18, No. 17
Sept. 8 - 21, 2005
Koppell Banks on Record, Experience in
By HEATHER HADDON
After more than 30 years in politics, Oliver Koppell is
understandably quite confident in his ability to win elections. “Quite
honestly, I’ve run a lot of campaigns and I think I know what to do,” said
Koppell, 64, wearing a large “Koppell for City Council” button on his lapel.
Despite the self-assuredness, Koppell is not neglecting his bid for
reelection to his Council seat in District 11. He campaigns at subway
stations every morning, has visited senior centers and shopping strips, and
has mailed leaflets to 200,000 residents — more than during his first
Council race in 2001.
“I think we’ve done everything that we need to do,” he said.
Koppell is campaigning on his attentiveness to local issues and needs, like
funding Norwood youth programs and helping to open the Bedford Park Senior
Center. He is proud of his outspokenness against the filtration plant and
the overhaul of the Bronx Meals on Wheels program, and thinks both can still
“If we get a new mayor, I think we can stop [the plant],” said Koppell
during an interview at the Norwood News last week. “We can fill the hole up.
I haven’t changed my view.” He is also looking to rescind the Meals on
Wheels pilot, which is up for review this fall.
If reelected, Koppell said he will help start a Business Improvement
District in the East 204th Street and Bainbridge Avenue shopping district.
He also wants to see more cops in that area. Last month, he met with the
52nd Precinct’s commander to discuss concerns about drugs on the strip and
along Jerome Avenue.
The Kingsbridge Armory is important to Koppell, even thought it’s not in his
district, and he pledges to continue working with Assemblyman and Bronx
Democratic Chair Jose Rivera, a former foe he has gotten closer to, to push
the governor on the stalled development. “I think it’s the governor’s
responsibility, there’s no doubt,” said Koppell, referring to the task of
finding another location for the armory’s remaining National Guard
companies. He sees the armory as the linchpin to creating more schools in
the area, but didn’t have ideas of other possible school sites.
Koppell met with Tracey Towers management and tenants last week to discuss
the buildings’ hefty repair needs, and he hopes to secure a sizable grant or
low-interest loan for them next year. “There is a significant improvement at
Tracey Towers, but it’s not enough,” he said.
Another priority for Koppell is targeting local problem buildings for a new
city housing inspection program. He intends to push several pieces of
environmental legislation, and create more incentives for affordable
For the current budget, Koppell brought $4 million in capital funds to the
district, an increase from his first three years on the Council. Koppell was
long aligned against Bronx Democratic regulars and was a backbencher for
most of his first term in the Council. He has since come in from the cold,
becoming a close ally of Council Speaker Gifford Miller and working with
Rivera and his daughter, Naomi, a freshman member of the Assembly.
Koppell would love to be chosen as the Council’s next speaker, but isn’t
overly optimistic about his chances. “Politically, it doesn’t look like it’s
going to happen, [but] I think I would be the best person for it,” he said,
smiling. “I guess I’m not modest.”
He also doesn’t mince words fending off his challenger’s attacks. “It’s
poppycock,” said Koppell in response to an accusation that he spends more
hours in his part-time legal practice than with the Council. Koppell
contends that he works over 40 hours a week on Council affairs, and is at
City Hall four days a week. He says he averages roughly 15 hours a week at
the law office.
“I have one of the best attendance records in the Council,” he said. In
response to another of Hoffnung’s attacks, Koppell denied that his office
hours are limited, saying that most Council people do not offer evening
Koppell counts endorsements from 45 of the 51 Council members, and he’s been
out campaigning with Assemblywoman Rivera and other elected officials. The
Riverdale-based Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club has been calling
voters, and 75 volunteers have distributed some 80,000 leaflets. It’s that
support that led Koppell to select his 22-year-old daughter, Jackie, to run
“I felt it would be good for her and good for me,” said Koppell, who has two
daughters and three grandchildren.
If he defeats Ari Hoffnung, Koppell can only serve one more four-year term
in the Council due to term limits. He wouldn’t say what he would do
“I’m just focusing on the Council for now,” he said.
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