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Cool running: Bearded, tattooed bartender vies to run W’burg politics

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This hipster wants to be your representative.

Nick Rizzo, an unemployed bartender who lists among his assets as his beard, tattoo, bike commuting, and hand-rolled cigarette smoking, is running for male Democratic district leader of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, an unpaid and esoteric position that nevertheless wields influence within the party machine.

Incidentally, Rizzo says he wants to dismantle that machine. Rooting out the kind of clubby Brooklyn politics once led by disgraced former borough Democratic boss Vito Lopez is a main tenet of Rizzo’s platform along with being pro-marijuana legalization, pro-choice, and pro-tipping food delivery workers. Rizzo also cites his history as a lifelong politics junkie who at 16 drew up a plan for redistricting his hometown of Berkeley, Calif. as evidence that he has the chops to lead the district. He is counting on increased turnout from secular neighborhood transplants to help him beat out opponent Michael Brienza in the area where he says a majority of active voters are Satmar Hasidic Jews.

We checked in with Rizzo to see what makes him tick — and why he is still smoking post-Bloomberg.

Danielle Furfaro: What made you decide to run for district leader?

Nick Rizzo: It is about getting more people involved in politics around here. So much of what is wrong with New York politics can be explained by the fact that almost everything is decided in low turnout Democratic primaries. If there were twice as much participation, things would be really different.

DF: How will you get more people involved?

NR: It is about bringing back a grassroots energy to the party. I want to use this position as a community organizing tool. My campaign has already identified tons of potholes and reported them to 311. And we badgered the city’s Economic Development Corporation to make sure the [Greenpoint ferry pier that collapsed in February] was up and running in time [for the severing of G train service to Queens.]

It is about taking the power and projecting it outwards. It is important to report back on what I have seen and heard. I am going to keep knocking on doors after I am elected so I can keep finding out what the issues are.

DF: What else are you working on?

NR: I am on a mission to get [the online delivery service] Seamless to raise its lowest default tip amount to 15 percent. It would not cost any money and it would have the effect of putting millions of dollars into the hands of delivery drivers without governmental power. It is about being creative.

DF: What is your election strategy?

NR: I have five field organizers. They go out to different parts of the district and to subway stops in the morning. I am relying on our supporters to give us lists of people who we can approach.

DF: In this district, the Hasidic votes tend to decide many races. How are you planning to get their vote?

NR: It is really fascinating. There are a bunch of different parts of the district, and the Satmar are the ones that make the district special and unique. It is much more like diplomacy than dealing with local politics. They are not going to listen to me if I knock on their doors. They do not speak my language, they do not watch television, and they do not read the same newspapers I do.

You have to go through various political leaders and deal with them. I have shown all sides that I respect them. Also, I am Jewish, despite my surname, because my mother is Jewish. I figured that because I am not Orthodox it would not matter, but it does. It should not, but it does.

DF: What do you do when you are not campaigning?

NR: Well, the campaign has taken over my life to a scary degree. My other job is a bartender. I am between bartending gigs right now. I am actually going for an interview today.

I love my bar trivia, I am an Oakland As fan, and I love riding my bike. I have a blue Giant hybrid. It does not have cool hipster handles, and it is not a fixie.

DF: I heard you roll your own cigarettes. What kind do you smoke?

NR: I smoke Peter Stokkebye rolling tobacco, which is a Danish blend. I am a sucker for anything that says “Danish” on it. I think it’s cool. Copenhagen seems to be a lot like Brooklyn, but without the minorities, which is unfortunate.

DF: Do you not know that those things will kill you?

NR: I will be quitting by 32. I used to say I would quit by 30, but I am worried I will be so stressed out by turning 30 next year that I will appreciate the extra two years of smoking.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
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Reader Feedback

Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
He lost me at "Democrat". If he truly wants to bring a grassroots political movement to the people stray away from the Democrat and Republican parties. The corporate Cancer has spread too far in both parties.
Aug. 18, 2014, 8:03 am
Sweet Charity says:
I really can't tell what this guy stands for. Does he stand for anything different than has already been doled out to us? Oh wait, he has facial hair, a tattoo, rides a bike, and rolls his own. Kewl.
http://diehipster.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/hipster-beardo-transplant-running-for-brooklyn-office/
Aug. 18, 2014, 9:12 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Not a native? Good enough for me. If the community board can be stuffed with car-owning natives, there should be at least one newcomer in power somewhere.
Aug. 18, 2014, 9:40 am
uncommon says:
Yo, CC! District leader is by definition a party position.
Aug. 18, 2014, 9:58 am
Mutley from Williamsburg says:
No one asked you to come here, so if you don't like it , then leave ... Trust me, you will not be missed
Aug. 18, 2014, 1:54 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
A non-story. This guy is not much different from Stephen Levin or Lincoln Restler or any garden-variety activist in Brooklyn. Like it's news that the Bohemo-Hipstoid Nation is taking over politics in the borough, along with everything else. Alas, however, I will miss seeing homegrown politicians doing the perp walk every other week in the local rags. Hey, first you clean up the streets, then you clean up the system. Done, in the can. Shazaam baby, yo azz be gentrified. Now y'all skiddy along, get off my stoop.
Aug. 18, 2014, 6:07 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
The part I enjoy most about this story is diehipster running away from his own poison brand. Only thing left, nancy, is to tuck your tail between your legs and flee for the Jersey Shore.
Aug. 18, 2014, 7:32 pm
Jules from East Williamsburg says:
Potholes? What about the holes in CB 1, unlimited liquor licenses, no increase in the police force and unrestricted development, try those topics or go back to Kansas, Dorothy.
Aug. 18, 2014, 8:19 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
Scott, all those anti-hipster, anti-gentry losers have been butt-bounced. Used to be nothing but them all over this paper. "Where Are They Now?" Ha ha ha. We own they azzez!
Aug. 18, 2014, 9:06 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Jules, you make CB1 sound like a utopia. It'd be great to have unlimited liquor licenses and unrestricted development and to lay off a punch of useless and expensive cops.
Aug. 18, 2014, 10:29 pm
jules from East Williamsburg says:
Mike, You mean lay off a bunch of expensive cops? Sure, where do you propose we hire? Start the Purge in Brooklyn? Someone has to do the 4am babysitting of the bars and the babysitting 24/7 of the projects, don't you agree?
Aug. 18, 2014, 10:45 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I don't propose we hire replacements. We should have a smaller force. The Daily News wrote yesterday that the biggest number of arrests are for drugs and the second biggest is for subway fare evasion. If those are the biggest problems, then we're over-policed.
Aug. 19, 2014, 7:58 am
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
Not to hijack the thread, but less cops ain't going to happen. Cops aren't here in NYC to enforce laws. They are here to generate revenue, they are armed revenue collectors. This is why they have monthly ticket quotas and this is why the NYPD rents them out to private businesses. Even is a cop joined to "do good" they quickly find out doing good is for Boy Scouts, filling the city's coffers is for cops.
Aug. 19, 2014, 8:23 am
The Chooch from a more literate Brooklyn says:
"Fewer cops" you mean (gahd sugn).
Aug. 19, 2014, 2:56 pm
JAZ from Hunting Redbeards says:
Chooch - I seriously doubt the answer to some of our local politicians being crappy is to elect an unemployed hipster. Aren't you the one who always crows about how bountiful the job market is for the beta male creatives? What does it say about this guy's drive then that he can't find a job in colonized North Brooklyn in 2014?

I suspect his goal is probably to get the Mast Brothers of Iowa on a postage stamp.
Aug. 19, 2014, 3:49 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
"The number of jobs in Brooklyn is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the city, according to a new report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. From 2003 to 2012, the number of businesses in Brooklyn increased by 21%. Private-sector wages grew by 42% over the same period, faster than in any other borough outside Manhattan."

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140527/BLOGS04/140529904/where-are-the-jobs-probably-brooklyn

Y'all skiddy along now scoot.
Aug. 19, 2014, 6 pm
Leo from greenpoint says:
Low wage jobs in coffee shops and restaurants are a small consolation for the loss of thousands of good paying jobs in manufacturing in Brooklyn.
Aug. 19, 2014, 6:57 pm
Shaft from Ft. Greene says:
Pro marijuana and dismantling "governing" party machine? So what your saying is you're a libertarian?
Aug. 20, 2014, 8:02 pm
The Chooch from a more literate Brooklyn says:
"So what you're saying"
Aug. 20, 2014, 8:04 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
The new jobs in Brooklyn are in IT, construction, real estate, advertising, AND manufacturing. True, the jobs most former factory workers in Brooklyn can get are in restaurants.
Aug. 20, 2014, 8:06 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
It ain't welfare. Alright now skiddy along get off my stoop.
Aug. 20, 2014, 8:07 pm
JAZ from Hunting Redbeards says:
Chooch - I'd still like to hear your take on what it says about this hipster that he can't find a job when, as you claim, it's the gold rush era for his type in colonized N. Brooklyn?
Aug. 22, 2014, 10:27 am

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