Greenpoint Gazette

Open Door Series: Putting a Face on Policy

BY Juliet Linderman

A few months ago, 33rd district city council candidate Doug Biviano found himself a modest storefront, on one of the most beautiful blocks in the borough—nestled on the corner Montague and Hicks Streets in Brooklyn Heights, just up the road from the Promenade. With campaign season already well underway, Biviano decided that it was time to find an office space, an official headquarters, out of which to send mailings, make phone calls, organize literature and perform other necessary tasks that go along with running a successful campaign. The storefront also allows Biviano to leverage influence and notoriety in the community by giving him a presence, which he heavily defines by his special events series—the Open Door Series—that he hosts.
With topics ranging from art to immigration, literature to health care reform, the Open Door Series is designed to provide the community of the 33rd district with a forum in which to ask questions, have discussions and voice opinions about difficult and relevant issues, on both the local and national level.
“I try to have a small town Main Street campaign in the heart of a bustling metropolitan area—Brooklyn,” Biviano said. “I found a place on Montague Street, and as a guy coming out of nowhere, I knew I had to have a presence, and what better way than a big bold sign, right there on Brooklyn’s Main Street.”
The Open Door Series—the third event in the series, Health Care Uncovered, went off last Wednesday evening—was inspired by public forums hosted by the New York Public Library. Biviano explained that fun and interesting topical events provide community members not only with a chance to talk about issues most important to them, but to incentivize participation in the political process.
“I’m out there, I’m open, I’m friendly, I connect,” Biviano said. “I’ve been going to these forums—at the NYPL—and they talk about making the lions out in front of the main branch dance through conversation and entertainment; forums as a way to leverage the institution to its full extent. I knew I could make my own forums. I’m looking to connect and create a space, as a potential government representative, where people are welcome, where they can come and have conversations, to put a face to policy.”
Through his series, Biviano attempts to cull local talent and interest, and bridge the gap between important issues and public policy and the political process. And though inherently political and heavily discussion-based, the series is dynamic and flexible in form and media. For example, the first Open Door event was an art exhibit featuring Lorena Turner’s New Americans photographic portrait series of newly naturalized citizens. Doubling as an art opening for a prominent artist, Biviano took it as an opportunity to engage with the community in a conversation about immigration. Similarly, just last Wednesday evening, Biviano hosted a discussion on health care reform, which included a panel of physicians, activists and policy experts. And afterwards, of course, there was ample time for questions.
“All politics is local,” Biviano explained, in response to tackling such sweeping federal issues as health care and immigration policy as a candidate for the city council, a much smaller and more localized government office. “I want to give people a platform, make people relevant in a representative government. The campaign shouldn’t be about the candidate, it should be about the community, and you have to lead with the issues. It’s a question of connecting, opening your door to your constituency to create a collision of policy and faces. You have to create incentives, to make it fun, to make people want to engage. It’s an idea to break the cycle of apathy.”
The next Open Door Series event is scheduled for September 3rd, at Doug Biviano’s campaign office at 89 Montague Street.
“I’m harnessing two-way energy in this office. What we see with politicians, it becomes a close door policy,” Biviano said. “And I’m trying to open the door.”

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