Maybe next year for participatory budgeting

By Sabina Mollot

Over the past week, many City Council members, including Speaker Corey Johnson, have been cheering the fact that this past week, April 7-15, was a window of community voting on how to spend $1 million.

The money, part of allocated funds for different districts, was included in a program called “participatory budgeting,” in which constituents, including children, get a say in how the money gets spent, like improvements to parks, libraries or senior centers.

However, not all districts were included in the program and District 4, spanning from Stuyvesant Town to 98th Street, had no participatory budgeting. Note: This isn’t extra money, just funding set aside from a council member’s budget.

We reached out to City Council Keith Powers’ office to ask why his constituents didn’t get a say, and according to a spokesperson, Liz Peters, the reason is that he would have had to enroll in the program last year, and at that time Powers wasn’t in office yet. However, she said, Powers would look into the process for next year, because he thinks it’s an “innovative idea,” one that was started by the Progressive Caucus, of which he is the vice co-chair.

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Town & Village endorses Powers, Rivera for City Council

Before the primary, Town & Village endorsed Carlina Rivera for City Council, District 2, and Keith Powers for District 4 (along with a co-endorsement for fellow Democrat Marti Speranza, who is no longer in the race), because we felt they would be the most effective fighters for their respective clusters of Manhattan and the city. Two months later, we have not changed our positions and hope that voters will give their support to Powers and Rivera.

Keith Powers

Keith Powers

In Powers’ case, we like his background of community activism and local politics. Long before becoming a lobbyist — which opponents have delighted in attacking him for — he was working for State Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, with duties including helping tenants fight off unfair challenges to their residency. He also was involved with the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, again championing renters’ rights, and Community Board 6, where he has been involved in helping maintain a balance of supporting local nightlife while also protecting neighbors’ rights to quiet enjoyment of their apartments. It’s an advisory role, but the State Liquor Authority does pay attention to it. Because Powers has been involved in civic groups for years, even his challengers couldn’t accuse him of merely doing these things to score points with voters.

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Green, Libertarian candidates also on ballot in Council race

Manny Cavaco, Green Party candidate (Photos courtesy of candidates)

By Sabina Mollot

On Election Day, residents of District 2: the East Village, the Lower East Side, Gramercy and Kips Bay, will have five City Council candidates to choose from. They are Democratic nominee Carlina Rivera, Liberal Party candidate Jasmin Sanchez, who ran as a Democrat in the primary, and Republican Jimmy “The Rent is Too Damn High” McMillan as well as two additional candidates running almost entirely inactive campaigns.

They are Libertarian Donald Garrity of Kips Bay and Green Party candidate Manny Cavaco of the Lower East Side.

Cavaco, who spoke with Town & Village this week, is a veteran candidate, having run for City Council the first time in 1991. However, the now 62-year-old truck driver and teamster with Local 917 admitted he doesn’t play to win.

“Green Party candidates don’t win,” he said. However, like many longshot candidates, he’s running based on his passion for a particular issue. In his case, it’s a desire to see a public bank developed in New York, similar to one that’s been proposed for Santa Fe.

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Mayor grilled on garage

Council Member Dan Garodnick and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a town hall on Tuesday (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On Tuesday, the mayor was grilled about the proposed sanitation garage for East 25th Street by neighbors who attended a town hall.

The hotly-contested issue was the topic of discussion at numerous Community Board 6 meetings when it was first announced in 2012 but the plan has stalled in the last two years, and Mayor de Blasio said at the town hall, which was also hosted by Council Member Dan Garodnick, that the issue will be reviewed again once the next term for City Council begins.

“The fundamental problem is that the facilities are concentrated in Lower Manhattan so we need some kind of facility to serve this area and so far this seems like the most viable site,” he said. “But there should be a real conversation about what the community needs.”

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Powers and Rivera crush competition in primary

Unlike the sun, Council candidate Keith Powers was up bright and early, along with Council Member Dan Garodnick, to cast his vote in Peter Cooper Village. (Photo by Chris Carroll)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Peter Cooper Village resident Keith Powers and Lower East Side resident Carlina Rivera each won their respective primary races for City Council on Tuesday, following major endorsements for the candidates in the days leading up to voting.

With about 93 percent of the votes counted on Wednesday morning, Powers was declared the winner in the District 4 race with 41.24 percent of the vote and Rivera won the primary for District 2 by a wide margin, receiving 60.76 percent of the vote.

Powers’ closest competitor, Upper East Sider Marti Speranza, received 22.78 percent of the vote. None of the other seven candidates received more than 10 percent of the vote but Rachel Honig and Bessie Schachter came the closest, receiving 8.59 and 8.26 respectively. Vanessa Aronson received 6.68 percent and Maria Castro got 4.74 percent of the vote. Peter Cooper Village resident Barry Shapiro received 2.10 percent and Alec Hartman got 1.04 percent.

Kips Bay resident Mary Silver was Rivera’s closest competitor but still only received 16.41 percent of the vote. Former Obama staffer Ronnie Cho received 8.5 percent of the vote, community organizer Jasmin Sanchez got 5 percent and attorney Jorge Vasquez received 7.58 percent. East Village resident Erin Hussein technically dropped out of the race prior to the election but still received 1.9 percent of the vote.

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ST-PCV tenants meet District 4 City Council candidates

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By Kristy Ye-Ling

On Saturday afternoon, crowds came out for a meet and greet in Stuyvesant Oval with nine City Council candidates hoping to replace Dan Garodnick next year.

The representatives at the event, which was organized by the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association, were Rachel Honig (D), Jeffrey Mailman (D), Keith Powers (D), Bessie R. Schachter (D), Marti Speranza (D), Maria Castro (D), Barry Shapiro (D) and Vanessa Aronson. Republican Rebecca Harary, who’s an Orthodox Jew, couldn’t travel on the Sabbath but had a representative there.

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Town & Village endorsements for City Council, Districts 2, 4

Because of term limits, the City Council seats in Dan Garodnick and Rosie Mendez’s districts are now open for the first time in 12 years. In both cases, there will be big shoes to fill, and the competition has certainly reflected this.
For the editorial staff at Town & Village, to say coming to a decision on whom to endorse was difficult would be an understatement in the extreme. The choices were made after interviewing each candidate as well as asking them to answer a few additional questions this past week, and those answers are also running in this week’s issue so voters can learn more about how they stand on local issues.

District 2
For the District 2 race, Town & Village is endorsing Carlina Rivera. This wasn’t a simple conclusion to come to because the candidates in this race share so many of the same values and concerns. There is a universal understanding that the district is in immediate danger of losing its character, not to mention that it’s no longer a place too many would find affordable. Homelessness is getting worse. (District 4 is in the same boat on all these issues.) But all things being equal, we’re going with the individual who’s been, in our view, the most serious candidate. Additionally, her history of community activism and on the job training thanks to the work in the office she hopes to occupy, make her the natural fit. That said, to be clear, this is a democratic system, not a dynasty, so we’re not supporting Rivera because we believe whoever works for the current council member is automatically entitled to their seat next. But the experience is not a problem, either.

Before leaving Rosie Mendez’s office to become a full-time candidate, Rivera, then a legislative aide, helped work on the package of tenant safety and anti-harassment legislation that Mayor de Blasio just signed into law. These protections are a big game changer for renters. She is also a longtime member of Community Board 3, so it’s not like she even needs to be briefed on the issues of the community before rolling up her sleeves and getting to work.

Town & Village would also like to recognize Ronnie Cho, who we believe is a genuine and worthy candidate out of a field of seven would-be council members. Not only are his credentials impressive, having worked in public engagement for the Obama administration, we also like his creative thinking on affordable housing. He would like to tie new development to the funding of social and education programs.

District 4
For District 4, with 10 candidates to pick from, the choice was even harder, which is why in this case, even at this point in the race, we feel we can only help narrow down the field for voters. Our top two choices in this race are Marti Speranza and Keith Powers, with the theory here being that whoever voters choose, the district still wins. Here’s how we came to this conclusion.

Both candidates have similar experience giving them relevant knowledge as to how this job needs to be done. Along with having worked for former Assembly Member Jonathan Bing and State Senator Liz Krueger, Powers has also worked until recently as an executive in a consulting/lobbying firm owned by former Council Speaker Peter Vallone. Speranza’s no slouch either. She worked for the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs as well as the city’s Women Entrepreneurs (WE) NYC initiative, which helps women business owners in underserved communities, before becoming a full-time candidate. Both candidates have been presidents of local political clubs and both serve on a community board.

They both prioritize affordable housing and have plans on how to create more of it. They both want to keep small businesses open, with Speranza’s weapons of choice being the SBJSA and creating a legacy business registry and Powers’ plan being implementing a vacancy tax to de-incentivize warehousing and passing legislation to protect small businesses from steep rent increases.

This is simply an instance where we wish there were two jobs available instead of just one. Hopefully, whoever doesn’t win this primary will consider running for Brian Kavanagh’s Assembly seat if he’s successful in replacing Daniel Squadron in the Senate.

In other issues, they both want to push for more pre-K seats, reform the criminal justice system and focus on the environment.

The choice is yours. We hope we have at least helped a little.

T&V would also like to recognize these additional candidates running in the primary that have managed to stand out.

Rachel Honig got our attention when discussing the need for reform of how the City Council operates so hearings on legislation couldn’t be blocked by the speaker.

Then there’s Barry Shapiro, who isn’t afraid to call out his own party when dissecting the reasons tenants are routinely short-changed.

We were also impressed by Vanessa Aronson’s recognition of ST/PCV as a community with unique needs and Jeffrey Mailman’s knowledge of the issues through a legal lens.

Accident leads to candidate’s effort to win City Council seat

Maria Castro

By Sabina Mollot

When Maria Castro, a political consultant who’d also served as a delegate for Bernie Sanders during the Democratic National Convention, decided to join the City Council race for District 4, it was shortly after ending up in the hospital.

Castro, a midtown resident on the west side of the district, said she was “holed up” following a fall down a malfunctioning escalator at the subway station near City Hall on January 4. During this time, with little else to do, she found herself watching the news surrounding President Donald Trump’s inauguration — and getting very upset.

“I was watching the rhetoric of the Trump administration, how he was affecting women, minorities, the working class,” said Castro.

She had a couple of friends over at the time, one of whom mentioned the seat for her City Council district was open. Castro didn’t need to think twice about what she would do about this, and got on the ballot on January 26.

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Candidate threatened with arrest while calling for reform of the city’s privately owned public spaces

Marti Speranza said she tried but was unable to get a permit to hold her press conference at the Trump Tower Atrium, which is supposed to be publicly accessible. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Marti Speranza, a Democrat running for City Council, risked but ultimately evaded arrest on Monday while calling for reform of Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS).

Ironically, the threat of arrest came because of the venue of her press conference, one of the city’s so-called POPS located in the atrium of Trump Tower.

As Speranza and supporters gathered at the space before the press conference, which was on a level below the ground floor, they were told they’d be arrested if they didn’t leave, her campaign staffers later said. However, Speranza and a couple of other speakers went on to make their arguments anyway, uninterrupted, as a few suit wearing men hovered at the room’s entrance. Afterwards, they stepped forward to ask the candidate and staffers if they’d be dispersing. Speranza’s campaign manager said the men later identified themselves as police from the NYPD’s Intelligence Unit. While no voices were raised, one of the men said he would normally turn the matter over to the legal department, but then added, “We don’t want to go that route.” He also asked if the campaign was planning any similar events in the future. When a staffer responded that doing so would be the campaign’s right, the man disagreed, but ultimately no one was kicked out.

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(UPDATED) Council candidate, booted off ballot over late filing, trying to get back on

Bessie Schachter, pictured at last month’s debate next to fellow candidate Jeff Mailman (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

UPDATE July 27 at 2:15 p.m.: Schachter contacted Town & Village on Thursday afternoon to say she was reinstated by court order.

By Sabina Mollot

On July 13, all candidates running for City Council races were required to submit petitions with a minimum of 450 signatures — or more if they expected to ward off challenges.

But one candidate, who said she actually got over 5,000 signatures, was knocked off the ballot for filing her paperwork a day late, and is now attempting to fight her way back on. That candidate, Bessie Schachter, told Town & Village she does expect to be on the ballot in the September 12 primary, though, calling the problem a “minor, technical” one.

According to an employee at the New York City Board of Elections, Schachter was removed on July 20 for responding a day late to a noncompliance notice. The notice had indicated a problem with her petition’s cover sheet, since cover sheets must mention how many volumes are included, and each volume must have its own identification number. Schachter had to have filed it within a three-day notice period that ended on July 19, but she filed the next evening, he said.

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Kronfeld drops out of City Council race

MJ Kronfeld at T&V’s debate last month

By Sabina Mollot

Melissa Jane Kronfeld, one of two Republican candidates running for the City Council seat now occupied by Dan Garodnick, has dropped out of the race.

Kronfeld, better known as “MJ,” offered no explanation for her change of heart after having been an active candidate, even participating in a debate co-hosted by Town & Village at Waterside last month.

The self-described “progressive Conservative” announced her withdrawal in an email to supporters on Thursday evening and in a Twitter post.

“It is with great humility and gratitude that I am writing to let you know I will no longer be seeking the City Council seat in Manhattan’s District 4,” she said. After expressing gratitude to her supporters, she added, “I look forward to the next opportunity to continue my service to my community, city, state, country and all humanity in the months and years to come.”

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PCV Council candidate fighting for affordable housing

Barry Shapiro in Peter Cooper Village (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

In the City Council race for the seat currently occupied by a term-limited Dan Garodnick, a Peter Cooper Village resident has recently stepped in as a candidate, with a platform of affordable housing and maintaining quality of life in the district.

Barry Shapiro, 72, who’s lived in Peter Cooper for 25 years (with another 15 in Stuyvesant Town before that), said he entered the race “quietly” in April and is now in the process of petitioning.

“I know a lot of people are concerned about rent stabilization and the continuation of the Democrats having a majority (in the State Senate),” said Shapiro.

Housing regulations, of course, are determined in Albany rather than in City Hall, but Shapiro maintained that it still helps for the local Council members to fight in the ongoing battle for tenant protections.

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Town & Village co-hosts City Council debate at Waterside Plaza

Attendees at the debate Thursday evening (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

All eleven candidates in the District 4 City Council race gathered at Waterside Plaza on Thursday evening for a debate co-sponsored by Town & Village, the Waterside Tenants Association and Waterside management, covering issues important to the neighborhood.

Democrats Alec Hartman, Jeffrey Mailman, Keith Powers, Marti Speranza, Rachel Honig, Vanessa Aronson, Maria Castro, Bessie Schachter and Barry Shapiro and Republicans Melissa Jane (MJ) Kronfeld and Rebecca Harary discussed affordable housing, concerns for seniors, the fate of small businesses and the sanitation garage planned for the neighborhood over the course of the two-hour debate. WTA President Janet Handal and T&V editor Sabina Mollot moderated the event, each asking two questions of the nine Democrats and two Republicans on the stage, who are running to replace term-limited Councilmember Dan Garodnick.

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All candidates set to attend T&V/Waterside Council debate

Democrats Alec Hartman, Bessie Schachter, Jeffrey Mailman, Keith Powers, Marti Speranza, Rachel Honig, Vanessa Aronson and Barry Shapiro and Republicans Melissa Jane Kronfeld and Rebecca Harary (Not pictured) Maria Castro

Town & Village has partnered with the Waterside Tenants Association and the management of Waterside Plaza to present an evening of debate between the candidates running for the City Council, District 4. The event will be held on Thursday, June 22 at 6 p.m. for mingling with the candidates, with the debate beginning promptly at 6:30 p.m. This has become a hotly contested race with 11 candidates hoping to win the seat currently occupied by a term-limited Dan Garodnick. All known registered candidates of both parties have been invited and have confirmed they’ll attend.

The candidates are Democrats Keith Powers, Marti Speranza, Jeffrey Mailman, Bessie Schachter, Vanessa Aronson, Rachel Honig, Alec Hartman, Barry Shapiro and Maria Castro as well as Republicans Rebecca Harary and Melissa Jane Kronfeld.

The event will take place outdoors on the Plaza level with Janet Handal, the president of the Waterside Tenants Association, and Town & Village editor Sabina Mollot asking the candidates questions. Due to the number of candidates expected to participate, there will not likely be any time for additional questions from the audience.

If it rains, the event will take place inside 15 Waterside Plaza located on the Plaza. Waterside Plaza is east of the FDR Drive on the East River between 25th and 29th Streets. For directions, visit Waterside Plaza’s website. For more information about the event, contact Sabina Mollot at (212) 777-6611 x104 or editor@townvillage.net.

PCV woman abandons bid for City Council

Diane Grayson (Photo by Emmanuel Moline)

By Sabina Mollot

Diane Grayson, a Peter Cooper Village woman who’d been running for the City Council seat to be vacated next year by Dan Garodnick, has withdrawn from the race.

Reached recently by Town & Village, Grayson explained that she dropped out because she felt the current crop of candidates “represents the interests of the district.”

Grayson, 27, had been running as an Independent who’d promised to spend $50,000 of her own salary, if elected, on some sort of community program or service. Her platform focused on affordable housing and help for small businesses.

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