Ben Franklin Club just gives us more of the same


It was Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” where we first heard the famous quote, “methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

The last few issues of this illustrious paper have been filled with retorts to a Point of View I wrote some weeks ago. In fact, it’s been a torrent of replies — attempts to make up with volume what lacks in substance: the writers’ accountability (or lack thereof) to our neighborhood.

The defensiveness of patronage job holders and irrelevant commentaries from outsiders is clear to see. We’ve just read the coup de grâce: The dynamic duo of père et fils Dinowitz.

Missing in this discussion is a frame of historical reference for the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club, the actual underlying subject of my criticism.

The Ben Franklin Club must have had good intentions when it began years ago. But since I became a resident and homeowner of our neighborhood in 1990, I have witnessed such continual malfeasance as:

• Promises made, promises broken — The most glaring example is a sorrowful and unnecessary one. Below 555 Kappock St., in front of the Winston Churchill, is likely one of the most dangerous intersections in New York City. A holdover from when this was a quasi-rural community with lots of open space, this intersection is where Ruth Mullen was recently hit by a bus and tragically killed.

It need not have happened. When the club’s appointed councilwoman, June Eisland, promised us 30 years ago that she would step up and make safe this dangerous crossing, she did not. She simply relied on the typical politicians’ behavior: promise, then prioritize. Apparently safety here wasn’t required for her re-election.

The issue died, but did not disappear.

After the tragedy of Ms. Mullen, in steps our generation’s political hack — our local councilman who pronounces that he has made this intersection “safe.”

Nope. Maybe a little safer, but not safe.

First, a transportation department study of this intersection is long overdue. Secondly, a stop light has been promised for 30 years. In the interim, technology has given us camera use for both red lights and speed.

Use of technology should follow a DOT study. All left undone, Mr. Councilman. You failed to save Ms. Mullen’s life, just like June Eisland did. How many others will pay the price of deadly and neglectful politician choices?

• Jeffrey Klein — This well-known member of “the club” held up progressive legislation in Albany for more than seven years by joining forces with Republicans — just so he could hold power. It was all part of the so-called “Independent Democrats.”

Klein’s backers included “the club,” New York real estate developers and more, to the tune of amassing a 2018 re-election campaign war chest 10-times the size of his upstart opponent, Alessandra Biaggi.

Klein lost the Democratic primary, yet still ran an independent campaign to hold onto his sinecure backed by “the club.” And lost again. Our community had had enough of his self-serving behavior.

Additional club malfeasance?

Apparently Mr. Dinowitz, père, does not think that addressing speeding cars on Independence Avenue near Seton Park — nor addressing quality of life complaints from Kingsbridge residents — are “good use of New York Police Department resources.” Sound familiar? Safety not being prioritized for our community?

Finally, there are plenty of patronage jobs offered through the quasi-corrupt “club” — for example, they fill the elections board. To witness the damage these unqualified patronage workers have done — and continue to do — just think back to the fiasco of vote counting in the mayoral primary. By the way, these incompetents are the authors of the first letters of support for Mr. Dinowitz fils.

No saints, these folks. In my opinion, the questionable politics the club practices demean our community, preventing true progress in bettering our quality of life. That’s what happens when the status quo wins out: Poor shopping choices — the grapevine heard Key Food complaints are ubiquitous, legendary, and seem to be around forever — downgraded banking services, deadly traffic nightmares, lazy and incompetent representation, and more.

Furthermore, by throwing money any council member has access to at the community and telling us this action “serves us,” it’s not looking out for us.

It’s an insult. It uses the leverage of holding a representative office to maintain the unacceptable status quo — and not addressing very important concerns with action.

We need to ask: Is this old-boys network the best our neighborhood can do? By the shrinking and debilitating quality of life we see in front us, I sincerely hope we can do better. Attacking my critiques does not address the problems raised, much less offer solutions.

However, I get it: Change frightens and threatens those in power. It’s a historical lesson, especially to those in power unwilling to hear the complaints.

“Let them eat cake,” they say. Ben Franklin Club? You aren’t in the least “reform,” and no, we’d rather have bread. And by the way, you aren’t the bakery of choice.

Have an opinion? Share your thoughts as a letter to the editor. Make your submission to letters@riverdalepress.com. Please include your full name, phone number (for verification purposes only), and home address (which will not be published). The Riverdale Press maintains an open submission policy, and stated opinions do not necessarily represent the publication.
Adam Stoler,