Councilman’s aide who said he was tormented settles for $850K

A former aide to ex-City Councilman Vincent Gentile — who sued the city alleging coworkers left decapitated teddy bears on his desk and tormented him over his autism — settled his lawsuit for $850,000, according to records and officials.

Michael Bistreich’s $10 million lawsuit against the former Brooklyn lawmaker and the City of New York was settled Wednesday after a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled his case could move forward to trial, according to records and a city Law Department spokesperson.   

Bistreich, a former legislative director and budget director for the Bay Ridge lawmaker, brought his suit in 2016, alleging he faced discrimination for his Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. 

The staffer alleged coworkers left “mutilated stuffed animals” on his desk after he revealed to them he “identified with” and held emotional attachments to inanimate objects such as plush toys, records show. 

Former Councilman Vincent Gentile
The lawsuit claimed former Councilman Vincent Gentile referred to Bistreich as “retarded.”
Gregory P. Mango

He claimed Gentile and senior staff referred to him as “retarded,” threw pencils at his head, locked him in a basement and told him, “You sit there and drool on yourself all day,” court records state. 

The suit further alleged the Democratic pol complained that Bistreich’s shaking hands and twitching head, both symptoms of Asper­ger’s, were “unnerving,” and repeatedly asked him to increase his medication, even though the tics can’t be treated.

“There’s nothing? Nothing that can go in your brain and stop it?” Gentile ­allegedly said.

In 2019, Bistreich leveled more claims against Gentile, alleging the councilman believed he shouldn’t be paid as much as others because of his disability and the fact he lived at home.

A source close to the office claimed at the time the pay was justified because the staffer was fresh out of college. The source claimed Bistreich used to make comments like “No one can fire me. I will sue,” showing “he knows what he’s doing.”

Michael Birstreich, a former aide to Vincent Gentile, accused the former Brooklyn lawmaker of belittling him over his Asperger's-related tick.
Michael Birstreich, a former aide to Vincent Gentile, accused the former Brooklyn lawmaker of belittling him over his Asperger’s-related tick.
Paul Martinka

Attorneys repping the city tried to see the case dismissed in 2019, telling a judge Bistreich was “favorably treated,” provided with “increased visibility and opportunities for growth” and the staff’s alleged conduct was “office-wide” and not directed solely at the staffer. 

They maintained his termination was based on “professional misconduct and not his disability,” court records state. 

Mutilated teddy bears
Bistreich alleged coworkers left “mutilated stuffed animals” on his desk.

But Judge Verna Saunders ultimately found Bistreich had established a strong case for discrimination, writing in an order that the “facts and circumstances” of the case are “appropriate for a jury to decide” before calling for a settlement conference.

Attorneys for Bistreich didn’t return a request for comment on the settlement.

The city’s Law Department said in a statement: “This is a fair settlement in the best interest of all parties and we are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”

Gentile left his council post in 2017, when he unsuccessfully ran for Brooklyn District Attorney.

Additional reporting by Julia Marsh

Credit: NYPOST

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