Richards emphasizes big bucks in district address

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), who won a special election in February to fill the seat left vacant by his mentor, touted the tax dollars he brought back from his first city budget during his state of the district address Tuesday.

“Just last month I successfully negotiated my first city budget, and I’m happy to say that as a freshman councilman standing before you, we didn’t lose any ground in the budget,” he said, explaining he had pledged to keep up the haul of his predecessor, now-state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Jamaica). “This is why we, as a district, brought home nearly $8 million in capital funding this year and we brought in more than $500,000 in expense funding to support our seniors and our youth programs alike.”

Between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, Sanders brought back about $42.6 million in capital and expense discretionary funding, according to an analysis by the government watchdog group Citizens Union, ranking him 10th among the 51 members of the Council during that time period.

Richards, who was sworn in a few months before Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced his executive budget in May, brought in $8.6 million in fiscal year 2014, good enough for seventh place among his fellow Council members.

Discretionary funds are doled out by Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), whom Richards recently endorsed in her bid for mayor. Quinn did not attend Richards’ address at the Church of the First Born in Laurelton, but he was joined by two other citywide candidates: Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), who is running for city public advocate, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a Democrat vying to be city comptroller.

Richards highlighted more than $3 million he allocated for expansions at the Rosedale and Laurelton libraries, as well as $50,000 he set aside to bring the Doe Fund — a nonprofit employing those with histories of homelessness and incarceration — to Merrick Boulevard and 243rd street in Rosedale. His successful battle against a proposed liquor store across from Springfield Gardens High School and an anti-noise task force aimed at combating rowdy summer parties were other initiatives he highlighted from his short term.

The councilman received a vocal showing of support from the hundred or so attendees when he spoke about his opposition to stop-and-frisk and his support for the NYPD reform legislation known as the Community Safety Act.

“Now the mayor has thrown a lot of threats out and said he’s going to run candidates against us for voting to protect our communities. Now my message to the mayor, and to those candidates, is don’t take the devil’s money,” he said. “I want to remind the mayor tonight that racial profiling caused the death of Trayvon Martin, and we refuse to have New York City looking like Sanford, Fla.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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