District 9 Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, Riverside Park

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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-Bill Perkins, Dem 25,619 - 86 percent
Willie Walker, Rep 2,388 - 8 percent
Michelle L. McCleary, Ind 995 - 3 percent
Michelle Olave, Lbt 784 - 3 percent

Primary Election Results

Bill Perkins 12,931
William A. Allen 3,116
Willie Walker 1,717
Geoffrey G. Johnson 1,392
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

Incumbent:Bill Perkins

The Candidates:

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

Contributors to William Allen
Geoffrey Johnson has not filed.
Michelle McCleary has not filed.
Contributors to Bill Perkins
Contributors to Willie Walker

City's Official Primary Election Voter Guide for Residents of District 9

Campaign Feature:
[Campaign Update]

Will This Renaissance Last?

When former President Bill Clinton rented an office on 125th Street earlier this year, the idea was judged by most as sensible and politically shrewd. It was also seen as an official endorsement of what has been called the new Harlem Renaissance.

In Harlem, the gang wars, drug violence, and poverty of the past 30 years are no longer in the news. Crime is down, abandoned houses are being renovated, and corporations that once avoided urban neighborhoods have come to town. Yet beneath all the good news, there is still much about life in Harlem that could be improved.

New York City Council district 9, which includes central Harlem, Morningside Heights, and a sliver of the Upper West Side along Riverside Park, is still one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. The district has one of the lowest median incomes and almost half of the adults are not in the labor force.

"In a lot of respects, the recent media stories are on target because there are a lot of things going on in Harlem in terms of economic development," says Bill Perkins, who is running for a second term. "But beneath that glitter are some very challenging issues that sometimes go unnoticed."

The current campaign for district 9 provides the incumbent and two challengers (all of whom share variations of the same first name) with an opportunity to focus on these issues.

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


  • Black 48%
  • White 25%
  • Hispanic 22%
  • Asian 5%

Median income:$28,432 (Ranks 46th out of 51)

Unemployment rate: 12%

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

Running against Perkins are William Allen, a long-time community activist and district leader of the 70th Assembly District, and Willie Walker, a community organizer and director of special events at the Department of Health. Perkins is sometimes criticized for spending too much time at City Hall and not enough in the district, and Allen and Walker say they would pay more attention to constituent services.

A primary concern for all three candidates is public health, particularly the rising infant mortality rate. According to the Department of Health, Harlem's infant mortality rate nearly doubled between 1997 and 1999, to a rate of 15 deaths for every 1,000 births.

Perkins blames the rise in infant mortality at least in part on cuts in funding for Healthy Start, a federal program designed to help high-risk mothers care for their newborn infants.

"Infant mortality is not a problem that you can fight and then when you see success, walk away from," says Perkins. "The support has to be sustained."

To that end, Perkins recently joined Council Speaker Peter Vallone in getting five million dollars to improve access to prenatal care. Part of the strategy revolves around two mobile clinics that would target the areas with the highest infant mortality rates, block by block.

Asthma also affects the lives of an alarming number of central Harlem's residents, especially children. All three candidates agree with a growing number of public health advocates that a high concentration of bus depots, and the pollution they produce, may be to blame for the high rates of severe asthma.

Harlem also has one of the highest rates of new HIV infections in the country, with heterosexual black women joining gay and bisexual black men as the populations most at risk.

Walker says that if he is elected he will focus on health education and Harlem's HIV crisis. To do so he says he needs the help of local churches, who in his view, often focus too much on abstinence, rather than prevention in the African-American community.

"You are not going to stop a person from having sex," says Walker. "If you're in the business of saving lives, at least advertise that our people should use condoms."

Good times in Harlem have also brought controversy with its new residents and businesses. In Allen's view, the large corporations that are profiting from the economic mainstreaming of Harlem corporations like Disney, Starbucks, and The Gap -- are not doing enough to insure the long-term well being of residents.

"Disney's paychecks are not going to pay the rents we are seeing up here," says Allen. "The issue is not color. It is greed."

Inspired by the success of the federal Community Reinvestment Act, Allen proposes a voluntary program in which businesses operating in central Harlem would give five percent of their profits to non-profit groups in the neighborhood. He believes that businesses would see increased sales from consumers who would appreciate the commitment to the area. "It would also help circulate money in the community," he adds.

The desire on the part of Harlem residents for more control of the local economy is also visible in the struggle to promote more home ownership and to provide affordable rents. But those goals suffered two setbacks this year. First, former Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo's ambitious housing restoration program was revealed to be rife with fraud. Then, the Bush Administration recently rejected a proposal -- supported by Perkins and other Harlem leaders -- to salvage the program by administering it through reputable local organizations.

Meanwhile, Harlem rents are on the rise. "I think [Perkins] is out of touch with the new reality of displacement," says Allen, who is critical of the Perkins record on housing.

Perkins cites his record of pressuring the Housing Preservation Department to amend its Third Party Transfer Initiative. The initiative allows the city to transfer foreclosed properties to a new owner, forgives outstanding taxes on the property, and allows financing at low rates. Perkins was concerned that the program did not encourage co-op ownership. His amendment to the program, Perkins says, ensures residents, and not owners, benefit from third-party transfers.

In this year's election, Perkins clearly enjoys the benefit of being an incumbent and the recent improvements in Harlem. Perkins is also vying to become the next Council Speaker, the most powerful position in City Council. If elected Speaker, he would be the first African-American to hold the position.

"Harlem is a land of firsts," says Perkins, pointing out that other trailblazing black politicians, like Hulan Jack, the first black borough president, and David Dinkins, the city's first black mayor, also hailed from his district.

Allen, on the other hand, cites Harlem figures like Marcus Garvey, C.J. Walker, and Langston Hughes as his inspirations. The future of Harlem, argues Allen, lies not in the political establishment, but in building on its rich history and culture.

posted 6/21/01

Campaign Update:

The race for district 9 has two new challengers: Democratic candidate Geoffrey Johnson and Independence candidate Michelle McCleary. Neither could be reached for interviews. In an unusual strategy, Willie Walker will run in the September 11 primary as a Democrat and in the November general election as a Republican according to information from the Board of Elections.

Democratic candidate William Allen remains the most outspoken opponent of incumbent Councilmember Bill Perkins. Allen questions the ethics of Perkins receiving 11 donations from Board of Elections employees, where Perkins used to work and where his wife, Pamela Perkins, presently works as the agency's contracting officer. "His contributors include a lot of city agency people who do business with his office," said Allen. Allen also pointed to a recent article in Newsday that stated that Perkin's wife made over $49,000 in overtime last year on top of her base salary of $64,717 as a potential conflict of interest.

Perkins said the issue of the overtime pay was between his wife and the Board of Elections ("Frankly, she bailed them out of a tough situation," Perkins said; she worked the extra hours on the endlessly inconclusive Krueger-Goodman race for state senate.) He said the contributions from election employees (which were all under $150) was not an issue. "People who work for the city are allowed to give campaign contributions and if there is a illegal conflict of interest, I'm confident the Campaign Finance Board will identify it," said Perkins in response.

Allen also said Perkins has paid too much to his pest committee. "All I hear about is rats, when the Housing and Preservation Department Budget has been cut so they can't do proper inspections," said Allen. "To just say `rats' is to overlook what causes the problems."

"My record speaks to the needs of my district," said Perkins. "Affordable housing, senior citizens, and five million dollars for people with AIDS. That's what I want to focus on."

Posted 7/24/01

Candidate Biographies

William A. Allen is district leader of the 70th Assembly District and the director of community development at Promesa, a non-profit that works on housing, economic development, neighborhood issues in the South Bronx. He is also the founder of Greater Harlem Coalition for Community Ownership and Greater Harlem Policy Institute. In 1980, he was elected as the youngest member of the Board of Education at age 18 and is a former member of Community Board 10. He has a BA from CUNY and is finishing a masters degree in City and Regional Planning at the Pratt Institute.

Michelle McCleary (no information available.)

Geoffrey Johnson (no information available.)

Bill Perkins is currently the City Council representative for district 9 in northern Manhattan. He serves on the several committees, including land use, contracts, general welfare, higher education, and youth services, and pest control. He is also the chairman of the Lincoln Correctional facility advisory board and a member of the executive committee of the New York County NAACP and a former member of Community Board 11. He has served as a community specialist with the New York City Department of Corrections; a youth services specialist with the New York City Youth Services Agency; deputy chief clerk with the New York City Board of Elections and Staff Analyst for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. He graduated from Brown University.

Willie Walker is the director of special events for the City Department of Health and is the former chairman of community board 10 in Harlem.

Campaign Trail

Over the past few years, a cottage industry of hostels, bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses, many in brownstones built more than a century ago, has sprung up, reflecting the growing number of visitors to a revitalized Harlem. Run by both newcomers and old-timers, the homes cater to backpackers on a budget, to professionals or artists in the city for work, or to tourists seeking to soak up Harlem's storied history and culture. And now it appears that Harlem is about to get a hotel -- or more than one. (New York Times)

In some Harlem circles, there is an unpopular but growing sentiment that Justin Volpe's crime (against Abner Louima)-- no matter how despicable -- was not about race. On Tuesday, the Rev. Betty Neal and the Ministers of Harlem USA will hold a town hall meeting in Harlem to discuss among other topics, "Did Justin Volpe Receive Justice?" "I'm not happy about the rally and I don't agree with Rev. Betty on this one, but I will attend next week," said William Allen, a district leader who lives on 116th St. and will be challenging Bill Perkins for the 9th District City Council seat. "She raises some questions that I would like to hear the answers to. Maybe there's some aspect of the case that needs to be revisited." (NY Daily News)

How do you kill New York's notorious "super rats?" With a super agency, of course. After months of hearings, field trips and a special conference on New York's growing rat problem, a City Council committee has decided that the best way to conquer the rats is to create a new umbrella agency - a permanent government body that will outlive mayoral task forces and short-lived rat emergencies. Councilman Bill Perkins, who heads the Select Committee on Pest Control, said there is not enough communication and cooperation among city agencies. "It's embarrassing for the Giuliani administration to admit to a rat crisis," Perkins said. "When you have a West Nile virus crisis, it's sort of God's fault. A rat epidemic is our fault." (Houston Chronicle)

At least three current Council members are vying to be the new Speaker: Bill Perkins, Gifford Miller, and Angel Rodriguez. A fourth, Adolfo Carrion, says he'll be in the running for Speaker if he does not run for Bronx Borough President. (NY Post)

City Councilmen Bill Perkins attributed the increases in infant mortality in central, at least in part, to a funding reduction in the late 1990's in those neighborhoods for a widely acclaimed federal program known as Healthy Start. At that time, the federal government increased the number of Healthy Start locations, but did not increase the program's funding proportionately. (New York Times)

Councilman Perkins said many Harlem residents have mixed feelings about Harlem U.S.A. ''Obviously, folks appreciate the convenience of being able to shop in their neighborhood, as opposed to having to travel downtown,'' Mr. Perkins said. But he said that many entrepreneurs who had stuck it out in Harlem when times were hard now felt they were being left out. ''They feel that now that resources are available,'' he said, ''they're not experiencing the good times.'' (Amsterdam News)

Bill Perkins on the rat problem in New York City. (Gotham Gazette)

At the Apollo debate for Democratic Presidential candidates, William Allen asked Gore and Bradley what they thought of the fact that only six percent of Harlem's residents own their own homes. Allen did not expect Gore or Bradley to offer any solutions at the debate, and he had a larger audience in mind. "Homeownership is a primal part of the American dream," said Allen. "And when black people feel they cannot reach a part of the American dream, then we're all in trouble." (New York Magazine)

Friends, supporters, political allies and the curious converged on the home of newly elected William Allen, Democratic district leader of the 70th Assembly District. This was not a contingence of the "old guard," comprised of young entrepreneurs, financiers, and those with strong political ambitions. It was a delightful afternoon and Harlem's future political movers and shakers and community spearheads met to support one another with encouraging words and camaraderie. Allen is touted as being "A leader then, a leader now," as his political career began in the late 1970's when he was anointed one of the youngest Board of Education officials. (New York Amsterdam News)

A proposal to build a $160 million shopping center in East Harlem to be anchored by Home Depot and Costco superstores cleared its final hurdle when the City Council approved it by a vote of 44 to 0. (New York Times)


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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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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