Anthony Weiner, the newest candidate to enter the mayoral race, has had a controversial political past. His most recent sexting scandal notwithstanding, Weiner has been known to ruffle feathers as a congressman and Forest Hills resident.
When some of his old constituents were asked how Weiner was as a neighbor, the results were mixed.
“I used to see him every once in a while when he lived in Forest Hills and he wasn’t super friendly but he also didn’t come off as rude,” Blythe Hendricks, a Forest Hills resident, said. “I just assumed he wanted to be left alone, and who can blame him?”
While many other residents spoke similarly, claiming he kept to himself in public, those who interacted with him on a political level felt much differently.
“Previously, he was very helpful to the West Side Tennis Stadium in 2010 when a group of us tried to acquire landmark status, but he was not as helpful when it came to keeping the Civic Virtue statue,” said Michael Perlman, a Forest Hills resident and community activist. “He was not very helpful.”
“The Triumph of Civic Virtue Statue,” sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies, was publicly criticized by Weiner on a number of occasions, as he claimed it was sexist.
“He held a very ostentatious press conference about the statue and was the prime ruler in why we lost it,” City Council candidate and longtime supporter of the Civic Virtue statue Jon Torodash said.
The statue depicts civic virtue as a male figure standing atop twin sirens of vice and corruption — both of which are shown as women.
“He completely misinterpreted Greek mythology and only acted on behalf of himself,” Perlman said. “He said that the citizens don’t want this ugly statue on Queens Boulevard, and as rumor has it, he put it up for sale on Craigslist. He was very short-sighted and not acting on behalf of his constituency at all.”
Statue aside, Weiner’s campaign tactics when he ran for the City Council in Brooklyn and then for Congressman in Queens, have been called unethical by many.
“A lot of people cite his progressive agenda but he had a more questionable agenda in the City Council,” Torodash said. “There was cited racial tension.”
In 1992, when he ran for the largely white 48th Council District seat in Brooklyn, he blanketed mailboxes with leaflets playing on the voters’ fears and racial hostility in the aftermath of the Crown Heights race riots. When he ran for Congress in 1998, he often implied that opponent Melinda Katz was a closeted lesbian.
So with this rocky past, can Weiner gain back his constituents’ trust?
“I don’t know if I could vote for him, to be honest,” Marie Langton, a Forest Hills resident said. “I just remember what he did in his other campaigns. I don’t even care about the stupid Twitter thing but when he was our representative, he wasn’t a nice guy.”
Fellow Forest Hills resident Hank Batchel feels differently.
“He was young and stupid and looking for votes,” he said. “I’ve read some of the stuff he wants to do with our city and I like it. I like him way better than the other candidates. I’m voting yes for Weiner.”
Torodash reluctantly agreed.
“I prefer Weiner to Quinn but I think people need to judge him very carefully,” he said.
“I wouldn’t vote for him again,” Perlman said. “In terms of what I hear from others, I’m not very happy with him.”