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?


Out Of Neighborhood Ownership Comes Something Beautiful

By Fernando Ferrer

We're talking about a host of issues in the course of the discussion of the future of New York. And it all comes down to one question. One, how well do we plan for our needs? How many do we bring into the process of that plan? To give not only those at the very top a sense of ownership over their ideas, but those who live on the ground a sense of ownership over the result. These are the things in which I believe. And I've believed them for a long time.

The predicate of a stable family life is a decent place in which to live. The predicate of a stable and dynamic community is a number of those decent places in which to live that have around them the services that [families] require to live complete lives, good schools, healthcare, a decent and safe and well-maintained park in which to play. A marketplace that will serve the market that has been built. And an environment that is nurturing and that promotes growth and stability.

I think the planning process itself is an element of community building. Fou rteen years ago when I began as borough president of the Bronx, we were the first borough government to develop and fund its own planning capacity, That was a direct response to the lack of planning for the Bronx by the central government. The first moves we made toward a strategic plan for the Bronx were a scary exercise in democracy. Invite over a thousand community leaders to a plenary session on what their ideas were for the Bronx.

We nurtured an already strong and burgeoning grassroots movement that sprang up in the late '70s in response to a housing and neighborhood and infrastructure crisis. The borough now has an extensive infrastructure foundation. It is a planning culture that no longer accepts top down and knows that bottom up doesn't work without a collaboration, a process, meeting in the middle with important information and important resources to empower everyone.

The showcase for that kind of approach to planning is our Melrose Commons effort with Nos Quedamos. What began as an effort, a very noble and good effort by the City Planing Commission and Department of Housing Preservation and Development to reclaim the last frontier of housing deterioration in the borough was met instead with extraordinary community resentment. A mediating government in the Bronx had to say, "Stop the music. Let's all sit down together and share information."

That first meeting was a very funky meeting around my conference table where we agreed to two things. One, we would share information with each other. Second, we would fund an independent planning effort right on the ground. Because nothing that was worthwhile could be planned, developed or ultimately built that didn't have a sense of neighborhood ownership. Out of that has come something that's not only a national model, it's something extraordinarily beautiful and has been our framework for planning and for community collaborations ever since.

There are a number of practices that we need to bear in mind when we bring people together: Bottom up planning of people and place-based solutions on the community level that emphasize sustainability and livability, that nexus between planning and public health, that all of the other features of the neighborhood are vitally important. Planning that discusses strategy and need, addresses the structural and functional needs of the city in the context of the region, both economically and residentially, to insure competitiveness is also important. Having these merge is what makes beautiful music and what makes good sustainable projects and ultimately good and sustainable neighborhoods for New York.

Yankee Village, the courthouse project, our greenways, our park acquisition, all have been the intellectual children of our framework. How I wish the city would operate in the fashion as well. Very little has gone toward moving that forward on a citywide and regional basis. More is the pity because there were enormous lost opportunities that we can still reclaim, giving communities the resources, the tools and trust and confidence to be our partners and move forward together. To listen better, to plan collaboratively, to have an idea, to have an agency that participates in the capital and expense budget of this city. That integrates what we are trying to do to rebuild this city, to reshape this city, but also to make it a more livable and sustainable city.

That's going to need someone at its helm who's both a visionary and a realist, someone who is imaginative and pragmatic, someone who's not afraid of democracy, someone who listens, someone who has an idea but above all someone who has an enormous amount of passion about this city and all of its neighborhoods. Someone who looks at New York not as one homogenous blob, but a string of neighborhoods much like a string of pearls all slightly different but all part of this city and sitting in the center of an enormously important region economically and residentially. Someone who looks at housing not just as the next building we build but how do we support neighborhoods? How do we prevent problems in the future? How do we anticipate the needs of a family? How do we look at the city as not only a residential center but as unique beautiful neighborhoods that need to be strengthened, that need to be preserved and that need to be reshaped and revived. Someone who looks at the East New Yorks of New York and says this is the closest thing to an urban blank slate we can find. Let us bring everyone together and create a neighborhood in its place that's even better than the one that was here before.

I look at planning very much in personal terms. There was a profile done on me in the New York Times. It had a picture of me standing on a residential street, a quiet residential street, a street of two-family homes. Too bad they didn't identify where that street was. That street was Fox Street between Prospect and Avenue St. John. Where I grew up. The street on which I played stickball. Right around the corner from the place I shined shoes. That street had four and five story walkups. It was a canyon when I was a kid. It was still nurturing, it was diverse, but it was a canyon.

Today the vacant buildings have been rebuilt. New small homes took the places on Fox Street, Bank Street and Kelly Street where once tall grass replaced those four and five story walkups. Those families would rather miss a meal than a mortgage payment. They send their kids to the local schools, they play in PS 52 park, they shop on Avenue St. John and Southern Boulevard and Prospect Avenue. Maybe they'll leave a little more in the plate on Sunday in church. They are helping their neighbors and getting to know them better. They're making a stronger neighborhood. If you didn't know better, you'd think that neighborhood was in Queens or in Staten Island. It's in the South Bronx. Let's make that miracle every place in this city


Do you support building the Second Avenue Subway and, if so, how would you pay for it?

We've got to do planning for the full Second Avenue subway, not the Mid Manhattan tunnel. We've got to pay for it with a dedicated stream of revenue much like the lost opportunity of the commuter tax. We've got to find a recurring stream of revenue in the amount of at least $400 million a year that we can dedicate to that project. Considering the enormous need to move people efficiently and affordably around this city, we dare not do that project. It will cost this city in lost jobs, in lost businesses, and in lost opportunities many more times the cost of the Second Avenue subway.

What is your position on big box retailers?

Big box retail has a place in the economy of this city. One of the examples of that is in the Bronx again, over at Bay Plaza. It was swampland when I took over 14 years ago. It has a number of big box retailers. It has reclaimed that space into a retail destination. The good news is thousands of jobs, the bad news is we've got to deal with the transportation problems. But the point is not to change our zoning resolution to accommodate big box retail outlets all over the city because that presupposes giving up on manufacturing jobs. I haven't. We shouldn't as a matter of city policy. And in fact there were enormous opportunities that this search for the Holy Grail of big box retail blinded us to.

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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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