Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cleric who fought land deal axed


A Brooklyn pastor was forced to resign Wednesday because he opposed a massive development deal backed by a powerful Democratic assemblyman, opponents of the project claim.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio "pressured" the Rev. James O'Shea to step down from Our Lady of Monserrate in Bedford-Stuyvesant, his backers claimed.

O'Shea headed a group called Churches United fighting to be included in plans to develop a 30-acre site in the Broadway Triangle section of Brooklyn, said group secretary Robert Solano.

"The bishop has thrown out Churches United's bylaws, completely overlooked the fact that we are an independent, nonprofit organization and has forced his will upon us," Solano said. "And for what? Politics, ugly politics."

Comprised of about 20 Brooklyn churches, Churches United was created in 2004 to protest what it says was an unfair bidding process during the development stages of the property, which Rep. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) plans to turn into affordable housing.

The group wants affordable housing, too, but says local churches were not allowed to participate in the bidding process.

"It seems clear that Bishop DiMarzio is under political pressure to stop the Broadway Triangle opposition," said Churches United member Juan Ramos. "It is reprehensible that he would go after Rev. O'Shea - an inspiration to so many in his community - so harshly."

O'Shea could not be reached for comment.

Solano said three members of Churches United - all Brooklyn pastors - secretly met Wednesday to dissolve the organization and said the remaining members planned to take legal action.

A call to DiMarzio was not returned last night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Now, Vito Lopez Has Warm Words for Mike the Mayor

NY Obsever, By Azi Paybarah, 11/13/08

Michael Bloomberg, who plans to seek re-election next year, is rekindling his friendship with Brooklyn Democratic County Leader Vito Lopez, who hosted the mayor at a community meeting last night.

Bloomberg was greeted with thunderous applause when he walked into the gymnasium inside the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center, the epicenter of Lopez’s world. In front of a crowd of school children (still in uniform!), their parents, older residents and a few Brooklyn politicos, the two politely argued as to how often they agree: 98 percent of the time, or just 97 percent of the time.

Before fielding a handful of questions from the audience, Lopez introduced the mayor warmly. He lauded Bloomberg’s “commitment to education and to Bushwick, and for that alone, the mayor is a hero and should be a hero to the people here.”

The first three people to ask questions began with lengthy thank yous to the mayor.

One simply wanted to know how to thank city health care workers that got insurance for a five-year-old girl 24 hours after she was hospitalized for a random gunshot wound.

One potentially thorny question came from an older woman, Maria Gomez, who asked what the mayor planned to do about senior centers. The administration has a plan to restructure them, and possibly reduce services in some.

But after hearing the mayor’s answer--“We are not walking away from our seniors”--Gomez nodded approvingly and mouthed “Thank you.”

The entire event lasted about an hour. Once the mayor left, Lopez posed for pictures with a few people. In between photos, I asked Lopez how he thought it went.

“You saw the applause,” he said.

I asked Lopez if he thought Bloomberg has learned how to connect better with regular New Yorkers who don't live on the Upper East Side.

“He’s warmer, he’s much more gracious, and he fits right within the personality of the community that he’s at. So, today, the people here felt a lot of warmth, and they were excited. They’ll remember this day for a long time.”

He added, “I’ve met Shirley Chisolm when she first started, I knew Geraldine Ferraro. I think some people change, and the mayor has made a remarkable change and he really is extremely sensitive. If he had a little bit more time, he’d be hanging out and walking through the crowd.”

With the 2009 mayoral race right around the corner, I asked Lopez if he’d support Bloomberg, who is not in any registered party, running in the Democratic primary. To do so, Bloomberg would need permission from three of the city’s five Democratic County leaders.

“It’s all relative to who runs,” he said. Then, as if obliged, he added, “But I’m the Democratic County leader. My obligation is to the Democratic Party. That’s a judgment I will make four or five months from now.”

AZI PAYBARAH can be reached via email at