EBHA wants probe into swastika flier

State Assemblyman David Weprin and Bob Friedrich, his former opponent, take part in a debate prior to February's special election.
By Nathan Duke

The East Bayside Homeowners Association is calling for further investigation into a controversial campaign flier sent out in February that attacked Republican candidate Bob Friedrich, but Community Board 11’s chairman said he would not take up the matter.

The association passed a resolution last week that condemned the flier and called for CB 11 to form a committee and investigate the circumstances of its being mailed.

Frank Skala, president of the association, said he also wanted the state attorney general’s office and the Queens district attorney to look into whether the mailing involved any criminality.

“We don’t know exactly who did it,” Skala said. “But if laws were broken, we want action to be taken and the guilty people to be found.”

The flier, which was sent out by state Assemblyman David Weprin’s (D-Little Neck) campaign, accused Friedrich of being an extremist and featured a crime scene with a swastika behind police tape.

Friedrich has claimed the mailing was an attempt to associate him with Nazi ideology, but Corey Bearak, Weprin’s former campaign manager, said the piece was used to illustrate Friedrich’s belief that hate crimes should be treated the same as other offenses not motivated by hate.

Friedrich, a Democrat who challenged Weprin on the Republican line, has called on both CB 11 and CB 13 to condemn the mailings, but no action has yet been taken by either board.

CB 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece turned down Friedrich’s request to bring the resolution to a vote at the board’s March meeting, arguing instead that the issue should go before a committee formed by the board. Several community members defended Iannece’s decision, while several others, including Skala, loudly voiced their disapproval.

Iannece said last week he had contacted the city Corporation Council and the borough president’s office for an opinion, but would not pursue the matter any further.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Politics is outside the scope of community boards. This was politically motivated. I, as chairman, have the right to say whether something is outside our scope. Even if it’s seconded, it’s out of order and outside our purview. It’s a slippery slope. I’m not going to entertain it or allow an investigation to go forth.”

Friedrich said that although Weprin’s campaign has acknowledged mailing the flier, the state assemblyman has remained “silent.”

“The community boards are the collective voices of the community and, as such, I asked them to consider expressing the community’s moral outrage at the use of a swastika, the most identifiable symbol of the Holocaust, in a mailing that went out to thousands of Jewish households in the community not in a sealed envelope but as a postcard exposing adults and children to its content,” Friedrich said.

Weprin said he believed Friedrich was taking the flier out of context.

“I think Bob’s missing the whole point of this,” Weprin said. “The election is over and I think he should move on. But his being offended by a swastika is exactly the point. They shouldn’t be the same under state law, but he hasn’t changed his position that a swastika on public property is the same as graffiti on public property.”

Both Friedrich and Weprin were invited to speak at the homeowners association meeting last week. Friedrich showed up, but Weprin did not.

Skala said the civic was not holding any specific person responsible for the mailing at this time, but that he would continue to “prod” CB 11 to investigate the flier.

“This is not a dead issue,” he said. “I want a confession — for someone to say they did this and they are sorry. It was wrong.”

Weprin handily defeated Friedrich in the February special election to replace his brother, Mark Weprin, who now fills David Weprin’s former City Council seat.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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