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Friedrich urges CB 13 to denounce mailing

Failed state Assembly candidate Bob Friedrich urged Community Board 13 Monday night to condemn campaign literature sent by his opponent, Assemblyman-elect David Weprin, three days before the Feb. 9 contest that called Friedrich an extremist for opposing increased penalties for hate crimes in a mailing that used a swastika.

“Attacking my character, distorting my positions and defaming my reputation by sending a flier with Nazi symbolism to Jewish homes for political gain is repugnant,” Friedrich told the board. “David Weprin has yet to issue an apology for the hate mail flier. Instead, his campaign manager and CB 13 member Corey Bearak continues to issue statements vigorously defending its use.”

But CB 13 Chairman Bryan Block said he was unsure whether the board would be able to take a stance on the flier.

“I understand clearly what you’re saying tonight,” he told Friedrich, noting he was not condoning hate speech. “This board cannot get involved in anything political.”

“This board does not live in a vacuum and cannot ignore this,” Friedrich responded.

Jerry LaMura, Borough President Helen Marshall’s liaison to CB 13, suggested the board should refer the matter to the appropriate committee for review.

CB 13 member Seymour Finkelstein made a motion for the board to craft a letter to the city’s corporation counsel, Borough Hall and CB 13’s Ethics Committee asking how the board should proceed.

The motion passed in a voice vote.

“I don’t believe the board is agreeing with what happened,” said CB 13 member Bess DeBetham. She said the board wants “to make sure we’re doing the right thing.”

CB 13 member and former Chairman Richard Hellenbrecht said Bearak should have the opportunity to respond to the Ethics Committee when the topic is discussed.

“No human being should spew hate,” said one CB 13 member who asked not to be identified. “I don’t care if you’re a board member or not. I think it’s appropriate to review it and see what’s right and what’s wrong.”

In other business, a presentation was made to the board concerning the 2010 Census. Census forms are scheduled to hit mailboxes next month.

Stacy Cumberbatch, city census coordinator for the NYC 2010 Census Office, said filling out census forms is key because they are used to redraw political lines and help allocate billions of dollars in funding.

“If the count is not accurate, we’re losing out on money,” she told the board.

Cumberbatch noted the borough’s diversity leads to language barriers and concerns among undocumented immigrants that they will be deported, although that is not the case.

“Our diversity is strong, but it’s also a challenge for the census,” she said.

“People are fearful in many communities,” she said, including people who are illegally renting out their basement or attic. “That information is strictly confidential.”

Cumberbatch noted that “huge areas of southeast Queens” had census response rates lower than 40 percent in 2000.

“Our goal this time is to get the word out early and often,” she said. “Our goal is to turn this around.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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