March of the politicians

The Brooklyn Paper
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In a city with 51 councilmembers, 13 congressional representatives, 63 members of the Assembly, 26 state Senators, a mayor, five borough presidents, five district attorneys and a public advocate (who does what, exactly?), it’s not always so easy for a local pol to get noticed.

But boy oh boy did our elected officials try! Here’s how our favorite sons and daughters got their name in The Brooklyn Papers this year:

Who IS da Boss?: Borough President Markowitz opened the political season by having actor (and native Brooklynite) Tony Danza show up at his “State of the Borough” address. Given Danza’s troubled history with TV ratings, it was unclear whether Markowitz was trying to ride on the star’s coat-tails or visa-versa.

Ooh, that smell: State Senator Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) fumed over a Prospect Heights man’s children’s book which Golden believed promoted marijuana use. The book, “It’s Just a Plant,” focuses on a young girl who walks in on her parents as they’re sharing a joint. The experience sends her on a journey where she meets a farmer who grows his own weed. In the end, she vows to fight for “fair” marijuana laws when she grows up (stunted, if you can believe the marijuana opponents). Golden’s outcry led to two major developments: 1) The book received enormous publicity that it might not have gotten and 2) Senate staffers no longer bothered to include Golden in their all-night bill-drafting and pot parties.

Premature Pressreleaseation: Councilmember David Yassky is not reluctant to issue a press release, but the Brooklyn Heights Democrat pressed the “Send” button on one release too quickly for the NYPD. Yassky wanted to get well-deserved credit for encouraging local cops to step up enforcement of truck violations in Boerum Hill — but his announcement tipped off the very scofflaws he was hoping to apprehend, so the cops cancelled the ticket blitz.


The naked are the damned: Who could have a problem with naked women? Well, state Sen. Marty Golden proved he was no fan of Howard Stern when he protested the Showtime series “The L-Word” after its posters appeared in bus shelters and subway billboards. The ad depicted naked women snuggling. Golden said he objected to the supposed lewdness, but based on his interview with The Papers, it might have been construed that he was simply overwhelmed by the conspicuous concupiscence: “I’ve never even seen [this many] naked women,” he said.


All you need is love: Borough President Markowitz dived into a national controversy over gay marriage by coming out in support of same-sex unions — although he can’t actually do anything about it: the city clerk refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and courts said there’s not anything wrong with that.

Any way they slice it: A Bay Ridge political club, Brooklyn Democrats for Change, lacked the conviction to even agree on the neighborhood’s best pizza, naming Nino’s and Peppino’s as co-winners. Good thing they left toppings out of the debate or else they’d still be arguing.

Convenient excuse: Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) got in the papers for all the wrong reasons after proposing that drivers be allowed to legally double-park for five minutes so they could run into a store for a quick errand. It was hard to know which was louder: the screaming from the NYPD or the laughter from local Republicans hoping to exploit the gaffe at election time. The bill died, but Gentile survived.

Photo op of the year: In the “You can’t make this stuff up” category, Borough President Markowitz was joined by Ms. Full-Figured U.S., Andria Gazelle, for a walkathon as part of the Beep’s “Lighten Up, Brooklyn” campaign. Despite his own weight-loss efforts, Markowitz again won the “Full-Figured NYC Borough President” pageant, again beating out Queens Beep Helen Marshall for the honors.

LRG OFC, RIV VU: The United Nations announced that it will need temporary office space during its upcoming renovation — so who else but our own Borough President went straight to Turtle Bay to lobby Kofi Annan personally? Markowitz presented Annan with a statue of the Brooklyn Bridge, but in the interests of international diplomacy, did not ask the trim U.N. secretary general for his diet secret in exchange.

God’s parking lot: The City Council did away with traffic meter enforcement on Sundays, arguing that people should not have to pay to pray. Mayor Bloomberg vetoed the Vincent Gentile-backed bill, calling it, “Another way of [councilmembers] trying to get their names in the paper in an election year.” The Council over-rode the veto in October. The new law led to a brief surge in religious conversions before people realized it covered all parkers, whether they believe in God or not.

Out of his bunker: Vice President Dick Cheney came to town to stump for Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Bay Ridge), one of the president’s more reliable allies in Congress. Fossella got another boost later in the year when the federal base-closing panel spared Fort Hamilton from its ax. But Fossella’s Republican street cred has made him a target of Democrats, who are seeking a candidate — Councilmember Vincent Gentile, perhaps? — to defeat him in November ’06.


Foot in mouth award: City Councilmember James Oddo (R-Bensonhurst) told The Papers that the NYPD should use racial profiling against Arabs. “The reality is that there is a group of people who want to kill us and destroy our way of life — young Arab fundamenta­lists.” How controversial were Oddo’s comments? Even the NYPD objected.


Pay the piper: Former Assemblymember (and Brooklyn Democratic Party boss) Clarence Norman (D-Crown Heights) was found guilty of violating election law and falsifying business records. Two months later, Norman was convicted again on similar charges. The verdicts came as part of a wide-ranging investigation into whether Norman and his cronies sold judgeships. The crime wasn’t that they sold judgeships though, but that they charged retail!

Party on!: Borough President Markowitz – a proud Democrat – jumped off the Democratic bandwagon to endorse Mayor Bloomberg for re-election. With Marty’s help, the Republican mayor was re-elected by a historic margin over Fernando Ferrer. The mayor later repaid Markowitz for his endorsement by choosing Brooklyn as his home base during the three-day transit strike. The mayor even had breakfast at Markowitz’s favorite joint, Junior’s, but skipped the famous cheesecake in deference to Markowitz’s diet.


A come-from-ahead win: City Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) must have felt like he had a bull’s-eye on his back, what with so many Republicans trying to unseat him. The neighborhood’s GOP brain trust — state Sen. Marty Golden, Rep. Vito Fossella and Assemblymember Matthew Mirones — all backed challenger Pat Russo. But even though Republican Mayor Bloomberg won the district by more than 3 to 1, Gentile pulled out a squeaker (well, a squeaker by today’s standards), winning 55-45..

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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