"Progressives" and Goo-Goos Shame Themselves (Even More Thoughts About The Council Reapportionment--Part Two)
Last month, I had a few things to say about the proposed City Council reapportionment plan and how it relates to Hasidic Williamsburg and other communities in the greater northwest portion of Brooklyn. Among the things I said was:
The Hasidim have no special entitlement not to be divided. Some coherent communities in some places are going to be divided in any reapportionment.
But the idea that some moral imperative is served by their division is nonsense.
It is especially distressing that "good government" types have bought into this assertion.
This piece will (among other matters) discuss the disgraceful spectacle of people who pretend to be reform and liberal apostles of tolerance spewing lies and hatred against those who are different from them in a clownish effort to grab the appearance of moral high ground in a fight which is really about nothing but their own perceived self interest.
Here, we see those pitfalls displayed at their ugliest by pretty people.
As I noted in December, Lincoln Restler, a former District Leader and likely future Council aspirant, and his followers and friends, have been complaining loudly about the proposed new lines for the 33rd Councilmanic District.
Restler’s complaint is over two issues. The first is that some Hasidim were moved into the district; the second is that some Brownstone areas were moved out.
In the plan, a number of blocks from northern Bed-Stuy, as well as a few from the Clinton Hill/Wallabout area, have been moved into the district—almost all of them from the district of Tish James.
As I noted, it has been a real worry in the black political community that Ms. James’ 35th Councilmanic District, centered around Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights, all of which are mixed neighborhoods with growing white populations, will sometime in the next decade cease having minority representation. This was further complicated by clusters of Hasidim at both the district’s north (Satmar) and south (Lubavich) ends.
During the last decade, several areas of this district which were previously un-or under-occupied have seen new construction overwhelmingly occupied by whites, both of the Yuppie and Hasidic varieties.
In the course of the proposed redistricting, several newly white areas of this sort, comprising both Downtown Yuppies and Bed-Stuy Hasidim, were moved from District 35 into Mr. Levin’s district.
I will note that, despite the fact that the Downtown changes violate every traditional neighborhood boundary (it crosses the wide gulf known as Flatbush Avenue), no one has objected to them. The racial, cultural and economic difference between this new construction, and its nearby minority neighbors was deemed an acceptable reason for everyone to accept such a change, even though the new apartment buildings share many more purely local concerns with the 35th it formerly occupied than the 33rd it was moved to.
But the change served a more present purpose. It served to boost the black percentage in the 35th and reduce its white percentage.
The Bed-Stuy changes also served this demographic purpose.
It should be noted that the change being proposed in Bed-Stuy is not a grotesque cartographic atrocity like the “Super Jewish” State Senate seat. The change being proposed moves the 33rd district a mere four blocks to the south at one particular point to pick up a total of 39 square blocks in a neat box-like configuration. I further note that these changes largely match recent alterations in the area’s Senate and Assembly maps, enhancing the ability of the local electeds to work together on matters of common concern.
Contrast this neat change with the ludicrous extension into Park Slope which is being drawn out of the district in the proposed map.
And though one could argue that Flushing Avenue is a gulf as important as Flatbush Ave, in actuality, the Bed-Stuy changes serve to unite the Williamsburg Hasidic community. Yes, Community Board lines are crossed in what were once distinct neighborhoods, but this is certainly not unprecedented when neighborhood demographics change.
In both Manhattan and Brooklyn, Chinatowns aren’t defined by traditional neighborhood lines. They are defined by where Chinese people live. As the population moves, the borders change. So we don’t say we must divide the Chinese into multiple districts because Sunset Park, Borough Park and Bay Ridge are three distinct neighborhoods in three separate Community Boards and Precincts. And if we do use that excuse, we do it at our peril and get called out for it by good government types.
Well, Hasidic Williamsburg has similarly expanded. The Hasidic areas south of Flushing Avenue are part of the same neighborhood as those to the north. Yes, there are some matters where the Hasidim to the south may have more common interest with their immediate Bed-Stuy neighbors than they do with the Hasidim on the other side of Flushing, but probably less so than in the comparative case of the whites in new construction east of Flatbush Avenue.
Despite the expressions of outrage by goo-goos and liberals, the truth is that the proposed map is not engaged here in “ripping up neighborhoods,” rather, the map is engaged in acknowledging the existence of a neighborhood which previously had different boundaries.
Further, the much ballyhooed damage to the old Bed-Stuy order is virtually non-existent, as the areas we are discussing were previously mostly lightly populated industrial turf.
Nonetheless, so-called good government groups are responding with inflammatory and dishonest rhetoric on the verge of near-hysteria:
“Packing Hasidim into the district seems to be counter to the trend of the area, which is towards greater diversity,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.
As I noted previously, this is an abject distortion of the truth. With the exception of Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens at the district's south end, everything in this district outside of the Hasidic area is getting richer, whiter and more similar.
Expanding the number of Hasidim doesn't make the district less diverse, it makes it more so.
Anyway, the take off point for my initial piece was an article in the Daily News, which said, in part:
Levin is expected to face a fierce challenge from reformer Lincoln Restler, 28, who has wide support in the district’s upper-class areas, like Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO.
But Restler’s strong base in Park Slope and Gowanus is being moved into a neighboring district.
“Unfortunately back room deals remain endemic in New York City politics to the detriment of our communities,” Restler said. “Ripping up neighborhoods for political gain is a clear violation of that principle.”
Reading the article literally, I concluded that Restler favored the continued division of Park Slope, even though the community’s civic leadership had for decades tried to have the neighborhood put in one district, and had finally succeeded.
I agreed with the community leadership that this move was long overdue and criticized Restler on that score. Later I criticized Citizen’s Union as well (more on that later) and a supporter of Restler’s wrote back:
Reformer: When you're a hammer. . .
You’re the one importing politics into the 33rd, not Citizens Union. The active voters in Northern Park Slope helped to balance out the district which would otherwise be dominated by one block with massively disproportionate turnout in Democratic Primaries (but apparently not in the presidential election, go figure). If the proposed lines are adopted, the results in the Council race are virtually a pre-determined and some communities will be completely ignored. There are some districts where that is unavoidable due to geography, but the 33rd was not one, until now. That is what Citizens Union is concerned about.
I responded thus:
What is “Reform” about putting the North Slope in the same council district as Greenpoint?
Please explain that to me
That is what you advocate; splitting two communities, because you don't like the results when one of those communities is allowed to vote for the Councilman of their choice.
Why, because they smell funny?
Hipsters sometimes smell funny too.
You don't like someone's high turnout? Get off your fucking ass and vote!
But you're even wrong on your own hypocritical terms.
Lincoln Restler and Nydia each lost the Hasidim about 65% to 35%. A big loss, but nothing compared to Nydia's 83% to 6% victory over Dilan in the Brownstone belt.
If the Brownstone belt repeats its performance in the Velazquez race, then Restler will have no problem beating Levin, even with the new Hasidim. Obviously you are worried that he can't.
Even though Yuppies overwhelmingly outnumber Hasidim in the proposed lines, you want an even larger advantage. So why not split poor Park Slope?
What you really want is the votes of people you don't like divided, and the district unnaturally expanded in a grotesque manner to benefit your friends.
If that is the definition of "reform" then "reform" is no better than Vito Lopez.
It wasn’t until I mentioned what I thought was Restler’s support for splitting the Slope in one of his Facebook threads that he finally responded.
Restler: … for the record - I think the unification of Park Slope into one district is sound and appropriate.
A source who I believe it is fair to say was speaking for the Restler organization told me on background that I had purposely mischaracterized the news article.
This was not true. At worst, I had fallen victim to the article’s misleading lack of clarity.
Or did I?
Concerned I had done Restler an injustice, but also wary because of the statements of his supporters to the contrary on the matter of dividing the Slope, I asked for some prior proof of Restler’s public position on splitting the Slope.
I was then told that Restler had not publicly advocated for what the new map should look like because there were many ways of evolving a potential solution. The source then noted that one possible solution would be to make the dividing line Union Street between Court Street and Fifth Avenue.
This was a solution that would divide not only the Slope, but Carroll Gardens.
The response was that the question of whether it Fourth or Fifth Avenue which divides the Slope from Gowanus was a matter interpretation, a position I suspect would disturb not only the Park Slope Civic Council, but also each and every person who owns a home between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.
Seriously, Fourth Avenue is as much as a neighborhood separating gulf as the Gowanus Canal or Flatbush Ave. Certainly far more so than Flushing Ave.
Based on my conversations I will now concede that Restler does not favor dividing Park Slope. I think it is more accurate to say he is agnostic on the matter.
But this is veering off the subject of how the good government/liberal community regards the Hasidim.
We’ve already seen the spaced out incoherency of Common Cause. Now let’s look at Citizens Union.
In a letter to the Districting Commission, CU comments on ten topics.
Among other things they laud the fact that no district will now cross the Verrazano. They laud improvements that better respect the neighborhoods of Washington Heights, Inwood, and West and Central Harlem. They laud improvements which better respect Cambria Heights, Maspeth and Richmond Hill. The laud the unification of Canarsie, specifically for enabling black empowerment, and hail uniting Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach to better facilitate the empowerment of the Russian Community.
Further, CU expresses alarm about splitting East Harlem and Manhattan Valley. They express alarm about splitting Bensonhurst Asians into four different districts. They express concern that the Lower East Side was not united with Chinatown to better empower the Asian community. They express concern about dividing Bayside, Oakland Gardens and Broadway-Flushing (specifically citing Asian empowerment).
They even support uniting the South Asian community in a manner which would not merely cross Community Board lines, but Borough lines.
Everywhere, the mantra is the same. “Unite Communities” and “Unite and Empower Ethnic Minorities (even white ones)”
Everywhere but one place.
"Revised District 33 would include less of Brownstone Brooklyn, with more included in District 39. While Citizens Union recognizes that District 39 would now include all of Park Slope, uniting this community of interest, as well as uniting the Hasidic community, we would like to raise to the Commission concerns voiced by neighborhood groups that District 33 would be less competitive for potential candidates."
In other words, “preserving coherent communities and minority representation are nice everywhere else, but in when it involves Hasidim, there are more important considerations.”
Our analysis of District 33 does note that the Districting Commission's proposal unites coherent communities of interest, but we do not formally object "on ground of politics," as you note. We merely noted that groups have voiced concerns that the district as drawn would be less competitive for future candidates. Our broader recommendation is for the Commission to provide for transparency of its decision-making so that communities are aware of the reasons it has made the decisions it did
But nowhere else does CU express anything but elation about uniting neighborhoods and ethnic minorities (even to the extent of supporting crossing Borough lines). While CU does indeed make a “broader recommendation is for the Commission to provide for transparency of its decision-making so that communities are aware of the reasons it has made the decisions it did,” nowhere else in the City does it express a negative concern about a district which meets it goals of uniting communities and empowering ethnic minorities.
Why here and nowhere else?
Does anyone honestly believe that there is a single district where the considerations did not include politics?
Why does CU object to the implantation of its stated goals here and nowhere else?
Could it be that CU Chair Dick Dadey, a member of good standing of the Brooklyn Heights elite, prefers being represented by one of his own kind to being represented by a middle class kid from Plainfield New Jersey?
Continuing this pattern is the lovely Facebook thread where Restler quotes with approval a woman who publicly accused the Hasidim of bigotry.
Lincoln Restler: Woman testifying at redistricting public hearing says district gerrymandered by Stephen Levin could not elect a female or LGBT councilmember
This was followed by a festival of beard bashing. Apparently, in Brooklyn Heights, Hasidim rank second behind Jehovah Witnesses as acceptable targets of prejudice.
Noël Anderson: Wait why???
Claire Silberman: Because it will be a Super-Hasidic district. But also including parts of Brownstone Brooklyn-- which may prefer someone else.
Lincoln Restler: With the new lines advocated for by the incumbent, more than 60% of voters would come from Williamsburg orthodox community
Charmian Neary: I wonder why a group which excludes women is accommodated in a secular society?
Claire Silberman: couldn't have anything to do with being a 100% voting bloc... hmm....?
Kate Yourke: how about their separate justice system? not so constitutional.
Then Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, upped the ante.
Not only did Stanton’s testimony cite the allegation that Hasidim wouldn’t vote for women or members of the LGTB community, but it added the remarkably bold allegation that Hasidim would not vote for people of color.
Orthodox Pundit could stand no more:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
I have to say that the fact that people would hurl such allegations in public is alarming, especially because they are based upon so little evidence.
Virtually everything said by Mr. Restler, his supporters and Ms. Stanton is just plain wrong.
Ms. Stanton fears that a woman, LGTB person or person of color could not win election in that district, which in its pre-lapsarian phase had been such a citadel of enlightenment that since the 1960s it has elected to the City Council George Swettnick, Leonard Scholnick, Frederick Richmond, Abraham Gerges, Kenneth Fisher, David Yassky and Stephen Levin.
Six Straight White Jewish Males and one Closeted White Jewish Male.
We wouldn’t want some close minded black hats to disturb that outstanding record of diversity.
Especially galling are Ms. Stanton’s assertions about “people of color.”
Let us suppose for a moment that Ms. Stanton were right?
What she was advocating was that instead of putting the Hasidim in a heavily white district where they could do the electoral aspirations of persons of color little real harm, they instead be placed in a district where their very presence would convert a black majority into a black plurality, and where they could then join with the presumably just as prejudiced Lubavicher Hasidim in voting for a white candidate who might win in a divided field competing for an open seat.
In other words, she was advocating that people she believed would be unwilling to support a person of color be given the opportunity to have their bigotry make a real impact upon the democratic process.
But, actually Ms. Stanton is just wrong. Not only have the Satmar supported Ed Towns, Hakeem Jeffries and Marty Dilan, but a significant minority of them supported Nydia Velazquez (and the majority supported Erik Dilan, rather than the white candidate).
Further, in 1989, fed up by Ed Koch’s support for a resource recovery plant in the Navy Yard, about half the Williamsburg Hasidim revolted against their leadership and voted for David Dinkins for Mayor (by contrast, Brooklyn Heights went for Koch).
In 1992, the Hasidim supported Towns, a supporter of LGTB rights, for Congress in the Democratic primary against an Orthodox Jewish Councilwoman named Susan Alter, who had voted against the City’s sexual orientation anti-discrimination law.
The Heights voted for Alter.
I would wager that, over the decades, the Satmar have been at least as supportive of candidates of color as the Heights, if not more so.
I will not argue that the Satmar are citadels of enlightenment concerning women, even though women are the primary breadwinners in many of their families.
What I will argue is that while gender does not make it easier for women candidates to get Satmar votes, it has not stopped them from supporting women—and not just sure winners.
In 2010, much to my regret, Satmar Hasidim were the margin of victory that elected Nan Haworth to Congress over John Hall, even though they had supported Hall two years earlier.
In 1985, eager to punish Ed Koch in the resource recovery battle, the Satmar leadership supported Carol Bellamy against him for Mayor, as Koch notes in his book "Politics," Bellamy beat him in Hasidc Williamsburg 64% to 29%, even though she lost the primary 63% to 19% (Brooklyn Heights went for Koch, even though Bellamy had been their State Senator).
In 1992, Williamsburg Hasidim, grateful for her support in the resource recovery fight, made AD 50 the only one out of 150 in the entire State to support Elizabeth Holtzman in her disastrously doomed primary campaign for US Senator (she ran fourth out of four; the enlightened Heights voted for Robert Abrams against Holtzman and the other woman in the field).
In 1993, the Williamsburg Hasidim again supported Holtzman for re-election as City Comptroller against Alan Hevesi, the grandson of the well regarded Chief Rabbi of Hungary (the Satmar country of origin). In the runoff, Holtzman was crushed, losing every white majority AD in the City but one—the 50th, where she once again triumphed almost solely due to the votes of the Satmar.
I could cite example after example (Betsy Gotbaum comes to mind) to refute this silliness. As Orthodox Pundit notes::
In addition, there would be a good shot to elect a woman, would have Mr. Restler left the race for Jo-Anne Simon. If the aranites would backed her last time, she would be a close contender, and their non-support had nothing to do with her gender, but a silly miscalculation from the aranites leaders.
I would add that the real reason the Aroni faction of the Satmar didn’t endorse Simon (or indeed, any other candidate) was because of internal politics—specifically, the oversized ego of Isaac Abraham, a long time Satmar rebel who had an alliance of convenience with the Aronis, and who could not be talked out if running his doomed race.
Then there is the matter of the LGTB community.
I will not claim there is any resembling enlightenment on LGTB issues, but a significant minority of Hasidic voters did back Sean Patrick Maloney for Congress, and the Williamsburg Hasidic community did stick by Congressman Fred Richmond even after he was arrested for soliciting an under-aged black teenage boy (though I’m sure some of the enlightened “progressives” will attribute that to a natural Hasidic sympathy for child molesters).
Further, not moving the south of Flushing Hasidim into the 33rd will mean keeping them in the 35th, the only black majority council district in Brooklyn likely to elected an openly gay Councilmember—and probably more likely to do so than the 33rd in any configuration, though somewhat less so if the Satmar and the Lubavich are both in the district.
Moreover, I don’t hear any “progressives” complaining about how the high number of Hasidim makes it less likely for the 39th Councilmanic to elect an LGTB person, even though the 39th has both a far larger LGTB community, and a community of Hasidim (Borough Park) where the community leadership has not acted to suppress political gay bashing in the manner of their Williamsburg brethren.
Then there are the ridiculous assertions that the Hasidim are a 100% voting bloc.
The fact is that while this was once true, it is no longer so. The two Satmar factions now go out of their way to disagree just for the sake of disagreeing. It is a blood war sometimes expressed politically, but it is not about politics. Politics is only one arrow in a battle in which the motto is “any weapon to hand.”
And it is a battle unlikely to end anytime before the next council redistricting.
This means that rather than producing the 99% margins of old, the Williamsburg Hasidim produce results more like 65% to 35%. Further, since the areas encompassing them contain blacks, Latinos and hipsters as well, adding new Hasidic turf to an area means adding areas where the vote will be more like 60% to 40%.
Ironically, it is not the Hasidim who produce the Hasidic results these days. Take the two marquee primaries of 2010.
In the overwhelmingly Hasidic 50th AD portion of the 7th Congressional District, Erik Dilan beat Nydia Velazquez 61.50% to 37.40%. Pretty impressive, but hardly approaching unanimity.
By contrast, in the white liberal 52nd AD, which includes Brooklyn Heights, Velazquez beat Dilan by a margin of 84.16% to 5.06%.
Now, those are Hasidic numbers approaching near unanimity.
According to statistics compiled by Hasidic Politics, in Hasidic Williamsburg, Lincoln Restler lost his re-election attempt as District Leader 61.04% to 37.57%. Outside the Hasidic area, he won, 79.96% to 17.33%.
Then there is the hysteria about the percentage of Hasidic votes in the proposed 33rd Councilmanic.
Claire Silberman: Because it will be a Super-Hasidic district.
Lincoln Restler: With the new lines advocated for by the incumbent, more than 60% of voters would come from Williamsburg orthodox community
Stephen Levin: two quick points. 1) the 33rd district under the proposed lines would see an increase in population in predominantly hasidic neighborhoods (though there are african american and latinos in those neighborhoods as well) from roughly 19,200 out of 71,135 registered democrats (27%) to roughly 21,800 out 61,000 registered democrats (35.7%), but nowhere even near 60%
Orthodox Pundit: Let me add my two cents: I'm not going recalculate the numbers, but I recall that in the last council primary the number of votes in the Hasidic area for the two Hasidic supported candidates totaled around 5,200 (and not all were Hasidic). The total number of votes in the whole district was 15,764, meaning that 10,500 votes came from other areas. With the recent surge of Hasidic voter turn-out, the numbers are at 9,000-9,500. Given that this year we will have a heated primary for an open mayor race, the turn-out will definitely much larger in other areas, but as I prove, the Hasidic turn-out isn't effected by hi-profile races. Thus, even after the removal of Park Slope (approximately 16 percent of the total 2009 CD33 votes were from the removed EDs east of 4th Ave.) I would bet that the Hasidim will not be a majority in this election. Furthermore, they will split.
I further note that Hasidic Politics, a thoroughly neutral numbers wonk trusted by all, believes there is a path to victory under the proposed lines for a candidate not favored by the Zali Hasidim, although he does say the new lines will make it somewhat more difficult. However, even that difficulty is posited upon the premises that the Zali candidate would have some significant support elsewhere. He reiterates this point in a later post. Nowhere does he call this a majority Hasidic district, because it isn’t.
The numbers quoted here by Restler and his supporters are ludicrous. Hasidim are nowhere near a majority of this district, or even of this district’s likely turnout.
And if they were 60% of the district’s votes, that would only mean that there were enough Hasidim living in a small cluster to justify giving them a district of their own.
But, here in enlightened Brownstone Brooklyn, we have people, including Brownstone Brooklyn’s largest civic group, openly saying Hasidim are unworthy of such consideration because we don't approve of their views and the way they live.
So instead of supporting rational, community sensitive redistricting, we watch here Brooklyn's liberal elite calling for people to be punished because they think and dress differently, and in their view, smell different as well.
A stone fucking disgrace for which they should all hang your heads in abject shame.
Lincoln Restler says “The facts here are that the only changes being implemented are to strengthen the political constituencies that have been consistently loyal to Vito Lopez and Stephen Levin and to dilute the progressive voices of Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill residents.”
How exactly are Brooklyn Heights (totally unified in one district), Greenpoint (totally unified in one district), and Boerum Hill (totally unified in one district) being diluted?
Restler wants to keep all the white liberals unified but wants to split the people with black hats and thereby dilute the black district. His position is entirely based upon politics. The only difference between his position and Stephen Levin’s is that Levin has a demographic rationale for what he supports, while Restler, the goo-goos and the so-called “progressives” just want to split those they don't like, the potential cost to black empowerment be damned.
Reality check time.
However, without exception, this district has always elected social liberals who’ve always supported the positions of the LGTB community.
And it will continue to do so.
Both sides in the Hasidic War of the Rosenblums have supported social liberals for local office, and will continue to do so, because they want to win.
Further, the current Councilmember supported by the majority bloc among the Hasidim is one of one of the Council’s most liberal members on economic issues as well. That is also likely to continue, and if it doesn’t, it will because Brooklyn Heights decides to prefer a more establishment oriented neo-lib.
The Hasidim have the ability to sometimes break the tie and chose which liberal will win, but even with the new turf, they will not alter the political landscape here—nor do they really want to, if they can ensure the election of a Councilmember sensitive to their primarily economic concerns.
Is that really such a crime that it requires a campaign of libelous lies and bigotry to prevent it from occurring?
Judy Stanton, the world is waiting for your apology.