Mayor Defends Financing for Fulani Group (2006)

By Jill Gardiner
The New York Sun, September 14, 2006

Mayor Bloomberg is defending the city’s decision to approve more than $12 million in tax-free financing for a nonprofit group founded by a political leader who has been accused of making anti-Semitic comments.

Mr. Bloomberg said the approval of the tax-free financing for the All Stars Project, a performing arts group, was based solely on the substance of the group and had nothing to do with its founding member, Lenora Fulani, who is no longer affiliated with the group.

The city’s Industrial Development Agency gave the green light to the arrangement earlier this week over objections from several leading elected officials, who said the organization’s relationship with Ms. Fulani should disqualify it.

“We don’t look at the politics or the personal philosophies or the first amendment rights of what people say who are not involved with a project,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters.

“If they have a problem with other people they should express it to other people, but we are not going to hurt the kids at the All Star Project,” he added referring to the opponents.

Ms. Fulani, a former leader of the Independence Party, backed Mr. Bloomberg when he was running for mayor in 2001 and then again in 2005, giving him crucial support and an alternative party line for New Yorkers who wanted to vote for him but didn’t want to pull the lever for the Republican Party. He has distanced himself from her positions, but they repeatedly come back to haunt him.

Ms. Fulani’s most divisive words came in 1989, when she wrote: “Jews had to sell their souls to acquire Israel.” This week, the state comptroller, Alan Hevesi, the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, the public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler wrote to the head of the IDA urging him to block the financing request. Others who hold power on the IDA board directed their proxies to reject it.

But Mr. Bloomberg contended that there was nothing wrong with the deal: “We’re trying to do what’s right for our children and we certainly do not want to run a city where everybody’s got to pass a litmus test of agreeing with those people running for office,” he said.

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