Thursday, May 24, 2007

Revitalizing our community: how much should we be paid?

Last night was a PLUS (Prospect-Lefferts United for Service) board meeting. (It didn't seem like there was a huge amount of advance warning about the time or location, but maybe we're wrong on that count.) The meeting, according to an email sent around yesterday at 1:45 pm, was meant to discuss Prospect-Lefferts' application for an Avenue NYC grant from the city's department of small business services. (Here's the city's SBS website; PLUS doesn't appear to have a site that outlines its work or mission.) Communities that receive the grants are estimated to get around $167,000 over the next four years, although funding will ultimately be decided according to "successful completion of the preceding year's activities."

In the first year of funding, the lion's share of that money -- $50,000 out of a total of $66,000 -- is designated towards "personnel and fringe" expenses. That certainly ain't chump change. In yesterday's email, current board president and A&H broker Mark Dicus nominated himself to serve as PLUS's official, salaried executive director. PLUS has certainly been active in the three years since it formed. Any thoughts on this kind of funding for personnel? Reports from last night's board meeting? Feelings about PLUS's work with other community groups? Opinions about the best way to spend a city grant? Info from K-Dog or Enduro owners on what it was, exactly, that brought them to the area? Thoughts about having a city-funded local group given the authority to speak (and spend) in the name of the community as a whole?

8 comments:

DanC-P said...

I wasn't at the meeting for logistical reasons but I'd like to put in my 2 cents on the general question of getting paid for community work.

If Mark and PLUS can snag some money to fund salaries for their organization I say all the power to them. As a volunteer Mark has done some amazing things for PLG -most notably getting money for storefront improvements, working with local business owners and proposing and getting the DOT to sign-off on some nice improvements to Lincoln Road (working together with LMA, the Flatbush merchant's association and other orgs) - not to mention his work for the Maple Street School. He has great relations with Marty and other decision makers and he gets things done. If getting paid would allow him to dedicate more time to PLG-related projects, the neighborhood would benefit in a big way. I can also imagine some of that personnel money going towards getting help with grant-writing etc. IMO PLG is very lucky to have Mark as an advocate.

Dan on Lincoln said...

Well said danc-p. In addition to all the work you mentioned, Mark and his team have a long list of additional improvements in the pipeline. Bravo Mark and PLUS!

Jeffery said...

I see that it's time to grieve the loss of Planet PLG as a fair and informed voice for our community since it has now adopted the sensational, ill-informed voice of the NY Post.

Bob Marvin said...

test--I haven't been able to post comments here (except ONCE, a few weeks ago) but it looks like I might be able to do so IF I create a new Google account each time

Ed said...

Jeffrey, I hope you are joking! PPLG is certainly asking good questions. Consider the fact that many of us DONATE our time and energy to improve PLG. We don't accept pay. A healthy skepticism is absolutely justified.

Frankly, I'm not against paying Mr. Dicus to do a job. But if anyone accepts a pay, then they certainly need to produce. And I, for one, expect a lot more than shrubs, a couple of awnings and a mediocre Mexican restaurant.

We should definitely give Mark a chance to show us what's in store. By accepting a salary, he's obviously telling us that he's going to be contributing much more than he did as a neighborhood volunteer. Let's give him a chance before we draw any conclusions.

And Planet PLG, your instincts were absolutely right in publicizing this piece. Continue doing the excellent job you are doing.

Mark said...

PLUS was formed in 2004 by myself and other neighborhood residents who wanted to help facilitate the improvement of the commercial/retail environment of the neighborhood. The first year or two we met informally, developed relationships and learned more about the work of commercial revitalization.

In 2005 Prospect Lefferts United for Services was incorporated with an initial 3 member board of directors. We currently have a 7 member board of directors that consists of the following members: Mark Dicus, Lee Coker Holmes, Jerry Bennett, Alex Ely, Ben Edwards, Celeste Lacy Davis and Jeff Welch. Each board member lives within PLG and is committed to our mission which is: To improve the appearance and success of existing retail establishments in PLG and to recruit new retailers.

PLUS is currently an organization made up of volunteers who live, work or have children going to school in PLG. While it would impossible to speak for the entire neighborhood, we do work together to be a positive force within the neighborhood. Over the past year PLUS has organized Get Down and Dirty on Lincoln Rd., 40th Council District Special Election Candidates Forum (together w/ a number of other neighborhood organizations) and Art Mart 11225 (co-sponsored w/ PLG Arts). We are currently administering a $50,000 grant to improve storefronts along Lincoln Rd. and Flatbush Ave. where we hope to improve up to 10 storefronts with new awnings, signs and see through security gates. We also secured funding for the installation of antique street lighting on Lincoln Rd. b/w Flatbush and Ocean Avenue.

The email which was referenced by Planet PLG was sent by accident to the public Pluslefferts yahoo discussion group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PLUSlefferts/) and was intended to go only to members of the PLUS board. The agenda had been sent to all board members over a week in advance of the meeting. As this was a board meeting it was for board members only and the public was not invited to attend. We host general meetings at least annually, our last one was held in November.

As some of your other readers have posted, the grant will allow PLUS to expand its reach into the community and be a substantially more effective commercial revitalization organization within the PLG community. Many other commercial revitalization organizations or local development corporations operate here in Brooklyn such as Flatbush Development Corp. representing parts of Flatbush (www.fdconline.org), Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project representing parts of Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill (www.myrtleavenue.org/) and Bed Stuy Restoration (http://www.restorationplaza.org/main.htm). Each organization is different, however these examples should give folks an idea of where PLUS could be heading. Each of these organizations has a paid executive director and staff people working to achieve its mission.

On the website point, we also want PLUS to have a website, as a volunteer only organization we have limited resources and have been focusing our efforts more on undertaking projects, getting our 501(c)(3) and lining up funding to do the work. However, as you note, having a website will allow us to communicate our mission and how we are undertaking it. Point made.

I’m excited about the prospect of increasing the resources available to PLUS and to the neighborhood generally. The volunteers who make up PLUS have done an amazing job and we will continue to rely on the community as we grow. Being able to bring on paid staff will allow us to continue to grow and be more effective. I hope that anyone interested in commercial revitalization in PLG will sign up for our yahoo group where you can communicate w/ others in the neighborhood and learn more about the organization.

Ed said...

Bob - you need to confirm your google account. I had the same problem until I comfirmed mine. Check your inbox.

kendall said...

The question to me is re good nonprofit governance/corporate practice, to wit: should the same person be both the chair and the ED? from my experience, i think not....the simple solution is for PLUS to elect a new chair....the real point is that boards "own" nonprofits, not paid staff....and so the board must be the stewards of any resources, including how paid staff perform...