Protestors clogged 13th Avenue in front of Rep. Dan Donovan’s (R–Bay Ridge) Dyker Heights office on Tuesday demanding the legislator meet with his constituents and defend his controversial support of President Trump’s immigration ban and congressional Republicans’ quest to undo the Affordable Care Act.
Locals want a chance to sound off to the lawmaker, but Donovan has refused to host a true public forum, one voter said.
“I think Congressman Donovan is acting without import from his constituents in Brooklyn,” said Bay Ridgite Greg Bernardi, who teaches history at a Bensonhurst high school. “I think it’s important to let him know there are constituents here looking to influence his positions. And it’s important that we understand where he’s coming from. Is he toeing the party line? I want to hear the reasoning behind his decisions.”
Donovan did hold a public call-in on Feb. 16, taking 18 questions on topics such as health care, immigration, Trump’s travel ban, and climate change, according to a spokesman with Donovan’s office. But the so-called “telephone town hall” was poorly organized and did not allow for back-and-forth dialogue, said one Bay Ridgite.
“It was a mess,” said Ina Pira, who came out to the rally with her sister. “They e-mailed us about it hours before it happened. You needed to enter a code to get through, and there was no indication of when to expect that call. I missed it. We ended up listening to it on speakerphone through someone else. And people couldn’t ask follow-up questions. It just didn’t seem like a good way for him to talk to his constituents — it’d be easier if he just met with us.”
Donovan — who was actually a mile away touring the Guild for Exceptional Children during Tuesday’s protest — was heckled at a Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce breakfast earlier this month for his political stance. The mockery left a sour taste in his mouth, and Donovan now fears any large-scale town hall will devolve into mayhem.
“At the last event there were 40 people who had to be escorted out by police and that’s not a town hall — that’s people yelling at him and not letting him speak. That’s not a conversation — that’s a protest,” said Patrick Ryan. “We’ve said all along that anyone who wants to share their views, sit down with him in person is welcome to do that and some of the organizers of today’s protest are meeting with the congressman later today.”