2 major charities will tap NYC’s wealthy donors for migrant crisis

The Robin Hood Foundation and the New York Community Trust – two of New York City’s most prominent charitable organizations – are spearheading an effort to help raise money from wealthy donors to aid the ongoing migrant crisis, Gothamist has learned.

The initiative, which is in its early stages, came after City Comptroller Brad Lander reached out to the mayor’s office to discuss the possibilities of a more coordinated effort to involve philanthropies and nonprofits helping navigate the migrant crisis. It comes at a moment when private donors have been reluctant to direct their resources into one of the city’s most pressing emergencies that has brought roughly 180,000 migrants to the city.

In what could be an important distinction for donors, money raised by Robin Hood and the New York Community Trust will not be managed by the Adams administration, although members of both groups said they planned to consult with the city on migrant needs.

“Immigration has been and remains a critical part of our lifeblood and critical part of our identity,” Richard Buery Jr., the chief executive of Robin Hood said in an interview with Gothamist. “We think this is really where philanthropy is and has been well positioned to be partners with the city by helping to provide support to the organizations that are on the front line.”

The New York Community Trust, which is celebrating its centennial this year, has a long track record of raising money to aid new immigrants.

“It’s sort of tailor made for our community philanthropy to play this role,” said Amy Freitag, the group’s president.

On Monday morning, the group met with around 50 members of the city’s philanthropic and business class, including the Ford Foundation and Wall Street corporations, according to one of the attendees. First Deputy Sheena Wright and Lander were in attendance, along with Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom.

The meeting was held at the Lower Manhattan headquarters of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit agency controlled by City Hall that has ties to the city’s private sector.

Buery and Freitag declined to say how much they were hoping to raise, but the need for funding is high. Mayor Eric Adams has said the city has so far spent $4 billion in taxpayers dollars on the crisis, with only around $150 million in allocated federal funding.

Buery said contributions will be awarded directly to nonprofits working to address migrant needs, including those that specialize in housing, legal, education and workforce development services. He said he envisioned Robin Hood enlisting “dozens” of nonprofits.

In a statement, Adams said New Yorkers across all sectors had stepped up to support the new arrivals.

“This has not only taken a whole-of-government approach, but also a whole-of-New York City approach,” he said. “We are grateful to Robin Hood, the New York Community Trust, the governor, and the comptroller for their partnership to meet this pivotal moment in our city’s history.”

But the Adams administration has been struggling to raise money from the city’s philanthropic class, particularly under the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. Some donors have expressed concerns about budget cuts and whether the mayor can manage a crisis, according to the New York Times.

The Mayor’s Fund is also currently operating without an executive director. Marcella Tillet, the Fund’s former head, abruptly resigned last month. In a January meeting recorded on video, city officials on the Fund’s board of directors, led by Deputy Mayor Ana Almanzar, told Tillet that the administrative fee charged to city agencies for undertaking fundraising was too high.

Tillet declined to comment.

At the same time, there have been ethical and legal questions about the mayor’s own fundraising campaign, which could make some donors wary of contributing to a City Hall-controlled entity.

Lander, who attended Monday’s meeting, said having Robin Hood and the New York Community Trust lead the fundraising is “a great model in which they can do it directly, but still in a broader collaboration” with government officials.

The comptroller said he first reached out to the mayor’s office around six months ago to discuss the possibility of a fundraising campaign. He and the first deputy mayor later reached out to Buery at Robin Hood, who then involved the New York Community Trust, according to both men.

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