Allston-Brighton’s unlikely kingmaker
This guy can swing an election
BY JOE HEISLER
Yet he is the antithesis of the modern-day American power broker. Naakh (pronounced " knock " ) Wysoky is a retired Ukrainian internist who emigrated from the Soviet Union 23 years ago and now lives at the Jewish Community Housing for Elderly (JCHE) complex on Wallingford Road, in Brighton. Quiet and unassuming, the spry 80-year-old lives with his wife in a modest two-bedroom apartment there.
Wysoky is the unofficial spokesman and civic leader of the approximately 700 Eastern European Jewish immigrants who live in the JCHE complex. But his influence extends far beyond the complex’s walls. Just ask Jerry McDermott and Mark Ciommo, the two candidates who topped the field of nine in this week’s special preliminary election to fill the District Nine city-council seat left vacant by the sudden death of Councilor Brian Honan last summer. The two, who will face off for the seat in a special final election December 10, were both beneficiaries of Wysoky’s power and influence.
An unlikely ally to politicians, Wysoky is one of a growing number of racial and ethnic minorities helping to change the face of Boston politics. He counts among his " friends " the likes of Mayor Thomas Menino, Congressman Michael Capuano, and City Council president Michael Flaherty. He was particularly fond of the late John O’Connor, the Cambridge activist and one-time Eighth District congressional candidate, whom Wysoky says was like " a son " to him.
Brian Golden, the socially conservative three-term state representative who won a closely fought primary battle this September, is like a " grandson, " Wysoky says. The feeling is mutual, according to Golden, who has shoveled snow from the complex’s sidewalks, stops by frequently, and visited Wysoky in the hospital after a recent heart attack. Golden is one of several whom Wysoky can call upon to help his followers navigate the government bureaucracy and receive services. It’s a relationship that no doubt paid off for Golden in his narrow victory over attorney David Friedman.
Wysoky has personally escorted over 100 JCHE residents to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to help them obtain citizenship. He and his wife sponsor English classes for residents. And Wysoky has even testified before Congress in support of legislation to extend SSI benefits to recent arrivals.
In an interview prior to the preliminary election, Wysoky vowed to stay out of the council race. However, many of his followers and the " committee " that advocates for the complex support Ciommo, director of the nearby Veronica Smith Senior Center, and McDermott, who enjoys the support of Golden and several local operatives for Mayor Menino. As it happened, Ciommo topped the crowded field of nine with 1668 votes, while McDermott came in second with 1310.
Issue Date: November 14 - 21, 2002
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