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In the aftermath of a particularly hard-fought 33rd District City Council race, Democratic nominee Steve Levin spent much of the week visiting senior centers, Hasidic groups and community organizations, thanking them for their support while acknowledging those who enabled his dramatic victory.
“Vito Lopez was the architect of this campaign.I could not have won without his support,” said Levin, adding that he will be his own man in City Council.
High turnout in Williamsburg south of Grand Street propelled Levin to City Hall.Of the 5,200 votes recorded in several election districts in the area, almost 3,400 went to Levin, over 60 percent of Levin’s vote total.This included several thousand votes from members of the United Jewish Organizations, which endorsed Levin, and public housing buildings including Taylor Wythe Houses, where Levin spent most of Election Day canvassing.
“Rabbi David Niederman [executive director of the UJO] by far deserves credit for this victory,” said Evan Thies, who ran against Levin.“Vito’s strategic mind and political clout, plus Niederman, plus Steve’s hard work are why he won.Even though Steve would not have won without that huge increase in South Side votes, he still picked up votes everywhere.He really didn’t finish better than third in many election districts in the 52nd Assembly District, but still worked very hard and he earned all those votes.”
When asked what Levin’s victory meant to the Hasidic community, Niederman pivoted, listing a gamut of services important to UJO constituents.
“The most important issue that we have heard continuously from Steve Levin is affordable housing,” said Niederman.“In CB1 it is one of the greatest issues in trying to combat gentrification.It will mean that issues will be addressed the same as has been addressed by our beloved councilman David Yassky.”
Simon Weiser, a Community Board 1 member and Levin supporter, echoed Niederman’s remarks, explaining that the Hasidic community’s concern over a plan to rezone a 31-acre site called the Broadway Triangle in Williamsburg for residential use won the race for Levin.
“For lower income housing, it’s a win,” said Weiser.“For political reasons, other candidates had to say on record they were against the Broadway Triangle.It shows you that if you do what is right, and what it true, it pays off, and this paid off for Steve.He didn’t change course.”
Brooklyn Legal Services attorney Marty Needelman cautioned that Levin’s victory may not indicate the advancement of the entire Hasidic community, as the largest Hasidic sect remains split between two feuding brothers.Many of the Aronists supported a rival candidate, Isaac Abraham, while Zalmanists, with which the UJO is affiliated, backed Levin.
“Historically they have only served their friends and allies within the Jewish community and they have not benefited the Hasidic community,” said Needelman.“The Hasidic community is more diverse than people realize.”
Ken Fisher, a former councilmember for the 33rd District (Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill) and chapter chair of the New York League of Conservation Voters, believes that Levin’s victory will allow for a continuity of service, which may frustrate some Brownstone Brooklyn supporters who voted for candidates Jo Anne Simon, Ken Diamondstone, or Evan Thies.
“The fact remains that the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn still includes some of the poorest people in the city and they have a tremendous need for social services and affordable housing that require constant support from their elected officials,” said Fisher.
Though some resentment among Levin opponents may exist, several community leaders appeared ready to give Levin a chance and hoped to lobby him on behalf of their organization’s legislative priorities.
“People will give him the benefit of the doubt.He hasn’t done anything yet.We’ll wait to see what happens,” said Ken Lowy, president of Independent Neighborhood Democrats, which backed Simon.“I think people will accept it as fast as they did with Dan Squadron.I don’t expect any ill will to last very long.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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