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They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.
The predictable drumbeat of arguments for and against the Broadway Triangle, the controversial Williamsburg rezoning plan which made its City Council debut before a Land Use subcommittee hearing last Thursday, was interrupted several times by a lively debate regarding a lawsuit filed to prevent the proposal from moving forward.
As Brooklyn Corporation A attorney Marty Needelman read his testimony to the Council, he accused the parties involved in the rezoning of excluding communities in Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant of participating in the planning process and from receiving the benefits of the rezoning of the urban renewal area.
Two months ago, Needelman, representing the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan court accusing the Department of Housing and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of violating the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Councilmember David Yassky (D-Williamsburg) told Needelman that he was disappointed with his comments while Councilmember-elect Steve Levin, who was in the audience, told him his testimony was “a bunch of lies.”
Just before Needelman appeared as a panelist, Councilmember Lew Fidler (D-Canarsie) berated Evelyn Cruz, a Congressional liaison to Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Esteban Duran, a Community Board 1 member, for referencing the lawsuit in their testimony.
“I am offended by that remark, I find this lawsuit offensive.To substitute one ethnic group for another is offensive. I find the base of this lawsuit is offensive,” said Fidler.
There’s a new incumbent-most-likely-to-be-challenged in Flatbush.
Just weeks after City Councilmember Kendall Stewart was defeated by insurgent Jumaane Williams in his bid for a third term, candidates are already beginning to consider taking on State Senator Kevin Parker, who will be running for re-election next year.
Parker is perceived as weak, at this point, say sources, because of his legal troubles, most recently, assault charges earlier this year that led to his indictment on several counts.
Local activist and blogger Rock Hackshaw said that if Parker runs for re-election, he is likely to have at least one opponent.
Should he drop out, however, Hackshaw predicted there would be a standing-room-only crowd lining up for the seat, with many of the candidates who ran for Stewart’s council seat making a re-appearance.
Stewart himself is rumored to be considering taking on Parker, Hackshaw said.
Also looking seriously at the seat is Wellington Sharpe, who ran against Parker previously, and who, when asked if he was running for the seat, replied, “Right now, yes.”
“Kevin is doing us all a big disservice,” Sharpe opined. “He’s not in a position to bring anything back to the community. He’s worse than a lame duck. He’s a bright gentleman, but too volatile.”
“Whether or not he is convicted doesn’t matter,” Sharpe added. “It’s time for him to go.”
Stewart, for his part, said that the idea of challenging Parker %u2013 whom he had previously run against unsuccessfully %u2013 “didn’t even cross my mind.” He has no political plans at this point, he went on. “I’m now restructuring my staff, and putting a game plan together, and I will see if I have time to be involved in politics, too,” Stewart told this paper.
As for Parker, he said he is “absolutely” planning to run for his fifth term in 2010. With his trial possibly coming up in the next couple of weeks, he said, “I also want to maintain my innocence. I expect to be fully exonerated when this legal matter is over, and I don’t expect it to be a hindrance either to my service to the people of the 21st Senatorial District, or to my continuing that service by running for a fifth term.
“I’m happy to put my record before the voters,” Parker added. “The allegations against me haven’t slowed down or stopped my service to the community one bit.”
After a week-long vacation, City Councilmember Lew Fidler made his return to Brooklyn %u2013 and local civic meetings.
The pol attended a meeting of the Marine Park Civic Association to thank residents for reelecting him for a third term.
“I got about 75 percent of the vote in Marine Park,” he said. “I will work as hard over the next four years as I did over the last eight.”
Governor David Paterson and Canarsie State Senator and Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson fired off letters to each other about the budget this past weekend. Needless to say, they weren’t love notes.
Instead, they were polite jabs at each other over the failure to fix the $3.2 billion deficit looming over the state.
The first salvo came from Paterson, who sent a note to all Albany legislators claiming that their “failure to act” on his proposed budget -- which includes deep cuts to education and medicare -- “has put New York at risk for a number of dire fiscal consequences.”
Paterson called both the Assembly and the Senate into a special session on the budget two weeks ago, but nothing substantive was voted on.
Both bodies were ordered back in session this week to hammer something out on the budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Paterson sent his letter as a budget primer, challenging legislators to action.
“No one wants to cut health care or education,” he wrote. “These are priorities for which I have fought my entire career. But given that they make up more than half of the entire budget, we simply have no other choice but to make reductions to health care and education if we want to demonstrate that we are serious about putting New York on the road to fiscal recovery.”
“We must put politics aside and put the people of our State first — not the special interests,” he added. “The warnings are clear and those who choose to ignore them do so at their own peril.”
Not one to be threatened, Sampson returned fire with a letter to Paterson that, while reiterating the State Senate’s commitment to working with the governor on the budget, they’re more focused on “cutting with care.”
“Last week, you said ‘there is no other way,’” Sampson wrote. “We believe there is a better way, and will work with you to close the gap so we can avoid the layoffs of state workers you have threatened, and deeper cuts in next year’s budget.”
“Send us a deficit reduction plan that protects taxpayers, schoolchildren, and working families, and we will pass it tomorrow,” he wrote.
At this rate, “tomorrow” has never been so far away.
As he continues to raid the budget for every little penny they can save, Governor David Paterson doesn’t seem to be giving any credence to State Senator Carl Kruger’s recommendation about taxing cigarettes sold on Native American soil.
Last week Kruger hand delivered a letter to Paterson stating that if the state started taxing smokes sold by American Indian retailers tomorrow, it could generate about $1.6 billion a year — about half of the state’s current budget deficit. By December alone, the state could be raking in $135 million, he said.
All Paterson would have to do is rescind a “letter of forbearance” that allows American Indian tobacco retailers to avoid collecting the tax on the cartons they sell.
Paterson received the letter, but so far hasn’t done anything on the subject. A call to the Governor’s office for comment was not returned by press time.
“Paterson’s silence is deafening,” Kruger said Monday. “That does not mean that it’s not a viable option on the table.”
Kruger said that he has also sent a letter to the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance to produce the books and records that show how taxes on cigarettes benefit the state. The Department of Taxation and Finance has about 20 days to respond to Kruger’s request.
“If they do not do that than I’m issuing subpoenas,” said Kruger, who explained that Paterson doesn’t seem to be willing to compromise and find ways to lesson the deep cuts he’s proposing for the state budget.
“He’s not talking to anyone,” Kruger said. “I think he’s talking to the paintings.”
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