By Zach Campbell
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
David Storobin, Brooklyn's newest state senator, is trying to rock the boat.
Three weeks into his new job, Storobin, a Republican, has sponsored legislation to repeal the 2011 legalization of gay marriage, expand the state death penalty and build a bike lane on the Coney Island boardwalk.
Storobin's explained that he sponsored the bill to repeal the marriage equality law because he “wanted to make a statement on behalf of the voters” of his district, which includes parts of Midwood, Flatbush and Borough Park and has a very large Orthodox Jewish community. Storobin's bill opposes a “definition of marriage that violates … religious and personal moral beliefs."
Storobin said he is seeking to establish himself as a staunch conservative in the lead-up to November's election in the newly drawn 17th District, where he will face off against Simcha Felder, a Democrat. Storobin has accused Felder of not representing the conservative ideals of district voters.
“He really has not marched to the same beat as the neighborhood,” said Storobin, referrring to an area with a growing population of conservative Russian immigrants.
“Eight or nine out of 10 people, when I speak to them, they tell me that they're voting Republican,” said Storobin, who was born in the former Soviet Union. District 17, referred to by some political observers as a “super-Jewish” district, had previously been divided among five other state Senate districts, all of which were held by Democrats.
Education is the most important issue in his district, said Storobin, who also sponsored a bill to repeal parts of the New York State Constitution that prohibit public money from going to religious schools.
With only two and a half weeks between his swearing in and the end of the legislative session, the rookie state senator has very little time to prove himself before November's election.
“This is clearly a political move,” said Carlos Menchaca Jr., co-president of Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, an LGBTQ political club. “It's a message that he needs on his end — it's definitely not a threat to marriage equality."
“There are more important things to be working on in his district, like safer schools and safer streets” Menchaca said. Lambda, advocating on behalf of LGBTQ youth, hopes to work with politicians who have been opposed to marriage equality in the past.
Storobin's current district will cease to exist at the end of this year, having been redrawn in the recent bout of redistricting by Senate Republicans. A spokesperson for his office said that the legislative off-season can be just as busy as the Senate session.
“People are calling our office every single day for help with permits, licensing, housing,” said Storobin. “We're doing that currently and we'll continue it after [the session ends].”
Storobin was selected in a March special election to fill the state Senate seat of Carl Kruger, who pleaded guilty to a $1 million bribery case last year. The election, in which he defeated City Council Member Lew Fidler (D-Marine Park), was the closest in the borough's history, and ended in a legal battle, a hand recount, and finally with a spread of fewer than 20 votes.
Other bills that Storobin has sponsored in his 17-day tenure include a proposed bike lane on the Coney Island boardwalk, which would require City Council approval; a law requiring that voting materials be provided in Russian, which passed on the last day of the legislative session; and an expansion of the state death penalty, a punishment that has not been used in New York state since 1963.