Kruger Challenger Igor Oberman Campaigns on Support for Transit

ObermanHandingOutLit.JPGIgor Oberman hands out literature touting his support for transit and bridge tolls at the Kings Highway station this morning. Photo: Noah Kazis.

The primaries are only four months away, and election season is starting to heat up in New York. All signs point to strong anti-incumbent sentiment among voters, with several entrenched legislators facing primary challenges. In Brooklyn’s 27th State Senate district, long-time incumbent Carl Kruger is facing a primary challenge for the seat he’s held since 1994.

Kruger is best known to Streetsblog readers for his role last year in gutting the Ravitch Plan and killing bridge tolls, which would have put the transit system on steadier financial footing. His opponent, Igor Oberman, has made support for public transit a centerpiece of his campaign.

Oberman, an administrative judge for the Taxi and Limousine Commission and Environmental Control Board, launched his campaign a few weeks ago after deciding that the powerful finance committee chair needed a serious opponent. "I don’t think he represents the people inside the district or the Democratic Party," said Oberman. 

For the last few weeks, Oberman has been handing out literature [PDF]
at busy subway stations across southern Brooklyn, criticizing Kruger and
fellow Fare Hike Four members Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Pedro Espada for scuttling the plan to toll bridges over the Harlem and East Rivers, an act of obstructionism that set the stage for major service cuts and layoffs. Transit riders will feel more effects soon: The MTA’s budget gap still exceeds $450 million.

At the Kings Highway station this morning, Oberman questioned whether his opponent can relate to constituents who depend on transit. "When’s the last time he ever took the subway?" he asked, before flashing his very well-worn MetroCard. Oberman believes that "this is a commuter district" and that transit is "as important to them as police service or ambulances." 

Oberman supports bridge tolls, if the revenue is used to keep transit fares low and service strong. "We deserve a better transit system," he said. "We’re trying to go green and compete as a major metro area."

Oberman also thinks that fighting for transit is a political winner, even if it means supporting bridge tolls. "Are bridge tolls popular in this district? No," he said. "But more popular than cutting student MetroCards." 

To get a sense for how Oberman’s message is playing, I spoke to two commuters who took his literature. Andrew Delre, who was waiting for the Q train, said he believes that it’s "definitely" important to be represented in the State Senate by another subway rider. What about bridge tolls? "Definitely not," he said. "It’s just another tax for the people of New York City."

Another rider, who gave her name as Rachel, said she agreed in full with Oberman’s platform. "I don’t think they should raise the fares again," she said. "But people with cars should have to pay
tolls too. I mean, it’s only fair." 

Streetsblog has a message in with Senator Kruger’s office to see how his transit platform stacks up against his challenger’s.