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

In the 33th district: Seven candidates, seven pitches

The Brooklyn Paper
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There are seven people seeking the 33rd District currently occupied by David Yassky, a gerrymander of a district that includes the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfronts, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, Boerum Hill and parts of Cobble Hill and Park Slope — so we called them up and gave them all a chance to offer their last words, final spin and one last speech.

Isaac Abraham
The Hasidic “fixer” has a lengthy resume of community activism — in fact, he was just named “Mayor of South Williamsburg” — but it remains to be seen whether his politics will gain any favor outside of his neighborhood. Campaign Web site: www.friendsofisaacabraham.com.
Q: Why are you the best man for the job?
A: It has to do with experience, it has to do with qualifications, it has to do with accomplishments. I can be your messenger, I can be your loudspeaker. I have been doing that unelected for 36 years.
Q: What are some of the things you achieved over those 36 years?
A: Being a paramedic, dealing with families at a time of need, a time of stress and a time of pain. Delivering packages to poor people for the Sabbath. For affordable housing, there has not been a single person in this district that has been an advocate like I have. I have dealt with transportation issues when I forced the city to cover the Williamsburg Bridge with tarp when they were removing lead paint. I fought against the city’s largest incinerator in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Q: Your opponents question your ability to lead outside of the heavily Hasidic, though small, portion of the district. How do you respond?
A: People who have known me and the issues that I have addressed know that the location doesn’t matter. Affordable housing is something I have worked on — it doesn’t matter whether it is Kent Avenue, Sixth Street or Court Street. The street name changes, but it doesn’t change my energy and effort towards solving the problem.
Q: Describe yourself in seven words or less.
A: If it’s not right, I’ll fight.

Ken Baer
Baer has a history working for the environment — and was head of the New York Chapter of the Sierra Club for years. But beyond that, the resume of this accountant is thinner than others in the race. Campaign Web site: www.kenbaerforthecommunities.com.
Q: Why are you most qualified for the job?
A: Because of my background. I’m an accountant, I’ve been an environmentalist all of my adult life and I have lived in Brooklyn for 30 years. I have done significant outreach to the residents of the district and I have given them opportunities to discuss the issues with me. As a result, I’ve developed a rapport with the residents of each of the communities in the district.
Q: If you are elected, what’s issue number one?
A: Downzoning the waterfront in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
Q: Considering those waterfronts were upzoned in 2005 and skyscrapers have already been built there, why downzone now?
A: The whole idea is to make sure that no more high-rise buildings are constructed along the waterfront so that we can create more parks.
Q: Critcs say you don’t have enough political experience to be a good councilman. How do you respond to that?
A: I chaired the Sierra Club’s New York City groups’ political committee for over 10 years. I know a good number of councilmembers already, as well as other elected officials. I know how government operates. I can hit the ground running in terms of building on these relationships, and doing what needs to be done for the district – and that means getting that downzoning.
Q: In seven words or less, describe yourself as a candidate.
A: Passionate, intelligent, compassionate, farsighted, energetic, organic.

Doug Biviano
The Brooklyn Heights upstart has certainly made waves throughout the campaign with his straight forward speaking and his aggressive style, but it remains to be seen whether the firebrand’s assertive approach has netted him the support of voters. Campaign Web site: www.bivforbrooklyn.com.
Q: What makes you the best candidate?
A: I’m an engineer, I’m a public school parent. We don’t need four years of a machine candidate taking money from special interests. People know that I am going to stand up. I’ve done it already. I’ve called them out by name. We need somebody who is really going to stand up for the people and protect our vital services our schools, our infrastructure, our transit. I have the technical skills and the backbone. I will make sure the money will go to our community.
Q: If you get elected, what’s issue number one?
A: Preserving the services we need to live our lives and to save lives. That means fighting corruption and making sure our senior centers, our EMS, our schools, our transit, and our health care get funded. I don’t think we’re seeing leadership.
Q: Your opponents say you’ve run a mainly negative campaign. How do you respond?
A: They are just upset because I pointed out all of the money they’ve taken from developers and real-estate interests and [Brooklyn party boss] Vito Lopez. It’s a truthful campaign, it’s an honest campaign. They can spin it all they want — that’s what they do. We can’t afford four years of that.
Q: Describe yourself in seven words or less.
A: Effective, honest leader, family man.

Ken Diamondstone
Longtime gay rights activist Diamondstone has a lengthy record as a progressive who opposes Atlantic Yards, but it’s unclear whether or not the chair of the borough’s Solid Waste Advisory Board can catch the frontrunners. Campaign Web site: www.kendiamondstone.com.
Q: What makes you the best guy in the race?
A: I am the most experienced, and I have more accomplishments in more parts of the district, affecting more lives, than anyone else who is running. By disposition, I am best suited to serve constituents because of my work with young people, with heroin addicts, and with people with AIDS. I know government at every level, from the smallest to the most overarching issue at the district because of my work at the community board over the past 10 years. I am the most progressive, with a history from the civil rights movement, and I will take risks for my reform beliefs and commit to protecting our communities.
Q: If elected, what is issue number one?
A: Choosing a leader of our council. Today, the council is a rubber stamp for the mayor. Today there is a slush fund culture. We must change the rules, strengthen the council as a counterbalance to the mayor. If we can’t do that on the first day by choosing the right leader and making our communities stronger and more effective, then we will have lost a major opportunity to rewrite the book for the next four years.
Q: Insiders say it’s a three-person race — and you’re not in the top three. What are your chances, honestly?
A: I am very hopeful, I think we are far ahead of where others think we are. I have a base of support, name recognition throughout the district, and a record of speaking out for our communities while others wait to see which way the wind blows.
Q: Describe yourself in seven words or less.
A: Progressive, reformer, environmentalist, servant to our communities.

Steve Levin
As a community organizer and a former chief of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Bushwick), Levin has a solid resume and a lengthy list of endorsements — but opponents say his ties to the powerful Democratic Party Boss make him a machine candidate. Campaign Web site: www.levin2009.com.
Q: What makes you the best man for the job?
A: First off, it’s been a tremendous privilege for me over the past months to meet with so many wonderful residents and talk with so many remarkable people about the issues that they care about most.
Q: Fair enough, but why should people vote for you?
A: I have the experience, and the know-how to get results on issues like housing, education, and the environment.
Q: If you are elected, what’s your first priority?
A: I want to start working on developing a program to build housing for our seniors. I want to start working on developing programs to make sure that we have affordable day care in our city, and I want to start working on how we address our transportation issues.
Q: Such as?
A: Congestion, truck traffic, and increasing the capacity of our public transit system.
Q: Opponents say that your ties to Lopez make you a machine candidate. Are you your own man?
A: From day one, I will be an independent voice on the Council. I understand that the responsibility of an elected official is great, and the number one obligation is to the people that they represent.
Q: Describe yourself to Brooklyn Paper readers in seven words or less.
A: I am here to work for you.

Jo Anne Simon
This civil rights attorney’s lengthy resume of activism and experience in Brooklyn’s Democratic clubs has earned her backing in the Brownstone section of the district, but opponents say she has flipflopped on major issues. Campaign Web site: www.joanneforcouncil.com.
Q: What makes you the best candidate in the race?
A: I have the most experience in community organizing at the grassroots level. I know this district better than anyone else. I know other candidates haven’t had the luxury of working in the community as long as I have. I have a history of getting results, like the traffic-calming project in Boerum Hill. I can create change — fundamental change.
Q: If elected, what is issue number one?
A: Obviously, the most burning issue is development, and I want to get started on that right away. The other is education.
Q: Other candidates claim you’ve flip-flopped on major issues like Atlantic Yards and Superfund designation for the Gowanus Canal. How do you respond?
A: It’s baloney. When people have a campaign that is about negativity and politics as usual. This is the politics or personal destruction. I have never waffled on anything. I have studied things carefully before I reached an opinion. I think that is something you want. There are times when there are legitimate concerns on both sides of an argument, I educated myself, and came to an opinion.
Q: Describe yourself in seven words or less:
A: Leadership, in-depth knowledge, sense of humor, good with people.
Q: For the record, that is more than seven words.

Evan Thies
The former chief of staff to David Yassky made a name for himself as a North Brooklyn activist. It’s uncertain whether the former Community Board 1 member can gain traction in the southern portion of the district — but he did earn The Brooklyn Paper’s endorsement last week. Campaign Web site: www.evanthies.com.
Q: Why should voters pick you?
A: The next two years are going to be difficult. The city’s tax revenue is going to continue to shrink, and our neighborhoods are going to need a representative who has worked in local government, who understands how the system works and what our neighborhoods need. I am uniquely qualified because of my long record in local government and delivering results.
Q: What’s your top priority?
A: I am going to submit and pass a law to create 360-degree planning so that we always know exactly how much infrastructure we need when we are rezoning or developing large parts of our neighborhoods. We need to ensure that community plays a much larger role in the land use process.
Q: Opponents have alleged that you are part of the Democratic machine because of your experience working for Yassky. Would Councilman Evan Thies merely be Yassky 2.0?
A: I’m proud of the work I did with David. We delivered a lot of results that will benefit the community for years to come. But I am a candidate with his own ideas about how the city could be governed. And sometimes, I’ve differed with David on local issues in the past, and I’ve never been shy about it.
Q: What were some of those issues?
A: We disagree that affordable housing in major projects should be voluntary and up to the developer. I think that in large projects, affordable housing should mandatory. We also disagreed about housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I don’t want there to be any housing in the park, it’s land we’ll never get back.
Q: Describe yourself in seven words of fewer.
A: Hmm. Can I get back to you on that one? the campaign is going to have a lot of fun with this.

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Reader Feedback

Bob from Greenpoint says:
We all see that Isaac Abraham is always on top-runner, the people and the press like him mush, his ideas and his knowledge and having real solutions to salve problems, dealing with elected officials for the last 35 years that’s a lot of experience, he is and always be for the people never asks questions like race or color, he is a person with a good hart ready to go an extra mile for anyone, so lets support him we all need him in office to be our next councilman at 33rd district.
Sept. 10, 2009, 12:24 pm
hatzula from williamsburg says:
big mouth of Isaac Abraham

Q: Why are you the best man for the job?

A: Being a paramedic

he dont have any
Permits, Licenses or Certification to be a paramedic
he was a a local ems
Sept. 13, 2009, 10:57 am
Ken from Greenpoint says:
Hatzula…Its very important to do real home work before posting any comments, a typical zaly..
Sept. 13, 2009, 5:22 pm

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