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?



By Bruce Schaller

The foremost transportation issue is whether transportation will surface as an issue in the fall campaign.

Voters seem receptive. After education and public safety, transportation is one of the public's top concerns, according to an August 2000 public opinion survey conducted for the City Council. When politicians meet with constituents, and when New Yorkers gather for focus group researchers, city residents talk about the stress of crowded commutes, jammed sidewalks and congested traffic. These problems are a constant annoyance of daily life.

Rudy Giuliani tended not to focus on transportation issues during his eight years as mayor. But in two ways, his legacy creates a more favorable climate for this year's candidates to raise transportation issues. First, Giuliani heightened public awareness that attacking the "little" everyday irritants can make a big difference to quality of life in the city. Remember the squeegee men?

Second, Giuliani challenged the city to rethink its assumptions. He shattered conventional wisdom that, for example, protected able-bodied welfare recipients from having to work.

Thus, the next mayor will be able to give a fresh look at transportation.

Some of the candidates seem to be ready. Mark Green and Peter Vallone have both focused on subway overcrowding recently, Green calling it the "last great quality of life issue in the city right now."

Only a fraction of transportation is under the mayor's direct control. Therefore, we divide transportation issues into two groups: mayoral issues, and those where he must use the mayor's bully pulpit more than direct orders to get the job done.

Mayoral Issues

Imagining the city
Big box zoning, housing development, new sports stadiums, west side development. These major development issues can be proposed and discussed for a remarkably long time before elected officials focus on how folks would actually get to them. Will the candidates make transportation considerations a key part of their planning, or leave them as an afterthought? Do they envision a city built for transit, or for the automobile? Do their stands on development issues form a coherent whole when set beside their ambitions for transportation and transit development?

City funding for transit
Subways and buses are the backbone of the city's transportation system but the city's financial contributions were severely reduced over the past decade. The new mayor will be hard-pressed to use the mayoral megaphone to ask the state and federal governments for financial assistance unless the city steps up to the plate too. Are the candidates willing to commit increased city funds to the transit system?

Traffic safety and pedestrian improvements
Three hundred and eighty four New Yorkers died in 1999 in traffic crashes, including 186 pedestrians and 27 bicyclists. While Queens Boulevard, one of the city's most dangerous roads, has attracted keen attention in recent months, it is not the only dangerous arterial. How do the candidates feel about tradeoffs between traffic speeds and pedestrian safety? Are they willing to slow the traffic on arterials, widen sidewalks in business districts, erect traffic calming speed bumps and dead-ends on residential streets, to make the city a friendlier and safer place to walk? Or do they feel that commuters zooming to work or play is a more important aspect of quality of life or economic vitality? Can they propose creative solutions that prevent this from being an either/or choice? Do they consider Giuliani's pedestrian fences in Midtown Manhattan a creative solution?
Links: Transportation Alternatives on Herald Square and Times Square pedestrian improvements

Bus lanes
Los Angeles has successfully implemented bus priority lanes on two major thoroughfares. Traffic signals were adjusted to give priority to buses running behind schedule, the spacing between bus stops was increased, and low-floor buses were put on these routes. Bus speeds increased by 26 percent and ridership zoomed 30 percent.

L.A.'s program can't be transplanted directly to the crowded grid system of Manhattan. But the existing bus lanes on the East Side could work vastly better with increased enforcement, physical separation of traffic and other steps. These steps cost money and engender local opposition. Where do the candidates stand?

Value pricing of road capacity
Among the city's most valuable but overlooked assets are its streets, roads and bridges. For the most part, anyone can use these resources either for free or by slipping a few quarters into a meter. Not surprisingly, the streets are congested, the bridges backed up and on-street parking is impossible to find. Citizens and businesses do pay a hefty price -- not to the city, but in time spent unproductively in traffic or looking for parking.

The city sensibly has begun to try to allocate its scarce resources through up-front pricing rather than (barely) hidden search and delay costs. The Department of Transportation has set up a special metering program in Midtown for trucks making deliveries. This is only the beginning of what could be done for commercial and other vehicles. Do candidates think it makes sense to give New Yorkers the option to pay money to save time to use public streets, roads and bridges? Would the candidates aggressively evaluate and refine the truck delivery metering program to ensure its success? Would they apply it elsewhere in the city? Would they crack down on merchants who hog valuable metered parking by feeding the meter all day? And the ultimate tolling issue: do they favor some type of tolls on East River bridges?

Car-free parks
This is another area of tradeoff between leisurely enjoyment and motorist needs. Pedestrian groups have long pushed for Central and Prospect Parks to be car-free, not just on weekends and off-hours, the way they are now, butthroughout the day. Would the candidates support this change? Where do they stand with the tradeoffs among quiet parks, motorist inconvenience and more traffic on streets just outside the parks?
Links: Transportation Alternative campaigns for car-free parks

Oversize trucks
The big rigs present efficiency gains for business but noise and pollution for residents. How do candidates feel about this tradeoff between local and citywide needs?

Franchise buses
While the mayor doesn't control the MTA, he does oversee the seventh-largest local bus operation in the country, the private bus lines that serve much of Queens and portions of the Bronx and Brooklyn. A decade ago the new City Charter set up a process to re-franchise these services. Enmeshed in a complex Charter process and even more Byzantine politics, the decades-old franchises have been repeatedly extended. Meanwhile, service has deteriorated, beset by old buses with a penchant for breakdowns and unable to handle surging ridership. Are the mayoral candidates committed to tackling this difficult and thorny issue?

Commuter vans
Another hot potato stuck in a political quagmire. Mayor Giuliani wanted to license dozens more commuter vans, most for outer-borough services. Spurred by their union supporters, the City Council resisted. In the tradeoff between supporting public transit and their unions vs. private enterprise and commuters anxious for a quicker trip to work, where do the candidates stand? Do commuter vans enhance the transportation system by providing additional and speedier travel options, or detract by draining riders from MTA buses and clogging the streets? With an influx of new Council members, will the next mayor focus on bringing movement to this issue?

Taxi medallions
The number of taxicabs has increased by a mere 400 since the Great Depression. Black cars and neighborhood car services fill the transportation needs left unmet by restrictions on the number of cabs, and now outnumber taxicabs even in Manhattan. Yet these newer services operate less efficiently and present a greater risk to the public for traffic crashes. Would the candidates rationalize taxi policy by expanding the number of medallion taxis?
Links: Declines in taxi service availability

Mayoral Bully Pulpit Issues

State funding of transit and highways
The state has cut back its funding of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's capital program. The city receives only 23 percent of state highway and bridge funding. Would the candidates allocate a portion of their limited influence in Albany on behalf of transportation needs?

Transit service configuration
Giuliani showed how powerful a mayor can be when focused on the daily operations of nominally independent entities such as the Board of Education. Will the new mayor use his platform to put transit changes under the public microscope? When the MTA dusts off a 10-year-old subway service plan that reduces G train service, and critics charge that changing neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint will be shortchanged, where do the candidates stand? Will improved commuter rail service in Queens and the Bronx be on the next mayor's agenda?
Links: Straphangers Campaign to Save the G

Big MTA projects
Giuliani made sure that the MTA's next capital program included funding for a rail link to LaGuardia and pushed plans to extend the 7 line to the Javits Center. What are the candidates' priorities for the big MTA capital projects? Where does a Second Avenue subway rank in relationship to a rail to LaGuardia, linking the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal and West Side extensions? How do these priorities support candidates' land use and economic development positions?
Links: MTA Capital Program; MTA East Side Access Project; Regional Plan Association's MetroLink proposals

Cross-harbor tunnel
The Giuliani Administration commissioned a large study to determine the costs and feasibility of building a freight tunnel across the New York harbor and recently hired consultants to compile an environmental impact statement. The cost: $2.3 billion over 6-8 years. A tunnel would relieve ever-growing truck traffic congestion and reduce diesel emissions. Critics fault the proposal as a futile and costly attempt to turn the clock back to railroads, and point to lack of rail freight infrastructure on the Brooklyn waterfront. Observers believe that the Port Authority is the logical agency to fund and build the tunnel. Would the next mayor pursue this ambitious construction project?

Other Port Authority projects
The other big pot of money is held by the Port Authority. How do the candidates think the Port should spend its capital money? Do they think the city is shortchanged in that process? Do they favor building such long-stalled projects as the Goethals twin bridge between Staten Island and New Jersey? What are their views on port development along the Brooklyn waterfront? Do they see airport investments, including upgrading of disgracefully inadequate freight facilities, or a one-seat ride to JFK, as a priority?

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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
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY

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Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

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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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