2005-04-13 / Political Page

Weprin Vows To Restore Mayor’s Cultural Org. Budget Cuts

When the battle over the city’s budget starts to heat up, one of the major skirmishes will be over restoring to cultural institutions cuts made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his preliminary budget.

City Councilmember David Weprin, council Finance Committee chairman and chief negotiator on the budget, made this clear in a recent talk to the Cultural Institutions Group (CIG) comprised of 34 non-profit institutions which exist on city funding.

Weprin (D–Hollis) vowed in his talk to the CIG group that he would do everything in his power to see that the cuts are restored. CIG can be expected to exert a great deal of pressure on the mayor, considering he’s running for re-election.

In Queens, several of the affected organizations and the proposed cuts in their budgets are the Museum of the Moving Image (MMI), Astoria ($189,298); Flushing Town Hall ($145,016); Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning ($225,796); New York Hall of Science ($263,163); P.S. 1, Long Island City ($46,162); Queens Botanical Garden ($150,027); Queens Museum of Art ($179,363), and Queens Theatre In The Park ($278,440). In all, CIGs would be cut $26 million in the budget by the mayor.

Weprin lauded the economic and educational values of the organizations involved. He noted, “Investing in culture makes good business sense for the city,”creating jobs in hotels and restaurants, for example, that tourists patronize when they vacation here and visit the CIG institutions.”

He also pointed out, “More than 2 million public school students visit our CIGs annually, each provides unique educational experiences and programs which would be unavailable anywhere else in the world.” CIG represents 34 cultural groups operating in city-owned facilities.

HIP-HOP MAYOR: Bloomberg has received strong criticism for support from controversial Lenora Fulani and the Independence Party, of which she is a prominent member. Fulani has for a long time been accused of anti-Semitism, which she denies.

Now Fulani has moved to strengthen the mayor’s support among blacks by making him the subject of a song, “Mayor Mike’s Rockin’” written by two of her followers. It hails the mayor for “running the city an’ making it airtight;” for his independence and for saving the Harlem Dance Theater by making a contribution” “when it needed him most.”

The mayor had the Independent Party line in 2001. This year it will provide a ballot line for Democrats to jump on if they want to vote for the mayor but prefer not to do it via the Republican line.

Meanwhile, the mayor rankled members of the Northeast Queens Jewish Commuity Council when he made a brief appearance at its candidates’ forum on Sunday then left under a barrage of criticism from his opponents, both Republican and Democratic. “To come here fo 20 minutes and just leave is inappropriate,” groused Adreinne Bernstein, but the mayor said he had to leave to march in the Greek Independence Day Parade in Manhattan.

CROWLEY, PERALTA, MAYERSOHN HONORED: At the Corona Center for Economic Development first annual dinner–dance, the organization honored Congressmember Joseph Crowley, Assemblymember Jose Peralta, and New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya at the Terrace on the Park catering hall last Friday night. The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing assistance for 200 small merchants.

This Sunday, Assemblymember Nettie Mayersohn (D–Flushing) will be the honored guest at the Workman’s circle/Arbeter Ring’s 72nd annual gala cultural seder in Manhattan. Mayersohn has been a member of the Workman’s Circle all her life and it was a guiding force in her family for four generations, she said in lauding the organization’s work. The lawmaker said it has been at the forefront of preserving the art, music and cultural traditions of Jewish life for more than seven decades.

SCHUMER, CLINTON SCORCH FELLOW DEMS.: New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton generally save their energy to battle Republicans, but last week they ripped into a fellow Democrat, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, over where President George W. Bush’s new helicopter should be built.

Schumer accused Dodd of a sneak attack for maneuvering without Schumer’s or Clinton’s knowledge to win the contract for a company in his state while negotiations were still going on.

Schumer and Clinton got wind of the deal and forced the Senate to undo it. Afterward, Clinton reportedly wagged a finger in Dodd’s face as she gave him a dressing down.

“We won this contract fair and square,” the New York lawmakers said, explaining that 700 jobs would be created for a Binghamton company under a $6 million contract to build 23 helicopters, including one for the president.

MONSERRATE, PERALTA IN ANTI-CRIME MARCH: Corona residents turned out for a demonstration against crime and violence in their community last Saturday. Leading the march were local Councilmember Hiram Monserrate and Asemblymember Jose Peralta. Included in the group were families of recent crime victims. The marches followed the same route that Manuel Mayi took trying to escape assailants when they killed him in 1991. He was killed at 108th Street and 36th Avenue, the same place where Saturday’s march ended. Mayi’s killers have never been caught.

SEARS COMPLAINT GETS ACTION: In recent years, Councilmember Helen Sears has campaigned for a more orderly method, such as the creation of hiring halls where laborers seeking day jobs could assemble, rather than gathering on street corners in residential areas. Recently, the council Committee On Immigration held a hearing on whether a commission should be created to explore the feasibility of developing public–private operated job centers where day laborers could meet.

The committee heard testimony that there are as many as 1,300 day laborers who gather along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights and Broadway in Astoria seeking work as painters, landscapers or on construction jobs. Besides taking the workers off street corners, where they interfere with pedestrians and shoppers, proponents of the hiring halls feel the workers would receive protection from abusive employers in the more controlled setting. No decision was reached at the hearing.

GOP STRATEGIST RETURNING: Former Republican political strategist Arthur Finkelstein, who was dumped from his job with the state GOP last fall, is reportedly back in Governor George Pataki’s good graces. Finkelstein is also said to be organizing a drive to derail Senator Hillary Clinton’s purported plans to run for governor of New York next year and for president in 2008.

Finkelstein had scored major victories in the past, helping Pataki defeat Mario Cuomo in 1994 and masterminding Alfonse D’Amato’s string of successful campaigns. But he lost some of his luster in recent years with losing campaigns and several other states and the New York state Republicans let him go for saying that Republican efforts to recruit the support of Evangelical Christians could hurt the party.

Now it’s reported that Pataki is again seeking Finkelstein’s counsel as he tries to decide whether to seek a fourth term next year. As the governor has foundered in recent polls, Clinton has soared to prominence as the major Democrat to succeed Pataki.

Reports out of Washington now say Finkelstein will lead an effort called Stop Hillary Now to raise funds to fight Clinton’s election as governor next year because a convincing victory next November would set her up as the strongest Democrat to run for president in 2008.

Clinton’s strategists are said to be aware of the GOP’s Finkelstein-led plan, having cited it in an e-mail fundraising appeal recently.

Clinton, who considers herself “the number 1 target for the rightwing attack machine,” is also the target of the state Republicans’ new campaign, “Stop Hillary Now,” which was launched in a letter sent out to party members by State Chairman Stephen Minarik.

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