MANHATTAN (CN) – A sculptor claims in court that the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Memorial Committee owes him $25,000 for the statue he created years ago to honor New York’s first African-American congressman.
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Raoul Cadet sued the Harlem-based nonprofit in New York County Supreme Court, claiming it never paid him the final installment on his $300,000 contract.
Cadet claims money is not a problem for the foundation, which could have paid him with licensing fees CBS offered it to film the statue for a police drama.
Cadet claims the committee agreed in 2004 to pay him $300,000 to create and erect the statue, now on the Harlem boulevard named after the colorful late congressman.
Cadet called his sculpture “Higher Ground,” inspired by Powell’s quotation, “Press forward at all times, climbing toward that higher ground of the harmonious society that shapes the laws of man to the laws of God.”
“The sculpture would be an approximately eleven-foot-tall statue of Mr. Powell, cast in bronze, striding up an incline plane with his trench coat blowing in the wind. The ten-foot-tall stainless steel and granite base of the statue was to be inscribed with the words, ‘Keep the Faith,’ (another famous Powell saying), as well as the afore-mentioned Powell quote, biographical details about the subject’s life, information about the legislation he introduced, and the names of major sponsors and contributors to the project,” the complaint states.
Cadet says that he completed the project on Aug. 24, 2005, but the Committee shorted him $25,000 on his final payment.
“The committee has acknowledged its debt and promised to pay Mr. Cadet on numerous occasions, but has always maintained that it does not have the funds to pay him,” the complaint states. “Recently, however, the committee has changed its tune, and now flatly denies any obligation to Mr. Cadet. Without any explanation, it has even rejected a licensing agreement with a national television network that sought to use the image of the memorial in the opening credits of a new television series called ‘NYC 22,’ which could have provided the means for the committee to resolve its obligations to Mr. Cadet, while providing the memorial with national exposure.”
Cadet claims the committee rejected the licensing opportunity “for no discernable reason other than spite.”
At the beginning, Cadet says, he believed that he and the committee entered into the project out of a shared sense of idealism.
“The committee wanted the memorial to be a Harlem landmark that would reflect the community’s proud history. Mr. Cadet felt the same way; the memorial was a ‘passion project’ that he was proud and excited to be a part of. Mr. Cadet saw, and continues to see, the memorial as a way to honor Mr. Powell’s important legacy and uplift the Harlem community. Accordingly, Mr. Cadet completed the memorial under significant time constraints, which were exacerbated by the committee’s consistent failure to provide funds on a timely basis according to the payment schedule to which it agreed. In order to complete the memorial on time, Mr. Cadet paid many expenses out of his own pocket and even borrowed $30,000 from his relatives to complete the final phases of work on the memorial. The committee was fully aware of these payments. Mr. Cadet fully expected the committee to pay him the agreed-upon project fee, as it was required to do under its contractual obligations and had represented it would do once the memorial was complete and installed.
“The committee officially unveiled and dedicated the memorial in February of 2005. During the course of, and in the months following, the memorial’s construction, the committee paid Mr. Cadet only $275,000 of the $300,000 it owed him under the agreement. Following the completion of the memorial, the committee acknowledged its outstanding obligation of $25,000 on multiple occasions over the course of several years and repeatedly promised to pay Mr. Cadet, once the committee had raised the funds. Mr. Cadet was patient and cooperative because he believed the committee’s promises and wanted to support the committee’s mission,” the complaint states.
Cadet claims that the statue’s unveiling was “an historic and triumphant event,” for which he was paid with scorn.
“Mr. Cadet devoted all his time, energy, and skill to completing this project at significant personal expense. Now the committee has flatly and blatantly breached its agreement to compensate Mr. Cadet for his work, notwithstanding the many accommodations that Mr. Cadet made for the committee, based on its promises to pay, since he completed the memorial in 2005,” the complaint states.
He seeks $25,000, with interest, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
He is represented, pro bono, by Nancy Chung, with Akin Gump Straus Hauer & Feld.
This reporter was unable to locate contact information for the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Memorial Committee for a response.