Archive for the tag 'lew fidler'

City Council candidate David Storobin

Following his defeat on Tuesday to Councilman-elect Chaim Deutsch, former State Senator David Storobin told Sheepshead Bites that he has no plans of ever running for office again, and also threw a jab at his Republican colleagues, likening them to a “debating society.”

The comment was made in an e-mail to us, following a tweet we posted in jest after the results of Tuesday’s election came in.

In reply, Storobin sent us this:

On twitter, you wondered about my future runs for office, against Cymbrowitz or someone else. Let me put this to rest: I didn’t run for the last two years because I’m obsessed with campaigning for public office. I’ve always been interested in politics and felt it was a way of making a difference for the better. The way things lined up, I had to run 3 times in a row, a nightmare I would’ve never started had I known how long it would take. But once I was in it, this is what I had to do. Under the circumstances, those were the correct choices, regardless of the final outcome.

My one regret in all this is that all my time in public eye has been very divisive because that’s the nature of elections where you have to distinguish yourself from your opponent, particularly when you are trying to be “the first”, both as a Russian and as a Republican, which upsets a lot of the traditional political balance.

I wish I had the chance to work without the divisiveness of elections. The one article I enjoyed the most about myself featured a quote from a CUNY professor who said I wasn’t just a Russian Senator, I tried to work for everyone in my brief tenure. I wish I could’ve done more of that – help my neighbors, regardless of their ethnicity, political affiliation or even if they like me or not.

And now things will go back to normal. I will go back to being a lawyer. Brooklyn Democrats won’t have to worry about getting re-elected. Brooklyn Republicans will go back to being a small debating society. Everything makes sense to everyone again.

After we requested clarification on whether or not this means he was done with politics, Storobin was unequivocal:

“Yes, I have no intention of ever running for office again,” he wrote.

If this is the end of the line for Storobin’s political career, it was a brief but historic stint. Storobin made his mark as the first Russian-American to sit in the State Senate, a distinction he won after an uphill campaign in a 2012 special election, taking on one of the city’s most powerful politicians, Councilman Lew Fidler. The victory was an upset, and seen by observers as an indicator of a Republican resurgence emerging in Southern Brooklyn.

Unfortunately for Storobin, his two subsequent campaigns, one to take on Simcha Felder for the “Super Jewish” district last year, and this year’s run for City Council, did not have the same success.

Source: SuperFantastic via Flickr

A new law raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old has been kicking around the City Council for more than three years, but most New York City residents didn’t hear about it until yesterday, when the legislative body gave its seal of approval.

If Mayor Michael Bloomberg signs the bill, as he’s expected to do, smokers younger than 21 years old will be banned from purchasing tobacco products in New York City. It’s among the highest age limits in the nation.

The bill passed 35-10, and includes e-cigarettes.

When the new law takes effect, shops found selling to people under age will face a $1,000 fine. On second offense, fines go up to $2,000, and the store may have its license revoked if additional offenses are committed within a three-year period.

Of the 10 Council members opposed to the new law, all were representatives from boroughs outside of Manhattan, and five were from Brooklyn.

With the exception of Charles Barron, who represents East New York, all of the Brooklyn opponents hailed from Southern Brooklyn.

Here’s how they voted:

  • Vincent Gentile (Bay Ridge – Bensonhurst): Against
  • David Greenfield (Bensonhurst – Borough Park): For
  • Jumaane Williams (Midwood – Flatbush): Against
  • Lew Fidler (Marine Park – Canarsie): Absent
  • Domenic Recchia (Coney Island – Gravesend): Against
  • Michael Nelson (Sheepshead Bay – Brighton Beach): Against

Although Fidler was absent for health reasons, we believe he would have voted against the age increase. Fidler previously opposed expanding the smoking ban to beaches and parks, as well as banning flavored tobacco products.

That means David Greenfield is the only Southern Brooklyn Council member to support the bill, and had Fidler voted (the way we think he would have), more than half the opposition would have hailed from our end of the borough.

Do Southern Brooklyn residents love smoking more than the rest of New York City? You tell us.

Candidates vying for the 48th City Council District participated in an unorthodox, but incredibly informational, forum last Thursday, hosted by the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association.

The learning-style forum gave local citizens the opportunity to interact directly with three City Council candidates for the 48th District: Republican David Storobin, Working Families Igor Oberman, and Democrat Chaim Deutsch. The format of the panel departed from the usual, and featured three reporters asking questions, which a citizens panel then answered as if they were the council members. The candidates then weighed in, saying how they’d approach the issue and responding to the residents’ proposals.

Moderated by City Councilman Lew Fidler, the panel touched on important concerns, including local development, parking and traffic, garbage and the revitalization of our commercial districts – the concerns residents said would guide their vote in the November 5 election.

The media panel brought together reporters from local, citywide, and New York policy publications: Michael Powell, a veteran metro reporter from the New York Times; Cristian Salazar, editor of the Gotham Gazette, a policy analysis publication; and our own Ned Berke, editor and publisher of Sheepshead Bites.

Attendance for the event filled up the Carmine Carro Community Center in Brooklyn’s Marine Park, where the event took place. Ed Jaworski, the president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association and organizer of the event said that the event was “an opportunity for the public, candidates for office, and current office holders to learn from citizens. It‘s a focus on citizen input, that is, bottom-up consideration.”

William Chin, one of the citizen panels, said, “It was an unbelievable turnout.” But he added that though the content was good, there weren’t many “campaignable promises.”

Storobin, Oberman, and Deutsch had dissenting opinions about what it would take to draw business to local shops, find a balance in the equitable distribution of wealth, and educate proprietors on the basics of business stability.

In fact, one of the few things the candidates did agree upon was the rejection of Bloomberg’s 16-ounce soda ban, with Storobin calling it “preposterous” and Oberman adding, “We don’t need another politician concerned about soda.”

The entire panel can be watched in the video above.

Source: retrofresh! via flickr

Source: retrofresh! via flickr

It’s been nearly a year since Superstorm Sandy and there are still stretches of the Belt Parkway bathed in darkness as a result of the storm. CBS NY is reporting that overhead lights near Knapp Street and Flatbush Avenue remain damaged, creating dangerous driving conditions for motorists.

Since Sandy struck late last October, Sheepshead Bites has received numerous complaints about the non-functioning lights along the Belt Parkway. According to CBS, 150 lights went dark after the electrical system that operates them got destroyed in Sandy’s wake.

Councilman Lew Fidler is taking the charge, arguing that it is about time that the lights get fixed:

“This is starting to get dangerous,” City Councilman Lew Fidler (D-Brooklyn) told [CBS reporter Tamara] Leitner.

Fidler said he reached out to the New York City Department of Transportation seven months ago, but he is still waiting for the problem to be fixed.

“It’s just going to take one accident and one lawsuit,” Fidler said. “It’s going to cost the city more money than replacing the lighting from scratch.”

The Department of Transportation told CBS that they are working to bring in temporary lighting in the coming weeks. The also defended themselves by saying they can’t replace the broken lighting system until federal dollars start to roll their way.

Better late than never, I guess?

bridge

The borough of Brooklyn has a serious bridge problem, as 240 of them, which is more than half, need serious repairs, according to a new report. The New York Daily News is reporting that some of the worst bridges in the borough include the seven bridges along the Belt Parkway that are in the process of rehabilitation.

Of the 240 Brooklyn bridges cited for serious repair, 15 were designated as “fracture critical” and “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration. Bridge expert Barry LePartner told the Daily News that analysis such as this spells bad news.

“Every time you see a bridge classified as structurally deficient and fracture critical it means that bridge could fall at a moment’s notice,” LePartner said, ““It’s extremely dangerous for people going over these bridges.”

The Daily News reported that in the time of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reign as mayor, the federal government has given New York City $6 billion for bridge repair with an estimated $1 billion designated for Brooklyn. A majority of that money has gone to the Brooklyn Bridge ($500 million) and the seven bridges of the Belt Parkway ($365 million) but experts say that more money and effort are needed to repair and restore many of the crossways, many of which were built over 70 years ago:

A large number of the bad bridges date back to the 1930s and 40s, and take years to fix.

For example, it has been four years now since the city undertook a $365 million project to rebuild seven crumbling bridges along the Belt Parkway. Those crossways carry an estimated 150,000 cars a day through Brooklyn and Queens to John F. Kennedy Airport and Nassau County to the east, and to the Gowanus Expressway and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the west.

Those bridges are located at the Paerdegat Basin, Gerritsen Inlet, and by Bay Ridge Ave., as well by the Fresh Creek Basin and Rockaway Parkway in Queens.

Councilman Lew Fidler told the Daily News that the city was working to repair the bridges but that the issue is serious and costly.

“We all know those bridges are the worst of the worst. Those bridges have launched the careers of so many personal injury lawyers,” Fidler told the Daily News.

City Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

City Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

Democrats across the city are rallying behind the perceived inevitability of Bill de Blasio becoming the Democratic nominee after the candidate narrowly slipped by the trigger for a runoff in the preliminary vote count, and are urging Bill Thompson to concede his desire for a recount to force to a runoff. Councilman Lew Fidler, though, is not one of them. An ardent supporter of Bill Thompson, he’s urging his friend to keep the campaign alive.

In the first returns, it appears that de Blasio just barely eclipsed the 40 percent margin needed to avoid a runoff with Thompson, who finished second with 26.2 percent of the vote. If a recount does find de Blasio under the 40 percent threshold, Thompson and his supporters are hoping that voters who cast ballots for Christine Quinn, John Liu and Anthony Weiner could be persuaded to make up the difference. This is exactly what Thompson supporter Fidler is banking on, striking a defiant anti-de Blasio tone in his remarks to the Daily News.

“When people realize what they’ve done, they’ll reconsider and vote for Thompson,” Fidler said.

Fidler’s stern support of Thompson is flying in the face of a bevvy local Democrats, who once endorsed the likes of Quinn and Thompson, jump ship and back de Blasio. A report by Politicker made a long list of politicians and labor groups switching to Team de Blasio:

The Democratic and labor establishment, however, has indicated they have little appetite for another primary race. Indeed, the two Democrats who will be locked in a citywide runoff for public advocate, Councilwoman Tish James and State Senator Daniel Squadron, were among those endorsing Mr. de Blasio today.

“There are two reasons we are supporting Bill de Blasio. He tells the truth, and he’s a fighter for the middle class, working class and poor. That’s an awfully good combination, and we’re excited to get behind his campaign,” Dan Cantor, executive director of the WFP, in a statement. “Bill de Blasio has dedicated himself to addressing the soaring inequality that characterizes New York.”

Despite all the momentum that the de Blasio campaign is mounting, Fidler had strong words for anyone who backed Thompson and are now considering supporting de Blasio.

“Grow a pair and don’t rush to judgment,” Fidler told the Daily News.

When asked if Fidler’s hard line against de Blasio would melt if Thompson was defeated once and for all, Fidler wouldn’t give an inch.

“I’m not prepared to answer that,” Fidler said, adding that, “I am going to be with Bill Thompson until the last vote is counted.”

Councilmen Lew Fidler and Jumaane Williams together. (Source: NY City Council via the Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

A terrible photo of councilmembers Lew Fidler and Jumaane Williams together. (Source: NY City Council via the Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

First term Councilman Jumaane Williams has been a rising star in the New York City Council and his introduction into the world of politics can be partly attributed to local Councilman Lew Fidler. A report in the New York Daily News tracks Williams’ interesting path to political success as well as the unlikely bond the councilman shares with Fidler.

Williams, 37, was elected to the City Council in 2009 as a Democrat representing parts of Midwood, Canarsie, Flatbush, East Flatbush and the Flatlands. The Daily News described Williams’ childhood challenges as well as his early career path as an actor:

Williams, who wears his hair in dreadlocks, spent his early years labeled a problem child, prone to verbal outbursts. It wasn’t until his teens that he was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“I thought it was just a behavioral problem,” his mother, Patricia Williams, a native of Grenada, told the Daily News. “But he was always a caring person, which I think drives him to achieve what he does.”

He gravitated towards acting in his 20s, landing small roles in rap duo EPMD’s video for “Da Joint” and Solo’s “Touch Me.”

Despite his dreams of becoming an actor, Williams was always interested in politics, joining the student government when he was a student of Brooklyn College. The Daily News described how Fidler helped put Williams on the path towards a different kind of stardom, that of the political nature:

Ironically it was Fidler — the councilman who heaped praise on Williams when voting no on his Council bills — who helped bring him into politics. A friend who knew Williams from his time in student government at Brooklyn College recommended him to Fidler, a Democratic district leader.

The woman recommended him even though Williams and Fidler had been on opposing sides of issues.

Fidler ended up appointing him to the community board, and he became deeply involved in Brooklyn politics.

Williams has made waves recently for leading the charge against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, successfully sponsoring legislation that allows residents to sue the NYPD for profiling people racially, for sexual orientation, suspected immigrant status, gender or homelessness. Williams scored praise for his handling of the measure, diplomatically arguing his case without resorting to divisive rhetoric.

An example of this is when Williams heard the news that a federal judge ordered reforms on the stop-and-frisk policy, he tweeted a photo of himself with Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s deputy mayor, stating that, “It’s about disagreeing without being disagreeable.” Needless to say, such an act would be a touch out-of-character for Councilman Charles Barron.

Even though Fidler sided with Bloomberg’s subsequent veto attempt of the measure, the Daily News noted the councilman heaped praise on Williams, saying that Williams changed his “perspective” on stop-and-frisk.

Councilman Lew Fidler let the rage fly when it came to addressing the executives behind the Time/Warner CBS dispute at a recent City Council hearing.  A Huffington Post editorial addressing the dispute, which resulted in the blacking out of CBS and Showtime for millions of New Yorkers, highlighted Fidler’s fiery hammering of executives only concerned with “the bottom line,” and not the consumer.

Fidler’s speech, which you should really watch from beginning to end just for sheer entertainment, tapped into all sorts of populist anger, including rage, disbelief and indignation, all directed at, let’s face it, totally greedy corporate scumbags. Huff Post’s Sandi Bachom compared Fidler’s speech to the famous scene from the movie Network, where character Howard Beale is “mad as hell” and “not going to take this anymore!” While Fidler didn’t direct people in the Council chambers to stick their heads out a window and scream, he didn’t mince words when he let the executives involved know how he really feels about them:

The sole purpose of this hearing is for you to understand just how angry your customers are… Not one of you gives a damn about the consumer, not one of you. You care about the bottom line… both of you. Shame on all of you… There is something wrong with all of you. And you want to charge a la carte? Every time I want to watch the Big Bang Theory I have to put 50 cents into the pot?… No one has rabbit ears anymore!

Making the situation even more insidious is the recent assault on the United State’s “net neutrality” laws, which forbids internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking access to certain content. In a must-read editorial by Brian Hedden of Bay Ridge Odyssey, Hedden notes that while ISPs like Time Warner can’t block access to CBS.com, which often provides much of their content for free online, CBS, as a content provider can block certain ISPs from gaining access to their content, in essence, violating the “spirit” of federal net neutrality laws.

Time Warner – the cable TV provider in Bay Ridge – has always been very aggressive with content providers in negotiating rebroadcast fees, same as Cablevision and other American cable TV providers. Aggressive to the point of being dicks. They haven’t been shy about temporarily pulling a station from their TV package as a means of gaining leverage, the consumer be damned.

But they haven’t gone as far as blocking a content provider from their Internet service. Not because they aren’t obnoxious enough… I’m pretty sure they are. But they’re flat out not allowed to block access. In the U.S., net neutrality is the law of the land for Internet service provider. An ISP is obligated to be neutral to what kinds of sites their customers can access, so Time Warner can’t block CBS, or any other site.

Unfortunately, the same principle does not apply to the content providers themselves. There are a number of reasons why an Internet site would block access from certain ISP’s or computer locations.

The point is, cable companies and content providers share a high level of evil in their operations, with no one side being more blameworthy than the other. For me, I have always been outraged how cable companies are granted “exclusive” territories, free to charge whatever they want for their services without fear of competition. Imagine a world where Cablevision had to compete head-to-head with Time Warner. Prices of cable and internet services would plummet as cable companies would probably do anything to keep their customers from freely switching. Instead, the companies enjoy relative government back regional monopolies, free to squeeze as much money as they can out of their consumers all while providing dingy service.

An interview on Diane Rehm’s NPR show with communications policy expert Susan Crawford revealed just how bad American consumers have it when it comes to cable television and internet service:

“If you’re in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, really your only choice for wired high-speed Internet access at home is Comcast,” [Crawford] said. “If you move into an apartment in Seoul [South Korea], you have a choice of three different providers, they show up in a day because there’s so much competition, and they charge you $30 for TV and everything. Koreans when they come to the United States… actually laugh at us for how expensive and how slow [American Internet service] is.”

So there you have it, our cable companies are terrible. As a young, computer-savvy guy, I have had the ability to “cut the cord,” except for internet service. I can get all my media online via Netflix and other free streaming services, only having to suffer the minor inconvenience of watching it on my computer screen. Still, not everyone is computer savvy or willing to strain their eyes watching their favorite TV shows and movies on their computers. Most people, deservedly, want to be able to sit on their couch in front of the flat-screens and relax after a brutal day of work. As costs rise and greed wars rage between content providers and cable companies, the consumer is slowly reaching the breaking point over a service that should cost a third of what they are being charged.

The interior of the Gerritsen Beach Library Post-Sandy

The interior of the Gerritsen Beach Library Post-Sandy

The Gerritsen Beach library (2808 Gerritsen Avenue), which was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, is one step closer to reopening . In a press release, Councilman Lew Fidler and Assemblyman Alan Maisel announced that the library is set to open its doors in September.

Like many libraries in Southern Brooklyn, the Gerritsen Beach library was rocked hard by Sandy. Damage was inflicted to its electrical system, doors, chairs, shelves and computers. The Sheepshead Bay library was the first Sandy-damaged library to reopen in January after $1 million in repairs.

In April, we reported that a coalition of Turkish-American organizations donated $30,000 towards the repair of the Gerritsen Beach library.

Photo By Ned Berke

Photo By Ned Berke

Mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner was attacked by Democratic lawmakers over a campaign contribution made from a lawyer who has lobbied for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based news network. The New York Post is reporting that Councilman Lew Fidler and Assemblyman Alan Maisel have urged Weiner to return the contribution, indicating that the money is tainted by enemies of America and Israel.

The donation, which totaled $4,950, was made by John Merrigan, a lawyer and lobbyist for Al Jazeera. The local pols argue that Al Jazeera is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, and to accept the contribution would be a slap in the face to Jewish voters.

“Al Jazeera and its lobbyists are no friends to New York City or our Jewish community, and Anthony shouldn’t accept their support,” Fidler told the Post. “They have spread hate and lies against Jews, not only here in New York but across the world. The right thing to do is to give this money back. Anthony should do exactly that.”

Maisel echoed Fidler’s remarks.

“Anthony Weiner should know better than to accept contributions from friends [at] Al Jazeera, which has been a voice for terrorists and spewed hatred against Jews and the state of Israel,” Maisel said. “They have echoed and attempted to legitimize hate speech about wiping Israel off the map. It’s disgraceful.

Fidler and Maisel are both deeply entrenched in the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, a Southern Brooklyn stronghold that is backing former Comptroller Bill Thompson in the mayoral race. Frank Seddio, who heads the club, is also the county chairman for the Kings County Democratic Party, which has also endorsed Thompson. Thompson, along with many of Weiner’s rivals in the mayoral race, is doggedly pursuing Jewish voters in Brooklyn, from whom Weiner is expected to have an advantage as the only Jewish candidate in the race and a hawkish, pro-Israel track record during his time in Congress.

While Weiner did not respond to the Post article directly, according to a report by the Jewish Press, he did comment on the donation during an interview on Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s radio show. Weiner, who is the only Jewish candidate in the race, accused the Thompson campaign of smearing him and laughed off the notion that he is anti-Israel.

“It is funny, last week I was hit for being too hawkish on Israel and this week I being hit for being too close to Al-Jazeera,” Weiner said.

The Jewish Press went on to describe the extent of Weiner’s relationship with Merrigan as well as Weiner’s belief that by accepting the donation, he is not supporting Al Jazeera:

Mr. Weiner went on to defend himself for accepting the contribution saying Merrigan is a partner in DLA Piper – a state law firm that advocates for the Democratic Party’s causes.

“I’ve never met the man. I guess what Mr. Thompson’s supporters are saying this because he represented Al-Jazeera America… that somehow I’m supporting Al-Jazeera.” Mr. Weiner said, adding, “I’m not a supporter of Al-Jazeera. I’m not taking money from Al-Jazeera. This makes me smile but this is what happens, I guess, you start doing well.. old politics kick in.. People want to sell you up a bit to slow your momentum.”

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