In the 39th district: Five men standing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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