August 11, 2009 / Brooklyn news / Politics / Election Coverage

Candidates savage the front-runners in our cable TV debate!

The Brooklyn Paper
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It wasn’t the answers that separated the front-runners from the longshots at The Brooklyn Paper and Brooklyn Independent Televisions’s 33rd Council District debate — it was the questions themselves.

In a segment of the forum that allowed each of the seven candidates in the rare open seat to directly question one another, all of the competitors pitted their queries at Jo Anne Simon, Steve Levin and Evan Thies, effectively identifying the trio as the candidates to beat — and the candidates to beat down.

The three hopefuls — who have served, respectively, as a Democratic District Leader, a staffer to powerful Assemblyman and Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez (D–Bushwick), and a staffer to Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) — came under fire for their stances on Atlantic Yards, the Broadway Triangle, the Gowanus Canal, their Democratic Party pedigree, and other issues in the district, which stretches from Greenpoint to Park Slope.

“Are we going to vote for the machine candidates, the status quo … or are we going to vote for someone new?” said candidate Doug Biviano, who accused Simon of not opposing Atlantic Yards, Levin of “talking out of the side of Vito’s mouth,” and Thies of resigning from Community Board 1 to dodge a controversial vote on the city’s proposed Broadway Triangle rezoning.

Biviano continued his attack strategy, asking Simon whether she would demand that Lopez — a leader he compared (and not favorably) to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez — step down from his post as Democratic Party Boss. She said she already has by voting against his ascension to party chairman twice.

Self-described “seasoned progressive” Ken Diamondstone asked Simon why she allowed her Democratic club, the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, to endorse John Heyer, a candidate in the neighboring 39th Council District who is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Simon, who appeared annoyed by all the questioning of her, responded by describing herself as a longtime supporter of gay marriage and abortion rights, but that didn’t satisfy Diamondstone, who is gay. He continued to pepper Simon with follow-up questions and had to be shouted down by the usually tranquil moderator, Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman.

Many of the more heated exchanges in the debate surrounded the city’s controversial decision to grant two politically connected non-profit groups the right to development affordable housing in a swath of industrial South Williamsburg called the Broadway Triangle — a proposal that all of the candidates oppose except for Levin.

Thies deemed the murky process surrounding the release of preliminary no bid contracts “one of the worst that we have seen in development.”

Simon argued that the means were as important as the ends.

“Affordable housing is a great goal, but there is a good way to do it and a bad way to do it,” she said.

But Levin — whose former boss is a strong backer of the plan — defended the rezoning proposal as a way to provide much-needed housing in contextual buildings.

“What I am in support of is affordable housing being built on what is now vacant land,” said Levin.

Hasidic activist Isaac Abraham accused Levin of “playing one game with two decks of cards” due to his support for the Broadway Triangle and his opposition to Atlantic Yards — two mega-projects that have been criticised for a closed public process. Abraham questioned whether the candidate stood behind a year’s-old anti-Semitic statement made by Lopez.

Levin, who was not on Lopez’s staff when the assemblyman allegedly made the comment about “Hasidics and real estate powers,” said he had never heard his former boss say such a thing.

The underdogs weren’t the only ones on the attack at the debate — which was moderated by Kuntzman with Courier Life reporter Aaron Short.

In her own offensive, Simon said Levin was the Democratic Party Boss’ “hand-picked candidate.” And Thies used his question to ask Levin whether his campaign benefited from his relationship with Lopez — an allegation that the Democratic Party Boss denied, albeit weakly, last week.

Levin insisted that he is his own man.

“I don’t think of myself as the machine candidate,” he said. “I am running my campaign as a grassroots campaign.”

The candidate — who last week landed the endorsement of Sen. Charles Schumer — used his prompt to ask Thies if he would limit himself to a “positive campaign.” Thies promised he would, but insisted that he won’t stop judging his “competitors on their merits.”

The other candidate in the race, Ken Baer, also participated.

The next night, the same seven candidates battled it out again at St. Francis College in a debate hosted by the Citizen’s Union — and again the underdogs weren’t afraid to try to bite the favorites.

But unlike The Brooklyn Paper/Brooklyn Independent Television debate, when given the chance to question other candidates, none of the front-runners partook.

With that debate, Levin has finally attended more 33rd Council District debates than Short has moderated.

The debate, hosted by Community Newspaper Group and Brooklyn Independent Television, will air on Monday, Aug. 17, at 9 pm the BCAT TV Network, which is channel 56 on Time Warner Cable and 69 on Cablevision. All our CNG-BIT forums can also be seen on the new election Web site, or at

Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018: Story was updated with more exciting debate action.
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Reasonable discourse

Bob from bushwick says:
I am very surprise this Levin guy did managed and show up this time. According the records 4 out of 8 debates he just skipped and ignored the people in the other part of Brooklyn that a big shame!!
And the same time working for his buss Vito low-paz a big trouble maker and anti-semitic that’s not accepted!!!
Aug. 11, 2009, 8:11 am
Dav from Brooklyn Hights says:
Not to get too repetitive, but I do not work for Evan Thies. Isn’t it possible that there are people who care about issues and are not on a payroll? As for the suggestions in one of the earlier posts, I’ve already done/am doing all that: knocking on doors, analyzing issues, etc.

Regarding the bile and vitriol, perhaps you’re referring to another post – I don’t know. My posts are about the Schumer endorsement, and are not intended to be a policy referendum. I’m just detailing the contacts between the politicians, using easily found information. I don’t malign Steve’s character, simply point out his lack of experience in most of the 33rd District and his non-attendance at debates. His own campaign literature tells us what Steve will fight for and not what he has done. This race is about the future of our neighborhoods in very difficult circumstances. My posts are fact-based. If you want political discourse to be all saccaharine sweetness, walk on over to Montague Street. You’ll have a choice between Haagen-Dazs and Hallmark.
Aug. 11, 2009, 12:20 pm
Divide and Rule from Vito Low-PEZ says says: says:
Divide and Rule

A last-minute campaign mailing is accusing Hasidic Jews and other "powerful interests" of opposing City Council member Diana Reyna . . . Vito Lopez sent out a letter to voters in the mostly Hispanic section of the Brooklyn district warning that their future is at stake because "many powerful interests, like the real-estate industry and the Hasidim community . . ." Fernando Ferrer compared the "disgusting" letter to the racially tinged campaign against him in the 2001 mayor's race" - NY Post, 9/9/03

Is this the man you can trust? the venom and hatred that he has spread and spoke against the Jewish Community for over 20 years, even Councilwomen Diana Reyna who he supported in this letter, is no longer affiliated with him.

We in the Jewish Community are not so stupid to go to bed with Vito Low-pez, the people and housing agenda that he supports.

The Jewish Community for a Better Williamsburg
Aug. 11, 2009, 12:22 pm
Endy from Greenpoint says:
Who said that Dimontstone is gay?
Aug. 11, 2009, 12:25 pm
Keith from Greenpoint says:
So what! do you have a problem with that? So his he gay, the only problem he is an old looser!! He lost in the past many elections,
Aug. 11, 2009, 1:14 pm
Ben from Brooklyn hights says:
Even Thies is just a sweet talker!! The other hand he worked for David Yaskey that’s not the best idea!!
Aug. 11, 2009, 1:49 pm
Gersh Kuntzman (Brooklyn Paper) says:
Ken Diamondstone himself pointed out that he is gay.

The Brooklyn Paper does not make an issue of a candidate's sexuality, but felt it was relevant to point out Diamondstone's sexual preference in this case because he was specifically asking another candidate about why she did not oppose a candidate who is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Thanks for reading

The Brooklyn Paper
Aug. 11, 2009, 1:49 pm
revolution from cobble hill says:
we need chang in brooklyn. levin is not the right guy. vito as to go
Aug. 11, 2009, 2 pm
Bob from Cobbel Hill says:
Gersh. I am surprise the way you sign your name by spelling Kuntman. is your real name Kuntzman? I understand that to be an editor for the paper you don’t have to know spelling like the council candidate in the 33rd district!!! It’s a perfect match!!
Aug. 11, 2009, 2:53 pm
Bill from Boerum Hill says:
Sour grapes Bill in Boerum Hill wonders: WHO is Steve Levin? I have never seen him at candidate forums. I never read about his positions. All I read is how great his political relatives and connections are...including his nasty boss Vito Lopez. Shame on
Schumer for his endorsement of someone who he hardly knows (likes his uncle, though, which is fine so far as it goes). And shame on the Working Families Party---this guy was born with the golden spoon in his mouth. On the merits almost everybody else in this race is as good as or better than Mr. Levin, so let's all keep our eye on the ball. The 33rd does not need a phantom councilman--we need robust leadership.
Aug. 11, 2009, 2:58 pm
joe from willamsburg says:
Hey all of you looks like the front-runners in the race are Levin theis Simon .so what is all this bashing .we all know its coming from abraham-schlesinger clan. Posting messages with other peoples names .I think that Abraham club is doing this out of desperation its time to throw in the towel your race is over.
This all wont help you .try to run a positive race,
Aug. 11, 2009, 5:13 pm
Ken from Brooklyn says:
Did somebody say I like Ken Baer? He sound to be a nice person with a hearing aid problem, he would never hear if there is a problem!! so he got my vote…
Aug. 11, 2009, 5:21 pm
Josh from Greenpoint says:
I think Levine is still learning he is a good listener, but the biggest problem he is listening only to his buss Vito Low-paz that a big and old problem!!
He sound to go in his food steps!!
Aug. 11, 2009, 5:28 pm
Shimon from Brooklyn says:
This guy is plain hate & personal attacks on a public forum
Aug. 11, 2009, 7:27 pm
no problem from bushwick says:
we the people of ny will impeach this dictator
Aug. 11, 2009, 9:29 pm
its the police from around town says:
hey bob, you spelled Cobble wrong.
Aug. 12, 2009, 1:53 am
Mitch from Brooklyn Hights says:
did somebody just say that Jo Ann Simon can’t take the heat anymore? Ha it's Brooklyn deals with it!!! will yha.....
Aug. 12, 2009, 7:51 am
Linda from Williamsburg says:
Spelling should not is the issue, delivering to the public that’s counts! We need somebody with lots of experience who knows the job well that may be the right candidate, after yesterdays debate/form at united citizens we all know that Isaac Abraham is the person with a lots of experience for the last 35 years working with the city and state agencies, he was the only candidate who answers all the questions
With out having any notes what so ever, so Abraham should be the right person for the next councilman of the 33rd district…
Aug. 12, 2009, 7:54 am
Ken from Greenpoint says:
Linda.. you have a very strong point we need somebody with experience and know all the issues and salutations to salve problems like Housing, environmental, crime, Transportation, health care, Etc.
Our family knows Isaac for some time, we came across about 7 years being in the hospital fighting for cancer, and having problems with health coverage he came like an angle to help me and make sure I should be fully covered and having the right treatments may god Blass him and his family!
Aug. 12, 2009, 8:10 am
Community Reactivist from Brooklyn Hieghts says:
"Dav from Brooklyn Heights" has fully plagiarized my post from last week (8/7?) on the 33rd District City Coundil race. I realize that this is a fairly unmoderated blog, and perhap I should be flattered -- but please remove this post!
Aug. 12, 2009, 2:25 pm
Real Reform Brooklyn from the 33rd says:
See our latest post about Steve Levin & Carpetbagging.

Keeping It Real
Aug. 22, 2009, 8:16 pm

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