Daniel L. Feldman


In NYC Politics on June 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm

In the years between 1977, when I moved from Rockaway to Brooklyn, and the congressional race in 1998, I often had the same anxiety dream. I dreamt I was jogging through Rockaway – as indeed I had jogged its 12-mile length a number of times when I was in my twenties – but big swatches of what had been the residential areas I knew on the peninsula had now disappeared, either washed away by the ocean, or covered with sand, or replaced with some kind of hostile developments. Somehow, for my own sense of security, I needed to know that my hometown, Rockaway, had stayed strong and healthy.

On some subconscious level, I must have imagined that the people of Rockaway reciprocated my concern and affection. Having narrowly beaten the popular incumbent City Council member, Walter Ward, on the peninsula, a quarter of a century earlier, I somehow imagined that its voters would stay loyal to me.

In fact, I did still have fairly strong support in the immediate Belle Harbor and Neponsit neighborhoods where I had grown up, but that mile-and-a-half community of mostly one-and-two family houses would only provide a fraction of Rockaway’s total vote. Further, a good many of the voters whose loyalties I might have won in throughout the Rockaways in the 1970s had by now died or retired to Florida.

Without Katz in the race, I probably could have positioned myself more clearly as a Queens and Brooklyn candidate, in sharper contrast to Weiner (Dear, in many neighborhoods, was not a factor). But failing that advantage, Weiner’s natural street-campaign talents, and perhaps his eventual endorsement by Schumer, enabled him to outpoll me.

Friction between Alan Hevesi and Tom Manton, the Queens County Democratic leader, left it unclear for a while whether the Queens County Democratic organization would support Katz. During that period, former friends like Betty Braton, now a political force in Howard Beach, sidestepped my efforts to enlist their support, using the purported candidacy of Art Beroff, a young self-made millionaire from Howard Beach, as an excuse. Beroff, a pleasant young man with very little depth in public policy, removed himself from consideration as soon as Hevesi succeeded winning County support for Katz. Beroff died tragically young, at 44, from esophageal cancer in 2004.

Nettie Mayersohn and Tony Seminario, two of my colleagues representing Assembly districts in Queens that lay partially in the 9th congressional district and would contribute some Democratic primary votes, both loudly and often touting their political independence, both having claimed irreconcilable political differences with Katz, and both having made shows of friendship with me, quickly endorsed Katz once Manton made his peace with Hevesi.

Back in Rockaway, Geraldine Chapey, the female Democratic leader from the regular wing of the party, shared my distaste for Simon and took significant amounts of my time talking incessantly about how she would help me with Irish Catholic voters in Rockaway, especially in Breezy Point. While relatively pleasant, certainly compared with Simon, Chapey ultimately refused to “go against County” and thus did not endorse me. Dan Tubridy, my old friend from Broad Channel, produced almost a solid bloc vote for me there – about ninety percent, with my three opponents dividing the rest – while Chapey produced nothing. Of course, she could always make the untestable claim that I would have done worse without her, but I doubt it.



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