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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-A. Gifford Miller, Dem 26,065 - 68 percent
Robert I. Strougo, Rep 11,977 - 31 percent
Jim Lesczynski, Lbt 569 - 1 percent
Incumbent: A. Gifford Miller
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
to James Lesczynski
Gifford Miller has not filed
Robert Strougo has not filed
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
5 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org
Uptown Train Blues
The Upper East Side is the land of the rich and powerful. But
each day, when area commuters (those who do not take cabs or limos
to work) cram onto a crowded Lexington Avenue subway, they get
a glimpse of what life is like for less affluent New Yorkers.
The 5 line was rated the worst subway line in the city in the
New York Public Research Interest Group's "State of the Subways"
report. Service is irregular, the stations and cars are dirty,
and the chances of finding a place to stand, let alone a seat,
are slim. Even the new and improved 6 subway trains have had malfunctioning
doors and incorrect station announcements from the automated speaker
The problem of transportation on the East Side is not new. Plans
for a Second Avenue subway date back to 1920. When the Third Avenue
El train was torn down in 1956, subway and traffic congestion
grew even worse.
So it is not surprising that transportation is an important issue
in the campaign for City Council in district 5, an area east of
Second Avenue from 49th Street to 92nd Street, and Roosevelt Island.
It is on the minds of both voters and candidates -- incumbent
Democrat Gifford Miller and challengers, Republican Robert Strougo
and Libertarian Jim Lesczynski -- but can a council member really
do anything to fix the problems?
Councilman Gifford Miller, who was elected in 1996 at the age
of 26 and is seeking a second term in office, said he is up to
"I am willing to work to get city funding for the Second Avenue
subway, in addition to state and federal funding," said Miller.
"If the subway represents the arteries of our city, the Lexington
Avenue line is about to cause us cardiac arrest.''
But even the most ambitious city politician with a nice turn
of phrase will have trouble getting the Second Avenue train moving.
Funding depends in large part on the state legislature, which
shows little interest in the project, and last November voters
defeated a ballot initiative that would have provided start-up
funding for the Second Avenue subway.
Miller is also interested in running for Council Speaker, which
would certainly help the cause. But he added that such talk was
premature given that the leadership vote will not occur until
January and there will be 37 new members. Despite downplaying
the idea, Miller has formed a political committee called Council
2001 which will endorse promising new candidates and offer them
advice, volunteers, and money. The hope is that the candidates
who win will then back him as Speaker.
Miller's two challengers have their own ideas about transportation.
Jim Lesczynski advocates an approach consistent with his Libertarian
campaign theme of "getting government out of our way." He wants
to open the Second Avenue subway up to private firms for bidding
and allow them to operate the subway and collect tolls for a fixed
period of time to reap the benefits of their risky investment.
"There is no reason why the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
should have a monopoly on transportation in the city," said Lesczynski.
He also thinks a privately run ferry along the East River would
help address the problem.
Similarly, Republican Bob Strougo favors some private sector
involvement in the subway and other transportation projects.
"We should let business people examine the issue and come up
with better solutions," said Strougo. He also wants to pursue
alternative solutions such as liberalizing taxicab and bus rules
during rush hour to relieve congestion.
Education is also a hot topic in the 5th district, even though
the district has the fewest students and the highest test scores
of any area in the city.
Miller recently helped secure $12 million in funding for an East
Side high school to be built on 76th Street, which he said demonstrates
his ability to work with other members of the Council to get things
done for his constituents.
"Education should be run more like a business," said Strougo
who sent both of his children to public schools. Strougo supports
vouchers, higher pay for teachers, and incentives to make teachers
Lesczynski also favors school vouchers and wants to see certain
restrictions on home schooling removed. He said the new high school
on 76th Street represents a classic failure of government involvement
in public policy. "A lack of communication from officials led
to poor decisions," said Lesczynski, "such as placing the school
in an already congested area with little space for outdoor play
Although Roosevelt Island's population comprises a relatively
small portion of the district 5, the area presents important political
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the island's governing
body, is controlled by the state, with the members appointed by
the Governor and approved by the state Senate and Assembly.
"The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation has not been very
receptive to the concerns of Roosevelt Island residents," said
Nneka Pope, a member of the island's residents association. Even
with what Pope calls Miller's "thorough, thoughtful, and proactive
advocacy" for Roosevelt Island residents, she said many believe
their opinions "fall on deaf ears" with the state-controlled body.
Lesczynski says, if elected, he would pressure officials to do
away with the operating corporation and allow Roosevelt Island
to elect its own representatives.
"The state can not walk away from the needs of the island," said
Miller, but he agreed that under the right circumstances, he too,
would support Roosevelt Island electing its own officials.
The district's transportation woes extend to Roosevelt Island
as well. Residents have limited access to Queens and on weekends
see a confusing mix of Q, F, E, and R trains running through their
station and do not know which one to take to get home from Manhattan.
The tram that serves the island, residents said, presents problems
because it is not part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
system and does not take Metrocards.
Miller is confident that the two-to-one Democratic to Republican
ratio of voters in the district and his record will get him reelected.
He said his priorities for the next term will be affordable housing,
getting new schools off the ground, and the working on the day-to-day
details of being a council member. He wants to insure, for example,
that a new law that requires livery cabs to be accessible to the
handicap is actually put into effect.
Miller is so confident that he is not registering with the Campaign
Finance Board for matching funds from the city.
"There is not really an opponent and so there is no reason to
raise funds," said Fred Baldassaro, Miller's press secretary.
Republican Bob Strougo disagrees with that sentiment and believes
that his legal background and support for business-oriented solutions
to public issues will make him a more effective legislator than
Miller. Lesczynski said he thinks East Side residents want a change,
with less government involved in their neighborhood.
Libertarian candidate Jim Lesczynski is struggling
to get the signatures needed to appear on the ballot. As of July
18, he only had 700 signatures. Councilmember Gifford Miller is
continuing his quest to become the next Speaker; his organization,
entitled Council 2001, works to endorse potential winning candidates
in the hope that they will support him for Speaker if they are
elected. Miller has also appeared at several press conferences
recently with outgoing Speaker Vallone. See Campaign Trail for
Gifford Miller has been a member of the New York City
Council since 1996. He serves on several council committees, including
finance, land use, state and federal legislation, and transportation.
Miller previously headed the Council's taskforce on regional planning
and chairs the Council's select committee for charter reform.
Prior to his election to the City Council, Miller worked for the
Parks Council, a non-profit advocacy group in New York City, and
was an aide to U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney. He received
his bachelor's degree from Princeton University.
Bob Strougo is an attorney who has his own practice. Previously,
Strougo worked for the Department of Social Services and for the
Legal Aide Society. Active in Republican politics, Strougo is
a member of the Chairman's Advisory Board of the Republican National
Committee and a recipient of "The Eisenhower Award" for lifetime
dedication to the party. He has a law degree from New York Law
School and bachelor's degree from the City College of New York.
Jim Lesczynski is a marketing communications professional
working in the financial services industry. He is active in the
New York County chapter of the Libertarian Party, serving as its
media relations director and as a member of its county executive
committee. His political commentary frequently appears in The
Empire Page, Liberzine.com, and New Colonist. Lesczynski, who
lives on East 87th Street, received his MBA from New York University
and a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University.
Libertarian candidate Jim Lesczynski has so far gathered fewer
than 700 of the 2,100 signatures he needs to get his name on the
November ballot. His wife, who is pregnant, has taken to canvassing
the neighborhood corners looking for more. "It's hard to conduct
a door-to-door campaign on the Upper East Side," Mr. Lesczynski
said the other afternoon as he stood on West 47th Street. "You
can't get past the doorman." Mr. Lesczynski described himself
as a "true believer," but also as a man who was drawn into local
politics by the term-limit law. Although his opponent, A. Gifford
Miller, is a popular incumbent, the Libertarian said that with
term limits, "it doesn't hurt to start getting your name out there
for 2003." Mr. Lesczynski is running a low-budget campaign against
Mr. Miller, a man with an easy name to pronounce, in the Fifth
Council District, which runs from Second Avenue to the East River
between 49th and 92nd Streets, and also includes Roosevelt Island.
Even Mr. Lesczynski described the Democratic councilman as intelligent,
affable and well financed. He acknowledged that his chance of
victory in the district, which is heavily Democratic and liberal,
is remote. (NY
City Councilmember Gifford Miller stood on an Upper East Side
street corner Sunday to call for stricter enforcement of New York
City' s bicycle laws. Standing with Alan Finger -who was recently
hit by a bicycle while walking on a sidewalk - Miller demanded
that the police department enforce the law that keeps the sidewalk
clear of bicycles. (Newsday)
For the past year, City Councilman Gifford Miller has been plotting
to win the council Speakership, the second most powerful job in
city government. The post is opening up for the first time in
15 years because the incumbent speaker, Peter Vallone, is being
forced out by term-limits, as are two-thirds of the council members.
To advance his cause, Mr. Miller has formed a political action
committee called Council 2001. But its far too early to know whether
Mr. Miller's strategy will work. (Crain's New York)
Welfare reform is driving more hungry people to emergency food
programs and causing food shortages, said City Councilman Gifford
Miller. A random survey by his staff of 31 soup kitchens and food
pantries found that 87% experienced a greater demand for emergency
food in the past six months. And 55% of the programs said they
had to ration food to avoid turning people away. (Daily
Albert Appletone of the Regional Planning Association thinks of
the Second Avenue Subway as the key to modernizing the city's
subway system. (Gotham
Dick Netzer, professor at New York University, argues against
the Second Avenue Subway, identifying other Mass Transit Authority
measures that would provide the same benefits as the new line
without sacrificing the current use of Second Avenue. (Gotham
At least three current Council members are vying to be the new
Speaker: Bill Perkins, Gifford Miller, and Angel Rodriguez. A
fourth, Adolfo Carrion, says he'll be in the running for Speaker
if he does not run for Bronx Borough President. (NY
The Roosevelt Island Bridge has always opened its floor to ships
passing under, but that may soon change. The Transportation Department
wants to permanently close the bridge as part of a citywide program.
If completed, the transformation will save the city on expensive
maintenance fees. (The New York Times)
A new housing development called Southtown will be created in
Roosevelt Island, bringing in nine buildings with mostly rental
apartments. The project marks the first new construction here
since residential units arrived 26 years ago, transforming a warren
of asylums into a mixed-income community. While developers applaud
the new project, many local residents fear gentrification and
loss of open space. (The New York Times)
Residents of the Upper East Side oppose city efforts to privatize
the off-track betting system. They complained that unruly gamblers
sully the neighborhood. City Councilman Gifford Miller is fighting
to change the zoning laws to permit betting parlors only in high-traffic
commercial areas. (The New York Times)
Gifford Miller comments on New York City's pressing problems and
explains why he does not support term limits in City Council.
The Council passed the Pro-Voter Act, which will require city
agencies to offer voter registration forms at their facilities,
including Web sites. Councilman Gifford Miller, the main sponsor
of the bill, said there are 2 million unregistered voters in the