Council race pits Steve vs. Stephen

The Brooklyn Paper
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Council hopeful Stephen Pierson isn’t politically connected like incumbent Councilman Steve Levin — and the newbie says that’s his greatest asset.

Pierson, a former pro poker player turned arts magazine publisher, is angling his campaign for the Democratic nomination in a district spanning Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights and part of Park Slope as an outsider’s bid against the political establishment.

The Brooklyn Heights resident and Community Board 2 member says Levin’s past gig as a chief of staff to embattled Assemblyman and former borough Democratic party boss Vito Lopez means the incumbent is beholden to the powers that be — not his constituents.

So Pierson has made it his strategy to put the heat on Levin for donating more than $1.6 million in discretionary funds to Lopez’s non-profit Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizen’s Council, according to the city’s Open Data website.

“With him, it’s all about graft and cronyism,” said Pierson, who launched his bid for the 33rd district on Friday.

Pierson declined to discuss his position on specific issues, such as the new plan for the Domino Sugar factory development, or the Brooklyn Public Library’s proposal to sell off two libraries and replace them with newer facilities, saying his personal opinions aren’t a part of his policy.

“The last thing I want to do is to be dictatorial about education and libraries closing,” said Pierson, who is founder and director of Canteen Arts, an organization that publishes a literary magazine and offers after-school tutoring to children. “The old-style, dictatorial councilman should be a relic of the 20th century.”

Pierson’s transition from poker to politics came after an attempt at being a novelist resulted in “a crappy book,” and a glut of gambling winnings that he used to start Canteen.

“I wanted to do something social redemptive,” he said.

Levin defended his record.

“Any money that’s gone outside the district is a small fraction and it’s all gone to very worthy things like affordable housing and senior services,” said Levin.

He also said he wishes Pierson luck and that he looks forward to a debate between Steve and Stephen.

“If he wants to have a campaign on the issues, I’m happy to engage with him,” said Levin.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 12:02 pm, April 23, 2013
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
How disappointing. I don't want to see Vito Lopez's machine continue to operate, but if you can't say something intelligent about the Domino redevelopment or the proposal to put libraries in new buildings, you seem like you haven't even thought about these issues.
April 23, 2013, 7:07 am
Ken from Greenpoint says:
Levin defended his record.....

Let's Keep N.Y. City Council A Molester-Free Zone
Say No To Vito.....
April 23, 2013, 11:05 am
Mary from Brooklyn says:
@Mike from W. I too hope we can end all connections to Vito Lopez. Speaking as a person, he disgusts me; speaking as a mother, he scares me. Levin is Vito's henchman. Fin.

As for Stephen P, I read through his website and listened to his speech. My interpretation--- his ideals are that the constituents will drive his decisions. Through town hall meetings, research, community interactions et. al. he'll work to formulate decisions that reflect what we want. I do like this idea. I do also think it is unconventional. We as voters are used to going through boxes and ticking off agenda items--- for XY, against YZ, et. al. As a strategy we will see how it works in politics. As for my opinion I like this refreshing way of approaching it.
April 23, 2013, 12:17 pm
Jack from Brooklyn Heights says:
Is this guy for real? From crappy novel to crappy campaign? He doesn't want to take positions on issues because he doesn't want to appear "dictatorial"? He's a candidate for a legislative seat, it's really the only thing the voters want from him.

I think the real question here is what is Chris Owens' consulting fee and how much of that will come from the taxpayers. Owens should be ashamed of himself for foisting such an unprepared candidate on us just so he can make some money.
April 23, 2013, 1:01 pm
Mary from Brooklyn says:
@Jack. It sounds like you want to vote for Vito Lopez. Well sports fans, breaking news courtesy of the brooklyn paper: Levin supporters want a dictator in office!
April 23, 2013, 1:25 pm
Jack from Brooklyn Heights says:
All this guilt by association is weak sauce. I want him to take positions on issues. Nothing complicated about that. Vito Lopez is an Assemblyman in Bushwick, not over here. Steve Levin can at least give his position, is doing that really dictatorial. Seems like Chris Owens is earning his consulting fee by trolling for his client?
April 23, 2013, 2:02 pm
Howard from Carroll Garden says:
1) Not one inch of Park Slope is in the district anymore; please correct.

2) You don't explain how to use the database. What search reveals this $1.6 Million?
April 23, 2013, 8:56 pm
Stephanie from greenpoint says:
Excuse me, but most people expect their politicians to take stands on issues. This guy clearly doesn't know much about the community and is trying to spin that as a positive. Lame.
April 23, 2013, 9:05 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I don't like the "listen to the constituents" approach to governance for city council because that really means "listen to the noisiest constituents." I tend to disagree strongly with the noisy constituents who show up at Community Board meetings at 6:30pm and can get bike lanes removed. And I actually don't want to have to be involved in every single issue that comes up. I think New Yorkers already have to do FAR too much oversight of elected officials.

I'm not sure I'd vote for this guy, but I live in the district where Vito Lopez himself might run, which makes my vote much easier to cast.
April 24, 2013, 6:22 am
Brooklyn Red from 4th Avenue says:
Please! Who really needs a hipster dilettante who clearly hasn’t studied local issues (a position on selling the Pacific Branch would be “dictatorial”???) I was as suspicious of Levin as any anti-Lopez voter when he first ran for office, but from what I’ve observed, he has been very good on the local issues I care about (against the sale of the Pacific Branch, strong on preservation issues, very active in post Sandy recovery work - I wonder if Pierson did anything, holding the SCA to promises related to the construction of the new PS 133, supportive of “green” projects, part of the progressive caucus in the City Council, pro labor). If Pierson wants to do something "socially redemptive" there are many volunteer organizations - including local ones - where he at least get his feet wet. The last thing in the world I want in local government is a dabbler.
April 24, 2013, 11:09 am
Oh, Mary! from You Just Kill Me! says:
"Mary," if you're going to start asking questions about someone else's fees, you really should reveal your own! You sound just like some 2nd rate political operative pretending to be a female resident on a local board!

Whatever you charge, it's too much for this shlocky shtick!
April 24, 2013, 2:53 pm
Keith from Brooklyn says:
corruption politicians and staffers should be locked up for good...........
April 25, 2013, 9:54 am
james says:
the question should be does Levin deserve to be fired. I think no he does not. He's proven himself to be more than capable, responsive to the community & the local issues. He's done a good job and he shouldn't be blamed for another man's poor behavior. Lopez alone is responsible for his own actions. Levin does not deserve to be fired & he'll have my vote.
April 26, 2013, 2:24 am
james says:
the question should be does Levin deserve to be fired. I think no he does not. He's proven himself to be more than capable, responsive to the community & the local issues. He's done a good job and he shouldn't be blamed for another man's poor behavior. Lopez alone is responsible for his own actions. Levin does not deserve to be fired & he'll have my vote.
April 26, 2013, 2:25 am
Ben from Brooklyn says:
as long Steve Levine is kissing Vito Lopez's ring he is the same corrupt person "father like son" we all say he should give in his resignation ......
April 26, 2013, 11:49 am
Luis A. Ramos from Bushwick says:
It Is Now May 3rd..Vito Had A Fundraiser, And He Is The Current Assemblymember. I Have Followed CM Levin On WNYC When He Was Present During Many Council Hearing's On Many Issue's. Ridgewood Bushwick Org Has Built Hundred's If Not Thousand's Of Affordable Housing. We The Voter's Need To Seperate Individual's Like Levin And Vito To Get The Best Outcome For Our Vote At The End Of The Day. I Attended A Toy Drive That Mr. Levin Was Also Present In...I Did Not See Many That Read This Online New's Source At This Event. I Vote In Vito's District But I Will Not Vote For Him. Yet I Support CM Levin For His Continued Work To Get The Fund's Where They Need To Go To. I Will Be Voting For Tommy Torres.
May 3, 2013, 5:52 pm

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