District 12 North Bronx

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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-Larry B. Seabrook, Dem 17,844 - 83 percent
Tina Taylor, Rep 2,559 - 12 percent
Curtis Brooks, Ind 979 - 5 percent

Primary Election Results

Larry B. Seabrook 8,736
Shirley J. Saunders 8,633
Roger Toppin 730
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Lawrence A. Warden (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

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

Contributors to Curtis Brooks
Contributors to Shirley Saunders
Contributors to Larry Seabrook
Tina Taylor has not yet filed
Contributors to Roger Toppin

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 12

Campaign Feature:

Co-op City Clash
[Campaign Update]

Co-op City in the North Bronx is the largest government-subsidized housing development ever built. To many, the high-rise apartment towers stand as a promised land of affordable housing.

For thirty years, the 50,000 residents of Co-op City have been shielded from the city's volatile real estate market by the state's Mitchell-Lama law that was aimed to prevent suburban flight by providing affordable housing for the middle-class.

Today, a three-bedroom apartment in Co-op City sells for an unbelievable $12,675 (although there is a ten year waiting list to get in) that would be worth $150,000 or more at fair-market value.

Profit has some residents ready to opt out of the Mitchell-Lama program so that they can sell at market rate. Other are oppose the move, saying that it would ruin affordable housing for the middle and lower class.

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


  • Black, non-Hispanic: 54%
  • Hispanic: 26%
  • White, non-Hispanic: 18%
  • Asian: 2%

Median income: $45,078 (Ranks 27 out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 8%

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

The future of Co-op City will be on the minds and in the campaign speeches of this year's City Council candidates--not only because the development houses one-third of the district's population, but because all of the people running for office live there.

The four candidates are seasoned in city government and tangled in an especially tight political web.

Last year, Larry Seabrook, backed by Bronx County Democratic boss Roberto Ramirez, left his State Senate seat and ran for the 17th Congressional Distri ct against six-term incumbent Eliot Engel. Seabrook lost. He is now running for City Council, a sort of political consolation prize.

In the race he will face an aide to Congressman Engel, Shirley Saunders. Saunders lost a previous bid for City Council in 1997 to the incumbent Lawrence Warden.

Carrie Mobley, who works for Brooklyn Councilmember Annette Robinson, is also looking to move up in City Hall. The fourth candidate, Iris Herskowitz Baez, ran a losing race for City Council in 1991 and supported Seabrook in his Congressional race last year. She will decide whether or not to run by May.

Baez, is president of the Board of Directors for Riverbay Corporation, which runs Co-op City. Baez has said that changing privatizing the development so those apartments could be sold at market rate is "an exciting idea [that] definitely warrants looking into." She added, "Mitchell-Lama in many ways has outlived its usefulness."

Former State Senator Larry Seabrook is against privatization. Although no new Mitchell-Lama developments have been built in 20 years, Seabrook says, "I believe it is an important part of the New York City housing market."

Shirley Saunders, another resident and candidate, does not see any big changes occurring in the next five years because Co-op City would have to pay off millions of dollars in outstanding mortgage payments to the government.

And Carrie Mobley thinks that privatizing Co-op City would discourage home-ownership and would negatively effect the "extremely diverse but incredibly unified" citizenship in the district.

While the candidates may focus on Co-op City, they will have to appeal to the district's other residents and concerns as well.

District 12 also includes the neighborhoods of Baychester, Eastchester, Edenwald, Wakefield, Williamsbridge, and Bronxdale. The area has a mixture of single homes on quiet blocks, tall and densely built apartment buildings, and multi-family houses. It has also seen significant immigration in recent years, most notably from Jamaica and African countries like Ghana and Nigeria.

When compared to the other 50 Council districts, District 12 is dead center in terms of income and unemployment rates. Area schools are in the middle of the pack in academic performance.

Still the candidates, like those across the city, say that there is much to be done to improve education in the area.

Seabrook says that portable, trailer-style, classrooms outside "every public school building in the district" is reason enough to put education reform at the top of his to-do list. He believes that his experience in government means he "won't be playing catch-up with this new [city] government" and can help him bring funding to the area.

Mobley would also like to see additional funding earmarked for increased teachers' salaries. "You cannot impose standards and demand qualifications from teachers without paying them," says Mobley. She also calls overcrowded schools a "tremendous" problem in the district, although it is "not as bad as some places." A new K-8 school on Steinwick Avenue is in the works that Saund ers says, "will go a long way to reducing class sizes in that particular area."

Even the current Councilmember Lawrence Warden, who has been in office for the last ten years, agrees something needs to be done to keep teachers in the area and curb the "brain-drain that occurs because we're so close to Westchester County."

Preserving the district's identity is also an important issue for the candidates.

Mobley says mega-stores are forcing mom-and-pop establishments out of the area and fears this may result in faceless neighborhoods. Shirley Saunders agrees that over-development in areas like White Plains Road looks bad aesthetically and produces traffic, a problem throughout the district. For example, it is not unusual for a car caught in congestion in the Bay Plaza shopping circle to take 20 minutes to go just a few blocks.

Not only do the candidates live in the same housing complex and agree on many of the issues, they give similar responses to the question -- "What makes a good Councilmember?"

Saunders says she would "be available and listen to the people." Seabrook hopes he would "truly be an advocate who respects and lives in the community." And Mobley believes she would "put concern for the community first."

As the candidates go door-to-door to convince voters that they are the best choice, they will be fighting in close quarters. In Co-op City, the election is a case of: may the best neighbor win.

posted 4/13/01

Campaign Update:

Two candidates have dropped out (Carrie Mobley and Iris Herskowitz Baez), and three others have joined the race, so that there are now five candidates running in district 12.

Roger Toppin, the publisher of a community newspaper called Service Plus, joins Seabrook and Saunders as Democratic candidates who live in Co-op City.

"We should stay under the protection of Mitchell-Lama," says Toppin. "I live in Co-op City and I have no intention of selling."

Toppin says if elected he will foster open communication with his constituents. His top priorities, he says, are education, after-school programs, and community centers. "We need to establish after-school community centers in each neighborhood in the district so children have some place to go and do homework."

When asked why he decided to run, especially against well-known opponents like Seabrook and Saunders, Toppin says simply, "I felt the time was right." The race for the district 12 council seat is wrapped up in the rivalry between two local Democratic powerhouses, Roberto Ramirez and the Espadas. But it has taken a confusing turn. Ramirez and the Bronx Democratic Party organization endorsed

Larry Seabrook in May. But State Senator Pedro Espada, who is a rival of Ramirez and a candidate for Bronx borough president, announced he had no preference between Seabrook and Saunders, and endorsed them both, saying both candidates are "mounting a real challenge to the political power of the Bronx Democratic machine." Saunders, when asked about the dual endorsement, told a local paper she did not understand how Espada could claim to be against Ramirez and the county machine, while at the same time endorsing one of their candidates. (See Campaign Trail for more details).

Running in the general election in November are Republican candidate Tina Taylor and Curtis Brooks, who is running for both the Independence and Conservative parties. Neither responded to requests for interviews.

Posted 7/25/01

Candidate Biographies

Curtis Brooks (no information available).

Shirley Saunders is an aide to Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel and ran for city council in 1997 against Councilmember Lawrence Warden. Saunders served as a director of Riverbay Corporation for 12 years and as the 82nd Assembly District Leader for six years. Born in Harlem, Saunders attended the local elementary schools and later went to Lehman College and The College of New Rochelle.

Larry Seabrook is a former Democratic State Senator who represented the 33rd District. Seabrook was an administrator and instructor at Marist College. He also taught at Malcolm King and Monroe Colleges. He holds an associate's degree from Kingsborough Community College, a bachelor's degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master's degree from Long Island University, and a law degree from CUNY Law School at Queens College.

Tina Taylor (no information available).

Roger Toppin publishes a community newspaper called "Service Plus." Toppin attended Bronx Community College, Lehman College, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He was born in Manhattan and currently lives in Co-op City.

Campaign Trail

According to his press release announcing his signature count, Espada has chosen two candidates in the 12th Council District, which includes Co-op City, that are historically at odds with one another, those candidates being Former State Senator Larry Seabrook and 82nd Assembly District Leader Shirley Saunders. In addition, Espada makes a point in his release to state that his candidates are "mounting a real challenge to the political power of the Bronx Democratic Machine," yet Seabrook has been endorsed by Ramirez and his group for election to that council seat. When asked about the endorsement, a representative at Espada's campaign office state that Espada "had no real preference" between the two candidates. When further questioned about Ramirez's endorsement of Seabrook, the representative stated that they had not heard that the Bronx County Chairman had endorsed Seabrook for the seat. The endorsement was reported in both The New York Times and the Daily News. Saunders, when asked about the split endorsement, did not understand how Espada could claim to be against Ramirez and the County machine, while at the same time endorse one of Ramirez's candidates. "I hope to talk about this with him in the near future," said Saunders, who herself also filed nearly 5,000 signatures. (Bronx Press)

The Bronx Democratic Organization endorsed Adolfo Carrion Jr. for Bronx borough president, though this by no means assures his election. His opponents include State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and Willie Colón, the salsa performer and onetime candidate for Congress. Other candidates the organization endorsed: Ruben Diaz Sr. (district 18), Michael Benjamin (district 16), Jose Marco Serrano (district 17), Larry Seabrook (district 12) (NY Times)

It has been called the most successful housing program any government anywhere has ever devised. Nobody disputes the achievement of the Mitchell-Lama Program, which spurred the construction of affordable housing for some 400,000 middle class New Yorkers. But the program ended two decades ago, and now, thanks to the fine print, thousands of tenants in Mitchell-Lama buildings may soon have to pay up to five times their current rent, virtually overnight, forcing many out of the apartments in which they have lived for decades. How could this be, and what does this say about the hope for affordable housing in the city? (Gotham Gazette)

Daily News Article on candidates highlights the Co-op City connection. (Daily News)

Skepticism, confusion, and opportunity are in the air at Co-op City as its residents consider privatizing the complex. Some would reap a windfall profit for the sale of their units. Others argue that it is already difficult to find affordable housing in the area. An editorial in the local paper, City News, began, "Just imagine! When you came home tonight to your apartment in Co-op City, you found a bag with $75,000." One civic leader responded, "It's greed."(NY Times)

Shirley Saunders, Co-op City's Democratic District Leader, confirmed this week that she may seek the City Council seat in District 12. Ms. Saunders believes the city needs improved services and new ideas from a woman's point of view. Ms. Saunders also comments on her likely competition, former State Senator Larry Seabrook and Iris Herskowitz Baez, president of the Riverbay Corporation which runs Co-op City. (The Bronx Press)

08/31/00 Article on Larry Seabrook's 2000 campaign for Congress. (Daily News)

This article looks at ethnic politics in New York, particularly the Bronx and the battle between Seabrook and Engle. (Gotham Gazette)

State Senator Larry Seabrook views a run for the City Council seat in District 12 as a back-up plan in case he loses his bid to unseat Congressman Eliot Engel. Shirley Saunders may throw a wrench in Seabrook's plans. Last year Saunders took 44% of the vote in her race against incumbent Larry Warden, and she is interested in running in 2001. (Riverdale Review)


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 endorsed 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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Board of Elections
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New York, NY

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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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