The nonprofit community and the real estate industry, two key segments of New York’s economy, are suffering as a result of the financial crisis. So it is essential that the New York State Attorney General’s Office, which oversees both, does everything possible to assist them. As New York’s next attorney general, I plan to build on Andrew Cuomo’s successes and make sure that happens.
The Attorney General’s Real Estate Finance Bureau reviews all offering plans for cooperatives, condominiums and homeowners’ associations to ensure adequate disclosure. In the past, the bureau has sometimes been a source of frustration for developers and tenants by taking far too long to approve offering plans.
To deal with these problems, Attorney General Cuomo convened a working group to address the review process for condominium and cooperative offerings. The group produced legislation–for which I voted–to increase the staff in the Real Estate Finance Bureau and improve its operations.
Mr. Cuomo improved the bureau, but that work must continue.
As New York’s economy continues to recover, agreed-upon and above-board real estate deals must not be held up because of bureaucratic red tape or government delay.
For charities and nonprofit organizations, the Charities Bureau has a similarly important oversight role: protecting donors and beneficiaries and ensuring that organizations are legitimate and actually using their assets for the stated purpose. The bureau can also use its position to provide assistance to the community.
The bureau should reduce paperwork and make its processes as simple as possible. State reporting requirements should be as close as possible to federal requirements. Small nonprofits with limited resources–such as senior care and child welfare organizations–should be offered technical assistance and training, so they are not sidetracked by minor compliance issues.
Mergers and major asset sales by charities and nonprofits must be approved by the bureau. Too often, approvals are delayed, which can unnecessarily increase costs or reduce proceeds for nonprofits that need every penny to continue their work. The bureau should develop clear, accessible guidelines for transactions and use warning signs for problems, so it can focus on nonprofits with potential troubles, and pass on quickly the applications of well-run organizations.
Another way to help nonprofits is to make public the list of fund-raisers registered with the office. Nonprofits should be able to check if fund-raisers are registered before hiring them by just checking the attorney general’s Web site.
For both the real estate and charities bureaus, outreach and communication must be a continuing and integral part of their operations, so issues can be identified early and resolved quickly.
There is no conflict between on the one hand protecting consumers in real estate deals and donors and beneficiaries of nonprofits, and on the other ensuring that government does not stand in the way of efficient operation of key sectors of our economy.
Eric Schneiderman is a candidate for New York attorney general.