Manhattan, NY – A city council candidate whose use of anti-Semitic rhetoric in his bid to unseat a Jewish incumbent has spurred a potential challenge that could get him tossed off the Democratic ticket has, ironically, named an Orthodox Jewish elected official as his political role model.
Thomas Lopez-Pierre is setting his sights on winning the September 12th Democratic primary as the first step in ousting Councilman Mark Levine, who currently represents residents of the Upper West Side and parts of Harlem and Washington Heights.
Lopez-Pierre’s Twitter is liberally sprinkled with references to “Greedy Jewish Landlords,” and a recent video released by the 48 year old executive director of the Harlem Family Eviction Prevention Fund and a self-proclaimed “proud member” of the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan, charged that Jewish landlords own more than 80 percent of the real estate in the 7th District and are engaged in “ethnic cleansing” by deliberately trying to force African American and Latino residents out of the area.
As a Harlem real estate-broker specializing in affordable housing for numerous years, Lopez-Pierre said that he has seen the supply of reasonably priced rentals fizzle, leaving blacks and Latinos priced out of the area.
While he is quick to criticize Jewish landlords for raising rents in order to maximize their profits, he acknowledges that the problem actually dates back to the 1997 deregulation of rent stabilized apartments, which allowed property owners to increase rents on thousands of apartments when they were vacated by their previous tenants, leaving considerably fewer housing options for lower income families.
“We can blame the Jewish landlords all day long but at the end of the day it was black and Latino officials who were in charge when they voted for decontrol,” Lopez-Pierre told VIN News.
Deregulation created investment opportunities in the 7th District as well as other parts of New York City, noted Lopez-Pierre, making real estate in the area an enticing business prospect.
“If regulation was put back in place, there wouldn’t be an investment opportunity,” said Lopez-Pierre. “The worst thing that happened here are the people who sold out their community 20 years ago and voted for decontrol.”
Lopez-Pierre said that he doesn’t think that Jewish landlords are deliberately targeting blacks and Latinos.
“I don’t believe they are racist, they are just greedy,” said Lopez-Pierre. “They don’t hate black people. They just love money more than morals or values.”
Lopez-Pierre rejected the idea that he is an anti-Semite.
“I’m not Jewish so I haven’t had a lot of experience with the word anti-Semite,” explained Lopez-Pierre. “If someone says that the definition anti-Semitism is that you hate Jewish people, I am not an anti-Semite. If you tell me you that being unhappy that Jewish landlords, who own more than 80 percent of the real estate in the district and have displaced so many residents, makes me anti-Semitic, then yes, I wear the badge of anti-Semitism with pride.”
Lopez-Pierre’s continuing use of barbs aimed directly at Jews as the centerpiece of his campaign strategy has prompted City Councilman David Greenfield to ask Democratic officials to purge the candidate from its ranks because his remarks betray party values, reported The Daily News (http://nydn.us/2q6Y91G).
“Quite frankly if Lopez-Pierre wants to run for City Council, he should by petitioning his way onto the Ku Klux Klan party,” said Greenfield. “His views are very much in line with David Duke’s.”
Lopez-Pierre responded to Greenfield’s remarks in his trademark style, noting that the City Council member chairs the Council’s land use committee and referring to him pejoratively as “Mr. Real Estate.”
“If I was chair of the land use committee and I was Jewish and New York City real estate is basically owned in whole by basically the Jewish community, I would be raising money attacking that Lope-Pierre guy,” said Lopez-Pierre.
Manhattan Democratic party chair Keith Wright categorized Lopez-Pierre’s remarks as “vile and repugnant” but confessed that he had no idea if it was even possible to remove a member from the party, saying he would have his lawyers look into the matter.
Refusing to apologize for his often confrontational approach, Lopez-Pierre offered a historic perspective on the history of blacks and Latinos in New York City, saying that over the years the two groups have been pushed out of numerous neighborhoods in Manhattan. Lopez-Pierre observed that a black community known as Seneca Village destroyed in the 1800s was to make way for Central Park and an area known as San Juan Hill, which he described as “Harlem, before there was a Harlem,” was demolished to make way for Lincoln Center.
“Now we have Harlem, so forgive us if we don’t trust the white man’s words,” said Lopez-Pierre. “We are going to fight because our backs are up to the wall, and yup, we may not be polite about it.”
Lopez-Pierre scoffed at the notion that his campaign was based on badmouthing his opponents.
“I think my campaign is positive,” said Lopez-Pierre. “I am advocating for the protection of blacks and Latinos against greedy Jewish landlords.”
The candidate acknowledged that he has no intention of courting the Jewish vote because he understands that Jewish residents of the 7th District will support Levine’s re-election bid. But Lopez-Pierre vowed to fight passionately for the rights of constituents of all races and religions, including those who are Jewish, if he succeeds in his bid to unseat Levine.
“The day after I win the election, I already have the synagogue picked out, it’s a cute little place, I’m going to hold a press conference and apologize for anything I may have said that offended anyone,” said Lopez-Pierre.
Asked if that apology would extend to residents of the 7th District who he would categorize as “Greedy Jewish Landlords” Lopez-Pierre responded “they can go [expletive] themselves.”
A tweet posted last week by Lopez-Pierre that may have been intended to portray the candidate in a less controversial light seems to have backfired. After tweeting “I respect Jewish people (like doctors/school teachers) BUT “Greedy Jewish Landlords” in NYC would sell their mother for money!” Lopez-Pierre received a barrage of negative comments including one saying “this is some of the worst racist, vile abuse I’ve come across on twitter, why not just join hezbollah tom?” and another that read incredulously “Is this a parody account?? It has to be! Right?? … Right???!”
Lopez-Pierre, who has also taken aim at President Donald Trump in his remarks, said his political aspirations are limited to just two terms on the City Council. Despite being of Dominican, Puerto-Rican and Haitian descent, the candidate said that his political role model is an Orthodox Jewish elected official.
“I want to be like Dov Hikind,” said Lopez-Pierre. “He doesn’t apologize for loving Israel or for loving Jews. He will support whoever is in the best interests of his district. He would support a Martian if he thought it would be the best thing. I wish black and Latino [elected officials]were like Dov Hikind and not sell out their community and do what is best for the people they represent.”
Hearing of Lopez-Pierre’s remarks, Hikind responded by calling the candidate “a nut job.”
“I think he would feel very comfortable in the presence of the Goebbels and Hitlers of the world,” retorted Hikind. “His rhetoric is filled with venom and he may not be intelligent enough to realize he is throwing out malicious anti-Semitism. He is really pathetic and he should get a life.”
Taking aim at Levine, Lopez-Pierre categorized the incumbent as “a hypocrite who thinks blacks and Latinos are stupid.”
“He thinks he can just smile way through,” said Lopez- Pierre. “He is an SOB who needs to be taken out.”
Lopez-Pierre also criticized Levine for accepting campaign contributions from landlords, something he refuses to do.
“I won’t take money from anyone in the real estate industry, nobody,” said Lopez-Pierre. “You can’t serve two masters. You’re either with the tenants or you with the landlords. You can’t do both. The tenants want an advocate. They want a pit bull and I want to be that pit bull.”
Much like the pit bull he aspires to be, Lopez-Pierre has displayed an aggressive side of his personality. According to an Observer report (http://bit.ly/2ouae0V), the candidate was ordered to complete an anger management program after he violated an order of protection granted to his ex-wife on two occasions in 2015 and was heard saying “Don’t [expletive] with me, [expletive].” Lopez-Pierre insisted that he only pleaded guilty to the charges filed against him in order to ensure that there would be no disruption of his visitation schedule with his three children.
Greenfield is one of several elected officials who denounced the candidate, referring to his domestic abuse history in a tweet that said, “Anti-Semitic candidate for @NYCCouncil hates women too. Found in criminal contempt for violating restraining order.” A tweet posted by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday night read “Anti-semitism has no place in our city and our politics. Thankfully voters in #CD7 have an easy choice to re-elect @MarkLevineNYC.”
The Anti-Defamation League called on Lopez-Pierre to discontinue his use of offensive anti-Semitic terminology.
“Stereotypes have no place in any campaign and we call on all candidates to seek votes based on their qualifications and policy proposals,” said Evan Bernstein, regional director of the ADL.
Yet another condemnation of Lopez-Pierre came from Agudath Israel of America which categorized his campaign strategy and words as “ugly and abhorrent,” and as “an insult to every New Yorker, indeed to all civil citizens.”
Despite those reactions, Lopez-Pierre said that he intends to keep on ruffling feathers as his campaign continues.
“This election is going to be the most toxic, the most racial, the most hot,” proclaimed Lopez-Pierre. “It is just going to be top, top, top news.”