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Fields accused of 'political club' approach

A July 4th New York Daily News article reports C. Virginia Fields uses community board appointments for political purposes. It's hardly news to anyone familiar with Fields' record.

While the article cites recent Community Board 2 issues, it doesn't scratch the surface as to how Fields has undermined community boards with questionable appointments. (nor does the article question how Council Member Christine Quinn's appointments are also made for political purposes.)

Fields is noted for putting owners and operators of nightclubs -- some of which are notorious -- on community boards. On Community Board 4, Fields appointed John Blair who, at the time, owned one bar and ran nightlife parties. But shortly after his appointment, Blair voted to award a liquor license to a bar in which he had a financial interest -- and not disclosed to other community board members. Later he acquired the infamous Limelight Nightclub on Sixth Avenue. Blair sits on the board committee that votes on liquor licenses.

Fields appoints developers, landlords and landlord lawyers to community boards. One appointment to Community Board 4 was that of a landlord attorney who previously worked for a firm noted for harassing tenants with baseless legal proceedings.

In another case, a developer member of Community Board 4 provided the District Manager of the Board with an apartment. Tenants in the Clinton neighborhood have questioned whether they could obtain impartial assistance from the board when the District Manager has benefited from the developer/landlord's generosity.

To many community activists, Fields' appointments are seen as mediocre, people who rarely question anything, giving the Fields era boards reputations as nothing but rubber stamps.

Gone from many community board appointments are community residents that volunteer in tenant and block groups. A few years back approximately 20% of Community Board 4 members resigned objecting to Fields (and Quinn's) policies and interference. Fields defends her appointments as bringing a "balance" to the boards -- what is seen as an euphemism for paying off landlords and nightclub operators.

For the Daily News article, click below.

Hitting the boards
Fields accused of 'political club' approach

by Maggie Haberman
New York Daily News
July 4, 2005

Since declaring her campaign for mayor, Virginia Fields has come under fire for using her power as Manhattan borough president to play politics with community board appointments.

Some accuse her, as one insider put it, of running boards as her own "political club."

"I keep thinking, if I was running for mayor, is this the kind of stuff I'd be worrying about?" said another.

As borough president, Fields is empowered to appoint all 50 members of a community board, although City Council members recommend 25 of them.

So when Fields recently nixed two members of Community Board 2 on the West Side, City Councilwoman Christine Quinn tried to put them back - only to have Fields reject them again.

One of the appointees in question apparently was punished for holding a "meet and greet" event for Council Speaker Gifford Miller - a rival Democratic mayoral hopeful.

In another incident a few years ago, during a contested race for Community Board 2 president, Fields was criticized for removing two board members just before the voting took place.

And some community board members have complained that too many people in the nightlife business have been appointed to board slots - a tricky thing, since the boards make recommendations about things like granting liquor licenses.

Fields spokesman Dan Wilson said his boss is "very proud" of her appointments.

"One of the things that [she's] been focused on for the past eight years is bringing some balance and diversity to these boards," Wilson said, adding that she's appointed many gay and lesbian members.


Fields praised the state Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriages months ago but dodged a question about gay nuptials at a candidates forum at the Mount Moriah AME Church in Queens last week.

According to witnesses, a man in the crowd said that marriage between a man and a woman has been "under attack," and asked how the Dems would protect it.

Miller and rival Fernando Ferrer shared similar sentiments - that their unions are protected by law and everyone else's should be, adding that they support gay marriage, the spies said.

But Fields ducked the question, saying she supports increased counseling for marriages to keep the divorce rates down - never mentioning same-sex marriage at all.

Fields campaign manager Chung Seto said her candidate was an "early supporter of same-sex marriage," noting that she spoke at a rally with the plaintiffs in the gay marriage lawsuit after the mayor appealed the case.

"She's very strong on the issue," Seto added.


The Dems can't seem to catch a break when it comes to supporters appearing to play footsie with the other side.

The most recent example involves Ferrer.

Anyone trolling Ferrer's blog on his campaign Web site recently saw an entry saying how, on his trip to Puerto Rico last weekend, he discovered from the local paper "that the governor of Puerto Rico, Anibal Acevedo Vilá, had endorsed me in my run for mayor of New York City."

Yet on May 13, there was Vilá standing with Bloomberg after the two had met during his visit to New York to get a better look at what the NYPD is doing.

Originally published on July 4, 2005