The buck stops where?
Two of the contenders running to replace Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) blasted the term-limited pol’s habit of sending money outside the district and to groups headed by deep-pocketed donors — while the other two defended the three-termer’s record at an Aug. 15 debate.
Our sister publication the New York Post exposed last month that Recchia shelled out $2.75 million of his $10.3 million in discretionary cash in the 2014 city budget to fund schools, zoos, city services, and business groups in Staten Island. The Rock sits well outside of his district spanning Gravesend, Seagate, Bensonhurst, and Coney Island — but it makes up the bulk of the district belonging to Congressman Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge), whom Recchia hopes to unseat next year.
Also, since Recchia became chairman of the finance committee in 2010, the City Council has allocated $940,000 to the Sephardic Community Center at the corner of Ocean Parkway and Avenue S — which sits just inside his district lines. A number of prosperous real estate magnates sit on the center’s board of directors, including father and son Joseph and Morris Jerome of JEMB Realty — who have collectively donated $21,330 to Recchia’s campaigns. Another scion of the family, Louis Jerome, has put an additional $8,415 in the pol’s coffers.
Recchia’s critics at the forum argued the councilman should have put the money into storm-ravaged Coney Island, where the most recent statistics put the poverty rate at 23 percent and the unemployment rate at 13 percent — compared to 11.2 percent and 6.7 percent respectively in Staten Island.
“In my opinion, Coney Island is desperately in need of those funds,” said neighborhood activist Todd Dobrin. “That money is needed to build up this community.”
Dobrin declined to comment on what Recchia’s motives were in sending so much money to Staten Island and the Sephardic Center — but not all of the Council hopefuls were so shy.
“It was probably done for political gain, to ensure his position in the next political arena he is seeking to get into,” said Pastor Connis Mobley of the United Community Baptist Church.
But the outgoing representative had his defenders, who argued that Recchia must fund programs outside his district as part of his position as finance chairman.
“He has responsibility to areas all across New York City,” said Mark Treyger, former spokesman to Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Bensonhurst).
Treyger, who has received strong support from Louis Jerome’s Small Business Coalition, also said that he would likely keep the financial pipeline connected to the Sephardic Center.
“If the funding is being used to support families, I will certainly consider continuing it,” the candidate said.
The fourth candidate in the race, John Lisyanskiy, a former staffer of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, echoed Treyger’s comments about the money sent to Staten Island — and shrugged off Recchia’s funding of an organization run by his donors.
“Politics are politics,” the contender said.
Recchia’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But he told the Post that he had allocated funding to Staten Island in the aftermath of last year’s superstorm as part of his role as head of the finance committee.
“It’s Sandy, and I’m also the finance chairman so everybody comes to see me,” he told the tabloid. “There were programs out there that if we don’t give them the funding they’d never get these things and there were schools that needed things now.”
But the Post noted that Recchia had not sent any money to similarly-devastated parts of Queens — which are outside of Grimm’s congressional district.