Political arena

PS 24 fight gets ugly


The name of the lawyer representing the Spuyten Duyvil School (P.S. 24) assistant principal’s lawsuit against the Department of Education might ring a bell to some local politics mavens: Ezra Glaser ran against northwest Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz in 1994.

The suit slams Mr. Dinowitz as a racist who maneuvered to keep minority and lower-income children from joining P.S. 24’s kindergarten next fall. The assemblyman denies the charges — and says they stem from a personal grudge held by Mr. Glaser and his client, Manny Verdi.

“He has a vendetta against me,” Mr. Dinowitz said of Mr. Verdi. “The fact that he only mentions my name repeatedly shows that.”

The suit claims that District 10 Superintendent Melodie Mashel has sought to oust Mr. Verdi at the urging of “certain local elected officials,” but Mr. Dinowitz is the only one mentioned by name — 19 times in the 28-page suit.

In an especially unflattering characterization, the suit claims that Mr. Dinowitz told P.S. 24 administrators in 2009 that “he knows who the children are that are not from Riverdale ‘by the way they walk, talk and wear their pants.’”

Mr. Dinowitz vehemently denied all of the allegations.

For his part, Mr. Glaser insists he holds nothing against Mr. Dinowitz from the 1994 race, in which he vied with Mr. Dinowitz in a special election held when Oliver Koppell left the northwest Bronx’s Assembly seat to become temporary state attorney general. Mr. Glaser eventually dropped out of the race and endorsed Mark Friedlander, who became a well-known judge after losing to Mr. Dinowitz.

“I’m a person that can move on from any fight. We’ve worked together on things,” Mr. Glaser said of Mr. Dinowitz.

Indeed, Mr. Glaser worked pro bono on a lawsuit opposing Department of Environmental Protection work at the Jerome Park Reservoir in 2008. Both men recalled collaborating with one another to fight the city.

“I know that Jeff thinks that there’s some personal blood in the fight. That’s not me anymore,” said Mr. Glaser, who recently moved from his longtime home of Van Cortlandt Village.

Probed as to whether he truly thought Mr. Dinowitz is a racist, Mr. Glaser called the assemblyman a “limousine liberal.”

“I don’t mean that in his heart he’s worse than Donald Trump,” he continued. “But I do think that the whole concept is something that is consistent with Donald Trump because it’s essentially the same as building a wall.”

Mr. Dinowitz sneered at the epithet from Mr. Glaser.

“I guess I’m a limousine liberal without a limousine or a driver,” he said.

Eyeing savings

Budget season is well underway at the City Council. Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed an $82.1 million budget, an increase of less than 1 percent over last year.

The budget “focuses on core initiatives” and “requires agencies to be more efficient,” according to a document from the mayor’s office. There are also some cuts to city services.

Northwest Bronx Councilman Andrew Cohen lauded Mr. de Blasio’s attempt at being fiscally responsible, but not without some grumbling.

“I find it slightly frustrating, I have to admit, but on the flip side I’m sure he’s doing the right thing,” he said.

Mr. Cohen, who chairs the City Council’s mental health committee, said he would have liked to see the mayor propose permanent funding for programs including geriatric services. He also called for permanent funding for Parks Department services such as extended hours at pools.

“I would like to take advantage of a good economy to expand some of these programs,” the councilman said.

Swatting bill advances

There was some progress for a bill that would stiffen penalties against people who make phone calls that prompt law enforcement officers to respond to fake emergencies.

Rep. Eliot Engel said his legislation passed the House Committee on Energy and Commerce last week.

“While it may sound like a prank, ‘swatting’— the act of provoking an emergency response team to respond to a phony crisis — is no laughing matter,” the congressman said in a statement. “Named for the SWAT teams that are frequently deployed in response to these fraudulent emergency calls, swatting puts Americans’ tax dollars and safety at risk.

“According to the FBI, a single SWAT team deployment can cost thousands of taxpayer dollars. Swatting also risks injury to the unassuming victims who are present when a response team arrives at an alleged crime scene.”