Anthony Weiner and his media circus descended on Jewish Flatbush this morning, as the comeback candidate attempted to revive his embattled mayoral campaign with a photo-op volunteering at a kosher food pantry.
But Mr. Weiner’s presence, in the wake of revelations that his sexting continued long after his resignation from congress, riled many in the conservative neighborhood of modest, below-the-knee skirts, kosher delis and yarmulkes.
The less-than-warm welcome began as Mr. Weiner was sequestered in the kitchen of Masbia of Flatbush on Coney Island Avenue, ladling grilled vegetables while wearing a green apron, latex gloves and a hair net. That’s when a woman who adamantly refused to give her name began to insult Mr. Weiner.
“He’s a piece of dirt and we don’t want him in our neighborhood!” she railed as reporters gathered around her. “I’m a neighborhood resident and I’m an observant Jew and we want nothing to do with the likes of Anthony Weiner,” she said, describing his presence as “a travesty.”
She later accused him of pandering to the Jewish community and said she planned “to hound him” for being there. The encounter was avoided when Mr. Weiner’s increasingly aggressive spokeswoman sternly informed the woman the event was open to press only–not members of the public–prompting her to quietly exit before the candidate emerged from the kitchen for a press conference touting the importance of non-profits.
But the reception was equally hostile elsewhere in the neighborhood, as locals weighed in on Mr. Weiner’s latest scandal. In one kosher deli with exceptional pickles, patrons rolled their eyes as word spread that Mr. Weiner had been the cause of the media frenzy across the street. Others commented in hushed tones on the gall of Mr. Weiner’s entry into the race–and his decision to remain in it.
“I personally feel that somebody who has a reputation for obfuscation and lying and cheating and low moral values is not someone who deserves to lead New York City,” said Charles S., 58, who stopped to chat with Politicker while shopping with his wife across the street from the pantry.
He said he’d been deeply disturbed by Mr. Weiner’s conduct. “I don’t want my children growing up like him,” he explained.
“He’s a clown,” echoed another elderly man, sitting near a tree by the pantry, who–like many others–refused to give his name, age or occupation, but described his religious background as “half-Jew, half-Gypsy.”
“But,” he added, “at the same time, he a lot of guts. I like him. I don’t know if I’d vote for him. But I like him.”
Just then, a younger man wearing a kippah, pushing a pushcart, stopped to ask what all the commotion had been about.
When Politicker explained that Mr. Weiner had been in the neighborhood for a press conference, the man immediately let out a laugh.
“Did he bring any pictures?” he wondered, shouting “He’s a sick puppy!” as he continued to march.
Seth Goldberg, 55, who works at a restaurant along the stretch and identifies as modern Orthodox, was equally dismissive, saying Mr. Weiner didn’t deserve to be mayor.
“I wouldn’t vote for him, that’s for sure. I mean, if his wife can’t trust him, why would I trust him?” asked Mr. Goldberg saying his vote would likely be for one of the two Bills: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio or former Comptroller Bill Thompson.
“I think it’s a joke … It’s a moral issue,” he said of Mr. Weiner’s candidacy.” For a family person, he’s not exactly a role model you want running the state.”
He added that the fact that Mr. Weiner is the only Jewish candidate in the race played no role in his thinking. “Religion has nothing to do with it,” he said. “He’s not the right guy. I don’t care if he was a rabbi with a beard. If you do what he did, I wouldn’t vote for him.”
Not everyone was as dismissive.
“I don’t really care. Life’s too short for that,” said David Victor, 44, who works in the food business, and argued that the election should be about issues, not candidates’ personal failings.
“If he’s good with the issues” that’s all that matters, he argued, adding that he expected young people “will get over” the scandals, while older people likely won’t.
That’s part of what Mr. Weiner is counting on.