August 17, 2011 / Brooklyn news / Williamsburg / Checkin’ in with...

‘The mayor of Williamsburg’ resigns — and blames the mayor!

The Brooklyn Paper
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The mayor is moving out. Williamsburg activist Phil DePaolo — famously named “The Mayor of North Williamsburg” by this newspaper in 2009 — is moving his family to Nassau County this week after living in the neighborhood for three decades. DePaolo blames the Bloomberg administration, which he claims has ruined the school system and caused his children unnecessary angst. But there’s more to the departure of “the mayor” than some swipes at the mayor, so we sent Aaron Short to check in with DePaolo as he packed up his van.

Q: Why are you really moving?

A: It’s the schools. I’m tired of my kids being a prop for Bloomberg. One is going into sixth grade and another is going into third — their last year was trying. Bloomberg created a toxic atmosphere pitting new teachers against established teachers. Test prep is all they did — they didn’t have a rounded curriculum. And principals get merit pay based on test scores — all the pressures fall on the kids. I don’t want my kids being statistics. I want them to be students.

Q: When did you first move to Williamsburg and what was it like then?

A: In 1979, I got thrown out of the Lower East Side and moved to S. Fourth and Wythe. I was in two bands at the time — The Thugs and The Funky Knights, punk-funk bands. We used to pack places like Max’s and CBGBs. Williamsburg was very different from the Lower East Side. Italian, Polish, Hasidim, Puerto Rican and Dominicans were all living here and getting along. I thought that was very cool.

Q: Where did you hang out?

A: There weren’t many restaurants and those are gone now. There was Teddy’s, Mugs, The Greenpoint Tavern, Kasia’s and Turkey’s Nest, which hasn’t changed at all. When I first came out here we used to complain there weren’t enough bars. Now there’s a bar for every bar— be careful what you wish for.

Q: Was there a lot of crime then?

A: There was a lot of prostitution on the waterfront but there wasn’t much crime. I’ve been living here 32 years and I haven’t gotten mugged. There are a lot of car break-ins and thefts now, and this is supposed to be the crime-free good days.

Q: What are you going to miss the most?

A: I’ll miss the intimacy and usability of the neighborhood. Not everything [in Port Washington] is walkable. I’ll miss Fortunato Brothers’ cheesecake. But I’ll still come back every couple of weeks we still have a lot of friends here.

Q: What are you going to miss the least?

A: Noise, construction noise, and drunk people.

Q: Who’s going to be the new mayor?

A: Well, [Christine] Quinn is getting all the money from developers and the mayor…

Q: I meant of Williamsburg.

A: You are. I’m naming you the new mayor. Don’t make me come back and kick your ass.

Updated 5:25 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Bg from Greenpoint says:
he's moving to the suburbs for the same reason most people do - for the schools. i.e. He's moving DESPITE Bloomberg's attempts to sort out the school system, not becuase of it. NYC public schools are awful except for the top 10% or so, the middle ground is just terrible. "Activists" including DePaolo sabotage and hamper all attempts to fix the schools here.
Aug. 17, 2011, 7:56 am
Jeff from Williamburg says:
good luck to you
always a pleasure running into you on the streets on williamsburg
Aug. 17, 2011, 9:28 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
How hateful are you, "Bg from Greenpoint," that you attribute "activism" to the failures of our schools. Somehow, the role of absentee entities like Bloomberg et al is beholden to neighborhood activists. Do you even know what activists actually do? For that matter, do you even know how Bloomberg "attempts to sort out the school system"? Do you have any idea how activists from the neighborhood, the only individuals in the political process for building and developing schools with knowledge that is organic to the areas where the schools are being built and developed, are "hamper[ing] all attempts to fix the schools here" or are you just throwing up bromides and ignorance? Activists are the only persons who stand between us and the kafkaesque removed government entities, they come from the neighborhood, they articulate neighborhood needs and wants, they see from within specific frames what generalizing entities are blocked from seeing. Shame on you. You should be thankful, but instead you sound like someone with a personal agenda.
Aug. 17, 2011, 10:06 am
Former colleague from BK says:
Phil is and was a fake. He was after the headlines, not the hard work. He gave up long before this column before he left the People's Firehouse. Then he created this thing called the New York Community Council, but it was as much a fake as he was. He was the only member. There were no meetings. But he used it to get publicity, including from this paper.
Aug. 17, 2011, 4:15 pm
anywho says:
This is the USA, move where you want, just don't whine about.
Aug. 17, 2011, 7:44 pm
anywho says:
Aug. 17, 2011, 7:44 pm
Brooklynmatt from Carroll Gardens says:
Anyone who doubts the truth in these complaints about Bloomberg's destruction of the schools (regardless of your opinion of Phil DePaolo) has no direct experience with the schools. With children in the city schools over the last 13 years, (in all 5 different schools) I have watched the classes go from a realm of involved caring teachers to test factories, and the middle school and high school process go from complicated to insane, terrifying, and significantly more complicated than applying to college. Take Beacon, a school that was innovative for all the people which is now impossible to get into with a 3% Black accepted. This is the Mayor's ideal.
Aug. 17, 2011, 10:11 pm
Jim from Brooklyn says:
What a joke. Phil is running away with his tail between his legs. Stay and help make things better. Don't run away scared.
Aug. 18, 2011, 10:48 am
Spot from 11211 says:
Look at that cute ad for the Weimaraner. They can't spell it, but they can sell it! Weimerama. Jesus.
On another note, Phil has done a lot more than most for North Brooklyn. Good luck to him and his family.
Aug. 18, 2011, 12:25 pm
Anon from Brooklyn Heights says:
Phil is one of the greatest people known to man. A true Brooklynite. A true believer in the city. A true and fair activist who VOLUNTEERED to help families in Brooklyn, helped make this a wonderful place, now wrecked by Bloomberg. Many people will follow him elsewhere. Bloomberg has wrecked our civic process - for what? The wealthy. For-pay schools are but one issue that has kept working families down. Shame on Bloomberg. Hooray for Phil - long live Phil!
Aug. 20, 2011, 9:29 am
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
Under Bloomberg, a Sharp Rise in Accusations of Cheating by Educators:
Aug. 23, 2011, 8:42 am

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