NYC Issues 2001

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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?


NYC Issues 2001: Arts and Culture

By Norma Munn

There are four arts and cultural issues which the next mayor and City Council must address if they want New York City to remain a national and international center for arts and culture.

  1. Commit to a cultural policy that provides equitable and significantly increased resources from both the expense and the capital budgets
  2. Restructure the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA)
  3. Sustain the increased funding for arts programs in the public schools
  4. Address the severe and growing real estate problems of non-profit arts organizations and individual artists


The arts and cultural industry is a complex ecosystem, characterized by great diversity and an extreme concentration of organizations in a small portion of Manhattan. Like all ecosystems, there is a great degree of interdependence. Arts disciplines and artists feed on one another in creative ways that are essential to the vitality of the city -- not merely in the fine arts, but in advertising, publishing, fashion, technology and design. Failures in one part of this ecosystem eventually ripple through the entire community.

The role of arts and culture in the New York City of the 21st century is more important than ever. Artists offer fresh ideas to old challenges. Doing art encourages thinking outside the box, an essential in the constantly changing, fast moving environment of this city. Art also provides forums for the civil discussion of disquieting, even frightening, issues such as AIDs, racial and ethnic tensions, gender and age discrimination.


This year's budget provides $134 million for the Department of Cultural Affairs from the expense budget and just over $200 million in the capital budget. That seems like a lot of money, but the Independent Budget Office calculated that in fiscal year 2000 the city spent on a per capita basis $41.75 for parks, $30.26 for libraries, and only $17.54 on culture. The modest increase in the current budget will not significantly change the per capita amount for culture.

The next administration, in cooperation with the City Council, should set a goal of at least $35 per capita for culture within the next four years. Without an adequate investment of resources, the city cannot expect to provide real access to the arts for all New Yorkers, nor can it nurture and sustain the concentration of arts groups and artists required to maintain New Yorks reputation as a cultural center. In addition, the city must use new resources more equitably. Increased dollars, if used as in the past, will not accomplish the changes needed, and indeed would probably be condemned.


The city currently has a cultural policy only by default. It funds almost the same list of arts groups within the expense budget as it did 12 years ago when the Board of Estimate ceased. The actual dollar amounts have increased, but in relation to the city budget, cultural funding is smaller than in the mid-1980's. The Dept. of Cultural Affairs is also smaller, but the diminished staff is expected to process more contracts.

The Department of Cultural Affairs should be viewed both as an economic development agency and one charged with protecting and expanding the cultural heritage of the city. Economic development in the arts is about jobs and the economy of the arts; not cultural tourism, which is far less important than the direct economic benefits from arts and culture. One has only to think of how the entertainment industry draws its actors, singers, choreographers, directors, playwrights, lyricists, set designers, stage and technical personnel, from the farm system we call Off and Off Off Broadway, to realize that this ecosystem spreads far beyond the non-profit arts. Popular entertainment could not exist without the training provided in the non-profit arts.

As the primary vehicle for delivering the city's resources to the cultural field, the Department of Cultural Affairs cannot and does not provide what the arts need, nor what the tax payer deserves. The fault lies directly with the mayor. The agency should be restructured to provide the following:

  • multi year contracts so stable planning can take place
  • general operating support, which also stabilizes budgeting by cultural groups
  • competitive decisions about funding based on quality of art and service to the community
  • fellowships for individual artists
  • access to project support for newer groups
  • equitable funding across boroughs, racial and ethnic lines, disciplines and size
  • support for experimental initiatives
  • endowment funds on a matching basis for mid-sized groups


One genuine legacy of the Giuliani administration is the increased funding provided for arts programs in the schools. After nearly two decades of scrounging for private sector money to do this work largely without government support, cultural groups welcomed the new funds.

The new funds require significant matching dollars and extensive resources that many smaller cultural groups have found difficult. There is also still not enough money. Simmering behind the scenes are long standing differences about whether this is a new employment opportunity for teachers or arts program money. Since teachers are leaving the system and there are few, if any, in training that chose arts as the subject to teach, this issue is not likely to become a major battleground any time soon.

The greatest anxiety comes from the insecurity surrounding the funds. Providing good arts education is not easy, and the cultural groups that do so want a clear sense that this is an ongoing commitment. Arts groups know what it took for them to put arts back into the public schools when the city eliminated these programs in 1975 as unnecessary to a proper education.

This initiative is identified with Mayor Giuliani. The cultural community wants a promise from the next mayor that the arts education dollars will not fall victim to the political game of disparaging and/or eliminating the programs of one's predecessors, as well as additional funds clearly designated for arts education.


The cultural industry is not alone in its real estate problems. However, exploding prices are hitting the extraordinary concentration of non-profit arts groups in midtown and lower portions of Manhattan especially hard. An unpublished analysis by Cultural Affairs and the New York Foundation for the Arts shows that nearly 60 percent of the arts groups rent their space. In Manhattan 79 percent of those leases expire in the next four years with the largest number over the next 18 months.

Moving out of Manhattan may be one solution and the City Council's plans to support the creation of cultural districts outside of Manhattan is one way of addressing this issue. However, when an arts group relocates, it must re-establish its audience. That takes several years during which it will have considerably less income. Earned income may be as much as 60 percent of some groups' budget. Increased funding is essential in those circumstances.

Other ideas include tax breaks for landlords who rent at below market prices to the non-profit arts. (Clearly this could, and should, be available to all non-profits.)

Individual artists are the backbone of the arts. The crisis in low and moderate priced housing is as acute for them as it is for many others. However, artists who once were almost forced to move to New York City can now look to other cities for employment and challenges not available even a decade ago. Again, if the City wants a thriving arts industry, it must recognize that talented individuals with modest incomes are essential. So is their housing.

Both the housing problem and the office/performing space problems must be faced by government. The arts industry is a major force within the city, but it cannot solve the real estate problems. Innovative, serious and fast action are needed from the city's elected representatives. Time is running out.

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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.

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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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