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Weiner Blasts Freedom Tower Fiasco

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In Brooklyn, the Democratic congressman courts the gay vote for September mayoral primary

Standing in the living room of the Park Slope brownstone in which he was raised and where his father still lives, Congressman Anthony Weiner emphasized the controversy over the World Trade Center site. Security concerns there raised by the city’s police department more than a year ago have prompted the city and state to scrap an earlier design in favor of designing a new building.

In the May 1 New York Times, Daniel L. Doctoroff, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, explained the problem: “This is a remarkably complex security question, and every time you turn one dial, you end up turning many other dials on the security issue.”

Weiner drew a loud laugh from the roughly 15 people at the May 7 event when he said, “Yeah, it’s complicated. Maybe you should step aside and let someone else do it.”

The 40-year-old, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, hopes to win the September 13 Democratic primary for mayor and then go on to unseat Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on November 8.

Weiner appeared at the event, organized by the Lambda Independent Democrats, after a vote in the House kept him from attending the gay political club’s April 20 meeting. That earlier meeting included speeches from the three other Democratic mayoral contenders who are also seeking Lambda’s endorsement—City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Manhattan Borough Pres. C. Virginia Fields and former Bronx Borough Pres. Fernando Ferrer.

Despite the competition he faces in his own party, it was Bloomberg who was the focus of Weiner’s comments.

Teachers, firefighters and cops are moving out of New York City because they could no longer afford to purchase housing here, Weiner said.

“Where do you go in New York City if you want to get that starter place?” Weiner asked. “We have to start thinking about the underside of what this boom in the economy has done.”

The three-term lawmaker, who previously served on the City Council, said that there are 1.8 million uninsured people in New York City and they are getting their health care in hospital emergency rooms where it is paid for by taxpayers.

“They are not not getting health care. They are getting health care in the most expensive way possible,” said Weiner who supports a single-payer health-care system through which the government ensures universal access. “We have to stop seeing the capitalist model as the answer to everything.”

Weiner also continued his attack on Bloomberg for running a corrupt City Hall or, as he put it, “a hackish, old fashioned administra­tion.”

At an April 6 mayoral forum, Weiner charged that the mayor had promoted the West Side stadium and, in exchange, stadium supporters had backed the administra­tion’s 2012 Olympic bid.

“Michael Bloomberg has led us away from, rather than towards, an era of reform,” Weiner said on May 7.

Bloomberg handled the stadium negotiations like a “classic, insider businessman” and not like a public official, Weiner charged. The mayor designed “a model that eliminated public input.”

Weiner also denounced the mayor’s stance on gay marriage. Until February, when he came out in support of gay marriage, Bloomberg had said his view on the issue did not matter. When he finally signaled his support, Bloomberg added that City Hall would challenge the February state court ruling that said that same sex couples must be given marriage licenses.

Weiner said that if gay and lesbian couples had been allowed to marry, other New Yorkers would see that such unions are not a threat. “Think for a moment about the effect of that decision,” he said. “The opportunity to make that substantive and powerful point was denied by one person, Michael Bloomberg.”

Taking questions from the audience, Weiner said he supported the Atlantic Yards project in downtown Brooklyn near the Brooklyn Academy of Music where developer Bruce Ratner wants to build an arena for the Nets basketball team surrounded by a complex of 17 high-rise buildings.

“It’s fundamentally a housing deal,” Weiner said. “The amount of housing that is going to be below market rate is substantial... Overall it’s the kind of economic activity that I would like to see.”

Weiner opposes building a football stadium on Manhattan’s West Side and has said it should be built in Willet’s Point in Queens.

Weiner was also pressed on a point that has some Democrats concerned. Noting the racial and ethnic divides introduced into the 2001 Democratic runoff between Ferrer and former Public Advocate Mark Green, they worry that a divisive mayoral primary will result in a second four-year term for Bloomberg.

Weiner said that “of all the things that keep me up at night” the number one issue is that “we haven’t unified the party.”

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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