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District 43
Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst
 

  DISTRICT FEATURES

Campaign 2002




The Candidates
Campaign Contributors
Feature Story
Candidate Biographies
Campaign Trail

THE CANDIDATES
Vincent Gentile (Best Qualified)
Stephen Harrison (Neighborhood First)
Daniel Maio (Verrazano Coalition)
Rosemarie O'Keefe (No New Taxes)
Carlo Scissura (Community First)
Joanne Seminara (Neighbor First)




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CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS
ACCORDING TO THE CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

Contributors to Vincent Gentile
Contributors to Stephen Harrison
Contributors to Daniel Maio
Contributors to Rosemarie O'Keefe
Contributors to Carlo Scissura
Contributors to Joanne Seminara



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FEATURE STORY

PRESERVING NEIGHBORHOODS -- AND PARKING PLACES

When residents of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst go to the polls to choose a new City Council member on February 25, they are likely to select someone who will fight cuts in local services, regardless of the fiscal crisis. Residents of this area of Brooklyn are proud of their clean, safe streets and want to preserve the quality of life in their relatively quiet neighborhoods.

Six candidates are seeking the council seat left vacant when Martin Golden, one of only four Republicans on the council, was elected to the State Senate last November. The Brooklyn contest is one of two special elections to be held February 25. (See related story on District 18 in the Bronx.)

The issues dominating the campaign in district 43 are transportation, construction in the district and other quality-of-life issues, much as they did in the 2001 election. (Read a transcript of a forum with five of the candidates).

Several of the candidates are veterans of local politics. They include Vincent Gentile, who, after six years in the State Senate, lost his re-election bid to Golden in November. Joanna Seminara who lost the 2001 election to Golden is making another try, as is Carlos Scissura, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in the 2001 Democratic primary.

That leaves Rosemarie O'Keefe, a former official in the Giuliani administration, as the only registered Republican.

In council special elections, however, candidates are not identified with established parties. Instead, they run under the banner of a party created especially for this contest.

Whoever is elected will have to confront the city's budget problems. Most of the candidates think the city should begin plugging its massive deficits by providing services more efficiently and economically, freeing up funds for parks and schools. "I think we have to be a little more streamlined," O'Keefe said.  "There probably is still more waste to trim off of some government agencies by consolidating and reorganizing."

Gentile believes administrative restructuring will allow the city to avoid police lay-offs and other service cuts.  He said, "I think we can civilian-ize a lot of the positions in the police and fire departments.  Instead of having a cadre of police filling positions at 1 Police Plaza … replace them with people from the service unions and put the maximum force you can out on the street."

With a Home Depot having recently opened in the area, residents are worried about the possibility of more development, particularly "big box" stores surrounded by giant parking lots. They also fear apartment buildings could permanently alter the character of their mostly low-rise neighborhoods.

To address this, Stephen Harrison, another candidate, advocates a change in zoning to encourage preservation. "That means revamping our codes to stop the destruction of beautiful one-family homes," Harrison said at a forum at St. Patrick's Auditorium.

The valet parking services offered by many of the community's restaurant irk the many car owners in the district. By reserving parking places and by double parking, the valets clog streets and take parking spaces away from neighborhood residents.

Scissurra suggests that local businesses, churches and schools offer their lots to the restaurants at night. "We could probably find upward of 1,000 spots just by using the existing lots," he said.

Seminara believes regulation offers the most promising remedy. "The same way that the Department of Consumer Affairs licenses outdoor cafés, we're looking into the licensing of the use of streets for valet parking," she said.

But parking is not the only transportation gripe. Express buses, charging $3 each way, offer the one quick way to get into Manhattan, and the mayor is considering eliminating weekend service on these routes. Scissura said, "The 58th Street ferry [to Manhattan] is great, but it's not enough. As I see it, ferries are the way to go for the future." Other candidates and residents would like to see express subway service on the R or W lines.

Over the past decade, the traditionally Italian and Irish neighborhood has seen an influx of Russian, Arab and especially Asian immigrants. Recently, the district's Lafayette High School was the scene of a rash of anti-Asian violence.

Daniel Maio, a Manhattan mapmaker who hasn't lived in Brooklyn since the 1980's, has also been campaigning, but was knocked off the ballot. Maio, who is Chinese-American, hopes to provide a voice for the area's growing Asian community that he fears does not always speak out for itself.  "A lot of Asian issues haven't been addressed very well," he said. Gentile thinks "conflict resolution courses in schools would be a good idea."

On most issues, the candidates tend to express nearly identical opinions. Their views on gay rights emerge as one notable exception.  

Joanne Seminara has courted the support of local gay groups, which some observers believe could be risky in this conservative district. Gentile voted against the Sexual Orientation non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), or gay rights bills, in the State Senate last year. He said he opposed the measure, which became law, because it would require faith-based groups to hire gays in violation of their religious beliefs. His move angered the Lambda Independent Democrats, which had previously endorsed him; the group is now backing Seminara.

Whichever candidate wins the election will not have much time for a victory party. All City Council seats, including those filled in the special election, are up for re-election in the fall.


CAMPAIGN UPDATE:
In the weeks leading up to the February 25 special election, much of the attention in the district 43 race has focused on a controversial political ad. Former State Senator Vincent Gentile used a picture of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Upper East Side townhouse in campaign leaflets and recent criticized the 18.5 percent property tax increase. "Mayor Bloomberg can afford a property tax hike, we can't," the literature states. The ad drew criticism from some of his fellow candidates and the Bloomberg administration. Rosemarie O'Keefe, one of the candidates who spoke out against Gentile's ad, won the endorsed by the New York Times. Also candidate Daniel Maio was knocked off the ballot. (Posted 2/21/03)






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BIOGRAPHIES

Vincent Gentile served three terms as District 23's State Senator after spending ten years as a prosecutor. He is a former president of the Bay Ridge Community Council and a member of the Neighborhood Improvement Association of St. Rosalia-Regina Pacis. He graduated from Cornell University and Fordham Law School.

Stephen Harrison is a practicing attorney and current Chair of Community Board 10. He is a founding member of CERT1 (Community Emergency Response Team) and a former president of 79th Street 300 Block Association.

Daniel Maio is a self-employed cartographer who ran for State Senate District 29 in 2002 and Manhattan Borough President in 2001. He graduated from The American University.

Rosemarie O'Keefe served as a member of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's administration as the Deputy Commissioner for Recreation and Commissioner of the Community Assistance Unit (CAU). O'Keefe is a co-founder and former president of the Alliance of Bay Ridge Block Association.

Joanne Seminara is a practicing attorney, a member of community board 10, State Committeewoman for the 60th Assembly District and co-president of the Alliance of Bay Ridge Block Association. Seminara is a founding member of Bay Ridge Against Garbage Sites and has been a director of the Guild for Exceptional Children, a charity that serves developmentally disabled children. She graduated from Brooklyn Law School.

Carlo Scissura is a practicing attorney and Second Vice President of Community School Board 20 where he serves as chairman of the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention committee and the Legislative Affairs committee. He worked as director of community affairs under State Senator Vincent Gentile and is a member of community board 11. Scissura attended Pace University School of Law and studied international law at the University of London.





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CAMPAIGN TRAIL

2/21/03
In civic meetings in the Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst sections of Brooklyn, one topic seems sure to ratchet up community fury: the 18.5 percent increase in the property tax enacted by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the City Council. (New York Times)

2/19/03
Former State Senator Vincent J. Gentile yesterday strongly defended his use of a photograph of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Upper East Side town house in literature for Mr. Gentile's campaign for a City Council seat. (New York Times)

2/17
Voters in the City Council's 43rd District in Brooklyn go to the polls in a special election on Feb. 25 to fill the seat left vacant when Martin Golden, one of only four Republicans on the Council, was elected to the State Senate last November. The field of five candidates includes a wealth of longtime experience in the mostly working-class district, which encompasses Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton. There is little disagreement on issues. All the candidates want clean and safe streets, good schools and improved transportation despite the city's austere times, and all express concern over the severe impact of the city's property tax hike on their constituents, many of whom own single-family homes. (New York Times)

2/3/03
Behind the scenes, all is not rosy for Republicans in southwestern Brooklyn. While, to all appearances, elected officials with G.O.P. affiliations have been rallying behind the city council candidacy of Rosemari O'Keefe-led by her old boss, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani-there is actually considerable discontent with her candidacy even among party loyalists, according to area insiders. "The whole idea that the Republicans are united is a farce," contended one onlooker. "The reality is that they are not really with her 100 percent. (Bay Ridge Courier)

2/3/03
Surrounded by a diverse group of suporter that, he hopes, represents a coalition of interest across the distric that will catapult him to victory later this month, Carlo Scissura officially kicked off his campaign for the city council. The chilling winds blowing outside Scissura's campaign headquarters, 7505 New Utrecht Avenue, did not deter a large and enthusiastic crowd of grassroots supporters from joining the candidate. (Bay Ridge Courier)

1/20/03
With the final petition filings for the race in the 43rd Councilmanic District taking place at midnight, January 14, six candidates have filed enough signature-barring any challenges-to make the cut. While the six candidates who filed by Tuesday night were moving forward, two other candidates, bot Republicans Robert Capano, an aide to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who began planning for the race back in July, and businessman John Abi-Habib, who had never formally declared his intention of running, but who had kept the idea open until almost the lest minute-stepped back on Monday. (Bay Ridge Courier)

1/20/03
It's going to be style, rather than substance, that is likely to determine southwestern Brooklyn's next city councilmember, who will be elected during a special election scheduled to take place on february 25. During a candidate's forum sponsored by the Bay Ridge Men's Club, which was held in St. Patrick's Auditoriam, five of the candidates for the seat in the 43rd C.D., which was vacated by marty Golden when he moved on to the state senate, presented remarkably similar views on a wide range of issues pertinent to the communities of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Borough Park, from the importance of maintaining a strong police force, to the necessity of keeping the city's firefighters at full strength, to the need for improving public education. Most expressed opposition to tax increases that place an additional burden on the middle class, and expressed concern about the changes in the community that are adding to overcrowding and destroying the fabric of life cherished by the community. (Bay Ridge Courier)

1/20/03
With the lights of Bay Ridge glittering in the distance, and "Happy Days Are Here Again" blaring on the loudspeaker, former State Senator Vincent Gentile formally announced his candidacty for the City Council, surrounded by supporters gathered at the Top of the Crescent. Gentntile-who is one of half a dozen candidates vying for the seate vacated by Marty Golden, who has moved on to the State Senate-has been running unoficially since November, shortly after his own defeat by Golden. State Senator Seymour Lachman told his listeners, "Not only will Vinnnie win, but he will be one of the most outstanding councilmembers in the New York City Council." (Bay Ridge Courier)

1/13/03
It could have been Marianne Teta and not Rosemarie O'Keefe announcing her candidacy for the Bay Ridge City Council seat on Monday, one Republican big wig told us last week. O'Keefe appears to be the Republican frontrunner but her chances of defeating former state Senator Vinny Gentile, Democratic district leader Joanne Seminara, and others might hinge on Rudy Giuliani, in whose administration she served. "The big question is whether Rudy will come out and campaign for her," one Republican source said. "If he does, that's huge." (Bay Ridge Courier)

1/13/03
A technical glitch erased the end of the item in our December 30 column about then-state Senator Vinny Gentile's vote against the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA). Here is what was missing, beginning with Gentile's response to criticism that he voted against the bill to help his chances of winning the open City Council seat in Bay Ridge next month: "I think people are trying to say that I didi this for political reasons," Gentile said, "and the answer is no , I did not." But he did note that his vote reflected the will of his district. No one has called to complain, he said. (Bay Ridge Courier)

1/13/03
The last-minute withdrawal of her only Republican competition yesterday left former Giuliani administration commissioner Rosemary O'Keefe and four Democrats in the race to succeed former City Councilman Martin Golden. (Daily News)

1/13/03
Six candidates seeking to fill state Sen. Martin Golden's vacated City Council seat are expected to file their nominating petitions with the Board of Elections. (Daily News)

1/7/03
Former State Senator Vincent Gentile, the frontrunner to fill the vacant 43rd District City Council seat in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst has called upon all other candidates or potential candidates to honor the traditional community pledge to not place their campaign posters on public property. (nyvote.com)

 








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