The 33rd Council District, which stretches along the waterfront from Greenpoint to Brooklyn Heights, then picks up Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and a big part of Park Slope, is fortunate to have several outstanding candidates for the Democratic nomination.
Jo Anne Simon, the only woman running among the seven candidates to succeed David Yassky, is a longtime Democratic District Leader with a solid record of service to the community.
Steve Levin, the chief of staff to Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Bushwick), is a young up-and-comer who brings intelligence and dynamism to the race.
Then again, if we were strictly choosing the best environmentalist in the district, it would be Ken Baer, former head of the New York City chapter of the Sierra Club.
But the best choice for Democrats in this sprawling gerrymander is Evan Thies, Yassky’s former chief of staff.
Much of the campaign for this seat has been dominated by a debate over which candidate is truly independent of Lopez, the powerful Brooklyn Democratic Party boss.
Simon has shown some independence in the past, but her position as a longtime party official makes it impossible for her to claim that she is truly an outsider who is going to shake up city government.
For better or worse, she would be the same kind of councilmember that we’ve always gotten: an accommodationist who will work with the Council’s dysfunctional leadership rather than challenge it.
Levin’s connection to his boss Lopez certainly doesn’t disqualify him from winning our endorsement.
He would likely be an extremely talented councilman. But, like Simon, he’s not independent.
Thies would be a break from insider politics and a step towards the kind of progressive leadership that the Council desperately needs. He showed that in his committed, hands-on work as a member of his local community board, a body that too many members treat as nothing but a place to whine about something every month.
Thies, while working for Yassky, was the architect of a 2005 rezoning that mandated an affordable housing component to the city’s massive transformation of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront from manufacturing towards luxury housing.
That agreement remains a model for large rezonings.
Levin’s won the endorsements of many elected officials — Sen. Chuck Schumer, Borough President Markowitz and others seeking to curry favor with Lopez — but Thies’s endorsement list — which includes the Freelancers Union, Citizens Union and the New Kings Democrats — speaks to his progressivism.
He didn’t even get the endorsement of his old boss Yassky, who sat out this race in a bid to avoid the wrath of the party leader, whose support he needs — and got — in his race for comptroller.
The good news is that Evan Thies is free of this.
As such, he has earned our endorsement for the Democratic nomination.