Skip to main content

What the 33rd District race is about: Vito Lopez, and the circular firing squad favoring Steve Levin

In the Village Voice, Tom Robbins lays out Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez's role in the 33rd and 34th Council District races, but doesn't quite point out how infighting favors his candidate, Steve Levin, in the 33rd.

And yes, this year, Lopez is pushing the envelope even further, promoting not one, not two, but three of Ridgewood Bushwick's allies into elective office. He is seeking nothing less than a sweep, a kind of Vito-fecta that will further extend his political influence.

...Making judges is just one of the glories of being a Democratic county leader. Another is the joy of being able to bend others to your will. Among the able candidates for the 33rd District seat sought by Levin, Lopez's mini-candidate for the post, is Evan Thies, who was long David Yassky's chief of staff. Yassky—desperate not to antagonize Lopez in his own race for the city comptroller's post—didn't even endorse his own aide.

Even more craven has been the performance of the Working Families Party, which is backing Levin at Lopez's behest in exchange for the county leader's backing for party favorite Bill de Blasio in his bid to become Public Advocate. The party could have chosen any of three other stellar candidates: Thies, affordable housing builder Ken Diamondstone, or veteran civil rights attorney Jo Anne Simon.

De Blasio and Yassky are both Brooklyn products, and it is unlikely that Lopez would have gone against either of them. But the county leader has mastered the art of the bluff.


The Lopez takeaway

I wrote earlier about Lopez's power base, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC). And more on Lopez's connections, notably judicial appointments and support for Atlantic Yards, from the anonymous blog Real Reform Brooklyn.

See how RBSCC received nearly $800,000 in the current (FY 10) budget in discretionary funding from the City Council, notably a $350,000 grant attributed to Council Member Lew Fidler and the Brooklyn delegation.

In the FY 09 budget, it received more than $900,000. Note that nearly $280,000 in grants attributed to 34th District City Council Member Diana Reyna were not renewed, as Reyna has split with Lopez and he now backs challenger Maritza Davila. Now 37th District Council Member Erik Martin Dilan has picked up the slack. A victory by Levin in the 33rd would certainly help Lopez and his organization.

Splitting the vote

Robbins didn't point out that, were the three "stellar candidates" in the 33rd the only ones opposing Levin, they might well split the vote and ease Levin's path to victory. But the situation is even more complicated, and thus more favorable to Levin. (Note, the Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star, endorsing Thies, said Levin had the least knowledge of the district.)

Beyond that, there are three other candidates, with one of them, Hasidic Jew Isaac Abraham, likely pulling some votes from Levin's base (which includes Hasidic Williamsburg, whose organizations are tied to Lopez).

The other two, Ken Baer and Doug Biviano, will take votes from Simon, Thies, and Diamondstone. Biviano, notably, has been attacking Simon and Thies for not being reformist enough.

While the latter two are hardly invulnerable to criticism, Biviano's sometimes over-the-top attacks (and claims of victory in an online poll), coming from someone with little civic experience and no involvements in the controversies he targets (e.g., AY, Williamsburg-Greenpoint rezoning), have an element of hypocrisy.

Given that Biviano has little chance to win--Simon has numerous endorsements; Thies has the Citizens Union endorsement; Diamondstone has a long track record--those attacks make the best the enemy of the good. It's hardly surprising that Biviano was the state coordinator for Dennis Kucinich in 2008.

(Similarly, Real Reform Brooklyn treats Simon almost as critically as it treats Levin, leading some to think that those behind the blog favor Thies. His campaign denies any ties.)

In an election with Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), supporters of Biviano and Baer might well think they're pursuing reform. In the coming election, votes for them are likely a vote for Levin.

Biviano at least recognizes that he has opponents, and in his campaign statements and advertisements has targeted them.

As the September 15 primary vote approaches, it will be interesting to see 1) whether candidates tout their endorsements (such as from the New York Times, when it arrives) and 2) whether anyone targets Levin.

Comments

  1. Norman:

    You are spot on. Levin (Vito) are playing the classic Republican game. Take advantage of the infighting. Our only hope is that the NY Times endorsement will tip the balance. Also, the hasidic vote is not as monolithic as people would believe because of the schism in the Satmar community.

    Keep reading our blog:

    www.realreformbrooklyn.wordpress.com

    Keep It Real

    ReplyDelete

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…