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Queens Chronicle

Keep Your Seats, Queens—Pols Vie For Plum Posts Behind Closed Doors

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Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2006 12:00 am

A week after Christine Quinn was elevated to the second most powerful position in city government, and a week before council committee chairmanships are officially announced, the jockeying is under way to determine who will be rewarded for their loyalty and who will be ousted.

So far, it looks like status quo will hold. “I don’t expect there to be many shake-ups in the current distribution of chairmanships or leadership positions,” said Scott Levenson, president of the Advance Group, a political consulting firm.

The Queens delegation fell nearly unanimously in line with county Democratic leaders in their support of Quinn. Queens is expected to keep powerful seats, such as heads of the Finance, Land Use, and Transportation committees, held by David Weprin of Hollis, Melinda Katz of Forest Hills and John Liu of Flushing, respectively.

Weprin was confident last week that his discussions with Quinn following his withdrawal from the speaker race had secured his committee chairmanship for another four years. “I am actually excited about working with a new team and negotiating the new budget,” he said at the time.

In stark contrast to the fresh beginning of the previous term four years ago, when Gifford Miller had 38 new members to match with positions, the faces in City Hall this time around are largely the same.

With some open spots, including the chairmanships of Health, Education, and Government Operations committees, Levenson thinks there should be “more than enough spoils to work with” to give out key leadership positions to those deserving of them. Leadership posts on committees come with a stipend, known as a lulu, above the $90,000 base salary. Lulus range between $4,000 for a minor post to $29,500 for council speaker.

Last term, the Brooklyn delegation was nearly cut out of key seats and lulus, but not so this time around.

Brooklyn’s candidate for speaker, Bill de Blasio, withdrew at the last minute and Brooklyn County leader Assemblyman Vito Lopez supported Quinn.

“I think we can presume that Brooklyn members will receive some of the open chairmanships or leadership posts,” Levenson said.

One of those posts, the chairman of Housing and Buildings vacated by Madeline Provenano, is anticipated to go to Lopez ally Erik Dilan of Brooklyn.

There was some early speculation that Katz, who sought independent support in her quest for the speaker’s seat despite county leadership, might find herself with a tenuous hold on the Land Use Committee chairmanship. But now she’s expected to stay put.

Queens Councilman and early Quinn supporter Tony Avella chaired the Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises last term. He has gone head to head with Katz numerous times on downzoning and other land issues high on his agenda.

While Avella said he wouldn’t turn down the higher post if it was offered, after a Monday meeting with Quinn, he expected to stay on as the chairman of the zoning subcommittee, but wouldn’t say for certain. Katz did not return phone calls by press time.

As head of the Health Committee in her last term, Quinn was known as an advocate for women’s health issues. Speculation is her vacated seat could be filled by Joel Rivera of the Bronx, who is also expected to maintain his post as majority leader.

Leroy Comrie of St. Albans is likely to stay on as majority whip. When asked about the possibility of moving into the deputy majority leader spot, he said only that Quinn intimated he would remain in a leadership role and, “it’s good to have choices.”

One rumored scenario has Comrie remaining on as majority whip, with de Blasio being rewarded with the Deputy Majority Leader seat and Lewis Fidler of Brooklyn christening a new Deputy Majority Whip position.

The Education chairmanship vacated by Eva Moskowitz could go to Robert Jackson, who represents Harlem. Jackson’s work with the Campaign For Fiscal Equity brought suit against New York state for its failure to properly fund the city’s schools.

One councilwoman who may be reprimanded for not towing the line is Yvette Clark of Brooklyn. Her committee, Fire and Criminal Justice, appeared to be up for grabs at one point this week, according to one councilman. Another scenario has Quinn simply putting that committee back into the Public Safety Committee from whence it came.

By backing off the speaker race in lieu of chairmanships, the Queens delegation may have negotiated a big chip, according to one council member. “In the end, we probably got more,” Councilman Joe Addabbo said.

Chairmanships are expected to be finalized by the City Council next Wednesday.

Welcome to the discussion.