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Councilman Michael Nelson moves into state Sen. David Storobin’s office

Rival parties find a way to help each other out in Sandy’s aftermath

Democratic Councilman Michael Nelson (far left) moved his staff into GOP state Sen. David Storobin's office in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Brooklyn Daily
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As Thanksgiving approaches, Democratic Councilman Michael Nelson knows who he’s thankful for — and the guy’s a Republican!

GOP state Sen. David Storobin reached a hand across the aisle to give Nelson (D–Midwood) some assistance — as well as some common dry ground — after Hurricane Sandy flooded the city legislator’s Voorhies Avenue office.

Storobin said Nelson and his staff could use his Avenue U office until they could bail out their water-logged digs — an offer Nelson quickly accepted.

“It was very helpful being able to be at Senator Storobin’s office; we were able to get some much done,” said Deborah Weiss, Nelson’s chief of staff.

Weiss said the Storobin called Nelson in the days after the storm to offer the use of his space, but the councilman was only able to retrieve the message after his phone finally received cell service on Nov. 5.

Once Nelson accepted, his staff mobilized quickly, moving into Storobin’s place on Nov. 7 – the day after the highly partisan election that saw Storobin lose the so-named “super Jewish district” to Democrat Simcha Felder.

Still, Weiss said Storobin — who won a squeaker of an election to take over disgraced former state Sen. Carl Kruger’s seat in the spring and gained notoriety for sponsoring a bill to outlaw gay marriage during one of his 11 days in Albany — was a class act, allowing Nelson’s four staff members to relocate their computers, desks, as well as give them free access to the fax and copy machines.

“The accommodations made by Senator Storobin were extremely comfortable,” gushed Weiss, who said Storobin told Nelson’s staff that they could stay as long as they needed to. “He was extremely gracious and our staff and the councilman are grateful for allowing us to use it.”

Hurricane Sandy flooded Nelson’s office, as well as the building’s basement and elevator shaft. The storm also knocked out all power on Voorhies Avenue.

Nelson’s staff ultimately returned to their building on Nov. 13, but not before learning a valuable lesson in bipartisanship.

Yet this isn’t the only instance of politicians from different parties and political persuasions working together in Sandy’s aftermath.

Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie praised President Obama’s leadership immediately following the storm, in the most high-profile incident of post-storm bipartisanship. Closer to home, Bay Ridge Democrats leader Justin Brannan is teaming up with Conservative Party activist Liam McCabe to host a fund-raiser named “Brooklyn South United for Hurricane Sandy Relief,” on Wednesday at the Corner Kitchen and Bar.

But political experts say Brooklynites shouldn’t expect the love fest to last.

“In a natural disaster there can be no partisansh­ip,” said veteran political strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “People are not cold or hungry or wet in a Republican or Democrat way, and that’s why you’re seeing people of different parties getting along.”

“When they get back to work in the legislature and city council, it will most likely just go back to what it was,” he said.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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