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OCT 07- OCT 14, 2014

Isaiah 61 Founder Slips Out of Town After City Approves Casino Cash Deal

By Frank Parlato

October 07, 2014

Jim Haid with Mayor Paul Dyster in front of a home Isaiah 61 planned to renovate. Now Haid has split town,

Talk about lack of transparency.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that James Haid, the founder, executive director, creator and leader of Isaiah 61 Project, Inc., has left Niagara Falls and taken a job down the Thruway in Utica one week after his not-for-profit corporation got approved for $500,000 in casino cash from the City of Niagara Falls.

Haid, 54, is now the executive director of Rescue Mission of Utica, a 124-year-old homeless shelter.

The $500,000 in Niagara Falls casino cash Haid was to receive was to rehab an abandoned fire house on Highland Ave. for Haid to operate a reuse store and training center for his Isaiah 61 Project, Inc.

But he has split town.

Now it is unclear who will get the money.

The not-for-profit that Haid started is supposed to teach underemployed people how to fix up properties to code and rehab vacant, run-down properties in the city, turning them into owner occupied properties.

It is clear from the timing of Haid's departure, and his days-later hire in Utica, that Haid, and perhaps Niagara Falls officials, withheld the fact that Haid planned to leave - as he was securing approval of $500,000 for his Niagara Falls "faith-based" Isaiah 61 Project Inc.

That information was withheld from the council which approved the $500,000 gift to Haid after Mayor Paul Dyster presented his request on Sept. 15.

Within one week, news reports in Utica announced Haid's first day of work was Sept 22, at the Rescue Mission of Utica.

“I am incredibly humbled and extremely honored to serve my new colleagues and my new community as executive director,” Haid said in a written statement published in the Utica Observer Dispatch.

Despite Haid being gone from Niagara Falls for more than 15 days, neither officials in Niagara Falls nor Haid announced that Haid left town, leaving Isaiah 61 with approval for $500,000, but no director.

Two days after council approval, on Sept. 17, Niagara Falls Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo, promising transparency, wrote on his Facebook page, "we're going to show exactly how the money is spent (for Isaiah 61) and not spent at the fire hall, and use council updates as a way to keep the public informed."

Piccirillo has not posted on Facebook that Haid left town.

Meantime, the Niagara Falls Reporter has questions:

Did Haid intend to quit prior to asking for the $500,000 and keep it a secret as he angled for the money?

Or did he let Dyster and Piccirillo know he planned to leave?

It seems likely Haid had a job switch in mind before the money was approved.

It’s hard to imagine you can get approved for $500,000 on Monday, Sept 15, and plan to stay in town to fix up an old fire hall with that money, and by Monday, Sept. 22, you have an new job in another town and be already moved and on the job.

Did Dyster and Piccirillo persuade Haid to remain silent?

Isaiah 61 Project, Inc., from its inception in 2012 to September 2014, has been the work of one man -- Jim Haid.

He has posed in every picture.

He has been quoted in every news story about Isaiah 61.

Isaiah 61 Project, Inc. is Jim Haid.

Neither Piccirillo nor Dyster are known for transparency.

Do they have plans to spend the money, Haid or no Haid? Isaiah 61 or no Isaiah 61?

As of press time we don't know the answers since Dyster, Piccirillo and Haid have not returned our calls.

Perhaps you may think it unnecessary to inform the council or the public that the man who built and ran a two-year-old operation literally by himself is suddenly leaving, just as the city is asked to give his project $500,000 in casino cash.

If it were my money, I'd want to know.

One suspects that with Haid leaving, control of Isaiah 61, which is registered in the name of James Haid, is going to be in someone else’s hands.

Someone Dyster and Piccirillo want to hand it to.

One source said they are trying to get Niagara University to sign on to give them cover for the departing Haid.

When the Reporter contacted council members over the weekend, they expressed surprise. Despite the fact that Haid had been gone for almost two weeks, none of them knew he had left when we called.

Within one week of getting city approval for $500,000 of casino cash to renovate this abandoned fire hall on Highland Ave. for headquarters for Isaiah 61 Project Inc., its executive director, James Haid, left town for a job in Utica, New York.


The mayor and Piccirillo spent plenty of time selling this project to the council, using Haid as the leader, but didn't tell them Haid left.

In previous reports, the Reporter pointed out that the Isaiah 61 Project was in violation of the New York State building code at its storefront on Hyde Park Blvd.

The violation was severe enough that the city's electrical inspector, Eric Palmer, condemned the building as a fire hazard.

The Reporter also pointed out that, despite getting hundreds of thousands in donations and public money, Isaiah 61 only rehabbed one $30,000 house, despite their promise to fix many houses.

Haid pointed out that he was teaching students.

"We're trying to give them a trade that they can use for the rest of their lives," Haid said of his project in an earlier interview. "We're looking for financial support. We're looking for in-kind donations. We're looking for volunteers who want to help us out."

The Reporter does not know all of the donations and subsidies made to Isaiah 61.

Here are some:

NYPA gave Isaiah 61 a $157,000 grant.

The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council in 2013 granted $132,000 to assist Isaiah 61 in renovating the vacant fire house on Highland Avenue.

Community Development provided Isaiah 61 with $20,000 in U.S. Housing and Urban Development funding to pay salaries.

John R. Oishei Foundation donated more than $200,000.

An additional $50,000 in project funding was given as part of the city’s 2014 HUD Community Development Block Grant.

The First Niagara Foundation gave them a $10,000 grant.

(Haid said of the First Niagara gift "it will be used directly to lift up those in our community who struggle to find employment… while at the same time reclaiming a city's housing stock."

"That's the goal," Haid said. "To reclaim a physical structure, put a home back on the tax rolls, create low-income housing, but to get these men and women a skill set where they can make a living wage. We've been able to accomplish that.")

M & T donated a truck.

Donations of materials, in-kind services or cash were made to Isaiah 61 by Firth Jewelers, George Edwards Jewelers, H.W. Bryk & Sons, Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board, KCB Architects, Community Foundation/Niagara Area Foundation, Regional Economical Development Council, Key Bank, Lutheran Charities, Mikelly Construction, Newman Electric, Sellmore Industries, Westside Ministries, 84 Lumber, Woodforest Bank, Home Depot and numerous churches in the area.

The city also made a major donation when they approved Isaiah 61 Project Inc. to have the sole right to strip any house about to be demolished in the city - taking anything of value out of it - without having to have pay the city anything.

Lastly, the city approved $500,000 to give Isaiah 61 for a renovated fire hall for a new headquarters and store to sell the material they strip from city houses and for classrooms and offices.

“Our program is expanding so we’ve outgrown the space that we have,” Haid said in justifying the need for the $500,000 to renovate the old fire hall.

Before any more money is handed over to the now Haid-less Isaiah 61 Project, we believe the public has a right to see:

**The contract that exists between Isaiah 61 and the city of Niagara Falls.

** The lease drawn between the city and Isaiah 61 for the fire hall.

** The contract that grants Isaiah 61 the right to remove and sell material from city homes that are to be demolished.

** A list of city properties, where Isaiah 61 removed materials and a list of those materials and whether they were sold.

** The source of monies, grants and awards given to the Isaiah 61 to date. (city, state, federal, foundation, private).

** How many students have gone through the program and what jobs or placements have they realized.

** How the Highland Avenue Fire Hall is going to be rehabbed and at what cost per each phase of rehabilitation.

** How the $500,000.00 in casino funds will be used by the program.

** At what cost was the sole Isaiah 61 house (at 2215 Whitney Avenue) rehabilitated.

When the $500,000 was approved last month by the council, only Councilman Glenn Choolokian voted no.

"Here's another program that went to a money grab," Choolokian said. "We cannot continue to spend casino money and taxpayer money for programs that don't fund themselves."

Now we learn that Haid, a practicing minister for 20 years, will not be around to see the money being spent.

So who is making the money grab?

Someone is going to control the money.


And why was this kept secret?

Jim Haid stands in front of the sole house his organization ever renovated, despite getting hundreds of thousands in donations.






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Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina