Queens Democratic Socialist co-chair says Van Bramer is not ‘our comrade,’ but do his views reflect the greater organization?

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

A recently appointed co-chair of the Queens Democratic Socialists of America slammed Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s progressive ties as false in a dramatic fashion in a Medium post on Sept. 12.

Jonathan Bailey, a newly appointed leader in the organization, issued an open letter to Van Bramer in which he provided screenshots from an email in which the councilman attempted to set up a meeting. More than anything, Bailey seems to have stepped out of line with the organization by saying an endorsement from the DSA for borough president is not in the cards.

“Jimmy Van Bramer has already decided to try to lead activists into believing he will fight against the building of the jails. The only reason for him to meet with me is to influence me to support his run for Queens borough president,” Bailey said, then shifting toward a personal message to Van Bramer.

“I have been trying to stay off your radar because I was afraid that if you realized that I was the new co-chair of Queens DSA, it might make it clear how unenthusiastic we are about the idea of endorsing you … I know you have been trying to cozy up with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Tiffany Cabán, but that doesn’t make you our comrade,” Bailey wrote.

One of the main topics mentioned in Bailey’s letter was regarding the fight against Amazon’s proposal to establish HQ2 in Long Island City, but it included a misleading attack on the councilman.

Bailey charges that Van Bramer was in favor of HQ2, however, the councilman’s opposition to the proposal established him as the target of pro-Amazon attacks from the likes of Josh Bowen. Van Bramer’s stance even gained him a report with Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who incorporated the councilman into her rally in Long Island City in March.

“I’ve been fighting the Queens machine and standing up for working families my entire life,” Van Bramer said in response to the letter. “It took me three attempts to finally beat the county candidate for Council, and I’ve never backed down since, whether it’s being the first Queens elected official to endorse Tiffany Cabán for D.A. or defying Joe Crowley in the Speaker’s race. I’m proud to run on my record. In this incredibly diverse borough every vote matters, and I’m excited to make my case.”

Bailey, who was at the Sept. 5 City Council hearing on the city’s borough-based jail proposal, said he had little faith that Van Bramer would not be easily sway in his decision of whether to vote for or against the construction of the facilities.

But is Bailey’s sentiment shared by the wider organization? Some sources say no.

According to a source, bad blood between Bailey and Van Bramer may go back aways. Bailey served as a campaign manager for an opponent to Van Bramer, David Rosasco, who was chair of the Woodside Neighborhood Association. Rosasco ran for the seat in 2009, after which time he defected from the Democratic Party to the GOP. He then went up against Van Bramer in 2017.

In an interview with QNS, Rosasco said sentiments toward Van Bramer in his district may be just as mixed as samples from the far left.

“I think what Jonathan is reflecting is an overall view of our current situation and the people who were instrumental in causing the crisis are not to be the ones to resolve it, and I think that is reflected in Jonathan’s statement,” Rosasco said in reference to Van Bramer’s history of taking donations from the real estate industry, which was also mentioned in the letter.

QNS reached out to Bailey for comment, but he has yet to respond. We’ll update the story once we receive a response.

Van Bramer’s email to Bailey, in which he requested a meeting with him, indicates that the two have had conflict in the past.

“I know we have issues but I was wondering if you would agree to meet up with me soon to talk in person,” Van Bramer wrote. “I believe [sic] share values in common and I saw you were at City Hall today for the borough-based jails hearing. I don’t like the plan and would also welcome talking about that. Not sure if you’d be willing, but thought I’d reach out.”

But it is unclear if the open letter penned by Bailey is representative of the DSA members as a whole, as one member put it.

“I can’t say whether it is or is not indicative of a majority of our membership, as Jonathan did not bring his statement to any sort of vote among the membership,” said Aaron Taube, a volunteer for the DSA who played an active role in Tiffany Cabán’s campaign. “Certainly, some members agree with his decision to publish the letter and others disagree. But without a conversation among the membership and a vote, it’s impossible for me to say whether Jonathan’s position is a majority or minority position in the organization.”

The citywide DSA has not yet responded to a QNS request for comment. Stay tuned to QNS for further updates.

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