Civil Court hopefuls speak at the Baruch Houses


By Lincoln Anderson

Villager photos by Elisabeth Robert

Three of the four Democratic candidates for Civil Court judge in the Second Municipal Court District attended a forum at the Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side last week in an effort to win over voters in the housing project, seen as an important voting bloc.

All of them attorneys, Frank Nervo, Arlene Bluth and Virginia Kolodny gave brief introductory remarks and answered questions, followed by summations as to why they deserved voters’ support. The fourth candidate, Housing Court Judge Shlomo Hagler, who is Orthodox Jewish, could not attend because it was a religious holiday.

The audience of about 70 was mainly Hispanic, so Baruch Houses Tenants Association president Roberto Napoleon translated the candidates’ remarks into Spanish.

Nervo at times got the biggest applause, largely because he appeared to have brought the most supporters, including David Reck, a Democratic district leader from Hudson Sq.

Each candidate talked about how they had assisted individuals through their legal work. In Bluth’s case she mentioned one case where she helped a “Mr. Lee” retain his store on Lower Broadway after 9/11.

“When that happens, I feel good,” Bluth said. “As a judge, I’ll be able to give justice every single day.”

Kolodny cited her experience working in Civil Court.

“I know the court that I’m running for,” she said. “I’ve had experience on both sides of the bench.” She said she had helped former Councilmember Kathryn Freed, who is also running for a Civil Court judge seat in another vacancy, develop the Interim Loft Law, the Loft Law’s precursor.

Nervo, who put himself through law school by working as a court stenographer, spoke about aiding a tenant whose landlord had ripped up her floor, exposing hazardous asbestos, in an effort to force her out. He helped settle a malpractice suit that left a boy physically disabled.

“A lesson was taught” to the hospital as a result, he said.

However, the candidates couldn’t really talk in more than generalities about what they might do when faced with certain issues.

“What are you going to do for us, the people of the Lower East Side?” one audience member asked.

Judicial ethics prohibit the candidates from discussing such matters.

“I think we can promise one thing — to be fair and honest and listen,” Bluth said.

Nervo made a similar promise — adding that, if elected, he’d be happy to show anyone from the district around the courthouse where he’ll work.

One woman asked where they stand on the punitive Rockefeller Drug Laws. Again the question could not be directly answered. But Nervo told the audience members that he only has supported political candidates who “share your core Democratic values.”

The one flashpoint was when Bluth defended her challenge of Kolodny’s ballot petition signatures, saying “No one is above the law” and that all she was doing is “following the law and enforcing the law.”

Offended, Kolodny rose to her feet and said that made it sound like she Bluth was “insinuating” she had done something illegal.

Insiders say that if Bluth can knock Kolodny of the ballot it will help her immensely, leaving Bluth the only woman in the race.

Virginia Kolodny; Arlene Bluth; and Frank Nervo.