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Candidates court Canarsie voters

Canarsie residents crammed into a small room at a local synagogue to hear candidates running for election this year make their pitch for their support.

In all, eight candidates in three City Council races, plus one candidate for comptroller, faced the group gathered at Congregation AAA Sfard, 1385 East 94th Street, during a forum hosted by the South Canarsie Civic Association.

All the candidates running in the 46th Councilmanic District, now represented by Councilmember Lewis Fidler, were there. Fidler shared the dais with his erstwhile Republican opponent, Gene Berardelli, as well as a host of challengers who hope to snag the Democratic line from Fidler: Ayo Johnson, Alan Sasson and Elias Weir.

Also on hand were Carlos Bristol, who is challenging Councilmember Charles Barron (in the 42nd Councilmanic District) for the Democratic line, and Jumaane Williams, one of a half a dozen challengers to City Councilmember Kendall Stewart for the Democratic line in the 45th C.D.

Finally, City Councilmember John Liu, who is running for comptroller, stopped by to say his piece during the occasionally rough−and−tumble forum.

All of his opponents attacked Fidler for having voted in favor of extending term limits, and taking advantage of their extension to run for a third term.

Sasson called the members of the City Council now running for re−election because of the term limit extension “hypocrites,” contending that they had previously been able to run for office successfully because of the implementation of term limits that, in 2001, prevented entrenched incumbents from running one more time.

Berardelli, for his part, said he decided to run specifically because of the extension of term limits. Noting Fidler’s “obvious mastery of the issues,” Berardelli told the group he had thrown his hat into the ring, “Because I believe we didn’t need to have the rules changed in the middle of the game. We need to let new blood flow.”

But, Fidler defended his vote in favor of extending term limits. While, he said, “I found the manner in which the mayor did it to be repugnant, before I ran for the council, I voted against term limits. I think it’s bad government. In 2001, I said I was against term limits. In 2003, I said I was against term limits. In 2005, I said I was against term limits. I don’t really care what Ron Lauder or Mike Bloomberg thinks about term limits. I wasn’t going to let the fact that the billionaires in the city came around to my point of view, change my point of view.”

Indeed, Fidler over the course of the evening stressed the benefits he had been able to bring to the district, and specifically to Canarsie, over the years of his tenure, including $12 million to revamp Canarsie Park, and capital and expense budget items each year for every public school in his district.

“According to Gotham Gazette, I have the fifth most independent voting record on the City Council,” he pointed out. “You know where I stand. I don’t equivocate. I don’t duck. I fight hard for what I believe in.”

The other candidates in the 45th C.D. countered in various ways.

Weir called for “a fairer distribution of resources. I know the parks are being developed, and that’s great,” he said, “but the overall quality of life within certain parts of the district needs to be looked at carefully.”

“The reason I’m running is that I’ve seen what’s going on,” said Johnson. “People are suffering. We elect people to go to the City Council and they forget about the people who put them there. I want you to hold my feet to the fire.”

Sasson, citing his hard work as a “first generation American,” said, “I have learned we all have to help each other. For a community to survive, every individual has to do his part. I’m here to work with everyone on a solution.”

“I believe we need new ideas and a fresh perspective in the City Council,” Berardelli offered. “I believe we can’t do business the same way we’ve been doing it for the past 20 years.”

In other races, Bristol said he was running against Barron −− for whom he had previously worked as deputy campaign manager −− because he wanted to see the community more involved in the issues that affect it. In addition, he noted, “We have to come together and make people responsible for what we elect them to do.”

And, Williams told the group, “I don’t think the current leadership knows how to bring resources to the community.” Identifying himself as a community organizer, he said, “We have a community organizer in the White House. We need one in City Hall.”

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