Swift coup will affect city budget: Boro Dems

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As the shock from the Republicans’ surprise coup in the state Senate settled in Tuesday, Queens elected officials began to reassess the battlefield and what was potentially won or lost in Monday’s political ambush.

Although it remained unclear Tuesday what the ultimate outcome of Sens. Hiram Monserrate’s (D−East Elmhurst) and Pedro Espada’s (D−Bronx) decision to join a new “coalition government” with state Republicans would be, the prevailing feeling was that things would be different in one manner or another.

A source familiar with the situation said it does not appear likely Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans), who was apparently deposed, and the state Democrats would prevail.

“The whole process of the procedure they have to follow was not followed,” the source said. “There’s arguments to be made on both sides ... but I think the fact that we haven’t seen anything [in terms of legal action] ... is because they’re scrounging around trying to figure out what to do.”

Members of the City Council, who are waiting for the Senate to finalize a budget before they can follow suit, were predictably concerned about the impact of a changing guard in Albany on city affairs moving forward.

“Can we please secede now? We have a lot of work to do on city budget,” said Councilman Peter Vallone (D−Astoria). “The situation puts that in jeopardy. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s another day in Albany.”

Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing) expressed similar concern, but said he trusted Smith and state Democrats to resolve the situation quickly.

“This is happening at really the worst moment for us, as we need clarity from Albany so we can resolve the budget situation here in New York City. That, along with mayoral control, creates a real concern here,” Liu said, sighing audibly. “Essentially, we need this like we need a hole in the head, but I’m confident that Malcolm and our leaders in Albany will get this cleared up as soon as possible.”

Phil Ragusa, head of the Queens Republican Party, said state Democrats were ultimately to blame and that Smith’s leadership had created a toxic situation that caused Espada and Monserrate to flip and join their GOP counterparts across the aisle in the move to oust the Senate leader.

“There was a lot of administration problems that they created. They increased the budget and they increased taxes,” he said. “Smith just doesn’t seem to be able to get anything done.”

Democratic reaction to Monserrate’s decision to join the Republicans was notably sour.

Corona community activist Francisco Moya, who spent several years as secretary to then−Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, said he was shocked by the coup, but not that Monserrate was involved.

“I’m not surprised when it comes to him. This is nothing more than a complete power grab. There is nothing about reform in it,” Moya said. “I think that coming to know the kind of character that this man displays, it’s no surprise he would do something like this. When it comes down to the ballot box, he should be voted out of office.”

Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside), who worked alongside Monserrate in the Council for seven years before he was elected to the state Senate last November, called him a “disgrace.”

“To throw the whole process into disarray like this is unbelievable. Sen. Espada and Sen. Monserrate are disgraceful,” Avella said. “Clearly they’re acting in their own interests. This is politics at its worst. I think everyone in the state is absolutely shocked.”

Reach the TimesLedger newsroom by phone at 718−229−0300, ext. 139, or by e−mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com.

Posted 6:33 pm, October 10, 2011
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