By Stephen Witt
Councilman Charles Barron
Canarsie’s Old Boys Club
Political pundits pummeling former Kings County Democratic boss Vito Lopez might do well to turn their pens toward new Kings County Democratic boss Frank Seddio.
A case in point is the 46th District City Council race where Seddio’s former chief of staff and heir to his old Assembly seat, Alan Maisel, is facing Mercedes Narcisse, a Haitian-American, longtime community activist, business owner, registered nurse and mother of five children.
The district has a slight Caribbean- and African-American majority because of a strong black migration to Canarsie and Flatlands in recent years, but also includes the white enclaves of Mill Basin, Bergen Beach and Gerritsen Beach – neighborhoods that aren’t as touchy-feely when it comes to race relations as the more liberal northern brethren such as Park Slope and Fort Greene.
Narcisse has raised more money than Maisel ($84,946 to $79,351) and knows the politics of the district having been a past member of Seddio’s powerful Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club and past president of current term-limited City Councilman Lew Fidler’s 41st Assembly District Democratic Club.
Nevertheless, Fidler is backing Maisel and many think Fidler is looking to swap seats with him should Maisel win, much as he did recently in trying to get former State Sen. Carl Kruger’s seat after Kruger went to jail on felony corruption charges. Interestingly, Fidler lost that special Senate election to Republican Russian-American David Storobin.
But despite a long working relationship with all three men, Narcisse has found herself the odd woman out of political grace.
“This is the way they’ve done business for many years,” said Narcisse. “It’s an old boys club. They switch seats whenever it’s convenient to switch seats. For many years, there’s never been an open process. They intimidate people.”
Despite the Southern Brooklyn version of the “three men in a room”, Narcisse is well-organized, has the support of mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio and could buck the entrenched system to bring a new progressive voice to the district.
But it won’t be easy, especially with the political action committee Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) pumping $120,000 in independent expenditure mailings in support of Maisel. The REBNY money comes from some of the city’s largest developers and they have spent more than $1 million in several council races, but this is the most they’ve spent on any one race.
One could speculate why REBNY is so interested in this race and the reasons may include the district having amongst the highest rate of homes in or near foreclosure, and that much of the district remains eligible for millions of dollars in federal renovation aid stemming from Hurricane Sandy.
Maisel spokesperson Lenny Markh said Maisel is against the Citizens United Supreme Court case which allows PAC independent expenditures, but he refused to answer any questions regarding the REBNY money spent on his behalf.
Battle brews amongst
Russian-Americans for Council seat
Just 20 years after immigrating from Belarus, 48th District City Council candidate Ari Kagan’s political star is clearly on the rise. Last year, he bested longtime incumbent Mike Geller to become the area’s Democratic Assembly District Leader, and this year he’s the strong front-runner to win term-limited Mike Nelson’s seat.
The district includes Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and the Russian end of Coney Island and Midwood.
Thus far, Kagan has garnered strong union support and the endorsements of the borough’s top political officials including Kings County Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, soon-to-be Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and local Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny.
But in part, Kagan’s institutional support in the primary also comes from the strong belief that he is the only candidate that can beat former Republican State Senator David Storobin, also a Jewish Russian-American immigrant who is running in the November general election in a contest where a majority of voters are Russian-speaking.
Freshman Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is throwing his support and endorsements behind several Brooklyn City Council candidates running in his 8th Congressional District. But in several others he is notably standing on the sidelines.
His endorsements include Laurie Cumbo in the 35th District covering Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights; Ari Kagan in the 48th District covering Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach; Mark Treyger in the 47th District covering Coney Island; and Christopher Banks in the 42nd District covering Brownsville.
According to Jeffries spokesperson Lupe Todd, he will not make endorsements in the 36th Council race where Robert Cornegy, Conrad Tillard, Robert Waterman and Kirsten John Foy are vying to replace term-limited Al Vann in Bedford-Stuyvesant or the 46th District race where Alan Maisel and Mercedes Narcisse are vying to replace term-limited Lew Fidler in Canarsie, Flatlands, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Bergen Beach and Mill Basin.
The KCP thinking is Jeffries is staying out of the 36th District race even though Cornegy’s Vanguard Independent Democratic Association was the first major political club to endorse him because Foy has a lot of the institutional progressives backing him such as Bill de Blasio, and he will need their support when he runs for reelection next year.
Similarly, Jeffries is staying out of the Maisel-Narcisse race because Kings County Democratic Party boss Frank Seddio is backing Maisel, who is white against Narcisse, who is Haitian-American in a district that is slightly more black.
Jeffries’ own 8th Congressional District also has a slight black majority, and Jeffries could be vulnerable without Seddio’s support, especially since Russian-American immigrants in the district have a strong voting bloc.