Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez Vs. Carlos Menchaca

Gonzalez a no-show at Transportation Alternatives forum

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Tuesday City Council candidates debate in Sunset Park became a one-man show when incumbent Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D-Sunset Park) failed to show up.

Her challenger, Carlos Menchaca, took advantage of the empty stage at the forum thrown by car-critic think-tank Transportation Alternatives to tout himself as the road reform candidate, and to dig into his opponent for what he called a pattern of skipping out on her responsibilities.

“I think it’s about not wanting to be accountable to the people she represents,” Menchaca said.

In Gonzalez’s absence, Menchaca voiced support for slowing down traffic, adding bike lanes, and extending the city’s bike share program to the district that spans Sunset Park, Red Hook, Windsor Terrace, Greenwood Heights, Boerum Hill, and parts of Bay Ridge and Borough Park.

Gonzalez could not be reached for comment — but she did have supporters in the room. They said that attending the forum, which was also organized by youth group United Puerto Rican Organization, would have meant walking into a lion’s den for the 10-year incumbent. They claimed that the event’s organizers are supporting the challenger, a former aide to Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“It’s a set-up,” said Tom Murphy, a member of the neighborhood’s Community Board Seven.

Murphy pointed out that Menchaca has received the endorsement of the Streets Political Action Committee, a pro-bike lobbying group — which Murphy claimed is really an arm of Transportation Alternatives, a charge the group denied.

“That’s impossible. We’re a completely independent, completely separate entity,” said Transportation Alternatives director, Noah Budnick.

But eight of the pro-bike lobbying group’s 14 board members have been involved with Transportation Alternatives in some form.

The community board member also alleged that the deputy director of the United Puerto Rican Organization gathered signatures to get Menchaca on the ballot. A representative of the organization said it does not even have a deputy director, while acknowledging the possibility that members might campaign for Menchaca on their own time.

“Anybody in my office can work for anyone they want as long as they’re not on the clock,” said executive director Elizabeth Yeampierre, who added that she did not know of any members who were petitioning for the challenger.

Gonzalez entered office in 2003, after winning a special election to replace disgraced Councilman Angel Rodriguez. She is eligible to run again in the district where she grew up because, though she has served two terms, she was in office when term limits were extended.

Menchaca, moved to the district in February after being active for several months in the Hurricane Sandy relief effort in Red Hook.

The Democratic primary is Sept. 10.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 10:14 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

BrianVan from Gramercy says:
You know, it's not a setup for a takedown if your views on safe streets match with what voters want. If you think TA is a fringe group that has little standing in the community, why would you be afraid to refute or ignore their positions in a public forum? Or, alternately, if you agree with them on safe streets, what's the problem here?

The issue is that Gonzalez doesn't want to have a public confrontation with supporters of a cause that she is not supporting. That's cowardly for a public elected figure.
Aug. 22, 2013, 8:38 am
Elizabeth Yeampierre from Sunset Park says:
UPROSE co-organized this event to provide the community and our young people in particular with an opportunity to meaningfully engage in the democratic process. The questions were fair, there were ground rules to ensure that it was a respectful space and the community expressed gratitude for the opportunity. UPROSE does not have a deputy director and no one in our organization has contributed to the campaign of any of the candidates. We understand several local organizations have leadership and staff that have. As individuals, it is their right to do so. Please make sure that you publish the facts- people in our community count on this paper to get information. UPROSE will continue to support community based decision making and work to increase meaningful civic engagement.
Aug. 22, 2013, 9:22 am
S from Brooklyn says:
Tom Murphy has been against just about every life-saving street improvement you can imagine, going so far as to come to community board meetings far from his neighborhood to try to kill them. I wouldn't listen to a thing he says and I'm disappointed in the Brooklyn Paper for seeking him out as a source.
Aug. 22, 2013, 9:28 am
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Get on those bikes comrades!

Save the world! Save to polar bears! Streets are dangerous for the ignorant.
Aug. 22, 2013, 9:44 am
John from Sunset Park says:
Was there - not reported was carlos did terribly. It showed that he's only been in the community for a few months... The guy has 0 connections to the community
Aug. 22, 2013, 11:02 am
Laura from Greenwood Heights says:
Carlos's platform - i will do whatever nydia velasquez tells me to do!

All i know is sara showed up when PS10 needed her - arts programs, new bathrooms, and a new park down the street...
Aug. 22, 2013, 11:16 am
StreetsPAC from New York City says:
Tom Murphy's claim that StreetsPAC is in any way affiliated with Transportation Alternatives is completely untrue.

It should surprise no one that several members of our all-volunteer board have at many times also volunteered in various capacities with Transportation Alternatives, since we share the goal of making our streets safer for all New Yorkers. Transportation Alternatives does that through advocacy, while StreetsPAC works through the electoral process. The two organizations are completely independent. We founded StreetsPAC with the belief that those of us who support safe, complete streets have the right – and responsibility – to engage in electoral politics by supporting candidates who share our vision, something that Transportation Alternatives, as a 501(c)3 entity, is prohibited from doing.

Mr. Murphy may wish to keep supporters of safe streets out of the electoral process, but the federal Constitution, and the laws of New York City and State, guarantee our right to participate. Councilmember Gonzalez, by the same token, has the right to attend or not attend debates as she chooses. It's a shame, however, that she denied the voters of the 38th Council District the opportunity to hear her views on how to make Red Hook's and Sunset Park's streets safer for all who use them. Mr. Murphy's suggestion that the event Councilmember Gonzalez boycotted – a debate sponsored by non-profit organizations and organized in large part by high school students from her own district – was a "lion's den" to be avoided, is simply preposterous.

Lastly, it's inaccurate to describe StreetsPAC as a "pro-bike lobbying group." While we strongly support cycling, we believe that good complete-streets design makes streets safer for everyone who walks, bikes, rides transit or drives.

StreetsPAC Board

Dave 'Paco' Abraham
Hilda Cohen
Sebastian Delmont
Mike Epstein
Doug Gordon
Noel Hidalgo
Helen Ho
A. Scott Falk
Peter Frishauf
Glenn McAnanama
Eric McClure
Aaron Naperstek
Joanna Oltman Smith
Steve Vaccaro
Aug. 22, 2013, 11:50 am
Pedro from Sunset says:
8/14 board members with direct connections and they're gonna claim NO ties????!!!!! ha
Aug. 22, 2013, 12:08 pm
TOM MURPHY from Sunset Park says:
It's an old truism in politics: You don't have to tell the truth, but don'y lie.

What is Murad Awawdeh's real title. He keeps sending me e-mails from UPROSE.

Steve Vaccaro & Eric McClure carried petitions to get Menchaca on the baallot. Steve is what in TA? Eric is what in TA?

Got to get to JFK. Have fun.
Aug. 22, 2013, 2:03 pm
Toby Salinger from Reporter, City Limits says:
Hi all, it's interesting to see everyone's thoughts here and definitely great to see the good coverage of Tuesday's event. I'm wondering if there have been any other forums is District 38 or if there will be before the election on Sept. 10? If anyone has heard about any, please let us know if you have a moment. Thx, Toby
Aug. 22, 2013, 2:59 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I am glad that Tom Murphy is seeing those people for who they are and isn't fooled. He is a hero in my book for doing such. Both Streets PAC and Transportation Alternatives are known for having an anti-car bias so much that even if all of them were made electric tomorrow, they would still be hating them. On a side note, I do find it an irony whenever I hear on Streetsblog how they go stark raving mad when a car lobby group endorses a politician, but feels it's okay when their groups are doing the same. If one lobbyist group can make an endorsement, then so can another.
Aug. 22, 2013, 3:21 pm
Steve from Sunset Park says:
I called her office and asked what happened, and I was told the reason the Councilwoman did not attend is that when she had agreed to it, she was told it was going to be a discussion about expanding service on the returning B37 bus and other traffic issues. They did not tell her this was going to be a debate, but a community discussion. That was why she and several other community groups that were scheduled to take part cancelled 2 days ahead of time.

Why wasn't this bait and switch in the story? Why don't you do some more research and file a followup? If this is what Carlos Menchaca stands for, I know how I'm voting!
Aug. 22, 2013, 3:28 pm
Jo from Brooklyn says:
I'm sure Tal Barzilai's vote in this election will make all the difference.
Aug. 22, 2013, 4:03 pm
Vincent from Sunset Park says:
Jo from Brooklyn says: "I'm sure Tal Barzilai's vote in this election will make all the difference."
Yes, like my vote makes a difference where he lives ... in Pleasantville NY. lol
Aug. 22, 2013, 8:39 pm
Arron from Red Hook says:
Interesting! When Sara Gonzalez's office called my to ask if I was voting for her 2 days ago I asked why she was a no show. Her office gave a different answer that they gave Steve from Sunset Park. I was told she had never agreed to the event as she had a previous long standing commitment. They would not say what commitment was more important than debating issues and presenting her views to her constituents.

Her office did say there would be other debates BEFORE the primary, but could not tell me when those would be. Let's see if that really happens.
Aug. 23, 2013, 5:33 am
Frank Ruiz from Sunset Park says:
Sara's office will always look for excuses to cover her. The event was all over the neighborhood and on social media, I think she was even "tagged" in some of the posts with the flyers on Facebook.

I doubt she didnt know about the forum or what was the purpose of the forum. She's a street bully and doesnt want to do the hard work her constituents deserve. If there are ANY forums or debates schedule, which I doubt, PLEASE let me know (really, really, doubt there is).

Nothing new with NO-SHOW - SARA.....
Aug. 23, 2013, 9:23 am
Juan Perez from Sunset Park says:
I've lived in Sunset Park for ten years and never knew who my Council person was only by name. I thought I was going to meet her and hear her views on what her vision is for another term.

I was shocked she didn't show up, but apparently I shouldn't be.

I know who I am not voting for now.
Aug. 23, 2013, 9:58 am
Konrad Aderer from Sunset Park says:
I was at the forum and have posted a video of it on YouTube:
Aug. 23, 2013, 5:27 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Just because Sara Gonzalez didn't show up, didn't mean that she didn't care about what was going on.
Aug. 25, 2013, 2:54 pm
TOM MURPHY from Sunset Park says:
Hello from the People's Republic of Cork.

I have a question for this paper: How is it that replies from my detractors to my my posting appear with posting date/times prior to my original posting. I know all about time shifting(I'm five hours ahead of you in Brooklyn) but I posted from home before I left for JFK at the time recorded above? Did your clocks stop at the Brooklyn Paper?

It would be silly of me to comment on my detractors. They've not addressed my issues as yet.

Have fun.
Aug. 30, 2013, 6:59 am

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