Winning Bronx Dems Want Unity, May Pay For It

heastiechin.jpgAs soon as the tryptophan wears off, Assemblyman Carl Heastie -- the court-decided victor in the Bronx Democratic County chairmanship fray -- will get straight to business.

"Once we come back on Monday I'm going to hit the ground running," he said, at his first press conference since the ruling, held at the temporary Bronx County Committee Headquarters on East 163rd Street.

He'll have to. In addition to tackling issues like education and the borough's high unemployment rate, Heastie and his fellow victorious Bronx rebels have to establish post-bellum party unity.

That means making peace with former Dem boss Assemblyman Jose River and his supporters. And to get this peace, they seem willing to pay -- in Democratic treasury funds.

Weary with Rivera's politics -- a hybrid of nepotism and race-based politicking -- renegade Bronx politicians this summer formed the Rainbow Rebellion and ultimately toppled the Rivera-led machine.

"In the past some individuals had more input than other individuals, so I'm looking forward to our borough not being a group of individuals," said Councilman James Vacca.

But that doesn't mean a purge, Vacca is quick to assure us: "I'm looking forward to being a group of people that have mutual interests that will all be at the table working with the Democratic Party and Assemblyman Heastie."

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. said that Heastie's allies would actively reach out to officials in the Rivera camp.

"The way we do that is to be mindful that, while maybe things didn't work out in terms of county chairmanship with Jose Rivera, we should be respectful and recognize his 40 years of service as an elected official," Diaz said.

The biggest issue the two sides will need to settle is borough party finances, which remain the hands of Rivera people, from whom the new leadership is, perhaps optimistically, expecting cooperation.

"We expect that the former treasurer will turn over all the books to our new treasurer and then we're going to have to examine the books," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. But, he adds, "I don't expect that we're going to find a lot of money in those accounts."

That doesn't seem to bother them too much. In fact, if things get hairy, the new leadership might not even fight for control of those accounts.

"We want to start anew," said Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene. "We want to start fresh and we feel that it's incumbent upon us to be responsible for our own debts and for our own revenue-raising efforts."

Heastie says he'll take his time making that and other decisions. "While I'm eating turkey," he said, "I'll be thinking about how we're going to move forward."

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