Congressional Contenders Finale

NY-11 Activist Roundtable

Our NY11 round-table guests in the studio chatting.
Our progressive activist round-table in the studio! Your guests today are Brian Hedden, Alex Pellitteri, Mallory McMahon, and Rachel Posner.

Get ready for our final NY-11 wrapup episode! We’ve heard from all eight Democratic candidates for New York’s 11th Congressional District on the podcast. We’ve given each candidate unrestricted time to discuss themselves and educate us on any issue of their choice. Boyd Melson, Michael DeVito Jr., Mike DeCillis, Zach Emig, Max Rose, Paul Sperling, Omar Vaid and Radhakrishna Mohan have lent their voices to the podcast. But to wrap up, we’re turning the mic over to you! 

Today, we have a powerhouse of progressives in the studio to talk about issues we care about. Join in with a five-person cross-section of neighborhood activists as we educate the candidates about the things we wanted to hear about, such as transit, the environment, Brooklyn/Staten Island unity, the (possible) myth of the moderate voter, women’s health issues and paid family leave, foreign policy and immigration, refugees, the inequalities inherent in the fundraising process during primaries, and much more.

If you want to get involved and make friends with the guests on the panel, feel free to check out our list of progressive neighborhood organizations! And don’t forget to check out Fight Back Bay Ridge’s massive NY11 candidate questionnaire for even more info about the candidates!

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Episode 7

John Papanier on Staten Island's Town Hall For Our Lives

Neighbors gathering in the foyer before the Staten Island Town Hall For Our Lives

On March 31st, across the country, students orchestrated town hall meetings with their elected officials, asking them to join them for a dialogue about gun violence in American schools. The #TownHallForOurLives is a movement spearheaded by the students of Majorie Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, Florida – but like a true grassroots movement, it involved students from around the country taking ownership and agency, and Staten Island and New York’s 11th Congressional District was no exception.

The #NY11TownHall that took place that night was an opportunity for the community to come together and was attended by local elected officials such as Councilwoman Debi Rose and State Senator Diane Savino. After learning that no local GOP would be in attendance (still hiding in that phone booth, Dan Donovan?), the students invited all the NY11 Congressional Contenders still left in our race, instead.

Radio Free Bay Ridge attended and live-tweeted the two-and-a-half-hour event. We’ll be uploading the full audio this weekend.

Today, in anticipation of more March for Our Lives Events centered on our neighborhood (including one this Saturday organized by local teens in Bay Ridge) we spoke to one of the organizers of the Staten Island Town Hall, John Papanier. We talked about how the local students are leading the way on this incredibly important issue.

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Episode 6

Yemen Next Door


Bay Ridge is a neighborhood of immigrants. Even when Bay Ridge was not much more than farmland on the Narrows, we have been a landing spot for numerous waves cultures and ethnicities. Bay Ridge doesn’t exist in a bubble, so today we are breaking our hyper-local-only format to discuss the international affairs that affect our neighbors. Today, were going to learn about the longstanding Yemeni community in Bay Ridge. With our guest Rabyaah Althaibani, we’ll get some background on what is happening to Yemenis across the world and how it affects their loved ones here in our community.

Update: After you listen to the episode, find a way to get involved. On March 20th, the Sanders-Lee-Murphy bill, which would have ended US Military intervention in Yemen, was tabled. Many senators called for it to return to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after intense lobbying from Saudi Arabia and the Trump White House. We urge you to call or email the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Comittee, and urge them to both inform their fellow Senators about the issue and bring the Sanders-Lee Bill (S.J.Res. 54) bill back up for a vote.

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Congressional Contenders

Radhakrishna Mohan


On our final Congressional Contenders episode, we are happy to present Radhakrishna Mohan, a civic leader and Executive Board member of the New York State Public Employees Federation. Mohan is running in the Democratic primary for New York’s 11th Congressional District, which represents Staten Island and South Brooklyn in the House of Representatives.

Mohan discussed his lifelong Union background, both in India and Staten Island, and his experience organizing on a state-wide level. We talked about the role Unions play in being a watchdog for dangerous federal policies, and how a Unionist congressman can bring together Unions to fight for more organizing power. We also discussed how investing in high-tech jobs and infrastructure can help balance our ballooning public debt and federal trade imbalances, how to combat the Opioid crisis on Staten Island, and how we can position Staten Island and Brooklyn to reinvent itself with new cultural institutions and tourism.

Finally, as always, we want to remind all our listeners and readers that petitioning season is nearly upon us, beginning March 6th. Registered Democrats will have one chance to sign a candidates petition to put them on the primary ballot for this year’s elections. You can only sign for one candidate, and if you sign for more than one, only your first choice counts. Be sure to get familiar with each candidate and get an idea of who you’ll be most willing to sign for as canvassers begin hitting the streets on March 6th… and consider volunteering to be a canvasser yourself by reaching out to the campaign that interests you the most.

Mohan talking with us in the Radio Free Bay Ridge studio.

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Congressional Contenders

Omar Vaid


Today on the show we’re welcoming Omar Vaid as we begin to wrap up our Congressional Contenders series. Omar is one of the seven Democratic primary candidates for NY11, our House of Representatives seat covering Staten Island and South Brooklyn. Also joining us today is our special guest host and local journalist Kadia Goba. Kadia is filling in for Rachel, who’s stepping aside for today’s interview since Rachel is currently employed as Omar’s Communications Director.

Omar spoke with us about the centrality of Unions to his campaign, as well as his core message of protectionism for American industry. We also spent time discussing how unions intersect with healthcare, social security, congestion pricing and education. Finally, we touch on the similarities between Omar’s use of social media and how he intends to use his Congressional seat to call out lobbyists and advocate for change.

Finally, Kadia and Dan spend a bit of time at the beginning of the episode talking about the upcoming Democratic Party petitioning process and how we can make it more equitable and fair by advocating for voter awareness early on in the primary season.

Omar Vaid protesting in support of his union, IATSE. Photo courtesy Omar Vaid for Congress.

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Congressional Contenders

Max Rose


Swinging by the studio today is Max Rose on our sixth Congressional Contenders episode. We’ll sit down for a discussion with Max, who is running in the Democratic primary for NY11, the (for now) Republican controlled House of Representatives district covering Staten Island and South Brooklyn. Each candidate in the series had unlimited time to talk about their issues and ideas, but most importantly the facts, concepts and details that lay behind those ideas and their beliefs.

Max Rose spoke with us about the centrality of public safety to a holistic social-services overhaul that threads through healthcare, Opioid addiction, gun violence, policing, infrastructure, and more. We also got into the weeds on criminal justice reform, especially the Conviction Review Unit that Max observed first-hand while working for the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

A quick reminder as well that all candidates will begin petitioning registered Democrats in the district this March, seeking to gain enough signatures to get on the ballot for the primary. You can only sign once, so start getting a feel for each candidate and if you are particularly impressed, reach out and help to engage more voters and help your candidate move forward past petitioning! Remember it isn’t just about the candidates… this is your opportunity to build experience in local politics as well, and making your voice heard!

Max Rose hanging out with Dan and Rachel

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Congressional Contenders

Paul Sperling


Today we welcome Paul Sperling to the fifth episode of our Congressional Contenders series. In this continuing series, we sit down for a no-time-limit discussion with each candidate running in the Democratic primary this summer for New York’s 11th Congressional district, representing Staten Island and South Brooklyn. We asked each candidate to talk with us about their platform, their ideas, and most importantly the facts and issues that they think their constituents should know in the upcoming primary.

Paul Sperling swung by the studio to discuss his plans for improved rail infrastructure, workers cooperatives, bringing large employers to Staten Island, and improving healthcare in the district. We also touch on the green economy, cannabis legalization, and improving education in the district with debt forgiveness, free trade schools, and more school construction and hiring.

A quick reminder as well that all candidates will begin petitioning this March, seeking to gain enough signatures to get on the ballot for the primary. So reach out to the candidate that you’re rooting for and help with the petitioning drive to engage more voters for the upcoming primary and help your candidate move forward to the next round!

Paul Sperling chats with Rachel in the studio

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Congressional Contenders

Zach Emig

Zach Emig standing next to Radio Free Bay Ridge co-hosts Dan Hetteix and Rachel Brody.
Zach Emig with Dan and Rachel before the recording.

We’re pressing on with the fourth part of our Congressional Contenders series. We sit down for a no-time-limit discussion with each of the Democratic primary looking to represent South Brooklyn and Staten Island in Washington D.C. We asked each candidate to talk with us about the issues that most motivate them. Join us as we dive deep into their proposals and get to know more about them.

Our guest today is Zach Emig, an MIT engineering graduate and bond trader. Zach announced his candidacy all the way back in May of last year. We’ll discuss Zach’s long haul on the NY11 campaign trail and dig into his “Narrows Agenda” for improving the district. We’ll discuss corporate and income taxes, the opioid epidemic, technology, and immigration. We also touch on the partisan rancor that is affecting national and local politics, and how to solve it.

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Uncut Recording

Jeremi Suri at Poly Prep


A few months ago, Poly Prep reached out to us to ask if we would be interested in recording a new, public event series called Context: Conversations at Poly Prep. The first lecture, with professor and historian Jeremi Suri, was a quick but wide-ranging lecture discussing the evolution of the Office of the President throughout American History as discussed in his new book The Impossible Presidency. While the subject isn’t necessarily local, we were thrilled to bring you a progressive, thoughtful lecture given locally at an institution with over 100 years of history in the neighborhood (and to pal around with the excellent Bookmark Shoppe too!).

I always remembered, as a kid, being taken by my grandfather to go throw bagels at the ducks at the Poly Prep pond (By the way, folks, don’t do that! It’s terrible for the ducks. There are signs now. Probably because of me. Sorry.) But it always was a mysterious entity for much of my life, and a closed campus. So we are very excited to see the institution open its gates and beautiful campus to the neighborhood and provide a much-needed event space for lectures and discussions. You can sign up for future events on their calendar or monitor their Twitter feed.

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Congressional Contenders

Mike DeCillis


Update: Mike DeCills has withdrawn from the race as of February 26th. He gave his endorsement to Michael DeVito Jr. on March 6th, 2018.


February is beginning to heat up! March is approaching, which means it’s time for our Democratic primary candidates to begin preparing for petitioning. To help you choose which candidates you might want to volunteer for or support, we’re bringing you part three of our Congressional Contenders series.

Our guest today is Mike DeCillis, a former EMT, retired police officer, and an attorney and special-ed teacher. We’ll discuss Mike’s long career including deep-dives into healthcare, pharmaceuticals, police training, vocational education and disability rights, and labor law. We also touch on immigration advocacy and the state of Democratic politics on Staten Island.

Mike teaching a class. Photo courtesy Mike DeCillis for Congress, 2018.

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