The debate over the debate

Zalcman: Cymbrowitz ducking debate because I

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A Sheepshead Bay assemblyman is punishing a civic group for exercising its First Amendment rights by declining an invitation to take part in a debate it is sponsoring with his opponent, the president of the group claims.

Manhattan Beach Community Group President Ira Zalcman says he was flabbergasted to learn that Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, the six-term incumbent from Sheepshead Bay, refused to attend the debate because Zalcman’s group had criticized the assemblyman in the past.

“I thought we’re allowed to disagree with any elected official in the country, from the president on down, but not Steven Cymbrowitz apparently,” said Zalcman. “We were thinking this is the United States of America, not the United States of Iran.”

Zalcman claimed he got the okay from Cymbrowitz’s challengers, Independence Party candidate Ben Akselrod and Republican Russell Gallo, but that assemblyman refused in a letter claiming the group was biased against him.

“A community group that has expressed public criticism of any candidate is simply not an appropriate sponsor for a debate,” read the missive typed on official “Friends of Steven Cymbrowitz” stationary, and signed by Cymbrowitz.

But Cymbrowitz said that despite the letter, his decision to abstain was based on the conflict of interest posed by Zalcman working for Akselrod during the September primary — a claim Zalcman flatly rejected.

“I do not work for Ben Akselrod,” he said, adding that the assemblyman was suffering from a case of sour grapes, stemming from the group’s opposition to his plan to turn a defunct park bath house into an immigrant cultural center.

“I publicly criticized him, now he’s squirming,” said Zalcman.

Ben Akselrod claimed that Zalcman has never been a member of his camp, nor supported him financially or otherwise.

“He has never given me any donations,” said Akselrod. “I wish he would.”

Cymbrowitz also accused Zalcman of harassment during the primary, claiming the civic leader called police to make sure his campaign staff stayed an appropriate distance from the polling site at PS 195.

“I actually saw Ira Zalcman giving my workers a hard time, and he even called the police out to measure the 100 feet,” said Cymbrowitz. “So, that’s what it was about.”

Zalcman refuted those allegations as well.

“I went to PS 195 in the morning, I voted, and I left,” he said.

It’s not the first time the assemblyman has declined to debate.

Cymbrowitz said he couldn’t go toe-to-toe with Akselrod last month at a forum coordinated by the Jewish Press, because it conflicted with a movie night premiere he was scheduled to attend that evening at Kingsborough Community College.

No other debates between the candidates have been scheduled.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 9:25 pm, October 22, 2012
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Reader feedback

Vote Out Cybrowitz from Manhattan Beach says:
People should vote against Cybrowitz. Cybrowitz is getting worse and worse every day.
Oct. 23, 2012, 8:43 am
Natasha from Manhattan Beach says:
If Mitt Romney behaved the same way as Cymbrowitz regarding debate moderators possibly having a bias, there would have been zero presidential debates.
Oct. 23, 2012, 8:43 am
Robert from Brighton Beach says:
Cybrowitz refused to debate with any moderator. People should take a stand and vote against Cybrowitz for refusing to let the public know where he stands. He tells you one thing and behind your back another and to someone else another thing.

Ben Akselrod is an authentic person.

Hope people see the truth and vote for Ben.
Oct. 23, 2012, 12:16 pm
GOP is For Me! from Brighton Beach says:
Wait. Cymbrowitz is mad that this guy supposedly wanted campaign workers kept back where they should have been? And that's why he's sptting in the eye of voters?

I'm going with Russell Gallo. He's the only hope to beat Cymbrowitz because that guy Akselrod can't spell neighborhood without adding racism and all he does is attack people and their families and try to scare people into voting for him.
Oct. 23, 2012, 2:49 pm
allan feinblum from midwood says:
I am running for NYS Assemblyman for the 45th AD as a write in candidate. I am a life long democrat but I felt after speaking with the incumbent Assemblyman and reviewing the internet information on Mr. Gallo and Mr. Aselrod that my progressive social beliefs and philosophy was not being well represented. This is not to say either of my opponents are bad people and in fact I give them praise for attempting to represent our community. Assemblyman Cymbrowitz is an honest man and dedicated to the community. He appears to be sensitive to unbecoming remarks and accusations. A debate by a civic organization led by the owner of the sheepsheadBites does seem to be a concern. Matter of fact I am arranging for all four of us to have a discussion at a large senior citizen center not to "debate' and point oout each others deficiencies but a discussion on whatever topic the candidate feels most strongly about. I would speak about the injustice and failure of the criminal justice system. The other candidates send out shiny , beautiful post cards . i accept no donations from anyone. My campaign began when the Kingss Courier reporter Mr.Mixon read my letter and obviously felt I made sense and gave me exposure. Write in elections will do away with party bosses and all the corruption that involves. We, the people should pick the candidates. write in elections is democratic. Anyone can participate. You are given a choice , progressive , middle of the road, or conservative. I fully intend to win because the message is important than the funding of interested parties. I owe no favors and I promise to run for only one term and at 73 go back to walk my grand daughter home from school. Being a Met fan is enough of an emotional experiance for my wife and I. allanFeinblum
Oct. 25, 2012, 2:46 pm
allan feinblum from midwood says:
I am concerned for the lives of correction officers and inmates on Rikers Island. No evacuation plan exists in case the storm completely gets out of hand. i pointed this out friday afternoon to the city council but while they listened i was not reassured that adequate life jackets had been issued , boats readied , and staff trained for such a mass evacuation. When a storm of this prportion is predicted an evacuation should be done prior to the storm at its worst moment. Prisoners and inmates are human beings and the reason why 66 percent of all released prisoners return to rikers within 5 years is poor management and an unwillingness to hire more correction officers and to better make sure officers are mentally able to deal with stress that accompanies their responsibilities. i am hoping as a result of my write in effort the other candidates will reflect my progressive views rather than their current narrow views such as attempting to repeal same sex marriage. Its the law. If you are presently married to a woman as i have been for fifty years i do not , nor should you feel threatened if others view marriage as alife long committment between two people deeply in love. allan feinblum write in candidate 45th NYS Assembly district
Oct. 28, 2012, 6:44 pm

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