Archive for the tag 'ben akselrod'

The following is a press release from the campaign of Ben Akselrod, who is challenging Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Ben Akselrod, a candidate for Assembly in the 45th district, has called on State Department of Education Commissioner, Dr. John B. King, Jr., to provide mandatory defensive driving training to all high school students throughout their high school careers.

“Auto accidents are the number one cause of death for young people,” Akselrod explained. “Now, with the popularity of cell phones, and especially texting, adding to the likelihood of distracted driving, combined with speed and a general belief of teens that they are immortal, New York State must become proactive in encouraging safe driving practices.”

In a letter to Commissioner King, Akselrod requested that the New York State Education Department develop a curriculum, covering all four years of high school, that not only teaches students safe driving techniques and accident avoidance skills, but makes them aware of the serious consequences of dangerous driving behavior. It could be offered as a mini-course within in the existing course structure of the school.

A 2012 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reported that the fatal crash rate per mile driven for 16-19 year-olds is nearly three times the rate for drivers ages 20 and over.

“A curriculum must be developed that will be offered to students before and after they are likely to take their road tests making them vividly aware of the consequences of dangerous driving habits and empowering them with safe driving techniques,” Akselrod stated.

“While this curriculum needs to be implemented expeditiously to counter the threat of texting while driving, the subjects covered must also include other safe driving and accident avoidance information,” Akselrod said. “We need to instill good driving habits and skills in our young people that will continue on into adulthood.”

Steven Cymbrowitz (l.) and Ben Akselrod (r.)

Conservative Democrat Ben Akselrod appears to be launching his second attempt to unseat incumbent Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, recently filing papers with the state to form a campaign committee.

Akselrod mounted his first challenge to Cymbrowitz in 2012, rising from relative obscurity to a credible candidate with the assistance of his close friend Ari Kagan. Akselrod came close to defeating Cymbrowitz in the Democratic primary, coming less than 300 votes shy of victory. He continued on to the general election on the Independence line, making it a three-way race with Republican Russ Gallo. Cymbrowitz won the general with a wide margin.

Akselrod and his supporters led a hard-knuckled campaign, in which the incumbent was criticized for not opposing a mosque just outside of his district, voting for a bill that encouraged tolerance education in schools including tolerance of homosexuals, and, just days before the primary election, marrying a woman who is not Jewish.

The race brought citywide media attention after Akselrod’s campaign released a flier with a typo claiming that the assemblyman “allowed crime to go up over 50% in the negrohood,” a claim that was factually incorrect regardless of the typo.

Cymbrowitz stayed mum for most of the campaign, leading one outlet to say he was running a “gentleman’s campaign,” but eventually spoke out against “vicious” tactics two weeks after the primary.

Although it’s widely expected, it’s still not fully clear whether Akselrod will run this year. Because of illness, he did not attend last night’s meeting of the Bay Democrats, the club where he serves as president and where he is likely to announce.

District Leader Ari Kagan, a close friend and adviser to Akselrod, told Sheepshead Bites that the papers were simply the first steps to forming an “exploratory committee” to determine whether Akselrod will run.

“He told me it’s an exploratory committee. When he decides 100 percent, he’ll have a big kickoff. Like in May, when the weather is nice,” said Kagan.

Akselrod, however, sounded very much like a candidate in an interview yesterday with Politicker, which first reported on the campaign filings.

“I certainly hope to win. Look, the status quo can’t continue forever. I think I have more energy, more desire to do the job,” Akselrod told Politicker. “There are still many problems with Hurricane Sandy recovery … It’s a year and a half later and we’re still talking about things that should have been done 15 days after the storm hit.”

Akselrod did not return a request to comment in time for publication. We’ll update this post if we here back from him.


Bay Democrats Vice President Sam Tsang, District Leader Ari Kagan, and President Ben Akselrod.

Nearly a year and a half after taking on and defeating Michael Geller, the 24-year Democratic Leader of the 45th Assemby District, Ari Kagan finally has the political club he promised his supporters.

Bay Democrats celebrated its grand opening in the headquarters of the Davidzon Radio media empire (2508 Coney Island Avenue) on Wednesday with a crowd of approximately 70 people and a lineup of elected officials showering praise on the Russian-American activist.

Club leaders hailed the event as a re-opening, pointing to the group’s October 2012 formation, when they held a celebration at the Bainbridge Center in Sheepshead Bay. Advertised as a “unity club” that spanned the area’s various ethnic and religious groups, the club’s activity petered out after Superstorm Sandy hit days later, and never had an official home until now.

Kagan said now that a home base has been established for Bay Democrats, it’s time to get down to business.

“Now that Bay Democrats has a home we can focus on the issues affecting our community. I am most optimistic because of the broad support we have from the community,” he said in a press release.

The event attracted a slew of elected officials including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblyman Bill Colton, Councilmen David Greenfield, Chaim Deutsch, Mark Treyger and former City Comptroller John Liu, among others.

The club is headed by Ben Akselrod, a conservative Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz in 2012. Chinese-American activist Sam Tsang will serve as vice president.

District leaders are party positions elected by registered voters of the party. In addition to influencing the leadership and platform of the local and state political party, they’re charged with rallying local bases in support of candidates. They do this largely through political clubs like Bay Democrats, which recruit and organize volunteers for campaign-related activities like petition-signing and preparing mailers.

While Kagan has pitched the club as a unity club, the vast majority of the attendees on Wednesday were Russian American, and the location, inside the headquarters of perhaps the largest Russian-language media empire, may offer a hint at the club’s target base.

And with leadership that includes Kagan, Akselrod and Tsang, all of whom have been critical of Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, it’s likely they’ll back a challenger to the incumbent in the Assembly primary later this year.

The group will hold weekly meetings on Wednesday nights.

Richard Landman and representatives from the Roma community unveiled the new stone honoring Roma and Sinti victims at a May 5 ceremony.

Salgado (Source: Erick Salgado for Mayor)

Long-shot mayoral candidate Erick Salgado is entering the fray over Sheepshead Bay’s Holocaust Memorial Park, blasting the Parks Department for allowing the addition of stones memorializing non-Jewish victims.

A press release issued last week to Russian and Jewish news outlets but obtained by Sheepshead Bites quotes Salgado calling the installation of five new stones for non-Jewish victims “a betrayal of the community and even worse, disrespectful to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.”

The stones, which honor groups including the disabled, Roma, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, were dedicated during a May 5 ceremony marred by a protest led by City Council candidate and Holocaust Memorial Committee member Ari Kagan. The protesters claimed that the group of activists who successfully pushed the new stones through had pulled an end-run around the committee, by going through the Parks Department.

Richard Landman, the gay son of Holocaust survivors who spearheaded the initiative for the stones, said that those allegations are phony, and that he had attempted to go through the committee and was repeatedly denied – with no explanation – over the course of 15 years. Landman, an attorney, complained to the city that the committee’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” and in violation of the state constitution. The Parks Department established an appeals process for the memorial as a result, and created a Blue Ribbon advisory panel to review Landman’s request – ultimately greenlighting it.

The stones were installed in June 2012, and dedicated on May 5, 2013.

But Salgado, a conservative reverend from Staten Island, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, sided with Kagan and the committee, claiming that the Parks Department should have ceded the decision on the stones to the local committee, in accordance with their Memorandum of Understanding.

“It is of great concern that a bureaucracy such as the Parks Department would take action that is counter to the community’s wishes, especially when it involves the memory of the six million who perished in the Holocaust and the thousands of Holocaust survivors and their families who visit the memorial each year,” Salgado said. “Was the proper decision pushed to the side by political concerns?”

Here’s the press release in full:

May 8, 2013

Mayoral Candidate Erick Salgado Blasts Parks Department’s Action

Controversial Memorial Stones Installed in Holocaust Memorial Park Without Community’s Approval

Mayoral Candidate Erick Salgado has termed the New York City Parks Department’s move to install five controversial memorial stones in Sheepshead Bay’s Holocaust Memorial Park, “a betrayal of the community and even worse, disrespectful to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.”

Salgado was referring to the Parks Department’s installation of large stones with inscriptions memorializing such groups as asocial elements (alcoholics and lesbians), political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals. The inclusion of these stones was contrary to the wishes of the Board of the Holocaust Memorial Committee, which under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Parks Department has been administering the memorial since its dedication in 1997.

The five stones were installed unceremoniously last July, but an unveiling ceremony was held Sunday by several organizations from outside the community.

“It is of great concern that a bureaucracy such as the Parks Department would take action that is counter to the community’s wishes, especially when it involves the memory of the six million who perished in the Holocaust and the thousands of Holocaust survivors and their families who visit the memorial each year. Was the proper decision pushed to the side by political concerns?” Salgado asked.

A group of activists unveiled five new stones memorializing non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust at Sheepshead Bay’s Holocaust Memorial Park this weekend, capping off nearly two decades of fighting for the right against a local committee opposed to the installation.

The stones, dispersed throughout the public park, remember the persecution of homosexual victims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled, Roma and Sinti, and “asocials.” The unveiling ended nearly 20 years of struggle for broader recognition within the park. Members of the Holocaust Memorial Committee, charged with reviewing and approving the placement of new names and markers, held a protest led by City Council candidate Ari Kagan, who complained that the group of “outsiders” went over the committee’s head in getting approval to place the stone, and represented a threat to the memory of Jewish victims.

Keep reading, and view photos of the event and the new stones.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz celebrating during an election night party at the Turkish Cultural Center of Brooklyn. (Photo: Erica Sherman)

By now, the whole world knows that the American people chose to send Barack Obama back to the White House for another four years. But how did your local elected fare on election day? In short, Southern Brooklyn will see little if any change, with all incumbents but one returning for another term. Here’s the roundup.

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Well, almost everything. Ninety-nine percent of everything, if you’re to believe one of the candidates.

Republican Russ Gallo and Independence Party candidate Ben Akselrod faced off – sort of – last night during the Manhattan Beach Community Group’s town hall debate, but, with incumbent Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz absent, they found themselves agreeing far more than not.

Charter schools? They’re both for it. Corruption in Albany? They’re against it. The MTA? Open those books! Small businesses? Can we please cut back on the regulations and fines? Term limits? Well, when the incumbent they’re looking to unseat has been in office for 12 years, you bet they’re for it.

That’s not to mention that Gallo and Akselrod agree on a slew of other topics not mentioned during the debate: gay marriage (against), the Voorhies Avenue mosque (against), Israel (FOR!).

One attendee – okay, I did it – submitted a question noting the candidates’ similarities on so many topics, and asked that they speak a little on what differentiates them from each other.

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Newly-elected 45th Assembly District Leader Ari Kagan will celebrate the launch of his new democratic club tonight. Called Bay Democrats, Kagan said his goal is to unite Southern Brooklyn’s democratic factions under one banner.

The grand opening will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bainbridge Center, 3093 Ocean Avenue. Kagan expects approximately 150 supporters to join him, along with a slew of elected officials from around Brooklyn and New York City.

Kagan, a Russian-American reporter and activist, unseated 24-year incumbent District Leader Mike Geller during last month’s primaries. The district leader position, listed on the ballot as the Member of the State Democratic Committee, is an unpaid, nongovernmental representative. District leaders help pick the party’s chairman, appoint judges, provide on-the-ground support for local campaigns and hire poll workers.

Though advertised as a “unity” club, Kagan’s base so far looks a lot like the emerging conservative Democratic blocs dominating recent elections, primarily comprised of right-leaning Russian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. Leaders of both communities are expected tonight, along with leaders of the Asian and African-American communities, who Kagan helped rally to Ben Akselrod’s side in his failed bid to win the democratic primary against Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz.

The base might be founded in conservative democratic politics, but Kagan said he’s up to the challenge of rallying support for candidates he calls “modernist progressive.”

He’s already endorsed left-leaning candidates including congressional candidate Mark Murphy and State Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes.

“In each case, I’m explaining my reasons for support, like with [Congressman Michael Grimm, whose name has surfaced in several corruption investigations],” Kagan told Sheepshead Bites. “It’s not like I’m doing it out of the blue.”

The event is expected to attract several members of the Highway Democratic Club, the centrist group led by Geller. Kagan also said Akselrod, Gournardes, Murphy, Brooklyn Democratic Party Chair Frank Seddio, congressional candidate Hakeem Jeffries, Comptroller John Liu, Councilmembers Michael Nelson and David Greenfield, State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein will all be in attendance.

Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, Independent Party candidate Ben Akselrod and Republican Russ Gallo. Cymbrowitz will not attend the debate.

The Manhattan Beach Community Group will host a debate during its meeting tomorrow night featuring candidates for Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’s seat. (Corrected)

Except Cymbrowitz won’t be there.

The group announced the debates earlier this month, noting on its website that Republican Russ Gallo will join them, along with Ben Akselrod, representing the Independence Party following his primary defeat against Cymbrowitz.

“Mr. Cymbrowitz has declined, in writing, stating that the MBCG is unable to be impartial,” they wrote on their website.

According to Brooklyn Daily, Cymbrowitz sent a letter stating, “A community group that has expressed public criticism of any candidate is simply not an appropriate sponsor for a debate.”

The paper adds:

Cymbrowitz also accused Zalcman of harassment during the primary, claiming the civic leader called police to make sure his campaign staff stayed an appropriate distance from the polling site at PS 195.

“I actually saw Ira Zalcman giving my workers a hard time, and he even called the police out to measure the 100 feet,” said Cymbrowitz. “So, that’s what it was about.”

Zalcman refuted those allegations as well.

“I went to PS 195 in the morning, I voted, and I left,” he said.

State Senator Marty Golden and Democratic challenger Andrew Gounardes are also expected to go toe-to-toe again make an appearance, after a series of contentious debates largely in the Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights section of the district.

During their first debate on October 9, the two resorted to attacks, at times raising their voices as they discussed women’s rights, guns and education, among other topics. They repeated their performance in a debate last week. and tomorrow night’s event will bring the electoral brawl home to Southern Brooklyn.

However, the two aren’t formally debating tomorrow, the group told Sheepshead Bites. They will each be allowed 5-minute statements and may take a few questions from the audience, but organizers did not think it would be practical to hold two debates.

The Manhattan Beach Community Group will also give updates to its members on the dog run and other community developments.

The meeting is tomorrow, October 24, at 8:00 p.m. in the auditorium of P.S. 195 (131 Irwin Street).

CORRECTION (5:09 p.m.): The original version of this article indicated that Golden and Gounardes would be debating at the meeting. We have been informed that that is not the case, and have updated the article to reflect that. We apologize for any confusion.


Republican Russ Gallo is screaming “Shenanigans!” after the latest round of Board of Elections bungling handed the Independence Party ballot line over to Democrat Ben Akselrod, and turning the November election into a three-way race.

Akselrod lost his Democratic primary bid for Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz’s seat but, at first, appeared to pick up enough write-ins to win the Independence Party line. That honor was also sought by Gallo, who kicked off his own write-in campaign in the September 13 primary.

Initial counts showed Akselrod won by three votes out of just 39 Independence ballots cast. But Gallo said that at least 21 Independence Party members signed in to vote but were mistakenly given Democratic ballots, causing their votes to be invalidated. And many of those votes, Gallo said, would have gone to him.

Gallo took Akselrod and the Board of Elections to court over the matter, and, following an October 3 hearing, the court agrees: the Board of Elections botched the job. But the court also said it’s too late to do anything about it.

“The judge agreed that the Board of Elections screwed up, but refuses to make them fix the situation simply because they say they can’t,” Gallo said in an e-mailed statement. “We will never know who truly deserved to be the Independence candidate because we’ll never know who actually won the Election.”

Keep reading to find out what the court said, and see the documents.

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