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?


Alan Hevesi

First, just a general statement as to how I see this city, in summary, and what our potential is. Secondly, since I am meeting a lot of you for the first time I will give you a little biographical background. And third let me review very briefly what the agenda of issues is for the next mayor.

This city, New York City, is the greatest city in the world. And it is the most ethnically diverse city in the history of cities. There has never been a place like New York. Forty percent of New Yorkers today are immigrants. If you include my generation when my parents were the immigrants, it's 56 percent. There are over a hundred, many more than a hundred languages, dialects, and subdialects spoken in the public schools by kids who didn't speak English first. It's an incredible, extraordinary mix of people. It also means in our democratic politics that we get very contentious when we debate public policy issues. And we are going to disagree, and if people disagree they ought to do it in the context of that system of democracy, but we also for our own sakes and for our children's sakes and the future's sakes should have an understanding that we ought to be together on first principles, that we ought to be able to listen to each other, to disagree, to compromise, and to focus on what are the major issues. And I think the glory of our city is this diversity. . .

Let me tell about my career in the legislature and then comptroller and how I see the city. I am the author of 108 laws. At least half a dozen of them I believe have saved people's lives. Legislation to require that every hospital accept every emergency patient: There was a time that you could have a heart attack outside the city hospital, public or private, and they didn't have to treat you because they wanted fracture cases--they had too many heart attacks for their teacher training.

That's now a crime. It's now a crime to perform medical experiments on people without their informed consent. There was a time in the city when you could do that. . . . There was a nursing home scandal in the 1970's. I wrote the Omnibus Nursing Home law. I wrote the Son of Sam law, which prohibits a criminal from profiting from his crime by publishing the results, and if there is any profit it goes to the victim. So there is a long record of involvement with legislation.

But let me talk about our positioning in this mayoral race in relation to the record. A lot of the media are going to portray me as the centrist candidate--the centrist candidate for the shorthand characterization. And on issues on governing that will be true, I am going to be the fiscal moderate. I've had about a dozen fights with Mayor Giuliani, I've gotten along with him more than most. Sometimes that's difficult. Most of the fights have been on financial issues where I thought he was violating the norms of prudent budgeting. So for example he wanted to sell the watershed of the city of New York for cash flow, before the Wall Street boom. The council passed that into law. I said I would not issue the debt. I blocked the plan. The mayor sued me, and unanimously three levels of judges agreed with me that that was a bad idea and illegal. He wanted to do bond refundings that had the advantage in the short term of saving money this year and maybe next year, and then blow out the budgets. And I issued a policy saying there will never be in my term as comptroller bond refunding that has one nickel's negative disadvantage, negative effect on any future budget and that's been the policy here. In terms of governance, plans to use our surplus to pay down long term debts so that we are not cheating our children, resisting the sale of our assets in order to have cash today, and then somebody else's problem the next time. I'll be the centrist.

But when it comes to fundamental social issues, the litmus test issues, the issues that define our public officials, I'm the most powerful and militant advocate, not because I tell you this, not because I am positioning myself in a campaign, but because I have an advantage over the other candidates in the sense of having a record of 22 years in the New York state Legislature, voting 2200 times a year on the floor of the assembly, and 500 more times in committee. That's over 50,000 votes. . . And therefore I am on the record. So in the late 70's, after Roe V. Wade, when the pro-choice coalition went home with victory--women now had the right to choose for the first time in history--they weren't going to go to jail or be prosecuted for having abortions. The pro choice coalition went home after Roe V. Wade. Right to Life didn't go home. They attacked this law in every state. On the edges, prohibiting Medicaid funding for abortion, parental consent for teenage abortions and so on, and when it came to New York, New York's Assembly--not the Legislature, the Assembly--was one of the very few institutions to protect a woman's right to choose, and not take a step back. And I was the Health Committee chair and therefore the informal chair of the pro choice coalition of NARAL and NOW and Planned Parenthood and the Civil Liberties Union. And I am very proud that New York State is one of the few states that has never ever retreated, and never ever once compromised on a woman's right to choose. 1983 the first Gay Right's legislation was introduced into the New York Assembly, I was the second lead 1993 we passed this legislation. And I mention these because I am not from the Village, and I am not from the West Side of Manhattan. I come from Central Queens a moderately progressive assembly district--Forest Hills--with an Orthodox Jewish community throughout and the Southern part of my district is school board 24, which resisted the Rainbow Coalition and now has elected the leading homophobic figure in New York City. I led the debates against the death penalty--I didn't [just] oppose the death penalty--I led the debates against them from the moment in 1978 when the issue came back to the legislature, and led it for the entire fourteen remaining years of my career....

None of the four of us, all experienced and well qualified candidates, is a celebrity. This is going to be a campaign about substance. And here are the issues: Two or three of them involve sustaining what has been accomplished in the Giuliani administration. And you cannot take away the reality that Giuliani has focused on some issues and been very successful. We cannot take a step back in the fight against crime. We have new methodologies, new deployments for the peaceful use of the police force because the crime rates are dramatically down, and new technology so that a confrontation between a police officer and a citizen is on camera.

There's a variety of changes to make. I attribute the fact that we have 37 million tourists instead of 27 million tourists partly to that success and how shinier and cleaner and safer the city has been. We have 412,000 more jobs than we had six years ago. They are high end jobs. The growth in our existing industries like Wall Street and lawyering and marketing and advertisement. . . They didn't come here for the low rents or the low taxes. They came here to be part of the creative energy of New York. And that has to be sustained by us being business friendly. And I am not for massive tax cuts but I am for tax cuts that increase and create jobs.

But having said that, the new issues that confront the new mayor: School reform. There has to be a crusade to reform and fix the public schools. The general commentary is that we have the best public schools in New York. And we have the worst schools in the world, awful, terrible schools with no learning and no teaching and no family support and the buildings crumbling. We have in the midst of this boom an unemployment rate at 5.6 percent, which is down from 10 percent five years ago. But 5.6 percent is the second highest among cities in America. Three months ago we were number one. We dropped below Miami. There is a population here of several thousand New Yorkers who are school dropouts, who cannot get jobs, there are many fewer entry level jobs because we have less manufacturing--from 900,000 to 400,000--because there isn't any port to speak of. And the threshold has been raised because of the information technology revolution. You got to have 200 storefronts in the city that are just like libraries--you walk in the door, the computers are there, the teachers are there, you go to the beginner computer, and get them hooked like the four-year-olds are on computer games. You then take the ten lessons intermediate, you finish another sequence, and over in the other corner are the Chase Manhattan back office jobs that we connect you to.

[Question about paying workfare recipients paychecks rather than welfare benefits?]

I believe in the WEP program, the work experience program for people who are on welfare. I also believe in various substantial programs that train people to get out of welfare, and we've had a number of work training programs that correlated to no jobs at the end of the path. They have to be work experience and training that connect you to the jobs that are available, whether it's retail, whether it's in computers, whether it's construction--by the way vocational education as well--we've closed down vocational education in the public schools, and now the construction industry is desperate for people to train as carpenters and as engineers.

[Question about how to protect affordable housing]

There is a fund of money available at this moment to amortize a substantial debt for an affordable housing program. Battery Park City is a state run operation, which the city by the way can take over--we have the option at five year intervals--but it makes a profit. This year's profit is about 54 million dollars. It's been averaging about 40 million dollars. Next year's profit will be 104 million dollars but that's one shot, because they're selling a building--they built the building and don't want to be landlords. We can take 35 or 40 million dollars annual profit every year, that comes to the city and borrow 350 million or 400 million dollars for an affordable housing program and pay for it with profits earmarked the interest and amortization. And that's not my original idea, because it's in the lease of Battery Park City that profits should go to pay for affordable housing. That will create 10 or 12 or 14 thousand units of housing depending on how you do it. You layer on top of that what we are already doing with the pension fund, and the New York City pension funds in the last ten years have provided the money for the rehabilitation of 26,000 units of housing. Half of it during my term as comptroller. And Carl McCall does the same with the state pension fund. When you add that up you have a substantial first start for affordable housing. But the point has to be made that if we don't sustain the city's economy as a priority, and keep the job flow coming into the city, which pays the revenues to provide these services, and take care of our schools, we're not going to be able to build on that program.

[Question about capital punishment]

I led the debate on it for fourteen years and the arguments that we made that no one bought into that you are going to make terrible mistakes have been reinforced by the state of Illinois which had 25 convicts on death row and 13 were proven that they were likely not guilty by DNA.

[Question about affirmative action]

Yes (I support it). Not quotas, but affirmative action. I have supported for example Mayor Dinkins had an affirmative action program that substantially increased the number of vendors doing business with the city from four percent before he was mayor to 17 percent by encouraging women owned and minority owned businesses. We've done this at the comptroller's office. In fact the first thirty Wall Street firms that we've selected when I was first elected have nine minority and women owned firms, and we have insisted, despite mayor Giuliani's opposition to any affirmative action, that the questionnaires filled out by people who do business with my office tell us their affirmative action program and I think indirectly--not that we'll take credit--but for example Merrill Lynch has a president named Komansky, and his next in line, when he retires, is an African American. So that they have been recruiting internally, as well as partnering up with the smaller firms.

[Question about how to improve relations with cops and minorities]

I produced a memo with 19 recommendations to the police commissioner for dealing with the issue of the relationship between particularly the African American community and the police department. And it's full of a variety of ideas, I'll give you an example or two. Some are technical. There was a time in New York City that when a police officer graduated from the academy and went to work and got into a police car with a partner, a rookie, that there was a requirement that a training sergeant climb into the back seat of that car and rode with that rookie for 20 tours. And supervised to see whether that rookie was quick on the trigger, or incompetent, so in the probation period you can either deal with them, train them, or get rid of them. That has to be restored--more sergeants. We have an outstanding series of strategies and tactics to fight crime. They're summarized by the zero tolerance program. The precinct commanders... if they don't do the job, they are removed. We have to now insist that there be zero tolerance for the police officers who violate reasonable search or probably cause rules, who are part of a pattern in some neighborhoods which became systematic in this city of abusing African American young men for the most part. We have the best police department in the world, with 40,000 police officers. We have the best trained, I think the most restrained police department in the world. Most cops are responsible professional people, and some of them are heroes and I go to their funerals each year. And some of them are racist, and some of them have violated these rules and they have to be disciplined and it's the precinct commander who was responsible for the crime rates must also be responsible for finding out and getting rid of the bad cops.

[Question about handling municipal union demands and whether he supports pattern bargaining]

I believe that for example the teacher's union--the teachers get paid 25 percent less than in the suburbs, and that gap has to be closed. The same with police department. The city has to be firm in the negotiations, but has to be fair, there has to be a reflection of the cost of living. On top of that, you pay more for productivity.

[Question about whether he would help strengthen rent control laws]

Two responses: I have the advantage over my rival candidates that I have voted to sustain rent control and rent stabilization dozens of times as a member of the New York legislature. Second, I am working on a project now that I put together in my conference--all the major tenant associations which would normally not communicate with each other, all had rival approaches to legislature in Albany, and we're drafting a omnibus tenants bill which will be ready in February.


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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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