BRC meets an approachable, personable Joe Lhota – as he introduces his Mayoral campaign locally.

29 Jan

Meeting summary: Jan. 28 at Sam’s Restaurant

In welcoming Brooklyn’s Joe Lhota, the Brownstone Republican Club was able to hear from a rare Mayoral candidate who could actually walk home afterward.

Mr. Lhota was clearly at ease before the meeting began, during an impromptu and casual ‘meet and greet’. One BRC member later remarked that while Mr. Lhota projects the professional demeanor of a former First Deputy Mayor and MTA Chairman “he was surprisingly approachable… He’s authoritative before a room… but in person, he impressed me as a regular guy, as well.”lhotaBRC

Local issues were first updated before giving the floor to invited speakers – and they included support for CCG (Coalition for Carroll Gardens) in a court proceeding to counter the City’s plan of putting over 170 homeless men into a building zoned for 10 apartments. BRC President Joe Nardiello emphasized the need for Senior Housing by lamenting the loss of CG resident Celia Cacase (priced out) and relating it with the Mayoral forum on Housing in East New York. Nardiello also updated on LICH, both the sidewalk protest of local pols, support of a petition-drive of Joan Millman’s and a meeting of coalition of local doctors relative to LICH happening concurrently the BRC meeting.

First of the invited speakers was Joe Lhota, and Nardiello introduced him by underscoring Lhota’s sacrifice, and reminding the meeting’s 32 attendees of his resigning as MTA Chairman for the uncertain and competitive race for our Mayor. Nardiello mentioned Mr. Lhota could be a Mayor with “the most complete understanding of its transit system, ever” plus a working relationship with the NY Governor.

During his remarks, Joe Lhota joked that the true sacrifice was leaving Cablevision and taking on the challenging role as MTA Chairman. While its common knowledge that he has been given credit for outstanding leadership during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Lhota detailed some successes and shared credit for how the innovative thinking of his workers was supported – to get the system up and running as quickly as he’d accomplished.

Mr. Lhota covered his bio of being raised in the Bronx (and the son of a NY policeman) – through his schooling at Harvard and beyond, ultimately to settling in the Heights with his wife. Lhota’s focus with the Giuliani administration was at first in economic development and as Deputy Mayor of Finance – providing a unique aspect of management in the NY public sector with many City agencies. Ultimately, he was the First Deputy Mayor and with experience covers the gamut and geography of all of NYC. Joe recounted Town Hall meetings – and the need to be responsive throughout. Mr. Lhota detailed his support for NYC’s small businesses and how best to have the City less invasive.

Joe Lhota’s emphasized his views on Education – a uniform concern across NYC he says needs to be managed with greater participation by parents, and at the “Borough level” as well, something he says is being gradually lost. He complimented his competition for Mayoral office – and detailed his own strengths some of the Democratic candidates. Mr. Lhota says that while many Republicans shy from primaries – he believes it is good for the Party, and complimented the pending announcement of John Catsimatidis (relaying his personal fondness and friendship).

In a lively Question & Answer period, Mr. Lhota handled questions ranging from approaches/strategy with specific Democratic candidates and details of expertise within the Giuliani years, of development of the Brooklyn waterfront, economic development, job creation, his own perception, his take on reconstruction of areas affected by Sandy, traffic problems with the BQE, to taxes, to tolls on the Verrazano Bridge affecting commuters and local businesses. Mr. Lhota was interesting throughout, and we look forward to welcoming him back to Brownstone, in the near future.

The first meeting of the Brownstone Republican Club this year was a memorable for range of topics discussion, interaction with attendees, and two strong speakers that connected with most everyone present. gene1

Our second speaker of the evening was Brooklyn attorney Gene Berardelli and spoke dramatically about SuperStorm Sandy at its 3-month anniversary. Gene graciously returned to BRC to recount his first-hand experience of survival in his Sheepshead Bay home, and area – in protecting his family throughout that frightful evening. Playful at the beginning, with his cousin being a nationally renowned weatherman that Gene phoned ahead of deciding to wait out the storm…to the serious advice of heeding OEM, should there ever be another reason to receive a warning.

His account was nothing short of heart-stopping and heroic, and was met with rapt interest – as Gene described the water entering the home, filling the basement, his hands being shocked/electrified as he shut-down 2 breakers in waist-deep water (but left on a 3rd for his ailing father, dependent on an electric device to breathe).

Gene told of the sounds of transformers popping, the flashes of light, throughout the sleepless night – and how he kept his family on the 2nd floor to avoid the water. He gave an excellent reminder of Community – about how his block’s story hasn’t been told, but heroism abounds. How an older woman saved the lives of 31 neighbors, actually “swimming out” many, including a 93-yr old man. How any frustration subsequently, with the months of rebuilding or forms, is made small by these memories of how they ALL made it through that night, and those weeks.

And so, we begin a new year at BRC.

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