Redistricting Uncertainty Causes Southern BK’s City Council Candidates To Reconsider Campaigns


City Council analyst John Lisyanskiy officially threw his hat in the ring for Coney Island’s 47th District on December 16 with an e-mail blast to supporters, making him one of two candidates for the district to forego the political hand-wringing over redistricting and jump in the race. Meanwhile, others in what was expected to be a somewhat crowded field for the Democratic nod, are reconsidering their runs – and almost all are urging constituents to turn out to tomorrow’s Districting Committee hearing to oppose the plan.

Lisyanskiy is one of four Democratic contenders vying to replace term-limited Domenic Recchia that have registered committees with the Campaign Finance Board. Lisyanskiy is joined by activist Todd Dobrin; Michael Treybich, an attorney and deputy legal director for the New York State Young Democrats; and Brian Gotlieb, former chairman of Community Board 13.

Lisyanskiy, who serves as a legislative budget aide in the City Council under Speaker Christine Quinn, jumps in the race with tens of thousands of dollars collected for a 2009 run that ultimately fizzled after term limits were extended. The campaign’s announcement came weeks before the council’s district lines are set to be finalized, a process which could see a campaign’s key constituencies flung into a neighboring district.

But Lisyanskiy said the latest district lines were of little concern in determining whether or not to run.

“I am in this race regardless of the outcome of the redistricting commission,” he told Bensonhurst Bean. “I do expect that the vast majority of the district that I’ve been involved with over the years will be intact.”

According to a political insider who works alongside Lisyanskiy, however, the uncertainty over district lines delayed his announcement as he assessed his chances elsewhere.

“We all knew John was going to run, we were just waiting to find out where,” the insider said.

That may be because the latest proposed lines for the 47th chip away at the district’s Russian-American population, cutting out major co-op developments like Sea Breeze, Luna Park and Trump, as well as enclaves in Bath Beach. The district extends further in Bensonhurst and New Utrecht, increasing its Asian constituency.

And while he said it doesn’t matter for his campaign, Lisyanskiy is still fighting to bring Sea Breeze, Luna Park, Trump and Bath Beach back into the district and is urging supporters to turn out at tomorrow’s hearing.

“My main concern is the fact that the entire Luna Park Houses were cut out and put in the 48th Council District. I think that’s outrageous for many reasons. One is that it’s historically part of Coney Island,” Lisyanskiy told Bensonhurst Bean. “I hope folks will rise up and speak about that as well. It has no business being a part of the 48th District.”

Some of his potential opponents agree.

Treybich, for one, is holding off on his own announcement because the new lines present challenges to his campaign.

“I’m waiting to see what happens with the lines. I’m really upset about this. I live in the part of Trump that’s staying in the 47th. Many of my family and friends who have lived there a long time have been drawn into the 48th, so I can’t help but take it personally,” he said.

Treybich, who, like Lisyanskiy, is Russian-American, added that the new lines smack of gerrymandering, cutting up co-op developments that have their own culture and sense of community in order to bolster the Russian-American population in the neighboring 48th District.

“There’s no reason to cut out two buildings of Trump and go down Brightwater and connect it to another district. It’s not a continuous district,” he said. “The people that live there don’t deserve to have their voices diluted among differing districts.”

Treybich said the new lines could put the kibosh on his candidacy.

“I’m going to have to sit down and think for a long time about what im going to do,” he said.

If so, he would not be alone. Gotlieb also lives in the sliced up co-op developments, and insiders say his home was removed from the district – and the race – altogether. Gotlieb did not respond to a request for comment or confirmation.

In the 47th District, the only one of the four candidates not complaining about the new lines is Todd Dobrin, a Gravesend resident and Coney Island activist.

“I am the fourth generation of my family to live in the 47th District. I attended public schools in this district and have met life long friends that live in all parts of the district,” Dobrin wrote in a statement to Bensonhurst Bean. “The proposed changes to the district will not affect my candidacy. My growing list of endorsements show the strong support I have in the 47th District as it is drawn now and as it is proposed to be drawn in the future.”

The uncertainty over the district lines has also changed the game in the neighboring 48th District, encompassing Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and parts of Midwood. There, rumors abound about potential candidates, though only one person has filed with the Campaign Finance Board, and he hasn’t raised a dime. The proposed lines consolidate the Russian-American voting bloc with slices from other district, while diminishing the power of Orthodox Jewish blocs, which have been drawn into council districts to the north.

At least one rumored Orthodox Jewish candidate for the 48th is believed to be looking elsewhere now, illustrating the kind of importance candidates put on district lines. And Jewish groups have started sounding the alarm, afraid that their reduced influence in the 48th will cost them funding and political support.

The New York City Districting Commission will hold a Brooklyn public hearing tomorrow, January 10, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Saint Francis College’s Founders Hall Auditorium (180 Remsen Street). Information about this and other meetings can be found here.

Correction (4:37 p.m.): The original version of this article indicated that Michael Treybich is the deputy legal director of the New York State Young Democrats. Although he once was, he no longer holds this position, and the article has been corrected to reflect this.