Skip to main content

Thinking about the 33rd Council District (Part 2): why I'm voting (gingerly) for Simon

Earlier today, I explained why we should be skeptical about Stephen Levin's effort to replace David Yassky in the 33rd Council District.

And, as I wrote, the candidates who profess to be most pure--least beholden to developers and various parts of the political establishment--are likely the least electable, lacking the endorsements from unions, elected officials, and newspapers that help sway undecided voters.

Without Instant Runoff Voting, which allows you to rank candidates, you have to make a choice. (NLG proceeds differently.) So I'm voting for Jo Anne Simon, who I think--though I can't be certain--has the best chance to beat Levin.

And by all reports, Levin, who has little experience in the district, has been campaigning very energetically and learning the district.

Simon vs. Thies

Simon has the (mild) endorsement from the Times and many local elected officials (Assemblyman Jim Brennan, City Council Member Letitia James, etc.), while Evan Thies has the Daily News, the Brooklyn Paper, and the Citizens Union. Simon's from Boerum Hill; the southern part of the district. Thies is from Williamsburg, in the northern part.

They both have experience in their communities and in government, and they both--as I'll discuss below--are vulnerable to criticism.

But Simon, I'm told, is the candidate from the southern part of the district who's made the most inroads into the northern part. I'm swayed by people I respect in North Brooklyn, like Phil DePaolo of the New York Community Council, who chose Simon over Thies while recognizing there was no optimal choice.

The decision wasn't easy and if Simon is elected I'll watch her closely, at least on Atlantic Yards issues. She's surely fudged in describing her opposition to Atlantic Yards, but she's been seriously engaged on Atlantic Yards and other issues, which is why some AY opponents have endorsed her. And her last-minute mailer both went after Levin and Thies and went overboard in its criticism of Thies.

And, though Thies is capable, he actually went even farther in his advertising, claiming that he had taken the lead in the fight to stop Atlantic Yards. He did nothing of the sort.

Going negative

Levin has not gone negative in his advertising. Neither has Thies, though his anonymous supporters at the blog Real Reform Brooklyn--an interesting twist to a campaign--have both raised and amplified criticisms of Simon and Levin.

Longshot Doug Biviano, endorsed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, has run a spirited and sometimes not-so-responsible campaign, with his latest campaign advertising taking on Levin, Simon, and Thies. Had he greater experience in community affairs he would've started with a stronger base.

And Ken Diamondstone, who has a long record in the district, has the most claim--along with Ken Baer, who's run an ineffective campaign--to the votes of those concerned about Atlantic Yards. And Diamondstone has been willing to criticize Levin, Thies, and Simon.

There's been little criticism of Diamondstone, perhaps because he didn't have enough of a base to be considered a frontrunner.

Looking at the criticism

There's no more need to analyze criticism of Levin.

Should Thies be criticized for failing to get Yassky's endorsement, as Diamondstone suggests? Well, that says even more about Yassky, studiously neutral to stay in the good graces of Levin supporter Vito Lopez.

Could Thies have stopped the Broadway Triangle project from going forward, as Simon's latest mailer suggests? No, but his departure from Community Board 1 before the vote was not his best moment, at least according to Aaron Short.

Has Thies taken money from "fat cat" developers, as Simon charges? Well, he did get $2500 from developer Dean Palin, who wants to build a 40-story tower on the waterfront, one which is no bulkier than the shorter version but still has neighbors dismayed. (Commenter Laura Hofmann does support Thies, but others in Greenpoint do not.)

I checked with Thies, who said, "I don't and won't accept contributions from anyone who expects any favors in return. Developers have too much influence at City Hall, and I intend to change that. I advocated for a shorter tower at the site, but I concede that remassing the project to build less on the upland portion of the block and more on the waterfront will yield truly affordable housing at the site without adding bulk--a compromise supported overwhelmingly by the community board."

What about contributions to Simon from people associated with Brooklyn Bridge Park, given that Simon--officially against housing in the park--has been fuzzy in her rhetoric?

Simon spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said, “Relationships are multi-dimensional and often, candidates often know contributors for many years and from different arenas of their lives. As an activist and leader in the community for over 20 years, Jo Anne has engaged in many legal and social issues that have touched many people in the community. 

"Contributions for a campaign is part of the political process and frequently come from many corners of a candidate’s life, as well as, from those inspired by the candidate along the way. Most contributions are not made with an agenda attached to them but rather come from one's belief in the candidate to be the best person to serve the community," Donnelly said.

Well, that's the hope. Both Thies and Donnelly offer plausible explanations, as well as reasons the candidates, if they win, should be watched.

A representative of Muss Development gave $250 to each of Levin, Thies, and Simon. After Simon was criticized for it, she gave it back.

Such vigilance will be necessary whoever wins.


  1. Some insight on Broadway Triangle and Evan's resignation:


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

So, Forest City has some property subject to the future Gowanus rezoning

Writing yesterday, MAP: Who Owns All the Property Along the Gowanus Canal, DNAinfo's Leslie Albrecht lays out the positioning of various real estate players along the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site:
As the city considers whether to rezone Gowanus and, perhaps, morph the gritty low-rise industrial area into a hot new neighborhood of residential towers (albeit at a fraction of the height of Manhattan's supertall buildings), DNAinfo reviewed property records along the canal to find out who stands to benefit most from the changes.
Investors have poured at least $440 million into buying land on the polluted waterway and more than a third of the properties have changed hands in the past decade, according to an examination of records for the nearly 130 properties along the 1.8-mile canal. While the single largest landowner is developer Property Markets Group, other landowners include Kushner Companies, Alloy Development, Two Trees, and Forest City New York.

Forest City's plans unc…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…