Seeking Gay Votes in Brooklyn

Democratic mayoral hopefuls appear before Lambda Independent Democrats

Continuing their campaign to reach lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters, three of the four Democratic mayoral contenders spoke to Brooklyn’s Lambda Independent Democrats on April 20, where they continued attacks on Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and boasted of their support for the queer community.

“I’m very proud of the record that I have formed throughout the LGBT community,” said C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president. “I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve professionally and in my public life.”

The candidates spoke in the Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope, which is just blocks from where developer Bruce Ratner wants to build an arena for the Nets basketball team surrounded by a complex of 17 high-rise buildings. The debate over that proposal has been overshadowed by the West Side football stadium battle, but the Ratner effort was very much on the minds of some audience members.

Fields said she had not taken a position on the Atlantic Yards proposal, as the Ratner effort is called, but she favors requiring that it go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which would subject it to public review and comment.

“Based on lessons learned from the West Side stadium, I certainly support it going through community review,” Fields said. “It is important for projects of this magnitude to go through this process. Through that process we would be able to have more of an open discussion.”

Fields’ sparring with Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president, over his recent assertion that the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo by police was not a crime is a concern for some Democrats who want the candidates attacking Bloomberg, not each other. Responding to a question, she said it was time to end the debate.

“It is time to move forward,” Fields said. “We have a difference of opinion as it concerns Amadou Diallo… I have stated that it is time to close that door and move forward.”

Gifford Miller, the City Council speaker, charged Bloomberg with failing the city on education, jobs and housing. He would take the city in a different direction, Miller asserted.

“We deserve a mayor who is going to focus on things other than a football stadium,” he said. “It is wrong, just flat-out wrong, for the mayor to be appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars for an arena, for a stadium.”

A repeated question during the evening was how can the city get its “fair share” of tax revenues out of Albany and Washington, D.C. Some New Yorkers charge that the city pays significantly more in state and federal taxes than is returned to the city by the state and federal governments.

Miller said that Bloomberg was unwilling to stand up to his fellow Republicans and he “apologizes for policies and practices that have been bankrupting urban America.”

He said that, as mayor, he would rally the city’s “powerful business community” and its “powerful labor community” to demand that New York City be treated fairly.

Miller, who holds a powerful office, can point to legislation he has passed and money he has spent on behalf of New Yorkers. He did that at the Lambda meeting citing a tax break for poor families, a lead paint law and a living wage law that he said had pulled 50,000 New Yorkers out of poverty.

Speaking of the queer community, Miller said that under his leadership the City Council had passed the Equal Benefits Bill, that would deliver domestic partner benefits to employees of city contractors; the Dignity in All Schools Act (DASA), an anti-bullying bill; and discrimination protections for transgender New Yorkers.

The Bloomberg administration is refusing to implement the DASA requirements. Miller noted that Bloomberg vetoed the benefits bill and successfully challenged it in court.

“This community deserves a mayor who will be a fighter for this community,” Miller said.

Ferrer, who has generally been seen as the front-runner heading into the Democratic contest, continued his low-key delivery even while taking some jabs at Bloomberg.

“New Yorkers are being priced out of their own town and I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “At the same time that is happening, the mayor is in Berlin trying to figure out how to spend the taxpayers money on where the javelin throw should be.”

That last comment referred to Bloomberg administration efforts to win the 2012 Olympics for New York City.

Ferrer was touting his recent proposal to levy a half cent per share tax on every stock sale to raise what he said would be billions in new dollars for schools and school construction.

“Are we going to be stadium-happy or are we going to focus on the future of New York City, housing, jobs, schools,” he said.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, had committed to appearing, but was held up in Washington for a vote in the House.

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