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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-David Yassky, Dem 15,889 - 75 percent
Craig A. Seeman, Ind 2,372 - 11 percent
Steven D. Cohn, Lib 1,294 - 6 percent
Kenneth Diamondstone, Wor 1,024 - 5 percent
Alfred T. Burkiewicz, Con 659 - 3 percent
David Yassky 6,816
Steven D. Cohn 4,810
Kenneth Diamondstone 2,371
David Reiss 1,652
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Kenneth E. Fisher (can't
run in 2001)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
Albert T. Burkiewicz has not filed
to Steven Cohn
to Kenneth Diamondstone
to David Reiss
to Craig Seeman
to David Yassky
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
The Brownstone Vote
Brooklyn Heights, with its brownstones and brick row houses,
is one of the city's most elegant residential neighborhoods.
It would seem to have little in common with nearby Greenpoint,
where houses tend to sport siding and whose Manhattan Avenue
shopping district teems with shops selling kielbasa, Polish
books and assorted discount goods. But the neighborhoods share
a council district and, according to the candidates hoping to
represent it, a concern for environmental issues
So far, five candidates are running for the seat held by Kenneth
Fisher, who hopes to be the next Brooklyn borough president.
The strangely shaped district goes along Brooklyn's waterfront
and encompasses all or parts of Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill
and Park Slope -- often lumped together as "Brownstone Brooklyn"
-- as well as Williamsburg, with its large Hasidic and Hispanic
communities, and Greenpoint. All of the candidates except Steven
Cohn hail from relatively affluent Brownstown Brooklyn.
a detailed profile of this district, click here.
- White, non-Hispanic:
- Black, non-Hispanic:
$43,434 (31st highest out of 51 districts)
more information on this district -- its schools, its
crime statistics and more -- click
Despite the district's diversity, a general concern for environmental
issues is probably not surprising in an area that occupies a
good chunk of waterfront, which could eventually become a park
but is now home to garbage transfer stations. The 33rd also
has been the scene of particularly rapid development in the
last 10 years.
Steven Cohen, a Democratic state committeeman, said there "are
tremendous environmental issues in Greenpoint and Williamsburg,"
particularly the large amount of solid waste that is trucked
through the area to be packaged into containers.
The other candidates echo that and cite other environmental
concerns. Brooklyn Law School assistant professor David Yassky
speaks of the "desire to reclaim the waterfront and have some
public space," while Elizabeth Daly, a longtime activist, notes
that traffic from downtown Brooklyn is spilling over onto neighborhood
streets. "You need to do much better in terms of public transportation,"
With housing prices having risen rapidly in the last several
years, that, too is on the agenda. David Reiss, who has worked
on housing issues as a social worker and lawyer, believes in
more subsidized housing.
Most of the candidates agree that the massive turnover in the
council next January could create a body that will do more about
these and other matters. Since the charter was reformed in 1989
to eliminate the Board of Estimate, the council has had "real
power," Yassky says. "It just hasn't used it. There's been a
culture of passivity."
"The thing that excites me is that there's a new government
coming in," Cohn says, adding that, if the council can restructure
itself to be more like a state legislature, it will be a "bigger
Some political handicappers are betting on Cohn to be the one
who will serve in this new era of term limits, though he has
not yet officially declared or filed with the Campaign Finance
Board. The remaining candidates will split the Brownstone vote,
the thinking goes, while Cohn could win election on the strength
of his bases in Greenpoint and in Williamsburg, where he grew
Daly, though, says that Brownstone Brooklyn accounts for about
70 percent of the district and believes "there's eventually
going to be some kind of weeding out process," among the Brownstone
candidates. (For now, more seem to be sprouting up,with Park
Slope lawyer Stephen Somerstein being mentioned as another possible
As primary day approaches, Yassky says, one candidate will
probably emerge as the Brownstone Brooklyn candidate to run
against Cohn. Yassky is ahead in the money race. Daly touts
her "good name recognition" and says voters are looking for
someone "who has been out there fighting for them, who has the
experience and knows the issues." Reiss concedes he is not well
known but is planning to knock on doors in the hope that "direct
contact with voters...will overcome" his relative obscurity
and enable him to try to turn his ideas about "bread and butter
urban issues" into reality.
As the primary draws closer, the race in district 33 has become a little bit
less crowded but a lot richer.
Steven Cohn has become the top fund raiser among all council candidates
participating in the campaign finance program. So far, Cohn has amassed
$302,834 from 895 donors. Of these, 74 donations were of $1,000 or more and
24 donations were of $2,500.
Some of this money was collected by intermediaries, generally referred to as
"bundlers." For example, Steve Adelsberg collected 16 donations totaling
$9,000. Most of this money came from realty corporations or their employees.
Another 32 donations, primarily from teachers at P.S. 110 came through
Anthony Pepe, principal at that school.
John Wren brought in eight donations for Cohn but they totaled $14,500. Wren
is the chief executive officer of Omnicom Group, Inc., a Madison Ave.
marketing and advertising firm.
Cohn, a leading member of the Brooklyn party organization, has been
collecting endorsements as well, winning support from Representatives
Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney and Edolphus Town and departing
Councilmember Ken Fisher, who is a candidate for Brooklyn borough president.
Throughout the spring and summer, the local press and others said that, if
Cohn, with his solid base in Greenpoint and Willamsburg, was to be defeated,
the opposition would have to coalesce around a single candidate from the
Brownstone part of the district. And in June one of the Brownstone
candidates, Elizabeth Daly of Boerum Hill, dropped out, saying the race was
tearing the community apart. Shortly before her withdrawal, the Independent
Neighborhood Democrats, a club that she heads, had endorsed David Yassky.
With primary day nearing, three Brownstone candidates remain in the race.
Many see Yassky as the leader. He is ahead in fundraising. His $80,832 from
375 contributors is almost twice what Diamondstone has collected from 287
donors and more than three times what Reiss has raised. Diamondstone says
the difference is insignificant, though, since with matching funds at least
three of the four candidates will have the maximum $137,500 they can spend
in the primary.
While several articles, including a recent report in New York magazine, have
touted Yassky, Diamondstone believes he is making gains, having won
endorsements from a range of organizations as well as Rep. Major Owns. A
member of the executive board of Lambda Independent Democrats, he has won
that group's endorsement.
Diamondstone says he is campaigning on his record in the community. "I have
done endless things that have changed peoples lives. I have cooked with my
own hands meals for AID victims," he says. "I am running as a candidate who
is effective and who says thing other people won't say." For example, he
says, he ran against Rep. Ed Towns in 1998 to protest Towns' acceptance of
donations from tobacco companies. And he will soon spent $10,000 on a
mailing attacking Cohn's record.
If Diamondstone loses on primary day, he plans to continue his campaign,
running as the Working Families Party candidate in November. Whoever wins
the Democratic nomination will face Green Party candidate Craig Seeman and
Conservative Alfred T. Burkiewicz in November. A Greenpoint neighborhood
activist, Burkiewicz also sought the Republican line, but was knocked off it
by the Board of Elections.
Brooklyn Heights realtor Rosemarie Markgraf had tried to run as a Republican
too. But, she says, "I didn't have enough signatures to be on the ballot."
Alfred T. Burkiewicz has been a civic activist in Greenpoint.
He ran unsuccessfully for State Senate as the Conservative Party
candidate in 1992.
Steven Cohn, a native of Williamsburg, is an attorney.
A Democratic state committeeman for almost 20 years, he is executive
secretary of the Kings County Democratic Party and former president
of the Brooklyn Bar Association. He served as counsel to current
councilmember Ken Fisher and has done pro bono work for a number
of community groups and elected officials, including Brooklyn
Borough President Howard Golden.
Kenneth Diamondstone is a member of Community Board
2 and chairs the Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board. A self-employed
housing developer, he helped create 105 units of senior housing
in Brooklyn. He is a member of the Lambda Independent Democrats
and the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.
Rosemarie Markgraf has been a real estate broker, trucking
company owner and building manager. She ran unsuccessfully for
Congress in 1998.
David Reiss, a former social worker, is an attorney
with a large Manhattan law firm. A resident of Park Slope, he
has done volunteer legal work for a number of organizations,
particularly on real estate matters and on issues relating to
senior citizens and serves as counsel to a number of businesses
owned by women or members of minority groups.
Craig Seeman is a community activist, Green Party State
Chair, and Green Party State Committeeman for the 52nd Assembly
District. In 1994, he became the first Green Party candidate
in the state when he ran unsuccessfully for State Assembly.
Seeman has been a member of the parks committee for Community
Board 2 and ran for State Assembly in 1997. He cofounder the
Brooklyn Greenback Project to support small local businesses.
He works in television and lives in Brooklyn Heights.
David Yassky is a professor at Brooklyn Law School.
Working under Rep. Chuck Schumer, he served as Chief Counsel
to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime and was
also formerly with the New York City Office of Management and
The four candidates in the Democratic primary district 33 in Brooklyn, which includes Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and parts of Park Slope, see themselves as running in vastly different races in vastly different territories. In this race, each neighborhood requires a different political strategy. One candidate, Steve Cohn, has raised more money than any City Council candidate in the city: $311,000, with an additional $73,590 in public matching money. Mr. Cohn's fund-raising and his close relationship with the Democratic organization have made him a target of intense criticism by his opponents, who include Kenneth Diamondstone, David Reiss, and David Yassky. The candidates embrace similar issues, particularly on the need to generate new spending for building new schools and the need to develop more park space throughout the district. (New York Times)
New York Times endorsement:
"33rd District (Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg,
Greenpoint): David Yassky, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, was Charles
Schumer's firepower when Mr. Schumer, now senator, was in the House of
Representatives. He helped create the Brady bill and the Violence Against
Women Act and helped get more than 6,000 new police officers on the streets
of New York City. Mr. Yassky has an uphill battle against the Democratic
organization's candidate, Steven Cohn. Mr. Cohn, a lawyer, has a long record
of community activity, but he harks back to the city's old political
patronage era rather than forward to something better. We enthusiastically
endorse David Yassky."
Michael Tomasky, columnist for New York magazine, highlights the
District 33 race "because nowhere in the city is there so stark
a choice as here, with an excellent candidate facing uphill odds
against a troubling one." In Tomasky's view, Yassky is the excellent
candidate primarily because of his accomplishments as former chief
counsel to the House of Representatives subcommittee on crime.
The troubling candidate, again in Tomasky's opinion, is Cohn,
whose law firm, Tomasky says, "was the biggest single recipient
of judicial patronage in Brooklyn." (New
Steven Cohn, a longtime political insider, has raised $303,000
for his campaign for the Council seat from the 33rd District,
far more money than any other council candidate in the city. According
to the Voice, the money comes "from the landlords and nursing-home
owners he has long represented, his associates in the legal industry,
and the businessmen who have always clustered around the Brooklyn
Democratic party machine." Throughout his career, Cohn's law firm
has received hundreds of thousands of dollars as judges awarded
him dozens of court appointments as guardian, receiver or referee.
The two apparent frontrunners in District 33, David Yassky and
Steven Cohn, are each challenging the other's fundraising practices.
Yassky charges that Cohn is spending more than allowed for candidates
collecting matching funds under the city's campaign finance law.
Meanwhile the Brooklyn Democratic organization, which is backing
Cohn, argued that services donated to Yassky by the Brennan Center
for Justice should be considered an in-kind contribution to Yassky's
campaign. The Campaign Finance Board rejected that claim. The
Brennan Center had challenged a party rule restricting who could
collect signature on petitions to get candidates on the ballot.
The rule has been dropped. (Brooklyn Papers)
Steven Cohn is still generally perceived to be the frontrunner
in the race for the 33rd District Council seat. He has a large
lead in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint part of the district, particularly
in Hasidic areas, and has racked up a number of key endorsements.
But the three other candidates are presenting strong challenges.
(Park Slope Courier)
Steven Cohn urged his opponents in the 33rd District not to challenge
each other's petitions to get on the ballot. Cohn said he was
making the proposal to advance good government, But some observers
said that since his opponents will all draw from the Brownstone
part of the District it was to his advantage if that vote was
split among two or even three candidates. (Courier-Life
Newspapers as reprinted by Lambda Independent Democrats)
Democratic District Leader Liz Daley dropped out of the council
race, saying it was tearing the community apart. She did not endorse
any of the remaining candidates, and it was unclear who would
benefit from her withdrawal. Three candidates are jockeying to
emerge as the main opponent to lawyer Steve Cohn, who is widely
perceived to be the frontrunner. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
City Council candidate David Yassky is the lead plaintiff in a
law suit brought by the Brennan Center for Justice challenging
a rule that would place restrictions on workers carrying petitions.
The rule, adopted by the Brooklyn Democratic organization, would
require that workers collecting signatures live in the same district
where the candidate for whom they are working is running. Yassky
charges that the rule would be to give an unfair advantage to
candidates such as Steve Cohn, a party insider who is also running
in the 33rd District. The Brooklyn rule is nearly identical to
a state election law declared unconstitutional last year in federal
circuit court, and so party official say it will not be enforced
this year, but justice center officials are dubious. (Daily
Several lawyers are either candidates themselves or managing the
campaigns of other candidates in Brooklyn's 33rd District, which
includes the Brooklyn courthouse area. (New
York Law Journal)
When seven candidates for City Council district 33 came together
at a recent forum, it was the Green Party candidate, Craig Seeman,
that received the most applause. "What we need to do is change
the City Charter so that people from the community select the
people on the community board," said Seeman. Currently the community
board members are selected by Borough President in consultation
with City Council leaders. (Brooklyn Heights Courier)
There are six candidates vying for City Council from a northwestern
Brooklyn district that stretches from Park Slope to Greenpoint
via Brooklyn Heights. But the race in the 33rd district clearly
centers on one candidate: veteran Democratic district leader and
former Brooklyn Bar Association president Steven Cohn. (Daily
Despite recent actions by the State legislature, a number of legal
steps remain that can reduce gun violence, City Council candidate
David Yassky and Michael Alcamo say in an opinion piece. Among
other measures, they call for rewarding gun manufacturers who
sign a code of conduct to prevent gun trafficking; holding gun
dealers responsible for some crimes committed with guns they sold;
better coordinating interstate efforts to fight gun trafficking;
and banning guns that do not meet minimal safety requirements.
Craig Seeman, chair of the New York State Green Party, has announced
his candidacy for the council seat from District 33. Seeman says
the Greens believe that this is the council race where the party
has the best chance of doing well. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
An opinion piece cowritten by City Council candidate David Yassky
argues that the city's Loft Law should be extended to protect
tenants in revitalized industrial areas of Brooklyn. (Daily
Many insiders think that, even though he has not declared, Steven
Cohn holds the edge in the race to represent District 33. Cohn
has a strong hold on Williamsburg and should have little difficulty
raising money., For now, though, David Yassky leads in the campaign
fund raising race. (Park Slope Courier)