The Steves have begun to rumble.
Democratic council challenger Stephen Pierson came out swinging against 33rd district incumbent Steve Levin on Wednesday night during the first face-to-face clash in the Battle of the Steves.
Pierson landed body blows throughout the evening on hot topics including waterfront development, trash transfer stations, and Levin’s ties to accused serial sexual harasser and former Democratic boss Vito Lopez, drawing loud applause from the packed Polish and Slavic Center and leaving Levin sputtering.
Pierson came out of the gate hard, vowing to sue the city, twice — once if it fails to take the trash transfer burden off of Greenpoint and a second time if it allows the mega–developments near the mouth of the Newtown Creek to proceed before it conducts additional environmental reviews.
“I will actively fight their construction,” Pierson said. “We can sue the city. We can force better environmental studies.”
Levin floundered on both topics. He said he too would sue over the development, maybe, and that he would reduce the amount of garbage in the neighborhood, but he bobbed and weaved around the details.
The two Steves then grappled over who was the more progressive candidate, each pledging to create commercial rent stabilization laws and push for more school funding. The deadlock ended with Levin backing himself into a corner for a round of rope-a-dope about his ties to the disgraced former assemblyman Vito Lopez.
“I haven’t spoken to Vito Lopez in several months and I don’t intend to have a working relationship with him,” Levin said an attempt to preempt the attack.
But Pierson saw the opening and blasted away, saying that Levin funneled more than $6.6 million of city funds to Lopez’s organization, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council. The figure is $1.6 million, but still, the taint of gross groping details and corruption in Lopez’s charity hung heavy over the proceedings.
Levin bashed back at Pierson for never voting in a local election in the 15 years that he has lived in Brooklyn but, after the night’s fireworks, the punches fell short.
The fight came with a strange pre-game show in the form of a bizarre, anonymously produced Pierson ad that makes the upstart’s support base look fearsome, if not entirely sane. The one-minute video attacks Levin and Lopez and features an unhinged voice-over, video game buzzers, and a photo of a shirtless Levin.
“We have supporters everywhere and they sometimes do things we don’t condone,” said Pierson, adding that he and his staff had a laugh when they saw the ad.
The 33rd district includes Greenpoint, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Downtown and parts of Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The Democratic primary is Sept. 10.