The Race for Mayor

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Recent Feature Stories:
The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council... Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term Limits...


What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


Peter Vallone

I’m the only one running that has been governing the city every day. I led the fight to reform the city and get rid of the Board of Estimate. I said no matter how nice the people are, it was not representative, it was unconstitutional, and I got a little help from the United States Supreme Court when they threw it out. In 1991, you might remember that just a few blocks from here a young fellow Brian Watkins was slaughtered on the subway trying to defend his family. It was terrible. This was a lawless city. The very first thing I did when we had no money, and there was very little hope, and no one wanted to stay in the city of New York, was to institute what is now known as Safe Street Safe City -- in those days I called it, and David Dinkins called it, Cops and Kids. I established it, I initiated it, I got David Dinkins to agree to it, I went to Albany and I got the Assembly leader Mel Miller to agree to it, I got the Republican leader who was Ralph Marino [He mentions what else he did to get it passed]. I worked with the youth board for 7 years, we don’t want to arrest everybody, we want to try to stop people from getting arrested in the first place. Give them the alternatives, drug programs in every single school. The whole point of what is now known as Safe Street Safe City was to first try to make the city safe.

How do we do it? By dedicating a portion of our income tax, and a portion of our real estate tax--the most difficult thing to do anywhere. But I gave my word, I pledged it, and I said by 1998 we would have a balanced budget, we would return that 12 and half percent income tax to the people of the city of New York. Who objected? Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He wanted to move that money--you remember this--he wanted me to take that money and move Yankee Stadium from the Bronx County to Manhattan. Remember that? We said no, the mayor got angry and for the first time in history he walked out of budget negotiations. First time the mayor walked out of budget negotiations in the history of the city. That put us at a difficult situation because under this charter only a mayor can estimate the revenues, not the city council. It’s unlike the Congress of the United States or unlike the state legislature...The point of it is, we still did it. And not only did we do it, I returned that 12 and half percent income tax--the largest income tax reduction in the history of the city of New York--was returned as I promised it would be returned to the taxpayers of the city of New York.

Every single day I do something that is very controversial. I was picketed today by restaurant owners who don’t like my new smoking bill. When I pass the rent control law the landlords picket me. Then some tenants picket me because they say I didn’t go far enough. Every single day, whatever I do, somebody doesn’t like. But that’s what you have to do if you are going to be a leader. And the only one of the candidates that every single day, has to work with the mayor, walk sixty feet down to work, whoever the mayor is, and must govern a very difficult city--at every question, whether it is land use, whether it’s landmarks, whether it’s expanding your garage, whether it’s building a huge sky scraper--every single question, must come to the Speaker of the City Council. And not once, in the ten years that we have been running this council has there been one scandal, one fraud, one arrest by reason of anything that we’ve done in the city council. That’s the first time in history that that ever happened. What’s the reward for that? On December 31, 2001, every single one of us leaves office at the same time. One billionaire who spent 15 million dollars, got 15 thousand votes--and I guarantee to you that any one of you who spends 15 million dollars and doesn’t do a thing for campaigning will get more than 15,000 votes. However he got so angry that he was going to put term limits in throughout the entire country. Couldn’t do it federally--it’s unconstitutional. Couldn’t do it in the state--it’s unconstitutional. City of New York? It’s ok. So that’s the only place he could do it. So he spent millions of dollars, no gradually changing it over time. If everybody in this club left at the same time, or if anybody in any business left at the same time, or if anybody in anything left at the same time, I am sure there are a lot of qualified people that could take your place. But it takes a little bit of time.

So what I am saying is this: I have an open record of 11 years since we’ve had the power to do something, anything I’ve done somebody likes or doesn’t like, I govern every single day, I think I am in a position to move that extra 60 feet [from the speaker’s office to the mayor’s office] and keep the government going in the\ direction that we’re going. When you’re talking about anything controversial, you’ll find that I was there. And if you’re talking about taking on the mayor, I have taken on this mayor--I took him on today. And I’ll take him on every single day , it doesn’t make any difference. The bottom line with me is if it is the right thing to do, that’s what we’re going to do.

[Question about ending workfare]:

I would never end workfare...I passed a bill which doesn’t create a [labor] union but comes as close as you can under the law. To allow people to make their grievances--that was a horrible situation. We believe in putting people to work. I believe not in just building shelters, but having transitional ways of getting people back, not in the streets, but into a job, into a home, that’s what it is all about. Permanent Jobs. The problem with this mayor, and why the council has so many problems with a good program, if he gets a secretary he has them cleaning a park. That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not a permanent job. She’s not going to stay cleaning a park. And I happen to know this to be a particular case; that’s why I mentioned it. So, yes I absolutely believe in workfare but not the way this mayor is administering it. There’s a better way to do it.

[Question about the Irish Gay and Lesbian organization being prohibited from marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.]

That’s ridiculous. They can march with me. I have over 600 people that march with me. Anybody in here wants to march, march with me. I have the largest single group marching.

[Question on a specific community garden in the East Village]

We fought very hard in the council; wherever we had jurisdiction we’d save the garden, where we don’t have jurisdiction we can’t. We are in charge of land use. But if its a pending matter I can’t tell you what our decision is going to be because it has to go through a committee. But on that, we’ve tried very hard.

[Question on what he will do to increase the availability of affordable housing]

Dedicate a fund. The way we did Safe Street Safe City was to dedicate a fund for no other purpose. They city will die if you don’t have affordable housing. We are over 200,000 units of affordable housing short right now. The last person who had any kind of a plan--who incidentally has endorsed me--is Ed Koch. The last person who had any kind of housing plan. I have a plan which you’ll read in the papers if you haven’t read it already, they’re about to sell the World Trade Center, or lease it, but they’re about to sell it for billions of dollars, but we will generate hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate tax. I’m saying we take that real estate tax, and we dedicate it and leverage it for affordable housing and we build thousands of units of affordable housing in this city. And it’s a plan that could work because I’ve got funds to do it.

[Question rent stabilization, and about the weakening of rent protections]

Unfortunately the state overrode us. I passed a law that did just the oppositte and they threw it out. So unfortunately we are at the mercy of the state when it comes to that.

[Question about capital punishment]

Capital punishment is a situation where the state of New York has the strictest capital punishment laws in the nation--so strict that nobody has been executed. I think that there is one particular case that I’ll just mention, where a guard killed, was sentenced to life imprisonment and then killed and mutilated a woman guard about 25 years ago. When a person is going to kill again, even if it is incarcerated I think the death penalty is justified. [I support the death penalty] in New York state; it’s the strictest in the country. [I support the current laws] in New York state.

[Question on Mayor’s policy of only merit increases for city workers (not yearly raises)]

That’s ridiculous, and I told the mayor that. Everybody deserves at least an inflationary, I mean you have what is called "cost of living" and you have to cover that. There’s a place for merit, and there’s always a place for merit, but under the present system, I don’t think that’s working.

[Question about his support of legislation to extend benefits to same-sex partners of the employees of contractors who do business with the city]

Absolutely. We’ve done that.

[Question about how he would deal with police brutality and violence]

The mayor has held me up in court for over three years for what we call the Independent Police Investigation Board. Which we also passed, which sets an independent monitor over all of the activities of the police. It’s a perfect vehicle to monitor and police ourselves. I assure you, whatever candidate is elected from the Democratic party, the first thing he’ll do is implement that Independent Police Invesitgation Board. [On the local questions, he doesn’t support the toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, supports landmarking the meatpacking district, doesn’t like Henry Stern and would fix the arch in Washington Square Park.


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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.

What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

Voter Registration Forms
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY

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Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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