Volume 75, Number 14 | August 24 - 30, 2005

Lopez defends Fields against Stringer board report

By Lincoln Anderson

Councilmember Margarita Lopez has clashed with Assemblymember Scott Stringer about the Union Square Park pavilion. Now the two Manhattan borough president candidates are not seeing eye to eye on the community boards.

Last month, Lopez wrote a letter to community board members, criticizing Stringer’s recent hard-hitting report and call for reform on the boards and defending Borough President Virginia Fields’s oversight of the boards during her tenure.

“While some question why the chairperson of the Assembly Cities Committee [Stringer] would choose one borough to analyze and not the entire city, I question the validity and forthrightness of the report’s so-called findings,” Lopez wrote. “The specific points that greatly disturbed me were the inferences of repeated conflicts of interest, and a glut of political, or worse, nepotistic appointments. These attacks are absolutely off the mark.”

Lopez noted that Fields had countered Stringer’s report with information providing “a true account” of Fields’s actions regarding Bob Rinaolo’s conflict of interest on Community Board 2.

“In her account, everything was done by the legal process of the Conflicts of Interest Board,” Lopez said of Fields.

The councilmember also apparently referred to The Villager, when she further wrote of Stringer’s report, “I am saddened that recent newspaper articles reported this one-sided ‘analysis,’ discounting the hundreds of honest, hard-working folks who believe that their committed public service will better our city. That includes the member of Community Board 2 [Rinaolo] who resigned his post.”

After appealing an advisory opinion by COIB stating he should step down as chairperson of the C.B. 2 Business Committee, Rinaolo finally was forced to resign the post last December, more than a year and a half after the initial opinion was issued.

“Community boards are not broken as stated by Mr. Stringer; nor do they lack credibility!” Lopez said.

Stringer responded to Lopez’s letter with one of his own that he sent to community board members and which The Villager also was sent a copy of.

“I would expect more of Councilmember Lopez, particularly given her past position in support of community board reform,” Stringer wrote. “I do, however, believe that our disagreement on this is an important distinction on a matter of real substance in this campaign.”

Stringer is calling for an independent screening panel to vet community board appointments; a 90-day blackout period on appointments and removals 90 days prior to board elections; ongoing professional training for board staff; and the hiring of an urban planner for every community board.

In his letter, Stringer stressed, “My critique of the system is not intended as a critique of the vast majority of community board members who have nothing but the best interests of their neighborhoods at heart.”

Previously Stringer said that as chairperson of the Assembly Cities Committee he would hold hearings on whether the Parks Department’s proposal to use Union Square’s pavilion as a seasonal restaurant violates the concept of alienation, in which conditions must be met before taking public property for private use. Lopez accused Stringer of “politicking” and said Albany has no place in this city issue.

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