Lincoln Restler, the former Brooklyn district leader who ran two high-profile races against his borough’s Democratic machine, has joined the de Blasio administration as a senior policy adviser, sources say.
Vito Lopez protegé and City Councilman Stephen Levin walked into the lion’s den last night, facing the virulently anti-Lopez New Kings Democratic club for the first time.
Mr. Levin, Mr. Lopez’s former chief of staff, was invited to a club candidate forum in a Williamsburg basement decorated with musical instruments, old video games and a pile of stuffed Care Bears, where members sipped beers and passed around pizza slices as candidates spoke. Members described the appearance as “an historic event for a very small group of people.”
The week before Vito Lopez resigned, the state ethics commission released a scathing 68-page report that detailed a lurid pattern of abuse in his district office.
According to the allegations, the former assemblyman once lamented the existence of statutory rape laws in the presence of a 14-year-old intern. Mr. Lopez demanded massages from female staffers, including one who cried and expressed her discomfort as a former rape victim. At a bar one evening, he grabbed an employee’s hands from across the table. When she tried to pull away, he tightened his grip. When she began to cry, Mr. Lopez said he’d release her only after she counted to 60. When she did, he stared at her for the full minute.
After resigning from his Assembly seat on Monday morning, Mr. Lopez is said to be contemplating a seemingly unfathomable second act: running for City Council. Given the accusations against him, what’s more surprising is that even his detractors acknowledge that Mr. Lopez actually has a viable path to victory.
For many months, Lincoln Restler, the winner and loser of two incredibly-tight, back-to-back district leader campaigns, has been a chief antagonist of Brooklyn Councilman Steve Levin and was seriously exploring a highly-anticipated run against him. Today, however, Mr. Restler ultimately decided against the bid, freeing Mr. Levin of his most serious opponent this year.
“A number of people have asked me about my plans to run for office again and I wanted to share my thinking directly with you,” Mr. Restler wrote in an email to supporters this evening. “I have decided not to run for City Council this year. While I’ve had my share of disagreements with Councilmember Stephen Levin, I also respect that he has been a member of the Progressive Caucus, has brought participatory budgeting to our community, and has strived to actively represent our neighborhoods.”
One of the fiercest disputes over the decennial redistricting process raged on after the final versions of the new City Council district maps were released this week. Councilman Steve Levin insisted the process through which the districts were drawn was focused on substance while his potential rival, Lincoln Restler, repeatedly dismissed the new Council maps as rooted in political concerns.
“There was never a serious discussion,” Mr. Restler argued. “This was a political deal made by the Speaker and the local council member and it’s clear throughout the entire process that it’s nothing more than an incumbent protection program.”
Mr. Restler’s long-rumored bid to unseat Mr. Levin took a significant hit when the redistricting dust finally settled. In their final lines, the commission tasked with the decennial redrawing of City Council boundaries upheld an alteration to Mr. Levin’s 33rd District that added tracts of Hasidic Jewish voters likely to back Mr. Levin and removed parts of Brownstone Brooklyn favorable to Mr. Restler.