2004-05-28 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky

Star-Crossed in Brooklyn

Back on April 1, a contingent from the newly minted Rockaway Republicans joined their Brooklyn counterparts at a borough-wide reception in Mill Basin hosted by Brooklyn State Senator Marty Golden from Bayridge. Like the old time revivalists, Golden whooped up the crowd, pushing three items: renewing Republican strength in New York City, re-election of George W. Bush, and praise and support for New York’s own Mayor Mike Bloomberg. (Bloomberg came charging into the hall about an hour late, due to traffic delays he said).

Golden surprised his Rockaway guests by publicly singling them out and introducing them to the Brooklyn crowd. Among the Rockaway Republican club members present were Tom Lynch, the club’s foremost spokesperson, as well as Pete Stubben, Robert Smith, Mike Bracci, and Gerard Cronin. I went along for the ride, too. The surprised Brooklynites gave their visiting Rockaway neighbors a fierce round of applause as the State Senator urged Brooklyn and Rockaway to join forces in pursuing a revival of the Republican Party in New York City.

Golden used his time to praise President Bush who, he said, "had made the tough decisions when others could afford to sit on the sidelines and criticize." He lauded the Bush tax-cuts as measures to "bring long-term growth" and called on his audience to close ranks in support of the president and to assist his re-election effort through vigorous volunteerism. Introducing Mayor Bloomberg (when the mayor finally arrived), Golden talked up his courage and achievements, including his tough stand against social promotions in schools and his efforts at bringing new development to the city.

Following the Senator on stage, Bloomberg told the audience he had no interest in raising taxes beyond where they now were and that he was, in fact, looking for ways to lower them. (One has to wonder how that will be possible, given recent forecasts of city budget deficits ahead... though such forecasts may just be another move in the intricate minuet that city labor negotiations represent.) Bloomberg reiterated his call for passage of a one-time real estate tax rebate to homeowners but added, in response to a question from the audience, that someone still had to pay taxes if the city was going to deliver all the services its citizens expected.

Unfortunately, no one asked him about progress (or the lack thereof) re: improving government efficiency by tightening up on wasteful practices and inefficiencies. As I’ve written in this column many times before, there are many opportunities for this, including improving city management of its own real estate portfolio, tightening city personnel practices, and modernizing and streamlining the city’s management of its capital projects. But it’s difficult to get governments focused in these areas... even Republican-led governments.

Responding to another question, Bloomberg also reminded his audience that the sales and real estate tax increases he pushed through earlier in his term "go away by law between this year and next" and promised to fight to ensure the laws aren’t changed to prevent this. He concluded by noting that "I wasn’t hired by you people to cave in to every pressure group. I did what I had to do to balance the budget. I tell my staff, don’t worry about what you look like in the tabloids each morning, worry about what you look like in the mirror."

The Mayor ended by praising Bush and promised a strong welcome for Republicans at this summer’s planned national party convention, even though he admitted he expected large protests.

After the meeting, Belle Harborite Tom Lynch led his group around the hall to get better acquainted with the Brooklyn Republicans. Lynch noted admiringly that "the Brooklyn groups seem to have found the secret that still eludes us in Queens."

Expanding on his theme, Lynch bemoaned the fact that "there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of cohesion or excitement among Queens groups" as we were seeing in Mill Basin. Although he recently led his membership into alliance with the Forest Park Republicans (an insurgent Queens Republican group on the mainland), since he’s been unable to achieve symbiosis with Republican leaders closer to home (Broad Channel and Howard Beach), he insists he’s not ruling out closer ties with nearby communities. "We still want an alliance with them," Lynch told me, "to build the kind of borough-wide organization the Brooklyn party has. But if we can’t get that, maybe the next best thing is to try to hook up with Brooklyn. Many Rockawayites came from Brooklyn, after all, and our peninsula is certainly closer, physically, to Brooklyn than to the rest of Queens."

After listening to him and seeing the Brooklynites in action, I couldn’t agree more. rockirreg@aol.com


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