Lew Simon made a mistake a long time ago when he walked into The Wave and produced a phony teacher certificate. He pulled that boneheaded move because Howie Schwach, a columnist at the time, called Simon’s teaching credentials a bunch of baloney. Without much digging, The Wave found out that Simon held no teaching certificate and had been falsely passing himself off as a qualified teacher. He had, in fact, never received a college degree though his resume listed a B.A. from Brooklyn College and a Master’s from Adelphi.
Simon’s defenders often note that many politicians have done a lot worse. Since that unfortunate episode in the late 1990s, Simon, to be sure, has been a vocal advocate for Rockaway. He has also been an active Democratic District Leader, an unpaid position.
He’s been such an advocate, The Wave announced its support for him in Tuesday’s primary in last week’s edition. Simon called the endorsement “the highlight of my campaign.”
Well, before the print was barely dry, a sense of déjà vu washed over the newsroom. We took a routine glance at the New York City Campaign Finance website to have a look at the profiles of various candidates, submitted by the candidates themselves. Lo and behold, Simon lists “Private school teacher” as his current occupation.
We had to ask, Lew, what gives?
According to Simon, he had been teaching fourth grade English at Yeshiva Ateres Yisroel in Brooklyn in 2012 while at the same time holding a part-time position with State Senator Malcolm Smith. Simon maintains, although he is still without a college diploma, he was permitted to teach. (Private schools often do not have the same requirements as public schools.) Simon says the Yeshiva went bankrupt and closed its doors in June 2012 leaving him without a teaching job. He did, however, still have the parttime job with Smith. That job, however, was soon ended when all Smith employees were instructed to work within Smith’s new district, a move Simon did not want to make. He followed that job doing work for State Senator Shirley Huntley. That was another short term position as she was not re-elected in a September race which followed her arrest on conspiracy charges a month earlier. Finally, in the weeks before Sandy, Simon says he did some temporary instructional work for the Board of Elections.
Simon says that when he decided in May, 2013 to challenge Eric Ulrich in the 32nd City Council District, he faced a dilemma. He was unemployed and had been since Sandy. He said he did not want to write “unemployed” as current occupation and instead followed the advice of Norman Silverman, a friend and advisor, who suggested “Private school teacher” because that had been Simon’s primary work for years.
“I want to win more than anything. And I learned my lesson. I am not lying. I was a teacher for a lot of years. If the yeshiva was open I would still be there.”
On Wednesday at 4:30 in the afternoon The Wave called the Yeshiva only to get an answering machine with the message: The Yeshiva hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m, to 2:30 p.m.
Thursday was a Jewish holiday so again only there was no way to verify the school’s status. Simon insists the answering machine is active but the yeshiva is definitely closed.
A fan of Simon who asked not to be identified said Simon could have listed “community organizer” as his occupation; another said he could have listed “Democratic District Leader.”
Late Thursday, Simon called to say he had done just that. He said he called the Campaign Finance Board to amend his occupation. It will soon show his occupation as “Assembly District Leader.”
No matter what he lists on the website, Simon says his main occupation now is convincing voters he deserves a new job title: City Councilman.