The following op-ed was submitted by Chelsea resident Russell Orenstein, a friend of Tom Greco, who’s one of three Democratic candidates for Tom Duane’s seat in the State Senate.
There is a discernible difference between the candidates running in this year’s election for the newly drawn 27th State Senate District in Manhattan.
Tom Greco, a business owner and community activist from Hell’s Kitchen, is the best choice. The record of Greco’s opponent, Brad Hoylman, is dubious at best. Sure, he is the hand-picked selection of the Democratic establishment in Manhattan. But in times like these we deserve something more in who represents us than the result of political deal making and pre-determined coronations. After all, this is Manhattan and we are New Yorkers. As voters, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard of what we expect from our elected leaders, and owe it to ourselves to do the necessary research in finding out who the candidates really are, their records and what they truly stand for.
One of the immediately observable differences between the candidates is their platforms. Greco’s agenda is one of boldness and originality. His stances are not about compromise, and they do not mirror the political flavor of the month. His position on housing is not only about preservation, but also the creation of new housing built to bring a sense of community to the large and sprawling (and gerrymandered) 27th District.
In the August 2012 issue of the Clinton Chronicle, Greco was quoted as saying, “I would like to bring a new program to New York State modeled after the Mitchell-Lama program, which to this day stands as one of the most successful housing programs ever established here. In a similar model we can work with developers to make it fiscally advantageous for them to build new affordable housing, while strictly regulating that they do so through tax incentives and legislation.”
“I want to build a sense of community,” he continued. “In strained economic times like these making affordability a component of all new construction is crucial to keeping people, and a healthy tax base, living in our city, and to providing people working here, like teachers, police officers and firemen, a decent place to reside within the community in which they work. Mitchell-Lama Housing was originally built to house middle-income and lower middle-income workers like these, which improved New York for the better.”
He believes that if police officers knew the children in the neighborhoods they served they would be much less likely to engage in unreasonable “stop and frisks,” or suspect them of fallacious criminal activity. In turn, children would respect the officers more knowing they are from their community and can intimately understand its issues.
He suggests the same for teachers. “Teachers would be able to relate to the children’s culture, mindset and personal issues much better if they shared the concerns of the communities they served, and as a result would provide children with a better quality of education.” It is also his belief that teachers should be paid significantly more, while being held to the highest standards of performance possible. Hoylman, on the other hand, was chief counsel to and lobbyist for the Partnership for the City of New York for over a decade, an organization which supported Tishman Speyer in their effort to evict Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village residents from their homes – hardly a community building effort.
Greco’s plan for healthcare does not simply mirror Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but further calls for a statewide public option in the spirit of the single payer movement. He explained, “It is my goal to bring a public healthcare option to New York, a program similar to the one employed in San Francisco.” It’s a system that New York Times contributors called “a public option that works.”
By contrast, Hoylman and the Partnership for the City of New York took a position against the city’s living wage bill. Further muddling Hoylman’s record is the fact that while he seemed to represent the Greenwich Village community in their fight against the Rudin Management Company as Community Board 2 Chair at night, by day he worked for the Partnership, which has William Rudin himself on its board of directors.
The hospital was never saved, and there have been no efforts on his part to secure a new healthcare facility, further burdening facilities like Beth Israel. The fact that emergency room waits in New York City are comparable to those in Mississippi is unacceptable.
Tom Greco may not be the politicians’ choice. What is clear though is his pureness of intention, and the fact that until this very election he has never run for office. By contrast, until two months ago Hoylman was a candidate for Speaker Christine Quinn’s Council seat, a position he also ran for in 2001. As of today, Hoylman has three campaign accounts open for three different seats in three distinct elections years.
Greco sees this as a problem and so should we. “Until a few weeks ago he was running for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s City Council seat and then suddenly turned on a dime to run for Senate before anyone else even knew Tom Duane had retired,” he stated.
“His attempted coronation by established elected officials and clubs was orchestrated in the middle of the night, with no consultation with the community and no concern for the Democratic process. I’m a believer in open elections and transparent Democracy. That’s why I became a Democrat in the first place. We can’t criticize Republicans for closing off public participation and then turn around and act exactly the same way they do in our own house.”
From Greco’s perspective, and hopefully ours, the race will ultimately boil down to who the voters trust.
“My opponent has spent the last decade working for the Partnership for the City of New York, representing big developers, big business and landlords by day, while at night he played community activist. You can’t have it both ways. That’s my message to the voters in the 27th District. Be transparent about who you are.”