Low-level pol: I got a shiner protecting a damsel in distress

Low-level pol: I got a shiner protecting a damsel in distress
Photo by Sara Hylton

It was a committeeman confrontation!

Williamsburg district leader Nick Rizzo says he took a punch to the face from a Greenpoint bar owner early yesterday morning when he stepped up to help a bartender after the owner refused to let her leave the bar, the low-level politician claimed.

“I will take a punch for anyone vulnerable in my district,” said Rizzo, a bearded, bike riding politician who became district leader last year.

Rizzo walked around Williamsburg and Greenpoint on Thursday sporting a black eye from the early morning antics that ended up with Tommy’s Tavern owner in the back of a squad car.

According to Rizzo, he was enjoying some beers and company at the “divieist dive bar in Greenpoint” at the corner of Manhattan Avenue and Freeman Street just after 3 am Thursday when the owner got into an argument with a bartender about when to close up shop. The bartender wanted to go home, but the owner insisted that she keep serving drinks. The woman tried to leave, but the owner grabbed her to stop her from leaving. That is when Rizzo stepped in.

“I told him ‘Look, you can fire her, but you cannot put your hands on her and you cannot physically force her to stay’,” said Rizzo.

The owner ordered Rizzo out of the bar, but he said he refused to leave until he knew the bartender was safe. He called the police and while he was waiting for them to show up, the out-of-control owner socked Rizzo in the eye. When cops showed up, they cuffed the bar owner.

The NYPD confirmed Rizzo’s account. A police spokeswoman said the department charged the owner with assault, menacing, disorderly conduct, and second-degree harassment.

Rizzo said he does not plan to press charges, but police said they have already started the criminal justice process against owner based on Rizzo’s black eye.

Tommy’s Tavern is known as Murder Bar by locals for a killing that happened there years ago. The tavern’s antiquated website www.tommystavern.com, which features a pair of neon dancing girls and moving skulls and portions of skeletons, advertises “incredibly cheap beer” and music by “live girls.”

Rizzo is the second Williamsburg politico to go out of his way to help someone or animal in need in recent weeks. Councilman Steve Levin garnered accolades and then a fiance after he rescued an abused and pregnant cat off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

The bar’s owner could not be reached for comment, but Rizzo figures he will have to look for a new late-night joint, since he is probably banned from Tommy’s.

A state committeeman, also known as a district leader, is the lowest level of elected office. Holders of the unpaid position help the parties they represent hire poll workers and election inspectors, organize meetings and events, elect judges for civil, supreme, and surrogate courts, and support candidates in their run for office.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Tough on crime: Rizzo, the district leader for Williamsburg, now has a shiner to go with his tattoo.
Photo by Sara Hylton