Archive for the tag 'theresa scavo'

Alan Maisel

We reported yesterday that more than $800,000 has poured into three local City Council races by independent spending committees, or PACs, largely representing the real estate development and business industries. The groups are allowed to spend unlimited amounts, unlike the candidates themselves, but also cannot coordinate with the campaigns by law. The most prominent group, Jobs for New York, representing developers, has doled out the most, with as much as $6 million citywide, according to a New York Times report this morning.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local candidates, they’ve also spent nearly $100,000 locally to distribute negative mailers bashing the opponents of their chosen candidates.

Predictably, those opponents are crying foul. Just this morning, John Lisyanskiy, the target of negative mailers in his campaign to replace Councilman Domenic Recchia, denounced a negative mailer that accused him of stealing from victims of Superstorm Sandy.

“I am disgusted and angered by a recent mail piece that accused me of profiting at the expense of Hurricane Sandy victims. It is sickening that anyone would stoop so low as to insinuate that I exploited the families I had just helped in return for a few bucks,” said Lisyanskiy. “What these attacks really do is illuminate the shadow world of corporate money in campaigns. Jobs for New York, the political action committee for the billion-dollar real estate industry and the Small Business Coalition are responsible for these attacks. Corporate Tycoons don’t care about the larger civic good, or constructive ideas that move our community forward. They are interested in two things only, getting richer and instilling fear and blame.”

Lisyanskiy and other targets of negative mailers from these PACs have demanded that those the PACs support denounce the negative mailers.

The candidates who have received that support, though, have largely kept mum. Lisyanskiy’s opponent, Mark Treyger, hasn’t said a word about the PACs. And though Ari Kagan, recipient of Jobs for New York support in his race for Councilman Michael Nelson’s seat, expressed displeasure in passing, his campaign refused to denounce the negative ads during a follow up from this outlet.

However, after our report yesterday, Assemblyman Alan Maisel, who has received more than $200,000 from Jobs for New York and a PAC representing the teachers’ union, went on the record repudiating the mailings. Maisel is running to replace Councilman Lew Fidler. Here is his statement in full:

For the third time in about a week, the independent PAC Jobs for New York has sent a negative campaign mailer about my opponent in the Democratic Primary. First and foremost, I want to repudiate these mailings and frankly, if I knew how and it weren’t against the law for me to communicate with this independent PAC, I would ask them to stop. I want to apologize to all those who have been the subject of and who have been subjected to these mailings.

I have attempted to run a wholly positive campaign and I will not condone negative attacks, particularly ones as tenuous as these. I look forward to concluding this campaign with dignity, integrity and on exclusively positive notes.

We’ve dropped a note to the Kagan and Treyger campaigns to see if they’ll do the same, and will update this story when we hear back.

Source: 401(K) 2013

Four  special interest groups have doled out more than $818,000 on just three Southern Brooklyn City Council campaigns in an unprecedented attempt to sway voters, with one real estate interest group spending far more money than the candidates have themselves spent.

The spending is a local version of the super PAC phenomenon that emerged in last year’s presidential race as a result of the Citizens United decision. Major business interests coalesce into a focused spending group to rally behind a chosen candidate – and decry the candidate’s rivals. The groups are not limited in their spending, but New York City campaign finance laws – among the most progressive in the nation – require them to disclose their backers, and document their spending. The records indicate that four independent spenders have taken an interest in three City Council campaigns that follow the Brooklyn shoreline from Bath Beach to Canarsie.

Potential voters have likely seen the effects of independent spending, as political mailers jammed their mailboxes with messages supporting one candidate or blasting others. The largest of the four groups involved in the area elections, Jobs for New York, is backed by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), a group of the city’s largest real estate developers, and has caused the targets of their negative mailers to cry foul.

“Real estate tycoons have had their greedy eyes set on Coney Island for decades. Seaside residents are in constant danger of being uprooted by developers who would love nothing more than to sweep away communities to make room for swanky developments,” said John Lisyanskiy, who is vying to replace Domenic Recchia in the  47th District. “I urge all candidates citywide to reject attempts by corporations to buy their support with outsized expenditures. Campaigns should be about the people we seek to represent, and we must do everything we can to ensure that their voices are not dwarfed by developers and other deep-pocketed special interests.”

“I am deeply concerned that an unfettered influx of heavy spending by real estate tycoons will prevent a fair and honest debate about the future of development in our area,” said Igor Oberman, a candidate to replace Councilman Michael Nelson in the 48th District. “The cost of living in our City continues to rise, and REBNY represents developers who would litter our neighborhoods with overpriced and unaffordable housing units, altering the character of our neighborhood and pricing people out.”

Keep reading: Find out what candidates have received support, and what some say about it.


A sweeping City Council candidates’ forum hosted by the Manhattan Beach Community Group last Wednesday touched on topics including stop-and-frisk, discretionary funding, and the overhaul of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. But the audience, which included active civic association leaders from around the district, was eager to question the candidates on their plans to wrestle some local control back from City Hall and back into the community.

The Democratic candidates vying to replace term-limited Michael Nelson in the 48th District fielded a volley of wonkish questions about Community Board reforms, community-based planning, and a potential dismantling of a city agency that many civic boards fault with turning a blind eye to over-development in the area.

Continue Reading »

Council candidate Ari Kagan

Council candidate Ari Kagan

The aftermath of this week’s explosive City Council debate in Midwood is still causing ripples of discontent among the candidates. According to a press release, candidate Ari Kagan is demanding that Chaim Deutsch apologize for suggesting that he has no right to publish his name in Hebrew.

As we reported yesterday, the recent debate hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition was a squabbling affair. Among the feistiness, Deutsch, on the offensive all evening, also attacked Kagan for printing his first name in Hebrew on his mailers.

“I will not be like my opponent … Mr. Ari Kagan, advertising as the name ‘Ari’ in Hebrew, making people think he is the Orthodox candidate,” said Deutsch, according to Politicker. “I will not fool anyone. I will not lie to you.”

In today’s release, Kagan slammed Deutsch for the accusation, listing Soviet religious oppression as the reason for the name change:

“It is outrageous for someone to suggest that I should not use my name in Hebrew on campaign materials,” said Kagan. “Where I grew up in Minsk, Belarus, my family wasn’t permitted to practice Judaism freely.  My grandmother was killed by Nazis in the Minsk ghetto, and my grandfather died from injuries he suffered fighting in World War II.  I’m grateful to be living in America where I can practice my religion freely and be proud of being Jewish. That’s why over a decade ago I had my name legally changed from the Russian Arkady to the Hebrew Ari.  I proudly use my Jewish name wherever I may be. I have no other name. My name is Ari.”

Kagan then demanded an apology from Deutsch and promised to forgive him if he delivered.

“Chaim Deutsch should apologize for his attack on my Jewish name [on Tuesday]. His words were hurtful, divisive and dishonest. This represents the same old ‘politics as usual’ that people in our community have grown tired of. In the spirit of Rosh Hashona I will certainly forgive him if only he apologizes and promises not to attack me for my Jewish name again,” Kagan wrote.

Deutsch, though, said the statement was never meant to be an attack on the change of his name from Arkady to Ari, but only on the placement of his name in Hebrew lettering on campaign materials. And for that, he doubled down on his criticism.

“What I meant was that he put his name Ari in Hebrew lettering in advertisements in the Orthodox community, saying he’s the candidate for our community. It has nothing to do with what his name was. That’s absolutely not what I meant,” Deutsch told Sheepshead Bites. “When you’re running for office, you have to be truthful with people, and when you change the lettering to Hebrew and say I’m the community’s choice, it’s more pandering and it’s making people think you’re an Orthodox Jewish person.”

With additional reporting by Ned Berke.

Steven Matsas, managing editor of Image, Scavo, and Ben-Gurion Matsas, publisher of Image, in a photo that accompanied the article written by Michael Geller, under a pen name.

Steven Matsas, managing editor of Image, Scavo, and Ben-Gurion Matsas, publisher of Image, in a photo that accompanied the article written by Michael Geller, under a pen name.

City Council candidate Theresa Scavo and her supporter, former District Leader Michael Geller, admitted to Sheepshead Bites that a glowing Q&A published by a Sephardic magazine was written by Geller under a pseudonym and with no disclosure of a conflict of interest.

The issue came to light during last night’s candidate’s forum held at the Young Israel of Midwood, when one of Scavo’s primary opponents, Chaim Deutsch, alleged that the profile was written by a supporter in an attempt to deceive the Jewish community.

“When Theresa Scavo advertised in Image Magazine, and the author had a name of Kim Grell, that wasn’t the name of the author, was that?” Deutsch said. “This community is being fooled by our politicians, that article in the Image was a novel. It was written by a person who has written many novels. We cannot be fooled.”

Earlier today, Scavo confirmed to Sheepshead Bites that the article was written by Geller, a supporter and head of the Highway Democratic Club, of which Scavo is a member. However, she said she didn’t see a problem with Geller’s lack of disclosure.

“What crime was committed? Mike Geller is an author, and my friend. Image Magazine does not have an author to write stories, so Mike Geller did it,” she said. “He didn’t want his true name used because the next person would say, ‘Oh, Mike did it for you, let him do it for me.’”

The four-page Q&A article appeared in the July 2013 issue of the magazine, accompanied by a full page ad from Scavo’s campaign. The byline reads “E. Kim Grell,” an abbreviated anagram of Mike Geller’s name. In a touch of unintentional irony, the piece was titled “Full Disclosure Interview with Theresa Scavo.”

The Q&A largely keeps to simple questions about her qualifications and background, but is introduced with a glowing description of the Democratic candidate:

Theresa Scavo is taller than I thought (about 5’9” in heels), and without the granny glasses she wears in her store posters, she looks a decade younger. I’m waiting for her at a rear table in a neighborhood restaurant and as she walks toward me, she is stopped by well-wishers at almost every other table who shake her hand and wish her good luck. She greets me with a smile and a firm handshake, but not too firm. She apologizes for being late and I remind her that she is actually 10 minutes early for our appointment. “For me, that’s late,” she says, and we both laugh.

It also includes a question that asserts that she enjoys broad support from the Sephardic community, the magazine’s target audience.

“Theresa, you are very well liked and respected in the Sephardic community. How did that come about?” Geller asked under his nom de plume.



Geller told Sheepshead Bites that a second article also appeared in Image Magazine, also using the pen name E. Kim Grell and written by him, that followed Scavo as she campaigned through the neighborhood. Sheepshead Bites could not find a physical or digital copy of the second article.

While the ethics of using pseudonyms is a source of contention in media circles, it is universally accepted that authors of journalistic works disclose any conflict of interest between them and their subjects in order to ensure transparency.

Geller, a close friend and confidant of Scavo’s, and the head of the Highway Democrats, which has endorsed Scavo, did not make any mention of the apparent conflict in his report.

But Geller claims it’s no lapse in reporting ethics, since he’s not a reporter and was not paid for the piece by either Scavo or Image.

“I’m not a paid employee of hers, and I’m not a paid employee of Image Magazine. She’s a friend and I wrote it as a friend and the reason I didn’t put my name on it is because there’s people who don’t like me,” Geller said. “If Image Magazine paid a salary to me, there’s a difference in what you’re talking about.”

Geller also likened the articles to letters or speeches he’s written on behalf of elected officials and candidates as a district leader for 24 years.

According to Geller, the staff of Image Magazine asked Scavo to provide a piece about herself for publication. Scavo turned to Geller, who has written as many as 10 novels and began his career as a reporter at Brooklyn’s Courier Life newspaper chain.

“They asked her to do the piece, and she asked me to help her on it, and I did. But I didn’t want any of the baggage that I might have to be put on her,” which is why he altered his name, he said.

Image Magazine’s publisher, Ben-Gurion Matsas, confirmed Geller’s account.

“Usually when a candidate runs for office, they want to give their side of the story, so we ask them to write it down and give it direct to us,” Matsas said. “If we [write it], it’s like double the work.”

When asked if he had known that the piece had a pseudonymous byline, he said he didn’t.

“No, I didn’t know. It was familiar to us, but we didn’t know exactly. We didn’t investigate. We don’t know,” he said.

He added that he didn’t much care, either.

“It’s not really an interview or like an objective editorial or something,” he said.

According to campaign filings, the Scavo campaign made three payments of $600 each to Image Magazine, with one in June and two in August, for print advertising.

Asked about the ramifications to the magazine’s credibility from the failure to disclose that the submission was from the Scavo campaign, or was a paid advertisement as Matsas alluded (but would not outright say), Matsas said he was unsure what we meant by “credibility.”

“I don’t know what your point is or who you want to accuse. This is very simple, very plain, very honest, and nothing to do with any other opponents,” Matsas said. “If people want to advertise and promote themselves, anyone can.”

UPDATE (4:14 p.m.): We wanted to get an expert to weigh in on why such disclosure is important, so Sheepshead Bites turned to the head of a professional association of which we’re a member.

“This seems to be a case of the parties involved wanting to have things every which way,” said Dylan Smith, chairman of Local Independent Online News Publishers and a co-author of a recent book on attribution and journalism ethics.

“The publication says they’re not responsible for the story, and it doesn’t reflect on them that the author of the piece has a connection to the candidate,” he said. “The author says he ‘wrote it as a friend.’ What’s missing is any transparency for the readers, so they can judge the piece on its relative merits — and knowing if it’s a possibly paid ad or a puff piece ghost-written by someone who has endorsed the campaign would be a big part of that.”

Smith pointed out that federal regulations require sponsored content posted online to be clearly identified.

The story posted by Image Magazine does not include any notice that it was sponsored.


Screenshot from debate video, produced by Jacob Kornbluh

The Democratic candidates for the 48th District of the City Council, currently represented by Michael Nelson, tested the limits of civil discussion during a heated forum hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, with each candidate chiding the others for dirty campaign tactics and stances on issues contrary to the Orthodox community.

Sheepshead Bites couldn’t attend the forum, which was held in the heart of one of the most conservative communities in the district at Young Israel of Midwood, but reports by Politicker and show that the discussion quickly turned negative, as the candidates lobbed rhetorical bombs – and meows – at one another.

Politicker reports:

Unlike in other parts of the city, endorsements from groups like the teachers’ union were treated almost as liabilities. And openly admiring George Bush–either father or son–was not.

“When I went down to the [United Federation of Teachers], I walked into the office and I said to them, ‘I don’t want your endorsement, but I’m here out of respect. I’m gonna come answer the questions and what my issues are,’” said Chaim Deutsch, an Orthodox Jewish City Council aide, to applause.

Ari Kagan, a Russian-American district leader backed by the UFT, fended off attacks from rivals and even prodding from a moderator about whether he would be committed to defending private school education, particularly tax credits for families with kids attending Yeshivas, while running with the support of a public school teachers union.

“Maybe you want to look at Ari, who has accepted the endorsement of UFT but in the same breath says he supports vouchers,” Mr. [Igor] Oberman remarked.

When asked if he supported school vouchers, Oberman said it would never happen in New York City, and encouraged attendees to “see through the bullshit” of what he believed to be pandering in other candidates’ support for school vouchers.

The Politicker report continued:

All of the candidates further reveled in panning more liberal-leaning Bloomberg administration policies like the proposed regulations on large sugary beverages–Mr. Oberman called the proposal “retarded”–as well as the tax burden on small businesses. Mr. Oberman, the Working Families Party-backed candidate, blasted Mr. Kagan for not denouncing independent expenditures being paid on his behalf by a real estate-backed group, portraying him as a future puppet of wealthy real estate developers.

Tacking right, Mr. Kagan hit right back.

“I never knew that I would come from the former Soviet Union to listen about class warfare in the United States of America from a person who also came from the former Soviet Union. I’m shocked, a little bit,” Mr. Kagan said.

As Mr. Kagan and Mr. Oberman traded blows, another candidate, Theresa Scavo, a professed admirer of both President Bushes, periodically cried “meow,” implying the two men were engaging in frivolous cat fights.

“I’m not getting down in the mud with any one of these three,” she declared. “I am finding this so disgusting sitting here, the three of them clawing at each other … the three of you are behaving like children!”

Scavo may have aimed to stay above the fray, but was dragged down into it after Deutsch targeted her for allegedly speaking ill of seniors, accepting the support of the National Organization of Women, which he said “had an agenda with gays and lesbians,” and for being complicit in deceiving the community when a supporter allegedly used a pen name to write a positive profile of her in a Sephardic magazine – an allegation which she “meowed” through. reports:

Mr. Deutsch also attacked Ms. Scavo for slamming ‘seniors’ sleeping at community board 15 meetings and for having Mike Geller, the former District leader in the 45th AD, pen articles in favor of Ms. Scavo in the Image Magazine under a pen name ‘Kim Grell’.

Scavo called Deutsch a liar after he made the claim about seniors, clarifying that she told then-Congressman Anthony Weiner that there were seniors sleeping at the Board meetings. She did not respond to the allegations regarding Mike Geller and the article in Image Magazine, but did dismiss the endorsement from the National Organization of Women, noting that she received it because she’s the only woman in the race.

Although the issue was not tackled directly during the debate, Scavo has expressed support for gay and lesbian marriage equality to Sheepshead Bites, as has Oberman. Deutsch and Kagan, as well as the Republican contender, David Storobin, all stand opposed to marriage equality.

From the reports, Deutsch appeared to be the instigator of the negativity, slamming each of his rivals one by one, including an allegation against Kagan that he had altered his first name – from Arkady – in order to draw more support from the frum community. Kagan mailers also printed his first name in Hebrew, another sore point for Deutsch.

“I will not be like my opponent … Mr. Ari Kagan, advertising as the name ‘Ari’ in Hebrew, making people think he is the Orthodox candidate,” said Deutsch, according to Politicker. “I will not fool anyone. I will not lie to you.”

“I am very proud of my name. I legally changed my name in 2002 before I ran for anything. I never knew that writing my name in Hebrew is wrong. What is wrong with you, Chaim?” Kagan replied, according to

Jacob Kornbluh, author of the report, filmed the video below. He told Sheepshead Bites he hopes to have the full version online tonight, which we’ll add to this post.

From our friends at the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island:


Jay- Harama Senior Center, a project of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island (JCCGCI), announces a candidate forum.

Come Meet the Candidates to Represent NYC Council District #48

All candidates were invited; the following candidates confirmed participation thus far:

Igor Oberman
Theresa Scavo
Chaim Deutsch
David Storobin

Come hear the candidates discuss and explain their priorities and vision for your community!

Topics will Include:

Hurricane Sandy Recovery
Senior Programs
Economic Development
Health Care
Public Safety

DATE: August 29, 2013

WHEN: 11 am to 12 pm

WHERE: Jay- Harama Senior Center ( 2600 Ocean Avenue- Basement)


Five candidates vying for seats in two different Southern Brooklyn City Council districts participated in a heated debate on Sunday, focusing on reforming co-op laws to benefit as many as one million New York City residents of co-ops.

All candidates expressed support for a shareholder’s bill of rights, which would grant new protections from potentially abusive and exploitative boards of cooperative housing units. Despite the support, the frustrated shareholders – all with horror stories of their own – expressed a lack of confidence in much-needed reform and ultimately turned on the candidates.

Find out where the candidates stand, and how the audience reacted.

The leading candidates in the 48th District City Council race to replace term-limited Michael Nelson battled it out at the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center during a candidate’s forum held by the Jewish Press last week, expounding on their qualifications for the job and their proposals for improving the district.

Mixed in the melee, which included a handful of attacks on their fellow candidates, the four leading Democrats and one Republican expressed mixed support for participatory budgeting, an innovative plan implemented by some City Council members to provide a more democratic and transparent way of distributing millions of dollars of discretionary funding throughout the district.

Three of the five Democrats – Theresa Scavo, Igor Oberman and Chaim Deutsch – expressed explicit support for participatory budgeting when asked about the need for reform to the process, while the fourth Democrat, Ari Kagan, and the lone Republican, David Storobin, suggested that they would continue to oversee distribution of discretionary funds without holding public meetings, the core characteristic of participatory budgeting.

Read their positions on participatory budgeting, and find out what else happened at the forum.

The Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, Shorefront Jewish Community Council, and The Jewish Press will be holding a town hall meeting with all of the candidates for City Councilmember for the 48th District, August 7, at 7:30 p.m. inside the Regency Room of the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, 60 West End Avenue.

The candidates attending are Chaim Deutsch, Ari Kagan, Igor Oberman, Theresa Scavo, and David Storobin. Audience members will have the opportunity to submit their questions for the candidates, which will be presented during the meeting.

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