April 3, 2014 / Brooklyn news / Will’s Watch

Will’s Watch looks at Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’s potty-mouthed donors, a challenger to Assemblywoman Davila, and Councilman Greenfield’s growing influence

Bathroom break! Cymbrowitz catches wave of Oceana cash

Brooklyn Daily
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This gives a new meaning to flushing money down the toilet.

Residents of the posh Oceana Condominiums in Brighton Beach rewarded Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) for his efforts to prevent elevated public bathrooms from rising on the Boardwalk outside their complex.

A source forwarded an e-mail circulated in the swank seashore development last October, which called upon homeowners there to repay the six-term pol for his opposition to the federally funded privy project, and for helping arrange a meeting with Sen. Charles Schumer (D–Park Slope).

The Parks Department announced last month that it is now considering moving the toilets from near Oceana to in front of the Shorefront Y community center nearby — even though the feds may not fund construction in the new location, sticking the city with the entire $6 million tab.

“Today is the time for us to return the favor,” the e-mail reads. “Steven Cymbrowitz is running for office again and he needs our support.”

The e-mail directs the supporters to give checks to Oceana Condo Building Two treasurer Dmitry Geyber, who made remarks disparaging of poorer Brighton Beachers who opposed relocating the loos at a public forum in March.

“You want to stick this in my face because I live in a beautiful building called Oceana and you live in a dump!” Geyber shouted at the meeting.

The median income in Brighton Beach is just $31,700 a year, lower even than in neighboring Coney Island, according to a report released by Mayor Bloomberg’s office in 2013.

State records show that Oceanans gave Cymbrowitz nearly $4,000 last year, while Muss Development — the condos’ developer — chipped in an additional $1,000. The residents donated in spite of their historic hostility to Democrats — nearly all of those who gave to Cymbrowitz’s campaign poured cash into the coffers of failed GOP Council candidate David Storobin last year.

Cymbrowitz said he disagreed with Geyber’s comments, and added he was unaware the e-mail had ever been sent out.

• • •

Freshman Assemblywoman Maritza Davila (D–Williamsbu­rg) has only been in office a few months, but she already has a challenger.

Debra Medina, an organizer for local housing rights group Los Sures, has filed to take Davila on.

Davila was disgraced Dem boss Vito Lopez’s hand-picked successor after he stepped down from his Assembly seat last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Davila defeated attorney and activist Jason Otaño in a special election to replace the dirty-minded pol, and took office in January.

• • •

Powerful Councilman David Greenfield (D–Borough Park) is continuing to consolidate control over his Bensonhurst-to-Midwood-spanning district.

Community Board 12 — which overlaps heavily with the city legislator’s turf — unanimously elected Greenfield deputy chief-of-staff Barry Spitzer its new district manager on March 25.

Community boards are unpaid 50-member panels of neighborhood leaders that provide recommendations on zoning and transportation developments in the community, among other matters. The boards’ opinions are only advisory, but the city often defers to their judgment. The borough president officially appoints all board members, but 25 of them are people nominated by the councilmembers who represent the area. The bulk of CB12’s territory belongs to Greenfield, but smaller parts of it fall in the districts of Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) and Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park).

The district manager is a salaried public employee who acts as the board’s representative and deals with concerns and complaints from residents.

Sources on the board said that Spitzer was the only candidate seriously considered for the position, and that the board had no choice but to back him — even though Fred Kreizman, a longtime mayoral staffer said by many to have superior qualifications, had expressed interest in the job.

“If Councilman Greenfield wants his deputy chief-of-staff to have a job, you give him a job,” another member remarked.

Records indicate that Spitzer was paid $52,000 in Greenfield’s office in 2010, and sources close to CB12 say he will have a $75,000 annual salary as district manager.

Insiders argue that Greenfield has enjoyed more than his share of influence over the panel due to his outsized influence over other politicians — namely, former Borough President Marty Markowitz and Menchaca’s predecessor, former Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez, both of whom received heavy funding from Greenfield’s wealthy Sephardic backers.

Greenfield is said to have used his power to strong-arm the panel into electing Yidel Perlstein its chairman in 2012, even though Perlstein had not yet served the full year on the board, as required to become an officer. At the time, Greenfield alleged that Perlstein, a Hasidim, would better represent “the majority” of the community than the secular Alan Dubrow, the 20-year incumbent.

“If the councilman has influence on the borough president, then the councilman has full control over the machinations of the board,” said former CB12 member Chaim Israel, who says Lander had him removed from the board at Greenfield’s request. “He dictated the election of the chairman, and he dictated the election of this district manager.”

Greenfield dismissed Israel’s allegations as sour grapes, and claimed he had no input into Spitzer’s selection.

“He very specifically declined to even privately give his opinion on who the best candidate was,” a spokesman said.

Spitzer is still working on the councilman’s staff, and will assume his new position after Passover later this month.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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