« Ladysmith on Leno | Main | Tallis Scholars premiere Tavener's Tribute to Cavafy »

January 25, 2006

Boys Choir Of Harlem Faces Possible Eviction

NY1 TV (NY):

The Boys Choir of Harlem is anxiously waiting for a decision from the Department of Education Tuesday on whether it will extend the choir's partnership. Former Mayor David Dinkins, who has temporarily taken charge of the choir, met with city officials Tuesday to discuss the future of the Boys Choir. Dinkins presented a plan to reform the choir which included the introduction of an Acting Executive Director, pledges for private donations, expansion of the board, restoration of choral instruction, counseling and tutoring.

The DOE ordered the Boys Choir to leave its rent-free home by the end of the month, saying it hadn't lived up to an agreement to find a new chief executive to replace Walter Turnbull. The Boys Choir has been at Madison Avenue and 127th Street since 1993 "We had a long and, I think, fruitful and productive meeting,” said former Mayor David Dinkins, sounding optimistic about the chances of the Boys Choir of Harlem staying put.

Since 1993 the choir's been housed in the Choir Academy, a public school run by the Department of Education. But the DOE has ordered the choir out by the end of the month, saying it no longer provides music instructors as it promised to do, and is deeply in debt, even though it receives an estimated half a million dollars a year in free rent and free services. And there's more. The DOE says the choir's leadership has failed to clean house after a counselor was convicted of sexually abusing a choir member. CEO Walter Turnbull was accused of knowing about the problem and ignoring it. He was supposed to have stepped down, but the DOE says he's still in charge.

Tuesday’s meeting wasn't open to the public, but afterward board members explained a three-phase plan they devised to reform the choir, including hiring an Acting Executive Director, expanding the board. In addition, “We are focusing on restoring artistic instruction and tutoring and counseling," according to Boys Choir Vice Chairman Skip Wyatt.

Dinkins asked education officials for more time to straighten things out - to the end of the school year - and said supporters are lining up to help the choir deal with its debt, estimated at more than $3 million. "We have in hand pledges, commitments, exceeding $1 million, and more forthcoming, but that will only be so if it appears that the city is willing to continue this partnership," said Dinkins.

But Dennis Walcott, the deputy mayor who oversees education, said he isn't yet convinced. "We have requested additional information including a detailed budget, which was promised today, and are still awaiting receipt of this information,” Walcott said in a statement. “Without this critical component, we have not been able to fully evaluate their presentation." Which means the choir is not off the hook, yet.

Posted by acapnews at January 25, 2006 12:02 AM