One power broker in southeast Queens fears that the next City Council candidate to represent the 31st Council district will be a “young Jewish boy.”
In order to prevent Pesach Osina, an Orthodox Jewish former staffer to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, from winning the election, Bishop Charles Norris, founder of the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church, is urging some of the eight other candidates to step aside. The seat in the majority black district was left open when James Sanders was elected to the State Senate and next week’s special election to replace him has attracted a crowded field.
“The black vote would be split among the six or seven candidates,” Mr. Norris told Politicker yesterday. “Since Jews vote in a bloc, as they usually do—and there’s nothing wrong with that—the young Jewish boy in the Rockaways would win.”
As one of the most influential religious leaders in the area, Mr. Norris is known for his fiery pronouncements and pessimistic attitude about the ability of the booming Orthodox Jewish enclave in Far Rockaway to peacefully coexist with the long-time black majority.
When asked if Mr. Osina’s victory would be a detriment to the black community, Mr. Norris laughed at the idea anyone wouldn’t see how the election of a candidate who wasn’t African-American would be problematic for the area’s black community.
“Why would it be a detriment for him to win?” he asked. “Are you serious about that question? What has been happening in the Rockaways all the time is most of the people who have lived in that area are not Jewish. They don’t get the services that they really need, let alone deserve. If you think that electing someone who is not African-American is going to provide the kind of services that they need, you are sadly mistaken.”
According to one well-connected southeast Queens operative, Mr. Osina’s victory over the seven other candidates, who are all black, is a very real possibility. While the front-runner in the race, Mr. Sanders’s former chief of staff Donovan Richards, has amassed a bevy of labor endorsements and has far out-raised his competitors, rivals like Jacques Leandre (whom Mr. Norris endorsed), Michael Duncan and Selvena Brooks could cut into Mr. Richards’s African-American base. Meanwhile, one Far Rockaway Orthodox source estimated that the neighborhood’s Jewish community boasts a solid bloc of 3,500 registered voters. Though that’s a relatively small number, Mr. Sanders triumphed in his 2009 primary with a little over 3,000 votes. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the district at the end of last year, may also have lingering effects on turnout reducing the number of votes needed to win the race.
As of this writing, Mr. Osina did not respond to requests for comment on this story.