Nepotism is dismantling democracy in plain sight


(re: “Major teachers union endorses for 2021 race? Not so fast,” May 16)

What’s in a name? Will the Northwest Bronx reflexively vote for another “Dinowitz” on the ballot, thereby reviving the tradition of nepotism and political dynasty that has tarnished the borough’s reputation?

The Bronx has suffered through many mediocre coattail candidates, sons and daughters shepherded through a system by their elected parents and the county leadership.

Such a plot is now actively underway in our own community, with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz engineering the city council campaign of his son, Eric, just as he did the campaign of Councilman Andrew Cohen before him.

How disappointing it was to read in the May 16 issue of The Riverdale Press that Eric Dinowitz’s campaign website falsely cited an endorsement by the United Federation of Teachers. Why was Eric Dinowitz “unconcerned,” in his response to the paper, by the behavior of an “overzealous supporter” who “added that line to the website”?

Is it because he was raised in an environment in which the rules don’t apply?

Eric’s campaign spokeswoman, Daniele de Groot of Red Horse Strategies, attempted to spin the story by stating that Eric was a member of the UFT union. Red Horse Strategies is the public relations firm that represents many of the politicians associated with our local “political machine,” including Assemblyman Dinowitz.

The pretend endorsement caught by The Riverdale Press raises a deeper issue.

Many of us have long carried a feeling in the pit of our stomachs that what we observe in each election cycle is suspect, but we cannot pinpoint exactly why.

The assault on our democracy has even permeated the hard-working volunteer ranks of Community Board 8. More than once at a full board meeting, I have witnessed half a dozen heads turn to the back of a room where Assemblyman Dinowitz was standing, right before casting their votes.

How has the Assemblyman retained power for a quarter century, and how is he now attempting to manipulate voters for a son with little, if any, prior civic engagement? With inspired ideas or unethical, recycled trickery?

Let’s look at some patterns.

Eric Dinowitz, like Andrew Cohen before his run for office, was made chair of CB8’s aging committee. This committee focuses on the needs of the largest voting bloc in the district.

Eric Dinowitz, like Andrew Cohen before his run for office, has been a speaker or emcee at his father’s government town halls, and is featured in his father’s taxpayer-funded, official state newsletters.

Certain New York State statutes might properly frame these patterns of behavior, including Public Officers Law 74(3d), which prohibits a member of the legislature from using one’s official position to secure unwarranted privileges for oneself or others.

Isn’t Assemblyman Dinowitz’s son, a declared city council candidate, receiving unwarranted speaking and advertising privileges from his father’s government position?

How has nepotism been working out in the White House with the Trump family? Think the concept is any different at a local level?

With her recent election victory, Sen. Alessandra Biaggi busted a monopoly of self-serving leadership. We could sense her enthusiasm throughout her campaign — a kinetic energy waiting to be unleashed in office.

This is a woman using every minute of her granted time in office to do good for her district. She treats her role with respect, as a privilege to serve.

There are others like Biaggi waiting in the wings.

The author, a medical writer and political consultant who lives in Riverdale, is campaign manager for the Friends of Dan Padernacht, a city council candidate opposing Eric Dinowitz.

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Jennifer Firestone,