District 10 Northwest Manhattan

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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Miguel Martinez, Dem 11,684 - 77 percent
Nilda Luz Rexach, Rep 1,783 - 12 percent
Ydanis A. Rodriguez, WF 1,210 - 8 percent
Giovanni A. Puello, Ind 452 - 3 percent

Primary Election Results

Miguel Martinez 4,116
Roberto Lizardo 3,773
Ydanis A. Rodriguez 3,110
Victor Morisete-Romero 2,267
Fransesca Castellanos 547
Tirso Santiago Pina 393
Giovanni A. Puello 390
Ruben Dario Vargas 273
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Guillermo Linares (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Francesca Castellanos
Contributors to Roberto Lizardo
Contributors to Miguel Martinez
Contributors to Victor Morisete-Romero
Contributors to Tirso Santiago Pina
Contributors to Giovanni Puello
Nilda Luz Rexach has not filed
Contributors to Ydanis Rodriguez
Contributors to Ruben Dario Vargas

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 10

Issue Statements:
District 10 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Five Candidates, Four Issues, One Nationality

It is a neighborhood that has long been one of the most important campaign stops for any presidential candidate - any presidential candidate from the Dominican Republic that is. Dominican immigrants and their children make up the vast majority of District 10 in Northern Manhattan, and there is every sign that the influx from that Spanish-speaking island in Caribbean, which has been taking place over three decades, will continue. But one thing is new. The residents are becoming U.S. citizens. And so now the Dominicans of District 10 have turned their attention to their own neighborhood, which encompasses Washington Heights and portions of Inwood and Marble Hill across the Harlem River to the north, an area largely working class and home to many small privately owned businesses, especially groceries and retail stores.

All five City Council candidates are of Dominican descent, and all of them Democrats, looking to take over from Guillermo Linares, the first Domin ican-American City Councilmember.

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district from City Project, click here.


  • 80% Hispanic
  • 9% White
  • 7% Black
  • 4% Asian

Median income:$35,453 (Ranked 38th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 14%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

More immigrants have moved into the neighborhood since 1992 than anywhere else in the city, mostly from the Dominican Republic but also from Russia, South America and China. This massive immigration has lead to overcrowding in public schools and in the neighborhood as a whole, a housing crunch, and problems getting affordable medical treatment. There are also strained relationships with police officers. These are the issues that the candidates are concerned about - and the fields in which most of them have worked in one capacity or another in the community.

"The biggest issue is housing," said Miguel Martinez, a former Democratic District Leader who is now the Harlem program director for Safe Horizon, which offers services to victims of domestic violence. Only three percent of residents own the houses they live in, the lowest rate of home-ownership in the city. "We want to focus on building affordable housing," Martinez said, "and maybe rezoning some areas from commercial to residential." All the candidates are also ardent advocates of rent stabilization laws

School District 6, which includes George Washington High School, is the most overcrowded in the city, said Ydanis Rodriguez, a former public high school teacher.

"We need to build more schools, get better teachers and more resources," Rodririguez said, "And increase the number of after school programs, both in weekdays and Saturdays. We should also increase programs that are connected with the colleges. There should be a real bilingual education."

The problem with health coverage in this area is two-fold. As Miguel Martinez pointed out, many undocumented workers are afraid of applying for health coverage and revealing their illegal status. It is hard enough to find affordable health coverage for many new legal immigrants who don't understand the system, especially for many college students who only work part time and are not covered.

"The Childhealth Plus health insurance program should be expanded to the age of 21," said Victor Morisete-Romero, the director of the Community Association of Progressive Dominicans. "There are over 21,000 youth who'd be covered because right now it doesn't cover that age gap."

"We should also have more school based clinic programs that offer preventive medicine to children. There are seven in Washington Heights right now," Morisette-Romero said. "They are relatively inexpensive, and save money in the long run."

The last time the neighborhood got world-wide attention was in 1992, when a police officer shot a young Dominican named Kiko Garcia, which led to three days of rioting, and much ill-will with the police. But the relations between the community and the police have improved since then. "It's a work in progress," Morisete-Romero. "We need more minority officers in minority neighborhoods. It creates a different atmosphere if somebody can communicate to an officer in their own language."

Ydanis Rodriguez would hold "more open town hall meetings with the community and the police. Do it regularly, every two to three months so the police and community can get to know each other."

It is too early to pinpoint a front-runner, but it is likely that the voters may be split by the endorsements of two influential politicians.

Incumbent City Councilmember Guillermo Linares has endorsed Victor Morisete-Romero. Adriano Espaillat, a State Assemblyman whose assembly district includes District 10, has endorsed Miguel Martinez. The two politicians represent rival activist factions in the area. On the other hand, these are not the only candidates with political connections, and political experience. Roberto Lizardo, the president of Community School Board 6, has run for City Council before, in 1997. Giovanni Puello held various positions in the office of Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. Ydanis Rodriguez led a student union at CUNY that protested budget cuts and has the current edge in fundraising.

With the candidates having such similar backgrounds and voters representing similar interests, the races will likely be decided by a handful of votes, most of them Democrats, most of them Dominican.

Posted 02/08/01

Campaign Update:

Six new candidates have entered the City Council race in district 10, and while most are Democrats and Dominicans, the pool of candidates has expanded to include Puerto Ricans and Republicans.

For the most part the candidates remain focused on four issues: schools, housing, affordable health care, and police/community relations. Roberto Lizardo, president of Community School Board 6, said he will continue to fight for equal distribution of city funds and resources to students in Upper Manhattan who he says have not received their fare share. Lizardo has been working with Robert Jackson, a candidate in Council district 7, who helped bring a lawsuit by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity which ordered the state to give more money to New York City's schools.

Lizardo also plans to open up more after-school programs and youth centers so children can have a supervised environment to play in. "If you look around kids don't even have a basketball court, they improvise using garbage cans and milk cartons," said Lizardo. "And these kids are easy targets to someone with a gun, or someone selling drugs."

Giovanni Puello, who has served as the Manhattan Borough President's liaison to Northern Manhattan said his main priorities are housing and economic development. He plans to create an employment vocational training center where local residents, particularly high school drop-outs, can acquire needed skills in order to enter the labor market. "We have in Washington Heights what the national economy needs," said Puello. "We have human resources, young and healthy people for the labor force."

Puello also plans to introduce legislation that would transfer city-owned property to tenants as a way to keep rent down, while also providing training for tenants on how to manage and care for their property.

Tirso Santiago Pina said the biggest problem he sees in his community is education, but that the problems begin before the children reach school age. "When we don't have a strong family and the mother has to live alone that is difficult for her, and then we don't have a strong teacher in that school, and then we don't have a strong principal," said Pina. He feels the curriculum has to be changed in schools to be more culture centered, so children have more Hispanic and African-American role models. "In the Spanish community we don't talk about Hispanic heroes and we have to talk about that," said Pina.

Francesca Castellanos, who grew up in Washington Heights and is of Puerto Rican descent, said there is a divide between different Hispanic groups that is evident in incidents with police officers. Castellanos said Puerto Rican officers sometimes clash with Dominican residents and vice versa, and no amount of police sensitivity training helps. She feels police officers should be required to finish a four-year college because college provides a chance for people to become more educated about other cultures. She also wants to work on expanding the power of the City Council so any city council member can introduce a bill and not just the Speaker as is the present policy. "If you don't get along with the Speaker then that's not fair because your bill will never be introduced," said Castellanos.

The lone Republican candidate, Nilda Luz Rexach, said she is running as a Republican because the party tells you how to help yourself and help others. "When I tell people about what the Republican Party stands for they immediately ask if they can switch over," Rexach said. She added that there are more Republicans in the district than many think, especially in the Cuban and Jewish communities.

Posted 7/24/01

Candidate Biographies

Francesca M. Castellanos grew up in Washington Heights and attended Lehman College where she received her bachelor's degree in Political Science and Sociology. She is also a certified rape crisis counselor, immigration counselor and interpreter and has worked for the city in the private sector and in not-for-profit agencies. She has organized tenants association in her community helping tenants obtain much needed repairs in buildings and gaining assistance rent abatements and reductions.

Roberto Lizardo is currently President of Community School Board 6 and supervisor of the lead poisoning prevention program of the Department of Health of the City of New York. He received his bachelor's degree in Bilingual Bicultural Education from Lehman College and his postgraduate degree in Lead Poisoning Control and Prevention at Cornell University. He was co-founder of the Latin Caucus at New York University. He has also worked as a drug prevention counselor for the Washington Heights Coalition of Community Agencies.

Miguel Martinez was a Democratic District Leader and a bilingual teacher for six years before being appointed to Community Board 12. He received his bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice Planning and Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and continued his post-graduate studies in Urban Policy. He is currently the Program Director for Victims Services in Washington Heights and Harlem Child Care/Domestic Violence Network. He is also now working on a series of community forums that provide information and resources to parents whose children have been affected by asthma and lead poising.

Tirso Santiago Pina (no information available).

Victor Morisete-Romero worked for ten years in the office of Councilmember Linares and is currently the executive director of the Association of Progressive Dominicans. He established the Amber Charter School and helped create the Twenty First Century Academy for Community Leadership, a dual language public school. He obtained his bachelors degree in Political Science from City College and a masters degree in Business Administration from Audrey Cohen College. He is currently finishing another masters in International Relations at City College

Giovanni Puello, former teacher and Bodega owner, served as the Manhattan Borough President's liaison to Northern Manhattan and later as the assistant director of the Northern Manhattan Office. While in this position, Puello monitored local banks for compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act and has assisted the Northern Manhattan Community Planning Board in developing its community development plan. Puello also served as the head of the Constituent Services Unit, where he monitored the delivery of county-wide services for over three million residents and visitors. He is a graduate of the Center for Conflict Resolution.

Nilda Luz Rexach, a retired school teacher after 35 years, is also a host to her own one-hour cable television show where she interviews local artists. In addition she also volunteers as the artistic supervisor of another cable television show where they talk about community news and issues. Rexach obtained her masters degree in Bilingual education from Hunter College. She is the author of "The Hispanic Cookbook."

Ydanis Rodriguez is the Executive Director of La Union de Jovenes Dominicanos, Inc. and the founder of Dominicans 2000. As president of Union de Jovenes Dominicanos, Rodriguez helped create a college preparatory program run from City College. Rodriguez received a masters degree from City College in Bilingual Education and taught for several years in New York City public schools.

Ruben Dario Vargas, an evidence specialist in the New York City Police Department, has run numerous times unsuccessfully for both U.S. Congress in the 15th district and in 1997 for Manhattan Borough President. He graduated from City College with a bachelors degree in political science and a masters from Cornell University for management and labors relations.


Campaign Trail

The New York Times today endorsed a candidate in this race. 10th District (Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill): Councilman Guillermo Linares, who became the first Dominican-born elected official in the city, is now leaving, and there are eight candidates, all of Dominican descent, vying to succeed him. Victor Morisete-Romero, a former aide to Mr. Linares with a background in bilingual education, stands out as the most qualified by virtue of his experience and his proposals. He should serve his district well in a year when many members are struggling to learn the ropes. He has thoughtful ideas about improving Council oversight and monitoring the School Construction Authority. Our endorsement goes to Victor Morisete-Romero.

The New York Times called this one of the ten races to watch. This district in Washington Heights, the city's Dominican heartland, has attracted eight Democratic candidates, all Dominican. But the race is the latest installment in the battle between the surrogates of the city's two Dominican elected officials: Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat and City Councilman Guillermo Linares, who cannot run again because of term limits. (New York Times)

With dozens of City Council seats open and a slew of unknowns hoping to fill them, candidates can use any edge. Victor Morisete-Romero may have one. A cable access television station has been running ads for his Washington Heights nonprofit agency, serving as a great promotion for his City Council bid. (Daily News)

With term limits forcing 36 of the 51 City Council members into retirement next year, an unprecedented number of foreign-born New Yorkers are already laying the groundwork to run for the vacated seats. "There is a chance for new blood," said Ydanis Rodriguez, 33, a Washington Heights teacher and activist who's among an estimated seven Dominican-Americans seeking to replace City Councilman Guillermo Linares. "I think that would benefit all the people of New York City." (Daily News)

Last year, Council candidate Nilda Luz Rexach, 71, a former schoolteacher who calls herself "the Hispanic Johnny Carson," ran unsuccessfully for State Assembly. She is a determined voice of unabashed conservatism in the predominately Dominican neighborhood of Washington heights. (Uptown 2000)

In deeply Dominican Washington Heights, a battle is brewing between old and emerging leaders in the 10th councilmanic district, which was carved out for this burgeoning Latino community. The council seat, like 35 others citywide, will become available in 2001 because of term limits. And two warring political factions are trying to negotiate a peace to divide up this prime Democratic power base and oppose a third contender. In 1991, Guillermo Linares, the current City Council member for the district, scored a major breakthrough when he became the first Dominican-born official in the country. His longtime rival, Adriano Espaillat, lost in the '91 council primary, but went on to win the 72nd Assembly District seat in 1996. (He defeated Brian Murtagh, who had Linares's endorsement.) Espaillat retaliated by throwing support behind Roberto Lizardo--now the local school board president' against Linares in a 1997 primary. "Mr. Linares and I have not always seen eye-to-eye," the assemblyman says, "but there seems to be an effort to reconcile lately." Both Linares and Espaillat are Democratic district leaders. Linares's club is the Northern Manhattan Concerned Democratic Coalition, while Espaillat's is the Northern Manhattan Democrats for Change. According to Espaillat, hosting a reception for Hillary Clinton at a Dominican restaurant brought him and Linares closer. "We also worked on hurricane relief for the Dominican Republic." he says. (Village Voice)

An article candidate Miguel Martinez wrote on asthma in Washington Heights (Uptown Dispatch)

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone enndorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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