Corey Bearak, the former campaign manager for state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), said he resigned as president of the Queens Civic Congress last week in order to spend more time on his career and with his family, but Weprin’s former opponent contends community leaders irate over his decision to send out a campaign mailing with an image of a swastika prompted him to leave.
“There were people threatening to pull their civics from the congress unless Corey resigned,” said Bob Friedrich, who ran against Weprin on the Republican line in the special election last week. “I received numerous e-mails from numerous civic leaders telling me how offended they were by the piece. There were a lot of e-mails going back and forth demanding Corey’s resignation.”
Bearak, however, said he had planned for months to resign from the Queens Civic Congress, where he had served as president for more than two years. He had recently begun his third term at the organization.
Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association President Patricia Dolan is now the QCC’s president.
Bearak acknowledged he sent a campaign piece that hit mailboxes the Thursday before the Feb. 9election that described Friedrich as an “extremist” who opposes “extra-tough criminal penalties” for hate crimes and used an image of two police officers behind crime scene tape with a swastika clearly visible in the center.
“It’s certainly appropriate to do a mailing highlighting how out of touch somebody is with the district,” Bearak said. “It’s perfectly appropriate to highlight somebody’s position that is extremist.”
Friedrich, who like Weprin is Jewish, said he received many phone calls and e-mails denouncing the literature, which he contended significantly contributed to his loss in the race.
“It was sent out four days prior to the election so my team had no time to respond,” he said. “I think it clearly had an effect and it tarnished the results of the election.”
Former Community Board 13 Chairman and Queens Civic Congress officer Richard Hellenbrecht said many community members were upset about the mailing.
“I thought it was in very poor taste,” said Hellenbrecht, who has replaced Dolan as the QCC’s executive vice president. “There’s been a tremendous backlash to it.”
Hellenbrecht said he supported Bearak’s decision to resign.%0A“It’s unfortunate,” he said. He did a very good job over the years, but we will pick up the ball and make sure everything is accomplished.”
Bearak said he had discussed resigning from the QCC in November because he had too little time to spend with his family and on his work as a “public affairs counselor.”
Acknowledging that he put out the flier because Friedrich “opposes hate crime” legislation, Bearak said criticism about the swastika mailing did not force him to resign and instead made him consider not leaving the group. He said he plans to continue to advise Weprin, but will not take a job with the assemblyman’s office.
Weprin too said the campaign literature did not force Bearak’s exit.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with it,” Weprin said. “Clearly when you’re involved in a partisan campaign there’s some bad blood that goes back and forth.”
The new Assemblyman said the campaign piece was not “meant as a personal attack” on Friedrich but rather want meant to to “highlight the hate crimes issue.”
Dolan said she looks forward to being the new president of the QCC and plans to work on the financial woes the borough faces. She did not comment on Bearak’s resignation.
“Both the state and the city have terrible budget problems, which means the rest of us will have terrible budget problems” Dolan said.
Bearak is also the chairman of the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council’s executive committee.
NQJCC President Jack Friedman said the organization has not asked for Bearak to step down.
“No one has contacted me asking that he tender a resignation. I haven’t heard anything like that,” Friedman said. “We have no reason to ask for his resignation.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2010 Community News Group
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