District 44 Brooklyn

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Simcha Felder, Dem 12,246 - 79 percent
Robert J. Miller, Lib 2,289 - 15 percent
Samuel C. Spirgel, Con 933 - 6 percent

Primary Election Results

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 in 2001)

The Candidates:

  • Simcha Felder (Dem)
  • Bob Miller (Lib)
  • Samuel Spirgel (Con)

Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Sandy Aboulafia
Contributors to Simcha Felder
Contributors to Bob Miller
Contributors to Samuel Spirgel

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 44

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

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.

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district from City Project, click here.


  • White, non-Hispanic: 69%
  • Hispanic: 13%
  • Asian: 10%
  • Black, non-Hispanic: 7%

Median income:$40,827 (33rd highest of 51 City Council districts)

Unemployment rate: 8%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

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 help?"

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.

Posted 2/19/01

Campaign Update:

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.

Posted 08/20/01

Candidate Biographies

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.

Campaign Trail

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 endorsement."

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 News)

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 Life Newspapers)

Councilman Noach Dear supports overturning the term limits law but is waffling over whether he would run again if he could. (Daily News)

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 district. (Courier-Life 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. (Daily News)

Former Giuliani chief of staff Bruce Teitelbaum may be behind Ezra Friedlanders' council bid in hopes of defeating Simcha Felder. (Courier-Life 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 News)

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 (The Forward)


Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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