Tag Archives: Downtown Brooklyn

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

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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

Jo Anne Simon & The Record of Reform

Jo Anne Simon claims she is an effective reformer and community advocate.  We wanted to take a look at her record to see how effective she really has been.  We decided to take a look at two issues that she has touted: traffic and judicial reform.

Don't look too close, please!

Don't look too close, please!

On traffic, Simon claims to have advocated for transportation and traffic improvement for fifteen years. One need look no further than Downtown Brooklyn to find the answer of whether she has been effective. The traffic is worse than ever. The parking is non-existent for local residents. Smith Street is an absolute mess in the mornings and it has been getting worse.  Just spend some time at Smith & Bergen.  It is a nightmare.  There has been no real progress on a residential parking program even though it has been discussed for years. The issue is now stuck in the State Legislature (good luck with that!).  Simon has complained about service cut backs on the G-train.  That has gotten worse as well.  Simon also points to her work on the Gowanus Expressway Task Force, which proposes placing the thoroughfare underground.  It’s a nice idea but is it happening?  Bottom Line: While it is unfair to blame Simon for the sad state of traffic and transportation in the 33rd District, she has no record of accomplishment despite touting fifteen years of work on the issue.

On judicial reform, her record also falls short.  Simon says it shows that she stood up to the Machine.  But if you compare her December 2005 reform recommendations for the Kings County Democratic Committee’s Judicial Screening Panel to the rules actually adopted you see she accomplished nothing:

  • Simon Recommendation: Have the Screening Panel (not Vito) pick the Panel’s chairperson.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Panel members should not be partners, suite mates or associated with party officials:  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have the Screening Panel use the same review standard for incumbent judges.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have a reconsideration process for unfavorably rated candidates.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have a “Highly Qualified” option for judicial candidates.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Have a judicial candidate forum for District Leaders and others to see the candidates.  NOT ADOPTED
  • Simon Recommendation: Allow Panel members to communicate their review directly to district leaders.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Adopt the standard NYC Bar judicial questionnaire.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: Panel review committees should consist of 2 or more individuals.  NOT ADOPTED.
  • Simon Recommendation: No Panel members can act as a reference for a candidate.  NOT ADOPTED.  Panel members are allowed to communicate directly with the (Lopez picked) Panel chair about a candidate.

With basically all of her recommendations being rejected, the County’s record on judicial selections since her December 2005 proposals is completely abysmal:

  • Lopez backed his girlfriend’s brother, Jack Battaglia, for a seat on the Kings County Supreme Court over more qualified lawyers. Daily News, September 18, 2006
  • Lopez backed Richard Velasquez for a judgeship even though the New York City Bar Association and the Brooklyn Bar Association from him unqualified. Velasquez had worked for Lopez’s girlfriend, Angela Battaglia, at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. New York Post, February 15, 2009.
  • Lopez backed anti-gay and completely unqualified candidate for the bench, now-Judge Noach Dear, even though Lopez promised that the Party’s judicial screening panel would only back candidates that were deemed qualified.

If Simon did not get her recommendations adopted, and the County’s record on selecting judges is as corrupt as ever, can she lay claim to being a reformer in this area as well?  We don’t think so.

The bottom line is that when you look at Simon’s record as a reformer and community advocate, you see years of work but no results. Even the New York Times couldn’t point to anything!  It makes us wonder how effective she will be as a council person.

Keeping It Real