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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002
x-Robert Jackson, Dem 17,925 - 80 percent
Faisal M. Sipra, Rep 2,056 - 9 percent
Mario A. Torres, Lib 1,453 - 7 percent
Greg Draves, Lbt 515 - 2 percent
Allen Cox, Inp 386 - 2 percent
Robert Jackson 5,633
Mark D. Levine 3,916
Mario A. Torres 1,974
Daryl G. Bloodsaw 1,541
Pedro Morillo 1,511
Jackie Rowes Adams 1,296
Tony Spencer 1,267
Victor A. Bernace 596
Michael B. Hughes 549
Heyward Dotson 211
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)
Incumbent: Stanley E. Michels (can't
run in 2001)
Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign
Victor Armando Bernace has not filed
Daryl Bloodsaw has not filed
Allen Cox has not filed
Heyward Dotson has not filed
Greg Draves has not filed
Michael Hughes has not filed
to Robert Jackson
to Mark Levine
Pedro Morillo has not filed
Jackie Rowe-Adams has not filed
to Tony Spencer
to Mario Torres
Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District
7 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org
Heights of Immigration
More than any other concentrated area of the city, the northern
tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home.
Between 1992 and 1996, nearly 50,000 new immigrants moved to
Manhattan between 122nd and 220th Street. The majority came 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
In many ways, these new residents have helped bring a renewed
sense of vitality to the area: Russian deli's have sprung up next
to bodegas, previously empty storefronts on Broadway are full
of new businesses, and much of the dilapidated housing is being
"Our economic development has really grown," said Jackie Rowe-Adams,
a candidate for City Council in district 7. "It is awesome. Our
neighborhoods are booming."
But the influx of new residents has also brought challenges.
For one, affordable housing in West Harlem, Washington Heights,
Manhattanville, and Inwood is becoming more difficult to find.
And since 93 percent of the area is renter-occupied, the area
is susceptible to rising real estate prices.
"The problem comes not when new people arrive, but when the people
who have been living there are forced to leave," said candidate
Mark Levine, who runs a credit union that provides loans to local
homebuyers. "If we can encourage more homeownership, it not only
insures that people are not pushed out of the neighborhood by
new development, but that they actually benefit from it."
Candidate Victor Armando Bernace also suggests that the remaining
vacant land and buildings can be put to better use. He advocates
reforming the tax code to punish "absentee landlords" and return
abandoned property to the active housing market.
A major challenge for all of the candidates running for City
Council in district 7 this year will be to find ways to welcome
new residents into the political process, while advocating for
the people who have lived there for years.
But even with the revitalization that has come to the area in
the last decade, some of the old problems are still present.
District 7 has one of the largest public school student populations
in the city, more than half of who are scoring below the national
average in reading and math. The candidates agree that improving
public education in the area hinges on a combination of parental
involvement, teacher and student accountability, and increased
One candidate, Robert Jackson, was part of the lawsuit by the
Campaign for Fiscal Equity that resulted in a ruling requiring
New York state to revamp its school funding formula to give more
money to city schools. "We need to make sure that education is
the primary focus of the City Council," said Jackson. "It should
be the number one issue in all campaigns."
If elected, Mario Torres hopes he can initiate creative partnerships
between schools and neighborhood corporations to bring new resources
such as computers into area classrooms.
The candidates also add that keeping the district's streets safe
is critical, since the area still has one of the highest homicide
rates in the city.
"I lost two sons to gun violence," said Rowe-Adams. "And we're
not talking enough about guns. Not just nationally, we need to
talk about it locally."
Tony Spencer added that more resources are needed to clean up
illegal drug activity along Amsterdam Avenue, one of the few remaining
open-air drug markets in Manhattan. He also believes that creating
youth programs can keep both young people and the streets safer.
As for health care, a Manhattanville clinic on 126th Street and
Old Broadway that has served the areas children for years has
been closed for over six months, awaiting repairs. Others say
it has been closed for good.
"We need to welcome immigrants to America," said Spencer, "by
ensuring that they have insurance that makes health care readily
Ultimately, the candidates want to make sure the city's resources
allocated for their district keep up with the growing population.
Torres proposes a program, conducted with groups such as the
Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and business improvement districts,
to help local entrepreneurs and business owners learn about loan
programs and assistance. "Two businesses near where I live have
undertaken major initiatives to expand and did it with their own
money," said Torres. "We have to do a better job of informing
people of these resources."
As teachers, lawyers, community and school board members, activists,
and political leaders, these candidates are already running on
their community record, before they even get into office. "The
voters will have to evaluate candidates by asking--what have you
done for the community?" said Jackson.
The winning candidate may be the one who can not only get their
own constituents to the polls, but appeal to a cross section of
people: immigrants from around the world, ex-Upper West Siders,
and those who have lived in northern Manhattan for years.
The list of candidates in district 7 has grown to an astonishing
14, according to the Board of Elections, one of the most crowded
contests in the city. Joining the race recently are Democratic
candidates Heyward Dotson, Pedro Morillo and Daryl G. Bloodsaw,
Independence candidates Allen Cox and Nicholas Kallivokas, Republican
Faisal Sipra, and Libertarian Greg Draves.
Of the 14 candidates, however, only four have registered with
the Campaign Finance Board for matching funds.
In this crowded race and that will draw only about 15,000 Democratic
voters for the primary September 11th, the winner could be decided
by under a hundred votes. But not all of the people running now
will necessarily make it onto the ballot.
According to Democratic candidate Michael Hughes, there have
been an onslaught of challenges to the nominating petitions of
several of the candidates. "As always, we are fighting like cats
and dogs," says Hughes. The practice of challenging voters' signatures
in order to try to knock
an opponent off the ballot is routine in New York City politics.
In his campaign, Hughes is stressing community involvement as
a way to improve the area and decrease crime,. "What I am involved
with is working with the people in the street," he says.. "It
is necessary to volunteer with your fellow residents, go around
picking up garbage, making sure our kids aren't misbehaving, and
making sure that our streets are safe."
Libertarian Greg Draves says abandoned property held by the city
should be sold to the public. "The city should not be in the business
of keeping rent high, they should be the in the business of trying
to keep an open market," says Draves. "The city should be willing
to auction off property that is unused by people, to individuals
within the community."
Pedro Morillo, Daryl Bloodsaw, Heyward Dotson, Nicholas Kallivokas,
Allen Cox, and Faisal Sipra did not return requests for interviews.
The Democratic candidates are looking for endorsements that will
help boost their campaigns. Mario Torres received the endorsements
of State Senator Olga Mendez and the Liberal party, which means
he will appear on the ballot in the general election in November.
Mark Levine received the endorsement of the local Audubon Reform
Democratic Club. Robert Jackson enjoys the backing of the county
Democratic organization. Current Councilmember Stanley Michels
has not endorsed a candidate yet and some expect that he may not
"It's a great race," says Levine. "I think it is a good thing
for the area. There are a number of qualified candidates in the
Victor Armando Bernace, who grew up in a poor and abusive
household and went to Harvard Law School, taught high school history
in the Bronx for six years before deciding to start his own law
practice that helps primarily Dominican cab drivers resolve traffic
violations. He also serves on the board of directors for the Bronx
Independent Living Services, which helps people with disabilities.
Daryl Bloodsaw (no information available)
Allen Cox (no information available)
Heyward Dotson (no information available)
Greg Draves graduated from New York University where he
studied Film and Television. He is a Corporate Secretary for Mensa,
a stage manager for Trip, and has been involved in helping Habitat
for Humanity build affordable housing.
Michael Hughes (no information available)
Robert Jackson, who was part of the lawsuit by the Campaign
for Fiscal Equity in which a judge ordered the state to give more
money to New York City's schools, is the director of field services
in New York City and Long Island for the New York State Public
Employees Federation. He has served as a representative to community
school board 6, as president of a tenants association, and as
a member of the Concerned Democratic Coalition of Northern Manhattan.
Nicholas Kallilvokas (no information available)
Mark Levine is executive director of the non-profit, Credit
Where Credit is Due that promotes economic development in
Upper Manhattan. He is also president of Neighborhood Trust, a
credit union in Washington Heights and West Harlem and a former
Pedro Morillo (no information available)
Jackie Rowe-Adams is recreation manager for Morningside
Park and Jackie Robinson Park. She has been involved in community
board 10, school board 5, and sits on the White House Parent Youth
Council on Drug Abuse.
Faisal M. Sipra (no information available)
Mario Torres is vice president of the Battery Park City
Authority and is involved in with the Retired Seniors Volunteer
Program, the Foundation Board of the Borough of Manhattan Community
College, and the National Puerto Rican Forum.
Tony Spencer is the director of the New York City Black
Leadership Commission on AIDS. He served in the Air Force, is
a State Democratic Party Committee member, a colonel in the National
Heywood Dotson retreated to his mother's house in Staten Island after being
disqualified in the City Council race in district 7 and returned home to
learn he was reported dead. The saga added even more color to a race already
saturated with it. District 7 is sprawling and diverse, stretching from
123rd to 218th Street, covering Manhattanville, West Harlem, Hamilton
Heights, Washington Heights and Inwood - and it has a field befitting it.
There are 10 Democrats on the primary ballot, so many that candidates start
staking out subway stops at 6:30 a.m. because there are barely enough to go
around. (NY Times)
The New York Times today endorsed a candidate in this race.
Seventh District (Washington Heights, West Harlem and Inwood):
The two top candidates in this race are Robert Jackson, a longtime
champion of quality education, and Mark Levine, an energetic community
activist. Mr. Levine has done an important service to the neighborhood
by establishing a community development credit union. But Mr.
Jackson has spent years working for better schools for the entire
city. He breathed life into the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which
recently won a historic lawsuit to bring the city more state funds.
In a year when virtually every candidate says schools are the
top priority, our choice is Robert Jackson.
Some of Hollywood's biggest names are taking sides in a little-noticed
City Council race - all thanks to a childhood friendship between
a novice candidate and superstar actor Edward Norton. Producers
David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg have each chipped in $2,500
to Mark Levine, one of 10 Democrats slugging it out to succeed
term-limited Councilman Stanley Michels in district 7 in northern
Manhattan. Actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Love have also
written $2,500 checks, as has Norton himself. Director Milos Forman
came in with $250. Levine has amassed an impressive $105,644 war
chest, surpassing his two closest rivals, Mario Torres, a vice
president of the Battery Park City Authority ($82,066), and Robert
Jackson, who led the lawsuit challenging the state's education
formula ($33,607). (NY
Many candidates are having difficulties gathering signature petitions,
especially in crowded races like district 7. For Council candidates
like Victor Bernace, who has only a few volunteers and is walking
the streets of the Seventh Council District himself, the battleground
stretches from West Harlem to Inwood. When he went to a large
housing project, he discovered that three out of four residents
had signed for a rival, Mario Torres, who he said had the backing
of a local Democratic organization. "He probably got enough already,
but he's going and going and going," Mr. Bernace said. (New York
A crusading Washington Heights attorney and a taxi driver Irving
Gelb have gotten together to prove, in the courts, that the City's
Board of Election has disenfranchised the city's voters for the
last 42 years. Gelb is a Bronx cab driver who, for over 40 years,
has run for various political offices as a write in candidate
and whose votes were never counted. (Washington
Mr. Torres is focused on serving on the City Council. "My experience,
commitment to public service and motivation clearly makes me a
candidate. This is not an exercise in getting name-recognition
or testing the waters. This is about putting together a team that
is going to make us all winners. The district that I am running
for has an active and diverse community comprised of multiple
religious and ethnic groups, recent immigrants and artists; whoever
represents this district needs to make a sincere attempt to become
fluent in the issues affecting all these communities. I've been
involved professionally with diversity all my life." (Manhattan
Immigrant voters in Washington Heights (Uptown2000)