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October 15, 2009: Vol. 1, No. 11
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The calm before the storm: Gentile and Capano chummy in first debate


With general good humor, 43rd Councilmanic District candidate Bob Capano and City Council incumbent Vincent Gentile conducted their first debate hosted by the Bay Ridge Real Estate Board.

As happens every year, the forum -- which was far from divisive -- held in the basement of Sirico’s catering hall, 8023 Thirteenth Avenue, kicked off the political season in southwestern Brooklyn.

While Gentile pitched his reelection on what he has accomplished for the community, as well as what he is poised to achieve as he moves up in seniority at the Council, Capano, his Republican challenger contended that what was needed was “a fresh new voice in the City Council.”

Capano, who has worked for Democratic Borough President Marty Markowitz and his predecessor, Howard Golden (also a Democrat), as well as for former GOP Representative Vito Fossella, said that his career, bridging the two sides of the aisle, “Epitomizes what public service is all about. It’s not about partisanship and taking cheap political shots. It’s about serving the people. I believe leadership is about bulidng collaborative relationships.”

In particular, though, Capano said his Republican affiliation would help bring some “balance” to the City Council where, now, there are 48 Democrats and only three GOPers. “There needs to be a vibrant two-party system,” Capano contended.

As he spoke, he drew a distinction between his ability to work with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, should he be re-elected, and Gentile’s. “If you’ve always had an antagonistic relationship with the mayor, it’s hard to work together,” Capano opined.

Nonetheless, Gentile, while reminding his listeners that he was one of the councilmembers who voted against extending term limits, also said he was able to work with Bloomberg. “He signed my bill into law this afternoon that will make it safer for firefighters to go into tall buildings,” Gentile told the group. “The mayor also worked with me to put $12 million into the budget several years ago to fund upgraded bulletproof vests for police officers.”

Capano also sought to draw a distinction between himself and Gentile in terms of experience outside of government. He said he would bring “real world” experience to the political realm. As a teacher of political science on the high school and college levels, as a one-time sales manager for a beverage company, and as a part-time supermarket manager, he said, he would bring other assets to the table besides political experience.

Citing his late father’s commitment to hard work, Capano said, “I want to bring a common-sense perspective and vision to the City Council. I represent the values of a community that plays by the rules, and pays the high taxes.”

Among the things Capano said he would do would to institute town hall meetings on a regular basis. Capano also said he wanted to “establish one-stop shopping for small businesses, so it’s easier for those that are looking to open or expand to get everything together.” In addition, he said he would work on providing recreational alternatives for the neighborhood’s young people. “It’s not going to solve everything, but it’s the least we can do,” Capano averred.

As he spoke, Capano stressed his efforts on behalf of individual residents. “One of the most important things,” he said, “is constituent service. When people call the office with an issue, it may be a minor issue, but to the person who’s calling, it’s the most important thing in the world.”

But, while Capano could talk about what he hopes to do, Gentile was able to pinpoint specific things he had done. As the chairperson of the Council’s Libraries Committee, Gentile reminded his listeners, he had worked to secure funding “To restore six-day library service across the board,” something, he added, which represented “the largest restoration in the budget.” He had also worked to make sure the last city budget, despite straitened circumstances, included the sales tax exemption for many apparel purchases, he said.

In terms of allocations, Gentile told the group that he had brought $500,000 to Lutheran Medical Center to expand their emergency room, as well as $3 million to rehabilitate the Dust Bowl, $1.35 million to renovate the overlook at Owls Head Park, and $2 million to renovate the ballfield at Shore Road and 97th Street, among other things.

Gentile also reminded his listeners that he had increased the number of parking spaces in the neighborhood by driving a regulation change to allow parking at curb cuts in T intersections where there are neither traffic signals nor crosswalks. He had also been the prime mover behind rezoning efforts across the community, Gentile told the group, to maintain the quality of life across the district. And, he had been the sponsor of legislation to eliminate charges at parking meters on Sundays, after the city had imposed such fees at many meters, as well as a prime mover behind the establishment of a Greenmarket in Bay Ridge. He also helped find locations for three new schools for District 20, Gentile said.

“In a nutshell, a lot has gone on,” Gentile noted. “We need to do more, and we can do more together. That’s what I hope to do with you over the next four years.”

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