Primary Preview: Lustig-Elgrably says gov’t experience gives him advantage

September 5, 2018 Paula Katinas
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When Ethan Lustig-Elgrably is out on the campaign trail, he talks about what he has already done for the residents of the 46th Assembly District (A.D.) as well as what he plans to do for them if he wins the Democratic Primary on Sept. 13 and goes on to be victorious in the Nov. 6 general election.

Lustig-Elgrably, the former chief of staff to Councilmember Mark Treyger, a Democrat representing Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst, is touting his experience in government as a reason his fellow Democrats should vote for him next Thursday over his opponent Mathylde Frontus.

“I have the background and experience. I have gotten real, tangible results for the community,” he told this newspaper in a recent interview. In addition to working for Treyger, he recently worked for the Parks Department.

Among the projects he worked on as a Treyger’s top aide was Hurricane Sandy relief. The storm, which hit New York City on Oct. 29, 2012, caused flooding and heavy damage to scores of buildings in Coney Island.

A year after the storm, many residents had still not received help, Lustig-Elgrably said. So Treyger and his staff got to work.

“We delivered billions of dollars to the district. We secured grants for public housing,” Lustig-Elgrably said, adding that several New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings in the Coney Island portion of the assembly district sustained significant damage in the storm.

Treyger, chairperson of the council’s Recovery and Resiliency Committee, held a hearing in Carey Gardens in Coney Island to hold the city’s feet to the fire. Lustig-Elgrably helped set up the hearing. “We shined a light on the issue,” he said.

He vowed to have the problem-solving attitude as a lawmaker. “I will go up to Albany and fight for the community,” he said.

Lustig-Elgrably and Frontus, an educator and Coney Island community activist, are running against each other in the primary to see who will be the Democratic Party’s candidate in the Nov. 6 election. The winner of the primary will face Republican Steve Saperstein.

The 46th A.D. includes Coney Island, Sea Gate, Brighton Beach, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge.

The district has had a troubled history in recent years.

The two previous people who held the assembly seat, Democrats Alec Brook-Krasny and Pamela Harris, were both immersed in scandal.

Both were indicted on corruption charges. Brook-Krasny was hit with fraud and other charges stemming from a medical lab he worked in after he left office in 2015. Harris, who won Brook-Krasny’s seat in 2015, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a slew of charges, including fraud and witness tampering. She admitted illegally diverting funds mean for a non-profit organization to her own personal use. She resigned from office.

Lustig-Elgrably said he realizes that he has a special responsibility to restore public trust in the Assembly office. He has released a seven-point plan to eliminate corruption in government. One of the steps is a ban on outside income for lawmakers. It would avoid conflict of interest situations, he said.

As he travels from one end of the Assembly district to the other, one of the issues he hears residents talk about is transportation.

It can take 90 minutes to get from Bay Ridge to midtown Manhattan, he said, adding that such a long commute is a disgrace.

“Something has to give on this issue,” he said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) needs to modernize its signals and switching systems in the subway system so that the trains can run more frequently, he said. That will take lots of money. He called on the state to establish “some sort of dedicated revenue stream” for the transit system.

Subways aren’t the only problem. “The bus system is also in shambles,” Lustig-Elgrably said.

When the bus arrives, elderly passengers often have trouble boarding, he said. He is promoting an idea called level boarding to make it easier to board a bus. Under the proposal, the sidewalk at a bus stop would be re-done so that it is level with the bus.

Education is another important issue facing the district.

Elementary and middle schools in District 20 have a “large overcrowding problem,” Lustig-Elgrably said. “We need to site new schools in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights. We have to make this happen,” he said.

Lustig-Elgrably pointed to housing as a key issue.

The 46th A.D. contains thousands of public housing units as well as numerous co-op apartment buildings constructed under the state’s Mitchell-Lama law. Many of the district Mitchell-Lama developments were built more than 50 years ago and are badly in need of major renovations, he said.

“The only option now is for the co-op to take out loans,” he said, adding that loans are a financial burden on the shareholders.

He called for the creation of a “dedicated capital funding stream” to give buildings access to capital to make repairs.

Over 60 percent of the residents of the 46th A.D. are renters. “And rents keep rising,” he said, calling on tenant protection laws to be strengthened.

Lustig-Elgrably has lived in Brooklyn all of his life. He attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush and is a graduate of Brandeis University.

He studied political science and anthropology at Brandeis. His anthropology studies have helped him in his work in politics and government, he said. “It helps you to understand somebody’s unique perspective,” he said.

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