2008-05-02 / Editorial/Opinion

To The Politicians Go The Spoils - Your Tax Dollars

It has been clear for some time that something is rotten in our City Council. Just two weeks ago, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn admitted that the council "parked" money she wanted to use for community organizations in a slush fund that was made up of phony organizations. Disclosures about those funds and the fact that many council members gave money to organizations that hired their relatives and friends continue unabated just about every day. It would seem that Rockaway is not immune to the onslaught on our public funds. Geraldine Chapey is one of our Democratic district leaders. Politicians count on her for party support in their election campaigns and in choosing candidates for judgeships. She also runs a non-profit organization that is called Chapey Trinity Seniors. That organization owns a van that it rents to seniors to take them to various activities around the city. Her organization is legitimate and she does provide a service to seniors - for a price. That is why it is hard to understand why the City Council is giving $120,000 to Chapey this year, far more than any other Rockaway organization. City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr., who needs her support for his run for the State Senate in 2009, awarded her organization with $30,000 of his personal member item money to be used for "Senior Transportation." Then, he joined 14 other Queens Democrats, including Councilman James Sanders, in awarding her another $90,000 to "provide safe, secure and flexible transportation for seniors." Giving public money to a party official such as Chapey smacks of impropriety, and there certainly is a conflict of interest between her public charity organization and her party position. Sanders is another story. One of the groups getting $25,000 from Sanders is the Friends of Gateway, a group that supports Gateway National Recreation Area. Sanders says that the money is to fund "senior programs and activities." We checked the organization's website and found no senior activities, so we contacted them through Sanders. A spokesperson told us that the senior program was to remediate the problems at a pond next to the Belt Parkway, cleaning up and planting native foliage. Seems to us like a poor way to spend $25,000 in public money, especially since the federal government owns the park. Another group sponsored by Sanders to the tune of $4,000 is the Rockaway Peoples Network. Having never heard of the organization, we checked and could find no website or telephone number for the group. We called Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska and he has never heard of them either. Another group that Sanders funded, Gaska said, has been out of business for two years. In addition, Sanders gave operating funds to both the Yeshiva Darchei Torah and the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, something that we believe is not allowed under our Constitution. While most of the groups funded by both Sanders and Addabbo are worthy community groups, there are enough questions that need to be answered to close down the system and put a hold on all member item funding until those questions are resolved.

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