New York City

Grimm fundraising email stirs up storm

Democrats charge reference to ‘housing projects’ is bigotry

July 15, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm at Bay Ridge parade
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The Michael Grimm – Domenic Recchia congressional race, already one of the most heated House contests in the country, is getting nastier by the minute.

In the latest development, a fundraising email sent out by Bill D’Ambrosio, first vice chairman of the Staten Island Republican Party, to GOP donors has stirred up a storm of controversy.

In the email, D’Ambrosio wrote that Recchia, a Democrat and former Coney Island councilman, will have to rely on votes from “Brooklyn housing projects” in order to win the election. D’Ambrosio also wrote that in order to pay back these voters, Recchia “will surely build low-income housing in our neighborhoods” on Staten Island.

Almost immediately after D’Ambrosio hit the “send” button, Democrats charged racial bigotry.

Frank Seddio, chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, and Seddio’s Staten Island counterpart, John Gulino, issued a joint statement in which they condemned the D’Ambrosio email and called on Grimm to denounce the missive.

“We call on Congressman Grimm to denounce the outrageous bigotry demonstrated by GOP Deputy Bill D’Ambrosio. I cannot believe that 50 years after we passed the Civil Rights Act, we still have people like D’Ambrosio who will use bigotry and base fear mongering to solicit money and votes. There is no place for this contemptible language in this campaign,” Seddio said in the statement.

The reference to “housing projects” was designed to stir up white voters on Staten Island, according to Democrats, who noted that the majority of residents of housing projects are minorities.

The 11th Congressional District, which Grimm, a Republican-Conservative, has represented since 2010, takes in the entire borough of Staten Island and includes parts of several Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend.

The district is heavily weighed toward Staten Island. Approximately two-thirds of the district’s voters live in that borough.

“It’s insulting to Staten Islanders to think their support can be bought by this kind of hateful language. The GOP has resorted to raising money by insulting Brooklyn voters while engaging in fear mongering with Staten Island voters,” Gulino said in the statement.

In the email, D’Ambrosio also referred to Recchia as a “foreigner from across the bay.”

Grimm’s campaign did not respond to the Seddio-Gulino statement.

But Guy Molinari, the former Staten Island borough president and an outspoken supporter of Grimm, defended D’Ambrosio. Molinari told the New York Post that it’s not racist to be against housing projects. Being opposed to low-income public housing is a legitimate policy position, not racial bigotry, Molinari told the Post.

In its reporting of the brouhaha, the New York Observer cited political observers who said they believe that Recchia will have to rely on votes from housing project residents on Staten Island’s north shore and in Brooklyn, who tend to be minorities and tend to vote Democratic, if he wants to win in November.

One prominent Brooklyn Republican told the Brooklyn Eagle that the line in the email that stood out to him wasn’t the housing projects reference, but rather, D’Ambrosio’s reference to Recchia as a foreigner from across the bay.

“That could hit home with Staten Islanders,” the Republican said.  ‘I’ve always believed that they want to vote for a Staten Island guy because he’s one of their own.”

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