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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Simcha Felder, Dem 12,246 - 79 percent
Robert J. Miller, Lib 2,289 - 15 percent
Samuel C. Spirgel, Con 933 - 6 percent
Simcha Felder 5,172
Robert J. Miller 3,906
Samuel C. Spirgel 1,747
Sandy Abby Aboulafia 1,082
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Noach Dear (can't run
- Simcha Felder (Dem)
- Bob Miller (Lib)
- Samuel Spirgel (Con)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Sandy Aboulafia
to Simcha Felder
to Bob Miller
to Samuel Spirgel
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
It is sometimes said that New York is the only American city
with a foreign policy. If that holds true, it is largely because
of places like Brooklyn's 44th Council District.
While the area is home to a growing Pakistani population, Italians
in Bensonhurst and a smattering of other groups, the observant
Jewish communities of Midwood and Borough Park dominate the district.
In these neighborhoods, characterized by blocks of single family
homes crisscrossed by thriving commercial districts, stores close
on Saturday, women wear skirts and men keep their heads covered.
Along Coney Island Avenue, shops stock a mix of "Hindo-Pak" and
kosher groceries. A few storefronts boast faded "Muslims for Hillary"
stickers but far more common are signs proclaiming that extremist
Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, "was/is
right" and mourning the recent shooting death of Kahane's son
and daughter in law in Israel. A recent political spat in the
district centered on parking meters near a mikva, or ritual bath
for Jewish women.
Noach Dear, who has represented the area since 1981, focused
much of his attention in the council on international issues,
particularly support for Israel and, for a New York Democrat,
holds fairly conservative views on a wide range of issues. The
fight to succeed him has attracted seven candidates so far and
in some ways resembles a holy war more than a political campaign.
All of the likely candidates are Jewish except attorney Bob Miller
who narrowly lost to Dear in 1991. But the rifts among Jews in
this part of Brooklyn run deep. One candidate, longtime activist
Sandy Aboulafia, who is making her fourth bid for the council,
says that some of the Orthodox Jewish politicians claim that Jews,
like herself, who are not Orthodox, are not Jewish. "I find it
offensive," she says.
Simcha Felder, an aide to longtime Assemblyman Dov Hikind and
the leader in the money race, is Orthodox but, according to press
accounts, not Orthodox enough for candidates Ezra Friedlander
and Elya Amsel, who are Hasidic. "I am not interested in being
a Jewish leader," Felder says. "I am interested in being the council
person from the 44th District." He adds, "If someone comes along
and says they are holy, I can't compete."
Amsel, on the other hand, has been quoted as saying the Hasidic
communit y needs to be represented by one of its own.
Candidate Samuel Spirgel, a former member of the Community School
Board, who has attracted support from some key area politicians
is Orthodox; Democratic District leader Jacob Gold is not.
Further complicating the picture is the ongoing feud between
Dear and Hikind. For years, the Daily
News once observed, "Dear and Hikind have been New York's
Cain and Abel, engaged in a realpolitik competition for supremacy
in their largely Orthodox Jewish district of Borough Park and,
to some extent, in the broader Jewish community" Felder says his
boss, Hikind, supports his city council bid. So far, Dear has
not publicly endorsed anyone, and there is some speculation that
his wife, Rickly, a speech therapist, could run for his seat.
While observers note that Mrs. Dear has never evidenced any interest
in running for office, they add she might do so anyway. For his
part, Dear has said only that his wife will make an announcement
"at the appropriate time."
There seem to be few overwhelming local issues in the race. The
candidates generally speak of delivering services to their constituents,
often in a rather personal way. Citing his record of helping people
during his years on Hikind's staff, Felder says, "If someone,
God forbid, in your family needs a cardiologist or a gastroenterologist,
who would be the person with the education and experiences to
Felder also calls for better delivery of city services, including
police and sanitation to the district.
Aboulafia, who has been active in an array of civic groups including
the 70th Precinct Community Council, cited a need for Sunday express
bus service and better police precinct houses, as well as improvements
in public education.
On that front, Jacob Gold, a retired city teacher, is calling
for smaller classes. He is particularly concerned about special
education, saying that the drive to put many disabled youngsters
in regular classrooms "does not seem to be the best solution.
Unless it's very carefully monitored, it's destructive to the
kids and to the rest of the class."
This is, though, a district where many parents send their children
to private religious schools. In light of that, Felder says, "I
would love for vouchers to exist." Conceding that might be difficult
to attain, he says, a $1,000 tax credit for parents of private
school students would "ease the burden."
With such a crowded field and such complicated factions and rivalries,
handicapping this race is difficult if not impossible, particularly
as long as Rickly Dear's intentions remain unknown. Her husband,
meanwhile, is advocating an end to term limits.
Whatever happens on Election Day, the Dear family will no longer hold the
council seat in the 44th district. The incumbent council member's wife,
Rickly, decided not to seek the post her husband Noach has held since 1983.
Two other likely contenders, Jacob Gold and Elya Amsel, abandoned the race
long before the filing deadline, leaving four candidates to vie for the seat.
Noach Dear has endorsed Samuel Spirgel, who has also picked up the
endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers. Spirgel has raised $32,00,
and about 185 of his 331 donations were from school employees. He also
received over $75,000 in matching funds.
Simcha Felder picked up a quick and early fundraising boost from his long
time boss, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who played host to a fundraiser for him
and collected some 199 of Felder's 395 donations, accounting for almost
$60,000 of the $87,500 he has raised. (Felder also received $75,000 in
matching funds from the city's campaign finance program.) Despite this Felder
has attempted to distance himself from Hikind, saying he is more interested
in local government than foreign policy. "No one's ever going to say to me,
'We didn't elect you to be the mayor of Jerusalem,'" Felder told the Daily
News (which is what Hikind has been accused of).
Bob Miller has raised $64,000 from individuals and received $75,000 in
matching funds. He says he is stressing two themes in his campaign. "The
primary issue is the city can't go backward," he says. "We have to make sure
the city stays on course."
His second issue is changing a public education system that, he says, "is in
complete and total disarray." To accomplish that, he is calling for
eliminating the superintendent, central board of education, and community
school boards and replacing them with an education commissioner appointed by
the mayor and an advisory panel of education experts. He would also give more
power to school principals and parents.
Walking through the district one is likely to see Miller posters in more
diverse parts of the district and Felder and Spirgel signs in more uniformly
Orthodox areas, such as along the Avenue J shopping district. Sandy Aboul
afia, who has raised about $14,500 and received $41,000 in matching
funds, has done little leafleting. Miller, though, says he has widespread
support in the Orthodox community.
Sandy Aboulafia is making her fourth bid for the City
Council. She has been a member of Community Board 12, president
of the Midwood Civic Action Coalition and active in a number of
other community groups. She is graduate of Baruch College, Manhattan
Community College, and Brooklyn College.
Simcha Felder, a certified public accountant, serves as
Assemblyman Dov Hikind's chief-of-staff and teaches management
at Touro College. He was previously an auditor with the New York
City Department of Finance and worked for Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
He serves with the Council of Neighborhood Organizations, Guardians
of the Sick Mothers and Fathers Alliance Saving Kids, the United
New York Democratic Club, and other organizations. He is a graduate
of Touro College and Baruch College.
Bob Miller is an attorney, who has served as pro bono
counsel for various community groups. He served as former president
of the Ditmas Park Association and a former board member of the
Flatbush Development Corporation. He ran for City Council in 1991.
He graduated from Brooklyn College and Georgetown University Law
School. He grew up in the Gowanus Projects and Coney Island Houses.
Samuel Spirgel is a former member of Community School
Board 21 and Community Board 12.
New York Times endorsement:
"44th District (Midwood, Borough Park, Bensonhurst): Two candidates stand out
in this race to replace the outgoing Council member Noach Dear - Simcha
Felder, chief of staff to Assemblyman Dov Hikind, and Bob Miller, an
attorney with a long record of civic work in the district. Bob Miller's
well-thought-out proposals to improve schools in the area earn him our
With term limits forcing Borough Park Councilman Noach Dear to
the sidelines, four candidates have stepped forward in a bid to
succeed the 18-year incumbent in Brooklyn's 44th District. Bob
Miller, 51, a lawyer with a long record of free legal advice for
community groups, is making his second bid for the seat he narrowly
lost 10 years ago in Dear's closest reelection challenge. Miller
has lined up support from leaders in Flatbush and Bensonhurst,
including state Sen. Seymour Lachman. "The key is getting the
Council to be more active in the post-Giuliani era, and stay on
the right track in public safety and education," said Miller,
a Brooklyn College graduate. He also called for restoration of
former financial support levels for the City University. Simcha
Felder, 42, is a top aide to Assemblyman Dov Hikind who is running
for office for the first time. He is trying to forge a separate
identity, in part by stressing he is more interested in the nuts
and bolts of municipal governance than in the international focus
on Israel that marks Hikind's career. "No one's ever going to
say to me, 'We didn't elect you to be the mayor of Jerusalem,'"
Felder said. Samuel Spirgel, 27, is a lawyer and former school
board member whose father has been active in local school affairs
for years. Spirgel can count on Dear's support unless Rickly Dear,
the councilman's wife, decides to jump into the race. "I may be
young, but no one has had the encapsulating experience I have
had," said Spirgel, noting he has been an assistant district attorney
and city lawyer. Sandy Aboulafia, 62, a transit activist who works
for a travel-oriented publisher, is making her fourth bid for
the seat. The only woman in the race, Aboulafia also is the most
liberal of the candidates. "I'm the true community activist,"
Aboulafia said. "I do not cater to any special interests." (Daily
Simcha Felder, chief of staff to Assemblymember Dov Hikind and
a City Council candidate in the 44th district, has a bone to pick
with State Senator Seymour Lachman, Assemblymember William Colton
and District Leader Joanne Ribaudo. Last week, we reported that
the Progressive Democratic Club of Colton's 47th AD, which primarily
covers the Bensonhurst part of the 44th Councilmanic district,
voted unanimously to endorse attorney Bob Miller in the Council
race. Felder, although not surprised by the move, was nonetheless
upset because Lachman, Colton and Ribaudo had promised him an
opportunity to make his pitch to the club, he said. "I had made
it clear to them that I intend to represent every part of the
44th Councilmanic District, and that means Bensonhurst, Midwood,
Borough Park, and the rest of the community. They had given me
a commitment that I would have an opportunity to present my platform.
I had asked a number of times to be invited, and they agreed that
I would be invited, even if it was just a ritual. It's quite disturbing
to see a progressive club not even give the other candidates,
including Sandy Aboulafia and Mr. Spirgel, the opportunity to
present ourselves to them. "This is over, it's a done deal, but
they should have at least put on a good show to make it seem otherwise.
Maybe it's the not-so-progressive Democratic club," said Felder,
who added that he still had "tremendous respect" for the elected
officials. Lachman did not return a call seeking comment, and
Ribaudo could not be reached. Colton, however, said that he was
under the impression that Felder was not interested in speaking
before the endorsement vote. "From what I understand, he was not
seeking the endorsement. However, if he would like to come to
the club, I would have no problem giving him the opportunity to
present his views." (Courier
Councilman Noach Dear supports overturning the term limits law
but is waffling over whether he would run again if he could. (Daily
Rickly Dear may be pondering a council run, but Simcha Felder
and Samuel Sprigel are already raising money (Courier-Life Newspapers)
Elya Amsel's entry into the council race could create a schism
between ultra-Orthodox and modern Orthodox Jewish voters in the
Newspapers, reprinted by Lambda Independent Democrats)
City Councilman Noach Dear went to the steps of City Hall to urge
the State Department to lift an advisory against travel to Israel.
Former Giuliani chief of staff Bruce Teitelbaum may be behind
Ezra Friedlanders' council bid in hopes of defeating Simcha Felder.
Newspapers, reprinted by Lambda Independent Democrats).
By running first in the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress and
then as a Republican Noach Dear is showing real chutzpah. (Daily
The Jewish community here is adopting a tow-pronged approach to
soften the impact of term limits on city officials that take effect
in 2001, grooming a new crop of Jewish candidates for City Council
while also reaching out to Asian, Latino and other minority leaders
who are expected to fill an increasing number of council seats