Brooklyn’s Multi-Million Dollar Political Mute Button
Brooklyn’s got a mute button on its politics that’s costing taxpayers millions.
Call it a suspension of service. Five New York State legislative offices representing tens of thousands of Central Brooklynites and East New Yorkers are vacant. Four in the Assembly and one in the Senate. That means this. Any and all issues taken up in Albany since the beginning of this year had no direct representation by residents from a large sector of Brooklyn including: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Crown Heights, Flatbush and East New York. While the impact has gone nearly unnoticed — democratically — these vacancies mean everything.
To have no representation in a democracy is tantamount to being voiceless. In a way, these district vacancies illustrate Brooklyn as a political body with a mute button in its middle. And, according to those in the know, it costs NY millions to achieve this peculiar kind of quiet.
“This is costing New York taxpayers millions of dollars,” said New York City Council Member Inez Barron during her address to constituents at a community board meeting in East New York earlier this month.
Contextually, each office has about $1 million already appropriated to it. Roll calls aside, the fact that these offices remain vacant is money that theoretically flows into Brooklyn, but actually never leaves the clutches of Albany.
However, the vacancies highlight the iron-like reign of Gov. Cuomo as the state’s chief democrat, exposing a superfluousness of sorts within the Democratic party in which another party, say WFP or Freedom Party, could exploit in the future.
As of today, Albany has enacted 13 laws this fiscal year, beginning with the $2.9 billion appropriations that passed in a near unanimous fashion. Being that the Assembly had no vote on this and any of the other baker’s dozen bills thus far codified,it’s unlikely that any action from any or all of these 5 seats would have altered Albany’s legislative tone. Maybe that’s why 4 of these 5 seats were declined by their holders, for seats closer — stronger– to home.
How these seats became vacant is another story. A happy one for everyone except William Boyland Jr. who lost his seat in Assembly District 55 besmirched by criminal charges of payola. After her election to the New York City Council as the City’s 42 district representative, Barron certified her declination of her assembly seat, which was Assembly District 60. So too did her colleagues in the Assembly, Raphael Espinal and Alan Maisel. They swapped seats in Assembly District 54 and 59 respectively for seats in the 37 and 46 councilmanic districts. All three are once again colleagues in a City Council that arguably comprises the most progressive members in decades. Eric Adams, before his election as Brooklyn Borough President, served as elected state senator of Brooklyn’s 20 senatorial district. With this stock of officials suggesting who should serve, Adams is poised to receive some of the most remarkable community board requests possibly ever assembled.
So, while the City seems to accentuate its progressive curves, Albany appears ready to keep its 5 open seats vacant until either a gubernatorial decree or by primary elections on September 9. However, the former is becoming less likely as each day sets with no action from Gov. Cuomo. His position has been to let these seats be vacant until the elections later this year, a move that may be less executively driven than statutorily mandated by NY law.
Meanwhile, until elections, the money appropriated for these vacant districts remain cooped in Albany.