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DiBrienza must quit

The Brooklyn Paper

Is there anything more unsightly than a politician with his hands in the public till?

The latest offender is former city Councilman Steve DiBrienza, who served 16 years until term limits — and a subsequent failed run for public advocate — took him off the public payroll.

Or did it?

This week, The Brooklyn Paper learned that DiBrienza still has a cozy relationship with his former colleagues, who have been happy to funnel money to this invisible public servant’s charity — an astounding $1.19 million over the past seven years.

The charity’s principal expense? Salaries.

We don’t know exactly how much went into DiBrienza’s pocket because antiquated rules don’t require the identification of anyone earning less than $50,000. But we do know this: over the years, federal tax records show that DiBrienza and his cronies have pocketed hundreds of thousands of your cash.

DiBrienza, who is running to win back his old seat now that his replacement, Councilman Bill DeBlasio, is seeking higher office, told The Brooklyn Paper this week that his “Neighborhood Assistance Corporation” runs sports leagues and anti-graffiti programs.

Problem is, the group’s Fort Hamilton Parkway office — which is in space shared with DiBrienza’s law firm and real-estate office — is almost always shuttered. Worse, no one other than DiBrienza would confirm that the group does what DiBrienza says it does. The athletic director at one of the schools that supposedly benefitted from DiBrienza’s largesse told The Brooklyn Paper he hadn’t seen the former councilman in years and certainly would have known if DiBrienza had done anything to justify the money that the Council has given him to spend as he sees fit.

Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), for example, requested $15,000 for DiBrienza’s group right after DiBrienza endorsed him for Congress in 2006.

Yassky told The Brooklyn Paper that this out-of-district donation to DiBrienza’s group was not a kickback or a quid-pro-quo, but voters will certainly raise their eyebrows.

That appearance of impropriety is the core of why DiBrienza’s candidacy for his old seat is so troubling. Here is a well-connected politician who is out of office, yet remains addicted to one of the central perks of holding office in this city: the hundreds of thousands of dollars of virtually unregulated cash that the Council doles out every year.

Voters in the 39th District do have a choice: they can reject Steve DiBrienza.

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Reader Feedback

Jonah from Park Slope says:
Your rush to judgement is itself a scandal. During the Giuliani reigh of terror, not one member of the council -- NOT ONE -- succeeded to the extgent that DiBrienza did in resisting a whole series of virtually criminal moves against the homeless.

If you are real journalists you owe it to yourselves to look back at that story in all its detail. When everyone ran for cover, DiBrienza faced him down and won.

Don't trust me. Look back, get the details, and write a story. Let the voters decide if this is the kind of councilman they want.

Giuliani left office with a record of 20 - 1 against the homeless. The one was Steve DiBrienza.
March 12, 2009, 9:44 pm
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
"Voters in the 39th District do have a choice: they can reject Steve DiBrienza" sure sounds to me like letting the voters decide. And decide they will.

But "he stood up to Giuliani," while admirable in itself, is a remarkably weak defense for what appears to have gone on with Mr. DiBrienza's Neighborhood Assistance Corporation. Charitable organizations whose largest expense is their payroll are charitable organizations in name only. Mr. DiBrienza, and his enablers in the City Council, need to come clean with the taxpayers, who have been, unwittingly, the true funders of his "charity."
March 13, 2009, 1:03 am
greenred from Upper West Side says:
Interesting that this came out two days after billionaire Bloomberg bought the paper.
March 13, 2009, 4:04 am
Rob from Bay Ridge says:
Jonah from Park Slope says: "Your rush to judgement is itself a scandal. During the Giuliani reigh of terror, not one member of the council -- NOT ONE -- succeeded to the extgent that DiBrienza did in resisting a whole series of virtually criminal moves against the homeless."

So WHAT? How, exactly, does that negate the claim that he's running a bogus "charity" that pays off his friends & potential friends?

Answer: It doesn't -- not even one little bit.
March 13, 2009, 4:38 am
Lisa Fane from Park Slope says:
Regarding DiBrienza's standing up to Giuliani--that's what makes this story so sad and outraging. DiBrienza knows better. He knows very well how corrupt government affects people's lives. But he got forced out by term limits and lost his race for Public Advocate and then it's like he said "Well if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." The people of Brooklyn have been betrayed and he should be very ashamed.
March 13, 2009, 12:34 pm
Gersh Kuntzman (Brooklyn Paper) says:
Point of fact: Here's who bought our paper (it was NOT Mike Bloomberg)

Another fact: Our editorial had nothing to do with a change in our corporate ownership. The Brooklyn Paper has always been known for hard-hitting coverage and holding elected officials accountable.

Why does anyone think that will change?

The Brooklyn Paper
March 13, 2009, 5:17 pm
harry from 39 says:
Jonah says 'When everyone ran for cover, DiBrienza faced him down and won.'
That was then, this is now.
To get points for character, you have to be consistent, and sounds like this guy flunked.
March 14, 2009, 6:04 am
buddy from DUMBO says:
Our city government is getting worse than the mess in Albany. Shame on DeBriena. And if ANYONE thinks that Yassky's donation was anything but quid quo pro and a payoff, then I have a bridge to sell you...oh, I can't because Yassky already sold the bridge to the condo developers in Brooklyn Bridge "Park". Di Brienza should bow out; Yassky should spend all his money and lose his next race badly, disappearing into oblivion.
March 15, 2009, 9:47 pm
Rik Little from East Village says:
I saw Steve Debrienza in action many times at city council meetings and many public events. I have the highest respect for him and hope he becomes an elected public servant again. He is the best man going.
Nov. 15, 2010, 5:40 pm

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