Raphael Espinal’s campaign for the open 54th AD seat has caused a firestorm of controversy with campaign literature featuring a ‘doctored’ photo of a May 1 protest rally against the proposed 202 bed men’s shelter.
Original pictures of the rally featured community residents and children holding signs with slogans such as ’14 Shelters and Counting,’ ‘I’m Scared for my Safety,’ ‘Stop the Oversaturation,’ and What About the Children.’ Espinal’s ‘doctored’ photograph has signs saying ‘Bloomberg Don’t Cut My Job,’ ‘More jobs for my Parents,’ and ‘Bloomberg Don’t Cut Summer Jobs.’ Community residents are outraged.
Bernadette Mitchell, Vice President of the 1400 Herkimer Street Block Association, said, “Our signs said, ‘Not in our Backyard,’ ‘Save the Children,’ ‘We are Afraid for our Safety,’ ‘What about the Seniors,’ ‘What about the Children.’ Our focus was on the community and the safety issue.”
Anthony Newerls, President of Brooklyn Blizzards Youth Organization, said he attended the rally because “I support the community against the shelters. Being an advocate of the young people, we want to make sure the community isn’t inundated with shelters which would affect the kids coming home from school.”
In regards to the photo, Newerls said, “I am outraged that someone running for office would ‘doctor’ a picture in support of young people and change it to something in support of their campaign. I put on record that I do not support this candidate. I am outraged that they would even do something like this with my picture standing for young people. That picture makes it look like we were rallying to fight for jobs and we were not. We went there fighting against shelters coming into Brownsville six blocks from another shelter.”
When asked if he ever held a poster that said “Bloomberg don’t cut my job”, Newerls said, “Never, ever. I have the originals. We would like to ask Espinal ‘When did that picture take place?’ I never met this man ever in my life.”
Community activist Tony Herbert had assisted the 1400 Herkimer Street Block Association with planning a series of rallies protesting the men’s shelter. “I’m pissed off, along with other people in the community. To use the likeness of innocent children from the community for the purposes of campaigning creates another impression that people shouldn’t trust politicians anymore because they lie and falsely create situations that never existed. To use those young people in the community who are concerned about their lives and their security for another purpose that has nothing to do with what they were rallying for definitely speaks to the fact that no one should support this guy,” said Herbert. “This tells you what kind of elected official he would be he should be fortunate enough to get elected. The actual issue was a proposed 202-bed men’s shelter that would be placed on their block.
This picture gives the impression that he is somehow connected to the community, and he’s not. He misused the images of those people.”
The Espinal campaign’s ‘doctored’ photo was exposed when one woman who lives around the corner from the 1400 Herkimer Street area came to Bed-Stuy to visit her mother. “I went to check my mother’s mailbox in Bed-Stuy and I found Espinal’s campaign literature,” she said. The woman did not want to give her name, but she said she was familiar with him since he is the Chief of Staff for Councilman Eric Dilan. “When I got home on the Ocean Hill side of town, I looked at the picture. I said to myself, ‘Oh, that’s the shelter picture from our rally in May.’ I saw a couple of my neighbors in the picture. She then looked closely and “saw something about jobs. Our rally wasn’t about jobs. It was a rally against the shelter.”
The woman showed the ‘doctored’ picture to the vice president of the block association. According to the woman, “One of her neighbors got very upset. He said, ‘That’s my daughter. We had no signs like that.’ The gentleman holding the sign that says ‘Bloomberg don’t cut my job,’ he’s a community activist in Brownsville.”
Displeased community residents tried to rectify the situation by directly confronting Raphael Espinal.
One 1400 Herkimer Street neighbor went to Espinal’s office and said “How dare you.” He said Espinal claimed he didn’t know anything about it.
Ms. Mitchell said, “We called him on the picture. They told us ‘No, it was the public relations office. You have to call public relations.’ People in my neighborhood were very upset. My daughter is actually in the picture.”
“I think they use poor judgment to use people and not inform them and to ‘doctor’ the photograph. It was very poor judgment. A lot of people on the block were saying they don’t know if any of us work for Bloomberg and the ‘doctored’ photo has signs saying ‘no Bloomberg,’” said Ms. Mitchell. “He used us.”