    1. What is the name of the firm overseeing the fund?
    2. Who will receive funds? What limitations are there on recipients?
    3. How will funds be distributed?
    4. Will financials be made public, and how often will they be updated?
    5. Are the donations tax deductible?
    6. Will 100% of the funds go to victims of Sandy, or will there be administrative costs, and if so, how much and to whom?
    7. How will this charity wind down its affairs and liquidate its funds when it closes down?
    8. What is the nature of the relationship between this charity and the city of Hoboken?

    Thanks in advance for your assistance. Once I have the answers, I will feel a lot more comfortable making a donation. ”

    ——and this is the response from a jmelli on December 14 ———-
    “Mr. J________ – Thank you for contacting the Mayor’s office of the City of Hoboken. Mayor Zimmer is a trustee of Rebuild Hoboken, but it is an independent organization that is not under the jurisdiction of the City. You may wish to contact Rebuild Hoboken through their website at http://www.rebuildhoboken.org with any questions you may have. Thank you. ”

    Apparently, the Mayor’s staff is unwilling to answer any of the questions posed. That does not increase my faith in this organization.

    I will now send the same question to the organization, directly.

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