Plotting Vito Lopez’s downfall at a Velazquez event in Satmar Williamsburg
After winning a relatively hard-fought primary against an opponent who was backed by the Brooklyn Democratic organization, Rep. Nydia Velázquez went to Williamsburg to thank a critical part of her base.
At the Rose Castle banquet hall near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in front of a room full of Hasidic Jews from the Satmar sect, Velazquez said, “We are all in this together and I just want to say, I want to put Vito Lopez behind me."
The crowd cheered her, and booed at the mention of Lopez.
Though Velázquez lost Hasidic Williamsburg in raw votes, a recent split of the Satmars into two factions (the Aroynem and Zaloynim, after the names of the rival brothers who lead each one) produced competing blocs for Velázquez and Lopez’s proxy in the race, City Councilman Erik Martin Dilan. Velazquez, a 20-year incumbent, ended up receiving more than 4,000 votes from the Aroynem community.
Telling the roomful of leaders from different Aroynem congregations that they had “a seat at the table,” Velázquez said she’d work to support education, small business grants and Section 8 vouchers.
“The political system is not for the few, the political system is for people to be able to affect the decision making process,” said Velázquez, before taking a shot at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a nonprofit organization that is often called a patronage system for Lopez. “I can ensure you that I’m not gonna have one community-based organization that I’m gonna embrace and that I’m going to bring all those resources from the federal government to a single community-based organization.”
The room was filled with veterans of anti-Lopez campaigns, both successful and unsuccessful.
For example, district leader Lincoln Restler, head of the anti-Lopez New Kings Democrats, introduced many of the speakers.
At one point, Velazquez pointed to Jason Otaño, who is running against State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (the father of her congressional opponent), as a politician who would undo the “wrong that some people have tried to inflict in the community.”
“In this equation, Jason Otaño is very important,” she said. “Because if we win the senatorial district, the chairman of the Kings County Democratic leader can say goodbye.”
Also present was Juan Martinez, who lost a 2003 challenge to Lopez's former Council ally Diana Reyna; Marty Needelman, a lawyer whose run for civil court judge resulted in bad press for Lopez after the Brooklyn boss was caught on tape strong-arming several elderly supporters of Needelman's opponent; and Isaac Abraham, who lost a multi-candidate Council primary in 2009 to Lopez-backed Stephen Levin.
Abraham, after being introduced by Restler, gave an endorsement that referred to a rift in Williamsburg between the Hispanic and Hasidic communities. He said he knew Velázquez for around 25 years, since well before she was recently redistricted into representing their section of Williamsburg, and said she could help bridge the gap.
“I’ll say for the first 15 of them, we were both fighting for the little slice of cake that was given to this Brooklyn community that was Section 8, food stamps, affordable housing, etcetera,” he said.
He credited Velazquez for finding money to finish an escalator at the Marcy Avenue subway station, and said wished her luck "although it disappoints me that a big part of your resume now is that you’re great because Vito is against you, which is an insult to all of us."
Standing off to the side was influential Aroynem and controversial landlord Moishe Indig, who framed Velazquez's alliance with the group as a promising investment, comparing what he said was just 1,500 votes a couple of years ago with the 4,000 the group apparently produced on June 26.
“I think every, every businessman, if you’ll try to sell him the stocks of a company and you’ll show him the way its grown, if its going to be the way we’re growing over here, our community, our coalition, everybody will invest as much as they can in such a company because this has grown very fast and very strong,” Indig said.
On the rooftop reception area, a community leader named Abe Rosenberg told me, “She’s out there to kill the tiger and that’s what we’re here for. To make sure slowly and surely he’s out.”