Bronx Community Pride Center to Close

Embezzlement scandal led to financial deficit, say board members

With nearly 16 years of service to the LGBT community, the Bronx Community Pride Center is being forced to end its programming this Saturday due to financial reasons.

As the only LGBT community center in the Bronx, BCPC has been a support system for thousands of LGBT residents, providing them with references to medical care, youth services including GED and ESL classes, and even case management services for juveniles.

After former Executive Director Lisa Winters was terminated in 2010 for allegedly scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from BCPC, the center has been struggling to make ends meet. Winters had access to all of the center’s funding from 2004 until 2010; according to the New York City Department of Investigation, Winters allegedly spent $338,674 of the center’s money for her personal use from 2005 until 2009. Those expenditures included a trip to the United Kingdom, a cruise, and more than $16,000 for her dog walker.

“With [Winters’ alleged actions], it tarnished our reputation in the Bronx, and made it harder for us to raise money because we seemed less trustworthy,” said Robert Lassegue, Board Member of BCPC.

The board of directors of BCPC told the New York Post that “the organization has debts which exceed revenues at this time, and without significant cash infusions from major donors they are unable to continue operations financially.” Coincidently, the debt equals the amount that Winters is accused of stealing.

For two years, the center struggled, unsuccessfully, to receive funding from other organizations. “When you have an executive director allegedly stealing money, all eyes are on the agency and it definitely makes it harder for you to not only receive funding, but also to apply for future funding opportunities,” said Francisco J. Lazala, Director of Programs at BCPC.

The center is currently working to transfer their programming and services to other LGBT-friendly organizations and schools in the Bronx. Thousands of people in the Bronx followed the center when it relocated from Mott Haven to Longwood in 2011, but will no longer be able to receive its support now that the center is being forced to shut down.

“It is an unfortunate situation that we have to close, and it’s a failure to the community, because this is the third time that the Bronx has lost a LGBT center,” said Lazala.

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