To the editor:
(re: “Biaggi, Ben Franklin Club part ways in political divorce,” July 9)
To set the record straight, the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club was formed in my home at 525 W. 236th St., some time in 1959. In attendance was Frank Montero — a prominent businessman and friend — and Stan Cohen, the then editor of The Riverdale Press. I might add that neither of these two had anything to do with the formation and future development of the club.
Also in attendance was David Levy, who became a supreme court judge, and David Westerman from the North East Bronx Reform Club, the only reform club existing then in Bronx County.
The formation of this club was not by accident, but by design. Before moving to Riverdale, I had been a very active member of the powerful Lexington Democratic Club. The leadership advised me as to the timing of and the setting up of this club upon receiving the go-ahead, formed the initial meeting.
At that time, the Democratic Party was an “all boys club.” There were few women (Eleanor Roosevelt being an example). Charles Buckley (a key influence in the selection of John F. Kennedy as president) made all the decisions for Bronx County. In the past, there was no choice of elected officials or anything else, subject to the approval of Charles Buckley. It was for these reasons that a revolution in thinking and doing had to be made, and so this was the basic concept of forming the Benjamin Franklin Club.
The recent election of current Benjamin Franklin Club president Michael Heller was not at all analogous. It was an open election, hundreds of people appeared (I dare say that it was the most attended president club election in history), and everyone got an opportunity to be heard.
The fact that the “insurgents” lost this election should not be a reason for breaking up the Benjamin Franklin Club, keeping in mind that under the similar Democratic process, the insurgents were able to remove a longtime congressman, Eliot Engel.
Historical significance in the history of club, I was the first representative of the club to ever run in the Bronx primary, and in running for the second time, I faced this dilemma: The three candidates running for mayor were Abe Beame (the regular candidate), Paul Screvane (who professed to be supporting the reform movement), and William Fitz Ryan (the liberal candidate).
The club supported me for Assembly, and I did not think it advisable to register for Ryan, who was sick and didn’t have any desire or ability to be the candidate, despite his running. The more liberal members of the club supported Ryan, and did not support me, and this represented a significant split in the club, which was a basic concept of disagreement.
We survived the split, and with the joining and with the advent of Jonathan Bingham defeating Charles Buckley for congress, the club was on its way again.
The differences, as I understand by the insurgents, to the present operation of the Benjamin Franklin Club are more stylish, personal, and in reality, not critical.
Upon the basic issues of Black Lives Matter, police brutality, the environment, immigration reform, the coronavirus, education, and any other basic issues facing the Democratic Party, the differences are not material and not worthy of suggesting that the Benjamin Franklin Club be split after 60 years of operating.
I invite a masked Alessandra Biaggi and a masked Jeffrey Dinowitz to meet me at Blue Bay at their earliest convenience so we can resolve this crisis.