The campaign of Alessandra Biaggi, a candidate challenging incumbent Democrat Jeff Klein for the State Senate Primary in the Bronx and Westchester, received a boost recently when she was endorsed by the New York Times. But the race against Klein, the former IDC leader who caucused with Albany Republicans to stymie fellow Democrats for years, has been heating up.
Yesterday, the Biaggi campaign posted a video on Twitter showing City Councilmember Mark Gjonaj and others protesting outside of Biaggi campaign event at Patsy's pizzeria in Morris Park. "Is this your elected official pacing in the street, yelling ‘SHAME’ at young women?" Biaggi, 32, wrote on Twitter. "This is not okay."
Is this your elected official pacing in the street, yelling ‘SHAME’ at young women?
He's Councilman @MarkGjonajNY.
I’m the young woman.
This is not okay. VOLUNTEER >> DONATE >> VOTE >> https://t.co/Ab2owq0oY4 #september13 pic.twitter.com/DoopZN6G5W
— Alessandra Biaggi (@Biaggi4NY) August 31, 2018
Reginald Johnson, Chief of Staff for Councilman Gjonaj, told Gothamist the Councilman was yelling shame because of Biaggi's support of the DOT's Corridor Safety Improvement Plan on Morris Park Ave. The avenue has been named a Vision Zero Priority Corridor, with 7.6 pedestrians killed or severely injured every mile, from 2010-2014. There were a total of 367 injuries, 23 severe injuries, and one fatality in that time period.
The DOT proposal is to create dedicated bike lanes from Melville Street to Newport Avenue, and convert one of the two lanes of traffic on the corridor into a dedicated left turn lane. The plan would also remove one lane from the road and create a median. There are currently two lanes of traffic on each side.
Community Board 11 has been vehemently opposed to this plan, as is the Morris Park BID Association. Al D’Angelo, from the association, told Gothamist there are two hospitals and five different schools in the area, and this would only increase the already bad traffic and double parking, as well as limit street parking. D'Angelo, who said he was at the protest outside Patsy's, was particularly upset at Biaggi for supporting this proposal.
"She's coming into a community she knows nothing about, and she's telling us what's best for us," D'Angelo told Gothamist. "Had she done her homework, had she listened to what the community wanted, she would have known the facts, and obviously she didn't know the facts."
"While we certainly respect the right to disagree about issues, they didn't say anything about bike lanes while they were screaming at our guests. This is outrageous behavior for a sitting City Councilman," David Neustadt, the press secretary for the Biaggi campaign, told Gothamist in an email.
Michael Kaess, who volunteers with the Morris Park Community Association, said the association was one the groups that organized the protest. "One of the more senior members of the association said Biaggi had an event at Patsy's," Kaess told Gothamist. "They asked us to be there 5:30 p.m." Kaess said he's in favor of the DOT plan, and does not support Senator Klein's re-election, which is a lonely position to have in Morris Park. "My coordinator called me a spy" when learning that he did not support Klein, Kaess said, adding that one reason that the Morris Park Community Association strongly supported Klein is because he secured new patrol cars for the association. Back in January, the Bronx Times reported that the senator secured $100,000 for new cars, Lincoln MKZs, for the association.
On Twitter, Gjonaj's critics linked to articles about the Councilmember's colorful history, which includes spending $72,000 in donor funds at his brother's restaurant; blaming the two people killed by drivers of Sanitation Salvage, one of his donors, for their own deaths; and taking donations from money launderers and drug traffickers.
The New York State primary is Thursday, September 13th.