Binyomin Bendet, an attorney from Midwood, has become the sixth Democrat and seventh overall candidate to declare for the 48th City Council District in the 2021 election, seeking to replace the term-limited Chaim Deutsch.
“I believe that I represent the community’s values,” Bendet told Hamodia in an interview shortly after he announced his candidacy late last month. “I know the political slant of the district and the values that they have, and a lot of the issues that they have. And I believe that I am a person that’s qualified.”
Bendet, 29, graduated Brooklyn Law School in 2015, after attending Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath, and Mir and Torah Ohr in Israel. He practices commercial litigation and transactions, and real estate litigation, for Storch Law PC. “I don’t necessarily have as much government experience as some of the other candidates,” he says, “but I do have a knowledge of civics, I do understand how a lot of deals are made in politics. And I do come into it with a litigator’s perspective, and with an energy.”
Bendet has volunteered on several political campaigns, including those of Civil Court Judge Saul Stein and Councilwoman Farah Louis. He’s also a member of the 41st Assembly District Democrats Club, and a member of the Kings County Committee, where, he says, one thing he is trying to do is “fighting the influence of the progressive Democrats” who “are trying to take over the Committee.”
One major platform of Bendet’s campaign is yeshivas, and education in general.
“We want better access to education. We want funding, especially for special ed,” says the candidate. “I’m not just talking about yeshivas; I’m talking about public schools as well.” Bendet’s own son had some issues in kindergarten; he’s doing better now, “because we were able to fight for him and get him services. And I had to fight hard. I had an issue where they switched my categorization. And because of that, my son was almost unable to start school on time; we had to fight everybody.”
Tuition vouchers for private-school education is generally a state rather than city discussion, but the Council candidate says, “We need to start the conversation, at least on the city level. We need to have elected officials who are willing to start these conversations. Right now, a lot of these public vouchers are not as popular, because we have a lot of people that are very in favor of unions and teachers’ unions, but if there’s a way for me to use any of the connections that I’ve gained over that time to try to push in the back channels a negotiation or a conversation in New York City about it, this is something that I’m willing to stand on.
“And maybe that differentiates me from other candidates: There are certain issues that really affect for example, the Jewish community — especially something like this, which is not as popular with progressive Democrats — but I represent the community, and there are certain lines which I am not willing to back down on. Obviously, there are certain issues which, in order to get more things for the Jewish community in the future, I will have to back down on. But there are certain issues that really matter.”
While Bendet says he will seek more government funding for schools, he also believes that government must not seek to dictate the curriculum of private schools. The state Board of Regents is seeking to formulate a mandated secular-studies curriculum on private schools, but enforcement would largely fall on each local school authority – in the case of New York City, the schools chancellor.
“The government cannot force a private school to accept guidelines. There’s a slippery slope. If you grant the government the power to enforce certain curricula, who knows what’s going to happen.”
As the city has recently faced a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, Bendet would like to see the city provide funding to make educational videos for children, to reach them at the age where they are still impressionable and may not have formed hard opinions of other groups.
While he would like to see more money moved into police going after hate crimes, “anti-Semitism is not something that the cops can fix; anti-Semitism is a mindset, it’s an ideology. It’s a little ambitious, but if we do put out these videos, we’re targeting 15, 16, 17, 18-year-olds. Next election cycle, they’re our voters. If we can change their minds on these things, at least off the progressive agenda, this is something that we need to do now.”
As for policing in general — and a debate going on in the city, as well as across the country, as to the merits of “tough on crime” policing vs. a more compassionate “community policing” — the candidate says, “I don’t necessarily need broken-windows policing back, but I do feel that we need to give police more latitude to actually fight crime. Their job is to fight crime. And their job is to arrest criminals who don’t follow the law. That’s the whole point.” However, he says, particularly with suspects who are mentally unstable, “when you’re at the jail, you can send down social workers, and evaluate if certain people need help. And if they need help, we should get them that help.”
The city currently provides funding for yeshivas with at least 300 students to hire outside security guards, a threshold Bendet would like to see lowered. The city provides no funding for security guards at houses of worship, and the candidate says, “I would definitely go for it, I would definitely try. Let’s see where it goes. It becomes a bigger conversation, yeshivas: How many people counts as a house of worship, can I just open a 501(c)(3) tomorrow and get security funding? So, we have to work out the details.”
Asked what spending he would cut to pay for the funding he is seeking, and as the city faces a large deficit exacerbated by COVID, the candidate points to ThriveNYC, the mental-health program run by First Lady Chirlane McCray that critics have decried as wasteful.
Bendet also says the city should “take a hard look at seriously knocking out certain things,” such as reducing office staffs — including in Councilmembers’ offices. He also points to a New York Times article from October that described how the city Board of Elections — which oversaw a troubled election period that included many voters getting mail-in ballots addressed to the wrong person — “is one of the last vestiges of pure patronage in government,” and that staffers “regularly fail to show up for work, with no fear of discipline,” or “punch in and the leave to go shopping or to the gym,” and says, “There are also a lot of jobs that are irrelevant or given to political operatives’ families — we need to get rid of those.”
Bendet on other issues:
Taxation: “My view of taxation is that in order to stimulate the economy and help people spend the money where they need to, especially because people are hurting now, we should look for ways to lower, especially property tax. There’s a calculation that has to go into it, obviously, but I would definitely fight to lower the property tax.”
Sanctity of Life: “I’m religious, I grew up religious, I have a moral upbringing as well. I believe in the sanctity of life. But at the same time, I know I have to pick my battles. If I walk into a City legislature — and even, I guess, on this interview — saying that that I’m going to walk in there fighting for sanctity of life, I’m going to be named as probably somebody very difficult and hard to work with. And while the community will appreciate me walking into the City Council on day one and making that statement, the community will not appreciate that I won’t be able to get as much done for them, because I’m labeled as a difficult person and a religious extremist. And I’m not a religious extremist. I’m trying to work for the community … This is a battle that we should have, but especially on the city level, I think that there are other battles that we should be focusing on.”
“Open Restaurants” seating in parking spaces: “This whole thing was instituted as a temporary measure, to prop up businesses … When indoor dining is fully open, then they got to get off the streets — people have to park. People are having massive problems with parking.”
Bendet’s father, Mayer, z”l, passed away last June at 68. He was editor of Jewish Homemaker, the magazine of the OK; and authored several novels; as well as writing ad campaigns for Democrats in New York.
“He was very involved in politics. He would always instill in me ‘You have to understand what’s going on in your community, you have to try to help. The Jewish people in this community need advocates. You need to work with whoever is in office to advocate for your community.’ He was a real influence on me to get involved with the community.
“I’d like to think that he would be proud of me fulfilling something that we always talked about. But I’m not running for my father, I’m running for the district.
“I’ve lived in Brooklyn all my life. I know a lot of people that are moving out because they have problems with a lot of local laws, with state laws and things coming down the pike that are concerning them. I’m not leaving. I’m here to stay, and to fight for our community and our district. That’s why I’m running. I like being a litigator. But I feel that I can really do a lot of good work in public office.”
The Democratic primary is scheduled for June. Other declared Democrats include Amber Adler, Boruch (Boris) Noble, Steven Saperstein, Mariya Markh and Heshy Tischler. Inna Vernikov is thus far the sole Republican candidate.