8/9/2011, 11:58 p.m.
"The next thing we know, the architect has given a set of our drawings to the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. And we discover that our concept and the drawings we paid for are being shopped around to other people to run the club."
Schomburg and his partner heard through the grapevine that Williams had taken their drawings to Tiny Archibald, the old basketball star, and Max Roach, the jazz drummer and winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant.
"Yes," said Roach on Friday, "there was group from the Harlem Chamber, they were supposed to open a facility on 135th St. near St. Nick. They wanted me involved. They brought me these plans. But then those other gentlemen came to see me" Schomburg and his partner, Reid "and they had the very same plans, as far as I could tell.
"I knew both parties, so I got out of that deal right away."
Meanwhile, Schomburg and Reid were told by an aide to Williams that they were out of contention for the nightclub lease.
When they wrote to everyone in Harlem complaining, they received a letter from the Harlem Chamber of Commerce's secretary, saying that they might be able to work together if Schomburg and Reid apologized for complaining.
"Architectural work we bought and paid for was ripped off," Schomburg said, "so we had nothing to apologize for."
Asked about this on Friday, Williams said, "I have no comment about this," before hanging up the phone.
Dean Schomburg joins a list of those who feel scorched in their dealings with Lloyd Williams, whose organizations have assembled a small real estate empire in Harlem with $10 million in low-interest loans from the city and private banks. State auditors say that money for counseling of emotionally disturbed children was diverted into a Williams property to pay for renovations. And the city is investigating how it came to pay double market rates for space it is renting in the same property.
Williams says he has done no wrong and that he holds just small interests in the real estate. Clearly, he deserves credit for putting 48 new apartments on 135th St., and for his vision of Strivers Center, where he has pushed development based not on megachains or megabureaucracy, but on local businesses and local pride.