Manhattan Councilman Wants to Give Stipend to Occupy Wall Street

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Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez asked to donate his most recent $5,000 leadership stipend to the Occupy Wall Street movement, according to his letter to the Council Speaker.

Rodriguez made the request in a letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office Tuesday.

As chairman of the Higher Education committee, Rodriguez is eligible to receive the allowance, which is known as a "lulu," shorthand for "in lieu of expenses." The speaker doles out the stipends to committee chairs at his or her discretion.

In the letter, Rodriguez declined to personally accept the stipend and instead asked that Quinn donate the money directly to the Occupy Wall Street general assembly.

But a spokesman for speaker Quinn said the City Council has a policy that prevents her from distributing stipends to outside organizations.

"As he has been previously notified, Council members may either accept their stipend and use it as they see fit, or they can choose to decline the stipend," the spokesman said in an emailed statement. "The City Council’s stipend funds are not distributed to outside organizations.”

The spokesman added that the speaker has no jurisdiction over what Rodriguez or any other councilmember does with a stipend once he or she receives it.

Rodriguez said Occupy Wall Street will play a large role in the city's upcoming budget cycle, which kicks off on January 16 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg releases his preliminary budget for fiscal year 2013.

"This movement will play an important role advocating for the working class and middle class so that we don't get those cuts that we usually get on education, affordable housing, jobs, and other areas," he said in an interview.

Rodriguez said he has donated past "lulus" to Haiti earthquake relief and an anti-violence initiative run by the Dominican Women's Development Center.

Since September, he has been an ardent supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which he calls "the voice of the voiceless." In November, he was arrested and injured while standing with protesters after the NYPD cleared Zuccotti Park.

Rodriguez Letter to Speaker Quinn