City Council analyst John Lisyanskiy officially threw his hat in the ring for Coney Island’s 47th District on December 16 with an e-mail blast to supporters, making him one of two candidates for the district to forego the political hand-wringing over redistricting and jump in the race. Meanwhile, others in what was expected to be a somewhat crowded field for the Democratic nod, are reconsidering their runs – and almost all are urging constituents to turn out to tomorrow’s Districting Committee hearing to oppose the plan.
Lisyanskiy is one of four Democratic contenders vying to replace term-limited Domenic Recchia that have registered committees with the Campaign Finance Board. Lisyanskiy is joined by activist Todd Dobrin; Michael Treybich, an attorney
and deputy legal director for the New York State Young Democrats; and Brian Gotlieb, former chairman of Community Board 13.
Lisyanskiy, who serves as a legislative budget aide in the City Council under Speaker Christine Quinn, jumps in the race with tens of thousands of dollars collected for a 2009 run that ultimately fizzled after term limits were extended. The campaign’s announcement came weeks before the council’s district lines are set to be finalized, a process which could see a campaign’s key constituencies flung into a neighboring district.
But Lisyanskiy said the latest district lines were of little concern in determining whether or not to run.
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Now that we’ve got our first real glimpse of Russian Dolls, the new Brighton Beach-based reality show to air on Lifetime, it was just a matter of time until the reviews came in from Russian leaders. After we published the video on Friday, Ari Kagan – whose credentials in the Russian-speaking community include a journalism career, a one-time candidacy for the State Assembly, being the current liaison to the Russian-speaking community for Comptroller Liu, and a rumored contender for Michael Nelson’s City Council seat – sent us the following note condemning the show:
There is no question in my mind that the Russian Dolls series will depict the Russian-speaking community in a distorted way, as a caricature, as a joke. Lifetime does not care about the thousands of great, beautiful, funny, smart and hard-working young Russian speaking women who attend colleges and universities, make money as paralegals, librarians, nurses, journalists and computer specialists. They are great daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. They don’t spend most of their time in nightclubs, bars or lounges. They don’t speak this dirty language and they hate vodka.
Of course, we do have our own bad apples, low lives and criminals, but they constitute a minority in the Russian speaking community. Lifetime wants to create a lot of fun and entertainment by throwing the reputation of Russian-speaking New Yorkers under the bus.
It looks like Kagan is throwing his lot in with John Lisyanskiy, who condemned the show’s title as synonymous with prostitution, and who authored a letter to Lifetime expressing concerns that the channel will be “reducing would-be contestants to vodka-drinking ethnic caricatures who ‘love attention’ and do little more than ‘eat, drink and party.’” Lisyanskiy is the founder of the Russian-Speaking American Leadership Caucus, and the letter was co-signed by 42 elected politicians and Russian-speaking activists.
We have a feeling, as the show gets closer to its August 11 premiere, Kagan won’t be the last voice we hear from.
Michael and Marina Levitis, two of Russian Dolls' stars (Source: James Edstrom)
Lifetime’s newest show, the Brighton Beach-themed reality series Russian Dolls, is taking another round of flack as Russian leaders zero in on the new title, saying it’s synonymous with one of their community’s bugaboos: escort services.
You might be more familiar with the show’s working title, Brighton Beach, which was originally conceived as a Russian-American response to MTV’s Jersey Shore. The concept was eventually rejected by MTV and picked up by Lifetime. First, some Russian leaders expressed concern the show might depict the community as a bunch of opulent, vodka-swilling party animals. Others defended Lifetime, taking at face value the A&E-owned network’s assertion that it would be a “multigenerational cast … [chronicling] several colorful families, with the show’s action centered on a popular local nightclub.” And their faith stayed firm after Sheepshead Bites revealed that the show would focus on the family of Rasputin owner Michael Levitis, who was recently caught up in an FBI probe allegedly acting as a middleman in a bribery scheme involving State Senator Carl Kruger.
But the name may be beyond the pale. “Russian Dolls” is a term frequently used to advertise Russian escort services and prostitution fronts, a detail not overlooked by the community’s leaders.
“It’s the most ugly name I’ve ever heard,” said Raisa Chernina, director of the Be Proud Foundation, a non-profit with roots in the Russian-American community. “The name speaks for itself. Russian Dolls is a very polite way of saying escorts.”
“They told me it was Russian Dolls and I said ‘My God.’ It’s like those Danielle Steel books,” Chernina added.
Russian Dolls: How are other Russian-American leaders reacting? Pretty much the same way. Keep reading.
Michael and Marina Levitis at Rasputin's Women's Day Soirée (Source: James Edstrom)
Lifetime’s Brighton Beach reality show will star a confessed criminal and local nightclub owner facing disbarment and six months in jail after a political scandal, but the Russian community isn’t worried about negative stereotyping because they “trust” the A&E-owned network.
Michael Levitis, lawyer and owner of Rasputin Nightclub (2670 Coney Island Avenue) confirmed to Sheepshead Bites that the show is focused, in part, on his family, a casting decision that comes as Levitis is caught up in an alleged corruption scheme with State Senator Carl Kruger.
Levitis pleaded guilty of lying to federal investigators earlier this month in relation to an FBI probe dating back to 2007. The investigation explored an alleged influence peddling scheme in which Levitis was recorded telling another restaurateur that the state senator would help him with state matters if he held a fundraiser and turned over thousands of dollars for the politician’s campaign. Federal prosecutors charged Kruger last Thursday with accepting at least $1 million in bribes in a separate investigation.
Though local Russian-American leaders previously squabbled over potentially harmful depictions of their community in the Brighton Beach show, it seems all is quiet in Little Odessa despite the casting revelation.
Find out more about Brighton Beach reality show, the Levitis family and what the Russian-American leaders are saying.
Can we? (Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)
Looks like Little Odessa is far from united in their perception of the Brighton Beach reality series, and television producers looking for real Russkie drama need only follow around the community’s leadership.
Following the letter earlier this week written by Russian-Speaking American Leadership Caucus’ John Lisyanskiy and signed by dozens of politicians, media personalities, advocates and business owners bashing on the upcoming Brighton Beach reality show, another Brighton Beach heavyweight is criticizing the critics for not doing their homework.
Keep reading: Brightonites bash Brightonites’ bashing of Brighton Beach.
A March casting call for 'Brighton Beach'
Just weeks into shooting for the Brighton Beach reality show, the Russian-American community is blasting entertainment media for cartoonish depictions of Russian-Americans, and warning producers of the new series to avoid callous stereotyping.
A group of 42 elected politicians and Russian-speaking activists sent a strongly-worded letter to Lifetime Networks executives, taking issue with the proposed show’s model – the “highly contentious and ethnically derogatory Jersey Shore.”
“It has come to our attention that the casting call for the show sought out ‘the Russian Snooki and The Situation’, reducing would-be contestants to vodka-drinking ethnic caricatures who ‘love attention’ and do little more than ‘eat, drink and party’,” wrote John Lisyanskiy, the founder of the Russian-Speaking American Leadership Caucus, and the main signee on the letter.
The Brighton Beach reality show is already shooting – keep reading.