Sheepshead Bay

In Public Service: Maisel thrives on being problem solver

December 8, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Alan Maisel served as an assemblyman before running for City Council in 2013. Photo courtesy of Maisel’s office
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Councilmember Alan Maisel was deeply concerned not too long ago about a proposal by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to install a bike lane on East 108th Street in Brooklyn. “They would have had to take a two-way street and turn it into a one-way street,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle. Parking spaces would have been lost as, he said.

Maisel told DOT officials that “nobody is going to use it” and that “there is no place to park as it is.”

But he didn’t stop there. He also brought the problem directly to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who paid a site visit to the area with Maisel and subsequently decided to cancel the bike lane plan.

Maisel told the Eagle that the experience illustrates Mayor Bill de Blasio’s good judgment in appointing city commissioners. “Mayor de Blasio is a very smart guy. He has excellent commissioners,” Maisel said.

“The point is, they listened,” he added.

The bike lane episode also speaks to Maisel’s ability to use his skills to quickly solve problems.

The Eagle interviewed Maisel at Brennan & Carr on Nostrand Avenue. Maisel said it is one of his favorite places to eat.

Maisel, a Democrat, represents the 46th Council District, which includes parts of Marine Park, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, Canarsie, Gerritsen Beach, Bergen Beach, Flatlands and East Flatbush.

He is a freshman on the City Council, having been elected in November of 2013.

While Maisel is a relative newcomer to the council, he is certainly no political neophyte.

Prior to his election to the council, Maisel served in the New York State Assembly from 2006 to 2013, representing the 59th Assembly District.

He decided to leave the Assembly and run for the City Council, he said, because he liked the idea of being part of local government.

He enjoys solving local problems, he said. “I am much busier now as a city councilman than I was in the Assembly,” he said.

Ninety percent of what his council staff does involves constituent services, he said.

In the Assembly, he sponsored a bill to try to protect homeowners in gentrified neighborhoods. “I could not get it through,” he said. He is now trying to see if there is any way the City Council can do it.

Maisel has enjoyed a wide and varied career. He has been a teacher, a school board member, a legislative aide and an elected official.

Maisel grew up in East Flatbush. “Basically, I haven’t moved around much,” he said.

He attended P.S. 233, Meyer Levin Junior High School and Tilden High School. He is a graduate of Long Island University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in urban studies. He also earned an Advanced Certificate of Administration and Supervision in education.

Maisel was a teacher long before he went into politics. He started out in the public school system in 1968, teaching science and social studies. He also taught physical education for one year in 1969-1970.

Why did he become a teacher? “I looked at all of the possibilities and I liked it,” he said. “I’m academically oriented.”

Among the schools he taught in was Junior High School 296 in Bushwick.

“Teaching is the hardest job I have ever had,” he said. “It takes five years for a teacher to actually become a good teacher.” He also served as an assistant principal.

In 1975, Maisel ran for a seat on Community School Board 22, a district that included schools in Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.

“District 22 was an extraordinarily good district. There were no scandals; no hint of corruption,” he said.

During their heyday, the school boards wielded enormous power and influence.

Those were the days when each district had a community school board whose members were elected by voters. School board members had the power to hire and fire local school superintendents.

The New York state Legislature changed the education law in 2002 and stripped the school boards of most of their powers.

Frank Macchiarola, who later went on to become New York City School’s chancellor and then served as president of St. Francis College, was the chairman of School Board 22 when Maisel was on the board.

The district did have zoning problems, Maisel said. Some schools were overcrowded while others were vastly underutilized.

The board took an unusual step to solve the problem. “We established frozen zones,” he recalled. The board ruled that overcrowded schools could no longer accept new students. If students were zoned to attend those schools, they were sent instead to other schools in the district that were underutilized.

The board was honest with parents as to why frozen zones had to be created, Maisel said. As a result, there were no protests or threats of lawsuits by parents.

The frozen zones worked, he said. “I think it became a model for other school districts,” he said.

Maisel spent 15 years as a member of Community School Board 22.

In 1989, the state Legislature passed a bill to change the state’s education law to prohibit Board of Education employees, including teachers, from serving on community school boards.

Maisel said it was a big blow not only to teachers, but to the boards as a whole. “After the ban on Board of Ed employees, there was a vacuum that was created. No one on the board had knowledge of the school system to be able to challenge the superintendent,” he said.

Maisel served as a member of Community Board 18, advising the city on zoning, land use and other issues. Community boards are made up of members appointed by the borough president and the local councilmember.

Maisel also worked in politics. He served as chief of staff to Charles Schumer when Schumer was a congressman and later served as chief of staff to Frank Seddio when Seddio was the assemblymember in the 59th AD.

Maisel served as the assistant director of the New York State Legislative Advisory Task Force on Reapportionment from 1979 to 1982.

In 2006, Maisel ran for Seddio’s Assembly seat after Seddio became a surrogate judge. Seddio is currently the Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman.

Maisel decided to run for City Council in 2013 to play a larger role in government at the local level.

He is the chairman of the council’s Ethics Committee. He refused a stipend that is normally given to committee chairs. The committee isn’t busy at the moment since there are no ethics investigations of councilmembers, he said.

He is also a member of the following council committees: Education, Parks, Veterans, State and Federal Legislation, and Community Development.

His council career keeps him busy and he loves it, he said.

During his interview with the Eagle, Maisel took out a piece of paper with his schedule on it. He had meetings and events to go to that night at 6, 7 and 8 p.m

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