Bay Ridge

Arab-American leader said to be eyeing City Council run

January 5, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Rev. Khader El-Yateem is a respected religious and civic leader in the Arab-American community in Bay Ridge. Eagle file photo by John Alexander

Rev. Khader El-Yateem is Community Board 10 member

An intriguing new name has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the City Council seat representing Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. The Rev. Khader El-Yateem, a Palestinian who is the pastor of the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, is rumored to be considering running for the seat currently held by term-limited Democrat Vincent Gentile.

Gentile, who has represented the 43rd Council District since 2003, is prevented from running for another term by the city’s term limits law and must leave office at the end of this year. Along with Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, Gentile’s council seat also includes parts of Bensonhurst.

King County Politics was the first to report that Pastor El-Yateem was a potential candidate for the council.

Pastor El-Yateem is a well-known name in Arab-American and civic circles in Bay Ridge. He is a member of Community Board 10 and is one of the founders of the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force, a group of religious and civic leaders who work to bring people of various nationalities together to fight prejudice.

He joins a growing list of possible candidates for the council seat.

Assemblymember Peter Abbate (D-Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Sunset Park) who has been in office since 1986, recently confirmed to the New York Observer that he is taking a look at the council seat. Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, is also rumored to be considering running for the seat. Another Democrat on the list is Justin Brannan, Gentile’s former communication director, who recently quit his job as a special assistant to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña so he could explore a run.

The Republicans whose names have been mentioned are Bob Capano, who served as director of community boards for former borough president Marty Markowitz; John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden; and Liam McCabe, an aide to U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan.

Quaglione and Capano have both made headlines in recent weeks for taking stands on controversial issues.

Quaglione testified at a hearing held by the MTA on proposed bus and subway fare hikes.

“Quite simply put, New Yorkers deserve a break this year and should not be subject to yet another fare and toll increase to use our subways, buses, bridges and tunnels. It seems to me that almost every time you turn around, fares hikes are on the horizon, but service improvements are much slower to go into effect,” Quaglione testified.

Capano, who is a manager of a Gristedes Supermarket in Manhattan, has been speaking out for months against a new city law mandating that supermarkets charge customers five cents each for plastic shopping bags.

Capano called on the state Legislature to impose a law to stop the city. “Unless Albany acts, New York City residents will have to pay more at retail stores and wait on longer lines because of another failed progressive policy of City Hall,” he said.

Pastor El-Yateem stands a great chance of garnering widespread support within Bay Ridge’s large and vibrant Arab-American community, according to political observers.

Khader El-Yateem was born in the West Bank in 1968. He studied at the Bethlehem Bible College. He went on to study at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. He worked for a year at the Bethlehem Bible College and was the youth minister at the Reformation Lutheran Church in the Middle East.

Within a few years, he was invited by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to come to the U.S. and work with the Arab and Middle Eastern communities. He studied at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and later founded the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge.