Editorial: Town & Village endorses de Blasio for mayor, Garodnick for Council

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio

In September, Town & Village endorsed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for mayor, because we believed out of all the candidates in that cluttered ballot, he was the best hope for the middle class in this city, in particular the city’s tenant population, because he would be the most effective fighter. At this time, with de Blasio set to face off against Joe Lhota, we still believe that to be true.

We do not however believe the fear mongering arguments by Lhota that if de Blasio is elected, New York City will return to the bad old days of muggers and squeegee men ruling the streets. This is simply the kind of mud slinging that reads as desperate as Lhota’s numbers in the polls continue to show that the residents of this city are in deed ready for change after 12 years of the same Republican mayor. We also don’t buy Lhota’s blasting of de Blasio’s “tale of two cities” shtick as being divisive, because that kind of division doesn’t need to be manufactured; it’s long been felt by people who have for some time been living in fear of being priced out of this city as the mayor has taken a mostly hands-off approach to matters like disappearing rent regulated housing and salaries that just haven’t kept pace with rising housing costs, including the yearly increases approved by the Rent Guidelines Board.

While Lhota has said he was committed to building new housing by offering tax incentives, de Blasio has been a lot more specific in his promises to build more of the affordable kind of housing and in protecting the existing stock of it by having City Hall work with (or put pressure on) the governor to get results in Albany on local housing laws. In an op-ed in this newspaper, he discussed the community of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in particular, noting that, “It’s the responsibility of the city to ensure that these homes and other affordability housing are never beyond the reach of middle class New Yorkers.”

Lhota believes de Blasio to be an all-talk-and-no-action kind of candidate, but as with any election, all voters can do, whether they support de Blasio or Lhota, is decide whether their campaigns seem credible. In Lhota’s case, his platform is built around admittedly worthy goals of job creation in fields like bio-tech and science and also helping the economy by encouraging more tourism. However, when it comes to affordable housing, his only real plan is to review how taxes are charged to property owners. This won’t necessarily lead to lower costs for owners or tenants.

Interestingly, although de Blasio’s accepted plenty of real estate campaign cash (as Lhota’s been quick to correctly point out) the Democratic candidate still won the primary. This was in all likelihood based on the big promises he has made to the middle class and voters will be watching to see if and how he intends to make good on those promises if he can pull it off again and win the general election on November 5. That said, we hope he does. De Blasio has our endorsement for mayor.

City Council candidate Dan Garodnick

City Council candidate Dan Garodnick

The City Council race for the seat representing the fourth district has been a particularly quiet one with not much press surrounding the goal of Council Member Dan Garodnick to get re-elected for a third term. His only rival has been Republican challenger Helene Jnane, an attorney from the Upper East Side.

In fact, the only attention from major press this race has gotten is when mentioning the fact that Garodnick is also interested in replacing Christine Quinn as Council speaker and that, because it’s in his district, his say is a big one when it comes to the controversial East Midtown Re-zoning. However, whether he makes speaker or not has nothing really to do with what voters of this race are concerned with, which is who will make the most effective representative of the 4th district.

This particular district includes Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, Turtle Bay, Grand Central, the Upper East Side, Central Park South and part of Yorkville.

Based on his two terms served so far, we believe that Garodnick has proved himself to be a fighter for his constituents, whether the problem is mid-lease increases in Stuyvesant Town or price gouging in midtown by pedicabbies.

Jnane, meanwhile, a political outsider other than a stint as a campaign attorney for former presidential candidate Ron Paul, is an earnest candidate with a platform of making sure laws as they currently stand are obeyed and that government officials or agencies don’t abuse their power through “overreach.” In keeping with traditional Republican values, she believes government should be kept small and that taxpayer money is wasted otherwise.

However, she loses us when it comes to more local matters that affect her neighbors, like the loss of affordable housing units and increased transience in once stable neighborhoods due to rising rents. Jnane, who sits on the board of her co-op building, instead seems to favor a more hands off approach on the housing problems of others, which makes her seem out of touch. She has said she doesn’t want to make New Yorkers promises she can’t keep. This is admirable, not to mention a refreshing thing to hear from an aspiring politician, but it doesn’t make up for what seems like a lack of interest in trying to improve a problem that’s first and foremost on the minds of so many who live in this city.

By contrast, Garodnick, who lives in Peter Cooper Village, understands that even though it’s Albany, not City Hall, that determines most housing law, there are still things city legislators can do to help keep New Yorkers in their homes. He’s co-authored the Tenant Protection Law, which gives tenants the right to sue owners for forms of harassment such as frivolous lawsuits aimed at getting them out of their apartments. He also, when ST/PCV residents were facing a flurry of primary residence challenges from then-owner Tishman Speyer, organized a series of legal clinics to answer tenants’ questions and set up a hotline for them to receive pro bono legal advice from the Urban Justice Center.

More recently, in May, after residents of ST/PCV were hit with mid-lease rent increases following the settlement of the “Roberts v. Tishman Speyer” lawsuit, Garodnick learned that many residents who were told by leasing agents that they wouldn’t be getting increases got them, anyway. He then asked Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to look into the matter and that investigation resulted in 150 affected tenants getting their rents rolled back. He’s also supported the ST-PCV Tenants Association in its many (ongoing) challenges of major capital improvements (MCI).

Of course, over the years since Garodnick was elected (in 2005), not all the fights have been successes. MCIs have consistently been approved by the state housing agency and, despite offers to CWCapital by Garodnick to talk business, ST/PCV still isn’t owned by the tenants. On the latter issue, the incumbent has said he simply considers that “unfinished business.”

Additionally, on non-housing issues, Garodnick has been involved in the creation of much-needed classroom seats on the East Side, has funded a soon-to-begin expansion of Asser Levy Park and has, based on constituent complaints, helped do away with confusing parking signage around the city, which has been a scourge of his district in particular.

So, based on his experience in responding to the pressing needs of locals and his persistent goal of giving tenants more control over their lives, we endorse Dan Garodnick.

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