The Race for Mayor

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Recent Feature Stories:
The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council... Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term Limits...


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?


Fernando Ferrer

[Question: What would your approach be as mayor to meet the needs of the city's large and growing Latino population?]

Puerto Ricans and Latinos throughout this city need what so many who I call residents of the other New York need, decent and affordable housing and a good and safe and effective place for their children to learn. And not a place that is miles away, but the public school that is down the block or around the corner. Their public school.

Why are there poor New Yorkers uninsured medically? If you don't have health insurance you and your children have no reliable access to health care.

Too many Latinos and others who are of color in this city, find themselves on the wrong side of the divide of distrust between them and their own police departments. That is wrong and does not have to be.

As mayor, this city needs a bold, creative and imaginative housing production policy that will produce 150,000 new units in ten years of low moderate and middle income housing for renters and for owners. This city needs to move away from the useless discourse of restructuring or blowing up the Board of Education, vouchers or privatization, and needs to move toward the heart of the matter. Good teaching and good learning in every classroom, not just in some of them. To a large extent that takes money and leadership. Leadership at the state level and at the city level to recover the governors intransigence on the Campaign For Fiscal Equity law-suit . So many of us knew for years, not for months, that New York City school children have been systematically cheated, not only of resources, but out of their futures, and it was wrong.

We also have to work on maintaining high standards and keeping the doors of opportunity open at City University. A gateway of opportunity for all. You'll be hearing more later.

[Question: A major issue facing Latinos across the country is under-representation, especially when it comes to decision making levels, and New York City is no exception. How would you specifically address this issue? What are your thoughts about city affirmative action programs?]

I would reverse immediately the incredible retreat in the last eight years from the monitoring of hiring practices in city agencies. Ironically, twenty-six years ago, I worked for the city human rights commission investigating complaints of discrimination in city agencies and investigating patterns and practices of systemic discrimination in city agencies. There was an executive order creating that unit and requiring that we monitor these hiring requirements. That was in fact dismantled and over the course of years no one has had a clear picture of how many work at the highest levels of decision making, how many work in mid-management levels, and how many work in support levels. That has to come to an end. We have a disjointed personnel system that intentionally refuses to keep track of the number of people in any given agency.

There is no recruitment effort in the fire department, little recruitment eff ort that has been effective in the police department, and virtually no recruitment effort anywhere else.

On the other hand the government is stuffed right up to the eye-balls with political appointees who happen to represent the electoral coalition of the current occupant of City Hall-- not too representative of the diversity of New York. That changes in a Ferrer administration.

[Question: What role did you personally play, how did you respond, not just after serious incidents like the Anthony Baez police brutality case, but the infamous Seinfeld and Law and Order episodes on the Puerto Rican Day Parade and the David Letterman insulting remarks about the Columbians?]

I have been, not merely as Borough President of the Bronx, but as a Puerto Rican , singularly responsive to these issues. Whether it was Seinfeld's very un-funny jokes in that episode that denigrated an entire community and an institution called the Puerto Rican Day Parade, or whether it was Letterman telling some more un-funny jokes about a community that is not mine in particular, but all Latinos are related and in fact a slur against a Colombian community had to be responded personally by every leader of this city.

Congressman Henson is only the latest. It doesn't surprise me that there are members of the congress who are ignorant. What is dangerous is that they are running the country.

So it is important not only to respond to those things, but when Amadou Diallo is shot forty-one times in a lobby of his own building , it was important for me to become the highest ranking city official and to submit myself to voluntary arrest in protest of the recruitment, training, supervision ,and policies at the very top and then in the very failure to hold those four officers accountable, the failure of accountability. I was very proud to make clear and unequivocal statements.

[Question: What is your campaign strategy for reaching Latino voters? ]

First, the mayor has to go beyond slogans that he likes immigrants, that New York City is the city of immigrants, that immigrant families are wonderful and get to real delivery. From the first days of the proposal of the old Simpson/Mazzoli law, to the passage of Simpson/Rodino, to the fight for the extension of 245-I, the mayor has to be a champion with the congressional delegation and in the United States Congress to call not merely for the basics, but the mayor has to call for finally amnesty in this country. Give people the opportunity, give immigrant families the opportunity to reunite and to live legally, and to exist legally in this country.

We have to do a few other things. The children of immigrants and their parents are currently barred by federal law from Medicaid benefits. That is immoral. The mayor of this city has to govern and reform a health system in the public domain, rather than cutting or threatening to cut school based health clinics and community based health centers. We've got to increase those numbers so that immigrants and their children have the same access as anyone else to first quality healthcare.

And finally, the children of immigrants should get the same kind of education as everyone else, that is in some schools good and in some schools not so very good. But the plain fact is that immigrant children need so much more and when we tell them, when we use bilingual education for example, as the newest bullet in the cultural wars and deny them the opportunity to transition. When we use other issues in schools as opportunities for great social debates on the pages of editorials of all the New York City papers, having little or nothing to do with the quality of their lives, we had better know which end is up. Bilingual education should not be the latest bullet to the American culture wars, it should be a pathway to opportunity and that's why I will not succumb to the mass hysteria about bilingual education. If bilingual programs fail in schools, it is typically because they exist in failing schools with little or no commitment to bilingual education. Finally bilingual teachers are more likely to be uncertified. That too must come to an end.

[Question: What would you do specifically for bilingual education?]

ASPIRA began the first effort to sue the Board of Ed, resulting in a consent order from federal court for providing bilingual education, that by the way is still the law. In case anyone has forgotten in this entire debate, here's part of the problem, the board of education has never, until very recently, even begun to maintain current data on how kids are doing. Even more shocking is the lack of institutional commitment to providing good bilingual education. So while conceptually Chancellor Levy, Mayor Giuliani and everyone else got into the act talking about informed consent. Informed consent, conceptually is right. Parents should be able to make an informed decision about where their children ought to be going.

The issue really has always been , what is the quality of the program in a specific school, first. Second, what is the commitment of the principal and the bilingual teacher toward effective bilingual education and three, are we ever going to pay attention to the little bit of research currently at hand that tells us that bilingual programs done right in elementary school settings work well, in fact, dual language programs work even better . Second, bilingual programs in middle schools, because of high mobility, work less well, there is less continuity. Third, by the time you're in high school, we had better try a different approach. Let's pay attention to the data, let's pay attention to the research and do right by our kids and avoid all the ideological and political debates that generally come from people that wouldn't know a good bilingual program if it bit them in the backside.

[Audience member asks a question about police misconduct]

OK, in 1986, as a member of city council, the first author of the first Civilian Complaint Review Board was me. But going beyond that in1992, supporting changes with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. Going well beyond that, supporting not only a completely independent Civilian Review Board, but being very clear and unequivocal about accountability for all officers. Let me give you an example, after the trial, the four officers in the Diallo shooting were held to a departmental charter. I said, in fact Alan Hevesi agreed with me in a debate, I had said it is time at the conclusion of these trials to show these officers the door. This is about accountability. A teacher makes a bad call, you're out of here. A college president makes a bad call, you're out of here.

The tragically bad judgment of four officers resulting in the death of a completely innocent and unarmed citizen has to require some degree of accountability. No one can remain silent on that issues. That is at the very heart of accountability.

There is only one kind of profiling, racial profiling-- it is at the heart of bad contact with the police. Even though it is claimed with a lot of justification, that we have the most restrained and professional and best trained police force on planet earth, there is one very important consideration, the widening divide of distrust between the people and its own police department.

The next mayor must appoint a police commissioner who is absolutely viscerally committed to community policing initiatives . Viscerally committed to improving relationships between men and women of the NYPD and every man woman and child in this city, no matter of where they live or how much is in their bank account.

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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

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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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