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Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

Source: Ibagli via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Ibagli via Wikimedia Commons

A reader sent us the following letter to the editor, making a case for a pedestrian and bike path spanning the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and urging neighbors to attend a rally for the cause this Saturday:

A dedication was held on November 21, 1964 to open the Verrazano Bridge to the public. That day, a group of people spoke out that the bridge should have a walkway. One carried a sign, “Are Feet Obsolete?”

Robert Moses, then the head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, didn’t want a pedestrian / bicycle path. Now, at the 50th year anniversary, it’s a good time to fix this mistake.

Some feel that a Verrazano foot / bike path would be too long because the length would be 2.59 miles. However, there are paths longer than this that are being built. San Francisco’s Bay Bridge foot path is two thirds completed. When done, the path will be 4.46 miles long. The Tappan Zee Bridge is being replaced. The new bridge will include a foot path that will be three miles long.

The cost of this foot / bike path? When a Department of City Planning study was done in 1997 the price to put a path between the cables of the bridge was estimated to be 26.5 million. That would be 39.2 million in today’s dollars. Is that too much for a path that will be there for generations when the net profit from the Verrazano tolls is estimated to be 250 million per year? Let the MTA use more of our Verrazano toll money on enhancements to the bridge instead of subsidizing their other projects.

It is time to put a path on the Verrazano Bridge. We have waited long enough. Come out to the rally for the path on October 18, 2014. That’s from 11:00am to noon at the Alice Austen House, 2 Hylan Boulevard, at Edgewater Street in Staten Island.

— Roy Fischman

John Trumbull's famous painting showing the Declaration of Independence's drafting committee presenting its work to the Congress. Source: Wikipedia

John Trumbull’s famous painting showing the Declaration of Independence’s drafting committee presenting its work to the Congress. Source: Wikipedia

The staff of Sheepshead Bites and Bensonhurst Bean wishes all its readers a happy and safe Independence Day, a.k.a., the holiday Ned likes to refer to as “the day the colonies outgrew their British britches and threw on some American denim.”

Whatever you may end up doing today — and from the look of the weather outside, going to the beach does not appear to be any of those things — please take a moment’s pause to consider the freedoms we Americans enjoy, particularly in contrast with other not-so-free nations, and let us be grateful to those who have sacrificed so much in order to ensure that we remain free.

Just a few reminders: On July 4, all subways, buses and the Staten Island railway operate on a Saturday schedule. There will be no alternate side of the street parking today, and no meters.

Stay safe and Happy Fourth everyone! We’ll be back on Monday.

Colton (Source: Facebook)

Colton (Source: Facebook)

The following is an op-ed by Assemblyman William Colton, representative from the 47th District serving Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Gravesend.

Improving and restoring public transit services, such as our subway and bus lines, will greatly improve the quality of life for those living and working in southwest Brooklyn.

When public transportation services are cut or reduced, the entire neighborhood suffers. But, if public transit is improved, whether by restoring previous services or adding new ones, the entire community benefits. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

In 2010, the MTA cut the southern portion of the B64 bus line, which runs from Bay Ridge to Coney Island. The route was cut south of Harway Avenue. As a result, local stores starting losing business. Foot traffic on the street slowed down, as those who previously took the bus to travel no longer passed by or waited in front of these small businesses. In addition, a burden was needlessly placed on many neighborhood residents, including our working families who had used the B64 to commute to work and travel to shop, pick up their children from school, or complete other important tasks.

Those who suffered the most from the service cuts were those who are most vulnerable – our children, the disabled, and the elderly. While the MTA suggested that the riders of the B64 find alternate public transit routes, for many, this was burdensome, and for others, simply not possible. Children had previously relied on the B64 bus service to get to school, and now had to transfer to other buses or the subway, or their walking distance increased. Senior citizens and the disabled had great trouble and difficulty walking up the flights of stairs to the nearby D Subway Train Stations, or walking to other bus routes on other streets, such as the B82, which were several blocks away. And for some seniors and disabled peoples, these other options were simply not possible given their physical limitations, leaving them without any opportunities to use public transit.

However, the community came together in 2012 and successfully won the restoration of the B64 bus route to Coney Island. It was because we all joined and worked together, regardless of our religious, cultural, and ethnic differences, that this community victory was possible.

Last year, we saw other communities in Brooklyn coming together and fighting for the restoration of another bus line, the B37. Again, by building a coalition of a diverse group of people, these communities won the restoration of B37 bus service.

I am now planning on using the same community-based model, which was used in our B64 victory, to fight for additional public transit service improvements and restorations. Our Southwest Brooklyn Public Transit Improvement Coalition is ready to take on a new challenge that will better our share of transit services.

I truly believe that if public transportation in our neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Bath Beach, and Dyker Heights is improved, the quality of life for all of us will also greatly improve. When bus and subway services are added or restored, the most direct consequence is a decrease in waiting time or number of transfers. This significantly decreases the amount of time people will have to spend riding the buses and trains, shortening commutes and making travel easier. The extra time saved by adding or improving services would mean more time for families to be together and partake in recreational activities. Business would also improve for our local stores, as people would have more time to spend shopping as well. Furthermore, additional services would increase commerce for small businesses, as bus or subway lines would be added to locations previously underserved or not served at all. In addition, when services are improved or added, people are less inclined to travel by car. This would decrease vehicle traffic, while increasing pedestrian traffic that further stimulates the local economy. And unquestionably, the stress and hassles of long travel times would be lowered, making traveling not only quicker, but less troublesome and hectic.

Of course, all these benefits would improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of residents and workers of our local neighborhoods in Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, and even beyond. Overall, improving public transit is a no brainer, and would make the community of southwest Brooklyn a better place to work, live, and raise a family.

If you would like to get involved in fighting for improved public transit in our community, or have any other concerns you like to be addressed, please email me at coltonw@assembly.state.ny.us or contact my community office at 718-236-1598.

Lou Powsner (Courtesy of Community Newspaper Group, Dan Bush)

I didn’t know Lou Powsner, but in the six years of reporting local news around Southern Brooklyn, his name has rolled off source’s tongues and echoed in public meetings more times than I can recall. As a longtime community activist, he made his mark, and it was hard to find a story that he didn’t have some degree of entanglement in over the years. It was always kind of strange that we never met, and always on my to-do list.

Unfortunately, I’ll never have the opportunity. Powsner, a Coney Island native who later moved to Avenue P, passed away on April 6 at the age of 93.

Carmine Santa Maria, head of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council and Courier Life columnist, penned a tribute to Powsner, with whom he worked with both on community issues and at the newspaper.

A haberdasher whose storefront on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island lived through the tumultuous decades of the ’60s through the ’80s, Powsner fought successfully for brighter street lights to help halt nighttime crime, and battled the city over parking meters he said gave suburban shopping malls an unfair advantage over his beloved mom-and-pop and all those that peppered what was then Brooklyn’s dying commercial streets.

His fights for the working man led him to become a member of Community Board 13 in Coney Island, a president of the Coney Island Board of Trade, a member of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council, and a president of the Joint Council of Kings Board of Trade.

… Louis W. Powsner was born on June 14, 1920 in Crandon, South Dakota. He was brought to Coney Island as a toddler, and grew up above his father’s storefront on Mermaid Avenue, his bedroom facing Our Lady of Solace’s — then a large wooden church at the corner of West 17th Street.

He attended Lincoln High School, and was a staff sergeant and member of “Kelly’s Kobras,” the 64th Bomb Squad Army Air Force during World War II from June 1942 to 1945.

He married the former Irene Hallote in April of 1946, and the two stayed together until her death in 2008.

He attended reunions with his Army pals yearly until two years ago, when the gatherings were canceled because, as Lou said, “there was no one else left.”

And while I never got to know Powsner, Sheepshead Bites’ transit columnist Allan Rosen did. He shared the following fond memories:

This is what I remember about Lou. When [I worked at the Department of City Planning] we had to make a visit to Community Board 13 in 1974, City Planning’s Brooklyn office liaison instructed me to show the Mermaid Avenue commercial district prominently on our wall map, although the entire street was pretty much burnt out at the time and Lou’s store was one of the few still remaining standing. If we didn’t show Mermaid Avenue we would hear it from Lou, because in his mind Mermaid Avenue was just as vibrant as ever. I complied and Lou was satisfied.

The next time I saw Lou was several years later when it was time to present our proposals. Again I was warned. “There is this man in Coney Island who hates every proposal we make. When he rips your proposals apart, I don’t want you to feel bad.” Well guess what happened? Not only did Lou not rip apart the proposals, he stood up to commend them. He said, “I’ve been hearing proposals from the City for twenty years now, and everything I have heard…has been ridiculous. This is the first proposal that makes perfect sense to me and I wholeheartedly endorse it.” I thought the gentleman who warned me would pass out. About 25 percent of those proposals became the Southwest Brooklyn bus route changes of 1978, but Lou liked them all.

This time I remembered the name Lou Powsner. Fast forward thirty years. I see Lou at one of the early Select Bus Service meetings for the B44 SBS, and make a mental note to reintroduce myself, although I doubted if he had any inclination we had met before. But Lou leaves early and I miss the opportunity. Wondering if our paths would ever cross again and not sure how to contact him, I feel sorry that I just didn’t stop what I was doing and go over to him when I had the opportunity.

But fate is a strange thing. I did not have to wait another thirty years. About three days later, I am near Sheepshead Bay Road and for some reason look to my left and notice a parked car and inside is Lou Powsner. I politely knock on his window calling out his first name, naturally being a little nervous. Would he even acknowledge me not having the slightest idea who I was? He immediately reaches over to open his door and invites me inside his car to join him.

We talk for a while and of course he does not remember me but is willing to listen to my stories. He tells me that he is driving everyday to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in upper Manhattan to visit his terminally ill wife. Realizing that he is now in his upper 80s, his story makes me realize how unfair tolling the East River bridges would be, which was all the rage in 2008. I ask myself why should someone like him who has paid his dues be forced to make that trip by subway each day or pay $13 a day extra to visit a sick wife?

Then last year while speaking to Todd Dobrin who unsuccessfully challenged Mark Treyger for City Council in Coney Island/Bensonhurst, Lou’s name came up in conversation. I ask Todd for Lou’s phone number. I was anxious to find out how he was doing. He answered the phone as he always did, “Lou Powsner here.” I told him who I was and asked him how he was doing. He responded by saying, “How would you like me to help you?” I told him that I was not calling for any advice or favors, but just wanted to know how he was. He said he was doing fine but repeated, “What do you want me to do for you?” That’s just the type of person Lou was. Someone who would welcome a stranger who knew his name into his car, and who was always willing to help others.

Rest in peace, Lou. I wish I had the chance to meet you.

A sincere “thank you” to Community Newspaper Group for granting permission to use the above photo.

The following is a press release from the offices of the Community Education Council of District 21:

Last Thursday’s announcement regarding the continuance of charter co-locations at I.S. 96, Seth Low, and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro, is a major setback for our community.  There was such hope that Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina would finally listen to the voices of parents and community members.  Many of us now feel only disappointment and frustration. In the fall of 2013, the Community Education Council District 21 passed two resolutions opposing both co-locations, we have rallied, gone to both PEP meetings and still our voices were not heard.  2014 had such potential for parents and yet again, we have been pushed to the side.  We have been given a promise that they will do things better in the future.  What about the children and their families that are already attending I.S. 96 Seth Low, and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro, don’t they count too?  I understand that they based their decisions on families that applied for seats for September 2014 and the deadline was coming.  Our children’s educations should not be about deadlines.  We provide excellent educational opportunities for all children in this district and have seats in our traditional public schools for the children who have applied.  More time should have been taken to visit and speak to schools, families, and community members regarding the co-locations. There is no need to rush putting two more elementary schools in our district. We have and always will supply a high quality education for every child in our district’s traditional public schools.   Mayor de Blasio’s plan is to provide full day, high quality Pre-K programs to 53,000 students in 2014. With two elementary Charter school co-locations opening in 2014 in our district, what middle school space can the Chancellor guarantee will be available for these students in the future?

It’s time to come together once again as a community! Let our voices be heard loud and clear “We say NO to the co-locations decisions on I.S. 96 and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro”. The Community Education Council District 21 calls on Chancellor Farina and Mayor de Blasio to reverse the decision to implement co-location plan for I.S.96, Seth Low and I.S. 281, Joseph B. Cavallaro.

The Community Education council of District 20 & 21 invites all community members to join them at I.S. 96 Seth Low to Rally on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 2:30 PM.

Today's snow, as seen from West 4th Street near Avenue T (Photo by Michael Louis)

Today’s snow, as seen from West 4th Street near Avenue T (Photo by Michael Louis)

A staffer in one of our elected officials’ offices pitched me an idea earlier today: start a registry on our website of volunteers willing to help elderly and disabled residents dig out from the snow storm.

The staffer told me that they’ve been receiving calls all morning, but that their office couldn’t do anything – including recommend a pay service, since such a recommendation from a public office would be inappropriate.

But why should I create a registry? The City of New York already has one.

It’s right here on the New York City Service website. I knew that but the staffer didn’t. Because the city has done a shoddy job publicizing it.

And, as a result, it’s totally useless at the moment. I called the most local partner listed on the website, the Brighton Neighborhood Association, and the one person in the office – who was closing up shop – said they never once had a volunteer come through it. And so I called the number at City Hall to register as a volunteer just to see how the process went – and they, too were closed.

With the number of snow storms we’ve already had in 2014, it might be time for the city to reactivate that program and make a big push. The point is to help elderly and disabled residents – both by ensuring they have a clean path to walk on, and also to prevent them from receiving fines from the city. That’s a great goal, and with virtually no cost to taxpayers.

My hope is that this post spurs a few kind, generous individuals to register for service in future snow storms, and also to get local elected officials’ offices to sign up as partners to help direct and mobilize the volunteers. It’s not unheard of – Bronx Councilman James Vacca and Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis both use their offices in this way.

I look forward to seeing our local elected officials join that list very soon, and also help in the recruitment of local volunteers. If they do, this site commits to publicizing the registry in future storms. How’s that for a deal?

grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm’s threat of violence against NY1 reporter Michael Scotto after last night’s State of the Union is not an isolated incident.

I know because he’s gotten in my face, too. And those of much more veteran reporters than Scotto or me.

Earlier this morning NY1’s News Director Bob Hardt published a statement online demanding a response from House leadership about Grimm’s behavior. In it, he described another exchange in 2012 with Grimm that wasn’t caught on camera:

Following an interview with NY1’s Errol Louis in December of 2012, the congressman blew his top – off-camera. Again, at issue was the fact that Louis had the temerity to ask Grimm about an investigation that recently led to an associate of the congressman being arrested and charged with illegally donating $10,000 to his campaign.

After the interview, Grimm became red-faced and started yelling at both Louis and me, alluding to settling the issue by “taking it outside” with our political anchor – acting as if he were in a bar instead of a TV studio. He’s also complained to me when our reporters on Staten Island asked him about the probe when he was running for re-election in 2012.

I already knew this story. Shortly after that incident, Louis, a veteran and highly regarded member of New York City’s political press corps, was leading a workshop at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. I was in attendance when Louis began describing the incident – but left out the congressman’s name.

After the workshop, I went up to Louis.

“It was Grimm, wasn’t it?” I asked.

He confirmed.

I knew it because the events matched up almost exactly to an encounter I had with Grimm on April 30, 2012 – the first and last time I spoke directly to the congressman.

I met Grimm during a meeting that evening of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council. I introduced myself before the meeting began. He mentioned to me that we ran an article that day about the investigation into his fundraising that he felt was outdated, and so misrepresented the facts.

After reviewing the post from my phone during the meeting, I didn’t feel there was anything that misrepresented the facts, although I did concede to his argument that our version didn’t make clear that most of the information came from reports that were a few weeks old (and later that night added a clarification, because it was the right thing to do).

I approached Grimm as he was leaving the room, and began with an apology, to get on good footing, and planned to ask him if the situation had changed – basically, if there was an actual update to the story, if he had a response, or if he was just bellyaching that we were writing it up at all.

We stepped out of the  Harway Terrace Community Room and into the empty hallway. Just as I began to speak, Grimm spun on his heel, turned to me and shoved his face in mine. He began shouting, spittle raining down on me, and jutting his index finger into my chest.

Quite frankly, it happened fast, and I don’t remember much of what he was shouting, other than I should have called his office for comment. I tried explaining it was an aggregated report – and that I’m asking him for comment now.

He kept shouting. One of his goons was stooped over behind him, face next to Grimm’s, nodding along.

I said again that I’m asking for comment now. “Has anything changed, congressman? Is the report factually wrong? Are you still being investigated?”

He charged down the hallway, two staffers in tow. I called after him, “Has anything changed, congressman?”

No answer.

Grimm didn’t verbally threaten me like he did Louis and Scotto, but like Scotto, I’ve never seen an elected official so angry, and his behavior certainly conveyed the message well enough. He didn’t want me asking that question. I didn’t report on it at the time as it’s a rather serious allegation, and I had turned my camera off (a mistake I will never make again).

That kind of outburst is classic schoolyard bully material. Move fast, get in someone’s face, shout over them, run away before they come to their senses. (And, in the video, you can see the shock come across Scotto’s face and slow his reaction. He recovered well and defended the questioning.)

I expect in the next few days you’ll hear more stories like this. Grimm is a hothead – even his staff says so - and it’s been just a matter of time before someone caught it on tape.

There have been other examples of Grimm’s short fuse, including one notable incident from 1999 that could hint to a troubling abuse of authority.

A retired NYPD officer came forward in 2011 and claimed Grimm abused his authority when he got into a bar brawl with his date’s husband. According to the retired cop, Grimm told the man he would “disappear where nobody would find him.” He allegedly left the club and returned back with FBI and NYPD personnel, waved his gun around, verbally abused patrons, and ordered “all the white people, get out of here.” Grimm has denied the allegations, but the police report and Justice Department investigation have  been withheld from the public.

Grimm continues to defend the despicable behavior he displayed last night to Michael Scotto as “verbally [taking] the reporter to task” because he was “disrespectful.” But Grimm needs to realize that the media plays a vital role in informing the public, and holding our elected officials accountable. Scotto was doing his duty as a reporter in asking a question that the congressman has been successfully dodging for years (he has never fully commented on the investigation other than to claim his hands are clean, and that this is a media hit).

Threatening a reporter with physical violence isn’t “taking a reporter to task.” It’s a violent threat pure and simple. Any decent reporter is open to criticism and discussion, but Grimm is attempting to chill speech and silence journalists in the same brutish, primitive way as any two-bit tyrant.

This is behavior unbecoming of United States congressman. If Grimm doesn’t like the public spotlight, or can’t handle the scrutiny required to keep our legislators clean, then it’s time he reconsider running for office.

This was not yesterday’s snow. This was much worse.

When it snowed in the beginning of the month – the first challenge of the new de Blasio administration – we received a slew of e-mails, phone calls and social media comments claiming that the city was botching the job and streets remained unplowed.

When it snowed yesterday, we heard nary a peep from our readers.

On the surface it would seem that residents appeared more satisfied with the city’s response to yesterday’s snow than they had been to the previous winter storm. But the New York Post disagrees. On the front page of the paper today, an all-caps headline reads “SHAMBLES! Turmoil as Blas botches ‘early’ snow.” The story claims that the Sanitation Department was caught off guard because the snow fell earlier than predicted, and zeros in on “tony” Upper East Side residents who claim they were neglected because they didn’t vote for Bill de Blasio. At the core of that claim is the Sanitation Department’s plow tracker map, which showed that the neighborhood had not received timely plowing. The New York Post, being the New York Post, neglected to mention the huge swaths of the outerboroughs that showed the same thing. (The Sanitation Department claimed that it was due to a broken GPS, and the Upper East Side had indeed been plowed. That’s comforting, right?).

Here in Southern Brooklyn, major streets were plowed regularly and side streets less frequently, as is the routine. As anyone who put shovel to concrete yesterday knows, it took about five minutes for the snow to again completely blanket the sidewalk. On our little side street, we did see the plows running regularly, even if it didn’t make much of an impact, but we haven’t seen any salt spreaders which would be useful in ridding ourselves of that last two inches of impact snow on the asphalt.

So our take is this: we’ve seen worse snow, and we’ve seen worse management of the snow. It could be better – more regular plowing and some salt would be nice, as would enforcement of laws requiring homeowners and businesses clear their sidewalks.

What do you think? Where does the city’s snow management need improvement?

Source: jasoneppinke via Flickr

Is this all Brooklyn and Staten Island have in common? (Source: jasoneppinke/Flickr)

It’s not even 2014 yet, but the 2014 Congressional election is already well underway in the 11th Congressional District, where incumbent Michael Grimm faces a challenge from Democratic Councilman Domenic Recchia.

To put it frankly, the race is already shaping up to be a disappointment for anyone hoping for civil discourse. From the get-go in February, when Recchia announced his run, the mud was flying through the air.

We’ll save the historical overview with all the dirty little back-and-forths for a future post. But one thing I just can’t let go of is the overarching narrative put forth by Grimm and Staten Island Republicans that a Brooklynite just can’t represent Staten Island.

For the most part, that kind of chatter has been coming from the sidelines: folks in the Staten Island GOP or political commentators looking to fill editorial holes on a slow news day. It’s also been an undercurrent in some of Grimm’s own statements, but never outright expressed as far as I know.

Until Monday.

Congressman Grimm’s campaign put out a statement attacking Recchia for his Brooklyn residency.

“How can we expect a career politician who lives in Brooklyn to put Staten Island first, when his voting record says otherwise?” Grimm’s spokeswoman, Carol Danko. “The City is constantly dumping things on us that we don’t want – whether its toll hikes, property tax increases, a juvenile detention center or a landfill – and Domenic is part of the problem. It’s because of politicians like Domenic Recchia that Staten Island has become the forgotten borough, and why he is unfit to serve.”

I can’t help but note that Grimm has previously attacked Recchia for putting Staten Island first with his City Council discretionary funds as Finance Chair. But whatevs.

(I don’t care to run it in full, but Recchia responded with a statement with a litany of other things Grimm did that he doesn’t believe is in the best interest of Staten Islanders. You can read the whole exchange on Politicker.)

The point here isn’t who puts Staten Island first. If you ask me, Staten Islanders are spoiled enough as it is, what with their free ferry and all.

No, what bothers me is the logic of Grimm et al’s statements leads to a disconcerting, and wholly ridiculous conclusion. If a Brooklynite can’t represent Staten Islanders, isn’t it logical to conclude that a Staten Islander can’t represent Brooklyn? And wouldn’t that mean Grimm is suggesting that he’s been screwing his Brooklyn constituents all along?

Of course, that’s nonsense. It is not such a world of difference between this part of Brooklyn and Staten Island, especially on the federal level. And good ideas know no borders between boroughs.

At least that’s what I believe, and I want these two to stop acting like petulant children and begin having an actual conversation about the future of the district – Brooklyn and Staten Island, both.

But that’s just me. Do you think a Brooklynite can represent Staten Island? Do you think a Staten Islander can represent Brooklyn? Is this all just BS?

Andrew Gounardes (Photo by Carol Dronsfield)

The following is an opinion article submitted by Andrew Gounardes, a local attorney, vice president of the Bay Ridge Democrats and 2012 candidate for State Senate

Last week, the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption released a report detailing an enraging, though not surprising, level of corruption in our state government. The Commission’s report identified so many illegal activities, and incredulous abuses of legal activities, they can’t all be listed here. Here’s just a sampling of the worst offenses:

  • Pay-to-play politics – High-powered donors contribute to political campaigns in exchange for legislation that would reap a windfall on their business interests. One developer received a real estate tax credit worth $50 million last year just to build one luxury building in Manhattan.
  • Campaign finance loopholes – New York has some of the highest campaign contribution limits in the country, and yet many donors skirt those rules by donating through different corporate and LLC accounts. One donor was found to have used 25 different corporate accounts to make $3 million in contributions.
  • Misuse of campaign funds – There are no meaningful limits on what politicians can spend their campaign dollars on. Members of the legislature routinely use campaign funds to pay for personal expenses such as car leases and personal mortgages.

So what can we do to limit, if not outright stop, such blatant corruption? The answer is pretty simple and we already do it in New York City: public financing of elections.

Currently, the campaign finance system rewards big donors and the politicians they donate to. If we lower the amount of money someone can donate to a campaign, incentivize small-dollar donations through a public matching system, and limit how those campaign dollars are spent, we can break the corruption cycle of wealthy donors buying off politicians and politicians using campaign funds to pay for vacation homes and luxury cars.

Public financing will also make politicians more responsive to voters. Under New York City’s system, any contribution up to $175 gets matched by city dollars at a rate of 6:1; a $175 donation is really worth $1050. Under the current rules in New York State, one donor who contributes $1000 has more influence than five donors who each contribute $175. That’s ridiculous. If we replicated the New York City program at the state level, those five donors contributing $175 would outweigh the one donor contributing only $1000.

Opponents of campaign finance reform say that it costs too much money. They feign outrage at spending tax dollars on political campaigns and hope that if they scream loud enough, you won’t notice why the really oppose reform: because they benefit enormously from the status quo.

Here’s the truth: public financing of campaigns will cost approximately $41 million a year, or just $3.20 per taxpayer in New York per year. In other words, getting rid of corruption in New York State will cost $9 million LESS than the $50 million tax break that our politicians gave to that luxury building developer last year. Think about that: one fewer tax break to a wealthy donor can pay for a more honest government.

To me, the answer seems clear. Let’s start cleaning up Albany and start restoring faith in state government again by enacting true campaign finance reform.

Andrew Gounardes is an attorney, vice president of the Bay Ridge Democrats and 2012 candidate for State Senate

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