Saturday, March 7, 2009

Steve DiBrienza Leeching of Taxpayers?

I had heard rumors about this, but I am always skeptical of things that come from the NY Post, a notoriously inaccurate propoganda rag. However, in this case the NY Post article matches the rumors I had heard from other sources.

Steve DiBrienza, who wants to be the Once And Future Councilmember for the 39th Council District in Brooklyn, has essentially been using for his own private use an office paid for by the city (which means by us) ostensibly for a non-profit whose only impact on the community seems to be a name on an awning. From, gasp, the Post:

Since leaving the council at the end of 2001, DiBrienza has continued to work out of his former district office, which now houses a not-for-profit group - founded by DiBrienza and funded with a total of $1.185 million in council grants, according to city, state and federal records.

In fact, DiBrienza's group, the Neighborhood Assistance Corp., has paid a salary and benefits to him, to several former members of his council staff and to his wife, who worked a year for the organization when it first started...

...DiBrienza's office is two storefronts from current Councilman Bill de Blasio's district office.

DiBrienza is a lawyer who teaches college courses part time. His Neighborhood Assistance Corp. shares the corner storefront at 2903 Fort Hamilton Pkwy. in the Windsor Terrace section, with his law office and his real-estate and lobbying business.

Other than the group's name printed on the awning over DiBrienza's corner office, there's almost no other mention of the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. in any publication, press release or Web site.

So, if the Post is getting this straight (a big "if"), DiBrienza has had his private office, private salary, his wife's salary and the salries of his staff paid for by taxpayer money AFTER he was no longer serving the taxpayers as a councilman. And he was doing this under the nose of the City Council, Council Speaker Quinn, and current councilmember Bill DeBlasio, who's office is practically next door to DiBrienza's possibly illegal office. That is a LOT of corruption if the Post has it right and it could get DiBrienza, Quinn and DeBlasio in some trouble. DiBrienza has basically been leeching off you and me. Quinn and DeBlasio either were blind or let it go on with a wink. This is definitely Quinn's pattern of either being blind as a bat or deliberately blind as a bat to corruption. My impression of DeBlasio is that he has not made a habit of this kind of thing so much as having a more typical pay to play relationship with developers that I consider a problem, but not necessarily illegal as far as I have ever heard.

What is DiBrienza's excuse? He claims the non-profit that pays him sponsors sports teams. Yet they seem to have no visible presence in the community. And I am not just taking the Post's word for it, I did some searching myself. I can find no substantial reference to this organization other than what seems a very incongruous reference to "Neighborhood Assistance Corp. protestors invading Bear Stearns lobby." It is unclear to me if this is the same organization...if it is it sure makes it more intriguing! But given what I hear about DiBrienza, it doesn't seem likely that he is running out of his office an organization that sends protesters into Bear Stearns. A national organization with a simiar name, the "Neighborhood Assistance Corp of America" seems to do a lot, but not DiBrienza's local organiztion.

My friend Josh Skaller is running for the 39th council district seat and has issued this satement on the subject:


In response to the article that appeared in the March 6th edition of the New York Post entitled Grants Keep Ex-Pol In 'Office', City Council candidate Josh Skaller issued the following statement:

"The people of New York need to know that their hard-earned tax dollars support organizations that provide legitimate services. Given the current economic crisis, there is no more appropriate time than now to ensure that this is the case. A recent media report highlighted the need for a more formal investigation into the relationship between the so-called Neighborhood Assistance Corporation, Mr. Stephen DiBrienza -- a former elected official -- and the New York City Council.

As someone committed to reforming government, I was saddened to read that the City Council has been giving Mr. DiBrienza so many dollars for so many years with so little transparency and accountability -- raising so many questions. Accordingly, as a concerned resident of Brooklyn's 39th Council District, I will be submitting Freedom of Information Law requests to the Department of Youth and Community Development, the Mayor's Office of Contracts and to the City Council regarding these transactions."

I like Josh's approach. He is not assuming that the accusations made by the Post are true. He is filing a Freedom of Information Act request to get the agencies involved to make the necessary information public so we all can know what really happened. Is DiBrienza a crook? Or is the Post smearing him as they have so many others? A Freedom of Information Act request can determine which it is.

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