Republican Bay Ridge Council candidate Bob Capano met with the editors of Community News Group on Aug. 11, for a wide-ranging discussion about his run to replace term-limited Councilman Vincent Gentile. Capano — who has $45,035 in his war chest — had a lot to say about many quality-of-life issues plaguing his would-be district, encompassing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Bath Beach. But he also touched on more citywide and national concerns, such as the opioid epidemic and the $36,000 raise the city’s lawmakers gave themselves last year, one he says he would introduce a bill to roll back, vowing to donate that portion of his own salary to police charities if his colleagues won’t agree to nix it. Capano is guaranteed a spot on the ballot in November as the Reform Party candidate, but promised to back whoever wins the Republican primary in September.
On his qualifications:
The Gristedes supermarket manager and professor of political science at John Jay College touted his background as unique among the Republican primary candidates — pointing to his work both as a businessman and for Democratic former Borough President Marty Markowitz and Rep. Bob Turner (R–Brooklyn), as opposed to his rivals’ careers as political staffers.
“The key difference between me and the others is I have that unique combination of public sector and private sector experience, and in addition, a record to be proud of working with Brooklyn’s top Democrats and Republicans. All the others can say is, ‘I worked for this elected official, or that elected official of this one political party for virtually my entire life.’ I can say so much more than that.”
Declaring that “people have had enough with the bikes,” Capano, said Ridgites prefer parking over pedals.
“I don’t like that, I think that people have had enough of the bikes taking up parking space. I’m not a favor of Citi Bike. It takes up parking spaces and also where are we gonna put bike paths on the roadways, it seems more often than not people who driving are getting penalized at the expense of people who ride bikes. In Bay Ridge, we’re blessed to have a lot of space to ride bikes — Shore promenade and the 69th Street Pier.”
On trash collection:
Citing problems with bulk-item collection with the new dual-bin garbage trucks, Capano said the Department of Sanitation needs to do a better job coordinating pickup.
“As far as the new trucks, everyone wants to modernize, that’s great, but they have to figure out a better system so you don’t have these long pieces of furniture sitting on the stoop, sitting out there for days and weeks on end. I’m not going to say go back to old trucks, but we have to do a better job of hot-lining — directly saying this is the address, ‘I have this large piece of furniture,’ and Sanitation saying, ‘Okay, within 24 hours we’ll send a truck to pick it up.’ ”
On rolling back quality-of-life enforcement:
Capano said that Mayor DeBlasio’s move away from so-called “broken-windows policing” threatens to take New York back to the bad old days.
“No, that’s crazy. I mean that’s going back to pre-Mayor Giuliani days. The whole broken-windows theory, and I strongly oppose that, it’s just ridiculous and one of the main themes of my campaign. I deeply believe that DeBlasio’s progressive policies are progressively bad for New York City and we need some Council members willing stand up and say, ‘enough is enough.’ ”
On public funding for heroin-injection centers:
Capano, an opponent to such centers, said that he understood the logic behind providing so-called “safe spaces” for heroin use, but warned that putting them in neighborhoods would encourage drug dealers to gather nearby, and even increase petty crime by addicts trying to buy drugs.
“There’s no doubt about it that our whole city and all districts are facing a crisis when it comes to drug addiction. We have to devote resources to help addicts kick the habit, but the very last thing we should be doing is spending taxpayer dollars that allow people to continue to use — and not only allow them to continue that use, but to encourage that use. The city Council allocated $100,000 of taxpayer funds to study opening heroin-injection centers, and at these centers people would actually be able to go there and use clean equipment under medical supervision and shoot up legally. The addicts have to bring [the drugs] themselves, so now imagine in Bay Ridge, somewhere let’s say around the 86th Street subway station, a heroin-injection center opens up. Does it really take a rocket scientist to figure out dealers are going to set up shop, because they know an addict has to supply their own heroin before they go there? Drug dealers are great entrepreneurs, they are going to know where to go. The last thing we should be doing is spending money to basically encourage its use.”
On better uses for that funding:
Capano said taxpayer money should be directed towards expanding treatment, homeless services, and youth activities.
“Call me crazy, but that money can be better spent serving our homeless crisis, subways, or getting addicts the professional help they need, not making our communities legal shoot-up galleries for addicts. I would want a place they can go to get counseling, to break the addiction. I have no problem with allocating taxpayer dollars for counseling for those who are addicted, and to the extent that we have to bolster counseling centers and staff at hospitals, I am all for that. By no means am I saying I don’t have any sympathy. I would absolutely provide funds to get addicts the professional help they need. … Without a doubt, one of the things we can do to help steer our young kids off drugs and crime is by having more recreation facilities for them, I would certainly look to expand youth centers, whether it be recreation, counseling.”
On connecting with the district’s growing Muslim and Arab community:
Capano has been a very vocal supporter of President Trump and opponent of local Arab-American activist Linda Sarsour, but he said does not feel that has alienated him from that community.
“At National Night Out, I had a number of Arab Americans come up to me and say, ‘Bob, keep doing what you’re doing, Linda Sarsour doesn’t represent the views of our community.’ I will reach out to all Arab Americans in that community, and if they disagree with me about Linda, then you know what, don’t vote for me. If you want to count going door-to-door, speaking to members of the Arab-American community, I absolutely do.”
On his political aspirations:
Capano stressed that politics is not his life, and he intends to return to the private sector after his stint in the Council.
“Right now I just want to serve my community a little while in the city Council, whether four or eight years, and when I say this publicly going door to door nobody believes me, but I am perfectly happy working for John Catsimatidis, running a supermarket. I am perfectly happy as an adjunct professor, and perfectly happy with my wife, one dog, and four cats on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge. And if I should lose this race — of course I want to win — I’m perfectly happy. It’s not any sweat off my back, because unlike the other Republican I’m facing, I’m not totally dependent on a taxpayer salary.”
On outside income for council members:
Capano said he is not opposed in principal to council members earning outside income, but thinks some restrictions are needed to avoid conflicts of interest.
“There’s nothing wrong staying as an adjunct professor. I know the big one is lawyers, but I think being a lawyer, you always have to look at, ‘Does that outside income or profession have a way to conflict with your job as a city council member, to influence you in some way shape or form?’ I wouldn’t say no outside income, but no outside income so there’s no chance for that conflict with the job as council member.”
On who he wants as the next Council Speaker:
Capano said he might even vote for a Democrat to be Council Speaker — on one condition.
“Let’s see who gets elected. I’ll vote for whoever I think the best person is at the time. If they seem somewhat sane, yeah.”
• Favorite restaurant: Gino’s on Fifth Avenue and 76th Street
• Favorite movie: “The American President”
• Last book read: “Logic of American Politics,” a textbook
• Main source for news: Newspapers, Bay Ridge Courier
• Fracking in upstate New York?: Yes
• Does global warming exist, and if so, is it caused by humans burning fossil fuels?: “I’m a political scientist, not a physical scientist.”