Brooklyn Politics by Erik Engquist

MARTY HITS, MARTY MISSES: Brooklyn’s pre-eminent cheerleader, Borough President Marty Markowitz, wisely reacted with humor to an amusing New Yorker cover showing a cowering Adam and Eve being cast out of Manhattan (and apparently into Brooklyn) by God.

In a letter to the magazine, he commended the illustration “for its prominent placement of the Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s most beautiful.”

Then he added, “I am concerned, however, that my copy of the issue may have been missing a second panel, in which the couple realize that what awaits them on the other side of the bridge is not a dark cloud of doom but the promised land itself.”

He followed that with plugs for Brooklyn’s “better quality of life,” “unrivalled diversity,” and even its “most divine bagels and lox.”

That’s Markowitz at his best. But here’s something we don’t quite understand.

It’s a Markowitz fundraiser invitation sent in mid-March by real estate saleswoman Libby Ryan of Park Slope and Jessie Kelly of Brooklyn Heights “to help reelect Brooklyn’s most dedicated public servant.” Tickets to the reception at Kelly’s home cost $250.

Let’s be honest here. Markowitz doesn’t need any help to be reelected. His campaign has a robust $1 million in the bank and could claim $273,000 more in public matching funds. The most he’s even allowed to spend on the Democratic primary (tantamount to victory in Brooklyn) is $1.289 million.

Not that he would ever spend that much on the race. First, because he could be reelected without spending a dime, and second, because there is no race (yet). No person of any prominence is going to bother running against Markowitz in the primary.

So the invitation should not pretend to be about helping to reelect Markowitz. Anyone who believes otherwise should buy a ticket to a benefit we’re hosting March 31. We’re raising money to help the sun come up the next day.


MILLMAN HOPS ON REFORM WAGON: This is why Assemblyman Joan Millman doesn’t much care for this column: Every time she endorses reforming the state government (suddenly a popular notion among Albany veterans), we feel obligated to mention how she bristled in 2002 when gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo called the legislature dysfunctional, worthless, and in need of a massive shake-up.

In her latest newsletter, Millman declares, “It’s no secret—Albany needs serious reform.” She cheers “the Assembly’s sweeping new reforms [which] will begin making our state government more open, accountable and responsive.”

That’s what Cuomo was talking about three years ago.


RAW DEAL FOR SHAW: The Brooklyn Republican Party’s mayoral endorsement was awarded unanimously to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, but in fact Park Slope candidate Steve Shaw had significant support among Republican district leaders, who ultimately agreed to vote with their chairman, Hy Singer.

“It was not a knock on Shaw,” one Republican official noted. “It was a pragmatic, political party decision to support the county chairman.”

Shaw was nonetheless furious.

“That Mayor Bloomberg does not lift a finger for local Republicans and that he governs as a liberal Democrat brings into question why Mr. Singer and his committee would not want to hear from candidates committed to Republican principles and to building the Republican Party,” Shaw said in a statement. “Mr. Singer’s decision to not allow other candidates to come before the committee is all about insider politics rather than fielding the best candidate.  His focus on the former above the latter is a complete disgrace.”

Republicans are upset that Bloomberg’s administration is run by Democrats. Said one G.O.P. leader to Bloomberg, “No commissioners, deputy mayors, or even deputy commissioners are Republicans. All the people you gave jobs to are going to vote against you in November!”

The official added, “We’re not looking for handouts. We’re looking for qualified people to be given the opportunity.”


SUNSET PARK THREESOME: Sunset Park’s Eddie Rodriguez believes he can defeat Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez in the Democratic primary—“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think we could win,” he said—but his chances would obviously increase if he were the only challenger.

So it can’t please him to know that another Gonzalez detractor, David Galarza, filed papers with the Campaign Finance Program at the same time as Rodriguez. Galarza told us, “I’m making the preparations to be an official candidate.”

Among those preparations is moving back into the 38th Council District. Galarza was raised in Sunset Park and served on Community Board 7 but personal circumstances caused him to move to Windsor Terrace—that is, he found a rent-stabilized apartment with a good landlord there.

“I was priced out of the neighborhood that I grew up in and love,” Galarza said. “I’ve seen nothing on the part of the incumbent to address that issue.”

Well, Gonzalez could point to rising rents as an indication Sunset Park is improving under her watch. Fortunately, for the sake of gag-prevention, she hasn’t.

Gonzalez won a special election in 2002 following the resignation of Councilman Angel Rodriguez, now in prison for bribery. Galarza doesn’t see Gonzalez as much of an improvement.

“Southwest Brooklyn has gone from having a City Council representative who was convicted to a City Council representative with no convictions,” he said.


GOLDEN RULES: You would think that State Senator Marty Golden, the most powerful Republican elected official in Brooklyn would be a hero to the Kings County Republican Committee. But some party leaders think Golden has let his exalted position go to his head.

They weren’t thrilled when Golden endorsed Mayor Mike Bloomberg for reelection weeks before the committee did. And some were downright perturbed when Golden bypassed them and invited Steve Minarik, the state G.O.P. chairman, to a Sheepshead Bay restaurant for a meet-and-greet on March 24, which happens to be Purim and Holy Thursday.

“He didn’t know about Purim,” one Republican insider told us, “and he didn’t think Holy Thursday was important enough that people would stay home for.”


FLYERS AND LIARS: In an item on the anonymous Brooklyn flyer controversy that rocked the 2001 mayoral race, New York magazine’s political columnist Greg Sargent let stand a dishonest statement from the campaign of Mayor Mike Bloomberg about State Senator Carl Kruger.

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser criticized Freddy Ferrer for campaigning with Kruger, saying, “Mr. Ferrer was outraged by the flyers, but now he embraces one of its masterminds.”

That crosses the line between exaggeration and fabrication.

Kruger has not been accused of “masterminding” the flyer later distributed by Mark Green supporters. The only allegation supported by witnesses is that Kruger advised Green’s campaign to link Ferrer with the Rev. Al Sharpton (which Kruger denies), not that Kruger conceived of the flyer, which was a reprint of a New York Post cartoon of Ferrer kissing Sharpton’s rear.

And Kruger had nothing to do with the money-laundering scheme Green’s people use to pay for the flyers or the accompanying phone-bank operation targeting white Brooklyn voters.

By then, in fact, Kruger had thrown his support to Ferrer. Which makes it inexplicable that a Ferrer spokesman told Sargent that Ferrer welcomes “new” supporters, meaning Kruger, since Kruger endorsed Ferrer in 2001.

Kruger continues to be vexed that his name is associated with the flyers. He e-mailed us the famous Mark Twain quote, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

Kruger, referring to the infamous Nick’s Lobster House gathering, explained, “I attended a lunch of Mark Green supporters and campaign staff where the idea of such a flyer surfaced. I told them in the strongest terms that it was wrong. After leaving the lunch I contacted Fernando Ferrer. I then notified the Green campaign that I could not support Green and would endorse Ferrer for mayor. The day after the lunch I campaigned with Fernando Ferrer with Assemblyman Peter Abbate at the Amico senior center in Brooklyn.”

Though some witnesses remember the lobster lunch quite differently, they won’t do so on the record. Nearly two years ago, Kruger told us when the topic was raised by Mark Green’s people, “My comment was that ‘this is craziness’ and that ‘it’s radioactive. You guys are nuts.’”

However, he was quoted in the Daily News of November 2, 2001, defending the use of the flyer. “My perception was, prejudice is in the eyes of the beholder. If someone is supporting someone else’s campaign, there’s no reason on earth why someone else can’t point that out,” Kruger said. (The clip was posted by the New York Observer on March 23.)

Blame for the strategy (which backfired in the general election when outraged Hispanic voters flocked to Mike Bloomberg) has been laid at the feet of mid-level Green campaign aide Fran Miller.

Kruger recalled, “When it reached the point that I saw that all of them—the Fran Millers and everybody else—were on board, I not only left the meeting, [but] I went back to my home, thought about it for 15 minutes, called Freddy Ferrer, and told him the next day that I’m endorsing you. The next day I was at the Amico senior center with Freddy and we have been good friends ever since.”


DOV HIKIND IN GAZA: Assemblyman Dov Hikind went to Gaza to protest Israel’s decision to remove the Jewish outposts there.

Israel sees the withdrawal as a necessary component of peace with the Palestinians and a militarily strategic decision, since protecting the settlements has come with high costs and few benefits.

But Hikind told the Daily News, “If there is going to be peace, let Jews live in their homes with Palestinians as their neighbors.”

Problem is, let the Jews live in homes on Palestinian land and there is not going to be peace.

Hikind will argue this point until the cows come home, but he can at least be credited with standing up for his beliefs. The Gush Katif settlement he visited first with about 40 other New Yorkers is in an area where gunfire, bombs, and rocket attacks are common. Hikind’s bus tour was to visit all 22 Jewish settlements in Gaza over three days.

The New York Post, however, was not impressed. Its editorial board criticized Hikind for interfering in the affairs of an independent sovereign nation other than his own.


COUNCIL RACE UPDATE: The Campaign Finance Board’s March 15 filing deadline provided an updated look at this  year’s City Council races, including an increasingly crowded race in the 41st Council District.

That’s the seat being vacated by Councilwoman Tracy Boyland, who’s being pushed out by term limits. Her father, Frank Boyland, the former assemblyman, has filed papers with the CFB, the first formal indication that he’ll run.

He has yet to raise any money, but others who’ve filed in the 41st C.D. have raised little or nothing either: Alicka Amprey-Samuel, Royston Antoine, Essie Dugan, Pamela Junior, Stanley Kinard, Danny King, Naquan Muhammad, and Maryam Samad.


TIDBITS: Sources tell us novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, author of “Everything Is Illuminated,” has purchased a Park Slope mansion with the neighborhood’s largest backyard. The asking price had been over $6 million, so we assume Foer, who’s just 27 years old, has sold quite a few books. He joins a contingent of young (or youngish) local fiction writers including Paul Auster, Peter Blauner, Siri Hustvedt, and Jonathan Lethem. (And, if we’re including children’s book writers, Jon Scieszka.)

The wave of Brooklyn writers is following in the famous footsteps of Norman Mailer, Ezra Jack Keats, Maurice Sendak, Arnold Lobel, Arthur Miller, Hubert Selby Jr., and Pete Hamill

Bob Capano announced he was quitting the race against Councilman Vinny Gentile for “family” reasons. We weren’t aware that Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar was a member of Capano’s family. As a Republican source explained, “Bob looked at the numbers and realized that without the Conservative Party [ballot line] that Pat [Russo] was likely to get, he couldn’t take the district…He saw the handwriting on the wall.”

A significant portion of the vote in the Bay Ridge-based district is expected to fall on the Conservative line, making Kassar’s support crucial. “Without it, the Republican is dead,” our source noted…

…Just received this e-mail message: “You are invited to attend Monday’s recording of the cable TV show Brooklyn45 with Sam Taitt, when Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes will be the guest. He will discuss issues affecting our community.”

Translation: Hynes will campaign for reelection…

…Daily and weekly newspapers continue to report that Sandra Roper tallied “40 percent” or “nearly 40 percent” of the vote against Hynes in 2001’s Democratic primary. Hynes hater Chris Ketcham, writing in the New York Press, put Roper’s showing at “a shocking 39 percent.” Roper’s own Web site claims she got 37 percent.

But Roper’s actual percentage was 36. Roper got 56,483 votes to Hynes’s 99,594.

Ketcham also wrote that Roper did so well despite being outspent 30 to 1. But most of Hynes’s expenditures were on legal fees, not campaigning……The Daily News editorial board added its $.02 to the debate over the proposed rail tunnel from New Jersey to Brooklyn, calling the project “critical to the economic future of the entire region.” Opponents, led in Brooklyn by Councilman Simcha Felder, say the noise and vibrations from trains using the tunnel would bother people who live and work next to the tracks, and that’s more important than the economic future of the entire region. Well, they don’t phrase it quite that way.

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