And they’re off!

The race for the 48th District of the City Council, currently occupied by term-limited Councilman Michael Nelson, officially kicked off yesterday as 45th Assembly District Leader Ari Kagan became the first candidate to officially throw his hat in the ring.

But it wasn’t without drama. The event was delayed as a protester heckled the candidate for approximately 10 minutes at the start of the event, calling him a “foot soldier for the KGB.”

Local activist Zev Yourman, frequently seen handing out leaflets in front of local civic group meetings, emerged from the crowd just as the campaign announcement was set to kick off. Standing beside the elected officials supporting Kagan, Yourman attempted to seize the microphone, and began shouting that the candidate was a journalist trained at Lvov military academy in the Soviet Union, a school, Yourman said, that served as a training ground for the Soviet secret police, the KGB.

“The purpose of a journalist in the Soviet Union was to disturb the people and to harass them. They were the foot soldiers of the KGB,” Yourman shouted. “Journalists conducted surveillance on the population to harass Jews and spread propaganda.”

At first, neither Kagan nor his supporters attempted to stop Yourman, except gently attempting to take back the microphone and asking him to leave, which elicited cries of “Don’t try your KGB tactics on me” from Yourman. Eventually, Assemblyman Alan Maisel took out his phone to call police, which sent Yourman to the back of the crowd, where he clashed with supporters.

While Kagan didn’t address the claims himself, several of his supporters from the former Soviet Union noted that taking a job within the Communist Party was a means of survival for most in the old country. A website operated by Kagan touches on his history in the USSR, noting:

I graduated from an elite military college with a degree in journalism and served in the Soviet Army for 3 1/2 years as a lieutenant. I resigned from the Soviet Communist Party and left the Army in 1991, right after the KGB engineered the military assault on the Lithuanian TV Station.

Once the event kicked off, Kagan was ringed by a number of high-profile supporters, including Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, a former political opponent of Kagan’s who beat him out to become the first Russian-American state legislator in 2006. State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman William Colton also spoke in support of Kagan, as did Maisel, who spoke on behalf of himself and Kings County Democratic Club Chair Frank Seddio – showing Kagan has obtained the county club’s support in the race, which will give him a boost in fundraising and ground operations. (See video below)

Kagan took the microphone last, laying out a campaign platform that blended liberal and conservative ideology. (See video below)

On the liberal side, Kagan expressed support for expanding mass transit, ending school closures, and supporting senior welfare programs. On conservative issues, he said he supports tuition relief for students at private and religious schools, tax relief for property and co-op owners, and easing fines on small businesses.

Kagan also pushed more recovery measures for Superstorm Sandy, including increased funding for mold removal programs and suggested the city pursue revenue opportunities like advertising on park benches.

“I’m running for City Council to serve, and because in a city that has become increasingly unaffordable for working families and young people and seniors – we need a voice in City Hall,” said Kagan. “Government is a force for good, but it can do a better job.”

So far, Kagan is the only candidate to officially announce his candidacy. He is expected to face off against Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, Igor Oberman, a Democratic lawyer and former administrative law judge who worked as community liaison to Marty Markowitz, and attorney Michael Treybich. Chaim Deutsch, an aide to Councilman Michael Nelson, is widely believed to be running, but has not yet confirmed he will, and – on the Republican ticket – former State Senator David Storobin has expressed interest in the seat.

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  • KGB Training Camp

    “While Kagan didn’t address the claims himself, several of his supporters
    from the former Soviet Union noted that taking a job within the
    Communist Party was a means of survival for most in the old country.”

    This is flat out false. 99% of the Soviet population, especially the Jews, were NOT members of the Communist party. Vladimir Lenin argued that registered Communists shouldn’t be rank and file people, but the leaders of the movement.

    To come to the United States, you had to swear under the penalty of law that you were never a member of the Communist Party. A few exceptions were granted to some people, but usually to scientists, not people who trained in “Organizing for the Communist Party”. It would be interesting to learn whether Kagan perjured himself and obtained the green card and then the American citizenship unlawfully.

    Kagan says he was trained as a journalist, but in fact his degree is in “Organizing for the Communist Party.” His college was a well-known training camp for KGB officers.

    • guest

      That’s okay. I’ll take the commie over the community board flunkie and the ambulance chaser anytime. Treybich sounds like an interesting breath of fresh air, though.

    • levp

      True re: Communist Party.

      My father spent a considerable effort to “politely decline” an invitation to join the party. He kept saying he doesn’t deserve the honor. In the end, he agreed to go “study” at the University of Marxism-Leninism for a few months – they thought he would become “enlightened” and reconsider. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

      So, even though being a party member had plenty of benefits, some decided their integrity was more important.

    • Revolution

      Forget about Soviet Union. I live in Trump Village and we have Igor Oberman who openly discriminates and harasses people. And he is running too for that seat. New Stalin is coming…

  • Kon

    That’s ridiculous. The KGB would have never allowed a Jew to join.

    • levp

      While a minor number after the end of 1920s, there were certainly Jews in NKVD/KGB. By some accounts, the number was “never more than 4%”:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Hundred_Years_Together#Reception
      However, 4% is still considerably more than zero.

      • RealHistory

        Jews may not be responsible for the KGB, but they are responsible for the entire Bolshevik movement, as an example – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Russia_and_Soviet_Union#Jews_in_the_revolutionary_movement

        • levp

          Whenever someone says “Jews are responsible for…”, the conversation is over.

          Which is sad, since we could have agreed on the question at hand.

          • realhistory

            Its Wikipedia material, not Aryan nation. There were a huge number of Jews in the Bolshevik and Menshevik movements. You know that. And if you are familiar with the release of Russian archives and the Venona transmissions, you know that the Communist spy rings of the 30s-40s contained a huge percentage of Jews. This was tragic, considering what Stalin was doing to the Jews. Instead of instantly labeling people, I ask that you at least open your mind and read the history. I am not an Anti-Semite, I vote for every pro-Israel candidate, and for most Jewish causes, which align with mine. But the Jewish history as I stated it is unfortunate but true. It should be acknowledged, not lied about and hidden under the rug

          • levp

            I was not questioning your sources, I was questioning your language.

            Myself, I’m familiar with Russian/Soviet modern history enough, having been born and raised in Kiev, Ukraine (also, I graduated from an elite technical college with a degree in automation and control).

            But again, given historical context in which this phrase has previously appeared, I’m not going to either agree with or debate anything that starts with “Jews are responsible for”. Thank you for understanding.

          • MarkJ

            I think what is obvious is that he is clearly not a man who was a member of the KGB. It seems to me that he went to a state-run institution, but that is to say that everyone who goes to CUNY or SUNY openly supports the government. It will be interesting to see what kind of policies he enacts, but by and large, he seems like a far stronger candidate than all of his competitors.

          • levp

            Nice try. Are you really comparing Soviet “elite military college” with CUNY?!
            Then I read the rest of your post. Hey, I have a bridge in Kiev I can sell you real cheap!

          • MarkJ

            Nice try? I know you are an all-american american trying to drive out those Russians, but lets be realistic — this man hasn’t done anything that would suggest in any way that he is affiliated with the KGB since his departure from the Soviet Union and even then, don’t you think there was substantial pressure to attend a pro-military institution back there? Lev, it’s easy to pick apart someones background for some cheap shots, but I think we should look at his record and his actions. Lets see what he has to say about the issues rather than what school he went to 25 years ago.

          • levp

            I take “all-American American” as a compliment (note capitalization as a gesture of respect).

            As for pressure to attend military college, the answer is simple and short: no. As I said, I was born in Kiev in the early 1970s, and Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. I have a certain authority to speak about this issue.
            One could enroll in college or university to avoid being drafted (mandatory 2-year military service), but any military academy was a prestigious institution that was hard to get into, especially for a Jew. Recommendations and significant effort were absolutely required.

            But the main issue is not this in itself, but rather a person’s integrity, lack of which undermines his credibility when speaking about the issues.

          • nolastname

            ;-)

          • MarkJ

            I’m sorry but in my eyes this new information only makes him a stronger person. The fact that he was able to get into such a prestigious institution says something about his intelligence and competence. I don’t see how this damages his integrity in the slightest, and to take that angle is really stretching the reality of the situation.

          • levp

            I’m sure all of these details were disclosed during the immigration interview where Soviet discrimination of Jews was discussed. Been there, done that.

          • Walker

            He is not only KGB foot soldier but a communist also. what about you LEVP? you defense KGB man and commi?! **Been there, done that* ?? Are you from the same school?

          • levp

            Are you sure you want that answer? You know what happens to those who know too much…

          • Walker

            That just approves he has graduated a good KGB school and could penetrate into american political institutions, FBI is already investigates his case> I hope…..

          • KGB Training Camp

            “don’t you think there was substantial pressure to attend a pro-military institution back there?”

            No, there was no such pressure in the Soviet Union. No regular person attended such a school. All the teachers, doctors, engineers, cops, firefighters went to regular schools and colleges.

          • KGB Training Camp

            Keep in mind that he went to college around the fall of the Berlin Wall when the rest of the Soviet bloc was completely disillusioned with the communist system. This was the time of perestroika, when private enterprise was legalized, when Lenin and Marx were heavily criticized, when people were already allowed to travel to the West, when East European countries were being freed, and even China was moving sharply towards capitalism.

            So just as the whole Communist world was recognizing the folly of Marxism-Leninism, Kagan decided to enroll in the KGB school.

          • KGB Training Camp

            He didn’t merely go to a state run institution. He went specifically to a school that trained KGB agents and he majored in organizing for the communist party.

            This is a far cry from someone who was studying physics or even politics at the Moscow State University, which was just a regular college. His college was unlike other colleges because it was a KGB training school.

      • RealHistory

        “Traditionally, Jews have been highly represented in the CPSU, and their membership exceeded considerably their proportion of the total population. Soviet statistics show that 5.2 percent of all CPSU members in 1922 were Jews; in 1927 the figure declined to 4.3 percent. In 1976 the figure was 1.9 percent, almost three times the percentage of Jews in the general population. “

    • KGB Training Camp

      That’s false. There were plenty of Jews in the KGB, though the number kept doing down as the Jews became more disillusioned with the Soviet system and the KGB with the Soviet Jews. In the early days of the Soviet Union, 9% of the NKVD (precursor to the KGB) was Jewish, according to “Jews in the KGB” written by a Jew Vadim Abramov. This number was quickly reduced to 4% in 1924 and from the 1960 until 1991, Jews were 1-2% of the KGB officers.

      • levp

        Ha! I think we are both referencing the same book

    • KGB Training Camp

      In the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet Union promoted a new political study they called “Zionology” – the study of Zionism. This wasn’t any fair review, but an attempt to argue that Jewish Nationalism was inherently racist, imperialist and harmful. The people who were placed at the head of “Zionology” were predominantly Jewish KGB officers who betrayed their people to get political promotions.

    • Andy

      I’m sorry but you are wrong. There were plenty of Jews in the party and KGB, my grandfather included

    • Strolling

      Really!? A lot of jews served to KGB from the beginning and so far!

  • Subway Stinker

    So was Mister Heckler ever identified, and was he arrested for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace? I am less interested in his ‘foot soldier’ conspiracy than if Kagan can do anything to improve the district seat he is seeking.

    • http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/ Ned Berke

      I identify him in the article. No, I don’t think Maisel actually ended up calling the police – I think the threat was enough to get him to settle down and move to the back.

  • KBG ALLERT

    Is Kagan still working for the KGB

  • someone who knows

    Zev Yourman has a long established history of being a deadbeat tenant who has learned to abuse the procedural rules of NYC housing court going back to the early 80′s. The man is a bottom feeder and scourge on society. Quite frankly, I’m surprised he’s not on the bottom of the Hudson yet considering how many people he has taken advantage of. Activist smaktivist…..the man wears a tinfoil hat .

    • Guest

      You got that right. But he gets instant credibility in this neighborhood because of his politics.

  • nolastname

    Where does he stand with the Muslim community?

    • KGB Training Camp

      He’s opposed to the Sheepshead Bay Mosque.

    • tv4boss

      I value religion and the Muslim faith and the Jewish faith have very strong feelings on homosexual relationships. I personally have no problem with freedom of choice, but Mr. Kagan’s opponent, Mr. Oberman is the face of the Brooklyn Gay and Lesbian society. I don’t think people with deep religious values would like a political figure who is 100% pro homosexual. An as far as the building of a Mosque, it is so holy, that it should be placed in a center of a neighborhood where the people would embrace it’s presence instead of debate about it.

      • levp

        Good to know, and a plus for Mr. Oberman.

      • nolastname

        I am for the Mosque. That is why I brought up the point.
        I am also for freedom of choice…be it political, sexual or religious preference.
        I do not like this Mr Kegan…not as a man and surely not as a politician.
        http://www.flickr.com/photos/34224145@N04/5408761096/in/photostream

  • tv4boss

    Politics is a tricky thing, especially in an ethnically diverse community know as the 48th district. Mr. Kagan is an honorable man who has risen to his political fame through years of public service and his strong dedication for the less fortunate, the elderly, disabled, and veterans. Then there is Mr. Oberman who is a coward, thief, paranoid, power hungry KGB wanna be. He flip flops on his political party and has an incredible zest to steal. If were to win, we would see what it was like living during the communist regime. Be ware of the man with no morals.

    • levp

      So, of course, I had to look at your previous commenting history. It appears that you may have some kind of grudge against Mr. Oberman, no?
      But I give you credit for refined propaganda rhetoric.

      • MarkJ

        So, of course, I had to look at your previous commenting history. It appears that you may have some kind of grudge against Mr. Kagan, no?
        But I give you credit for refined propaganda rhetoric.

        • levp

          I hear an echo here…

        • tv4boss

          I think my reply to your writing buddy is a tad too lengthy to duplicate, and since I just don’t feel like copying and pasting, please read my response to your echo.

      • tv4boss

        It is indeed humbling to be commented for honest, sincere, fearless expression of our right to freedom of speech and expression, that might be severely compromised under the zealous Mr. Oberman . I hold no personal grudge against this individual. To be able to see through a man’s intention and record and to look them in the eyes, is what makes me believe that Mr. Ari Kagan is better suited for this position and not any personal connection to either. I thought only the KGB forbade true feelings to be put in writing.

        • levp

          freedom of speech and expression, that might be severely compromised under the zealous Mr. Oberman

          We are not electing a Supreme Ruler here… You give way too much power to City Council.

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  • Igor Tchernowitzer

    It was a mere provocation allegedly purported by David Storobin, who might be Kagan’s opponent should Ari wins primal election within Democratic district. Storobin is hungry for cushy job at City Council and he will do his utmost to impede Ari’s campaign’s progress. Do not swallow everything Internet offers

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