Pierson, 37, a Brown University graduate with a B.A. in modern culture and media, is the co-founder of Canteen magazine, a bi-annual print journal focusing on writers, musicians and authors. He is also the founder of the Harlem-based tutoring program, canTeens, developed in 2008 to teach underprivileged middle-school students about art and writing.
In his first public address, the 14-year Brooklyn resident repeatedly attacked Levin for his ties to Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who is at the heart of sexual harassment allegations and numerous federal investigations of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.
“I cannot stand idly by while Steve Levin demeans this district with his 19th century politics, continually putting his own political aspirations ahead of the needs of the community,” Pierson told supporters on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Sunday afternoon.
While he delivered no policy, if he were elected, Pierson did say he would hold weekly community meetings “on the more contentious issues,” organize town hall-style forums and debates, and offer long office hours in an effort to create a transparent council office.
“I will have an email address and a telephone number from which messages from the community are actually responded to,” Pierson said. “From what I’ve heard, responding to messages is not exactly a strength of Mr. Levin and his office, to put it mildly.”
When asked about his stance on education and gun control, Pierson denied the opportunity to deliver policy and told residents he would have a complex discussion on policy in private or at a later date.
Gary Schlesinger, executive board chairman at United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment (UJcare), an advocacy group for Hasidic Jewish residents in Williamsburg, threw his support to Pierson and criticized Levin for his disconnect with the community.
“A city councilman needs to interact with their constituents on a daily basis,” Schlesinger said. “We currently have no representation in the 33rd Council District.”
Longtime friends, family members and former associates like Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, an afterschool-programming advocate who met Pierson through the canTeens program, also joined Pierson at his announcement.
“One of the things that I have always loved about Stephen is that he is such a quiet listener,” Niedzielski-Eichner said. “He sits, he listens, he asks questions and then he turns around and does something about it. It’s very undramatic.
“There’s no sort of song and dance and ‘come look at me,’” she added. “He just sees the need, he figures out what needs to be done and he sits down and does it.”
This is one thing Pierson guaranteed he would bring to the table if elected.
“As your council member, I will listen,” Pierson said. “I know that the Brooklyn community collectively has a far greater, more nuanced understanding of the issues facing us than I or anyone else ever could on my own.”