Race for Public Advocate
ON CAMPAIGN 2001: PUBLIC
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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
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?
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?
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
What does this have to do with this site?
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?
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?
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
Who are we?
Let me briefly tell you how I envision the role of the
public advocate and why I am doing this. I see the public
advocate as the citywide office that is there to make government
work for people. There were a couple of articles this week
in the papers that brought the idea of a public advocate
home to me in a way that I get furious every time I hear
people say that there should be a public advocate. As you
recall there was that drive a year ago to end that office
of public advocate.
There was one article in The Time's this week about Liu,
that the owner of a Chinese restaurant was killed in Queens,
was brutally killed, and the article pointed out how his
wife and his children were living in the back of the restaurant
without heat, water and almost everything. My point is that
nobody was really doing anything about it. And the reporter
said that it was six months ago that this was first reported.
When I read that I thought, if I were public advocate, I
would do everything to make sure that that family got housing.
I don't understand why there isn't some emergency housing
for people, I guess there is, but it hasn't happened for
them six months later. I would also try and get them some
emergency money--there was a fundraising effort for this
particular which I participated in, maybe six months ago,
but they're still sleeping in the back of that restaurant
without heat, and without any kind of adequate things that
they should have. So that was one article that made me think
about the public advocate and why I am so passionate about
it. The second article was about bi-lingual education. It
was a very thoughtful article, it was so confusing that
it occurred to me that one area that the public advocate
didn't do is set up in the office a division which would
be an independent office which would explain and help parents
and to give information about the various programs, and
the various things that go on that are good or not good,
or which is the best bi-lingual program or which isn't.
The third area was when the current public advocate stood
on the "boulevard of death." And announced a program that
he felt was important to stop the terrible killings in Queens.
And I thought to myself, that's a very good thing that the
public advocate should be doing, unfortunately the current
public advocate, who I think has done a very good job had
a very cranky relationship with the chief executive. He
hasn't been able to get as much done as he might had that
relationship not happened. I'm not blaming anybody; I'm
just making a comment.
Q-What aspect of the Giuliani administration
do you find most objectionable, and how would she address
it as public advocate?
A-Well, I found a lot objectionable, probably the thing
I found most objectionable was--now this is a little self
serving--that I was punished for something that was so ridiculous
that I wouldn't even bother going into it. I think I found
the meanness, and the going after people who couldn't really
help themselves was probably the most objectionable thing.
Although I think the lack of respect for people's civil
rights and the horrible things with Diallo and Dorismond
that we all know are terrible. I do believe that the really
meanness of going after people in the city. We've got enough
problems in the city that we don't need.
Q-How you change/adjust the role
of public advocate in this next administration?
A-The problem has been the cranky relationship that has
existed between the public advocate and the mayor and I
think that unfortunately the public advocate has done a
lot of really good things. Most people think that he and
the mayor, all they do is scream and yell at each other.
But he has had some very effective programs. I think even
what's going to happen in 2002 with a new mayor, with an
entirely new council, and borough presidents. I think it
is going to give an opportunity to redefine the office and
I would like to think about redefining it in trying to get
along with, to work with the various city commissioners,
the mayor, try to solve some of the many problems that exist
now and that will exist in 2002. And we know they're coming.
My career has always been to try and work with people and
get things done. To solve problems by working with the various
people that are there to try and solve the problem as opposed
to having this cranky relationship.
Q- What, specifically, qualifies
you for that position?
A-I worked for several mayors. I worked as the education
assistant for a mayor. I then worked for the New York City
police department, for something called the New York City
Police Foundation, where one of the programs that we ran
was to raise private money. I than ran a transportation
program for disabled elderly people, and I also ran an anti-handgun
violence program. I then became Parks Commissioner for four
years and under David Dinkins and that gave me citywide
managerial experience, which I think is a very important
aspect of why I want to do this. I think I understand how
an agency should work, agencies that are supposed to be
providing programs, I understand how to try persuade agencies
and commissioners to do the kind of things they are supposed
to be doing.
After the Parks department I was fired when mayor Giuliani
came in, and I took over the New York Historical Society,
which maybe some of you know was closed and had a terrible
debt, I am very proud to say that six and a half years later,
it's open, it's flourishing, we had a $600,000 surplus last
year and I guess this all points to, I love to solve problems,
I love to take difficult situations and make them work,
I like to work with people to make things better. That's
what I have done my whole career and that's why I am running
for public advocate.
Q-What is the main issue you would
A-That's a really hard question, there are so many problems,
and there are going to be so many more with the economy
going south, I would say education, I would say affordable
housing. Also health and children. We want to make sure
that that program goes along so well that every child who
is eligible for health insurance gets it. Did you all know
that there is childcare money available, but there are no
facilities to put childcare money in. That's the kind of
thing that I would like to look at. I can't say it's most
important, but they're all terribly important, and it's
too hard to figure out which is the most important.
Q-What good things has Mark Green
done that you would build upon?
A-One of things that Mark has done along with the City
Council is suing the mayor to get information about how
the police are not policing themselves at all. And I think
that caused him to set up in the office of the police department
an office that gets paid for by private money that now monitors
That's a very good program that he was able to put a public-private
partnership together. The program in the family court which
I think is called C-Plan--I am not sure if that is the right
name for it--where there are six or seven people in the
family court trying to help the terrible situation where
the lawyers aren't and to help judges get through some of
the problems and help the parents and the children.
Q-What is your position on Giuliani's
action and attack on the Brooklyn Museum of Art?
A-I was one of the first museum director that is not part
of the CIG group, but gets city money and joined the lawsuit
over the issue of sensation. And for that I was punished--never
mind how--but I felt very strongly that it was the completely
wrong thing to do. And of course this time, with the new
flack, there were no lawsuits and the whole thing was really
ridiculous. But I feel very strongly that you don't have
to go see the exhibition if you don't want to. But the fact
that it is there, it's important to be there and I think
the mayor's attacks are reprehensible and I would certainly
continue to feel that way.
Q-What we should to investigate conditions
in homeless shelters and dropping centers?
A-It's a disgrace that there are those conditions and I
think that one of the problems is that one agency in the
government, the HRA, is doing one thing, and the Department
of Homeless Services is doing another. And my understanding
is that the Department of Homeless Services is trying very
hard to make things a little better. But the other side
[the HRA] is just pushing and pushing more people into the
streets. I would try to work with whoever is the mayor at
that time to say, "We got to do something about this problem,
we've got to put some money into better services for the
homeless and all those various things that need to be done."
That's when I said try to get involved with the chief executive
so that we can try to solve some of these problems.
Q-What about your accomplishments?
A-There were several programs that I have started, probably
the one that I am most proud of--for two reasons. One, because
it was way before people were talking about ending welfare
as we know it and, two because it was the only program that
the mayor forced the current parks commissioner. And that
was I raised quite a lot of private money to do a welfare
to work to take park workers in the parks department and
do training for them and try to train them so they could
get real jobs in the Parks Department or in other city agencies.
And I raised about a million dollars and we have about three
hundred graduates in the second year of the program. One
of the most interesting things was getting people licenses,
because then it will make them able to drive trucks and
packers and all the things that are needed in the parks
department. So it was a very effective program, I don't
think it is functioning anymore, but it was something that
I was very proud of.
The other thing I did that I feel is a very important part
of my career and that I would continue to do as public advocate
is setting up these public-private partnerships, where you
raise private money to make things a little bit better where
you have a budget cut in a third of your agency. So I got
private money to enhance some of the parks particularly
in the borough because as you well know Central Park is
particularly well funded, it always has been, it's the richest
piece of real estate in the world, but there are parks throughout
the rest of the system that are not so well funded. So I
would say that we should raise private money to improve
the City Parks Foundation.
Q-Why are you the best candidate
for this position?
A-I think the field is very competitive, this is a tough
race. I'm doing this because I really care. I don't have
to leave my job--I mean I have to leave my job now that
I am running--but I am not doing this because I am term
limited out, or because I need a job. I am doing this because
I feel like I can make a difference. I feel that my long
career in government and not for profit organizations has
sort of pointed me towards this. I've never run for office
before, so I really want to try it to see how it goes. And
I just feel passionate about this, I feel that there are
so many problems in New York, and there are going to be
so many more problems. And I think I am a really good problem
solver, so that's why I am the best candidate.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
for Party Affiliation
Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)
1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance
program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
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
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
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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