Although he just entered the city’s crowded mayoral race this week, Jack Hidary believes that by running as an independent and as a businessman not beholden to any interest groups, he can easily separate himself from the others in the field, whom he described as largely “career politicians.”
“The career politicians running have had their chance to deliver for the people but have failed to do so,” he told The Jewish Week. “It is time for independent leadership that takes us forward and not backwards to machine politics. It got us into trouble in the ‘70s when we were on the brink of bankruptcy. Do we want to be the next Detroit?”
Asked what distinguishes him from the other Jewish mayoral candidate, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is vying for the Democratic nomination, Hidary said Weiner had been his congressman and was a real “disappointment” because he did little for his district.
“When people look at Anthony Weiner’s 12 plus years in Congress, he produced only one piece of legislation,” he said.
By contrast, Hidary, 45, said he is “attractive to many communities.” A graduate of the Yeshiva of Flatbush, he said his Sephardic family has been involved in education for more than 50 years and is “widely known in the Brooklyn Jewish community – and they have been a strong factor for my candidacy.”
“Many people around New York City – educators, business people, school principals, small business people and entrepreneurs – called me and said you have to enter the race because we need a different choice,” he said.
Hidary, a successful technology CEO who co-founded Dice.com, an online Website for job seekers, and is the current chairman of Samba Energy, said that as mayor he would pay particular attention to the outer boroughs.
“There‘s a lot of good economic development in downtown Manhattan, but how about Brooklyn?” he asked. “A lot of people want to start companies in Brighton Beach and elsewhere and are looking for the same services you find in Manhattan and they are not there. … So there is demand in the city from people who want to start and grow companies and expand out to the edges” of the city.
“I want to focus on community,” Hidary stressed. “I have not heard one candidate talk about tangible investment in community centers and services. In my own community, I look at the benefits to New York City and my neighbors by the investment in the Sephardic Community Center, a public-private partnership at Ocean Parkway and Avenue S. Before it was built, families were moving to Long Island.
“The center has brought everyone back and focused the community — providing a place for small businesses to get mentors and adult education, for immigrants to come and get English classes and training for jobs. These are some of the many roles of a community center.”
And yet, Hidary pointed out, the community center in Far Rockaway has been under construction for six years. He said it should be completed immediately because the area was hard hit by super storm Sandy and the community center would provide services urgently needed there.
Citing the city’s unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, which he said translates into more than 350,00 people — up to 180,000 under the age of 25 – Hidary said the community centers “can provide training for various types of jobs and skills to help our youth get into the work force. And they will help individuals whose businesses have gone bust to start again. And I’m for micro-finance – low interest loans for those who can’t get money from a bank to start their own business.”
Despite his yeshiva education, Hidary said he has spent the last six years focused on public education, such as East Side Community High School at 420 East 12th Street.
“I have worked with that school as it blazed a new pathway in blended learning – a new approach all schools can learn from,” he said. “I encouraged one of the yeshivas to visit it, and they are now adopting some of their techniques. It is moving away from textbook education – in which there is a lot of memorization and rote learning – towards team-based learning and working to solve challenges together.”
Hidary said he also wants private schools to take advantage of some of the modern equipment found in public schools.
“We can build facilities dedicated to computer science that would be used by public school kids and rented by private schools for their students to make sure they have the best access to computer science,” he said. “Just as we have public school yards leased by private schools, we could do the same for computer science.”
Hidary said that between now and Election Day he plans to “get out with the people seven days a week. … You will have a very distinct choice in November. The choice will be going back to party politics or someone like myself – a uniter who will focus on community and has tangible plans to bring services to communities. That is a critical role of the next mayor.”
Other longshots already in the race — candidates who are trailing in polls and fundraising and do not have the backing of unions or parties or major elected officials — include former Democrats Sal Albanse and Erick Salgado and Republican George McDonald.