East Side Attack

Eristoff Goes Dirty in Senate Race

"We are teetering on the edge of collapse of the Republican majority," he said. "If they lose a couple more seats, the Democratic crusade to take back the senate becomes a much higher priority, and it becomes more difficult for other Democrats to walk away from those races."

Step one in Bruno's effort to block Krueger's re-election was creating new lines for her district. Bruno's panel on redistricting removed one of the most concentrated swaths of Democratic voters—an area including Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, and Waterside Plaza—from Krueger's district. They replaced it with a chunk of midtown and the West Side with about 7000 fewer registered voters.

Step two was finding a candidate. Eristoff was a natural choice to be next at the plate to face Krueger. He came armed with money, connections, and existing ties to voters in the district from his days as a councilman. His family's wealth stems from one of America's great fortunes, that of Henry Phipps, who was Andrew Carnegie's partner in building 19th-century steel mills.

State Senator Liz Krueger: a grassroots Democrat who has Joe Bruno worried
photo: Julia Xanthos
State Senator Liz Krueger: a grassroots Democrat who has Joe Bruno worried

In the council, Eristoff focused most of his energy on quality-of-life issues. He sponsored legislation against sidewalk bike riding, aggressive panhandling, and three-card monte games. In 1999, Giuliani chose him as his new finance commissioner. His toughest moment in that job came when the comptroller's office pointed out that Brooklyn employees of his office had left more than $26 million in uncashed checks to the city in a dusty box.

Krueger, 44, also comes from a well-to-do family, although one not in Eristoff's league (her father was an investment banker). But while Eristoff was trying to keep poverty and its effects out of sight, Krueger devoted herself to fighting it. After launching her groundbreaking food bank in the midst of the Reagan-era social services cutbacks, she became a leader of the Community Food Resource Exchange, an advocacy group on hunger and policy issues. Her lobbying efforts regularly brought her to Albany, where she encountered gridlock firsthand.

She was a regular member of delegations seeking to persuade legislators to address issues concerning food and nutrition, affordable housing, and equitable tax policies, she said. "Every year it was the same thing: Do your homework, crunch the numbers, and make your case. And at the end of every [legislative session] it would be the same thing: helpful hearings and good bills passed on the assembly side and zippo on the senate side. No public hearings, no debate on the pros and cons. After a while you ask yourself, 'What the heck am I doing?' So I thought I'd try to change things."

Correction: Despite his claims to the contrary, Abdur Farrakhan, a Republican, is not a candidate of the Green Party in the election for state assembly in Brooklyn, as was reported in "A Perfect Storm," by Tom Robbins, in the October 16-22 Voice.

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