Three-way for Yassky’s seat in Heights, W’burg

The Brooklyn Paper
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At the moment, there are only three Democratic candidates vying to replace term-limited Councilman David Yassky and represent a sprawling district that stretches from Greenpoint to Park Slope.

More candidates are on the way, insiders said.

What those candidates will focus on depends on, well, the candidates themselves.

“Growth is the issue,” said Evan Thies, a Williamsburg resident and member of Community Board 1. “The district is growing faster than the rest of the city as a whole, and that affects everything from development to the quality of our schools.”

Greenpoint resident Steve Levin, who is chief of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez, put affordable housing at the top of his priority list — both maintaining the existing housing stock and creating more affordable places.

Jo Anne Simon, a Boerum Hill resident and Democratic District Leader, says the real trick is walking the tightrope between the needs of the 33rd district and the needs of the rest of the city.

“In my mind, the issue that unites all of the communities in the 33rd is how to balance the needs of our district with the needs of the city as a whole,” Simon says. “That’s a common thread in all of the issues facing my district from education, environmental sustainability and the intersection of land use and transporta­tion.”

As a former chief of staff to Yassky, Thies has already raised an impressive $20,000 in just a few months. Though he may be young, the 28-year-old Thies has campaign experience, working for both Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

He also has strong ties to Williamsburg, serving as chairman of CB1’s Environmental Protection and Waste Management Committee.

Levin hasn’t started raising funds for his campaign yet, but he’ll soon form a campaign committee. The 27-year-old is also no stranger to the campaign trail, having worked on various judicial campaigns, on Lopez’s Assembly campaign and on Martin Dilan’s state Senate campaign.

“I know the nuts and bolts of what goes into a successful ground campaign, for sure,” Levin said. “It amounts to a lot of door-knocking and hitting the streets and I’ve done a lot of that.”

Simon has lived in Boerum Hill for 25 years (that’s almost as long as Thies and Levin have been alive). As a longtime president of the Boerum Hill Association, Simon has community activist credentials as well as support within the Democratic Party as a district leader.

She’s been working hard on fundraising as well, having put more than $26,000 in her war chest.

Before this game is over, though, other candidates, including failed state Senate candidate Ken Diamondstone, could jump into the fray.

Evan Thies

Age: 28
Neighborhood: Williamsburg
Bio: Currently an adviser to environmental, affordable housing groups and other non-profits. Also on Community Board 1.
Experience: Former chief of staff to Councilman David Yassky. Also worked campaigns for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Pluses: Young, energetic, full of ideas
Minuses: Grew up in New Hampshire
Quote:“I’ve spent five years in city government getting things done … and I’d using that experience to accomplish even more in the Council.”

Stephen Levin

Age: 27
Neighborhood: Greenpoint
Bio: Currently chief of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
Experience: Ran a state program that provided a lead-free home for children and their families. Also ran a city anti–predatory lending program.
Pluses: Young, energetic, full of ideas
Minuses: Grew up in New Jersey
Quote: “I have a strong devotion toward public service, and … bring an intense passion to serve my neighbors.”

Jo Anne Simon

Age: 55
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill
Bio: Currently an attorney with a focus on disability rights, standardized testing and higher education. Also a Democratic district leader.
Experience: Taught at the Perkins school for the blind in Watertown, Mass. Ran a program for disabled students at Gallaudet in Washington.
Pluses: Experience, experience, experience.
Minuses: Grew up in Yonkers
Quote: “I’ve been working effectively with communities throughout large swaths of Brooklyn. That’s what makes me different. I’m best qualified.”

Updated 4:01 pm, November 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

J. Keller from Boerum Hill says:
I have known Jo Anne Simon for a number of years, and know her to be an active, effective public servant and a caring individual, who for years has worked in behalf of disadvantaged populations.

She has my vote!
Jan. 26, 2008, 7:35 pm
Peter R. from Williamsburg says:
What stands out is the level of hackness emanating from each of these people. First, these two twenty-something year olds are just kids. By and large, they’ll be useless for the first couple of years. They’re not ready for the adult game of elected office. Second, the older lady running would appear to be the best out of the three, but that’s like being the one good potato in a rotten stew. Willy-Bee has got to do better than this.

Are there no people with real and relevant experience here? Look at Yassky: chief counsel to a House Judiciary Subcommittee and law professor at Brooklyn Law School. He graduated from Yale Law School, which says a tremendous amount about his intellect. We need someone who can fill those relatively considerable shoes. That’s not going to happen with these three.
Jan. 28, 2008, 2:43 pm

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