BHB Exclusive: Pete Sikora Talks About His Campaign for the 52nd AD Seat

BHB: What is your position on the community debate about housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6?

PS: The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation [BBPC] should take a pause. It should re-evaluate the General Project Plan [GPP] and think through what the purpose of the park really is.

: Are you suggesting that the BBPC reopen the GPP?

: Yes. They should reopen the General Project Plan. They’re clearly unwilling to do so at this point. They’re [planning] a small scale environmental impact study but it’s clear that they have a mindset that is: “We’ve done a great job of building a park; let’s stick to plan.”

That is the wrong mindset, because revenues have already come in above projections, so it’s clear that there’s enough operating income from existing developments and concessions to run the park. The issue—and the BBPC has not made this case in a transparent way—is whether additional funding is needed to maintain the park in the long run.

Let’s go back to the original park plan under [Mario] Cuomo’s administration. They were not envisioning a park whose capital needs were funded privately. The plan was for a park whose operating needs would be funded through small scale restaurants and concessions inside the park.

On a very basic level I strongly believe that public services could be provided by the taxpayers, not by selling off public assets, monetizing them in order then to create streams of income to support other public services. That’s the worng overall approach. What we need to do is have public investment in all of the public services we need.

Central Park could have been financed by condo construction inside the park but it would have been a less great park. It’s the same thing with Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a fantastic park, they’ve done a tremendous job.

At Pier 6, we have a real decision to make about what should be there. I think we should not rush into an irrevocable decision to build two new luxury towers on that site without taking a pause, examining the finances carefully… and then—if the funding is needed to maintain the piers—then make a decision about how to fund it.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation should take a pause. It should re-evaluate the General Project Plan and think through what the purpose of the park really is.

My proposal is that there will be an Environmental Quality Bond Act on the ballot soon. That’s a multi-billion dollar bond. When I was at NYPIRG I was part of a campaign to pass the [Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act of 1996] What we can do in the upcoming Environmental Quality Bond—which will be a multi-billion dollar bond issue for all sorts of capital construction on all sorts of environmental improvements throughout the city and the state—if we need the funding for pier maintenance and ongoing capital needs of the park that can be solved in one upfront project—we should fund that through an Environmental Quality Bond Act.

If that passes—and these bonds tend to pass—then we would not need two new towers. Because—and this is a personal [opinion] as this should be a community-driven process—I love that park. [BBP Pier 6] is the closest I’ve seen to a free kid paradise playground in the city. When you go into that playground area there are kids on top of kids on top of kids!

We should think about expanding into the area that the buildings are slated for. What a waste if those buildings go in and the money is not needed and instead that area could have been more recreational space for an even better park.

If after three years we are forced into swallowing buildings—which I’m opposed to—I think there should be affordable housing build into those structures. But, I would fight very hard to make sure that the state money was there and the best way to do it is through an Environmental Quality Bond.

BHB: Let’s talk about BerlinRosen, the PR firm that not only works with your campaign, but is working with the Brooklyn Public Library as well as with many other influential New York City entities. How independent can voters expect you to be in going against the agenda of this potent NYC political force?

PS: That’s why we need to change the campaign financing system and the way that Albany runs. At CWUA we made a real priority of passing public financing of elections which would transform the system so that small donors actually have much more influence. They would become the majority of funding campaigns as opposed to what currently is the case, which is 94% of the money in state elections come from donors who are giving at least a thousand dollars. That’s who the system is responsive to now in an unhealthy way. We’ve got to change that.

The basic questions is: what do you do when a supporter of yours for your campaign, whether it’s Daniel Squadron or the NYS AFL-CIO or someone who’s a friend of mine personally comes to you and says: “after the election, here’s the position you should take.” Are you able to then manage that and not be influenced by the pressure?

Not only am I able to mange that… but I have an actual record of being independent and standing up to that kind of pressure, whether it was at NYPIRG, where we were very good at taking things issue by issue. We would have relationships with elected officials where we were supportive of their position on a set of issues and opposed to their position on another set. You have to learn how to manage those kinds of relationships so that you don’t get put in a box where it’s this priority versus that one.

You have to understand tactically and strategically how to avoid being put into that box. I know how to do that; I’ve run those kinds of campaigns for organizations like CWUA, Citizens Union and NYPIRG where you have to think those kinds of things through and actively prevent that dynamic from being created.

I’ve been able to stand up to big pressure and interest and [powerful] elected officials who put a lot of pressure on you, including complaining to your bosses about how aggressive you are. I have stood up to that kind of pressure repeatedly. I understand how to manage those relationships and not end up in a situation where you’re disagreeing with somebody and feel like “Now I’ve got to cave.”

I don’t cave. I stand up, I fight. I don’t get intimidated.

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  • stuart

    has this guy ever had a real job? has he worked for CWA for instance? or is he just a hanger on? Biviano as far as I know has never had a real job either, that leaves Simon, who is voting place poison, great race. Seeing as the State Assembly is basically a do-nothing job, both Biviano and this guy seem very well qualified….eye roll.

  • Doug Biviano

    Sikora on proposed ER, “It’s not the kind of lifesaving interventions that are needed in acute emergency situations.” On standing up to Berlin Rosen and WFP, “I have stood up to that kind of pressure repeatedly.” Yet, he praises deBlasio on his efforts to save LICH completely missing the fact that deBlasio accepted Cuomo’s dictates without a whisper (mainly so WFP could get Cuomo’s ballot line) and Sikora doesn’t mention the deceptive Gary Reilly LICH letter that Berlin Rosen and deBlasio’s PAC mailed the voters saying the level of medical emergency care at proposed ER was adequate (doctors immediately disputed). — MR. SIKORA WHY DON’T YOU STAND UP TO YOUR BOSSES ON THESE TWO MATTERS AND APOLOGIZE FOR THE MISLEADING LETTER FOOLING THE VOTERS?

  • miriamcb

    Great questions, and thanks for the quick coverage.

    Pete – I hope you will check back for comments as well (and answer). I noted that you were asked specifically about PS8 and how you would alleviate the overcrowding in the area. I understand solutions take time and as someone who worked in the classroom for years and years (and trained teachers), I also understand what it takes to support teachers. Sometimes it is re-appropriation of current resources and other times it’s taking a different tact altogether. It’s not always about more money (more initiatives at teachers sometimes is a huge waste of time, energy and money!).

    I’m curious with one of your solutions being, “The way to do that is to ask the very wealthy to pay a little bit more of a fair share and use that funding to invest in public services.”

    There are some undefined terms in this statement would like to know if you are considering increasing taxes (and by what amount) on the very wealthy (and who is that).

  • marshasrimler

    I see nothing in Mr. Sikora’s background that indicates he would be superior to Ms. Simon in representing us. He is another young man in a hurry. Joanne is a community person who has done lots of pro bono work not a paid lobbyist. i belive in diveristy of representation and believe we need female as well as male representation.
    Mr. Sikora’s patron Brad Lander has described the destruction of our library(not even in his district) as “creative”. His supporters have been weak on protecting our library. My friend Stephen Levin who I am deeply dissapointed in has remained silent on this city issue even through he has been aware of the library problem for over one year. Daniel Squadron has flip-flopped first remaining silent.
    Is this the kind of leadership Mr. Sikora will provide?

  • Doug Biviano

    Marsha, Jo Anne Simon told CDL that she wants to put a museum in the library to cover the budget instead of finding the money in our budget. I say cut all the tax breaks and abatements to developers that last 10 years so we have the tax $ for our schools, a park, a hospital and the libraries.

  • Tobyen

    I’m concerned about the daily bombardment of full color mailings I receive from Mr. Sikora. Where is all that money coming from? It does not speak well for his judgment.

  • Doug Biviano

    Marsha, No Matter the Harm Cuomo has done to our community closing LICH, Jo Anne Simon still supports him. Given the chance to say she wouldn’t endorse Cuomo at the debate, she didn’t because is supported by Cuomo supporting Party Boss Frank Seddio and law partner Frank Carone (who represented SUNY and Carl McCall in the deal closing LICH). She’s part of this machine and that’s why Jo Anne doesn’t stand up and say things that need to be said just like Sikora is praising deBlasio despite walking away from LICH after elected then deceiving voters again with the Gary Reilly LICH letter lying about the emergence medical protection proposed ER would provide.

  • Quinn Raymond

    I’m not sure you have the strongest grasp of how public service works.

  • Quinn Raymond



  • Quinn Raymond

    You must be new to NYC? Is this your first election?

  • Tobyen

    That was uncalled for,

  • Quinn Raymond

    Serious question!

  • marshasrimler

    He is getting it from the
    working families party and the

  • stuart

    I don’t think you have the strongest grasp on reality. these are do-nothing jobs. its just a lot of blah-blah and postage costs.

  • stuart

    right Doug, put the brakes on development -all the jobs, housing and taxes- and really put the squeeze on the tooth fairy to fund the schools and pensions and cops and everything else. Good thinking!

  • davoyager

    yes, please put the breaks on the over development which is going to lead to another housing crash. Schools, pensions, cops and parks, roads, libraries, hospitals and all other aspects of city infrastructure critically need funding. There is no tooth fairy, only greedy developers making money hand over fist at the tax payer’s expense.

  • davoyager

    Pete, your idea of mandating energy audits for property owners is misdirected and is typical big government heavy handed abuse of small business. Look rather to Government owned buildings because those are the buildings I see with open windows during winter due to over heating and a poorly balanced system. Go by any school on a winter day and observe the open windows especially on the top floor. Lead by example. As a small property owner I work very hard to balance my heating system because those are my energy dollars going out the window if an apartment is too hot. Nobody seems to care enough to see to government owned buildings and I have long thought it a disgrace the way these buildings waste tax payer’s money and spew CO2 into the air.
    If you want to combat climate change than make it affordable for property owners to cover their roofs with solar and wind generating installations and force the utilities to buy back this locally generated power. Every building in NYC should have solar on it and we wouldn’t need to burn #6 oil to generate electricity.Answer the critics of solar by pointing out modern methods of storing power generated during the day for use at night. If you want to mandate something, then mandate that the food industry recycle it’s used oils and fats into bio diesel by subsidizing the collection of this resource so there is no cost to the small business.
    Oh and if we must lose much of LICH because local politicians are failing to stand up to Cumo and sue SUNY downstate for the $dollars they stole destroying our hospital than that campus is the perfect place to situate a large school which can serve this community for decades to come, We don’t need more high end housing and Montague or Court street are already too crowded and busy for a school however the LICH area without the hospital is a quiet area and is on high ground with room enough for a k through 12 school campus. Think big my friend.

  • Doug Biviano

    That is my point about special interest money driving election and sucking power of governing decisions out of our neighborhoods. Simon and Sikora both raised about $200,000. Both are supported by machines that are closed and deceived us. Simon supports a day is supported by Frank Seddio. His law partner Frank Carone was SUNY’s and Carl McCalls lawyer who closed LICH.

  • miriamcb

    I was wondering if any of the candidates would suggest LICH (if we can’t save it as a hospital at least) to be used for another infrastructure necessity and figure that out. Looks like you beat them to it. I’m tired of all the over-development of housing without infrastructure!

  • Michael D. D. White

    I am thankful for these interviews, except that how does it work that the interview setups identify the proposed sale and shrinkage of the Brooklyn Heights Library as a top issue in the neighborhood, and then this particular interview pretty much skips over the subject entirely, except for a very oblique mention of it? I hope this is better addressed in the debate the blog is hosting.

  • Doug Biviano

    Michael do I not go into Library despite not being asked? Would you be willing to provide some analysis of positions candidates presented at CDL last week?