Bay Ridgites host town hall for Donovan — who didn’t show

Silent majority: Attendees flashed happy and angry emojis to express themselves while the panelists spoke.
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Their congressman wouldn’t hold a town hall to talk about the issues, so his constituents did.

Southern Brooklynites in the 11th congressional district defiantly hosted their own version of a public town hall on April 19 after months of badgering Rep. Dan Donovan (R–Bay Ridge) to do so.

Turnout at the Bay Ridge Manor forum was huge, with thousands more watching on Facebook — in fact, the only empty chair in the room was the one reserved for Donovan — and though the ridge-to-rock rep didn’t show up to answer constituents’ questions, the organizers were glad to put locals in a room with experts who could, said a lead organizer.

“One of our goals is to help inform the community on important issues that relate to our lives,” said Sally McMahon, head of community activist group Fight Back Bay Ridge. “Rep. Dan Donovan has refused to hold a town hall, but we’re happy to do it for him.”

For more than two hours, locals picked the brains of ten speakers from a variety of local and national organizations. A pair of fact-checkers who had mined public records on Donovan’s legislative and voting history offered input on the congressman’s policy positions. A chair labeled “Dan Donovan,” sat empty at the head of the room.

For months, Brooklynites have slammed the freshman lawmaker for refusing to hold a genuine town hall. But Donovan prefers telephone town halls to meeting a large group of his constituents in-the-flesh because rowdy demonstrators make it a waste of time, the rep told this paper in a recent interview.

“I don’t think they’re productive,” said Donovan, citing the chaos that ensued when protesters showed up at a February Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce event he spoke at.

The gathering was a wealth of information for constituents who feel like Donovan has left them in the dark, said one Bay Ridgite.

“I thought this was useful because the speakers shared a lot of info and helped me understand a few things better,” said Susan Bransky, a second-grade teacher at a Bensonhurst grade school who listened in to Donovan’s recent telephone town hall on April 17. “I want to hear his take on things, but I also want him to spell things out — have him discuss the issues with us. And I feel you can’t have that in those tele town halls.”

Others felt the event was a thinly veiled platform to hawk a progressive agenda, said one conservative leader who is running for the Council seat of term limited Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge).

“By a show of hands, how many people is this room voted for Donald Trump?” asked Liam McCabe, who called the gathering a “clown hall,” He was met with a chorus of hisses and boos.

For an event highlighting the absence of New York City’s lone congressional Republican, McCabe said he was surprised at the lack of inclusion when a right-leaning local tried to make his voice heard.

“One of the event’s main focuses was the absence of Donovan and the absence of Republicans, and then I come up and get my head chopped off,” he said. “Hey look, it was informative. The speakers knew their stuff. But it wasn’t a bipartisan town hall, and it can’t just be one-sided. That’s all I’m trying to say.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 6:00 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

J says:
McCabe's questions and comments are a distraction and playing false victimhood. If the liberal part of bay ridge show up, does that mean Donovan doesn't have to answer to them? Only the ones who voted republican? how about get some republican voters in there then. Let's see how they feel too.
April 24, 2017, 2:47 am
Jessica from Bay Ridge says:
I can see both sides in this disagreement, but Donovan really should show up before dismissing the value of a Town Hall. He seems to be avoiding it simply because it has the potential to be unpleasant or difficult for him. That he doesn't want to be confronted with questions or concerns of constituents.
Of course, none of these people would vote for him (not ever), so he doesn't have much inspiration to deal with their concerns. I think the bigger issue is how the district is drawn. Bay Rdige should be removed from that voting district.
April 24, 2017, 7:25 am
Mitch from Bay Ridge says:
Donovan likes to control the conversation. He doesn't like being caught off guard, especially in public. He's afraid of getting caught on tape with people yelling at him. I wouldn't like it either! Then again, I'm not a congressional rep, and he is.

This is all very dumb for him politically. Instead of dodging these encounters, he should embrace and engage with these organizations. Maybe partner WITH them to hold the next town hall! Maybe then he would finally learn that these are not paid protesters or organizers, but just concerned citizens from the neighborhood who want his honesty, transparency, and most of all, his ear.

It's not true that none of these people would vote for him, Jessica. Some of his positions are centrist, and progressives have learned that he can be convinced to come their way. By hiding behind his telephone and small private meetings (which, by the way, he very strongly discourages recording, from my own experience), he is alienating these voters instead of building a relationship with them.

Finally, take the McCabe thing for what it was - a media stunt. He's been mentioned in every article that's come out about the town hall. And I'm sure a lot of Republicans are giving him a big pat on the back. Next time, they should not allow ANY elected official or anyone running for office from speaking at all. (unless it's Dan Donovan).
April 24, 2017, 10:23 am
Sparkle from Bay Ridge says:
Dan Donovan is denying me my right meet him in a public venue and drown out what he had to say.

This is not right.
April 24, 2017, 11:30 am
Frank from Bay Ridge says:
Looks like most of the people in that audience are looking for freebies.
April 24, 2017, 11:34 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
I'm surprised that Marty Golden allowed his hall to be used by a bunch of freeloaders looking of even more government handouts. Whatever pays the bills I guess.
April 24, 2017, 12:17 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Henry Ford. One thing about Marty Golden is that he is not averse to listening to people on the other side, nor to giving consideration to their views. While he may not always agree, he is open to there being an actual dialogue. Donovan should take his lead from Golden.
April 24, 2017, 1:30 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
oh my stars, color me shocked.
April 24, 2017, 3:50 pm
Jack Benny from Bath Beach says:
Maybe Donovan didn't want to pay for the toll
April 24, 2017, 9:04 pm
samir kabir from downtown says:
Maybe he was busy with his oldies come-back tour. Wrong Donovan?
April 25, 2017, 6:34 am
Thomas Hilton from Bay Ridge says:
Another biased article from a liberal paper. This was a gathering of Hard Left activists - not mere "constituents" - the same ones who disrupted and ruined Donovan's Chamber of Commerce meeting. So NO Town Halls for them. In fact, there has been no Town Hall in this CD since April of 2011 when more bused in radical activists took that over too. I saw it; I was there.
April 25, 2017, 12:39 pm
Carol Devine from Sunset Park says:
And yet he ALWAYS has time to be interviewed on CNN and MSNBC. Look, I admire his resistance in not going along with Ryan's cockamamie plan to repeal and replace the ACA. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear. He understands that it would hurt his constituents on every level. Particularly the elderly But he needs to man up and listen to what his constituents have to say. ALL of them.
April 25, 2017, 1:46 pm
Sparkle from Bay Ridge says:
Carol, you are right. I will shout invective at Donovan, until his ears bleed, until my throat is a dry hardened tube, until I drown out all those around me, until I have no more spittle to fly from my mouth as I yell.

Only then will I have been heard.
April 25, 2017, 3:15 pm
Tooty from Staten Island says:
Ha ha ha Sparkle! Don't you know it?! You are so funny!!! I am loling on the floor! Loling my ass off! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!

Let me tell you - that was funny!!!! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! ROTFLOLINGMAO!!!!! Ha ha ha!!!!!

This guy gets it! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!!!!!
April 25, 2017, 5:42 pm
Merlino Bruno from Dyker Heights says:
The people behind these calls for a Donovan town hall are all left wing activist who are simply seeking a forum to embarrass and attack Donovan for representing what is the majority will of the district. Good thing for Donovan than he has seen fit to ignore these miscreants. They have no interest in dialog or discourse, they simply want to destroy anyone elected to Congress as a Republican.
June 26, 2017, 12:10 pm

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