But social liberalism matters to Park Slope. Diana Berger, 44, lives in the Slope and belongs to Beth Elohim, although she describes her religious affiliation as "culinary-Jewish, atheist." Clad in a light blue fleece and reading a Harry Potter novel before the event started, she said she is leaning toward Quinn for identity-politics reasons, even though Quinn disappointed her by slow-rolling the City Council's popular bill to require employers to provide paid sick leave. "I hate to admit it, [because] She's a woman, just like I'll support Hillary [Clinton]," said Berger. "But she seems progressive."
Bernstein started off by asking every candidate whether the Brooklyn Nets were right to fire head coach P.J. Carlesimo on Sunday. The candidates were almost dumbstruck, either completely unaware of who Carlesimo is or petrified of giving an off-the-cuff answer. Albanese asked Bernstein to repeat the question, then bashfully admitted, "I really don't know." Non-profit executive and Republican candidate George McDonald laughed and then stared blankly until Bernstein gave up and moved on.
But Quinn, showing some of the political adeptness that has helped vault her to the frontrunner position, joked that because her wife is an alum of Seton Hall, where Carlesimo coached for many years, she is obligated to say only good things about him. This went over extremely well with Berger who enthused after the event that Quinn was "fantastic."
"Fifty years ago, she could never have said, 'my wife,' and she came right out with it," said Berger. "That matters to me because I'm married to a woman too. Abortion also matters to me." Judging by the lack of applause, the audience seemed more pacified than enthused by Quinn. She was exceedingly careful to take vague positions on most issues. Should New York have traffic lanes dedicated solely to buses? It should be examined, she offered. "It won't make sense on every street in every neighborhood," she said, adding and that adjacent residents and businesses should be consulted. No one could possibly object -- but no one is likely to be inspired, either.
Anyone who was disappointed that the evening didn't feature Jimmy McMillan of the Rent is Too Damn High Party would have been pleased that there were two joke candidates in attendance: McDonald and John Catsimatidis. If McMillan were a white Republican in a gray business suit, he would be an amalgam of the two of them. McDonald -- the only candidate to receive no applause upon being introduced, only befuddled murmurs of "Who is he?" -- seemed unprepared to answer many of the questions. Asked what he would have done about the controversial bike lane on Prospect Park West, one block from the synagogue, if he were mayor, he gave the rather unmayoral answer: "Well, I'm not mayor."
McDonald was not always so laconic, though. He claimed that New York City public employees are the only employees who do not contribute at all to their health insurance, bringing shouts of "Not true!" from the audience. He cracked the audience up by noting that the Second Avenue subway line has been planned for so long that it was referenced as coming soon on a recent episode of Mad Men. He also offered some dramatic tales from his youth, saying that he remembered when New York was in a state of "anarchy," due to crime that was so bad that he wouldn't let his daughters walk to their corner on 84th Street and 2nd Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side at 9 p.m. because of the people "smoking crack on our stoop and coming in through the windows." He closed on an anecdote that 25 years ago a mafia "button man" came up to him in a "saloon" on Columbus Avenue and said, "The problem with you, McDonald, is you're too honest."