Surrounded by some 50 friends, family, community supporters and a pair of supporters from the Satmar community at the steps of Borough Hall, Stephen Pierson officially launched his campaign for a seat in the New York City Council to replace incumbent Steve Levin, who was elected in 2009.
Mr. Pierson seemed to argue that his opponent Steve Levin is embedded with the disgraced former Democratic County Leader, Assemblyman Vito Lopez. Pierson highlighted the fact that Levin, as a former Chief of Staff to Lopez, participated in supporting a non-profit organization in Bushwick, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, that has been under investigation and whose leaders received outrageous salaries – even while simultaneously working other jobs.
“Steve Levin was Vito Lopez's chief of staff. Vito got him elected to the City Council,” said Pierson. “That is indisputable. Since then, Levin has made it his life's mission to pay back his debts to Vito.” Pierson also questioned the “wisdom” of re-electing someone who, as Chief of Staff to Lopez, was either oblivious or deliberately ignored the sexual harassment and sexual assaults that were taking place. “… when these years of sexual harassment and assault finally came to light, Steve Levin was our only local official who did not speak out against Vito,” said Pierson. “He did not say a single public word.”
Mr. Pierson called for the election of a Council member who will listen to the community and not focus on self-promotion. “Let us listen to artists, to writers, to middle to school students, and seniors,” said Pierson. “Let’s listen to our teachers and plumbers and even to our bankers. Let’s listen to our district’s entire Hasidic community, which Mr. Levin might be surprised to learn, includes thousands of Aaronites, whose many needs Levin has ignored at every turn … because they didn’t support him in the last election. Let’s listen.”
Gary Schlesinger, a community activist of the Anronim faction of Satmar expressed his support of Pierson and criticized the incumbent City Councilman. “A City Councilman needs to interact with their constituents on a daily basis,” said Schlesinger. “We currently have no representation in the 33rd Council District.We need to have someone who is outside of the box – someone who cannot be bought. And that is why we are here to support this young gentleman who is standing right next to me and we all hope that this is going to be a big win for the entire 33rd Council District.”
Asked by NYC Elects what compelled him to run, and what forced him to reconsider his position after making the argument that there are not enough spare hours in the day for a council run, Mr. Pierson said it would set an unprecedented situation if Steve Levin goes unchallenged. "Someone needed to do it. I'm quite busy as a father and running my non profit, but I eventually realized that rather be tired than not stand up for what you believe in," said Mr. Pierson.
Mr. Pierson also blamed the way Mr. Levin conducts himself, which makes the rift between the two Satmar factions far worse than it needs to be. "The way that he caters entirely to one sect and ignores completely the other sect, hurts both sides. As long there's a deep rift in the Hasidic community, its makes them less empowered than what they should be," he said.
The Marcy Armory sale, Mr. Pierson believes, will mend the rift in Satmar. "It's a great opportunity to begin. If it serves the purpose of uniting the two factions, than its worth government not getting fair market value," he said.