NYC Issues 2001

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are we?


Staying Safe

By Julia Vitullo-Martin

American cities are doing well these days. And no city is doing better than New York, which has returned to its historic position at the top of the world food chain. The reasons are many, but high up in any mix of causes sits the new reality of the city's being safe. As Columbia University history professor Kenneth T. Jackson wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed: "The single greatest catalyst to inner-city revitalization has been a sharp decline in crime."


During Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's eight years in office, overall violent crime has gone down 63 percent. Homicide is down 70 percent. Nobody is likely to become the next mayor of New York by running to the left of Rudolph Giuliani on crime. This poses no problem for Republicans, but a serious dilemma for the four contenders who are liberal Democrats--Public Advocate Mark Green, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. As James Traub noted in The New York Times Magazine in early February, these four "are all longtime officeholders and all, to varying degrees, priests of the old religion upon which Giuliani has wreaked devastation."

The Democrats, however, are not without their own resources. Mark Green released the first salvo, and it was a good one. He announced that if elected he would appoint Giuliani's former police commissioner, William Bratton, as his own police commissioner. Since Bratton spent two successful years corralling crime only to be unceremoniously let go by Mayor Giuliani in 1996, this allows Green to position himself as the Ur-Giuliani on crime policy, but as the un-Giuliani personality-wise.

Similarly, City Comptroller Hevesi has been willing to credit both the city's tourism boom and its higher education boom to Giuliani's successful fight on crime. When Hevesi announced his candidacy on March 20, he refused to distance himself form the mayor on policy issues: "Mayor Rudy Giuliani hasn't given us a perfect city, but in large part--not for everyone yet and not everywhere--our city is going in the right direction." He said he would not "pander" or make "phony promises that sound good today but would destroy the long-term future of the city."

What's more, Hevesi even had his own phantom Bratton in the crowd--Jerry Hauer, the former head of Giuliani's Office of Emergency Management, and current head of the Crisis and Consequence Management Group of Kroll Associates, the international security firm. In November 2000 Kroll Associates signed an agreement with Bratton, now head of a small management firm, to provide Hauer's division with consulting services. Hauer called Hevesi "head and shoulders above the rest," according to the New York Post.

Hevesi didn't maintain his uneasy truce with the mayor for long. In a television commercial entitled "Commander" he said, "We need zero tolerance for police abuse. That's why, as mayor, I'll hold police commanders responsible for reducing crime and police misconduct." He also said "I'll stop profiling." A furious Giuliani called "the whole thing a terrible insult to the police department."

To the astonishment of many, City Council Speaker Vallone has worked successfully with the prickly mayor over the last eight years. Vallone chose from the start of his campaign to continue his conciliatory posture. When asked by the Daily News, along with the other three Democrats, whether he would re-appoint current Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Vallone said Kerik would "absolutely" be on his short list if elected.

But Vallone is no wimp. He told the AP wire service that Giuliani has "done a really good job in fighting crime and managing the city, but we've got to make sure that every mother in the city can run to a police officer with open arms instead of running away from them." Invoking motherhood is always good, but in this context it's downright inspired.

Only Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer is striking out into new territory--or perhaps he is simply returning to what Traub calls the old religion.


Ferrer is the only candidate willing to run a racially charged campaign--trying to stake out a Latino-black coalition in this race, much as he tried for a Latino-white coalition in his unsuccessful 1997 mayoral campaign.

Ferrer is said to speak for those New Yorkers who want the city to be taken in a bold new direction. He distinguishes two New Yorks: "the one we see on television and read about, in which hotels are full and tourism is up and squeegee men are off the street; and the other New York, with parents deeply concerned about failing schools attended overwhelmingly by black and Latino children."

In this other New York, argues Ferrer, "communities want to bring crime down but also to end the indignities of racial profiling. They want to ensure that the divide of distrust between the police and the communities they serve that has widened under Mayor Giuliani is repaired."

Ferrer argues that "what progress we've made over last the last eight years has come at a tremendous price. Millions of New Yorkers feel shut out and shut down by the Giuliani administration."

If millions of New Yorkers agree with Ferrer--and if they vote--he will be in the race. The city is certainly racially divided on the subject of Giuliani. A March Quinnipiac University poll found 70 percent of white New Yorkers but only 26 percent of black New Yorkers approve of Giuliani.

But is the city also racially split on substantive issues? This is not clear. Cooper Union Professor Fred Siegel says that the division Ferrer is talking about "comes and goes with incidents and how they're publicized. This division is not deeply embedded for most of the city. There's been no terrible incident in awhile, so the polls show Commissioner Kerik doing a fabulous job. Are the police policing differently? I don't think so. Now that Giuliani is a lame duck, people have little interest in pushing these issues."

Siegel also raises the problem of the primary, to be held in September, versus the election, to be held in November. Ferrer "is talking to people with grievances," he says, "which may make sense for the primary. But he's digging himself into a hole, which will make it very hard for him to govern if he's elected."

White New Yorkers remain the largest voting group. In the Democratic primary, blacks and Latinos together will probably be just over 45 percent of the vote. The polls showed Green as an early leader--and Ferrer lagging--because Green got substantial numbers of white voters while also attracting two of five black voters.

Is Ferrer worried about lagging? Spokesman John Del Cecato says, "These issues are very personal to him. He's not running for mayor just to have a new place to live and a bigger office. This is a crusade for him. There needs to be someone who can speak in a personal way for those New Yorkers who have been shut out." Underlying these words is the assumption that Guiliani's aggressive policing tactics in part produced this (presumably large) group of shut-out New Yorkers.


There's no doubt that crime in New York has been plummeting, and that policing has become more aggressive--starting in 1991, when Mayor David Dinkins used an income tax surcharge to increase the size of the force. What is controversial, however, is why crime has come down. Conservatives tend to credit policing and mayoral sternness toward quality-of-life offenses. Liberals prefer to credit a whole host of factors--the economy, demographics, incarceration, the end of the crack epidemic, even higher education. Liberals also like to note that many major cities--Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles--experienced a New-York-style decline in crime during the 1990s. So what is the big deal here?

What Bratton did as commissioner--and the reason that his name will indeed go down in police history--is create a technically advanced computer system that allowed the department to track crime fairly precisely. CompStat, which stands for computer-generated comparative statistics, pin-pointed crimes geographically and, just as important, made the data accessible to headquarters as well as to the precincts. This meant the commissioner could bring commanding officers to heel, particularly those officiating over the now clearly demarcated high-crime areas.

In their book on the history of the police department, James Lardner and Thomas Repetto give a vivid description of how this worked: "Prior to Bratton, the crime numbers had often been months behind. Now they came out weekly. At intervals of four to six weeks, an entire police borough command, led by the two-star chief in charge along with his inspectors, captains, and other key players, and accompanied by commanding officers of special units in the area such as detectives and narcotics, would be assembled in the command center, or 'war room' on the eighth floor of One Police Plaza. Meetings would convene at 7:00 a.m.--not an hour of great activity at headquarters in years gone by. Commanders would be questioned on the crime conditions in their particular areas of jurisdiction. In the room long tables, lit by green lamps, were set up in a horseshoe, facing a lectern. A high-tech console flashed maps and graphs on overhead video screens. Commanders were called to the rostrum to make their presentation, then grilled with frequent reference to the map. Crime by crime, sector by sector, a precinct would be scoured by laser pointer."

Knowing that one's neighborhood is being scoured crime by crime, sector by sector, can warm the citizen's heart along with the commissioner's. CompStat represented a management revolution--calling the entire police department, from commanders down, to precise account for their ability to fight crime.

But CompStat was only part of the revolution. The other part was Giuliani's obsession: quality-of-life crimes. Giuliani believes in the "broken window theory" developed by Harvard academics James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, who in the 1980s argued persuasively that neighborhoods that neglected minor things like broken windows and graffiti set up a conducive environment for more serious crime. Both Giuliani and Bratton were convinced that if you halted the minor stuff, you would keep the major stuff at bay.

Bratton's experience as head of the transit cops served him well as commissioner of the entire police department. He encouraged cops to crack down on turnstile jumping and panhandling, based on the belief that jumpers and panhandlers were also committing serious crimes. Indeed, when the newly computerized police department started running checks on turnstile jumpers, they found they had often arrested on a minor charge someone wanted on major charges.


So what's wrong with the Giuliani-Bratton revolution?

Liberals make two arguments. First, argue some criminologists, such as Andrew Karmen at John Jay College, policing was merely one of many factors that brought crime down. Second, say politicians such as Freddy Ferrer, the fight against crime extracted too high a price from minority communities.

In his book, New York Murder Mystery, Karmen analyzes what caused the murder rate to fall, and concludes that it was not due primarily to CompStat, in part because the murder rate began falling before CompStat. Also, in cities with very different policing strategies like San Diego, the murder rate fell even faster than here. Rather, a number of trends--productive immigration, favorable demographics, the waning of the crack epidemic, low-cost higher education, and an increased death rate--came together effectively with aggressive policing.

Violent crime tends to be a young male activity. The number of poor black and Latino young males, says Karmen, fell significantly during the 1990s--and the crucial cohort of 20-to-24-year-olds fell 19 percent. (Some dispute this drop.) At the same time, death through drug overdoses, AIDS among intravenous drug users, and homicides plus the deportation of some criminal aliens eliminated about 43,000 lawbreakers. There were simply fewer criminals on the streets of New York.

This distressing picture is lightened somewhat by another Karmen argument: New Yorkers, including low-income blacks and Latinos, are more likely to have attended and finished college than minority residents of other cities. He argues that the city's investment in public universities has paid off in reduced crime.

His proposals to the next mayor are simple. First, using heavy-duty statistical programs, find out what is really behind the decline in crime and respond accordingly. (He would like to see a neutral blue ribbon commission appointed.) Second, continue to invest in higher education, including community colleges and training programs.

If Karmen is right that policing was not the major factor driving crime reduction then the other liberal argument--Ferrer's point that the price was too high--may look stronger.


Let's get one thing out of the way: The candidates (you can insert the Republicans here as well) pretty much agree with Giuliani's quality-of-life strategies. As James Traub noted in the New York Times, Hevesi cites his "100 percent voting record from the A.C.L.U.," but says he never saw aggressive panhandling in civil liberties terms anyway. Ferrer, says Traub, calls himself "an early adherent" of the widely publicized theories that underpinned the mayor's crusade against street crime. And while all four candidates favor some kind of community policing to replace Giuliani's hard-line tactics, Traub writes: "you have to wonder what will happen if crime starts to inch back up."

Yet the quality-of-life campaign was inextricably woven into the aggressive policing tactics that liberals, particularly Ferrer, deplore. Under Bratton, cops did not wait for a crime to happen. Bratton's strategy was to get guns off the street, crack down on minor offenses like public drinking or fare beating, and police "proactively," to use his term. If cops thought someone had a gun, or drugs, or was involved in some crime, including a quality-of-life offense, they stopped and searched the person. Most of those stopped were young black or Latino males. It was under an extension of this strategy that four undercover cops in the Street Crime Unit shot the unarmed Amadou Diallo in February 1999.

In 1999, of course, Bratton was no longer commissioner--Howard Safir was. And while Safir maintained Bratton's strategy, he modified some crucial operational details. For one thing, he quadrupled the size of the Street Crime Unit over the opposition of its commander, Richard Savage. Savage complained that the street cops no longer knew one another well enough to work together effectively, and that the newest cops lacked training. As David Lefer told the story in the Daily News, the result was disastrous. The number of felony weapons arrests per officer--a crucial measure--fell by half, warning the department that something was wrong.

As Lefer wrote in late 1999, "With new officers heavily outnumbering seasoned ones, teamings of inexperienced officers became common, and they typically worked in a different part of the city every night." On the day Amadou Diallo was shot, says Lefer, a shortage of cars forced four new cops to team up. None knew the area or one another. We all know the tragic result.

Perhaps not sure what else to do, the federal government opened an investigation into racial profiling by the police--prompting Giuliani to say in October of last year that yes, of course, the police stop and frisk black and Latino men at a rate that far exceeds their share of the population. Minority men are most often identified as suspects by victims, he said, and he added that abandoning this tactic would quickly translate into a surge in murders, rapes and robberies.

His one concession, in response to another federal investigation of the department, was to propose that the system of handling complaints of brutality and misconduct should be revamped.

At the time City Council speaker Vallone said, "If you are criticizing the police force for doing its job, it is absurd and it is ridiculous. Police are supposed to catch criminals. That is what they are out there to do. But I have been out there, and I have been to many community meetings, and I have seen people who are not guilty of any crime who are complaining about being stopped, and that is wrong." On this issue of racial profiling, the Democrats present a unified front of opposition. Because any Republican candidate will be likely to support proactive policing, this will almost surely become an issue in the general election.

As the candidates ponder their positions on these troubling issues, they would do well to remember Fred Siegel's warning that intemperate positions in the campaign can affect a mayor's ability to govern later. Tom Repetto begins his book with a quote from Robert F. Wagner, the city's mayor from 1954 to 1965: "When I go to bed at night, I say a special prayer for the safety of the city. Then I say another special prayer of thanks that nothing bad happened in the police department."

Our next mayor will be the man who convinces New Yorkers that he will keep their city safe--and that he will oversee a police department that has the sensitivity to treat New Yorkers respectfully and the toughness to fight crime successfully.

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

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

Districts of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

Voter Registration Forms
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Board of Elections
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Poll Worker Applications

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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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