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NOV 04- NOV 12, 2014

Ex-Isaiah Says God Told Him to Leave Falls; Piccirillo Talks About It To Utica Newspaper

By Mike Hudson

November 04, 2014

James Haid, formerly the executive director of Isaiah 61, said God directed him to Utica.

Niagara Falls Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo has declined to speak to the Niagara Falls Reporter for months. But he recently spoke to the Utica Observer Dispatch in response to a Reporter story.

The story dealt with James Haid, who until recently was the head of the not-for-profit Isaiah 61 here.

The 55-year-old Haid left Niagara Falls to take a job at the 120-year-old Utica Gospel Rescue Mission on Sept. 22, about a week after a $500,000 grant was approved by the City Council out of casino cash to renovate a long abandoned fire hall on Highland Ave. for Isaiah 61 to use as a store, training facility and headquarters.

When City Council members voted to approve the funding, they had no idea that the executive director of the organization they were giving the money to help had already taken a job in Utica.

“Our department oversees a lot of community development organizations,” Piccirillo told the Dispatch. “And if there’s a change in staff, it’s not our role to do a press release. Their board is transitioning their organization. They’re taking it very seriously, and we have full conviction that this program is going to continue to train the underemployed and continue to have a positive impact on the community."

For his part, Haid told the Utica newspaper that it was God who told him to leave Niagara Falls and move to Utica.

“What does God want us to do? Where does he want me to serve?” Haid recalled asking as he and his wife prayed for guidance. "And this (Utica) is where God wants us to serve him.”

Haid told the Observer Dispatch that he didn’t want to dwell on his decision to leave Niagara Falls, and added that it was “up to God” to decide whether the Isaiah 61 organization he left behind would be able to continue in his absence.

In addition to speaking with the Utica paper, Piccirillo has taken to using his Facebook page as a vehicle with which to promote the Isaiah 61 project.

A photograph of a young black man identified only as “Curtis” appears beneath the caption “I AM ISAIAH 61” and is accompanied by a brief article stating that Curtis’s completely unidentified “employer” is very happy he participated in the program.

Curtis himself says he’s recommended the program to friends.

“Employers around here already know about this program,” he said. “They notice if you graduated from the Isaiah 61 Project. This program should grow and expand.”

Isaiah 61 didn’t exist until two years ago, records show. In July of this year, the organization completed the rehabilitation of an abandoned house on Whitney Avenue, the only completed project to date. The home, listed at $39,900, remains unsold.

Recently, the organization’s storefront offices on Hyde Park Blvd. were condemned by city inspectors for building code violations.

Critics of the city spending $500,000 to benefit Isaiah 61 say that with a looming $4.5 - to $9 million city budget deficit the city cannot afford its own essential services let alone fund not-for-profits.

Other critics say that Isaiah 61 has had slim success. Not only has there been only one house renovated in two years, but that the program is having difficulty finding students who will show up regularly for course instruction.

Piccirillo, who has in effect become the spokesman for Isaiah 61, has said that several dozens of graduates have obtained gainful employment from the program but has declined to make available the list or where these “graduates” have obtained work, prompting critics to say that it is an utter fabrication.

The Niagara Falls Reporter therefore calls upon Piccirillo to verify his claims of successful and gainful employment of Isaiah 61 program graduates - with full and candid disclosure.

We will faithfully investigate, preserving the privacy of the applicants and report it faithfully.

The only reason, it would seem, that Piccirillo would not reveal what he has publicly claimed is that it is untrue.

Stay tuned.





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