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Ognibene, Ober unite to denounce anti-gay slur

City Council rivals Charles Ober and Thomas Ognibene denounced an unsigned hate letter littered with homophobic slurs circulating through Council District 30 last week telling residents not to vote for Ober because he is gay.

Democrat Ober, joined by Republican Thomas Ognibene at an April 30 news conference about the letter in Middle Village, said he will not be deterred from running for the Council and did not feel threatened by the anonymous letter.

"I will not be intimidated by this mailing or walk away from this election," said Ober, first vice president of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association. "I am who I am: a long-time civic activist who has worked on issues of graffiti and infrastructure. My sexuality has never been an issue and I will not allow it to be now."

Ober and Ognibene are running for former Councilman Dennis Gallagher's seat after Gallagher stepped down April 18. Gallagher resigned as part of a deal to keep him out of prison following his arrest last year for sexually abusing a 52-year-old Middle Village woman in his district office.

District 30 covers Middle Village, Maspeth, Glendale, Ridgewood and small slivers of Rego Park and Woodhaven.

The letter, unsigned and sent to seemingly hundreds of district residents, repeatedly used derogatory language to describe homosexuals.

"You need to know that one of the candidates that is trying to get Dennis' seat is a faggot," the letter read. "They have no place here in our neighborhoods. The church doesn't want them and we don't want them either. Let [Ober] go to the city where they all are and let him run for office there, where the people love that garbage, but he is not going to represent me or my family. Liberals have no place here in Glendale and Middle Village. Ober needs to get out of the race and get out of our neighborhood if you know what is good for you."

Ognibene said he thought the letter had been sent by a political insider rather than an angry resident, because it was sent to a number of political players throughout the district.

"This was a calculated mailing," said Ognibene, a 2005 mayoral candidate and former councilman. "It went out to people active in the political community. It's the act of a coward."

Sam Esposito, an Ober spokesman, said the letter had been postmarked in Glendale and had been sent first class all over the district. He said Ober's office had received at least 50 calls from residents who received the letter.

Ober said the letter did not represent the district he hopes to serve.

"I love living here," he said. "I've been here for 27 years and I think the people are wonderful."

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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