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?


NYC Issues 2001: Social Services Overview

by Lynda Crawford

Every mayoral candidate has taken up the banner of affordable housing -- a crucial area for the poor and homeless in this city -- but there are many other social service issues crying out for attention, as well.


  • Putting emergency intake shelters for the homeless in every borough (instead of just one in the Bronx) to make aid more accessible for the 28,000 (and rising) homeless women, men and children currently in city shelters.
  • Providing supervised residential housing for people with mental illness, as well as supportive housing for those recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction.


  • Supporting job training and a college education for those on Workfare, lobbying the federal government to extend Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and assuring the 75,000 people who are losing their federal welfare benefits this year that transfer over to the state "safety net" will be as seamless as possible.


  • Setting aside additional shelter beds for victims of domestic violence, and supporting programs to prevent domestic violence, family violence, youth violence, gun violence.


  • Stopping the spread of AIDS, with a focus on young men in the city WHO are engaging in unsafe sex, and African Americans, who are ten times more likely to be diagnosed and ten times more likely to die from the disease. Supporting needle exchange programs that are proven to reduce the spread of HIV infection.


  • Reducing spending on jails and prisons in favor of treatment for drug offenders and an increase in programs that prevent violence and child abuse. Providing mental health treatment for the 15,000 to 20,000 people with mental illness currently in the criminal justice system.


  • Responding to the food shortages at pantries and soup kitchens in the city amidst a sharp increase in need. In one month, 74,000 people were turned away last year, almost two-thirds of them children. And many of the hungry adults are working; they just don't earn enough to pay for both food and rent.


  • Supporting meal distribution, van transportation and affordable housing for the elderly, and addressing the need for mental health services for the elderly, many of whom are suffering from isolation, depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse, by endorsing social worker presence in the community-based senior centers.

    [All four Democratic candidates pledged not to cut senior services at a recent forum organized by the Council of Senior Centers and Services; the Republican candidates didn't attend.]


  • People with disabilities need jobs; 60 percent of the disabled who are able to work are unemployed or underemployed. They also need accessible housing, accessible transportation, accessible sidewalks. The elderly disabled -- half of them over 80 years of age and living below the poverty line -- survive through home-delivered meals programs that remain discretionary by the New York City Department for the Aging. People with developmental disabilities who also have substance abuse problems are underserved by specialized treatment programs that only have enough beds for five percent of them.


  • Defending immigrant rights, protecting against employer exploitation of immigrants, supporting ESL classes and job training, and campaigning for humane conditions for asylum-seekers.


  • Acknowledging the need for education programs in the schools to stop racism, anti-gay and lesbian violence, and the macho mystique which promotes violence towards women.


FERNANDO FERRER would increase funding for transitional and supportive housing for people who are homeless, housing that would also provide alcohol and substance abuse treatment and mental health services. He would increase the number of overnight shelter beds available, offer job training in conjunction with detoxification, and create a special police division knowledgeable about the homeless population to handle outreach. He has proposed construction of 150,000 units of housing, with funding to come from cutting some city contracts to private industry.

He promises to find sufficient shelter beds for victims of domestic violence victims, provide adequate counseling, and educate employers on how to spot domestic violence and abuse.

He is in favor of "real job" training for welfare recipients and would use the TANF surplus (reportedly $7 million) to offer support services such as child care, transportation, and financial counseling. He also said he would lobby for reauthorization of TANF, set to expire next year.

Ferrer wants to make health care more accessible to the poor and to immigrants, to create better health care facilities, and put nebulizers in every elementary and middle school for emergency asthma attacks. Funding would come from both the city's tobacco settlement to treat the uninsured and a reduction in spending on jails. (According to Ferrer, the city is now planning to spend $97 million a year to expand jails even with 8,000 empty beds.)

He plans to determine the eligibility of all New Yorkers for Medicaid and Food Stamps, remove barriers to public assistance (language, cultural, learning impaired), and would not require eligible people to reapply for state benefits when federal welfare benefits expire.

Ferrer has pledged to enroll eligible seniors in the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program (EPIC) and, at the same time, push for prescription coverage for all seniors. He has spoken of enhancing New York City Department for the Aging programs to reach homebound and needy seniors, and supports social workers in the community based senior centers.

And he has promised to bring all these services to the outer boroughs.

MARK GREEN has spoken out on homelessness, blaming the crisis on economics and a lack of affordable housing, and is in favor of a non-punitive, more sympathetic approach to the problem, including transitional and permanent housing, education and training for "real jobs," child-care, transitional jobs, alcohol, drug, and mental health treatment. He would not support time limits on welfare for those with serious barriers to working.

He would press the state to expand contributions to mental health services such as permanent supportive housing, substance abuse treatment, family violence programs, and education and job training programs that can support the formerly homeless.

Green released a report, Children at Risk, assessing the Administration for Children's Services oversight of foster care, citing chilling statistics on abuse and neglect within foster care placements, and the need for further efforts to turn this around.

He suggests the city invest in safe affordable day care as a way to reduce crime, in addition to increased gun control. He would train workers in technology skills to turn around unemployment.

Green supports the One Step Program to remove steps from entrances to businesses, making them more accessible to people with disabilities. He vowed to inspect sidewalks and curbs within the first 100 days of his term to ensure they were wheelchair accessible. And he would extend SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) to cover folks with disabilities who are on fixed incomes.

ALAN HEVESI would take a strong stand against bigotry and hate-crimes, and particularly racial profiling and police brutality. A very visible supporter is Abner Louima. Hevesi credits himself with being instrumental in convincing the Swiss banks to agree to a $1.65 billion settlement of Holocaust-related issues. During his years in the state assembly, he is proud to have introduced bills in support of health care and people with disabilities.

PETER VALLONE also includes homelessness among his issues and sees housing as the solution. He would oversee new construction of affordable housing and housing for people with special needs, suggesting the city needs an 225,000 additional units. He is also a strong supporter of services for seniors, including meals, the presence of social workers at community based senior centers, tax credits for the elderly, and his housing proposals highlight facilities aimed at seniors.

While maintaining that the welfare rolls will not go up under his administration, he says he would encourage job training through a transitional jobs bill, where welfare recipients work for the city at "real" jobs for just under a year. After that they would have the training to fill municipal government vacancies or in private industry. He also credits himself with introducing the bill in the City Council to end one-year limits on education in Workfare; the time limit prevents most Workfare participants from pursuing college-level education that requires more than one year of study.

BADILLO has proposed helping poor communities by developing main streets and improving transportation.

BLOOMBERG outlined a plan to increase affordable housing which included creating a coordinated inter-agency task force for housing.

My Street Address:

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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.

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Board of Elections
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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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