NYC Issues 2001

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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?


NYC Issues 2001: Waterfront
Sea Change on the Waterfront

By Peter Fleischer

The nation's history unfolded on New York's waterfront, but its glory is not just in the past. New York City remains the nation's most important port, home to surfers, striped bass, harbor herons, kayaks, garbage scows, yachts and the Queen Elizabeth II. And in many neighborhoods in New York, the waterfront is now home to the community's dreams. And dreams for the future are something that no public official should take lightly.


New York exists as a city because of its harbor. For centuries, shipping, trade and finance have placed New York among the world's great cities. Today, hundreds of thousands of jobs in three states are directly linked to the port. Urban diversity is enhanced by the variety of goods readily imported to this cosmopolitan market. Goods are less expensive because they come here rather than being transshipped from another port. Preserving the viability and relevance of the port must remain high on the agenda of the next mayor as well as the City Council.

There are three key issues -- dredging, the rail harbor tunnel and relations with the Port Authority.

The silting up of a waterway is a natural process that requires human intervention if navigation is to continue. In recent years, dredging has become problematic in this harbor because of interstate rivalries, toxic substances embedded in the muck, and the lack of adequate, safe facilities in which to place the dredged materials. Competing harbors from Canada to Virginia see opportunity in New York's paralysis. Among the ideas under consideration, though there are community concerns as well as scientific and technical issues still to be addressed, is a "capped" facility amidst the derelict piers of the Brooklyn Army Terminal.

Harbor Tunnel
Though Mayor Rudy Giuliani's best-known construction projects have to deal with real or imagined stadiums, his most far-reaching proposal is the construction of a tunnel to move rail freight under the harbor from New Jersey or Staten Island to Brooklyn. This idea, whose two billion dollar cost might largely be paid by private sources, would save New Yorkers money and time in several ways. Most importantly, it would result in a substantial decrease in heavy trucks on critical roadways. This would be a boon to travel times and help delay roadway deterioration. With more goods being moved by rail, the cost of goods region-wide might decrease since shipping by truck would cease to be a virtual monopoly. A rail tunnel would also serve to increase the port's capacity and flexibility.

Port Authority
Mayor Giuliani's war with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey continues. And it is good that it does. The Port Authority has historically favored New Jersey. Does the Port Authority matter to New York City? Absolutely. It has a substantial capital budget that can be used to advance needed projects throughout the region. It currently controls the port, the three airports, key bridges and tunnels, key ferry routes and real estate. Jobs, prestige, and economic development are at stake.

Unfortunately, New York's mayor and City Council have no direct say in the Port Authority's affairs. Its board is controlled 50-50 by the governors of the two states. The next mayor would be wise to seek a greater hand in the Port Authority's activities, first by working with New York's governor and second by reaching an accommodation with New Jersey's new leadership.


In 1970, the Clean Water Act mandated that localities treat their effluent before releasing it into nearby rivers, bays and estuaries. Consequently, over a thirty-year period, the water in New York harbor has gone from dirty and dangerous to cleaner and, in some spots, swimmable. That improvement, (measurable in scientific terms like transparency, dissolved oxygen, and coliform levels) has allowed for a resurgent environment. Fish of numerous species have made comebacks. Striped bass, shad and blue crabs proliferate. Egrets, heron, peregrine falcon, and osprey soar once again above New York's waters because the fish, their prey, are back.

This ecosystem improvement, coupled with reduction in industrial pollution, has opened much of the waterfront to more natural uses. Nevertheless, in a heavily used and dense city, the waterfront continues to be at risk. In Jamaica Bay, residents and the bay itself face the twin threats of severe and unprecedented salt marsh loss and the prospect of mud dumping by the Army Corps of Engineers into the Bay's deep channels. Jamaica Bay's highly productive marshes now provide refuge for hundreds of species of birds and numerous varieties of fish. Marsh, once lost, is extremely hard and expensive to restore. The marshes that exist today are a small portion of what once existed in the New York area.

Preserving water quality, saving marshes, wetlands and coastal open space are critical components of the city's quality-of-life. Giuliani's quality-of-life drive made the streets of the city safer. The next mayor must focus on the waters that surround the city's streets.


Thanks to the cleaner water, the waterways have seen a resurgence in waterborne tourism and recreation. Surfers, kayakers, fishermen, and jet-skiers can today be found along the shores of all five-boroughs. There is a vast army of citizens who recreate on and near the waters.

Neighborhood groups are retaking their waterfronts, revitalizing them and using them to access the water. Community groups in the South Bronx have joined forces to clean up the legendarily destitute Bronx River. Today, local teenagers learn to canoe on the meandering stream that is the Bronx River -- a scenic route that can easily be confused for an Adirondack or Berkshire watercourse.

On the Hudson River, several boathouses have been established. Scores of volunteers at the Downtown Boathouse have provided over 20,000 free kayak trips in the last three years. Floating the Apple teaches students boat-building skills and rowing techniques. Its growing fleet of historic recreation vessels can be seen throughout the harbor. The EcoWatchers, operating out of Broad Channel, Queens track and map the loss of salt marsh and advocate for their protection.

These groups are but a few of the hundreds of organizations around the five boroughs who have invested their time, money and hopes in some piece of the waterfront. They represent tens of thousands of New Yorkers who want their politicians to care and do something about waterfront issues.

Of all access issues associated with the waterfront, the most fundamental is knowing how to swim. As evidenced by New York City's perennial lifeguard shortage, it is clear that too few New York City youth learn to swim. This poses a three-edged problem. First, youths that do not swim are limited in regard to other water-related activities. Second, these youths will become adults that are unable to teach their children to swim. Third, if too few swimmers mean too few lifeguards than there will be too many days on which city beaches are closed and too many beaches closed on days that call for being in the water.

Knowing how to swim should be viewed as a right not a luxury. The city's elected officials, leaders of the world's most important maritime metropolis, should dive in headfirst on this one.


New York's harbor and waterfront abound with historic and culturally significant locales. New York is awash in waterfront points of renown, from sites frequented by Native Americans to forts built in all boroughs in every century to the South Street Seaport, Fulton Landing, Sailor's Snug Harbor, Conference House, Pelham Bay Park, City Island and the Little Red Lighthouse.

Many of these coastal locations, particularly the fortifications, have been neglected and because of their out of the way sites, they lack the recognition of a Central Park or the World Trade Center. Still, New York history was forged at these places and in some cases national and international history was created. The gems of the periphery deserve some of the cultural support that goes to the well-known stars in Manhattan.

Teaching about New York's waterways should also be a priority. While the history of forts may, even in a given borough, be off the agenda of many school districts, the importance of water and waterways to the city's past, present and future should find a home in the curriculum. Understanding the waterfront goes a long way toward understanding transportation, economic development, environment as well as history.

Do you know if your district is "on the waterfront"?


For New York's first two hundred years, the waterways were the primary means of travel from point to point around the city. For the next hundred years, ferries played a pivotal role by connecting Manhattan Island, Long Island (including Brooklyn and Queens) and Staten Island to each other as well as to the Bronx and New Jersey and the rest of America. For the last few generations, the waterways were largely forgotten as bridges, tunnels and interstate highways predominated.

In recent years, however, the city's waterways have been noticed and utilized as congestion-free transportation corridors. Starting in the mid-1980s, private ferry routes, encouraged by new city policies, began to link New Jersey to lower Manhattan. Today, these routes move thirty thousand people per day in addition to the sixty thousand daily riders of the city-run Staten Island Ferry.

Other new ferry services include routes to Yankee Stadium, LaGuardia Airport, Brooklyn Army Terminal as well as a tourist run up the Hudson River. The Giuliani Administration has strongly supported ferry development efforts. The next administration would also benefit by continuing this policy.

New ferry routes throughout the harbor are regularly being proposed. One such proposal is the Harbor Loop concept from the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. This ferry route would stop at key waterfront locales in lower-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Governors Island, Staten Island and New Jersey. It would link historic, cultural and economically significant sites to transit stops as well as to the existing ferry lines. This loop has the potential to be a catalyzing force on the growth of the little used, formerly industrial, parts of the harbor at the same time that it brings commuters and tourists to some of the harbor's most famous and beautiful sites.

New York City presently underwrites many private transportation services. This innovative public/private partnership may need some amount of subsidy to sail forward. Elected officials would do well to consider this tri-borough, bi-state, transportation service as an investment in the city's future and therefore in their own.

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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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