The Race for Mayor

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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

Let me tell you the reason why I am running, and it’s really rooted in a lot of what I have been trying to do in the Bronx over the last 14 years as borough president. You might recall the circumstances under which I became borough president. [recounts dilapidated conditions of the Bronx, including burned-out buildings with decals that made it look as if there were windows with window shades and flower pots]

There was a great strength in communities. In neighborhoods. People who had stuck it out through the toughest of times. People who still had a strong vision for the kind of neighborhood they wanted to live in, they wanted their children to grow up in, that they wanted to help build. But no one to reach to them and meet them half way to make that happen. Let me fast forward 14 years. 64,000 units of housing. Some home ownership, 2 and 3 family homes. Those apartment buildings with the pictures of the window shades and flower pots. Real windows, real window shades. Some real flower pots, and above all real people living on the inside. 64,000 of them. But let me put a human face in front of them. That’s 64,000 families. Sometimes they’re first-time homeowners. Others who live in the apartment buildings were previously homeless as families. Low income, not having reliable heat and hot water in the wintertime. What does it mean to them? Well heat and hot water in the wintertime is one of the things. Another one is a decent place for the family to gather around the dinner table. A quiet place for a child to do homework. They became the building blocks of a stable family life, a stable neighborhood, and a stable community. 34,000 new jobs and I guarantee Goldman Sachs did not build an office in the Bronx. These were hard fought jobs. Service, manufacturing, in retail, all kinds of jobs. What does it mean to those 34,000 people? Well, for the first time in many of their lives they’re breadwinners. They’re paying the rent, paying the phone bills, putting groceries on the table, and sending their kids to school.

The classrooms in new schools, Internet connections in the libraries, high speed internet connections, validates for me a belief in what every neighborhood in New York should be. A place where New Yorkers have a reason to expect they are entitled to live in a decent and affordable place. To have a good school, no, an excellent school in their neighborhood to which to send their kids. And I mean an excellent public school. The right to a livelihood to support themselves and their families, And training to get a job if that is what they need. A safe street on which to live, and in the context of that safety the right to expect a relationship with the police department that is founded not on fear, not on mistrust, but on mutual cooperation. A relationship that at the end of the day will keep everybody safer. A place to go when they get sick, someone to see to keep them well. And not only to keep them healthy in the broad sense, but not to deny them a prescription or procedure because they have some other contract, with some other institution, that may limit them, and they receive city or state funds.

Those are the basic things that New Yorkers need. Now, why do I feel passionately about it? [He talks about growing up in Hunt’s Point, without heat and hot water, but still he got an excellent education) I know what it is to have an opportunity. I know what opportunity gives you. It is hope. My opportunity to get a piece of the American dream, to do whatever I wanted to do. And my choice was to enter the public service, and try to make my own contribution. I know what it means to children who are in a school that works. I know what that means to their parents. I have been inside more classrooms over the course of my life than I can remember. And you know when something good is happening in their neighborhoods and in that classroom because you can see hope and expectation reflected back at you in the eyes of those children. The moment when someone who aspires to leadership in this city says "those folks who aspire to live in an affordable and decent place are my neighbors, those 1.1 million children are my children, the one who goes and seeks help to keep herself well and in good health is my sister, or my wife, or my mother." That’s the moment when we start looking at the rest of New York the way it should be looked at. As a community of small neighborhoods that are inexorably linked with each other.

[Question about public schools, the City University of New York, and teacher salaries]

It is a big and complex issue. For me the heart of the matter is teaching and learning. The magic happens in the classroom, or it doesn’t. What goes on in that classroom is important…It should not take three or more years to rid the system of an incompetent or unfit teacher. That brings down the profession. We need to elevate the profession. And we need to reform due process. I believe in due process and I believe that every professional, especially teachers, need protection from arbitrary and capricious decisions. That having been said, we must reform due process. Second, to elevate the profession, to do the job we need to do for children year round, and during the day–to give children what children in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Orange, Nassau and Suffolk expect, we need to make this a year round profession. Teach and learn. Teach, as well as have a systematic, continuing professional development that is ongoing instead of one day here, one day there. That makes no sense and it is not working. Third, in consideration of the first two, give the teachers a thirty percent raise.

[Question on death penalty:]

My stand on it since 1996 when Officer Kevin Gillespie was shot execution style as he got out of his car, I decided to change my long standing opposition across the board to the death penalty. That officer did not deserve to die but there is more than that. The shooter…turned his gun and fired into a crowd of civilians. Then ran. My problem with the death penalty had always been mistaken identity, fairness and applicability. In that case there was no issue of mistaken identity. In that case, the crime was not only completely heinous but it also involved a serious injury to two uninvolved civilians. Four were fired at.

[Question about whether he supports "equal access to civil union." He answers simply "yes."]

[Question about whether he would favor landmarking the meatpacking district. He says he is not familiar with the issue]

[Question about surveillance cameras in parks, and about Washington Square Park]

The arch is an important landmark in the city. Parks generally in the city get short shrift. I am talking about Washington Square Park, I am talking about Echo Park in the Bronx. There are a whole lot of parks that are just not being treated well and it’s a bad policy over the course of time to only put in money to build new ones, and not to maintain the ones we have. Surveillance cameras, I have never been hot on.…This was a Howard Safir innovation, much like many of his innovations, let’s just say I did not think he was the greatest manager the police department ever saw.

[Question about whether he would work to reverse the one way toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge]

There are two bridges in this city that I think it is disgraceful that they have tolls on at all. The Verrazano-Narrows, and the one going into Far Rockaway. It’s crummy.

[Question about workfare]

The way the city abuses workfare and those who are in it is the real problem. If you had a program that was linked to legitimate training, that moved people resolutely into the world of work and into economic independence, with a daycare component, because women with children are finding it next to impossible to find licensed and regulated and decent and affordable, I’m for that.



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.

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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