By Richard Altabe
This past Sunday morning, February 10, at 8:15 a.m., I received a frantic text from my daughter informing me that power had just gone down yet again in Far Rockaway. Once I ascertained that the outage was not limited to my home or my block, I reached out to the person I knew with the most reliable information. I had counted upon his access to the leadership at LIPA throughout Hurricane Sandy and I knew I could count on him now. That person was none other than our City Council candidate Pesach Osina.
At 8:30 a.m. he texted me that he was in touch with LIPA and he expected power to be restored in an hour and a half. Not wanting to give my daughter false expectations, I told her two hours just to be safe. At 10:02 I received a text from my daughter informing me that power was restored, almost exactly an hour and a half later. Pesach Osina had done it again, standing up for his community when we needed it most. I later found out that he spent the morning assuring the elderly residents of the buildings at 711 Seagirt Boulevard that power would soon be restored, saving many the trouble of attempting to leave their apartments.
The people of Far Rockaway need a city councilman who cares about their needs and is willing to do what it takes to get city government to work for them. There is no other candidate in the upcoming city council special election with Pesach’s contacts in city agencies, and there is no candidate with a deeper desire to sincerely help the average citizen.
Unfortunately, while Pesach has been utilizing his time during this short campaign to find ways to help the people of the 31st Council District, his opponents have been busy fighting with each other. One candidate, Jacques Leandre, used his campaign finance money to hire a lawyer who tried to block the candidacy of six of his opponents. Another, Donovan Richards, has been spending his time trying to build support from the unions rather than by making his case to the people he wishes to serve. To make matters worse, the candidates have been trying to inject racism into the campaign, frequently referring to Pesach as the one “white” candidate in the race. It has gotten to the point where one of the local pastors, Reverend Norris, is on record as beseeching the candidates to unify with a call to action to “beat the Jew from Far Rockaway!”
We take great offense at the race-baiting that has become commonplace in our City Council elections. In the 2009 primary, Jacques Leandre had the gall to send in representatives of the Nation of Islam to distribute campaign literature right across from the Young Israel of Far Rockaway. In that election he claimed that James Sanders Jr. was the “candidate of the Jews,” giving away taxpayer money to Jewish causes only.
For the past four years we have quietly asked the leadership of the African-American community to repudiate this type of rhetoric and to speak out against the candidacy of people who try to win votes in this manner. Yet, much to our surprise, Jacques Leandre has the support of several of the Democratic district leaders in Southeast Queens.
It is difficult to understand how, in the year 2013, race and religion can be relevant campaign issues. Pesach Osina is not running as the Jewish candidate. He is the people’s candidate. He has garnered the support of many in the non-Jewish community who recognize Pesach’s ability and drive to get the job done. They recognize, as we do, that it is time to end the days of playing the race card in order to achieve political gain. Rather we should be focused on coming together as a community to address our mutual issues and problems such as:
Post-hurricane flood mitigation. The federal government has released the funding to the city, but we need to be sure we get the funds we need to make our area safe again.
Small-business growth. Our downtown Far Rockaway area needs vibrant businesses to attract shoppers.
Safe streets. Crime is slowly rising in our area and we need someone who will ensure that we get our fair share of police presence.
Saving our fire company. The mayor again has threatened to close our firehouse, and we need strong leadership to make sure we keep our firehouse open.
These are but some of the many local issues that require strong and effective City Council leadership.
The choice therefore is clear this February 19. We can choose to go out and vote so that we can be assured of getting the city councilman we need, or we can sit back and allow the race-baiters to occupy City Hall and to use their power to enrich their friends and supporters rather than assisting the people. We cannot forget that for the past 20 years we have been the recipients of 1 percent of the funding while we make up more than 10 percent of the electorate. We cannot allow candidates to divide us at a time when we need a unified voice to repair our community and our homes. We therefore must go out and vote, and we must make sure that we tell our friends and neighbors what is at stake this February 19.
Vote for Pesach Osina this Tuesday! v