Council hopeful Stephen Pierson isn’t politically connected like incumbent Councilman Steve Levin — and the newbie says that’s his greatest asset.
Pierson, a former pro poker player turned arts magazine publisher, is angling his campaign for the Democratic nomination in a district spanning Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights and part of Park Slope as an outsider’s bid against the political establishment.
The Brooklyn Heights resident and Community Board 2 member says Levin’s past gig as a chief of staff to embattled Assemblyman and former borough Democratic party boss Vito Lopez means the incumbent is beholden to the powers that be — not his constituents.
So Pierson has made it his strategy to put the heat on Levin for donating more than $1.6 million in discretionary funds to Lopez’s non-profit Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council, according to the city’s Open Data website.
“With him, it’s all about graft and cronyism,” said Pierson, who launched his bid for the 33rd district on Friday.
Pierson declined to discuss his position on specific issues, such as the new plan for the Domino Sugar factory development, or the Brooklyn Public Library’s proposal to sell off two libraries and replace them with newer facilities, saying his personal opinions aren’t a part of his policy.
“The last thing I want to do is to be dictatorial about education and libraries closing,” said Pierson, who is founder and director of Canteen Arts, an organization that publishes a literary magazine and offers after-school tutoring to children. “The old-style, dictatorial councilman should be a relic of the 20th century.”
Pierson’s transition from poker to politics came after an attempt at being a novelist resulted in “a crappy book,” and a glut of gambling winnings that he used to start Canteen.
“I wanted to do something social redemptive,” he said.
Levin defended his record.
“Any money that’s gone outside the district is a small fraction and it’s all gone to very worthy things like affordable housing and senior services,” said Levin.
He also said he wishes Pierson luck and that he looks forward to a debate between Steve and Stephen.
“If he wants to have a campaign on the issues, I’m happy to engage with him,” said Levin.