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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
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?
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?
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
What does this have to do with this site?
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?
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?
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
for Party Affiliation
Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)
1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance
program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
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
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
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.