It’s not often you see a member of one of the nation’s most dysfunctional legislative bodies appropriately shaming members of another dysfunctional legislative body, but that’s what we wake up to this morning.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke is calling on Albany lawmakers to send resources to those Brooklyn neighborhoods that are currently without representation in either the State Senate or Assembly. Locally, that includes Marine Park, Mill Basin and Gerritsen Beach, who are currently without an assemblyman.
In fact, there are currently five open seats in the two houses of state legislature that represent about 700,000 Brooklynites. Governor Andrew Cuomo has not called a special election to replace them, and those seats will be empty until January 2015.
That means that an entire budget season will come and go, and no one will be representing those districts in negotiations, depriving civic groups and community organizations of operating funds that are allocated annually.
“We cannot allow the failure to schedule a special election to prevent the allocation of resources to the people who lack representation. The legislators whose positions are now vacant supported many of the most important social service organizations and cultural institutions in Brooklyn. I believe we should continue that level of support,” Clarke said.
The Assembly seat representing Gerritsen Beach and Marine Park was vacated when Alan Maisel left the house to become city councilman. Some of the groups that depended on his voice for funding from Albany, according to Clarke, include the Marine Park Community Association and Amity Little League.
Clarke sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, urging them to keep these organizations in mind.
Assemblyman Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Legislative Office Building 932
Albany, NY 12248
Senator Dean Skelos
Majority Leader of the State Senate
Legislative Office Building 909
Albany, NY 12247
Dear Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos,
I write to you as both a colleague and the representative in Congress of more than a quarter-million people who are currently without representation in the New York State Assembly.
The election in 2013 of State Assemblyman Alan Maisel of the 59th District (who represented Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Georgetown, Canarsie, and Bergen Beach) and the recent conviction of Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr., of the 55th District (who represented Brownsville and Ocean Hill) have resulted in vacancies in at least two contiguous Assembly Districts. Without special elections, these vacancies will continue until January 3, 2015. There are another seven seats in the State Assembly (two additional in Brooklyn, the 54th District and the 60th District) and two seats in the State Senate that are also currently vacant as well.
I am extremely concerned about this void of representation and believe that the residents of the affected communities have a right to representation that is being violated, in effect, taxation without representation.
Having said that, I am requesting that as you endeavor to develop the budget for FY2015, you bear in mind, the severe disadvantage that these Brooklyn communities find themselves in, lacking duly elected representatives. It is my hope that your good offices will protect these communities from further disruption by making certain that the residents of these Brooklyn communities are able to maintain access to the resources that have serviced them in the interim. It would truly be a disservice to many of these communities that in many respects are extremely distressed, socially and economically disadvantaged.
While I know that you are aware that your Members have been crucial to the development of community-based cultural institutions and social service organizations that are important to their constituents, I would like to register my concerns that without their representatives being seated, these life enhancing and sustaining programs could meet with an untimely demise.
The representatives of State Assembly District 55 and State Assembly District 59 have provided support to such organizations as: the Central Brooklyn Housing Council, the Brooklyn Arts Council, the Marine Park Community Association, the West Indian American Day Carnival Association, the Amity Little League, Wayside Outreach Development, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Eagle Academy for Young Men, and Brownsville Community Outreach Services just to mention a few.
Our mutual constituents in these Assembly districts utilize and know the value of these institutions. They range in mission from creating opportunities for recreation and entertainment, for education, to providing people with access to critical services, such as assistance in employment training and job searches, applying for benefits, keeping their housing and preventing mortgage foreclosure.
Until the issue of these electoral vacancies are resolved, I ask that you use your good office in a maintenance of these programs. I thank you in advance for your time and attention to this very important matter.
Yvette D. Clarke
Member of Congress