A City & State and City Limits collaboration

THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT
New York City’s Voters and the 2013 Elections
E-Book 1st Edition

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The Five Borough Ballot

The Five Borough Ballot

MASTHEAD
EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Morgan Pehme mpehme@cityandstateny.com Jarrett Murphy jarrett@citylimits.org CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Jon Lentz jlentz@cityandstateny.com ASSISTANT EDITOR Helen Eisenbach REPORTERS Nick Powell npowell@cityandstateny.com Aaron Short ashort@cityandstateny.com Joe Hirsch, Matthew Perlman, Kate Pastor ART ART DIRECTOR Guillaume Federighi GRAPHIC DESIGNER Ondine Vermenot DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Andrew Holt aholt@cityandstateny.com MULTIMEDIA DIRECTOR Michael Johnson mjohnson@cityandstateny.com

CITY AND STATE NY, LLC CHAIRMAN Steve Farbman PRESIDENT/CEO Tom Allon CITY LIMITS LEADERSHIP PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS Mark Edmiston

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The Five Borough Ballot

INTRODUCTION

Editor-In-Chief of City & State Morgan Pehme and Executive Editor and Publisher of City Limits Jarrett Murphy introduce The Five Borough Ballot

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The Five Borough Ballot

FORWARD FROM MORGAN PEHME Editor-In-Chief of City & State

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ne of the great advantages and pleasures of writing for a publication geared to political insiders is that we don’t have to waste any time going over the basics. Often our subscribers are as knowledgeable about the dynamics in a given campaign or the nuances of a relevant issue as any expert we could quote to cast light upon them. Reporting from within the inner circle does, however, have its drawbacks—the greatest of which is a loss of perspective. We can get so attuned to the daily developments in the elections we cover, so caught up in the narratives spun by the candidates and their operatives, so immersed in the shifting tides that ebb and flow in any close contest that we forget that our vantage point is not the voters’. In his new book This Town Mark Liebovitch quotes a 1993 New York Times Magazine article by Michael Kelly, which frames this problem sagely, “What happens in the political world is divorced from the real world. It exists for only the fleeting historical moment, in a magical movie of sorts, a never-ending and infinitely revisable docudrama. Strangely, the faithful understand that the movie is not true—yet also maintain that it is the only truth that really matters.” Remaining grounded in the “real world” is a regular topic of serious discussion among the editorial team at City & State. As important as it is that we capably comprehend and communicate the dimensions of the “political world” to which our publication is dedicated, we do our readers and viewers a disservice when we gaze so deeply into its core that we lose sight of the horizon beyond it. It was with an eye to balancing our coverage of New York City’s critical 2013 election—a cycle that will significantly alter the local political landscape for the first time in 12 years—that we embarked upon The Five Borough Ballot project. When Jarrett Murphy, the executive editor and publisher of City Limits, first proposed to City & State that we collaborate on a series that covered the election from the point of view of real New Yorkers by zeroing in on the denizens’ opinions at a single location in each of the five boroughs that we would revisit in a rotation every fifth week, it was immediately clear that he had hit on a concept that

would be of great value both to our audience and the city as a whole. To fully realize this concept, from the outset we viewed this series less as a journalistic enterprise than as a sociological investigation. We were careful not to ask leading questions, or to slip our interviewees information that would influence the way they responded. For instance, rather than asking, “What do you think of so-and-so candidate?”—and in so doing give away the candidate’s name—we would instead pose, “Do you know of any candidates running for such-and-such office?” The results of this series to date have been fascinating. They have provided a window into the hearts, minds and passions of New Yorkers across the political, ethnic and economic spectrum. Unlike with the public polls conducted by universities and media outlets, we have not sought out only registered voters or narrowed our inquiry to those most likely to cast a ballot on Election Day. We have simply gone to our neighbors and listened. Whether the manifold opinions articulated throughout this series end up somehow accurately foreshadowing the outcome of the races once all the votes are counted remains to be seen. We will be issuing new editions of this e-book both after the primaries and following the general election, in part to shed greater light on this question. But the fundamental aim of The Five Borough Ballot was never to predict who would win and by how much. It was to begin to understand whether the sliver of the electorate that actually votes accurately reflects the will of the people as a whole, or whether the plurality of New Yorkers who still bother to show up at the polls are charting a course for the city that conflicts with what the masses would really want if everyone took the time and had the inclination to weigh in on who we wanted to lead us. Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect upon City & State’s first ever e-book, which we present to you in partnership with City Limits and Channel Thirteen’s MetroFocus. We hope you find it both entertaining and informative.

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The Five Borough Ballot

FORWARD FROM JARRETT MURPHY Executive Editor and Publisher of City Limits

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ast a rock into the 2013 campaign and you can’t help but strike a vitally important issue: The fiscal risk of expired labor contracts. The need to better protect our archipelago city from the sea. Growing income inequality. How to simultaneously uphold public safety and civil rights. But the most important issue facing New York City might be this election itself, and the question of whether or not the citizenry engages in it—whether democracy works. Our electoral experience four years ago frames that question. In the 2009 general mayoral election just over a quarter of registered voters turned out to vote. Fewer than one in eight voters showed up for the primary. What if you held a runoff for public advocate and comptroller and nobody came? Four years ago, we basically found out. Worries about the health of democracy, however, are deeper and broader than the last municipal election. Across the country, a gulf seems to be growing between people and government. The state is perceived as a foreign, malign force. Politics are seen as inherently filthy. Partisan paralysis in Washington lends a whiff of fact to these impressions, but they are also shaped by—and shape—a kind of fatigue with the idea that we are all part of a society whose path we determine together. The media (including yours truly) has fueled this disdain for the civic realm by focusing political coverage on personalities, polls and gamesmanship, not on why and how government matters. So when City Limits and City & State were thinking about how to cover the 2013 campaign in a better way—a way that acknowledged the overarching issue of civic disengagement—we thought it’d be wise to root our reportage as close as possible to the people who really matter in a campaign: the voters. So, with encouragement from our partners at WNET-Channel 13, we chose in each borough a place where people live or gather. A bar in Staten Island. A residential block in Queens. A public housing development in Brooklyn. A deli in Manhattan. A restaurant in the Bronx. And we sent reporters there not once or twice, but repeatedly from February forward to talk to people about the election, find out what they thought and how they thought, and get a sense of whether this campaign was actually interesting the people for whom it’s being run.

It’s not a scientific survey: We aimed for long conversations with people, not statistically valid samples of the neighborhoods we targeted. But the stories gathered in this book do tell us something about the state of democracy in New York this year. They don’t dispell concerns about citizens tuning out the political process. But they do demonstrate that some people are very engaged, and that others—like the men in Brownsville who told me they never vote and then spoke eloquently for half an hour about the social issues of the day—think and care about the city even if they don’t participate in electing its leaders. Most of all, these stories give an honest look at how Campaign 2013 is playing out in a few small parts of New York, and a glimpse of what life looks like in different parts of this great city. As summer turns to fall and the primary campaign gives way to the general election contest, we’ll be reporting more. So, stay tuned in. And please vote.

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The Five Borough Ballot

FORWARD FROM RAFAEL PI ROMAN Anchor, MetroFocus

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hen we first heard about The Five Borough Ballot the Executive Producer of MetroFocus, Sally Garner, and I were excited to participate. MetroFocus is a weekly newsmagazine program that digs into the stories behind the headlines. What the voters think and how they form their opinions in a critical election is something we wanted to know. We also wanted to track the changes in their thinking as the election approached. It’s not surprising that many New Yorkers don’t know the names of every candidate, or the candidates’ position on every issue. But New Yorkers do know what matters in their neighborhoods. Listening to them, the reporters on the Five Borough Ballot project have brought those unique concerns to light. They also found a common theme across the city. As we began the project in April, City& State editor Morgan Pehme told us, “The one common through line we’ve seen throughout the five locations is the desire to move past Mayor Bloomberg.” Of course along the way we got a chance to hear about more than just the race for mayor. In April, the arrest and allegations about continued corruption in Albany got New Yorkers’ attention. In fact, as City Limits editor-in-chief Jarrett Murphy told us on the air, “People were more aware of this than they were about even the existence of the mayoral race.” As The Five Borough Ballot project rolled along, it kept pace with a rapidly changing field and produced some surprising insight into the voters thinking. For example, when former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumped to the top of some polls after he entered the race in May, we learned from The Five Borough Ballot reporting that it was the voters in his home district of Queens who were the least supportive of his candidacy. While each news organization has gone on to interview most of the major candidates this summer, the issues and comments in The Five Borough Ballot reporting added to our questions and helped us hone in on not just the candidates’ talking points but on real concerns. It will be important to see and hear how the people who shared their thoughts with us will react as we move into the next phase in this important election season. Turnout in a primary election is often very light. Despite voter registration drives, advertising and constant calls to participate, New Yorkers may not step into the voting

booths in huge numbers. The candidates may even plan their strategies knowing that only the most dedicated voters will turn out on September 10th. The idea here was to let five locations be the stand in for the vast majority of New Yorkers who have strong opinions and care deeply about their city, even if they don’t always go to the polls. By November, as the project continues, we’ll get a chance to see if the five boroughs unite behind one candidate, or if certain issues divide the city, or if the campaigns really listen to what’s on the voters’ minds. In The Five Borough ballot articles and interviews we see that potential voters are willing to listen to the candidates. Now the question is, are the candidates listening to the voters? If they read these articles, watch the segments we broadcast and pay attention, we may have a very interesting race to follow right up to November 5th.

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The Five Borough Ballot

FORWARD FROM SONDRA YOUDELMAN, Executive Director, Community Voices Heard

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or New Yorkers engrossed in politics, September 10 and November 5 loom large. This year, city voters will elect a new mayor, comptroller, public advocate, four borough presidents, and the majority of the City Council. Following all that, a new Council Speaker will be elected in January. A reshaping of the City government is inevitable, but many New Yorkers don’t even realize this fact or feel it will impact them. Why is it that so many New Yorkers lack interest in—or perhaps aren’t even aware of—local elections and the basics of the political process, when such elections and processes determine so much about things that affect our lives and communities? Ann Bragg, Co-Chair of the Community Voices Heard Board and an East Harlem resident, explained, “There’s too much scandal talk, and candidates putting each other down. The press isn’t focusing on the issues. I could care less about what someone did in the past. I want to know what they’ll do around our needs—schools, housing, land use, job creation—in the future.” Ann’s sentiments reflect those of many New Yorkers in low-income communities who feel candidates don’t care about their issues and don’t talk to them about their concerns. And, even though some of the candidates have actually focused on some critical issues affecting low-income New Yorkers—like the preservation and improvement of public housing—their emphasis on these areas can seem like a passing fad the way they are depicted in the press: one night of a mayoral sleepover in public housing and then on to the next photo-op! It’s a vicious self-perpetuating cycle that sadly is not unique to New York City. Candidates don’t focus deeply on issues important to low-income voters because fewer low-income people vote. And then, since candidates don’t focus on their issues, low-income New Yorkers stop voting. Is it the fault of the average person that voting statistics are so bleak and knowledge about government so limited? Can you blame some residents of low-income communities of color for feeling disconnected when earlier this year the Supreme Court undermined the Voting Rights

Act of 1965—one of the major victories of the Civil Rights Movement—opening the door nationally to more restrictions on voting access? At the commemoration activities for the recent anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, people were reminded of the blood given and lives lost for the right to vote. But people were also reminded of the continued struggle for racial and economic justice that continues today. We’ve recently seen both the need for ongoing struggle and a taste of victory. The ruling striking down stop-and-frisk as practiced, and the City Council’s overriding of Mayor Bloomberg’s vetoes, a move which will establish independent oversight of the NYPD and end discriminatory profiling practices, brought some new hope. Regardless of whether you agree with the Council’s actions, there is no doubt the issue moved because it is an election year. That the law passed by such a slim margin in the Council is a perfect illustration of why elections are so important. Who’s in office does matter. This upcoming election will make a difference. Economic development, housing, welfare, education, policing and tax policy—to name a few—will all take a turn under a new administration. How dramatic those turns are depends on the outcomes of this election. And whether these new elected officials do their part to end the vicious cycle of disengagement and maintain their commitments to low-income communities will depend in part upon if those communities are organized. We know polling fails to effectively capture the point of view of those who don’t regularly vote—those who talk in their community about what matters, but don’t necessarily connect it to an election or a candidate. An Office of Civic Engagement established by the next mayoral administration—building on but not being limited to ideas like participatory budgeting—could work to engage more people shaping the direction of our government. We’d then be better positioned as a city to have a real dialogue about the issues and more people getting engaged so that the level of New Yorkers’ interest come the 2017 election may not be so bleak. The Five Borough Ballot gives us a look at what’s being said by some of the regular New Yorkers talking about politics in a few corners of the city. Let’s hope more people will vote this year than during the last mayoral election, and let’s keep pushing candidates to strengthen their positions and make concrete commitments ahead of the election. After all, the jury’s still out until the last vote is cast, but the deep work of building a New York with active and informed residents goes on!

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The Five Borough Ballot

FORWARD FROM MASON B. WILLIAMS teaches U.S. history at The New School. His first book, City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York, was published in May by W.W. Norton and Company.

Why Did So Many New Yorkers Used To Vote?

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our years ago, less than one in five adult New Yorkers—about 18 percent—went to the polls to elect the city’s mayor. Of the remaining 82 percent, many lacked access to the ballot box because they were not citizens, or due to criminal convictions. But most simply chose not to vote: only 29 percent of registered voters turned out on election day. Not since before women were enfranchised has democratic power in the five boroughs rested on so narrow a base. As this year’s municipal elections approach, some New Yorkers have been asking why the city’s electorate has become so small. Much of the research and reporting about this question has focused on the social makeup of the 21st century city: recently naturalized citizens are less likely to vote; language and education seem to be barriers to political participation among many new New Yorkers. On the political side, off-year municipal elections prevent the higher presidential turnouts of recent years from reaching mayoral elections. Incumbents have little incentive to enlarge the electorates that got them into office, and challengers with limited campaign resources tend to direct them toward people they deem most likely to vote. New York has been here before. Indeed, in the years after 1917 (when the enfranchisement of women gave New York’s potential electorate its modern shape), non-participation was a striking aspect of city politics. Just over one in four adult New Yorkers voted in the 1925 mayoral election—better than today, but not by much. Then as now, New York was a city of newcomers, and many of the recent arrivals had not yet become fully incorporated into the city’s political life. The same off-year election cycle kept national and local politics apart, and notwithstanding the old image of Tammany Hall politicos marching greenhorns to the polls, the dominant Democratic machine had incentives to keep the spoils-to-voters ratio as high as possible, and hence to keep the electorate small. (The Tammany machine probably did more to bring immigrants into politics in the 19th century than it did in the 20th.)

Then, within the space of a dozen years, New York’s electorate exploded. Between 1925 and 1937, the number of voters in the city’s mayoral elections more than doubled, from some 1.1 million to 2.3 million. It would remain roughly at that plateau through the end of the 1960s, hitting an all-time high water mark of 2.65 million in 1965. As a consequence, the political universe of mid-century New York would differ dramatically from what had preceded and what would follow: the average size of the mayoral electorate between 1933 and 1969 was double what it was in 2009. How did this remarkable democratization of city politics come about? And what lessons—if any—might it hold for people who care about a robust electoral democracy in today’s city? Part of the explanation lies in the changing social makeup of the city and its communities. The 1920s and 1930s were the decades when, in the historian Deborah Dash Moore’s wonderful phrase, the “immigrant city” of the early 20th century became the “ethnic metropolis” of midcentury. The federal government’s decision in the 1920s to cut off immigration from Europe, though harmful to New York in many ways, at least had the effect of raising the share of the city’s population which was legally eligible to vote. With immigration restricted, the percentage of New Yorkers who were unnaturalized immigrants declined from 36 percent in 1910 to 22 percent in 1930. As the old immigrants naturalized, new groups arrived already enfranchised: the Black southerners and Puerto Ricans who poured into the city beginning in the 1920s were citizens, and although immigrants from the West Indies were not, they at least spoke English, which accelerated their entry into the city’s political life. At the same time, as ties between New York and the old world weakened, many earlier immigrants became more settled in the city; they formed families and placed their children in American schools. As a consequence, by the 1930s, residents of so-called “second generation” ethnic neighborhoods were prepared to participate in city politics in a way they had not been a decade earlier. If social change made it easier for New Yorkers to participate in city elections, political developments in the 1930s encouraged them to think it worthwhile to do so. The first large jump in voting came between the mayoral elections of 1929 and 1933. In ’29, the phenomenally popular Democratic incumbent Jimmy Walker faced off against the maverick Republican congressman Fiorello La Guardia and won in the greatest landslide in the city’s history. Then Walker and Tammany Hall became embroiled in scandal, and New York—rocked by the Great Depression—came within an eyelash of bankruptcy. In 1933, a broad coalition of reformers, economic and civic elites, and the Republican Party chose La Guardia as its nominee. The Little Flower won with a 40 percent plurality over two dueling Democratic candidates (one aligned with Tammany, the other with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New York allies) in an election where the number of ballots cast soared by 47 percent above 1929 levels. What had changed? Certainly the coming of the Great Depression had made politics seem more important. Two years of sordid newspaper headlines detailing Tammany malfeasance and fiscal disaster had focused middle- and upper-class attention on municipal politics. Two-party electoral competition had returned after a period of Democratic dominance. The city’s Italian communities had perceived a real chance to put one of their own in City Hall, and, conversely, La Guardia had been able to put his personal political organization to work bringing voters to the polls. Voting levels might have been expected to return to normal when La Guardia stood for reelection in 1937 after the remarkable confluence of 1933—as they would, for instance, after the hotly contested elections between David Dinkins and Rudolph Giuliani at the end of the 20th century. Instead, they kept rising. The total number of votes cast climbed by only three percent, but this raw figure concealed a substantial entry of new, mostly working-class voters into the

electorate (offset by declines elsewhere): in the two assembly districts encompassing Central Harlem, for instance, voting climbed by more than 18 percent. Most of these new working-class voters were women: whereas men had made up a disproportionate share of the newly-mobilized in 1933, the jump in registration in advance of the 1937 election was 72 percent female. This remarkable expansion of the local electorate was made possible by urban social change, but it was secured by public policies enacted during La Guardia’s first term. Unlike most mayors, La Guardia—elected with only a plurality—entered office knowing that he had to find new sources of support in order to win reelection. He was able to do so by dint of his own brilliant political skill, but also thanks to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which funneled huge amounts of manpower and money into municipal agencies. La Guardia and his commissioners used this windfall to revitalize public services and extend the public sector into new areas, giving New Yorkers access to new transit, recreational, health, educational, and cultural facilities. New Yorkers became voters in 1937 in large measure because La Guardia’s local New Deal encouraged them to see government as a potentially valuable resource in their own efforts to build their families and communities. Central Harlem, where the popular response was especially strong, offers one important example. The New Deal not only provided jobs to many hundreds of unemployed men and women (often at better wages than in discriminatory private employment markets); it also afforded access to a new, modern swimming pool, a district health center, and several child health clinics. By the mid-1930s, Harlemites could take free adult education courses in forty-five subjects. The city had also restored Mt. Morris (now Marcus Garvey) Park, doubled the capacity of Harlem Hospital, and built some of the best affordable housing in the city along the Harlem River. Black community leaders insisted that more should be done to meet their community’s needs, and in many respects they were justified. Nonetheless, what city officials did accomplish encouraged neighborhood residents see the city government in new ways. As the political scientist Kenneth Finegold has noted, municipal services are highly visible outputs of the policymaking process: Depression-era New Yorkers noticed that new playgrounds and schools had been opened in their neighborhoods, that new health services had been made available, that the parks had been restored. And they had little difficulty tracing these changes to the turnover in administration that had occurred in 1933. That the New Deal stoked a powerful democratic response in New York was attributable to two other factors as well. One was the presence of a political leader, La Guardia, who was extraordinarily adept at explaining his policies to the public, and the emergence of media forms—the radio, the newsreels, and the mass-circulation newspapers—conducive to such efforts. The other was the strength of organizations such as unions, consumer and tenant groups, churches and synagogues, and highly local community organizations which provided a social basis for political mobilization by keeping their members informed and converting amorphous community values and aspirations into concrete demands. Voter participation remained high in the postwar decades. As in the 1920s, most of the new arrivals—from the American South and Puerto Rico—were citizens, and thus were eligible to participate in elections right away (though “scores of thousands” of Puerto Rican New Yorkers were kept away from the polls by English-language literacy tests). New reform and African American-directed party organizations began operating, as the old clubhouse-based party organizations staged something of a comeback. And the cultural legacy of the 1930s and 1940s continued to shape the city’s politics. Contenders for power in postwar New York were forced to appeal to a far larger electorate, one whose members had become more aware of their government and more confident in their capacities to shape its direction through the exercise of their democratic citizenship.

New York’s era of high turnout did not come to a close until the 1970s. By then, the city’s population had begun to turn over once more, with older populations leaving for the suburbs and an influx of new immigrants entering the city following passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. At the same time, public disinvestment—visible in the city’s degraded parks, the disrepair of public buildings, and mass layoffs of city workers—made it more difficult for New Yorkers to assert claims on the city government (and perhaps even to see it as a potentially valuable resource). Low participation levels would be reinforced in the closing decades of the 20th century, as the non-citizen population swelled and criminal convictions removed more and more people from the potential electorate. Some 37 percent of today’s New Yorkers were born abroad —a far higher share than in 1965, and more even than in 1920 (though the rate of naturalization appears to be somewhat higher today). Under the current suffrage laws, this social fact all but ensures that there will be no return to mid-century voting levels. But on the other hand, the history of 20th century New York suggests that voting rates need not remain so meager. A vital city government whose leaders care about winning support from a wide swath of the public, well-organized citizens aware of what their government is doing and confident that they can shape its direction, conduits to carry information between the governing and the governed, open electoral competition with real issues at stake—these essential ingredients of mid-century New York’s democratic politics were products of a distinctive moment in the city’s (and the nation’s) history. But there is no reason to believe they could not reappear in the 21st century, albeit in different form. Those who are interested in expanding electoral democracy in 21st century New York are invited to draw their own conclusions from this history. The only definite lesson is this: there is nothing “natural” about a politics in which 18 percent of the city’s adults participate in choosing our mayor. Things have been very different, and not that long ago.

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Upper West Side, Manhattan
Voter registration 67th Assembly District Party Affiliation as of April 1, 2013

Democrat Republican Conservative Working Families

Green Other Blank Independence

Mayoral Election Results 67th Assembly District

72%

69% 25%

28%
2009 Bloomberg 2009 Thompson

2005 Bloomberg

2005 Ferrer

Municipal Campaign Contributions, Manhattan (10024)
$1,600,000 $1,400,000 $1,200,000 $1,000,000 $800,000 $0 2001 2005 2009 2013
SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

$1,459,062 $1,364,032 $1,037,296 $871,936

Mott Haven, Bronx
Voter registration 84th Assembly District Party Affiliation as of April 1, 2013

Democrat Republican Conservative Working Families

Green Other Blank Independence

Mayoral Election Results 84th Assembly District

79%

70%

20%

28%
2005 Ferrer 2009 Bloomberg 2009 Thompson

2005 Bloomberg

Municipal Campaign Contributions, Bronx (10454)
$45,000 $20,000 $15,000 $10,000 $5,000 $0 2001 2005 2009 2013
SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

$21,089 $16,192 $12,043 $8,278

Brownsville, Brooklyn
Voter registration 55th Assembly District Party Affiliation as of April 1, 2013

Democrat Republican Conservative Working Families

Green Other Blank Independence

Mayoral Election Results 55th Assembly District

57% 41% 15%
2005 Bloomberg 2005 Ferrer

84%

2009 Bloomberg 2009 Thompson

Municipal Campaign Contributions, Brooklyn (11212)
$45,000 $40,000 $35,000

$40,823 $38,150 $30,947

$30,000 $25,000 $0 2001 2005 2009 2013
SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

$19,416

Upper West Side, Manhattan
Voter registration 67th Assembly District Party Affiliation as of April 1, 2013

Democrat Republican Conservative Working Families

Green Other Blank Independence

Mayoral Election Results 67th Assembly District

72%

69% 25%

28%
2009 Bloomberg 2009 Thompson

2005 Bloomberg

2005 Ferrer

Municipal Campaign Contributions, Manhattan (10024)
$1,600,000 $1,400,000 $1,200,000 $1,000,000 $800,000 $0 2001 2005 2009 2013
SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

$1,459,062 $1,364,032 $1,037,296 $871,936

Bayside, Queens
Voter registration: 25th Assembly District Party Affiliation as of April 1, 2013

Democrat Republican Conservative Working Families

Green Other Blank Independence

Mayoral Election Results 25th Assembly District

69%

63% 34% 29%

2005 Bloomberg

2005 Ferrer

2009 Bloomberg 2009 Thompson

Municipal Campaign Contributions, Queens (11364)
$300,000 $250,000 $200,000 $150,000 $100,000 $50,000 $0 2001 2005 2009 2013
SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

$149,293

$194,390

$239,355 $154,525

Tottenville, Staten Island
Voter registration 62nd Assembly District Party Affiliation as of April 1, 2013

Democrat Republican Conservative Working Families

Green Other Blank Independence

Mayoral Election Results 62nd Assembly District

82%

74%

14%
2005 Bloomberg 2005 Ferrer

21%
2009 Bloomberg 2009 Thompson

Municipal Campaign Contributions, Staten Island (10307)
$100,000 $80,000 $60,000 $40,000 $20,000 $0 2001 2005 2009 2013
SOURCE: NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS AND NEW YORK CITY CAMPAIGN FINANCE BOARD

$91,304 $53,490

$77,515

$44,272

The Five Borough Ballot

MOTT HAVEN LOOKS TO ACTIVISTS, NOT POLS, FOR PROGRESS
BRONX / February 11, 2013 By: Joe Hirsch

PHOTO BY: MARC FADER/CITY LIMITS

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amaguey Restaurant is a lunchtime hub for mofongo, enchiladas, and other dishes in Mott Haven. Change is palpable in Mott Haven, a neighborhood that over the years has gained notoriety as the poorest congressional district in the country. New condos and housing developments just north of the Hub, the area’s commercial center, reflect one of the Bronx’s biggest building booms. Population in the 2.8-square-mile area in the borough’s southwestern corner grew by 11.4 percent between 2000 and 2010, nearly three times the borough average. But the area’s recovery from decades of neglect is far from a fait accompli. No neighborhood had its heart ripped out quite as aggressively as Mott Haven’s to feed the city’s 1950’s highway-building frenzy. The Bruckner, Major Deegan and Cross Bronx expressways all crisscross the area, contributing to some of the city’s highest asthma rates. Mott Haven comprises one of the city’s densest clustering of public housing complexes. In a 2012 report, the Citizen’s Committee for Children, an advocacy group, found that 67.3 percent of all Mott Haven residents and almost three quarters of all children live in “areas of

extreme poverty.” On 138th Street, one of the neighborhood’s main arteries, spacious bargain outlets and telecommunications storefronts predominate, alongside Dominican and Puerto Rican restaurants that reflect prior immigration waves, and scores of Mexican restaurants run by the latest newcomers. One small eatery that melds Central American and Caribbean staples has stood near the corner of 138th St. and Brook Avenue since 1987.

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eekdays during lunchtime, diners pack into cozy, narrow Camaguey Restaurant, where they can choose between mofongo, enchiladas, and various seafood and meat stews. At one table on a recent weekday, several diners were animatedly debating which nearby tax preparers could help them get the maximum refund. All said they were scraping by with part-time jobs. None put any stock in next November’s elections to improve their chances of finding full-time work. “I can’t stand Bloomberg. He ain’t for us. He don’t care about the minority,” said Jesse Rivera, 36, who is on parole after serving nearly 12 years in a number of upstate facilities on gun charges. Rivera said he is mostly focused on helping young people in the neighborhood stay out of the kind of trouble he has been in most of his adult life, by volunteering with an antiviolence initiative. Factory worker Taesha Pearson, the mother of Rivera’s 12-year-old child, said she would be inclined to vote for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor in November because Quinn has shown support for Pearson’s plight as a mother whose other child was killed by a stray bullet in 2005. Pearson’s daughter Naesha’s killing has become a galvanizing issue for anti-violence activists in Mott Haven in recent years. They hold a march every Mother’s Day to support Pearson and other mothers of slain children. Despite their adamancy about taming gun violence, none of the diners at the table were impressed with Mayor Bloomberg’s stance on gun control, which they shrugged off as political opportunism. Angelica Pizzaro, 27, who works part time as a teller at a local bank, said, “Everything is increasing but my pay isn’t going up.” She didn’t know who was running in November, locally or citywide, adding she is uninterested in politics.

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ne regular customer, Norma Vilarosa, 74, considers herself a Puerto Rican nationalist above all. For that reason, Vilarosa said, she votes, but not for president. Although she respects the incumbent City Councilwomen and Assemblywoman who represent the area, Vilarosa echoed a familiar theme among the lunch crowd at Camaguey: Grassroots advocates, not politicians, offer the best bet for improving residents’ quality of life. She remembered a beloved Mott Haven social justice advocate who died last year as a “brother” for his battles over the decades to defeat city policies and corporate interests many here said would have harmed the neighborhood. “They’re more important than the politicians,” she said of the advocates, referring to elected officials with a scowl as “vividores,” or opportunists. “They just want your vote.”

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VIOLENCE DOMINATES CAMPAIGN TALK IN MOTT HAVEN
BRONX/ February 19, 2013 By: Joe Hirsch

PHOTO BY: MARC FADER/CITY LIMITS

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n a February weekday, the regulars streamed into homey Camaguey Restaurant on 138th Street in Mott Haven for lunch. Many opted for the beef stew as a means of combating the winter chill. One regular customer ordering a plate of fried fish and plantains asked jokingly, “Where can I get some salt in this restaurant?” prompting one of the wait staff to quip, “Bloomberg doesn’t want you to have any salt.” For some Mott Havenites, the mayor’s controversial quality of life policies, such as banning plastic-foam containers and large soda bottles, are mere whimsies. Many here think the city is not doing enough to address what they contend are more serious issues, like violent crime and education. Luis Ospina, 49, has worked selling furniture at a local discount store for 10 years. He listed public safety and drugs as the most pressing problems; he then added that bleak living conditions in the neighborhood’s omnipresent public housing complexes exacerbate those concerns. “Have you seen how filthy those places are?” he said. The city should implement more job

training programs for young people who lack realistic prospects of finding good jobs, he said. He added that he would like to see more police on the streets. Loyda Lopez, who grew up in Mott Haven but moved to Pelham Parkway when she was 19, sat with her 23-year-old daughter, savoring the stew. She comes to Camaguey because “nobody makes this stuff better than them.” Lopez moved away to raise her kids in a safer environment, but returns to Mott Haven twice a week to visit family. Although nostalgic about the familial feel of her old neighborhood compared with more buttoned-up Pelham Parkway, she lamented that some of the problems she left behind three decades ago are unchanged. “They need after-school programs,” she said, adding that residents “have nobody to help them with their kids.” “Guns are all over the place,” she said, insisting that the mayor’s gun control policies have fallen short. “Talk is cheap. How do they still find a way to have these guns?” “The only thing Bloomberg gave us was 12 years for free,” she said, referring to the billionaire mayor’s willingness to serve without a salary. “Hopefully this borough will get much better.” Another woman, who asked not to be named out of fear of violence, recalled hearing gunshots one early morning a few months ago as she arrived to open the restaurant. A man in his 20s came racing around the corner, chased by the gunman, then hopped into a waiting car. “What if someone standing outside got hit with a stray bullet?” she said. But Gloria Cruz, a prominent local anti-gun violence activist, says the mayor has “started a lot of great programs,” on gun control and education, and “it would be sad if the next mayor doesn’t follow through.” Cruz, whose niece was killed by a stray bullet several years ago, organizes Mott Haven’s annual Million Mom March, which unites family members who have lost loved ones to violence. She attended President Obama’s Feb. 12 State of the Union address in Washington, as a special invitee of Congressman José E. Serrano, who has represented Mott Haven since 1990. In a press release following the president’s speech, Serrano echoed his constituents’ concerns, mentioning the gun violence issue first, ahead of jobs and immigration reform. Cruz says residents involved in grassroots advocacy campaigns too often lose focus. “People want to put a Band-Aid on it. We need more than a Band-Aid,” she said, adding the new mayor should establish local long-term task forces in high crime neighborhoods. But the first vice-president of the 40th Precinct Community Council, Carmen Aquino, said Mott Haven is safer than it used to be, thanks in part to a recent series of high-profile arrests. Local police and federal law enforcement collaborated to dismantle several crews that sold drugs in nearby NYCHA complexes last year. “Crime has gone way down,” she said, adding she no longer hesitates to go out evenings, as she did in the past. The number of murders in Mott Haven fell from 21 in 2011 to 12 in 2012. Felony assaults were also down, from 456 to 390, according to crime statistics published by the NYPD. Still, Aquino added, the city often forgets “small communities” and should implement more after-school programs. The Community Council president, Gabriel De Jesus, who also conducts outreach for a local church, says Mott Haven’s poverty and high crime have led to heavy-handed city policies that negatively impact residents. He says parents often ask “Why is the juvenile justice system taking our kids away from us?” and he doubts concern over poor communities like Mott Haven are what compelled the president to emphasize gun violence in his State of the Union address.

“The only reason we’re focusing on guns is because of what happened in Connecticut,” he said, referring to the Sandy Hook school shooting. The city continues to show its disregard for the South Bronx in other ways, dumping social programs here that are unwanted elsewhere, such as “the overwhelming amount of methadone clinics and shelters,” he explained. “Who’s really focusing on ‘I get my food in a Styrofoam container?’” De Jesus said. “I don’t think he’s focusing on core issues.” Aquino, who works as a parent coordinator in a local school, says immigration is another issue many here are focused on. Africans, Mexicans, Central Americans and Ecuadoreans have made Mott Haven home in recent years. Estela, a 35-year-old Mexican woman who declined to give her last name, grills corn outside Camaguey’s entrance, then sells it for $2 an ear, from early morning until late at night, with her 2-year-old daughter by her side. On a good day, she said, she makes $100. For Estela, there is one pressing concern: immigration reform. “All I want are my papers,” she said, adding she has no interest in city politics. Petty crime is a concern for some. Beverly Small owns a discount store around the corner from the restaurant. “We need cops. I have thieves coming in to my store,” she said. For Small, 59, housing the area’s many homeless is another area of concern, as is healthcare for the elderly, fighting the neighborhood’s asthma epidemic, and improving the quality of school lunches. “He’s a Republican, but he did his best,” said Small of Bloomberg, whom she refers to as the “Tree Mayor” for his emphasis on planting street trees. “It’s going to be a very interesting race,” De Jesus said of the coming mayoral election. “They’ll need to focus on concerns the people have, not their own agendas. Let the people speak about what’s bothering them.”

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CAMPAIGNS SKIP MOTT HAVEN; DRUG CENTERS AND SHELTERS DON’T
March 26, 2013 By: Joe Hirsch

PHOTO BY: MIA WENDEL-DILALLO/CITY LIMITS

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t was standing room only on a Saturday afternoon in March at a South Bronx church known for its social activism streak, where residents came, hoping to hear the city’s mayoral candidates explain their positions on the issues. There was only one problem: The three candidates considered frontrunners in next November’s election—City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson—were nowhere to be found. Over 100 potential voters instead heard three other candidates—City Comptroller John Liu, standup comic Randy Credico and Green Party representative Anthony Gronowicz— state their cases, at the Resurrection Church near Mott Haven on March 9. Local grassroots groups organized the event to acquaint residents with the candidates vying to represent them in City Hall. Many expressed anger that Quinn, de Blasio and Thompson had ignored invitations to attend, saying it was an indication of the low regard in which the city’s power structure holds the South Bronx. “I don’t know about you, but right now, I’m pissed off,” Pastor Kahli Mootoo of Bright Temple

AME Church in Hunts Point bellowed into the mic, to sustained applause. “For them not to be here, I’m pissed off so bad, Monday morning I’m going to pick up the phone and I’m going to make some phone calls.” One resident told the crowd that although politicians have long neglected the area, the buck stops with voters. “We allow this stuff to happen to us,” said Rita Jones, of the non-profit National Action Network’s Bronx division. “All we do is sit around looking out the window, cussing each other out,” she said, adding that advocates’ battles for Bronxites’ rights are “going to waste. If you’re not going to fight, then stop running your mouth.” Upset over concentration of clinics At Camaguey Restaurant on 138th St. a few days after the forum, one resident said the highest-profile candidates’ failure to appear was a sad but familiar example of Manhattan power brokers trying to keep South Bronx voters in the dark. “When the talking heads talk about the wonders Bloomberg has done for the city, they’re talking about Manhattan,” said Marian Rivas, 69, during lunch at the restaurant, a few blocks from her home. “We have not benefited.” Rivas is a Ph.D with a specialty in genetics, who returned 15 years ago to live in the house where she grew up, after many years working in other parts of the country. In 2011, she helped create We Are Mott Haven, a group of local homeowners and renters who oppose what they say is the city’s unstated policy to place as many drug rehab and mental health programs here as it can, to avoid political blowback in wealthier parts of the city. The group says the city’s choice to cluster treatment facilities and residences for chronically jobless newcomers in Mott Haven has made the streets feel more unsafe, and that it is pushing the neighborhood back toward the lawlessness of the 1970s. “This administration has targeted low-income, minority neighborhoods to place these shelters,” said Rivas, adding, “Even our own elected officials don’t know what’s going on. Public policy is against us.” Waiting for word from Cuomo The residents organized after finding that a non-profit agency, the Association for Rehabilitative Case Management and Housing, had secured state funding to build a six-story residence for people with psychiatric diagnoses, on a residential block. They say the area is already saturated with methadone clinics and similar residences. They point out that no city official or agency advised them the building was in the works; they found out only after a construction worker on the site mentioned it to Rivas in passing. The community district that comprises Mott Haven, services nearly as many of the borough’s mental health outpatient clients as the Bronx’s other 11 community boards combined, according to data from the City Planning Department. In addition, the area serves more outpatients classified as chemically dependent than any of the borough’s other community districts, with capacity to treat a quarter of those seeking services.The group pressured several elected officials who represent the neighborhood to send a letter to Gov. Cuomo last summer, asking that the project be stopped, but construction is well under way and Cuomo has not responded. The homeowners now believe that the support they received from local representatives was half-hearted, adding that the community board has been of no help.

But they insist theirs is not a NIMBY issue. They contend the neighborhood badly needs city-funded programs, but that the focus should be on services for needy children and other vulnerable residents, instead of unwanted facilities wealthier neighborhoods have successfully fought. “Why do we have to have all those methadone centers where these kids and teachers have to pass?” said Antonia Vega, 69, whose autistic grandson travels by bus to a school several miles away. “Why can’t they put a special needs school in the neighborhood?” Vega came away from the March 9 mayoral forum with meager expectations for next November. “Liu has good plans for housing people who live in shelters,” she said, but added, “They don’t do what they say.” Vega’s husband, Marcelino Sanchez, is similarly unenthused about the prospects for a new crop of elected officials, and is skeptical Mott Havenites’ concerns will be addressed. “They are absolutely impotent. They can promise whatever they want, but they cannot deliver,” said Sanchez. He calls the city’s unwillingness to stop the new psychiatric home, despite the local outcry, “almost criminal. They did it under the radar. Nobody knew until it was done.” Politics stir pessimism Julio Rodriguez, 64, a retired MTA worker, said that “although there’s a lot of activism in the area,” and “there’s a group for everything,” the advocacy rarely translates into policy changes. Like his neighbors, Rodriguez says he has been discouraged about the political process since joining the fight to prevent the psychiatric residence from being built. “They’re taking us for granted. There’s no real political power here,” said Rodriguez, adding he was not surprised the frontrunners ducked the mayoral forum. “There were going to be hard questions.” Rodriguez added that the community board system has been of no help in the fight to keep out the project. “We really don’t rely on them anymore. The community board does not tell the people what’s going on,” he said. “They are part of the problem. They’re selected by the borough president. If you don’t go their way, you’re out. Nobody’s challenging it from within.” The district manager of Bronx Community Board 1, Cedric Loftin, did not return a phone message requesting a response. For Rivas and her neighbors, one of the most important changes a new mayoral administration should bring is transparency in the decision-making process. “People gave up when they saw all of their efforts were going for nothing,” she said. “That’s what bothers me the most. We’re the last ones to know.”

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MOTT HAVEN UP FOR GRABS IN MAYOR’S RACE
BRONX/April 30, 2013 By: Matthew J. Perlman

PHOTO BY: MATTHEW PERLMAN/CITY LIMITS

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n a sunny Saturday in April, Gloria Cruz walked passed St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven, on her way to Camaguey Restaurant. Kids were playing outside. Mothers went by pushing strollers. Cruz was talking about gun legislation and the recent debate in Washington. “It’s a national issue now,” she said. “But it’s been a problem here for a long time.” A stray bullet killed her niece in 2005, only blocks away. The next year Cruz began helping organize the Bronx chapter of the Million Mom March, an event that honors those lost to gun violence and raises awareness about the issue. Inside Camaguey Restaurant on 138th Street, sitting in a booth along the mirrored wall, Cruz talked about recent setbacks to national gun control, and the frustration it made her feel. “I spent the whole afternoon talking to crying mothers.” Closer to home, Cruz feels Mayor Bloomberg is doing a better job. “He’s addressing the needs he needs to address,” she said. “He wants to make the city he loves better, safer and viable.”

She doesn’t know which candidate she’ll support in the upcoming mayoral election. She doesn’t know them well enough yet. “I haven’t heard their visions for the future.” She says that’s because the candidates haven’t come to her community. “We’re the bottom of the barrel,” she said. “If they want to know what’s going on in the community, they have to be here.” Whoever gets elected, there are a few things she hopes they know a lot about: education, business and city planning. “Or they should surround themselves with the right people,” something she said Bloomberg has done well. Cruz also appreciates the mayor’s pragmatism, citing his Young Men’s Initiative, a private-public partnership that connects black and Latino young men to educational, employment and mentoring programs. Cruz sees it as an example of the mayor perceiving a need and finding the money to get it fixed. “I’m hoping the next mayor is just as proactive,” she said. On a different day in Camaguey, the television played a soap opera as customers ordered plates of yellow rice with roasted chicken or bowls of savory orange stew. Bernard Aguero, an electrician from Woodside, finished his lunch and fiddled with his cell phone. “My ideal mayor would fix the education system,” he said. Aguero’s daughter is hearing impaired and he sends her to a private school so she can receive the attention of a specialized program. “The public standards are so low,” he said about special education in the city. “I understand that my kid is my responsibility, but if the city could help,” he said, trailing off and shaking his head. “I hope it changes.” For Aguero, the problems with city schools are related to a wider sense that Bloomberg’s New York City caters to the upper crust—a common refrain in Mott Haven. “He’s helping the high class of New York, but he’s doing nothing in the boroughs.” The music in Camaguey in the late afternoons fades in and out like the stream of regular customers. And it alternates between salsa and pop songs. A familiar fixture on one of the counter stools is Vicente Mino, 68, a retired mechanic who lives in an apartment above the restaurant. During a lull, he talked about the possibility of former Congressman Anthony Weiner entering the mayor’s race. “These guys always make mistakes,” he said. “They’re never going to change.” “That’s it.” Mino acknowledges that a business background is good preparation for a mayor. “They know how to run a company, so they know how to run a city.” But, he adds, he has had enough of Bloomberg. “What is he? A dictator?” Mino moved from Ecuador about 40 years ago, and has lived in Mott Haven for three decades. He says the neighborhood used to look like World War II. It’s gotten better, he says, but problems persist. “Number one,” counting on his hand, “has to be the drugs. It keeps young people on the streets.” He has yet to choose a candidate for the election, and also said it seems like the campaigns are all focusing on Manhattan. “None of them come here to see what’s going on.” Later in the evening, as the music in Camaguey grew louder and more consistently salsa, Angel Ortiz, 53, sat at the counter making small talk. The television played a movie, but the volume was either turned off or completely drowned out. The bad thing about picking somebody to make decisions for you, he said, a smile breaking across his face, “is they aren’t you.” But to make the process better, he said, the candidates

should talk to all the communities they want to represent. “Politicians are the ones who create the environment that people live in, and people need to know about the decisions being made for them.” Ortiz doesn’t have many specific requirements for the next mayor, he just hopes they’ll try to understand the needs of all New Yorkers, not just people like themselves. “A good mayor will recognize his shortcomings, and invite people into his cabinet that reflect the poorer communities.” “We’re all in this together,” he said.

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MOTT HAVEN TALKS SCHOOLS: LITTLE LOVE FOR MAYOR OR CRITICS
BRONX/ June 4, 2013 By: Matthew J. Perlman and Nicholas Wells

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he business at Camaguey Restaurant on 138th Street in Mott Haven changes with the weather this time of year. The warmth and sun of Memorial Day means more people are barbecuing down the street in St. Mary’s Park than are coming to sit at the counter. Around the corner on Brook Avenue, a regular Camaguey customer and the owner of a convenience store, Beverly Small, 59, sits behind her register noting the same lull. As the conversation turns to local politics, she strikes a note that is often repeated in Mott Haven—that the issues people face every day are more important than the elected officials representing them. And for many, that means education. “I know a lot of the people around here—I don’t think are very well educated,” Small says, explaining that a lot of her customers can’t read the lotto tickets they’ve just bought. Small has to tell them if their ticket is for a morning or evening drawing. “Education is such a big deal.” Small also talks about problems with kids coming in and trying to steal, and about fights on

the street outside the week before that prompted her to call the police. “These kids need to be in some programs,” she says. “Most of the parents have no idea what the kids are up to.” “Kids have to be kids, but this is a little too much.” Not fans of mayoral control Later in the week at Camaguey, the rain is keeping most people in a hurry to get off the streets. Joseph Greenberg, 40, the son of one of the restaurant’s owners, is restocking sodas, doing dishes and cleaning up. As a couple of young kids climb over the chairs and duck between tables, Greenberg talks about the state of education in the Bronx. “You got to realize that the parents of most children here in the borough—the parents—are less educated. They’re just trying to pay the bills. To get by.” “I don’t think there’s a fix for that. It’s too broad of a problem,” Greenberg says. But he does see mayoral control of the school system, which Bloomberg instituted in 2002 by dissolving the Board of Education, as a big mistake. “I think there should be a separate entity,” he says. “The mayor knows how to make money, but what does he know about how the people are living? What they’re dealing with?” This notion of distance between the public and the politicians who govern them cuts deep for Greenberg. “They’re just not in tune,” he says. Seeking quality in charters, parochial schools The next day, as Gale Coles waits for her order of mondango, a savory soup made with tripe, she talks about charter schools in the Bronx. “My children are in charter schools. I don’t trust the public schools,” she says. Her eldest son graduated from the public school system, but that experience led her to send two younger kids to KIPP charter schools, where they are currently enrolled. “I felt the quality of the public schools was not up to par,” she says. “I see the difference with charter schools.” “At the end of the day, it’s just a better-quality education. They have them thinking about college from the first grade,” Coles says. On the same afternoon a couple blocks away at Brook Park, volunteer Dawn Cherry, 54, works at weeding a patch of garden, getting it ready for planting this summer. She puts down her hoe to talk. “Thanks for the break,” she says, wiping away some sweat. Cherry has raised 10 kids in the Bronx, and all but two are now in college or off working in other parts of the country. She used to send her kids to the public schools and was heavily involved with the PTA. But after PS 220 on East 140th Street was shutdown in 2008 she became disenchanted with the city’s school system. Now, she sends one of her kids to St. Jerome, a Catholic school, and the other to a special education program for children on the autistic spectrum down in Florida. Issues in the school system, she says, come from the mayor’s take over. “The mayoral control surely should end and it should go back to the Board of Ed,” she says. “Teachers should be more involved in the running of schools,” she adds, and parents also need to play a role. “Unless you work together as a team, it’s not going to work.” Cherry is ambivalent about the issue of teacher evaluations because they can’t gauge all the factors that contribute to how a student performs. “There’s some value in teacher testing, because if you’re not good you can see it right away. But who’s to say who’s a good teacher?” “You could be taught by Einstein,” she says, but if you have trouble at home you’re not going to do well. Back at Camaguey, Alvin Sullivan, 48, talks over a sweetened espresso about some of those

troubles. He’s been in out of the penal system for the last 30 years. Growing up in the South Bronx, he says, there was “no place for us kids to go—they did away with the community centers.” He worries that his son, who is 23, will take after him. Sullivan has served time on for a variety of drug-related charges, including a three-year stint in the mid-1980s for attempted murder. He says he thinks that people in the South Bronx are more worried about fixing their day-today problems than about politics. “The issues at hand are more important than these bigger issues.”

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SOUTH BRONX COUNCIL RACES GENERATE LITTLE HEAT
BRONX/ July 8, 2013 By: Joe Hirsch

PHOTO BY: JOE HIRSCH/CITY LIMITS

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hen the city’s redistricting commission pulled back the curtain on newly drawn City Council lines in February, it revealed that all of Mott Haven would be lumped in with East Harlem in the 8th Council district. The move pushed the 17th Council district, now represented by longtime incumbent Maria del Carmen Arroyo, to points farther north. The largely residential Melrose neighborhood just north, will remain inside the 17th. Five months later, few residents appear to have taken much interest in the district lines or the candidates. Incumbent has low profile among diners At Camaguey Restaurant on 138th St., and across Mott Haven, Melissa Mark-Viverito is the incumbent voters will consider in September’s primary.

On a sweltering afternoon, a half-dozen 60-something men sat on stools around the entrance to the 6-train at Brook Avenue near the restaurant. None could say who is running for the council seat, or knew that Mark-Viverito has represented this sliver of the neighborhood for eight years. Beverly Smalls, a regular customer at Camaguey who owns a convenience store around the corner, came in to buy lunch on a slow July 5 afternoon. She explained that a local candidate for the council seat left a form at her store weeks ago, asking for help getting signatures to put her on the ballot. But Smalls said her customers “don’t want to sign a paper if they don’t know who she is. They want to vote, but they don’t want to vote for someone they don’t know.” “This neighborhood is all about who you know,” she said. While mopping the restaurant floor, Janet Greenberg, one of three sisters who runs Camaguey, recalled an elected official who began his career locally, then worked his way up to Albany. She recalls how he used to come in regularly to chat with staff and customers, courting votes. It’s been years since he’s been back. “Now he’s all the way up there and we’re down here,” Greenberg said. Smalls says she has heard a few local NYCHA tenants say good things about Mark-Viverito, but it’s rare that anyone among the hundreds of regular customers who come into her store for supplies or lottery tickets knows about the candidates or the imminent elections. “If something is not done, the vote is going to be very low,” Smalls predicted. Challenger faces steep climb Early indications are that voter apathy is as entrenched in the other section of Bronx Community Board 1, the 17th Council district just north of Camaguey, as it is in the 8th. At a voter registration drive at the Jackson Senior Center in Melrose on July 3, one dark horse candidate running against del Carmen Arroyo encouraged seniors to get involved. “You are in District 17,” Julio Pabon, 61, told some 100 seniors, then informed them that “the City Council decides everything that has to do with the city,” including “the buses you take,” and the need for elevators at subway stations. He urged the seniors to help raise local voter participation rates from the meager 12 percent of those registered who now vote. “That’s why this community gets no attention,” he said. “Don’t vote for people just because they’re the only ones you see on the ballot,” Pabon urged the seniors in Spanish and English. Name recognition is especially complicated in an area in which the familiar names span generations. “Ruben Diaz has our backs,” said Monserrate Bica, 81, in Spanish, while seated at a table with friends. But when asked, she could not specify whether she was referring to longtime State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., or Diaz’s son Ruben Diaz Jr., the borough president. Asked about the City Council race, Bica complained that Arroyo doesn’t come to the center as often as she should, but couldn’t say whether she was referring to current Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo or the councilwoman’s mother, longtime Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, who also represents Melrose. Danny Barber, a lifelong resident of Jackson Houses and a tenant and youth organizer, supports the Arroyos for securing funding for key initiatives in the South Bronx. “My commitment is to the dynasty,” he said. Even so, Barber says he recognizes many fellow tenants cast their ballots not for deeds but

for names. “People have the idea stuck in their heads. Nothing’s going to change,” he said, adding, “They’re not going to take chances on people they don’t know.” Tired of government But even name recognition can be hard to gauge in a race few at the senior center are following. While attending the voter registration pitch, Elsie Velez, 66, said City Council representatives “don’t do anything.” Shirley Drakeford, 64, said candidates “do things for their own benefit.” But despite their dissatisfaction with their representatives, neither was able to name the candidates or the role of the City Council. A wheelchair-bound NYCHA tenant, Betty Gant, sat waiting to enter the center. Gant, 65, said that although she votes, she does so with reservations. Her two grown sons are so disillusioned with the political process that they don’t vote at all, she said. “It’s always the same. They make a lot of promises but nothing ever happens,” said Gant. On a recent night when neither elevator in her building was working, Gant, who has diabetes and heart disease, slept in front of the building, after being carried down twelve flights of stairs in her wheelchair. Gant says she has pushed NYCHA officials for two years to transfer her to a lower floor with a wider doorway that EMS workers and family members can wedge her through in emergencies. For Gant, the city’s failure to improve public housing conditions is an indication of unresponsive government. This time, she hopes it will be different. “They sweep you under the rug,” she said, adding, “Seniors like me in a wheelchair, who’s going to fight for us? I hope like hell somebody’s going to hear what we have to say.” Clock ticks for hopefuls After the registration session, Pabon’s volunteers collected signatures in the torrid heat on 156th Street, with just a week left to get their man on the ballot for the September primary. Pabon, a local businessman who served as chief of staff for Congressman Jose E. Serrano during the 1980s when Serrano was an assemblyman, threw his hat into the ring earlier this year to challenge Arroyo, who was first elected in 2005. Arroyo’s eight-year run has been pockmarked with scandal. In 2010, her nephew, Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, was jailed for a year and a day, after pleading guilty to embezzling $115,000 in federal funds from a low-income housing non-profit he ran. He confessed to funneling some of the money to his aunt’s and grandmother’s campaigns. In 2011, the councilwoman tried to circumvent standard practice by pressuring officials to bypass city housing agencies and allow a group that had contributed to her campaign to land a management contract on a large Mott Haven apartment building for seniors, according to Crain’s. Although Pabon’s volunteers have collected far more than the 450 signatures needed to get on the ballot, they say the arcane process has been an obstacle course. Campaign volunteer Saj Rahman, 31, has been inputting signatures into one of eight computers at the Bronx Board of Elections’ dingy basement office, trying to beat the July 11 deadline on a balky computer system. “Two can be broken at any given time,” Rahman said. At times, teams of four or five

volunteers from better-funded campaigns have arrived at the election office. If he has been on the computers for a while, the clerks will tell him to leave so the other team can use the computers, he said. According to the New York City Campaign Finance Board, Mark-Viverito is being challenged by Ralina M. Cardona, Sean P. Gardner, Gwen Goodwin and Tamika L. Humphreys. Aside from Pabon, Arroyo is facing challenger Jose Velez. Challengers are encouraged to get three times the minimum number of signatures in order to fend off inevitable legal challenges by incumbents and party lawyers. “Since the Board of Elections is run by people who are appointed by the Democratic establishment, this favors the incumbent,” Rahman said. “Are they being biased toward us?”

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CYCLE OF POLITICAL DISENGAGEMENT ON ONE BRONX CORNER
BRONX/Aug. 12, 2013 By: Kate Pastor

PHOTO BY: KATE PASTOR/CITY LIMITS

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t the Camaguey restaurant on 138th Street in Mott Haven, campaign season hasn’t arrived yet. Maybe it never will. Men at the counter hunched over plates of steaming rice and meat crane their necks toward the TV screen, but it’s to watch a soccer game, not the latest campaign gaffe or fluctuating poll numbers. Just weeks before the Sept. 10 primary, it was hard to find anyone to talk about the election and many seemed unaware there was one going on. “This September? That’s for the president, right?” asked Ramon Antunez, 65, a regular, eating lunch at the counter one recent afternoon. “When I come to this country I only vote one time, for George Bush,” he said. “Not even in my country I used to vote.”

Antunez is a Honduran immigrant and said he was granted political asylum in the United States after being persecuted for anti-communist activities. But he wants nothing to do with politics in the country he has called home for the last 43 years. While concerned that there are people working below the minimum wage — “We have people right here in New York, they’re working for $3.50,” he said — he was resigned to the fact that voting would make no difference. “Politicians lie,” he said. “When they go inside the government, they clean the brain.” A history of low turnout Data compiled and analyzed by WNYC of adult U.S. citizens voting patterns in 2009 New York City elections — including the mayoral general election — show the voting rate around Camaguey restaurant among those eligible (not necessarily registered) was between 17 and 20 percent that year. Two-thirds of the city’s Census tracts had less than 20 percent eligible-citizen turnout. The Bronx, where 62 percent of census tracts had fewer than 20 percent of voting-age citizens cast ballots, was the worst. The area covering Community District 1 (in which Camaguey lies) and Community District 2 was in the bottom 10th percentile of voter turnout for both 2008 and 2009, according to “Voter Turnout in New York City,” a New York City Campaign Finance Board demographic analysis of the 2008 and 2009 elections that uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Low voter turnout in the Bronx is not new. It was severe enough to have garnered the borough protection under the Voting Rights Act until key parts of the law were struck down by the Supreme Court this year. In 1971, Bronx, Manhattan and Queens were added to the group of municipalities covered under the law because fewer than half of the voting-age people were registered or voted—a problem the Justice Department linked to statewide English literacy tests for voters. Ignored by campaigns Now, the literacy tests are gone. But low turnout remains. And it’s mirrored by low interest from candidates running for office. Candidates for mayor have made some 2,362 campaign stops throughout the five boroughs so far this campaign season, according to a New York Times analysis of campaign stops by all mayoral hopefuls. But they have been largely absent from the Bronx and from Camaguey’s corner, and the sidewalk where a group of vendors hawks cookware and another peddler across the street wears a cow costume to attract the attention of passersby. Even former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, the Independence Party nominee, has spent more time in Manhattan than in the Bronx. And Queens and Brooklyn got more love than the mainland from all of the other candidates, too. John Liu made more campaign stops in the Bronx than any other candidate. Still, Staten Island was the only borough he visited less frequently. Bill Thompson has trekked to the South Bronx only once; Bill deBlasio, Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner, Joe Lhota and John A. Catsimatidis have made no stops in the South Bronx, according to the map. It’s a vicious cycle. Voter apathy gives candidates a reason to avoid campaigning in

neighborhoods where they’re unlikely to get much reward, and residents, in turn, continue to feel that the upcoming election has little to do with them. Even when residents do show interest, campaigns don’t always react. At a candidate forum in the South Bronx in March, which was standing room only, Liu was the only one of the major party candidates to make it. Degrees of disengagement According to the CFB’s analysis of low-voter turnout areas, the neighborhood around Camaguey has some key demographic factors in common with other low turnout pockets in the city. Census tracts with low voter turnout had a higher proportion of men, young adults and naturalized citizens (as opposed to citizens born in the U.S.) and displayed higher residential turnover and lower educational attainment, the study found. Just over half the population in Mott Haven, Melrose and Hunts Point has a high school diploma. Nearly a quarter of residents only made it through the ninth grade. Just one in 12 has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Juan Carlos Lopez, 34, on of Camaguey’s regulars, moved to Sheridan Avenue in Parkchester but still makes it in for lunch. “This area, a lot of people no have a paper,” he said, including him. He’s originally from Honduras. If he were weighing in on the mayoral election, he said he’d consider it important for candidates to address the need for more adult educational opportunities. He took English classes nearby at a school that then shuttered its doors, he said. He struggled to find the words in English to say that he’d like to build on his year of education and have greater access to vocational training in his field of commercial construction. Almost 70 percent of those surveyed in the two community districts—27 percent greater than New York City overall—do not speak English as their primary language, which can be a factor in elections, the report found. But the most significant factor in the South Bronx was transience: 18.2 percent of the population lived in a different residence one year ago—at a rate almost 50 percent greater than New York City overall. Ellion Wright, 22, is one of those people. He recently moved back to the neighborhood and was passing Camaguey on the way home from Queens, where he had travelled with his buddy, who was picking up his public assistance check. The median household income in the two districts was $19,982, 64 percent lower than the city as a whole, according to the CFB report. Wright said he plans to vote on the Democratic line at some point this year, but did not know who’d be on the ballot. “I would decide only for the person for helping the people on public assistance,” he said, noting that he’d seen families suffer when benefits were cut off and that the next mayor should provide more activities, like camps, for young people. Magda Lopez, 48, travelled in her wheelchair past the restaurant. She’s a Democrat and votes in every election, she said. But she, too, has yet to tune in to the particulars. “This year, to tell the truth, I don’t even know who’s running,” she said. Pretty soon she’ll turn on the TV to learn about her choices, she said. The next mayor should be concerned with creating jobs, combating escalating rents, reducing the high cost of higher education, fighting crime and improving the overall welfare of the city’s minority populations, she said. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg “forgets about the minorities.”

Getting out the vote Not so for SEIU, which is in the process of canvassing the neighborhood in a get out the vote campaign that may be the surest sign yet of a campaign season in Mott Haven. The local 32BJ has targeted the 8th Council district as one of the 13 across the city with high member density, large numbers of Latinos and contested council races. They are encouraging people to get out to the polls, and registering people to vote. The union is supporting Quinn for mayor, Scott Stringer for controller, Letitia James for public advocate and Mark-Viverito in the District 8 council race. Simon Torres, S2BJ member political organizer, said he’s been out knocking on members’ doors in the district for about a month and would intensify the effort starting Aug. 10—adding more days and volunteers and increasing the goal from 100 doors a day to thousands. The majority of people he talks to don’t know much, if anything, about the candidates and are undecided about who they will vote for, he said, which is where he comes in: to educate them.

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The Five Borough Ballot

AS ’13 RACE LOOMS, SPLIT OPINION ON BLOOMBERG
BROOKL YN / February 11, 2013 By: Jarrett Murphy

PHOTO BY: ANTHONY LANZILOTE/CITY LIMITS

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here is tranquility to the regular Friday bingo game in the cafeteria of the Van Dyke II senior center on Dumont Street in Brownsville. There is the gentle sloshing of dishwashing in the kitchen; the raindrop patter of bingo balls churning in their dispenser; and the rhythmic cadence of the game caller. “B … 17. The number 17.” Pause. “N … 5. The number 5.” Hanging plants dangle from the ceiling. There is a sign that says “Happy Kwanzaa!” and another that reads “No person will be denied service because of inability or unwillingness to contribute.” There is a photograph of President Obama and a painting of an alternative Mount Rushmore featuring Martin Luther King, MalcolmX, Frederick Douglas and W.E.B. Du Bois. Brownsville is 80 percent black. In the Census block where the senior center sits, there are 3,800 black people and 29 whites. One Friday in January, one of the players is named Joyce. She has lived at the Van Dyke development for 34 years. Eighteen thousand people reside in 15 public housing developments in Brownsville, but Van Dyke is the biggest, with 22 buildings and 4,200 tenants. Joyce says she

always votes. Like most in the room, she’s not familiar with the names of anyone running for mayor. Of the neighborhood, she says, “It was worse; then it got better. Now it’s going back. Too many guns on the street.”

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ou know who’s going to be mayor?” asks another player, Michael. “Christopher Quinn. That’s who’s going to be mayor.” Michael is one of only two men playing bingo. There are 17 women. There is no chatter and little smiling, because people are concentrating on their numbers. Some manage three, four, even six bingo sheets. Geraldine has lived at Van Dyke for 50 years. She said this about Mayor Bloomberg: “He should go out. He don’t do nothing anyway. Bloomberg’s doing a good job for the people upstate.” At another table is Sybill Moore, who thumbed through her Bible before the game. She believes the mayor performed in exemplary fashion after Sandy: “He brought out what I didn’t see in him [before]. In his heart he still has love for the people. That disaster showed what he had on the inside.” A hand shoots up at another table. “And ‘bingo’ has been called!” the caller declares. The prize is a bottle of Tide. The prizes are all household goods: paper towels, plastic forks and spoons, talcum powder, garbage bags. An hour earlier the room was packed for a lunch of fish, French fries and coleslaw. James Smith, 68, ate alone. He lives in a private building nearby and is trying to get into NYCHA. What strikes him about this neighborhood, he says, is the fear people have about robbery: Many do not leave their apartments on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of the month because they believe robbers target people on days when Social Security or benefit checks come in. He’s worried about the further decriminalization of marijuana, because it’s what most of the street criminals are high on, he says. “What’s it going to be like when that stuff is legal?” he wonders. He has been stopped several times by the police. “It don’t bother me none. They have a job to do.” There were 15 murders in the 73rd Precinct last year, compared with 26 in 2001. With nearly 40 percent poverty in 2011, Brownsville was the fourth-poorest district in the city. In the election last November, the local assemblyman, William Boyland Jr., was returned to office with 79 percent of the vote. Turnout was 59 percent. Lisa Kenner knows Boyland, knows state Sen. John Sampson, knows Councilwoman Darlene Mealy. Kenner, 54, is a former district leader and currently heads the residents’ association at Van Dyke, the only place she has ever lived. Retired after being injured breaking up a fight at a juvenile justice center where she once worked, she works on resident issues full-time: chasing down residents who fail to take care of their garbage and hounding management to remove the scaffolding that lingers around 422 Powell Street—her building—and that makes residents feel unsafe walking at night. “I love my mayor,” she says of Bloomberg. “He has to be tough to be the mayor. But you still have to give and take. You can’t talk down to people, the people who put you in office.” The school bus strike, she says, is a classic example of the mayor’s inability to compromise.

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The Five Borough Ballot

TOP ISSUE IN BROWNSVILLE: FEAR OF THE TEENS, FEAR FOR THE TEENS
BROOKL YN / March 12, 2013 By: Jarrett Murphy

PHOTO BY: ANTHONY LANZILOTE/CITY LIMITS

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n the front door of the 14-story building at 422 Blake Avenue in Brownsville, there is a warning for residents. Because of the rash of rapes and robberies in the area, it recommends that people keep visitors out of the hallways, lest they be stopped by the

police. Out on the sidewalk on a recent weekday morning, a man named BJ was waiting for his sister. He’s lived in the area since 1972. “It’s better, safer than how it was in the eighties, with crack and whatnot,” BJ says. He actually lives about six blocks away, but he feels those six blocks make a difference. “A lot of rapes and robberies over here,” he says, indicating the block where we’re standing. As he talks, two police officers on foot step out of the building across the street. It, like 422 Blake, is part of the massive Van Dyke I public housing complex. BJ’s mother lives about a mile away in the Plaza Residences. It was once called Noble Drew Ali Plaza, but the new owners—a company headed by former Mets slugger Mo Vaughn—changed the name to try to shed the property’s reputation as a den of drug-dealing and violence. “They done cleaned those projects up,” BJ says. “They’ve got cameras everywhere.” The cameras

bother some people, but not BJ’s mother—or at least not BJ, a thickly built man in his mid-50. Neither do the “vertical patrols” that the NYPD does in his sister’s building and others, even if it means you’re not supposed to stand in the hallways of the place you live. But he feels differently about the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. “I don’t like that,” he says. “Bunch of cops jump out of the car at somebody. I’ve seen it.” Among the people who live in and around the building at 422 Blake, BJ’s take is a familiar one. Crime is by far the chief concern cited by people in Brownsville. In a recent survey of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by the Community Service Society (which owns City Limits) , “reducing crime, drugs and guns” was ranked the third most important issue; reducing stop-andfrisk ranked eighth. But in Brownsville at least, the common worry about crime masks different ideas about which way the neighborhood is heading; some feel things are worse than ever, while others believe conditions are better than they were in the bad old days, but have deteriorated recently. Accompanying their nuanced reading of history are complicated feelings about the police. And underlying all of it is not so much worry about crime as a fear of—and for—young people in the neighborhood. Fear the teens Betty Weems has lived in the neighborhood for 41 years. Ask her what the most pressing issue facing Brownsville is and she’ll say, “Crime, really. Crime is up in the neighborhood.” (Through the end of February, NYPD crime statistics showed less felony crime so far in 2013 in the 73rd precinct that includes Brownsville, though the number of rapes was up compared with the same period in 2012.) Weems believes the area is “definitely worse” than it used to be. But what stands out to her is not so much criminal behavior (“I’m not really afraid of going out. If you mind your businesses, you’re going to be fine,” she insists) as a lack of order. “The neighborhood was beautiful. We had doormen. You couldn’t go on the grass,” she recalls. People took care of their trash.” This is a common refrain among long-time residents of 422 Blake—that respect for the norms of social living has eroded. “You know what it is?” says Brenda Martin, who moved to the area 58 years ago when she was two months old and has resided at 422 Powell since 1996. “It’s just, like, so many teenagers, everywhere. I see these groups and I worry someone will start shooting.” “There’s nothing here for them to do,” Martin continues. She has three children and the youngest, who is 21, still lives with her. “I used to have to call him upstairs [from outside]. Now all he does is just go in and out. Most of his friends have been into drugs or gangs.” He doesn’t want anything to do with them, she says. Her son’s been robbed of his jewelry. Worried about robbery, some residents of the building don’t take the elevator with strangers. Many are concerned about the scaffolding that surrounds the building because they believe it limits the effectiveness of the security cameras. Asked about the police, who are frequently criticized for being too aggressive in neighborhoods like Brownsville, Martin chortles. “Where are they? I don’t see them. I think they’re in a building hiding. These boys got big guns.” Martin insists the latter bit is not hyperbole; just the other day, she heard gunfire and instinctively crouched. (In fact, the NYPD’s efforts in Brownsville, including using Facebook to track gang members, have been in the press recently.) “It’s a different generation,” she says of kids today. “They don’t care. There’s no hope. We had a lot of parents who got strung out on drugs. There’s just no respect here. No type of respect.”

Perceptions of danger differ Weems blames the system—namely a lack of jobs—for the problems of local youth. Notably, she doesn’t explicitly call for more police in the area. But maybe that’s just down her list. “We need schools. We need retail. We need a lot in Brownsville.” “I think I live in the best and cleanest building” in Van Dyke, says Martin—who recently retired from the Administration for Children’s Services after 27 years of service. But would she leave Brownsville if she could? “Oh, hell yeah.” Still, what really gets her goat is Channel 12, which she think paints Brownsville as more crimeridden than it is. “It could be a crime in East New York—they always say ‘Brownsville.’ ” “It’s not like we have dead people all over the ground,” she adds. That’s what outsiders miss, differences of degree. The statistics actually back that up. While the number of murders, rapes and robberies in Brownsville is much lower than it was a decade ago, there were about as many assaults in 2012 as there were in 2001. During the day in the middle of winter, it was—not surprisingly—hard to find the bands of unruly teenagers that worry Weems and Martin. The only person under 50 visible in the neighborhood, a guy in his 20s walking down Powell Street, had face tattoos that didn’t welcome inquiry. But when one was made, he said in a gentle voice that he couldn’t talk. “I’m late to pick up my little one,” he said, gesturing with his hand to about a three-year-old’s height. Meanwhile, a race for mayor Lisa Kenner, the head of the Resident Association for Van Dyke I, is concerned about respect issues like her friend Martin. Equally troubling to Kenner is the turf consciousness that young people in the area seem to have internalized. To her, beefs between this building and that building create red lines that constrain a childhood already hemmed in by poverty (Brooklyn Community District 16, which covers Brownsville, had a 39.8 percent poverty rate in 2010, fourth highest in the city). That’s one reason why she’s organizing a youth conference for some time this spring—an event for parents and kids. She wants to target children ages 5 through 12 “because nobody ever cares about the little ones. They always do it for the teenagers or the adults.” Her longer-term goal is to find some role models for the young men in her midst. “We don’t have the males stepping up.” Kenner, a former Democratic district leader, is keeping one eye on the youth programming and another on the mayoral race. “Everybody’s talking about it,” she says, though Kenner is unusually engaged. BJ’s sister didn’t know there was a race on, but was glad to hear that Mayor Bloomberg is in his final year. “Thank God! He was ripping the city off, is all he was doing,” she said, not elaborating. Neither Weems nor Martin is paying much attention to the race yet; both voted for Bill Thompson in 2009. Kenner says 2009 is the last time Thompson was seen out at Van Dyke; this absence is a reason she’s leaning against voting for him. She likes Bill de Blasio, but isn’t sure he’ll rally enough support. Kenner feels a woman or Latino candidate might be what the electorate wants this year, and is inviting Christine Quinn to a women’s history event she’s planning (a “high tea,” where the ladies in attendance wear hats, Kenner hopes). As Kenner sits in her office in the basement of 422 Blake, a Barack Obama bobble-head vibrates subtly on the desk behind her. I ask Kenner and her friend Penny if their neighbors might feel some pull to vote for Thompson because he, like nearly all of them, is black. Both wave the

notion off. “Ain’t no black or white thing now,” Kenner insists. If you can give Brownsville what it needs, she’ll vote for you, she says. “You could be a green tiger.”

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The Five Borough Ballot

WHAT BROWNSVILLE WANTS IN A MAYOR
BROOKL YN / April 16, 2013 By: Jarrett Murphy

PHOTO BY: KIRSTI ITAMERI/METROFOCUS

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s he smokes a cigarette outside the senior center on the edge of the massive Van Dyke Houses development in Brownsville in early April, stealing is on Angelo’s mind. He points to the garbage-laced metal fence around the patio next to where he was standing. “Why is there only one garbage can there?” asks Angelo, a Latino man in his 40s wearing a Yankees cap and clutching a rubber ball in his non-cigarette hand. He points to the garbage-laced metal fence around the patio next to where he was standing. He means this as a critique of the people running the Van Dyke complex for the New York City Housing Authority. Sort of. “But at the same time, when they put out more garbage cans, the guys steal them and sell them for scrap metal,” he says. “Yeah. Really. So people complain, ‘In the suburbs, they don’t have just one garbage can!’ And I say, ‘Yeah, but in the suburbs, people don’t steal the garbage cans either.’ ” A couple days earlier, the papers had carried allegations of a different kind of theft: State Sen. Malcolm Smith and City Councilman Daniel Halloran had been arrested on charges they

conspired to attempt to bribe Smith into the Republican mayoral primary. They’re just allegations at this point, but the general reaction at Van Dyke is not one of surprise. People there are used to thieves, whether they sit in high office or, as many elderly residents fear, lay in wait in the elevators on the days people cash their Social Security checks. Still, some take the scandal personally, like Geraldine Jenkins, who has lived at Van Dyke for 50 years. “I don’t think it’s fair for them to treat us like that,” she says.

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nside the senior center, lunch is fish and French fries. As the meal wraps up, a hyper-energetic physical trainer going by the nickname “Chico Malo” (or “Bad Boy”) recruits a dozen seniors to do calisthenics at the front of the room as dance music pulsates from a far corner. The almost exclusively female crowd pumps their biceps and works their quads. “Are you weak?” Chico Malo shouts. “No!” they shout back. “Are you weak?!” “No!!” One diner who was surprised by the Smith-Halloran scandal was Lisa Kenner, the head of the resident association for the 22-building development. She has met Smith and liked him. As a former Democratic district leader, Kenner is unusually engaged in politics—a couple months back she took the train into Manhattan to see an Independence Party forum, just to stay abreast of what was said there. That proximity to politics has made her less cynical than some of her neighbors, or at least more selective in her cynicism. “I don’t think most of them are corrupt, no,” she says of the politicians she has met. “I believe a lot of them are honest and they have the community at heart when they took the job to serve. They really wanted to serve the people.” More than simply being about power and money, Kenner says she believes corruption is a symptom of a broader narcissism. “That’s why you’ve got to pray,” she says. “You’ve got to pray when you go and take care of business. … When you became an elected official it stopped becoming about you. It’s about the people and that what they’ve got to realize.” At the lunch table Jessica Locklear, who has lived in the area since 1984, sits with a copy of the Daily News in front of her. Despite being a newspaper reader, she seems barely aware of the mayoral campaign. “I’m not really paying attention. Is John Liu running?” she asks, “I think I’ll vote for him.” Jenkins isn’t really paying attention either, but says she’s certain she’ll vote for a Democrat. Why? “Because I’ve always been a Democrat. I don’t like Republicans. They don’t want to give the poor people anything. ” What does she want in a mayor? “Someone who’ll help the seniors,” she answers. “Somebody that’s going to help everybody. I don’t care what color you are, what race you are.” This is a constant refrain in Brownsville. Ask someone which of the candidates they’re for, and they’ll say they want someone who’s for people like them. It’s a vague notion, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t meaningful. The fact that Mayor Bloomberg is perceived as not being for them is the key ingredient in the mix of scorn and mockery that the mention of the mayor’s name brings. People may not know the names of people who are running for mayor in 2013, but they are always deeply pleased that Bloomberg is not among them. enner is joined at the lunch table by her friend Brenda Martin, who recently retired from the Administration for Children’s Services after 27 years. After a bit of prodding, she talks over lunch about one abused child she encountered during her time at ACS, an 11-year-old girl who’d been beaten and raped. Martin became an unofficial foster parent to the girl, now in her 20s and living in North Carolina with her family. They still talk on the phone every day, Martin

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giving advice, the girl trying to convince Martin to move to North Carolina. Martin may not be much engaged in the mayoral race, but not because she’s disengaged from the wider world. As Chico Malo finishes up the workout, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries steps into the room. This is shocking. Jeffries won’t face election for another 19 months, so his arrival is a direct counter to the frequent complaint in Brownsville, and other low-income neighborhoods, that politicians only come around when they need votes. As far as Kenner recalls, it’s only the second time in recent memory that someone in power has just popped in to the senior center. “The only other one I can remember is Darlene Mealy,” she says. Jeffries says he’s come back to thank residents for electing him and to enlist them in fighting the “mean-spirited people” in the Republican Party that controls the House. “They want to call Social Security and Medicare ‘giveaway programs,’” he says.” They’re not giveaway programs. You’ve paid for them all your life.” As Jeffries works the room, handing out handshakes and business cards, an Asian woman comes up to Kenner.” I think I’ve seen him before,” the woman says, pointing at Jeffries. “Yes,” says Kenner. “He’s your congressman.”

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n the beaming sunshine of an early spring afternoon, Kenner and Martin walk down Dumont Avenue away from the senior center. Kenner points to a wave of litter around the green trash compactors across the street and makes a mental note to mention it to NYCHA staff. “It’s a constant fight to have a decent place. That’s why, everybody who’s running for mayor, I want them to remember me,” Kenner says. She’s still working on a plan to get Speaker Christine Quinn out for a women’s history-themed tea party sometime in May. Kenner and Martin walk into the Stone Avenue Library at the end of the block. It is the first children’s library in the United States. On its third floor is the Heritage House, a cultural and educational center for black history founded by Rosetta “Mother” Gaston, the Brownsville woman who, before dying at age 96 in 1981, dedicated her life to introducing young black people to their heritage. Along the walls are art and ephemera from the black experience: a photo of a slave with a back mottled by whip-scars, a t-shirt calling for a ban of the n-word, a copy of the Black Declaration of Independence and a life-sized statue of Nelson Mandela sitting at a desk. A crowd is gathering at the library for a luncheon being held by the Brownsville Community Justice Center, a project that aims to prevent violence and incarceration from stealing more of the neighborhood’s young. Among the audience is Dan Craig, a retired investment banker who is now the pastor of Mount Sion Baptist Church on nearby Ralph Avenue. Of his congregation, he says, “I don’t get the sense that they’ve tuned in yet,” to the mayor’s race. “I’m paying attention. I’m waiting to see who’s going to fall out. I’m not convinced that everybody who’s going to run has entered.” (For the record, Craig says this four days before Anthony Weiner’s flirtation with a comeback made front-page news.) What’s he looking for in a mayor? “One who has shown that they have a love and care for the people” and “the ability and the willingness to put right above the party’s interest.” On reporting trips to Brownsville so far, people have mentioned John Liu, Bill de Blasio and— more than anyone else—Christine Quinn. (This occurs at the library event as well, when a woman says she “want[s] that young woman to win.”) No one has yet mentioned Bill Thompson. I ask Craig if identity politics will be a big factor in how his congregation, in early all-black Brownsville, will vote. He is instantly dismissive, recalling the 1993 mayoral race, when—he says—blacks “stayed home.” He remembers some friends telling him, “Giuliani might do more for us by accident than David Dinkins did on purpose.”

This year, Craig says, “Political analysts will make a huge mistake if they think the black vote can be taken for granted.”

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The Five Borough Ballot

CARRIÓN, LIU VIE FOR VOTES IN BROWNSVILLE NYCHA PROJECT
BROOKL YN / May 20, 2013 By: Jarrett Murphy

PHOTO BY: JARRETT MURPHY/CITY LIMITS

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hen a candidate for mayor enters the domain of Lisa Kenner—the president of the resident association at NYCHA’s sprawling Van Dyke Houses—he or she is welcomed as an honored guest. But that can be a time-consuming status. When former Bronx borough president and current Independence Party nominee Adolfo Carrión came out to Brownsville to visit the Van Dyke community center in late April, he waited patiently for an hour, through a presentation about a GED program and a Q&A with the new manager of the Van Dyke development, before getting to make his stump speech. This month City Comptroller John Liu stopped by the Van Dyke senior center for a post– Mother’s Day “high tea” and waited nearly as long to make brief remarks. Then he was pressed into handing out awards honoring “older Americans,” an achievement virtually everyone in the room except Liu could claim. There’s no mystery why the wait is worthwhile to the mayoral hopefuls. In a primary that’s likely to feature five or six major candidates, every little pocket of voters counts. Residents in the

Assembly district in which the Van Dyke Houses sit cast 13,000 votes in the 2009 mayoral race, with 84 percent going to Democrat Bill Thompson. But turnout in the two Assembly districts that encompass Brownsville was about 25 percent in that last mayoral race, even worse than the 29 percent city wide turnout rate. There is a question in the 2013 campaign probably as important as who will win. Namely, can the race somehow engage voters who’ve gotten used to staying home? And Brownsville frames that question. So what matters isn’t so much what Carrión or Liu said on their visits to Van Dyke, but what people in the seats heard. Just a kid from the Bronx Carrión spoke to a crowd of around 60 people on April 20, a brilliant spring Saturday. “I’m just a kid from the Bronx trying to do the right thing,” Carrión told them as he took center stage in the pale green room. “The political process is failing our country. We want to change the relationship between our community and our government.” He was introduced by local Independence Party leader Lenora Fulani, who said that Carrión — who was elected councilman and borough president on the Democratic line and then served in two Obama administration posts—took the Independence line “because of his growing frustration with the fighting between Republican leaders and Democratic leaders—and we get screwed in the process.” She didn’t mention Carrión’s bid to get on the Republican mayoral primary ballot, which had only recently failed. The last Independence Party nominee, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “took the third term a little too lightly and lost his connection with the people,” Carrión said. He noted that 71 percent of New York’s registered voters did not participate in that last mayoral election. “That is a crisis—a crisis for our country but more importantly a crisis for our community,” he said, telling the overwhelmingly black and Latino audience that decreased turnout meant the people deciding who runs the city “don’t look like us.” “Beware the overpromisers,” Carrión continued, in an apparent shot at Liu’s crowd-pleasing calls for an $11.50 minimum wage and a complete end to stop-and-frisk. “We call them panderers. They know how to pluck at your heartstrings. People promising minimum wages we’ll never reach or doing away with things that we’ll never do away with. Don’t let them insult your intelligence.” As Carrión spoke, one woman took copious notes. Another snapped pictures. When it came time for questions, Fort Greene resident Jacqueline Simmons asked him about the Whitman and Ingersoll housing projects, where hundreds of apartments have been vacant for years as a renovation dragged out, spurring suspicion of a plot to remove public housing from the gentrifying neighborhood. “That was the Democratic Party who did that,” Simmons said. “They took the housing projects from the public.” (The Whitman and Ingersoll renovations were launched when Republicans controlled HUD and the mayoralty.) Carrión gave only a vague answer. Afterward, Lawona Wilson sized up Carrión’s odds. “Ugh. I think he has a chance. He needs to come out more to the developments,” she said. “I want someone who can help us. Especially the lower class.” “He definitely got my attention,” said Jesse Watkins, who lives in Crown Heights. But it’s quite a long way to go until Election Day, he noted. He’s looking for a candidate who understands that “it’s about community empowerment—that’s where the focus should be.” Don’t forget Brownsville

“Sometimes you’ve got to sit down,” Kenner told Liu last Thursday as he waited—through an invocation, musical performances and a tribute to a recently deceased 50-year resident of the Van Dyke houses, Hattie “Honey” Blunt. “You’re running all over the place.” The perpetually hyperscheduled Liu took the advice gamely. “I feel the warmth,” he said, and then went back to waiting. When Liu finally did take the mic, he recalled meeting Kenner at a Take Back the Night event, referred to his stewardship of the city’s pension funds (“from which some of you ought to be receiving a check soon”) and presented a fairly brief message: that the next mayor has “got to give people opportunities, young and old alike.” Then came the “Older American” awards, which were so numerous Liu had to hand off the task to an aide and skip out. Afterward, as the mostly female crowd—many wearing fancy hats in keeping with the “high tea” theme— sipped coffee and snacked on glazed miniature cinnamon rolls and red-white-andblue frosted cupcakes, Lucille Daniels weighed in on what Liu’s appearance meant. “His coming here makes a big difference,” said Daniels, who actually lives in Crown Heights but has been volunteering at the Van Dyke Center for 18 years, never once calling in sick. “It’s what you see for yourself, personally.” Asked how she makes up her mind as to whom to vote for, she said, “I pray on it. Oh, yes. I’m not one of those gullible people.” She also watches the TV news, channels 12 and 7 mostly. She would never take advice from a friend on whom to vote for. “No. No. No. No. I don’t trust people,” she said. “People like to be bought.” At another table, Oreathya Green, a Queens resident visiting her sister at Van Dyke, said she liked Liu; as a former member of SEIU 1199, she had seen him before. “I always liked his technique,” she said. “I hope he doesn’t get lost like everybody else.” “What we need are people who offer to do something for the poor instead of the rich. Technology is fine for people who can afford it,” she said. “Why not pay attention to that instead of the sugar in Pepsi or Coca-Cola?” Like Daniels, Green says she gets her political information mostly from TV, especially Channel 7. So do Carrie Price and John Moore, residents of East New York, just east of Brownsville. Price says she’ll vote for “whichever one has the best program for the people”—which she said means someone who can “make life easier” and, she added with a chuckle, “give us more money.” Price and Moore are brother and sister, and their house suffered a fire on December 10; they’re still displaced. “Life is hard. I’m telling you, somebody needs to make it easier” to deal with insurance companies and contractors and bureaucracies, Price said. But if Price articulated a retail approach to politics, Kenner was calling for something more wholesale. The idea behind bringing all these candidates out to Brownsville is not about individual transactions with government but strength in numbers. “Once we get a voting bloc, we’re going to be able to get things done. Nobody’s going to overlook Brownsville,” she said. She had invited Carrión and Liu—and was extending invitations to other candidates—because “one of ’em is going to be mayor and I want them to know they met Lisa Kenner.” But, she stressed, “We’re going to do this collectively.”

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WHY VAN DYKE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE RACE FOR MAYOR
BROOKL YN / June 26, 2013 By: Jarrett Murphy

PHOTO BY: JARRETT MURPHY/CITY LIMITS

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unshots. Waterbugs. Losing my mother. Asked to list their fears at a youth conference in mid-June, the children of the Van Dyke public housing complex in Brownsville, writing on poster board, inked in Crayola colors a litany of dreads. Clowns. Doctor. Rats. Lisa Kenner, the Resident Association president at the 22-building Van Dyke development, organized the day-long conference, which combined motivational speeches with lessons in elementary finance. She says 50 people attended—not bad for a sunny Saturday. But that was nothing compared to the appearance of City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy. “She surprised me,” says Kenner. “She showed up.” Kenner—who as RA president is a force to be reckoned with at Van Dyke—and Mealy, who has represented the area in the Council since 2005, are not close. Kenner says she has been asked to run against Mealy in the past but has declined. She blames a falling out between Mealy

and another local pol, Alicka Amprey-Samuel, for allowing William Boyland, Jr. to become the area’s assemblyman; Boyland now faces trial on a slew of corruption charges. Kenner served as a Democratic district leader from 2004 to 2008; Mealy took over that post in 2010. Ask a person around Van Dyke about this year’s mayoral election and you’re unlikely to find much interest. And if interest in the mayoral race is vapor-thin, engagement in down-ballot races is nonexistent. “Talk about the election? Not for three years,” said one man in his 40s standing outside Kenner’s office. Told that there’s a city election in 2013, he said, “Oh no. No, no, no. I won’t be voting for that. I never vote in city elections,” and walked away, displeased at the inquiry. A block away, a young man in glasses barked, “I don’t give a damn about no election,” then asked rhetorically, “Is there a black man running?” but wasn’t impressed to hear that, yes, a black man is in the mayor’s race. Kenner thinks people are turned off because the challenges they face have narrowed their perspective. “Here, people been beat down so much they don’t see,” she says. The conversation at Van Dyke, she adds, isn’t about who should be the next mayor, but about whether to have an annual community event that Kenner would rather skip. “They worried about Family Day. They worried about franks and hamburgers.”

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thers around Van Dyke have different explanations for the lack of interest. Zakkia Hallums, a lifelong Brownsville resident in her 20s, says people at Van Dyke haven’t tuned in to the mayoral campaign because, “They aren’t really campaigning here. We’re not very much informed.” Hallums has a day job carrying petitions for Abe George, one of the two men (Kenneth Thompson is the other) challenging District Attorney Charles Hynes. [Editor’s Note: George later dropped out of the race.] “It’s hard getting signatures because people think once politicians get into office, they’re bull—t anyway,” she says. People are turned off, she says, when elected officials pursue individual agendas rather than burying old grudges and working together. She once worked for Mealy, whom she says is a nice person. “It’s hard for her to pull through when folks keep shutting her down,” Hallums adds. She believes Mealy gets resistance from Kenner on ideas to help Van Dyke. “She can’t get nothing done.” What’s frustrating to her is that, while many of Brownsville’s problems are hard to solve— intergenerational poverty, health disparities, gun violence—others shouldn’t be. Six years ago, Hallums says, the city removed the traffic light at a nearby intersection near a senior center. To this day, seniors expect to cross safely but narrowly avoid getting hit; some don’t avoid it. She wonders why they don’t just put the light back. The most common complaint at Van Dyke is that there’s nothing for the kids to do, and Hallums shares that concern. While Kenner views Family Day as a distraction and has resisted efforts to organize one this year, Hallums believes a day of hamburgers and hot dogs on the patios around Van Dyke’s mix of high- and low-rise buildings would at least give young people an activity. Hoping to fill the gap between what Van Dyke’s kids need and what they have, Hallums and her friends sell candy on Sundays to buy balls, jump-ropes and other play equipment for local children. Self-reliance is a great thing, but in this case it reflects a broad feeling that government is incapable of addressing even simple needs. “These young people, they don’t care,” about politics, she says, gesturing to her friends milling about the open area between Powell Street, Blake Avenue and Dumont Street. “They’ve given

up on them.”

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tanding outside the nearby senior center, Earl Hunter, 68, and his friend Kindu, who declined to give his last name or age, say they also have no interest in politics. “I ain’t never been political,” says Kindu. He believes politics is like religion: Unless they are from the same sect, two people will never be able to really communicate about it. “I can’t vote. I did 10 years in prison,” he adds. Asked if he might be able to regain his franchise, he answers, “I probably could. But I won’t.” Earl’s rejection of politics is less about communication problems, and more about the power differential. “It’s always been the same and it always will be. Because it’s the have and have nots,” Earl says. “And we are the have nots.” Both men are as worried about the neighborhood’s young people as Kenner or Hallums. If he were mayor, Hunter says, his first priority would be to “try to get the young people something to do.” “You can’t fault these young kids for what’s going on,” he says. “Every place where there’s a possibility that they could burn off that energy” is closed off to them. “No positive role models,” adds Kindu, who has a prosthetic device below his left knee where a cinder block crushed his leg in a construction accident. “All the fathers are gone. Moms are being mothers and fathers. Their lives all f—-d up.” The men differ subtly on whose fault that is. “I stopped blaming white people a long time ago,” Kindu says. “It ain’t about the blame game no more.” It’s everyone’s fault, he says. For his part, Earl believes responsibility is shared, but not equally. “That blame game is everybody included, but it does start at one particular place and that’s the people in power.” It’s clear that Earl is not as disengaged from politics as he lets on. He spends three to four hours a day watching the news. He feels President Obama is being unfairly thwarted by Republicans. “Instead of drawing up to the table and trying to do something, they’re pulling back,” he says. And like Kindu, Hunter brings up—unprompted—the issue of race. “I should have a lot of animosity in me,” he says, having lived through the civil rights era. But he believes having actually experienced it gives him perspective that isn’t shared by people who read about Jim Crow in books. “If you don’t have insight,” he says, “you are lost.” he 2013 campaign is not something people out in the street at Van Dyke last week wanted to talk about. But as Kindu and Earl displayed, the disengagement is not so much from politics—the idea that there are decisions about the direction of society that affect each of us—as it is from elections. People certainly have ideas about what their community needs. They just have no faith in elected officials to deliver. Indeed, concern about Brownsville’s youth links Hallums, who is very politically engaged, with Kindu, who has never voted in his life; it in turn unites Hallums and Kenner, even if they have different takes on neighborhood politics. Kenner was recently in Tampa for a five-day training program to becoming a coordinator for Section 3, the federal law requiring public housing authorities like NYCHA to employ residents on large capital projects. She’s hoping to secure jobs for local youth in and around the nearby Prospect Plaza site, which is finally being torn down and rebuilt. She knows her neighbors are looking for government to make a difference, so jobs would be a great boon not just to the young workers, but also to those just walking by. “When young people work in the neighborhood who live in the neighborhood, it just lifts your spirits,” she says. At Kenner’s recent youth conference, after they were asked to delineate their fears, the children of Van Dyke worked on another posterboard, this one for their dreams.

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“Lawyer. Doctor. Teacher. Pop-star. To own my own home. See Jesus’s face. Singer. To be rich. Big sister. Attend college.” No one wanted to be president, let alone mayor.

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MAYOR’S RACE: BROWNSVILLE VOTERS WAITING, WATCHING, WARY
BROOKL YN / July 30, 2013 By: Jarrett Murphy

PHOTO BY: ADI TALWAR/CITY LIMITS

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ome of those who’d traveled from different states said reunion night was an event they attended every single year. In the middle of the action, lashed to a ballfield fence, were pictures of Brownsville back in the day—not the 1920s, when it was a hotbed of Jewish socialism, but the 1960s, when black-owned businesses like Ebony Sporting Goods and Floogie’s bar anchored the neighborhood. “Nobody came to Brownsville unless you were invited,” James “Mo” Johnson recalled, pointing with pride to photos of local guys whose toughness, he says, was legendary. But as cold as Brownsville was to outsiders, within the neighborhood, blacks, Jews, Irish and Italians intersected as family. “Racism was probably there, but we didn’t know it,” Johnson insisted. Nearby, Jackie Trevino sold T-shirts denouncing racial profiling. Between sales, Trevino said

she plans to vote (“I vote every year.”) but is undecided. She evaluates candidates based on what they say they will do, not what they have or haven’t done. “They can have negative things about them, it don’t matter to me.” She even has praise for Bloomberg. “He’s pretty cool, I think,” she says. While she does feel he “gets in people’s business,” she notes: “The city is calm.” Pro-Bloomberg sentiment is rare in Brownsville, where only 15 percent of voters supported the mayor in 2009. Bill Thompson took 84 percent of that year’s vote, roughly in line with the district’s 82 percent Democratic registration. In 2013, Thompson’s ability to capture a majority of the black vote will be tested in places like Brownsville. Pundits insist the former comptroller, who has amassed a solid string of endorsements, will eventually benefit from identity politics. But polls show Thompson more or less splitting the black vote with former Congressman Anthony Weiner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The latest Marist survey also shows that black voters feel much more strongly about their preferred candidate than other groups, with 50 percent of blacks saying they “strongly support” their pick, compared to 41 percent of Latinos and only 31 percent of whites. Over the past six months, no one interviewed for this series in Brownsville—which is 75 percent black, the highest proportion of African-Americans of any community board in the city—has expressed any more enthusiasm about Thompson than about any other candidate. “Does it make a difference?” said Brother Ceville, eyeing reunion night through sunglasses, repeating a reporter’s question about whether race will matter in the voting booth. “Yes and no,” answered the 58-year Brownsville resident. Speaking not about Thompson, but generally, he added: “Because you have some people who look like me who don’t care about our people. You feel me? If you’re talking it but you ain’t walking it, what’s it mean?” Denise Williams, who has lived at the Van Dyke Houses in Brownsville for 30 years, agreed with Ceville. Reached by phone, she said her neighbors aren’t going to vote for Thompson because he’s black. “I don’t think race has anything to do with it,” she concluded. Her personal feeling on Thompson? “He’s OK,” is all Williams would say. She’s not made up her mind who to vote for, but won’t reveal her choice even when she has made one. It’s not unusual for her to be undecided this late in the game, she noted. “I like to hear everything and see what each candidate offers.” (However, one candidate she’s decided she won’ t be voting for is Weiner. Citing the need for a mayor to be a role model, she said: “One time is fine, but I mean, come on.” Asked why she thinks polls show Weiner with substantial support in the black community, Williams said, “I guess he’s open. And he’s not afraid to tell what he did, to apologize.” But in the end, she believes, “I don’t think they’ll vote for him.”) Turnout in the 55th Assembly District, which includes Brownsville, was 21 percent in the 2009 general mayoral election, below the 29 percent citywide turnout. Williams insisted that her neighbors are tuned in to this year’s race. “Of course. Yes, yes. We vote out here. They do turn out.” There might be little buzz in late July, but come 4:30 p.m. on Primary Day, she promised, the voting site at the Van Dyke Senior Center will be jammed. Williams has been involved in efforts by East Brooklyn Congregations to elevate the needs of NYCHA residents—who comprise a city within New York City of some 500,000 people—in the mayoral race. “I hope that whoever becomes the next mayor does the right thing in terms of using that money they have for repairs,” Williams said. Her refrigerator is broken and the electrical system struggles to feed appliances on hot days. “The grounds used to be kept. Now there’s garbage and everything. The elevators—we have urine in them, and garbage.” Until a recent repair, she

added, “When it rained heavily, it rained in the elevator.” She likes the fact that four of the mayoral candidates (Thompson, Weiner, Quinn and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio) recently spent a night at NYCHA’s Lincoln Houses “because they can see what it’s like to live in NYCHA housing. Maybe they’d see roaches. Maybe they’d hear gunshots.” Beyond addressing NYCHA’s needs, Williams is evaluating the mayoral hopefuls with an emphasis on the person more than policy. “Their character,” she said. “As long as they’re a family man. Their religion. As long as they’re going to be for the people and not for themselves.” What can the next mayor do to help Brownsville? “What the people are asking for,” Williams said. “They need to come out here and look and see.” At reunion night, some voters had more specific ideas. Stephen Taylor, a registered independent, says young people desperately need employment options—and not just so kids have money in their pockets.” We’ve got to get them into the mainstream of thinking, of language,” he said. “This community has been so alienated. Unless we do something to let people—literally— communicate,” he sees little chance for progress. For his part, Ceville is looking to hear language on the campaign trail that includes people like him. “I always hear people talk about the middle class, never about the poor,” he said. For Brownsville, he added, “We need programs other than basketball and football. Classes for the family, to teach them to love themselves.”

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NOSHING ON POLITICS IN A LIBERAL STRONGHOLD
MANHATTAN / February 11, 2013 By: Aaron Short

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

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he Upper West Side is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, a reliable bastion of liberal politics, home to Jerry Seinfeld, Eric Schneiderman and Scott Stringer alike. It’s also home to the city’s best delis and diners. Take Artie’s, for example. The 15-year-old delicatessen is a West Side institution that attracts middle-aged condo and co-op residents eager for the tastes of home. “In most families, both spouses are normally working a profession where they work late, and it’s hard for them to prepare or cook,” said Artie’s owner Barry Orenstein. “We have knishes, chopped liver, pastrami, matzo ball soup—everything your grandmother made.” However, the Upper West Side of most New Yorkers’ memories is changing. Just under 210,000 people live in the two-square-mile area bounded by Cathedral Parkway, the Hudson River Expressway, West 59th Street and Central Park West. The area is almost entirely developed—the population growth has hovered at 1 percent over the past decade. But a growing number of power singles—high-earning individuals in their 20s, 30s and 40s who rent or own condos—are moving to the neighborhood. The change is evident in the area’s commercial corridors. Neighborhood shops are getting priced out in favor

of luxury retail chains catering to moneyed newcomers. Even Artie’s is contracting, renovating its protruding sidewalk café because business has slowed. Over half of the neighborhood’s residents—59.8 percent—are single. Another 40.2 percent are in married households, but only 12.4 percent are in married households with children under the age of 18—perhaps lower than many people would expect for an area with a family-friendly reputation. Women make up an estimated 54 percent of the population; 46 percent are men. About 67.4 percent of residents are white, 15 percent are Latino, 7.6 percent are black and 7.6 percent are Asian, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. The median household income is $73,836, nearly double the city’s median income of $38,293. It’s no wonder that home prices average above $1.07 million, making this one of the priciest areas in the city. Still, the neighborhood has been selecting Democrats to represent them in Congress, the state Legislature and City Council for generations. And its boisterously liberal spirit serves as the base for a handful of ambitious politicians hoping to grace the national stage. That’s what attracted Orenstein to the Upper West Side 40 years ago. He hasn’t left since. “It’s more intellectual, it’s not as blond, it’s more Jewish,” he said. “More people read The New York Times and The New Yorker here, instead of Vogue, USA Today and the Post, which I wouldn’t even wrap my fish in.”

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UPPER WEST SIDE: JOBS, AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND … ETIQUETTE?
MANHATTAN / February 26, 2013

By: Aaron Short

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

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oing out to a delicatessen for brunch is a distinctly New York City tradition. The ritual survives on the Upper West Side despite the financial pressures of the moment— worries about the city’s rising costs of living and stagnant wages, the slow reduction of entitlements for seniors, and a sense that under the next mayor—whoever it might be—the grime and chaos of yore could return to the streets after 12 years of Bloombergian order. That being said, the customers at Artie’s Deli on Broadway and 83rd Street aren’t so thrilled with Mayor Michael Bloomberg either. “I would like to see some of what Mayor Bloomberg has done reversed—that’s why I won’t be voting for Christine Quinn,” said Artie’s diner Linda Tsakonas. “He’s congested the city terribly with bike lanes, he’s trying to make the city cleaner with less cars—I think he doesn’t want any cars in the city. Also pedestrian plazas are inappropriate in a Mecca like Manhattan. You need to have roadways open.” Her friend, Evelyn Bourricaud, agrees. “This is New York, you don’t need to have New York look like Europe,” she said. “[Bloomberg] goes to Germany, London, France, and he tries to bring what he sees there, but this is New York. The mayor gets involved in silly issues.” Artie’s patrons, like many Upper West Siders, tend to consume a lot of news and vote Democratic, though Artie’s will serve you its famous matzoh ball soup and pastrami sandwiches no matter which way you lean politically. In interviews conducted last week, the health of the

economy and fiscal negotiations in Congress were generally the patrons’ foremost concerns. Most of the customers were not particularly tuned into the mayor’s race yet; few could name more than one or two candidates among nearly a dozen running. A recurring theme among Artie’s customers was concern for the future, particularly whether they would be able to continue living in the neighborhood. “I’m worried that we became out priced, that we can’t live here anymore,” said a woman who gave her name as Ieshia, who lives and works in the neighborhood. “Can you afford to live here? No, you can’t. You have a global young European coming in who has no opinions about anything except being global and travelling and that changes your community. A one bedroom is $4,300 a month—and this used to be Dodge City.” The wait staff at Artie’s has similar concerns, citing the economy, jobs and housing as key issues over the coming year. A loquacious server named George Junior, who, before finding a job at Artie’s two months ago, had worked for 13 years at the Stage Deli in Midtown Manhattan— which closed in December of last year after 75 years in business—voted in the presidential race but doesn’t know who he’ll be voting for mayor yet, if in fact he ends up voting at all. “I haven’t voted in a mayoral race in a while,” he said. “I didn’t like Bloomberg. I didn’t like the other guy. You know what, if Koch lived long enough and ran again, I would have voted for him. ‘How’m I doin’? How’m I doin’?’ ” George wants the next mayor to put people to work fixing the city’s roads and bridges and to communicate with the city’s diverse communities. “If you’re going to be the mayor of New York City, which is a very multicultural city, you should be able to get along with every ethnic background, every leader, whether Hispanic, Jewish, [or] black,” he said. “Giuliani wasn’t great at it, Koch wasn’t either, but somehow he got over it. And don’t run the city like it’s your business.” His co-worker, Natasha Youngman, was more concerned about saving up enough money from work to pay off her student loans. She says she owes about $700 a month and can barely afford to live in the Harlem apartment she shares with her boyfriend. “I went to a conservatory arts program, graduated in a year and a half and now I’m in immense financial debt because of student loans,” she said. “To pay to go to school, it’s just outrageous. I have loans from three different banks [that are] constantly harassing me and [I’m] working full time trying to pay it off. I can’t pursue anything else because I’m paying off these loans.” Youngman plans to vote for whoever has the best economic plan that will help young people like herself and her friends. “A lot of people are going to get welfare, food stamps and a lot of people are applying; they still have a full-time job, but they can’t afford to buy eggs and bread and milk,” she said. “I do have a lot of friends trying to apply for food stamps. They don’t have children, they’re not supporting anyone but themselves, and just to pay rent it takes up their whole paycheck.” The restaurant’s manager, Barry Orenstein, was one of the few people at Artie’s who knows who he is voting for in the primary this summer. That would be Democrat Bill Thompson. “I don’t like [Christine] Quinn because she’s a sell-out,” he said. “Thompson I like because he should have beaten Bloomberg in the last election. And I don’t like the Republican that’s running, who’s on the board of the MTA. Who else is running?” Like his staff, Orenstein worries about the growing divide between the rich and poor in the city, which he calls a “chasm rather than a slight break.” But he has other concerns too. “I worry about the lack of respect that younger people have for older people in the city,” he said. “They’re not taught at school to respect people who are older than them. They never give up a seat to the elderly or people who are physically handicapped. Their lack of respect,

compared to the way my generation grew up, will manifest itself as time goes. It will be a ‘me too’ generation and they won’t want to help the elderly, in terms of entitlements and financial systems.” Orenstein also does not believe the city will do much to protect itself from another natural disaster, but he hopes the next mayor will try to push forward to seek solutions to climate change and to reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. “Maybe there’s a need for commercial rent control in some way, maybe there has to be either restrictions or more tax on luxury developments, and maybe there has to be laws that earmark monies to go to specific programs instead of the general fund,” he said. “There are issues that can be dealt with. We have the means. I just think it’s a matter of will. The city has a $100 billion budget, and we can’t solve certain problems?”

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MAYORAL POLITICS TAKES BACKSEAT ON UPPER WEST SIDE—FOR NOW
MANHATTAN / April 1, 2013

By: Aaron Short

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

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he mayor’s race was transformed during Holy Week. Faced with an insurrection in the City Council over her resistance to paid sick leave, Speaker Christine Quinn hammered out a deal with union officials and health advocates just in time for Good Friday. As a result, the city’s political chatterers noted that the paid sick leave bill removed a strong argument from progressive Democrats against a Quinn candidacy, thus strengthening her position as the race’s frontrunner. But at Artie’s Diner on the Upper West Side, voters are still waiting for their matzo ball soup to cool down before they make a decision in the race. Though they haven’t yet committed to a candidate, the patrons at Artie’s do have a strong sense of what characteristics they want from their next mayor to embody—even if they are not sure who he or she should be. “He or she should have the experience working with a diverse community, not only a diversity of opinion but a diversity of culture,” Tobie Atlas, a customer at Artie’s, said. “To have a participatory democracy you have to be sensitive to this and to connect to people in their day-to-day lives.” Patron Edward Summer, between bites of scrambled eggs with lox, said the next mayor must be an “educated person.”

“We should have someone who puts human welfare ahead of getting re-elected,” he said. “It would be interesting to have a politician who has a minimum of a masters degree, a degree in cultural anthropology, sociology or civics instead of someone who came up through the political culture.” Artie’s Deli had one of its busiest weeks of the year, serving over 1,000 matzo balls and 250 gallons of chicken soup during the Passover rush. They even handed out prayer books so families could have their own seder with a three-course meal on the first and second nights of the holiday. But Artie’s manager Barry Orenstein said the mayor’s race hasn’t whetted his appetite just yet. “I don’t like Quinn personally because she reneged on her promise not to support Bloomberg’s third term,” he said. “I admire her for her temper, I think that’s good. I’d rather have that than a milquetoast.” His dream candidate is a “photogenic” Puerto Rican woman raised in a one-family household by her mother with five siblings, educated in public schools before graduating from City College and Harvard. Unfortunately that candidate’s closest avatar is already on the Supreme Court. Orenstein’s ideal mayor would also be “entering politics for the first time but has plenty of experience representing community organizations and neighborhood groups.” While Orenstein gets his news from The New York Times, The New Yorker, PBS and MSNBC, his waiters and kitchen workers typically grab a Metro or amNewYork or catch NY1 between shifts to stay on top of what’s going on with city politics. In general, the staff is divided over whether the next mayor should be a woman or a man. Most say hizzoner or herroner must be sensitive to the needs of the poorer classes. “I think at this day and age we could stand for a change—somebody young, liberal, a woman would be interesting, somebody with a different race would be interesting—other than a white male,” waitress Natasha Youngman said. “Most of our candidates are from higher class society, so they don’t really have knowledge of the kind of life that the other half of the population has.” Waiter George Yturrizaga Jr., who says he preferred Mayor Ed Koch, believes that a candidate does not have to be a politician in order to be effective. “I’m a big fan of personality, how he makes the people feel,” he said. “I can’t say one who keeps promises because they never do anyway. Bloomberg wasn’t a politician before he took office. It’s a good thing to know about finances when it comes to city financial problems. But no, I don’t think you have to have a political background to be a politician. Anyone can be a politician.” His co-worker Joshua Caleb prefers a man in the mayor’s office, but isn’t concerned about what the mayor looks like or where he came from, as long as he “does stuff for us.” “The number one quality is that you give to the people. You have to be generous and sympathetic to all the people in the city who don’t have homes, don’t have food, work and [are] not making enough money,” he said. “Those are the important things. That’s really all I care about.” Artie’s customers and staff are aware of some of the early narratives forming around the mayor’s race, including candidates’ temper tantrums and fund-raising follies. Several customers said that scandal stories only become important when they “reached the level of headlines” for several days. “My reaction to that is to do more research myself,” Atlas said. Orenstein cuts politicians some slack because they are all likely to “fall to temptation” when raising money—a promising sign for John Liu, who has been dogged by campaign finance allegations for months.

But deli workers said character was important. “That’s what people base their votes on: a person’s character, how their chemistry is, and how much of a people person they are,” Youngman said. “It’s a big issue—if you can’t connect with the people, then you’re out of luck.” As for Caleb, he could do without the drama this election cycle. “You don’t want somebody to be mayor who’s involved in a bunch of crazy scandals,” he said.

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UPPER WEST SIDE RESIDENTS NOT THRILLED WITH WEINER
MANHATTAN / May 6, 2013 By: Aaron Short

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

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hey order the matzo ball soup, a pastrami or turkey sandwich on rye with coleslaw, and maybe a little chopped liver. But when it comes to picking the next mayor, many haven’t made a choice–and they’re not thrilled with what’s on the menu. “Everyone is picking the one they find least objectionable,” said an Artie’s customer named Beatrice, who declined to give her last name. “That’s the way it is. It’s very sad. This is a great city and I love it with a passion. We deserve better than the candidates that are running. Politics being it is what it is today, I understand why people are reluctant to run.” Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Jewish, Queens-born media savvy Democrat, might have been a natural choice for Upper West Side voters who have cast their ballots before for similarly progressive candidates to represent them. Weiner had the support of 15 percent of Democratic mayoral primary voters, second behind Council Speaker Christine Quinn, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. But 41 percent of voters viewed him unfavorably, compared with 33 percent who liked him. He has not publicly declared his intentions to run for office. The poll reflects the sentiments of West Side residents, who remain wary of the man whose lewd tweeting cover-up forced him from Congress. “What am I supposed to say to that—that this guy’s actually going to get elected mayor?” Artie’s customer Richard Shandell asked. “I can’t believe what he did. He’s so incredibly stupid.” Shandell said Weiner’s scandal was “crazier” than President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White

House intern. “What Weiner did to me is sheer unadulterated nuts,” he said. “I understand how you can fool around with a young woman in your office, but I can’t understand at all why you would do the thing that Weiner did. Nothing against him, but I wouldn’t consider voting for an asshole like that.” Artie’s customers Chris Kachulis and Bess Charalambakis, who are brother and sister, say they could forgive Weiner in time, but not this election cycle. “I think he’s very smart, but I don’t think so,” Kachulis said when asked whether he would support Weiner. “It’s too questionable.” Charalambakis said she thought Weiner has “too much baggage.” “He’s going to have to answer a lot of questions,” she said. “Some of them won’t be pretty. In 10 years, we’ll tell if things have changed. He has to do a lot more.” Both siblings said they were leaning toward former City Comptroller Bill Thompson in the Democratic primary. “We don’t always agree, but on that we do,” Kachulis said. Some of Artie’s waiters were in a more forgiving mood than their customers, but even they could not condone Weiner’s actions. “It doesn’t show good character, plus he’s married so I guess it was the best thing for him to resign,” Joshua Carnival, an Artie’s employee, said. “If he has the best interests for the city, if he has good plans, then yeah, why not [run for mayor]? Personal and business shouldn’t mix, so his personal life shouldn’t be anybody’s business as long as his business is being handled correctly.” Christina Vidal, a new waitress who started at Artie’s this week, said she has not been paying attention to the mayor’s race so far this year, but she plans on voting in the Democratic primary in September. She has ruled out Weiner because of the scandal. “I don’t think he should be mayor for that,” she said. “That’s not presentable.” The reluctance of Artie’s customers and waitstaff to support a potential Weiner candidacy does not surprise the restaurant’s manager, Barry Orenstein. He says most customers have not made up their minds. “There’s no chalk in the race yet,” he said. Orenstein used to like Weiner because of his tirades on the floor of Congress against Republican policies. But not anymore. “How do you trust a person, regardless of what they do, who is such a liar?” he asked. “Politicians have reputations for lying, but I don’t think he has any street cred.” “It’s not even lying but his stupidity,” Orenstein added. “How did he expect that when he went on Twitter it wouldn’t be immediately shown all over. That’s the whole concept of social networking. How did somebody so smart make such a stupid mistake?” That’s the question still on the minds of many Upper West Side residents. Orenstein is leaning toward Thompson, but he wants to see the candidates discuss more issues of substance in the remaining mayoral forums. “There’s no meat,” he said. “I want the Wendy’s Commercial, ‘Where’s the beef?’ There’s nothing there.” And Orenstein knows meat. “It’s like a Peggy Lee song,” he said. ” ‘Is that all there is?’ I want something substantive.”

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‘GALE’ FORCE WINS: UPPER WEST SIDERS PREFER BREWER
MANHATTAN / June 10, 2013 By: Aaron Short

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

y now, many Upper West Siders know which candidates are running for mayor. They may not like any of them particularly much, but they have heard about who’s out there. But voters at Artie’s Deli in the West 80s who were chewing on pastrami sandwiches with marble rye are also chewing on candidates running for the down ballot races of public advocate and borough president. “What’s-her-name’s son is Noah Gotbaum and is running for something,” Manhattan resident Kate Dedelioglu said. “Public advocate. Do I know of him? I’ve met him before and I know of him.” Artie’s politically engaged customers were likely to support candidates for lower office if they had met them or seen them in the neighborhood. That bodes well for Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who is hoping to become the next Manhattan borough president. “I think she’s interesting, but I like her,” Manhattan resident Tina Hansen said. “I like that she’s scrappy and that she worked really hard on this paid sick leave deal and that she didn’t give up on it.” Dedelioglu was excited to hear that Brewer is running at all.

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“I would vote for her… she’s done great things,” she said. “I didn’t know she is running.” But candidates for City Council will likely face a tough crowd this summer. Most diners could not identify any candidates for the Council in the area—or any other area for that matter—and said that it was “premature” to start paying attention to the race. “They’re only starting now to reach out to people,” Upper West Side resident Jonathan Silver said. “I’ve seen them out in the neighborhood but I try to avoid them.” Manhattan resident Alex Schenck said he did not know who was running for the down ballot seats and had not seen any campaign flyers around. “I can’t say I have seen any advertising in my neighborhood … not since last election,” he said. “The only one I’ve seen posters of and ads on TV for is John Catsimatidis.” Harlem resident Jacqui Burwell said she is “not paying much attention” to the races but that she will once it gets closer to the primary. “I’ll wait until the last minute and go online and Google search it like I usually do and look up some information,” she said. Not that Burwell or the other diners are that inspired by anyone currently running for office. “Politicians say good things in the beginning just to get your interest and to get your vote,” she said. “They get the job and all the promises they made go out the window and they become not as important as the campaign to win. My believability in politicians wanes quickly.” Silver had even nastier things to say about this year’s mayoral crop. “I don’t regard the current candidates as suitable,” he said. “A lot of them just seem like political hacks who have no vision of the city. They seem far more selfish than visionary.” Upper West Side resident Fasil Mogus said he would not vote for anyone because he was shocked that Anthony Weiner, a “pervert candidate,” is running for mayor. “He took us for fools,” he said. “Because he’s bad, de Blasio looks good. It’s just like the presidential election. That’s why I’m not voting any more. It doesn’t make sense.” But most diners, as well as Artie’s waitstaff, said that even though they didn’t know the candidates, they still planned to vote in the fall. “Not at all, to be honest,” said Elizabeth Rodriguez, a waitress and Bronx resident, when asked if she knew who was running. “I don’t know anything about it.” Her co-worker, George Yturrizaga, was also unsure of the candidates for City Council and Manhattan borough president. “I don’t even know who’s running at this point,” he said. “I have to read into it more. You don’t hear much about the Manhattan borough president.” He has heard about Anthony Weiner—and he likes him. “I think he has a better chance of winning than Christine Quinn,” he said. “It’s just his whole attitude. He knows what he’s done is wrong. He’s taken the punches and goes with it.” What would Yturrizaga recommend to Weiner if he came to Artie’s to politick? “Pastrami!” he said. “It’s the best. I’d give him a weiner with some sauerkraut if he wants it.”

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SPOONFUL OF SPITZ: UPPER WEST SIDE VOTERS WEIGH SPITZER’S COMEBACK
MANHATTAN / July 15, 2013 By: Aaron Short

PHOTO BY: BESS ADLER/CITY & STATE

anhattan Borough President Scott Stringer thought he was the only candidate in the city comptroller pool, but former governor Eliot Spitzer jumped into the race with only four days to get on the ballot. West Side residents, who suddenly have to pick between two policy-minded Jewish candidates with experience, sought refuge from the heat inside Artie’s Deli on Broadway and 83rd Street, ordering cold pastrami, coleslaw and, yes, even matzo ball soup in this weather. And Stringer, the hometown boy, is trailing. “Spitzer is a brave guy—man, he has something to prove,” Greg Merchant, an Artie’s customer, said. “He’s going to complete what he started. He made a mistake. I think he deserves another chance. I’ll vote for Spitzer.” A Quinnipiac poll released on July 15 found that Spitzer received support from 48 percent of Democratic voters while Stringer had only 33 percent of the vote. Even those Artie’s customers who were unaware of the poll believed that Spitzer was the frontrunner in the race, even though he resigned from office in the wake of a prostitution scandal in 2008. “He has a good chance now from seeing the news reports,” Bronx resident Laurie Kurlander said. “Personally I think it was too early for him to come back in, but I do think he has a chance. Do I really care why he did what he did?”

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Spitzer has likely benefited from high name recognition—and a public that may be inclined to forgive past transgressions. “I am of a forgiving nature,” Upper East Side resident Margaret Haynes said. “If we weren’t of a forgiving nature we wouldn’t have politicians anymore. In the past Spitzer was able to do some good things.” But don’t count out Stringer too quickly. Upper West Side residents have a deep relationship with the lawmaker, a former assemblyman in the state Legislature, and the borough president for nearly a decade. “I have heard good things about Stringer, and he’s involved with the community a lot,” Upper West Side voter Martin Appel said, adding he was leaning toward Stringer. “I know he helps the tennis courts at 96th Street because I play tennis there. He’s been very helpful for Riverside Park and its environs.” And some voters believe that what Spitzer did crossed a line—and that he’s rushing his political comeback. “I think it’s too soon,” Queens resident Brian Brennan said. “He’s got to do more to redeem himself. I think he can’t be involved in the kind of scandal he was involved in and run for office just a few years later.” Even the generally more tolerant waitstaff at Artie’s disapproved of the escapades that forced Spitzer out of office. “I think he has a lot to do to redeem himself,” Artie’s waiter Luis Gonzalez said. “Some of the activities he was doing [were on government] time as he was governor. I have nothing against him running for another position—it’s worrisome, that’s all.” Most diners at Artie’s said they were paying far more attention to the mayor’s race, even though they largely have not made up their minds about whom to vote for. Spitzer’s entry into the election cycle has caused some voters to re-evaluate mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who resigned from office in his own sex scandal two years ago. “It draws more attention to the idea of politicians with scandals in their backgrounds running for office a few years later,” Brennan said. “In Weiner’s case it’s too soon also. He should lay low and do more to redeem himself instead of running for office so quickly.” But others said that Weiner had a good chance to be the next mayor regardless of whether Spitzer had entered politics this summer. “People have forgiven [Weiner], and they are ready to give him a chance,” said Kurlander, who said she would likely support Weiner. “I don’t think Eliot Spitzer has anything to do with that. I think they’re separate things.” Appel believes that Weiner’s past “personal and sexual mores” should not prevent him from running for office. “I feel he was a very confident politician,” he said. “He was all set for a good run for mayor before this happened with the Internet.” Spitzer and Weiner are testing the mores of the concerned citizenry in the Upper West Side—and so far, these famously tolerant voters have shrugged off their sexual foibles. “Every man is entitled to a two- or three-thousand dollar prostitute every once in a while, and I admire his going out and spending it,” said Norm, an Upper West Side resident who declined to give his last name. “It’s amazing that people are surprised and don’t want to follow that kind of example.”

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THE RUSH BEFORE ROSH HASHANAH
MANHATTAN / Aug. 19, 2013 By: Aaron Short

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

pper West Siders know what they want when it comes to dining at Artie’s Deli–matzo ball soup, chopped liver and a pastrami sandwich. But when it comes to voting in this year’s primary, they still need time to peruse the menu. “I’m very undecided,” Joseph Bolanos, an Upper West Side community activist, said. “I’m not voting for Bill de Blasio. I’m not voting for Anthony Weiner. I think it would probably be between Bill Thompson and [Christine] Quinn. I think Bill Thompson has a very good financial background. I think he has a very good approach to running the city economically. Quinn, I hesitate only because she supports carriage horses and I’m anti-carriage horse.” Bolano’s friend, D.E. Bartolo, said he was leaning toward Quinn but he wasn’t sure. “First I was going to vote for Quinn, then the debates last Saturday were interesting,” he said. “You know what my feeling is? The day before, it’s going to come to me in a dream.” Diners at Artie’s Deli have been paying attention to the mayor’s race this summer as if it were an amusing sideshow traveling through town. The race has been wide open for months, and candidates have been trading pole position in the polls seemingly every other week. Customers could be forgiven for having whiplash just watching it all. They care deeply about the future of the city once Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves office, but they don’t care

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too much about the candidates who could replace him. Most know who they won’t be voting for—and they usually agree that it’s Anthony Weiner. “I won’t vote for Weiner,” Artie’s customer William Torres said. “Never. Never. C’mon, I’ve got kids, daughters. I’ll never trust him again. Two times he already did something that is not called for. I won’t vote for him. The other guys I don’t know about.” Reuven Weiss, a city employee, also scratched off Weiner and said he favored Thompson or de Blasio because of their “strong backing by the teachers union and DC 37,” respectively [Editor’s Note: DC 37 has actually endorsed John Liu]. “I don’t think [Weiner] can manage $70 billion dollars of the city budget,” he said. “I don’t think he has the wherewithal to do that.” Upper West Side resident Jim Parisi has crossed off both Weiner and de Blasio from his list and was cool to Quinn. “I’m not 100 percent–-I know more of who I won’t be voting for and I’m not even solid on that … it’s up in the air in all honesty,” he said. “Quinn has morphed over the past couple of years. I like what she’s done but she’s flip flopped on a couple of things. Before she entered into the mayoral race … I found her becoming much more liberal just to appease the crowd, just before the election happened.” At another table all three people agreed that they “didn’t like any of them.” But most diners have made up their minds in the city comptroller race—and they like Eliot Spitzer. “Unlike Weiner, Spitzer came clean,” Parisi said. “He’s accomplished things in his life, I feel. I kind of feel bad for Scott Stringer. Spitzer came in in the last minute, but I just believe, even though I wasn’t a Spitzer fan early, I know what he’s accomplished in the state of New York.” Torres, who said he wouldn’t vote for Weiner, said he would support Spitzer because he “deserves a second chance.” And the table of customers whose distaste for this year’s mayoral candidates matched that of a spoiled mound of gefilte fish also said they liked Spitzer. “He’s very good,” said Toni, who declined to give her last name. “He’ll clean up Wall Street. I hope he will continue to clean it up.” “He was effective for governor in the short term,” her friend Carmen said. “I think he’ll do good for the city.” And Artie’s owner Tuvia Feldman said he “loves” Spitzer. “He’s down to earth, even though he made a mistake and did something wrong, there’s no perfection in this world,” he said. “I think you look at what he did good in life versus what he did bad in life, and I’ll take the good over the bad.” But not everyone will pull the lever for Spitzer next month. Some Upper West Siders pointed to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s deep ties to the neighborhood as the reason they would support him. “Stringer is homegrown. He’s a guy from the neighborhood,” Bolanos said. “I’m not sure about his financial background as far as economics grow, but to me Spitzer is not a likable person, so once I can’t get past the likable factor I can’t get any further.” Bartolo believes there are too many candidates asking for forgiveness, citing Weiner’s sexting and Spitzer’s prostitution scandals, and he is not prepared to offer his. “These are gross things—especially with Weiner,” he said. “A second chance is good, but the 87th chance, don’t count me in on that. And Spitzer, that was pretty awful what went on there.” Artie’s garrulous manager Barry Orenstein could not bring himself to support Spitzer, even

though he thinks the former governor will win. “Stringer seems to have more morals than Spitzer, and Spitzer it seems to me is using this as a stepping stone for another race at the governorship in four years or some other office,” he said. “Spitzer has shpilkes. He can’t stay in that position.” Orenstein proudly supported Thompson for mayor at the beginning of the summer. Now he supports de Blasio. “I like his rainbow marriage,” he said. “He’s gotta tax the rich, people who have money they should pay for everything. Thompson is too pro-business. We need somebody more liberal after Bloomberg.” Orenstein is more worried about preparing for the Rosh Hashanah rush, which will occur less than a week before the primary. He plans on offering matzo ball soup, chopped liver, roast chicken and a special. “The special is going to be, if you vote for de Blasio, you get a free matzo ball,” he said. “How’s that for a special?”

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THE VIEW FROM 48TH AVENUE IN BAYSIDE
QUEENS / February 11, 2013 By: Jon Lentz

PHOTO BY: SANG HEE MA/CITY & STATE

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n this leafy street in northeast Queens, asking questions about who should be New York City’s next mayor invariably turn to the current mayor—and that’s about it. Several residents say that all they know is that they’re happy that Mayor Michael Bloomberg won’t be running City Hall next year. Even though more than two-thirds of Bayside voters cast their ballots for Bloomberg in both 2005 and 2009, the incumbent seems to have worn out his welcome in the neighborhood after he overturned term limits and won a third term. “I don’t want to have anything more to do with politics!” one middle-aged man huffed when asked about the mayor and his potential successors, and then slammed his door shut. The eroding support for Bloomberg isn’t the only shift. The residents of this stretch of 215th Street, with its grassy front lawns, driveways and tidy two- and three-story homes, are now represented by Democrats in every state and federal office. Last fall twice as many voters in the Assembly district that includes Bayside voted for President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. The area’s only Republican representative is Dan Halloran, one of the few GOP members in the

City Council. The area wasn’t always so heavily Democrat. Leo Gorynski, a self-employed 54-year-old who has lived on the street for 25 years, recalled that in the early 1990s Frank Padavan was his state senator and Doug Prescott was his assemblyman, both of them Republicans. Padavan, who took office in 1972, lost to former City Councilman Tony Avella, a progressive Democrat, in 2010. “This neighborhood changed,” Gorynski said. “It used to be Padavan and Prescott.” Gorynski and his neighbors enjoy a solidly middle-class or upper-middle-class lifestyle, and the street has a suburban feel. The stretch of homes is accessible by bus and the Long Island Rail Road, but it’s four miles beyond the last MTA subway station. In the 2009 City Council race for Avella’s old seat, Halloran narrowly beat Democrat Kevin Kim, who would have been the first Korean-American on the Council. That race, which was marked by racial politics, also reflected the diversity of Bayside and neighboring Bayside Hills, where whites make up under half of the population, according to 2010 census figures. About 12 percent of the population is Hispanic, 3 percent is black and 37 percent is Asian.

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BAYSIDE VOTERS ALL OVER THE MAP ON MAYOR’S RACE
QUEENS / March 5, 2013 By: Jon Lentz

PHOTO BY: SANG HEE MA/CITY & STATE

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he neighborhood of Bayside has a leafy, suburban feel, but it’s not a stereotypical white bread suburb: There are plenty of Democrats as well as Republicans, whites make up less than half of the population, and large numbers of Asians and Hispanics call this corner of Queens home. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that there are also a wide range of opinions among residents about the direction of New York City and what exactly the next mayor should focus his or her energies on. Some recurring issues include education, jobs and public safety, but even these topics reveal stark contrasts among the residents of Bayside. Jessica Aviles, who has three children in the city’s public schools, said she hasn’t paid any attention to the mayoral race so far but that the most important issue to her will be education because she has three children in public school. Aviles said that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been in office too long and that she looked forward to having someone replace him. “Education is a big part of my issues with Bloomberg,” said Aviles, who works at a nursing non-profit. “Although he makes it seem like he’s doing everything for the better, I don’t really

see that, because my kids are in the public school system. I think they feel the brunt of that.” Aviles has been unhappy with the mayor’s cuts to after-school programs as well as stricter standards for students. “Not to say that our kids are not capable, but I think they’re rushing through the curriculum, so our kids are not absorbing what they’re supposed to be learning, so it’s not a good foundation,” she said. “And then we wonder why our kids in college cannot perform?” Yet Henny Lin, a hairstylist in Bayside, said she felt that Bloomberg has received too much unfair criticism. She said that while many people complain about public schools, not all of the challenges are the mayor’s fault. “If you want a good school, parents need to get involved,” Lin said. “You need to work with children and sacrifice your time, and work with the teacher ... If you don’t participate, I don’t think any kind of job is done well.” Nury Ferrer, who has lived in Bayside for five years, said the city’s next mayor should follow in Bloomberg’s footsteps and be a strong manager who learns from his or her past mistakes, like the mayor did in his response to natural disasters, including blizzards and hurricanes. She said she approved of Bloomberg overall, even if he gets carried away with initiatives like the soda size restrictions. “Other than that, I think he does a good job,” she said. “We need someone like Bloomberg and [Rudy] Giuliani who makes things happen.” John Novak, who works in public health, said he expected jobs to be the key issue in this year’s election, much as it has been on the national level. He credited the current mayor for having a strong record on budgeting, but he added that Bloomberg had not done enough to deal with the increasing costs of living in the city. “He’s not really rewarding city workers for the time they put in,” Novak said. “For my salary, I’ve been here about four years now, and I haven’t had a salary increase, a promotion or anything like that. In the meantime, the cost of living has gone up and pay has just stayed flat.” Leo Gorynski said that the real problem is public pensions, even if nobody wants to talk about it. The self-employed 54-year-old maintained that rising pension costs would “sink” the city, arguing in particular that teachers have attractive compensation packages that need to be scaled back. “Private industry gets it up front,” he said. “They don’t get it deferred, and it goes on for life. Until they correct it, which they’re not going to, because you don’t get elected if you take on the unions, particularly the UFT, we’re on a sinking ship. If you can get out of New York, get out of it right now.” Diane, a middle-aged Bayside woman who declined to provide her last name, Bloomberg’s record was mixed. She gave him a five or a six on a 10-point scale, praising him for cleaning up the Department of Education, but faulting him for raising taxes. She cited public safety, parks and low-income housing as three issues she would like the next mayor to address. Like most residents, Diane knew that Council Speaker Christine Quinn is running for mayor, which partly reflects Quinn’s lead in the early polls. Beyond that, some residents knew that “the MTA guy”—former MTA CEO Joe Lhota—is also running, and others were familiar with Bill Thompson or John Liu’s candidacies. But few know enough about the mayoral candidates to have a strong opinion of who should or would end up replacing Bloomberg. Gorynski is an exception. “I don’t think the Gristedes’ guy’s money is going to make a difference like Bloomberg’s, because I don’t think he has the political savvy that Bloomberg does,” Gorynski opined, referring

to Republican candidate John Catsimatidis. “So I think you’re going to have a Democrat win.” Other residents said that while they aren’t paying much attention to the race now, they do expect to vote and will assess the candidates closer to election day. “I think it’s still a long ways away, and I think a lot of the issues will change when it comes down to actually voting,” Novak said. Gorynski offered a more cynical take. “The American voter is more interested in what Snooki’s going to name her baby than what is actually happening,” he said. “That which I think is the biggest issue in New York is going to have very little to do because we’re going to be more concerned about are we going to elect the first female, gay mayor? We’re all about glitz. This is an MTV election. Is what it is.”

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BAYSIDERS CYNICAL ABOUT POLITICS, EVEN BEFORE LATEST SCANDALS
QUEENS / April 8, 2013 By: Jon Lentz

PHOTO BY: ANDREW HINDERAKER/CITY & STATE

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hen it comes to politics in New York City, residents of Bayside, Queens, are disillusioned and disengaged—and while a spate of arrests of elected officials and political operatives last week reinforced those feelings, the latest corruption allegations don’t appear to have done much to alter voters’ already cynical view of politicians. “Nobody’s shocked by that,” said an elderly black man who only gave his name as Bob. “It’s all about money. There’s something wrong with that.” Some locals asserted that politicians are simply driven by money and power, and that they also owe too much to campaign donors and backers once they’re elected to office. “I just don’t understand it,” Mandingo Tshaka, an activist and former community board member who will turn 82 this year, said of the arrests of state Sen. Malcolm Smith and New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, among others. “You see, Halloran is my councilman.”

Tshaka said he didn’t have a very high opinion of Halloran to begin with. “It was interesting, in fact I called him up a week before, and I left messages, and I called and left messages—there’s not a damn thing he’s done for me or for this community here,” he said, gesturing north of the intersection at 48th Avenue and Bell Boulevard. “I can’t really see anything he’s done the whole time he’s been there.” Tshaka suggested that the kind of corruption reflected in the allegations against Smith and Halloran was not rare. He too had been offered money over the years while working as an activist, he said, but he declined it. “ ‘What do you want?’ Just respect this community here,” he said. Another longtime resident of Bayside, Leo Gorynski, a self-employed 54-year-old, had considered himself a supporter of Halloran before the allegations. Now he’s not so sure. “It’s a sad state of affairs in U.S. politics,” Gorynski said. “Well, it’s innocent until proven guilty. If he’s convicted, I can’t support him. I think it reflects poorly on all politicians—he just got caught.” Perhaps as a result of the widespread cynicism about politicians, Tshaka and Gorynski were unusual in their careful attention to local politics. Most residents were less attuned to the mayoral race, and struggled to name even one or two candidates running. In fact, few Bayside residents could even come up with the name of Halloran, who was entangled in the alleged scheme to get Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith on the ballot for mayor on the Republican line, when asked who represents them in the City Council. That may explain why some also said they’re supportive of John Liu for mayor without once bringing up the allegations of wrongdoing in his campaign’s fundraising. “I’ll vote for John Liu,” Tshaka said. “John Liu has been very helpful in this community. … He’s been a very good man.” A middle-aged white woman named Desiree said that among the candidates for mayor, she likes Council Speaker Christine Quinn as well as Liu. “He’s done a lot to bring Flushing up to speed,” she said of Liu. “I think if he’s done good things on the local level, he will do a good job for the city as a whole.” But the positive comments about any candidate were relatively rare. Some were also quick to complain about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s third term, his wealth, his education policies and what they say is a lack of concern for low- and middle-class voters. And asked about the race to replace Bloomberg, they said they don’t expect much to change. A number of residents declined to even discuss this year’s elections, saying only that they are fed up with politics. Those who did focused more on negative attributes of the contenders than what they like about their preferred candidates. A middle-aged man named Enrico said he liked Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for taking on Quinn, who he criticized for stalling on the paid sick leave bill that she recently reached a compromise on. “She tried to screw the union employees, so she’s out for me,” he said. “I’m not into politics that much.” Tom Weisenberg was one of few residents who said he liked Bloomberg, and that he leans toward supporting Quinn since it seems that she would have similar policies. But Weisenberg has never voted since he believes that whoever wins elections is beholden to special interests or big donors. But if he did decide to vote, who would he support? “I wish Bloomberg could get a fourth term,” he said. Blocks away, at the Long Island Rail Road stop in Bayside, a man named John said he was unhappy about the seemingly endless repetition of corruption scandals plaguing New York. He said he liked Bloomberg, but that he was leaning towards supporting the mayor’s opponent

from 2009, the former city comptroller, Bill Thompson. “He’s never been in trouble,” he said of Thompson. “That’s something.”

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LITTLE SUPPORT FOR A WEINER CANDIDACY AMONG FORMER CONSTITUENTS
QUEENS / May 14, 2013 By: Jon Lentz

PHOTO BY: MICHAEL JOHNSON/CITY & STATE

n the northeastern end of former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s district, which once straddled Brooklyn and Queens, voters are not looking forward to the disgraced former congressman’s potential candidacy for mayor of New York City. On a street corner in the Queens neighborhood of Bayside, it is hard to find anyone who would say that they would give Weiner another shot if he jumps into the race. Most residents said there was no chance at all that he would get their vote, even if he had their support before. “He should find a job, an honest job,” said a Bayside resident named James who declined to give his last name. “He’s a ridiculous figure. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a sex fiend—but you know, once you become a butt of jokes.” James, who said that Weiner had done a decent job as a representative, echoed other residents in comparing him to former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who also resigned from public office after a scandal involving women outside of his marriage but has since returned to the public eye. “They’re like two peas in a pod,” James said. “They both want to crawl back into the public bosom, and the fact that they think they might have a chance speaks very poorly of the intelligence of the public.” A part of the Queens neighborhood of Bayside used to be portion of Weiner’s congressional

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district. The congressman resigned in 2011 amid scandal, and the district now no longer exists, chopped up in redistricting after Weiner was succeeded for a short time by Republican Rep. Bob Turner. But back in 2010 Weiner easily won re-election, and two thirds of voters in Queens voted for him. “He had a good neighborhood presence,” said a local named Shari Berkowitz. “He came to all the kids’ graduations. He seemed like the real working kind of politician that shows up at everything, kissing babies and all that. I didn’t really think about him one way or the other, at that time.” Nonetheless, if Bayside is reflective of Queens or the outer boroughs as a whole, it would likely be difficult for the former congressman to win over even those voters who were supportive of him in the past. With plenty of time before the primary election, many voters still have only a vague idea of who is running. Many could come up with the name of Christine Quinn, the Council speaker and the frontrunner in several polls. The other candidates were harder to identify. Berkowitz said she supports the city’s public advocate, who is running for mayor, but struggled to recall his name. “It’s a little early for me yet,” she said. “I like, um, what’s his name? Blasio? De Blasio? I followed him on Facebook throughout the whole Sandy thing. Most of the stuff he said, I agree with. Most of the stuff he’s emailing me, I agree with.” And like most other residents, Berkowitz hasn’t forgotten the name of Anthony Weiner, and her view of him is decidedly negative. “Well, you know, the lying is worse than the act, and the continual lying and covering it up until it can’t be covered up any more, then I don’t vote for a guy like that,” she said. Several Bayside residents also said that they favored Quinn. A woman named Joanne said that the Council speaker was hard-working and sensible and displayed great judgment. “She’s a leader,” she said. “I’ve watched her on cable. She’s fabulous.” As for Weiner, Joanne used to be a fan, but she thinks it is too early for him to mount a comeback. “I think that people want to make sure that the immaturity is gone, and whatever else was the problem,” she said. “These men have to grow up a little bit, huh? This is not a frat house! This is adult time, no?” “No way, no way at all,” said a middle-aged Bayside woman named Janice when asked about Weiner’s possible return to politics. “There are venial sins and mortal sins, and that’s a mortal one. I’m not a religious person, but there’s no way. He has a right to go on with his life, and he has a right to be forgiven and get a decent job, but not to be a leader.” Janice said she is also leaning towards voting for Quinn, who she says might need to grow into the role of mayor, but would be a good fit. “She seems to care about the city, and she seems to, in some ways, have a personality that displays the city, like the mayors that we’ve had,” Janice said. “She’s very visible because she’s been standing right behind Bloomberg with everything. We in New York, we like a New Yorker, and she comes across like that.”

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WHO’S THE MAYORAL FAVORITE IN BAYSIDE? WHO KNOWS?
QUEENS / June 18, 2013 By: Jon Lentz

PHOTO BY: MICHAEL JOHNSON/CITY & STATE

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t’s a good thing that the primary for the New York City mayor’s race wasn’t scheduled for June–at least for voters in Bayside, Queens. Residents of the neighborhood, located near the eastern end of Queens, still seem to know little about the candidates who are running to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and they know even less about the race for public advocate, city comptroller or even for the local New York City Council seat. The primary is scheduled for September. “Right now they’re kind of weeding out a lot of people,” said George Finny, one of a number of Queens residents interviewed on a street corner at the intersection of Bell Boulevard and 48th Avenue. “A lot of people who have voiced an interest probably won’t be there at the end.” Finny, who is in his 40s and works in construction, said he leaned towards voting for New York City Comptroller John Liu, one of the Democratic candidates, because he has been effective with the Chinese community in Flushing. He said that education and taxes would be important issues, but he would have to wait and see the concrete plans of the top candidates. “I think it’s too early to tell,” he said. “I might vote for John. As comptroller he’s been fine.” Another man in his 30s who only gave his name as Austin struggled to come up with the

names of more than a couple of candidates. “You have Weiner … you have another gentlemen … Liu?” he said. “There is a total of five, right? Or six? So there’s Quinn, Weiner, Liu … I don’t know who the other ones are.” Austin said he knew very little about any of the candidates, other than that there had been some bad news about Anthony Weiner and John Liu. Still, he said he plans to vote, as long as he can get away from his job in finance on Election Day and make the time to get to the polls. Like many residents, he also struggled to come up with any issues that would be important to him when he takes a closer look at the candidates later this year. He did say that he voted for Bloomberg in the last cycle, citing his ability to “get things done” and various initiatives, such as banning smoking. One middle-aged woman who declined to give her name complained about the noise of airplanes landing at La Guardia International Airport. “I wouldn’t vote again,” she said, “because what are the politicians doing for me?” Joe Baccarella, another local resident in Bayside, said he didn’t like Bloomberg as mayor or Quinn as his potential successor, but he said that didn’t know of any other candidates in the race. When asked what issues would be key for him in the race, he said that he wanted to see more restriction on immigration. “I think they let too many people into the country these days,” he said. “I feel like a tourist on my own street.”

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BAYSIDE VOTERS SHRUG OFF SPITZER, WEINER SCANDALS
QUEENS / July 24, 2013 By: Jon Lentz

PHOTO BY: ADI TALWAR/CITY LIMITS

Anthony Weiner’s Twitter scandal came roaring back with the revelation that he had continued to engage in sexually explicit online conversations with at least one woman after such behavior had prompted him to resign from Congress. But some Queens voters on the outskirts of his old congressional district do not think that Weiner’s online interactions with women other than his wife should disqualify him from becoming New York City’s next mayor. In fact, potential voters interviewed on Tuesday evening seem to be increasingly inclined to forgive and forget. In mid-May, shortly before Weiner officially announced that he would run for mayor, it was difficult to find anyone at the corner of Bell Boulevard and 48th Avenue in Bayside who would say that they might give him another shot. Two months later, a number of Bayside residents interviewed on the same street corner said they just might vote for the former congressman. Their sentiments mirror Weiner’s rise in several polls, where he is now either in the lead, tied for first place or in second place among the Democratic candidates for mayor. A July 15 Quinnipiac University poll also found that voters find public corruption to be worse than sexual misconduct by a three-to-one margin. Several Bayside resident echoed those poll results, saying that the mayoral candidate’s personal faults are exactly that—personal.

“We’re electing them for their jobs, not their personal lives,” said John, a Bayside resident who works in information technology. “We’re not judging his morals, so I think I’d consider him.” John, who was chatting with several other parents while waiting for his kid to finish a taekwondo lesson, wasn’t alone in his views. Three other parents outside the taekwondo studio agreed that Weiner’s candidacy shouldn’t be ruled out. “I’m UFT, so my union is supporting Bill Thompson,” said Suzanne Miller, a teacher and United Federation of Teachers member who lives in the nearby neighborhood of Fresh Meadows. “If Thompson doesn’t get the Democratic nomination, I would consider voting for Weiner. I also like John Liu, but I would also consider voting for Weiner.” “Wasn’t there something with John Liu?” asked another parent. “There was,” Miller replied, acknowledging an investigation into Liu’s fundraising, as the others laughed. “I know. I don’t know. I’d vote for anyone except Christine Quinn. She’s no friend to the teachers at all. She’s a friend of Michael Bloomberg.” The group also seemed to be receptive to another disgraced candidate positioning himself for redemption—Eliot Spitzer, the former governor who recently jumped into the race for New York City comptroller. All four parents agreed that Spitzer, despite his prostitution scandal, had done a good job as attorney general of New York. Across the street, a middle-aged woman named Sue, who works in banking, said that it was too soon to say whether she would vote for Weiner or Spitzer. But she initially didn’t rule out casting a ballot for either one. “No, not at all,” she said when asked if Weiner’s online interactions with multiple women would keep her from voting for him. “Whoever the best candidate, I will vote for. I don’t know too much about him yet.” But when she was informed that Weiner had continued the online conversations after his behavior had become public and after he had already stepped down from Congress, she said she might reconsider whether supporting him was an option. “That means he lies—that’s not good,” she said. At least at this stage in the campaign, one potential advantage for both Weiner and Spitzer is that their scandals, as well as past positions in elected office, have resulted in relatively strong name recognition. For example, nobody interviewed could name any other candidates in the city comptroller’s race. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a Democrat, was seen as a shoo-in before Spitzer entered the race, and a long-shot Republican candidate, John Burnett, is also in the mix. The mid-July Quinnipiac poll found that more than 60 percent of voters don’t know enough about Stringer to have an opinion of him. Only 12 percent had not heard enough about Spitzer, and 18 percent didn’t know enough about Weiner. Of course, some people view Weiner and Spitzer as little more than embarrassments. Leo Gorynski, a self-employed Bayside resident in his mid-50s, said that both candidates are a “disgrace.” “If New York elects him, it will just show that we’re Sodom and Gomorrhah,” said Gorynski, who said he plans to vote for Republican candidate John Catsimatidis for mayor. “[Eliot Spitzer] is a bigger disgrace. He broke the law. People went to jail for the same thing he did.”

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WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME CANDIDATES ARE UNFAMILIAR
STATEN ISLAND / February 11, 2013 By: Nick Powell

PHOTO BY: BESS ADLER/CITY & STATE

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’s Bar & Restaurant is easy to miss if you’re an outsider driving through this suburban enclave of Staten Island—the southernmost section of the borough, a stone’s throw from New Jersey across the Arthur Kill. Situated in a nondescript strip mall adjacent and in proximity to several other equally bland strip malls, from the outside it looks like nothing special—a dive, a hole-in-the-wall—but the atmosphere in the bar tells a different story. The bar appears not to have been redecorated in about 25 years, and therein lies its charm. Wood-paneled walls display framed photographs of local youth sports teams and New York Yankees memorabilia; a University of Notre Dame flag hangs high on the wall across from the bar, dwarfed only by the American flag right next to it. Patrons sit at the bar glued to a college basketball game; some walk from table to table dropping in on conversations as if to finish a thought they had left behind. W’s has no aspirations of trying to be anything but the local watering hole; no need for the flourishes found at bars in Manhattan or Brooklyn, where hardly any semblance of continuity exists in neighborhoods and the only constant is change. As part of a larger liberal Democrat city, Tottenville might be considered somewhere between

Pennsylvania and Texas on the political spectrum—that is to say, generally more right-wing, but with hardly any traces of the brand of social conservatism that has co-opted the larger Republican Party. Board of Elections statistics show the majority of the 62nd Assembly District, which includes Tottenville, voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, and in conversations most of the locals seem to take the matter of voting seriously yet hold politicians in a very skeptical light. “People here are not happy with politicians,” said Charlie Wonsowicz, the owner and namesake of W’s. “Everybody thinks all politicians are crooked. Everybody believes they are stealing our money.” For a bar that counts cops, firefighters and other city workers among its regulars, there are many opinions to be heard on this topic, though coaxing one out is slightly more difficult. Charlie is initially reticent to talk about such a taboo subject on this hallowed ground—the old adage of “the two things you don’t talk about at dinner,” religion and politics, applies at W’s—but he loosens up when asked whether he thinks 2013 is a good time to be a small business owner in New York City. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” he said, the twinkle in his eye dimming as his smile faded to reflect the gravity of the topic. “[The city is] doing everything in their power to close the small guy out. They want the big chains to buy us all out so they don’t have to help us out.” This generally skeptical attitude toward politicians and government was prevalent in conversations with the bar’s patrons. For the most part, the current slate of mayoral candidates is unknown to them, and those who are familiar elicit little enthusiasm. Mike Gallagher, a retired police officer, recognized the name of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, but said he would reserve his vote “for whoever I think is gonna do best for me.” Another patron, Bob, a retired Con Edison worker affectionately known as “Uncle Bob,” seemed to be choosing his preferred candidate through process of elimination, and the first to be cut from his list was City Comptroller John Liu. “I’m not gonna go for Liu. He’s kinda shady already, so that kills his vote,” he said. “I think he’s a thief.” As for Charlie, he detests Mayor Bloomberg, who, in his view, is “out for himself,” but he’s developing a liking for Quinn—perhaps unaware of her close ties to the mayor. “She looks like she knows what to do,” he says. After pausing a beat, he adds, “Whatever that is, I’m sure she’ll do it.”

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ANYBODY BUT BLOOMBERG
STATEN ISLAND / March 20, 2013 By: Nick Powell

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

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t’s the calm before the storm at W’s, early evening on a Saturday night, the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Across the city, droves of drunken co-eds and 20-somethings booze their way from one pub to the next, part of what is now ostensibly a two-day drinking holiday, with no semblance of Irish heritage outside of green attire. But W’s keeps it old-school—corned beef and cabbage on the menu, taps of beer flowing, and scores of locals slowly migrating to the neighborhood haunt for conversation and “Irish” cheer. In other words, it’s not a great night to talk politics in Tottenville. When asked what his thoughts are on the mayoral election, a gentleman at the bar responds gruffly, that he doesn’t “pay much attention” to what’s going on in city politics. Sure, he doesn’t like Bloomberg, sure he votes, but ask him about any of the candidates and he shrugs his shoulders. “I’m just not really interested in it,” he says. Situated in front of the tap, a man named Chuck sips on a finger of whisky with a friend from New Jersey. Wearing a 49ers hat and denim jacket with an earring in his left ear, Chuck is approachable and genial about the conversation topic, if not overly opinionated. He sticks to the creed of W’s patrons in his dislike for everything Bloomberg—despite voting for him—taking issue with his crusade against cigarettes and generally high taxes under his administration.

“I’m a smoker, so I don’t like the cigarette tax,” Chuck says. “I tend to go down that line: save our taxes.” A fan of former mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani, Chuck is thus far unimpressed with the slate of candidates to replace Bloomberg. “I don’t dislike [Christine] Quinn, but I wouldn’t vote for her. I don’t know anything about [Joe] Lhota, the guy from the MTA.” “I want somebody who’s just gonna get the job done, who’s assertive and doesn’t want to look pretty for the cameras,” Chuck concludes, appearing increasingly disinterested in the discussion and eager for another round with his pal. Two retired New York City police officers, Kevin and Anthony, stand at the end of the bar by the entrance. At first wary of talking to a reporter from a publication that they had never heard of, they let their guard down after some persuasion and step outside of the bar. As they each light their cigarettes, it is clear within one minute of conversation that they keep close tabs on the citywide race. Kevin is tall and broad-shouldered, a Yankees cap with a green logo covering his head and a relaxed smile fixed to his face—perhaps the cop you would ask for your one phone call while in a holding cell at the precinct. Anthony is shorter, with a stockier build and a straight-shooting disposition. As to their age, neither of them looks far removed from their days in uniform; they are likely recently retired. It’s easy to imagine them patrolling the streets of their district; both have a distinctly authoritative presence. “I’m supporting Bill Thompson,” Kevin says, naming the former city comptroller and 2009 Democratic nominee. “He seems like a fair-minded guy who’s not gonna tell people not to drink a 32-ounce soda. [Bloomberg] is so out of touch with the working man. I’m more of a conservative libertarian, and I just don’t think [Thompson] is gonna be overreaching.” Again Bloomberg’s flaws provide the backdrop for any conversation about the mayoral race, despite the mayor having one foot out the door as his third term winds down. The prevailing sentiment with these two on the next mayor is “Anybody But Bloomberg.” With three kids, Kevin is concerned about education, and has paid close attention to the ongoing dispute between Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teachers over teacher evaluations. He believes the public education system could be more inclusive of parents. Anthony is unsure of who he is supporting in the mayoral race, but he is concerned with the escalating city property taxes, so much so that he is beginning to look across the Arthur Kill to Jersey for a new home. He also reflects on an issue that resonates with many middle-class New Yorkers: the rising gap between the wealthy and everybody else. “It’s been eight years since I bought my house, and my taxes have tripled. It seems like they want us to go to Jersey,” he says. “In this city, you’re either very rich, or very poor.” As ex-cops, both of the men can speak to the topic of public safety better than the average voter. On the controversial stop-and-frisk policing that has been a widely-used method under Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Anthony stands by the practice, noting the city’s relative safety compared with other major cities. “[Stop-and-frisk is] not necessarily making a difference out here [in Tottenville], but it’s making a difference in the communities that need it,” Anthony says. “That’s why we’re not Chicago, Philadelphia, Camden, Trenton. It’s a tool you have to use to fight crime.” Kevin bristles at the notion that stop-and-frisk disproportionately targets minority communities, sometimes unfairly so. “That’s untrue, [stop-and-frisk] targets the areas where there’s crime. Whatever the socioeconomic reason, police want to stop crime, so if it’s happening in those areas, it’s not racist— they’re going by the numbers.” The conversation circles back to the other mayoral candidates. They both like former MTA

chairman Joe Lhota, a Republican, but think that he has no chance of winning in a city where conservative voters are vastly outnumbered. Neither takes the candidacy of supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, a Republican, seriously, if only for his membership in the Billionaire Boys Club with, yes, Michael Bloomberg. “We don’t need another billionaire,” Anthony says, as Kevin nods in agreement.

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COULD WEINER RISE IN STATEN ISLAND?
STATEN ISLAND / April 23, 2013 By: Nick Powell

“Y

PHOTO BY: BESS ADLER/CITY & STATE

ou guys see the headline in the Post? Weiner Rising?” It’s late afternoon on a Monday at W’s, meaning it’s “hit or miss,” according to the bartender, in terms of the number of customers that might file in for a post-work beverage. There are six men sitting at the bar having what passes as a political discussion for the W’s crowd. They bandy about some of the names mentioned as potential successors to Michael Bloomberg. Because of some pun-soaked headlines and a recent surge in press coverage, former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s name comes up, as well as that of Christine Quinn. “Here’s to our next mayor, Christine Quinn,” one patron says, lifting a shot glass to toast the City Council Speaker and current Democratic frontrunner for mayor in the polls. The discourse on politics does not extend much beyond a cursory round-up of the most visible candidates. It is still early in the race, with roughly five months to go until the primary election. For those who follow New York City politics with a mere passing interest, the candidates to replace Bloomberg are little more than names and faces at this juncture. Weiner, however, is one name that is difficult to forget. “Everybody makes mistakes,” says Matt Moore, a retired New York City firefighter and current groundskeeper at the Monmouth Race Track in New Jersey, referring to Weiner. Most of the men at the bar today seem to view this reporter with a certain wariness, or simply

don’t want their name printed anywhere other than their driver’s license and Social Security card. Moore is the exception, an approachable, genial man eager to converse. At the mention of Weiner, Moore brings up another name from disgraced congressional lore, Vito Fossella, holding him up as an example of a politician who, like Weiner, fell victim to his own extracurricular activities. “[The personal troubles] wouldn’t prevent me from voting for him,” Moore says, while making it clear that he was very much undecided on whom to vote for this fall. Moore is a unique voter in that not only does he eschew party lines and cast his ballot for whichever candidate he feels serves his best interest, but he also makes sure to write himself in as a candidate in every election. While this move is partly done in jest, it reflects a larger mistrust of politicians that was reinforced in recent weeks with the arrest of state Sen. Malcolm Smith and Queens Councilman Dan Halloran on bribery and corruption charges. “It’s fifty-fifty with politicians right now,” Moore says. “They get in [office] and wanna do good, but once they get that taste of power…” His voice trails off in a foreboding manner, before adding, “And they get their pension? I think it’s wrong.” Moore grows nostalgic for a time when citizens could truly hold their leaders accountable for these public missteps. “They should put [the disgraced politicians] in front of City Hall and let us throw [stuff] at them like the old days.” Circling back to Weiner, Moore says that it is no surprise that the former congressman is considering a run for mayor. He says the expectation of public officials who make mistakes is, “We’re politicians; they’ll forgive us.” With the paucity of women patrons at W’s, it’s difficult to get an accurate take on how female voters would view Anthony Weiner as a mayoral candidate. After all, it’s fair to assume that some might think twice about voting for a married man that text messaged pictures of his genitals to several different women. As the bartender empties ice buckets behind the bar, she doesn’t seem to show much interest in the discussion at hand. Asked if she would have a problem voting for Weiner in an election —hypothetically, that is, being that she’s a New Jersey resident—the bartender offers a blunt assessment of politicians like Weiner who become embroiled in sex scandals. “It’s no different than what any of these other guys are doing,” she said. “As long as he shows that he can run a city, it shouldn’t matter.” Reinforcing this opinion, a woman named Loretta, a New York City public school teacher who was loading groceries into her car in the parking lot adjacent to W’s, said that she would be open to hearing what Weiner had to say rather than dismissing his candidacy altogether. “I don’t know. I would have to see what his credentials are, rather than what he did on his Facebook or Instagram or whatever it was. I didn’t really know anything about his credentials until that incident,” Loretta said. “I’d have to learn more about him before I made a decision. He obviously made a mistake.” It’s difficult to say whether the opinions of these few voters in this small corner of Staten Island are an indication of a larger forgiving view on Weiner’s infidelities, but if nothing else, it’s clear that thanks to his well-timed media blitz, the former congressman is registering in the minds of voters as a face and a name that commands attention.

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W’S PATRONS PARSE QUINN VS. WEINER AND UNION CONTRACTS ON STATEN ISLAND

PHOTO BY: AARON ADLER/CITY & STATE

T

he dog days of campaign season are beginning to set in and the patrons at W’s in Tottenville are already feeling mayoral race fatigue. Christine Quinn? A name with little significance in these parts. Anthony Weiner? An energized presence in the race but more famous for his infidelities than his accomplishments. John Liu? Bill de Blasio? Practically anonymous in these far reaches of the borough. “We need a candidate, but it’s too early,” said Patrick, a tanned, burly retired firefighter enjoying an evening drink with his wife and some friends. Patrick encapsulates W’s political profile: a former city employee, anti-Bloomberg, a registered Republican but not beholden to his party. Career politicians like Quinn and Weiner turn him off. Former mayor Ed Koch and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with their gift for gab and endearing personalities, are the standard to which Patrick holds all other politicians. “Chris Christie, I wish he could run,” Patrick said. “He would cut through all the [nonsense] and just get stuff done.” Alas, Christie seems to be preparing for a more high stakes election in the coming years. But what of Weiner, the resurgent former congressman suddenly back in the public eye after leaving office in ignominious fashion? Patrick, a resident of Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, actually has fond

memories of Weiner, who once represented his community, but not enough that he’ll be casting a ballot for him in September. Patrick’s wife, Gina, on the other hand would consider holding her nose and voting for Weiner, despite being somewhat repulsed by his checkered past. “Everybody makes mistakes, but he did a lot of good things for Gerritsen Beach,” Gina said. “I’m not a fan of what he did, but I would consider voting for him.” Gina, a retired police officer, is less critical of the leading candidates than her husband, parsing their good qualities from the bad. Quinn, she says, is “very liberal” for her taste and the City Council Speaker’s brash, domineering personality rubs her the wrong way. But on a purely symbolic level, she recognizes what a Quinn victory would mean to her family. “It has nothing to do with her sexual preference—our son is gay,” Gina said. “In that sense, I would love [if Quinn got elected] for him. I would love it for everybody. Everybody should be able to do what they want, every state should be that way.” Having each worked for the city and been members of large unions, Patrick and Gina did not shy away from a topic getting a lot of attention of late: the glaring lack of contracts for all of the municipal unions. Patrick said he believes the relationship between the unions and the city is overly politicized. Not one to buck the company line, he stayed in lockstep with the firefighters union in supporting Bloomberg, eventually receiving a four percent raise before he retired in 2005. Gina, however, took notice of how the city treated her much larger union, noting that they had to sit on the sidelines and wait to get a raise after choosing not to support Bloomberg in the 2005 election. She doesn’t foresee the current contract stalemate being resolved swiftly. “[The contracts] are a big bargaining chip. [The city] always wants you to give back something and they won’t give you anything in return,” she said. “Whoever takes over is gonna be screwed because [Bloomberg] screwed them and left them with debt and now they’re not going to get a contract.” Having overheard the conversation, a friend of Patrick and Gina’s chimed in: “If you’re looking for a story about politics, I got a story for you. I work for the [city Department of Education].” A fast-talking, middle-aged woman who declined to be named in this article for fear that she might lose her job, Patrick and Gina’s friend claimed that the upper management at the department tried to muzzle its employees and discourage them from speaking out in favor of the school bus drivers when they went on strike several months ago. “The New York City [Department of Education] is a bunch of politics bullshit,” she said. “During the bus strike, a lot of stuff should have been out there about [DOE employees] backing them, but they wanted us to appear in support of the parents, so we had to keep our mouth shut.” She added that the pressure from “above” in the department is unbearable at times and the possibility of a new administration is enticing. However, despite her disdain for Bloomberg, the woman, a Brooklyn native, said she had not yet taken the time to decide which candidate she liked. “I might vote for Weiner,” she said, “I hate when people resign for something that has absolutely nothing to do with their job.” One thing’s for sure, Quinn won’t be getting her vote, but in this case it has nothing to do with Quinn’s third term vote or her alliance with Bloomberg. “I don’t like a woman in charge. We’re bitches.”

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The Five Borough Ballot

AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW OF BLOOMBERG ON STATEN ISLAND
STATEN ISLAND / July 4, 2013 By: Nick Powell

PHOTO BY: BESS ADLER/CITY & STATE

P

olitics is not the most popular discussion topic at W’s. In fact, it’s safe to say that it lies somewhere between Greek philosophy and curling on the spectrum of desirable bar stool conversation. However, when prompted, the overwhelming sentiment among Tottenville locals is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg epitomizes everything locals do not want in a politician: a wealthy, socially liberal, über-capitalist with a nanny state streak. So it was rather shocking when John and Anthony, two former commodities traders on Wall Street—a singularly unique profession in this normally blue-collar, police and firefighter-filled bar—mentioned that they admire Bloomberg despite his political flaws. “Bloomberg’s a good businessman,” said John, a burly Tottenville resident with grey hair and a t-shirt that reveals an elaborate tattoo on his bicep. After working for financial firms like MF Global and Goldman Sachs over a 25-year period, he lost his job in 2008 during the economic crash. John said that his position became expendable once these companies realized it was cheaper to have “robots” do the work. He now works in real estate, and said that he has Bloomberg to

thank for an economic climate in the city that is ripe for development—a hallmark of the mayor’s tenure. “Housing’s on the rise, interest rates are on the rise,” John said. “But the city isn’t approving many major developments that won’t be extremely profitable.” His pal, Anthony, from nearby Annadale—dressed in a blue golf shirt and shorts with a youthful, tanned face that belies his age—also had positive things to say about Bloomberg’s business acumen, observing that he runs the city “more like a magistrate than a mayor,” which he means as a compliment. The fact that these men can even utter Bloomberg’s name at W’s without furrowing their brow is unusual, but when the conversation turned to Bloomberg’s potential replacements, like many of the bar’s patrons, they were equal parts disinterested and intrigued by some of the candidates, namely one of the Democratic frontrunners, Anthony Weiner. “I think Weiner will win, but he’s got some seriously weak moral character,” Anthony said. “He’s gotta be insecure. I mean who takes pictures of their [junk] and sends it out to people?” John compared Weiner to Vito Fossella, another disgraced former congressman, saying that he runs into Fossella often in the neighborhood and that Weiner—who had a brief stint in the private sector in between resigning from Congress and running for mayor—should follow Fossella’s lead and go into lobbying. Fossella is a partner at Park Strategies, the consulting firm run by former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato. “[Fossella] looks great, he’s happy. He makes more than he ever did while he was in Congress,” John said. “Weiner should do that. What’s he want to run for mayor for?” Unlike a handful of W’s patrons who dislike Weiner’s Democratic rival Christine Quinn, John views her as relatively harmless, just simply not commanding enough to win the race and run the city. He added that he felt similarly about Barack Obama’s chances in 2008, and was obviously proven wrong. “I don’t think she’s a strong enough leader for the job. She’s good at what she does now, but I don’t think she’d make a good mayor,” he said. “Then again, a junior senator from Illinois became president after missing 90 percent of his votes in the Senate, so what do I know?” That statement seemed to hint at John’s political leanings, and when pressed, both he and Anthony copped to being registered Republicans, though they said voting along party lines in local elections is akin to wasting a vote. “Republicans have no chance in this city,” Anthony said. “I don’t care much about the mayoral race anyway.” John agreed. He’s more concerned with what he perceives to be a rapidly growing government under Obama than evaluating the next leader of his city. “I vote Republican, I’m fiscally conservative, and I like small government,” John said. “I don’t appreciate that the size of our government has tripled in the last few years.” The premium placed on national politics over the local races illustrates a confounding dichotomy in Tottenville. Inevitably, any discussion centered around politics circles back to Obama’s presidency or the mounting multi-trillion-dollar debt, topics that are important in the larger scope of government and politics, but have little bearing on the issues that John and Anthony say they care about, such as education or rising property taxes. Whether this detachment from local races is a function of concentrated media coverage around federal politics or a symptom of a deeper malaise attributable to what Tottenville voters perceive to be a weak crop of mayoral candidates is an open question. This much is clear: mayoral candidates thinking about making a trip to this corner of the city and engaging the voting public may steal some undecided votes. The clock is ticking.
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The Five Borough Ballot

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER AT W’S
STATEN ISLAND / August 7, 2013 By: Nick Powell

PHOTO BY: NICK POWELL/CITY & STATE

T

he dog days of summer have fallen upon W’s in Staten Island. Save for a handful of cars, the strip mall parking lot is bare; it’s easy to imagine tumbleweeds rolling across the concrete. W’s kitchen is closed—turning away several hungry, and disappointed, visitors—and a mere two patrons sit at the bar on this sleepy weeknight exchanging laughs and stories with the bartender. It’s peak getaway time, and many Tottenville residents are enjoying the comforts of their vacation homes anywhere from the Poconos down to the Jersey shore. The bartender, a petite brunette with a sense of humor who holds her own in conversations with W’s male-dominant clientele, mentions that she “can’t wait for football season”—not only to delight in the Giants successes or wallow in the Jets miseries, but because barstools will be filled, which means her pockets will be too. A man named Nick supplies the color this evening. He’s a stocky Italian of average height with a mustache and a story for any topic. Nick, who is married with three kids, has run an auto repair business in the area for years, proudly boasting that, “Consumer Affairs don’t hear from my customers.” Nick admits that the last two or three years has been a strain on his business. The lousy economy forced people to tighten their belt, making trips to the mechanic a luxury that many could not afford. “With this economy, if you’re remotely handy, you’re doing your own [auto] repair,” Nick said.

Nick talks a little bit about being a small business owner in this economic climate, which inevitably leads the conversation to Tottenville’s favorite politician: Michael Bloomberg—although Nick might as well have called him a saint compared to the usual vitriol reserved for Hizzoner in these parts. “Look, he’s much more successful than I am,” Nick said, as if admitting a personal flaw. “I can’t knock him. He balances our budgets, he raised our taxes but only probably because they needed the money.” He added that Bloomberg needs to work on his messaging, and that his gruff personality contributes to his elitist reputation. “He should be less rough around the edges, his message would come in clearer,” Nick said. “He needs a better bedside manner.” Nick’s in-laws, a politically active family, help drive his own interest in politics, but that’s not to say that he can rattle off candidates’ names and policy positions. He sees the mayoral race as a two-horse race between Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Rep. Anthony Weiner— which makes sense, given that they are the two somewhat known commodities in this race, with formidable personalities to boot. “It’s either a lesbian or a pedophile,” Nick jokes. “Quinn, I’d give her a shot. She seems honest enough and she’s the most qualified.” Nick is similar to many voters in this area, who seem to weigh personality as highly, or higher even, than a candidate’s legislative or policy chops. Even Weiner’s seemingly compulsive urge to text racy messages to young women is less of an issue here. “He didn’t do anything differently than all the rest of them,” the bartender chimes in. When asked why few voters seem to bat an eye with regard to Weiner’s infidelities, she gives a candid answer that perfectly encapsulates their perspective. “Everybody’s running around screwing everybody—none of [the other candidates] are any different,” she said with assurance. “Nobody cares about sex anymore.” Eliot Spitzer, a city comptroller candidate and another man with a questionable moral record, is mentioned. Nick is a big fan, exonerating the former governor for patronizing prostitutes while advising him to try and offer the prostitutes jobs next time to ensure their discretion. “Spitzer I like. At the end of the day, he’s not that good looking. He probably had to pay [for sex],” Nick said, shrugging. Nick insists that party politics almost never comes into play when picking a candidate to vote for—he maintains that a candidate’s qualifications trumps any political affiliation. For that reason, he admires New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, saying he’d make “a great president” for his ability to appeal to voters from both parties. Hurricane Sandy is still fresh in the minds of Tottenville residents, and Nick and the bartender begin discussing what the coming hurricane season might bring. Nick said that during the storm, the water came a few feet from flooding his entire business, with his shop just escaping serious damage. Christie’s leadership through Sandy and his genuine appeal to President Obama for federal help caught Nick’s attention, who suggested that New York lacked a leader to provide similar guidance during and after the storm hit—contrasting Christie’s pleas for help with Bloomberg trying to hold the marathon in the immediate aftermath of the storm. While making note of the changes in weather patterns over the past few years, the bartender said that the storm reinforced Staten Island’s outsider status, and showed that the community did not need the help of politicians to get back on their feet. “Staten Island’s the forgotten borough—we take care of ourselves,” she said. “People forget we used to be a shore town, by the time hurricane season rolled around, everybody was gone

from here. Now, people have to deal with storms every year.” Nick believes that the next mayor will have to confront this issue head-on. As if impersonating one of the candidates, Nick proposes that the city build a two to three-mile long sea wall from “the surf club to the ball field” on Staten Island’s south shore that would be about 15 feet high. He said that the wall could be funded by requiring that everybody living within that zone contribute money towards the project. “It would protect all that prime real estate property from becoming obsolete. Politicians know that,” Nick said, pausing on that thought for a moment. “Well … they should.”

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The Five Borough Ballot

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LAST LOOK
NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATES
Bill Thompson Adolfo Carrion Jr.

Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a Democrat, discusses the campaign’s highs and lows and shares his thoughts on Eliot Spitzer’s run for comptroller. (First aired: 7/16/13)

Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión, the Independence Party nominee, discusses his political ideology and what he sees as his path to victory. (First aired: 7/18/13)

Anthony Weiner

John Catsimatidis

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, discusses the media coverage he has received and addresses a report about the impact his Twitter scandal had on the women involved. (First aired: 6/25/13)

Billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, a Republican, talks about the campaign and why he thinks he is the best person to bridge the bipartisan divide in New York City. (First aired: 8/6/13)

Joe Lhota

Sal Albanese

Former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota discusses why he thinks he is the best person to be the next mayor, improving 911 response times and the media coverage of the race. (First aired: 7/17/13)

Former City Councilman Sal Albanese, a Democrat, talks about the campaign, the numerous mayoral forums, and his plans for education reform. (First aired: 7/11/13)

Erick Salgado

Jack Hidary

Rev. Erick Salgado, a Democrat, discusses the Latino vote, praises Rudy Giuliani and reminisces about his breakdancing childhood. (First aired: 8/8/13)

Tech millionaire Jack Hidary, an independent, discusses his decision to enter the race and presents an alternative approach to stop-and-frisk. (First aired: 7/29/13)

George McDonald

Christine Quinn

Doe Fund Founder George McDonald, a Republican, discusses his vision for New York City and his flap his rival John Catsimatidis. (First aired: 7/24/13)

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat, discusses, setting herself apart from Mayor Bloomberg, and the possibility of being NYC’s first openly gay mayor. (First aired: 8/14/13)

Bill de Blasio

John Liu

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, talks about early childhood education, hospital closures, and why he should be the choice for progressives in the race. (First aired: 7/17/13)

City Comptroller John Liu, a Democrat, discusses the Campaign Finance Board’s decision to deny his campaign matching funds and whether he believes he is the subject of political persecution. (First aired: 8/28/13)

LAST LOOK
NEW YORK CITY COMPTROLLER CANDIDATES

Scott Stringer

Eliot Spitzer

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a Democrat, discusses his qualifications, his attacks on Eliot Spitzer, and the possibility of getting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s endorsement. (First aired: 8/15/13)

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, discusses the race, his vision for the office, and whether as comptroller he would seek to regain the title of “Sheriff of Wall Street”. (First aired: 8/21/13)

John Burnett

Financial expert John Burnett, a Republican, explains why he is running, why he would consolidate the pension funds, and the reason he believes Scott Stringer is not qualified for the job. (First aired: 6/27/13)

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LAST LOOK
NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE CANDIDATES

Reshma Saujani

Daniel Squadron

Former Deputy Public Advocate Reshma Saujani, a Democrat, discusses stop-and-frisk, and her opposition to the campaigns of Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, Vito Lopez and Micah Kellner. (First aired: 8/13/13)

State Senator Daniel Squadron, a Democrat, discusses his campaign for public advocate, the importance of the office, and his plan to improve housing. (First aired: 8/7/13)

Letitia James

Cathy Guerriero

City Councilwoman Letitia James, a Democrat, discusses her vision for the office of public advocate and her plan to improve housing. (First aired: 7/31/13)

Professor Cathy Guerriero, a Democrat, discusses her qualifications and articulates her vision for the office of public advocate. (First aired: 7/30/13)

LAST LOOK
METROFOCUS SEGMENTS ABOUT THE FIVE BOROUGH BALLOT PROJECT
What New Yorkers Want In A New Mayor

MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman interviews City Limits’ Jarrett Murphy and City & State’s Morgan Pehme about what the residents of the five boroughs actually think about the elections that will goven them for the next four years. (First aired: 3/20/13)

NY Corruption Scandals Raise Questions About Transparency and Reform

MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman interviews Wall Street Journal reporter Andrew Grossman and City Limits’ Jarrett Murphy about political corruption in Albany and New York City and why the voters aren’t reacting. (First aired: 4/17/13)

Scandal and Redemption in NY Politics

MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman interviews City Limits’ Executive Editor Jarrett Murphy about the mayoral race heating up and the return of Anthony Weiner. (First aired: 5/29/13)

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