Heller clueless? Or an albatross


To the editor:

(re: “New election slate sees success down-ballot,” July 28)

In a recent story that appeared in The Riverdale Press, Michael Heller comments on three other winners: “I really don’t have a clue what they’re for other than being in opposition to the Ben Franklin Club.”

This is hard to believe. It is more likely that he ignores changes he doesn’t like.

I began to follow local politics very closely in the late ’80s when I was the district manager for Congressman Ted Weiss. The Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club was powerful then, and the club’s candidates held eight important elected positions: Congress, state senate, Assembly, city council, male and female district leader, and male and female state committee member.   

Now Ben Franklin candidates hold just three of those eight positions. What happened?

Trump won the presidential election in 2016, and up-ended Democratic and Republican party leadership. Former Democratic congressional staffers launched the Indivisible movement, and two local chapters formed: Northwest Bronx Indivisible, and NYCD16-Indivisible. Many local residents who had never engaged in political activity prior to Trump’s election joined Indivisible or other organizations and became active.

Some new activists joined the Ben Franklin Club, and some later competed to become executive committee members or officers. Their effort ended in January 2020 when the slate supported by Jeff Dinowitz and company won all positions. 

The club’s leadership celebrated, but they also suffered a self-inflicted wound. Most new activists drifted away from the club.

Since 2017, club candidates lost two major elections for public office: state senate and Congress. In 2017, the club supported state Sen. Jeff Klein, who lost to newcomer Alessandra Biaggi.

In 2020, Ben Franklin supported Congressman Eliot Engel, who lost to Jamaal Bowman. 

A lingering sore-point is relevant now: state Sen. Gustavo Rivera did not endorse Klein or Engel, and the club is supporting a political novice to challenge him in the August primary.

Since 2020, Ben Franklin candidates won three of the eight positions:

Eric Dinowitz won a special election in March 2021, and later the general election to become our city councilman. 

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz won his primary last June, and Michael Heller won his race for male state committee member.

That same month, the Ben Franklin Club lost three more positions: Morgan Evers, Abigail Martin and Ramdat Singh were elected to local district leaders and female state committee member. 

Why does this matter?

Ben Franklin leaders are not saying they will work cooperatively with new officials, who were not endorsed by the club. When Heller was asked by The Press if he will work with them, he emphasized that he is more focused on working with other Democrats across the state to steer the party in the direction he sees fit.

“It should be a liberal party,” he said. “It should not be an extreme left-wing party. It should not be a socialist party. That’s what I really will be working for.”

Is Heller implying that Evers, Martin and Singh are extreme left-wing? Or socialists?   If so, it’s nonsense! 

It is time for Dinowitz, Dinowitz & Heller to put-aside their grievances and accept that they can’t prevent change.

I’ve been a member of the Ben Franklin Club for more than 35 years. My plea is that Dinowitz, Dinowitz & Heller acknowledge that Evers, Martin and Singh won their elections, and congratulate them and work cooperatively with them.   

They have the skills, knowledge, passion and energy needed to do their new jobs, and hopefully reinvigorate and strengthen our local Democratic political club.

Elizabeth Cooke Levy