Good afternoon. Today’s points:
- Surprise move by Babylon Republicans
- Why not all’s sunny in Sunnyside
- Take-off on LaGuardia Airport construction
Revolt of the Babylon GOP
In a surprising development, Republicans in Babylon Town are rushing to get a referendum on the November ballot to weaken the power of Rich Schaffer, whom they call the Supreme Leader because he is not only the town supervisor but also the Suffolk County and town Democratic boss.
The effort to end the town’s at-large council system is headed by Nick LaLota, an Amityville Village trustee and county Board of Elections commissioner who is confident he will wind up with signatures of 1,905 registered voters by the Sept. 9 deadline. The GOP thinks a ward system — dividing the town into districts — would give the party a chance in 2017 to capture two of the four council seats. Currently, there are three Democrats and an Independent who runs on multiple lines.
However, Republicans won’t be able to get the referendum approved in November without support from black and Hispanic Democratic Party activists unhappy with Schaffer. The GOP is seeking to exploit a rift between Wyandanch and North Babylon Democrats, one that is forcing Kimberly Jean-Pierre, the incumbent in the 11th Assembly District, into a primary against Jordan Wilson Jr.
Babylon voters overwhelmingly defeated such a referendum in 1999, when it was seen as a way to increase minority representation on the town board. Schaffer supported the plan back then. But he opposed GOP efforts to get it on the ballot in 2002 and 2005, and is not pleased with the current effort, either.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he told the Point, adding that the current system fairly represents all residents.
Eye on the prize
Although New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer supported Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature affordable housing rezoning initiatives this spring, the Queens Democrat is now balking after a potential project has hit his district.
The 200-plus-unit project in Sunnyside, just blocks from Van Bramer’s home, seems like an ideal proposal. It is run by a nonprofit and presents greater affordability than others. But Van Bramer points to the height of the proposed building, a desire for unionized labor, and complaints from the developer’s existing tenants. His objections have evolved into a public political spat with de Blasio.
But at the heart of this may be Van Bramer’s own political ambitions, which could be helped if he is seen as less of a “rubber stamp” for the mayor. After all, the influential speaker’s job is open next term because Melissa Mark-Viverito is term-limited. Van Bramer told The Point that the race for speaker is “on” — and that he’d like to be in the mix.
“I don’t deny my interest,” he said.
But he says his opposition to the Sunnyside project “has nothing to do with my speaker ambitions.”
Randi F. Marshall and Mark Chiusano
Tell us your LGA construction woes
A $4 billion planned makeover of LaGuardia Airport is underway. Earlier this year, we asked readers to go on LaGuardia watch to keep us updated on how the Port Authority was managing the airport renovations. While the improvements are long overdue, the predicted short-term disruption is a nightmare. Click here to tell us your tales of trying to get to the airport this summer.