A Democratic New York state assemblyman was caught on video recently removing campaign signs for Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, who's up against incumbent Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul in next week's election.
The assemblyman in possession of freshly swiped signs — Peter Abbate of Brooklyn — argued with a woman who appeared to be recording video of the caper, and he told her the Zeldin signs are "illegal" and that displaying them "leads to bigger crime."
Exactly when Abbate took down the signs isn't clear, but a Twitter video of his critical public service was posted Wednesday. Check it out:
"What are you doing?" the woman asked.
"Taking down illegal signs," Abbate replied, adding that they're disallowed on "public property."
The woman told Abbate — who's been in office since 1987 — that she's never seen him take down other signs. Oh, boy, did that trigger his indignation.
"Every sign!" he hollered back. "I've always done it!"
Abbate added that Zeldin is "breaking the law" with the signs and added that "it would be a disgrace for someone running for governor who's breaking the law before he even takes office."
'This leads to bigger crime!'
When the woman asked Abbate if putting up the signs is a "legit crime," he barked back at her that "this leads to bigger crime! That's the problem we have; people are not enforcing the law."
The edited video includes a short segment at the end showing Abbate saying, "I was the one that led the fight to take those off [too]," but it isn't clear what he meant.
Abbate also told the New York Post that "people want to know why there’s crime going up. We don’t enforce the law." The paper said he alerted city sanitation workers about the campaign sign issue in neighborhoods such as Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and Borough Park.
“What’ll happen is they put them up. After the election, they fall down. They go into the street. They clog the sewers with the leaves," he added to the Post. "It is against the law."
Indeed, a spokesman for the local department of sanitation told WCBS-TV, "Posting political or business signs of any kind — for any candidate or any business — on public property is illegal in New York City, and it is the job of the Department of Sanitation to keep the city clean in accordance with the law."
Selective sign enforcement?
Zeldin and his supporters told the Post that Abbate and city sanitation workers are using the rules to target him on the eve of the election.
“I’ve known Peter for years, but I’ve never heard of him out cleaning the sidewalks on his regular morning walk ever before,” New York City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) told the paper.
The Post added that some Brooklynites are curious about the extra attention it appears pro-Zeldin signs have been getting in a Democrat-controlled city.
“It’s not like the streets are clean, and there isn’t a rat problem,” one Brooklyn resident told the paper in regard to a video showing what appears to be city workers removing signs from Ocean Parkway. “This is a serious waste of city workers, and very transparent ..."
Midwood resident Shmuel Hirshman guessed that a recent ticket from a sanitation official over litter really was about the Zeldin sign he planted in front of his house as a favor for a friend, the Post said.
“The only thing that’s sticking out is the sign ... I said, 'What, no one else on the block?'” Hirshman noted to the paper before adding that a neighbor had a seat cushion in his yard.
New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (R-Midwood) said Wednesday that “my neighborhood is experiencing an unprecedented effort by city agency employees to remove political signs — specifically signs supporting Congressman Zeldin for Governor,” the Post reported.
Vernikov added that "my constituents are rightfully angry that their tax dollars are being used to suppress their political speech,” the paper said.
What did Zeldin have to say?
The Post said Zeldin told reporters Wednesday at a campaign stop in Manhattan that "if you’re a state assemblyman, you should be spending your time knocking on doors. You’re on the ballot as well. Go advocate on behalf of yourself, for candidates who support you. You could go put up signs for your own candidate. Don’t be going around taking off signs."
What did Hochul have to say?
While the Hochul campaign declined to comment on the sign-stealing accusations, the paper said Democrat state party Chair Jay Jacobs said Wednesday that he's been "very clear: I don’t want to see any Democrats taking down any Republican signs. I find that’s the kind of campaign behavior that probably better not in our suburbs, but [in] the suburbs of Moscow."
However, the Post added that Jacobs — without offering video or photographic evidence — said pro-Hochul signs have been disappearing in places like Long Island where the GOP controls local government.