City lawmakers pressured to give back stipends

Pressure is mounting on city lawmakers to give back stipends that they get for chairing City Council committees.

That after the city government watchdog group Citizens Union recently unveiled on its Web site a City Council Lulu Watch tracking what each of the 51 members of the City Council is doing with his or her council stipend, or “lulu.”

Several Brooklyn City Council members have recently been named in leadership positions or chair of a committee or sub-committee, which comes with a stipend above a Council member’s annual $112,500 salary.

This includes DomenicRecchia (D-Coney Island), who was named chair of the Council’s Finance Committee, worth an extra $18,000.

Also getting leadership positions from Brooklyn were Council members Lew Fidler (D-Mill Basin, Canarsie) and Al Vann (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant).

Fidler retained his position as Assistant Majority Leader and chair of the Youth Services Committee worth an extra $15,000, while Vann was named Majority Whip and chair of the Community Development Committee, worth an extra $11,000.

Several Brooklyn Council members retained their chairmanships, including Erik Dilan (D-Bushwick), who kept Housing, and Mike Nelson (D-Sheepshead Bay, Midwood), who kept Waterfronts, both coming with $10,000 stipends.

Council member Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg) is chairing Small Business, worth a $10,000 stipend.

Freshman Council member Brad Lander (D-Carroll Gardens, Park Slope) is the subcommittee chair of Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses and his fellow freshman Council member Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights) chairs the Planning, Dispositions and Concessions Subcommittee. Both include a $4,000 stipend.

Freshman Council member Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush) was awarded the Oversight and Investigations Committee Chair, while Council member Letitia James (D-Fort Greene) received Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Chair and Council member Mathieu Eugene (D-Flatbush) received the Veterans Committee Chair. All three receive $10,000 stipends.

Bay Ridge City Council member Vincent Gentile will chair the Select Committee on Libraries, worth $4,000.

Thus far, Lander has refused his stipend while Eugene, Levin and Williams gave theirs to charity.

Levin said while he gave the money to Haitian relief efforts, he is not against lulus.

“The reality is when legislators take on committee assignments, chairing them is a big responsibility, and I don’t see anything wrong with modest additional compensation because you take on a lot more work,” he said.

Williams is also giving the money to Haitian relief efforts, but remains 100 percent in favor of receiving stipends for the additional work.

In announcing the lulu watch, Citizens Union also noted that they sent out questionnaires on this issue and 20 current Council members indicated they supported the elimination of the lulus, but have either changed their minds or are keeping the money anyway.

According to the organization, this includes Gentile.

“I didn’t flip-flop. I took a longer-range view,” said Gentile. “There’s a significant amount of work. If you’re serious about the committee, I have no problem encouraging people to do 110 percent and get a stipend for it. I have a problem with people who don’t do anything with their committees and still get a stipend.”

Among the Brooklyn delegation who told Citizens Union they were against the stipend, but are still taking it as of press time, are Sara Gonzalez, James, Reyna and Darlene Mealy.

—with Tom Tracy

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