There are three competetive city council races downtown this year - two feature incumbents running against challengers, and one, District 3, is the two-way bout to win the seat soon to be vacated by current council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn. We asked the candidates for each district why they should get your vote.
District 1 (Lower Manhattan including the Financial District, parts of the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Nolita, and Greenwich Village)
Margaret S. Chin
New York City Council Member, District 1
Your number one priority on your first day in office:
In my first term, I was able to negotiate the set aside of space for two new schools and an educational/community facility downtown. As a member of Speaker Silver's Overcrowding Task Force, I was also happy when the DOE finally agreed that they believe downtown needs 1,000 more school seats. Now we need to secure funding for the schools to be developed, in addition to locating a site for the 1,000 seats.
What single element of your experience makes you the best candidate?
I've advocated for over 30 years on civil rights, voter access issues, and affordable housing. I've lived in our community for 50 years, and I broke new ground in 2009 as the first Asian-American woman elected to the Council. I have fought hard for my district, from spearheading the construction of over 500 new permanently affordable housing units in the LES to securing the set aside of space for two new schools.
What is the single most pressing issue facing your district, and how would you tackle it in office?
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we need to better prepare our neighborhoods for future storms. I've supported resources to build up natural defenses to protect against flooding and authored legislation that better prepares commercial and residential building for natural disasters. I've also co-sponsored an outreach and recovery plan to assist vulnerable and homebound individuals before, during, and after severe weather emergencies. We need to address the state of mechanical equipment in city buildings, and I've demanded that this happen immediately before the next storm hits.
In your opinion, what issue affecting residents of your district has been most neglected over the past 12 years?
While Lower Manhattan's population has tripled in the past 10 years, the development of new community facilities and open spaces have not kept pace. I have secured funding for the development of plazas and parks throughout the district, and negotiated the set aside of community facility spaces during my first term, but we need more. East of Broadway is particularly lacking in community facilities and we need to develop more green open spaces throughout the district.
Imagine you have a completely free Sunday afternoon in the neighborhood - what would you do?
When I have a free moment on a Sunday, I like to walk over to the Seaport and grab a bite from one of the Sandy-tested restaurants there like Made Fresh Daily or Cowgirl Seahorse.
Civil rights attorney
I will bring participatory democracy back to District 1, making sure people have a voice in decisions affecting our community. This has not happened the past four years under the current councilmember, who relies on back room deals with real estate developers instead of the open, transparent, community-driven leadership we deserve. I will implement participatory budgeting, so the people in the district can vote on how the council's funds will be spent. When it comes to land use decisions, I will fight for the needs of the community - more schools, affordable housing, and a downtown hospital - involving the community in a meaningful way at every step in the decision making process.
As a civil rights lawyer, I am a tough negotiator. I know how to sit across the table from a powerful interest, negotiate successfully on behalf of my vulnerable client, and win. I will do the same thing for you in the City Council. When big real estate developers come downtown to build, I will negotiate successfully to extract from them the concessions that we need - more schools, more affordable housing, and an environment where small businesses can thrive. When sitting across from big real estate developers at the negotiating table, I will be a tough negotiator who looks out for our community's interests.
The population of Lower Manhattan has exploded by 91 percent since 2001, and services need to keep pace with this rapid population growth. I will work to expand programs for our seniors, to build more schools so all children can attend school in the neighborhood where they live, and to invest in more public transportation options for our district. I will do this by creating a bottom up, master plan for our community that determines how many schools, transportation options, and programs we need to accommodate the population growth. I will create this plan in collaboration with the community boards, nonprofit groups, and city agencies.
We need to prepare our low-lying Lower Manhattan district for the next hurricane. As councilmember, I will make sure our district is fully prepared for the next one, and I will be there for us every step of the way. I will work to pass effective legislation to identify vulnerable populations ahead of time and to put a plan in place for them ahead of a hurricane. I will work to pass legislation to streamline FEMA benefits so that they are easily accessed by community members. My background as both a lawyer and as a locally elected democratic district leader gives me the ability to do this successfully.
I would go for a run down the Battery Park City esplanade on the Hudson River. I would then take the bus to Chinatown, where I'd have dim sum at Jing Fong Restaurant with friends. Finally, I would grab coffee in a café in the Village, where I'd stay for awhile and write in my journal.
District 2 (Parts of the Lower East Side, the East Village, Gramercy and Kips Bay)
Richard Del Rio
Community Organizer, Pastor
To embraces the extraordinary economic, racial, and cultural diversity of District 2, and unite the neighborhoods around six core issues: Responsible Economic Development and Affordable Housing; Sustainable Education Reform; Intentional Youth Development; Inter-generational Community; Community Safety; Disaster Preparedness and Modernized Infrastructure.
For 31 years serving District 2, I have practiced three essential leadership principles: 1. Show Up. 2. Show up on time. 3. Think. They have shaped my response to crises like gang violence, 9/11, and Hurricane Sandy; advocacy for youth and community development programs; and training and employment of neighborhood residents.
Housing and economic development must grow responsibly and strengthen community, not displace it. I will embrace District 2's economic diversity rather than squeeze the poor and middle class; fight to ensure affordable housing for families and living wage jobs for the underemployed; and reject developments that destroy the character of neighborhoods.
Our forgotten middle class are casualties of policies that streamroll us towards a Tale of Two Cities. We have suffered the elimination of youth and after-school programs, recreational and community spaces, and the continual deterioration of NYCHA housing; jobless rates remain stagnant as homelessness has soared; and our schools continue to underserve 75 percent of our children.
I would spend it much like I have spent most Sundays for the last 31 years: enjoying my family while celebrating the friendships and beauty of my community. I enjoy nothing more than lunch with the family followed by playtime with my grandchildren and neighbors at one of our parks.
City Council Member, District 2
My priority is to continue my work with the Long Term Recovery Group to develop a District Plan for Emergency Preparedness, and begin implementation of that plan. I will continue to work to stop the Mayor's Plan for a Kips Bay Sanitation Garage and against infill development in public housing.
My knowledge of the district, and the issues that affect the residents of this diverse district, complicated and less complicated, gained from living in the district for more than twenty years.
Affordable housing is the biggest issue in my district. Gentrification and over-development have led to rapidly increasing rents that are forcing out long-time residents. I have worked to maintain and preserve our affordable housing stock, first as a tenant organizer and legal services attorney, and now as a Councilwoman. I worked to allocate funding for civil legal services, to stop phony demolitions of rent-stabilized apartments, and to stop landlords from illegally converting apartments into hotels.
During the Bloomberg administration, After Hour Variances from the Department of Buildings have become the norm instead of the exception, allowing construction to occur almost around the clock. We need to curb the amount of hours in a given day and during the week developers are permitted to work, so that area residents are afforded the quiet to enjoy their own homes.
Eat brunch at Angelina's (Avenue A) or Rue B (Avenue B), then sit in Tompkins Square Park or a Community Garden for a bit. Then visit my parents in Brooklyn.
District 3 (the lower West Side including parts of Greenwich Village and Hell's Kitchen)
Corey D. Johnson
New York City needs long-term housing solutions to ensure that all who work in our communities can afford to reside in them as well. This includes protecting existing affordable housing and improving housing subsidies to emphasize deeper levels of affordability and the creation of new programs to stimulate the creation of additional affordable units. We must also preserve home ownership for working communities.
As an eight-year member of Community Board 4, including two as Chair, I represent experience in this race. I have proven myself capable of working with the community, agencies and elected officials to best represent the interests of our neighborhoods.
The loss of a hospital on the Lower West Side is deeply troubling. By restricting our advocacy to the St. Vincent's site, we encumber the process of restoring medical services to our community. We must look to development potential elsewhere in the community to incentivize the creation of a new Level 1 Trauma center. While the ultimate decision rests in Albany, the review process offers the greatest opportunity for the future of this critical resource.
District 3 is home to the highest concentration of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. We cannot afford to fight this disease based on outdated assumptions. Hurting the members of the HIV-positive community by eliminating the benefits upon which their health depends puts an unreasonable burden on a community that deserves our unconditional support.
I like to spend free moments enjoying the outdoor spaces of the community, reading in Abingdon Square or relaxing in Hudson River Park with friends.
Civil Rights Attorney
Restoring a hospital for the West Side. The loss of St. Vincent's has created a healthcare crisis in our neighborhoods and weakened our emergency readiness. We have already won recognition of this need in court. Resources can and must be found for a new hospital.
As an activist and attorney, I build coalitions with stakeholders throughout our community to achieve real results. I have never been afraid to stand up to powerful interests. Diverse neighborhoods can work together when all parties are honest and forthright. Compromise is necessary, and as a civil rights attorney - I just negotiated a significant settlement for women in the FDNY ? I've proven I can compromise to the advantage of those I represent.
NYC is rapidly becoming unaffordable for working and middle-class New Yorkers. Affordable housing, quality schools, and access to world-class healthcare are vital resources New Yorkers need to stay in our neighborhoods. In addition to the hospital, housing and the guarantee of a good local school seat for all our children remain vital priorities.
Small businesses on the West Side are increasingly being squeezed out. As a small business owner for over 20 years, I know how hard it is to make payroll and grow a business in New York. The burdens of skyrocketing commercial rents, and ever-growing regulation risk turning our neighborhoods over to the huge mega-chains and nightclubs alone.
I'd start by taking my beloved Italian Greyhounds Salvatore and Luca to the dog run, then rollerblade in Hudson River Park. I would also enjoy a yoga class at one of the many studios in our district and then spend time with friends taking in some local theater and sharing delicious vegetarian cuisine.