YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: State Assembly candidate Ben Akselrod is likely a little red in the face today, after thousands of mailers went out to Democratic voters in the 45th Assembly District saying that crime is up in the “negrohood.”
In an inset in the mailers, received by most in the area yesterday, Akselrod takes aim at his incumbent opponent, Steven Cymbrowitz, for “allowing” crime to rise in the confines of the 61st Precinct.
The inset reads as follows:
I am running for Assembly because I believe the number 1 job of that office is to keep the community safe. The current assemblyman has allowed crime to go up over 50% in our negrohood so far this year. I am fighting for video cameras throughout our community to protect our seniors who are the most vulnerable and cut down on anti-semitic attacks in our community. I will also make sure the mayor gives our community more police to patrol our streets. [sic](emphasis added)
According to the latest CompStat report issued by the 61st Precinct, the command has seen a 43.71 percent increase in crime so far this year, not “over 50%.” In the 60th Precinct, a portion of which is also in the 45th Assembly District, crime has gone up only 6.96 percent.
It’s not the inaccuracy of the numbers, however, that has spurred dozens of readers to contact Sheepshead Bites – it’s the flub in calling the neighborhood a “negrohood.”
The campaign literature also includes a photo of Akselrod standing alone in front of the 61st Precinct, a claim that Cymbrowitz is “planning to raise his pay again after the election,” and a beaming testimonial from Akselrod’s mother-in-law.
Some readers have asked if the “negrohood” mention is a typo, a Freudian slip, a joke, or even outright sabotage of his campaign. Regardless, the incident builds on the discriminatory campaign rhetoric from the Akselrod camp.
Last week, Sheepshead Bites reported on interviews Akselrod gave to the Russian-language newspaper, The Reporter, and Brooklyn Daily, in which he spread misleading information about the backers of the Voorhies Avenue mosque. In what appeared to be an attempt to stoke anti-Muslim sentiments in the neighborhood, he claimed the mosque is connected to a group that was “outlawed” in the U.S., and that Muslims’ attempts to build a local house of worship is a “provocative demonstration.”
He similarly criticized legislation Cymbrowitz voted for:
“[Students are] being taught alternative lifestyles,” Akselrod stated at his campaign announcement in May. “I strongly object to the subjects being taught in school. We deserve to raise our children with the values that we cherish. We should be able to do what is right for us.”
The statement echoed a claim from Cymbrowitz’s previous opponent, Orthodox Jewish Republican Joseph Hayon, who described the bill as requiring schools to “teach Kindergarten children to ‘tolerate’ or sanctify same-gender relationships.”
The bill Hayon and Akselrod refer to is the “Dignity For All Students Act,” passed in 2010, to protect students from harassment and discrimination. The bill establishes mechanisms for schools to report and address discrimination and harassment based on race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, gender and – the one that Hayon and now Akselrod have focused on – sexual orientation. The legislation also issued a broad mandate to school regents to develop instruction in “civility, citizenship and character education.”
Private and religious schools are exempted in the bi-partisan bill, which passed the Assembly 138-to-four, and has not yet been implemented.
We’ve reached out to the Akselrod campaign for comment, and will update this story when we hear back.
The Democratic primary election between Cymbrowitz and Akselrod takes place on Thursday, September 13.
Here is the full campaign flier: