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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Leroy G. Comrie, Dem 17,264 - 81 percent
Cynthia Jenkins, Ind 1,881 - 9 percent
Ishmael J. Morgan, Rep 1,677 - 8 percent
Ed McKay, Har 436 - 2 percent
Leroy G. Comrie 4,655
Helen A. Cooper-Gregory 4,478
Erica Ford 2,537
Larry Smith 2,004
Stephen C. Jackson 1,452
Saundra M. Pope 912
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Archie Spigner (can't
run in 2001)
- Leroy Comrie (Dem)
- Cynthia Jenkins (Ind)
- Ed McKay (Har)
- Ishmael Morgan (Rep)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to Leroy Comrie
Erica Ford has not filed.
to Helen A. Cooper Gregory
Stephen C. Jackson has not filed.
to Cynthia Jenkins
to Ishmael Morgan
Saundra Pope has not filed.
to Larry Smith
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
Cynthia Jenkins has been knocked off the Democratic party line,
although she will still appear on the Independence line in November,
according to the Board of Elections. Leroy Comrie will not appear
as a Liberal party candidate. See the Campaign Update for more
details. Posted 8/9/01
Like its neighboring districts in the Southeastern Queens, District
27 appears calm, if not downright bucolic by New York City standards.
Somewhat shabby commercial strips do little to mar the block upon
block of well kept single family homes. This district on the Nassau
County line is home to some of New York's vast and often forgotten
black middle class. It ranks second in the number of owner occupied
homes and well below the city norm for almost any social ill one
can think of.
But there is a sense here that things are not as they could or
should be, particularly in education.
Since 1974, the area has been represented by Archie Spigner,
the deputy speaker and a man whom the Village
Voice once called "the council's version of the Invisible
Man." The leading candidate to replace Spigner is his chief of
staff, Leroi Comrie, who says he doesn't know of any group that
has formally endorsed anyone else in the district. His opponents
agree Comrie has endorsements, but say that does not necessarily
translate into popular support.
Those running against Comrie in the Democratic primary include
attorney Helen Cooper-Gregory; Earl Simons, who works for the
Manhattan borough president; former State Assemblyperson Cynthia
Jenkins; and Erica Ford, a radical activist who helped organize
Khalid Muhammad's 1998 Million Youth March. Republican Ishmael
Morgan will run against the winner in the November general election.
While most candidates throughout the city cite education as a
top priority, that claim has particular resonance in District
27. Community School Board 29, which covers much of the area,
has been in turmoil at least since 1999 when the board and then
Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew clashed over Crew's firing of District
Superintendent Celestine Miller, who was charged with mishandling
an incident where an 8-year-old brought a loaded handgun to school.
After her ouster, Miller was indicted on unrelated bribery charges.
Next the local school board went head to head with current Chancellor
Harold Levy over the hiring of a replacement for Miller. Levy
ousted the board. That decision was overturned by the central
Board of Education, but the local school district remains without
a superintendent. Levy's choice, Michael Johnson, who has been
opposed by much of the community school board, serves as district
Students probably pay little attention to such shenanigans, but
whether it is because of the turmoil or something else, the schools
clearly do not do as well as one might expect. In 1988-99, 39
percent of students scored at or above the national average in
reading and 50 percent at or above the national average in math,
placing District 27 in the lower third for student achievement,
far below what one would expect from such a relatively affluent
Comrie is on the local school board and served as its president
during much of the controversy. Helen Cooper-Gregory, who some
see as his strongest opponent, believes this will hurt him. "A
lot of educators who work in the district will be throwing their
support to me based on who my opponent is," she says. "The grades
are not what they should be."
Comrie agrees with that assessment, noting, "The scores in the
district do not reflect the demographic." He says his time on
the board has been difficult and frustrating in many ways. "I
got on the board to try to improve the district," he comments.
"I wound up doing everything else but."
Board members were not aware of many of Miller's alleged improprieties,
Aside from ending the turmoil at the school district office,
the candidates cited a need to end overcrowding. Given the lack
of space, Morgan calls for two shifts, or split sessions, so classes
can be smaller. Comrie says he would introduce legislation requiring
that city-owned land be set aside for school even before the funding
to build the school is available.
Despite the district's prosperity, many of the commercial strips
are run down, and there are few job opportunities in the area.
Likening one business district to a street in a Third World Country,
Morgan said, "The people who are running these businesses are
struggling. I would be a strong advocate for bringing in funds
from government, venture capital and non-profit organizations."
Beyond education, the candidates convey a sense that things are
changing in the 27th, not necessarily for the better. And many
place some blame on the city for not providing the area with adequate
services. "Seniors tell me the way the community used to be. That
gives me the barometer to judge things now," Earl Simons explains.
"We need a fair share of city services," in areas such as transportation
To get these services, many of the politicians argue, may require
a new type of councilperson. Even Comrie, who's worked for Spigner
for 14 years, says that he would "not just continue but expand"
"I'd like to see more advocacy," Cooper-Morgan says. "I want
to be present in the district office more. People want to be able
to feel their councilperson is accessible to them." And Simons
says, "The district is clearly in need of new leadership."
With term limits, a new leader is clearly on the way. Whether
that person will be able to help make life in the 27th all that
it should be, though, remains an open question.
While LeRoy Comrie, chief of staff for outgoing Councilmember
Archie Spigner, is still viewed as the frontrunner, seven other
Democrats remain in the race and hope to stage an upset.
Stephen Jackson, a civil rights attorney, said he decided to
run this spring after attending a meeting of public officials
and attorneys concerned about Rev. Al Sharpton's jail sentence
for trespassing to protest the Navy bombing of Vieques. From that
meeting, he says, "I got a sense that more could be done in the
council" and discussed the needs of the community with some of
Jackson hopes to focus on what he sees as inequities in the city
budget, shifting money to provide more services for young people.
"It's immoral to budget only $105 million for youth services when
they paid out more than double that in overtime alone for police
officers," says Jackson. He also faults Spigner's leadership,
charging that electing Comrie would continue "a legacy of lethargy.
People recognize we could do better."
Larry Smith, a computer specialist for the city's Human Resources
Administration, has also entered the race. "We've come a long
way in a short period of time," says Smith of his door-to-door
efforts that yielded 2,200 signatures for the Board of Elections,
far more than the 900 required. Smith says this support shows
he is a candidate "that has the passion to do this and the willingness
Citing education as a major concern, Smith concedes that any
single councilperson has only limited power to affect major changes.
But he says he would seek to take the things that characterize
good schools -- dedicated principals, hard-working teachers, committed
parents and motivated students -- and find ways to bring them
to all schools. His focus, he continues, would not be on the Board
of education but on classrooms "where the rubber meets the road."
Whomever wins the Democratic primary will face Independence candidate
Cynthia Jenkins and Republican Ishmael Morgan in the general election
in November. Cynthia Jenkins has been knocked off the Democratic
party line according to the Board of Elections. Leroy Comrie will
not appear as a Liberal party candidate.
Leroy Comrie has worked for Councilman Archie Spigner
for 15 years and been his chief of staff for the last seven. He
is a member and former president of Community School Board 29.
Helen A. Cooper-Gregory worked for the police department
for several years before becoming an attorney. From 1987 to 1991,
she prosecuted child abuse and neglect cases in Family Court.
She is now in private practice in Queens. Cooper-Gregory is president
of the Macon B. Allen Black Bar Association of Queens. and treasurer
and a member of the board of directors of the Queens Women's Network,
a support group for victims of Domestic Violence. She has also
taught at York College.
Erica Ford is an activist who helped organize the Million
Youth March in Harlem.
Stephen C. Jackson is a civil rights attorney with a practice
based in Manhattan. He has represented the Rev. Al Sharpton and
activists C. Vernon Mason and Alton Maddox. Jackson has been a
volunteer mediator for the Institute for Mediation and Conflict
Resolution. He ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly in 1994.
Cynthia Jenkins is a former member of the State Assembly
and has served as a Democratic district leader. She ran unsuccessfully
against Councilman Spigner in 1997.
Geraldine Morgan (no information available)
Ishmael J. Morgan works for Off Track Betting. He served
as president of the Foundation for Recovery and Economic Encouragement,
an organization that promoted economic development.
Saundra M. Pope is an entrepreneur and business consultant
who previously hosted a television program on business issues.
She is a president and founder of Women of Diversity and was president
of the Jamaica Rotary Club in 1998-99. She ran unsuccessfully
for State Assembly.
Earl Simons is director of the Northern Manhattan Office
for the Manhattan Borough President. He has previously worked
for the city's Human Resources Administration and in the Washington
office of Rep. Edolphus Towns. He is a vice president of the Cambria
Heights Civic Association and president of the New York City chapter
of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.
Larry Smith is a computer specialists with the city Human
Resources Administration who previously worked at Harlem Hospital.
He is a member of the Rosedale Civic Association, the NAACP and
of parent association at local public schools.
Sitting among his seven competitors, Leroy Comrie - outgoing Councilman
Archie Spigner's top aide and the odds-on favorite to win the
seat for district 27 - is almost serene as they take turns attacking
him. And attack they do. There's attorney Stephen Jackson blasting
Spigner, Comrie's mentor, for being "the invisible man." There's
Erica Ford - supported by the Rev. Al Sharpton - talking about
the need for change and delivering a message that's part black
consciousness movement, part hip hop.And there's former Assemblywoman
Cynthia Jenkins, as colorful and lively at 76 as she ever was,
railing at the Queens Democratic organization. She told a York
College crowd last month how she grabbed the Independence Party
line despite being thrown off the Sept. 11 Democratic primary
ballot by a machine-led challenge."Now, in November, when you
open the curtain, you are going to see Cynthia Jenkins," she said
to roars of laughter.And there's attorney Helen Cooper-Gregory,
talking calmly about problems with the school district that Comrie
has helped lead.Throw into the mix businesswoman Saundra Pope,
computer specialist Larry Smith and Republican Ishmael Morgan
and you have something for everyone. But Comrie, 41, a School
Board 29 member who has worked for Spigner for 17 years, takes
their barbs with aplomb. (Daily
Erica Ford, a candidate in the 27th District, and two other council
hopefuls called upon their opponents not to challenge each other's
petition signatures. "The people should be able to decide who's
going to be on the ballot, not the machine," Ford said. A spokesman
for LeRoy Comrie, whose candidacy for the 27th district seat is
backed by the Queens Democratic machine, said Comrie didn't plan
to challenge but then again he wouldn't promise not to either.
Helen Cooper-Gregory, another candidate in the district, said
political hopefuls had to deal with election law as it stands.
If candidates "don't realize the county organization is going
to look at their petitions then they are naive," she said.(Daily
Leroi Comrie is by far the favorite in the race for the District
27 Council seat, but Helen Cooper-Gregory is a credible challenger.
The New York City Central Labor Council, a labor group with
1.5 million members in some 450 local unions, gave its backing
to 10 of 16 incumbents, skipping an endorsement in six races where
the incumbent can run again, but not backing any insurgents against
a sitting council member. Among its endorsements in races in which
there are no incumbents: John Liu in Flushing (district 20), Bernice
Siegal in Hollis (district 23), Melinda Katz in Forest Hills (district
29), Leroy Comrie in St. Albans (district 27) and Arthur Cheliotes
in Bayside (district 19). The choice of Cheliotes is not very
surprising since he is president of Local 1180 of the Communications
Workers of America. (Newsday)
Stephen Jackson, the attorney for a Queens man who has driven
subways and buses without authorization, said he would try to
have the man's plea agreement and 2 and a half to five year sentence
vacated. Darius McCollum was convicted for crimes related to impersonating
a transit system employee. Jackson argued that McCollum suffers
from Asperger's syndrome, a variant of autism that is sometimes
marked by a consuming fascination with things like trains. (Railroad
Activist Erica Ford, who blocked subways during protests 14 years
ago, is seeking the Council seat now held by Archie Spigner. (Daily
Former District 29 Superintendent Celstine Miller was indicted
for pocketing money that was supposed to be used to buy computers
for schools in her district. (Daily
The central Board of Education reinstated members of Community
School Board 29 who had been suspended by Schools Chancellor Harold
Cynthia Jenkins says she opposes the Queens Democratic Party's
selection of Malcolm Smith as its candidate for the vacant State
Senate Seat from the 10th district. Jenkins, who district leader
who voted against Smith's selection, was particularly disturbed
that he has the endorsement of the Democratic, Republican, Conservative,
and Working Families parties and questions how someone can support
parties with such widely divergent positions on key issues. (The
Schools Chancellor Harold Levy suspended the members of Community
School Board 29, assailing them for "inept handling" of the hiring
of a new district superintendent and "for years of mediocre education
Community School Board 29 reinstated embattled district superintendent
Celestine Miller, a day are Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew fired
her. Crew, though, insisted the firing would stand. (Daily
Erica Ford lashed out at State Senator David Paterson for opposing
Kahlid Muhammad's Million Youth March. Ford was an organizer of
the march. (Village
Stephen C. Jackson, the attorney defending C. Vernon Mason in
the defamation suit brought by Steven Pagones, said Pagones would
be hard-pressed to prove that Mason had acted with malice. Mason
has alleged that Pagones was one of several white men who abducted
and raped black teenager Tawana Brawley. (Times