NYC Issues 2001

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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?


"City in Transition: NYC Issues 2001" is a series of seminars developed by the New York University Center for Excellence in New York City Governance, Coro Eastern Center and Citizens Union Foundation (publisher of Gotham Gazette). Starting this week, they are being offered for free to candidates and their staff. For the seminars, experts, mostly academics from New York University, have been asked to explain the key issues facing New York City, and the options available to these candidates to solve the problems. We will post these "options papers" on our site as they become available. In addition, the contributors of Gotham Gazette will offer our own overviews of the issues, geared more to the public.

More And More Affordable: The Housing Industry and Housing Advocates Suddenly Speak the Same Language

by Rebecca Webber

Affordable housing. Advocates demand it for the homeless and the poor. Tenants insist upon it. Landlords and developers want to provide it. Since all agree that it is sorely lacking, candidates for New York City's 2001 election will have to deal with it.

Affordable housing is the catchphrase for the 2001 elections.

That is because there is so little of it. As the economy boomed over the past ten years, rents rose relentlessly. Demand was high and vacancies low. At the same time, government at all levels reduced the funds and programs earmarked for housing. Now, more than 500,000 households pay more than half of their income in rent, according to the 2000 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey.


The more than 2 million New Yorkers who write a rent check each month are concerned about keeping that payment affordable and maintaining strong tenants' rights.

"We're looking for a new mayor who is going to be a leader on housing issues and tenants rights. Someone who will visibly advocate," said Michael McKee, associate director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors. "Generally speaking, this is an issue that candidates don't like talking about. We are hoping to inject tenant rights issues and affordable housing into the campaign."

Other tenants' organizations are taking a similarly forceful stance. The Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, Inc., in conjunction with other like-minded organizations, has developed a housing platform that all candidates for elected office will be called upon to endorse. It includes provisions for a 10 billion-dollar capital investment over ten years to create 100,000 units of affordable housing. Half of the money would be used to develop new housing, the other half to preserve and improve the existing housing stock.

Advocates also hope that housing code enforcement will be a priority for the newly elected. "There are three million violations on the books - ranging from falling ceilings, to rats, to lack of heat," said Kenny Shaeffer, vice chair for the Metropolitan Council on Housing. "That's like three million crimes that aren't being prosecuted." A bigger budget for more inspectors and tenant lawyers could begin to address the problems.


For those tenants in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized abodes, the new mayor and city council could directly affect their future leases. The new mayor will appoint members to the Rent Guidelines Board which determines the yearly increases in regulated rents. Rent regulation advocates hope that the new mayor's choices for public members will represent the diversity of the city and that they will, as Schaeffer puts it, "believe in the law they are enforcing."

The new mayor and city council members could urge the state legislature to reconsider the Urstadt Law, which has deprived the city of home rule over rent increases since 1971. They could also champion campaign finance laws. Campaign contributions have allowed the real estate industry to dominate Albany, said Schaeffer, and Albany has been weakening rent regulation laws.

"The mayor and city council need to advocate for their constituents to make sure state and federal governments are doing their part to ensure affordable housing," said Schaeffer.


The real estate industry - which includes builders, property owners, brokers, managers, architects and attorneys - also hopes that local officials can convince state and federal legislators to support affordable housing through tax incentives and targeted programs.

"We used to have ambitious federal housing programs which were well-funded until the 1980s, when they were severely curtailed or eliminated." said Warren Wechsler, senior vice president of the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry's trade association. "The burden has fallen to a large extent on localities that are not so awash in money."

Like everyone else, the Real Estate Board's priority is to see more affordable housing constructed in the city. It sees a need for re-zoning to create more development potential throughout the city. Much of the city is zoned for manufacturing, an industry that long ago departed for foreign shores, and these sites seem ripe for residential and retail development.

"If it were possible to build more housing," said Wechsler, "the market would see to it that housing prices were more moderate because consumers would have more to choose from."


The lack of affordable housing has been the primary cause of the city's burgeoning homeless population, said Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst for the New York City Coalition for the Homeless. This year, the number of homeless in the city's shelter system topped 25,000, a level not seen since the 1980s.

While working on solutions for long-term affordable housing, the mayor and city council could choose to offer homeless families immediate relief through rent subsidy programs which cost less than shelters. They could create a supportive housing program for people with mental illness, AIDS, and other disabilities, similar to one that once created 5000 units of such housing and directly reduced the shelter population. They could also institute reforms to the shelter system to make it easier for people to get off the streets and into shelters, said Markee.


In spite of the consensus that New York City needs more affordable housing, arguments still break out about where it should be built. Development plans invariably encounter community resistance and widespread concerns about gentrification.

"We are seeing a ripple effect of people who are priced out of Manhattan moving into Queens and Brooklyn," said McKee of New York State Tenants & Neighbors, "People look for something they can afford over the river. If you look at the pattern over the last few years, the upward pressure on rents increases one subway stop at a time."

New arrivals can alter the demographic landscape of the neighborhood, drive up rents, and cause gentrification -- the displacement of long-term, lower-income residents. Tenant advocates believe government commitment to the maintenance of low-income housing and anti-displacement can counter this effect.

Others see a different solution.

"Residential communities would just as soon lift the drawbridge. They don't want their schools bursting at the seams, they don't want their subway lines crowded," said Wechsler. "Lots of communities would rather not see their populations go up."

Newly elected officials should exhibit the political will to encourage housing development despite this reluctance, he said.

So the constituents are diverse and their housing problems many. But candidates for the 2001 election can't go wrong if they approach these issues with two words in mind: Affordable housing.

Go To Option Paper for Housing

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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.

What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).

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
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

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

You will need Acrobat Reader to view these forms.

Poll Worker Applications

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

You will need Acrobat Reader to view these forms.

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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