Today’s news:

Lincoln Restler vs. Chris Olechowski for Democratic district leader

Restler’s match: District leader faces challenge from CB1 chairman

The Brooklyn Paper

A high-stakes political chess game between an old-time Democratic party boss and an upstart youngster is heating up in North Brooklyn, and a little-known, unpaid position hangs in the balance.

Incumbent Democratic district leader Lincoln Restler is being challenged by Community Board 1 chair Chris Olechowski — pitting a 28-year-old with powerful allies from Williamsburg to Washington against a longtime Greenpoint activist who has the backing of influential Democratic boss Vito Lopez.

They’re battling for a chance to hire poll workers, finagle support for the party, elect judges, and choose the party boss — and with Restler’s past as an outspoken opponent of Lopez, the September election is becoming a proxy war between new and old factions in the Democratic party.

It’s not a glamorous job, but both candidates think it is worth fighting for.

“This is a highly lucrative, unpaid office,” said Restler.

There was no masking the political grudge match at a stacked Restler press conference earlier this week, where 13 Brooklyn Dems, including Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg), Borough President Markowitz, and state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), offered their support to the self-described reformer, who earned the esoteric position in 2010 after trouncing the Lopez-backed Warren Cohn, the son of retiring district leader Steve Cohn, who held the job for 27 years.

Though it’s not part of the job description, Restler framed his two years in office as a position of constituent services.

“Government is confusing and confounding and residents often need help navigating the process,” said Restler, who takes partial credit for bringing community gardens and farmers’ markets to the district.

“I’ve done my best to make myself available and make sure that local residents can achieve their objectives.”

Olechowski says his campaign is a means to ensure North Brooklyn’s neediest residents have representation in the local Democratic party.

“I have a great deal of experience knowing problems and concerns that affect this community,” said the 65-year-old, who started his public service career by creating programs to help Polish new immigrants. “I know what happens to people when they’re disenfranchised.”

Olechowski said he sees the tensions created by the spreading gentrification in North Brooklyn.

“As a community, there are some populations that are worse off than others,” said the aspiring Democratic district leader, who has been a CB1 member for more than 20 years. “My goal is to look out for those who can’t fend for themselves and are more likely to have a lack of representation because of their ethnic group, or because of a language barrier, or because they are elderly.”

Veteran political watchdog Hank Sheinkopf said the battle between the two civic activists isn’t just a race for a position most voters don’t understand — it’s another litmus test of Lopez’s power after two rough years plagued by scandals and bad press.

“Every district leader enforces the Democratic organization and every race they lose makes them look silly,” said Sheinkopf.

Pin It
Print this story Permalink

Reader Feedback

anywho says:
Blah, blah, blah.
Aug. 1, 2012, 7:51 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Is this an elected position?

Someone who votes in every election (me) should be able to answer that. We have way too many elections.
Aug. 1, 2012, 9:12 am
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
I'm voting for Olanike "Ola" Alabi, a product of the New York City Public School System.
Aug. 1, 2012, 9:57 am
Ben from Greenpoint says:
Lincoln he is the peoples men we all like him much he is doing so far a great job,we wish him all the best for his re-election GO LINCOLN GO.....
Aug. 1, 2012, 11:49 am
Ben from Williamsbug says:
Lincoln we need you, we need young people in the politic business just keep up your good job.. i can see one day he will be our Representative in Washington DC.
Aug. 1, 2012, 11:54 am
Tom from Park Slope says:
I'm glad the article emphasizes the role that Vito Lopez is playing in this fight. By controlling who is district leader Lopez is able to basically place judges on the bench, which is ridiculously powerful and corrupt. Having someone young who isn't kissing the ring is incredibly necessary, because then other reforms can happen that diminish the power of people like Lopez and return it to the voters. That won't happen while Lopez runs candidates like Olechowski, who owe their careers to him.

BTW, I understand that Olechowski was actually recruited by Councilman Steve Levin who sees Restler as a threat. Coincidentally, Levin was Lopez' chief of staff before defeating long time reformer and Lopez enemy JoAnne Simon for the Council seat in an election that turned on delivering favors to the Satmar community in return for their solid voting block. This is the way a corrupt machine works, and all the Lopez cogs should be chased out of office ASAP, including Levin!
Aug. 1, 2012, 3:03 pm
peter from greenpoint says:
what we need in this community is a builder. like the current community board chairman the hon. Chris Olechowski,he has a rich history of community service for the last 20 years.go cris go.
Aug. 1, 2012, 7:41 pm
mike from greenpoint says:
For someone who's been on CB1 for 20 years, hardly anyone knows who Olechowski is. He should think that's a good thing. If they know him at all, it is as the person who led the board's rezoning committee to a major snub from the city. The board has looked plain stupid with all the sidewalk cafe hysteria that Olechowski has allowed to continue beyond farce levels, while other issues go begging, particularly those issues that affect "people who can't fend for themselves" which last time I checked, didn't include Sunday brunchers or local eateries. Longtime tenants are being harassed and displaced, the city's turned its back on rezoning promises, crime's up, open space is down, and respect for the board is at an all time low in the community... this is what Olechowski wants to take credit for? It would be a joke if it wasn't so pathetic.
Aug. 1, 2012, 10:14 pm
Stan haz from Greenpoint says:
I must admit that I did not even know that Lincoln Restler's position was unsalaried! That is, until I met Mr. Restler a few days ago, for the first time, and then checked the web. In the heat and humidity of a New York City summer, Lincoln was walking from house to house, from block to block, day after day- meeting the people of our/his Brooklyn community, and asking them about their concerns and problems. I was impressed - for I find this kind of genuine dedication, interest, and effort rare among aspiring politicians. Mr. Restler has my support in the upcoming September 13th, 2012 election for Democratic State Committeeman (--which- for whatever reason, is on a Thursday, and not a Tuesday). I wish him well. Our community needs more like him. Our community is lucky to have him!
Aug. 1, 2012, 10:44 pm
Keith from Greenpoint says:
btw having somebody on CB1 means noting!! i was a member of CB1 for some time it just wast of time bunch of nut cases... he is to old for this job we need young people like Lincoln...
Aug. 2, 2012, 11:06 am
Keith from Greenpoint says:
btw having somebody on CB1 means noting!! i was a member of CB1 for some time it just wast of time bunch of nut cases... he is to old for this job we need young people like Lincoln...
Aug. 2, 2012, 11:06 am
anywho says:
Stan haz:

Did he change your diaper too?
Aug. 3, 2012, 2:52 pm
Stan haz from Greenpoint says:
Hey anywho:
If "changing diapers" means offering a fresh and energetic attempt to tackle the problems of our community , then YES..Lincoln Restler is your man !!!
Aug. 3, 2012, 7:01 pm
lenord from southside willy says:
Olechowski...sucks ass !!
typical blow hard on CB 1 that does NOT represent what the residents under the age of 50 want in regards to sidewalk cafes , backyards in restaurants ..ect ..ect..
This guy is what is making Willy like the upper westside.
——can him asap !!!
Aug. 12, 2012, 10:54 pm
Rabbi Jay from brooklyn says:
me as a jewish leader I'm endorsing @ChrisOlechowski and i wish him lots of luck,
Sept. 6, 2012, 8:04 pm
S W from brooklyn says:
Lincoln Restler isn't worth more then a red penny and didn't do anything for the community since he's here , so why should we suffer another few years ? There is not a single reason for that , so just make sure to go out and vote for the best candidate @ChrisOlechowski and we will do what he's promising , we can't afford to have such lies again for the next few years
Sept. 9, 2012, 1:09 am
Kokosh Indig from Brooklyn says:
Rester is a guy that likes attention, he has 0 interest to help out Community, he likes attention and for the same reason is he dressed and wearing Artist Glasses, we will all vote for @ChrisOlechowski he's the guy that has 1 Goal and that's "Help our people".
Sept. 9, 2012, 2:09 am
Lazer from williamsburg says:
the problem with restler was because hi didn't act like a real polotion he totally ignore the R' Zalman factor of satmar what they have 65% of the jewish people, and he was also fighting with UJO.
Sept. 14, 2012, 8:48 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links