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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Helen Sears, Dem 10,223 - 82 percent
Magdalena U. Schultheis, Ind 914 - 7 percent
James G. Van Bramer, WF 842 - 7 percent
Barton Goft, Grn 437 - 4 percent
Helen Sears 2,705
James G. Van Bramer 1,930
Rudolph E. Greco 1,865
Magdalena U. Schultheis 1,157
Louisa M. Chan 914
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: John D. Sabini (can't
run in 2001)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Louisa Chan
Barton Goft has not filed.
to Rudy Greco
to Magdalena Schultheis
to Helen Sears
to Jimmy Van Bramer
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
Petition challenges have not been kind to the large field of candidates
in district 25. Albert Blake, Jr., Frank Castro, Louisa Chan,
Rodolfo Flores, Michael Lehman, and S. Terry Lewis have been knocked
off the ballot for the Democratic party. Chan had over 200 signatures
invalidated because people signed the abbreviation NYC instead
of New York City. Helen Sears has been removed from the Liberal
party line, but will remain as a Democratic candidate. See the
Campaign Update and Campaign Trail for more details.
They Live Globally, But Don't Vote Locally
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the
most diverse streets in the world.
In an area commonly known as Little India, women wear saris and
Sikh men wear turbans and people come from across the city to
eat at one of the best Indian restaurants in the city, the Jackson
Diner. 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 a district where
the students at P.S. 19 speak forty different languages has produced
a cast of equally diverse City Council candidates.
The candidates are Chinese, Peruvian, Italian, Colombian, gay,
straight, male, and female, and they work as a locker-room attendant,
a district leader, a nurse, a lawyer, an organizer, and as school
"It is natural for the different groups in our area to be protective
of their cultural life, and that is good," said candidate Helen
Sears. "But there has to be one single voice for the district
to play a major role in the city."
Come Election Day, though, many of the voices voters might want
will probably not even be on the ballot.
To be an official candidate, each person has to get at least
900 unduplicated signatures from registered voters in their district.
Currently there are eight candidates for office and not enough
voters to go around.
"This district is one of the most crowded in the city, but it
also has some of the lowest voter turnout in the city," said outgoing
Councilmember John Sabini. "Come July, it is going to be very
difficult for all these candidates to mobilize their own bases
and fill the petitions for their candidacies."
While the area and the candidates running are diverse, the issues
facing the district are similar to those affecting the rest of
Like nearly every district, education is at the top of the list.
The district has seen the second highest number of new school
construction projects in the last ten years. Over 12,000 new seats
have been added during the tenure of Councilmember Sabini (who
also serves as chair of the school siting committee), but this
has not solved the problem of overcrowded classrooms. "We are
short 6,000 seats in this district," says Louisa Chan, secretary
of school board 24 and a candidate from Corona. "If we don't build
more schools now, we could be building more jail cells in the
Housing is another major concern. A wide variety of housing with
multiple dwellings, single family homes, co-ops, and converted
buildings scattered throughout the area. Illegal conversions sometimes
lead to overcrowding and brutal living conditions, with tenants
living in small apartments or private garages with no heat, water,
"City Council has to act to ensure that something happens when
the housing laws are broken," said Helen Sears.
Others feel that the rest of the city generally overlooks Queens.
"This district has the population density of Manhattan, but receives
second-rate Queens coverage," said Jackson Height's attorney Rudy
Greco. "For full police patrol coverage of the area, 600 cops
are needed. But there are less than 200 in the 115th Precinct.
It's another case where the government is in default."
Other issues that candidates hope to bring to the council include
a number of quality-of-life concerns like traffic congestion and
"There are serious safety and congestion issues on 37th Avenue,
Broadway, and Roosevelt Avenue," says P. Wayne Mahlke, an administrative
director for a local nonprofit. "There needs to be limits on how
much traffic can come through these areas at certain times, with
schools and shopping attracting so many pedestrians on these streets."
Proposals to privatize the Elmhurst Hospital Center, which as
one of only two municipal hospitals in Queens serves over a million
people, has some candidates concerned that services and the residents
they serve may suffer. "The hospital is so essential to the district,"
says Jimmy Van Bramer, a local community activist. "Everyone needs
to be served and no one should be left behind by privatization."
Ultimately with varied constituencies and the lack of a clear
single front-runner, the winner of the City Council seat may very
well be the candidate who can form the broadest coalitions. So
far, the Democratic district leadership of Queens has not lined
up behind one specific candidate.
This free-for-all has caused some candidates who initially said
they were running, like Michael Den Dekker, an employee with the
Department of Sanitation, to drop out of the race. Other candidates
will likely follow.
Still, being part of a crowded field is not a deterrent for some
with City Council ambitions. "People will drop out of the race
and other people could join," says Mahlke, "but I am just focusing
on what I am doing. It is really too early to tell who's going
to be there in the end. I am determined to be here for the long
The voters of district 25--although they are few--may be in for
the longest ride of all.
The expansive list of candidates for City Council in district
25 has changed significantly over the course of the campaign season.
Ellen Raffaele, regarded as one of the front-runners for the seat,
dropped out of the race at the end of May. The Queens Democratic
organization reportedly offered her and her husband political
appointments in return. Queens boss Thomas Manton then endorsed
P. Wayne Mahlke ended his candidacy in May, leaving Jimmy Van
Bramer as the only openly gay candidate from a district with a
substantial gay and lesbian population. Van Bramer also received
the Working Families Party endorsement.
There are new candidates to the race as well. Magdalena Schultheis,
a Polish immigrant and vice-president of a hotel and restaurant-consulting
firm, is running on a platform of "education, public safety, and
accessibility and accountability." Schultheis said she is the
first ever Polish immigrant to run for City Council. Albert Blake,
Jr., president of the Lefrak City Tenants Association and the
only African-American candidate in the district, is focused on
youth services and cites his experience with State Assemblymember
S. Terry Lewis, a middle school teacher and community activist,
also planned a run, but now he and Blake will likely not appear
on the ballot in September because of decisions by the Board of
Elections when their petitions were challenged.
They are not alone. The Queens County Democratic Organization
has challenged the petitions of six different candidates in hopes
of eliminating Helen Sears's competition. According to the Board
of Elections, Albert Blake, Jr., Rodolfo Flores, S. Terry Lewis,
Louisa Chan, Michael Lehman, and Frank Castro have been knocked
off the ballot for the Democratic party.
Chan had over 200 signatures invalidated because people signed
the abbreviation NYC instead of New York City and then tried to
correct it by crossing out the previous entry. "We have been collecting
signatures door-to-door, and there is no fraudulence at all,"
said Chan. "I have to fight this." Her campaign will appeal the
Other candidates do not have that luxury, however. "I believe
my campaign is over for 2001," said Lewis. "We simply don't have
the funds to fight this challenge."
Helen Sears, who has been knocked of the Liberal line, did not
return requests for an interview.
Albert Blake, Jr., is President of the Lefrak City Tenants
Association. He is Chief Community Liaison for Assemblymember
Jeff Aubry and has been a Democratic State Committee member since
1992. Blake is also the Director of the Kenny Anderson Lefrak
City Classic Basketball Tournament.
Frank Castro is president of the I.S. 5 parents association
and sits on the Presidents Panel of Community School Board 24.
Louisa Chan is a nurse and is secretary of Community School
Board 24, on which she is now serving her third term. She is President
of the Friendship Athletic Group and a former President of the
PS 13 Parents' Association.
Rodolfo Flores, a former Peruvian naval officer, works
for the Board of Education. He has served on Community Board 3
and has also served on the Neighborhood Advisory Board for Jackson
Heights, East-Elmhurst and Corona. Flores is also involved with
the Pan-American Democratic Club.
Barton Goft is a member of Community Board 3 and is active
in the Green Party.
Rudy Greco, lawyer and local community leader, was also
a former president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group.
He founded Caffe Greco in Jackson Heights and has also written
a children's history of the area. Greco also helped to organize
Friends of Travers Park.
Michael Lehman (no information available)
S. Terry Lewis teaches middle school science at St. John's
Magdalena Schultheis is the vice president of an international
hospitality-consulting firm. Schultheis is an Elmhurst hospital
volunteer and an ESL-program coordinator.
Helen Sears serves as the district leader. She has also
worked in hospital administration, aging, and transportation.
Sears was corporation-founder of the 82nd Street Business Improvement
District and was formerly a Senior Specialist with the New York
City Department of Aging.
Jimmy Van Bramer is the manager of Community Affairs at
the Queens Public Library's Central branch. He was the Queens
field director for "Clean Money, Clean Elections" and also currently
serves as a member of the Advisory Board for Citizen Action of
New York City.
Newsday announces its endorsements in a number of Queens City Council races.
District 19: Jerry Iannece's "legal experience and community activism make him qualified. Each of his opponents - particularly Arthur Cheliotes, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1180, and the party-backed Tony Avella. . . is a credible candidate. But Iannece has the most innovative ideas for addressing the district's needs."
District 20. "John Liu, the party designee, could have avoided some last-minute controversy had he used better judgment. As a member of Community Board 7 in Flushing, he voted last year with the majority to approve a variance for a development company whose partners include a campaign contributor. Liu, an actuary, should have recused himself. . . . We hope he has learned something about appearances. Still, his energy and impressive command of the issues make up for his lack of political acumen. And while his civic service isn't as long as that of opponent Ethel Chen, he seems better suited to alleviate the tensions between old-time residents and new immigrants.
District 21. "Despite the ethnic conflict dividing various Latino communities in the district, the four candidates - all Latinos - are evenly matched. . . .Luis Rosero is the most appealing. . . .His background gives him intimate knowledge of government and politics. His contacts at the federal level wouldn't hurt, either. He also understands the common concerns of a diverse population."
District 22. "As a member of Queens School Board 30, John Ciafone has worked diligently on behalf of school kids. . . . But Ciafone made a mistake that we cannot overlook: His ads in a local weekly newspaper boasted of endorsements by mayoral candidates Fernando Ferrer and Mark Green. Such endorsements never existed. Ciafone says the ads should have read "supported," not "endorsed" - a stretch, to say the least. . . . That leaves Peter Vallone Jr., the party's designee. Voters get more than a name with Vallone. He helped found a community group to fight power plants in western Queens. And he has learned something from watching his father's success as Council speaker. Newsday endorses Vallone."
District 23. "David Weprin is a Democratic district leader, his brother is a state assemblyman, and their late father was Assembly speaker. By contrast, Jairam Thakral immigrated from India 30 years ago, got an MBA from St. John's and recently retired as chief financial officer of the State Veterans Home on Long Island. Thakral emphasizes his financial experience in dealing with city, state and federal governments. . . . He contrasts his "diversity" with Weprin's "dynasty." Weprin, a lawyer, was the state's deputy superintendent of banks. . . . Thakral radiates eagerness to improve the city's quality of life, but Weprin has more experience and a deeper knowledge of the district. We endorse Weprin.
District 24. "The three candidates are already on the public payroll. Barry Grodenchik is Borough President Claire Shulman's chief administrative officer. He emphasizes the downside of the 2012 Olympics, which he says could freeze development in western Queens and shut down much of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for years. James Gennaro has been a policy analyst for the City Council since 1990, specializing in environmental issues. He's positive on the 2012 Olympics but negative on destroying Flushing Meadows wetlands to create a rowing course for the games. David Reich, chief of staff to a state senator from Brooklyn, cites his experience drafting bills in Albany . Gennaro offers greater familiarity with the council and broader concern for the environment. We endorse Gennaro."
District 25. "The organization person in this multi-candidate race is Helen Sears, a longtime district leader and community affairs director at Elmhurst Hospital Center. . . . Louisa Chan, a nurse and three-term secretary of School Board 24, wants community school boards to have more power and the central board to be elected. Magdalena Schultheis, vice president of an international hospitality consulting firm, would like to cut back bureaucracy to produce more affordable housing. James Van Bramer, community affairs manager for the Queensborough Public Library, has been an activist for campaign finance reform as well as gay and lesbian rights. . . .Finally, Rudolph Greco is a lawyer, civic enthusiast and author of a children's history of Jackson Heights. Along with a dedicated tax to provide higher teacher pay and smaller classes, he would encourage corporate partnerships to improve schools. Greco is a convivial, seasoned, one-of-a-kind candidate with a shrewd grasp of the district's needs and possibilities. Newsday endorses Greco. (Newsday)
The New York Times today endorsed a candidate in this race.
District 25 (Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Corona): In a diverse
field of seven, the top candidates are Helen Sears, the pick of
the Democratic county organization; Jimmy Van Bramer, a gay activist;
and Rudy Greco, a real estate lawyer and community leader. Mr.
Van Bramer offers promise for future races, but Mr. Greco is the
most thoughtful candidate. He has worked hard in the district
for years, and has even produced a children's book on Jackson
Heights for fourth-grade students in the area. We endorse Rudy
Rodolfo Flores, who wants to run for the City Council, believed
that district 25 voters should be allowed to choose who would
represent them. And he is still paying for it more than two weeks
after the Board of Elections kept him on the Democratic primary
election ballot. The Queens Democratic organization is trying
to knock him off. (Daily
After facing down a petition challenge and eking out 913 valid
signatures, Flores now faces more uncertainty over his candidacy
due to a lawsuit served by lawyers for Helen Sears's campaign.
Louisa Chan was forced off the ballot after a Board of Elections
ruling today. Her petitions were challenged by lawyers representing
Helen Sears and the Queens Democratic County Organization. (Daily
Ellen Raffaele has dropped out of the race for City Council in
district 25, Jackson Heights. Insiders say the Queens machine
has offered her a district leadership as well as future consideration
for her husband for a judicial post. (Daily
Helen Sears held a fundraiser for her campaign in Queens. Currently
she leads all candidates in the district in fundraising. (Queens
Democratic District Leader Helen Sears downplays reports that
the Queens Democratic County Organization is split between her
own candidacy for Council and that of John Sabini staffer Ellen
Raffaele in Jackson Heights' 25th Council district. "I'm clearly
the most qualified, the one with the best record and the best
ability to serve," said Sears. (Queens Courier)
Michael G. Den Dekker, running to replace John Sabini in the 25th
City Council district, claims the backing of the powerful president
of the Sanitation union, Peter Scarlatos. Scarlots is also co-chair
of the Municipal Labor Union, and a man "who rarely delves into
electoral politics," as reporter William Murphy puts it. But Den
Dekker is a sanitation worker. (Newsday)
In City Council District 25 in Jackson Heights, Queens, twelve
people so far, including two gay activists, a nurse, a locker-room
attendant, and a couple of staffers of public officials, have
announced their candidacy for the City Council seat held by John
Sabini. The field is so crowded and so diverse, observes Rob McKay
in City Limits Weekly, that the winner may wind up needing only
10 percent of the vote. The candidates include two members of
the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, Jimmy Van Bramer,
who is considered one of the front runners, and P.Wayne Mahlke.
There are several members of local school boards, including Louisa
Chan (the nurse), Frank Castro ("locker floor manager" to a ritzy
health club) and Ellen Raffaele, who is an ex-aide to Sabini.
Though the district is 40 percent Latino, "Latino" is not a voting
bloc in an area with so many different countries of origin: Two
other candidates are William Salgado, a Colombian, and Rodolfo
Flores, a Peruvian. McKay quotes a Jackson Heights politico as
predicting that several of the candidates will drop out and form
coalitions with the others. (City
Den Dekker holds fundraiser; Other candidates running in Jackson
Heights/East Elmhurst. (Western
Helen Sears announces her candidacy for the City Council
District 25 seat. (Queens