2011-07-22 / Top Stories

Local City Council Politicians In Top Five On ‘Pork’ List

By Howard Schwach

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. once bragged about “bringing home the bacon” for his constituents.

What Sanders calls “bacon,” however, is called “pork” by many others, a derisive term for public money spent on unnecessary community activities or by cronies of the politician who doles it out.

When it comes to pork, both Sanders and his west end counterpart, City Councilman Eric Ulrich, are among the leaders of Queens council members in this year’s “Council Pork List.”

Longtime Jamaica councilman Leroy Comrie leads the list with more than $1 million provided for his constituents and their civic groups.

Fourth on the list is Ulrich, who doled out $603,321. Right behind him is Sanders, with $588,321 in what are euphemistically called “member items.”

The fact is, however, that what some call “pork,” others call “salvation.”

“Without the member item money we get from Ulrich, we would pretty much be out of business,” said the head of one recipient group, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing future funding.”

The money is in the public good, and it will be put to good use for its stated purpose.”

All of the money, the politicians say, is actually funded through city agencies that vet the organizations and track how the money is spent.

Sanders, who serves Far Rockaway and sits on the Land Use and Community Development Committees, gave the bulk of his cash to neighborhood development groups, youth initiatives and help for the aged.

To support senior centers, Sanders allocated $49,000 for JASA and $3,500 for Young Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater.

For young people, he gave a total of $116,000 to the Margert Community Corporation, which helps youths cultivate their leadership skills through enrichment opportunities and which holds a series of Community Engagement Concerts every summer.

According to the 2012 budget, a Sanders grant of $20,000 went to the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation to attract and assist businesses along the Rockaway peninsula.

An additional $3,500 was handed to the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, which recently received approval to transform the former firehouse on Beach 58 Street into an environmental education center.

Ulrich, who represents the west end and is a member of the Education Committee, allocated his money similarly, sending $70,000 to senior centers, many of which are run by religious organizations. His office paid out $25,000 to youth groups such as Little Leagues in Howard Beach and Ozone Park and the Rockaway Artists Alliance.

Also from Ulrich, there were monies for volunteering, sports programs, SAT prep, and the arts. In Broad Channel, the volunteer firefighters received $5,000 and the Athletic Club won $7,900. In Breezy Point, the volunteer EMS was allocated $5,000. Scholars’ Academy, Channel View, John Adams, and Robert Goddard High Schools each received $9,000 to send their pupils to Kaplan’s SAT prep. The Rockaway Music and Arts Council and the Rockaway Theatre Company were allotted a total of $20,000 with which to put on performances and exhibitions. Gateway Bike & Boathouse received a grant of $10,000 to support its kayaking program on Riis Landing. The Rockaway Partnership got the same amount to stimulate commerce and tourism on the peninsula.

— Additional reporting by Daniel Solomon

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