Editor’s Note: In yesterday KCP we ran an interview with Steve Saperstein, the Republican candidate running for 48th City Council District seat covering Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Homecrest. In the interview, Saperstein made a number of comments concerning the alleged lack of work that his Democratic opponent incumbent City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch has done on issues in the district. The Deutsch campiagn feels that many of these allegations are not true and offered the following fact checks to them.
KCP: What do you believe are the most important issues in this district to address? Why?
Saperstein: One, we want strong schools. I’m a teacher and realize the importance of investing in education and making sure we have quality schools in our district. I think it’s crazy that if you live in Manhattan Beach, there’s no guarantee that you can send your child to that elementary school. I feel we can improve funding to these schools for technology initiatives. There are federal grants we can apply for and working with. I’m a special ed teacher but also have administrative license, so I know how to work with administrators and parents. Education will be my biggest impact/focus. Children are our future. One of the City Council committees I’d like to be on is the Education Committee. I’d like to look at school zoning and why certain schools are not rated 10. All schools should be as good as the best ones.
Deutsch’s fact check response: Deutsch sits on the Education Committee and has funded more than $7 million dollars to NYC public schools in his district. This funding is for technology upgrades like smart boards; capital improvements like building new restrooms; electrical wiring such as putting new outlets into classrooms; cultural programs such as art, dance, and drama classes; and workforce training programs, particularly for special needs students.
Saperstein notes in the interview that the district has a large Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) and alleges that many unscrupulous landlord take advantage of elderly people, and that while knocking on doors in Brighton Beach he hears horror stories.
Deutsch’s fact check repsonse: Deutsch sits on the Aging Committee. He authored and passed landmark legislation that raised the maximum income limit for a senior to qualify for SCHE, which gives them a major property tax break. He also provides free legal services, tenants counseling, social workers, and caseworkers to address any issue a senior might have. Furthermore, he passed a bill requiring senior centers and libraries to offer information to seniors about how to recognize, avoid, and report scams that target the elderly and their life savings.
Saperstein maintains in the interview there remains a serious homeless and garbage problem in the district and there is even a Facebook group called “Save Homecrest Playground” to get rid of the homeless there and there are complaints about vagrants under the highway. Saperstein alleged these complaints are 14 weeks old and Deutsch has does nothing about them.
Deutsch’s fact check response: Deutsch did clean up that particular area, as seen in the attached pictures. It was a multi-week process that involved multiple visits from Breaking Ground, the NYPD, the DSNY, and the DOT. In the past, Deutsch has resolved homeless issues in several locations. He is extremely hands-on, and works towards long-term solutions, instead of short-term “fixes”.
Saperstein maintained that the issues surrounding quality of life and the party boats on Emmons Avenue resulted in the boats would be eliminated, but there were no specifics. “I bet there will still be party boats come April, the same status quo,” said Saperstein in the interview.
Deutsch’s fact check reply: When a safety issue arose because of the party boats, Councilman Deutsch sprung into action. Within weeks he obtained a commitment from the Mayor to limit party boats at the pier. It is important to understand that the majority of party boat owners are also middle-class New Yorkers trying to earn a living. If they can maintain their businesses – but with restrictions that ensure safety for all involved – that is an ideal situation, and that is the solution that Deutsch was able to reach.
KCP: How about Sandy recovery funding?
Saperstein: The Build It Back program — many families have still not fully returned to their homes. There’s still no real plan for storm resilience, so God forbid we have an Irma or Maria, we would not be prepared for that here.
Deutsch’s fact check response: Deutsch’s district has a 99% reimbursement rate with Build it Back. He was also able to obtain more than $20 million to repair infrastructure and raise private homes – thats something no other district got. He also was able to ensure that this district was included in the Army Corps of Engineers study of Jamaica Bay, and hosted the first ever community meeting regarding the results of the study.
KCP: How would you go about getting more funding and services for the community?
Saperstein: It’s just being an advocate, working together with community partners behind an initiative. In Manhattan Beach, there’s a bath house they want to build a community center there. Why not? These are big picture ideas. The neighborhood for so long was really ignored and finally some funding came through, but food scraps seem like a big deal.
Also, I will work with my partners in the Assembly and Senate to get bills done. From what I’ve seen, there is no synergy between the current councilmember and Senator and Assemblyman because there are separate press conferences for the same news. There’s a lot of tension between Assemblymember Cymbrowitz and Councilmember Deutsch. Just look at the party boats issue. Deutsch is always late for the party.
So I would work with community partners and leaders. The southern part of the district has unfortunately not been a beneficiary.
Deutsch’s fact check response:
1. The bathhouse would have cost more than $20 million dollars to build. Instead, Deutsch and Senator Golden worked out an arrangement with the Governor’s office to utilize the available money to repair infrastructure. Deutsch also worked with the Governor’s office to secure money to harden several community facilities to make them more resilient, so they can function as evacuation centers prior to a storm, and distribution centers post-storm.
2. The southern portion of the district has received significant funding, with Deutsch allocating more than $10 million in capital money to rebuild and upgrade parks (Asser Levy, Manhattan Beach, Holocaust Memorial, Babi Yar – to name a few); nearly $4 million to rebuild and repave roads; and nearly $1 million for street cleaning, trash collections, and snow/ice removal.