Saturday, September 15, 2007


Developer Targeting Homeowners Made Contribution To Councilman
by Theresa Juva, Assistant Editor Queens Chronicle
Email to a friendPost a CommentPrinter-friendly
The developer who began soliciting homeowners the same day the City Council Land Use Committee approved the Jamaica rezoning plan has ties to Councilman James Gennaro, whose district is included in the plan. Joan Donoghue of Jamaica Estates was recently approached by The Kamali Organization, a real estate developer in Great Neck, who urged her to sell her home on 191st Street and Hillside Avenue that also houses her medical practice.

The Times Ledger reported last week that Kamali contributed $4,950 to Gennaro’s campaign fund in November 2006, the maximum amount allowed under law. Donoghue’s experience sparked Hollis Councilman David Weprin to organize a neighborhood meeting in front of her home to protest the rezoning plan that will dramatically increase the size of buildings allowed on Hillside Avenue and attract swarms of developers, residents said.

Gennaro attended the meeting and spoke out against the proposed rezoning, which he voted against in the City Council this week. The City Council approved it. But constituents said Gennaro was not a strong opponent until the end of the proposal process. One constituent, who would only speak on background, said Gennaro was ambiguous on his position with the plan and “we could never get a straight answer from him.”

Another resident, who would also only speak on background, attended civic association meetings where Gennaro indicated support for the original plan, which was later modified to reduce building size. When she learned of Gennaro’s connections to Kamali, she said it confirmed that “he was talking out of both sides of his mouth.” In a phone interview on Monday, Gennaro defended the donation by pointing out that “every elected official in New York City takes contributions from developers.”

He added that while developers like Kamali wanted to see buildings up to 12 stories high allowed on Hillside Avenue, he was successful in negotiating a downzoning in his district. “There is no unduly influence from this campaign contribution,” he said, arguing that he would have voted in favor of the plan if he felt loyalty to Kamali. Donoghue is not convinced that campaign contributions are always influential. “It doesn’t mean they’ll get what they want,” she said. “But they’ll try.”

One civic leader said although Hillside Avenue was downzoned from the original proposal, it was not the 4-story zoning that the community wanted. He added that “it’s only the resistance of actual property homeowners that is preventing developers from getting what they want.”

No comments: