City Council Representative Yassky's Zigzag Path to the Runoff

A credibility gap for Comptroller wannabes

During last year's tempest over the Council's slush-fund scandal, it emerged that Yassky had steered $55,000 to a youth group called Neighborhood Assistance Corporation created by former Brooklyn Councilman Steve DiBrienza. Based in DiBrienza's old district office, the group was largely inert, according to local reports, aside from paying salaries to DiBrienza and a pair of former aides, one of whom also worked on Yassky's Council campaigns. Yassky began funding the group in 2005, just as he was preparing a risky run for Congress in a largely black district where he wasn't even a resident.

Yassky took a lot of flak for his strategy: He moved his family a few blocks to become eligible and ran as an effective reformer who just happened to be the lone white candidate facing several black opponents. The hope—which didn't pan out—was that white votes in brownstone Brooklyn would put him over the top. DiBrienza, who represented the same neighborhoods for years, at one point had had the same idea. Instead, he endorsed Yassky.

Yassky said last week that he awarded the funds at DiBrienza's request without personally inspecting the group. "I've always said it is bad practice to have individual Council members designate funds to nonprofits," he said. "We don't have the resources to investigate."

Jack Black

The congressional race had nothing to do with it, he said. "I asked Steve if he was looking at this. He said no."

Yassky isn't the only panderer. Liu has the backing of the equally patronage-hungry Queens County Democratic organization, and he raised his own integrity issues when he kept insisting he was a child sweatshop worker even after his mother said it didn't happen. He has also boasted that he exposed the MTA's secret two sets of books, a laughable claim since it was the now-unmentionable state comptroller Alan Hevesi, along with Thompson, who made that 2003 finding.

The run-off is likely to set another low turnout record. This gives Liu a clear edge: In the streets, his solid union support trumps Yassky's New York Times certification. But both enter the last lap of the race well behind the curve, credibility-wise.

« Previous Page