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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Larry B. Seabrook, Dem 17,844 - 83 percent
Tina Taylor, Rep 2,559 - 12 percent
Curtis Brooks, Ind 979 - 5 percent
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)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Curtis Brooks
to Shirley Saunders
to Larry Seabrook
Tina Taylor has not yet filed
to Roger Toppin
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
Co-op City Clash
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Daily News Article on candidates highlights the Co-op City connection.
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
08/31/00 Article on Larry Seabrook's 2000 campaign for
This article looks at ethnic politics in New York, particularly
the Bronx and the battle between Seabrook and Engle. (Gotham
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