This Bay Ridge blogger is coming out of the shadows into the light!
The lifelong Ridgite and heretofore anonymous blogger behind The Ambrose Light, a satirical blog on the website Medium poking fun at local politicians and neighborhood concerns, started posting in June to try and make light the divisive bickering among the many Council candidates before last month’s primary, but also in the hope of better-informing people about the issues facing the area.
“A lot of politics for this current electoral cycle is hyper negative — it’s very easy to make fun of,” said Dan Hetteix. “But I also want these articles to guide people to more factual understandings of issues in the neighborhood.”
He started thinking about publishing a hyper-local, Onion-like satire blog back in January, when he saw the popularity of his comments in local Facebook groups making fun of neighborhood concerns. Eventually, his Facebook friends were asking him to weigh in on specific issues. By June, he got up the nerve to create The Ambrose Light, which he named in a dual homage to both late-19th-century satirist Ambrose Bierce — who features on the site as Hetteix’s avatar — and the former Ambrose Tower light station that used to light the way into New York Harbor.
“The Ambrose Light guided ships into port, and at a certain level, I’d like to think that satire can calm you down when you don’t know the waters, guide you in, show you the neighborhood,” he said. “It started from a combination of personal interest in history and wanting to inform people.”
The crowded Council primaries for the open Bay Ridge seat was a bonanza for his blog, with dozens of posts milking the colorful, 10-way contest for comedy. Hetteix, who volunteered for unsuccessful Democratic Council candidate Khader El-Yateem’s campaign, admits that his blog “skews progressive,” and mostly poked fun at the Republican cohort — Council candidate John Quaglione, unsuccessful Council candidates Liam McCabe and Bob Capano — and other local Grand Old Party pols, such as Rep. Dan Donovan, and mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis (who he says has blocked him on Twitter).
Hetteix also said the local Democratic candidates were generally more self-deprecating than the Republicans, sometimes beating him to the punch.
“El-Yateem and [Justin] Brannan are kind of the least funny, and there’s a reason for that, too — a lot of times the Democrats make fun of themselves,” he said, citing El-Yateem’s response to Capano calling him a “radical cleric,” tweeting a spoof commercial featuring him on a skateboard, and Brannan’s tendency to poke fun at himself on the same social media platform.
But Hetteix said that now that the primary season is over, he wants to poke fun at both Council candidates before the general election.
“You can’t tell a narrative without both sides,” he said. “There has to be an evening of articles on both of them.”
And he’s confident he will not be lacking for material with Brannan — a former punk rocker and one-time aide to incumbent Councilman Vincent Gentile — and Quaglione — longtime aide to Ridge state Sen. Marty Golden — as the two nominees for the Ridge Council seat.
“It’s turned into a Battle of the Aides,” Hetteix said. “You have the punk rock financier — if he had a band it would be AC/DNC — and the guy who likes to be known as ‘Q’ and is attached at the hip to Marty Golden.”
And whoever wins will be in The Ambrose Light’s beam when he takes office.
“Once one is an elected official who is going to be there for a couple years, it doesn’t matter if they’re Democrat or Republican,” he said, “you’re going to become a target and there will be a lot of things to make fun of.”
Hetteix, who works as a technical specialist at Columbia University, said that he spends at least ten hours per week researching and writing between five and ten articles he’s working on, publishing about two per week. He often links to primary sources and actual news articles throughout his posts to encourage readers to actually learn more about the issues they vote on while also having a laugh at a local pol’s expense.
Hetteix said The Ambrose Light gets about 1,600 pageviews a month, and that most readers are over 40 and come from Internet searches for the topics he covers. Hetteix said he has no plans to monetize the blog but that his future plans include broadening his content to take on issues affecting Staten Island, Coney Island, and other neighborhoods near Bay Ridge. He said that after voters choose the next councilman, he will probably publish less weekly content and begin to focus on the 2018 elections.
Hetteix hopes that his satire can get people more engaged in local politics and neighborhood issues — even if it means fuffling a few feathers.
“I want there to be more conversation, more honest debate,” he said. “If that means it gets more inflamed, it might have to before people address it. I want more arguments to occur, but I want their content to be better.”
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