NYC Issues 2001

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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?


Race and Immigrants Option Paper

By Walter Stafford

  • Introduction
  • Issue 1: Institutions Addressing Discriminatory Practices
  • Issue 2: Race and Employment
    A. The Private Sector
    B. The Public Sector
  • Issue 3: The Status of Minority-Owned Business
  • Issue 4: Welfare and Poverty
  • Issue 5: Police-Community Tensions
    A. Arrests
    B. Incarceration
    C. Police Relations


New York City owes much of its growth and character to its traditional role as the point of entry and settlement for immigrants from all over the world. Since its beginning, New York has been an extremely diverse city: By the time its population had grown to five hundred, nineteen languages were spoken within its boundaries. Today New York is the most diverse city in the world. With its richness comes vitality, cultural breadth and blending of ideas and beliefs. What also comes with such diversity are complex problems and pressing racial and ethnic tensions. The 2000 census indicates that New York is a highly segregated city, divided along the lines of race, ethnicity and wealth.

The city is now experiencing the largest wave of immigration in its history, with immigrants and their children making up as much as 60 percent of the city's population. Historical minorities now constitute the majority of the city's population. Immigration has a direct impact on the economy, in terms of both neighborhood development, and the relationship of the populace and the skills needed in the workforce. Immigrants and their children utilize New York's health care, electoral and educational systems, and require affordable housing. How do these newcomers fit into the city's web of services, programs and institutions? While the federal government sets overall immigration policy, state and local policy have considerable impact on immigrants' rights, access and responsibilities.

Since race, and to a lesser degree immigration, shade almost all policy decisions, they are subjects that cannot be ignored. But discussions about race relations and about the policy consequences of new demographic information are likely to be sensitive and contentious. . Historical tensions between groups can impede productive and candid dialogue. In an effort to forestall volatile and difficult discussions, contentious issues are frequently set aside. Despite the difficulties, it is necessary to have frank and open discussions among all those involved if outstanding racial and ethnic issues are to be successfully addressed.

Issue 1: Institutions Addressing Discriminatory Practices

New York City has created several agencies to address discriminatory practices. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) was established in 1955 to enforce the city's Human Rights Law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. In fiscal year 1999, 975 complaints were filed with the commission. Slightly more than one-third (34 percent) of the complaints were based on allegations of racial discrimination. The remaining complaints alleged discrimination on the grounds of disability, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation and creed. Between 1995 and 1999 the number of complaints against city agencies describing or alleging retaliation increased from 268 to 495. This number was reportedly higher than the national average.

In part to deal with charges of racial bias by of the police, the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) was established in 1953. Originally, the Board consisted of three Deputy Police Commissioners. Over the years, various attempts were made to include private citizens, but it was not until 1993, that the conversion was completed. Today, the Civilian Complaint Review Board is the largest independent civilian oversight agency in the United States.

The agency most recently established, 11 years ago, was the Equal Employment Practice Commission (EEPC), which is an independent agency that monitors employment practices, programs and policies within city agencies.

The agencies created to address discrimination and racial conflicts suffer from shrinking budgets and/or staff shortages. The budget of the New York City Commission on Human Rights was cut from approximately $10 million in 1993 to approximately $7 million in 2000. In addition many believe there is a lack of coordination between these agencies that detracts from their efficiency.

Policy Options

  1. Strengthen civil rights enforcement. Increase the budgets for the City Commission on Human Rights and Equal Employment Practice Commission.
  2. Examine the relationship between these agencies and require a higher level of coordination in investigating and addressing charges of discrimination.
  3. Determine why employer retaliation is higher in New York City government/agencies than in other areas of the country, heighten the protection for employees who bring claims of discrimination and establish financial penalties for city managers who engage in retaliation.
  4. Create a forum for the discussion of racial issues in New York City.

Issue 2: Race and Employment

A. The Private Sector
Many strata of employment are segmented along racial lines. According to a forthcoming study by Walter Stafford for the Roundtable of Institutions of People of Color, in 1997 whites occupied 69 percent of the jobs in high wage industries (those paying $47,000 or more in gross annual income), although they constituted only 25 percent of the labor force. Blacks (particularly black women) were employed primarily in lower-paying jobs in the health services, business services, banks and social service agencies. Latinos followed a similar pattern, except a significant proportion was employed in merchandise stores and similar businesses. For those individuals in low-wage positions, the City Council has passed a version of a "living wage" program to help ensure that city residents earning $10 or less an hour would receive a reasonable income.

Occupationally blacks and Latinos are poorly represented among professionals and managers. In 1999 nearly 60 percent of all officials and managers were white, including 73 percent of those who held these jobs in low-wage industries. Fifty-five percent of all white males and 43 percent of all white females worked as managers and professionals. By contrast, less than 20 percent of black and Latino males and of Latino women were represented on this professional level. Black women were above 20 percent due to the high number of professionals in the health and social services industries. Asians have introduced new patterns in the private sector. Occupationally their distribution resembles whites; however, the proportion of Asians employed as professionals is the highest of any group.

Policy Options

  1. Require employers who receive tax abatements, zoning variances or public subsidies to hire a specific number of low-income city residents and ensure that they are paid a "living wage"
  2. Facilitate and encourage private sector employers to provide opportunities for individuals to acquire additional job skills needed in the job market
  3. The City should abstain from pursuing any explicit strategy - allow market forces to operate.

B. The Public Sector.
Many experts see the racial composition of the public sector as a barometer. New York City government continues to reflect historical patterns in which racial and ethnic groups created a niche to promote their mobility. Like the private sector, blacks and Latinos are largely segregated in a small range of agencies where their salaries are generally lower than whites. Although blacks represented 33 percent of the Mayoral agency workforce in 1997, they were primarily located in social services agencies, the corrections department, and to a lesser degree the police department - 62 percent of all black employees worked in these particular agencies. Blacks suffered the largest decline in employment between 1992 and 1997; in fact, blacks and white women were the only groups to lose jobs in the mayoral agency workforce during this period.

Latinos hold a relatively small percentage of mayoral agency jobs. Latinos held 14 percent of these jobs in 1997, a modest increase over the previous five-year period. Asians also represent a small share of these jobs. However, (aside from a small group of Native Americans) they experienced the largest percentage gains.

Occupationally, whites composed half of the workforce in mayoral city agencies and held 80 percent of the official and managerial positions. White employees made up 73 percent of the pool earning $43,000.00 or in more gross annual income, and 85 percent of the pool earning $70,000.00 or more. Similar patterns concerning salary and occupation were identified in non-Mayoral agencies.

Policy Options

  1. Periodically review the hiring and mobility patterns (including the impact of downsizing) by racial and ethnic groups and gender within mayoral and non-mayoral agencies
  2. Strengthen enforcement of anti-discrimination rules.

Issue 3: The Status of Minority-Owned Businesses

In 1990 New York City developed a set-aside program (MWBE). In 1993 they allocated $ 272 million, or 18 of the total contracts. The MWBE program was allowed to "sunset" in 1998, and the city has not instituted a formal plan to support minority owned businesses since that time. Many of these firms are small in size and limited in terms of capital, and may have been unable to compete with larger ones for city contracts.

In addition, New York is an expensive and cumbersome city in which to do business. Small businesses must pay or be the conduit of various taxes (including a 8.25 percent sales tax and a 6 percent commercial rent tax, the only one in the country) and contend with a complex regulatory structure. A typical grocer, for example, needs four to eight licenses, each of which requires contact with a different agency. Construction costs are high.

Policy Options

  1. Revive or develop new set-aside or other affirmative programs so that minority owned businesses would receive a larger percentage of city contracts.
  2. Provide technical assistance to minority owned business owners. This could be accomplished through fiscal incentives for larger businesses.
  3. Conduct a study to identify the problems and needs of minority owned businesses (some funds have been committed by the City Council for such a study).
  4. Alleviate some of the costs and difficulties facing the small business community and minority business owners. One way to accomplish this would be by reducing the city's business tax and regulatory structure.
  5. Abstain from pursuing any explicit strategy - allow market forces to operate.

Issue 4: Welfare and Poverty

The faces of poverty in New York City are primarily black and Latino. In 1997 the poverty rates for were twice as high for blacks as for whites (27 percent compared to 13 percent), and for Latinos they were three times as high as for whites (38 percent). The data on children are even more revealing. In 1995, 60 percent of all Latino children and 51 percent of all black children lived in poverty, compared to 12 percent of their white counterparts. Female-headed households suffer the brunt of poverty. Among Latino female-headed households with children under 18, 71 percent lived in poverty, as did 58 percent of families with a black, female head of household and children under 18. Only 21 percent of white families with a female head of household were defined as living in poverty.

During the 1990's, federal law concerning welfare changed dramatically. The most significant change under the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act was the elimination of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (ADFC) program, and the creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The new law set a five-year limit on the right to receive welfare, and required recipients to make a transition to employment. Over 90 percent of the recipients are Latinas and black women. Between 1996 and 2001 the city reduced its TANF rolls by half (from 854,794 to 435,981), and in December of 2001, 43,910 TANF recipients (nearly 10 percent of the total) will reach their five-year limit.

Studies show that leaving welfare, even for full-time employment, does not necessarily mean leaving poverty. In addition, data about the TANF program are sparse and difficult to obtain. Therefore, it is difficult to predict what will happen to former welfare recipients when they reach the end of their benefits.

During the recent years of economic prosperity in New York City, the unemployment rates of blacks and Latinos actually increased, particularly for Latinas and black women. In 1996 the unemployment rate for Latinas reached 17 percent and black women reached a rate of 15 percent one year later. Both rates were the highest ever recorded for these groups of women.

Policy Options

  1. Determine what the alternatives and implications are for individuals no longer receiving TANF benefits to inform policy making; examine strategies being implemented in other jurisdictions (eg; Minnesota and Illinois allow recipients to keep a portion of TANF until their income reaches a livable wage).
  2. Identify any obstacles to achieving employment, including discrimination, and assess solutions.
  3. Identify how the city is currently using TANF funds, and what job development strategies/services and training programs are being offered to recipients.
  4. Enact a stronger "living wage" program
  5. Expand and develop training programs that teach hard skills (eg: computer skills, classroom training) and soft skills (such as understanding the mainstream work culture and its expectations, initiative and discipline). One way to accomplish this is through public/private partnerships.

Issue 5: Police-Community Tensions

A. Arrests: The latest data on arrests show that blacks and Latinos form the largest share of groups arrested for misdemeanors and felonies. Blacks were 51 percent of those arrested for misdemeanors and Latinos 31 percent. The felony percentages were similar. Fifty-one percent of the felony arrests were blacks and 34 percent Latino. The shares are mirrored in the arrests of males and females of the different groups. Nearly half of all the arrests were in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

B. Incarceration: There are nearly 70,000 inmates in New York State prisons, most of them from New York City. The latest data show that slightly more than half (51 percent) of the inmates are black and 30 percent are Latino.

C. Police Relations: Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik wrote recently in the Daily News (April 9, 2001) that the department was more restrained and more professional than at any time in its history. Kerik cited the decline in murders and the decline in complaints against the police officers. Surveys of black and Latino communities, by the New York Urban League and the Hispanic Federation, however, reveal a continuing fear of the police. A sizeable percentage of the respondents in the New York Urban League survey also indicated that they had been stopped and frisked or arrested without warrant. The problem facing the city is the lingering memory of recent events, most notable the shooting of Amadou Diallo and the torture of Abner Louima. Although the actual number of citizens killed by the police had dropped from an annual average of thirty in the first part of the decade to eleven by 1999, there was still considerable revulsion towards the acts, particularly among blacks and Latinos ( See: Lardner and Reppetto, NYPD: A City and its Police, 2000). The apprehensions of blacks are mirrored in a report by Amnesty International, which found in the late 1990s that the most serious complaints of abuse against the police tended to be concentrated in minority communities. More than two-thirds of the victims in the cases they examined were black or Latino and most of the officers were white. Moreover, most of the people who lodged complaints with the Civilian Complaint Review Board were black or Latino. The latest Civilian Complaint Review Board report, according to the Daily News (April 11, 2001), notes that the police were more likely to pull a gun on blacks during stop-and-frisks than any group. And they were more likely to use physical force to stop blacks and Latinos than whites or Asians.

Policy Options:

  1. Measure and reward strong police-community relations.
  2. Require all officers to walk the beat regularly.
  3. Expect officers and precinct commanders to know local leaders and merchants.
  4. Require precinct commanders attend community board meetings and other community events.

Walter Stafford is professor of public administration and planning Aa the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, and a member of the Roundtable of Institutions of People of Color.

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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.

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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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