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September 10, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Election Coverage

In the 39th district: Five men standing

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bob Zuckerman
The former head of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and Gowanus Canal Conservancy is the most liberal of the candidates, supporting a single-payer health care system, more arts funding, gay marriage, and a Park Slope Food Co-op-style requirement for parent involvement in the schools. And he once led the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, which gives him a small business perspective important to Brooklyn’s identity. Campaign Web site: www.zuckerman2009.com.
Q: Why are you the best?
A: I’ve got the best ideas on how to make the lives of the residents better and I’ve got the broadest experience in government, the private sector, and the non-profit world.
Q: OK. Government?
A: I was a senior legislative aide for a New Jersey state senator in the early 1990s. And I’ve run two Democratic clubs [the Stonewall Democratic Club in Manhattan and Independent Neighborhood Democrats in Brooklyn], so I know about electing progressives.
Q: Private sector?
A: I started a company in the late 1990s that produced the city’s first consumer Internet expo, called “E-Show” at Madison Square Garden.
Q: Your main non-profits were the Greenwich Village Chamber of Commerce and the Gowanus Canal group. What is your legacy there?
A: At GCCDC, the legacy was revitalizing the Court Street Merchants Association to be a vibrant group, and counseling literally hundreds of people to find affordable housing, to avoid evictions, to deal with landlords.
Q: And the Conservancy?
A: The rollout of the Sponge Park, and the Gowanus Goes Green expo, which The Brooklyn Paper sponsored in June, 2008.
Q: Thanks for the plug. But the knock on you is that you’re always coming up with wacky ideas, like your jitney service to reduce congestion.
A: True, but in my humble opinion, I am the only candidate in the race who is prioritizing bringing jobs back to Brooklyn. And I want to create property tax incentives for building owners to sell their storefronts as retail condos. That’s a new model so small businesses can stay in their space. Yes, some of my ideas are outside the box, but that’s good. I want to make the office more transparent by doing things like setting up on a street corner once a week.
Q: You had another idea about creating a school where parents work one shift a month, like at the Park Slope Food Co-op.
A: It would be a three-hour-a-month thing. It would be part of the mission statement of the school.
Q: OK, eight words or less?
A: Offering bold new ideas for Brooklyn.

Brad Lander
Best known for heading the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Center for Community Development, Lander is campaigning as the tireless activist who always has a five-point policy plan. Plus, he’s the only candidate with children in public school. Campaign Web site: www.bradlander.com.
Q: Why are you the best candidate?
A: I have the best record of results and the strongest vision for change on the issues that matter.
Q: Issues such as … ?
A: We all want stronger public schools, affordable communities, and to protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods. And we all want a sustainable city and support for small businesses. I have a real record of results on that. When I say we’re going to get there, people can say, “This is someone who has preserved affordable housing,” for example.
Q: What tangible thing did you do to help our quality of life?
A: I led the fight that ended the 421-a tax giveaway to developers. And we worked closely with a group called “Stable Brooklyn” to rezone their area.
Q: If you’re elected, what will be your legacy?
A: A set of responsible development and contractor standards. I want to look back and say, remember all those empty development sites? They’re now affordable housing and community gardens. And I want to see every school in the district get better. I want to see us make real progress in child care and universal pre-K, which should be universal, not just if you win the lottery.
Q: You recently got in trouble in the heavily Jewish portion of the district in Boro Park when the Yiddish newspaper, Der Blatt, ran an ad, purportedly from your campaign, that you don’t support gay marriage and homosexuality in general. Do you say different things to different audiences for political reasons?
A: I have talked about marriage equality in Boro Park more than anyone else. I was on Dov Hikind’s radio show on Saturday and spoke about my support for marriage equality. And my support for LBGT rights is well known. I’m very angry. Someone at Der Blatt three weeks ago published an ad for John Heyer that included hateful statements about the LGBT community. Then, the next week, they published almost the same ad and attached it to my name, with no authorization from my campaign. We’ve asked the Campaign Finance Board to investigate. I’m very angry. I’m real clear that these are hateful views that I do not hold.
Q: Describe your bottom line in eight words or less.
A: A record of results on issues that matter.

John Heyer
The most-conservative of the candidates, Heyer opposes abortion and gay marriage, and supports the central part of the Atlantic Yards project — a basketball arena at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues. He’s a fifth generation Brooklynite who has worked for Assemblywoman Joan Millman and Borough President Markowitz — and he got the lukewarm endorsement of The Brooklyn Paper last week. Campaign Web site: www.johnheyer.org.
Q: Why are you the best man for this job?
A: I know the district intimately. I grew up here and am raising my family here. I know the people’s concerns and I know how to listen. And I’ve been in government for 12 years. I want to be the guy who you can call and get results from.
Q: What are your issues?
A: We rolled out our “Back to Basics” Web site to address quality-of-life things in our daily lives. Things like traffic congestion that happens because the lights aren’t timed right. Or do we have too many meter maids who are hurting business rather than helping? Or garbage pails. Look at Prospect Park West on a Monday morning. We’re asking people to take a cellphone camera picture and send it to our Web site. Those kinds of things will be my priority the first year.
Q: You are fairly conservative, opposing abortion and gay marriage. What do you say to Democrats for whom this is a dealbreaker?
A: Everyone is entitled to personal beliefs. I hope people could respect my opinion. Also, I have no say in abortion as a councilmember. I am not going out to convict abortion doctors of murder, but I do want to foster life.
Q: OK, give us your bottom line in eight words or less.
A: Have a problem? Call me. I’ll fix it.

Gary Reilly
Community Board 6 member Reilly has been positioning himself as the race’s staunchest advocate for the F train, but he’s also been a loud opponent of Atlantic Yards and a supporter of fixing an antiquated sewage system that dumps feces into the Gowanus Canal when it rains. Campaign Web site: www.garyreilly.org.
Q: OK, why are you the best?
A: I bring a unique perspective on what development should be and a focus on livable streets and transit. My background is economics and law, which gives me the tools for the job.
Q: What are you pushing right now?
A: The big overarching thing is the economic situation, which will get worse before it gets better. The magnitude will require the Council to work with the state and federal government to get some real job stimulus done. Beyond that, we are at a point where there has been a slowdown in the cycle. We need to reassess the way we want to grow and how we target development and diversify the economy.
Q: But you oppose Atlantic Yards.
A: Any big project will create construction jobs, but the better bang for your buck is infrastructure. We have an outdated and overtaxed sewage infrastructure. It needs to be brought up to current standards. And the transit system is packed, and we can’t fit more cars on the road. Atlantic Yards is a great space for development, but I’m against spending public money on arena projects. You see it happen all the time: team owners getting subsidies and then five years later, they ask for more. Arenas create part-time, low-wage jobs. Those are the crumbs from the table.
Q: Critics say you don’t have the experience to stand out in this pack. How do you answer that?
A: I’ve been in the banking industry and I have a law degree. In any other universe, that would be a lot of experience. I’m not a lightweight on policy and the issues. You want a candidate who is a quick study, honest above all and intelligent. I am that person.
Q: Eight words or less.
A: Gary Reilly: passion for service, vision for Brooklyn.

Josh Skaller
A former leader of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, a reform club, Skaller is a computer systems expert by trade who remains active in local politics. He’s campaigning on a raft of progressive issues, including more government transparency, responsible development, gay marriage and the environment. Also, he was the first candidate in this race to pledge to accept no money from developers. Campaign Web site: skaller09.com.
Q: Why are you the best man for the job?
A: I’ve got a real track record of setting the agenda in this campaign. Atlantic Yards, the clean-up of the Gowanus Canal, campaign finance, slush fund issues — I have been constantly out front on those issues and defining what I think is right and what we should be doing in the community.
Q: OK, but that’s a speech. What experience do you have that makes you the best candidate?
A: I have extensive private-sector experience, where if you don’t do the job, you don’t get paid. That’s a nuts-and-bolts issues that city councilmembers need to understand. At my job, I’m evaluated on two questions: did I do the job and did I save the company money? I can say yes to both of those issues.
Q: If you become the councilman, what will you be known for four or eight years from now?
A: I took on developers and made sure the community had a real say in what is going on in the community. That includes buildings, schools, and all the things that make our neighbor great.
Q: Everyone says that.
A: My record shows that in every instance, I have chosen the values of the community over those who would profit from it. We did not take money from developers at all in this campaign, which is something that other candidates later did. And you can see it in my long-standing opposition to Atlantic Yards, which I undertook even when it was unpopular politically.
Q: One of your rivals has pointed out that you don’t send your child to public school. How can voters be assured that you’ll be as sensitive to public school issues as the rival who actually sends his kids to public schools?
A: When that controversy blew up, we kept trying to focus it on the issues that matter. My concern is about over-testing, overcrowding, and making sure there are arts in education. I have a real commitment to public school education. My wife is a public school teacher.
Q: Eight words?
A: Sticking up for the community.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, Democratic voters will go to the polls to pick their candidates for two rare open seats in the City Council — a primary vote that is tantamount to election in heavily Democratic Brooklyn.

There are five men running for the 39th District seat currently occupied by Bill DeBlasio, which sprawls from Boro Park through Windsor Terrace to Park Slope, Gowanus and Carroll Gardens — so as a service to our readers, we called them up and gave them all a chance to offer their last words, final spin and one last speech.

Updated 2:30 pm, September 14, 2009
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Reasonable discourse

dorothy from cobble hill says:
Did Josh really say that his "wife is a public school teacher"? My understanding is that his wife works for a private organization that contracts with public and private schools to provide services. In the course of that work, she may work with public school students. If she is a NYC Board of Ed teacher, as Josh claims, why doesn't he tell us at which school she works? If she is NOT a NYC Board of Ed teacher, why does he continually say that she is?

Is he a liar, or merely a misrepresenter?

Or did you misquote him?
Sept. 10, 2009, 11:57 am
Boruch from WFP says:
Dorothy, speaking of disclosures, how much money is Working Families covertly pumping into Brad Lander's campaign?
Sept. 10, 2009, 12:17 pm
dorothy from cobble hill says:
Nice try, Boruch! Redirection is often an effective strategy when you can't defend your candidate's repeated misrepresentation.

Please answer the question -- in which public school does Kelly Skaller teach?

But since you asked, WFP is not pumping any money covertly into Brad's campaign. The whole "scandal" about WFP secretly giving their endorsed candidates help has been generated by sour grapes candidates who failed to get the WFP endorsement.
Sept. 10, 2009, 12:30 pm
gaston from Brooklyn says:
Yeah, I have sour grapes when a party tries to dump money illegally into a campaign. Dorothy, your dismissive statement speaks poorly of WFP. It sounds like a robber caught red-handed who says that he's a victim.

Maybe the charges are overblown, but you're not helping yourself with your answer.

Boruch asks a fair question: How much money is WFP pumping into Brad's campaign?
Sept. 10, 2009, 1:46 pm
dorothy from cobble hill says:
Gaston -- Read what I said above - none.

Now you answer my question -- in what public school does (or did) Kelly Skaller teach?

Surely it's not a difficult question.

Your silence speaks volumes.
Sept. 10, 2009, 9:37 pm
Chris from Carroll Gardens says:
After reading the above interviews and the discourse in these comment fields, I'm convinced Green Party candidate David Pechefsky has the most integrity with a capable resume for the job.

He's had over 12 years experience in NYC gov't as Budget Analyst and Assistant Director with the City Council Finance Division and Assistant Commissioner at HPD.

He's certainly not likely to be controlled by Council and Democratic Party leadership. That's independent commitment to the community. He's not a "rhetorical" progressive so common in the Democratic Party. He's a committed progressive who is part of a party reliant on and working for the community's voice and power.

http://pechefskyforcitycouncil.com/main.htm
Sept. 11, 2009, 1:28 am
Bradford from WFP says:
It's getting hot in here Dorothy:

"Mike McGuire has remained officially silent about his quiet departure from his post as Working Families Party treasurer in mid-August. Nonetheless, while he has been referring press requests to his lawyer, he has been confiding to others that he left because of what those who have talked to him remember him calling “sloppy bookkeeping.”"
. . . .
"The Working Families Party installed Dorothy Siegel as the new treasurer shortly after McGuire left. Siegel is the chair of the Working Families Party South Brooklyn Club, and was a strong early supporter of Brad Lander, who scored an unusually early WFP endorsement in the race for Bill de Blasio’s Council seat simultaneously with de Blasio scoring the unusually early endorsement in his public advocate race."
. . . .
"The WFP plan was to have Siegel as interim treasurer until the whole executive committee appointed her permanent treasurer."
. . . .
"In the meantime, the WFP has missed two pre-primary filings with the WFP[sic]."

http://cityhallnews.com/news/132/ARTICLE/2132/2009-09-10.html
Sept. 11, 2009, 11:38 am
dorothy from cobble hill says:
I fail to see what's so "hot" about the City Hall News piece, beyond vague references to people "who have talked to" Mike who "remember him calling" the WFP's bookkeeping "sloppy." That's a really outrageous charge, Bradford. I'll bet the Dem Party's bookkeeping is in tip=top shape.

As for being a few days late for a filing -- again, please let me know if the Dem Party or the Independence Party or the Repub's always file their reports on time.

There isn't even a mole hill here out of which to make a mountain.

So . . . the question remains on the table -- in what public school does (or did) Kelly Skaller teach?
Sept. 11, 2009, 1 pm
teach from Carroll Gardens says:
now Brad, just how will those local schools get better with even more overcrowding after you grant new zoning allowances for more high-rise developments in our low-rise communities. Smaller class size is the way to improve our schools--especially the elementary grades. Brad supported the Toll Brothers rezoning to 12 story buildings with some affordable units--but no additional seats in the local schools. Is this the kind of "record of results" we will see if Brad becomes Councilman?
Sept. 11, 2009, 6:40 pm
D from Carroll Gardens says:
The Working Families party is a non-party.
They have never achieved ballot status by running their own candidate. They get a line on the ballot because they run a well known democrat and then win enough votes to be permitted a ballot line under NY State election law. (This is very different than, say the Green Party, who have only run their own candidates.) The WFP instead are just a group of people manipulating the outcomes of the Democratic Party.

Democrats associated with this party are undermining the processes of their own party.
Sept. 11, 2009, 6:50 pm
dorothy from cobble hill says:
So . . . the question remains on the table -- in what public school does (or did) Kelly Skaller teach?

Did The Brooklyn Paper misquote him, or did Josh lie, when he said, "My wife is a public school teacher."
Sept. 12, 2009, 12:02 pm
rich from cobble hill says:
dorothy -- being a petulant little child about mr. skaller's wife is not a campaign strategy. it's a distraction and an attack on the family and integrity of a candidate you don't happen to support. you don't get to declare yourself to be right by fiat. 'because i say so' isn't a good enough reason for being accurate in the adult world. you're going to have to have the facts on your side, or at least, some semblance of reality. and the reality is, no one cares or should care about josh skaller's wife, and many people do and should care about illegal campaign finance contributions funneled to brad lander, bill de blasio, and others by a meddling interloper of a working families party.
Sept. 13, 2009, 1:49 pm
dorothy from cobble hill says:
Au contraire, mon ami.

I think people DO care when a candidate lies, which appears to be the case here. Kelly Skaller works for a perfectly fine organization, doing good woork, but she is NOT a public school teacher (or so I'm told). Why does Josh feel he has to lie about his wife's job?

I am not "attacking" Josh's lovely family. I am challenging what the candidate is stating as fact in an effort to confuse voters about his credentials.
Sept. 13, 2009, 2:39 pm
sam from NYC says:
ALAN J GERSON launched an unprecedented number of initiatives including: a new youth swim team, an evening teenage center, a free community mediation facility, a heart defibrillator pilot program, new emergency shelters for homeless (runaway) teenagers, starting work on the Hudson River Waterfront Park, the first Arts Committee and Calendar, a new Public Safety Committee and a Community Court Proposal.
Please Vote for this strong & Experienced member for him in District-1 Council election on Septemer 15th
Sept. 13, 2009, 10:26 pm
ARVI from cobble hill says:
ALAN J GERSON is standing for DISTRICT 1
Sept. 13, 2009, 10:27 pm
dorothy from cobble hill says:
Response to Rich from Cobble Hill

You wrote that "no one cares or should care about josh skaller's wife, and many people do and should care about illegal campaign finance contributions funneled to brad lander, bill de blasio, and others by a meddling interloper of a working families party."

Sorry, Friend -- The Campaign Finance Board ruled on Sept 11 that it was DISMISSING the "complaint received on August 26 from Josh Skaller’s campaign for City Council in District 39 regarding various alleged unreported expenditures by candidate Brad Lander."

This means that Skaller's allegations were found to be BASELESS.

So, what was it you were saying about illegal finance contributions to the Lander campaign?
Sept. 13, 2009, 11:07 pm

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