The Race for Mayor
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: MAYOR : TENANTS ISSUES

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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).

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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?
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Tenants Issues

Alan Hevesi

This is serious business. This is your lives, the quality of your lives, your family's lives. Since we are here as candidates, as you go through this election process, evaluate who the candidates are not only on their stance on the issues -- because a lot of them will be right on a lot of issues (some will not) -- but who was there for you, who was on the record, and who was on the firing line. I offer myself as that candidate. First of all, let me tell you I was born in Queens, in a rent controlled apartment, got elected to the New York State Assembly and believe that I have as good a pro-tenants record as any other member of the Assembly. I was a champion in leading debates, fighting the landlords, and when they tried to deny tenants their rights, voting for rent control and rent stabilization, voting for rent regulation extensions, voting on behalf of all the tenant's agenda and then as comptroller remained an advocate of tenants rights. As an advocate I brought together the organizations that represent the different constituencies for more than the last twelve months to draft an omnibus pro-tenant legislation. We worked to change the debate in Albany.

We have great problems with the upstate control of the Senate and with the Governor, and so we have to change the character of the debate. I want you to do me a favor and yourself a favor and keep that in mind as you establish in your own minds who you will support for mayor. While the mayor does not have the vote in Albany, the mayor has the biggest bully pulpit, the biggest microphone, and if I'm the mayor, I will lead you as tenants to fight for tenant's rights physically in Albany -- leading the demonstrations, leading the lobby, embarrassing those, particularly the senators from New York, who are not with us.

[Question: The mayor can influence public housing policy through the appointment of the chair and members of the New York City Housing Authority. Section 3, which has been federal law since 1968, requires that HUD funds maximize job raining and employment opportunities for residents, but it has never been conscientiously implemented by the New York City Housing Authority. This is particularly of concern since NYCHA is enforcing the 1998 community service requirement that requires residents to volunteer for eight hours a month or face eviction. What will you do to ensure that section 3 has teeth?]

The mayor has enormous influence over the decision making of the New York City Housing Authority, and the mayor will give instructions to its members to fully enforce the federal job training requirements. That is a given. There is no magic formula, it's a question of attitude and willingness to assert oneself.

This mayor will also oppose those requirements that you have to volunteer time in order to justify your being in public housing. If you meet the requirements, nobody has to justify that, you should be receiving benefits, and the government ought to be sympathetic, not creating barriers so that life gets more difficult. So yes to job training and no to those requirements that you have to volunteer.

[Question: In the 1980's, the critical situation of SRO tenants in the city was recognized by the establishment of the Mayor's Office on SRO Housing, the creation of a special SRO unit within HPD's Litigation Bureau and the city's funding of the two SRO law projects. After 1993, the first two of those crucial bulwarks against the loss of SRO housing were removed. The office on SRO Housing was reduced to a two-person inspection unit within HPD, and the number of attorneys responsible for SRO litigation fell from four to one.

At the same time, the number of SRO units lost to tourist use, placements by the city, and conversions to apartments or owner-occupied houses rose dramatically. While there were approximately 55,000 SRO's in the mid- to late- eighties, there remain fewer than 30,000 now.

If you are elected mayor, will you re-establish a Mayor's Office on SRO Housing, and increase the level of funding for SRO work within HPD's litigation bureau. Will you fund the two SRO projects? And will you support legislation to provide for enhanced enforcement of the city's anti-harassment laws?]

Let me put the answer to this question in a larger context. I believe in prosperity, I believe in jobs being brought to this city. I believe that the millionaires that live in this city ought to live here, and we want them here because when we tax them, their revenues pay for our case managers, for our police and fire fighters. We need wealth in this city, and that's a very difficult process right now because in the age of information technology and computers, lots of the businesses in New York could leave. There is not a Wall Street firm that needs to be in Wall Street, or in New York City, they could be in Fiji doing their business and we lose those revenues.

I believe in wealth and development and prosperity in this city that supports our mission. Our mission in government is to be business smart, and attract those businesses and revenues so that we can help poor people, so that we can help the elderly, so that we can provide affordable housing. Mr. Bloomberg made a very unfortunate comment today in Crain's Insider, that the city can't subsidize affordable housing. That's nonsense. The point is, that's our mission, to provide help because we not only have more millionaires than any other city, we also have more poor people than many other cities. We have more immigrants than any other city. We have huge obligations.

The idea that our SROs, which provide housing needs to a constituency, have been reduced from over 50,000 to 30,000 has been negligence, and it is a very affirmative kind of negligence which has a nasty tinge to it, that suggests that we are not focused on our mission. My answer to your question is yes, there will be an office of SRO in the mayor's office and we will beef up the litigation. We will have a litigation arm and I support Ronnie Eldridge's legislation. I think that it's absolutely crucial that we beef up our anti-harassment.

[Shortsighted policy and lack of permanent owner restrictions on project-based section 8 and Mitchell-Lama contracts has exacerbated the housing crisis. Many owners have chosen to opt out of state and federally assisted housing programs at the end of twenty year contracts, ultimately resulting in the loss of affordable housing stock and tenant displacement.

If elected mayor, what are you planning to do locally to stop section 8 opt-outs and Mitchell-Lama buy-outs?]

First, there are legislative proposals that I will lobby for that will prohibit opting out for fifty years. Second, we'll lobby for legislation that if the landlord gets to an opt out period, that the apartments kick into rent stabilization, that there are some continued regulations

The landlord is looking to make a deal; the economy is changing. The escalation of rents, a function of supply and demand is starting to cool down. We see it already with commercial rents. I think there is a role with the city to negotiate with those landlords to provide some sort of benefits, to encourage the landlords not to opt out, to protect our tenant population. We must allow the landlords some portion of the profits he hoped he would make in the booming economy, and sustain these programs that are so crucial to a stable middle class, and working class, and even a low-income community, depending on the program.

Let's be very clear about what tax breaks mean. We use tax breaks all the time. I mentioned a minute ago that no Wall Street firm has to be on Wall Street. We are in the process of negotiating a deal with the New York Stock Exchange to stay in New York with an $800 million subsidy from the city, in the form of tax breaks, energy breaks and building a building. If we can do it for that industry, we can certainly do it to protect our tenants.

[Every time rent regulation laws come up for renewal, there is a danger that tenant protections will be reduced as the political price for another renewal. In the last eight years, the rent laws have been dangerously weakened because of decontrol amendments enacted by the State Legislature and the New York City Council.

2003 is another sunset year. Rent control and rent stabilization laws are due to expire again on June 15--less than two years from now. The real estate lobby and its allies will seek more weakening amendments as the price for extending the laws for another period of time. Tenants will be seeking not only to avoid more decontrol amendments, but to repeal past decontrol amendments.

If you are elected mayor, what will be your strategy to make sure that not only are the rent laws renewed without additional watering down of tenant's rights, but that harmful decontrol amendments are also appealed?]

When the last extender was passed by the legislature, I believed Tenants and Neighbors understood what a lot of other people did not understand, which was that the minor marginal pro-landlord modifications were not minor marginal modifications. What they were, by establishing luxury de-control and not taking into consideration how many people live in an apartment, and the $2000 limit, was a danger to the whole rent regulation system.

I remember the battle, seven majority leaders said this is dead, it's over, no more rent regulation. They didn't have to round up the votes, they didn't have to lobby, the majority leader of the senate simply put his thumb on the bill and killed it and therefore there is no extender. So when they put in this $2000 provision, I think Tenants and Neighbors were very powerfully articulate, that this is awfully dangerous, and this is awfully dangerous because the rents keep going up and because there are provisions like with MCIs [Major Capital Improvements], where the landlord will fix a boiler or make another capital improvement and will charge tenants, and that's fair until you discover that when it's paid for and the interest is paid for, it doesn't end, it's permanent, it's forever. The managers at Peter Cooper and Stuyvesent Town are doing just that. We have to change that today, and that's hard to do. And those people in this city and maybe in this room who say it doesn't matter who gets elected are talking gibberish.

I don't want to be partisan, I want to be analytical. There is a wonderful state senator right here in Manhattan, who is a terrific brilliant guy and everybody says he is a good Republican because he always votes right and the answer is no he doesn't, because the first vote he cast was for the upstate majority leader, Joe Bruno.

[Given the projected budget deficits during the next mayor's term, what revenue enhancements would you consider to assure full funding for important anti-eviction and housing preservation programs such as code enforcement?]

There is potential bad news, the boom is over, the city surplus is probably fading out. With the fiscal year that ended on July1st we're sitting on a surplus of $2.9 billion, so we've been doing great. The mayor rolled that over into the fiscal year that has now started, but for next year, 2002, we are predicting a deficit of $ 2 billion -- those are the mayor's numbers. We think it's $3.2 billion. We, meaning not only my office, but the State Comptroller, the Citizen's Budget Commission, and the Independent Budget Office, all the monitors. It balloons out to about $5 billion by the year 2005. This is going to make it hard to provide social services and no one in this audience should be disabused about my priorities, public education is my highest priority, affordable housing is a high priority, sustaining a fight against crime is a high priority.

I am not now going to define for you, with one exception, revenue enhancements, which is a nice way of saying tax increases, because of the psychology of doing it, not because of the politics. Because I have said that as a last resort I would support restoration of the income tax surcharge of 12.5 percent that was placed on the income tax to support Safe Streets, Safe City, which is a tax to increase the number of cops in this city. It was a very good investment, and it resulted in a reduction in crime in this city, and it is why we have 37 million tourists and part of why we are booming. You need a mayor who has the experience as fiscal and budget expert, and understands our position in the global economy so that we can maximize what resources we have, so we can bring industry into the city , so that we can partner up with industry, to help them. In the movie industry for example we need to help them build more sound stages, they employ 70,000 people. There are all kinds of strategies to do this, and the reason why I mention this is because that is what I do. This is a very complex world and let's be very sophisticated about it.

[One riddle of affordable housing is who will create it without incentives?

In one instance, the answer is tenants. Twenty or thirty years ago, energetic tenants moved into abandoned lofts and created thousands of units of affordable housing. Under the Loft Law, about half of those units have now been brought under full compliance with residential codes and become rent-stabilized.

This year, not only is the state Loft Law up for renewal, there are thousands of new tenants who do not benefit from its protections. With the Department of Buildings' backs turned, and the Mayor's eagle eye for enforcement strangely closed, enterprising tenants have created thousands of new units of affordable housing.

As mayor, how would you treat the current unprotected loft conversions as well as future loft conversions?]

In 1982 the first loft law was passed, I voted for it. I was in the legislature. We now have a situation where a lot of loft tenants are not covered. Two days ago, with the sun setting over the Manhattan sky line in Brooklyn, I was at the top of a former factory that is now occupied by tenants that took over an abandoned building, invested a large amount of money, built a lovely apartment, and stabilized the community by making it much more amenable and much more attractive. They invested and it is just wro ng that the landlord who profited from their action, and winked at it and accepted it, then will have the right under law to say, OK, Tuesday you're out because some manufacturing company is coming in.

I believe we should extend the loft law to all incumbent loft tenants, particularly where the landlords were part of the process of accepting their presence. And second, we establish the same types of principles that we have for other rent regulations, which is that tenants have protections and that there are restraints on rent increases

[The Rent Guidelines Board sets rent adjustments for one million rent-stabilized apartments, housing 2.3 million New Yorkers. The mayor appoints its nine members.

If you become mayor, who would you appoint as chair of this important board?]

I am very careful not to suggest that I'll appoint anybody to any office, first because it is inappropriate until I become the mayor, and second because it is the ultimate jinx. I will tell you, that what I have already committed to is to have the mayoral appointments approved by the City Council and also to offer members with credentials other than being friends or cronies of the mayor.

[It is clear that the lost affordable housing stock in New York City must be replaced. In your plans for new housing production, will you ensure than new units remain permanently affordable? What will you do to prevent owners from opting out of affordable housing programs as we are seeing now?]

A number of years ago when I was in the assembly, there was this TV news revelation, and there was a case of a landlord asserting his rights to evict tenants in a rent controlled apartment for his own personal use. The tenants who he was evicting were two eighty-eight year olds, and they were talking about having no where to go and they might as well commit suicide. We saw that on television and the next day there was legislation in Albany that we passed right away that exempted seniors and the disabled from the eviction provisions.

It is complex to maintain continuous affordability. It depends not only on what we have been talking about for the last forty minutes. We need to fight in Albany, get into the political mix, electing people who are pro-tenant, changing the laws. It also means creating a stock of affordable housing that keeps the rent prices down. Today in Crain's I'm reading from Michael Bloomberg, that the role of the city and the mayor in affordable housing is to make some land use decisions, but the city cannot afford a subsidy to help create affordable housing, we don't have the money to do that. What was strange about that was that, first of all, it's false. Second of all, we went to Mr. Bloomberg's web site, and there on the site, one of his staff people has put up an affordable housing program including city subsidies. So he sort of didn't understand or he's changed his mind about the policy. Here's how you do it.

There are three revenue streams. You need money to build affordable housing. Here's the revenue stream, Battery Park City on city landfill is run by a state agency which, incidentally, the city could take over under law. It's not a good idea right now, they run it well, and they make a profit and that's the point. The profit is nearly $50 million a year. Mayor Giuliani takes that money and puts it in the general fund. That money should be used to amortize the debt. The second step is the World Trade Center that we have all been talking about. The World Trade Center is run by the Port Authority. The World Trade Center, run by the government, does not pay taxes to the City of New York, but they sold the World Trade Center and that means that the private developer, the Silverstein group.. will have to pay real estate taxes, that's $100 million. There's a third piece, the third piece is what I have done as comptroller of the City of New York, working with the Board of Trustees of the pension fund to provide a housing subsidy. We have rehabilitated, with pension fund money 10,770 units of housing during my term.

With those three revenue streams, we can make 105,000 units of housing over four years. That puts a dent in this problem and it releases some of the pressure that some of the landlords feel on themselves.

[Lead poisoning is the leading health problem facing young children. With thousands of New York City kids poisoned each year, mainly from lead paint and lead dust in dilapidated housing. Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage, development disabilities, osteoporosis and other health problems.

Unfortunately, in 1999, the City Council and the Giuliani administration enacted Local Law 38 that weakened protection for young children and actually encourage unsafe work practices in eliminating or containing lead paint and lead dust. Local Law 38 also shields irresponsible landlords from liability for their failure to prevent lead poisoning. Local Law 38 has been declared illegal by the State Supreme Court, but the city is appealing the decision.

As mayor, will you push for enactment of a law that protects children, requires safe work practices and holds landlords accountable? And will you discontinue the Giuliani administration's appeal of the Supreme Court decision?]

If I am elected mayor, we will take down the barriers in front of City Hall. We will cancel the decency commission, and the first responsibility for the corporation council, newly appointed for the City of New York, will be to cancel the appeal of the decision rendering illegal Local Law 38. Let me vent some steam. Local Law 38 was a disgrace, it was passed by the council, not to help children, but to help landlords and reduce their liabilities when it comes to lead paint. It one, re-defines the dangerous substance, lead, defining it only as lead paint peelings. In other words, a landlord's liabilities is limited only to where a kid can prove that the damage to a child is from lead paint peelings, not form lead paint dust, except dust is more dangerous. Two, it eliminated the landlord's obligation to determine that there was, in the apartment, a six year old or younger child, and shifted the responsibilities to the parents. A lot of parents are poor, a lot of them don't speak English, a lot of them have no idea what the obligation is , and the fact that the kid gets sick because the landlord did not abate or fix the lead problem, should not obviate the landlord's responsibility.

I'm sympathetic to the landlord's having heavy financial responsibility, and here I think there is another way to go. Increase the responsibility of the landlord, but the city can subsidize it.You want more testing, you want more children saved, and from the city's point of view, this is a theory that not every elected official buys into, you spend some money now, you save it down the road. Because if a kid is poisoned by lead pint, they are more likely to be on Medicaid, they are more likely to be in special education, they are more likely to need special treatment that the city will pay for, and they are more likely not to be tax paying productive adults. So lets make the landlords do this job and support them financially so they don't bear the burden.

Fernando Ferrer

Let me make this very brief. I know a little bit about housing, having presided over one of the biggest housing revivals in any city in America over the last fourteen years in the Bronx. The Bronx was written off as the capital of window decals and empty lots. I have seen an awful lot. There was a housing shortage in this city. There was an affordable housing shortage in this city of barely over one percentage point. That's an emergency. That's why I proposed a number of measures that would not only preserve our housing stock, get this city out of the business of owning and operating some of the most squalid housing in this city, but the proposals would keep public housing in the public domain, preserve the affordability of housing, and build 150,000 new units of housing to add to the supply. I am looking to devise a program that will preserve Mitchell-Lama housing that is about to opt out of the program, to keep it there by contract, and not depend on the state legislature to do the job for us.

[Question: The mayor can influence public housing policy through the appointment of the chair and members of the New York City Housing Authority. Section 3, which has been federal law since 1968, requires that HUD funds maximize job raining and employment opportunities for residents, but it has never been conscientiously implemented by NYCHA. This is particularly of concern since NYCHA is enforcing the 1998 community service requirement that requires residents to volunteer for eight hours a month or face eviction. What will you do to ensure that section 3 has teeth?]

I've answered this question many times before at many different forums. Section 3 of the Federal Housing Act required local housing authorities to design and implement job training programs. It, by implication, requires municipalities to engage those programs, begin to require and provide real employment opportunities.

The irony here is that most housing authority developments are undergoing modernization and/or renewal virtually continuously. There is a pool of job-ready and trainable people who live there who can be trained to take these jobs for the renewal, if there is a will to partner up with construction unions in this city and require as a consequence that this kind of partnership bring people out of poverty and into work, and make them not only partners, but owners in the revival of their own homes. To me, that is a lot better than requiring eight hours a week of volunteer service. That we have not done it, is a complete disgrace. It is because we pay more attention to major league ballparks in this city, than healthcare, parks, and policing. I want to be a mayor who pays attention to those things because when I talk about two New Yorks, they all live in the other New York. That's a neighborhood I know well, that's a neighborhood most of you live in. I was born and raised and educated in the other New York. The job of the mayor and this city government is to bring people out of shadows and into hope and opportunity. I would implement section 3.

[Question: In the 1980's, the critical situation of SRO tenants in the city was recognized by the establishment of the Mayor's Office on SRO Housing, the creation of a special SRO unit within HPD's litigation Bureau and the city's funding of the two SRO law projects. After 1993, the first two of those crucial bulwarks against the loss of SRO housing were removed. The office on SRO Housing was reduced to a two-person inspection unit within HPD, and the number of attorneys responsible for SRO litigation fell from four to one.

At the same time, the number of SRO units lost to tourist use, placements by the city, and conversions to apartments or owner-occupied houses rose dramatically. While there were approximately 55,000 SRO's in the mid- to late- eighties, there remain fewer than 30,000 now.

If you are elected mayor, will you re-establish a Mayor's Office on SRO Housing, and increase the level of funding for SRO work within HPD's litigation bureau. Will you fund the two SRO projects? And will you support legislation to provide for enhanced enforcement of the city's anti-harassment laws?]

I've seen the Eldridge bill, and it's a good bill, the city needs it. I would re-establish the mayor's office of SRO, and I would also increase HPD's.

Lets talk about SROs. When we did have 55,000 of them in the city, in the main, they were nothing to write home to the folks about. SROs, furnished rooms, whatever you wanted to call them, needed to be upgraded and, in fact, many of them needed supportive services, because they behaved as homes for special needs populations. As a result of the Community Mental Health Act of 1954, implemented and became effective law in 1955, the laudable goal of emptying out the State's psychiatric hospitals became law. The promise was to reintegrate special needs people with their communities. They could be housed decently in the counties where they once lived. That made a lot of sense. There was only one problem, they emptied out the hospitals, and they did not build the housing, and we are playing catch up now with that. We have to ramp up this city's commitment with special needs housing. That is included in my goal in building and maintaining 150,000 units over ten years.

[Shortsighted policy and lack of permanent owner restrictions on project-based section 8 and Mitchell-Lama contracts has exacerbated the housing crisis. Many owners have chosen to opt out of state and federally assisted housing programs at the end of twenty year contracts, ultimately resulting in the loss of affordable housing stock and tenant displacement.

If elected mayor, what are you planning to do locally to stop section 8 opt-outs and Mitchell-Lama buy-outs?]

I too would like to support and submit legislation to the state legislature to have extended time to keep middle income housing, state and city assisted housing, federally assisted housing affordable. But I can't depend on the state legislature to do that. So an important component of my annual $1.3 billion housing production program is $100 million dollar a year Mitchell-Lama rescue fund. What it says, is that those Mitchell-Lama that are getting ready to get out of the program, that are getting ready to opt out, also need new plumbing, new electricity, new windows, new roofs. I want to provide the lowest interest money to save those developments, keep them affordable, and by contract extend their life in the program. We can do that with a rescue fund. We can keep them from opting out of the program if we provide the incentive and the money to provide for a renewal of their major systems. If we do that, we can preserve the lion's share of housing that is ready to opt.

The other part of that is that we have to build middle-income housing in the city. We no longer have a commuter tax, which means that if we don't pay close attention to the middle part of our tax payer mix, if you think we have rough economic times coming ahead, when middle income people decide it is cheaper to live somewhere else and still work in New York, or if we can't preserve longtime residents, people who have already paid their dues in this city, we will be in huge economic trouble.

[Every time rent regulation laws come up for renewal, there is a danger that tenant protections will be reduced as the political price for another renewal. In the last eight years, the rent laws have been dangerously weakened because of decontrol amendments enacted by the State Legislature and the New York City Council.

2003 is another sunset year. Rent control and rent stabilization laws are due to expire again on June 15--less than two years from now. The real estate lobby and it's allies will seek more weakening amendments as the price for extending the laws for another period of time. Tenants will be seeking not only to avoid more decontrol amendments, but to repeal past decontrol amendments.

If you are elected mayor, what will be your strategy to make sure that not only are the rent laws renewed without additional watering down of tenant's rights, but that has harmful decontrol amendments are also appealed?]

As a member of the City Council for five years and as a borough president for over fourteen, I have been up in Albany when those laws were being considered, I've even voted on them as a member of City Council. It has become dangerous lately because the Republican controlled State Senate and a Republican governor have come together and presented a very dangerous threat, not only to the affordability of private rental housing, but as you know, to the viability of Mitchell Lama.

Every mayor wants to be emperor, but I happen to believe that the members of the Rent Guidelines Board ought to be submitted to the consent of the City Council. And we must begin to take the control to our own destiny. The next time, in 2003, if I am the mayor and when this comes up, I will go up to Albany and remind the legislature and remind the Governor they made an important promise they did not keep. If we change these laws, we will commit ourselves to funding the affordable housing in New York City. They passed the laws, but not one dime for affordable housing in New York City. I will remind them of that day and night before they tamper with our rent regulation laws.

[Given the projected budget deficits during the next mayor's term, what revenue enhancements would you consider to assure full funding for important anti-eviction and housing preservation programs such as code enforcement?]

As borough president of the Bronx, I have funded and will continue to fund important anti-eviction programs for my borough, as well as funding a new housing court building. One of the most important things that this city has given up on is using the proceeds from its collections from fines, fees and penalties, for code enforcement. I would segregate that money and re-invest it back into adequate code enforcement.

Here is where I come from. When I made my announcement for mayor, I didn't do it in a mid-town hotel, or the Statue of Liberty, I did it in the South Bronx.

I still remember the thrill of hearing the pipes clang in the middle of the afternoon back in the day, warning us that once gain we would not have heat or hot water, it was time to break out the heavy blankets and warm coats. As a result of that, I happened to acquire the skill of taking a quick shower in the morning.

But seriously, code enforcement guarantees decent housing. It is the obligation of this city to provide for adequate and effective code enforcement. It is also the obligation of this city to ensure that its code enforcement computers at HPD communicate with the enforcement computers at DHCR. Those two systems don't even talk to each other. There is absolutely no way to hold people accountable, to hold owners accountable for no heat and hot water and for all the other things that we will correctly bring people into court for.

[One riddle of affordable housing is who will create it without incentives?

In one instance, the answer is tenants. Twenty or thirty years ago, energetic tenants moved into abandoned lofts and created thousands of units of affordable housing. Under the Loft Law, about half of those units have now been brought under full compliance with residential codes and become rent-stabilized.

This year, not only is the state Loft Law up for renewal, there are thousands of new tenants who do not benefit from its protections. With the Department of Buildings' backs turned, and the Mayor's eagle eye for enforcement strangely closed, enterprising tenants have created thousands of new units of affordable housing.

As mayor, how would you treat the current unprotected loft conversions as well as future loft conversions?]

I first happen to believe in compliance with the building code. Anyone who lives anywhere is entitled to the safety and protection that this city must cover. I think we have got to make it a lot easier to make these conversions happen. A part of the problem is our zoning resolutions, part of it is our inability to cope with the future of this city and what to do with derelict and underutilized manufacturing buildings that can be turned into decent and affordable housing. Those are the things I am not only interested in, but involved in, as borough president of the Bronx, having produced, in my tenure, 66,000 units of it.

George Spitz

I am honored to be allowed to speak. I am the fifth Democratic candidate in the race. It was only as of Friday that it was definite that I would qualify, and I could understand this wonderful organization being hesitant to invite me. I am a long shot, don't bet on me, but I have an outside chance to win. I think it's important, one, that all mayoral appointments by public members come from organizations like this, the tenant groups. You should at least be 50 percent of the representation in all the boards.

In my campaign I have already been keeping a promise, no contributions by the real estate industry are being accepted by George Spitz, not because builders are evil, but the city regulates the real estate industry.

I am advising a rent freeze for five years. How to pay for it? What I am going to do is any land lord who maintains his property in grade A condition and who does not harass tenants will receive a tax credit, equal to the rent stabilized price and the market price.

Finally, I promise to set up a construction department in the city, pay union wages, and on city owned land we will build housing. We will construct affordable housing by using some of the systems they use in Finland which are very good--affordable and easy to use. We are going to build affordable housing and any landlord who wants to build affordable housing will get a tax credit for ten years on all the improvements.

Go on my web site www.georgespitz.com. I'm going to stop right now as I promised. Thank you very much.

Mitchel Cohen

First, I grew up in the Longborough projects and now live in a Mitchell-Lama co-op in Brooklyn. Every year they try to privatize the co-op and every year there is one apartment, one stock holder, my family, who says no, we are not going to privatize this, and every year they fall one vote short from privatizing the building. So I am proud to say that our family stands to make some money by putting it on the so-called free market, but we refuse to do that because of our principles, because we think it should be placed for people who are coming out of the projects, because it is a principle that poor people should have decent places to live.

There should be no work-fare to live in public housing. We say no workfare-- people have a right to live. We're saying stop the privatization of everything. Stop the privatization of the water supply that Giuliani wanted to do, stop the privatization of the apartments and the housing, and build more affordable and public housing. We call for an end to the $1.1 billion giveaway that Hevesi so proudly supported. We, in the Green party, stand for a common view and a common program and I would like to thank you very much for letting me be here. I wanted to point out that the Mayor lives rent-free in Gracie Mansion, meanwhile he is evicting squatters because he says everybody must pay rent. So when I am elected mayor, Donna Hanover will be allowed to stay in Gracie Mansion as long as she wants for having to put up so many years with the mayor.

Christopher K. Brodeur

Tonight, we are all Green Party candidates for mayor. To this conference they should have invited the Green party because we are better than the Democrats and Republicans on most of the issues. Alan Hevesi was good on some of the issues, but he is not good on a lot of the issues. So my request is that when you get the voter guide in the August, read the Green Party statements, because the media is going to go black-out on us. And even events like this are going to censor third parties and that's not fair.

Anthony Gronowicz

Hi, I am Tony Gronowicz. I am a historian on New York City and I look at the city in the period since the Second World War, since rent control came into existence. Of course, rent control came into existence, not because of the Republican party , not because of the Democratic party, but because of the Communist party. This is one of the historic ironies we are dealing with. Whichever candidate you choose, choose a Green Candidate, we will keep on fighting. I am a Manhattan native and I am going to fight the landlords until they don't exist anymore.

Julia Willebrand

I am Julia Willebrand, Green Party candidate for mayor, and there are a couple of the things that I want to talk about. This audience was given an explanation on how the city must negotiate with blackmailers, we were told that one fortieth of our annual budget would have to go to the New York Stock Exchange so that they could get a new floor because if we don't ,they will leave. We don't negotiate with terrorists, we don't negotiate with blackmailers, why are we negotiating with a stock exchange that made $13 billion in profit last year? The city educated over a million children on a $5 billion budget, but we are handing a gift of 20 percent of that budget to the stock exchange-- think about it. Think about the housing we could provide, if we stopped these endless hand-outs. The only way to provide housing, there is no free-market, we must create a free market by providing affordable housing. It's not going to happen by giving landlords subsidies. Think about an alternative candidate who has an alternative vision for the city. Think about voting Green.

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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
10004-1609

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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
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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