Oh No! He Said The "R" Word!

"I do wish to point out that Gene is the Republican candidate for this Council seat. When this area last elected a Republican, well, there was no City Council. And even then, I doubt we had a Republican Alderman."
- Lew Fidler, SheepsheadBites.com, 7/12/09

So, it looks like Lew wants you to know that I'm a Republican.

Well, so do I! And I think those of you who have read this regularly know this already. I don't hide that I'm Republican - recently, I've been reveling in it! (Or you might have read about it in Courier Life's "Borough Politics" section.)

See, Lew views the "R" word as a bad thing, and he's hoping everyone else will, too. Like he said, this Council has never been filled by a (gulp!) Republican before! After all, if you're "red" in NYC, you might as well be politically "dead", according to conventional wisdom.

Conventional wisdom has a way of falling apart around me.

You see, it was conventional wisdom not to make waves and fight the rampant over-development without your Councilman leading the way. But we, the community, did it anyway. And we won.

Conventional wisdom also says that parks can only be built if there was some built-in concession function associated with it. But we, the community, did it anyway. And we won.

Now, conventional wisdom dictates that the scarlet "R" is a losing proposition. So let's see how that holds up. I think it won't.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that Community Sees No Party. The community can recognize their own, and appreciate when one of their own step up for them.

Community also loves an underdog - and who's a bigger underdog than a community member who's volunteered for years taking on "the establishment".

On the other hand, the community loathes those who abuse their trust, or try to tell them what's best for them - especially if they're perceived to be separate from the community. And even more so if they manipulate the system for their own benefit, or in a way that doesn't represent the community's will.

Like, I dunno... voting to extend the term of your employment in direct contravention of the will of the community that voted twice for a limit - the same term limit which you yourself used to originally get into office, thereby turning your back on all the people you supposedly represent.


The above notwithstanding, you can learn some things about me from the word "Republican" next to my name.

It means that I'm principled - anyone willing to voluntarily join any minority has to be. It means that I don't bend with the wind, I stand up for what's important, and I'm willing to swim against the current for what I think is right. In these times, we need more representatives challenging the "establishment" in order to bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to the discussion. Otherwise, you end up with a stagnant system that doesn't change.

Which leads into my next point that you can learn from the "R" near my name. It also means that I'm not a cog in "the machine" that is South Brooklyn politics. I'm beholden to no one except my community - in fact, I think it's time that someone took a crowbar to the machine and tore it down! Machine politics is meant to help the machine - any external benefit to anyone else is coincidential or accidental.

On paper, the fight is a slaughter. If you need a visual, think of it this way:

This is the "machine", it's so big, it can't even fit on the page...

and this is "me"...

So how do you take down "the machine" when you have the equivalent of a pea-shooter? Well, I'm not giving away my playbook. You'll have to wait and see!

But let's start with a new premise:

Maybe it'll take someone with the "R" word next to their name to bring that message forward.

From Pipe Dream To Reality!

It looks like the little park that could is getting off the ground!

For those who haven't seen Courier Life's latest edition, the Brigham Street Park Project got a shot in the arm from Councilman Lew Fidler and Borough President Marty Markowitz, who allocated a total of $500,000.00 to the park project.

As leader of this community project, I couldn't be happier! While the money is great, I'm happy because the community won - after years of hard work and dedication, we've reached a milestone!

This money is a LONG time comin' for Brigham Park adovcates. We started out as a rag-tag group of residents fighting "Project: Lighthouse", a conceptual restuarant - parking lot project on undeveloped parkland, and then fighting a draft RFP from parks that closely resembled "Project: Lighthouse".

The whole initiative started with a simple idea - let's not just say no to what's coming forward from developers and politicians and bureaucrats, let's create our own vision.

There were many obstacles along the way. But things fell so neatly into place, it was almost fated that this park would become reality! First, I happened to go with my good friends Ruth Chapman and Mary Galenski - two amazing people for whom none of this would have happened - to a New Yorkers For Parks meeting and learn of their Community Design Program, which we ultimately apply for and win. Then, we get two fantastic design fellows assigned to the project in Melissa Guerrero and Jon Fouskaris.

The rest is history, and can be read here.

There's a lot of people to thank. First and foremost, the community. If you notice on the Brigham St. Park Project site, the banner says "a community initiative". Politicians didn't start this program. Businesses didn't start this program. The people did. The people game their time and energy to this project. The people persevered. The people turned fantasy into reality. For everyone who worked on the Project, I personally am awed by what you accomplished and I am proud to have been out in front representing you.

Also, the member and leadership of Community Board 15 deserve praise. They were the first governmental entity to support the Project, and kept Brigham Park a funding priority for the district. I thank them for their courage and dedication to the Project.

The staff at New Yorkers For Parks did a tremendous service for our community. With their help, the community found direction and focus. Without their help, this project would be dead in the water. We are greatly indebted to them for their contribution.

I want to give special thanks to Pamela Governale, who led the design effort. Pamela is not only a good friend, but a tireless parks advocate. She was the first person to tell me to say "when" the park is built, not "if" the park is built, when talking about Brigham Park. That stayed with me throughout this Project. There is no amount of words I could put on here that will adequately show my appreciation for that and a million other little moments that got us to this moment.

Finally, thanks to our elected officials who are putting the money behind this Project. Assemblyman Maisel has always been a friend to the Project since Day 1 when the community rallied on the parkland to announce their intentions. Borough President Markowitz also deserves praise for his contribution to our efforts.

As does Councilman Fidler.

It took a while to get Councilman Fidler totally on board with this Project (although he never said he was against the Project itself), but I'm glad he did. It may be odd for some to read that, considering that I"m running against him for City Council, but it's true.

Brigham Park isn't about me, it's about the community. Always has been and always will be. While it's been my honor to lead the Project, I will not let any personal pride or ego stand in the way of progress in the community.

I will not let politics taint the purity of what the community has created.

I am so happy to say that the three years involved with this project has been time very well spent - regardless of outcome. The Project has educated many people about the history and natural heritage of Sheepshead Bay, has highlighted current issues of concern in Plumb Beach, and has brought out the best in our community. Not only is the project innovative in design and benefits to the environment, it's a prime example of what a real "grassroots" movement can do.

We've come so far, and we have much to do. I look forward to continuing to lead this effort on behalf of my community.