Meet Doug Biviano: Brooklyn-born, just like his father and his father before him; a Brooklyn Heights resident, a P.S. 8 proud parent, as in his three kids with wife Lee are actually enrolled in the public school system; he’s a Girl Scout Dad, too. A Cornell-trained civil engineer (his consultants had to keep reminding him to mention the Ivy League bit), Biv didn’t like working for the machine as a professional any more than he likes machine politicians, or the phonies who claim to be reformers and then play patty-cake with bigwigs behind closed doors: He quit the engineering biz and for the past 9 years he’s worked as the superintendent over at One Grace Court. When the building served him notice that he needed to pack it up and find another gig on account of his family health care plan costing them too much, “I said, you know what, I’m going all in on this,” said Mr. Biviano, who is 40, but has the energy of a 27-year-old guy. He found a store front on Montague Street and hung a shingle: Doug Biviano for City Council. Old school. He lost, came in sixth out of seven candidates. No one can deny Biv shook things up.
“I would say that Doug ran a very energetic campaign,” said Steve Levin, who on Sept. 15 was elected to replace David Yassky as the councilman for District 33, which includes Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill.
“He brought a lot of passion, and when he entered the race, he helped shape the debate,” said Mr. Levin. In particular, he said Biv made other candidates address the issue of health care, and what can be done at the local level. In the final stretch, Biv rolled up his sleeves and turned his fight-the-power fist into a pointed you-dirty-bastard forefinger: He accused Mr. Levin of being a nursemaid to his “notorious” boss Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic Party overlord, Vito Lopez. On page 2 of The Brooklyn Independent Democrat, under the headline “Fiction vs. Fact”—all caps, black type, ensconced in a red banner—Mr. Levin is charged with standing by as Mr. Lopez screwed the little man, including the time he “deliberately tried to destroy a bill in the State Assembly that would have allowed adults who were victims of sex abuse as children to sue their molesters, because of a backroom deal between Lopez and the Catholic Church that gave Lopez control of the multimillion dollar Broadway Triangle development project.”
You’ve heard about all that, right?
Of the roughly 200,000 residents of District 33, around 18,000 voted. Mr. Levin got 5,199 of the votes; Jo Ann Simon came in fourth with 3,109. Evan Thies got 1915, Mr. Biviano placed sixth with 1,127, and someone called Ken Baer brought up the rear with 811.
Biv said he’d heard over and over from residents pushing Bugaboos up and down Montague Street—the Madison Avenue of Brooklyn Heights—that they didn’t give a shit about local politics. That is until they strolled passed the Biv’s store front, and were subjected to his “stroll poll.” Some version of the Stroll Poll has likely been instituted in the past but credit Biv with coining the phrase and shaking things up on Montague, which for whatever reason brings out the worst in Brooklyn Heights: Adults and senior citizens put on their boring cap and go mute, while youngsters armed with dripping ice cream cones—there are at least seven ice cream parlors on the three-block “center of commerce”—run rampant. The Stroll Poll changed all that.
“And check out Doug Biviano, one of the 33’s,” blared the Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn, “who did a ‘stroll poll’ asking pedestrians to write on a chalk board outside of his campaign office on Montague Street. Here’s what he found:
1. 37% — Healthcare (57 votes)
2. 22% — Education (33 votes)
3. 18% — Affordable Housing (27 votes)
4. 15% — Parks & Playgrounds (23 votes)
5. 8% — Corruption & Campaign Reform (12 votes)”
A subsequent Biv poll put education as number one—education and health care were his two main issues. Meanwhile, Mr. Levin’s platform emphasized affordable housing, which brings us back to the “City Council what?” reaction by passersby. Mr. Biviano says that the kids were also fascinated by his homemade solar-power panel.
TO HEAR HIS mother tell it, when Doug was a kid he probably would have been plastering the roof with solar panels if they had been around.
“In kindergarten, they told me he was college material,” said Judy Biviano. “In kindergarten. He used to save his money and go out and buy computers and all these things, before anyone even knew what computers were. Seriously. He was in second or third grade when he bought his first computer.”