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Searchlight: Land Use and an Indicted Council Member

by Courtney Gross, Aug 13, 2007

The City Council held an unusual early August stated meeting to guarantee that a public hearing would be held on several land use matters in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. In addition, because Councilmember Dennis Gallagher was indicted on rape and assault charges a few days earlier, the council temporarily removed Gallagher from his position as minority whip and ousted him from seats on several committees.

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The Gallagher Case

At the recommendation of Speaker Christine Quinn, Gallagher, one of three Republicans on the council, agreed to step away from his leadership role, which included a $5,000 bonus, and from his positions on the aging, parks, finance, housing, sanitation and youth services committees. The council approved the removal (Resolution 995) by a vote of 37 to 0 on August 6.

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Following the vote, the council's Standards and Ethics Committee met behind closed doors to determine if further disciplinary action was necessary. The committee deferred any action at the request of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who urged the committee to allow the criminal process to move forward without interference.

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Minority Leader James Oddo is charged with naming a new whip. Oddo declined to comment on when and if he would do so, and the council's only other remaining Republican, Vincent Ignizio, has shown similar hesitation to fill the role until the criminal proceedings conclude.

Gallagher did not attend the meeting.

Making Room for Park Space

The council had scheduled this session so it could meet a deadline on three land use applications, which expand parkland at Barretto Point Park and increase facility space at the Hunts Point Water Pollution Control Plant.

The City Planning Commission approved the applications in late July. In order to hold additional public hearings in the Council Chambers, as requested by Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo, the council had to "call up" the items within 20 days. The council approved the "call ups" by a vote of 37 to 0. Now, it must hold public hearings within 50 days and then approve or reject the applications.

The proposed expansion will bring the plant up to state and federal requirements, increase its capacity, replace outdated equipment and expand the adjacent parkland by more than an acre, according to a report from the commission.



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