Monday, August 31, 2009

Weekend roundup: Chuck Schumer and Jay-Z see Grizzly Bear

Love blossoms in the East River... right next to the TransGas brownfield.

While we wait to see whether there will be an actual debate in the 34th tonight (I wouldn't wager on it), let's take a look at what's went on this weekend...

Saturday: I missed the Michael Jackson Day concert in Prospect Park (photos below courtesy of Marty Markowitz, heyyyyyyyy!)...
...and instead hung out with Jumaane Williams in Fort Greene. Williams, center below, is in a difficult City Council race in the 45th District facing incumbent Kendall Stewart. CNG hosted a debate a few weeks ago, and the other Williamses in the race have been bumped off (you can't have that many Williamses in a primary because people will get confused.

This race may well represent the best chance a challenger has of knocking off an incumbent now that Miguel Martinez resigned. Stewart has had two big problems this month: tenants with rats
and a list of phony endorsements. The power of the incumbency is strong, but the Working Families Party is putting its muscle behind Williams and Brad Lander, and Williams is understandably excited. We'll be tracking from a distance.

Sunday: I typed Chuck Schumer, Jay-Z and Grizzly Bear into a Google search and sure enough found lots and lots of articles. Typical Sunday in Williamsburg. Senator Chuck looked happy (I missed Jay-Z but I assume he arrived on the banks of the East River via yacht).
"The Senator loves Grizzly Bear," said a perky staffer as Schumer shook hands in a line of people not nearly as long as the line for pulled pork sandwiches provided by Fette Sau
"He knows it's a band and not actual grizzly bears," I said.
"Yes, he does."
"You should have him shake the hands of the thousands of people in line."
"We've got to keep him moving. He's supposed to speak at 6."
And what a line! It looked like Berlin from where I was standing. Even Greenpoint Gazette publisher Jeff Mann couldn't get sneak in. Rami "Corrugated" Metal and I went over to gently taunt him before the State Troopers told everyone to step away from the fence. Speaking of Rami, I think State Troopers need to put an APB out for Rami's beard.

Grizzly Bear played on, the crowd swelled with the melody, and when the sun slipped below the skyline leaving a seductive glow, it was damn near beautiful. Until next year.

Bad Video Part II (not a new David Yassky video)

A couple have been asking for this, so allright let's do part II. Who's bad.

NYTimes Greenpoint Feature

The NYTimes' Kareem Fahim surfaces after writing that Broadway Triangle article to contribute a look into Greenpoint businesses and how the recession is affecting them.

August 31, 2009, 9:32 am — Updated: 2:09 pm -->
Condo and Park Projects Feel the Pinch in Greenpoint
Kareem Fahim
Greenpoint, a neighborhood lined with the bones of industry and infused with a rich Polish heritage, has avoided much of the tumult that churns neighboring Williamsburg. Greenpoint’s main commercial drag, Manhattan Avenue, is still a village high street, lined with Polish bookstores, cafes and meat markets. Even nearby Franklin Street, a trendy stripe of restaurants and bars, manages to feel sleepy. For now at least, Greenpoint’s stunning views of Manhattan are still mostly clear, unobstructed by the kinds of high-rise developments that are starting to sprout — and wither — in Williamsburg.
A 2005 rezoning that was supposed to transform both neighborhoods has foundered in the recession, leaving its promise of affordable housing unfulfilled and parts of Greenpoint in a curious stasis. Condominium projects have stalled and some developers have resigned themselves to renting.
Neighborhood Snapshot
Furman Center Data »
“There’s an impact on the neighborhood,” said City Councilman
David Yassky, who represents the area and said there are currently ten stalled development projects in the neighborhood. “An empty site is an eyesore. It leaves an unsettled feeling.”
Beyond the woes of developers, the city’s financial belt-tightening is also being felt. “The macroeconomy of the city is affecting the development of open space in Greenpoint,” said Ward Dennis, the chairman of the local community board’s land use committee, referring to slow-moving or postponed parks projects in the neighborhood.
And in another worry with echoes across the city, local merchants say there are more empty storefronts on Manhattan Avenue. At Zayas Appliance, a store the owners say might be the oldest in Greenpoint, they are starting to feel the pinch. Gina Zayas, 29, who took over the store from her father eight years ago, talked about her experience.
Q. In what ways are you feeling the recession?
A. It started last August. A lot of regulars, we just haven’t seen. The appliances are usually the biggest sellers, but people are cutting back. This other stuff [teapots, vacuum cleaners, kitchen gadgets] helps.
Q. You’re part of a local merchant’s association. Are you hearing the same thing from other members?
A. Everybody’s moaning. Being a business owner is hard enough, but our margins are getting smaller and smaller. We’re trying to make the neighborhood a more pleasant place to shop, and we’re trying to encourage people to shop local.
Q. Did you sell any air-conditioners this summer?
A.No. It rained for two months. And a lot of the renters, these young hipsters, are very energy conscious.

De Times endorses De Blasio

You may have missed this amid the hubbub and hullabaloo of the Kennedy funeral this weekend, but Public Advocate candidate Bill De Blasio keeps rolling. Having jumped over the ballot petition hurdle, De Blasio picked up the Times' endorsement on Sunday, saying he has "the best tempermanent and best record" of the four candidates. He's done well in a crowded field and is gaining on Mark Green in the polls. I still think this race is going runoff, unlike the Comptroller race, but we'll see.
Here's the key paragraph:
Because he has shown that he can work well with Mayor Bloomberg when it makes sense to do so while vehemently and eloquently opposing him when justified, City Councilman Bill de Blasio best fits today’s requirements for the job.
Mr. de Blasio has an impressive political résumé, starting with his time working for David Dinkins and later running Hillary Rodham Clinton’s United States Senate campaign. A City Council member from Brooklyn since 2001 and chairman of the Council’s General Welfare Committee, he has focused on helping many less-fortunate New Yorkers with food stamps, housing and children’s health. He has labored successfully for better schools and an improved quality of life for New Yorkers.

Another potential hurdle for De Blasio is coming on Tuesday, when the Housing Works forum looms, as many AIDS advocates do not like that De Blasio has not come out strongly for HASA (housing for all) legislation.

Debate? Tonight (maybe)... in Williamsburg

Ok, I've been told there WILL be a debate tonight in Williambsurg (161 South 3rd and Driggs) at Primera Iglesia Prespiteriana. El Diario, Greenpoint Gazette, Churches United for Fair Housing, and others will be attending, so expect a decent crowd. Carmine from El Diaro has been hustling around Williamsburg and Bushwick all day to ask what's on YOUR mind in the 34th District, for this first public debate. The question is, will all the candidates show up? Diana Reyna's camp says she's coming. Gerry Esposito and Maritza Davila were leaning against coming but will they lean the other way?

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Short List: Michael Jackson Day edition

Who's bad... Michael Jackson's doctor for one.

It's been an elegiac week, with the death of liberal lion Ted Kennedy, crime writer Dominick Dunne, more revelations about the Michael Jackson homicide, and the chillingly prescient must-read story about New Orleans doctors on the 4th anniversary of Hurrican Katrina. In Brooklyn, however, we're in a celebratory mood, with Donna Summer leading a "Last Dance" at Coney Island, Charlie Parker Jazz Festival (ok, it's Thompkins Square Park in the East Village), the last Pool Party of the season featuring Grizzly Bear, and Michael Jackson Day in Prospect Park hosted by Spike Lee and The Reverend Al Sharpton. Did we mention that Letitia James wants to rename Hoyt Schermerhorn station after Michael Jackson but the MTA says no? The MTA. They don't care about us.

Donna Summer isn't the only one Working Hard for the Money, as many Council candidates have added the max amount in public matching funds to their coffers and now spending freely on campaign literature, flyers, Internet video spots, mailers, fancy campaign consultants and Adderral. Some candidates have been on a short fuse recently but they were all cozy in the same room on 110 Kent Avenue for Town Square's Summer Starz campaign forum, yesterday night, talking to small pockets of people. Thank God there was food. Nice job Susan Anderson.

I bet Jo Anne is thinking "He's young enough to be my son" and Steve is thinking "She'd probably get along well with my mother."

Over at the Greenpoint Gazette, check out a hot profile about The Vivian Girls and Brooklyn Brine plus Juliet Linderman's piece on the Doug Biviano Health Care panel. At the Brooklyn Paper, Ben Muessig has some more Marty news, Mike McLaughlin says the Dream is dead, and they've got the Mayor Bloomberg video, but skip that and read about all the local mayors in Brooklyn instead. And there's bits of music news too, such as Whitney's Biennial, the Knitting Factory reopening on Metropolitan Avenue, a jazz review, and a pop preview at the Times, and BushwickBK's weekly picks too, led by the Bushwick Film Festival and a new show Saturday at English Kills.

But perhaps most importantly, a friend and fellow BushwickBK contributor Diego Cupolo recounts a horrific episode where a man tried to steal his bicycle and it resulted in an assault. Still shaking my head at that one. Let's hope this isn't the Last Dance.

Mr. Mayor comes to Metrotech

The mayor slowly realizing that participating in this forum may have been a bad idea.

This week, Metrotech has been welcoming scores of candidates for City Council and the Mayor's race. We've already done the 33rd and 39th debates, as well as Comptroller and Public Advocate, so that leaves... pretty much everyone else. Every competitive race in Brooklyn has been showing up including the Fiesty 40th, the Fierce 41st and the Fightin' 35th. Only the 34th District (Diana, Gerry and Maritza) has been postponed and has likely been canceled. Those candidates were doing one-on-one interviews with El Diario this week (I ran into Martiza and one of the Reyna Boys downtown) as well as Brooklyn 12, airing Monday, and possibly two forums next week. Plus there's a Village Voice piece coming out soon on the 34th, so people are paying attention.

But enough chit chat. Let's get back to the mayor's race. It's always fun when the mayor shows up to your office because you get to meet the security team. This means lots of tan, beefy ex-cops with crew cuts and wireless earpieces patrolling the perimiter and I become briefly skittish about getting up to get a cup of coffee or use the bathroom. One guy looked like Dennis Farina. We showed him a picture. He agreed. As Dennis Farnia says, "Do whatever you're directed to do, and leave the rest of that technical stuff up to the director." Also, "Chili Palmer! It's chilly outside and it's Chili inside. It's a regular $#%@in' chili-fest!"

With a throng of reporters from four different boroughs (sorry, Staten Island) The Mayor touched on a number of topics from Coney Island to Willets Point to the CBA to Atlantic Yards and whether Brooklyn South is a precinct (It isn't. It's lots of precincts). Earlier in the day, Democratic mayoral candidate Tony Avella (D-Bayside) arrived all by himself with no handlerss (I think he took the bus) to wax on community-based planning in Brooklyn and The Bronx. The Queens reporters were well familiar with Avella, having done a profile with him earlier in the week. I was hoping Steve Witt and Tony would schedule a play date later, but sadly, that was not to be. Tony didn't even buy Steve's book.

"Tony, it's called American Moses, and it's available on for only $14.95"

Three council races dropped by the office to for a little tender Q and A, including the 40th, 41st and 45th. Which means I got to meet Room 8's Rock Hackshaw. Can you smell what the Rock is cooking? Looks like a fresh pound of beef with Rickie Tulloch. Both men have been immediately inducted into the "Jack Hammer Brooklyn Great Names" Hall of Fame, joining Gersh Kuntzman, Vinny Abate, Jumaane Williams, Ward Dennis and Del Teague. First ballot. Lincoln Restler is Second Ballot all by himself.

I sat in and photographed Tulloch, Hackshaw, and Incumbent Councilmember Matthiew Eugene, (Flatbush, East Flatbush) for their 40th District Council debate, which Helen Klein moderated. Midway through, I thought Eugene was about to punch Tulloch after his comments about not bringing in enough discretionary funding to the district and letting in too many homeless shelters, thus making him "a weak leader". Eugene didn't like that.
“This is misinformation,” Eugene replied. “You say I’m weak. I’m a strong leader. I’m not afraid to stand tall for the people, even when it is difficult for me.”
Hackshaw jumped in and beat up Tulloch for "spreading lies" about him moving back into the district in order to run for city council.
“In a democracy, you can challenge the incumbent,” Hackshaw said. “We don’t go around spreading lies and cutting people down.”

40th District: Feel the love.
I photographed the 41st District too (Bedford Stuyvesant/ Ocean Hill-Brownsville), moderated by Steve Witt, which featured Tracy Boyland (of the Boylands), Anthony Hillard, Tulani Kinard and Incumbent Councilmember Darlene Mealy. Steve's article is online and the tape should be available Monday, which would give me the opportunity to check exactly what it was that Darlene Mealy said in her answer about reducing HIV/AIDS rates in her district. All I remember hearing was "clown sex", and Mealy mentioning that she was against that, while Boyland and Hillard blanked. Maybe we better just leave it off here.

Finally, Letitia James, Delia-Hunley Adossa, and Medhanie Estiphanos (35th District, Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill) dropped by late afternoon to settle some scores. First off, Hunley-Adossa her unreachability, saying that the reason why she didn't return reporters' phone calls was because they were calling her cell and her home number, and she won't return calls on private lines until after the election. But enough about that. From the reports, it sounds like Tish mopped the floor with the others (Note: Actually, it was a little more even than that, though Tish did well and Delia didn't say too much. There will be a few more forums though before the primary).
It's all fun. Afterwards, we tried to see how many candidates we could stuff into an elevator. The answer? Three candidates. Plus Gersh.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sparks fly at Brooklyn 12

I wasn't at this one but apparently after the Brooklyn 12 debate yesterday afternoon, Jo Anne confronted Ken Diamondstone and Doug Biviano regarding her record on Atlantic Yards and the Gowanus Canal. Then Doug brought up the real estate fundraising story that has been circulating around the internets this week, and a Simon aide lost her cool. Doug says Jo Anne lost her temper too but a candidate's aide in a different council race said the exchange was not as heated and Simon merely stated her objections to Biviano's attacks. I saw a similar exchange Jo Anne had with Diamondstone at the BCAT debate, and that was merely a cold shoulder. Either way, Jo Anne has had a tough week, and it's a rocky road from here on out.
Here's Doug's comment on the debate:
“It was hard to see Jo Anne in that light,” said Biviano. “This has been a deflating week for her campaign. The people in our community are finally getting a fuller portrait of Jo Anne’s record now and it doesn’t gel with the image she’s spun for herself as a candidate. It’s unfortunate, but ultimately Jo Anne can get as mad at me as she wants, because I’m not going to back down from standing up and exposing the whole truth about her and the two other machine candidates in this race. The people have a right to know about who they’re voting for, especially since we’ve had so many disgraceful scandals in City Hall and Albany over the last couple of years.”

Here's Jo Anne's campaign manager:
Mr Biviano is simply trying to distract the voters from his lack of record. The men and women in this district deserve a thoughtful discussion on how the next council person will seek to solve the challenges they face in their communities and Jo Anne Simon will not be distracted from doing just that.
Feel the love

Marty Broadway

Marty Markowitz is endorsing the Broadway Triangle rezoning action (and Steve Levin). Now the plan is with the City Planning Commission, below, which will be taking its sweet time making a decision.

Last week the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition had a private meeting with Marty and he expressed concern over political outrage on his position over the plan, but he didn't want to endanger support from Kings County Democratic Party Chair Vito Lopez. Apparently Marty felt excluded from the process and considered his support a formality. Tracking.
Updated: Letter has been released. Here's the interesting stuff:
The borough president supports proposals that provide an increase to the supply of housing for Brooklyn residents, especially when the result yields more affordable housing. He is concerned that too many of the borough’s residents leave because they can no longer afford to live in Brooklyn. In light of this, the borough president believes that it is appropriate to require new developments to include permanent affordable housing units. For city-owned lots, it is generally the policy of the borough president to seek at least 50 percent of the generated units to be affordable.
The borough president was not a participant in the initial charette that was the basis for the development of these applications. The borough president’s office has the capacity to assist in the development of such comprehensive planning initiatives. The borough president had the opportunity to comment on the scope of work and his staff received a briefing from HPD. He would have welcomed the opportunity to contribute more to the plan before him. The borough president believes that an involved role by his office during all stages of the development of this proposal is to the benefit of all concerned. The borough president acknowledges the devotion of the involved city agencies towards developing the best plan possible, working within the realities that affect development. With all that said, the borough president seeks to address how the plan can be improved for the benefit of area stakeholders.
The borough president desires to see that there are improvements to the plan in areas including: affordable housing; disposition of city-owned property; business displacement; and, the amount of open space. He believes that the City Planning Commission (CPC), City Council and the Administration can significantly improve this plan by acting to address and incorporate the following concerns and recommendations

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nicole Marwell Redux

Twelve years ago, Sociologist Nicole Marwell came to Brooklyn in search of an idea for her University of Chicago PhD thesis on how urban community-based organizations make decisions within the economic and political frameworks to improve the lives of individuals mired in poverty.
What she found while doing her research in Bushwick, as she said in a talk at the Bushwick Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, was a modernized version of a Democratic political machine, making use of a non-profit organizational model to sustain and expand political power.
That’s probably the most controversial aspect of Marwell’s surprisingly engrossing book,
Bargaining for Brooklyn, which analyzes the organizational relationships of eight community-based organizations (CBOs) in Williamsburg and Bushwick with the larger political and economic institutions outside these neighborhoods.
Many social scientists and journalists have written notably about poverty, from Tom Sugure’s Bancroft Prize-winning study of race and economic inequality in Detroit (
The Origins of the Urban Crisis) to Barbara Ehrenreich’s catalogues of the struggles of minimum wage workers (Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch) in Middle America.
Marwell is not as well-known, but she has a devoted local following (more than she may realize). When I first started reporting news in Bushwick two years ago, several of my sources suggested I check her book out at the library or read her scholarly articles.
New Kings Democrats members have even been swapping dog-eared copies of the book or faded photocopies of the infamous “Chapter 3,” which focuses on the political activities of St. Barbara’s Catholic Church and the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC).
With the increased interest in the neighborhood surrounding two
competitive city council races, the rezoning and future development of the Broadway Triangle, and member items and campaign finance reform, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to invite Marwell back to Bushwick for a talk about non-profits and political engagement.
Over a decade ago, Marwell did field work (or in her words, “hanging around”) in two Catholic Churches (Transfiguration and St. Barbara’s), Beacon School programs (Williamsburg Beacon and Bushwick Beacon), day-care centers (Nuestros Niños and New Life), and community development organizations (Los Sures and RBSCC).
For our discussion at the library, we focused more on the community development organizations Ridgewood Bushwick and Los Sures and how they engage with the political system to help their members.
In her introduction, Marwell explained how CBOs became a place for African-Americans and Latinos to join together and organize, and how some elected officials realized they could reprise machine politics through these organizations.
“What was surprising or unexpected in my research was the way some organizations make a choice to build a community organization and the way some make a choice to do organizing,” said Marwell.
For non-profits, this difference in philosophy means everything and it is what separates organizing groups like
Make the Road New York and El Puente from organizations like Ridgewood Bushwick and St. Nicholas NPC (and Los Sures to some extent).
“An organizer is not a service provider and when you become a service provider it’s hard to stay an organizer,” said Marwell, in one of her more memorable lines.
With the high number of candidates, campaign staff, and volunteers in the audience, taking a few hours off from a busy campaign season to engage in a political-themed discussion, I did not expect a shy crowd. When I opened the floor, there were several government reform-related questions from members of the crowd, including
Doug Biviano, a candidate for City Council in the 33rd District, Morgan Pehme, a campaign advisor to Gerry Esposito (a City Council candidate in the 34th District who was also present), Rob Solano, head of Churches United for Fair Housing, Community Board 1 member and onetime Council candidate Esteban Duran, on a range of topics from banning City Council earmarks and member items to the Broadway Triangle.
Midway through the discussion, Congressmember Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn) and
Councilmember Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick, Williamsburg) also dropped by the book talk, taking a break from visiting a nearby Montrose Avenue block party, to pick up a copy of the book and say a few words, but the focus was clearly on Marwell’s research and conclusions. Marwell was hesitant to weigh in on public policy, saying that her purpose as a sociologist was analyzing or elucidating a problem, not making policy suggestions, though she did emphasize that banning member items would likely eliminate smaller non-profits that were entirely dependent on funding from government sources, which would reduce competition among service providers in low-income communities.
Lincoln Restler, one of the New Kings Democrats members who helped organize the event, had a specific interest in bringing Marwell to Bushwick.
“The chapter on Ridgewood Bushwick was particularly insightful and in my opinion demonstrates clearly the way in which (Kings County Democratic Chair)
Vito Lopez has transformed a senior services organization into a contemporary political machine where jobs and services are exchanged for votes and general political support,” said Restler. “Assemblymember Lopez is trying to take control of multiple council seats in this election cycle and we thought it was a particularly important juncture to shed light on his organization and activities.”
My purpose was a little different. I thought it would be an interesting and timely topic and I wanted to hear reactions from someone who has studied the communities in so much depth about how things have changed. We did not get to discuss the effect of the housing market on CBOs, as more wealth and newer residents have been moving into Bushwick over the past five years. We also missed an opportunity to discuss how the Catholic parishes in Bushwick and Williamsburg have changed substantially in that time, perhaps the most underreported political story in the neighborhood this year, and what effect this will have on the Council elections.
As for the future, Marwell is working on an analysis of the distribution of government contracts and funding to non-profits over the past ten years. According to Marwell, it has been difficult to obtain that information, as there is no centralized place to retrieve it. She hopes to pick out inequities by neighborhood and by organizations.
After the talk, a staff member for Maritza Dávila, a Ridgewood Bushwick organizer who is backed by Assemblymember Lopez for City Council in Bushwick said that he had read the book and enjoyed the talk.
“She was fair,” said the staffer. “The audience was political but she wasn’t.”

Who is Real Reform Brooklyn: A Poll

It's not exactly fever pitch, but Real Reform Brooklyn's recent posts have sparked a press release from 33rd District City Council candidate Doug Biviano accusing Evan Thies of anonymous blog authorship. Here's the Biviano quote:

“Not only has Evan violated his stated pledge to run a positive campaign, he doesn’t have the backbone to stand up in the light of day and criticize his opponents openly and honestly,” said Biviano. “There’s nothing wrong with questioning your opponents’ records in a campaign – that’s what a campaign is about. But at least have the guts to take responsibility for your arguments.”

The Thies camp says its not them. The Biviano camp says it's not them either. Jo Anne Simon's camp is exasperated at the posts, and Steve Levin just keeps knocking on doors. Even Maureen Dowd is writing about cyberbullying this week.

We need to settle this. Here's a poll of potential Williamsburg/ Greenpoint/ Brooklyn Heights characters who might be Real Reform Brooklyn. Vote on your favorites in the comments section in no particular order:

1. Superstar music promoter Todd P

2. Former Greenline reporter Moses Gates

3. Marlow and Daughters' butcher Tom Mylan

4. Evan Thies Helper Elf Nick Rizzo

5. True Change NYC's Evan Burr (who I think is related to former VP Aaron Burr)

6. Councilmember David Yassky (Dude spends a lot of time on his blackberry)

7. Mark Borino (I swear I've met this guy, but I can't say for sure)

8. Teresa Toro (just kidding)

9. "Prop" Phil DePaolo

10. Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement (this is my vote).

He'll take a Yassky

Ridiculous. Say what you want about David Yassky (and people have... on this blog), but this is a good ad.

Ted Kennedy passes

The goal of every legislator in America, above.

Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, one of Senator Edward M. Kennedy's closest friends released a statement on his passing this morning. Let's go to the link.

Also, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has a statement this morning on the death of his colleague.

And finally, the Boston Globe's obituary.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Real Reform Brooklyn Speaks Again

Real Reform Brooklyn knows all your secrets
Mystery blog Real Reform Brooklyn keeps dishing out material about the overexposed 33rd District race, this time recycling some old news about Steve Levin's relationship with Vito Lopez (yes he used to work for him and yes his headquarters is in the Knights of Columbus. This does not count as a revelation.) cutting through the fat of a Biviano press release, which BHB kind of did already in fewer words, and pushing the IND Heyer endorsement story to the point where it caused a minor revolt on the Community Board 1 yahoo group (this is still playing out).
Real Reform Brooklyn's tone kind of reminds me of the Simpson's episode, "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken" where the children, in an attempt to break curfew, take over the airwaves and reveal all their parents secrets on the radio. Remember that one? Creeped you out a little bit, didn't it. Guys, right now, you're breaking curfew.

Steve Levin... heyyyyyyyyy

Steve Levin, center, with his Rabbis
So Steve Levin picked up Borough President Marty Markowitz's endorsement this afternoon. It's a nice addition to the Chuck Schumer endorsement from two weeks ago, but I was struck by the reasons why Marty chose to endorse Steve. He kept talking about how Steve is committed to getting results while his opponents in the 33rd District race seem "overwhelmed with the process", but was vague about what this meant, beyond citing Levin's work running Assemblymember Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick) office and answering constituent concerns about housing.
Note the use of the word "process" here, which is the same term that opponents of the Broadway Triangle rezoning action have used when describing their criticisms of the current plan advanced by Community Board 1. Marty, left, promised that an announcement on the Broadway Triangle would be coming in the next few days, though the City Planning Commission has already received this letter (it was due on August 20th). It will be news if Marty doesn't give the project a thumbs up, but we're waiting for the text. Heyyyyyyyyyy.

Teresa Toro blogs

Welcome to the blogosphere Ms. Toro.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Photos of the weekend

Friday Night was another Factory Fresh blowout...

... which continued to a Supper Club afterparty at Brooklyn Fireproof featuring Jim Avignon and Jon Burgerman...

...which was topped off by the greatest Street Fair of the summer (a motorcycle show, actually) sponsored by Works Engineering. Vroom vroom!

The Mayors are dropping by

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and mayoral hopeful Tony Avella are dropping by the office for a little Quality Time with Steve Witt and Gersh. Tony's in there now, getting the treatment. Mayor Mike is expected at 5. Be sure to check, the new political aggregate site for the outerboroughs, for updates.

Candidate Profile: Doug Biviano

I have been writing candidate profiles for the past month, and we continue with City Council hopeful Doug Biviano. Biviano reminds me of a long-separated Wilson brother (Royal Tenenbaums more than Old School) and he told me a guilty pleasure after a long day of campaigning and cleaning the brass fixtures in his Grace Ct. building is to veg out on the sofa to Wedding Crashers. Makes sense. Read on to learn about your neighborhood handyman...

33rd District Candidate Profile: Doug Biviano
By Aaron Short
Courier Life
For the affable Brooklyn Heights resident and 33rd District City Council candidate Doug Biviano, his campaign can be distilled into two fundamental issues: affordable housing and health care.
He would know. A superintendent in a late 1920s brick building on Grace Court, Biviano may lose his job on September 15, the day of the Democratic primary, because his family health care plan is too expensive. So much so, Biviano and his family may be forced to leave their home.
“We’ll see. I’m going to fight like hell. I don’t want to go anywhere else. We’re rooted at P.S. 8.”
Biviano and his family are rooted in Brooklyn Heights too for three generations. He grew up in Breezy Point and Mill Basin, attending P.S. 207 and P.S. 143, but spent many of his teenage and young adult years in a Depression-era brick building on Remsen Street, where his father, a transit authority worker, served as the building’s superintendent.
“Right there in 1G,” said Biviano. “I used to cook a lot of meals there. I think those are the same cabinets. He put them in.”
After earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell University, Biviano worked as an environmental and geotechnical engineer in Buffalo and outside Denver. He has even worked in the e-commerce industry, programming databases out West, and installed a solar-powered battery system on his own sailboat (which he sailed around the world, as he memorably explained in a debate in Williamsburg).
When his wife became pregnant, the Bivianos chose to move back to Brooklyn Heights so their children could grow up and attend schools in the neighborhood he remembered so fondly.
“We really have to protect our neighborhoods,” said Biviano. “We’ll never see architecture like this again. Never, never.”
Being a handyman while running a political campaign has its advantages. Biviano made the sign resting above his Montague Street headquarters and he built and maintained his own campaign website, without having to outsource the technical work.
When he gets home from a long day of campaigning, he still has to do all the duties of a building superintendent.
“When I come back, I have to clean the brass and take out the garbage, mop the building, wipe the brass down,” said Biviano. I have to support the family.”
Biviano believes that his experience managing buildings, working as a civil engineer, and confronting employer-based health plans will help him if he is elected to the City Council. Already, he has held a panel discussion about the history of employer-based health care in his campaign office and started a petition advocating for a single-payer plans.
He believes a councilmember should build coalitions and lobby with other cities to support a resolution for single-payer health care and use the bully pulpit to get Mayor Michael Bloomberg on board.
“This isn’t a federal issue, this is a local issue,” said Biviano. “It is in the charter to care for the health and welfare of the city. It’s a life and death issue.”
When he is on the rooftop of his building, he gazes at the unfinished and half-empty modern condominium buildings that share the city’s skyline with the iconic skyscrapers of earlier eras. He believes that they need to be filled with tenants in some kind of public-private partnership, before leaks and broken facilities render the buildings uninhabitable.
It is this engineering perspective that has propelled Biviano’s campaign and caused him to run toward broken systems, whether they involve public infrastructure, housing, or health insurance.
“Whether you are in a sailboat or a building, if you have a problem, you have to fix it,” said Biviano. “As an engineer, if you encounter a problem, you have to fix it. You can’t just run from it the way politicians do.”

Hewes Street Squabbles

The Brooklyn Paper has a story about some community commotion to get that pesky 3rd entrance to the Hewes Street J open (no doubt so people can more easily get to Moto). CB1 Transportation Temptress Teresa Toro says she'll make some calls about it. Community Board 1 got the Driggs entrance open, so this is highly likely. Tracking.

New York Times loves David Yassky

This weekend, Councilmember David Yassky (D-Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, my pants) picked up a HUUUUUUGGGEEE endorsement, as the New York Times editorial board gave the nod to David in the Comptroller race. On the Yassky Blog, they're already crowing (this, in addition to Crain's and State Senator Jeff Klein D-Harlem). I'll have more on the comptroller race later this week, but let's break down the endorsement. Here are the most imprortant paragraphs.

Of the four, Mr. Yassky makes the best case for making better use of the powerful tools handed a city comptroller. He promises to use the audit powers — including new ones overseeing the city’s education contracts — to increase productivity and efficiency.

We have seen in New York State the temptations and corruption that come with managing a multibillion-dollar pension fund — with huge fees handed out to political cronies and contributors. Mr. Yassky has promised to stand up to special interests and has embraced new S.E.C. rules that would block campaign contributors from doing business with the fund. For all of these reasons, we endorse David Yassky for comptroller.

The promises to block contributors from doing business with the city's pension fund is the key sentence here. The Times has been running several articles about the New York State pension corruption scandal and David hit the nail on the head, so to speak, highlighting concerns about corruption on the local level. Liu, in the forums that I have attended, has not been as focused with his message, tackling education and employment issues. There's also the sweatshop gaffe. The Times endorsement will also carry weight among the uptown crowd (East Side and West Side) where David Yassky has been spending more time meeting and greeting constituents (below) than Max Bialystock. That makes Alex Leopold, left, very happy.