District 2 Lower East Side, Alphabet City, Gramercy Park, Murray Hill
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: DISTRICT 2

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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-Margarita Lopez, Dem 23,583 - 73 percent
Jay S. Golub, Rep 8,728 - 27 percent

Primary Election Results

Incumbent: Margarita Lopez

The Candidates:


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

Contributors to Jay Golub
Contributors to Margarita Lopez
Contributors to Jay Wilson

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 2

Issue Statements:
District 2 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org


Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Protest and Contest

With her City Hall office full of posters and petitions from a recent campaign to secure $5 million in city funding for people with AIDS, it is clear that Councilwoman Margarita Lopez feels more at home protesting on the steps of City Hall than working within its chambers.

"I haven't changed an inch," says Lopez of her time in office. "If anything, I have become more radical."

Before she was elected to City Council in 1998, Lopez was an activist who worked to build low-income housing, founded the Lower East Side Credit Union, and created programs for the homeless. She has continued to work on similar issues as a politician, often raising her voice in angry dissent at council hearings.

While no one questions that Lopez is a fighter, her opponents in the forthcoming election question if the battles she wages are always good for the district as a whole. At times, they charge, Lopez picks fights that have nothing to do with her job. Other times, she is accused of being too narrow, focusing only on her specific areas of interest.

Her opponents -- who include a dentist, a music teacher -- say they can better represent the diverse needs of district 2 residents, which include affluent professionals in Gramercy Park, students and artists in the East Village, and the working class in the Lower East Side.

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

Race:

  • White 53%
  • Hispanic 28%
  • Asian 10%
  • Black 9%

Median income: $44,981 (ranks 29th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 7%

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

One thing most residents of the area do agree on is the importance of a cleaner environment. District 2 has one of the highest rates of lead poisoning and a significant number of asthma related hospital admissions, which many link to pollution in the area.

That is why the proposed expansion of the Con Edison plant on East 14th Street, which would take up more land and create more electricity generators, has become a central issue of the campaign season. According to Jay Wilson, a challenger who once worked for Lopez and is now running against her, the councilwoman withheld information about the Con Ed plans.

"Lopez didn't inform the community about Con Edison's plan of expansion until six months after she found out about it," says Wilson. "There wasn't a fair process for other environmental organizations or activists to get involved."

"She didn't ever properly notify her constituents about what I think is the environmental boondoggle of the last 50 years," says Debbie Hebner of the Down town Residents for Community Empowerment. Hebner complains the East River Environmental Coalition, which considered the environmental impact of the expansion, is full of Lopez's political allies.

But Lopez says Wilson's charge is untrue. "When I learned about it (the expansion of the plant) in the summer of 1999, I called for a meeting with all the tenant members of the surrounding area. Mr. Wilson didn't know about it because he wasn't a tenant leader," she says.

Wilson also insists that the councilwoman sometimes sets her own agenda, rather than serving the interests of the community. "I'm a free thinker who is putting the people that live here first, as opposed to issues like Vieques," says Wilson, referring to Lopez's attention to the bombing on the Puerto Rican island.

Jay Golub, a Republican candidate from Gramercy Park, also criticizes the current councilwoman for being too much of a caretaker of the district, rather than inspiring constituents to become involved themselves. "We need to take control. We need to clean up our own parks and conserve our own energy. Everyone needs to get their hands dirty and pay attention to what's going on," says Golub.

A dentist, Golub admits he has little involvement in politics outside of his connection to the Republican clubs in his area, but he vows to catch up quickly. "I walked every part of this district since I started my campaign." In reality, a councilmember often has little direct control over the big issues that have an impact on the residents of their district and must work with other members of the council and the mayor to get things done.

"It takes two to tango in this city," says Lopez, who has been unwilling to dance with the Giuliani administration on numerous occasions, particularly when it comes to the city parks department.

According to Lopez, the parks department promised to match funds needed to help restore Seward Park, but then came to her looking for more funds to complete the project.

"When the project was supposed to be finished, the department came to me and said now you have to get two more million for the second phase of the project," says Lopez. She says she was misled and refused to negotiate further. As a result, Lopez lost out on funding for all 20 of the parks in her district.

"I can't just feed one of my 20 children and let the other 19 die from hunger," says Lopez. "This administration won't push me into a wall. This administration won't blackmail me."

Lopez's critics argue that this is the kind of attitude that thwarts her leadership. "She doesn't know how to wheel and deal," says Wilson. "She's not willing to compromise. She puts her principles over the welfare of her constituents."

Lopez maintains that her strong will and fight is exactly why the people of district 2 put her in office in the first place.

posted 6/15/01

Campaign Update:

Two candidates -- Israel Perez and Albert Fabozzi -- recently withdrew from the district 2 council race. Perez, who gave his support to Jay Wilson, said he dropped out because the Democratic Party was split between too many candidates. Albert Fabozzi said he is planning to run in 2003 instead. See the Campaign Trail for more details.

Posted 7/17/01


Candidate Biographies

Jay Golub resides in Gramercy Park and is a dentist in Queens. He is a member of the Metropolitan Republican Club and Gramercy Park Republican Club. He attended New York University's Dental School and has lived in various parts of the district. This is his first official run for public office.

Margarita Lopez was elected to City Council in 1998, the first Puerto Rican lesbian member. She serves on numerous committees including civil service and labor, contracts, women's issues, and youth services. Lopez first moved to the Lower East Side in 1979 and soon became active in the fight for fair housing and economic opportunities for the low-income residents in her neighborhood. She is a founding member of the Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union and Chairwoman of the Lower East Side Joint Planning Council. She is also a national advocate for the HIV and AIDS issues. She was awarded a Charles A. Revson Fellowship by Columbia University in 1994.

Jay Wilson is a music teacher working in a Brooklyn public school. He is also an artist and musician and is involved in education and housing groups in his area. A single father of two, he is often spotted in the public areas of the Lower East Side and East Village with his young children. He has a masters degree in administration from Bank Street College, and a BFA from Pratt Institute. He has worked to promote previous democratic leaders (including Margarita Lopez) and has participated in protests in the area.

 


Campaign Trail

7/06/01
The race for the Democratic nomination is down to two candidates: Margarita Lopez and Jay Wilson. Last week there were three candidates poised to challenge incumbent Margarita Lopez in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary for the Second City Council District. Now there is one. After two heated endorsement meetings by the Village Reform Democratic Club, the result is Jay Wilson is the only candidate left. The fallout from the endorsement votes is that the other two candidates, Albert Fabozzi and Israel Perez, both dropped out. (The Villager)

5/23/01
The Democratic candidates for Council District held a highly confrontational debate at a forum sponsored by the Village Reform Democratic Club. At times, the Second Council District candidates forum last Monday night devolved into a sort of East Village version of the "Jerry Springer Show." Candidates got into shouting matches with each other; the audience shouted at the candidates. It didn't quite reach the level of attacks with folding chairs, but it got pretty close. (The Villager)

5/23/01
Seward playground was reopened at a ceremony in May. Noticeably absent from the event was Councilmember Margarita Lopez, who was criticized for refusing to allocate funds for the second phase of the park's development. (The Villager)

5/02/01
The New York City Housing Authority has been allowing apartments in public housing to sit vacant for several years. Margarita Lopez told constituents at an April 30 conference. (The Villager)

4/23/01
Community members protest the planned expansion of Con Edison's power plant on 14th Street between Avenue C and D. (Gotham Gazette)

2/21/01
Surprising her supporters, Margarita Lopez, vehement activist turned City Council member, is one of those trying to repeal termlimits. (Village Voice)

8/30/01
Lower East Side residents oppose the Con Ed plant expansion. (Village Voice)

 

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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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
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
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
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
DL21C
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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