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Ridgites tangle with Golden staffers after calling out pol’s record at Summer Stroll

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Photo gallery

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It’s cute to be green: The group also handed out “#NotSoGolden” reusable tote bags.
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Friday night fun: Alison Rooney and Eric Rizk, members of Fight Back Bay Ridge, enjoyed using the group’s new stop sign fans at the Aug. 3 Summer Stroll.
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Up for grabs: Golden’s chief of staff, John Quaglione, confronted Fight Back Bay Ridge member Jesse Feldman.
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Up for grabs: Quaglione, helped himself to one of the fans lambasting his boss.

They want this pol to slow down and listen up.

Ten members of a progressive Bay Ridge political group targeted state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) at the neighborhood’s Aug. 3 Summer Stroll by passing out hundreds of stop sign-shaped fans and reusable tote bags meant to lambast the local pol for his record on school-zone speed cameras and environmental policy. They wanted to pass out the paraphernalia at a visible neighborhood event so that Golden — who they say won’t sit down with members of their group, Fight Back Bay Ridge — would be forced to listen to constituents’ concerns, according to one member.

“It’s really to get his attention, because he’s not giving us any attention,” said Michael Gargiulo of the Ridge pol, who has a history of getting caught speeding though school zones. “We’re not able to get meetings with Marty, we’re not able to talk to our state Senator, so we figured at least they’ll get the message that we’re sick and tired of Marty speeding and living above the law.”

Gargiulo designed the stop sign fans, which read “Stop speeding in school zones Marty Golden” and “Your NY State Senator has racked up 13 school zone speeding violations since 2015 while refusing to vote to renew speed cameras. Vote him out on Tuesday November 6th.”

Members of the group also handed out reusable yellow tote bags emblazoned with the slogans “Replace the Waste” and “#NotSoGolden” to call attention to Golden’s opposition to banning plastic shopping bags, and to offer an alternative to the environmentally unfriendly yellow balloons the pol hands out at the strolls, according to Fight Back Bay Ridge organizer Sally McMahon.

“He gives out his balloons, so we decided we’ll give out our bags,” McMahon said.

The bags also contained literature detailing the pols’ past gaffes and speeding tickets, and progressive measures that he has refused to support. But McMahon said Golden seemed unperturbed.

“I turned around, Marty was standing right there, and he said, ‘we’ll see what happens in November,’ ” she said.

Members of Fight Back Bay Ridge handed out 200 bags and 350 fans at the event, according to McMahon — one of which went to Golden’s chief of staff, John Quaglione, who a photographer captured grabbing one of the fans from a volunteer who was passing them out in front of Golden’s re-election tent. The volunteer, Jess Feldman, said that when Quaglione approached her, she felt like he was trying to scare her off.

“I walked over and John saw us and said ‘give me one of those,’ ” said Jess Feldman. “I ignored him to take the picture, and when we took the picture, he came and got in my face and reached to grab [the fan]. He was definitely trying to intimidate me and get in my face and make me feel uncomfortable about having them out.”

Quaglione did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The staffer later caused a social media uproar by writing on Twitter and in a now-deleted Facebook post that members of Fight Back Bay Ridge were “creating hostility” at the Summer Stroll by turning the community event into a “political battlefield.” But Feldman said that the point of the action was not to cause drama, but to raise awareness about Golden’s policy and speeding records, and the harmful effects his beloved yellow balloons have on the environment.

“We wanted everyone to understand that Marty is not representing the best interests of the community,” Feldman said. “It was more of a counter to the balloons than the protest.”

McMahon said the group plans to return to the final Summer Stroll of the season on Aug. 10, which will take place from 80th to 90th streets from 6 pm until 10 pm.

But response to Quaglione’s Facebook post, McMahon and her daughter, Mallory, the group’s other main organizer, retained a lawyer who hand-delivered a cease and desist letter to Golden’s office on Aug. 7 demanding that the pol’s staffers allow locals their right to freedom of speech and that Golden and his staff undergo First Amendment and social media training.

Michael Tobman, a rep for Golden’s re-election campaign, would not comment on that matter, but he sent a July 31 letter to the state Board of Elections alleging that Fight Back Bay Ridge violated election law by failing to register as an independent expenditure committee despite raising more than $1,300 via a GoFundMe page to pay for the fans members handed out at the stroll and other measures to “unseat” Golden, which Tobman alleged qualifies as fund-raising for “overt, specific campaign activities.”

“Even if initially attached to issue advocacy around community concerns, this organization’s appeal for financial support for electioneering marks an inarguable and obvious transition to campaign activities that clearly fall within the jurisdiction of your office,” Tobman wrote.

Tobman also urged the board to investigate whether the group had coordinated with Andrew Gounardes or Ross Barkan, the Democratic candidates vying to unseat Golden. And he sent a letter to GoFundMe urging the platform to suspend the group’s fund-raising account, alleging that it violated the site’s policy.

Reps for Fight Back Bay Ridge responded to the allegations with a statement alleging that when they contacted the state Board of Elections, officials told them that they would have to register since they raised more than $1,000, but that it was a “minor issue and easily remedied, as long as we filed as soon as possible, as compliance is the ultimate goal of a complaint, not enforcement.”

Reps for the local group also apologized to locals, members, and Golden’s campaign for not filing sooner, but added that they did not plan to back down from campaigning against the pol.

“Make no mistake — we will not allow Senator Golden to cool, threaten, or retaliate for our free speech, and we will continue to, as our name states, Fight Back,” they wrote.

Neither the state Board of Elections nor GoFundMe replied to an inquiry by press time.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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