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Vincent Gentile has been a Democratic representative for Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, and Dyker Heights for 16 years, since he was first elected to the state Senate in 1996. After three terms in office, he lost in 2002 to Republican then-Councilman Marty Golden. He immediately ran in a special election for Golden’s vacant council seat, and voters have sent him back to City Hall for two full terms since. Because he was in office when term limits were extended, he is eligible to run once more — and this time faces challenges from Golden aide John Quaglione, and Green Party candidate Patrick Dwyer. We talked with the Councilman about why he’s seeking a third term, and what he hopes to do for his Southern Brooklyn district.
Will Bredderman: You were among the councilmen who voted against extending term limits in 2008. How do you justify seeking a third term?
Vincent Gentile: As I said on the floor of the City Council, if you check, that three terms isn’t a problem. Three terms is appropriate if people vote for the person for the three terms. The point is that at the time of the vote, there was no public referendum. I thought there needed to be a public referendum. You go for another term based on your record, and I think that my record, as we will lay out in the campaign, endorses a third term.
WB: Yes, but there was a public referendum, in 2010. The voters decided to reinstate a two-term limit. In 2008, polls showed the public supported that limit. It’s quite likely that the only reason you are now able to seek a third term is because the vote was held in the City Council, and the public was circumvented.
VG: The point is that at the time of the vote, there was no public referendum. I’m very comfortable with the position, because of everything that happened chronologically. Between the vote of the City Council and the public referendum, certain things occurred, that made the issue of inequality across the City Council districts need to be addressed.
WB: Can you specify for me what those things were?
VG: We will, over the course of the campaign.
WB: Can’t you specify those things now?
VG: I will, over the course of the campaign. Everything will be crystal-clear. We’re just getting started.
WB: What do you think are the biggest issues facing the district? And why haven’t you addressed them already?
VG: Obviously, we have transportation issues, we have issues of fairness. We need to get the city out of the pockets of New Yorkers, we need to lessen the burden of excessive fees on small business owners. You have a mayor that has let his commissioners run amok, and has given them a mandate to raise revenue through enforcement. We need to get back to the days when enforcement is for enforcement. We have tried, the city Council, to come up with pieces of legislation that would try to curb these tendencies. He wanted to impose parking meters on Sunday, and DOT was more than willing to charge us for parking on Sunday. I led the charge on that fight, and that’s why we were able to get legislation passed over the veto. Being able to make ends meet, the harassment the city has subjected them to, be it as a business owner, or as a motorist — people are upset about that, they’re angry about that, and they have a right to be. I hear that over and over again. With transportation, one of first capital allocations I made in 2004 was for a ferry slip at 69th Street. The Economic Development Corporation has so far refused to spend that money. Under a new administration, that can change. But there’s the ferry service that I brokered the deal on at 58th Street, that’s been a great success. EDC could not believe the kind of riderships numbers we’ve had. A nice first gift that a new administration could give our neighborhood would be to extend that service through the end of the Montague Tunnel, or even to make it permanent.
WB: When I talk to people in the district, many tell me they feel their neighborhoods are going downhill. There have been numerous reports of drug-dealing in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, and residents complain constantly about filthy streets in Bensonhurst. Why has this been allowed to happen?
VG: The drug issue is not a Bay Ridge issue, it’s a citywide issue. I have put money in the budget so we have additional pick-ups on trash. We need to put more police, put more Sanitation people on the street. We have a mayor now who has decided to cut funding for these programs. It’s a failure of the mayor to do the sort of headcounts they need to keep the streets clean and safe. Those are the things that need to be done in the new administration, and with a new mayor and a new leadership, there is much more we can accomplish. Also, Bay Ridge was voted recently as the best place to raise a family. A lot of businesses are opening. I’ve never been in a time when so many businesses were opening. It seems every other day, I’m going to a business opening. And, like I said, sanitation is on the upswing. We need to do more education in the community about keeping the place clean.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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