Check the registration rolls, and the people of Borough Park will turn out to be overwhelmingly Democrats. But if you have walked around the most densely Jewish community in the five boroughs during recent major elections, you are likely to have seen mostly signs and bumper stickers reading “Pataki” or “D’Amato,” “Giuliani,” or “Bloomberg,” Republicans all.
Most Jews are liberals, but heavily Orthodox Borough Park is the one the most conservative areas in the city, and its people never hesitate to pull the lever for the GOP. In the last statewide race, for example, Gov. George Pataki won 11,820 votes in Borough Park’s 48th Assembly District, compared to 4,527 for Democrat Peter Vallone.
That’s why the community is up in arms over the latest state Senate lines, redrawn by a Republican-dominated committee, that chop up the homogenous community into five new districts.
“We have supported Republicans perhaps more than any other community in the five boroughs, except maybe Staten Island,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Hikind said it would take residents years to learn who their senators are, and would reduce the ability of the community to vote as a bloc. It also diminishes the clout of the neighborhood, which has been a mandatory stop on the campaign trail for major candidates.
A spokesman for Republican Sen. Dean Skelos of Rockville Center, L.I., who chaired the Senate redistricting taskforce, said Borough Park residents had an opportunity to speak out about the changes during a public hearing in Brooklyn last month.
“We really needed input into the process,” said the spokesman, Tom Dunham. “We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on those hearings.”
Hikind said the hearing was held following the release of a completely different map proposal, with no hint of the current scheme. But Dunham counters that it was “no secret that there would be changes after the initial proposal.” He said the taskforce was sympathetic to the concerns of Borough Park, but “we’re between a rock and a hard place. We feel the legislation is fair and constitutionally sound.”
The changes were expected to be approved by the full Senate Wednesday. Although Pataki could veto the bill, Hikind said that scenario could lead to “bigger problems” by bringing in the U.S. Justice Department to study the lines.
The district changes aren’t bad news for everybody. Sen. Carl Kruger, whose heavily white district had become 61 percent black in the first proposal, saw much of his old territory restored. A Democrat, Kruger has endorsed Pataki for re-election; and last month this column reported that he is considering a switch to the GOP.
But Kruger said Monday that the lines were changed only because residents of his current district showed up en masse at the Brooklyn hearing to voice their distress.
“The community has spoken out very vigorously in opposition to the original proposal,” said Kruger, who said the shorefront communities of Brighton Beach, Bergen Beach, Manhattan Beach and Mill Basin were linked socially, economically and by common school boards.
He said his relationship with the governor allowed him to “indicate to him and the taskforce that these communities would be egregiously affected.”
The changes will leave several incumbents and at least one aspirant, former councilman Noach Dear, scrambling to identify which district is best suited for them. (State law does not require candidates to live in the districts they seek during a reapportionment year.) One incumbent, Sen. Seymour Lachman of Bensonhurst, predicted that the matter would end up in court. “There are very serious problems,” said Lachman. “This is the dismemberment of a community that has a commonality of interests.”
Meanwhile, Lachman said police are investigating a flier distributed in Bath Beach that declared he is “not loyal to America” because he supports clemency for Israel spy Jonathan Pollard. The flier said Pollard should be executed.
Lachman said he had “no idea” if the flier is related to the upcoming election.
They’re continuing to lock horns, ratcheting up the rhetoric, with the Middle East as their battleground.
Welcome to the New York Democratic primary for governor.
In this week’s installment, Andrew Cuomo, after criticizing the funding of rival H. Carl McCall’s March trip to Israel, made his own sojourn to the Holy Land. (His campaign footed the bill.) On his return from Israel, Cuomo called for the revocation of the Nobel Peace Prize given to Yasir Arafat in 1993.
That call has been made by Jewish activists before, but the Nobel Committee’s bylaws explicitly state that no award can be rescinded.
Cuomo’s statement prompted a jab from McCall campaign consultant Hank Sheinkopf.
“Andy made an error in judgment in 2000 by saying that Yasir Arafat was genuinely interested in peace. It’s good that Andy has finally joined Carl McCall in supporting Israel and condemning Arafat,” Sheinkopf said.
Cuomo’s camp returned fire: “That’s just the kind of cheap political attack we’ve come to expect from the McCall campaign,” said spokesman Josh Isay, noting that Cuomo visited Arafat while the U.S. and Israel were still talking to him. “Since then, he’s been crystal clear that Arafat has been more interested in terror than peace.”
Cuomo made the whirlwind trip on the last day of Passover. Joined by his Jewish brother-in-law, shoe designer Kenneth Cole, he met with U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni, foreign minister Shimon Peres and Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert. He also visited victims of terror attacks.
In a call from the King David Hotel Friday, he told reporters his mission was to relay the support of New Yorkers.
# He denied the trip was intended to boost his Jewish support. “I have a history of working with Israel,” he said, noting that he had set up a bi-national committee on housing issues with Israel during his tenure as U.S. Housing Secretary.
A group of City Council members was to announce a resolution condemning Palestinian suicide bombers Wednesday, but pushed it off. The reason: The group was too Jewish.
Sources said the Council members wanted to show a broader coalition supporting the measure, sponsored by Alan Gerson and Eva Moskowitz of Manhattan, Simcha Felder and Michael Nelson of Brooklyn, G. Oliver Koppell of the Bronx, and David Weprin of Queens. In a statement, Speaker Gifford Miller said the resolution “expresses our sympathy and solidarity” with terror victims and “condemns those who use terrorism to achieve political gains.”
Such resolutions were often rubberstamped during the previous council, but more recently have been sent to committees for study.
A resolution by Koppell calling for the ouster of the PLO mission to the UN has gone nowhere.