What began as a tit-for-tat over ducking debates ended with a disturbing revelation about a special delivery — of cockroaches.
In a war of words with an opponent about refusing invitations to candidate forums, the campaign of Council hopeful Igor Oberman excused his absence from one debate on the basis that one of the organizers had been harassing him.
“He was sending him cockroaches in the mail,” said Chelsea Connor, Oberman’s director of communications.
The disgusting disclosure came during a political slap-fight between Oberman and rival Ari Kagan after Oberman unleashed a torrent of vitriol against Kagan, a fellow Russian, for declining an invitation to debate on Boris Tenzer’s Russian Television Network show, firing off a press release entitled, “Lying Hypocrite Ari Kagan Refuses to Debate Igor Oberman.”
Kagan’s people immediately shot back, calling out Oberman on his own absence from two other recent candidate forums — one sponsored by Brooklyn Family and Housing Services, and another by the Cooperative Community Organization — and demanded an explanation for Oberman’s two previous no-shows.
The Oberman campaign explained his absence from the Brooklyn Family and Housing Services event simply enough.
“He’d never heard of it,” said Connor, “and he was not invited.”
But Oberman could not possibly have attended the forum hosted by the Cooperative Community Organization, Connor said, because he has a restraining order against one of the organizers, Mark Silvermetz.
“There’s a person at the Cooperative Community Organization who Igor has an active order of protection against, who organized the event,” said Connor. “He was sending him cockroaches in the mail.”
Attending that forum would have violated that restraining order, according to Connor, by placing Silvermetz within the off-limits radius around Oberman from which he has been banned by a judge. Conner even claimed that Silvermetz was actually arrested two months ago for entering the forbidden zone that surrounds her candidate.
Silvermetz admitted delivering an envelope of cockroaches to Oberman last year, but said that he was merely offering them as evidence of a pest infestation in the boardroom of Trump Village’s Section 4, where Oberman is president and Silvermertz was formerly a member of the co-op board.
“They would find them during board meetings and the women would shriek, and either me or the attorney would run around and try to kill it,” Silvermetz said. “It disrupted board meetings.”
Regarding the arrest, Silvermetz claimed that later that year, Oberman lured him into a situation where he’d violate the order of protection, in a ploy to get the order extended.
Silvermetz was invited to the co-op office to collect his dividend in shares he owned at Trump Village, and he was surprised to see Oberman there waiting for him. Upon seeing Silvermetz, Oberman alledgedly signaled a cameraman to snap shots of him violating the court order.
“Igor whistled to a guy with a camera, and he sent the pictures to the police,” said Silvermetz.
Silvermetz, who suffers from bone cancer, said that Oberman has made a habit of attacking and smearing people at Trump Village who are critical of him, and that he frequently targets the old and the crippled.
“He goes he against older and disabled people,” he said.
As for the Boris Tenzer invitation that started it all, Kagan eventually agreed to be interviewed for the Russian Television Network show. But he had initially declined because fellow Democratic primary contenders Theresa Scavo and Chaim Deutsch were not invited to participate in the Russian-language forum, according to Kagan’s campaign manager Jake Oliver.
“There are four democrats running,” Oliver said. “You can’t pick and choose who you’re inviting to the debate.”
In making the point that English-speaking candidates could participate in a Russian-language debate, Oliver cited a debate between Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park) and Russian-speaking Republican candidate David Storobin, which aired on that same network in 2012 when they were running in the special election to replace disgraced state Sen. Carl Kruger, noting that the hosts provided Fidler with a translator.