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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Margarita Lopez, Dem 23,583 - 73 percent
Jay S. Golub, Rep 8,728 - 27 percent
Incumbent: Margarita Lopez
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Jay Golub
to Margarita Lopez
to Jay Wilson
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
2 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org
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
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.
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
"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
Lopez maintains that her strong will and fight is exactly why the people of
district 2 put her in office in the first place.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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
Community members protest the planned expansion of Con Edison's
power plant on 14th Street between Avenue C and D. (Gotham
Surprising her supporters, Margarita Lopez, vehement activist
turned City Council member, is one of those trying to repeal termlimits.
Lower East Side residents oppose the Con Ed plant expansion. (Village