Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights.
TRYING TO STAND OUT IN A CROWD OF EIGHT
When Assemblymember Ed Sullivan, a 26-year veteran of the New York
State legislature, announced his retirement, a mad scramble for his seat
commenced among Democratic political hopefuls on Manhattan's Upper West
Eight are running in the Democratic primary for the 69th State
Assembly district, which stretches north of Lincoln Center and west of
Central Park, including much of the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights
and Manhattan Valley. These neighborhoods are among the wealthier in
the city, and Columbia University adds Ivy League status to the mix.
Still, the district has its problems, including insufficient housing,
poor public schools, health care failures, and the recent loss of 'mom
and pop' stores to large chains.
Five of the candidates discussed the issues; three were unavailable.
In 2003 rent stabilization laws will be expire and the state's
legislators will decide whether regulations should be continued,
expanded, limited, or even eliminated altogether. Because of widespread
tenant worries about the disappearance of rent regulation, all the
interviewed candidates said that rent stabilization laws should be
extended for another five years. In addition, all say that
Mitchell-Lama program for middle-income subsidized housing should be
"Take some of the money that's being spent to build new housing, and
use it to give to landlords from older housing as an incentive to keep
the apartment house rent-stabilized," suggested Ari Goodman.
Daniel O'Donnell spoke about expanding the Mitchell-Lama program
throughout the state and giving tax incentives to builders whose
developments contain rent-stabilized apartments. O'Donnell is a public
interest lawyer and a member of Community Board 9 and the Morningside
Heights Historic District Committee.
Louis Nunez, a former teacher and businessman, spoke out against
luxury decontrol, a loophole in the current rent regulations that allows
landlords to deregulate apartments that rent for $2000 or more. Through
renovations to vacant apartments, landlords can increase rents to this
level without too much difficulty.
The state legislature recently handed the reins to the city's school
system to Mayor Michael Bloomberg who abolished the Board of Education
and appointed a new chancellor.
"The educational system in New York was broken; clearly it needed to
be fixed," said Daniel O'Donnell, approving of the change in school
governance. Most of the other candidates agreed that the change was long
overdue, although some had reservations about it.
Cynthia Doty said she has worked with retiring Assemblymember Ed
Sullivan on educational issues for the past eight years. In her
experience, she said, increasing parental involvement is one of the best
ways to improve the quality of a child's education.
Louis Nunez proposed a New York City lottery, with revenues going
strictly to city schools and after-school homework centers. He
expressed dismay that not enough money from the New York State Lottery
was going to the school system, for which it was supposedly established.
In order to generate more funding for education, O'Donnell proposed
reorganizing the current property tax model, which provides much of the
money for schools. He suggested instead using an income tax model. "
If somebody was in the circumstance normally they made $100,000 and the
next year they made $50,000, they wouldn't be paying the same real
estate tax for their kids to get educated," he said.
Goodman called for greater awareness of special programs available to
all public school students. "Every family that has children should be
sent letters about special schools, honors programs, etc. However, not
all of these people read, so public service announcements should be done
to let them know -- on radio, television, Spanish television. Lower
income people don't find out about these programs," he said.
Steve Strauss, Ari Goodman, and Daniel O'Donnell spoke of expanding
new state-subsidized programs, such as Child Health Plus, Family Health
Plus, and Healthy NY, which provide health insurance to low and middle
income New Yorkers.
Cynthia Doty said that the 69th district has a huge problem with
senior citizens who can't afford prescription drugs. She proposed
increasing prescription drug benefits, but did not specify how. She
also pointed to failing service at St. Luke's Hospital, located on
Amsterdam Avenue. It is the only hospital in the area, she said, and is
understaffed. This should be changed quickly, she said, before the
hospital goes under.
Louis Nunez believes that mental health issues deserve more
attention. If more aid were provided to those with social or emotional
problems, he said, other ills such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and
domestic violence could be better controlled, or even prevented.
TRANSPORTATION, CHAIN STORES, THE ENVIRONMENT, MINIMUM WAGE,
The candidates for the 69th Assembly District proposed many other
plans for a better district, city, and state.
Steve Strauss, formerly of the New York City Office of Management and
Budget and an 18-year veteran of the Metropolitan Transportation
Authority, said that an expert in the transportation field was much
needed in the State Assembly. He pointed out that the current heads of
the transportation committees have little or no experience in the field,
and thus can not supply the city with efficient transportation policy.
Strauss also mentioned that the city was not getting enough funding from
the state for things like infrastructure and education.
Louis Nunez made a case against commercialization in the 69th
district. "New York City is not a mall. We were built on mom and pop
stores. I don't want to be New Jersey, I don't want to be Long Island,
I want to be the Upper West Side," he said, referring to the recent
influx of chain stores such as Duane Reade and CVS.
Similarly, Ari Goodman spoke of "the way a community looks and
feels." He said that developers should be held accountable for the
parks they eradicate while constructing new buildings. In return for a
community board's approval of their building plans, they should be
required to build community public gardens on the roofs of the new
buildings for all neighbors to enjoy.
Spurred by the loss of his mother to cancer in a Long Island
neighborhood where a disproportionate number of people have the disease.
Daniel O'Donnell spoke about harmful environmental impacts of
commercial facilities. He has investigated the links between
environment and health and says the community "needs some sort of
notification plan when potentially harmful facilities are being built."
If elected, he said, he would propose a law requiring scientific studies
on the impact of harmful facilities on an area, and make such reports
readily available to the public.
Most of the candidates also expressed interest in raising the state
minimum wage and supported hate crimes legislation, which would create
higher penalties for offenses committed out of hate on the basis of age,
sex, gender, religion etc. Another issue that all supported was the
Women's Health Bill, which would mandate that private insurance
companies cover services such as mammograms and emergency contraception.
And all candidates called for the reinstatement of the commuter tax to
help New York City deal with its increasing budget deficit.
AN INTERCONNECTED FIELD OF CANDIDATES
The candidates share similar stances on the main issues; furthermore,
they maintain close political ties.
- Retiring Assemblyman Ed Sullivan is endorsing Daniel O'Donnell. But Sullivan and Cynthia Doty worked together for eight years.
- Steve Strauss is running from the Three Parks Independent Democratic Club, which almost sponsored O'Donnell.
- Joyce Johnson is head of Community Board 7, neighbor of Community Board 9, in which O'Donnell is a very active member. Both have control over the 69th district.
- Louis Nunez is a member of the Broadway Mall Association, while Steve Strauss is its vice president.
--posted August 26,2002
The politics on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is noted for its tradition of Democratic
liberalism and intense political activism. There, the race to succeed Assemblyman Edward C.
Sullivan has produced a wide-ranging group of candidates, each jostling for recognition in a
(New York Times)
The Westsider: interview with Louis Nunez, candidate in Democratic Primary for State Assembly on the Upper West Side. (no link available)
The Westsider: interviews with Steve Strauss and Cynthia Doty candidates in Democratic Primary for State Assembly on the Upper West Side. (no link available)
The Westsider: interviews with Ari Goodman and Daniel O'Donnell, candidates in Democratic Primary for State Assembly on the Upper West Side. (no link available)
There is a new found feeling of community in the gay political sphere. Article talks about the supportive nature of gay community in helping candidates start campaign. Candidate Daniel O'Donnell gets support from Assemb. Deborah Glick of the New York State Assembly, its only openly gay member. Such a movement, to involve more openly gay people in government, may help create a better reflection of New York City constituents than currently exist in Albany. The Westsider, June 20-26, p.11