Brooklyn pols: Red Hook councilman unfit to lead • Brooklyn Paper

Brooklyn pols: Red Hook councilman unfit to lead

Next question: Councilman Carlos Menchaca calls on a commenter at a community meeting in Red Hook discussing the unannounced fencing-off of part of Valentino Park.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A freshman councilman is out as leader of the Brooklyn Council delegation after a coup by his colleagues.

Pols ousted first-term Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook) and replaced him with Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) on Thursday. Treyger said the group that voted Menchaca out thought he had failed as a leader, but stopped short of saying he shared their view.

“There was a lot of frustration expressed by many people that things that should have been happening were not happening,” he said. “I’m not looking to assign blame. Sometimes it’s an issue of chemistry.”

Lawmakers were angry that Menchaca didn’t schedule regular meetings, and the delegation hadn’t convened since early September, Treyger said.

The Council delegation is tasked with representing the borough during citywide budget negotiations, and makes appointments to agencies such as the Economic Development Corporation. One councilman who was in the room on Thursday said the delegation had missed the opportunity to make several appointments as months went by without a meeting.

The insurgent pols spared delegation chairwoman Councilwoman Darlene Mealy (D– Crown Heights), indicating that they called the vote with the intention of unseating Menchaca.

The apparent coup comes on the heels of a spat between Menchaca and the mayor’s office over a $115-million development project at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, which was scuttled after Menchaca demanded more control over the process. The Economic Development Corporation pulled the plug and called Menchaca’s demands “confounding,” according to a Crain’s New York Business report.

Menchaca has championed community input in municipal projects, even such minor ones as installing bathrooms in a Red Hook park, which he nixed after local gadflies complained the loos would take up precious green space at a series of meetings.

Menchaca’s ouster comes shortly before the beginning of the citywide budgeting process, and observers speculate that delegates were worried that Menchaca’s soured relationship with city leadership would get in the way of negotiating for the borough’s best interest. Treyger didn’t want to touch that conjecture with a 10-foot pole.

“My role in accepting the nomination has nothing to do with that,” he said.

Menchaca has not shied away from controversy in his first year in office. In the Assembly primary Menchaca backed political neophyte Cesar Zuniga against incumbent Felix Ortiz (D–Red Hook). At a victory party, Ortiz laughed heartily when a pal made a joke in Spanish about Menchaca not having testicles, and Ortiz seems to maintain the grudge, tweeting his congratulations to Treyger and Mealy on Thursday.

Treyger said that Menchaca represents his district, but not Brooklyn as a whole.

“Councilman Menchaca has every right to advocate for his district,” said Treyger. “We have to look out for our districts, but we also have to make sure that the needs of the borough are addressed.”

The Red Hook pol is a member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, as was Bill DeBlasio when he was a councilman, and of the New Kings Democrats, which formed to challenge the entrenched Democratic political machine in Brooklyn. The head of the New Kings Democrats decried Menchaca’s removal, comparing it with the back-room maneuvering that put Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D–the Bronx) in the Speaker seat with little public debate six days after Assemblyman Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan) stepped down over his indictment on corruption charges.

“Mostly we’re distressed that the process was so un-transparent, and we were already coming off a week where the leadership in Albany was chosen behind closed doors,” Andrew Sloat said. “We had higher hopes for a progressive bastion like Brooklyn.”

A spokesman for Menchaca declined to comment.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro‌witz@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
New leadership: Coney Island Councilman Mark Treyger replaces Red Hook's Carlos Menchaca as a leader of the Brooklyn Council delegation.

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