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The Fontas Factor

The Fontas Factor

Bay Ridge Journal 9/18/2008

According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Councilmember Vincent Gentile detailed his efforts to find alternative buyers for the Green Church at Monday’s CB 10 meeting, acknowledging that an application for demolition was pending and that “Olde Good Things” architectural antiques had salvaged the building.

The Eagle reports that Gentile described his negotiations with the BRUMC as a “valiant effort”, and praised Pastor Robert Emerick for his cooperation, characterizing the actions of all parties as “willing” and in “good faith”.

According to the Eagle, Gentile described his first two proposals to the BRUMC as “not workable”, but said that the third was still under discussion pending DOB approval of the demolition application filed on behalf of the BRUMC on Sept. 2.

The Eagle describes George Fontas, Gentile’s former campaign manager — who the New York Observer calls a “democratic operative” — as having served as “consultant” to the BRUMC in its discussions with Gentile.

Gentile, according to the Eagle, described Fontas, listed on the James Capalino and Company Website as “community relations strategist”, “principal” and “vice president for government and community relations”, as having “greatly assisted” in the effort.

Capalino and Company is a lobbying firm that counts among its clients St. Vincent’s Hospital.

According to NYC Lobbyist Search, Fontas and Capalino are the lobbyists of record for the BRUMC. Among their targets: Councilman Vincent Gentile, Community Board 10 and CB 10 Chair Dean Rasinya.

Fontas’ and Capalino’s BRUMC earnings to date: approximately $45,000.

Fontas also sits on the CB 10 zoning and preservation subcommittee.

Why does the term “influence peddling” come up? There are rules that define the limits of what lobbyists can do, and I have to assume that Capalino and Company, as attested on their Website, follows those rules.

But what concerns me is what I see as a certain lack of transparency. Fontas would clearly have had an agenda in the negotiations with his former boss — as he might very well as a member of the CB 10 subcommittee tasked with historic preservation.

Why hasn’t this been more openly acknowledged?