August 4, 2009 / Politics / Park Slope / Perspective / The Politicrasher

Candidates waste big chance to be king of Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Paper
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I’ve finally got my candidates for public advocate and comptroller, thanks to last night’s Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce debate.

While most of the Democratic candidates for those esteemed offices missed the gift-wrapped opportunity to court Brooklyn’s 2-1/2-million residents by showing off a keen understanding of the city’s most populous and best borough, only Queens Councilman John Liu (running for comptroller) and civil liberties lawyer Norman Siegel (public advocate) had the guts to hit me where it counts.

In my Brooklyn gut.

I know they’re running campaigning for citywide offices — don’t quote the municipal charter to me, fella — but Brooklynites always like politicians who know the neighborhoods and keep their eyes on the prize: the borough’s ability to tip an election.

Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), running for public advocate, and Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), seeking to be the comptroller, had the home-field advantage. But neither brandished the experience and knowledge of the local terrain, choosing instead to bolster their cases by citing other accomplishments — like DeBlasio’s opposition to Mayor Bloomberg in the term limits fight and Yassky’s early years in the city budget office.

Liu, however, went straight after Yassky for funneling $40,000 to a dubious Windsor Terrace not-for-profit tied to former Councilman Steve DiBrienza that organized youth sports leagues, though spent much of the taxpayer money it received on salaries for DiBrienza’s wife and aides when he was in the Council.

“There were … entities that seemed to have served no purpose to the community,” said Liu, who said he “found this out from local Brooklyn newspapers,” namely, The Brooklyn Paper.

That’s a shot across the bow at Yassky, which prompted this riposte:

“It funds soccer leagues and basketball leagues. Do you think that’s a poor use of funds?”

“It’s questioned what games that actually went to fund,” retorted Liu, showing a keen insight into how pork works in Brooklyn.

Alas, my heart rate quickly subsided as the duel — which Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D–Queens) and Councilwoman David Weprin (D–Queens) sat out entirely — was quickly settled and discussion returned to number-crunching acumen and the city’s financial woes.

Earlier in the night, Siegel showed the broadest awareness of Brooklyn issues.

He said he “would challenge the use of eminent domain” in development projects, saying that the state’s plans to condemn homes and businesses for Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project is “developer driven,” rather than providing a clear public benefit.

And he called the case of Kimber VanRy, the Park Slope man ticketed for drinking a beer on his stoop, “Out-effing-ragous.”

Maddening small fines were also on Siegel’s mind throughout the debate. He made repeated reference to Brooklyn Brewery which he said has to budget $30,000 a year just to pay fines it receives while making deliveries around the city.

Councilman Eric Gioia (D–Queens) and DeBlasio agreed that overzealous enforcement agents were a problem, but Siegel as so incensed by them that he lost all sense of time, saying he’d issue “an annual report every month” for the “stupidest fees.”

Compared to Siegel, the others seemed like political caricatures straight from Central Casting, with Gioia portraying himself as the “regular guy” who put himself through college working as a night janitor, and DeBlasio presenting himself as a pragmatist.

He cheered himself for battling the mayor on term limits, and for supporting this year’s controversial city budget that, he claimed, averted drastic cuts in the police and fire departments and layoffs in the public school system. But Gioia lambasted that budget because it did not include enough reform of how elected officials’ discretionary money is doled out.

Wherever there is a smoke-filled backroom or a smoke-free barroom, The Brooklyn Paper’s Politicrasher will be there, bringing you the inside dope on our next generation of leaders. Got a hot tip for the Politicrasher? E-mail
Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to be a bit better.
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Reasonable discourse

Jon from Park Slope says:
I was at the Comptroller debate, though missed the PA debate. This article does not cover the debate well at all. I came in with an open mind, I'll be voting for Yassky. His ideas were in tune with the direction the city should be headed in. Weprin was an earsore. Liu couldn't stop talking about being from Taiwan. How does that help you be a Comptroller? Katz had good ideas, but seemed to only know about real estate.
Aug. 4, 2009, 1:10 pm
Liz from Fort Greene says:
I'll be voting for John Liu. He has great experience and appeals to all racial groups. He is also consistent on the issues and his endorsements are far more impressive than any other candidate.
Aug. 5, 2009, 9:40 am
Mary from bronx says:
John Liu is a crook like his father. don't trust liu. he supports the beatings of the falun in flushing and the abuse of the horses in NYC. look at his record. this man is unethical and took money to increase tow charges. Liu is a nasty unqualified man who likes to play the race card. don't trust him. I vote of yassky by default.
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:31 am
marie from brooklyn says:
LOL, Liu likes to play the race card, he criticizes everyone but hypocrites loves to play the race card. all he talks about his how he was made in taiwan and worked in sweat shop. but his father was in charge of Great Eastern bank in Chinatown NYC and funded his son's political ambition. His father was convicted of bank fraud. Liu is a nasty man. He speaks down to people and is unethical and mean. he has no compassion for animals or for people who he deems unworthy of him. don't trust him
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:37 am
maie from brooklyn says:
both Bill DeBlasio and Gioia are in the city council and they both voted themselves a raise and are part of the Quinn scandals. go for siegel, he is for the fight and not for political ambition.
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:46 am
Susan from Park Slope says:
Liu gets my vote. I'm clear on whose campaign all the nasty comments are coming from and it's just great that this time, moving into NYC was not an option like moving into the 11th Congressional district. LIU is in the lead hence all the attacks.
Aug. 5, 2009, 11:58 am
Noah from Greenwood Heights says:
I agree with you on endorsing Siegel, there is no better possible candidate. However I highly disagree with your Supporting of Liu. Liu is a soundbite media whore who I have little respect for as person let alone as a politician.
Aug. 5, 2009, 12:59 pm
Sonia from Park Slope says:
I'll be voting for Liu. A person's father has nothing to do with a son's accomplishments. He's been great as a council member.
Aug. 6, 2009, 2:04 pm
Peter Johnson from Park Slope says:
New news .in Brooklyn politics, Jerry O’Brian is still trying to get Community leader, a man who is speaking on behalf of the people Candidate for the City Council District 39 George Smith off the board “this man just won’t give up, he won’t let the people down, I see him keep on trying”, It was old hand Jerry O’Brian vs. George Smith in Court today. Let’s guess who won, George Smith won. George Smith. I don’t know why people keep on trying to get him off; I feel park slope needs Change, someone who will speak for the people. Why not have a person who has organized 100’s of City events and dozens of charity events for a ton of different causes around NY area represent the great people of his district. Why not have a person who was born and raised in the district represent it.
Aug. 10, 2009, 10:34 pm

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