By Mark P. Thompson, president of the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club
In the past Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village were known as one of the state’s most important voting blocs. Where else could a candidate stand on a street corner for a few hours and greet thousands of people who knew about all the issues of the day and were definitely voting? Big turnouts – even in ho-hum races – forced politicians to pay attention to our needs, coming to us for support and making sure that our opinions were taken into account. Our City Council member and state representatives had a special respect for us, as did others; they all knew that the Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper “squeaky wheel” voting bloc needed to be respected.
But what has happened? The number of voters here has declined, partially due to the changing demographic of our local population, partially due to the apathy that has struck voters everywhere. But why is it so critical that all of us vote in this election – and that we vote on the Democratic line rather than one of the splinter party lines? It’s because our homes are threatened; the ability to afford growing rents is being slashed away by an aggressive landlord’s MCIs and other fees, and various public agencies allow it all to happen. It’s because the predators are circling overhead, hoping to buy and alter the community forever. It’s because if we don’t vote and show that we are a unified force to be reckoned with, the city, state and feds will write us off as just another disinterested bunch of people who can always rattle some chains but don’t vote and therefore doesn’t deserve more attention than some needier people in another borough.
But what is really at stake here? No, it’s not just reelecting someone to office and voting against some redistricting proposition hidden on the flip side of the ballot. It’s about sending a firm message to our elected representatives – and others who should also be listening to us – that we demand they protect our homes, keep our streets safe, encourage businesses to open and stay open, help our seniors with supportive programs, and improve our schools.
The best way we can protect our interests is to show that people in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are important and care by voting. When voting, you will have a choice among several parties on the ballot. It’s important to vote in the Democratic column. This gives the leadership of New York’s leading party proof that we demand its attention; since candidates have always been elected through the Democratic line it’s important to throw our weight there rather than with one of the splinter groups that won’t have any elected candidates.
Beyond the actual decision of which candidate wins, the vote totals are used to calculate a ariety of other functions. Over the years, as voter turnout has declined and votes were siphoned off to other parties, our neighborhood has gradually lost its voice to other communities. With a bigger Democratic backing, our elected representatives, including our Democrat City Council Member Dan Garodnick (former president of the Tilden Democrat Club), will have the ability to use a strong showing to fight for us, and our other elected officials (all Democrats) will need to take more notice of us.
How can we as a community remain relevant and regain our stature, so that our government actually works for us instead of ignoring us? We must vote on Tuesday. We must encourage our friends and neighbors – especially those who claim it’s not important – to vote for our Democratic candidates in the Democratic column. It’s our best chance at protecting our community.