PUBLISHED BY MOSHOLU PRESERVATION CORPORATION

Vol. 18, No. 17 Sept. 8 - 21,  2005



     
 

Editorial

Rivera and the Filter Plant
The controversy concerning statements by Assemblyman Jose Rivera, the Bronx Democratic Party chairman, has mainly been fueled by his comments about Jewish politicians reprinted in The Riverdale Press. In an interview with a student from the Columbia Journalism School, Rivera made comments clearly insensitive to Jews.

“They got power, you know what I mean,” he told the student, Lani Perlman, a former Press reporter. “God bless ‘em, I don’t hate ‘em, I don’t envy ‘em, I would someday hope that my people would imitate them. What’s good for them, it’s got to be good for us.”

But the main issue, as far as we’re concerned, is that in the interview, Rivera admits that he based the monumental public policy decision to support the construction of the water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park not on what was best for Bronxites, but on his personal dislike for Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who happens to be Jewish.

“If I were powerful enough, I would build it right outside the terrace of Jeff Dinowitz,” he told Perlman, who was interviewing Rivera for her graduate thesis.

Rivera believes that Dinowitz supported putting the plant at Fordham Landing near Rivera’s home in Fordham Hill when that site was also being considered. But Dinowitz publicly opposed any Bronx location for the plant at a community board hearing. And even if he had favored Fordham Landing, what political leverage would he have had to get the plant sited there? Dinowitz would have never gotten the support of the rest of the borough’s Assembly delegation, virtually all of whom support Rivera.

Strangely, Rivera says that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s original commitment to Dinowitz to stop the city’s plan to put the plant in the park was a matter of “blood taking care of blood.” But everyone knows that this vow was just an extension of the Assembly’s standard operating procedure – when a piece of legislation affects a single member’s district, that member is deferred to. So in the world as Rivera sees it, where Jews take care of Jews, Silver should have stuck with his promise for two reasons. But he didn’t. The powerful speaker abandoned Assembly tradition and his promise to Dinowitz to allow legislators to vote how they wanted on the bill that gave the city the power to build in the park.

The bitter irony of Rivera’s tortured logic is that thousands of poor Latino, black, and other minority Bronxites living across the street from the construction site in the park, will endure years of digging, blasting, dust, fumes, traffic and other assaults on their quality of life because of his schoolyard scrap with another legislator. In other words, he used a stereotype of Jews sticking together to shaft his own ethnic group!

Rivera is probably not an anti-Semite, though he sounded like one. City Council candidate Ari Hoffnung wrote in an interesting Riverdale Press op-ed that while he thinks Rivera’s words were anti-Semitic, his actions – traveling to Germany to protest Ronald Reagan’s visit to a cemetery for members of the SS in Bitburg, sharing warm feelings about Jewish neighbors after an appearance at Hoffnung’s synagogue, and visiting Israel with Jewish officials – speak louder.

Nevertheless, Rivera’s comments were wrong and his apology was welcome.

Most of all, though, he owes Norwood residents – not an insignificant number of whom are children with asthma— more than an apology for turning their park into a mammoth construction zone because he doesn’t happen to like their assemblyman.

 

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