Daniel L. Feldman

Hynes, Breezy Point, and the Times

In NYC Politics on February 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm

As noted in an earlier post, Hynes had been president of the Breezy Point Cooperative, the organization that actually owned the land on which he and his neighbors lived in Breezy Point. Having grown up only a few miles away in Belle Harbor, a community then populated mostly by a mix of Jews and Irish-Americans, I knew very well how the Breezy Pointers excluded those who were not Irish-American, even as visitors, in the 1950s. By the 1980s, some Italian-American families, and even a few Jews, had been admitted to Breezy, but certainly no blacks. Hynes would argue that Breezy did not exclude blacks, they just did not happen to live there, but that explanation did not square with my historical knowledge of the place. (Based on the census of 2000, Breezy Point remained the “whitest” place in New York City.)

Hank Sheinkopf, my political advertising guru, designed a flyer portraying Breezy Point as America’s version of South African apartheid, and highlighting Hynes’s former presidency of the Co-op. Since the media had anointed Hynes the paragon of racial justice for his successful prosecution in the Howard Beach case, the flyer imposed inconvenient facts on the narrative. The City’s liberal establishment denounced the flyer. Mario Cuomo used it as an excuse to break his pledge not to get involved in Democratic primaries by endorsing Hynes.

The New York Times ran an editorial viciously condemning me. It said,

 

Assemblyman Dan Feldman, candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney, has all but accused his chief opponent, Charles (Joe) Hynes, of anti-Semitism and racism because Mr. Hynes owns a summer house in Breezy Point, Queens. Breezy Point is a cooperative community that’s predominantly Irish and Italian, with a smattering of Jewish, Hispanic and Asian residents. Mr. Feldman plays blatantly to ethnic and racial fears in fliers, one mailed to blacks and another to Jews.

Mr. Hynes successfully prosecuted the Howard Beach racial murder and makes his permanent home in polyglot Flatbush. To accuse him of bias is scurrilous, and incredible.

 

The Times and Mario Cuomo also joined in attacking me after my defeat based on a last-minute campaign flyer that my campaign had issued without my approval or knowledge, but Post #60 already told that story.

The Times editorial page attack may have been the work of Dorothy Samuels, a member of the Times editorial board and a very close friend of Schumer’s. Schumer might well have endorsed me publicly, and then had his friend Samuels try to destroy my political career from behind the cloak of anonymity via the Times editorial page. Many years later David Trager, sitting as a federal judge in the trial of Lemrick Nelson, the man who killed Yankel Rosenbaum in the Crown Heights race riot mentioned in post #67, tried to achieve racial balance in the composition of the jury.  The Times published a nasty editorial accusing Trager of “violating in one maneuver rules against seating jurors out of order, seating anyone who persistently expresses doubts about his ability to be fair, and excluding people from a jury on the basis of race or religion,” and acting “more like a politician with a mandate to satisfy ethnic constituencies than an impartial judge,” thus “badly damaging the city, and his own reputation.”  Two distinguished jurists, in a letter to the editor, noted that “the federal appeals court that ordered a new trial held that the procedures employed by Judge Trager were ‘undoubtedly meant to be tolerant and inclusive rather than bigoted and exclusionary,” that Trager had “worked hard to empanel a fair and impartial jury,” and called Trager “one of the best and most conscientious of federal trial judges.” Why, then, the over-the-top vicious editorial?

Back in 1981, while U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Trager thought that he should indict Schumer for using his state legislative campaign staff in his congressional campaign, and sought permission from the Department of Justice to do so (unsuccessfully). Of course I cannot prove that Samuels, acting as Schumer’s political version of Luca Brasi, wrote either editorial or others over the years attacking Schumer’s enemies. But circumstance suggests that explanation.

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  1. What evidence do you have to support your claim that Breezy Pt is racist? The fact that its the only ethnic white-catholic neighborhood left in the city? I’m guessing you’ve actually never been there…I do hope you use the same fervour to bash neighborhoods like Borough Park and racist a certain section of Williamsburg, which arr far more exclusionary than Breezy Pt

    • I don’t think Breezy Point is racist. It was indeed exclusionary during my childhood, as I knew from personal experience. I have visited friends in Breezy on many occasions — and of course I do not think my Breezy Point friends are racist at all. For your information, the three neighborhoods where I got the very highest percentage of votes in my 1998 race, where my friends were the most loyal — 90% or so in a four-way race — were Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach, and Broad Channel, two of which were ethnic white Catholic. So get off your high horse, buddy.

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