BY JAMES FARRELL
The BrownMillerGroup, a primary advisor to the campaign of state Senate candidate S. J. Jung, who is running for office in the 16th district, previously worked for a group called the New York City Coaltion for Accountability Now (NYCCAN), The Queens Tribune has learned. NYCCAN has been referred to as a “9/11 conspiracy group,” and its 2014 “High-Rise Safety Initiative” called for an investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center Building 7, as well as all other future high-rise collapses.
While the initiative was presented as a safety-oriented measure, the call for an investigation of WTC Building 7 has been long associated with 9/11 conspiracy theories, and NYCCAN and its initiative received support on anti-Semitic blogs and websites that perpetuate the idea that Israel was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. This fact was publicized in two blogs in 2014 that criticized Jung for hiring BrownMiller despite its work in petitioning for an initiative with some anti-Semitic support. Jung, however, decided to keep BrownMiller on the 2014 campaign and re-enlisted them for his 2016 run.
The 16th Senate district has a strong and growing Jewish population. Jung’s decision to retain the BrownMillerGroup despite its connections, no matter how distanced those connections may be, is disconcerting to some Jewish community leaders.
“If he’s aware of the type of clientele that they previously had, he has to be asked directly, ‘did you know?’” said Jeff Weisenfeld, who is on the board of several national Jewish organizations. “If he says yes, that’s a problem.” He added that any organization that calls for an investigation of 9/11 in an attempt to challenge the official story of who was behind the attacks is venturing into uncomfortable territory. Supporters of 9/11 conspiracy theories are often accused of anti-Semitism, because suggestions that the attacks were not carried out by militants from the Middle East are often coupled with accusations that Israel was secretly behind the attacks in order to encourage war in the Middle East.
There is no evidence that Jung, nor the BrownMillerGroup have outwardly supported anti-Semitism or 9/11 conspiracy groups. Peter Brown, co-founder of the BrownMillerGroup pointed to a quote from the Anti-Defamation League, a watchdog against anti-Semitism, in a 2014 Crain’s New York article, that said the Initiative did not appear to be anti-Semitic. “While it’s ostensibly dealing with building codes and safety now, if it does get some traction, then at some point we will definitely be monitoring and looking to see whether or not the more anti-Semitic elements of this conspiracy try to use it for their benefit in some way,” an ADL spokesman told Crain’s.
NYCCAN is not explicitly anti-Semitic in any of its political rhetoric, but engages in 9/11 conspiracy theories. It is doubtful of the official story behind the 9/11 attacks, and was hoping to investigate the collapse of WTC 7. On a page of its website presenting options to join the movement, it describes the collapse of WTC 7 as the “most obvious flaw” in the official 9/11 account. Furthermore, an open letter on the page addressed to the New York County District Attorney Office begins by saying, “Over the last three weeks, you have been informed about the overwhelming evidence that World Trade Center Building 7 was demolished with explosives,” suggesting that the group believes the attack was not limited to the hijacked airplanes, as the official account suggests.
The initiative was then featured on several platforms with histories of anti-Semitism. A July 2014 article by Kevin Barrett on Press TV, an Iranian-owned news website, described the initiative as capable of revealing that 9/11 was a “false flag,” or an attack that frames other entities. He argues that Israel supporters have a history of carrying out such attacks and that it could lead to a “global holocaust,” saying, “the Zionists have been masters of false-flag terror since they dressed up as Arabs and bombed the King David Hotel on July 22, 1946.” He closes by saying, “Please go to NYCCAN.org and contribute what you can. The survival of humanity depends on it.”
Another site called “Fact Not Fiction” is a small blog run by a man who says his name is Mohammed A. Hegazi. The site shared an announcement from the High-Rise Safety Initiative on July 3 that announced it had gathered enough petitions to be considered for the ballot. Other stories on the site include “Zionist Jews are Sub-Human Vermin” and “How Jews Run the USA.” And in the years before the High-Rise Safety Initative, another blog featured a 2010 piece by Chris Bollyn, that accuses “Zionist-controlled scrapyards” of intentionally destroying evidence from the September 11 attacks. Bollyn praises an earlier NYCCAN campaign for its efforts to reopen the 9/11 investigation. “I recommend visiting the website of NYC CAN to understand the basis of their appeal for justice,” Bollyn writes.
Brown, founder of the BrownMillerGroup was incredulous at the suggestion that anti-Semitism has any place in his company. “Look, BrownMillerGroup is a Democratic consulting firm, known as one of the most reputable in New York City, whose partners have worked for and with Democrats for their entire professional careers,” he said. “To attempt to label anyone of the firm’s partners, employees, or past or current clients as anti-Semitic is patently absurd.”
He also added that similar scrutiny should be applied to the consultancy firm of state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), Jung’s opponent. “The Senator’s consultant, Parkside, is meanwhile under subpoena by the Bureau of Elections and is proven to be in the pocket of developers, having spent more than $7M of their money in an attempt to influence the City Council Speaker election.”
Kyle Sullivan, Jung’s campaign manager, pointed out that these accusations came in the same week that Jung announced a controversial discovery about his opponent. Jung announced on Monday that an investigation analyzing incumbent Stavisky’s 3,515 designating petitions have turned up a series of potential violations that may render a vast majority of signatures invalid. Candidates must collect 1,000 petition signatures in order to be put on the ballot for office. And of the total signatures, an unnamed registered Democrat in the 16th district filed specific objections against 3,502 signatures in conjunction with the Jung Campaign’s findings. If these objections were upheld, it would leave Stavisky with only 13 designating petition signatures.
These accusations included 1,081 signatures that were from outside the district, 850 that were not registered to the Democratic party or to any party at all, and 1,504 signatures that were “illegible beyond recognition.” The Board of Elections will hear these objections at the beginning of August.
“This is clearly a desperate attempt to draw attention to S. J. Jung’s candidacy. Not coincidentally, it coincides with our announcement that Sen. Stavisky submitted far under the legal requirement of the 1,000 valid designating petitions signatures needed to gain access to the ballot,” Sullivan said.
Stavisky declined comment on Brown’s accusations about Parkside, however, Veronica Ng, Stavisky’s campaign manager, fired back about the petitions, “S. J. Jung needs to stop wasting everyone’s time with ridiculous challenges that have no chance of success,” she said.
Sullivan, Jung’s campaign manager, went deeper into S. J.’s work with the Jewish community, citing his job as an organizer for the Shalom Yerushalayim Cultural Festival for the past several years, a festival that promotes peace and security in Israel. “Many Jewish community leaders and Rabbis would be happy, if called upon, to speak to S. J.’s hard work for and dedication to the Jewish community.”
Cytnthia Zalisky, the executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, echoed those statements. She said it was disconcerting to hear the allegations, but that she wouldn’t comment beyond that without knowing more. “Both these candidates, to the Jewish community, have worked with us,” Zalisky said of both Jung and Stavisky.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400×127, email@example.com, or @farrellj329