Staffer claims Gentile made fun of his Asperger’s syndrome

Brooklyn Daily
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A former staffer is suing Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), alleging the lawmaker harassed him for his Apserger’s syndrome.

Michael Bistreich, 28, filed a $10-million suit against the city and the senior lawmaker on Dec. 6 alleging Gentile and office staffers made fun of him for his condition, called symptoms such as a physical tic annoying, and bizarrely covered his desk in mutilated stuffed animals.

Bistreich had volunteered for the councilman’s 2013 re-election campaign and then started on the payroll as legislative and budget director in February 2014. But soon after, Gentile and his chief of staff started harassing Bistreich, the suit claims.

In response to physical tics associated with the autism-spectrum disorder, Gentile allegedly told Bistreich “You annoy me” and repeatedly bugged Bistreich about finding a medication to control his twitching.

The suit also claims that Gentile’s chief of staff covered Bistreich’s desk in “mutilated stuffed animals … Teddy bears that were decapitated with one head mounted on a small flagpole, and a stuffed dog that was gutted and impaled and had red coloring around its slit stomach, mouth, and eyes to resemble blood” after Bistreich told the office he derives emotional comfort from stuffed animals.

The suit further alleges that Gentile and another employee mocked Bistreich during a press conference about Avonte’s Law — the law enacted to safeguard schools to disabled students after autistic 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo wandered out of his Queens school through an unlocked door and drowned in the East River in 2014. Another former staffer not named in the suit joked that Bistreich should “test the doors” and Gentile began laughing and clapping his hands, the filing alleges.

Bistreich is seeking $10 million from the city, but his main objective is to make sure that no one else has to go through the distress that he did, he said.

“The only real result that I sincerely hope for is that other people like myself, and who might be in fear for other reasons, for religion or race, never have to go through this kind of humiliation working for a public official ever again. Regardless of how high up they are, they should be held accountable,” said Bistreich.

Bistreich quit Gentile’s office in June 2016 after he couldn’t bear the brunt of any more harassment — he had been demoted several days before, the suit says.

Council is reviewing the case, a spokeswoman said.

Gentile said he will go along with the investigation.

“I take this matter very seriously and will review the complaint with legal counsel,” Gentile said in an e-mailed statement.

It is not the first accusation from a staffer against Gentile — former chief of staff John Martin filed a complaint with Council in 2004 claiming that Gentile harassed him by “making repeated overtures to come to [the staffer’s] apartment, attend movies, have drinks in the evening, share hotel rooms, and to live with him.” Council investigators conducted an 11-month investigation and found no evidence supporting Martin’s claim, and Gentile recently said Martin made the claims because he was disgruntled at the time.

Gentile is exploring a run for Brooklyn District Attorney.

• • •

Separately, former Gentile communications director Justin Brannan is leaving his current job with the Department of Education at the end of the year to explore a run for the term-limited Gentile’s Council seat.

Brannan is president of the Bay Ridge Democrats and has served as the Department of Education’s intergovernmental affairs director for the last year. Before that, he handled messaging for Gentile from 2011 to 2015.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, December 8, 2016
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Reader feedback

Gus from Bay Ridge says:
Please, this kid only 28yr old is looking to never work again. Work is hard, but filing a $10-million suit much easier. The lawyer will do all the "work" this kid should be thankful that Vinny hired him regardless of his condition. Since when can you sue someone for being made fun of? Is that even a real thing?? Could my daughter sue the bully at school? Get real buttercup, suck it up, move on and find a new job. Perhaps this Michale kid is just plain annoying.
Dec. 8, 2016, 11:05 am
Benny says:
This smells like blackmail
Dec. 8, 2016, 2:25 pm
Sean from Bay Ridge says:
First he sexually harasses a member of his staff and now he torments autistic aide? Gentile should resign
Dec. 8, 2016, 5:07 pm
T.R. from Sagamore Hill says:
A career in politics doesn't seem like a great fit for a person with his condition. Sounds like they regretted hiring him and were trying to harass him into quitting.
Dec. 8, 2016, 6:24 pm
Michael S. from NYC says:
Gus, maybe, you just are a bully, people with Autism can't help the way they are, they can't take a pill. If they are lucky they can find supportive people, and maybe find ways to minimize the impact of their condition on others.

If they could like everybody else, they would choose to be. Nobody wants abuse like this Councilman put directly on his employee, or like you, mocking him and others with the condition as well. This Councilman must be punished, and not elected to higher office.
Dec. 8, 2016, 9:22 pm
Sean from Bay Ridge says:
Why is there silence from the Bay Ridge Democrats?
Dec. 8, 2016, 11:13 pm
Chet "JR" White says:
I read an article in the New York Daily News that said Bistreich had been known to say, "He can't fire me. I'll sue."
Dec. 9, 2016, 12:19 pm
John from The Lawyer says:
Hey Chet,
he was right
Dec. 11, 2016, 1:22 pm
kate from bayridge says:
Vincent gentile likes to harrass alot of people all will come out if he doesnt cease and decist this is on a different matter for a period of 10 years he does not have clean hands all his wrong doings are about to come out.
Feb. 24, 2017, 5:08 pm

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