City Council candidate John Heyer thought he found an issue that he could ride to office on Monday — but then another candidate for the hotly contested 39th District seat then booked the same train.
Last week, Heyer announced that he would rally on Monday morning at the Carroll Street F- and G-train stop to demand that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority repudiate its plan to close dozens of manned token booths citywide.
And, sure enough, Heyer and his pregnant wife Marie were at the Manhattan-bound side of the President Street station at 7 am handing out letters of protest.
But Josh Skaller, Heyer’s rival for the seat currently occupied by Bill DeBlasio, also showed up to hand out his own campaign material.
There were no fireworks, however. Both candidates handed out their anti-closure literature, and the only battle was to grab the attention of rushed Manhattan-bound commuters, few of whom stopped.
Heyer who is facing three other Democratic rivals in the Sept. 15 primary for the seat, which covers the prime F train territory from Kensington to Cobble Hill, said he was pleased that Skaller added his fare to the fight.
“In the end, we get more signatures [from riders] on letters going to the MTA, so it’s fine,” he said.
For his part, Skaller said he showed up for the same reason that Heyer announced his rally: to protest the MTA plan to shut dozens of 24-hour token booths starting on Sept. 20 as part of a plan by the cash-strapped transit agency to save $52 million per year.
“MTA workers are integral to the safe and efficient operation of the system,” Skaller said, who called for independent, city-run oversight of the state agency.
Heyer said the larger issue is that the MTA is not trustworthy.
“Show us the books — show us that this $52 million simply cannot be found anywhere else in the budget,” he said. “How do we know that it can’t be saved by cutting 10 percent off the top salaries and positions, rather than where the service is provided?”
A spokeswoman for New York City Transit said only that the implementation of the service reductions at 200 stations will begin on schedule and will be phased in slowly.
A third candidate, Gary Reilly, didn’t show up at the station on Monday, but told The Brooklyn Paper that he shared Heyer and Skaller’s concern about the President Street stop. That said, he said that “the root of the problem is not at the MTA, but state government [which] systematically underfunded mass transit and forced the MTA to take on too much debt.”
And not to be outdone, the campaign of Brad Lander contacted The Brooklyn Paper after an online version of this story was first posted, claiming that Lander was actually out front on this issue by dint of an e-mail blast he sent to supporters on Saturday night, a day after Heyer sent out his media advisory.
In case the timing of all this activity is confusing, it should be noted that all five candidates for the seat met with Transit Workers Union officials last week in seeking the union’s endorsement. Both candidates said they offered support for the union’s effort to curtail the booth closings.
In other news in the district, front-runner Brad Lander picked up the endorsement of Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Sunset Park). The nod from the congresswoman came one week after rival Bob Zuckerman got his own Congressional imprimature, winning the endorsement of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D–Sheepshead Bay). Velazquez touted Lander’s work on affordable housing as the head of the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Center for Community Development. … Not a day goes by when we don’t receive an e-mail from John Heyer touting yet another endorsement by a key rabbi from the district’s vast, undiscovered Borough Park segment. This week, his campaign heralded endorsements from Rebbi Michel Steinmetz, Grand Rabbi Chai Yitschok Twersky (also known as the Rachmestrivkah Rebbe), and the Chernobelreh Rebbe.
Skaller, Heyer, Reilly, Lander and Zuckerman met for a debate last week, hosted by The Brooklyn Paper in collaboration with Brooklyn Independent Television, that can be viewed anytime at BoroPolitics.com and bricartsmedia.org/bitspecials.