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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

NYC budget cut frenzy spurs group to lobby businesses that donate to politicians’s campaigns

Advocates are pushing a plan to plug the city budget gap by targeting big business instead of slashing services – and they’re following the money.

To ramp up pressure on pols negotiating the city budget, advocacy groups seeking to stave off massive budget cuts staged visits this week not just to key City Council members but also their influential campaign donors.

"We thought some of the neighborhood donors would be concerned about what would happen to the neighborhood if these cuts went through," said Jon Kest, executive director of the Brooklyn-based New York Communities for Change, part of a group against budget cuts dubbed the May 12 Coalition [which includes Make the Road New York].

"We think there are real options [to raise] revenue and we want to press it fairly aggressively with City Council people."

The proposal the group is pushing would raise $550 million for the city by slashing contracts and subsidies to big banks, ending a city tax exemption for hedge funds and getting more fees from mortgage lenders.

Tiara Velez, 23, of Coney Island, joined a group that went to lobby Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem) and six of her campaign donors.

Her 3-year-old son attends a day care center in Coney Island that is threatened with closure.

"They shouldn’t let children suffer for everything that’s going on," said Velez. "They’re cutting a lot of things that impact a lot of us poor people. I just think it’s not right."

But Dickens said the group’s strategy was counterproductive.

"When you come at us so aggressively, as if you’re demanding that we must sign on, that’s not the tactic to use. That’s bullying," she said, adding the visits to donors are "not going to enhance what they want done.

"They’re not wrong [about the budget], that’s the thing. It’s the way they’re going about it that’s incorrect," she said.

The group also visited Dickens donors, including the owner of a local Italian restaurant who gave the Councilwoman $500, and neighborhood real estate developer Walter Edwards, who donated $1,350 to her campaign.

"I’ve been around long enough to want to know who’s behind it and what’s their reason for doing it," Edwards said after the visit.

The advocates may have had more luck in the Bronx, where lawyer Michael Drezin, a donor to Councilman Jimmy Vacca (D-East Bronx), agreed to back their campaign.

"They seemed to be hardworking poor folks and didn’t want to be poorer than they are and didn’t want their libraries to close and didn’t want firehouses to close down," he said. "That seems pretty legitimate to me."

Vacca said he was studying the proposal. Also targeted were donors for Councilmen Daniel Garodnick (D-East Side) and Joel Rivera (D-East Tremont).

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