They can’t account for this one.
Marine Park’s councilman has the highest budget for staff salaries and rent in the entire Council, but neither he nor the council speaker, who sets the budgets, can explain why. Councilman Alan Maisel’s office gets $489,000 for staff and rent — $80,000 more than the standard Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito created in February, according to materials obtained by Gotham Gazette and shared with this paper.
The speaker gave most operations $409,000 but doled out more to a handful of leaders, such as the finance chair and majority leader, to fund their busier-than-average offices. But Maisel — who was elected in 2014 — managed more than any of the power brokers. He told Gotham Gazette he “had no idea” why he got the most money, but he told this paper he just asked for it.
“I asked the speaker for additional money for staff for salaries,” Maisel said.
The Speaker’s office refused to explain the disparity and repeatedly insisted Mark-Viverito is leveling the budgetary playing field.
“The budgets of all the members were increased this year,” her office said in a statement. “The speaker has taken unprecedented steps to equalize and increase member budgets across the board. The speaker retains the discretion to provide additional resources in limited circumstances.”
Mark-Viverito standardized office operating budgets ahead of Council members’ February decision to give themselves raises. She awarded $479,000 — $70,000 extra — to finance committee chairwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D–Queens), land use committee chairman David Greenfield (D–Midwood), and majority leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Queens) because of their offices’ heightened responsibilities. She gave Councilman Donovan Richards (D–Queens) $454,000, because he runs two district offices, according to the Gazette.
Maisel said he employs “seven or eight” people — the council average — in his Mill Basin storefront, where retail rent is among Brooklyn’s lowest, according to a 2015 CPEX Real Estate report.
Maisel’s chief of staff retired last month, and he plans to distribute her roughly $85,000 salary among other staffers, he said.
Office budgets do not roll over, so any money left at the end of the fiscal year goes back into the city’s general fund, a spokeswoman said. Maisel got the most last year at $462,618 — $10,000 more than the second-highest funded office that year, fiscal documents show.
Council members are paid separately.
Maisel spends the office budget on the same things other legislators do — he just gets a little more, he said.
“Rent and telephones and electricity and copy machines and all the things that everybody else spends their money on,” the standards and ethics committee chairman said. “Other than the fact that the speaker chose to give me more money.”