Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2236 Thu, 02 Jul 2020 15:02:18 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Police Patrols Promised to Combat Anti-Semitism Arrived to Enforce Social Distancing, Orthodox Leaders Say https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9402-nypd-patrols-combat-anti-semitism-enforce-social-distancing-orthodox-jewish-coronavirus-de-blasio https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/9402-nypd-patrols-combat-anti-semitism-enforce-social-distancing-orthodox-jewish-coronavirus-de-blasio de Blasio Orthodox Jews security

Mayor de Blasio & city officials in Borough Park in January (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


[UPDATE (5/19/20): After this story was published, an NYPD spokesperson told Gotham Gazette security cameras had been installed at 30 locations in Brooklyn as part of an effort to combat anti-Semitic hate crimes. The remaining 70 cameras planned to be deployed with the input of the community have likely been put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, the spokesperson said.]

Mayor Bill de Blasio in January announced 100 new police security cameras and more officers on the streets in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods as part of an effort, embraced by officials across the political spectrum, to combat a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City and State. But officials representing those communities say the cameras were never installed and the patrols never came, and that the spirit of protection has in recent weeks been replaced with one of suspicion and "retaliation," spurred on by the mayor himself in response to large public gatherings, as the pandemic has gripped the city.

"We were calling on the city to do more and to give us additional resources when Jews were being beaten, rocks thrown at them, on a daily basis in New York City. We were begging for more help. We were begging for additional resources...we were begging for manpower," said State Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein, who represents Borough Park and is a former aide to de Blasio, in an interview.

"At the end of the day we were basically told, 'This is all we have, we don't have additional resources,'" he said of a period late last year after a series of violent attacks.

But Eichenstein and other local leaders say Orthodox Jewish communities have recently been flooded by police officers enforcing social distancing, especially in the days following the funeral of a rabbi in Williamsburg that saw thousands of mourners gathering in close quarters. The contrast in responses points to a complicated relationship between Orthodox Jews and city government.

"The number of cops that I saw floating around in Williamsburg in the last day or two of last week far exceeded the number of cops we were begging the mayor to send us last year and in January," said City Council Member Kalman Yeger, whose district overlaps Eichenstein's, of the period immediately following the April 28 funeral. The funeral gathering itself was met with a heavy police response, with even the mayor himself arriving on the scene to make sure the crowd dispersed. De Blasio then posted a highly controversial tweet, in which he singled out "the Jewish community" for violating rules established by executive order.

In the days that followed the leaders described what Eichenstein called a "ticketing blitz [of] people off the streets" for not wearing face coverings.

"Everyone should be wearing masks when you go out, people need to socially distance, of course we all want to stop the virus. But I wish we would've seen that same response when Jews were being beaten on the streets of New York on a daily basis. We did not see the response that we saw in retaliation to the funeral," Eichenstein said.

In January, in response to a surge in anti-Semitic crimes in 2019, including a stabbing at a Hannukah celebration in Monsey, a shooting at a kosher deli in Jersey City, and a series of verbal and physical attacks mostly in Brooklyn, de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo said they were taking steps to "harden security" in Jewish communities.

Crimes targeting Jews accounted for 242 of the 420 hate crimes reported to the NYPD in 2019, a 26 percent rise over the previous year and an 86 percent increase since 2015.

In January, the mayor announced 100 new surveillance cameras would be installed in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Borough Park -- areas home to large Orthodox Jewish populations -- and that over 150 officers had been deployed there. The plan was for the first 30 cameras to be installed by March with the remaining 70 to be sited with the input of the community.

"I'm not aware of a single one of them that has actually been installed and turned on," Yeger said.

"I can tell you this, nobody has discussed it with me," said Eichenstein. "The only cameras that I know that were installed in my district in the last couple of weeks are speed cameras. That's the only cameras I know that were installed. They carry tickets, that's unfortunate.”

But the reality surrounding the cameras is unclear and it is possible some of them have been installed. A March 4 summary of the NYPD's proposed budget prepared by the City Council states that the installation formula of the 100 cameras had not changed and a spokesperson for de Blasio told Gotham Gazette their "gut recollection" is that the first tranche of cameras was installed and the city was aiming to begin the community engagement process for the second tranche around the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York. Neither the mayor's office nor the police department provided details on the cameras over the course of multiple conversations by email and phone spanning two weeks.

The camera plan was alarming to some civil rights advocates at the time, and the lack of public information about its implementation, especially in light of recent social distancing controversies, has heightened the concern.

"Once those cameras are in place in communities you are able to piece together people's entire daily movements, their comings and goings, in a way that is subject to really little oversight," said Michael Sisitzky, lead policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union.

"There is very little control placed over how long the NYPD is retaining the footage, what other purposes they are using it for," he said. "So whether it is from the cameras that can be deployed as part of efforts to combat anti-Semitism, or just security and surveillance cameras in general, the same concern remains that they lend themselves to potential misuse as tools for criminal enforcement."

The police department has acknowledged using its network of cameras to monitor social distancing throughout the city. In early April, NY1 reported Chief of Department Terence Monahan saying, "We move from camera to camera to different parks around the city. We can see what the conditions are. If we see any overcrowding we will be able to send our teams out there."

There is no clear data on how many cameras, public and private, the NYPD has access to on a daily basis, including no accounting of how many existed in Orthodox neighborhoods before the mayor's announcement.

The NYPD's enforcement tactics have come under scrutiny since data was released on May 8 showing 81 percent of social distancing summonses and 90 percent of arrests related to COVID-19 have been of black and Latino people. Only 51 of the 374 summonses issued for social distancing violations between March 16 and May 5 went to white people, 42 of which were in Brooklyn, according to the data, with at least 15 of those on the night of the funeral and the morning after at synagogues in Williamsburg. And the mayor has been criticized for his decision to establish the NYPD, rather than public health officials and community groups, as the main agency responsible for ensuring people do not spread the virus in public.

In response to sweeping blowback and charges of “racist” policing, on Friday de Blasio announced a "reset" in enforcement with officers focused on breaking up groups of six or more people (who don’t live together) with warnings and summonses if necessary, and a heavier reliance on "civilian ambassadors" from other city agencies and community-based messengers to distribute face coverings and facilitate distancing.

Shea informed officers in a letter Friday that, "Moving forward...we will no longer issue summonses or make arrests for infractions related to face coverings — absent of a crime or other violation being committed."

The moves have been praised by a number of elected officials and advocates who had pushed for the reforms.

The night of the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Mertz and the day after, de Blasio said the city would be pursuing summonses for gatherings aggressively, and specifically called out "the Jewish community."

In the tweet just after the funeral, which was coordinated with the NYPD and reportedly drew over 2,000 people paying respects to the rabbi, who died of COVID-19, de Blasio wrote: "My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period."

The tweet received intense criticism from Jews and non-Jews alike. Eichenstein responded by condemning the gathering but stated: "Mr. @NYCMayor: it is also completely unacceptable to call out the entire Jewish community especially as a group that has been endlessly under attack in NYC."

Others called the comment insensitive but said it belied the many examples of targeted support Orthodox Jewish enclaves have received from de Blasio, who has been a strong ally throughout his career and represented parts of those communities in Brooklyn during his time in the City Council. The assertion that the mayor is anti-Semitic is "of course, absurd because the Mayor he’s been one of the most responsive Mayor’s to the entire spectrum of NY’s Jewish community," tweeted former City Council Member David Greenfield, who represented Borough Park before Yeger and is now head of The Met Council, a social service provider based in the Orthodox community.

"I spoke last night out of passion. I could not believe my eyes," the mayor said the next morning when asked by a reporter if he would apologize for his comments. "I spoke out of real distress that people's lives were in danger before my eyes and I was not going to tolerate it. So I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way. That was not my intention."

"It was said with love, but it was tough love,” he continued. “It was anger and frustration and what I saw, no...it's not happened other places. Let's be honest, this kind of gathering has happened in only a few places and it cannot continue. It's endangering the lives of people in the community.”

According to the NYPD, the next morning on April 29 police issued three summonses at a synagogue in the 90th Precinct, which covers Williamsburg, after receiving a 311 call "in regards to violating New York City social distancing policy." One of the summonses was for disorderly conduct related to social distancing and two were for "doors being chained from the inside" in violation of fire code, said Sgt. Jessica McRorie, a department spokesperson. That afternoon, eight more summonses were issued at another synagogue in the same precinct by officers who didn't get a 311 call but who were "in the vicinity," McRorie said, of which six were again for having "chains on the doors" and two for "social distancing violations."

The NYPD did not provide specific information on enforcement in other heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

"If the City of New York wants to send a thousand cops to the neighborhood to protect the people, it can do that. And if it wants to send a thousand cops to a neighborhood to terrorize people, it can do that," Yeger said. "The mayor's office has to decide which one it wants to do."

According to the Council's March budget summary for the upcoming fiscal year beginning in July, each precinct in Borough Park, Midwood, Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Williamsburg "will have an additional 4 to 6 officers per tour. Police presence will also be increased specifically at houses of worship and local events." It also says six new NYPD light towers would be erected in Borough Park.

The mayor's office and NYPD have both refused to share communications and guidelines issued to officers around when people should receive a warning versus a summons for violating social distancing protocols. The police department did not answer questions about what specific tools it was using to monitor social distancing in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

When asked about the potential for police security cameras to be used for targeted social distancing enforcement in Jewish communities, Eichenstein told Gotham Gazette: "I think that we should share a goal of what the purpose is of all of these security measures, be it cameras, be it whatever it is. These are measures to keep a community safe. These are not ‘big brother’ tools."

"It is true that if they start using it for other -- you know monetary fines, that would be a problem," he added.

Orthodox leaders are still seeking more protection from hate crimes, which they say are not past just because crime in general is down during the outbreak. Reported anti-Semitic hate crimes are down 40 percent between January and May compared to the same period last year, according to police data. In March, the month the city's stay-at-home order went into effect, the pace at which reports of anti-Semitic crime fell more than doubled.

"Over the course of a 365-day year, upwards of 350 of them, the police department works hand in hand with the community and does a good job," said Yeger. "Here and there there is a problem. On balance, the security cameras will provide security when they actually show up. Ask me how I feel when they actually show up."

But Sisitzky, of the civil liberties union, believes there is cause for concern for Orthodox Jews and for New Yorkers in general. "I think for particular communities and for people who are just passing through communities, the more cameras that are deployed the more potential there is to create a permanent record of people's daily lives, and just submit New Yorkers writ large to constant surveillance."

Yeger thinks the civil rights concerns are overstated: "The constitution does not ban surveillance cameras from being placed in public places. Cameras provide a necessary tool to combat violence in this city." 

"If I can't get a cop on every corner, I'll take a camera on every corner," he said.

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by Ethan Geringer-Sameth, reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Police Patrols Promised to Combat Anti-Semitism Arrived to Enforce Social Distancing, Orthodox Leaders Say Sun, 17 May 2020 04:00:00 +0000
In Second 311 Oversight Hearing, City Council Examines Agency Responsiveness https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8271-in-second-311-oversight-hearing-council-examines-agency-responsiveness https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8271-in-second-311-oversight-hearing-council-examines-agency-responsiveness Holden Yeger City Council

Council Members Holden, right, and Yeger (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


The City Council recently held its second in a two-part oversight hearing on the city’s 311 system, the country’s largest non-emergency call center. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Council Member Fernando Cabrera, the chair of the governmental operations committee, led both hearings. While the first hearing focused on system upgrades to 311 that are in process and language access, the second was organized around examining responsiveness by 311 to New Yorkers’ complaints and questions, often through how city agencies take up issues that come through the call center.

Cabrera stressed the importance of the second hearing, saying that “New Yorkers should be able to trust that a complaint filed with 311 will not languish in a void.” Joe Morrisroe, the executive director of 311, testified at the first hearing and returned for the second. He was joined at the second hearing by officials from seven city agencies.

Johnson’s primary concerns at the hearing were the quality of the data that 311 collects and transparency in regards to the status of complaints and service requests. “We see extensive data-quality issues,” he said, arguing that data errors prevent the public from following the progress of complaints, and ambiguous complaint resolution descriptions create confusion over agency responses. Johnson said poor data quality meant that the Council could not determine how or if many cases were resolved. He cited the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOMHM), Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), Department of Finance (DOF), and Department of Transportation (DOT) as city agencies with ambiguous resolution statuses.

The DOMHM and TLC each have 99% of their cases that are technically marked closed, but many also appear to be ongoing. Mark Lee, the TLC’s assistant commissioner for licensing and standards, said that he needed “to look into this data further” and that TLC is “proactively communicating to complainants, but we do need to get that reflected to the public.”

About 20% of rodent complaints to DOMHM were listed as resolved on a date before the complaint was filed, to which Johnson incredulously asked, “how is that possible?” Jeff Hunter, DOHMH assistant commissioner for environmental health and administration, said that this could be because multiple complaints were filed for the same location and the resolution date reflected the response to the first complaint.

The DOT and DOF had 46% and 74% of their respective complaint responses determined to be vague by the Council committee. Rebecca Zack, DOT’s assistant commissioner for intergovernmental and community affairs, said that the department’s vague responses directed customers to the DOT website for more information, instead of being resolved within the 311 system. Sheela Feinberg, DOF’s director of intergovernmental affairs, said that the vague responses were due to the sensitive nature of DOF service requests, which include personal information, and that DOF’s direct responses to complaints provide more information that what may be reflected in the Council’s data.

Johnson expressed frustration at how confusing the whole thing is, labeling the agencies’ differing response system to be “ad-hoc.” He suggested an inter-agency working group to work with the Council to improve the whole response system, and to “stop the insanity, there needs to be a better way.” He also expressed the importance of having the two hearings on 311, because “if people lose trust, they stop trying.”

Another major issue that came up frequently at the hearing was how agencies decide the order in which they respond to service requests. Most of the agencies outlined an internal system of prioritization based on a request’s impact on public safety. For example, Patrick Wehle, the Department of Buildings’ (DOB) deputy commissioner for external affairs, said that DOB typically responds to high-priority complaints within nine hours, the next level of priority can take up to 11 days, while lowest-priority complaints sometimes take up to three months. Most of the agencies present followed a similar prioritization hierarchy, representatives said. However, there were some exceptions, such as DOT, which schedules maintenance work, such as refilling potholes, for efficiency rather than by another priority, according to Zack. Council Member Cabrera asked if the volume of calls received about a particular issue affects an agency’s responsiveness. Zack said it depends on the issue, that DOT determines whether to adjust on a case-by-case basis.

The Committee on Governmental Operations also considered one bill proposal, sponsored by Council Member Robert Holden. Holden’s bill would require 311 to indicate if an agency is unable to respond to a service request or complaint. Morrisroe said that his agency “cannot support the bill’s intent in its current form.” He explained that the bill “would drastically change 311’s operations and would not allow it to fulfill its role of providing New Yorkers with the information they seek or help them submit and monitor their service request.” Morrisroe asserted that providing this information would go beyond 311’s “core competency” of making referrals to other city agencies. The bill was laid over by the committee, perhaps for tweaking or further consideration in the future.

Council Member Kalman Yeger voiced his frustration with the city agencies present, saying that 311 was not at fault, but the agencies are failing, calling it “a management problem at every agency.” He expressed particular frustration over the fix rate for rodent problem complaints, which is currently 30%. He said rodent complaints should have a “100% success rate and a picture of the dead rat in the response.” He ended his remarks (he didn’t ask any questions) by telling the officials present to “go back today to the office and say ‘that crazy guy from Brooklyn once again is letting loose with his microphone and maybe we could figure out a way that we don’t have this again.’”

Two agencies notably not represented at the hearing were the New York Police Department (NYPD) and Department of Sanitation, a fact noted by Holden. These two agencies interact most with the public, he said, so their responses to 311 complaints need to be reviewed. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Holden said in the hearing, about the absences of the NYPD and Sanitation.

During the hearing, Johnson did say that “despite these troubling issues, we do see some very positive things,” highlighting Sanitation for its clarity and responsiveness.

[Read: City’s 311 Upgrade Set for Mid-Year Launch]

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by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette
   

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In Second 311 Oversight Hearing, City Council Examines Agency Responsiveness Sun, 10 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
City Council Considers Requiring More Reporting on Required Reporting https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7700-city-council-considers-requiring-more-reporting-on-required-reporting https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7700-city-council-considers-requiring-more-reporting-on-required-reporting City Council Cabrera Vallone

CMs Cabrera, left, and Vallone (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


How does the New York City Council check city government agencies without legislating agency operations, which it sometimes does not have the power to do? Reporting bills.

The Council often passes legislation that requires an agency under the direction of the mayor to produce a report, like Local Law 47, which compels the NYPD to compile data on subway fare-beating arrests. This bill, and the NYPD’s response, quickly became another flash point in tensions between city agencies and the Council, which has mandated oversight responsibilities along with its legislative powers.

The intention behind the bulk of reporting bills -- which, like other legislation passed by the Council, are typically signed into law by the mayor -- is more transparency into agencies that then allows both the public and Council members additional insight into government function, effectiveness, and efficiency, and indications of operational or budgetary reforms that may be needed. But, reporting bills can also be onerous, requiring valuable resources at city agencies mandated to compile information, and there are questions about how often required reports are even produced or used by the Council.

Now, a new bill at the Council is aimed at bringing additional oversight and transparency to the totality of required reporting -- but that bill itself is the source of disagreement. A recent hearing on the bill, which is sponsored by City Council Member Fernando Cabrera and would add new requirements for an online database of all required reports, saw discussion of the bill as well as the practice of passing reporting bills. The bill would add new information about when reports are due and put public pressure on city agencies to produce required reports.

According to the listing for the bill on the Council website, the bill would require the city’s Department of Records and Information Services, “which is currently required to receive and post all reports required to be produced by local law or executive order on its website, to list all required reports, when they were last received and when they are next due.” It would also require DORIS to send a request “to any agency that does not transmit a required report, and would require the posting of such request on the website in lieu of the required report until such report is received.”

At the April 26 hearing, representatives of the mayor’s office and the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) testified in opposition to the bill, which also received a lukewarm public reception from some City Council members.

The bill currently has the sponsorship of only Council Member Cabrera, who chairs the Committee on Governmental Operations, which held the hearing, at which other Council members voiced concerns over the Council’s tendency to pass reporting laws and whether or not such laws do more to inundate agencies than substantially help the Council or the public.

If enacted, the bill -- known as Intro. 828 -- would enhance the DORIS-run digital database of reports required by local laws, executive orders, or mayoral directives. Currently, DORIS maintains the Government Publications Portal; however, the scope of this portal is limited by a mandatory keyword search engine as well as the fact that it lacks some of the most recent reports from city agencies. For example, the portal does not provide any reports from the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) past the year 2014, despite reports being published as recently as this year.

Additionally, other recent reports by agencies such as the Department of Buildings, including those on gas utility risks or construction safety, or the Department of Criminal Justice, such as annual reports on jail population or crime rates, are similarly not accessible through the current portal.

DORIS and the Mayor’s Office of Operations cited unnecessary burden and premature planning as to why the bill should not be passed.

“With the continuous addition of legislated reports required of city agencies, we recognize the need to ensure strong administrative practices to support agency compliance,” said Emily Newman, the acting director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, at the hearing last month. “However, we do not believe that Intro. 828 identifies the most effective approach and that it is not in the city’s best interest to mandate a new process in advance of any relevant recommendations of the Report and Advisory Board Review Commission.”

The Report and Advisory Board Review Commission, which reviews reporting requirements and assesses the usefulness of such reports, among other objectives, was set to reconvene this month. The last time the commission met was in 2012, despite the city charter mandating that it has annual public meetings.

“Intro. 828, as drafted, includes requirements that would be onerous for DORIS to undertake in real-time,” Pauline Toole, the DORIS commissioner, said at the City Council hearing. “Some agencies submit reports on a weekly basis, some monthly, some quarterly, and updating the list for each submission would require extensive resources and, ultimately, not provide the public with a worthwhile service.” Toole said DORIS currently updates the site on a “regular basis.”

Toole also cited an increase in the number of reports submitted to the government publications portal, where over 21,000 reports have been submitted to the current DORIS portal today, a jump from 7,000 reports submitted in 2014.

Both Toole and Newman reaffirmed a desire to work on another possible solution in concert with the City Council in order to update the accessibility of all governmental reports online. Meanwhile, other concerns were additionally raised by Council members.

“I am as big on transparency as anything, but when we make demands out of agencies to do their jobs in other ways, I do worry that we are adding in so much onto them that is unfunded,” Council Member Keith Powers said at the hearing. “You know, we don’t fund new staff for that.”

Council Member Kalman Yeger also raised the concern of finances by considering what the potential savings would be if DORIS had a smaller annual quota for reports it must make available, which, according to Toole, currently stands at about 400 reports per year. “I’m curious to know how much we can save the taxpayers if we perhaps were to stop legislating the various agencies of this city to prepare information that is probably readily available by simply asking the agency to give the information out,” Yeger said at the hearing.

Alex Camarda, a senior policy advisor for Reinvent Albany, a government reform group focused on increased transparency, testified in support of the bill at the hearing – albeit, with some tweaks.

While the bill currently says that DORIS would send a letter of request of transmission to agencies ten days prior to a report’s deadline, and subsequently post that request on the website until the actual report is submitted, Camarda suggested that such a letter should be sent at the beginning of the fiscal year and that a seperate column listing all the agencies that did not yet transmit a report be created. Other proposed amendments to the bill include identifying which part of the charter administrative code requires the report as well as providing a brief summary of the report in the online database.

“We think government generally needs to move away from providing information that’s locked in static PDF reports and report data in an open, usable and dynamic form,” said Camarda.

Council Member Cabrera’s office did not respond to multiple requests to discuss the hearing and any modifications that he might consider making to the bill.

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

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City Council Considers Requiring More Reporting on Required Reporting Tue, 29 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Southern Brooklyn Candidates Pitch Democratic Club https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6981-southern-brooklyn-candidates-pitch-democratic-club https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6981-southern-brooklyn-candidates-pitch-democratic-club gentile byd

City Council Member Gentile (photo: Sam Raskin)


Brooklyn Democratic office-seekers pitched their candidacies to the Brooklyn Young Democrats (BYD) club at a forum the group hosted in Bay Ridge Wednesday night.

The event was part of the candidate and club endorsement circuit leading up to the September primary elections for City Council and other offices, including Mayor.

The BYD meeting featured candidates for several offices, but was centered around the race for City Council in District 43, which includes parts of Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, along with Bath Beach and Dyker Heights. Several Democrats and Republicans are attempting to replace outgoing Council Member Vincent Gentile, who is term-limited and running for District Attorney.

Three of the four declared Democratic candidates -- Justin Brannan, Khader El-Yateem and Kevin Peter Carroll -- made their cases to the BYD crowd, the members of which could be helpful in terms of campaign volunteers and general support. Due to the volume of candidates who participated in the event and time constraints, all speakers were given just three minutes to speak, followed by three questions from attendees. The candidates spoke predominantly about themselves and their general outlook, while questioners brought up specific policy issues.

Gentile kicked off the evening by promoting his District Attorney candidacy, addressing the roughly 50 attendees.

Brannan, a musician turned local activist and government aide, followed his boss, Gentile -- for the past decade, Brannan has mostly worked in Gentile’s Council office. He also spent a recent spell in the de Blasio administration, doing intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Education. He also worked on the effort to see universal pre-kindergarten funding come to the city through Albany.

“As a progressive, the cornerstone of progressive politics is making government work,” he said. Brannan, who is well-known in Southern Brooklyn, especially Bay Ridge, where he has led the local Democratic club, chronicled his multifaceted pre-political life, highlighting union organizing as the endeavor that first piqued his interest in electoral politics. Brannan also brandished his progressive credentials on issues such as animal rights and the promotion of inclusivity in the diverse Southern Brooklyn community.

The former punk-rocker also distanced himself some from Gentile, who had since exited the forum, but who has endorsed Brannan as his successor. An audience member asked Brannan about Gentile’s 2013 vote against the Community Safety Act, which put further restrictions on racial profiling by the NYPD and created the NYPD Inspector General. “I’m running to replace Councilman Gentile; I’m not Vince Gentile,” he said to scattered applause. (A source from the Brannan campaign later said the questioner was aligned with the El-Yateem camp.)

Afterwards, Carroll, who works for City Council Member Stephen Levin, tried to sell himself to the group. Carroll made heavy use of simple sloganeering to brand himself as a young, fresh face and someone who would “stand up” as an “independent voice.” He delved into policy specifics only to criticize the MTA, which he believes is both ineffective and unaccountable to New Yorkers. He pointed to the fact that “the MTA can issue bonds,” but said it is a problem that “public authorities can do that without the public ever knowing about it.”

Carroll did not provide more in terms of a solution. While MTA governance is currently more determined by the governor than the mayor or City Council, Brannan has called for a return of the MTA to city control.

Reverend Khader El-Yateem, a Palestinian-American pastor, followed Carroll. “I was born and raised in Bethlehem...Not Bethlehem, Pennsylvania...the real Bethlehem!” he joked while introducing himself, sparking some laughter. If elected to the City Council, El-Yateem would be the first Arab-American to join the body, a quality he contends gives him unique potential to bridge divides among various demographic cohorts in South Brooklyn. El-Yateem said he would fight for his constituents at City Hall, without regard for outside interests on matters such as rising costs of rent. “We need housing that is affordable to the people that live here,” he argued, rather than newcomers from outside the neighborhood.

At Wednesday night’s forum, City Council Member Mark Treyger, who represents the 47th Council District and is seeking reelection, and Anne Swern, a lawyer, district leader, and candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney, also made appearances.

In his opening remarks, Council Member Gentile cited his 11 years in the Queens District Attorney’s office and his City Council as well as New York State Assembly experience, claiming he was the most prepared candidate for the District Attorney job. “I know how to keep Brooklyn safe,” Gentile said. “But also, I know how to give Brooklyn hope,” he added. Gentile emphasized his policies would strike a balance between utilizing a compassionate criminal justice approache while still keeping crime at bay. He specifically mentioned the Right to Know Act, legislation that has stalled in the City Council that would mandate certain disclosures from police officers in particular interactions with civilians.

Candidates for City Council District 48 also participated in the event, with two Democratic primary candidates speaking toward the end of the night. Kalman Yeger, the New York City political operative, has launched a primary challenge against incumbent Council Member Chaim Deutsch. It is shaping up to be a contentious intra-party contest.

“I’m running against an incumbent who I think hasn’t been there,” Yeger said. He went on to accuse Deutsch of spending too much time elsewhere. “He’s absent because he has another job. He’s at his real estate company all day long,” he said, adding that he suspects the money Deutsch earns via Chasa Management, of which he is president, impacted his decision to vote against the ban on Council members earning outside income in 2016. “I think we can do better in our neighborhood,” Yeger said.

Deutsch, who was not yet present at the venue to hear his rival’s criticism, seemed to be aware of his opponent's critiques. The Council member boasted about his near-perfect attendance at City Hall, as well as his availability to his constituents. “There are some people who say ‘oh that person is crazy’” and thus will refuse to speak with them, Deutsch said.”...[I’ll] meet with everyone.”

The Brooklyn Young Democrats will meet again June 19, hosting a North Brooklyn forum in Bushwick.

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Southern Brooklyn Candidates Pitch Democratic Club Thu, 08 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000