Jewish-Latino Sparks In Senate Race
08/23/02
Staff Writer
In a sign of ethnic strife in the race for a gerrymandered state Senate seat in Manhattan and the Bronx, one Dominican activist has lashed out against another for supporting "a Jewish descendant" instead of candidate Guillermo Linares. In the Aug. 15 edition of the Spanish daily El Diario, Linares supporter Maximo Padilla, president of the Committee for Dominicans Living Abroad, accuses Rafael Lantigua, president of the Party of the Dominican Revolution, of "conspiring" against Dominican political power by backing State Sen. Eric Schneiderman in next month's Democratic primary. "How can Lantigua talk about unity if at this moment he is refusing to back a Dominican politician for the struggle for the Senate seat in the recently created 31st District of New York, to give it to a Jewish descendant, conspiring in this way against the political power of Dominicans in this city?" Padilla is quoted as saying. Schneiderman said the comment was "disturbing," but added that ethnic appeals have not been a factor in the race. "Overall, my experience in that community has been very positive." Padilla could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Linares initially said the candidate, a former City Councilman from Washington Heights, had no comment about the remark. "He knows who he is, but [Padilla] plays no role in our campaign," said Brian Kraft. He later called back to say: "If correctly quoted, this statement is repugnant to all decent thinking New Yorkers. There is no room in this city for bigotry."   Almost directly from the airport, 12 City Council members who visited Israel last week (led by Speaker Gifford Miller) went to City Hall to argue for a resolution condemning Palestinian terror Thursday. Drafted by Oliver Koppell of the Bronx, but broadened to include measures sponsored by other members, the resolution passed unanimously in a committee hearing, chaired by Jose Serrano of the Bronx, one of the delegates to Israel. The full Council vote later in the day was 41-4, with one abstention. Among the vocal opponents in an occasionally stormy session was Charles Barron of Brooklyn, the increasingly controversial former Black Panther. "It's not fair," said Barron of the resolution, which called for the closure of Palestinian offices here and condemned suicide bombing, among other provisions. "It is lopsided and done in a way that is not fair to the Palestinian people. I had a resolution that was evenhanded and reflects the loss of life of both innocent Palestinians and non-combatants in Israel." Barron said that resolution was due for a vote in September. (Later in the week, Barron told a rally in Washington in support of reparations for slavery that he wanted to slap a white person "for my mental health.") The other opponents of the bill were Al Vann of Brooklyn, Bill Perkins and Robert Jackson of Manhattan. Helen Foster of the Bronx abstained. Margarita Lopez, who represents the heavily Jewish Lower East Side, said it was unfair to blame "a whole nation for the actions of a few." But although she voiced opposition to the resolution, she did not register her no vote with the city clerk, as required under new Council rules, and was therefore recorded as a yes. Support for the resolution cut across party, racial and ethnic lines. The overwhelming majority of black and Hispanic members backed it, including Majority Leader Joel Rivera of the Bronx and Majority Whip Leroy Comrie of Brooklyn, both of whom went to Israel on the trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and UJA-Federation. On two occasions, during the committee and general hearing, Councilman Ruben Diaz of the Bronx rose to insist he was not caving into Jewish pressure to support the bill. "I don't need Jewish votes," he said, explaining there were few available in his district. He said he supported the measure on its merits. Only a dozen members of the Council were invited to take part in the Israel mission, to the chagrin of some members who would have liked to attend. The list was compiled by Miller, who said more members would be invited on the next go-round. "We're hoping that we'll be able to arrange more trips. But UJA and JCRC aren't made of money. It's an expensive proposition," he said. The trip included a tour of a West Bank settlement, Kfar Etzion, which was not reported by most media.   The next local official to visit Israel is likely to be Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who told The Jewish Week she is planning a visit in November. Gotbaum is currently bogged down in a fight against proposed changes to the city charter proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that would remove her office from the line of mayoral succession and create non-partisan elections. In an interview, Gotbaum cautioned that Lenora Fulani's political movement was firmly behind the charter changes, which are being debated at five ill-publicized meetings at a time when few people are paying attention. "Anyone who has made the kind of comments she has made in the past cannot be helpful to any process," said Gotbaum of Fulani. Speaking prior to the Palestinian vote in the Council, Gotbaum said she wasn't sure if she favored the measure. "I don't know if that's an appropriate role for local government," she said. After it passed a spokeswoman called to say Gotbaum, who presides over the Council, had signed onto the measure before the vote.   Borough Park Councilman Simcha Felder is portraying himself as a "lonely voice in support of morality" after a raucous debate in the Council chamber over gay rights last week. During the same tumultuous session in which the Israel resolution was passed, Felder spoke out against a measure that would extend benefits to same-sex unions performed in municipalities where they are legal. Felder exceeded the one-minute limit given to all members for comment on legislation before a vote when he accused the bill's sponsors of "chutzpah." When Gotbaum, presiding over the meeting, declared him out of order, Felder said, "You'll have to carry me out." He was surrounded by sergeants-at-arms, wondering what to do, until he finished his comments. Felder's remarks offended both gay and African-American colleagues when he said the Council should "call a spade a spade" and declare the legislation a gay marriage bill. He apologized after learning that "spade" has been used as a racial epithet. Lopez, who is gay, angrily denounced Felder. "He believes people like me are subhuman and don't have the same rights as other people in this city," she shouted. The measure passed 34-7, with four abstentions.   Brooklyn Assembly candidate Susan Lasher says it's "just plan rude" to hold a 9-11 memorial event in Bay Ridge on Sunday, Sept. 9: the second day of Rosh HaShanah. "This is disenfranchising a huge group of people," said Lasher, a Democrat running against incumbent Adele Cohen in a district that includes Brighton Beach, Coney Island and Bay Ridge. Cohen was listed as a co-sponsor of the march with State Sen. Vincent Gentile, said she would not p articipate because of the holiday.

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