The Race for Queens Borough President
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT

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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?
Masthead

 

Click for larger image

Incumbent: Claire Shulman (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

  • Carol Gresser (Dem)
  • Sheldon Leffler (Dem)
  • Helen Marshall (Dem/Lib/Wor)
  • Michael Niebauer (Ind)
  • Alfonse Stabile (Rep/Con)

For who has donated to these candidates see the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Carol Gresser
Contributors to Karen Koslowitz
Contributors to Sheldon Leffler
Contributors to Helen Marshall
Contributors to Audrey Pheffer
Anthony Seminario did not file
Contributors to Alfonse Stabile


Campaign Feature:

After Claire

Claire Shulman's dominance over the borough's politics will inevitably make whoever succeeds her look small by comparison. The best known candidate is Carol Gresser, who served as president of the Board of Education and was part of the board faction that battled Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But she left the board on bad terms with Shulman, so the borough's political power structure is looking for another candidate to back.

That candidate appears to be Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer of the Rockaways. She entered the race late--she held her first fund-raiser in December--but she's a Democratic district leader and apparently has Shulman's support (her fund-raiser was at Shulman's house). Many expect Pheffer to get the backing of the Queens Democratic organization, which would make her and Gresser the leading candidates at this early stage.

Pheffer's problem is she is one of several Jewish candidates in the race and, together, they may could split the Jewish vote, enabling a candidate of another ethnic persuasion to win. (Gresser, for example, is Irish.) The other Jewish candidates are Council members Sheldon Leffler of Hollis Hills and Karen Koslowitz of Forest Hills.

Blacks are also a major ethnic block in Queens and there is an African-American candidate in the race--Councilwoman Helen Marshall of East Elmhurst. However, she is from northern Queens, far away from the big middle-class black neighborhoods in southeast Queens near JFK International Airport. That could make it hard for her to rally the borough's blacks to her campaign.

Assemblyman Anthony Seminario of Richmond Hill has also talked about running, though he's more conservative than most Democrats and could run instead for the Republican nomination. Finally, Republican Councilman Alfonse Stabile of the Rockaways is interested in the contest, though the value of the GOP nomination in an overwhelmingly Democratic borough is questionable.

 


Campaign Trail

6/8
The Queens district attorney is looking into allegations that Queens councilmember Al Stabile, candidate for Queens borough president, mishandled hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Little League he ran for 23 years. "There's no money to take,"Stabile replied. (NY Post)

5/22
The Queens Democratic Organization formally endorsed City Councilmember Helen Marshall for Queens borough president yesterday. Three candidates have dropped out and the field for the Democratic nomination has been reduced to Marshall, Councilman Sheldon S. Leffler and Carol A. Gresser, a former Board of Education president. (Daily News)

5/21
More on the Queens Democratic Organization's likely endorsement today of Helen Marshall for Queens borough president, the first time they will have endorsed a black candidate for the office (NY Times)

5/20
The meeting of the Queens Democratic Organization tomorrow night will ratify Democratic boss Thomas Manton's endorsement of Alan Hevesi for mayor and Helen Marshall for Queens borough president. Among the 14 candidates the machine is likely to choose to endorse for City Council seats (all seats in Queens have no incumbents) include: Tony Avella in Bayside (district 19), John Liu in Flushing (district 20), Peter Vallone Jr. in Astoria (district 22) David Weprin in Queens Village (district 21), Melinda Katz in Forest Hills (district 29). (Daily News)

5/18
Councilwoman Helen Marshall will get the backing of the Queens Democratic Organization in her run for Queens borough president. (Daily News)

5/16
City Councilwoman Helen Marshall may be the favorite for the Queens Democratic party's pick for borough president. (Daily News)

5/15
The Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens endorsed Carol Gresser for Queens borough president, narrowly choosing her over Helen Marshall. (Daily News)

5/13
With about a week to go before the Queens Democratic organization makes its endorsements, the race to succeed Claire Shulman as Queens borough president is turning nasty. Councilmember Sheldon Leffler associated one of his rivals, former Board of Education President Carol Gresser with Donald Manes, Shulman's predecessor, who killed himself in 1986 as his administration was mired in scandal. Gresser's husband Larry was Manes' deputy. (Daily News)

5/1
Former Board of Education President Carol Gresser announced her candidacy for borough president of Queens yesterday. (Daily News)

3/29
Queens Democratic Party Leader Thomas Manton dominates the most disciplined party organization in the city, which considers primary contests strife, and avoids them. But this year, five people are vying for the open seat of borough president, all 14 City Council seats in Queens have no incumbent because of term limits - some have as many as eight candidates - and two Queens pols, Hevesi and Vallone, are running for mayor. Manton has a lot of deciding (endorsing) to do, but has not done it yet. (NY Times)

3/25
St. Albans Councilman Archie Spigner is poised to deliver his potent Guy R. Brewer Democratic Club to aid Helen Marshall's bid for Queens Borough President. (Daily News)

3/21
Tony Seminerio decides not to run for Queens Borough President. (Newsday)

3/15/01
City Councilman Sheldon Leffler has a slight lead over the pack of eight other borough president hopefuls in raising funds for the race. According to the Campaign Finance Board, Leffler had $431,115 -- including matching funds -- in his war chest as of Jan. 11, the first deadline of the year for candidates' campaign finance disclosures. Second in fund raising was Queens' former Board of Education representative Carol Gresser with $423,022.(Times Ledger Newspapers)

3/8/01
Although the Queen Republican Party organization has not announced its choice for the borough president race, most informed opinion says that Queens Councilman Al Stabile will be the GOP choice. Over the past week, Tony Seminerio has told the GOP that he will not be a candidate for the Borough Presidency, leaving only northeast Queens Councilman Mike Abel to challenge Stabile for the Republican nomination. Abel, however, has been able to raise only $3,000 for his BEEP bid. (Queens Courier)

3/7/01
A prominent local Republican, former Queens Republican head Fran Werner, endorses Democrat Carol Gresser for Queens borough president. (Daily News)

2/22/01
Haydee Zambrana, a bilingual education counselor in Corona, becomes first Hispanic, ninth candidate, in the race for Queens Borough President. (Newsday)

2/6/01
Helen Marshall wants to be the first black borough president of Queens. (City Limits)

1/28/01
Real estate developers and other businessmen "who need a friend in City Hall," as Bob Liff puts it, are the major contributors to Democratic candidates, often giving to several candidates in the same race. For example, both Red Apple supermarkets owner John Catsimatidis and publicist Howard Rubenstein gave to all four of the leading Democratic contenders and to both candidates for comptroller. Rubenstein also gave to two candidates for Brooklyn borough president, and two for Queens borough president. (Daily News )

1/17/01
For Queens borough president: former Board of Education president Carol Gresser, $200,000; City Council member Sheldon Leffler, $124,000; Assembly member Audrey Pheffer, $70,000; City Council member Karen Koslowitz, $53,000. The amount for City Council member Helen Marshall was unavailable by press time, and Assembly member Anthony Seminerio did not file. (Daily News)

1/08/01
Arthur Nitzburg in his column on politics (Queens Courier) lays out the political landscape in Queens. There are already 100 candidates for the 14 open council seats. "What total chaos. What a mess we are all in. How delightful." Then he adds: "But wait until they get into the Council. The winners won't believe how meaningless a job they've won." Of course, all this new blood could (and probably will) change the Council itself for the better." There are at least eight candidates to succeed Claire Shulman as Queens Borough President, he says. There are two Republicans, Mike Abel and Al Stabile, both current members of the City Council. There are six Democrats, each one representing "an entirely different section of this intensely diverse county," Nitzburg says, and one of them likely to win, since Queens has not elected a Republican borough president for 40 years. "My best guess at this moment is that the race will come down to two key contenders - Douglaston's Carol Gresser or Corona's Helen Marshall. But don't count out the other candidates-Audrey Pheffer, Karen Koslowitz, Sheldon Leffler and Tony Seminerio."

 

 

 

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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
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
DemocracyNet
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
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
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
DL21C
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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