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Green candidate to challenge Councilwoman Palma

Mayor Michael Bloomberg talks green. Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. talks green. City Council Democrats in the Bronx talk green.

But Walter Nestler is the real green thing, or so he argues. The landscape architect turned 18th Council District candidate has revived the Bronx County Green Party. A former Parks Department employee, Nestler has raised more than $13,000 and nearly $34,000 in public funds.

18th Council District incumbent Annabel Palma, who had no opposition in her Democratic primary, has raised nearly $47,000 and has yet to claim pubic funds.

On the afternoon of Friday, October 9, Nestler slipped into a booth at George’s Diner under the Zerega Avenue #6 IRT station, ordered a sandwich and explained how he intends to rescue the 18th Council District: Soundview, Parkchester, Clason Point, Castle Hill and Harding Park. Nestler, who has an environmental science degree, is focused on two greens: the color of grass and the color of money.

“It boils down to dollars and cents,” the third-generation Clason Point resident said. “Where it is. How to get it. How to keep it. The city owes us and the bill is due.”

As a member of Community Board 9, Nestler has monitored on 18th Council District parks. He has attended speak-ups and filed Freedom of Information Law requests.

Although the 18th Council District has seen progress at Soundview Park, Concrete Plant Park and Pugsley Creek Park – thanks in part to the $200 million Croton Water Filtration Plant fund – the state Department of Transportation and the city Department of Sanitation owe the district a combined $70 million in parks work, Neslter said. Besides, 60 percent of the district is landfill; its parks are threatened by contamination.

Palma has failed to hold the Parks Department accountable; although Palma is a “good person” and honest compared to Bronx pols, she is unknown to 90 percent of her constituents, Neslter said.

Palma helped complete rezones of Clason Point and Harding Park in 2007. The former nurse and 1199 SEIU leader chairs the City Council drug abuse subcommittee.

Nestler doesn’t belong to the Green Party; an independent, he leans left but regards the Bronx County Democratic Party with distaste.

“Maybe the [Bronx County] Green Party has no experience,” Neslter admitted. “No experience with indictments.”

Neslter has pet issues. He wants an elevator for the Parkchester #6 IRT station and a ferry from Castle Hill to the Upper East Side. He wants sidewalks repaired at the Castle Hill Houses. But at George’s, he returned again and again to green. Bloomberg and Bronx pols “green wash” developments because green is trendy. Neslter wants to put green roofs on every city development and apply LEED standards to every new building.

Nestler, who is white, has a formidable task: to defeat an incumbent Latina in a district that is 55 percent Hispanic American. But the P.S. 69 and St. Raymond High School grad knows his neighborhood well.

At George’s, Nestler outlined an episode that transcended race politics. In 2005, the City Council allowed Seventh Day Adventists to build a senior housing development at White Plains Road and Randall Avenue, despite CB9 opposition to its height. Although the development was meant to be full by November 2008, it remains empty, said Nestler, who lives nearby. Palma missed the City Council vote but was excused.

“Why am I the Green Party candidate?” Nestler said. “Because I’ve seen the trees I used to play in cut down and the creeks I used to swim in filled in.”

The Green Party has four City Council candidates: Nestler, David Pechesfsky of Brooklyn, Evergreen Chou of Queens and Lynne Serpe of Queens. The general election is on Tuesday, November 3.

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