Archive for the tag 'ben akselrod'

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Akselrod (l) and Cymbrowitz (r)

Nobody beats the ‘witz, at least not in the 2014 primary elections.

Fourteen-year incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz won his party’s nod for reelection to the 45th Assembly District last night in one of the closest elections in the borough. But it was a solid victory for the local pol, who bested challenger Ben Akselrod by a margin nearly double that won during his 2012 matchup against the same candidate.

Cymbrowitz gave his victory speech just before 11pm last night, when his team had tallied up initial reports from approximately 70 percent of precincts.

“It was a terrific campaign. We more than doubled our victory from two years ago,” he said of the preliminary numbers that came in before all votes were counted. “I want to thank every part of my community … This was really very, very special.”

Preliminary results from the Board of Elections show Cymbrowitz with 2,137 votes, or 57.2 percent of the total, versus Ben Akselrod’s 1,599 votes, or 42.8 percent. In both percentage and actual votes, Cymbrowitz showed sizable gains over his opponent, who he beat by just eight points, or 294 votes in 2012. The margin this year was 538 votes, or 14 points.

Voters may not have seen the last of Ben Akselrod in this campaign season, however. The candidate filed an opportunity to ballot on the Republican line, a procedure that could have him in the general election if he organized enough write-in votes from Republican voters yesterday. The Board of Election will take several weeks to count, review and certify those ballots to make it official.

The win appeared to surprise some political observers, who believed Cymbrowitz’s strength had been diminished by the growing political influence of Russian and Jewish voters in the district that they believed would fall more heavily to Askelrod, who is both Russian and Orthodox Jewish.

It was a tough fought and, at times, nasty campaign, with allegations of voter harassment on the Sabbath, mysterious race-tinged fliers, and anonymous phone calls that attacked the incumbent’s wife for not being Jewish.

Cymbrowitz alluded to one of those negative attacks in his victory speech.

“I particularly want to thank [my wife] Vilma for not only being a great support, but keeping her cool when she had to when the attacks started coming,” he said.

Cymbrowitz will now move on to the general elections on November 4, where he’ll face off against Mikhail Usher, who is running on the Conservative Party line, and possibly Akselrod on the Republican line.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and challenger Ben Akselrod sought to distinguish themselves from each other at a candidate’s forum for the 45th Assembly District organized by the Manhattan Beach Community Group last week. Although the rivals agreed on many issues, the two expressed different approaches to campaign financing and improving traffic safety, among a few other disagreements.

Cymbrowitz, Akselrod

Though the campaigns have been in full swing for many months, the two candidates for the Democratic primary had not yet done much to set themselves apart ideologically. Aside from an uninspiring dust-up over nominating petitions, voters had only the incumbent’s record and his challenger’s claims from his 2012 campaign to base their vote until Wednesday’s forum.

The two differed on public financing of campaigns, an initiative that watchdogs say would limit or eliminate the influence of special interests. Public financing sets caps on how much contributors can give to a person seeking office, and offers matching funds for small donations from individuals. New York City has a public financing system for the City Council and other citywide posts, while Albany does not.

Akselrod said he opposes public funding because the public should not pay for it.

“We have too much money going through government and this is where it shouldn’t be. We have numerous examples of people running for office … for one single reason, to get matching funds. I do not want people’s money to be involved in a campaign,” he said.

He did not provide any examples of such candidates. Public financing proposals all impose far stricter spending controls on campaign funds than Albany currently has, and funds cannot be used for personal expenses.

Cymbrowitz threw his support in for public financing, in line with the majority of Democrats in Albany. Public financing of campaigns has so far been blocked by Senate Republicans.

“For the last six years I’ve voted in favor of [public financing] … it has not passed the state legislature because the Republican Senate has not voted in favor of it,” Cymbrowitz said. “We’re very hopeful that this year after the November election the governor will put in a campaign finance program that Democrats in the Assembly and Republicans in the Senate will be able to vote for.”

Akselrod, however, did say that ethics reforms would be at the top of his priority list. One area he hopes to see reform is in the use of discretionary funding, a small pot of money pols are given to distribute to groups in their district. The challenger said he hoped to implement something along the lines of participatory budgeting (although his words were “participatory democracy”), a program in the Council where the community itself proposes and votes on such items.

Cymbrowitz pointed out that this year is the first time in five years that state legislators were given the funds. He didn’t directly answer the moderator’s question on how more controls can be put on the spending, but did note that the funds are used to keep non-profits and community organizations funded. He said oversight is provided by the agencies that the money is allocated through, which have their own criteria, not the legislators who steered it.

On road safety, both candidates said that enforcement technologies like speed cameras were not enough (and outright opposed by Akselrod). Cymbrowitz said more police enforcement was necessary, and expressed hope that the new leadership at the 61st Precinct and in the citywide administration would be more responsive. Akselrod pushed his proposal, first made in June, for mandatory driving courses in high school.

The event was cordial and the two rarely interacted with each other. They agreed on most issues including:

  • Medical marijuana – in favor of the limited program that passed in Albany earlier this year, and oppose full legalization and legalization of smokable forms of medical marijuana.
  • Moreland Commission – Governor Andrew Cuomo should not have disbanded it. Cymbrowitz said he looks forward to the Attorney General continuing the investigations.
  • Democratic National Convention in Brooklyn  - both said they were for it, noting the potential increase in economic activity.
  • Charter schools – a good initiative, but co-locations with public schools should be stopped.
  • Term limits for Albany legislators – they both opposed term limits, saying elections were sufficient.

Primary elections will be held on September 9.

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

With two weeks to go before the September 9 primary elections, the Democratic candidates for the 45th Assembly District will attend a candidates night at the Manhattan Beach Community Group meeting on Wednesday.

The race is a reprise of the 2012 elections, with incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz fending off a challenge from Ben Akselrod. It’s been a particularly quiet race so far, although the candidates have traded barbs on such compelling issues as nominating petitions.

That could change during the 8:00 p.m. meeting at P.S. 195 (131 Irwin Street), where the two are both confirmed to attend and will face questions from the public about their views on various issues.

The group has hosted several debates and candidates nights for recent elections, and regularly asks tough policy questions submitted from group members and the broader public.

President Judy Baron emphasized to Sheepshead Bites that this event would be no different, and that all are invited to attend no matter where they live in the district. Questions can be submitted for consideration at the beginning of the event.

Source: Davidzon Radio

Source: Davidzon Radio

The following is a press release from Davidzon Radio:

Residents of southern Brooklyn demonstrated their solidarity with Israel, Sunday evening, at a rally on the Reigelman Boardwalk that stretched from Brighton 5th Street to almost Ocean Parkway. The gathering was sponsored by Ben Akselrod and Davidzon Radio, which arranged for Sofa Landver, a member of Israel’s Knesset and Minister of Repatriation and Integration, Aleksander Valdman the deputy mayor of Ashdod and Larisa Gershtein, the former vice mayor of Jerusalem to address the crowd live from Israel providing the latest information on events in the Holy Land.

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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.

baydems

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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