Op-Ed: CD45 Is A Diverse District – Waterman, Williams Should Stop Attacking That Diversity

Immigration Services Community Directory (1)

With the density that exists in Brooklyn, there is little room to draw districts that only represent one particular group of people. Each City Council district represents over 100 thousand residents, and while some politicians try to create “Super Jewish”, “Super Russian” or “Super Catholic” districts, they often fail or earn little-to-no benefit from the custom ethnic markup.

Former Councilman and now-Public Advocate Jumaane Williams‘ former seat, the 45th councilmanic district, encompasses areas with a strong Carribean and Haitian presence and also includes a small portion (around 15-20%) of Orthodox Jewish residents.

These Orthodox Jews living in Midwood, Flatbush and Marine Park are very devout. They reside on suburban blocks and are private homeowners. They care deeply about the State of Israel which results in a somewhat hawkish foreign policy approach. So given their views on social issues, their suburban lifestyle and their connection to the State of Israel, the Orthodox Jewish community in Southern and Central Brooklyn has been one of the most pro-Trump and pro-GOP areas in the entire city.

But opinions on national policy do not equal opinions on local policy. The things local city and federal government do vary significantly. Orthodox Jews care just as much about their local libraries, parks, schools, streets and safety as Haitians and Caribbeans do.

There is a strong divide between the Orthodox Jewish and African-American communities on national issues, but nowhere near the same divide on local issues. It’s a concept that many elected officials and Southern and Central Brooklyn have long understood and which is why political relationships between the Orthodox Jewish community and local elected officials have traditionally been very strong.

But not everyone seems to have gotten the memo. City Council candidate Monique Chandler-Waterman is running against Farah Louis for Jumaane Williams’ former seat. Both used to work for Williams and Chandler-Waterman received his endorsement.

Louis did send an anti-Jewish tweet in 2012, but has since worked in William’s office for six years, including two as his Deputy Chief of Staff. She has forged positive relationships with many members of the Jewish community and has earned the endorsement of multiple Orthodox Jewish leaders and organizations.

Palm cards like this one that Monique Chandler-Waterman is putting out have strong anti-Semitic overtones and fails to address the fact that whoever wins the election must represent everyone – Democrats and Republicans alike – regarding city issues.

One would expect that her opponent would let those endorsements go and attempt to rally her own supporters for tomorrow’s election. But Jumaane Williams, who endorsed Chandler-Waterman, used Louis’ Orthodox Jewish endorsements as an attack.

“In my district we have people who support Donald Trump. They did not support Monique. They supported another candidate,” said Public Advocate Williams in a video that ironically was posted with the tagline “In Unity There is Strength”.

Chandler-Waterman doubled down, but not on the unity part. She dubbed Orthodox Jews as developers, a depiction that has been reported as being one of the empowerment for anti-Semitism in Crown Heights. Three days before the election, a man stood across a Bay Ridge rally held by former Orthodox Jewish Assemblyman Dov Hikind. He held a sign saying “Google Jewish Slumlords!” and screamed “F**k Israel! F**k Israel!” in the middle of the sidewalk.

Speaking to Bklynr, Chandler-Waterman accused Farah Louis of making a deal with developers to receive votes from Trump supporters.

This isn’t masked language. The only community in the 45th district that overwhelmingly voted for Trump is the Orthodox Jewish community.

“You can’t say you’re a Democrat—a true Democrat—then behind closed doors you’re dealing with Republicans and Trump supporters when nobody’s looking. We don’t share the same values. It’s different visions. They don’t have the same issues as our community. They don’t have the same alignment. We are a Democrat district,” Chandler-Waterman told Bklyner.

Except that there are no “Democrat” or “Republican” districts when it comes to City Council seats. There are districts of people. People who, despite what they may believe on national issues, share common concerns on their local neighborhoods. To say that these can’t unite or “have the same issues” is simply untrue. There are no “different visions” when it comes to clean streets, parks or libraries.

Some Orthodox Jews are lawyers. Some are doctors. Some are teachers. Some are small business owners. Some are social workers. Some are unemployed. And yes, some work in real estate. But to say that Orthodox Jews are “gentrifies” is completely false, especially since in Williams’ district Orthodox Jews are largely suburban and would easily oppose large developments that would reduce parking or compete with local small businesses. In reality, opposition to gentrification has the potential to unite both African-Americans and Jews in suburban Brooklyn.

And if her comments in Bklynr weren’t bad enough, Chandler-Waterman appeared to have sent out a mailer that quoted Malcom X and accused her opponent of being “bought & paid for by others” who “will do their bidding.”

Who are the “others”? Orthodox Jews? They are not an “other”. They are residents of the 45th City Council district. They are human beings living in suburban houses with spouses and children, looking for a good quality of life, the same way Haitians and Caribbeans do. They are constituents, they are New Yorkers, they are Brooklynites and they are people. They’re certainly not gentrifiers or “others”.

I agree with Monique Chandler-Waterman. In unity, there is strength. But we can’t choose who to unite with when it comes to municipal districts.

I would urge Chandler-Waterman, regardless of how tomorrow’s race turns out, to perhaps visit some Orthodox Jewish households and attempt to better understand that community.  Farah Louis was clearly able to evolve from her inappropriate remarks in 2012 and I believe so can she.

In the meantime, it is important for everyone to remember that a lot of hate is based off misinformation. This is a textbook example.

As Fiorella LaGuardia once said, “There is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up garbage.” I’d expand that quote and say that there is no Haitian, Caribbean or Orthodox Jewish way of picking up garbage.

Invoking anti-Semitic tropes, falsehoods and general animosity against a minority can never become a path to winning elections. Not in Brooklyn, not in New York City and not anywhere.