Gotham Gazette

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Gotham Votes 2013

Gotham Votes

Queens Borough President

The office of borough president was created at the time of the consolidation of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island into the City of Greater New York in 1898. The idea of borough president, the charter said, was to preserve "local pride and affection." But the presidents' heyday drew to an end in 1989 when the Board of Estimate was eliminated and their powers diminished. Today, the borough presidents make a few appointments, chair the borough boards, and oversee the delivery of services in their boroughs. They can also propose legislation in City Council. (Adapted from "Being Borough President," Gotham Gazette, 2005)

Read more: Queens Borough President

Elections Update: Guardian Weighs In; The 'New' Spitzer; Queens BP Race Bickering

Polls maven Harry J. Enten of the Guardian UK takes a look at the polls in the New York races for mayor and comptroller. “For the first time in the campaign, one can easily paint a picture that would have Weiner winning both the primary and the runoff," he writes. But his conclusion about the Eiiot Spitzer-Scott Stringer Democratic primary is quite different: “I don’t think Spitzer’s lead is as strong as the top line suggests," he writes. “It should fade as Stringer becomes better known." 

In a story headlines “Meet The New Spitzer," Daily Beast writer Lloyd Grove tags along with the former governor and is there when Eliot Spitzer receives legal papers from Wall Street nemesis Maurice “Hank" Greenberg. Grove writes:

Greenberg’s lawsuit, in other words, is rich in populist potential. As the process server headed for the door, I kidded Spitzer, “Where’s your camera crew? Wouldn’t this be good for a television commercial?” At which Spitzer laughingly called out to the departing functionary, “Hey, can you come back?” Turning to me, he added, “You’re right! That would have been awesome … Awesome!

Spitzer also responds to a question about his infamous “steamroller" statement to a state legislator:

“I wish I’d never said that,” Spitzer answered, “because it created a complete misperception of what we were trying to do. We went up there [to Albany] to work with everybody.”

Gotham Gazette contributor Ross Barkan reports back about some bickering in the Queens borough president race for Politicker:

State Senator Tony Avella is accusing Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., a rival in the race for Queens borough president, of repeatedly “bullying” and “threatening” him in a push to get him to drop his bid.

“Personally, I think he’s a bully and a coward and afraid of having me on the ballot,” Mr. Avella told Politicker today, claiming Mr. Vallone has tried several times over the course of the election to get him to leave the race. “Let the chips fall where they may.”

Vallone’s camp responded:

“This is another desperate attempt by Tony Avella to get attention by spreading false accusations,” said a Vallone spokesman. “If Mr. Avella doesn’t make the ballot, it’s because his floundering campaign couldn’t get enough legitimate signatures. Those are the facts.”

Weiner, Spitzer Still On Top of Polls

In spite of some consternation in the political class, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer still managed to come out on top of the polls.

Today’s Quinnipiac poll shows Weiner maintaining his lead in the mayoral race while Eliot Spitzer — a week into his candidacy — grew his lead in the comptroller race.

Asking if it’s better to be well-known for a scandal or unknown at all, the pollster’s results indicate the former. Weiner enjoyed 25 percent of primary voters, once more leading his fellow Democratic rivals City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, at 22 percent, and former Comptroller William Thompson, at 11 percent. 

Like with the race to replace Michael Bloomberg, name recognition seems to have helped disgraced former Gov. Spitzer take the lead against Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the comptroller race, with 48 percent to 33 percent. 

The demographic divide that came out of the latest poll show why Spitzer has such a commanding lead: he leads Stringer 61 to 26 percent among black voters and 47 to 27 among Latino voters. 

The mayor’s race also shows a defined race gap: Weiner received 31 percent of the black vote, which was 15 percent higher than the next highest candidate, Quinn with 16 percent. Bill Thompson, the only black candidate in the race, is polling third among black voters with 14 percent.

And while Weiner and Spitzer’s careers were derailed over their respective sex scandals, both did well with Ne York City’s women. Weiner got support from 21 percent of women, just behind Quinn — the only woman in the race — who pulled in at 23 percent.

Spitzer racked up 44 percent of the women vote.

As famous — or infamous — as either Spitzer and Weiner may be, the same can’t be said for the leading Republican in the race. Seventy two percent of the 738 New York registered Democratic respondents to the poll said that they haven’t heard enough about former MTA chief Joe Lhota to have an opinion on his candidacy.

Quinnipiac didn’t even poll about about Lhota’s fellow Republican candidates John Catsimatidis and George McDonald, nor about Independence Party Candidate Adolfo Carrion.

Other interesting findings in today’s poll:

  • Respondents thought financial impropriety to be much worse than sexual misconduct, 69 to 22 percent.
  • Anthony Weiner has the highest unfavorable numbers, at 36 percent, with Quinn not far behind at 34 percent and Liu at 26 percent.
  • Bill Thompson and Bill de Blasio have the highest percentages of respondents not knowing enough about them, with 45 percent and 47 percent respectively. 
  • Sixty two percent of respondents said that they don’t know enough about Stringer to formulate an opinion.

Daniel Stein-Sayles

Election Roundup: Candidates On Trayvon Martin Verdict; Kelly’s Future

Following the Trayvon Martin verdict this weekend, New York lawmakers came out in force slamming the Florida court’s decision.

Politicker cultivated many of these reactions including that of mayoral candidate Bill Thompson who tweeted, “Trayvon Martin was killed because he was black,” Thompson declared. “There was no justice done today in Florida.”

Capital New York got the reaction of some mayoral candidates on the possibility of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly replacing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

While mayoral candidates Christine Quinn and John Liu and comptroller Scott Stringer think he is well suited for the position, mayoral candidate Bill Thompson disagrees.

The Daily News reports Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz has endorsed Letitia James for public advocate. The Councilwoman continues to rack up endorsements, though James has struggled in the fundraising race.

“We need citywide leaders who will make the Bronx even stronger and fight for working families all across New York. I’m endorsing Tish James because that’s the kind of Public Advocate she will be,” Diaz told the Daily News.

— Daniel Stein-Sayles

Comrie Drops Queens Boro Prez Campaign


Photo courtesy of NYC Council/William Alatriste.

Citing “personal reasons," City Councilmen Leroy Comrie announced his withdrawal from the Queens Borough President race Saturday.

“Today I am announcing that I will not continue my campaign for Queens Borough President," he wrote in a press release. “I am looking forward to serving the people of Queens—in one capacity or another—for a long time to come."

It’s unclear, however, just what capacity that may be for the term-limited Council member. Comrie’s bid for borough president was an uphill one, especially after losing the Queens Democratic Party endorsement to former Councilwoman Melinda Katz in May.

Comrie still managed to pick up endorsements from former mayor David Dinkins and union DC37.

Comrie’s departure from the race leaves three Democratic candidates in the Sept. 20 primary. Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., State Senator Tony Avella and former Councilwoman Melinda Katz will now vie for the Democratic nomination.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican businessman Tony Arcabascio, a technology executive.

Daniel Stein-Sayles

Weiner Takes It From All Sides At Senior Issues Forum

Photo courtesy of Council of Senior Centers and Services.

What could have been a quiet forum on issues critical to seniors in New York City became one of the ugliest political showdowns so far in the 2013 election cycle.

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose entry into the race in late May upended the crowded Democratic field, was the target of some of the sharpest attacks in memory from rivals during todays mid-morning forum hosted by the Council of Senior Centers and Services at New York University.

Democratic mayoral longshot Sal Albanese aimed squarely at Weiner for his 1996 Council vote in support of rent deregulation, drowning out questions from moderator and City Limits editor Jarrett Murphy on elder abuse, public transportation and emergency policy post-Superstorm Sandy.

"My good friend Tony Weiner was on the Council at the same time and he promised tenants and neighbors that he was going to vote against vacancy decontrol," Albansese said. And at the last minute he turned around and voted for vacancy decontrol while he stands up here and talks about affordable housing."

Albanese didnt let up even as the audience began reacting to his direct attack on Weiner.

"Policies have consequences," he said as the around 300 crowd members began to murmur. Anybody can get up and make great speeches at election time and not be accountable for their past performance."

Weiner, one of the leading candidates across major citywide polls, didnt take well to Albaneses retelling of the vote.

Weiner explained that the vote he cast wasnt an easy one and that Albany was ultimately responsible for loosening rent control and stabilization laws.

"Look, Ive been confronting demagogues my entire career. Im not going to stop now, and when Im mayor Im going to have to confront them," Weiner said of Albanese before defending his vote. I thought that if I had my druthers between no one getting any coverage and having some wealthier people not getting any more coverage — that choice is clear."

Weiner went on to demonstrate his independence and ability to compromise for the greater good by pointing to his leadership on the federal Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare. Thats when he opened himself up to a new line of attack from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

"Anthony, you didnt get Obamacare — President Obama got Obamacare," de Blasio said to a smattering of applause from the audience. I know you have a tendency to think the world revolves around you, but it was the president."

De Blasio, usually the subject of Albaneses attacks himself, joined the chorus against Weiners Council vote, calling the vote a huge error" and one of the reasons the city is facing an affordable housing shortage.

"Just own it," he added, before accusing Weiner of often deferring to the citys real estate industry.

Weiner pushed back on de Blasios interpretation of events, accusing De Blasio, also a former Councilman, of not understanding what real responsibility to constituents is about — something the public advocates office is not familiar with, since I dont know what the responsibility is of the public advocate," Weiner said.

Things got even more contentious when Albanese jumped in a second time, this time going for the lowest blow of the morning.

"As mayor, you have to keep your word, you have to be true to your word," Albanese said before the audience rebelled with loudening boos and moans. He lied, as he lied about his texting scandal on CNN."

The crowd of older New Yorkers were receptive to all of the forums guests, which also included supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis — who reiterated his liberal Republican" moniker — and Comptroller John Liu.

Neither of the Democratic fields two other frontrunners, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, were at the event, nor were Republican candidates Joe Lhota and George McDonald. Conservative Democrat Erick Salgado was confirmed to attend but didnt show up.

Still, the forums onlookers swarmed around Weiner long after the event ended.

"Everything always sounds wonderful," said attendee Sylvia Cohen of Forest Hills, Queens. They dont do their job, and we seniors have paid our dues. We are continuing to pay our dues, and were getting shortchanged. We need a clean slate, starting with the very top all the way down."

When a reporter asked if Cohen knew who she would vote for, she declined to elaborate. A second reporter asked if the candidate used to represent her Congress. Cohen bit her lips and timidly nodded her head before turning around to see Weiner.

"Sylvia!" Weiner exclaimed. Nice to see you! How are you?"

"I miss you," Cohen told the candidate.

"I miss you too," Weiner told her. I miss you too."

— Chester Soria

Election Roundup: GOP Debate; Comptroller Poll; Manhattan BP Debate

Republican mayoral candidates Joe Lhota, George McDonald and John Catsimatidis faced off in a televised debate last night on NY1. The New York Times reported that the candidates “vowed to fully support the Police Department and to limit the role of an inspector general that would monitor the department." At one point, McDonald accused Catsimatidis of making a threat against him. Here’s from the NY1 transcript:

McDonald: That sounds like a mafia thing, making me disappear. What is that? That is the way the mayor of the city of New York talks about people?
Catsimatidis: I never said that, George.
McDonald: Oh, yes you did.

The bitterness may be personal. McDonald actually bought his home from Catsimatidis in 1990 and took out a mortgage from him as well.

Catsimatidis: We’ve been friends for 25, 30 years.
McDonald: Oh, I beg to differ with you about the friendship part.

While Cats and McDonald traded shots, Lhota, who is considered the frontrunner, largely stayed out of the fray.

Eliot Spitzer, who got into the comptroller race on Monday, polled better than the erstwhile frontrunner, Scott Stringer. A Wall Street Journal-NBC 4 New York-Marist Pollfound that Spitzer outpaces Stringer 42 to 33 percent among registered Democratic voters.

Four Democratic candidates for Manhattan borough president “did little to distinguish themselves" at a debate yesterday hosted by Crain’s New York Business. The only substantive difference, according to the business weekly, was that they hail from different geographic areas of the island. The candidates are City Council members Gale Brewer, Jessica Lappin and Robert Jackson, and Julie Menin, former Community Board 1 chairwoman.

Hours Before Debate, GOP Mayoral Candidate Takes Swing at Rival

It might be hours before the first televised Republican debate, but candidate George McDonald is preemptively swinging at one of his two GOP rivals.

The Doe Fund founder took to Twitter and linked to a post on an employment law firm’s blog on how a court affirmed that Catsimatidis is personally liable to his supermarket chain’s employees for lost overtime wages.

Despite McDonald’s attempt to revive the issue, the Catsimatidis campaign argued today that the particulars of the case and back pay were settled years ago.

"It’s sad," Catsimatidis spokesman Rob Ryan said. “George McDonald is losing this race and he’s grasping at straws trying to make news.

As owner of the Gristedes and Red Apple supermarkets, Catsimatidis had appealed a suit originally filed in 2004 when employees didn’t receive pay due to them.

The Second Circuit Court reaffirmed the lower court’s decision, tossing out the supermarket mogul’s argument that he wasn’t involved in the day-to-day decision making that led to the withheld wages.

Tonight’s debate airs at 7 p.m. on NY1, and will be streamed for free on

— Chester Soria

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