NYC: An Albanian, Ken Biberaj, running for City Council
Ken Biberaj, a vice president at The Russian Tea Room, who is running for Councilwoman Gale Brewer's seat on the Upper West Side, raised more than $20,000 from over 35 donors who are involved in the restaurant business. Ms. Brewer is prevented from running for her seat next year by term limits.
The industry's support represents more than 15% of the amount Mr. Biberaj has raised in the four and a half months since he announced his candidacy. In fact, Mr. Biberaj is among just a handful of candidates who has completed his fundraising efforts, reaching $130,000 last week—the amount needed for public matching funds.
Among his supporters are Marc Murphy, chef and co-owner of Landmarc and Ditch Plains, Stephen Hanson, president of B.R. Guest Hospitality and Tracy Nieporent, a partner in Myriad Restaurant Group.
"Ken is a small business man so he understands what we go through on a broad range of issues in operating our restaurants," said Mr. Nieporent. "I think he'll be a good voice on the council."
Mr. Biberaj is also a member of NYC & Company's restaurant committee, of which Mr. Nieporent is chairman.
Mr. Biberaj, whose donation filings were just posted on the New York City Campaign Finance Board web site, is of Albanian descent. That helped him draw support from the Albanian culinary community, including Sergio Zherka, of Acappella Restaurant, who donated $500, and Shaban "Ben" Sinanaj, of Ben & Jack's Steak House, who gave $2,000.
"There has never been an Albanian elected to City Council," said Mr. Biberaj.
Mr. Biberaj's fundraising success is surprising, given his status as a first-time candidate.
"To have maxed out this early [in the race] is impressive," said Kimberly Peeler-Allen, a political fundraiser. "I think 15% is a substantial number," from one sector.
Mr. Biberaj continues to run the Russian Tea Room while he campaigns. This morning, he said, he was handing out flyers at the subway station at 72nd and Broadway and in the afternoon was at the restaurant for the first day of Restaurant Week.