Brooklyn Heights People: Doug Biviano

Doug Biviano

Ask State Assembly Candidate Doug Biviano about himself, and the first thing he’ll say is he’s a P.S. 8 parent who was born and raised in Brooklyn. Then, almost as if to prove it, he’ll ask the waitress at Heights Café to bring him a Brooklyn Brewery beer.

A Cornell grad, civil engineer, husband, and father of three, Biviano, 41, made a brief sojourn out to Colorado before settling down ten years ago in Brooklyn Heights. Now the superintendent at 169 Columbia Heights, Biviano, whose preppy good looks seem well-suited for a career in politics, recalled fondly his campaign for city council last year.

“It was exhausting, it was exhilarating, it was intense,” he said between sips of beer and bites of pizza. “The highs were really high, the lows were super low. Every mistake you make is amplified.”

Though he lost that primary race to Stephen Levin, who went on to win the general election, Biviano made a name for himself in the neighborhood, and even secured an endorsement from Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He’s hoping to capitalize on that reputation by running again for office, this time on the statewide level as he challenges the popular Assemblywoman Joan Millman for the Democratic nomination.

“The fix is in—they’ve perfected a system,” Biviano said, voicing the common complaint that 98 percent of incumbents seeking reelection return to Albany each election cycle. Not only does this “system” protect the incumbents, but in Biv’s view, it also hurts the people.

As an example, he pointed to a recent debate between himself and Millman, where Millman, who ascended to the Assembly in a 1997 special election, defended a colleague who had failed to disclose additional income he makes as an attorney.

“She should be defending us,” Biviano observed.

Biviano with "Millman"

Another glaring flaw in his adversary: Millman, a former educator, is not only “double-dipping” he claims by receiving both her teacher’s pension and a salary for her position in the Legislature.  He also believes she lied in the debate by claiming she could not defer the pension payments, when in fact she can.

“Instead of Joan Millman setting an example, setting the bar…she’s at the core of what’s wrong with Albany,” said Biviano.

He’s garnered some attention of late for releasing a video complaining about the lack of media attention given those challenging “the bums” in Albany, as Biviano likes to call them. In fact, he noted that the Brooklyn Heights Blog was the only outlet to approach him for an extended interview.

With negligence like that, Biviano argued, “How do they expect anybody to throw the bums out?”

Though he’s quick to drop the names of local pols done wrong (Millman, Pedro Espada, Jr, Sheldon Silver), Biviano admires relative newcomer Daniel Squadron, the State Senator who fought off longtime incumbent Marty Connor in the 2008 Democratic primary.

“How do you effect change? I think he’s struggling with that,” Biv said of Squadron. “He could potentially become a target because I think he truly wants to reform Albany. I’d like to work with him.”

In Biviano’s opinion, the biggest problems facing the 52nd Assembly District he hopes to represent are the economy; the MTA’s budget cuts; the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park; and the lack of middle school options in the region. He favors term limits for local politicians (“Eight to ten years seems reasonable,” he said), and is open to the idea of residential parking permits.

Biviano with Kucinich in 2009

On his website, Biviano lays out his plan to fix the MTA by refinancing its long-term debt and saving more than $700 million a year in interest. He also pledges to eliminate corruption in Albany by way of “active representation of the people,” and by forcing all elected New York State and New York City elected officials to fully disclose their income.

Admittedly apolitical prior to 9/11, Biviano was stirred to attention by what he realized was “a systematic failure of leadership we have in our governments.” He believes everybody needs a good dose of civics, and that getting involved in the political process can be empowering.

Having secured his spot on the primary ballot on September 14, Biviano promised he’d be a politician people could trust. “I am beholden to nobody,” he said. “I can go up there with complete independence.”

And this might be his last shot; Biviano has no plans to run for public office again. “Not if my wife has any say,” he added, leaving the door open, of course, as any good politician should.

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  • Sad

    It’s sad and pathetic that he has no record of community involvement yet believes that he should represent us.

    Is he still breaking NYS Election Law by not filing his campaign finance disclosure reports? We have enough lawbreakers in Albany (Joan Millman is NOT one.) We don’t need any more.

    Why can’t he understand what double-dipping really is? It means retiring from a job, getting a pension and then getting rehired and paid to do the same job.

  • Dougie wants to be like Joan

    Residential Permit Parking? That is Joan Millman’s bill. She drafted that legislation.

    Fighting MTA budget cuts? Joan Millman introduced the bill to force the MTA to use Federal stimulus dollars for its operating budget.

    MIddle school? Joan’s been fighting for that and the reason why PS 8 is such a good school is because of the work of Joan and then superintendent Carmen Farina, who hired the brilliant principal, Seth.

    Brooklyn Bridge Park? Thanks to Joan we have this wonderful park.

    I like the “9/11″ reference. Note to Doug: that was 9 years ago. What have you done for this community between then and now?

    I can answer that: NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.

    That’s why the media doesn’t care about you.

  • Claude Scales

    Dunno why, but I’m getting the feeling that “Sad”, “Dougie wants to be like Joan”, and “John Thomas Longo” (see comment thread under “Squeezing Out Sparks”) are the same person.

    BTW, the name “John Thomas Longo” would get lots of laughs in the U.K.:

  • John Thomas Longo

    Claude, I’m glad my name amuses you (it’s in honor of my grandfather and father, but you are more interested in juvenile antics).

    But your imaturity doesn’t change the fact that Doug Biviano talks a good game, but that’s all he does. Talk. Incredibly, this self-proclaimed reformer continues to evade the state election law requirements for disclosing campaign donations and expenses. That’s right, for the past two weeks Biviano has had better things to do than comply with state law by failing to file the 32-day pre-priamry public disclosure reports due back on August 13th. See for yourself, by clicking here

    What does he have to hide? How long will he try to get away with hiding his campaign donors and vendors? Will he also ignore the next round of disclosure statements due on Friday? Next time you see him, ask him why he chooses to be a deadbeat and avoid public disclosure of his campaign spending.

  • Publius

    The BHB has a long history of shilling for Biviano. This “profile” puff piece (anti-Millman tract) is just the latest in that long string.

  • Homer Fink

    Publius – We’re not shilling. Thanks for your support.

  • Claude Scales

    Mr. Longo: I once had dealings with a London solicitor named John Thomas. Obviously, his parents named him before the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover led to his name becoming an unfortunate slang term. Knowing that bit of Brit slang made me guess that yours was a clever pseudonym. I regret having guessed wrong.

    My observation that comments critical of Biviano, made under three different names, seemed to be coming from the same person was prompted by their having come in rapid succession and all being, as blog comments go, quite well written. I was not defending Biviano, or attacking Millman, for that matter. I was simply observing that a bit of astroturfing seemed to be going on.

  • John Thomas Longo

    Apology accepted.

    I speak for myself. That others see the truth as well only speaks to the power of the message.

  • Obama?

    Millman has been a fixture in the extremely corrupt Albany politics far too long! Time for change.

  • XYZ

    @ John: Going to your link, the filings for Millman and Biviano are for the same time period. I am not sure what you are saying by Biviano didnt file. If he didnt it looks to me like Millman didnt file either.

  • carol

    If you go to the NYS elections website through the “front door” rather than through the link, you can see all of the filings for a particular candidate. Millman has filed 32 day disclosure report, Biviano hasn’t.

    Not a good thing from a holier than thou reform candidate.

  • Reggie

    If you’re not shilling for Biviano, you need to improve your writing. “Another glaring flaw in his adversary: Millman, a former educator, is not only ‘double-dipping’ by receiving both her teacher’s pension and a salary for her position in the Legislature….” That is written as a statement of fact, as opposed to a record of Biviano’s rhetorical gambit. It is not a fact; it is an interpretation and an incorrect one at that. Here’s a fresh analogy:

    If you are elected to the assembly, are you ‘double-dipping’ if you take IRA distributions or receive a check from Social Security? Only 13 more days of this nonsense. I am available with whatever help Mrs. Biviano needs to prevent her husband from running for office again.

  • Homer Fink

    @ Reggie I’ll take that as an offer to contribute to BHB and serve as our copy editor.

  • william

    I am a strong supporter of term limits, and I believe it is time for new blood and a change in Albany. Joan has flip-flopped positions on Atlantic Yards, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. She has been too supportive of the local (selfish) real estate interests, and is too entrenched in the corrupt system in Albany. It is time for a change. Thank you Joan for your service, but it is time to retire. Let change happen.

  • Topham Beauclerk

    Millman has been in the assembly quite long enough. New blood is wanted and since Biviano appears to be an intelligent liberal democrat, why on earth wouldn’t you vote for him unless you’re unwilling to take a chance on someone new. The Republic, I imagine, will survive the loss of Joan Millman.

    Biv for Brooklyn!

  • eg

    I am a bit incensed over his accusation of “double dipping”. Joan Millman worked for 27 years as a teacher and CONTRIBUTED to her pension – it’s hers – honestly and legally. If she is lucky to get another job, then good for her. Biviano has to oppose her on some other principal.

    I would like to see an explanation of all salaries and perks that all members of our state gov’t gets. Then we can see why those jobs are fiercely held onto.

  • John Thomas Longo


    I re-checked the links and as of this writing Biviano has NOT filed his 32-day pre-primary campaign finance disclosure:

    It was due August 13th, making it now 20 days overdue and counting.

    Even if Biviano decides to stop evading the law and file a late report, he has not explained why he thought it was right to evade the law on the one hand while sending out — in his words — an urgent appeal for more campaign donations, saying that his raising $4,000 immediately “matters more than anything else right now.”

    Biviano has a warped sense of priorities. I would have thought he’d want to comply with the campaign disclosure law first.

    As far as Joan Millman, her report was filed timely and is online:

  • Teddie Boy Eddie

    I’ve had enough of Millman and hope enough other people have as well.

  • Politically Incorrect?

    What is the old saying, “I it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Just because someone has served for several terms doesn’t mean that she should retire. And I am disappointed that the BHB has decided to give space for one candidate and not another. Is the BHB becoming a political rag?

  • Cranberry Beret

    I think both Millman and Biviano have serious flaws so I have no dog in this fight, but anyone who thinks Albany falls into the “If it’s not broken” metaphor needs to wake up.

  • Politically Incorrect?

    Dear Cranberry,
    I never wrote that Albany wasn’t broken. I was referring to our current assemblywoman.

  • Politically Incorrect?

    Why are most of those who submit comments so mean and nasty to each other?

  • T.K. Small

    Has anyone actually read Biviano’s transportation proposal? I read it carefully yesterday and wondered what others are thinking.

  • Reggie

    Homer, that sounds like fun but I’ve got my own writing to do.

    If I can quibble further without it being misinterpreted as a job query, the phrase, “…he lost that primary race to Stephen Levin,” makes it sound like a two-man contest where our man Biv’ came up short. He finished sixth in a seven-candidate field.

  • Nancy

    “Intelligent liberal democrat”…that is reason enough for me not to vote for him, thank you very much. My taxes are high enough as it is. And no, for the record, I am not a Republican.
    Albany is a cesspool and every last one should be thrown out, starting with Sheldon Silver. Getting back to Millman, unless actual law is broken by accepting a pension while working, (and I believe that there is a monetary amount that is supposed to cap at $30,00 for retirees, if they work at another governmental agency) that shouldn’t be the issue. What have you done for us lately? Not much, it seems. But who will do better?

  • Dorothy Daniela Josephs

    Doug Biviano looks like a good and decent politico to me. If Dennis Kucinich endorsed him, than he is the most Progressive candidate, and that is what this very Progressive District needs. He stands for issues we care about here in Brooklyn Heights. He has my vote. I stand for Kucinich as our most decent politician on The Hill and if he’s for Biviano, that is good enough for me. Kucinich may be a little guy, but he is nobody’s crony and he would actually have made our best president ever if he had the TV appeal of Obama. Obama is trying, but Kucinich would have been better against the Republican right wing which is nothing but a crony of the corporate state. AND THAT IS THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH, so don’t bother telling me differently, because I have studied the situation for years and I know I’m correct about it. Anyone who Markiwitz endorses is for OVER development of Brooklyn and we are already suffering the ill effects of OVER population here in this densely populated borough, the highest density of population in the world next to Tokyo. The problem for Brooklyn Heights is TOO MUCH OVER DEVELOPMENT since I moved here forty years ago, more and more condominiums and high rises are ruining our human sized brownstone neighborhood and Montague St. is over crowded with tourists and overly peopled with high-rise condos and coops. Parking is worse then ever, etc. Our neighborhood is being destroyed by OVER development. The one thing I do not like about Markowitz and Bloomberg is their penchant for OVER development as if that is the ONLY good thing one can do for the economy. They are wrong when it comes to the environment and quality of life issues for that reason.

  • Sarina

    Doug Biviano has been a very active member of the Brooklyn Heights community. He has taken a stand on the Brooklyn Heights Park to protect children among others. He is available to the community, He is very capable, He has good energy, and is very enthusiastic about this office. I think we should give him a chance to join Daniel Squadron in helping to change things in this government. People are very quick to judge and condemn but here is a guy who can be a tremendous asset to our community if we support him. I urge those of you who are skeptical to rethink your position and give Doug Biviano a chance to prove himself.

  • Topham Beauclerk

    Nancy, if you’re not a Republican, then why would Biviano’s being an “intelligent liberal democrat” put you off? Liberal democrats as opposed to – what? – are no more likely to raise your taxes than any other party.

  • Tony

    Nancy sounds like a Tea Party bore. One man cannot raise taxes, my dear.

  • Not John Thomas Longo

    I find this site’s endless promotion of Doug Biviano to be terrible. I honestly stopped coming to the BHB for almost a year out of anger that by promoting Biviano instead of a viable candidate for the city council we ended up with Levin, the essence of Brooklyn machine.

    Last fall I got excited enough about Biviano from BHB that I actually planned on voting for him. Then, since he was out at one of the summer streets I tried to engage him in a conversation. First I asked him about bike lanes. Since I didn’t lead the question with my own opinion he didn’t know how to respond and told me that the bike lanes have problems that need to be fixed for commercial vehicles. Once I revealed that I actually supported bike lanes he proudly told me that he biked to his office. Since he lives on Grace Court and his office was on Montague St. I wasn’t impressed. The rest of the conversation was his rattling great ideas. Lower taxes. Free health care. Not plans, nothing hard, no consequence, just the easy part. Free ice cream for everyone.

    Now, suddenly, Biviano is compelled to run against Millman mainly because she holds an elected office that Biviano wants. And once again BHB comes out to support his candidacy. Repeating Biviano’s main complaint against Millman, that she “double dips” by collecting her pension in addition to the $92,000 she gets paid by the assembly. Seriously, a rich Brooklyn Heights resident complains that an assemblywoman living in Brooklyn might need the help of the pension she earned from being a teacher to get by and BHB just tows the line. Has Biviano promised to live only on his $92,000 assembly salary and not use any other sources of income or assets? He probably can’t afford his maintenance on $92,000 a year.

    Again people are trumpeting the fact that he is endorsed by Dennis Kucinich. But does anyone wonder why Dennis Kucinich would care who won a city council seat in New York City enough to travel to Brooklyn to endorse him? Could Biviano be a major donor who Kucinich owed a favor? Or do you think Kucinich scours all of the local town and city council races around the country in order to make endorsements?

    Meanwhile Millman is fighting against Vito Lopez/Steve Levin’s attempt to stuff the Democratic State Committee. An issue ignored by both Biviano and the BHB.

    I’m sure I will be accused of being a Millman shill and of being the same person as the other anti-Biviano comments since I don’t partake in the daily navel-gazing of AEB and nabeguy and the like. I’m not but of course I can’t prove it. So I will make two unsubstantiated claims of my own: 1. The BHB gets money from Biviano to support his candidacy (actually this one is pretty easy to prove) and 2. BHB gets money from Vito Lopez to ignore the real political corruption in the area and focus on Biviano’s ridiculous campaign against Millman.

    In the meantime I sincerely hope that everyone seeks out Doug Biviano for a conversation on the issues. I think they would find it as illuminating as I did.