District 7 West Harlem/Washington Heights/Inwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are we?


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Learn more about this district in Searchlight 2002

General Election Results

x-Robert Jackson, Dem 17,925 - 80 percent
Faisal M. Sipra, Rep 2,056 - 9 percent
Mario A. Torres, Lib 1,453 - 7 percent
Greg Draves, Lbt 515 - 2 percent
Allen Cox, Inp 386 - 2 percent

Primary Election Results

Robert Jackson 5,633
Mark D. Levine 3,916
Mario A. Torres 1,974
Daryl G. Bloodsaw 1,541
Pedro Morillo 1,511
Jackie Rowes Adams 1,296
Tony Spencer 1,267
Victor A. Bernace 596
Michael B. Hughes 549
Heyward Dotson 211
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent: Stanley E. Michels (can't run in 2001)

The Candidates:

Contributors to these candidates, according to the Campaign Finance Board:

Victor Armando Bernace has not filed
Daryl Bloodsaw has not filed
Allen Cox has not filed
Heyward Dotson has not filed
Greg Draves has not filed
Michael Hughes has not filed
Contributors to Robert Jackson
Contributors to Mark Levine
Pedro Morillo has not filed
Jackie Rowe-Adams has not filed
Contributors to Tony Spencer
Contributors to Mario Torres

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 7

Issue Statements:
District 7 candidates' statements on the issues, at Savvyvoter.org

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Heights of Immigration

More than any other concentrated area of the city, the northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home.

Between 1992 and 1996, nearly 50,000 new immigrants moved to Manhattan between 122nd and 220th Street. The majority came 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.

Area Profile
For a detailed profile of this district from City Project, click here.


  • Hispanic: 46%
  • Black, non-Hispanic: 34%
  • White, non-Hispanic: 17%
  • Asian: 4%

Median income: $34,297 (Ranks 39th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 12%

For more information on this district -- its schools, its crime statistics and more -- click here.

In many ways, these new residents have helped bring a renewed sense of vitality to the area: Russian deli's have sprung up next to bodegas, previously empty storefronts on Broadway are full of new businesses, and much of the dilapidated housing is being renovated.

"Our economic development has really grown," said Jackie Rowe-Adams, a candidate for City Council in district 7. "It is awesome. Our neighborhoods are booming."

But the influx of new residents has also brought challenges.

For one, affordable housing in West Harlem, Washington Heights, Manhattanville, and Inwood is becoming more difficult to find. And since 93 percent of the area is renter-occupied, the area is susceptible to rising real estate prices.

"The problem comes not when new people arrive, but when the people who have been living there are forced to leave," said candidate Mark Levine, who runs a credit union that provides loans to local homebuyers. "If we can encourage more homeownership, it not only insures that people are not pushed out of the neighborhood by new development, but that they actually benefit from it."

Candidate Victor Armando Bernace also suggests that the remaining vacant land and buildings can be put to better use. He advocates reforming the tax code to punish "absentee landlords" and return abandoned property to the active housing market.

A major challenge for all of the candidates running for City Council in district 7 this year will be to find ways to welcome new residents into the political process, while advocating for the people who have lived there for years.

But even with the revitalization that has come to the area in the last decade, some of the old problems are still present.

District 7 has one of the largest public school student populations in the city, more than half of who are scoring below the national average in reading and math. The candidates agree that improving public education in the area hinges on a combination of parental involvement, teacher and student accountability, and increased funding.

One candidate, Robert Jackson, was part of the lawsuit by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity that resulted in a ruling requiring New York state to revamp its school funding formula to give more money to city schools. "We need to make sure that education is the primary focus of the City Council," said Jackson. "It should be the number one issue in all campaigns."

If elected, Mario Torres hopes he can initiate creative partnerships between schools and neighborhood corporations to bring new resources such as computers into area classrooms.

The candidates also add that keeping the district's streets safe is critical, since the area still has one of the highest homicide rates in the city.

"I lost two sons to gun violence," said Rowe-Adams. "And we're not talking enough about guns. Not just nationally, we need to talk about it locally."

Tony Spencer added that more resources are needed to clean up illegal drug activity along Amsterdam Avenue, one of the few remaining open-air drug markets in Manhattan. He also believes that creating youth programs can keep both young people and the streets safer.

As for health care, a Manhattanville clinic on 126th Street and Old Broadway that has served the areas children for years has been closed for over six months, awaiting repairs. Others say it has been closed for good.

"We need to welcome immigrants to America," said Spencer, "by ensuring that they have insurance that makes health care readily accessible."

Ultimately, the candidates want to make sure the city's resources allocated for their district keep up with the growing population.

Torres proposes a program, conducted with groups such as the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and business improvement districts, to help local entrepreneurs and business owners learn about loan programs and assistance. "Two businesses near where I live have undertaken major initiatives to expand and did it with their own money," said Torres. "We have to do a better job of informing people of these resources."

As teachers, lawyers, community and school board members, activists, and political leaders, these candidates are already running on their community record, before they even get into office. "The voters will have to evaluate candidates by asking--what have you done for the community?" said Jackson.

The winning candidate may be the one who can not only get their own constituents to the polls, but appeal to a cross section of people: immigrants from around the world, ex-Upper West Siders, and those who have lived in northern Manhattan for years.

posted 4/6/01

Campaign Update:

The list of candidates in district 7 has grown to an astonishing 14, according to the Board of Elections, one of the most crowded contests in the city. Joining the race recently are Democratic candidates Heyward Dotson, Pedro Morillo and Daryl G. Bloodsaw, Independence candidates Allen Cox and Nicholas Kallivokas, Republican Faisal Sipra, and Libertarian Greg Draves.

Of the 14 candidates, however, only four have registered with the Campaign Finance Board for matching funds.

In this crowded race and that will draw only about 15,000 Democratic voters for the primary September 11th, the winner could be decided by under a hundred votes. But not all of the people running now will necessarily make it onto the ballot.

According to Democratic candidate Michael Hughes, there have been an onslaught of challenges to the nominating petitions of several of the candidates. "As always, we are fighting like cats and dogs," says Hughes. The practice of challenging voters' signatures in order to try to knock an opponent off the ballot is routine in New York City politics.

In his campaign, Hughes is stressing community involvement as a way to improve the area and decrease crime,. "What I am involved with is working with the people in the street," he says.. "It is necessary to volunteer with your fellow residents, go around picking up garbage, making sure our kids aren't misbehaving, and making sure that our streets are safe."

Libertarian Greg Draves says abandoned property held by the city should be sold to the public. "The city should not be in the business of keeping rent high, they should be the in the business of trying to keep an open market," says Draves. "The city should be willing to auction off property that is unused by people, to individuals within the community."

Pedro Morillo, Daryl Bloodsaw, Heyward Dotson, Nicholas Kallivokas, Allen Cox, and Faisal Sipra did not return requests for interviews.

The Democratic candidates are looking for endorsements that will help boost their campaigns. Mario Torres received the endorsements of State Senator Olga Mendez and the Liberal party, which means he will appear on the ballot in the general election in November. Mark Levine received the endorsement of the local Audubon Reform Democratic Club. Robert Jackson enjoys the backing of the county Democratic organization. Current Councilmember Stanley Michels has not endorsed a candidate yet and some expect that he may not endorse anyone.

"It's a great race," says Levine. "I think it is a good thing for the area. There are a number of qualified candidates in the group."

Posted 7/20/01

Candidate Biographies

Victor Armando Bernace, who grew up in a poor and abusive household and went to Harvard Law School, taught high school history in the Bronx for six years before deciding to start his own law practice that helps primarily Dominican cab drivers resolve traffic violations. He also serves on the board of directors for the Bronx Independent Living Services, which helps people with disabilities.

Daryl Bloodsaw (no information available)

Allen Cox (no information available)

Heyward Dotson (no information available)

Greg Draves graduated from New York University where he studied Film and Television. He is a Corporate Secretary for Mensa, a stage manager for Trip, and has been involved in helping Habitat for Humanity build affordable housing.

Michael Hughes (no information available)

Robert Jackson, who was part of the lawsuit by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in which a judge ordered the state to give more money to New York City's schools, is the director of field services in New York City and Long Island for the New York State Public Employees Federation. He has served as a representative to community school board 6, as president of a tenants association, and as a member of the Concerned Democratic Coalition of Northern Manhattan.

Nicholas Kallilvokas (no information available)

Mark Levine is executive director of the non-profit, Credit Where Credit is Due that promotes economic development in Upper Manhattan. He is also president of Neighborhood Trust, a credit union in Washington Heights and West Harlem and a former teacher.

Pedro Morillo (no information available)

Jackie Rowe-Adams is recreation manager for Morningside Park and Jackie Robinson Park. She has been involved in community board 10, school board 5, and sits on the White House Parent Youth Council on Drug Abuse.

Faisal M. Sipra (no information available)

Mario Torres is vice president of the Battery Park City Authority and is involved in with the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program, the Foundation Board of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and the National Puerto Rican Forum.

Tony Spencer is the director of the New York City Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. He served in the Air Force, is a State Democratic Party Committee member, a colonel in the National Guard.


Campaign Trail

Heywood Dotson retreated to his mother's house in Staten Island after being disqualified in the City Council race in district 7 and returned home to learn he was reported dead. The saga added even more color to a race already saturated with it. District 7 is sprawling and diverse, stretching from 123rd to 218th Street, covering Manhattanville, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights and Inwood - and it has a field befitting it. There are 10 Democrats on the primary ballot, so many that candidates start staking out subway stops at 6:30 a.m. because there are barely enough to go around. (NY Times)

The New York Times today endorsed a candidate in this race. Seventh District (Washington Heights, West Harlem and Inwood): The two top candidates in this race are Robert Jackson, a longtime champion of quality education, and Mark Levine, an energetic community activist. Mr. Levine has done an important service to the neighborhood by establishing a community development credit union. But Mr. Jackson has spent years working for better schools for the entire city. He breathed life into the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which recently won a historic lawsuit to bring the city more state funds. In a year when virtually every candidate says schools are the top priority, our choice is Robert Jackson.

Some of Hollywood's biggest names are taking sides in a little-noticed City Council race - all thanks to a childhood friendship between a novice candidate and superstar actor Edward Norton. Producers David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg have each chipped in $2,500 to Mark Levine, one of 10 Democrats slugging it out to succeed term-limited Councilman Stanley Michels in district 7 in northern Manhattan. Actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Love have also written $2,500 checks, as has Norton himself. Director Milos Forman came in with $250. Levine has amassed an impressive $105,644 war chest, surpassing his two closest rivals, Mario Torres, a vice president of the Battery Park City Authority ($82,066), and Robert Jackson, who led the lawsuit challenging the state's education formula ($33,607). (NY Post)

Many candidates are having difficulties gathering signature petitions, especially in crowded races like district 7. For Council candidates like Victor Bernace, who has only a few volunteers and is walking the streets of the Seventh Council District himself, the battleground stretches from West Harlem to Inwood. When he went to a large housing project, he discovered that three out of four residents had signed for a rival, Mario Torres, who he said had the backing of a local Democratic organization. "He probably got enough already, but he's going and going and going," Mr. Bernace said. (New York Times)

A crusading Washington Heights attorney and a taxi driver Irving Gelb have gotten together to prove, in the courts, that the City's Board of Election has disenfranchised the city's voters for the last 42 years. Gelb is a Bronx cab driver who, for over 40 years, has run for various political offices as a write in candidate and whose votes were never counted. (Washington Heights Report)

Mr. Torres is focused on serving on the City Council. "My experience, commitment to public service and motivation clearly makes me a candidate. This is not an exercise in getting name-recognition or testing the waters. This is about putting together a team that is going to make us all winners. The district that I am running for has an active and diverse community comprised of multiple religious and ethnic groups, recent immigrants and artists; whoever represents this district needs to make a sincere attempt to become fluent in the issues affecting all these communities. I've been involved professionally with diversity all my life." (Manhattan Times)

Immigrant voters in Washington Heights (Uptown2000)


Districts of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Board of Elections
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New York, NY

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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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