May 22, 2014 / Brooklyn news / Will’s Watch

Cymbrowitz, Campaign Finance Act Changes, Seddio and Sampson

Sources say Cymbrowitz in plot to privatize Brighton’s beach

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Call it Brighton shock.

Sources say that Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz (D–Brighton Beach) is trying to broker a deal that would permit the swank, beachfront Oceana Condominiums to take over a section of the public shore — which they say explains the pol’s opposition to the high-rise public toilets the city is building in front of the complex.

Cymbrowitz proposed a bill in May 2013 that would eliminate state oversight of the peninsula’s beach, which has always required that the city not interfere with the public’s ability to enjoy the waterfront — a first step toward privatization. In the face of protest, Cymbrowitz initially claimed the move would help create a bike lane linking Brighton Beach to Seagate, but then promised to withdraw the legislation. He put the bill up again in January, and only scuttled it after further local outcry.

Sources recalled that Oceana posted guards along the beach to turn away non-residents when it first opened in 2001, until the Parks Department forced them to allow public access to the city sands. They also noted that builder Muss Development still advertises a “private beach” as one of Oceana’s features.

“Muss completed an array of recreational facilities, including a swim club, private beach, landscaped grounds, fully equipped and staffed health club and a 6,500-square-foot event space and spa,” reads the company’s website.

Of course, a towering public toilet between the condos and the sand would flush any chance at privatization.

Cymbrowitz has led the fight to prevent a pair of elevated bathrooms from rising along the promenade in front of the ritzy condos — even though relocating the lofty loos could cost the city $6 million. Oceana residents and Muss Development have rewarded the Assemblyman’s efforts, dumping thousands into his campaign coffers last year.

But the pol’s history with the residential complex — and with the Muss family, which has owned the land for two generations — goes back more than 20 years. City records from then show that Cymbrowitz, then director of housing and community development for the scandal-scarred Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, testified at a 1992 hearing in favor of a variance allowing the condo towers to be built higher than zoning permitted.

The Met Council did not return calls for comment.

Muss Development gave money to the campaign of the pol’s predecessor and late wife Lena Cymbrowitz, and has poured cash into the Assemblyman’s warchest every election cycle since he took office in 2000.

Cymbrowitz did not deny that he has talked with Oceana about privatizing the beach, but Muss Development said that it has had no such discussions with the Assemblyman — and claimed that the “private beach” reference on its website is a typo.

The city is due to announce whether to move the toilets in the next month.

• • •

The city wants to change its Campaign Finance Act to benefit Sandy-damaged property owners — a move that is raising questions among good government groups.

A new amendment proposed by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development — the agency responsible for overseeing affordable housing — would exempt landlords receiving Sandy-related federal aid through the department from having to file the paperwork for all business dealings with the city. The agency argued the proposal would eliminate headaches for afflicted homeowners.

“Our goal is to help streamline the recovery process by removing this extra paperwork for storm victims who are applying for federal disaster recovery funds,” said agency spokesman Eric Bederman.

But watchdogs note that the law only empowers Housing Preservation and Development to propose changes to the Campaign Finance Act that will benefit residents of affordable housing.

“Whether recipients of federal disaster funds constitute affordable housing is an open question. We would need to hear HPD’s legal rationale for what they believe is their authority,” said Alex Camarda, director of public policy and advocacy for Citizens Union.

The city declined to comment on Camarda’s remarks.

• • •

Democratic insiders say that Kings County boss Frank Seddio has launched an all-out effort to re-elect controversial state Sen. John Sampson (D–Canarsie) — in spite of Sampson’s recent indictment for embezzlement.

Seddio has reportedly been phoning operatives throughout Sampson’s Brownsville-to-Sheepshead Bay turf, pressing them to ednorse the incumbent, who was arrested last year for allegedly looting foreclosure sales to fund his 2005 run for district attorney. Sampson — who has pled not guilty — faces up to 120 years in prison if convicted.

A party source said that Seddio’s gamble is that any conviction will come after the September primary — when he hopes Sampson will beat back challenges from homeless advocate Sean Henry and Service Employees International Union political coordinator Dell Smitherman. Seddio would then be able to hand-pick Sampson’s replacement on the ballot for the safely Democratic seat.

The nine-term Sampson is a longtime member of Seddio’s Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club and ally to the party machine.

Seddio could not be reached for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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