Tag Archives: Steve Levin

Congratulations, Councilman Levin…Now What?

Dear Councilman Levin:

We know that it is premature to call you that.  You still need to go through the general election and get sworn in.  But we all know those are mere formalities.  You won.  Vito Lopez hooked you up every which way from Tuesday: the Zalmanite faction with Rabbi Niederman and UJO, the union endorsements, the Bushwick United Democratic Club.  But it would be unfair to say that Lopez won the election for you.  The other candidates sliced and diced themselves up to a fair-thee-well.  All that, and good honest campaigning on your behalf, won the day.  You are to be personally credited with running an honorable campaign.  You never went negative.  You never took a shot below the belt.  That is why we said “we really want to like you.”  

The question is, now what?  We thought that we would give you a few suggestions for your new office:

1.  Don’t move out of Greenpoint.  We took you to task during the campaign for moving into the District immediately around the time you decided to run.  The fact remains, however, that you moved to a hard-scrabble section — not the toney areas like Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill.  Greenpoint needs you.  Stay there.  Live among the working-class people who you promised to help in your campaign.  Live near the environmental challenges that define that community.  Be one of the people.

2.  Tackle Traffic & Residential Parking. You are probably in the best position to help advance legislation in both the council and Albany to get the ball rolling on real solutions to the traffic problems in Downtown Brooklyn.  Get a residential parking program in place for Brooklyn Heights.  Work to achieve traffic calming there and in Boerum Hill.  If you get real results, the residents will realize that you are much more than Vito Lopez’s surrogate.

3.  Don’t Fold On Atlantic Yards.  You have the real opportunity to curb the excesses of Atlantic Yards.  You should work with Lopez to make this happen.  On December 31st, Ratner’s tax-free financing is going to go “poof.”  You need to use that opportunity to force a re-orienting of the proposed arena so that eminent domain is not needed.  You also need to bring about a contextual re-working of the plan to integrate it into the surrounding communities.

4.  Keep Your Campaign Promises.  You ran on the need for senior housing and early education.  Both are desperately needed.  Senior citizens cannot survive in this town living at the whim of private landlords.  They deserve to grow old in dignity and security.  Also, working families cannot make it without better childcare options.  Families must survive on two incomes.  Single-parent homes face even greater challenges.  We need quality childcare and early education opportunities to make it.  

We know that there are going to be a million “asks” from the Satmar community.  They just got the Holy Grail – Broadway Triangle.  Think about the rest of us.  Focus on our issues and prove the doubters wrong about you.  You will be doing yourself and us a big favor.  Also, get your moral compass bronzed.  We know you already have one but you’re gonna need it handy with where you’re going.

Good luck…and congrats.

Real Reform Brooklyn

We Endorse Evan Thies

After much deliberation ( and in fighting), we have decided to endorse Evan Thies for City Council.  Our review has been exhaustive and exhausting.  We know that our decision will not come as a surprise to many.  But we wanted to give you our thinking on the matter.

In reviewing the candidates, we looked foremost to the individual records.  We also turned a strong eye to the campaigns and who we think can actually win the race.  Jo Anne Simon seemed like a good candidate from a distance.  A close review of her record (or lack of one) took her out of the running.  Simon has been active in community politics for years.  But too often it seems that she has waffled and wavered on important issues.  She did it on Atlantic Yards and congestion pricing.  She also has no record of reform within the  Brooklyn Democratic Committee.  The final straw that broke the camel’s back has been Simon resorting in her campaign literature to lies and fabrications when she went negative.

As for Steve Levin, we really want to like him.  We think that Steve has campaigned very hard.  We also think that he has hit great themes on senior housing and early education.  But we cannot get over the fact that Levin moved into the District to run.  And we really can’t get past the fact that his headquarters are located outside the District in the Bushwick United Democratic Club — Vito Lopez’s power base.  Levin has consistently tried to separate himself from Lopez in the race.  No matter how much we like Steve, we fear that he will suffer the same fate as Diana Reyna if he tries to move too far away from his mentor.  And if he doesn’t move far away from him, we have even greater concerns.

As for the other candidates, we think none of them fit the bill.  Doug Biviano has run a nasty negative campaign.  We also think that the 33rd representative should provide intellectual fire power that we have not found in him.  We think that Ken Diamondstone lays legitimate claim to the reform and anti-Atlantic Yards mantle.  Unfortunately, Diamondstone has never been able to put together a winning campaign despite coming out of the gate four times.  Diamondstone should realize that his power lies as a kingmaker rather than being a perennial also-ran.  Ken Baer and Isaac Abraham have not really had any consideration by us.  We think that Baer has run an ineffective race and will make a poor showing.  Isaac Abraham seems like a nice person.  He is to be commended for broadening our collective understanding of the Hasidic community.  We are disappointed by his contributions from infamous property owner Joshua Guttman.  We also think that he too has no chance of winning.  

That leaves us with Evan Thies.  Evan is not the perfect candidate.  No one is.  His follow through on the Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezoning deserves criticism.  He has also taken two developer related donations.  One from James Whalen of Muss Development.  (He contributed an identical amount to Simon’s campaign.)  He also took money from developer Dean Palin who is constructing as as-of-right project in Greenpoint.  Money is a constant struggle for campaigns and Thies has lagged behind Simon and Levin.  But we think that criticism on Broadway Triangle is misleading.  The Community Board voted by a margin of 2:1 in favor of that project.  Thies submitted testimony in opposition to its approval to the Borough President and City Planning Commission.  We are aware of no other candidate (other than Simon) that has done so.  On the plus side, we think that Evan is smart and knows the District better than any other candidate.  From north to south, he understands each neighborhood better than anyone else in the race.  His work on environmental, parks and transportation issues has been excellent.  These are all critical to the District.  He also has a great grasp of how to work within the Council to be effective and hit the ground running.  He has run an honorable and honest campaign.  Thies gets our endorsement.

Keeping It Real

Daily Kos Brooklyn Reporter Endorses Thies: Interesting Analysis & Comment

For the true junkies, we bring you the DonkeyDemBK Daily Kos endorsement of Evan Thies. On a personal note, we loved following Daily Kos during the Obama campaign. We find the endorsement interesting for the emphasis on campaign infrastructure:

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Sun Sep 06, 2009 at 07:28:03 PM PDT
donkeydemBK’s diary :: ::

In the 33rd district I like Evan Thies. I like the fact the former Yassky chief of staff has the guts to stand up to corrupt machine politicians. His campaign is very well organized and he seems like the best shot to stop Steven Levin, who in my view is purely an extension of corrupt assemblyman Vito Lopez.

To read more about his efforts to push back against the machine, check out this piece in The New York Observer.

—————————————-

RRB:

You should also look at the following comment posted on the Daily Kos site:

“Gotta admire his determination…

One of his supporters came by last weekend and spent 30 minutes talking to us about the campaign, then had Evan call the same day and spent another 30 minutes.

by cbastian on Sun Sep 06, 2009 at 08:51:48 PM PDT”

We have only seen similar comments about the Levin operation. Nothing of the sort for Simon.

Keeping It Real

Times Endorsement & Atlantic Yards

The New York Times endorsement this morning was missing only one thing:  “Forest City Ratner is the development partner for the Midtown headquarters for The New York Times Company.”  In a pretty naked nod to its development partner, the Times endorsed the one candidate who has done more to undermine unified community opposition to Atlantic Yards than any other:  Jo Anne Simon.  The Times could not bring itself to write on Councilwoman Letitia “Tish” James’s race in the 35th District because opposing her would be too obvious.

Simon protests that she has been an early and vocal critic of Atlantic Yards.  Like most politicians, she believes that if she repeats something long enough it will be the truth.   The fact remains that Simon started BrooklynSpeaks to “have a seat at the table” in negotiating with Ratner.  She leads the “mend it, don’t end it” camp on Atlantic Yards.  Bottom Line: Simon has been an early and vocal supporter of bargaining on Atlantic Yards.  We believe that is the reason she got the nod from the Times.

Here is the endorsement for those of you who have missed it:

District 33, Brooklyn (Downtown Brooklyn, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights): There are several excellent candidates vying to replace Councilman David Yassky, who’s also running for comptroller. Stephen Levin would be a prime candidate except for his entanglement in the Brooklyn Democratic Party machine. Evan Thies, an aide to Mr. Yassky, has been active on reform and clean-air issues. Jo Anne Simon has an impressive legal background and has been a strong community organizer who has done important work for the disabled. We endorse Ms. Simon.

Pretty lukewarm even for a sell out.

Keeping It Real

Steve Levin + Carpetbagging: The Plot Thickens

"Come on, Fluffy.  Vito says we have to move."

"Come on, Fluffy. Vito says we have to move to the 33rd."

For today, we have two further points regarding our earlier piece on Steve Levin & Carpetbagging. We received some comments, presumably from Levin supporters, denouncing the carpetbagging label. Those commentators argued that Levin just moved down the block to his new Morgan Avenue address. They claimed that we were exaggerating the situation. In fact, Levin moved 26 blocks and over 2 miles to ensconce himself inside the 33rd District. But further research now reveals that Levin running in the 33rd is even more of a subterfuge for Vito Lopez that we first though. That the carpetbagging label is even more appropriate than ever. The only way to describe it is pure chutzpah!

First, we have learned that Levin was not considering for a run in the 33rd District as early as February 2008. His name actually floated for the position in a December 4, 2007 piece in the New York Observer. Levin was a registered voter in the 34th District on November 7, 2007. That means, assuming his motives were totally pure, within 25 days (November 7 to December 4, 2007), he moved two miles and 26 blocks into the 33rd District the day, fell instantly love with the place, and decided he just had to have a shot at representing us. If you believe that, we have a bridge in the lower part of that we would like to sell you.

Second, it also turns out that Levin’s campaign office is not even in the 33rd District. Rather, it is in the 34th at Vito Lopez’s political club Bushwick United Democratic Club. According to Levin’s campaign expenditure reports, his only expense for office space has been at Bushwick United Democratic Club.

Picture 1

Levin Campaign Finance Expense Report

Bushwick United Democratic Club is not in the 33rd District. Rather, it is located, as its name suggests, it is in the heart of Bushwick at at 297 Wycoff Avenue.

Picture 2

Posting with address of Bushwick United Democratic Club

Picture 1

Google Map showing Bushwick United Democratic Club

Levin has insisted that he is not tied to Vito Lopez — that he is his own man in this race. Absolutely nothing about his actions or conduct confirm that claim. Levin moved into the District solely for the purpose of running for the council seat. He is not even committed enough to the area to have his campaign office here. And, his ties to Lopez run so deep that he cannot even separate his headquarters from that of his master. That is carpetbagging of the first order. It is troubling and should not go unnoticed.

Keeping It Real

Post Script:  Our thanks to Dwight Milk for posting the comment about the location of Levin’s campaign headquarters.

Doug Biviano: Emperor of the Air

We have been discussing amongst ourselves whether we would look at candidates beyond Steve Levin, Jo Anne Simon and Evan Thies.  The reason is simple.  We do not think that any of the other four candidates have any real viability: Isaac Abraham, Ken Baer, Doug Biviano or Ken Diamondstone.  Baer and Diamondstone have advanced some interesting ideas on development and the environment.  But none of the four seems to have the organization or fund raising to win.  Sorry to be so blunt.

We have decided though to take a closer look at Doug Biviano because he is the only candidate that has responded to us directly on our blog and elsewhere.  Biviano’s record of working on behalf of the 33rd District is basically nil.  We don’t say so necessarily by way of criticism.  He could still be a good candidate without any real record.  But he’s not.  His only direct political work has been two months as New York State coordinator for Dennis Kucinich’s 2008 presidential campaign.  There appears to be a small discrepancy in Biviano’s resume with respect to his work for Kucinich.  Biviano claims to have worked for Kucinich from December 2007 through February 2008 — three months. In fact, Kucinich actually abandoned his presidential campaign on January 24, 2008 after he failed to poll more than 2% in any contest.

Our issue with Biviano is not his lack of political experience or work on behalf of the 33rd.  Everyone needs to start somewhere.  Rather, it is the fact that he resorts to platitudes and attacks instead of a real understanding of the issues facing the 33rd District.  Looking at his campaign website’s “Big Ideas” page shows that he has no real plans or concrete legislative agenda if elected to the Council.  Rather, he is the “Emperor of the Air” focused on buzz words without any substance or plan like the following:

  • Support union jobs and livable wages.
  • Create tax incentives and recruitment programs to bring back industry to NYC.
  • Lobby Albany and Washington for more funds to keep our infrastructure safe and in good service instead of expanding wars.
  • Lobby Albany in support of the LGBT Community, Same-sex Marriage and the economic opportunity for NYC in leading the way.
  • Green NYC buildings.
  • Constantly remind everyone what’s really at stake with affordable housing.
  • Repeal rent decontrol.
  • Develop great teachers and supportive parents.
  • Great pay and city benefits for great teachers.
  • Ending the Middle School nightmare and other disincentives of public schools.
  • More ball fields for Downtown Brooklyn schools.
  • Cut military budgets not school budgets.
  • CUNY school-fare not warfare.
  • No fare hikes!
  • Transit-fare not warfare.
  • Bail out people getting to work and their favorite places.
  • Put a toll on war budgets.
  • No service cuts or overcrowding.
  • MTA Make-over (reform from “top to bottom”).
  • Designate Brooklyn Bridge Park a park and NYC control.

We also have an issue with Biviano’s main campaign tactic — attacking his fellow candidates.  Biviano’s main targets have been Levin, Simon and Thies.  He feels that he needs to try to tear down the three front runners to have any chance.  (That’s our job.  Not his.)  To do this, he has adopted a “Rage Against the Machine” approach.  But in truth, it only works for Levin — “Vito Lopez’s padawan.”  Simon may be an ineffective reformer and just another a politician.  She may also have a record of going along with Lopez’s County Committee most of the time.  But she is not the Machine’s horse in this race.  Therefore, to call her part of the Machine is inaccurate.  Similarly, Thies is not the Machine’s candidate.  In fact, he has been screwed over by the Machine because Lopez has required Yassky to not endorse Thies in return for the County supporting Yassky’s comptroller bid.

It is easy for Biviano to throw these rocks at the front runners.  He has nothing to lose.  For reasons that we will get into later, we think that a vote for him or the other also rans puts the District at risk of a Machine victory for Levin.  That concern aside, Biviano disappoints.  He is a fresh face.  He has a great wife and family.  But his mastery of the issues is lacking and his negative approach to campaigning has been disappointing.

Real Reform Brooklyn

Jo Anne Simon & The Fall from Grace

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Stand up and take a shot!

There comes a time in the life of any politician when they need to make a decision that defines their character.  A time when their core beliefs are pitted against self-interest.  A time when they need to ask: Do I do something because it is politically advantageous?  Or, do I stand up for the principals have always defined me and let the chips fall where they may?  Jo Anne Simon now faces that moment with IND’s endorsement of John Heyer.  Up to now, she has failed the test.  We hope that you will ask her about it and that she takes steps to immediately correct it.

Many of you are already aware of what we are talking about.  For those who aren’t: we are troubled because Simon stands mute while her political club, Independent Neighborhood Democrats (“IND”), of which she is an officer and long-standing member, endorses an anti-choice and anti-gay marriage candidate for City Council in the 39th District named John Heyer.  Simon has made no statement critical of Heyer or his endorsement by IND, despite calls from at least two candidates in the 33rd District race and many, many others to do so.

Heyer, an assistant to Atlantic Yards booster Marty Markowitz, was backed at IND by long-time member and Carroll Gardens resident Buddy Scotto.  Heyer has conceded that he is pro-life and not in favor of gay marriage.  In conformity with IND rules, Scotto packed the membership over the prior three meetings to put votes in Heyer’s column at the May endorsement meeting.  After an very contentious gathering, which reportedly lasted over four hours, IND endorsed Hayer over his openly gay opponent, Bob Zuckerman, the leader of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and three other challengers: Brad Lander, Josh Skaller and Gary Reilly.  Simon also received IND’s endorsement at that same meeting.  She has stood mute since that time while the Heyer endorsement controversy swirls around her.

While IND members are not bound to support endorsed candidates, Simon’s silence is deeply troubling.  As a civil rights lawyer, we would think that Simon would stand against IND endorsing a candidate openly opposed to the fundemental rights of women and gay couples.  Gay marriage is one of the major civil rights issues or our era.  The IND endorsement has given Simon a golden opportunity to stand up for her convictions and show true leadership.  Kenn Lowy, president of IND, temporarily relinquished his position rather than lead IND through the primary with the Heyer endorsement in place.  Simon should do something to register her objection…something…anything.  Refuse IND’s endorsement.  Accept it on the condition that she objects to the Heyer endorsement.  Tell us how she would have voted if she didn’t conveniently absent herself from committing to a position.  The longer she keeps silent, the more cancerous the issue on her character and campaign.  The longer she stands mute, the more she proves that she is just another hack politician putting her own self-interest above the values that she professes to hold most dear.

Keeping It Real

Post Script:  In this week’s BrooklynPapers/BIT debate, Simon responded to a question on the Heyer endorsement by avoiding the issue.  She said that she has long supported a woman’s right to choose including working in a family planning clinic.  She also said that she has been endorsed by at least one LGBT organization because of her longstanding commitment to gay rights.  Given what Simon says her record is on choice and gay rights, we continue to be troubled that her present inaction on IND’s Heyer endorsement is foregoing her principles solely for purpose of political advantage.