Four Democrats — three City Council members and a former community board chairwoman — are running to be the next Manhattan borough president.
But while their voting bases certainly differ, so far it has been difficult to distinguish the candidates for a job with limited powers but high political visibility.
The candidates will have a chance to set themselves apart from one another tonight at one of the few Manhattan borough debates this election season. The event is being sponsored by NYC Community Media and Citizens Union, the sister organization of Gotham Gazette.
The office of borough president was initially established in 1898 to uphold "local pride and affection" after the consolidation of the five boroughs into one City of New York.
While its powers have expanded over the years, the borough presidents have limited powers mostly centered around appointments to certain boards. Most of their strength comes from their ability to be cheerleaders and advocates of their respective boroughs.
The current Manhattan borough president, Scott Stringer, is leaving his post and is now in a white-knuckle race for comptroller against the former Sheriff of Wall Street, Eliot Spitzer.
Hoping to replace Stringer are Council members Gale Brewer, Jessica Lappin and Robert Jackson, as well as former lower Manhattan Community Board Chairwoman Julie Menin (a former board member of Citizen Union).
Key among the issues that they may be asked about is the one that's created some daylight between the four rivals: the controversial marine transfer station at 91st Street.
Upper East Side Councilwoman Lappin — who voted against the plan to create the station in her current district — has a federal lawsuit to stop its development. She and Upper West Side's Councilwoman Brewer both also voted against the 2006 waste management plan. Washington Heights' Councilman Jackson voted for it, but is now opposed.
Menin, the only downtown candidate, is the outlier on the issue and has argued that the plan for the transfer station should go forward.
The forum is free to all and will begin at 6:30 p.m. at N.Y.U.’s Center for Academic and Spiritual Life at 238 Thompson St.
Follow the forum on Twitter by following us on Twitter (@gothamgazette) and the hashtag #mbp2013.
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Councilman Robert Jackson voted against the 2006 waste managment plan. He voted for it, but is now opposed to the 91st Street transfer site.