District 48 Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Madison, and Midwood

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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-Michael C. Nelson, Dem (i) 17,325 - 76 percent
Herman Thompson, Rep 4,538 - 20 percent
Allen Herschaft, PET 446 - 2 percent
Stephen Walters, Con 436 - 2 percent

Primary Election Results

Incumbent: Michael C. Nelson

The Candidates:

  • Alan Herschaft (Pet)
  • Michael C. Nelson (Lib)
  • Herman Thompson (Rep)
  • Stephen Walters (Con)

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

Contributors to Allen Herschaft
Yehuda Katz has not filed
Contributors to Michael Nelson
Herman Thompson has not filed
Stephen Walter has not filed

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 48

Campaign Tail

Yehuda's Subway Strategy
We tail 19-year-old Yehuda Katz as he campaigns for a seat in the City Council, not so much running as riding - for 24 hours continuously on the D and the Q trains. His high school teacher had come up with this idea.

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Summer Time Blues

With warm weather South Brooklyn's quiet neighborhoods along Sheepshead Bay and the Atlantic Ocean come to life. Street cafes and restaurants open their doors, the fishing docks bustle with activity, and Oriental Boulevard leading to the beach jams with cars waiting to get into parking lots.

In addition to standard issues like education and senior citizen concerns that affect the much of the city as well, community leaders say that it is during the summer that the most basic challenges in the district arise.

Crowds, noise control, trash, and traffic are what local politicians like incumbent Michael Nelson and challenger Allen Herschaft hear about when they listen to constituents.

"Crowd control is an issues during the summer when thousands of people visit the beach and parks that line the sea shore." says Dana Borell, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group.

Manhattan Beach has been a summer attraction for over a hundred years and in the past attracted famous musicians and celebrities. Today, the beach draws a more modest assortment of visitors and many of the older summerhouses have been bought and renovated by Russian immigrants.

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


  • White 71%
  • Asian 10%
  • Hispanic 11%
  • Black 9%

Median income:$45,939 (ranks 26th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 7%

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

Sanitation is another problem that crops up during the summer months, particularly in parks and beaches, which community leaders hope will be addressed more during upcoming City Council election.

"We need to quadruple garbage pick ups and the number of trash cans on the streets," says Steve Bearrison, the president of Bay Improvement Group, the largest community group in Sheepshead Bay. "There has to be a garbage can on each street corner."

Michael Nelson, City Councilmen for district 48 since 1999, says that sanitation is an issue he plans to work on more if reelected. In the last two years, he has pushed for better sanitation in the neighborhoods and has also increased the run of the skimmer, a boat that collects garbage from the water in the bay. "It's still not as clean as I would like it," says Nelson.

Adequate parking seems to be a problem all year-round and some say it keeps local business from expanding.

"We need more parking for the merchants on Sheepshead Bay Road and the fishing docks on Emmons Avenue," says Bearrison. "A minimum of 1,500 spaces for the fisherman and 500 for the merchants."

The lone challenger of Nelson at this time is Allen Herschaft, who says education is the most important issue on his platform.

Herschaft supports school vouchers and charter schools for all of New York City and says they are especially important in this district because of the many families who send their children to private and religious schools that should be receiving tax credit.

"There should be privatization of schools in a democratic society," says Herschaft.

Nelson, a former teacher, says he is against vouchers, which he called "a dismantling of the public school system." As for charter schools, he would be open to them "as a test.". But if reelected, he wants to focus on decreasing classroom sizes, increasing dramatically teacher's salaries and most importantly getting the parents involved. So far, he says, he has worked on getting more computers into the classrooms and improving the public address systems in area schools for better school safety.

Herschaft, who is running as an independent, also says his main goal is to restore traditional family values that he feels are important to the large group of Orthodox Jews and Roman Catholics in Midwood.

Nelson also seems to have the religious vote on his mind at least in part when he notes, "I ran for Council because I like helping people, but I was not qualified to be a priest or a rabbi."

The Russian vote is increasingly important in the area. Borell from the Manhattan Beach Community group says Russian immigrant participation is strong in her community group. Nelson says he once stood in front of a school where people were voting and one out of four of the voters spoke Russian or had Russian accents.

Arkady Kagan, an editor at the Russian Forward, notes that coverage of local politics in the Russian papers has also increased in recent years.

"Local Russian newspapers did not used to report anything about politics," says Kagan. "But now they all report about it ," especially local elections.

Kagan believes the interest and move toward more people registering as voters was sparked in part by the 1996 welfare reform legislation that had an impact on legal immigrants and welfare and Medicaid benefits.

Currently the largest group of voters that can influence the election are senior citizens. District 48 has the highest population over 65 of any district in the city.

"More services are needed in the senior centers," said Community Board 15 chairman, John Nikas. "Some are getting by just by the skin of their teeth and have no funding. They especially need more aggressive programs and assistance for families with Alzheimers."

If all politics are local, in district 48 the election hinges in large part on quality-of-life issues in the summer and attention to the concerns of seniors.

That may be why Councilmember Nelson is quick to mention that he was responsible for the iron fence that protects a small triangle park on a median strip in Midwood. It is a very popular place for seniors to gather on warm days, he says.

posted 4/27/01

Campaign Update:

There are no primary races in district 48 as incumbent Democrat Michael Nelson is unchallenged. Republican candidate Herman Thompson, Conservative candidate Stephen Walters; and 19-year-old Libertarian candidate Yehuda Katz will face Nelson in the general election in November. Neither Thompson nor Walters could be reached for comment. See Gotham Gazette's Campaign Tail for more information about Katz's campaign.

Posted 8/30/01

Candidate Biographies

Michael Nelson was elected to the Council in February 1999. He worked as former chief-of-staff for State Senator Carl Kruger. He also worked as director of community relations for Congressman (now U.S. Senator) Charles Schumer. Nelson has also been an outreach coordinator and addiction counselor at Coney Island Hospital and a special education teacher.

Yehuda Katz, who is 19 years old, just completed his first two years at SUNY Rockland Community College and will be going to New York University in the fall. At Rockland Community College Katz served on the student newspaper, Outlook Student Press, where he was editor-in-chief. He also served a semester on the Student Senate.

Allen Herschaft works as a law librarian at the New York City Council Legal Division Law library. He received a BA from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec in Political Science and History, a paralegal diploma from New York University; a Masters in Library Science from Pratt Institute. He also attended law school at the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University Law School.

Herman Thompson (no information available).

Stephen Walters (no information available.)

Campaign Trail

With term limits forcing many City Council members from office, the few who are eligible for reelection enjoy a rare advantage: incumbents seldom lose. Councilman Michael Nelson -- representing Midwood, Manhattan Beach and Sheepshead Bay -- says he has no doubt he will win. "I am extremely confident," said Nelson, who is unopposed for the Democratic nod. And no one is running against him in November on the Republican line. So far, Nelson's only opponent is Allen Herschaft, who doesn't really disagree with him about the likely outcome. (Daily News)

Michael Nelson writes why he believes term limits will leave City Council with inexperienced novices, while kicking out experienced elected officials into retirement. (Gotham Gazette).

Last October, city officials cracked down on seafood restaurants and produce stores along Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay that dump garbage and food-laden water into the gutters, creating a smorgasbord for rodents. But that crackdown, following a Daily News report on filthy conditions along Avenue U, only lasted a month, said state Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Mill Basin) and city Councilman Michael Nelson (D-Sheepshead Bay) (Daily News)

Sheepshead Bay residents along Avenue U will have plenty to be thankful for by the end of next month. That is when the city Health and Sanitation departments expect that fewer rats, less garbage and cleaner sidewalks will be seen along Avenue U between E. 12th St. and Bedford Ave. (Daily News)

Leaders of the Working Families Party and Green Party say that their support of peace activist Sonya Ostrom paid off, even though she netted only 13 percent against incumbent Democratic City Councilman Mike Nelson, who won with 80 percent. Ostrom is a former teacher and head of Metro Peace Action, a well-established local anti-war group.(City Limits).


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.

Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

Voter Registration Forms
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Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY

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Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

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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
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

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
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

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