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It is lunchtime at the Krakus Senior Club at 176 Java Street, one of about a dozen senior centers in the 33rd District.
A youthful and ebullient Steve Levin waits for the microphone while Krakus manager Januse Skouron briefly introduces him to a crowd of about 200 Polish-speaking seniors.The names “Democrat,” “Yassky,” and “Vito Lopez” were the only recognizable English words.
“Hi everyone! I’m going to speak in English because my Polish is not so good,” said Levin.“I’m running for New York City Council as a Democrat.I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I’m going to tell you to go vote on September 15.Thank you all very much for having me today.I love you all very much.”
Levin, 28, is the youngest candidate in a competitive seven-way Democratic primary to replace Councilmember David Yassky.For the past few months, he has been visiting seniors during lunches and recreation events, seeking their support.
If his reception at other centers in the district is similar to the one he received at Krakus, Levin may well wind up with the highest percentage of voters over the age of 65 on primary day.
“It’s very important to keep seniors active mentally and physically,” said Levin.“Next year, you’re going to have a spike in the number of people over the age of 65, so it is only natural that we expand our services to seniors through new initiatives.”
Levin sees housing, senior housing, and affordable day care as the three most important issues the 33rd District faces (Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill), and is particularly concerned with plans to consolidate senior centers throughout the city due to budgetary restrictions.
“Every year there is some kind of battle to keep senior centers open,” said Levin.“They are well attended, seniors go there for an affordable lunch and a place to get out of the house and socialize.You have got to protect what you have.Once one is closed, good luck getting it back open.”
Levin did not always plan to run for public office in Brooklyn. At Brown University in Providence, RI, Levin majored in classics and took a number of fine arts classes, working late in photography studios developing film. He also played bass and jammed with musicians from nearby Wesleyan University who later formed the band MGMT.
Instead of rocking out to crowds of screaming teenage girls and lounging around Britney Spears’ mansion in Beverly Hills, Levin took an organizing job at the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council before moving on to Assemblymember Vito Lopez’s office in 2005.He became intimately familiar with state housing policy and senior services, around which he is basing his campaign.
“I have not heard another candidate talk about senior housing.This is a looming crisis,” said Levin.“We really, as a city, need to commit ourselves to come up with a senior housing program that expands SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) and a capital investment program that expands senior housing.”
Levin wants the city to partner with the federal government to offset construction costs for senior housing because existing federal 202 programs do not cover enough of the new building budgets.
“This is a pressing issue and it’s not going to go away,” said Levin.“The big challenge is how do you go about paying for it?My mission is to make sure we expand our commitment to senior housing.”
During lunch, Levin greeted Polish seniors at different tables while they ate a meal of pork chops with mushroom gravy sauce, mashed potatoes and barley soup.
Steve thanked many seniors for coming to Sunken Meadows State Park for the Ridgewood Bushwick annual senior picnic a few weeks ago, before quickly taking the microphone again to add one more point, at the urging of a Krakus staff member.
“I just wanted to say that I’m against the death penalty, any type of euthanasia... against, against, against, against anything of that type,” said Levin.
This article is one of a series of profiles of the candidates running for City Council in the 33rd District, encompassing Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Brooklyn Heights, and Boerum Hill.The other candidates in the race include Jo Anne Simon, Isaac Abraham, Evan Thies, Doug Biviano, Ken Baer, and Ken Diamondstone.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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