Bronx Politics

29th December

First Published in The New York Sun, December 29, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

On the first day of the new state administration everything is supposed to change, but if one of Governor-elect Spitzer’s key appointments is any indication of things to come, the current Albany atmosphere will change little.

Last week, Mr. Spitzer appointed Lorraine Cortes-Vasquez to the post of secretary of state. Ms. Cortes-Vazquez is a prominent ally of the Bronx Democratic organization. (more…)

18th December

First Published in The New York Sun, December 18, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

George Washington Plunkitt, the state senator and Democratic Party leader of a century ago, would be proud. Today’s Bronx politicos have taken his concept of “honest graft” and kicked it up a notch. As the Bronx continues to deteriorate, seemingly stuck in a permanent mode of decay and depression, political leaders find new ways to line their pockets as their constituents suffer.

This was driven home dramatically this past week with the unsealing of a new indictment against a Bronx state senator, Efrain Gonzalez. His constituents are among the poorest in the most poverty stricken county in the state. Yet when given the opportunity to bring some resources back to his district, Mr. Gonzalez, prosecutors charge, instead stole the money to finance a lavish personal lifestyle. (more…)

11th August

First Published in The New York Sun, August 11, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Senator Lieberman’s defeat Tuesday in Connecticut’s Democratic Party primary election is disappointing for those of us who were hoping that the party of FDR, Harry Truman, JFK, Henry Jackson, and Senator Moynihan had not been totally hijacked by the far left. It seems that primaries are becoming a lot like religion. Unless you are at least as orthodox in your beliefs as the most radical within your party, you may well be doomed.

In a larger sense, Mr. Lieberman is a victim of the primary system itself, a democratic (with a small “d”) idea that often has a negative impact. Those who do not bother to vote allow those more committed to some single issue to dominate a party’s primary for any office providing they are better organized than the rank and file. (more…)

14th July

First Published in The New York Sun, July 14, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

If you think that opening a Hip-Hop Museum in The Bronx is a foolish idea, I have some good news and bad news for you. The good news is that if history is any guide, this project will never come to fruition. The bad news is that the taxpayers of the City of New York can kiss the $1.5 million allocated so far good-bye.

The moving force behind this project is City Councilman Larry Seabrook. Mr. Seabrook has been down this path before, advocating for grandiose government-funded schemes that never seem to get off the ground.More than a decade ago, one of these projects, a proposed youth center in his north Bronx district, received funds from both the state and the city, but never opened, leading to newspaper headlines and a federal investigation. Incredibly, the group to which the city is awarding the money for the Hip-Hop Museum, the North East Bronx Redevelopment Corporation is the same group that was under investigation with Mr. Seabrook.This appears to me to be déjà vu all over again, a perfect example of how in government, things appear to change but always seem to remain the same. (more…)

7th July

First Published in The New York Sun, July 7, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

For quite a while I have been warning against pushing for the designation of the ritzy Fieldston community in the northwest Bronx as a “historic” district. Few listened, and the plan was passed despite a clear majority of homeowners ultimately opposing this designation for their properties. Now the true cost of this folly is beginning to be realized.

Designating an area as a “historic district” puts all of the structures and vacant land therein under the jurisdiction of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. This is no small matter. If your house is included, even the smallest improvement to your property must be approved by city bureaucrats, and even, in some cases, public hearings before the Commission are required to be held. Even a matter as simple as installing an air conditioner in a window must be reviewed. (more…)

27th June

First Published in The New York Sun, June 27, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Bronx Community Board 4 has in recent days become among the best known of the city’s 62 community boards. This is the board that voted against the plan to build the new Yankee Stadium. These boards only have advisory power. But having the weight of these “official” representatives of the local neighborhoods behind a project can influence the higher officials who really make the decisions.

Tonight, at Bronx Lebanon Hospital on the Grand Concourse, the board will hold its final meeting before old terms expire and new ones begin. Fireworks are expected. The board that will be in place next week will look quite different from the one that will meet tonight. Members of the board who ignored the wishes of the Bronx president, Adolfo Carrion, have been removed, and new, presumably more pliable members will take their place. (more…)

21st April

First Published in The New York Sun, April 21, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

In trying to assume total control of state government, Democrats are attempting a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by any party since the Republicans controlled the Assembly, State Senate, and the executive mansion during the Nixon administration.

If the Republican Party is to survive in New York, it will have to borrow from William Jefferson Clinton’s 1992 playbook: It IS the economy, stupid! (more…)

2nd January

First Published in The New York Sun, January 2, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

On Tuesday, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein got a belated Christmas gift from President Bush and the Department of Justice. They granted “pre-clearance” under the Voting Rights Act to the administration’s plan to deny New York voters any direct say over their school system, other than a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the mayor himself at four-year intervals. This is not good news for the city.

Four years is just long enough of a period to irreparably damage the education of any child, and a wrong-headed mayor, as this one surely is on education issues, can damage a whole generation of children. It is remarkable that as our soldiers fight the righteous battle to establish democracy in the Middle East, we so cavalierly eliminate it at home.  (more…)