NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Michael Bloomberg targeted Queens City Councilman Mark Weprin in retaliation for his support of two bills aimed at reining in the NYPD, sources told DNAinfo New York.
The two stop-and-frisk related measures, which passed the City Council last month, would allow people to sue the NYPD if they believe they were racially profiled and also creates an inspector general to oversee the department.
Bloomberg aide Howard Wolfson was “actively making the phone calls and making the last-ditch effort to find a viable candidate to run” against Weprin, said one Queens Republican insider.
The mayor’s office declined to comment.
But multiple sources on the ground in Queens confirmed that calls from Wolfson went out scouting for candidates who would use the mayor's considerable resources to run a campaign against Weprin.
While no petitions were filed by a Republican in Weprin’s 23rd Council District, reports of a phone poll conducted earlier this month suggested the possibility of at least one candidate. While it is unknown who specifically conducted the phone poll, former Republican state Senate candidate Joseph Concannon’s name was mentioned in a hypothetical matchup with Weprin.
Reached by phone Monday, Concannon would neither confirm nor deny that Bloomberg’s office had reached out to him to run against Weprin. Concannon did, however, go on to say that Weprin had “made a calculated mistake” in supporting the Community Safety Act, the measure that included the two bills.
“I think Mark has done this less because he believes in the Act, and more because he thinks he's going to win the votes of his other City Council members to become speaker of the City Council,” Concannon said, referring to reports that Weprin is interested in leading the body next year.
Republican officials in Queens said they were unaware of any attempts at candidate recruitment in their backyard.
“If they were that interested, I imagine they would have called,” said Robert Hornak, a Queens Republican Party spokesperson.
While no candidate has yet to emerge to officially challenge Weprin, sources said the mayor is hoping the threat of one could be enough to persuade Weprin to reconsider his support, particularly of the bias bill.
The original vote in favor of the legislation was slightly more than the two-thirds super-majority needed to override the veto Bloomberg has promised. If even one member changes their vote, or simply fails to show up, there’s a good chance the mayor’s veto could stand.
“They're looking to see if Weprin is willing to turn his vote around,” said one source familiar with the situation. “If he does, then I think people will take a back seat.”
The move to take on Weprin makes good on Bloomberg’s threat to go after individual councilmembers who voted in favor of the Community Safety Act.
“The mayor is putting his money where his mouth is — or at least he's threatening" to do so, said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College. “Bloomberg, in this situation, sees the people that voted for this bill as his enemies, so he's screwing them.”
Muzzio said that while political pressure is regularly applied to legislators behind closed doors, Bloomberg’s decision to directly target a sitting councilmember was unique.
“This is overt,” he said. “This is different.”
Since the passage of the CSA, Weprin and a number of his colleagues have suffered political repercussions over their votes. The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association sent out a mailing and leafleted the districts of Weprin and his Manhattan colleagues, Councilmembers Jessica Lappin and Daniel Garodnick. The Detectives Endowment Association revoked its endorsement of Brooklyn Councilmember Sara Gonzalez and others over their support of the bills.
Reached by phone Monday, Weprin said the mayor’s tactics would have no effect on his vote.
“I have no beef with the mayor. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Police Department,” Weprin said. “I am just representing the best interests of my constituents. My conscience and my constituents and the City of New York require me to support this bill because these reforms improve a system that has been flawed.”
Bloomberg has 30 days to veto the legislation. The Council is expected to receive the veto and schedule a vote later this summer.