That was then and this is now.
A former nightclub owner whose past includes since-denied claims of paying off cops and supplying celebrities with drugs says he’s ready to bring law and order back to Brooklyn.
Vito Bruno, a music industry insider who got his start at 2001 Odyssey, the Brooklyn club made famous in “Saturday Night Fever,” says crime and safety are his biggest concerns as he mounts a challenge against incumbent State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge) as a Republican.
However, some borough residents are skeptical of Bruno’s claims and his transformation from clubland impressario to Trump-backing conservative.
“Vito Bruno doesn’t represent ‘law and order,' he represents the exact opposite—a return to the bad old days,” said longtime Bay Ridge resident Kristen Pettit. “Only a man who believes he is above the law openly discusses how he’s broken it.”
Bruno brushed off concerns from neighbors about his past, which includes hosting unpermitted “outlaw” parties that raged into the morning hours at defunct and derelict sites across the city as well as multiple sordid claims he now refutes.
“They’re going back 40 years to find stuff and you know what I think they’re wasting their money on that stuff because it’s all been published,” he told the Daily News. “They keep going back to 40 years ago, I think none of us are the same as we were 40 years ago.”
In 1983, Bruno implied in an interview with the New York Times that he gave large sums of cash to cops at Christmas to turn a blind eye to his activities. In a book about actor John Belushi, journalist Bob Woodward notes that Bruno told him he “would get drugs” for the Saturday Night Live star.
Bruno, who first tried his hand at politics in 2017 with an unsuccessful bid for Brooklyn Borough President, has earned the support of Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa as he claims inequality and safety are the two biggest issues facing Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
He slammed Gouardes, who replaced longtime Republican senator Marty Golden in 2018, for backing bail reforms and other progressive policies and griped about rising crime across the city.
“Police have been disrespected. These are the people that are supposed to protect us. We need them,” he said.
Earlier this month, Bruno joined pro-cop demonstrators who marched through the streets of Brooklyn to show support for police at an event dubbed the “Rally to Back the Blue.”
Despite viral videos from the rally showing several marchers hurling insults, attacking and spitting on counter-protesters, Bruno said antifa, or anti-fascists, who he thinks have hijacked the Black Lives Matter movement, were the instigators.
“We had vomit thrown on us. They had five people attack a 75-year-old man. People were terrified,” he said before pivoting his attention to his opponent. “And then we hear the elected officials are blaming the people who supported the police for the violence.”
The Gounardes campaign, meanwhile, jumped on recent comments Bruno made while discussing crime with Gotham Gazette.
“It’s the culture that’s the problem. And statistics will show — and I know they’ll turn it into a racial thing, which I do not want to. I do not want to — but statistics show that households that don’t have a father, the crime and all that is through the roof,” he said.
Gounardes campaign spokesperson Alex Elmasri slammed Bruno, accusing him of running a racist and divisive campaign.
“He said the quiet part out loud. Vito Bruno is trying to run a campaign off of racist dog whistles and hopes that no one will notice,” Elmsari said. “Well guess what? We’ve all noticed. With each piece of new information we learn about Vito Bruno and his regressive views, he continues to show that he’s not capable of uniting or leading a diverse community.”
Bruno shot back, telling The News, that there’s “not a racist bone in my body.”
“That might be a little projection coming from the little rich kid who never sets foot anywhere,” he said.
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