The battle between a Democratic incumbent and a Republican upstart isn’t just a race for Bay Ridge’s Council seat — it’s a litmus test for conservatives in the borough’s longtime right-wing stronghold.
In the so-called “Fray by the Bay,” one-time grocer, longtime community activist, and current adjunct professor Bob Capano is attacking Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) for his sometimes adversarial relationship with the mayor, his allegiance to slush-fund-tarnished Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and even the recent reduction in garbage basket pick-ups on commercial streets.
“The previous councilman funded twice-a-day basket pickups on our local avenues — Gentile did not continue that, and our streets are more dirty as a result,” said Capano, a one-time staffer to scandal-scarred former Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) as well as Borough President Markowitz.
The Republican candidate is also going after Gentile for not hosting a single town hall meeting throughout his seven years in office.
“The councilmember’s main job is to work with city agencies to make sure that they deliver for his constituents, but he hasn’t had a single town hall — either because he doesn’t think it’s important, or because he doesn’t have a good enough relationship with the agencies to make it happen,” Capano said.
For his part, Gentile, who took office in 2003 after a special election and was re-elected to his first full term in 2005, touted his resume.
The incumbent, who chairs the Council’s Libraries committee, said he secured locations for three new schools and funded four expansions planned for one city’s most-overcrowded districts; lined up over $4 million of investments in Bay Ridge parkland; brought the beloved Bay Ridge Greenmarket to the parking lot of Walgreens; and led the fight against transit cuts.
“I’ve developed an office with the ultimate goal being the addressing of residents’ concerns and worries,” said the councilman. “I want to make sure our families, students and neighborhoods are taken care of the way they deserve to be, no matter what.”
Conservatives acknowledge it will be hard to unseat a Democratic incumbent in one of the nation’s most liberal counties, but they say they’ve got a fighting shot.
Though Capano was blown out by 40 percentage points in his failed campaign against Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Bay Ridge) last fall, he managed to snag 53 percent of the Bay Ridge portion of that sprawling district — enough to convince Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar that the one-time loser has what it takes to beat Gentile on Nov. 3.
“Is he running against a tough incumbent? Yes — but he’s running in an area where there is certainly a history of Republican voting,” said Kassar. “People have pulled the lever for Bob Capano in large numbers before. I wouldn’t be putting this kind of time into it if I didn’t think there was a real chance.”
But Democratic political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told The Brooklyn Paper that it won’t be easy for Capano to win in Bay Ridge, despite the neighborhood’s conservative history.
“Is Gentile beatable? The demographics are against it because the district is changing,” he said. “The district is becoming more Democratic, not more Republican.”
©2009 Community News Group
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